Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Why Goodreads Doesn't Work

Goodreads is the Facebook for readers. At least, that's how I always looked at it before I started self-publishing my own short stories. When I became a "Goodreads Author," that all changed. At that point it wasn't just about finding books to read; it was about finding readers to read my book.

That within itself is a cool idea; indie authors (like Hugh Howey), or big authors (like Stephen King) can connect with fans of their books directly. Look at Stephen King's Facebook page: how many of those people who like his page are fans of his books, how many are fans of his film adaptations? Who knows. But at least Goodreads you know that people who follow you are fans of your books.

But Indie writers (not Hugh Howey, because he's actually a good writer) are making it almost impossible for readers to find good books. And that's where I draw the line and point out boldly the issue at hand. I don't mind unknown authors -- myself included (although I have a little bit of cred from writing Resident Evil: Red Falls, but not that much) -- having friends and fans score their books or vote their books onto certain lists. "Best Science Fiction Novels," "Best Horror Novels," "Best YA Novels with a Supernatural Element" -- you get he point; there are tons of Goodreads member-made lists out there which Goodreads members can vote on their lists. Heck, I allowed some of my Resident Evil: Red Falls fans vote on one of the lists that I had made called "Must-Read Books for the Aspiring Writer."

But I wasn't eager enough to vote any of my stories to the top, because there's no way LeanRx: Results May Vary, Lucifer's Tongue, The Bone Man, or The Monster at the Bottom of the Stairs are more significant than Stephen King's On Writing and Danse Macabre, or any of his fiction books like The Stand, or It, or the Dark Tower series.

And then you have a person whom I won't name. Let's just say he's the most followed person on Goodreads, an author, and a Goodreads librarian (that means he's a moderator). When this fella voted his book to the top of my horror list, I changed the description to: "No offense, but just ignore #1. Voting oneself to the top seems kind of amateurish. I apologize for my boldness. It's not meant for an attack on any particular author."

So what did this author do? He abused his Librarian powers and deactivated ninety percent of the Goodreads members who had voted for my books. What a passive-aggressive move. And then he goes on to email me, pretending to be a typical Goodreads staff, that there "were a few members who had complained about your books having too many five star reviews" in so many words. So, he took away most of my five star reviews (from people that scored my books on their own). Meanwhile, his own books are nearly perfectly rated . . .

. . . and I wonder why (this is sarcasm). He -- being a Goodreads Librarian -- deactivates accounts who give him bad scores.

Goodreads needs to clean up their Librarian staff so authors can't be Librarians.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Resident Evil: Red Falls - Trailer #3





Trailer # 3 ladies and gents. Make sure you share it. We're almost at 200,000 YouTube views

Monday, December 9, 2013

WOOL (Review)


A lot of people will say that Wool is the greatest science fiction novel in decades. And then you’ll have the occasional straggler who says Wool is utterly overrated. The thing is, if you’ve discovered Wool prior to its Simon & Schuster-published release on March 12th, 2013, then you very likely specifically searched for dystopian or post-apocalyptic books—more likely than not, you found Wool on countless Goodreads lists or maybe a blog or two (plus, at the time, Wool’s Omnibus edition was quite cheap)—and with that being said, Wool delivers on its promise (and premise): it is an original science fiction book with dystopian and post-apocalyptic undertones.

 

What makes Wool so dang good is that I can actually see the world and people he describes; and I—despite the avid reader that I am—have trouble with some science fiction works within the last decade (Neil Stephenson’s The Diamond Age comes to mind: the concept is good, but its discombobulated with so many scientific terms and ideas that the characters and details are lost in the background; Wool’s characters and locations, on the other hand, are crystal clear). And Hugh Howey never lets the science outweigh the characters. We accept that the characters know what they’re doing; that’s good enough for the reader. Many science fiction writers tend to go overboard on the “science” part of science fiction, rather than the fiction.

 

The premise is simple. It’s not overly perplexed. People live in underground silos; to control their population, one person is sent out to die in a toxic world (which brings us to the plot of the novel, and the reason for the title—the people are given wool suits to wear; they are given the task to go out into the wastelands, clean the sensors—which are essentially cameras, so everyone else can see the landscape—and then . . . die), and then, after the cleaning, one married couple are given permission to have a child. This processed has gone on for hundreds of years.

