Monday, December 12, 2016

Another Mass Effect: Andromeda Contest Entry

[dork] ;)

I decided to enter MassEffectFollower's December giveaway contest ....

The comment I posted:
Aside from the exploration and meeting a whole new cast of characters, what I'm looking forward to the most is Vetra. She was only onscreen for a few seconds, but that was enough to leave a hell of an impression. This is all speculation, of course, but her pose when she was leaning on the rail in that one shot suggested that she's not only tough, but also calm, sure of herself, and confident in her abilities to the point where she doesn't feel a need to telegraph it. Which would be a refreshing change from characters who are always boasting about how badass they are and walking around threatening people.
I could easily see Vetra just going about her business, being attacked suddenly, and just casually taking the enemy squad out, then immediately going back to thinking about something mundane, like reminding herself to do the laundry later, or something, as if it barely registers for her that she just beat the holy horsepiss out of a dozen mooks.
Or, imagine a scene with her and Ryder walking through a crowded outpost, talking about nothing important -- when suddenly, seemingly for no reason at all, she spins around and punches a rando in the back of his skull. He hits the ground like a sack of wet shit while Ryder freaks out and yells, "What the HELL?!" Vetra then plucks something from the guy's hand, holds it out to Ryder, and says, "He lifted your wallet. So, where were we ...?"
If Vetra turns out to be that kind of character, or even similar enough, it'll be worth the price of admission all on its own. But whatever kind of personality she ends up having, I'm eager to have her in my squad. :D
Especially if she's a romance option. <3 
[/dork] XD

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Some Thoughts on the Mass Effect: Andromeda Gameplay Trailer

So here's something that's been on my mind for a while. And this time, it won't take me two months to talk about it.

A week ago, the official gameplay trailer for Mass Effect: Andromeda was released. I've got some thoughts about it, but first, here's a look at the N7 Day cinematic trailer from last month, which I never got around to talking about.

Honestly, I really don't have much to say about this one. The previous couple of trailers (discussed here) had a sense of wonder and exploration and discovery about them. This trailer, however, doesn't. It looks and sounds like the typical trailer for any run-of-the-mill action movie. It had a few cool moments, but overall it wasn't that compelling, and I'm not exactly hooked on the idea of the mission turning into a disaster right out of the gate. I think it'd be nice to see a bit of things progressing normally for the characters, so we can see what they're like in everyday-life circumstances, so it'll hit a lot harder when everything turns upside-down on them.

Also, it'd be really nice if trailers would stop using variations on that HONNNNNNK! sound. We've had several years of that thing in damn near every trailer. Isn't it time that sound be retired?

Anyway. Then we got the gameplay trailer last week, and the sense of wonder and adventure was back, for me at least.

Additionally, there's been a few tons of information coming out since N7 Day, and for the most part, I'm getting a good vibe from it all. I do have a few minor concerns, but more and more lately, I'm finding myself giving BioWare the benefit of the doubt. From the interviews and Q&A sessions with lead writer Mac Walters, I'm getting the impression that they've learned their lesson from the Mass Effect 3 debacle and are putting their best effort into making Andromeda a good game. They've even stated that this game will be a complete story and not the beginning of another trilogy. I'm feeling pretty good about that, since their previous attempt at an epic trilogy turned into a pooch-screw at the end. I'm okay with the devs taking their time with this game, rather than rushing out a half-assed job like ME3, and concentrating on this one story, then maybe making another game later on if they can come up with a solid story.

Another bit of info I like is the Andromeda Initiative's launch date. According to the official website, the program started in the 2170s and the Nexus and the Arks launched in 2185, after the end of Mass Effect 2 but before Mass Effect 3. The ships will take six hundred years to reach the Andromeda galaxy, and there won't be a way to return or even communicate with the Milky Way, so that's a good way to side-step the entirety of the third game and start over from scratch. We won't have any of that crap tainting this story.

Now, on to some specifics.

Well, that sure is pretty. If nothing else, this game looks fantastic, and some of the environments show that a lot of imagination has been put into them. As I kept saying in my post on the previous trailers, most of them look like genuinely alien places.

Here's a few more gorgeous screenshots.

Those are beautiful. Now I've got a new collection of desktop wallpapers to cycle through. What remains to be seen is whether equal effort was put into the story, because that's the most important thing. Without a good story, the prettiest imagery in the world won't matter. But again, from what I've learned over the past few weeks, I'm cautiously optimistic. I'm planning to buy the game and do at least a couple of playthroughs for my YouTube channel, but even if I weren't, I'd be very tempted to pick up the game anyway.

I usually play as a female character when the option is available, but I think in my first playthrough I'll play as the male Ryder just so I can name him David and go for the obvious joke.

Now I'm wondering how many other people are going to do the same thing. Probably a lot.

Next we get a glimpse of the hyperspace tunnel/warp jump/whatever else it may be called -- maybe just FTL travel within the Helius Cluster, or maybe the travel between galaxies enabled by the experimental drive the Nexus and Arks are equipped with. That leads to a new system to explore, and then we get a look at the Tempest's galaxy map.

One thing I really like is the progress meter at the top of the screen. It's nice to be able to see whether or not you still have objectives to complete. That was one of the things about the missions in Mass Effect 3 that made things more difficult than they should've been -- the way the game kept track of what had and hadn't been completed yet was ... flawed, shall we say.

Next, we get a look at the Tempest approaching a planet that appears to be orbiting a black hole.

What I like about this is that it's a type of astronomical phenomenon we weren't able to explore in the previous trilogy. The mass relay network was set up to let ships travel to stable, safe star systems, and none of them opened into hazardous regions such as those near black holes, newly-coalescing planets, pulsars, and whatnot. (Well, except for the Omega-4 Relay, but that one probably doesn't count.) Since Andromeda won't have a relay network (as far as I know, at least), there ought to be all sorts of volatile places to explore.

