Monday, March 24, 2014

Dark Souls 2: My Obsession and Addiction

I grew up playing video games; the NES era had a lot of games that would be difficult by today’s standards. Most games on the market today are easy and focus heavily on the multiplayer element, which I can understand, but I’m not a big fan. I’m used to playing with someone sitting beside me, or braving the mighty robots of the Mega Man universe by myself.

I used to love playing the Final Fantasy games, but the last three entries have been awful, in my opinion (I’m talking about the trilogy of crap called Final Fantasy XIII). I used to love playing video games, but most games are too easy, or they’re a Call of Duty clone. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve played several games that I absolutely love, but most of the franchises I used to love (Resident Evil), suck. I have to play Suda 51 games, games most people hate, just to get something “different” out of a video game. To me, most games are the same. Open-world games usually bore me to death, unless it’s one of the Fallout games.

I remember stumbling upon an article on IGN about the ten hardest games in the last few years, and I saw Dark Souls on the list. I had no idea what it was. I bought the game for Xbox, and I obsessed over it. Absolutely obsessed over it. I felt like a teenager all over again because I spent countless hours playing it. My wife screamed at me several times. 



(Two hours and several deaths later...)

The game was difficult at first, sure, but once you became accustomed to the combat system, it's fairly easy. When I re-started with a different character, I wiped the floor with Smough and Ornstein, one of the hardest boss battles in the game. I beat them in one try. The game was hard, but it wasn’t impossible.

So. Dark Souls II.

I haven’t wanted to play a game this badly since Final Fantasy VIII; the release date was circled on my calendar. I’m 31 years old with two kids and a good job, but here I was, fantasizing about a forthcoming video game. I actually went out and bought at PS3 just to play Demon’s Souls, which I also loved. Dark Souls is the only game I’ve played more than once since the Resident Evil 2 days. 

There’s been a lot of hullabaloo over which Dark Souls game is better, and some people are bothered by the graphics. I feel like we’re comparing Megan Man 2 to Megan Man 3; both games are fun and challenging. I’ve read articles from several reviewers who say that Dark Souls II fails to live up to expectations because they liked the Firelink Shrine idea from the first game because the world felt “connected” to a middle place. Well, you can walk back to your “home” in Majula in Dark Souls II, but it would be a very long walk from some places. That’s not always the case, but the game certainly has a central hub. The graphics aren't perfect, but I like how the world looks "tired" and wasted. 

Human effigies are tough to come by. You can keep repairing a ring that will break every time you die, but it costs 3000 souls to fix and you have to keep warping back to the blacksmith to get it fixed—the inconvenience is enough to keep me from being reckless. 

The game world feels far more “coherent” than the last game did, despite the fact that some professional game reviewers prefer the Firelink Shrine idea. There is a bit more story, and it’s an intriguing one. The game is still mysterious.

There is certainly an emphasis on multiplayer, but I’m okay with it because I don’t have to voice chat with juveniles to enjoy it. I prefer to use a warrior so I can play with all the cool weapons, but I’ve noticed that some bosses are easier to take down with a character who can keep their distance and throw magic spells. It seems like some bosses would discourage this strategy. 

The game is a cross between Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. I am displeased with the game’s AI, because you can easily bait some enemies to a certain point, and for whatever reason, they began to backtrack, allowing you to shoot them with your bow or hit them with something else from a distance. Enemies normally just stand there and take it when you’re pelting them with arrows from a distance. I can only imagine how hard some parts of this game would be if enemies ducked behind cover or tried to flank you. 

I usually get wasted when I’m summoned to another world by another player, but I like hanging out in the belfry, because I usually win those fights. There are different ways to approach multiplayer this time around. I’ve noticed how important the poise stat has become, and opponents with small, quick weapons can stagger you and hit you with a devastating combo as soon as they can find an opening.

I could go on and on. I love Dark Souls II. I love Dark Souls. I love Demon’s Souls. Like the old NES games, I’ll keep playing them and playing them, because the challenge is always fresh and fun. I’m embarrassed by the number of hours I’ve logged on the game since it came out. I always criticize people who sit there and play Flappy Birds and Candy Crush when they could be reading a book, and here I am… I could be WRITING a book…

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Writing the Werewolf Apocalypse

The book is finally available from Severed Press, with an awesome cover by Alan M. Clark. In the foreword, I explained why I wrote the book; the novel is essentially a love letter to Takashi Miike and Meiko Kaiji, both legends in Japanese cinema.