 

Wool begins with a LOST-esque mystery which unravels over the course of a few chapters until we meet the main protagonist, Juliette. That’s as much of the plot that I’ll get into. Just consider Wool as Game of Thrones-esque drama in the confines of an underground silo.

 

Expect great things from Hugh Howey in the future because the future of science fiction (and self-publishing) is in his hands.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Gifts for the Serious Reader: Book Series

 
 
 
 
Firstly, this is a list of only five book series. In case I don't choose your favorite franchise, don't be offended. For this list, I mostly stayed away from young adult series (with the exception of Abarat), since young adult series seem to be blowing up pop culture lately; plus I really want to give recognition to series that are underappreciated (with the exception of A Song of Ice and Fire, but even so, I fear many will skip the books and just watch the masterful HBO series—but guess what? As good as the show is, the books are better).

Without further ado, I bring to you five series that would be ideal for the serious reader you know as Christmas gift.


ONE:// THE DARK TOWER SERIES

Stephen King—you’ve heard of him, I know you have. You’re probably familiar with his more popular works, such as The Stand, ‘salem’s Lot, and The Shining. However, horror isn’t all that Stephen King writes. A lot of people are blown away by the fact that he wrote Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.
Which brings us to the first gift for the reader you know: The Dark Tower series.

Combining Science Fiction, Horror, Action, Western, Romance, you name it—it’s the Linkin Park of book series, you could say. And the books are incredibly written (The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass is my favorite novel of all time). The ending is similar to J.J. Abrams’ LOST—you’ll either love it, or hate it, but you’ll feel a whole storm of emotions overcome you.

And get this . . . the Dark Tower series connects to other Stephen King books, so if one gets hooked on TDT, they will have a very busy reading schedule in 2014.

Unfortunately, however, there isn't a set where you can buy all seven books. But I recommend buying the boxed set containing the first four books (which are considered the best in the series anyway).

Similar to: LOST (TV show), Fringe (TV show), Thor (film series)

PRICE: $26.05.
(not including the last three books)




TWO:// A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE (AKA GAME OF THRONES)

Yes, the HBO television series is great, but the book series is even better. A Song of Ice and Fire is the greatest fantasy series (by an American writer) of all time. Hands down. And nobody kills off characters better than George R.R. Martin.

Similar to: Lord of the Rings, Skyrim (video game)

PRICE: $27.47





THREE:// THE SILO SERIES

There's a lot of talk about Hugh Howey. If you haven't heard of him, then perhaps you've been living under a rock (or aren't into books; but this isn't about you, it's about whoever you're thinking about buying this series for for Christmas).

Hugh Howey is a self-published author. What does that mean? He didn't have an agent, a professional editor, or a publisher. The first book in the series, Wool, started out as a short story e-book; and then, over time, fans wanted Hugh to finish the book. And he's written two other books since, Shift and Dust.

A lot of people consider Wool as one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time; I concur.

Similar to: Fallout 3 (video game), Oblivion (film)

PRICE: $41.28




FOUR:// THE MATTHEW CORBETT SERIES

Robert McCammon is one of the most magical writers out there; nobody writes characters quite like him. From Swan Song (often compared to Stephen King's The Stand) to Boy Life (which has a perfect 5-star rating on Amazon.com) to Gone South, McCammon's characters really come to life. He creates characters that we understand, that we can see; there's never a moment where the reader thinks, People don't talk like that. (Trust me, as much as I love Stephen King, there are lots of dialogue that isn't natural.)

You won't be disappointed in the Matthew Corbett series. The series consists of: Speaks the Nightbird, The Queen of Bedlam, *Mister Slaughter, and The Providence Rider.*

Similar to: Sherlock Holmes, The Raven (film)

PRICE: $27.20 (*note: 2nd two books are only ebooks at the moment*)




FIVE:// THE ABARAT SERIES

Disclaimer: this is an odd book series full of odd characters with an overall very odd tone. Clive Barker wrote The Hellbound Heart (later adapted into the beloved cult classic Hellraiser); but this series isn't quite as dark. It's one of those series, while reading it, I couldn't quite tell if it was for young adults or for adults. But I certainly do recommend this series for young adults; fans of Harry Potter would definitely enjoy this series. Plus Clive Barker doesn't get nearly as much recognition as he deserves.

