Get Lost with Adi Alsaid (You’ll be glad you did)

At the end of July 2014, Adi Alsaid‘s first mass market novel for teens, LET’S GET LOST, hit shelves.  I was first introduced to Adi at Book Expo America a few years ago when randomly at a panel he sat next to me and we struck up a conversation.  He handed me his self-published book SOMEWHERE OVER THE SUN which I loved and I saw a future for Adi.  Fast forward a few years and that future is here, published by Harlequin, National tour and a marketing campaign that actually featured a physical car decked out as an ad.

LET’S GET LOST tells the tale of a single amazing girl through the eyes of the various people who meet her.  Adi Alsaid has an excellent handle at different voices and does so deftly.  He is truly a fantastic writer as I originally discovered with his first book.  He has an incredible use of word play.  You owe it to yourself to seek out both books, but definitely do not miss Let’s Get Lost.  It’s the true start of what I think can be a great writer’s career.

Adi was willing to take questions for me for an interview and he provided some really amazing answers.  I was able to come up with what I felt were four very meaty analytic questions that also provided more review structure and statements from this fantastic young author.

1.) In your many travels and life through Mexico, California, Vegas and Israel. can you name actual singular favorite locations. Such as favorite restaurant, quiet spot to read, etc.

My favorite bench in the world is in Pacific Grove, California, facing out at the ocean beneath a beautiful tree. An ice cream shop in Tel Aviv called Iceberg has lines out the door past midnight. Vegas has incredible spots to view the sunrise and the sunset. Mexican breakfasts are the best, no matter what kind of restaurant you go into.

2.) What was the journey from writing and self publishing to being picked up by Harlequin? Is there anything you miss from self-publishing? What do you enjoy most about being with a large publishing house?

I went to BEA a few years ago as a struggling writer, just trying to see what the expo was all about, maybe make some connections. At the time, my ex-girlfriend, who’d helped me edit the first book I wrote, SOMEWHERE OVER THE SUN, was working at Simon and Schuster. She invited me to a Young to Publishing party, where I ended up meeting Emilia Rhodes, who would later be my editor at Alloy. A few months, maybe a year, after that party, Emilia and I got in touch and not too long after that I’d written the first half of LET’S GET LOST and a proposal for the second half, which was how Harlequin picked me up.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to garner a ton of support from Harlequin TEEN. They really believe in the book and the reach that they’ve had as far exceeded anything I could have possibly done on my own. I know self-publishing works for a lot of people, but it was not a good fit for me, and I’m thrilled to be where I am now.

3.) You’ve written two books now with multiple perspectives. Although you switched from first to third. Do you have a preference? Was there a particular decision making process of your narrator/perspective decision on LET’S GET LOST compared to SOMEWHERE OVER THE SUN?

I’ve always been drawn to multiple perspectives, as a reader and a writer. I like getting inside people’s heads, and I think my natural inclination is to use as many voices as a given story will allow. I usually prefer third person, although it’s never really a conscious decision, just something that naturally happens when I start writing.

4.) You seem to have a focus on road trips and that experience. How much of your own life has found its way into your work? Do you have any road trip experience (experiences) or people you’ve met you’d still write about? Anything or anyone you’d care to share?

That’s something else that isn’t necessarily a conscious choice. Like Mario Vargas Llosa writes in LETTERS TO A YOUNG NOVELIST, ” The novelist doesn’t choose his themes; he is chosen by them. He writes on certain subjects because certain things have happened to him.” Life experiences definitely work their way into my writing although I usually dress them up in fiction to make them fit the context or be more interesting.

This one I haven’t yet written about, although the character involved is too bizarre to leave out of my writing forever. When I was traveling across the country visiting friends last summer, I was enjoying a cup of coffee in Pasadena when a homeless man started insisting to everyone around the he was the world record holder for thumb pushups. Which is not a thing. Eventually, after lots of ranting on his side and some good-spirited chiding from a group of construction workers nearby, the homeless man, who goes by the name Ohio, whipped his shirt off and started assuming the push-up position, his thumbs stuck out like a hitchhiker’s. The construction workers and I prepared to witness a man breaking his thumbs on the sidewalk of Pasadena. A security guard stood by, a hand on his walkie-talkie. Tourists stepped into the street to avoid Ohio. “We’ll give you a quarter per thumb push up,” the construction workers say, elbowing each other in the ribs, winking behind sunglasses.