Next up, we see the Tempest landing on a planet, followed by ...

This lovely lady in the center of the trio. <3

Now, I never really liked the design BioWare came up with for female turians ... they just didn't look like they were quite the same species as the males. I would've expected a bit more similarity. Not only that, but given the need for protection from the radiation from Palaven's sun, you'd think being "bald" would be an evolutionary disadvantage, since turians needed to evolve a metallic carapace to protect them from said radiation. So the idea I came up with was that maybe the "bald" ones evolved in the polar regions of Palaven, which would likely get less solar radiation, and wouldn't need the additional shielding provided by the "fringes" or "spikes" or whatever they're called, that we've seen on the males previously. Which would mean that there are also bald males somewhere, but we just haven't run into any yet.

Also, other slight differences between the two could be the turian version of ethnicities -- slit pupils instead of the more roundish ones we've seen on the males, differently-shaped mandibles, and so on.

Either way, though, it's nothing I can't adjust to, and with Vetra, here, BioWare seems to have made some refinements to the design that I actually like. Part of it is possibly the "thing" I have for really tall, muscular women ... as you can see in the next shot, she's quite statuesque. Though it's possible that Sis!Ryder is below average human height, turians were always meant to be very tall. So are krogan, such as the dude on the right in the image below, and Vetra looks at least as tall as he is. It'd be a nice touch if the devs made her exceptionally tall to give her a little more individuality.

But even though she appears to be quite tall ...

She doesn't look fragile. One of the things I noticed immediately -- and really like about her overall design -- are her upper arms. Look at those pipes. And her upper body in general.

Vetra looks like she works out frequently. :D Not only that, but from her pose in the above image, she's giving the impression that she's not only tough, but calm, sure of herself, confident in her abilities to the point where she doesn't need to telegraph it.

A friend and I were talking about this yesterday, and he called my attention to it by pointing out that it'd be interesting if they wrote Vetra that way -- badass, but feels no need to broadcast it to everyone. No need to act badass, but she simply ... is. I really like that idea. It'd be so refreshing to see a character who is secure enough that she doesn't need to strut or boast like so many of the characters in the Mass Effect setting often do. Imagine her just going about her business, then when the shit hits the fan, she casually takes out the enemies and immediately goes back to thinking about some mundane task, like she barely even registered that she just beat the holy horsepiss out of fifteen mooks. If Vetra turns out to be that kind of character, or even similar to that, it'd be worth the price of admission all on its own.

Oh, and I'm hoping she'll be one of the romance options. It'd just make a fascinating story in itself, if it's done right. Particularly given the issues with turians being based on dextro-amino acids, while humans and most other Milky Way species are levo-based.

Next, we see a bit of scenery as Ryder jogs through what appears to be a marketplace. We see quite a few krogan, another turian woman, and a couple of new aliens off to the left, no doubt native to the Andromeda galaxy.

Here, we see a guy talking to a turian, and she totally looks like she's trying to ignore him. XD

Here, Ryder is being escorted to one of the local big shots by a pair of krogan. I chuckled at the annoyed look she got after one of them shoved her. Again, the room they're in looks really good, particularly the lighting.

The conversation quickly goes south and the big shot tries to have Ryder removed at gunpoint. This is where we get our first look at the new "interrupt" system, and I think it's a big improvement. It has a timer so you'll know how long you have to choose whether to use the interrupt or let it pass by. The previous games didn't have that, so you never really knew exactly how much time you had to decide. The new system also tells you what kind of action the interrupt is -- in this case, "disarm." It'll be really nice to have some idea of what action Ryder will take if you push the button. The previous games didn't have that, either.

Then we see Ryder take that action, and I love that smirk she has after she takes that dude's gun away.

And here's where I go off on a bit of a tangent. I'll try to keep it brief. I brought this up the last time I commented on a pair of trailers for this game, but the subject keeps coming up, so here it is again.

Yet again, there are people ranting about how "ugly" this character and others are, and again, I just don't see it. Some of the animation looks like it needs work, but Sara Ryder's default appearance looks just fine to me. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So default-Ryder isn't a supermodel, but there's no reason she should be expected to look like one. She's more like someone you'd meet in everyday life, and I've got no problem with that.

I dunno, maybe I'm looking at this from a writer's perspective. Someone who looks perfect and has no blemishes just doesn't strike me as interesting to look at. On the other hand, let's take a look at my GTA Online character.

Maybe a lot of people would think she's ugly. I think she's kinda cute, but more than that, she looks like someone who's got some amazing stories in her past. Those pockmarks on her face suggest she's had a rough life, maybe had quite a few close calls and narrow escapes (or maybe just a skin condition) -- yet she's still smiling and appears to be generally happy. And there's got to be a hell of a story behind those creepy, solid-black eyes. As a writer, that's the sort of thing that holds my attention.

Anyway. This is just one of those things that irritates me. Moving on ....

Next we see Ryder scanning a crime scene, searching for clues. Some sort of murder-mystery subplot, looks like. This could turn out to be quite fascinating, adding some nice variety to the gameplay. We've seen the scanning before, in the 4K Tech Demo video, but here it's being put to a more specific use.

Also, the cause of death sounds horrifying.

Below, we have a look at the Nomad. I like its look, and I just hope I can drive it without crashing it into everything in its path, unlike the Mako. I liked the Mako's durability ... and nothing else about it. I know it's more the fault of the game's driving mechanics than anything else, but that thing was so frustrating to drive, I didn't shed a single tear when I found it among the Normandy's crashed remains on Alchera. I shed a few for the Normandy itself, though....

Next, we see the jump-jetpack in action, just before Ryder does a biotic charge and a bit later we see it again. Handy little gadget. Looks like it's useful for sideways-dodging moves, as well.