The Abarat series consists of three books so far: Abarat, Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War, and Abarat: Absolute Midnight.

Similar to: Neil Gaiman (author), Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and a really bizarre dream.

PRICE: $24.15




What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Glenn Howerton Always Gets Shot in the Head (in Philadelphia)

I am very surprised I'm the first person to blog about this (considering that the Google search I did, I got zero results). But it is interesting and therefore I'm going to pop the cherry on this intriguing matter. As the title suggests: Glenn Howerton (from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) gets shot in the head often.

1) In Serenity (2005):
 

2) In 2008's The Strangers (starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman):


3) In Crank 2: High Voltage this happens:

 
4) And then, in the It's Always Sunny episode called "The Gang Saves the Day," Dennis gets shot in the head while negotiating with a robber (I unfortunately couldn't find a clip) -- which is clearly a homage to him dying in other films. But it seems as though I'm the first person to publically discuss this.
 


It's also noteworthy to say that he's in the upcoming TV show, Fargo (based on the ultraviolent Coen brothers film) . . .

. . . and, considering he likely won't be a main character, I wonder how he's going to die in that show.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Resident Evil: Red Falls Argument


Bare with me. I’m comparing Resident Evil: Red Falls with Linkin Park’s Minutes to Midnight. Why? Because it isn’t what the general audience expected from a Resident Evil fan film, but it is what the hardcore, faithful Resident Evil fans wanted, even if they missed the old puzzle solving days. The truth is, as The Joker says, "There's no going back"; likewise, Resident Evil can only go forward. Yes, the franchise has been missing its mark, but it has seen the error of its way. And, like Linkin Park critics who hated Minutes to Midnight because it was no longer Nu Metal, Resident Evil: Red Falls critics seem to be stuck on the fact that we don't have Resident Evil characters (despite the fact that such characters wouldn't make sense in the story which we told). Due to our budget, and what Travis Hayward—as a director—is good at, we had make it the way we knew best. Action-horror; action was what we knew how to succeed at, but we still attempted horror. And, with the assistance of a creepy score, we succeeded as much as we needed to. We had zombies, but the zombies were not the focus (they were only the obstacles); we had Resident Evil lore, but it wasn’t the focus (although BSAA badges can be spotted often). The Resident Evil mythology—while playing a very important role in the plot—was subtle.
 
But at least we had realistic action; we didn't copy-and-paste scenes from the games (although some of the "critics" suggested we should, despite its illogicalness); we didn't bastardize fans favorite characters by casting them poorly; we didn't spoof the series like many fan films do based on their fears of making serious fan fiction; heck, we got CAPCOM's stamp of approval.
 
But the critics, once in a blue moon, do have valid points. A sequel could be scarier. A sequel could have characters from the game (well, actually HUNK would be the only character I would write into the script). A sequel could have a female character (although not a BSAA operative, not to be sexist). A sequel could have more zombies. And finally, a sequel could have a bigger budget, allowing us to tell a grander story.
 
I only hope people can look past the budget and see it for what it is: a template for what we could do if we actually did have a budget.
 
 


Monday, May 27, 2013

9 Ways to Save Resident Evil 7


The apotheosis of all theses pertaining to horror was stated in Danny Boyle’s sort-of-zombie-epic 28 Days Later, in which the scientist at the very beginning of the film says, “In order to cure, you must first understand.”

          With that being said, I’ve composed a list of everything that CAPCOM should avoid in Resident Evil 7, and what they should bring into the mix.

 

1. NO MORE PARTNERS

         

          There’s a reason why Dead Space 3 wasn’t as good as the first two; it wasn’t necessarily story or gameplay—it was having a partner to dull the scares. When you step into a survival horror game, you don’t want a partner because it makes things too easy; unless the partner, of course, isn’t armed, isn’t strong, and is important to keep alive—such as Ashley from Resident Evil 4—or are capable of dying, like in Deadrising, and NOT from dying via cut scene, but rather dying because of your own in-game decisions. That would be the only scenario that having a partner—whether armed or not—would be a good idea.

          Hasn’t CAPCOM learned from Resident Evil Zero that we don’t want an AI partner that will make the game easier to play, along with less scary?

          Resident Evil 7 needs to put an end to the partner system, plain and simple. Have Mercenaries be for co-op or multiplayer, because co-op has no place in a Resident Evil game.

