Stray Cat

I met a stray cat tonight, on the way out of my friends’ apartment. It came rushing up to us, to rub against our legs like it was greeting old friends. Before we drove away I opened and slammed the car door to scare it off, in case it had decided to wander under the car.

I got home and I greeted my own cat. She was happy to see me. I know this because I went into the kitchen to get a glass of water, and she followed me to eat from her bowl. She felt safe.

I wandered my empty house for a while. I’ve always been happy to call Kansas City my home, but tonight I miss the warm air of California nights. Tonight I miss the sunrise reflecting off the mountains in Utah. There are no mountains here, and it snows on the first night of Spring.

I guess I don’t feel safe. I think I’ll go to a bookstore later today. I need something familiar.

It feels like I’m a stray cat, and someone opened and slammed that door, but not to make me scamper off to safety. They just wanted to see me jump out of my skin.

A New Year

When that clock counts down, I’ll probably say “Happy New Year” to whomever I’m in a room with. Maybe we’ll share a few drinks and laughs. When I get home, I’ll switch out my toothbrush for a new one. That’s about the extent of my New Year’s plans.

No resolutions. I don’t believe in picking one day to decide “Sometime this year I’ll be better.”

That’s not to say I discourage anyone who does, but one thing I’ve learned in my time on this earth is that you can better yourself anytime. Any month, any day, any hour. I’ve been sitting before a recently finished draft and thought “That was epic. I’m going to improve in X way” and I’ve been at the bottom of a trailer loading packages on a random overnight shift and thought “You know what? I’m going to start doing Y because it’ll make me a better person.”

Maybe you could say my New Year’s resolution is to never stop learning, but that’s not accurate. That’s not something I’m going to resolve to do, it’s just something that happens as part of everyday life.

Recently I came up with a new motto. It’s actually the title of my next-next book. (Not my next book, which isn’t quite a book, but the one after that.) You’ll hear more about it later, but for now:

“Build yourself better.”

It’s a simple little saying that I wrote into a poem, and since then I’ve been trying to incorporate it into my everyday life. Wishing at the right time or making plans for a future date won’t make you a better person or improve your life. Taking it into your own hands, finding your problems and working them out, that might.

No promises. But you won’t know until you try it, right?

Happy new year!

In the Year of Our Death

Things have been exciting lately! I published my first game, Hinterland, and while it was a little bit glitchier than I thought, it’s been mostly smooth. I’ve had a lot of fun with it, and a lot of fun watching people play it on YouTube.

Now it’s time for me to shift my focus to my other big October project. This one is a book announcement.

In 2012 I published After the Bite, a collection of short stories I wrote with my friend Seth Thomas, set during a zombie apocalypse. This was a companion book to a novel we released a year later called In the Lone and Level Sands. Now, I couldn’t be happier to announce the sequel to both: In the Year of Our Death.

In the Year of Our Death

In the Year of Our Death picks up roughly two years after the end of In the Lone and Level Sands. Like the previous book, it follows different groups of characters across the zombie-ravaged country. Returning from In the Lone and Level Sands, Keely and her friends live in a motel near a radio station in a small, quiet part of Los Angeles they’ve barricaded off from the zombies and the outside world. Young Will and his group of orphaned teens have been waiting out the apocalypse in a peaceful suburb, but have run out of food and water and have to leave to find a new home. Ruffian Bailey found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and has been running with a bad crowd ever since, until she decides to flee them and try to do some good in the world. Slow but well-meaning Georgie, who could outrun the devil himself on his bicycle, has set up a courier system to shuttle packages and information across the United States. Engineer Stephen Nelson has set himself up at Hoover Dam, where he keeps power running to the Southwest—until he breaks his glasses and has to head blindly into the wasteland to replace them.

At the heart of it all is Adam. Suffering from nightmares of a church fire he survived at the onset of the apocalypse, Adam believes the zombies to be a higher form of enlightenment, and now commits his life to protecting them. His most important mission is to find the man on the radio who feeds daily advice on how to kill what Adam calls the “greater humans” and silence him for good.

After the Bite told the small tales of a zombie apocalypse, while In the Lone and Level Sands serves as a record of survivors at its onset. In the Year of Our Death finds the survivors—and zombies—struggling to survive in a world that changed forever two years ago. Every day now is a war, and this year will claim its fair share of casualties.

