Oh, hello, didn’t see you there…

Hello friends, it’s been a while! Blogs tend to come and go, you’re familiar enough with the reasons for that, so I’ll instead give a little update on what I’ve been doing in the last two and a half years!

  • Publishing games and doing what I do at Phoenix Online Studios
  • Writing reviews for The Walking DeadFear the Walking Dead, and (formerly) Legends of Tomorrow at 411mania.com
  • Got a new fulltime job working on the new Mass.gov website
  • I had a kid! Yeah, I buried the lede, this is really the big one. His name’s Rowan, and he’s great.
  • Generally figuring out what life looks like in this new phase. Turns out having a kid will kind of redefine everything.
  • Started working on a novel!

Since Rowan came along, finding time to be creative has been hard, but in the last year I missed it dearly and made a point of finding time for it. I’m happy to say it’s been going well and I’ve been putting a lot of work into not just writing but into outlining, plotting, and asking a lot of questions about my writing to help me improve it. I’ve also been working (admittedly more slowly) on a new game design.

Since this has gone relatively well and I’m dedicated to pushing forward, one of my resolutions for 2018 is to resurrect this blog by posting once a week. That’s the goal, we’ll see how I do with it! Once a week seems doable, though. I’m not locking myself in on any specific topics or days for these posts. And hey, if there are special requests, please let me know in the comments.

I’m looking forward to getting back to blogging. Happy new year!



Do-it-Yourself Public Relations (or, DIY PR)

This morning, I had a notion.

Publicity is important to any endeavor that seeks to make a profit. Regardless of the reason for that profit, whether it’s to sustain a creative endeavor, earn an income, bring attention to a cause, share a thing of interest, or something else entirely. But getting publicity is notoriously difficult. There’s a lot of competition for people’s attention out there, and in the past, only certain channels have had the power of broadcasting your endeavor to the masses.

That was the past. This is now. And now is a world where the eager masses can give $3 million to an idea that is presented well. Where social media can sustain revolutions. Where anyone can tell the world what they have to say, and the world can hear it.

I ended up doing PR in a weird way. Ten years ago, I joined Phoenix Online as a volunteer staff writer to make a video game. A pipe dream from my youth, something that sounded fun and creative while I was in the funk of temp jobs and living at home following graduating college in 2002 as an English major with a tacked on Philosophy minor. Over the years, I ended up one of the Directors of a fledgling company, and roughly two years ago, I inherited the job of running PR.

And I kind of freaking love it.

Here’s the thing: This isn’t what I studied. I had the work of those before me to build off of. I’ve had help learning how to write a press release and reach out to the press and getting contacts to build my own press list. I’m not the kind of person who can easily go and talk to just anyone out of the blue. I don’t even like calling people on the phone. The night before my first ever interviews at PAX East 2010 I hardly slept because I was so freaking nervous.

Bottom line? I’m no expert. But despite all that, and that I almost always feel like I’m winging it, I’m certainly doing alright, and more and more lately, I’ve felt I actually have enough knowledge on how this stuff works to be able to offer advice or help people out. If I got here in a non-traditional way, anyone can.

So I’m borrowing a page from my friend Cassandra, who has successfully adopted a schedule model to keep her posting regularly on her blog, and once a week I’m going to post about things I’ve learned about Public Relations. This is no college class, this is no formal education, this is just my experience and what I’ve learned from it, and hopefully it can prove useful to someone else.

Coming now and every week: Do-It-Yourself Public Relations!

Now or Never

A week ago Friday (meaning, two Fridays ago, if I said that right) , I was laid off from my day job. Hold the ‘I’m sorry’s until the end, though. It’s actually rather a good thing.

It’s no secret I’ve also been work on and for Phoenix Online Studios, as both a designer and the PR Director. Though we’re working on our first commercial game right now, this work is so far unpaid. And in my case, until the lay off, it was also only part-time. No easy thing, and it made for long days, but it’s doing what I love and working towards making it my career. The news that I was going to be attending the Game Developers Conference (GDC) with some other team members in March came in just a week or so before I was laid off. My pass was purchased, my plane ticket was bought, and my time off request was submitted.

Then I was laid off, and it could not have come at a better time.

Usually that would sound a little crazy, but here’s the thing: I’ve always done my best to be practical. I’ve been safe, I’ve made thought-out decisions, I’ve tried to put myself in a good position for my present and future. But at the same time, I’m not a person who can put aside my passion for practicality. I was an English major in college, with a last minute added-on Philosophy minor. I’ve worked temp jobs and low-paying fulltime jobs, which while they were enough to pay my rent, go out a bit, and enjoy life, have not left me rolling in spare cash for the future. Savings have been hard to build up and hold onto. I’m not a frivolous spender, but nor am I a penny-pincher. I can’t buy into the idea of not enjoying life now in order to save for someday. I know it’s a good practical move, I know there’s nothing wrong and plenty right with saving for the future, but I know I’d be miserable if I weren’t enjoying myself now. In my heart, I’ve always been a dreamer and I’ve always wanted to follow those. I’ve done my best to balance the impracticality of crazy dreams with the practicality of a secure lifestyle based in facts, numbers, and realism — I even blogged about it!

