Friday, August 11, 2017

You Gotta Keep 'em Separated

In August of 1997, I was fourteen years old and not really into music. There were songs I liked. I was even slowly building a compilation tape. But it was all stuff my parents listened to, such as Billy Joel, that I had grown up hearing. I had never had the thrill of discovering a band or a genre of music on my own. I had never purchased an album with my own money. That all changed when I went home with my copy of The Offspring's SMASH.

Though the album had been out for about three years, the first I heard of the Offspring was when I got into Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) in late 1996. Not only did Raven, their World Champion, use "Come Out and Play" as his entrance theme, they also played it over his t-shirt commercial, which was just clear enough to get it stuck in my head. The "You Gotta Keep 'em Separated" opening line resonated with me because it reminded me of when my sister and I used to fight like cats and dogs, leaving our poor mother to wonder why she had to "keep us separated" all the time.

Though I liked the song, I was inexperienced in the matter of music, and didn't know the song's name, the band's name, or even where to purchase it. A few months later, I was at a friend's house for a party when one of our classmates began messing with the CD player. It got my attention when I heard that familiar opening beat, and immediately asked him who sang this song. He told me it was the Offspring. Over the summer, I was at my cousin's house. He had gone out for the night, and I was flipping through his CD collection when I came across the SMASH album. Although I knew the Offspring name now, I couldn't remember what the album was called that contained my now favorite song. I put it in, and finally figured it out after skipping through the tracks.

Digression: An amusing story that came out of this occurred the next morning. As I listened to "Come out and Play" over and over, I kept the volume at a minimum because it was late at night and I didn't want to wake anyone. When morning came, my aunt had a difficult time getting my cousin out of bed. Thinking to help, I immediately went to the CD player and turned on music, as my parents had done to me many times when they had trouble waking me up. The problem was my assumption that the volume was still at the low volume I had left it at. At some point, my cousin had been listening to music before going to sleep at a moderate volume. Not knowing this, I immediately cranked up the volume so loud that the vibrations from the speakers blew a picture off the wall. My cousin DID wake up, though I was now the subject of his annoyance. 

So in August, I finally acquired a copy for my very own. Though I bought it on the strength of my love for one song, I soon discovered there was much more to this album than that. I couldn't have told you the difference between hard rock, soft rock, punk rock, or wuss rock. But this album opened me up to the punk style that the Offspring were so good at. There were rapid drum beats, buzzsaw guitar work, and a lot of cursing.

The themes of the songs on SMASH opened my eyes even more. I believe I was drawn to them because most of what I considered music to that point was solely about relationships. The themes of this album were much more distant, much more fantastical to a kid growing up in the outer rim of the suburbs in Ohio. Like the fantasy stories I liked to read, these themes were something that could be but were not part of my reality: drug addiction, mental illness, road rage, government mistrust, gang violence, generational blame... it opened my eyes to the fact that there was much more going on in the world than what was happening in my little corner of Sieber Trace.

I found things that were relatable as well, like the track "Gotta Get Away." I can't tell you how many times I felt like this during my early adolescence. Coming from a family that had no big issues, and therefore had to blow the little ones out of proportion, I spent many nights sitting on my bed like in the song, not sleeping, just worrying about things that turned out not to matter at all and wishing I could get out of my own head.

"Self Esteem" of course had that unforgettable hook of complete gibberish, but what followed was a a tale of abuse and neglect. Though it was one of those "relationship songs," this was not about love. It was about how a man's self-esteem was so low he wouldn't break up with his girlfriend even though he knew the relationship was slowly destroying him.

There were songs with powerful societal messages like "Genocide" and "Not the One." These songs were about the inevitability of cycles. Genocide's "And if in time / we could see the error of our ways / would anyone / change it anyhow?" stood out to me as a very powerful statement at the time. Likewise, Not the One was a statement against the establishment and railed against how they had fucked our world up, while conceding that we were doomed to make the same mistakes. "We're not the ones whose pollution blackened our skies and ruined our streams / We're not the ones who made the nuclear bombs that threaten our lives / We're not the ones who let the children starve in faraway lands / We're not the ones who made the streets unsafe to walk at night / And even if we try not to become too overwhelmed / and if we make some contribution to the plight we see / still our descendants will inherit all the mistakes we made / They'll suffer just the same as we and never wonder why!" closes out the song and still gives me chills when I listen to it.

Just about every song on the album is catchy, but those are some of my favorites. Over the next few years, I would go on to discover a real love for rock and metal, and discover acts like Metallica, AC/DC, Rob Zombie and others on my own. But it's hard to believe that all started twenty years ago with a band who never achieved massive mainstream success, but one who I'll still listen to any time even in this day and age. They became a symbol that bridged my childhood and adulthood and definitely influenced how I see the world. And SMASH in particular will always have significance to me.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

A Sense of Sacrifice Maps

This page is for those who bought the e-book version of A Sense of Sacrifice and wish to view higher quality maps from various locations in the book.

Map of Tormalia

Part One: Center of the World

Part Two: She Who Walks

Part Three: Exemplus

Monday, April 3, 2017

A Sense of Sacrifice coming on June 3! Kindle Preorder available now!

Click here to preorder on Kindle! 

On June 3, step back into the continent of Tormalia and continue the journey for the Elemental Stone with Nerris, Len-Ahl, and all the others. A Sense of Sacrifice will be available at Amazon and other retailers in both paperback and Kindle form but you can preorder it right now on Kindle and get it delivered to you on release day!

Nerris and his companions have braved many dangers in their quest to find the Elemental Stone. But they were thrown off their journey when Qabala and her minions stole the Dagger of Paral, leaving them with no knowledge on how to find the next marker of the Faery Footpath. The only solution is to track the Yagol queen down, but she will do anything to keep them behind her as she carves out her own road in order to fulfill her selfish desires.

Finding the Elemental Stone is the only way to stop Qabala and Eversor from dominating existence itself. But as they near their journey's end, Nerris must confront the ghosts of his past and find some way to live them in the present before they destroy the blossoming love between himself and the half-faery sorceress Len-Ahl.

In the third book of The Law of Eight, Nerris and Len-Ahl continue to traverse the Faery Footpath: the ultimate journey of friendship, love, loss, hardship... and sacrifice. What they find at the outcome may truly be the end, or a new beginning for all.
The story continues on June 3!

Cover art by Keith Draws Cover Art

Sunday, February 21, 2016

30 Years of The Legend of Zelda

It came to my attention today that it is the 30th anniversary of the Japanese release of the Legend of Zelda. I've documented in the past how influential this game has been on my life, so in celebration I'm going to take a little look back to my childhood and try to tell the story in greater detail.

Though the Legend of Zelda was released in 1986, it was a couple of years before I first played it. I was only four at the time of its release, and not Japanese. Of course, it was eventually released in the US in the famous golden cartridge for the NES. Up until about 1988, I didn't know anything about the NES or video games in general. I had dabbled in them at various restaurants which had arcades. I was a little bit familiar with pinball games in particular, and I also remember playing Hogan's Alley at Max & Erma's, and Castlevania at Pizza Hut. When I was in first grade, I remember it being around Christmas time. We had to write down our Christmas list as part of an assignment, and a lot kids said they were asking for a Nintendo. I had no idea what they were talking about.

I got my first glimpse of one at my friend Brandon's house a few weeks later. I thought is strange, because I was an outside kid, but all he wanted to do that day was stay inside and play the Nintendo. I didn't know much about video games, so I declined to participate, and instead just sat down and watched him play. The three games he played that day were The Goonies II, Excitebike, and The Legend of Zelda. I found myself growing more and more fascinated as I watched him play Zelda, though I initially misunderstood to the concept of the health bar. I thought he was intending to lose hearts. Toward the end of my time there, I finally relented and Zelda was the first NES game I ever played. It was enough to hook me to the point where I couldn't get it out of my head. I felt like it was too close to Christmas to change my list, so I started saving up for a Nintendo myself. I got it from someone that an NES cost $100, and my dad said he would pay for half of it if I could save up the other half.