You can read a sample chapter here: Chapter 16

So this is how I find myself sitting on a series of finished books. I have to say I like how it feels. On that front, I’m also announcing an eBook collection of all three books:

Zombiemandias: In the Zombie Apocalypse Collection

Buying the three of them together will end up being a little cheaper than buying them separately, but fair warning: This is going to be quite a long eBook.

Both books release on October 20th, 2015. Pre-orders will be live soon, I’ll update with links as they’re available. Also, in celebration, the eBook version of In the Lone and Level Sands will be available for free and/or at a deep discount at most retailers through the month of October.

So that’s that. Stay tuned here for release info, teasers, and other goodies.

Thanks always for reading.

WIBUT 6/8/2015

It’s been a while since I last posted, but I haven’t been twiddling my thumbs. I recently gave this site and all of my books a makeover, and now that things are getting settled in, I figure it’s time for a general status update.

Writing

I definitely didn’t meet my Camp NaNoWriMo goal. That’s okay. I’m still working on the novel version of Let the Moonlight Give You Wings, my RPG and novel tie-in project. I have most of the plot hammered out, and writing it as a novel is presenting scenarios not possible in the game (and vice-versa). No idea when it’ll be finished, but it’s coming along smoothly.

I set that down to work on another project the past few weeks. I finished the first draft of it, but I can’t say anything else about it yet. Soon, though, I’ll be ready to talk about it.

The next session of Camp NaNoWriMo is coming up. I’ll probably focus on finishing some older projects, specifically a novella or two.

Playing

Aside from writing news and reviews and features for Cubed3, I’ve been playing a lot of Destiny, Splatoon, and finally getting around to the Fallout: New Vegas DLCs. I’m pretty upset about the whole Silent Hills cancellation fiasco, but I’m super excited for Fallout 4.

I’m also working on my own games. Lately I’ve been putting together some music and sound effects for Let the Moonlight Give You Wings, and I’m working on a much smaller game that will probably be finished and released first, but more on that later.

Reading

I’m working my way through The Telling by Ursula K. Le Guin. So far it’s very different from the rest of her Ekumen books (which makes sense, being written over 20 years after the previous one) but I like it so far. I’m actually a little sad that I’m almost finished with her novel series, but the books aren’t going anywhere, they can always be re-read.

 Watching

Game of Thrones, mostly. Exciting things happening on that show. I’ve also gotten into House of Cards, which is a lot of fun. I’ve been watching Wayward Pines with my mom; it’s interesting, and I like that what some shows would’ve left as the bigger, dragged-out mysteries get figured out as early as the first episode. I’m cautiously optimistic about True Detective; word is it’ll be a lot less weird this time around, which is one of the things I loved most about season 1.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. I’m still hoping I can share some pretty big news on a few of my projects pretty soon here. I’m always at work behind the scenes.

Until next time.

What’s in a Name?

Big changes incoming!

Perhaps you’ve noticed this very site (as well as Twitter) list me as “David J. Lovato” while the name on all my covers and storefronts simply reads “David Lovato”. That’s going to change.

Big changes this far along can get messy, and I spent the better part of two days updating all of my book covers and websites to add one little “J”, but the end result will be worth it. Why the change? Well, “davidlovato” wasn’t available for use as a WordPress site, so I added the J way back when, and it’s always good to keep things streamlined. Another reason is that I’m not the only David Lovato in town, and I think it’s best to keep any potential confusion to a minimum. So, starting in the coming weeks, you should see “David J. Lovato” on all of my books and store fronts. Also, it turns out I really like the way it looks. It’s like a little hook cementing my name in place. At the risk of sounding full of myself, I think I’ve realized you can tell a great font by its J.

Anyway, It’s a lengthy process to change all of my links and descriptions and profiles, but I’m almost done, and hopefully I did it without breaking anything too badly.

So, while I’m busy writing a post about my writing, I guess I should give a general update.

I’m way behind on Camp NaNoWriMo, thanks in part to burnout and in part to a household emergency. I may or may not get caught up, but I do plan to finish this project someday, and hopefully not too far away.

I have another project, a big one, that I’m hoping to release by Halloween. More details on that when it’s a little more ready for the spotlight.