 

2. ONE GOOD, COMPLEX LOCATION

 

          When you think Resident Evil and Zero, you think of a mansion; Raccoon City’s streets and police department is what you think about for Resident Evil 2 and 3: Nemesis; a village, castle, an industrial facility for Resident Evil 4; a boat in Revelations. And then it takes a dive. In RE5, nothing was really distinguishable; I certainly can’t name my favorite location. Perhaps the swamps. But when you think of RE5, you don’t think swamps—you think the shantytown that is . . . uh, what’s the name of the city again? Kijuju? Something like that. (And yes, I’m deliberately playing dumb because I can easily Google the name, but that’s not the point.) And in RE6, get out a notepad and make a list of all the locations—you’ll need a couple pages. Then how many of those locations were significant to the actual story? How many of those locations were interesting? Only a handful. And even if a location was interesting, that doesn’t mean that the gameplay elements were.

          Part of the reason why RE5 and RE6 had the weakest locations (and location designs, mind you), is because it’s pointless to backtrack in either game, pointless to explore. Even though RE4 was a straightforward game (it wasn’t as if you were stuck in the village for the entire game), there was still need (and rewards) for exploring every nook and cranny. Backtracking is good. And it creates incentive for the game developers to put more detail and passion in the actual locations.

          For Resident Evil 7 to be effective, it needs to pick a location and then make it interesting. CAPCOM needs to add some RPG elements to make it necessary to backtrack and find things they couldn’t have otherwise; for instance, if at the beginning of the game there is a crumbly wall and then later on you find grenades and realize that you could blow that wall up, then that is smart game design. That’s also why The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask were so good, and why Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword weren’t as good—because the latter two games had less emphasis on exploration. In Resident Evil 7, I want to find secret weapons, treasures, etc. . . . by exploring, not by following a cookie crumb trail to the next objective in the game.

 

3. ATMOSPHERE / MOOD

 

          What the first several games of the franchise had—and you can’t dispute this—was a moody atmosphere. The atmosphere alone (contributed by a creepy score, of course) made those games terrifying as they were. And then add sound design, creature design, pacing, etc. . . . and, well, you needed to bring along an extra pair of underwear.

          This is where some fans might disagree on. Resident Evil 4. Okay, so the game might not have had a dark, sinister atmosphere as the first several games had, but it did have an atmosphere of its own. And it worked. Perhaps the first few games were the equivalent to hot sauce, and Resident Evil 4 was rich, almost-spicy cinnamon. It was Resident Evil even though it was different; it might have had a different taste, but it had a similar tang nevertheless.

          And then Resident Evil 5 had no atmosphere, and Resident Evil 6 had inconsistent atmosphere in all the campaigns.

          What Resident Evil 7 needs to do is create an atmosphere that creates a mood. The early trailers for Resident Evil 5 hinted at such a mood, whereas the actual game didn’t deliver. And RE7 needs to deliver—whether its taste is different than the other games, it needs to have a tang of horror, mystery, depression, hopelessness.

 

4. CONTROLS

 

          I won’t spend much time on this category, but it needs to be addressed. Resident Evil 5 had decent controls (upgraded from Resident Evil 4); Resident Evil 6 had terrible controls. Reason for which: the loose camera that follows the character. It’s sad that I prefer the fixed camera behind the character over the incoherent one from RE6. If I want to see my character’s face, I’ll wait for a cut scene.

 

5. QUICK TIME EVENTS

 

          All the best quick time events come from RE4—cutting the rope after the fight with the giant salamander, Jack Krauser’s fight, dodging the lasers, avoiding certain enemy attack, etc. . . . In RE5 and RE6, the quick time events are . . . sad to say . . . gimmicks. RE5’s quick time events are better than RE6’s.

          Resident Evil 7 needs to take a step back and think before doing. It would be awesome to see Chris Redfield having a hand-to-hand fight with a group of enemies and using a QTE to fight through them. But, the quick time events can’t be cut scenes anymore. The Last of Us is what Resident Evil 7’s QTEs need to look like. They need to be intergraded into the gameplay.