The rest of the trailer is fairly standard action-movie type stuff showcasing various weapons, which I don't really have much to say about. There's one, however, that I found interesting. It appears to be a knife or dagger or a really short sword that's charged with either biotic energy or something similar to an electrical build-up.

I'm kind of a sucker for things like this. I'll probably keep trying to use it and end up being shot full of holes or burned to a crisp over and over.

And then there's what appears to be a shotgun that fires lightning bolts! WANT! :D

Anyhoo. Overall, this is looking pretty good. I'm willing to give it a chance. There's still no release date other than "Spring 2017," but I'm okay with that. I'd prefer the devs take as much time as they need to get everything right and make the game as good as they can make it, rather than rush it out the door for a quick buck.

And as I've said before, I want this game to be good. I want to be able to enjoy a new Mass Effect game again. So until spring, or whenever the actual release happens, I'll be keeping my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Character Spotlight: Shakira Moseley

So here's Otto Fellatio's usual partner-in-crime, a fellow hacker who found herself hanging around him fairly often, then working with him on several projects including a podcast. As she mentions in the excerpt below, she was born in Jamaica before her parents moved to Neon City a few years later.

Just as I wanted to avoid certain stereotypes with Otto -- I didn't want him to be whiny or an arrogant know-it-all or a Wesley Crusher -- there were certain things I had in mind and things I wanted to avoid when I started writing her way back in Load. One thing I'd noticed on TV and in movies was that an African-American lead actress usually had very light skin, so as is my wont, I went the opposite direction with Shakira, deciding that she had very dark skin. From what I've seen, this still seems to be a thing today, and a month or two back there was even an article about a young woman named Khoudia Diop, who was bullied because of her dark skin. She ended up becoming a model, so she had the last laugh.

Shakira is also overweight, so another thing I really wanted to avoid was the stereotype of the "sassy black woman." She has a good sense of humor and is pretty mellow most of the time. It takes a lot to make her angry. And for a very long time, there's been a social stigma against women who aren't supermodel-thin, they're often subjected to vile insults and discrimination, so one of the ideas I had way back then was to make this character a BBW to get across a more positive image. Which has been a thing in my writing for a very long time -- the idea that it's okay not to look like society's ideal image of what's attractive or even "normal." So while Shakira has a few self-esteem issues to overcome, she will get there, and most of the time it doesn't occupy her thoughts at all.

Shakira had a substantial role in Chaser, but a younger version of her appeared first in Load, then returned in Fifteen Minutes, and is back again in Project Revenant. The following scene is from Fifteen Minutes, an interview similar to the one in Otto's character profile a couple of posts back.
"So, I guess it's my turn now?" Shakira hung up the last of her shirts and dropped the empty duffel bag on the closet floor.
"Yep." Eddie leaned against the bare wall and aimed his camera at her. "Just a quick introduction, a few words about yourself, that kind of thing. Then I'll be out of your way."
Oy. She hesitated, trying to gather her thoughts. "I've never really liked talking about myself, so I'm not sure where to start."
"Well, just start talking and see what comes out of your mouth." Eddie grinned. "That's probably safer with you than with Otto."
"Oh, hell, I bet your interview with him was mostly him talking about jerking off."
"Not really, but the topic did come up. I was, shall we say, taken aback."
"That's pretty much how I felt when I first met him. In some ways, he's like all the teenagers I knew when I was his age, and in other ways he's not like them at all. Some people march to their own drummer; Otto has an entire orchestra." She chuckled. "Definitely makes him interesting to be around."
"That's why you spend so much time with him?"
"One of the reasons, yeah. He does keep me laughing. And we have similar interests." She chuckled. "We're both colossal geeks. So we work pretty well together." She shrugged, returned to the bed and unzipped her other bag. "Not that I spend all my free time with him; sometimes it just kinda works out that way. Though sometimes I think he goes out of his way to show up where I happen to be hanging out."
"How did you two meet, anyway? Seems kind of an unlikely pair."
"We traded comments a few times on message boards, back before we met in person. Since we're both hackers, we ended up hanging out with the same crowd. We both spend quite a bit of time at a club called the Event Horizon – the owner actually lets Otto live in an apartment upstairs in exchange for working on the software used in the club's computers – and I bumped into him randomly one night."
Eddie nodded and entered some notes into his tablet. Shakira dug through the bag's contents for a moment before continuing.
"We talked shop most of the night, started working on software projects together, then we ended up doing the podcasts for the hell of it. At first we just dispensed advice on gaming and programming, then we gradually branched out into other subjects. Now we talk about whatever's on our minds, and somehow we manage to keep a few people entertained."
"I've listened to a few of your podcasts. One of the first things that went through my head during the first one was, 'I wonder how long they've been married?'"
"Eww." Shakira laughed and pulled her laptop out of the bag. "No offense to Otto, but…ugh. Hold on, I gotta wait for my skin to stop crawling." She placed the laptop on the desk beside the window overlooking the back yard, stared through it for a moment and sighed. Just my luck – the only guy I've met since high school who's interested in me, and he's underage. No wonder I gave up on the whole dating thing years ago.
Eddie jotted another note on his tablet, let the silence stretch out for a moment longer, then nodded at her laptop. "Say, that's a pretty sweet machine."
"Thanks." She smiled and allowed herself to relax a bit. "I've had it for nearly a decade, but it was built to last. Stainless steel case and keys, fully insulated on the inside in case anything shorts out, with a touchscreen and backlit keyboard, and completely future-proof. It's got top-of-the-line innards, and can still be upgraded when necessary. My handheld PC is built the same way."
"Nice. Looks like a custom job; did you build it yourself?"
"Yeah. Most off-the-shelf systems don't last very long. I got sick of replacing my computer every few years – or less – because the damned thing was outmoded or went so haywire that it'd cost more to fix it than to buy a whole new machine. So I went looking for the parts I needed and gradually put this baby together."
Eddie stepped closer and aimed his camera at it.
Shakira returned to the bag and picked a few more devices out of it, including her pocket-sized computer. "You should see Otto's computer, though. Hardly anyone uses the old desktop design anymore – CPU towers, I mean – but he does. He's got that thing crammed full of drives and memory modules and graphics hardware. He found an old tower somewhere and decided to remove the fans and other non-essential stuff and fill all the empty space. Then he put LEDs and other geegaws on the outside."
Eddie chuckled. "Nice. I'll ask him to show it off sometime. But how about more about yourself?"
"Huh? Oh. Right. Well…about myself, then." She shrugged. "My family originally lived in Jamaica until my parents came to America. The accent creeps back into my voice when I'm really tired or stressed out. Parents moved to Neon City to find better jobs when I was a kid. I went to college here, got degrees in graphics design and programming, but never managed to get the kind of job I was looking for. "
She placed her handheld unit on the desk, powered it up, and synced it with the laptop. Then she brushed her dreadlocks away from her face and sat, swiveling the chair to face Eddie before continuing.
"Ended up doing freelance programming, troubleshooting, that sort of thing. And like Otto, I've also entered my share of gaming competitions for the prize money, but it's been a while since the last one. It keeps me afloat, but just barely. That's why I'm on this show of yours; I wouldn't normally do something like that, but the price was right."
"That's definitely understandable." He made another note on his tablet. "A moment ago you called yourself a colossal geek; you don't strike me as the geeky type, other than being into hacking."
She laughed. "Well, when I was Otto's age, I wrote quite a lot of fanfiction. How's that for geeky?"
"Oh, really? What sort of stuff was it?"
"Some Star Wars, a little Trek here and there. A few other franchises that were around before I was born; I'm kind of a sucker for that sort of thing. The Mass Effect games were among my favorites." She tossed off a sheepish grin and looked at the floor. "I was a Shepard-Tali shipper, but it wasn't the focus of my fics. My main concern was simply writing good stories. For a while I entertained the notion of getting published, but that didn't work out. So I fell back on hacking."
"Yeah, I know how it goes. I had all sorts of dreams when I was a kid – I was gonna be an astronaut and lead the first mission to Mars. Then, as I grew up, reality slowly crushed those dreams."
"Yeah, that's it, exactly." She shrugged. "Anyway, there you have it. Colossal geek."
"So noted." He looked at his tablet again and laughed. "You still use the same online handle you had back then?"
Oh, bloody hell. She looked away. "Uh…I don't know what you're talking about."
"Come on, fess up. It's not like everyone won't find out anyway. It's been posted on the show's forum by someone calling himself 'Biggus Dickus.'"
That little shit. "Ah. Yeah. He's one of my and Otto's mutual friends." She lowered herself onto the chair, took her glasses off and covered her face with her hands. "Alright. It's…it was a character I played in a Star Wars RPG when I was in junior high. Like Otto, I kept using the name for a long time afterward."
"And that name is…?"
She groaned and mumbled, "Darth Sugartits."
Eddie snickered. Shakira scowled straight into his camera and extended her middle finger.
"Biggus … uppus your rectumus."

Chaser on Amazon, and was published one year ago today. It also has its own Facebook page.

Load is available in both ebook and print.

Fifteen Minutes is also available in ebook and print editions.

Monday, November 28, 2016

New YouTube Channel: Feel Boss Gaming

After more than a quarter-century of trying to get published and succeeding only twice (one novel published a year ago, followed by one story in an anthology that tanked so hard, the publisher took it down from Amazon), I thought long and hard, and finally decided to see if I can take things in a different direction, at least to some extent.

I'm still going to continue working on my current books (Harbinger and its upcoming sequels, Freelancers, and Uncharted Territory), but others I've got in the planning stages will have to be put on hold temporarily while I try to get this new venture off the ground. Once Uncharted Territory is finished, I'm planning to get started on the sequel to Project Revenant, but I won't be working on six different books at the same time like I used to, at least until this new thing either works out or crashes and burns.

I'm still thinking about giving Project Revenant another polish and submitting it to another publisher, but at this point I can't kid myself anymore. Despite the vast majority of readers who comment on my work telling me that it's good (or in some cases, outstanding), the people who make the decisions on what gets published ... the gatekeepers ... won't give me a shot. Aside from the two things mentioned above, it hasn't happened in 26 years, so there's no reason to think it'll happen any time in the rest of my life. You know the saying about the definition of insanity -- repeating the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

So, it's time to try something new. If this works out, it'll at least become a supplementary income, which I need rather desperately. After certain events over the course of the past few months ... I'm done. I'm just done. It's way past time to stop trying things that clearly aren't working, and take a stab at something else. Which, in all likelihood, is also doomed to failure, but you never know until you try.

A few days ago I set up a new YouTube channel to see if I can make something happen with my other hobby/passion, video games. The channel is named after the gamer tag I usually use, Feel Boss. I've started it off with a fair number of clips from my character's antics in Grand Theft Auto Online (some of which were posted on YouTube under my real name, but since hardly anyone watched my videos, I decided to set up the new page and start moving the videos over to it), and there'll be more coming soon. And I'll be uploading gameplay videos from other games, as well. For instance, the only thing I bought on Black Friday was DOOM, which Steam had on sale for under $20 (full price is $60 since it's still fairly new).

