Trivia and $1 books

Yeah, yeah, it’s been far too long since I posted something. That’s mainly because I’m not pretty much setting up camp in the “I’d rather be writing than blogging” camp. That’s not to say it hasn’t been an eventful few weeks.

I attended my first writers conference two weeks ago (there may be a blog post about that coming soon, as it was very eye-opening) and, as some of you may have noticed, have taken a few titles down from Amazon for…well, for plans I have not yet completely ironed out.

Elsewhere, though, there are a few other little blips on the writing radar.

For instance, Gef over at Wag the Fox allowed me to spill some beans about Serpentine in a very IMDB-like post.

Also, February is apparently Barry Napier Dollar month.

Elk Lake Publishing is offering Break Every Chain for $1.

Similarly, Severed Press has placed Serpentine on sale for $1.

Throw in Bound, which I placed on sale for $1 earlier in the month, and that’s three books for less than a cup of coffee.

 

Serpentine is now available

Serpentine, the lake monster novel I have been hinting about on Twitter and Facebook for the better part of a year or so, is finally available. You can grab your Kindle version right now or wait a few weeks for the paperback.

A huge thanks to Severed Press for arranging for this amazing art work and another great, obstacle free publishing experience.

Clarkton Lake is a picturesque vacation spot located in rural Virginia, great for fishing, skiing, and wasting summer days away.

But this summer, something is different. When butchered bodies are discovered in the water and along the muddy banks of Clarkton Lake, what starts out as a typical summer on the lake quickly turns into a nightmare.

This summer, something new lives in the lake…something that was born in the darkest depths of the ocean and accidentally brought to these typically peaceful waters.

It’s getting bigger, it’s getting smarter…and it’s always hungry.

serp3

A chat with the developer of Buried

Okay folks…Buried goes live tomorrow. Links will be provided here very soon. In the meantime, since I managed to nail down an interview with Gimu, the artist that crafted the music for the game, I thought it would be an equally good idea to pick the brain of Brice Morrison, the man that originally contacted me about writing a script for his game.

He’s been a pleasure to work with and I certainly hope there’s more collaboration on the horizon…

Hey, Brice. Thanks for stopping by. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background with designing and creating games?

Sure. I’ve been making games since I was in middle school and taught myself how to program. I went to University of Virginia and founded their Student Game Development Group, and then went to EA out in the SF Bay Area where I worked in the Sims Division on Wii and PC games. That was around the time Facebook games were exploding, so I went over to Zynga where I worked on ChefVille, which was the world’s largest cooking/restaurant game. Last year I left to start up my own company, which led to us working on this project together!
One of the things you and I have sort of discussed off and on is the proper way to develop a narrative within a gameplay environment. Can you share your thoughts how telling a compelling story in a game environment is different than writing a novel?

The single biggest difference between games and every other medium is that games are interactive: the experience is different depending on who is playing. So in a traditional story you would read about someone who decided to pull the trigger, but in a game you get to decide for yourself, based on everything that’s happened, whether you want to pull the trigger or not.

The approach you and I have taken is to start with a compelling traditional story as a baseline, but then insert ourselves into the scenes and ask: what would I do? Would I handle this differently? If I was actually there, would I care about that, or would I be more interested in doing something else? If those questions are being answered adequately, then I think we can end up with compelling choices.

Why did you decide to go with a text-based approach for Buried? Is there an existing market for these sorts of games or is it relatively new territory?

Interactive fiction has been around for a long time, since the 80’s. However it’s always been a relatively small niche. But with mobile devices I saw an opportunity to bring those great kinds of stories to a wider audience.

What sorts of games do you like to play in your own spare time?

I’m a big fan of the TellTale games, and the influence in Buried is obvious. I also play a lot of mobile games, most recently Smashy Road and Rovio’s Retry.

How about books? Any favorites?

The original Dracula will always be one of my favorites. It’s amazing to read about the moon peeking through the clouds, the dark forest looming over a lonely dirt road, Dracula’s high bridged nose and unusual annunciation of his words and think “Wow, this is all really cliche.” But then you realize, no, it’s actually the original! Everyone else is the cliche.