I’m kicking around ideas for another poetry book. Possibly two of them. I enjoyed writing and publishing Permanent Ink on Temporary Pages, but for these two, I’m thinking bigger. Maybe louder.

I’m sitting on some novellas! One is finished and polished and I’m working to get it published traditionally. Another one is finished but not edited, and the last is unfinished, but I hope to put the final touches on those two this summer. Not sure whether I’ll self-publish or try the traditional route with them; that will depend on how I feel about the finished products. I also have an almost-finished short story collection that will most likely be self-published; the stories are all set in the same world and follow a specific theme.

And, as always, I have plenty of projects always moving, some slower than others, but they’ll be revealed when the time is right.

In short, I promise I’m working on things, and I’m pretty sure at least one of them will see a release this year.

Speaking of Halloween (I know that was a few paragraphs ago but it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want), last year I started a second RPG Maker project in the spirit of Halloween. With any luck I’ll finish it and release it before Halloween this year. It’s just a short little adventure where I challenged myself to see how odd I could make things go in that game engine, but I don’t see the harm in getting it out there, supposing I finish it. My main project is still Let the Moonlight Give You Wings, but that one is a lot larger and less predictable, so I can’t give an ETA on it. If I do pick up my Halloween-ish game again, expect to see some previews around these parts.

That about does it as far as talking about what I’m working on. One last thing though:

My favorite band is back! I can hardly express how excited I am to see Brand New recording and putting out new material. My history with this band is a long one. I’ll probably write a whole post on it pretty soon. But for now let’s just say they have a new song called “Mene” and you should buy it because it’s awesome.

And that’s it for now. Until next time!

Let the Moonlight Give You Wings Progress Report #2

The following information and screenshots come from a work in progress. Anything in them is subject to change.

Some of the assets used were created by others. While they may not appear in the final game, said assets will be listed with their creators at the bottom of this post.

Quick recap: Let the Moonlight Give You Wings is an RPG Maker game and accompanying novel I’ve been working on. The initial announcement can be found here, and the first progress report can be found here. Progress can be viewed and followed here on my blog from now on, under the “Works in Progress” section in the header bar.

It’s been a few months since I touched on this progress, so I have a more substantial post than last time.

The Game

I’ve been putting together maps and characters while still trying to hammer out the overall style. I’m using a few non-default tilesets, and making changes to the default ones I’ll be using. I’m still not sure what all I’ll settle on, but at the moment I’m customizing the graphics to make the game look less and less vanilla.

The main quest line is almost complete. I have a handful of cinemas left and a smaller handful of locations in which they take place, and once those are finished, I can set to work packing in side quests and tweaking existing places to make the world come to life. The main cast is pretty much finished; I had to completely re-design one of the major characters because she looked too much like another character I saw elsewhere, but I’m super happy with the result. It ended up yielding an entire plot line, side quest, and history for this fictional world. I’m also making more faces for each character; I’ll be using the default face creator, but tweaking it to include facial expressions not possible in the RPG Maker face creator.

All in all, everything is going smoothly. My last major hurdle game-wise is that I haven’t figured out one of the later dungeons; I want to do something special with it, but I haven’t decided what.

Another big thing I’ve been working on are the game’s music and sound effects. I have a few cool things in place and a lot of rough sketches, but it’s coming together. I’m thinking about making the game’s soundtrack available for download, depending on how complex it gets, and as time goes on I’ll probably share a track or two here on my blog.

The Book

This brings me to the main point of a second progress report: Wednesday, April 1st, is the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo 2015, and I’ll be using this session to get started on the novel. I’m stoked to get to work on it, and I think writing the book and making the game concurrently will help me write both of them better, maybe help me work out some of the finer details of the story and world involved. You can follow my progress on the book here: http://campnanowrimo.org/campers/crackedthesky

Timeframe

It’s still not possible for me to even guess when this will be finished, but I’d like to think the game and book will release around the same time, and I’d love for both to be out by this winter. That said, I just can’t say for sure about either.

In the meantime, here are a few screenshots of some of the more complete graphics, ideas, or places, along with a description of them. Something I definitely don’t want to do is make promises that are mysteriously missing in the final product, so know that if I show something here, it’s something I’m almost positive will be in the final game, and if it isn’t, I’ll probably post about it the moment I have to cut it from the game. So expect minor changes, but if I say a feature is going to be in, it’s most likely going to be in.

