J.K. Rowling’s Rejection Letters

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In the news today, it was reported that J.K. Rowling shared her rejection experiences on twitter. For many writers, rejection is part of the business, much like other creative industries like the performing arts. Harry Potter was famously rejected by 9 publishers and countless agents, but Rowling kept pursuing her dream, despite being flat broke. Simply put, getting noticed as a new author for a publisher to take you on is very hard.

According to The Independent, Bloomsbury was just about the last stop for the submission. The Chairman didn’t even read the sample chapters, but instead gave it to his 8 year old daughter who loved it. He ordered 500 copies to be printed, really thinking nothing of it. The rest is history. J.K. Rowling is now one of the most successful authors in history.

What she shared today makes writers relate to her more. Rejection is a tough thing and for no-name authors, sometimes the degree of rejection ranges from the respectful to the downright arrogant. The first agent aka AGENT-WITH-HAUNTING-COLD-SWEAT-MUGGLE-NIGHTMARES-EVERYTIME-THEY-READ-A-HARRY-POTTER-REFERENCE, couldn’t kindly rejected but had to comment that J.K.Rowling even messed up the folder she sent.

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But this isn’t what made the twitter posts so awesome today. I had heard of the Robert Galbraith pseudonym and recently saw the news of her attending a readers group to praise the author. I find this hilarious on so many levels. I only wish she did it in disguise and asked thought provoking questions on it and debated the readers. Unfortunately, the Orkney Library invited the author, so they were hoping she would attend the event.

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What made her post so awesome today were the two rejection letters she posted. I’ve seen rejection letters, both personally and by other authors. What got my attention was that despite being one of the biggest selling authors of this generation, she queried publishers as Robert Galbraith and got rejected. I know Stephen King published as Richard Bachman, but I wonder if he queried under his pseudonym as well. If so, we all would like to see, if nothing else to relate to the author better.

Just like we do with J.K.Rowling now.

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Check out the Guardian for more on her visit to Orkney Library, a place with funny librarians.

COULD GAME OF THRONES BE SUCCESSFULLY QUERIED TO A LITERARY AGENT AND TRADITIONALLY PUBLISHED BY A NEW AUTHOR TODAY?

Game Reviews: Super Mario Speed Running

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I discovered a few months ago the video game subculture of Super Mario speed running. If you search youtube, there are many champions of past and present showing replays of their great achievements.  According to the official site http://www.speedrun.com this the current record list. Behold the glory. If there was a Gamer Olympics, America would dominate the sport of Super Mario speed running. We hold 16 of the top 20 spots.

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An interesting observation is that there seems to be a new breed of speed runners. The vast majority of the records have been set in the last few years. Can you imagine Trevor Sequin right now? He was king of the Super Mario world 11 years ago. He walked the walk, and strutted his stuff like he was about to get his own brand of hot sauce (that’s another story). Trevor reigned for 2 years until Scott Kessler beat him. I want to know this story. Did Trevor come out of retirement and start training to regain the record at this point? Or was he fine watching his title get smashed over and over? (Trevor, DM me on twitter and we can tell your story)

The current record holder is a player named darbian. Wow. What a time. You can watch his accomplishments on youtube. I don’t know how many hours it took to accomplish such a feet. I surely would like to know the training involved. People might not respect eSports at the moment, but I believe it is the future. The hand to eye coordination required and dexterity is something we might need when the Alien Invasion comes (i.e. Pixels, The Last Starfighter, etc).

As for me. I played Super Mario a ton. It was the first NES game I ever played (no, duh, right? It came in the system along with Duck Hunt). I never beat the game. I always got stuck at level 8-2. It would be the story of my adolescence. I took the crazy beanstalk adventures but never got the princess.

She was always in another castle.

WHY STREET FIGHTER 2 IS MY FAVORITE FIGHTING GAME EVER

Game Reviews: Clash Royale

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Clash Royale by Supercell

As an avid player of Clash of Clans, I watched with anticipation when Clash Royale was released in beta test. Clan mates told me to download it on some other server, and I frantically tried for twenty minutes to switch and reboot on my iPhone but couldn’t find the game. Canada. Sweden. Argentina. It didn’t matter. It was like a gamer mirage. I was forced to watch youtube videos which looked a little disappointing. But then I finally downloaded the game a couple weeks ago at the urging of another clash addict.

I now have a Clash Royale problem.

It is one thing to have an addiction to one game, but now with Clash Royale I find myself playing it at all hours of the day. When I wake up. When I eat lunch. When I watch TV. When I lay in bed. The game is deceiving in a way. It has four slots to fill with chests after a win. It keeps you checking to open chests that open after time expires (3 or 8 hours). What gamers don’t quite realize is as you level up, it becomes harder to win, and at the highest levels you will find yourself playing for thirty minutes to get your four wins. We are being programed in the Supercell way by giving us fast upgrades and easy battles and slowly turning the water on high.

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The moment I realized I had a problem was this morning. Usually I shut off my alarm eight times on my phone before slowly reaching over and refreshing my Clash of Clans account like an addict. I don’t know how long I’ve been doing this, but it is habit like brushing my teeth.