Turns out, thumb pushups are a thing, and I fully believe he holds the world record.

Thumb pushups… sound like there’s an entire book in there somewhere.  Homeless World Record Olympics?  Maybe not the book for Adi, but with his flair for penmanship, I’m sure he could pull it off.

 

Special Edition NYCC photo essay

Cos-Play was definitely a thing at the scaled down, Special Edition: NYC. The new venture for Reed Pop!. the organizers of such events as UFC Fan Expo, New York Comic Con and the recently launched BookCon that took place on June 14 & 14th of 2014 was definitely a mini success with as I was there a quite more than I expected crowd and lots of quality comics creators promoting, selling, doing sketches and greeting fans. It was assortment of everyone as Marvel and DC both represented well, as did Dark Horse, Valiant, Image and a slew of self publishers, independent press and people just starting out through deviant and webcomics.

Among people there were Danny Fingeroth, former Marvel editor and writer, editor of WRITE NOW! and an educator in comics writing. Also, Laura Lee Gulledge, Harvey and Eisner award nominated writer/artist of the graphic novels Paige by Page and Will & Whit, who was also promoting the currently workshopping musical version of her second book. Valiant Comics has also been on a role since they returned to the world of publshing, hiring some amazing talents and doing top notch series… but they also got marketing and merchandising down with plushies.

NYCC is a huge show with major celebrities and a big part of this year looks to be pop-culture nostalgia. Already announced so far has been a Karate Kid reunion, a panel focusing on LOST and a U.S. appearance by the creator of Death Note and Bakkuman. Special Edition allowed for a focus on comics which can at times get ignored at the big show even if the big guns do come out firing. I hope the show did well enough so it can become something even larger yet kept as a comics focused and only comics focused event. Marvel and DC bring some mega booths to SDCC & NYCC each year and I think there are fans who would love to see that without having to experience the insanity of a everything in pop-culture event.

Photos from BEA/Book Con

A few weeks ago the 2014 Book Expo America happened and as every year I had an amazing time and scored many books and took not enough photographs.  Being a pop-culture blog I will READ most anything but when it comes to photos I mostly stick to the pop-culture end of things and that means movies, music, television, comics and in cases culinary (as I am a trained chef).

Top Row: Actor Neil Patrick Harris signs previews of his upcoming memoir “Choose Your Own Autobiography”.  Author Daniel Handler AKA Lemony Snicket promoting his newest “FILE UNDER: 13 Suspicious Incidents” and upcoming “All The Wrong Questions Book 3″. Christian Rudder of the band Bishop Allen and co-founder of OK Cupid with copies of his upcoming “Dataclysm”.

Bottom Row: Gabrielle Corcos & actress Debi Mazar of Food Channel’s EXTRA VIRGIN, cook book out now.  Signmaker and artist Stephen “ESPO” Powers signs his Love Letter.  Winner of MASTERCHEF season 4 Luca Manfé with copies of his cookbook My Italian Kitchen.

 

A Very Belated Post MOCCAFest 2014

Life has caught the old Pop-Culture Spectrum by the whirlwind lately. Work, acting jobs, and more. Here are a few more portrait photos from MoCCAFest showing some of the amazing and wonderful talent the event brings forth.

Dean Haspiel
Artist extraordinaire Dean Haspiel

Seth Kushner
Writer/Photographer and all around ass kicker as he fights leukamia, Seth Kushner

Selina Briggs - The Jelly Empire
Artist & Toy maker Selina Briggs aka The Jelly Empire

MoCCA Fest Quick Day 1 Round Up with Photos

Long and crazy day with some wild crowds.   Moccafest 2014 so far seems like a great success.

I got to see a lot of old friends, help out, see some incredible comics, have great conversations and all that jazz.

There’s so much new amazing stuff at MoCCAFest this year but I like to acknowledge things that are directly offered to me and turn out to absolutely awesome.

HENCHGIRL by Kristen Gudsnuk has a kinetic energy and is mega funny. If you’re at the show today, seek the book out.

Here’s some photos from day 1:
art spiegelman talks with Peter Kuper
living legends Peter Kuper and art spiegleman talk who knows what… this is what MoCCAFest is all about!