Also, I apologize for the image compression. It’s not terrible, but the screenshots are slightly blurrier than the actual game will be.

Moonlight Test Bedroom

This picture is from a scene early on. The player character, Emery, can change outfits at a dresser in her room. In this scenario, she has to put on her school uniform, and can’t leave for school until she does. In both worlds (our world and fantasy), she’ll be able to change clothes and the character graphic will reflect this. I haven’t decided yet whether her party members’ graphics will also change depending on what they’re wearing; it’s time-consuming to make different graphics for each outfit, and even more so considering another feature I’d really like to implement into the game (which I’ll probably show next time).

As a bonus, you can see my custom text background in this picture, as well as the screen tint to reflect what time it is (I should note that while this scene is supposed to be in the morning, the screen is actually tinted to be evening because I was in debug mode at the time I took the screenshot).

Moonlight Alpha City

Here’s a shot of the city Emery lives in. I need to animate the flies on the dumpster, and the double-door needs a custom door graphic, but otherwise, this is more or less complete. Also note Emery’s school uniform.

Moonlight Alpha School

The lobby of Emery’s school. I’ll populate it with NPCs later. Also, it won’t be so orange in the final game; the lighting is currently set to sunset.

The next two pictures will highlight a major difference from the first time I showed images from my game. Last September I posted an image from an example battle, seen here:

Let the Moonlight Give You Wings

As you’ll see in the next screenshot, I’ve added a different battle engine:

Moonlight Alpha Battle

The characters now appear to the side of the screen, and characters and enemies move when they attack, like in classic RPGs, thanks to Yanfly’s visual battler system. I still have to tweak it so characters aren’t floating like they are here and enemies aren’t oversized, but it’s more imaginative than the default battle engine.

Moonlight Alpha Lake

Here’s a lake and some cliffs. I’m hoping to include a lot of nooks and crannies to explore, and a fishing system is currently way on the backburner and might not be included at all, but these are the kinds of things I’d like players to be able to do in Let the Moonlight Give You Wings.

You’ll notice a few more characters in this screenshot. These are more or less final designs; there are currently 9 characters players can add to their party. I might introduce a few of them later, but on the whole I’d like them to remain a mystery, part of the story that unfolds as players play the game. I haven’t decided how many can battle at a time yet.

Moonlight Alpha Port Town

Here’s an early version of a port town with docks. Driftwood and other wood can be chopped for firewood, and will eventually re-appear. Note the clock in the lower-right corner; this can be toggled on and off.

Moonlight Alpha Snow

Here’s a snowy environment. It’s currently snowing (hard to tell, but there’s a snowflake over the black cave entry in the upper-left). Weather is something I’m trying to make dynamic; it won’t always snow in snowy areas, it’ll sometimes rain in other places, or be windy. I’m hoping to have some cool weather-based features in the final game.

So that’s it for this progress report. My main focus will probably be on the book for most of April, and hopefully I can get a rough draft down, then go back and work on the game for a while before I get to editing the novel.

Next progress report I’ll hopefully be able to show off some of the cooler features I’m putting together, possibly some music, possibly a video, maybe something even cooler than that.

This game wouldn’t be very good without the use of several assets made by other people. Here are the ones seen in these screenshots:

SES Dynamic Time and Clock by Solistra
Ace Battle Engine and Animated Battlers by Yanfly
Shigekichi’s Resource Pack by Shigekichi
Modern Day Tileset by Enterbrain / Lunarea
Sprite base by Mack

If I missed any, I sincerely apologize, will edit this post if I’m made aware of any mistakes, and the final game should include all appropriate credits.

These Shoes

These Shoes

See these shoes?

When I got these shoes, I had just graduated high school. I was starting to hang out with some new friends, I was going to college, I was working my first real job.

I was wearing these shoes when I had my first panic attack. I wore them through countless others. I walked to and from school and work and the bus stop in these shoes. I sat through my classes and worked through my shifts and rode the bus along the highway.

When I missed the bus, I walked that highway. I walked the streets of several cities, I walked the woods with my friends. Up and down steps formed by roots in mud, sitting on gigantic stones amid maple trees in a woods surrounded on all sides by a city that, to us, in that circle, might as well have not been there.

