Tag Archives: review

What I’ve Been Up To

It’s been a while since I updated, so let me dump some Eddy News(tm) on you!

Free Stuff

  • Heel Heat,” a short story I wrote for Fate Codex, has been incorporated into the Fate SRD, which means you can now read it for free! It’s a story about the intersection of professional wrestling and drug abuse, so if you’re into gritty crime drama, you may enjoy this!
  • I’ve started a new podcast! Along with Matthew Dawkins and Dixie Cochran, I’m a host for the Onyx Pathcast. We talk about all sorts of things related to both Onyx Path games and general topics of working as a freelancer in the game industry, and we also have on a wide variety of guests. Check it out every Friday at noon EST!

Promotional Stuff

  • In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve moved all the Pugmire-specific content to a separate website. Now you can find all your Pugmire goodies at realmsofpugmire.com!
  • We recently released Pan’s Guide for New Pioneers, a Pugmire adventure and tutorial to the game system. And we’re getting great reviews! Here’s one from Reviews from R’lyeah.
  • I’ve been increasing my disability advocacy over the past year or so. Recently I was interviewed by Bitch Media, and they included a link to my presentation at ECGC in 2017.

Travel Stuff

  • I’ll be at Gen Con again this year, representing Onyx Path and Pugsteady. I’ll be there to talk about PugmireMonarchies of Mau, the new Pugmire card game Fetch Quest, and the upcoming Dystopia Rising tabletop game. I’ll be running demos at our booth (#501), so stop on by!
  • In September I’ll be at the Broadleaf Writer’s Conference, spreading my tips and tricks for working in interactive media. It’s a great conference, and everyone learns a ton from it!
  • And in October I’ll be at Save Against Fear, the Bodhana Group’s gaming convention celebrating therapeutic use of games! I’ll be running two Pugmire games and sitting on a panel about game design, so it should be a lot of fun!

Personal Stuff

As I’ve mentioned before, I moved back from Ireland in December of last year. There were a lot of reasons, but they ultimately boil down to us not being able to make it work financially. Ireland is a lovely country, and I hope I can go back and visit someday, but living there just wasn’t in the cards as I had hoped.

So now I’m back in the Atlanta area (Alpharetta specifically) and settling back in. My long-term contract with Onyx Path Publishing is still going well, and I’ve picked up some additional work from companies such as Next Games, MetaArcade, and CRC Press (as well as some I can’t announce yet!) Pugsteady still trundles on as a going concern.

To be honest, it’s a bit of a scary time to be a creative professional, particularly in the United States. Healthcare cuts make it harder to get medical attention, and putting anything remotely controversial online can get you targeted by a hate mob, let go from a contract, or even fired. As I increase my visibility as a disabled person, I risk being ostracized by people who don’t think I’m “good enough” as abled-bodied folks.

But I have a lot of supportive friends and peers, and I’ve had a lot of luck finding great and supportive clients to work for. I have fans who sincerely appreciate the projects I work on, and they’re happy to spread the word to other people who might appreciate them. For every rough day where I wonder why I do this, I get a nice “thank you” in my Facebook or a kind email gushing over something I worked on. And that helps. It helps to know that there are people who appreciate what I do. If you’re reading this, odds are you’re one of those people. So I’ll keep doing it, for you. Thank you for being there!

A Five-Pack of Sherlock Holmes Reviews

Over the past six months or so, I’ve been (slowly, so slowly) reviewing some of the Sherlock Holmes books over at DriveThruFiction. Here are the five I’ve done so far.

Sherlock Holmes: Repeat Business: New Stories of the Great Detective: A very good collection of short stories, all tied together with a common theme: a previous client of Sherlock Holmes coming back for a second case. Some cases are better than others, but all of them are true to the original canon, and the Watson voice is solid and immersive. A great anthology for Holmes fans who know the original canon, or casual fans who are looking for some solid, classic mysteries.

Sherlock Holmes: Victorian Knights: A compilation of the four-issue series, “Sherlock Holmes: Victorian Knights” seems to be inspired by the recent Guy Ritchie films. The story draws details from the original stories without being too closely committed to any of them. Holmes and Watson bicker and argue, and a few times the writing is laugh-out-loud funny. The art is good and the PDF quality is clear. If you aren’t a stickler for fidelity to the original canon, this is an entertaining romp.

The Sherlock Holmes Megapack: 25 Modern Tales by Masters: It has an uninspiring title, but this is a massive anthology of Sherlock Holmes stories — 25 in total. Most people don’t realize that many modern Holmes anthologies usually have a theme or a flavor, such as stories that attempt to accurate evoke the original Doyle voice or Holmes stories that involve the supernatural. These are a grab-bag of stories ranging from very well-researched and faithful pastiches to stories of Holmes travelling through time. With many anthologies there are always some stories that hit or miss with the reader, but that’s especially true with this. If you can’t get behind the concept of, say, an investigation into a cult of readers of bad Holmes pastiches, some of the stories won’t resonate with you. But with nearly 600 pages of material, odds are you’ll find more hits than misses with this collection.

