Soft Hearts, Hard Memories now available at Smashwords!

As promised, a physical edition novel will be available very, very shortly thanks to Amazon… but it won’t be the first volume of the Greatshale Chronicles. No sir. It will be, quite out of the blue, Soft Hearts, Hard Memories, a heavily edited and revamped novel originally entitled Bold Curves. It was Aaran’s big foray after her first short story, which I rewrote for the latter named anthology. At the time I was thinking it was too heavy a subject, and I’d never finish it.

Well friends, the times are now and we have arrived. This most certainly is the apocalypse. Children are being told to represent themselves as their own legal council in America. I couldn’t have written anything stranger… except that I did, nearly twenty years ago. Aaran, in Little Glass Soul (part of the Bold Curves Anthology) rescues the first legal child prostitute in the Twin Cities, and what follows is an embittered social argument between those who want into the industry, and those who want out. Aaran aids the latter, and her life is threatened – not a big leap to make.

“Nail you? Sandra paid with her core for that waste,” he spat at me. “What are you worth killing for?”
“Hopin’ you’d know that, wickwalker,” I growled, but felt the strength sap from my limbs. Everything doubled up, and I had to double over with the lightning in my middle and cold thunder that rumbled through my skin. Jassic tore away from my hand and made angry noises at me. The two of them stared at me, and then located a silvery pipe, which came down hard on my left wrist.
I screamed and tried to pull away, but I could hear him talking just under my voice.
“Don’t know who ordered this, but if you had any sense you’d let it be!”

I hadn’t intended to write anything so relevant or topical – these kinds of ideas are still ridiculous to most of civilized society, but not to the world. The story, it seems, needed time to simmer, and I needed some perspective. How does a society that allows its children to be employed by a unionized sex trade survive? I didn’t have the answer when I first drafted this story, but I do now.

It was meeting a new friend that pushed this door fully open. I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: I am Mormon. That is to say, I know that modern revelation is real, and it is achieved by prayer that culminates in a direct relationship with God through the Holy Ghost by the authority and guidance of Jesus Christ. It bears repeating because it is He who confirmed the answer, and that is family, and that’s what this book is about. Aaran is nearly overwhelmed, and almost killed, by the forces who stand against her: The ones who want to allow the exploitation to carry on.

I swallowed, stomach clenching and face warming. The effect hit me fast, memories of my own abuse striking microflares under my skin and in every remotely sexual part of me. Stan wasn’t a bad judge of dramatics, I remembered suddenly, feeling a mixture of girlish vulnerability and vengeful madness in spastic waves.
There were four of them, and sure enough, if I squinted I could… uh… distinguish Krimp, standing off to one side like he was not involved in the event. Yei screamed again, and I tried to focus on faces, instead of the fact of their stripping her down and pawing her tiny body. I wanted to speak up, tell them I recognized Krimp… but by Dodge, my voice was deadlocked.

This is a political novel, even though it is set on another world with different people and advanced technologies. What does not change is human nature, or rather – the divine nature of who we are and the choices we face. If you’re still gawking at the idea that a Mormon could write about government sanctioned child exploitation, then you’d best sit down. Accepting God can grant you an understanding of the bigger picture, and the eternal nature of our lives. We are here to learn, and family is the key means by which we are guided to achieve exultation.

The fact that we’ve made so much noise about Trump’s attack on family – any family means all of them – tells me we’re not quite out of hope yet. Well friends, neither is Aaran. As uncomfortable as this all is, we’re backsliding into an amoral world where all things are acceptable because no one believes that we should be accountable for our actions. We know what we’re choosing, and we know why we get up in the morning.

You may be surprised to learn this book is a vote of confidence for society, even if it is a little bloodstained, tear-dyed and haggard. When we stop caring, the world gets a little darker. So, I present to you this tale of morality and tough choices.