I wore these shoes when I lost old friends. I wore them when I made new ones. I wore them when I graduated college, got a different job, worked through that one and realized writing was my job all along.

These shoes accompanied me through millions of words, through the moments that inspired them, the people that became characters, the characters I wished were real people.

Shoes in a Car

These shoes have walked the earth of several states. They’ve been on camping trips, to concerts, in parks and on gravel roads, touched the pedals of several cars, carried me over broken glass and cracked cement. They’ve walked the neighborhood beside a dog once so small I had to carry her the rest of the way home. The laces have been frayed by kittens playing with them, and those kittens are as big as lions, now.

I wore these shoes that year I lost forty pounds. Along the treadmill, trying to stay in shape, just trying to sort out plot lines or real life problems in my head. They’ve seen rainstorms, tornadoes, car wrecks, changes. Slides, park swings, that merry-go-round that made us sick, the track around that park where some people we barely knew abandoned us, that thunderstorm outside the house where they abandoned us again. They were here when I published my first book, they were here when I published my latest. And they were here when I wrote them both.

All the movie theaters, the stores, the midnight releases, the parties, the quiet nights on the back porch swing; I wore them when I helped my best friend move into his first place. Up and down three flights of stairs, carrying furniture, wearing these shoes. Around town in the snow that time the gate fell over and the dogs got out, looking for them everywhere, wearing these shoes. Rushing pets to the vet, and later burying them, wearing these shoes. Planting flowers in these shoes, re-arranging my room just to feel something new, decorating for birthday parties or cleaning the house for Thanksgiving.

When I got these shoes, I couldn’t imagine the feeling of finishing a novel. I couldn’t imagine the feeling of arm pain so bad I thought I’d never finish another. Didn’t think I’d shuffle favorite bands so many times; back then I had never even heard of La Dispute. Thought my furniture would always stay the same, thought I’d always walk around the woods with the same people, I wasn’t aware how fragile everything around me was. You never see the cracks, only the broken glass you can’t help stepping on later. And after the collapse, you can’t see yourself fitting the pieces back together. And usually you don’t. But sometimes you do, and sometimes I did, in these shoes.

Shoes Camping

Sure, they were a little worn, but that didn’t matter. I thought I’d be wearing them when I did my first book signing, when I released that game I’ve been making, when I moved into a new place of my own. I thought I’d be wearing them when I move out in a year, when I renew my license in a month, when I start my next novel in a few weeks, when I switch cable companies in a couple days, when I go downstairs to make coffee in a minute.

But the seam tore on my way up the steps. Just like that, they’re done in.

What do I do with these shoes that have seen so much, been so many places, defined vague concepts like “here” and “there” and somewhere and anywhere, those critical moments I needed them to get me nowhere, those panicked flights I had to move without them, the people that came and went and the things I wrote and the people who read them; the rubber and cloth and laces, and even the scuffs and the holes and the frays.

I should just throw them away. What matters isn’t the shoes you wear, but the steps you take. And those will be with me no matter what, and I can’t even imagine the miles I have left, the places my next pair will get me.

But I think I’ll put them on a shelf somewhere, beside those things I look at from time to time to remind myself where I’ve been, and where I can go.

Besides, you never know when you’ll need an emergency pair of shoes.

Shoes in the Sun

nowReading: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

The time has finally come. A journey of a few years, which began with me picking up a magazine lying around in the bathroom, has come to a close. Well, a rest stop, at least. I’ve finished reading The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There.

(Those wondering what in the world I’m babbling about will find the answer here and here, but the short version is this book’s title caught me by surprise, roped me in, and forced me to sit down and read.)

As I do with most of my reviews, I want to get the bad out of the way before I focus on the good. What can I say? I like to end on a high note. To make a long story short, which is to do absolutely no justice to the complexity that comes from reading a novel, the book didn’t quite live up to the hype I created upon seeing its title. It reads almost like a first draft; lots of lists, lots of descriptions, things are a little sloppy. Characters will drop everything they’re doing and give their entire species’ life story, often times for no apparent reason. Other times, important things happening directly to our main character, September, are glossed over in a sentence or two. Everything is more or less there, but some things feel like they’re in the wrong order, or given the wrong priority. There were also a few typos, and things appearing out of nowhere that probably should’ve been mentioned sooner than they happen.