Let's do this.

Maybe it was always going to come to a point where the center could not hold. My plan has long been to transition into working for Phoenix fulltime at some point, but maybe that point was never going to be fluid and risk-free. And you know? It shouldn’t be, either. This is, finally, for me, now or never. This is as safe as this risk can get — now I can focus my efforts on making sure this game is as good as it can be, and sells as well as it possibly can. Thanks to having a wonderful group of people supporting and surrounding me, I’m able to do this, and to them I am immensely and eternally grateful for that. But even without that, I’ve reached the point where I would take that leap right now regardless. I have to.

When I was in high school, I always told myself “I’ll be damned if I don’t follow my dreams.” So here I am. It’s now or never.

Between is the Hard Part

“Between” was the photo challenge a few weeks ago. I took a particular liking to these two images posted by Just Ramblin’, along with some great definitions about just what “between” is. (Also, how fun are those angles!)


They are incomplete projects, things that are between started and finished, that big long stretch of middle that’s the longest and hardest part of all.

I cannot count how many things I’ve started but never finished. Way, way, too many things to bother thinking about. It would surely depress me if I did. It’s not like I’m the only one, however. Whether it’s giving up, forgetting, or just outright failing, the important is getting up and trying again.

Besides–all the times I have stuck it out to the end, grabbing and fighting to keep myself going at whatever the task may be, it’s in the between part that the most interesting stuff happens. Between is where frustration surges up to replace motivation, writer’s block gobbles up inspiration like the Nothing, where you push, you shove, you argue, and despair over what the hell you’ll do next. This isn’t just about writing, either, it’s any task or project. The hardest part is the middle, that’s why so many people give up somewhere in there.

Once you hit the end once, though, you finally know how fantastic that feels. It’s good. It’s really good. It’s worth it. That’s why we keep going back for more.

And that’s what I keep reminding myself of when the between does it’s damnedest to shake me the hell off!

For the Thrill of It

I love this.

The last week has been fantastic. Busy, cramped, a ton to do and a ton going on, but dammit I love it. Everything’s in the moment and happening fast and it’s fantastic.

We launched our Cognition Kickstarter six days ago with a $25,000 goal. Right now we have $14,045 pledged to us already. Already! We have 36 more days yet to go! We’ve been blown away by how fast that number has risen and how high. While we picked our goal amount with care, going for something significant, ambitious, but that we were confident was possible, this has still been an unexpected show of generosity and support that just warms the heart and feels…well, yeah, fantastic!

So, y’know, there’s that. 🙂

On top of that, we’re releasing Episode 4 of The Silver Lining on Sunday and there’s a lot to be done. The game to finalize and polish and test, but that’s not my role. Mine, right now, is Public Relations. And damned if I don’t love it during release week and the weeks that follow. The fast pace, emails flying in and out, talking with press contacts, arranging interviews, doing interviews, answering questions, posting to the websites, it’s thrilling and I’m good at it. And that feels fantastic, too.

If I ever doubt it, times like this reaffirm for me that yes, yes this is what I want to do. Create things, tell a story, put my heart into it, and tell the world about it.


Have you ever done something you didn’t believe you could do?

Not things you “never thought you’d do” – that’s different. That’s a thing you hadn’t thought about, hadn’t put time into considering the possibility or lack thereof. Not believing you can do something is just that, a thing you’ve encountered, considered, and come up saying, “No, I can’t do that,” with certainty.

Usually we back down from those things. Maybe they’re too outrageous, or go against a moral code, or are too taxing or painful, be it emotionally, physically, or mentally. Since we believe ourselves incapable of doing them, we don’t. Why tackle the impossible? We know what the result will be failure.

Last night I realized I’ve been trying to do something I haven’t believed myself capable of doing. This despite slowly working towards this goal for six and a half years now. I’ve tried other things for longer without losing hope: The Silver Lining was in production for eight years (for me) before it was finally released, and we received not one but two C&Ds from big companies telling us no. And yet I never gave up on that happening, not really. I had moments of doubting, of being tired of it, of wanting to just quit and walk away, but only once, for one night, did I ever believe it wouldn’t happen. Quite literally the next morning, our fans were there for us, believing in us when we’d had that moment of doubt, and my belief came back. Now here we are, with a future before us.

But this goal, the one I didn’t realize I didn’t believe in, was a very different sort of goal. Since January of 2005, I’ve been training at the Theodorou Academy of Jiu Jitsu. I’m not athletic, I’m not violent, I lack aggression almost to a fault, I’m 5’3″, I’m not strong, I’ve never been attacked or even in a fight – in other words, I am not the person you would expect to see training in jiu jitsu. Our style focuses specifically on practical self-defense, strikes, and set responses that you could realistically pull off if attacked on the street, regardless of size or strength. Appropriately, the training starts off simple, things that are easy to do and to understand. Over time, it gets more complex, and also more serious. The things you’re learning can do some truly awful damage to your opponent, even kill them, but we also learn to measure our responses to what’s appropriate to the situation. For when someone’s just a little too drunk, we learn what’s called a bouncer technique. If someone’s trying to rape you or threatens you with a knife, then this is your life and they are trying to end it: you do whatever is necessary to get out of that situation alive.