“But they took Daelia!” Amanda shrieked from her niche. “It were one man! You din’t stop ‘im!”
“I tried!” I cried, speechless and overwhelmed. Maybe I could have told her how much I wanted to save all of them, all their friends, and just sweep them all away to a better place. Maybe it was best that I hadn’t. Instead I asked Amanda how she was feeling, doing.
“They can’t take me,” she said. “I don’ eat’n don’ talk neith’r… t’ make ‘em not want me. In dis cage we’re all want’d.”
I was flabbergasted. She understood perfectly.

We must not lose sight of the truth; we do not stand alone. We never have.

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Filed under fiction, good things, political, publishing, sample, science fiction, writing

As promised, Patreon updates…

My process may be low tech, but if you’re at all how I go about designing cover art, then by all means hop on over to my Patreon where I’m regularly posting sketches and my thoughts on the matter. Particularly, how I am working and re-working the artwork for A Coiled Majesty. There’s a lot to consider… my first design was lackluster on all fronts.

It’s a good reminder not to be precious about your work. Always be prepared to scrap a piece of it doesn’t communicate what you want it to. Roughing out layouts is fine, even if your anatomy is a little imperfect. Technique can be improved in short order.

Anyway, there are no barriers to my content, and the tiers I’ve set up need to be changed, but those will be addressed when it makes sense to do so.

Ta for now!

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Just when things don’t seem to make any sense…

Creativity is a blessed gift, and it has the power to deliver messages far and wide in an irrevocable way. While the world seems to both fall apart and come together, let us not forget the gifts we have been given. We have the time now to communicate honestly, so let us do that.

How’s that for a bit of preamble, huh? I’m gearing up to self publish Sliver of Light, which is taking the form of a multi-volume series. No Smashwords this time, I will be publishing exclusively to Amazon, but I will be releasing samples and links to my Patreon where I will be sharing some of the process of cover art design. So… why the change?

Let’s just say that some guidance I’ve received on the matter has helped me to decide that for this series, self publishing would be the best way to get it out to the world. Does that reflect on the quality? That’s for you to decide, but I can assure you my very best effort is going into its production. That’s one of the reasons I want there to be a physical edition option available.

Nothing I’ve written before has felt as tangible as this world and the people in it. This wasn’t one of my spur of the moment murder mysteries, but something much deeper. It is a manifestation of true inspiration the likes of which I have not known before. I have learned so much, and in some ways had to face myself in order to brave the events contained therein. It’s a good sign when the story you’re writing makes you dig deep in order to see it to fruition.

Over the next month I’ll be posting character teasers, and… well, we’ll see. I have a story that could easily introduce you to one of the novel’s formative characters, so I’ll likely post that as well. I know there are only a few of you following this blog, but I won’t make any assumptions about the interest level in this work other than it exists.

On that note, I appreciate your patience as I’ve been attending to my life, which is why this blog has been so quiet. No excuses! When there’s activity, I post, otherwise, not. When I’m not posting here, you’ll find me on Twitter, Patreon and even Discord. On a side note, man does Windows 10 need Discord integration or what?

I think that’s enough rambling for one post. As always, comments will be open for a while, but if you’re really in earnest, catch me on Twitter ~ @hastypixels ~ okay?

Ta for now!

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Y’know what? It feels good to be rejected.

WordPress is doing a fine job of putting clicks between me and the written word, and don’t get me started on Grammarly. I’ll do that later, anyway. Basically, I’ve been a busy fella. The queries for Sliver of Light have begun; I’ve joined a fairly active NaNoWriMo Discord group; my first freelance writing job is in progress; the job hunt continues… and I’ve a lot of writing to do.

But here’s the thing: It feels good to be in process. Receiving a polite “no thanks” from an agent happened much sooner than I expect, but I was grateful to be heard. That’s all I ask for, and I’ll say that not all agents are good at communicating their interest. That is an article for another time, one I’m working on. Agents have as much a challenge laying out the red carpet as we do building the world they need to sell to publishers… but, I digress.