Another issue I had was in how convenient certain things were. It was like September was never in any sort of danger or peril—a magical person or item would always bail her out at the last second. The real danger of the story, and one that threatens all of Fairyland, isn’t made present until over halfway through the book. In the end it becomes clear why this was intentional, but I’m not convinced it was always justified.

This leads to the main issue I had with it: The first half to two-thirds of the story are a little boring. It reads like a history of Fairyland and Fairyland-Below, but not so much like a story about a girl who has just been spirited away to the underworld of a fantasy dreamscape.

When it does finally pick up, it’s relentless! I couldn’t put it down, I read the last third or so of the book in two sittings, stopping only to sleep. That last bit is as wonderful and magical and heartwrenching as the majority of the first book was.

This leads me to my last comment: It’s worth it, and not just for the third act. Even when giving off random lists or colorful descriptions of things that don’t really matter, there’s so much heart and spirit in the writing. Characters’ histories are interesting and wonderful, even if they’re not immediately important to the story. I wonder if this would have been better as a novella, and if it were accompanied by an actual history book regarding Fairyland, I would pick that up in a heartbeat. But again, to make a long story short: Even when it’s bad, it’s good.

I also found a lot of joy in reading the book’s two afterwords, and, if I might be so bold (and I might; this is my blog and I’ll do what I want!) I would say they are as important to aspiring writers as Stephen King’s On Writing and Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. They’re not as much about the how of writing but do a fantastic job detailing the why, and as far as I’m concerned, they’re required reading for anyone who takes writing seriously.

On the whole, it’s a good book, even if it could’ve used a little more polish.

On to the next one!

Let the Moonlight Give You Wings Progress Report #1

A while back I announced a project called Let the Moonlight Give You Wings. It’s an RPG Maker game I’m making, along with a tie-in novel. This post is a quick update on my progress, and I hope to post one of these from time to time.

I had the whole project on the backburner while I finished other things, but now I’d say Moonlight is on my middleburner.

The Game

My major focus right now is on the main locations of the game. I’m putting together the barebones dungeons, mostly geography, a few key events. Later I’ll go in and spice up all of the locations with clutter, things to do, events, more intimate designs, etc. For now, I’m mostly making the hallways and floors, so to speak.

I’m also working on some of the more complicated main storyline events. These are time-consuming; having a system that randomizes conversations means there’s a lot going on in the background. Playing the game, you might press the action button on a signpost and see a character say something, but what’s really going on is the game is determining which characters are in your party, randomly picking one to speak, and then often randomly picking someone to reply or add onto what they’ve said, and often times there’s a third or fourth nest of the same. The more party members you have, the more complex the conversations can get. Since all of the playable characters are required at some point, this means scripting conversations for all of them, even though in one playthrough the player will likely only see one of the responses I’ve written.

It’s complicated and it takes a lot of time writing and testing, but it’s worth it. I want this world and this story to be dynamic, not a static replication on each playthrough or button press. I want the characters to banter, antagonize, agree, argue, and play with each other, so I’m trying to work in as many in-character, believable outcomes as I can.

I’ve been bouncing back and forth on whether to implement a dynamic time system. Originally, I wanted time to progress automatically and kick the player out of the “dream world” after an in-game day. This idea didn’t last long. Besides requiring a lot of always-running processes that might cause lag, it put a huge restriction on me from a writing standpoint. It’s no good if a character says “We have X amount of time to do this!” and then the player can take an in-game year to get it done. I also don’t have much for players to do in the waking world, and I decided it would be boring if half of the game is spent waiting for the clock to strike midnight again.

What I have in place now is a dynamic clock, but kicking the player back into the waking world isn’t based on time. Instead it’s based on progression through the main story. I didn’t like this at first, but the idea grew on me, and so far it’s working best with what I have.

Weather likely also be dynamic. It might snow in cold areas, it might rain in others. I have a basic system in place for this, but it’s a little too random at the moment (it’s odd to walk through a rainstorm, go inside a house for two seconds, then come back out to a bright and cheery day). It’s another thing I’ll probably tweak to my liking later in development.