I'll also be going over my Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 videos, editing out any long, boring pauses and doing what I can to tighten them up, then uploading them to the new channel. And though I'd planned to wait until I heard from other players whether Mass Effect: Andromeda is any good or not, I've decided to pick it up on release day and post my playthroughs, since it'll be something of a hot topic. Since I'm a writer, I'll be looking at it from that perspective, so I (and, hopefully, viewers) will be able to take something useful away from it, but I'm also hoping it'll be enjoyable and not an infuriating slog like ME3 was.

Another series I've got planned is for one of the worst games of all time, Ride to Hell: Retribution. Again, looking at it mainly from a writing perspective, but from what I've heard, that game is terrible in every way, shape, and form, so there should be plenty to talk about.

Something I'm thinking about doing with GTA Online is to go into Passive Mode so I can't be killed every five seconds, cruise around, and just observe the goings-on and see if anything interesting happens. One of the titles I'm considering for this is Feel Boss Likes to Watch ... and I'm considering it because it sounds creepy. I might also use this as a way of making video blogs, just so there'll be something interesting on the screen while I'm talking, since I'm not really comfortable being on camera.

I'll also be revisiting old favorites, like Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row IV. And I've got my eyes on Agents of Mayhem because it looks like a spiritual successor to those two games.

On my website, I've added a couple of new pages, one for The Misadventures of Feel Boss and the other for some Cunning Stunts races in GTA Online. I've also inserted all the videos so far between these paragraphs for the sake of convenience.

And I'll be posting links to my website, blog, and novels and whatnot under each video, so who knows, if I can get this off the ground, maybe it'll help draw some attention to my other passion. I can't help being pessimistic about my chances, but ... well, you never know until you try.

Character Spotlight: Otto Fellatio

One of the supporting characters in Chaser is a friend of the protagonist's family, who goes by the name of Otto Fellatio. In addition to his hacking skills, he displayed a few other ... unusual ... abilities in the novel, helping Boiler out in her fights on several occasions.

A much younger version of Otto appeared in Load and Fifteen Minutes before Chaser was submitted to the publisher that ultimately accepted and published it. Here's a scene from Fifteen Minutes, in which he's being interviewed for a reality show he and a few others were hired to star in.

"Ah, so it's my turn now, eh?" Otto placed his backpack on the bed and took a look around the room. Off-white walls, beige carpet, stucco ceiling; the same as any number of other apartments he'd seen. A desk sat in the corner near a window overlooking the driveway and the street, with a mushroom chair in front of it. The chair was kind of nifty, but didn't look as if it would work well with the desk, which was quite plain – no shelves or drawers, just a flat surface facing the wall.
"Yep," Eddie said, standing in the doorway with his shoulder-mounted camera pointed at Otto. "Figured I might as well get as much supplemental stuff as I can while we're waiting for the rest of the cast to show up."
"Okay. Guess you'll want to start with an introduction, then?"
"That's a pretty good place to start, yeah."
"Well, then." Otto scratched the bald portion of his head, near the base of his frill of green hair spikes. "Uh, introduction. Okay, I'm Otto Fellatio. Not my real name, obviously; I started using it as an online handle years ago, and it kinda stuck." He shrugged. "I've been told it fits, though."
"And how old are you? You look pretty young."
"Thirteen. Well, I'll be fourteen in a few months." He unzipped his backpack and took a couple of T-shirts out, opened the tiny closet and hung them. Gotta bring my dresser. Or just get a new one. Might not be a good idea to haul too much of my stuff over here, in case this thing doesn't work out.
"How'd you get picked for the show?" Eddie said, tracking him with the camera as he returned to the backpack and pulled out a pair of cargo pants.
"Not sure, really. Shakira thinks Jack wanted us here to draw some attention away from him, and that makes sense to me."
"You're good at drawing attention, I take it?"
"Apparently. I suppose it's because of the podcasts we do in our free time. I usually find a way to bring the conversation around to sex or masturbation or something like that." He dug around in the pack, pulled out a plastic bag and hurriedly placed it on the top shelf in the closet. "My Fleshlight. You don't need to be taping that."
"Uh…okay." Eddie's eyebrows shot upward. "No offense, but that caught me a bit off guard. When I was your age, nobody I knew would ever admit to, um…"
"Punchin' their munchkins?" Otto snorted. "Life's too short for pretenses. Besides, you remember what it was like to be my age, right? Hormones raging, and all that shit. There's no way to stop it, so why not embrace it? It's not like it's destructive, or anything." He grinned. "In fact, the reason there are so many unwanted pregnancies and STDs is because too many people go out and bang the first person who'll take off their clothes for 'em instead of staying home and jerkin' it. Remember, kids, masturbation prevents abortions." He raised an eyebrow. "I need to put that on a T-shirt or bumper sticker or something. The preceding phrase is copyright 2046 by Otto Fellatio. Steal my idea and I'll sue your ass off!"
Eddie stared at him for several seconds and just blinked. "Uh…well…if Jack does want to keep the audience's attention off him, I guess he picked the right person."
"That's why I have so much fun with our podcasts. I have too much pent-up energy – and that's even before my morning coffee. And all the cups of coffee that follow it. Anyway, I gotta get all this out of my system somehow. When I grow up, I should do talk radio for a living."
"I've actually worked on a few talk shows. There's not much job security. You get fired a lot. Either the station format changes or the management just decides to replace you without warning. And radio stations haven't really been able to compete with online podcasts and blogs for years."
"Yeah, I've heard that. I wouldn't like going to work every day knowing that someone else might have already moved into my office." He shrugged. "I'd rather keep doing the podcasts with Shakira, but there's not enough money in it to make a living. We just get a few dollars from sponsors and affiliate programs."
"What else do you do to make ends meet? You had to have some way to pay the rent for your previous apartment, buy food and so on."
"I do a lot of hacking." Otto took a few of his gadgets out of the backpack and placed them on the desk, then took out his scrolltop and put it beside the other devices. Should bring my desktop unit on the next trip. "Freelance stuff. I'll write code for whoever hires me, and sometimes I troubleshoot programs that have already been written."
"Yeah, I guess that'd pay pretty well."
Otto nodded and took a few more devices from his bag. "I got my apartment because the building's owner lets me stay there rent-free as long as I code for him and his friends; I wrote all the software he's currently using in the Event Horizon, for example. And sometimes I enter gaming competitions if the prize is big enough."
"That's pretty good, given your age. How do you balance all of that with school?"
"I haven't gone to school since first grade." Otto took one more gadget from his pack, a scanner for detecting cameras and audio bugs. He swept the room with it and nodded when it only detected Eddie's camera. So far, the showrunners were keeping their promise of leaving cameras and microphones out of the bedrooms.
"Really? Wish I could've done that."
"Yeah, from everything I've heard, I haven't missed much." Otto returned the scanner to the backpack and shrugged. "Even before I dropped out, all the crap they had us do was stupid and boring. It wasn't about teaching us as much as getting us to conform – sit down, keep your back straight, keep your arms and legs in a certain position, shut your mouth and do what you're told. And not only that, but the only way to get through the day without being picked on or beat up was to be exactly like all the other kids. I got sick of that really fast."
"Huh. Your parents didn't make you go to school?"
"Well, I never knew my dad. And my mom…eh, there were things going on at home that I couldn't stand anymore. So one day I just left. Crashed at a friend's house, then moved on to another, then stayed in a shelter for a while before going somewhere else, always trying to keep a step ahead of anyone who might've been looking for me." Which no one did; once his mother learned that he wasn't lost or hurt, she hadn't exactly gone out of her way to bring him back.
He hoped that Eddie wouldn't pry about any of that. There weren't many subjects that he was unwilling to talk about, but this one was an exception.
"Hmm," Eddie said. "How did you learn to read, much less learn programming, without going to school?"
"TV, actually. I learned the basics by watching educational shows when I was really young, then one day I figured out that I could watch movies or shows with the closed-captioning on. Maybe I just had a natural aptitude for reading, because it wasn't that hard. As for learning how to program, that was something I got hooked on when I found out how video games and other software are made. I read voraciously – technical manuals, programming languages, the works. It was the most fascinating thing ever." He grinned and arched an eyebrow. "Well, until I reached puberty and the female anatomy became far more interesting."
"Yeah, that always trumps everything else, doesn't it?"
"Oh, hell yeah." Otto sighed. "I'm really gonna miss my teenage horniness when I outgrow it."
"Huh. Once I got past that stage in my life, I never really missed it. Always caused too many problems, made it hard to concentrate on anything, and just generally made life awkward as hell."
"It's a phase of your life that only happens once. I intend to milk it for all it's worth." Otto chuckled and plopped onto the mushroom chair. "Anything else you wanna know?"
Before Eddie could say anything, screeching tires and a roaring engine made both of them turn toward the window facing the street. Otto stood and hurried to the window, wondering if he was about to witness an accident.
Out on the street, a huge, battered old Ford truck with a lift kit and giant tires jumped the curb and skidded into the driveway. The engine sputtered as the driver shut it down, then the door opened. A twenty-something guy in tight jeans, a hickory shirt and a yellow baseball hat dropped to the pavement and stood for a moment, staring at the house.
Otto frowned. "Who's that hayseed?"
Eddie looked out the window and laughed softly. "That's Dale Halvorson – one of your new housemates."
Otto stared at him for a long moment, turned back to the window and watched the new arrival take a case of beer out of the truck and saunter up to the front door. Otto shook his head. "You gotta be fuckin' kidding me."