HonestGamers is providing some valuable insight into my weaknesses and strengths, as the last five reviews will certainly attest to:

20XX Review – A lovely little game with a review one of the gang couldn’t even finish reading… so I re-wrote the entire thing. Good thing I did too, because I’ve had an opportunity to adapt it into a script for a YT channel whose association I shall announce… eventually. Never be precious about your work.

Half Life 2: Lost Coast Review – You don’t really review these sorts of things. It’s a tech demo, after all. However, if you want clomid no prescription some insight into gaming development and the Half Life universe, this one’s a nice catch.

Firewatch Review – Apparently I have a thing for narrative games. This one earned me second place in HG’s Reviews of the Week. That was an unexpected pleasure, and a hint I’ll be taking. I mean, doesn’t this post have a rather narrative style to it? So yeah, more narrative rich games for me from here on. Also, top notch game.

Battlefield 1942 Review – One summer I dove deep into LAN based multiplayer gaming, and I just had to talk about it. Besides, this is the one that “started it all”… though really it was probably Pinball Dreams. To this day it’s still a fun game, even if it’s not so pretty, graphically speaking.

Candy Crush Saga Review – Is it any good? Yes, but the microtransactions are nasty! Summarily a good mental workout, but just watch how much time you sink into it. There are “2000+ levels”. Or so a splash screen told me.

What’s next? I’ve got a few on the burners, and I’m toying with some retro reviews, but they’re low on the priorities, unless they start magically paying my bills. (I’m not counting on it.) With Hurricane Harvey over, Irma is looking havoc right now, so I’m looking to my own needs. As always, one step at a time.

Where is Humble Bundle with Hurricane Humble Bundle, already? I guess the bad news is you can’t charity everyone, even when you try.

Ta for now!

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Gaming in a Bubble

It doesn’t look so bad, at first. Gamers start with structures and routines and improve our mental reflexes, test our psychological boundaries and have varying regard for the morality of life. Yes, the absolute morality of family and integrity upon which world culture was founded. Now that we understand that, there is a very real problem arising in gaming that is far more severe than an economic bubble.

Let’s not get lost in who is right, because where raising children is concerned, shaking off responsibility for them is never correct. The point here is to focus on the impact of confirmation culture in a more pervasive yet subtle medium. In no other media can you be confronted with a moral choice and then be enabled to perform an action that can form your response.

Even the capacity to affect a moral choice is determined by the game developer: Some games present choices as having no consequence. Even rooting through a stranger’s home for goodies has established itself as a trope in adventure role playing. Since, developers have taken the issue more seriously and introduced mechanics of voluntary assistance from Non-Player Characters in such games.

Invariably it is up to the developer to decide how they will portray the impact of the player’s actions in their reality. However, there is something deeper bubbling under the surface of all the achievements and accomplishments that gaming has to offer: Futility. What is the ultimate value of saving the world, even if you can express how much fun you had with the others who played the same title?

As with all media, the accepted fact that there is little ROI (Return On Investment) to be had in most games, as we want more than we can have, and appreciate what we acquire even less. Games are so easily had now that there is almost no satisfaction, so we must look to other things. Can we share the experience? Will YouTube, Twitch or Patreon make it possible for us to attain some buy klonopin measure of celebrity to passify our discomfort?

Therein lies the quandry. Having obtained an accomplishment, we want to put it to use. In that way, gaming is limited. Unless the skill we acquire translates to practical application, then we are bereft of purpose. What’s more is some of these activities only reinforce behavior that in some cases is actually criminal.

Understand that all game genres have their extremes, but do we play fast and loose with the acceptability of these things? To justify them, we often do. Violence in games is the most obvious example, but “cultural differences” that extend to the treatment of both sexes can quickly become questionable. The sexualization of children and victimization of others is never right. What is the extent of our awareness and involvement?

Some of the most powerful examples are “hidden” behind levels of difficulty and time requirements so that the general public is unaware of them. Mortal Kombat is a sensational of gore satisfaction, and does not carry with it the emotional investment of games like Bioshock, The Walking Dead and others. Visual novels, in particular, invest the player emotionally as a core mechanic by simulating dates and – in some cases, debasing – sexual encounters.

Harmless fun, to wit? Mass Effect’s romance options were seen at first as mind blowing, but are now looked back on as awkward and cringe worthy. Why carry on with someone who will never do more than follow a script? Is that not fit cause for jealously? If not, why not? Don’t you deserve every bit of the devotion you entered the relationship to share?

We’re playing in a dangerous bubble, friends, and is there not enough of an example of where that train will end up in the so called leader, who shall not be named? I know I’ve asked more questions than provided answers in this post, but I intend to follow this path to it’s logical conclusion. Let’s start with being honest about the things we participate in.

To Be Continued.

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Filed under article, gaming, my view, opinion

Feature Parity vs Profitability in Minecraft

It doesn’t need to be a long discussion. Two major things happened when Microsoft bought Mojang. 1) Non-profitable projects (and features) were cut loose, and 2) Realms. Minecraft “Java” isn’t a steady earner, because it’s not Lego. You buy one set and that’s all you ever need, everything else can be had for free. We’re seeing more of the same, now, with the introduction of Add Ons and the Minecraft Store, or whatever it is they’re calling it.

Tumbleberry and I didn’t have to spend any time discussing the matter; we decided that we won’t be selling ACME Resource Pack for money out of the blue, but now there’s a wrinkle: Microsoft has made it easy for us Average Joes to hop on in with our creative kit. Should we?

Make no mistake, I’m working on it; but of course it’s not my full time job and it will be a slow boiler. How many real users of Minecraft Portable Edition are there, anyway? Enough to warrant just less than 2K ratings on Windows Store, and by the way, that’s not a good sign for a game that must have something to the order of 50 million players. I stopped counting at the 40 million mark.

Minecraft is a mainstay, no question, but player fatigue has set in and Microsoft has got to know that in order to liven up the experience, user made content is required. They’re counting on our enthusiasm to prop up their payment model. I don’t sildenafil.html take it as a good sign – either – that they were only able to rope a handful of content “partners”.

Do I sound displeased? Perhaps because I know Microsoft’s marketing history pretty well, but as such a visible public company… well, let’s just take a quick example: It wasn’t that long ago that Microsoft was hocking Windows Mobile phones, and since they weren’t selling, they figured they might pack-in MCPE. In a word, it failed.

Just this month they announced that they’re shutting down the Windows Mobile brand and its software support. That’s not good news, and Microsoft isn’t alone in their poor report with customers, but they’ve just got such a consistent history of not relating to us.

Hello Vista and Windows 8? Vista put their leading consumer Operating System on the brink, and yet they somehow managed to repeat the mistake? Big companies are capable of learning. Apple is nearly the most profitable company in the world. I don’t have the numbers, and I don’t care about them.

The point is that Microsoft isn’t learning. They’re canning more employees to “focus on the cloud”, and if you think that bodes well for Minecraft, don’t count on it. I’m hopeful, that’s why ACME Resource Pack will be sporting an MCPE version. Just remember, though, that Mojang is now a development division of Microsoft. They’ll only be there as long as they are deemed profitable.

Is that what Minecraft is really about? Something to think about.

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Humble Software – A Word to the Ware-y

As much of a deal hunter as I am, I typically wonder what the motivation for the sale is. Sometimes the candy is a little oily, the food is past it’s “sell by” date, or sometimes you’re getting last season’s software. There’s no mistaking that $12 dollars (USD) for over $500 of software is a blasted good deal, but just why would vendors make such an offer?

In the case of LastPass, CloudApp and Windscribe the lure is obvious; as subscription based services, this is a great hook to get you started on a regular payment schedule. Do yourself a favor, though, and mark your calendars when the renewal date occurs. You’ll save yourself some unpleasant surprises that way.

The rest of the package consists of fully functioning, licensed software and the catch isn’t as apparent. I’ll do a quick run down of my experiences with each of the hurdles and why it may be your best option to buy in now, especially if this is software you’ve been waiting for a good bargain.