I’ve opted for mostly custom graphics when it comes to characters and their equipment, but currently I’m also heavily relying on the built-in stuff (RTP). I’d like to rely less on this. I’m not a good artist, however, and I reach my limits pretty quickly. That said, what I hope to eventually do is go through and tweak everything. All of the existing tilesets can receive minor overhauls, little things to keep development simple for me, but make the game look and feel less vanilla to players. I want this world to be mine, so I’m going to tweak tilesets and build my own graphics along the way to get it further and further from the default graphics.

I originally wanted this post to include screenshots, but I decided against it for now.  I’ve already made quite a few battlers, character faces (tons of these), in-game outfits, custom tiles etc. but at the moment I’d say the game is about 75% vanilla assets, and I don’t want to present the game in that light. I’ve posted a few screenshots already, mostly to prove I’ve actually done anything, and I’ll probably post some in my next progress report, regardless of how custom the graphics are, but for now, I’m leaving them out.

My biggest hurdle right now is that the game has three major story arcs to it, and while I have two of them mostly planned out, the third eludes me. I know the ending I’m working toward, and right now I can get from point A to point M, but I haven’t figured out how it gets to point Z from there. I have a few ideas I’m kicking around, and I don’t need that problem solved until I’m finished with this first round of locations, so I have plenty of time to get this sorted out.

The Book

I haven’t started yet, for a number of reasons. I want this experience to unfold as a video game, so the book automatically comes second, for me. That said, it’s not like I’ve done nothing, story-wise. All of the writing I’m putting into this project so far is going into the game, but much of it can also be used in-book, especially in regards to dialogue. I imagine this’ll be one of the fastest books for me to write, maybe a NaNoWriMo project, if I happen to be working on it next November or, more hopefully, in the summer.

Timeframe

I still have a lot of work to do, but I’m making decent progress. As I said, I’m working on the major locations and their major events. Everything after that is like seasoning the main course, and it’ll likely be small, easy things, but a lot of them. I’m able to devote more of my free time to the project, and when I do sit down and get to it, I tend to knock out a large chunk of what’s left. I don’t even want to attempt guessing at how much time I have left to spend or when the game might be finished. Some days it feels like I’m just getting started, others it feels like I’m in the final stretch. I think it’ll sneak up on me, one afternoon I’ll just realize I’m finished. But that’s a while from now, and hopefully my future updates will be a lot more exciting than this one.

Book Announcement: The Ones Who Follow the Water

I figure it’s about time I share the main project I’ve been up to as of late, considering how overdue this is in the first place.

I’m just about finished with The Ones Who Follow the Water, a new adult fantasy novel.

The Ones Who Follow the Water front cover

This is a story that will always be dear to me. When I was in high school I wrote short stories, mostly for fun, and I didn’t have many ideas I could see taking up a full novel. That changed during a camping trip with my best friends, when I had a dream that inspired one.

I tried to write it as soon as I got home. Something like 300 words in, I realized I wasn’t ready to write it. I had about a page and a half, and it read like a summary of the dream I had, not actual storytelling. So I shelved it for years.

I wrote the first draft much later, during NaNoWriMo 2010. I could go on about the process behind the book, but to make a long story short, I edited the life right out of it. The final result was boring, stagnant, almost like that two-page summary I had written years before. I had told the story I wanted to tell, but that was all it was—a sterile recount of a story I could see so well in my head, but failed to get down on paper.

This year I decided to go back over it and breathe some actual life into the story. I re-wrote most of the novel with a better understanding of how to write, how to edit, what audience I was going for, and how to translate the story I saw in my head.

But enough about me. Here’s the synopsis for The Ones Who Follow the Water.

The town of Welby is surrounded by a high wall, erected in long-forgotten days when people remembered their magic and Immortals walked the earth.
Oren and Carah grew up together in Welby, but when Oren makes a mistake that could get Carah exiled, he has no choice but to climb over the wall and enter the unknown world beyond, following a river and looking for a necklace.
The world is full of creatures and people Oren never dreamed of, but friend and foe alike offer him the same advice: Don’t follow the water.
Oren’s journey leads him to an impossible castle, and inside, Oren finds the necklace, and a reason to never go back home.

The Ones Who Follow the Water will be available November 25th, 2014 in e-book, hardcover, and paperback editions. I’ll post store links (including pre-orders) on the book’s main page soon. The Smashwords page is already available, with others coming soon. In the meantime, here’s a trailer for the book: