The Illusion of Choice: Lessons from the Writing Excuses intensive course on writing for games

Photo by Justin Luebke on Unsplash.

Hosted by published authors working in a variety of genres and with decades of experience in the industry, the Writing Excuses podcast offers quick 15–20 minute long episodes packed with insightful writing, craft, and business advice. This year, the podcast has shifted its format to focus on eight-episode intensive courses that drill down into a particular subject — in this case, game writing.

Along with regular hosts Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Taylor, the eight episodes on game writing were led by two guest hosts, Cassandra Khaw and James L. Sutter, both of whom have extensive experience writing for games. Kaw has worked as a senior scriptwriter for Ubisoft Montreal and as a freelance writer for various indie video game developers. Sutter is a co-creator of the Pathfinder and Starfinder table-top roleplaying games.

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Falling in Love with Shadow and Light

Sky Cathedral by Louise Nevelson — found wood sculpture at the San José Museum of Art.
Sky Cathedral by Louise Nevelson — found wood sculpture at the San José Museum of Art.

The last time I visited a museum prior to the pandemic was at the San José Museum of Art, where a friend had put together an event featuring mixture of poetry and music. During a break between the sets of performances, I wandered the exhibits, checking out what the museum had on display.

When I wander through a museum, I observe it from my own subjective point of view, not much caring whether the work is considered important or interesting from a cultural or historical perspective. I look for work that speaks to me, that hooks something deep within my chest and tugs.

That night, I found myself standing before Louise Nevelson’s Sky Cathedral, a found wood sculpture comprised of architectural elements, crates, and other pieces, assembled into geometric chambers and painted entirely black. It captivated me immediately.

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Five Things I’ve Learned About Podcasting (and what I still need to do to improve)

podcasting microphone
Photo by Daniel Rubio on Unsplash.

Podcasting was not a challenge I ever expected to take on. When I approached the New Books Network with a request to be interviewed on their New Books in Poetry podcast about my recently published collection of poetry, the founder and editor-in-chief, Marshall Poe, confessed that the company did not have a host for the poetry podcast at the time. He then asked if I would be interested in adopting the role.

After some further conversations with Marshall, a fellow poet and writer Athena Dixon and I decided to jump onboard and accept cohosting duties for the New Books in Poetry podcast. Although I can’t speak for Athena, I confess that I personally had zero podcasting experience prior to taking on this challenge. Since New Books in Poetry was an existing channel with a following, I was fortunate that my first foray into the process was not started from scratch (with all the steps that that requires), allowing me to ease my way into learning how to plan, record, and edit an episode at my own pace through trial and error.

Thus far, cohosting a podcast has been a fun and interesting journey. In the time since Athena and I started hosting, I’ve had the honor of speaking with a number of amazing poets about their books, their work, and their writing process. I’ve learned a lot, both from the poets I’ve spoken with and about the podcasting process.

I am by no means a podcasting expert. However, on the chance that it may help someone else starting out in their own podcasting journey, here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned about podcasting thus far—along with many more things that I still need to work on.

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Exploring the Self by Honoring the Magical: Lessons from Lisa Marie Basile’s Magical Writing Grimoire

Photo by petr sidorov on Unsplash.

I’ve long been fascinated by the concept of witchcraft — the idea that ritual, spells, and willpower can effectively shape the world around you. No doubt movies like The Craft and Practical Magic had a significant influence on this interest. As a teenager, I would roam through the public library seeking out some old leather-bound tome to guide me (something that always seems so easy to achieve in movies).

If it had existed back then, The Magical Writing Grimoire by Lisa Marie Basile would have been a book that I would have found compelling. Even as a teenager, I already had the sense that the written word — and poetry in particular — had a kind of magic to it. Reading was empowering for me, conjuring up deep emotions and manifesting new perceptions of the universe around me. At a time when I was just starting to figure out who I was as a writer and a human, this book would have felt like a gift.

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New Article Published: 10 Video Games to Baby Step Your Way into Horror

A man sits in the dark holding a video game controller - horror video games
Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash.

One of my great pleasures in life is sitting back and watching a good horror movie. My tastes are wide ranging, from horror comedies to supernatural scares, gritty psychological horror, and body horror. I’ll watch it all.

But horror video games have always seemed too intense for me. Watching a horror movie is a passive experience, allowing me to observe the character’s progress through the haunted house and judge their decision to go down into the dark basement.

Video games on the other hand remove that passivity from the equation. As the player, I find myself suddenly immersed in the experience. Instead of watching the character step down into the dark, I’m the one in control, the one who has to make the decision to go down the stairs, even though I know something terrible awaits.

Over time, however, I’ve gained a growing appreciation for scary games. It’s been slow going, starting with games that feature more of a creepy aesthetic than actual scares and growing to a love for the intensity of survival horror.

If like me, you’ve been curious about playing scary games, I’ve put together a list of 10 video games to help you baby step your way into horror, recently published at Keeping It Spooky.

I would love to know if you’ve played any of these games, or if you’re trying horror games for the first time. What was your experience?