It took a while with a meager $1 per week allowance, though birthday money from my grandparents helped out a bit, but I eventually managed to save up the $50. I came home from school one day and my dad already had the NES set up, and was playing Duck Hunt when I walked in. He explained that you couldn't just pick any game you wanted with the system, as it came with Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt, but he had rented the Legend of Zelda, which I didn't even know was something you could do. The novelty of video games wore off quick with my parents, but for a while they were as into it as I was.

 The story premise is simple, as it tended to be in games of that time. One day, a young boy named Link encounters an old woman named Impa being attacked by the minions of Ganon. He saves her, and she tells him that Ganon has invaded the land of Hyrle and stolen the Triforce of Power. He has also kidnapped Princess Zelda, but before she was captures, she was able to break the Triforce of Wisdom into eight fragments and hide them away in secret dungeons, as well as task Impa with finding someone courageous enough to find the eight pieces and defeat Ganon. Impa implores Link to find them and save Zelda, and he vows to do so. The classic stuff of fantasy.


Zelda was kind of unique for its time, as there really wasn't another game like it. It was sort of the original sandbox game. Instead of going from Point A to Point B, it was a lot less linear, encouraging exploration of an open world, with plenty of secrets to discover along the way. Instead of being limited to one weapon, there were a total of nine items you could use, each with their own effect. You had a sword, of course, but also bombs that could blow up enemies and uncover secret passages, a want that shot magic energy, a candle that could light up rooms or burn down trees to uncover more secret areas, and others. There sub-items which you couldn't use directly, but had more passive effects. A book of spells that enhanced your wand so that whatever it hit caught fire, a ladder to get you across chasms, and a master key that would unlock any dungeon door. You didn't necessarily have to complete every dungeon in order, and you were able to travel freely in on the overworld map. It even had a gambling mini-game, one of the first to appear in a video game. It was deeper than any anything else at the time.

Though I didn't realize it then, the game was my first foray into the world of epic fantasy. I had been into other things with fantasy elements, such as Masters of the Universe, but this was my first time encountering what I would consider purely a fantasy story. That led to getting into games like Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy a few years later, all before I even knew fantasy literature existed. Of course, my love for the genre did eventually find its way to books and that led me to what I do today.

Years later, I read that Miyamoto's inspiration from the game came from his own childhood, exploring the caves, fields, and forests around Kyoto. He wanted to impart the same sense of exploration and wonder into the game. Considering I spent my childhood exploring the woods around my homes, it's not a secret to everyone why I enjoyed it so much.

Believe it or not, this helped me practice as I was learning how to read.

Happy birthday, Legend of Zelda. It makes me glad that the franchise survives to this day and is hopefully as inspiring to today's generation as it was to mine.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Lost Chapters: Priority

Some of my writing was featured today on Genre Pulse in their Lost Chapters section. For those unfamiliar, they publish excerpts from books that their writers once started, but long since abandoned.

Priority was meant to be sort of mash-up of contemporary scifi/shoot 'em up. It was written in a few hours one boring night in 2003 when I was living with one of my best friends. One of the MCs' love for late-night cartoons, as well as the time travel plot, came from watching Cartoon Network's Adult Swim and an episode of Mystery Science Theater, which I was watching as I was writing. Since I only had a setup in mind, and absolutely no idea where I was going with it, it was quickly forgotten and thus remains unfinished. 


Rafe had to go. He didn’t have any place in particular that he needed to be, he needed togo go. It was with much discomfort that he told Jody to pull over. Jody was irritated, but he steered his ’79 Monte Carlo into the parking lot of a local fast food restaurant, grumbling all the while about not making it home in time for his favorite cartoons. 

CLICK HERE for the rest!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Fantasy & Science Fiction 99 cent Ebook Sale!

I'm part of another huge promo this weekend on science fiction and fantasy books. Get The Adventure Tournament for only 99 cents!

Quite a few other titles are available too. Check them out at the following page: Fantasy & Science Fiction 99c Sale

Big thanks to Patty Jansen for setting up this promo.