Jess Ruliffson
This is Jess Ruliffson… an awesome artist and a winner of one this years MoccaFest Awards of Excellence winners.

and finally here’s me and James Kochalka (Superstar) with a bunch of his new book Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza:
James Kochalka and I

Be at MoCCAFest 2014 this weekend!

If you come on the internet and live in or near NYC and hit PCS and are reading it. Stop! Just go to MoCCA Fest on Lexington Avenue between 25th and 26th street on the Island of Manhattan inside the 69th Armory… a military training ground and host to amazing events like Fountain Art Fair. It’d be an awesome place for a wrestling show too.

This year James Kochalka Superstar, R. Williams, Alison Bechdel and many others are guests. The MOCCA EATS restaurant has amazing menu. WACOM is going to be a presentation. The Charlie Brown Macy’s Thanksgiving Day float will be flying over head.

This is one of the busiest weekends of the year for someone like me. It’s Wrestlemania weekend. There are tons of art events. Last year Green Day was in town. Yet, since 2002 I have not missed MOCCA ever and this year will be no different and you shouldn’t miss it either.

UPCOMING & PAST 2014 Excitement in the world of Pop-Culture Spectrum

While much of 2014 has been quite slow and quiet over here at PCS, the upcoming year promises lots of upcoming news, articles and reviews (including of some of the exciting happenings of 2014 so far)


MoCCAFest is coming up on April 5-6th and should be another amazing show. Last year the Society of Illustrators took over and turned this show upside down and re-energized it. This year should be no different especially with lessons from last year learned.


In May I have quite a bit of excitement as I head to Easton, PA for the premiere of season 14 of CHIKARA. This sold out event is the indy wrestling mecca of 2014 and should be the start of excellence. It actually kicks off when the films The Ashes of CHIKARA launches world wide on April 9th, as advertised in many comics recently.


A week later is Book Expo America and the new addition to the event BookCon.  This should be another amazing event and this year some of my favorite celebs will be there.

Upcoming reviews include:
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith.
Earthward by Bryan Q. Miller and Marcio Takara
i like you: the movie (directed by Fritz Donnelly)
A look at Telltale’s FABLES and The Walking Dead: Season 2
Fountain and SCOPE art fair 2014
and much more!

Tim Schafer Games: the History of, and my Love of BROKEN AGE


Double Fine Adventure was what turned me into a Kickstarter fiend for a few months. The only thing that ended that fun was a mix of finances and seeing certain projects I funded just take way too long. Still I pledged $100 to DFA with trust in what Tim Schafer and Nathan “Bagel” Stapley coming together and combining their efforts to create a modern point and click adventure based off the strength of Tim’s previous work and where it’d lead had he not had to move on to things such as Psychonauts and Brutal Legend. This is not a commentary on those games, but more to explain my views of what became BROKEN AGE and my feelings towards it versus how certain reviews and opinions have formulated based on preconceived expectations based on misunderstanding and lack of comprehension on the part of the backers.

Being a backer meant that for the last two weeks I have gotten to playtest, look for bugs, analyze the game and prepare for whatever post release onslaught could be coming. The fans on the boards who were negative… and I mean NEGATIVE and I can understand most of their issues. Yet, those issues are mostly based in falsehood expectations that they had. Not one of them have I heard complain about the story or the art. Many of them have complained about length and character, but the second is to each his own. Some people love Natural Born Killers, others hate it, the same with True Blood, My Little Pony, Ben 10, Batman and many many other things. One person will say the character was full of emption and I could really relate and another person of the same exact character can say they had no emotion and could not relate at all. These are things that happen with every creative piece of art ever made and BROKEN AGE truly is a piece of art and it is a game.

It is is not an interactive story, or an animated children’s book which you can press buttons on. It is the perfect example of an adventure game that exists as it would’ve had if when Double Fine was created did nothing but point n click games. This is how they would evolve. They wouldn’t just be retreads of Day of the Tentacle or Full Throttle or even Grim Fandango, but the next step, following the path that gaming has taken from going casual, back to hardcore, a return to casual and then reaching a happy medium that isn’t exactly a perfect balance and definitely won’t please all, but would allow for something fun, creative, purposeful, enjoyable, engaging and for some challenging, while others truly easy. For those who find it too easy though they would be getting something that no other game possessed. A special kind of charm, a witty humor, a sense of logic and story building that only Tim Schafer and a team he helped hand select could create.

