This has been finished for a while, but A Means to an Ens had been finished even longer, so this one had to wait its turn.
Two people meet, fall in love, fall out, and fall apart, left wondering what to do with the pieces that remain. A collection of narrative poetry.
Build Yourself Better is a poetry collection, and the final in a trilogy called Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails, which consists of Permanent Ink on Temporary Pages, A Means to an Ens, and Build Yourself Better.
The whole trilogy can be purchased as a set inconspicuously titled Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails, which will also include a fourth collection, B-Sides and Rarities, consisting of poems cut from the first three.
All in all, each collection is a set of narrative poetry, meaning the poems tell an over-arching story. Together, the collections form a thematic, loosely-related trilogy.
Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails gathers four poetry collections:
Permanent Ink on Temporary Pages details a narrator’s struggle to find his place in the world as he drifts through parallel universes, replaces the people around him with fictional characters, scatters his poetry to the wind, and keeps the things he can’t bear to lose by writing them down.
A Means to an Ens follows the last man on earth. Years after waking up to find himself seemingly alone in the world, the narrator heads out on a journey to find any sign of life in a desolate place, but is instead confronted by the ghosts of his past.
Build Yourself Better chronicles two people who meet, fall in love, fall out, and then fall apart, and what they do in the aftermath with the pieces that remain.
B-Sides and Rarities features poems originally cut from the above collections.
Build Yourself Better and Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails will be available in eBook and print formats on February 29th, 2016. Because the chance to release a book on February 29th doesn’t come around very often.
Before then, you can look forward to previews of a few of the poems by keeping an eye here, especially on my Scenes page.
Thanks for everything.
Pre-order links (more will be added as they become available):
A Means to an Ens is a poetry collection, and a spiritual successor to Permanent Ink on Temporary Pages.A Means to an Ens follows a much more linear, fictional narrative, and tells the story of the last man on earth.
The collection is about half as long as Permanent Ink, so it felt wrong to slap it into a paperback and sell it for the same price. I wanted to do something a little more special with it. My first thought was to record it as a concept album, but I’m bad at that and would probably never finish it.
What I ended up doing was an extension of my Scenes project. Each of the poems in A Means to an Ens has been placed over an accompanying picture. These range in size and dimension, and the idea is for the reader to be able to zoom in and out, scale it, scroll it, maybe even rotate it if they so choose to get the fullest experience from reading the text.
Thus, this collection is presented as an image album. It goes in chronological order, and text should be read in columns, from left to right and top to bottom (so the farthest column to the left, read from the very top to its very bottom before moving on to the column to that one’s right).
For those willing to overlook the cost for the length of the work, a physical edition (minus the images) is available, but that’s entirely optional. I also won’t hide that I’m working on a much more substantial collection featuring all of the poems you’re about to read and more, so if you’d rather hold off on buying it, I won’t mind.
Enough of my babbling. Please enjoy A Means to an Ens by clicking on the link to the next page.
In the Year of Our Death, the sequel to After the Bite and In the Lone and Level Sands is now available in print and eBook formats at various retailers, and should go live at several more over the next few hours.
It’s been two years since the zombies first appeared and changed the world forever. Keely and her friends escaped the hell of Seattle and settled down near an abandoned radio station. Bailey finds herself caught up with a ravenous group of survivors. Georgie has set up a courier system to move mail across the remains of America. Will and his friends—all of them orphans now—are out of water and have to leave their quiet suburb for the first time in their lives. Nelson, the engineer charged with running Hoover Dam and powering the American Southwest, breaks his glasses and must wander the wasteland nearly blind looking for a replacement.
Adam, however, knows the truth about the zombies: They aren’t monsters, they’re angels, sent by God to cleanse the world of the survivors, and Adam and his Church of Lesser Humans were put here to help them do it. Armed only with faith, a bus, and the steadfast rule to never allow harm to come to the zombies, Adam knows Judgment Day is coming, and will stop at nothing to herald its arrival.