Tier 1 (at $1)

Soda PDF is a budget conscious PDF editor and presents all of its features without trying to hook you into an upgrade, but for the price you don’t get any updates. If security features provided by PDF documents are important to you, look to Adobe. Otherwise, this may well give you the rudimentary tools you’ve been looking for. Otherwise, SumatraPDF will show up Microsoft’s system level tools easily.

(Sony) Magix Music Maker is pretty oily, where software candy is concerned. This hybrid DAW/Editor/Sequencer tries to fill the empty shoes of Garageband on PC, which is Mac only, for the foreseeable future. If you want to try out Music Maker, it is available for free via Magix’s website, with most features inaccessible. You’ll get an “in-app voucher” and coupon from Magix, for what little good that may do you. The good news is that you’re getting the Premium version and all of its features, so at this price, where’s the downfall?

Tier 2 (at $9+)

Corel Aftershot 3 and ParticleShop work as a unit, with ParticleShop functioning as an editor for Aftershot. I would call this an upsell pitch. Once you’ve got your hands on this RAW image editing suite, you’ll see its in-app advertisement for Aftershot Pro. That’s pretty crass, if you ask me. It does make another deal appeal, though, reducing the full price of the Pro version by 50%, or $40 (USD). All told ativan no prescription this is a substantial markdown from the regular retail price of these products.

Painter Essentials 5 isn’t something I need, but as I haven’t tried it yet, I’ll have to withhold and opinion on it for now.

LastPass is a good deal for a 6 month subscription, but I don’t advise trusting master password systems as a rule. Save your money; don’t activate the account, and instead, use your imagination to invent passwords. Create a fictional character with their own answers for security questions, use words you’ll remember but no one will ever guess. If you put the keys in someone else’s hands, be prepared to lose them.

Tier 3 (at $12+)

Panda Antivirus comes with moderate recommendations, but it seems to be very fast and hasn’t dragged down the performance of my laptop at all. As a new user, only time will tell if this moderate investment was worthwhile. The asking price is fair enough to experiment with, however. Clam Antivirus also does a bang up job of protecting you from most threats out in the wild.

Windscribe is a name better suited to a high fantasy scholar hobbled over a pile of scrolls, than a Virtual Private Network client. I don’t know anything of this software’s reputation, but as it requires a subscription, be prepared to pay for its upkeep if you intend to continue using the service. If this one is too rich for your blood, you might consider TunnelBear, a free to use, cheap to upgrade VPN.

Magix Audio Studio 10 may be this bundle’s worst offender or saving grace. That all depends on how badly you need cutting edge audio editing features that you can’t get from open source software like Audacity. Also, Audio Studio 11 is a thing that Sony sells, so this looks to me like a way to make money on outdated – but still serviceable – software, and to induct new users into the fold. Anyone running with Adobe right now is laughing pretty hard, as Creative Cloud can be had for as little as $33 a month, on sale, but that still adds up to more than most of us want to spend.

There’s no questioning that users on a budget – and who isn’t – will appreciate this chance to fill the gaps in their paid software libraries, but be cautious about the limitations so you’re not caught at a disadvantage when you need this software most.

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Some effects here, a little story here… it’s a hero flick!

“Standard fare” was my parting thought after watching DC, and Zack Snyder’s latest cinematic outing in the shapely form of armor clad, whip wielding Wonder Woman. Certainly it was good, but Wonder Woman has never held my interest. Why? She’s boring.

I get the whole routine of her being beautiful, though in order to fight like that with her body tone she would require supernatural strength. She wasn’t exactly showing the muscle tone, if you get me. As I understand it this is quite the feminist parade, but I didn’t see it. That is to say, that’s not what they were aiming to achieve.

Yes she makes the point that Amazons writings conclude that men aren’t necessary, and being created by the gods to defeat Ares, that does make a whole lot of sense. That’s not to say Diana wasn’t interested in the co-star, Steve (Chris Pine). As they were formed out of clay, who would want to sculpt a funny looking man anyway?