Victorian Villainy: A Collection of Moriarty Stories: A fun rework of Moriarty as an anti-hero. This version of the character differs pretty strongly from the canon (unlike, say, Kim Newman’s version, which is still pretty villainous), but it makes for a fun anthology.

The Young Sherlock Holmes Adventures Trade: A charming (if moderately inconsistent) reimagining of Sherlock Holmes. The trade is set in an alternative steampunk world, where Sherlock Holmes runs around with his friend James Moriarty (!). There are some new characters introduced as well, including a female Indian character who is sadly more of a stereotype than a compelling character in her own right. It’s not remotely close to the original stories, but it’s a fun adventure.

Peer Review: “City of the Lost” by Stephen Blackmoore

I hadn’t planned to do another Peer Review post so soon after the last one, but this entire weekend was a lot of things taking much longer than anticipated and me being stuck with my iPhone (and the nook app), so I ended up reading City of the Lost in a weekend. And it was totally worth it.

On the surface, it’s got a lot in common with Double Dead. It’s a premiere novel. The protagonist is undead and generally disreputable, and part of the plot revolves around the character coming to terms with a new state of being. Also, both authors don’t shy away from bad language and splatterpunk gore. Oh, and zombies show up in both. But that’s where the similarities end.

City of the Lost is, essentially, a modern-day crime novel. The protagonist, Joe Sunday, is a hitman for a local mobster who, through a variety of mishaps, ends up turned into a zombie. Because that’s just what happens in L.A. And yet, the supernatural elements don’t end up overpowering the plot — the story slips in and out of the mystical parts effortlessly, making them feel like a natural part of a story that is really about one man’s attempt to get what’s owed him, and maybe a little payback if he can get it. In truth, while I starting thinking Chuck Wendig when I started the book, towards the middle the book felt more like Seth Harwood‘s Jack Palms novels, and by the end I found myself in love with Stephen’s unique voice. You can point to a lot of things it’s kind of like, but it’s not exactly like any of them.

I am eager to see what Stephen Blackmoore does next in this world.

Peer Review: Double Dead, by Chuck Wendig

One of the disadvantages of having lots of talented writers and designers as friends is that I end up with more books to read or games to play than I have time to read or play them. I know that one of the best ways to help a fellow writer out is to write a review, and I sometimes regret that I don’t always have the time to do that.

When I saw that I had a couple of dozen ebooks in my Kindle app on my iPad that I hadn’t read yet, I decided to try and do something about it. So I’m starting a new feature on my blog called “Peer Review.” These are highly biased reviews, because they’ll be of the work of my friends, acquaintances, and colleagues, but it’s a chance to help some friends out, and a chance to expose some great work to people who might not otherwise have heard of them.

Let me start off with a quick story. When I was visiting my mom a couple of weeks ago, I met my stepsister’s boyfriend for the first time for dinner, and we fell into talking about vampire and zombie movies. He pointed out that he didn’t know of any movie or book which featured both zombies and vampires. I pointed out that there is one book where this is true.

Thus: Double Dead.

Double Dead is Chuck Wendig‘s first published novel. That seems weird to me, since I’ve been working with Chuck for years, and I feel like he’s always been more prolific than the rest of reality considers him to be — something, I will note, that he’s been rapidly working to correct the past year or so. And this book showcases some of the best of Chuck’s technique and narrative voice. A number of people know Chuck for his intensely surreal and foul-mouthed patter, but I’ve always known Chuck as a very subtle storyteller. The profanity and scatological humor are like a magician’s flourish: a distraction to draw your attention away from the real magic, the engaging story that’s dragging you along and making you care about the characters and the world he’s creating.

A perfect example of this is the protagonist: Coburn the vampire. He wakes up in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, and is pissed off that blood has basically stopped falling into his mouth. He is, to put it mildly, the worst kind of self-entitled asshole. And yet, by the end, I was rooting for Coburn (and his dog), even during the worst parts of the zombie apocalypse. Sure, there’s a lot of pure fun in the story, the kind of enjoyable ass-kicking and crass humor that makes for a good action film. For 80% of the book I felt I knew exactly where the plot was going, and I was enjoying it like a good road trip — the journey meant more to me then the destination. And then, a number of twists hit me like rabbit punches to the gut, and it was all over. I was down for the count, staring at the words THE END and wondering how in the hell I ended up on the floor.

… I lost the metaphor a bit there. I’m still recovering from the end of the book.

Go get Double Dead.

Review of “Amortals” by Matt Forbeck

AmortalsDRAFT-front-72dpi-186x300Full disclosure: I’ve had a couple of drinks with Matt in the past. However, I paid for my own copy of this book.

(Yes, another review. What can I say? I had some time to get some reading done over vacation. And I picked up Amortals about the same time as In Hero Years…I’m Dead. So, naturally, I had to read them one right after the other as well.)