It’s scary. Whether it’s because of the kind of injury I’m learning to inflict is terrifying to me, or that the practice itself inevitably involves some pain (you can’t practice a joint lock without the other person feeling it), a lot of what we do scares me. Learning to take a fall correctly, for example: you have to actively throw yourself at the ground which is completely opposed to every instinct you have about falling. Try it: Stand up, jerk your legs out from under you so you fall face-first, and with the ground rushing up at you, tell yourself you’ll be fine because at the last second you’re going to catch yourself on your forearms. I learned that one six years ago and I still don’t like it.

But now my next belt will be my first degree black belt, and more is expected of me. Our Sensei is great, very motivational, and a believer that anyone who puts their mind to it can become a black belt. The training for your black belt test is hard. Really hard. It’s extra time, he pushes you to do more, is bluntly honest with what you need to work on, and makes you work with some of the toughest guys in class. The start of my group’s training was this summer, in July, which was an awful month for many reasons. Everything was frustrating, stressful, and more than I could handle, and in the end, I opted to not aim for a November test date. I know this was the best decision for me. The new aim was then an April test date, but I should still be keeping up my training.

I haven’t been. I was burned out, I wasn’t having fun, I was frustrated, I was too busy, I’d been losing interest in going to train at all. The last two weeks, I haven’t gone at all, in fact. But it wasn’t really until I said these things aloud to Brandon, expressed how I felt about it, my doubts that I might do it at all, that I realized the truth: I didn’t believe I could do it. Even though I knew, intellectually, that it was possible, I didn’t believe that. That’s a crushing thing, to know that you don’t believe in yourself. Yet somehow in the act of admitting it, it changed: I knew I wanted to do it, I knew I could do it…and then, I think, I knew I would do it. I don’t know when, there are reasons beyond my belief in myself that could delay it, but it will happen. It will be extremely challenging, and frustrating, and painful, but it is possible. I am possible.

This morning a co-worker told me whenever she needs inspiration, she looks at a picture of a corgi sailing over a show jump. The bar is only about a foot off the ground for them, which doesn’t seem like much, until you consider that their legs are about 3 to 6 inches tall. And yet, with dogged and adorable determination on their faces, they leap over something more than twice the height of their little legs. “If he can do that, then I can do anything,” she said.

Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can't lose.

The Practicality of Living the Dream

In a discussion with friends over yesterday’s Love Letters* from boston.com (a woman who’s boyfriend is going to travel for several months; should she quit the job, follow her heart and the man she loves on a fantastic trip?), our debate basically came down to two opposing sides: practicality (stay with the job, it’s secure in a rough economy, who knows if you’ll have anything when you get from costly gallivanting) or living the dream (worry about the consequences later, go on this trip that you’ll never regret having gone on).

When I was a teenager with a head full of big dreams, I always thought that my choice in such a situation would be to live the dream no matter what. Well, fifteen-odd years, a handful of low-paying jobs, one school loan, one car loan, and some credit card debt later, the appeal of practicality has made itself rampantly apparent to me! I understand now, as one only can after finally becoming an adult, that you have to plan for the future, secure yourself, and recognize that choices always have risks and consequences.

As I’ve gotten older, though, there’s another aspect of that dichotomy that I’ve learned as well: you don’t always have to choose. It is in fact possible to both live the dream and be practical.

For me, I want to both be a published author and a professional game designer. While I could quit my job and throw myself fulltime into one or both of these things, it would be a very poor decision to do so. Oh, sure, JK Rowling

What's a another word for tumescent...

penned her magnum opus of Harry Potter while jobless, a single mom, and sitting at a local coffee shop. Now she’s a kajillionaire. Talk about the artist’s dream! But let’s face it, that’s a one in not-quite-a-million shot (if it was, it couldn’t possibly fail). For the rest of us, there’s the slightly less glamorous way around: sacrificing little things, maybe even medium things, putting in the time and the hard work, and continuing to shoot for the big thing we really want. Making small, achievable goals along the way so you aren’t overwhelmed by the task before you. Take the chances you can take, find a balance that works for you, and understand that there may come times when that balance needs to be upset and tilt more one way than the other. Really, that’s what making it to any goal worth getting is about: mastering the balancing act of what you want and need now with what you want and need later. It’s tricky, because that’s actually four things and not two. This balance is complicated.

There’s no shame in choosing either right-out, either. But there are consequences of both. Mostly personal ones–constantly taking risks and never planning ahead will get you in an uncomfortable situation eventually, and never taking ANY risks will likely lead to a lot of frustration. No one can be one thing all the time; no one can be perfectly balanced all the time. But you can have both, if you work hard at it.

This is his "judging you" face.

Is it always fun? No. Is it always immediately rewarding? No. But is it worth it in the end? Well, I haven’t gotten there yet, but I’m still pretty sure it will be.

(*Check out my good friend Serp’s weekly Sense and Serpability  for strongly-worded opinions on Love Letters!)