My personal largest issue is people saying this is not what they expected and yet their expectations are all based on their own personal nostalgia and conception of what a Tim Schafer game is instead of the reality of it or at least to sound less biased, that there is another view of that and that the most important one is Tim Schafer’s. I will leave this argument and focus more now on the game itself and a couple of facts on the history of Tim Schafer games and Double Fine.

I feel to look properly at BROKEN AGE we must skip Monkey Island, as those were mostly Ron Gilbert games in which Tim got input but did not show us what type of game he would make. Day of the Tentacle is the first place when one sees the type of game Tim would make. Something that would take the genre to the next place. While multiple characters had been used in Maniac Mansion, finding a way to have those characters work together was new. DOTT was not as hard as people seem to remember though. Dave Grossman co-directed it and lots of his work which would be seen later on Moop & Dreadly and the Telltale Games catalog was definitely in place here… and they were equally Tim’s. Simplifying things to extract humor and thoughts but not making things so hard. The same can be said with Full Throttle, a game that was much more about fun, humor and story then trying to make things hard or complicated. It was short and balanced and even combined a difficult but not impossible action sequences, the first hint that Tim felt the best way to expand the genre was to simplify puzzles and add different types of gameplay. Full Throttle also showed Tim’s great and intriguing choices in voice casting and focusing on getting performances that would really show off his hilarious quips and really thought out storytelling. Mark Hamill, Maurce LaMarche, Tress Macneille, all inspired choices who at the time were established actors known to animation and genre fans worldwide. Then with Grim Fandango he flipped EVERYTHING upside down and made a 3D game with difficult controls, an abstract plot and even more abstract casting with voices everyone knew… Tony Plana, Maria Canals, Alan Blumenfeld and Pamela Segall-Adlon were all established actors with careers. It was an indication that if Tim could he’d really reach as far and as wide to get performances above and beyond that of a normal video game. The kind of performances we have all slowly now gotten used to, but back then… not even close to the norm.

Then… Tim Schafer stopped making point and click adventure games. Psychonauts had puzzles, but it was also an action platformer and one that took that genre into new directions with a heavy emphasis on conversations, visual cues, great storytelling with depth, and amazing acting performances. There was some really interesting casting on it with Armin Shimmerman, Josh Keaton and Tara Strong. He also proved a dedication using a lot of the talent from Throttle and Fandango. Then came Brutal Legend, turning the entire third person action adventure game in new ways and at times trying to do also way too much by adding Real Time Strategy. Yet, inspired casting, dialogue and story really leaped and showed Tim’s true talents as a director. Jack Black, Brian Posehn, Tim Curry, Jennifer Hale, Cree Summer and of course getting those legends of Rock.

After Brutal Legend and how it fared though Double Fine went smaller and Tim became a department head, while other voices in Double Fine showed how equally awesome they were. Costume Quest, Stacking, Iron Brigade, Middle Manager of Justice were all brilliant and definitely Double Fine games which also felt like Tim games even with Tasha Harris, Lee Petty, Brad Muir and Kee Chi as directors.

All this brings us to BROKEN AGE and I’ll start with this. I love it, I understand any negative reviews and complaints but respectfully disgaree with them and I think this is something all gamers who want a new experience that at the same time feels old. Tim’s handprint is all over this thing. The jokes are aplenty and funny. Some are easily missed if you don’t experiment at illogical things, but there comes the real fun of adventure games. This is the linchpin of everything for me. Tim has created something that is funny, heart warming and full of depth. Are the puzzles easy? I guess. I’ve seen plenty of people also stating they were stuck in places and actually turning to a walk-through or asking for a hint, so I think the balance has been hit. A delicate balance that any game of this type will have had trouble juggling. I believe they have done so successfully. We also really get everything we’ve gotten from Tim in the past, innovation, the next step. This is the game he’d of made in 2014 as an adventure game especially if Psychonauts and Brutal Legend were point and clicks if he had complete control without publishers and never turning to Kickstarter in the first place. Turn to Kickstarter he did though and that created a whole different setup. Because this might not be the game he would’ve made under a publisher. A publisher would’ve maybe given him that little amount asked for and then he’d make a game and publishers would complain instead of fans. All this could be wrong, but it’s what I feel and isn’t that what reviews are, feelings?