Chaser is available as an ebook on Amazon. It also has its own Facebook page.

Fifteen Minutes is available as an ebook from Amazon, and there's also a print edition.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Misadventures of Feel Boss

The whole getting-published thing just isn't working out. Last week, Project Revenant was rejected by the publisher I'd sent it to. So while I decide whether to give the book another polish and submit it to another publisher or just put it on Kindle Direct with all the others, I've been working on a few other little projects to see if there's something I can either use to draw attention to my books or make a few bucks off, somehow (or both).

I'm going to be continuing my two video series in which I analyze the writing of, and comment on, Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, and I've got a few other ideas for more videos. For instance, vids introducing and discussing Project Revenant and my current work-in-progress, Uncharted Territory. My approach to those will be similar to the one I made a while back for Chaser, in which I went into a solo session in Grand Theft Auto Online and talked about the book while riding a bicycle around Los Santos.

For the Uncharted Territory video I'm planning, I'll be recording my GTA Online character hiking up Mt. Chiliad (and probably falling off a few cliffs due to my incompetence) while talking about the book, its characters, its setting, and so on.

In addition to those, I've been making a few short gameplay videos for a series I'm calling The Misadventures of Feel Boss. I recently decided to see if I can exploit my ineptitude for humor (as well as the occasional awesome moment), and post some amusing videos of things going wrong. I added a page to my website with four videos embedded so far. I'm adding them below.

In the first one, I was trying to get a cool screenshot to use as a Halloween image, and it wasn't long before things went horribly awry and led to my brand-new Sanctus motorcycle merging with a section of corrugated metal fence like it had a transporter accident. After several minutes of trying to dislodge it, the two objects separated on their own, and then things ended the way just about everything I do ends.

In an older video, I solo'd the Sandy Shores Survival mission. This was just me mowing down ten waves of hillbillies hell-bent on killing me, so there's not much that's hilarious in it aside from the way the hillbillies keep rushing out and getting gunned down in the same spot, so their corpses just keep piling up. I've done that particular Survival mission several times because I find it oddly relaxing as well as amusing.