Amortals is about a Secret Service agent who is part of the Amortals Program. When he dies, his clone is activated with his last backed-up memories. This time, he’s sent to investigate his own murder, which is particularly gruesome and shocking. I found the premise similar to how clones work in the fiction of EVE Online, which is what initially interested me in the book, but I quickly got swept up in the action movie premise. Over time, the book throws you a few curves, and near the end there’s some good digging into the moral implications and concerns of a society that clones the rich and powerful on a regular basis.

Like In Hero Years, there’s an afterword in which Matt talks about the process of writing the novel. He says he’s shopped around a draft of this in various forms for fifteen years, and I think that shows in the book. Whereas Mike’s book was a fountain of exploratory writing that focused on character emotion, this is a manuscript that has been revised and polished and tweaked for maximum effect, and the plot is highly tuned as a result. I don’t think one style is better than the other, but reading them back to back did give me an appreciation of how each approach creates a different style of narrative.

Matt is at the top of his game in creating a fun and engaging story. If you like action thrillers, this is a good book to pick up.

Review of “In Hero Years…I’m Dead”

IHY512Full Disclosure: I have met Mike Stackpole professionally a couple of times. I paid for this book myself, and wasn’t compensated in any way for it.

I’ve been a fan of Mike Stackpole’s since I read his Fiddleback trilogy of novels. When I saw him post on his Twitter that he was releasing a new digital direct-to-reader novel, I was interested. When I discovered he called it “superhero noir,” I purchased it right away — the first time I made an impulse purchase on an ebook novel. I was in the middle of reading a collection of the Carnacki stories, but as soon as I was done, I got my trusty nook and opened up In Hero Years…I’m Dead.

I wasn’t disappointed. The book starts on a number of solid noir tropes, moves on to hit a number of superhero tropes, and then proceeds to keep sending the main character (and the reader) in a number of different directions before its all over. A couple of times I thought I saw where it was heading, only to be proven wrong. The story is about an unnamed protagonist who has been out of the superhero business for twenty years. He comes back to town to try to pick up the pieces of his life. From there, he’s drawn into a fast-paced collection of lies, deceit, optimism, hope, and sacrifice. The whole story is driven on emotion and feeling rather than logic, and I got swept up into the whole strange, wonderful world of it all. I spent the extra dollar to get the deluxe edition with his lengthy afterword discussing the creation of the book, and I was pleased to find that a lot of the details and feeling I noticed in the book were all intended.

The only downside is that there were a few more typos than I would have hoped for. I would get wrapped up in the story, and some missing word or errant punctuation would draw me out and slap my editor’s cap on my head. There were also a couple of times that I caught myself trying to figure out which heroes and villains were analogs of which popular comic book characters, which also distracted me. But I found myself taking any opportunity I could to sneak in a few more pages, so clearly these things didn’t distract me too terribly much.

Overall, if you want to support a writer trying a new business model, if you have an ebook reader (or are comfortable reading on a computer), and if you like gritty superhero stories packed with emotion and character, do yourself a favor and pick up In Hero Years.

Review of Killer Thriller

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Full disclosure: I worked with Tony Lee on the Know Your Role RPG, and we’ve been acquaintances through the gaming industry for years. I also got a free copy of the game from Tony.

Horror games are awesome. The psychological conflicts can be engaging, and the tense cat-and-mouse between mortal and monster can be tense and exciting. But sometimes, you just want to rack up the highest body count as quickly as possible in the tradition of B-movie slasher flicks.

Welcome to Killer Thriller.

The game only uses six-sided dice. When you start reading the game, you realize that this is a satirical beer-and-pretzel game. The player characters are known as “Victims,” and the players need to make three of them before the game starts. Each character has three Inabilities: Unwise (roll to make a sensible decision), Unluck (roll to avoid unfortunate coincidence), and Undone (roll to keep your character’s cool). The player rolls 2d6, and tries to fail against their Inability in order to do something smart, lucky, or sane. Damage comes off of a character’s Unharm. Each character also has a stereotype, which is… well, stereotypical. Once per game, they can automatically succeed in one thing that relates to their stereotype. There are advantages and disadvantages, but that’s only for “advanced” characters.

In an interesting twist, whenever a Victim dies, that character’s max Unharm gets added to the next Victim’s Unharm. When the player gets to the last character with the collective Unharm of all the previous Victims, that Victim is considered to be the Last Survivor. On the other hand, Monsters don’t roll their own Inabilities against Victims except when the player has a Last Survivor, reflecting that Monsters are terrifyingly efficient until the final few victims are left, when they suddenly become bumbling idiots.

The rest of the book covers different kinds of Monsters you can create, some GM advice, two quick adventures, character cards, and an afterword.

It’s less than 30 pages, but the game is only three bucks. For a fast-paced night of light-hearted murder, it can be a lot of fun. Check it out.