Once Buried is released, what does the game-making future look like for you?

We’d like to make more games! Depending on how well Buried does, we might make another. But we have other games planned as well. We showed off our puzzle game Cloud Grove this year at PAX Prime in Seattle, so that will be coming out sometime in 2016.

Making Spooky Sounds: An Interview with Gimu about Composing the Music for Buried

With Buried being released in a little more than three weeks, I’ve started looking back over the six month journey and find it hard to believe that it’s been six months. One of the moments I recall quite clearly is writing the script to some pretty dark ambient music. I started with Robert Rich, Brian Eno, Jasper TX, and Biosphere. But then I ended up in the endless maze of bandcamp and came across a few artists that I really liked.

One of them was Gimu. So much of his music absolutely nailed the tone I was trying to write towards. So I pitched Brice Morrison (overall head honcho of the project) the idea of reaching out to Gimu to see if he’d be interested in making some music to our unique game.

A few days later, Gimu was on board and crafting what ended up to be some truly great ambient work that I truly feel enhances the game beyond measure.

Because I’m a music geek, I wanted to give Gimu a platform to talk about the creation of the game’s music as well as music in general. Without further delay, here’s Gimu…

 

 

Are there any games or movies that you really enjoy the score to?

I can say I don’t like it when the score is too clean, too polished, lots of orchestra or synth sounds only. Some scores are just ruined because of that choice. I wonder what some composers listen to or like when I think a score doesn’t suit a movie at all. I know it has to do with what appeal to most people, etc, etc, and most people are not into “weird”, harsh sounds.

I can’t really remember when I was last impressed by a, say, horror movie score that made me go “wow!” I mean… I’ve only recently watched Suspiria and, its score is eerily magnificent. There is this documentary called Patience (After Sebald). The music for it was made by The Caretaker, one of my favorite artists, and it’s simply wonderful.

As for game music, I like things such as Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssee, The Blinding of Isaac, Secret of Evermore, etc. Sorry if I sound too elusive but I’ve come to understand that not mentioning names might be a good idea.

 

What are some of your favorite ambient artists? Why?

I don’t really listen to a lot of ambient artists or ambient music. I try to listen to as much new music as possible (and it can be anything) but I lean towards drone or its variations. I enjoy music that seems to cause time to stand still. I love William Basinski but I wouldn’t say it’s ambient music. I listen to a lot of pop music, too.

 

The majority of your music is dark and gloomy. Do you enjoy listening to things that are the opposite of that?

I was listening to The Smiths on my way to work today. I’ve checked the last things I’ve listened to on rdio. They are: Vangelis, Violeta de Outono, Mercenárias (two 80’s underground Brazilian bands), the Eraserhead soundtrack, Seefeel, The Auteurs, Arca, Flying Saucer Attack, etc. I’ve been listening to some albums released by UAE Records which is my home now. I simply love the music that label puts out.

 

What equipment and/or software do you use?

Essentialy my iMac and my Macbook. And that’s it. I have lots of gear I haven’t used for years because I got sick and tired of them and wanted to explore all the sound possibilities a computer could give me. It appears to be endless. I could call it ideology: I want to keep it as basic as possible, like, “this is my tool, this is what I have. What can I create?” It’s exciting. Live Ableton is the DAW I use but I don’t use it to create sounds. There’s a lot of sampling and looping going on on my songs as well as things I create myself by playing or hitting stuff.

 

What does a typical recording session look like for you?

No one would say I am making music. Myself and a computer. It’s really quiet. I live in an apartment which means having to wear headphones all the time. Such a disappointing answer, isn’t it?

 

Do you utilize field recordings? What can you tell those that might not know about field recordings how they are used?