The next one's just me playing a round of the new "Deadline" Adversary Mode. Most of the time I stick to solo sessions because I didn't enjoy going into multiplayer and getting shot dead every five seconds because I'm too terrible a player to survive very long. But when I heard about the new Shotaro motorcycle, which is based on the Light Cycles from Tron Legacy, and then found out that the only way to unlock it was to play a round of Deadline, so I gritted my teeth and went for it. Surprisingly, I ended up enjoying it quite a bit even though the other players mopped up the arena with me. I guess it was because it was a specific thing we were all doing, rather than me trying to accomplish a task and having some fucking rando interfering just for his own shits and giggles. I'll probably play Deadline again, and end up with several more videos in the "Fiery Deaths" series.

This last one I uploaded earlier tonight. I hadn't even planned on making a video, but the mission I was playing through got ... interesting ... and I just had to record it, add a voice-over track, and the share it. I'd been running a couple of businesses that came with the game's recent "Bikers" update, but after the Deadline experience turned out to be surprisingly positive, I decided to temporarily shut down those businesses so I could focus on other races such as Cunning Stunts. I decided to do one last delivery run before shutting down the weed farm, and I was not expecting what it was about to turn into. My character's passenger lit up a really powerful joint while she was driving, she got a contact high from it, and she ended up going on a magical adventure.

Over the past couple of nights, I jumped into several Cunning Stunts races against other players and had a blast. I'm editing the first of those videos now, and will hopefully have it uploaded soon.

A Chip off the Ol' Block

Here's a bit of a spotlight on one of the characters in Chaser, the protagonist's father, Jack Hammer. In that novel, he and Boiler's mothers are agents in a government special investigations division, but he appeared previously in the novels Load and Fifteen Minutes. He's younger in those books, which are set at a time when he and his girlfriends were just starting their careers.

What follows is a full scene from late in Fifteen Minutes, showing what happens when Jack has been assaulted repeatedly, locked in a jail cell while seriously injured, hospitalized, and barely fought off an assassination attempt. Basically, this is Jack Hammer when he's had enough of the bad guys' shit.

It also shows where Boiler gets her mean streak.

Jack strode through the foyer, holding his ID out to the guy behind the desk on the left.
"I'm here for Carlton Lewis."
"I'm afraid he's unav – hey! Stop!"
Jack pushed through the turnstile and started to cross the dining room. The diners nearby looked up when the guy shouted, arching their eyebrows at Jack and exchanging worried glances.
A hand clamped onto Jack's left arm. He whirled, cocked his fist back and drove it into the foyer guy's face. The man's head snapped back, blood poured from his nose, and he staggered backward two steps and fell on his ass.
The customers released a burst of screams, jumped to their feet, and scattered.
Jack pointed at the foyer guy and said, "Stay down." He waited a few seconds until he was sure that the man wouldn't move. He resumed his course toward the doors on the far side of the room. The diners continued their rush away from him, some screaming, some gasping, others muttering to one another.
Two tall men with shoulders broad enough to park a car on charged out of the door at the back of the room and blocked Jack's path. Both were dressed similarly to the guy Jack had just decked.
"We're gonna have to ask you to leave," the one on the right said in a raspy, growling voice.
"I'm here for your boss." Jack held up his ID, trying it one last time. "I'm not in the mood for any of your shit."
"Out. Now." The other one took a step closer to him. "Or we'll throw your ass out."
"Oh, you will, will you?" Jack arched an eyebrow. "It'll hurt."
They flicked a quick glance at each other, sneering and shaking their heads.
"Just get that son of a bitch out of here," the one on the floor snapped.
Both men advanced on Jack. The one on the right grabbed the front of his duster and shoved him toward the front door.
Jack jabbed his index and middle fingers into the man's left eye, sending him reeling backward, clamping his hand over his eye and screaming.
The other guy reached for a weapon under his jacket. Jack drew his right leg back and launched a kick to the man's crotch that dropped him to his knees. Jack picked up a chair that had been toppled by its occupant's panicked run for cover. He raised it over his head and slammed it down on the back of the guy's neck with every ounce of strength he could muster. The chair exploded into shrapnel and the guy pitched forward and collapsed.
Jack turned to the still-shrieking goon, kicked him in the gut and stomped on his head, silencing his screams.
"Jesus," the foyer guy blurted. "You're fucking crazy!"
Jack glared at him and drew his gun. "What can I say, I've had a really shitty day. Don't make me any crankier than I already am." He crossed the room, pushed through the door and strode down the hallway to the door at the end. He flung it open, descended the stairs and turned the doorknob. Locked, of course. He pounded on the door.
A hatch slid aside, revealing a small view-window. A human face appeared briefly. The eyes widened and the face backed away from the window. "Oh, shit! It's – "
Jack drove his fist through the window and into the face. The thump of a body hitting the floor came from inside the room. Jack landed a kick to the door that snapped its bolt, and charged into the room. There he found three men in black suits and sunglasses and a fourth sitting behind a large desk. The three pulled guns from under their jackets.
Jack shot the nearest one in both legs. The guy collapsed, howling, and his gun bounced across the carpet.
The others hesitated, staring open-mouthed at him, and Jack took the few seconds that gave him to kneecap both of them. He rushed over to them, kicked their guns out of their reach, and turned his glare on the guy behind the desk.
"Carlton Lewis, I presume?"
"What the fuck?" Lewis jumped out of his chair and backed up against the wall. "Who the hell do you think you are? You can't barge in here and – "
"So it's okay for the mercs you hired to break into an anthro shelter and rough people up, but not for me to give you a taste of what you've been dishing out? Wrong."
Lewis slid along the wall, still trying to back away – then he launched himself at the door, trying to sprint past Jack. Jack grabbed Lewis's arm and dragged him back to the desk. Lewis flailed and swung his fist, driving it into Jack's left side.
A sudden, stabbing pain tore through his side, and he froze, unable to breathe. Somehow, he managed to keep his grip on Lewis. Shit. Feels like some stitches tore loose. Just what I fucking need.
He spun Lewis around and lunged, ramming his forehead into the bridge of Lewis's nose and knocking him stupid. Lewis flopped over onto his desk and moaned.
When Jack could finally breathe again, he staggered over to Lewis, rolled him over and jammed the gun into the back of his neck. "You even twitch and what's left of your head won't be enough to fill a shot glass. Understood?"
"Yeah," Lewis groaned.
"Good. Now, you've already confessed to sending those thugs to that shelter to beat the crap out of several residents and abduct them, but what I want now is their names. Each and every asshole you sent there. Give me their names and tell me where to find them."
"You can't do this," Lewis mumbled. "You're not a cop. I don't have to tell you shit!"
"No, I'm not a cop. A cop would arrest you. I don't have to stop there." Grimacing and trying to ignore the pain, Jack took a slow look around the office. His gaze landed on a set of golf clubs in the corner on the right. Okay, that's promising. "Start talking, fuckstain, or I'll beat you to death with your own golf clubs."
"You wouldn't dare. You're in enough trouble as it is. You push things that far and you won't live through the rest of the day."
"The feds have already pushed things a lot farther than that." Jack grabbed the back of Lewis's head and slammed it into the desk. "You give me those names or I'll start clubbing you like a baby seal!"
"Fuck you!"
Jack looked around to make sure that Lewis's henchmen were still down. As he swung his eyes back to Lewis, he spotted a row of potted cacti resting on a shelf over on the left. Most were small and colorful, but one in particular caught his attention – a plain, cylindrical cactus that looked about ten inches high and as big around as Jack's forearm.
"Oh, you're gonna wish you hadn't said that." Jack kept his gun pointed at Lewis and hurried over to the shelf, picked up the cactus and returned. He reached around Lewis, unbuckled his belt and yanked his pants down.
"What the hell're you doing?" Lewis shrieked.
"Nothin' much. I'm just gonna shove this cactus up your ass, that's all."
"Unless you feel like answering my questions, this cactus is going up your poop-chute. And if you still don't tell me what I want to know, I'll start hitting it with your nine-iron."
"Jesus Christ, Jack," Shakira's voice came from his earpiece. He ignored her and yanked Lewis's boxers down.
Lewis screamed again. "Get away from me, you sick fuck!" He swung at Jack again, but Jack blocked it and slammed his gun into the side of Lewis's head. He shoved Lewis over the desk, jabbed the cactus into his crack, and pushed.
"Stop!" Lewis screamed, his voice going high-pitched as he gave himself over to total panic. "I'll tell you whatever you want to know! Just stop!"
"Say the magic word." Jack nudged the cactus.
"Okay. Names. Now."