You can read a sample chapter here as well as download samples from the retailer of your choice.
Store Links (more will be added as they become available):
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 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.
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:
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.
As previously mentioned, these nowPlaying posts are going to be rare from now on. I’m a staff writer at Cubed3, where I post news and occasional reviews. The reviews I post directly to my blog are done on my own time and don’t reflect the views of Cubed3.
This review won’t be spoiler-free. I’ll try to leave the biggest things out, but if you intend to play this game knowing next to nothing about it (as I did and heavily suggest you should), please don’t read on. The Last of Us is an experience I don’t want to rob you of. Go ahead, I won’t mind if you stop reading.
All screenshots taken by me, using the PS4’s share feature.
Growing up, I had a Sega Genesis and a Super Nintendo. I always liked the Nintendo more, but even then, part of me understood that great games can’t be confined to a single platform. This is true now more than ever.
The downside of this truth is that most people can’t afford every gaming platform available at any given time, at which point marketing takes over, with various game companies trying to sway gamers to buy their device.
The last generation of gaming found me with a Wii (I’ll always opt for Nintendo first; I need my Zelda and Super Smash). That part was easy. Picking between the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 was more difficult. The PS2 had won handily a generation before—Kingdom Hearts and Shadow of the Colossus had seen to that. The idea of a third Kingdom Hearts and another masterpiece from Team Ico sold me on the PS3, but when neither came to fruition, I sold it, eventually picking up an Xbox 360 for series like Halo and Left 4 Dead.
Toward the end of the PS3’s lifespan, a game called The Last of Us showed up on my radar. I watched a few trailers, looked into gameplay videos, read the previews; it was pretty clear that The Last of Us was always going to be the one that got away. Here, finally, was the PS3’s killer app. It definitely wasn’t too little, but it was certainly too late.
I wasn’t concerned. Pretty much everyone knew a PS4 port was imminent, and it was only a matter of waiting. So I waited, and I avoided all spoilers from the game. (This wasn’t difficult to do, and I suspect the game’s fans are a large reason for this, so to them I extend my thanks for not spoiling the game for those of us who didn’t get to play it the first time around.) Finally, Sony released The Last of Us Remastered for PS4.
Going in, I knew almost nothing about the game, other than it was a post-apocalyptic adventure/survival game. The very first cutscene made me uneasy: The game opens with a little girl, who we soon learn is the daughter of the main character, Joel. I had seen pictures, trailers, the cover of the game—this was not the same little girl I saw on those. Joel was accounted for, but his daughter, Sarah? Nowhere to be found. Not good.
Then the game’s first major roundhouse-kick-to-the-feels comes when the cutscene ends and control reverts to the player. I found myself not playing as Joel, but as Sarah. Oh boy. Sarah wakes in the middle of the night to a series of strange occurrences, all the while looking for her father.
It doesn’t take long for events to careen out of control. It also doesn’t take long for the game to inspire awe. There’s an unparalleled sense of realism in the game’s opening, whether it’s wandering the house half-asleep as Sarah, or switching to Joel, carrying the wounded child through a crowd of people all pushing and shoving to escape the frenzied infected among them. The characters have a sense of weight to them, like they actually interact with the digital game world presented on the screen. Everything feels real. This is something I didn’t quite notice until I played The Last of Us. Most games are games, no matter how intuitive their controls. The Last of Us feels more like I’m using a controller to tell an actual person somewhere what to do, and he immediately does it. I wish I could explain this better.
The opening isn’t physically difficult. You really only have to keep moving forward. It’s what you can feel yourself moving toward that makes each step harder than the last, that nagging feeling that this little girl you’re trying to save is not the girl you see with Joel in all of the promotional material. And then you find out why, and the game cuts to its opening credits.
I could tell it was going to be a heavy story before I even played it, but the opening scene, which culminates in something I knew was coming, was still hard to digest. I could only imagine what else was going to happen in the game, how far it could take me, how heavy it could become. This didn’t turn me off in the slightest; I was ready to press on.