This morning I refreshed my Clash Royale account first. Then fought four battles.

Hello. My name is MM Leonard. I am addicted to Clash Royale.

I am only a level 6 right now. I don’t really have any tips to give right now. I prefer using a card deck of the giant, goblin hut, the giant skeleton, the knight, the barbarians, the musketeer, and the balloon. Sometimes I do the inferno. Sometimes I do the skeleton hut. Sometimes I use a witch. I wait until he other players attacks first and do a counter move then drop a giant or knight on the opposite side. I don’t know if there is a name for this yet in Clash Royale lore. Call it counter punching. Barbs counters land units. Musketeer counters the dragon and minions. Arrows counter the skeleton mass. The witches are good behind a heavy unit.

Supercell was smart learning from their Boom Beach disaster. I thought the game sucked and I quit after a week. Based on the adoption level of my my Clash of Clan mates, they agreed it sucked and the majority of them quit. Supercell then went the Angry Birds route and used the proven characters that they have curated over the years. This is the heart and soul of their games. Much like Super Mario. It took them some time, but they had to level up someday too.

NEXT: REVIEW OF SUPERCELL’S SMASH HIT, CLASH OF CLANS

Game Reviews: Street Fighter 5

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When I was between the ages of 10-12, I played Street Fighter 2 like a boy with a vision. I beat the game with every character except Dhalsim because he was slow as hell and couldn’t beat some of the faster characters. Maybe there is a person out there that was the greatest Dhalsim player this side of the Mississippi. Maybe it got him somewhere.

Street Fighter 2’s popularity peaked right before Mortal Combat came out and hours upon hours were spent learning the special kill moves to “finish him.” Challengers would show up to my house and I would vanquish them one by one (my memory is biased). My mother would bring us food and snacks and every three minutes there would be yelling as epic clutchness surely ensued the end of every round.

My player of choice was Ken. He was like Ryu, except he wore red. Why Capcom made two characters that are exactly the same, I don’t know. I’m sure there was some cut-scene story to it. Ken in a way taught me all the karate I’ll ever know.

I have two distinct memories of how Street Fighter 2 paid off for me.

I remember in college when someone dusted off their old SNES and brought it to the dorms. I walked down a hall to see a crowd in one room and jostled my way in to see what the commotion was about.

They were playing Street Fighter 2.

The owner of the system was defeating everyone easily. “He is unstoppable” said his roommate. Others nodded in approval as if they had just seen a miracle. I hadn’t played the game in at least six or seven years, but anyone that knows what it was like to play Street Fighter 2 at its peak knows the memorized moves stay with you forever, much like the Contra code.

“I can beat him,” I said.  The crowd grumbled like I was the biggest gamer poser. Supposedly this guy had just left a hundred dead bodies on the floor and was thought to be untouchable. They handed me the controller and he picked Guile.

I picked Ken.

The first round kicked off and my hadouken was just a powerful and fast as I remember. It was all muscle memory. Ken beat Guile in round one and the crowd was roaring. The owner’s hands started to sweat. He looked at his controller to act like maybe there was something wrong. Round two kicked off, and his sonic booms were no match for me. The key to Street Fighter 2 is know it is a block and counter game. You block everything from a distance and up close, you usually do a low sweep or grab-and-throw. I won the game and the crowd was shocked. I tried standing up like a champion. All those hours as a kid paid off, somehow, someway.

He wanted a rematch.

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This time he chose Ryu. He wanted to prove I was a fluke. It would be hadouken vs hadouken. With a crowd of countless people (it was probably only a dozen), we kicked and punched and uppercutted but it was no use. I had simply “trained” more for this moment than him. I beat him again and he finally handed the controller to someone else saying he was tired. He could still hold his chin up. He was like 40-2 for the night.

That was my first memory of Street Fighter 2.

Whenever I pass by an arcade, I look for four games, all from the early 1990s. This is one I’ll stop and donate a quarter to. That quarter usually lasts me twenty minutes, except for one time in Vegas. I was at Circus Circus.

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Yes, the mythical casino of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The place is a relic at this point, but one cool thing is that it sports an awesome arcade in the back. So after losing maybe $150 in roulette, I roamed the place broke. In the arcade, I spotted the machine. I put in a quarter and began my usual 20 minute campaign. It wasn’t a regular machine, maybe it was Marvel vs Capcom or some variation. About five wins in, some Asian guy about twenty years older than me showed me a shiny quarter and motioned that he wanted to play against me. The only common language he spoke was Street Fighter. I said ok and he stuck in a quarter.

I beat him. He looked a little upset, but nodded gracefully.

I continued playing.

He came back with 4 fresh quarters. I nodded in approval and we played four more times and the result was the same. He nodded gracefully again and smiled but he wasn’t someone who gave up easily.