And thus, the Jack Hammer Interrogation Technique was born.

Chaser is available from Amazon.

Chaser also has a Facebook page you can follow for updates, character bios, and stuff that's just for fun ... such as this idea for what the protagonist's personal theme song might be.

Fifteen Minutes is also available from Amazon, in both ebook and print.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Mass Effect: Andromeda contest entry

So, YouTube channel MassEffectFollowers has been running a monthly contest with a copy of Mass Effect: Andromeda as the prize. The question for this month caught my interest, so I decided to give it a try.

I'm still waiting to find out whether it's a good story or not before I actually buy it ... but I'd feel a whole lot better about getting the game if I didn't have to pay for it, heheh.

My three picks for the ideal team:

Matriarch Aethyta, because she's a total badass who can headbutt a krogan across the room without flinching, and after being around for 1,000 years, she's got to have some serious tactical skills. Also because she's sexy as all hell. And because she should've had more screen time in the games, damn it. The Normandy has a bar in one of the observation lounges, so she'd be bartender when she's not kicking ass on missions.
Eve/Bakara, because she's strong, tough, and knows how to use a shotgun. But at the same time, she's calm and level-headed and actually sounds friendly during conversations rather than angry or threatening. She'd be useful on missions because she thinks things through rather than charge full-speed-ahead like most krogan, but when it comes time to kill every last motherfucker in the room, she'd pull out a pair of M-300 Claymore shotguns and do this.
EDI, to handle the team's hacking needs. Her skills and her newly-acquired mobile platform's resilience and agility make her a tremendous asset in the field. Her growing sense of compassion, loyalty to her friends, and disgust toward the Reapers not only make her a good person to have watching your back, but would also go a long way toward demonstrating to organics that AI isn't always a crapshoot.
And all three should be romance options (I'd feel bad about taking her away from Joker, but she could get a second body and, um, multitask). All at the same time, ideally. XD
Ahem. Excuse me …
I'll be in my bunk.
Heh. Joking aside, I should add a couple of notes.

I think Bakara would make for a really interesting romance subplot because it'd be a fairly new and different approach to the subject matter. Almost all of the options in the series so far have been hotter than hell in one way or another. Even though we couldn't see Tali's face, her body was easy on the eyes, and her personality is what won me over. Female Shepard had Garrus, so that came pretty close to what I'm talking about, but there really wasn't a similar option for Male Shepard. I think Bakara would've been a great way to show a romance that didn't start with, or depend on, physical attraction. It would've been a chance to show two characters making an intellectual and emotional connection first, and if physical appearance even became a factor, it wouldn't have happened until after that bond formed.

As for EDI, I should add that there'd be nothing stopping her from acquiring a third physical body to "interact" with Samantha Traynor. Given Joker's personality, I doubt he'd object.

Anyhoo, this just came out of my tendency to attempt to avoid double-standards when it comes to romantic relationships in fiction.

But there you have it, my entry in this month's contest. Now I just wait and see what happens when the contest ends ....