          Imagine this (in cinematography terms): During gameplay (not a cut scene) you see (character) getting surrounded by the enemy (whether zombie, human, ganados, majini, whatever). You’re prompted to press “X”—you miss your chance. An enemy damages you. “Y”—you press it and punch an enemy; “B”—you press it and counter an enemy attack and manage to get the enemy in a headlock. ‘Hold “A”’—you hold it, and your character is trying to break the enemy’s arm or neck and the enemy is struggling. Meanwhile another enemy attacks. While holding “A,” you’re prompted to press “RT” (if you succeed, you block the enemies attack and finish breaking the current enemy’s neck; if you fail, you lose your headlock and that enemy is free. Essentially you can choose this method of fighting a lot of enemies, or you can choose to blast them away. It’s an option. There’s pros and cons to going hand-to-hand, pros and cons to using a gun. This sort of QTE would be an optional risk assessment. Do you want to take a group of enemies hand-to-hand (which would save ammo but you’re more likely to get injured)? Or do you just want to start shooting? And even if you want to shoot, you can still apply some hand-to-hand.

          That sort of innovative gameplay is what Resident Evil 7 needs to have. And it serves survival horror. It’s not just mindless QTE that was in RE6.

 

6. THE SURVIVAL HORROR ELEMENTS

 

          A) limited enemies (that don’t drop ammo, that don’t respawn); limited ammo; innovative weapons (not to the extent of Deadrising, but if I don’t have ammo and I see a board of wood, I’ll want to use it).

          B) No more “end of chapters,” instead bring back the typewriter. Or, hey, if typewriters are outdated, then why not send an email on a computer or laptop and that’s how you save the progress? That’s a good modernly relevant solution, isn’t it?

          C) Bring back the “safe room.”

          D) Enemies should be able to break down doors (aside from safe rooms).

          E) The inventory needs to be fixed. As with all the games up until 5, bigger items took up more room; you had to be smart about what items you wanted to bring along.

         

7. A “VIRUS/PARASITE/FUNGUS” THAT IS LIMITED

 

            The Uroboros from RE5 was way too simple and not scary enough and it never really made sense how Ricardo magically turned into a sea monster because he injected himself with the Plagas on a boat; the C-Virus from RE6 could just do waaaaaay too many things, the mutations were too numerous and inconsistent—even an enemy with a biological chainsaw for a hand. It didn’t make sense how the C-Virus could create zombies, monsters, the Ustanak, and J’avos (which were the same thing as Majini but only looked different). If they really did want a virus that could do all those things, they needed to have had A LOT more in-game documents to read. In fact, RE6 didn’t have any in-game documents. That was a disappointment.

          I think Resident Evil 7 needs to have a novel’s worth of documentation within the game for whatever their “virus” is going to be. Because it needs to make sense in order for suspension of reality to happen for the player. And sure, it doesn’t have to be journals or pieces of paper, but cell phone text messages too. RE7 needs to be modern.

 

8. UPGRADES / ITEM PURCHASES

 

          Bring back the merchant. Enough said.

 

9. A RELEVANT, DARK STORY; SIMPLE PLOT

 

          Examples of simple Resident Evil plots:

          1) Leon’s sent to a European village to investigate leads on the kidnapping of the president’s daughter; once he finds her, he needs to save her. (RE4)

          2) You’re trying to survive and you discover the story/plot as you play (RE1, 2, 3, ZERO, Revelations)—and most of the “plot” in those games is actually more or less the backstory.

          Here’s an example of a plot that doesn’t make sense (or gets too discombobulated): For some reason the president of the United States is at a university in Tall Oaks and Leon shoots him and he is with a girl who he doesn’t know and Hunnigan somehow knows her and meanwhile there’re zombies everywhere in Tall Oaks; meanwhile, in Russia, Sherry Birkin magically finds Jake Mueller and discovers instantly that his blood is special and that a cure can be made  byusing it and, uh, somewhere else Chris is a captain of a BSAA team and

          (where’s Jill?)

          he . . . I have no idea what his objective is, other than killing B.O.W.s—and that’s the problem with RE6. The plot was WAY too overcomplicated. (And I still have no idea why Simons’ wife wanted to clone herself into Ada Wong and I had no idea why Simons’ wife wanted to kill Simons’ and!—brain!—hurts!

          Resident Evil 7 really needs to tone it down and find a simple story.

          My example of a simple plot:

          In a city a bioterrorist organization holds a group of people hostage and for every day that they don’t get what they want, they’ll kill a hostage and release a new B.O.W. into the city.