The game’s realism only gets better. Using a health pack during the tutorial resulted in an actual bandage that stayed on Joel for the rest of the playable portion. More of that realism. Characters change and develop, they interact with each other and the world around them. You craft new items to use, you get ammo (very little of it) and scavenge houses. I didn’t want to miss a thing. Somehow, I did. It felt like I scoured every inch of the game world, yet I found something like 40% of the game’s hidden collectibles by the time it was through. The world is bigger than it seems, the post-apocalypse holds many secrets.
Little by little, more game mechanics revealed themselves: Placing ladders, throwing bricks and bottles to distract enemies, sneaking, swimming, climbing, helping others climb, moving furniture; the possibilities seemed endless. A lot of work went into this game, but this is all superficial. This is just the presentation. I’ve always cared more about the story.
That same depth extends beyond the gameplay. The story unfolds little by little, characters come and go and leave their mark on the world. I was surprised to see that Joel and the girl from the cover, Ellie, get off on the wrong foot. The way wrong foot, as in she-tries-to-stab-him-and-he-can’t-wait-to-get-rid-of-her wrong foot. There’s little left to the imagination here; you know what the characters feel. You can hear it in their voices, you can see it in their eyes. You’ve probably heard plenty about what an amazing job the actors have done, but words don’t do it justice. I’ve never seen performances like this in a video game.
It was particularly weird for me because (hipster mode activate!) I was a fan of Troy Baker long before he was the main character in every video game ever, back when he was Action Bastard in Shin-Chan, back when he was Excalibur on Soul Eater. It wasn’t until he voiced the Joker in Batman: Arkham Origins that I realized he was capable of so much more than I’d heard, and even that performance pales in comparison to his role as Joel in The Last of Us. Of equal talent is Ashley Johnson, who at the time I recognized only as Gretchen from Recess, portraying Ellie.
Ellie is a character that could’ve gone so wrong. A single mistake with this character would’ve sunk the whole ship; while you play as Joel, Ellie is the character most important to the story. If she had been annoying, if she had been portrayed wrong, if she had been in any way unlikable or unbelievable, the whole game would’ve dropped to a level that could hardly be described as more than just solid. It’s only because I loved the character that the story makes sense, it’s only because I dreaded seeing the credits and knowing my time with Ellie (and thus, this story) was almost over that every victory in the game was also a defeat, that every minute of playtime was an experience I could never have again.
A talented supporting cast moves the game forward. There’s Bill, the lovable asshole who likes tripwires and talking to himself. There’s Tess, the brains to Joel’s brawn, and clearly the only reason he’s still going in this world. Marlene, the leader of the enigmatic Fireflies, is charismatic where Joel is on autopilot. There’s even Ish, a character you meet only through handwritten notes he left behind, but whom you grow to love and know and feel for when his world eventually falls apart around him.
This isn’t to say the game is perfect. The infected, while interesting, are underused. The vast majority of your enemies are uninfected people who are just so deliciously evil, you can’t help but laugh as you blow their heads off. Now and then they’ll say things that project them as real people with their own motives, but there just isn’t as much thought given to these characters. They exist to be fodder for Joel’s gun, and most of their dialogue comes across as a tacked on “feel for me, damn it!” that tries to push itself on you, whereas the rest of the game invites you into whatever emotion it’s trying to convey.
There is an exception to this rule in one of the game’s later protagonists. While what he does is cliché and easy to spot from far off, you can’t help but like the guy, almost even understand him, and that’s a kind of horror all on its own.
All of this pushes you toward an endgame that’s never quite what you think it is. The goal posts keep moving, the objective keeps changing, until the game reaches its climax.
Here I’ll split my post onto another page. If you haven’t finished the game, don’t read past here. I’m going into full spoiler mode, because a lot of things happen at the end, and I want to give my own interpretation of what they are, and welcome discussion from those who might not agree. If you’re aware of the game’s ending, feel free to continue to the next page.