Then he came back and placed five dollars in quarters on the screen (for those who never played in an Arcade, if you place a quarter on the bottom edge of the screen and top of the dashboard where the planes meet, the quarters will stand up and make it easy to show how many you have left while not really blocking the screen). I looked at him, and he nodded as if this as life or death. His asian wife held on to her purse about five feet off to the side (she probably feared getting blamed for jinxing him). Part of me wondered if he was a designer on the original game. If you are reading this Circus Circus Asian man, let me know, because that would be an epic fact.

We kicked and punched each other in Circus Circus that night. Somewhere in his stack of quarters, he did beat me. Evidently he finally cracked the code to my weakness, which I won’t say, but there is definitely a character and sequence of moves I’m not great at stopping. It was fun.

When I rented Street Fighter 5 on PS4 this past weekend, I wish I could say the same. First the game asked me to download a 37 minute update. WTF? Then it has a minute of cutscenes to teach people who to fighter. WTF? Then each match takes like 20 second to load to a cutscene you only want to skip. WTF? The basic combos are all the same. Do all kids need a damn tutorial to play any game? What happened to just putting in the game and hitting start? Evidently the entire game is online, just playing with lag with other online players and ranking up. I have skill, but no time, so I stuck to the single player campaigns which are easy. I beat half the character’s storyline and barely got hit. The graphics are surely better and combos are kind of cool to see, but there is nothing original about the gameplay other than a random dancing bear with a red collar on one of the stages. I then decided at 12:30pm to try to do the 100 person survival mode. Here you fight a hundred players by only getting small boosts after each round. I put it on the hardest level … “hell” mode. I expected a tough fight. Instead, I vanquished the first 10 opponents easily. Evidently kids these days still don’t know how to block like I was taught. I was bored and tired and shut the game off. There is probably a kid out there at the top of the Street Fighter 5 PS4 leaderboards who thinks they are the greatest ever, but they would be greatly mistake. Somewhere in the world there is a middle aged person working at a job they loathe, with the golden reflexes of a champion.

I won’t be playing Street Fighter 5 ever again, but will still stop if I see the old arcade machine somewhere, or will ask about the old SNES you have in the corner of your living room if you invite me over. Don’t be sheepish. Let’s play.

NEXT: A GAME REVIEW OF CLASH OF CLANS (HOW I GOT SUCKED IN TO THE GAME)

NEXT: THE SUPER MARIO SPEED RECORDS (HOW FAST CAN THEY BEAT IT?)

Game Reviews: Contra (NES)

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For those of you born after 1990, you do not know the awesome that is known as Contra. This was the game where you could enter the secret thirty-man code (up up, down down, left right left right, B, A, start!) and boom, you and your buddy would run the through the game blasting the enemy as if you were invincible.

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And do you remember the S-gun? Spreading red balls of glory to an enemy near you. It was glorious and epic and deadly. I don’t remember how many times I beat the game without the thirty-man code, but it doesn’t matter now, does it? It was the coolest feeling you could have without having a damn game genie.

I played this game with friends whenever they came over. The coolest thing you could do to help a bro out was to lend them a life. To ask, “Can I borrow a life” was like “Shit man, I suck.”

I don’t know how many times I beat it, but I think I want to beat it one more time. It is time to search ebay and score myself a great copy.

Classic Game rating: 9/10

CHECK OUT MY STORY ON BUYING THE XBOX 360

Game Reviews: Clash of Clans – Mobile

unnamed.pngIt all started on a trip with three work associates. We decided on a Friday morning to take a trip to New Orleans. Think of it.

Bourbon Street. Bars. Gumbo.

We acted like we were in college a decade ago and took a road trip. It was everything I thought it could be.

Canal Street.Saints Fans. Hand Grenades. The music acts.

Then, at 2 in the morning I decided to walk to Harrah’s and play a little poker. On TV, I saw a little commercial. It was a little game called “Clash of Clans,” which I eventually learned was the number one downloaded game in the world. Sitting at the poker table, I started my journey as a town hall 1.

Before I knew it, I was a town hall 2, then 3, then 4. I was kicked out of a dozen clans for redefining how bad of a “clasher” one could be. Then, as a town hall 6, the new coleader option was added to the game in an update, and slowly, I began to take control of the clan. I added rules and structure and a process to expand.

Then other coleaders convinced me to start my own clan. So I did. Two years later, it has been quite the addictive journey. The attraction of the game was clearly the social aspect. The game clearly copies many games before it by using upgrades and a micro purchase structure to get players to buy gems. Clan wars. Late night chats. Stories of divorces and bankruptcies and hook-ups and deceit and vocational decisions.

Now, about $800 in gems later, I’m what you call a seasoned player. I’m town hall 11 with everything but walls upgraded to max. My clan has expanded to feeder clans and even started playing Clash Royale together. Obsession doesn’t really define what the game did to my life, but one thing is clear, it helped inspire me to write my first book documenting the many themes I learned the last couple years with online gaming and the social culture that comes with it.

As for my clan, we reached the #15 ranked clan in the United States. If you read this and decide to download the game, just be warned, there is a hidden cost with the “free to play” game.

Game Review: 10/10

NEXT: REVIEW OF SUPERCELL’S NEWEST GAME, CLASH ROYALE (IS IT FUN?)