I think the biggest thing that makes BROKEN AGE special is twofold.

Firstly, taking the evolution of casting to the next level. Tim brought in a ton of old friends along with him, including the folks with him since Day of the Tentacle and even bringing back Jack Black, as well as Cree Summer and even recruiting Wil Wheaton again. It’s the NEW people that are so exciting though. In the leads Elijah Wood (yes, that guy!), Masasa Moyo (best known for Team America: World Police and Young Justice), and David Kaufman (Danny Phantom and animated Jimmy Olsen); joining them in minor roles are major voice actresses like Hynden Welch and Grey Delisle with a final extra special appearance by the creator of Adventure Time & Bravest Warriors (and the voice of Spacy Lump Princess) Pen Ward. It’s like the greatest cast ever in forever for anything.

Secondly is the art style. No game has ever looked like this, because no game has ever tried to look like a painting by Nathan Stapley (well other than the Flash game on Double Fine.com based on his comic book). While he’s been an employee at Double Fine for a long time and was previously at Lucas Arts, his personal work is something special and other worldly. His palette and style has a frenetic energy that has not been seen by many… not even his occasional mate and fellow Double Fine employees Scott Campbell, Levi Ryken or Lee Petty. “Bagel” is a very special artist and that comes through every image in the game. While Peter Chan and the other artists I mentioned had a major part in the concept art, the final look of this thing is still all through the eye of Nathan.  Words really do it no justice, so here’s two screen shots.  One from the “fantasy” world and one from the “space” world.  Both have all the artistic influences in here and really show off how absolutely beautiful this game is.

The final word from me is you need to get BROKEN AGE. Be it now (released February 28th, 2014) off STEAM to experience the awesomeness of ACT 1 and marvel at an amazing Part 1 or waiting for the whole game off of Humble and other sources. I say play it now… as you get the entire game. Also grab the soundtrack.

Tribute to the Fallen of 2013 – Contemporary Artists

Richard Artschwager (89, complications of stroke, American, Painter, sculptor)

Jack Beal (82, American, Realist painter)

Jon Bell Jr. (76, complications of cancer, American, painter)

Michael Patrick Cronan (61, Cancer related, American, Graphic Designer and Brand Identity)

Antonio Frasconi (93, Born in Argentina, raised in Uruguay, lived in America, Woodcut)

Mitchell Hooks (90, American, Illustrator, most known for movie posters and pulp novel covers)

Pasha P183 (29, undisclosed causes, Russian, muralist/painter/graffiti artist)

Henk Peeters (84, Dutch, minimalist)

Shozo Shimamoto (85, Japanese, Avant Garde Emperimentalist)

Merton D Simpson (84, American, abstract expressionist)

Storm Thorgerson (69, cancer, British, graphic designer, best known for some of the most well known album covers for Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and many more)

Wen-Ying Tsai (84, Born in China, lived in America, Sculptor/Cybernetics)

Oleg Vassiliev (82, Born in Russia, lived in America Nonconformist)

Arturo Vega (65, undisclosed causes, American, Painter/Designer, most known for creating the iconic Ramones logo and being their official/unofficial spokesperson)

Charles Waterhouse (89, American, painter mostly of military scenes)

I’m being hacked by Double Fine!


—TRACE BEGIN—
> CONNECT host:www.hacknslashthegame.com port:80
> SEND ApplicationData
>> GET /download/hacknslashannouncement.txt HTTP/1.1
>> Host: hacknslashthegame.com
>>
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: Apache/2.2.15 (CentOS)
Connection: close
Content-Type: application/octet-stream

DOUBLE FINE ANNOUNCES PUZZLE ACTION GAME HACK ’N’ SLASH
Former Amnesia Fortnight Prototype to Launch in First Half 2014, Supported by Indie Fund and friends of Double Fine

SAN FRANCISCO–December 10, 2013–Double Fine Productions today announced that Hack ‘n’ Slash, a hacking themed puzzle action game for Windows, Mac, and Linux, will release in the first half of 2014. A version of the game debuted during Double Fine’s Amnesia Fortnight 2012 internal game jam. It was selected by the gaming public to be turned into a two-week prototype, after garnering more votes than any other Amnesia Fortnight pitch.