Zeus could be tawdry that way. He knew his brother well; he could be a charmer, so it would be appropriate that the Amazons would have no interest in men… though from what I observed they didn’t much interest in each other, either. Matters of war held the highest of priorities. I’m sorry, buy ventolin but, duh.

Unfortunately for the film, Gal Gadot suited the role of the Amazon Queen (self proclaimed) ideally. That is to say, she echoed the bland characterization of the Amazon Heroine that has always been her Achilles heel. Anyone with a keen eye will be able to distinguish her from the animations they used in action sequences beyond her – or the director’s – ability, just as emotional connection seemed to be out of her reach. The most touching moment was just a half an hour in, and it’s a shame to say it flatlined for the rest of the film.

It was good, but for anyone versed in the goings-on of superheros will find this predictable, though the satisfying kind. I admit they didn’t bludgeon their way to our attention span, and though the script was dry, it was pleasant enough. It was a far sight better than that fiasco, Batman vs Superman, and a more solid step into international hero team territory than Captain America was.

DC Comics, regrettably, doesn’t have a long running consistent universe to draw upon, so they’re going to be pulling one together as they go. Or will it be as passe as The Yellow Submarine? Time, as it is said, will tell.

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Ghost in the Profit

There were eight people in the theater when my Dad and I went to see Ghost in the Shell’s live action adaptation. For some reason nearly every showing is in 3D, which doesn’t actually hurt this slow burning production. I know – slow burning action movie, right? GITS has a ponderous, ruminating pace that allows for instances of intense cyborg combat and deep introspection. The Major, aka Makoto Kusanagi isn’t a deep feeling sort; but is troubled by a past she is at odds with.

Mira Killian (…how subtle a name is that for a weaponized prosthetic body user?) on the other hand has falsified memories and serious mistrust of nearly all authority figures. She’s inexperienced, impatient and a perplexing mix of two movies and fifty two episodes of very differently paced story. She’s an action hero with programmable motivations, and… it isn’t long before the fascination of all the cybernetics wears off, and you realize just how watered down everything is.

The 1996 animated feature had deep introspective conversations about the nature of living things, and though it was also light on word count, maybe I’m spoiled by the quality of translations. This movie had dull cipro no prescription writing, dumbed down for the North American target audience, and it was not welcome. Oh yes, the visual effects were spectacular, and deserve some kind of award. Too bad the movie was ten years too late to grab any attention. Culturally we’re tired of Anime’s ‘everything goes’ morality.

It was a good movie; the acting was good, the music was… forgettable, but there was a massive disconnect between the world and the characters that lived in it. Instead of a hero’s rise, which is what this was supposed to be about, it felt like Makoto was settling for something other than obscurity. Were the producers and directors so afraid of offending people that they watered down the transhumanist convolution to a piddling tale of phantom body syndrome? Pretty much, even though Mira is a fairly good match for Makoto, she’s not at her level of expertise, skill and professionalism.

Too much, too late, and more static than is necessary about a movie that wouldn’t even dare take a chance to make a real point about its source material so people could be offended. Here’s looking forward to Guardians of the Galaxy 2!

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Filed under opinion, viewpoint

Bold Curves now available @ Amazon KPD

I’ve been a busy little bee, haven’t I? Bold Curves can be purchased at Amazon in ebook and paperback form now, so do check it out. I’ve tweaked any issues I found in the Smashwords edition.

Also, I’ll be publishing another collection that features Every One Fight, Sector Bomb and some previously unpublished viagra no prescription related short stories as Whitegraft Musings. As I’m value conscious, I realized Every One Fight wasn’t a good deal on its own. Keep an eye on this blog or my Patreon for more information.

If you’d like to see into my creative process, I’m posting pre-release artwork accessible to backers.

Ta for now~!

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Filed under fiction, marketing, novel, promotional, publishing, science fiction, stories, writing