Hey, Wanna Hear Something Crazy?

July 24th, 2014essays

I don’t remember the exact date that I went crazy, but I remember the weeks preceding it.

In mid-June 2004, I got sick. I didn’t know what it was at first. I worked during the day at a local internet provider. At 5p, I’d come home, and immediately go to bed. I couldn’t stay awake. I would get so tired, I could barely stand. I would pass out at 6p and stay asleep until I had to get up for work the next morning. At first, I figured it was just a bug and I would shake it soon. But it lasted a week. Then another week. So, at the urging of my wife, I went to the doctor. After a comedy of errors, including a completely unnecessary overnight stay in the hospital, I was diagnosed with mono. Which is as awful, soul-sucking, life-draining a disease as I’ve ever gotten.

Great.

Origins 2004 was coming up—a mid-sized gaming convention that was only a couple hours away from my house. I was with an outfit called Key 20 back then—a sideline tabletop publishing and consolidation business I ran with a friend—and had to be there. So I went. Sick. I powered through the first couple days as best I could. On the third day, a Saturday, a miracle happened. I woke up in my hotel room and I felt better. Not just better, I felt good. I was over it. I had survived mono. Naturally, I partied like crazy that night.

The convention was soon over. I’d had a lot of fun hanging with some faraway friends, sold some books, and came home. Whew. I had made it through.

Time passed. And I started to notice something.

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Out Now: MIGHTY MIRROR MASTERS

May 2nd, 2014news, rpg

Some time ago, the wonderful Cynthia Miller asked if I’d be interested in writing a series book for the third edition of Cartoon Action Hour. Her company, Spectrum Games, focuses on genre emulation games, such as the wicked Slasher Flick and the pulp-horror game Macabre Tales, and this latest edition continued and refined CAH’s focus on the classic cartoons of the 80s.

I pitched a series inspired by one of my favorites and the result was the Mighty Mirror Masters. Here’s the ad copy:

In this Cartoon Action Hour: Season 3 series book by Jason L Blair, a mystical gemstone is discovered that can peer into the souls of those who view it and divine their true nature, bringing it to life in physical form. Those with kind souls were blessed with Divine Light, becoming paragons of good, able to call forth noble creatures made of pure light. Those whose souls harbored evil intent experienced Dark Reflection and were transformed into twisted monsters driven by greed and vengeance. Now, the two factions find themselves at odds, as the Dark Reflection seeks to get its hands on the mystical gemstone at all costs.

It’s out now in PDF. You can grab it for $4.99 over at DriveThruRPG. I’d love it if you could leave a review over there as well, if you get a chance to check it out. And feel free to leave some comments right here too!

Thanks to Cynthia and the Spectrum team for this chance to contribute to their amazing game. If you like Mighty Mirror Masters, be sure to check out the other series books, such as John Wick‘s Infinivaders, and check back for the rest of the series books they have in the pipe.

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Keeping Track in 2014

May 1st, 2014news

Something I’ve decided to do, inspired by the One-Year Plan from last year (which failed, but I’ll talk about that next week), is to keep public track of the projects I start (not including pitches, scripts, and things that I can’t share or aren’t worth sharing at this point). I’ve already updated it with the first four projects of the year. I’m estimating the Book 3 count because I tended to do a lot of that writing inside the layout program.

Keep your eyes peeled for more!

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And All of a Sudden, it’s May

May 1st, 2014news

It’s been four months since my last update. That’s…a long time. I not only aim to fix this but I’m currently working on a clutch of updates that I’ll put into the queue. (Expect the first one tomorrow morning!)

Future ones will address last year. What went right, what failed, what failed horrendously, what I learned from it all, and what’s on the docket for this year.

See you all tomorrow with the first update!

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New Year’s Revelation

January 3rd, 2014essays

Obvious revelation that reared its head into my brain a bit ago so I thought I’d share.

Doing nothing leads to doing more nothing. Most folks know that. But the inverse is also true. When you do something, especially if you feel a reward from it, you want to keep doing it. Inertia is the mindkiller. Want to create? Create. Start small if you want but keep doing it.

Want to write? 50 words a day. Anybody can do that. 50 words every day. That’s literally a couple minutes. You have them. Write during lunch. Write while in the bathroom. Write before you go to bed. If you can’t do 50, do 20. Write one sentence. Over time, you put down enough words, you’ll have something. A song, a poem, a story, a novel, a memoir. Something.

Want to draw? One shape a day. A circle, a square, a line. Again: minutes a day. If that. Over time, you’ll have a diagram, an illustration, a comic strip, a drawing of a loved one. Something.

Want to play an instrument? One note or chord a day. Over time, you’ll learn guitar, bass, violin, piano. Something.

Want to learn a language? A word or phrase a day. Over time, you’ll be able to converse with people in their native tongue.

Don’t worry about making any of this good. Or for other people. Do this for you. Don’t sweat whether a phrase is clumsy or a face is lopsided or you press too close to the fret or you might be pronouncing a vowel flatly.

The time is going to pass anyway. I hope you have a bunch of time. Spend it with loved ones, spend it on hobbies, spend it on entertainment. But take a few minutes a day to explore something or create something. You might find you love it and want to dedicate ten minutes a day to doing it. Maybe an hour. Maybe you set aside a couple evenings a week. Maybe not. Maybe you stick to doing 2-3 minutes a day. It doesn’t matter.

Do this for you. Do something new. Learn something new. You may have a lot more to contribute to this world than you realize.

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Game Writing: 11 Things I’ve Learned

December 20th, 2013video games

Veteran writer (and scion of Tom Clancy) Richard Dansky asked an interesting question:

So what knowledge do you think is absolutely essential to working in games writing? Concepts? Elements of craft? Specific terminologies? Legal and professional issues?

I responded with eleven tenets that have served me well. Most of these were learned the hard way so I thought I’d (hopefully) save other writers and would-be writers the hassle and headache. Feedback and anecdotes from other writers is most certainly appreciated.

11 Things I’ve Learned About Writing for Video Games

1. A writer’s role in a project varies not only from studio to studio and from project to project but from stage of production to stage of production.

2. Many aspects of writing are the easiest thing to change when developing a game. More than anyone, you must be flexible.

3. Chances are, no one will care more about the story than you. You will be called upon to champion ideas and fight for story elements but you cannot be precious about small things and must be able to compromise.

4. You must be able to find your voice in any project, work-for-hire or not. If you cannot put yourself into another’s project, you need to work on that first and foremost.

5. When I freelanced, I was often called in near the end of a project to give context and structure to pre-existing characters, locations, and situations. If you intend to freelance, be really good at assembling LEGO bricks.

6. Understand that seemingly small decisions–such as locations, animations, costume changes, and characters–can have a huge impact on budgets and workflows within other departments. You must be able to own the budgets, both time and money.

7. Games are a team project. Learn the lingo used by other departments and disciplines. Learn what they need to get their job done. Learn what their priorities are. They are your best friends. And if you get in good with them, they will do what they can for you when you absolutely, positively need a new location, animation, costume change, or character.

8. You are a step in the process. Be mindful that audio, cinematics, animation, level design, scripting, and others will work from what you create. Be realistic about your deadlines and, once set: HIT. YOUR. DEADLINES.

9. You are a step in the process. Others must be mindful of your deadlines and, when they are not, you must be comfortable addressing that issue and telling them how their delays affect you.

10. Changes happen. All the time. Notes come down from directors, producers, marketing, publishers, and changes must be made. Sometimes the deadline will shift to allow for those changes; often, it won’t.

11. Games are great but it’s your life that’s important. Don’t be so in love with writing for games that your quality of life suffers.

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Out Now: HOW THE SAINTS SAVE CHRISTMAS

December 10th, 2013video games

The holidays are here and they’ve brought new DLC for Saints Row IV. Cozy up to the fire and enjoy this delightful—and delightfully twisted—trip to save St. Nick and restore the holidays to the world. Here’s the sell text:

How the Saints Save Christmas (1953) – Santa is trapped inside the Simulation but the Scrooge-like Boss of the Third Street Saints can’t muster enough Christmas spirit to save him. Can the Saints help the Boss discover the true meaning of the season in time? A holiday classic for the whole family.

Most owners of the Season Pass should already have this (Europe releases tomorrow). If you’re buying a la carte, you can pick it up on Steam, 360, and PSN now.

Happy holidays, everybody!

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Out Now: HEY ASH, WHATCHA PLAYIN’?

December 4th, 2013video games

I don’t want to get into the habit of calling out all the Saints Row IV DLC but I have to talk about this one.

Anthony, Ash, and Papa Burch, from the insanely popular webseries Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’ are now available as homies for Saints Row IV.

No, seriously.

I am absolutely giddy over this. I was a huge fan of the series before this came together and was ecstatic to work on this. It’s out now for all platforms: PS3, 360, and Steam.

Be sure to check out the trailer below, featuring a rare glimpse at the briefly-mustachioed Tony Bedard.

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Short Fiction: CAPTIVE AUDIENCE

October 31st, 2013fiction

You may remember a couple months back, a teacher friend of mine asked if I would write a survival story aimed at Middle Grade readers. Of course, I said “YES” and the short fiction piece “Rest” was the result. Well, she came to me again with a request for a story about a historic place as described by a time-traveling archaeologist with no context for what it was that person was truly seeing. Again, I enthusiastically agreed. What I came up with a (hopefully) humorous look at Champaign local landmark, The Art Theater, titled “Captive Audience.”

Captive Audience

by Jason L Blair

Hello, my good fellows of Temporus et Anachronus Historical Respect Society. I am writing you today with some troubling news.

Per the assignment given to me by President Emeritus Tiberius J. Tubbs, I have arrived at the designated location, a bastion of civilization nestled in an expansive grain field called “Champaign Illinois” in the district our forebears once labeled Midamerica. While the travel backwards in time concluded without error, our expectation of what we were to find here is actually very far from fact. Where we expected a gentle and kind tribe, instead, is home to a collection of cruel and seemingly easily-amused savages.

If I am to believe what I have seen here, one of the greatest attractions in this ancient place is a small building that bears the name “The Art Theater.” A fitting name, perhaps, because this dreadful place is home to a most barbaric “art” form. The people of this time have mastered the ability to trap their peers inside some sort of two-dimensional plane called a “screen.” Once relocated, the captives are forced, by some unseen mechanism, to reenact cultural tales over and over again as entertainment for a cold and uncaring assembly.

I have seen many such tales, from a collective of sightseers forced to evade the razor-tipped claws of prehistoric lizards to the story of a young girl swept away to a world of crazed winged primates and a green-skinned witch to a most tragic showing of a man who, upon exposure to the light of Earth’s moon, is turned into a horrific beast covered in hair and sporting a large and deadly-looking set of pointed teeth.

To further add to the audience’s savagery, they often feed upon heated and salted kernels from the surrounding grain fields–destroying their environment as well as their humanity!

As further testament to the high regard to which this barbaric practice is held, the Art Theater itself is adorned with images taken from these vile displays. The names of the participants are listed on these “posters.” I heard multiple people in attendance say they enjoy the work of some of these prisoners–I wonder just how many terrible dramas these poor souls are forced to act out!

It is my recommendation that we never return to this place. We have, as a society, evolved well beyond such archaic and brutal practices. How I long to return to the year 3807 where I can once again enjoy more enlightened entertainment such as a robogator wrestling and flaming goat dancing.

Your humble archaeologically-minded fellow,

Bodomir Jevins III

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Out Now: ENTER THE DOMINATRIX

October 22nd, 2013news, video games

The first story/mission DLC pack for Saints Row IV is out today! (In most territories anyway. Tomorrow for the UK!) Introducing Enter the Dominatrix.

I was one of the writers on this pack and it was a blast. In addition to more crazy Saints Row antics, some old characters come back as well which gave me the opportunity to work with some voice actors I was eager to see in action.

I don’t want to say too much because there is some true madness on display here. But I will paste up the official blurb:

Enter the Dominatrix reveals the wild hijinx of the original vision of the canceled SR3 expansion. Steelport has been taken over by the Dominatrix and only the Saints can stop her from trapping everyone in a virtual prison! Includes behind-the-scenes commentary and the return of some fan-favorite characters.

So there you go. It’s out now for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 for $6.99.

Oh, and in case it’s not evident, it’s rated M for Mature.

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