For me to say the book is violent and original is a bit pretentious. I will say I used a different approach when writing the book, and did whatever I could to capture a sort of Japanese aesthetic to the prose. The book is a big one (over three hundred pages), but there aren’t many large paragraphs. Sometimes, there is beauty in “simplicity”; so I didn’t write the thing like it was a Haiku, but I wanted readers to infer and “feel”; telling readers much of anything would have ruined the cultural context. 

Are there werewolves in the book? Yes. A lot of them. 

Meiko Kaji in Lady Snowblood
I didn’t create a “dream cast” for this book on the blog because a lot of the actors would be Japanese, and not many folks know about the actors who I’d want in the movie. I’m also biased; I think even the “cheesy” Japanese films, or even the horror films, take their approach to acting and presentation far more seriously than most American film studios. An American film studio couldn’t make this into a movie. No way. Not even Tom Cruise. 

I won’t apologize for how “weird” the book might seem. I won’t apologize for anything in this book. It shifts between stories, jumps around, and entire chapters are presented differently. It’s exploitative, ridiculous, and very, very, Japanese. 

With werewolves, of course. Many of them. Many, many werewolves

Takashi Miike's remake of Hara-Kiri. A movie that is kind of "normal" for him, although depressing as hell.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


A lot of publishers do their best to advertise their books as original works of art. At least, I think a lot of presses follow this model. I think a lot of readers enjoy reading books that are similar to others they’ve read in the past, especially when it comes to genre; a reader who enjoys The Hunger Games might be looking for more Dystopian fiction, for example.

Although I write stories of my own, I love to read. I’m under the impression that a lot of writers also read, though I can’t say ALL writers read because I don’t know that to be true. Writers have different goals in mind when it comes to publication, but there is a select group of writers out there who enjoy writing what hasn’t been written before. I’m talking about writers who write for a select audience, an audience they also belong to.

I know it’s true that writers often write in genres they love, but what if there are writers who enjoy writing for the sake of writing, for the sake of art itself? Do these writers exist? What do we consider ART? It’s subjective, of course, but I believe I have found a publisher that specializes in art. A publisher that exists for the writers it publishes, who also happen to be the publisher’s audience.

Dynatox Ministries, I love you.

To have your work published by them you need to purchase their books; Limited-edition chapbooks written by authors who want to read what Dynatox publishes. There are authors from all over the world, including Sebastien Doubinsky, Chris Kelso, Michael Faun, and several others.

What exactly do they publish? What’s the big deal?

Their books include the work of authors who do not care about narrative, literary, or grammatical rules. Dynatox Ministries has several imprints, including a bizarro imprint (Holy Mountain Outreach), and a hardcore horror/noir crime imprint (Christbait Rehab). They publish conspiracy theory books, poetry, nunsploitation, blaxsploitation, Nazisploitation, and they’re publishing a box set dedicated to the cannibal-horror genre. Authors are paying tribute to underground subgenres of film and art that have existed for several years—Dynatox Ministries is the only place you can find these books.

Did I mention the books are limited-edition? You can pre-order the books, and they do take a little while to come out, but the wait is worth it. These books will be out of print. Dynatox is also one of the few publishers dedicated to producing actual books; while they do have an “electronic division,” their books each come numbered.

You’re missing out if you’re not reading their books, or maybe you just like to read the same thing over and

over again? That’s not a bad thing. If you want something that’s actually different, and work that is meant to be appreciated for what it is rather than how much it entertains, Dynatox has what you’re looking for. In my opinion, the best part is there is no pressure to review books once you’ve purchased them. The books are limited edition, so who cares?  I’ve left a few reviews on Goodreads for some of the books, but I prefer to just leave stars. Gold stars. Lots of gold stars.

Check out what Dynatox has to offer. They’re currently about to host a convention called Krallcon, so some of the books were published for people who donated (and you can donate to the convention by ordering the new books, hence why they are a bit more expensive).

The books are sexy. The authors are sexy, too. Especially Jason Wayne Allen and R.A. Harris. Rumor has it that Chris Kelso is sexy, too, but he lives in a fictional land that served as the backdrop for Highlander and Braveheart, so we know his home isn’t real…

Here's where you can buy their stuff. CLICK HERE