I recently received my proof copies of the hardcover editions of After the Bite and In the Lone and Level Sands. I’m pretty happy with the way they turned out, and now I’m making them available to purchase through Lulu.
I wish I could make these available elsewhere, but I can’t justify the cost to do so. For now, Lulu is the only place to get hardcovers of these books. Paperbacks and ebooks will remain available everywhere they currently are.
After the Bite comes in black satin with gold spine text, while In the Lone and Level Sands comes in tan satin with black spine text. Both books feature glossy dust jackets and black-and-white interiors.
My first venture into self-publishing was through a free short story called “Hole“. For a long time the story appeared almost exactly as I’d written it. Sure, I’d edited it after first writing it, but beyond that, I didn’t do much to it.
I happened to catch a glimpse of the story recently, and realized that was something that needed to change. So, over the last few days, I prepared a new cover image for it (thanks in part to the contributors at Pixabay) and set to work editing the text itself. I’m a lot happier with the newer versions of both.
As I mention in the story’s new afterword, I’m considering making a side-by-side comparison of the 2010 version of the story and the 2014 version of it, to show a little bit of my editing process, and the thoughts that go into each change. Maybe it’ll help someone out there with their own editing. This probably won’t come until later; I’m pretty busy working on new, never-before-seen projects.
“Hole” is available for free from just about every ebook retailer, except for Amazon. (They tend to not allow permanently free ebooks.) You’ll find links to “Hole” at various ebook retailers here: https://davidjlovato.wordpress.com/works-2/#hole
The wait is over! In the Lone and Level Sands is now available in ebook format (list price $3.99) through Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes (with Kobo and Sony editions coming soon). It’s also available in print (list price $12.99) through Createspace and Amazon (with Barnes & Noble coming soon).
The ebook will also be available through Amazon, Kobo, and Sony eBooks. A print edition will also be available soon.
Purchasing a new print edition through Amazon will allow you to download the Kindle eBook free of charge.
Just a reminder, you can read the first 19 chapters of the book under the “Samples” section of this blog. You can read a longer sample at the book’s Smashwords page.
Another reminder, the ebook edition of After the Bite is free for the month of November.
I’m very excited to release this novel next week. In the meantime, my NaNoWriMo progress has slowed considerably. I reached a point where it felt like forcing the story out would ruin it, so I’m more or less checking out of NaNoWriMo. I wrote a good 20,000 words and I absolutely plan to finish this novel, just not by the end of November.
I’ve also come up with a new title for one of the books I’m querying agents for. I’m not sure whether I want to change it yet, but I’m thinking I’ll do a blog post about titles pretty soon, as I have a few things to say on the subject.
The tentative release date for my co-authored zombie apocalypse novel In the Lone and Level Sands is November 26th, 2013.
Leading up to its release, I’ve been posting a lot of fun zombie-related stuff on the book’s Facebook page. This blog post is meant to recap a lot of that. If you like zombie fiction, I hope you’ll check these out.
Free Norman Peters! – A blog maintained by one of the minor characters in In the Lone and Level Sands.
After the Bite – A collection of short stories and poems set during the same zombie apocalypse. Published in 2012, the e-book is free for the month of November if you download it through Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes Books, or Sony.
Update: Amazon now also allows you to download the eBook free of charge.
This book is also enrolled in the Kindle Matchbook program, meaning if you buy a new copy of the paperback edition through Amazon, you can download the Kindle version free of charge.
In the Lone and Level Sands preview – The first two parts (about 16%) of In the Lone and Level Sands uploaded as a .doc to Google Docs for easy reading. This includes the first 19 chapters of the upcoming book, in their entirety.
I’ve been a huge fan of zombies for a long time, and In the Lone and Level Sands is the zombie epic I always wanted to write. I’m happy to finally be releasing my contribution to the zombie genre, and I hope you’ll stick around when it arrives later this month. I also hope you enjoy the rest of this stuff in the meantime. Have fun!