Grab a recorder…and that can be an app on your cell phone or some very pro piece of gear and go for a walk. I do utilize field recordings but sometimes they are heavily manipulated. So the sound of a wave on a song of mine would never sound like the sound of wave. I just avoid obvious things like bird sounds, for instance. It’s thrilling to know – when you finally understand it – that any sound can become something else. It’s something I have in mind whenever I am working on music:

I don’t want the listener to easily find out what the source of that sound is or how it was made. Some days ago a good friend was saying great things about the guitar sound on this song of mine called “Dust” and… I could’ve kept it a secret but had to tell him there’s no guitar at all on that song.

 

If someone wanted to start a venture into listening to your music, which album would you recommend to start off with.

Can it be 6 albums? They’re all on my bandcamp page:

“Of The Spirit, Of The Space”

“The Whole World Is Tired Today”

“Sadly Dying Out Never To Resurface Again”

“Moving Still”

“Alien Ancestry”

“Mercury Stuck At Freezing”

“Alien Ancestry” could be the first one. Really like that one.

 

After working on Buried, is composing music for games something you would do again in the future?

Definitely. I was in the dark but excited I finally had that chance! I’m not an expert but I do know that some elements of what I do suit music for movies and games quite well, and I just hope “Buried” is the beginning of something for me.

 

Where can people learn more about you and you music online?

https://gimu.bandcamp.com/

 

*A note from Barry: Since conducting the interview, Gimu has included several previews of tracks from Buried on his bandcamp page. Check them out and get geared up for the game’s release in January.

 

 

“Great, you’re a writer. Now, can you do this and this, too?”

A few weeks back, there were rumblings within the horror and small press communities about how a certain small press relieved long-time editor Don D’Auria of his duties. Most might have just read the headlines and went on their merry way…but because I am familiar with the name (I have gotten at least 2 rejections from him in my path to trying to do this writing thing full time), I started to pay attention.

The gist is this: the small press in question relieved Mr. D’Auria of his duties because they felt he was not a success in the social media aspect of publishing. They wanted an editor that was geared more towards social media to replace him. They let an editor with tons of experience and a fairly consistent following go because he wasn’t well-versed in Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

As I said, this is the very boiled down version. If you want the whole dark and seedy story, I suggest you check out this post from Brian Keene, as he is one of the few horror writers out there that will tell you how it is in the industry at the moment, warts and all.

But this isn’t a post about what that small publisher did to Don D’Auria. This is about the weird slant to the publishing industry that caused him to be let go.

Over the past three years or so, I’ve seen a huge increase in the number of publishing houses and agencies that ask what sort of social media following you have in your query letter. While I guess I understand the need for this information in a Facebook-driven world, I have to be honest here and say that I really resent this.

What this implies, when boiled all down, is that a growing number of agencies and publishers see it as a benefit to them if a new writer has a social media base already built. To go one step farther, it also indicates that a social media following for a new prospective author is attractive to these agencies and publishers.

But let’s be honest…where’s the sense in that? This makes one think that even if you have a great manuscript with tons of potential, it might be overlooked because you don’t have thousands of followers on social media. On the other hand, a writer that might not be all that great might be given more consideration than a much better writer just because they have a crazy number of Twitter followers.

Basically…if you’re a writer, that’s not enough any more. You also have to know how to navigate the social media waters. Apparently, the same is now true of small-to-mid sized publishers as well.

Again, yes,I understand the logic in this. It makes an easy sort of sense. And I have even had work published by a house that puts a lot of stock in your social media output.

But I also think that the increasing focus on social media savviness is a little demeaning to writers. In some cases, it also seems as if the agencies or publishers are looking for writers than can do some of the marketing haul themselves.

I for one am not a huge fan of social media. Sure, it’s fun, but I’d much rather be writing my next novel instead of tinkering around on Facebook and Twitter, trying to get more followers just so I might catch the attention of a publisher or agency that is more interested in the number of Twitter followers I have than the content of my manuscript.

Am I alone on this? All I know is that as a writer with barely over 1,000 Twitter followers, when I see a request for my “social media presence,” I automatically feel as though my manuscript, whether it’s good or bad, is not enough and I have to be this other thing, too.