In Hack ‘n’ Slash, a young elf uses her computer hacking skills to cheat her way through a classic action/adventure game. The game was funded by Indie Fund, Humble Bundle, Hemisphere Games, make all, AppAbove Games, Adam Saltsman, The Behemoth, Morgan Webb, and Rob Reid as part of a two-game deal that also includes Spacebase DF-9, which released in Early Access Alpha and recouped its investment within two weeks.

“I’ve always loved games with lots of secrets in them,” said Hack ‘n’ Slash project lead Brandon Dillon, “and when I first discovered a hex editor in an emulator, it dawned on me that I could be a kind of digital treasure hunter—no game could keep even its deepest secrets from me if I adventured long enough in its code and memory.”

By subverting old-school gaming tropes with unique hacking mechanics, Hack ‘n’ Slash allows non-programmer players to experience that same sense of mystery and discovery.

“Look, I’m going to be honest with you here: I don’t really understand what’s going on inside this game’s code,” said Double Fine president and CEO Tim Schafer, who claims to possess a degree in computer science. “I believe it contains ‘algorithms.’ But I know what’s going on inside my heart when I play it. And that is joy.”

“We’re psyched to be helping with Hack’n'Slash because Amnesia Fortnight projects are about empowering individual creators,” said Indie Fund partner Ron Carmel, who definitely possesses a degree in computer science. “And I can confirm that this game’s code does contain algorithms.”

Hack ‘n’ Slash will be released for Windows, Mac, and Linux on Steam and DRM-free in the first half of 2014. It will include algorithms.

> CONNECT host:hacknslashthegame.com port:443
> SEND ClientHello suites:TLS_RSA_WITH_AES_256_CBC_SHA certs:x509 random:xIl3HWupPdsvwY94XV3UHtW04aE/wT4X8p7FmdSxW5w=
RECV ServerHello random:Up2+Rmzxa4CFywMpfAMCBn7wJHaiBnwEGslWPq4QaTQ=
RECV Certificate [verified]
RECV ServerHelloDone
> SEND ClientKeyExchange premaster:AwKV0UmxkA/iXZ4Y4NDn0P1Ju/m6GNL10FR7PuJae/83Ghy3Eo+6qDiJwQsNzjyB
… [encrypting provided premaster]
> ENCRYPT
… [computing master key]
… [sending ChangeCypherSpec]
> VERIFY
… [computing verify_data:Tcz7sewhNdF70Xmd]
… [sending Finished]
>SEND ApplicationData
>> ******************************************
>> ***************************
>>
… [sending ApplicationData encrypted_payload:9Uxik4wGjQEoga0gznSZM7H+x4gnbdG9iqVwCOucgvE=]
… [sending ApplicationData encrypted_payload:Z41sWWPE2pPTxXnfbb/ju+g9NGrE/7gMltSvCW2J5aLCjH0R5k8E1iHJydJ1OuguAyZqKPlUDOxVZ6I1dnIJkPBXre5y2wcZU5misdX8Hk+exdqsbpjeDRwQKxwxcOTm]
wqbzvEF9EWuIshMxNfrvhg75TbHD5/WY4dA8m73GW6kX6S7lszdMKCKr3QWz0/2EAwdkU51tyAqEMB1DR87/9PnAXnECqvbVZLWL8MBNgcyd4ri+YzRDF/R+XbJ3qXbRIfuaiJGqjB8AQSYTHdmBIqdcamc6404t5cw0Gx7oRyYmudXx4CZ1D2fpD801jKNOm/Zv0saw3XwF7j0gPvvKZBWmUzwGc9L8PNFkKzsliozmBUxyE3hdRu0L7G5fqviPejgjau3VBC3LI64nvNz8yQ27yoZKpaqAlAV69tnPkwqTGeXgFM6ev4w6CTFUYPHucogo5OJ3V0G0n69k8+aljaeeNTuVzmRML9bHJdzVB4s252NF2PrgPlzGQIgbih7P4unwshrtCLeg8zLF0AApCA==
—TRACE END—