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Reading Recommendations: Art & Fear

Read This: Art & Fear

“Look at your work and it tells you how it is when you hold back or when you embrace. When you are lazy, your art is lazy; when you hold back, it holds back; when you hesitate, it stands there staring, hands in its pockets. But when you commit, it comes on like blazes.”

As any creative there are times where I struggle. There are moments when I’m plagued with self-doubt, and there are instances where I grow frustrated. For many, being a creative can be particularly lonely. Thankfully, I am lucky enough to be married to an artist, and having Kari-Lise as my partner in this life has been an excellent balance for the two of us. For months (maybe years) whenever I have slumped into one of these holes, she has hounded me to read David Bayles and Ted Orland’s books, Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking. In the past, I have shrugged off her suggestion for various (and in retrospect: dumb) reasons.

Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking

Recently, while wallowing in the midst of an especially dismal time, I finally gave in. I took Kari-Lise’s advice and decided to settle down to read this book. As she guessed, it was exactly what I needed. I finished it in two sitting, plowing through each page and finding myself nodding along.

If you’re a writer, painter, musician, crafter, whatever and you have struggled then you need to read this book. It’s not your typical self-help book. It is unpretentious and honest. It doesn’t shy away from the realities inherent in the struggle of creation and it presents the journey candidly. It also pushes any creator to continue the journey no matter what obstacles for reasons we somehow all know and often choose to forget. It’s a straightforward look at the art of making.

It’s very much worth the nine dollars to add this to your library. I know it’ll be something I often reference in the future. After finishing it, it was a no-brainer to add it to my list of recommendations.

Gran Text Auto

Go Play Gran Text Auto

I’m not much of a gamer these days. Between editing Red Litten World, working on finishing up my new manuscript, and starting the research and planning phase for book four of The Bell Forging Cycle, I don’t have very much time. It’s probably no surprise that I love short play games. They’re the perfect gaming fix while I commute on the train or find myself in a waiting room.

Gran Text Auto

Yesterday, a good friend of mine, Kevin Mangan, released his first iOS game: Gran Text Auto. I absolutely love it. You play as a sassy octogenarian emoji named Gran. Your goal is to do your best answering text messages while trying to dodge obstacles at the same time. Sounds simple enough but it’s much harder than it seems. So often as I am trying to respond to one of the game’s many characters I find myself over-correcting and ending up in a horrific crash.

Gran Text AutoWhile the gameplay is challenging and fun and provides that right balance that leaves you craving for another go around what really sold me was the writing. The dialog, provided in the form of text messages, is witty and sharp. The jokes are layered sometimes subtle but always hilarious. Another friend of mine recently posted that he often gets in wrecks because he’s laughing at the texts. I know those feelings. Oh boy, do I know those feelings.

If you’re looking for a fun game to play for the upcoming weekend, give Gran Text Auto a shot. It’s perfectly polished. The music is incredible. The voice acting is spot on. The gameplay is addicting. Also, it’s FREE (supported by ads, which you can turn off for only 99¢). It’s a great mobile game with a tremendous sense of humor and very much worth your time.

Download Gran Text Auto →
Follow Gran on Twitter →
Follow Gran on Facebook →

So far my high score is 24. Can you beat me?

Imaginary Worlds by Eric Molinsky

Imaginary Worlds

My last recommendation post was for Device 6, and it’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these. Like over a year. So let’s rectify that!

Today, I have a podcast recommendation for you: Imaginary Worlds is a free podcast from Eric Molinsky focusing on the worlds of science-fiction and fantasy. Coming at it from a fan perspective Molinsky explores why we as fans love these worlds, what draws us to them, and why they resonate with us. Unlike a lot of other podcasts, Imaginary Worlds is quite deep. Molinsky takes a candid and fresh approach to subjects like: the origin stories of heroes, the tale of the mysterious author James Tiptree, the real history of Salem, Massachusetts, the canon of Star Trek and its relationship to the Torah, and even how modern politics is reflected in Game of Thrones. I found each episode quite engaging and before I knew it I quickly binge-listened my way through the series. You can listen to one of my favorite episodes below:

Subscribe to Imaginary Worlds at iTunes or from Stitcher. The episodes are usually less than twenty-minutes in length making it really easy to fly through these. I recommend starting at the beginning. If you like the podcast leave a review on iTunes as well, it’s a great way to spread the word to other potential fans of Imaginary Worlds.

Device 6


Too many cocktails? No. Something else.

Every once in a while you stumble across something that transcends the sum of its parts. It grips you, sends you on a wild ride, and when it’s over you’re left in awe. It has taken me a while to process Simogo’s Device 6. When I started it I had not idea what I was getting into, and when it was over I couldn’t stop thinking about it. A few of you might find it odd that I am recommending an app in my “reading recommendations” section but that’s just it, calling Device 6 just another “app” or even a “game” would be doing it a serious disservice. No. Device 6 is something else.

It’s, well… it’s hard to really pin down: Device 6 is a book, you read it like a book. It tells a story over chapters like a book, but it’s more than just a book, it’s also a puzzle game, an audio journey, an exploration in typography, and a 1960-esque spy thriller. Too often interactive fiction either feels more like a book or more like a game. Device 6 does such a good job straddling the fence between book, game, and interactive fiction that I think its appeal extends to anyone interested in storytelling. It’s immersive and engaging like a great novel, but at the same time it’s immersive and engaging like a good game. The fact that it does both of these things so well and so seamlessly is what makes it such an achievement.

With tablets becoming a dominate force in the marketplace it’s no surprise we’re starting to see these sorts of explorations. However, unlike a lot of forays into interactive storytelling Device 6 isn’t a branching weave of multiple endings, complex paths, and dead ends. Instead its perfection lies in its simplicity: it’s an imaginative, tightly-executed, well-written, liner story that pulls you into its world.

When it comes to emergent interactive fiction Device 6 is at the top of its game and its small yet rich world is worth any gamer, writer, or readers time. Device 6 is currently available on the Apple App Store and if you’re still not convinced watch the trailer below:

Shoggoths in Bloom

Shoggoths in Bloom
A few weeks ago my friend Josh Montreuil recommended Elizabeth Bear‘s short story “Shoggoths in Bloom” to me. It is found in her anthology of short stories with the same name. It’s a quick read, but I absolutely loved it, which is why “Shoggoths in Bloom” is my latest reading recommendation.

It’s no secret the dark stain on the H.P. Lovecraft’s legacy was the man’s overt racism. While Lovecraft fans are generally honest about his beliefs, it is rarely addressed in fiction influenced by his work. “Shoggoths” is different: set along the Maine coast in 1938 Bear masterfully use the mythos to have a serious conversation about racism, while still keeping that looming sense of unknown and mystery. At the center of the story we find a black college professor named Harding. While his skin color might be different from Lovecraft’s typical white-bread heroes, Harding still fits the academic archetype seen throughout Lovecraft’s own work. Harding is well-rounded, brave, and smart, but Bear write him in such a way that we find him struggling in his own way to deal with the issues of his day. It’s a refreshing take on Lovecraft, and in my opinion, one of the best recent additions to the mythos in years.

Shoggoths in Bloom is available on Kindle and in paperback Amazon, or on Nook and in paperback Barnes and Noble.


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Listening Recommendation: Welcome to Night Vale

Welcome to Night Vale

This is a bit different from my normal reading recommendations as it actually isn’t about anything to read, instead it’s about something you should listen to. “Welcome to Night Vale” is a free podcast written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor and distributed by Commonplace Books and it’s been dominating the iTunes download charts.

It’s fantastic. Narrated by Cecil Baldwin public-radio style “Welcome to Night Vale” centers around the local events happening in the fictional desert town of Night Vale. At first it seems like innocent enough news stories: PTA meetings, the library groundbreaking, weather, news about the local dog park, but it quickly becomes clear that things in this town aren’t what they seem. Everything in Night Vale is twisted and slightly off kilter—it’s weird—and everyone in the town is strangely okay with it. You know what…it works, “Welcome to Night Vale” does what a lot of fiction can only dream of: it become alive.

A lot of people have had a tough time describing the podcast but my favorite description comes from the Wikipedia page, it describes “Welcome to Night Vale” as:

The news from Lake Wobegon as seen through the eyes of Stephen King.

It’s the perfect description, Fink and Cranor create an engaging place full of mystery and laughs channeling the best from Lovecraft and Orson Welles and it’s worth any weird fiction fan’s time. I’d also recommend the interview Fink and Carnor had with NPR’s Jacki Lyden on Weekend, they go into some interesting details about their process.

Join me and give “Welcome to Night Vale” a listen. Turn on your radio and hide.


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