Sure, I can spend a few hours on Twitter an follow random people that I don’t know, hoping they’ll follow me back. Or I could spend some time reading numerous articles about how to grow my Facebook friends or Twitter followers. Or I could buy one of the hundreds of e-books currently on Amazon about how to master the art of social media.

But as a writer, I’d rather be…well, writing.

If any agencies or publishers happen to read this, I’d love for you to leave a comment to better explain your side of things. Writers, feel free to sound off, too.

 

A true event from the life of a scatter brained writer that works at home with a 2 year old

We went to dinner last night on campus at Liberty University because my awesome wife is part-time staff and there was an employee appreciation event. It was something fin and  different to do for dinner. Plus, the food was free for employees and their families, so FREE FOOD.

As the kids are getting situated, my wife notices a USB stick / thumb drive (what are these ACTUALLY called these days?) falling to the floor. She picked it up, assuming that it likely belonged to one of the hundreds of LU students with computer bags surrounding us. However, I noticed it and saw that it is the exact same style of the one that I use to save all of my writing to. I have used it for about 5 years now, saving fragment of stories, outlines, and new ideas. There are easily 70-75 ideas on that drive and, at last count, the beginnings of 4 novels that I hope to one day finish…not to mention 2 novels that are just about done.

  The thumb drive was even faded in some of the same spots as my writing disk. But there was no way it was mine…why would my thumb drive be on the floor in an LU dining hall?

So we asked the student behind us if she dropped it. She eyed it, said “I do have one like that,” and sort of reluctantly takes it. You could tell that she recognized it but, like me, was confused as to why it would be on the floor of the dining hall.

We started eating and after a while, I figured it is maybe more than a coincidence…it looks EXACTLY like mine, down to the last detail. But there is NO REASON it should be on an LU dining hall floor. I silently obsess over this for the next half an hour. What if I cause a stink and ask for it back, only to get home and find the poor girl’s term papers and assignments on it? Still, because my wife is AWESOME, she decides to leave her name and number with the student JUST IN CASE the student finds that it is not her USB but, in fact, is filled with about 5 years of a horror writer’s stories and purged nightmares.

The student decides maybe it’s not hers after all and hands it over. She does so with the attitude of “I really don’t want to hear your explanation; just take it. I’m trying to eat.”

So we take it from her and then head home When we get back, I put the USB in our computer.

Yep…it was mine.

I have no idea how it got to our dinner. Did one of the kids picks it up? Probably not, as the 2 year old had no pockets on her pants and the older two know not to mess with anything around my computer. Did I maybe put it in the pouch of my hoodie in a hurry to leave the house, not even thinking about it? Maybe. I am always very particular about where my disks go, but maybe I slipped up this one time. I certain;y have no recollection of pocketing it that afternoon.

Either way…HUGE bullet dodged. If I did indeed place it in my pocket, it could have fallen out anywhere. And if that had happened, I’d be in the process of being admitted into a psych ward today.

The lesson out of this? Well, I’ll be spending the next several days backing up ALL of my files from the last 5 years of writing now. Still sweating over this.

A Free Ride in a Truck with a Ghost

My feelings on Amazon have been weird over the last week. I’m still finding the whole idea of them running a physical bookstore sort of weird. It doesn’t feel right somehow. It feels like a really weird chess strategy, or maybe some military tactic I don’t understand. Still…another bookstore in the world can’t be all bad.

But I digress.

The one thing I still really do like about Amazon is the freedom they give the writers that use their publishing platform.

For instance…my short story collection 13 Broken Nightlights has ever sold particularly well. Let’s be honest…not well at all. So far this year, it has sold a whopping 16 copies. However, my individual short stories, priced at $0.99 each tend to sell at a pretty consistent raRTGte.

So I have decided to release another one. The plan is to probably release all of the “favorites” from the collection (there are 13) as individual stories.

The latest is actually one of my personal favorites. Titled “Riding in Trucks with Ghosts”, it got several rejections from horror anthologies, one of which stated that it was too touching to be included in a horror anthology.

You can grab your copy here.

Or if you just leave your favorite book of 2015 in the comments sections, I’ll send you a free copy (offer ends Dec. 1, 2015).