Monday, January 4, 2021

Going Forward

Hello everyone!

It's been a bit of a whirlwind here as Jason and I have been working on finishing the demo release of our computer game, Project Paradise. Going into this project back in 2019, I had only a vague idea of how much work would be involved. I knew I'd need to learn how to draw and animate pixel art and I'd have to brush up on my music-making skills, but I didn't then grasp the extent of the work required. Now that I'm in the thick of game development, I can honestly say that this has easily surpassed the effort and time involved in writing all eight of my novels combined. It is unlike any creative effort I've undertaken in my life, and because I'm not doing it full time (nor getting paid for any of it yet), balance and sacrifice are required.

Drawing character profiles in Aseprite pixel by pixel!


 For this reason, I want to make it clear that I won't be releasing any new novels in 2021. As much as I love writing these books, I simply can't make the time for game development and more writing. I know this will come as a disappointment to many of you, especially those of you uninterested in playing a video game. For that I'm truly sorry, but I will start writing again once this is finished, and I have plenty of story ideas for the years to come (unless, of course, we are on the other side of this system by then!).

Composing one of the tracks for Project Paradise's soundtrack
 

That said, I wanted to take some time here today to talk about why, specifically, I'm making this game, and why for me it is a logical forward step from the books.

From a very young age, I loved entertaining people. I don't mean that I'm a singer or a performer, and in fact I get very anxious being in the spotlight. However, I love creating unique opportunities for others to have fun.

I believe this first manifested itself in high school. At the time, the TV show Survivor was peaking in popularity, and I wanted to make my own version. Fortuitously, I'd just begun learning to use graphic design software (CorelDraw), and my rudimentary skills were put to work designing a parody "Campus Survivor" logo. I then designed and launched a simple website for the competition. Next, I hosted tryouts for competitors among my classmates and held weekly competitions during lunch to determine the winner, who won $50 as the grand prize.

This would be the last time I would host such an event for worldly people. A few years later in 2006, I designed a city-wide scavenger hunt and invited brothers and sisters to serve as team captains and choose their own teammates. The day that resulted is still one of my most cherished memories, a time when many previously shy friends really opened up, and everyone had a chance to bond. Two more scavenger hunts would follow, each one more elaborate than the first. Through the years, the opportunity to create something special for my brothers and sisters and seeing the smiles on their faces keeps me motivated.

Not long after the second scavenger hunt, I returned to my old hobby of writing. I'd loved crafting stories as a child but hadn't written anything substantial in years. I wanted to try again, but this time it would be different. I wanted to put smiles on my friends' faces as I had before. What better way to do that than with a story about paradise? Of course, the story eventually grew into a novel that made its way onto the internet and reached a much larger audience that what I'd originally intended, and since there was a demand for more, so I kept writing.

I've never tired of writing books, even after nearly a decade of doing it. Still, I've been itching for years now to explore a new method of storytelling, a new means to provide upbuilding entertainment our friends. The concept of making my own video game seemed far fetched until I actually sat down for coffee with a friend of mine and pitched the idea. We were nowhere near prepared for the project at the time, but we immediately began the process of learning the needed skills. That first conversation happened in November of 2017, over three years ago, with the development of Project Paradise starting a year and a half later.

Of course, there are always risks involved when making forays into uncharted territories. Just as with The Bloom of Youth, I realize that this shift will mean that not all previous readers of my work will stick with me for this new project. On the other hand, as someone who enjoys playing video games, I recognize how difficult it is to find games without objectionable content, and if I can provide such a game to our friends and bring smiles to new faces, I'm all for it!

  



I'll still be posting here as I find time (and worthwhile content to post), but for the time being I'll be spending more of my time on Project Paradise, both on the Devlog (an abbreviation for "game developer's log") and in the forums. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, December 13, 2020

"Project Paradise", an Upcoming Computer Game

Here's our announcement trailer!

It's difficult to express just how excited I am to finally be able to share this project with you all! For the last year and a half, a good friend of mine (and fellow brother) have been working on a secret computer game (even our friends didn't know about it!).

The title of the game is "Project Paradise", and it's set just a few years after Armageddon, while the cleanup effort is in full swing. As the main character (a survivor of the Great Tribulation), you'll recruit other brothers and sisters, who will move into your fledgling colony, set up homes and workshops, and begin to offer you new services and items to further beautify the town.

We have begun early playtesting with close friends, with the goal to release a free, public demo sometime in early 2021 (January, if at all possible!). Of course, a computer game is unlike anything I've done before, and the time required for art, animation, music production, and computer programming means it is a slow and iterative process, so we have no way of knowing when the full game will be ready. In the meantime, you can visit the website we've set up for the project (www.paradiseprojectgame.com). You can also check out some of our art and music on our official Instagram (www.instagram.com/paradiseprojectgame).

Can't wait!

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Final Winning Submission

 Hi all! Here's the final winning submission. Enjoy!

 

HI YA SISTER!, submitted by K.H., USA I am 70 years old and that greeting was made 55 years ago. The year was 1964 and my family, consisting of 8 siblings along with my Mother and Father, had just found a house to occupy in Lake Elsinore, CA. We had just moved to California from Michigan and had completed a one-month adventure living in tents at Lake Elsinore State Park. We left Michigan, with a good number of cars, trucks and assorted personalities, looking forward to starting a new life in the Golden State. 

Truth be told, I’d say we resembled the “Grapes of Wrath” more than anything else. My Father had no job waiting, little money to feed his family, and no definite place to live. But my Mother had a dream. She had always wanted to move to California, the land of sunshine and opportunity, for her children. I had been “raised around” the Truth. What does that mean? Throughout the years, my Mother would invite the different sisters, that sporadically appeared at our doorstep, to have a study with her and anyone else in the house that was interested. My Mother studied with many sisters throughout my childhood, and was eventually baptized in 1970. We were a family that moved often. Even as a young child, I stopped being surprised at the knock on the door two weeks after we moved into a new home. Those Witnesses always seemed to find us. It seemed like we were being stalked, but in a good way. 

 I studied with an elderly anointed sister when I was eight years old. Later on, during my teenage years, I continued to respond to my Mother’s invitation. She would yell into thin air “Jehovah’s Witnesses are going to be in the living room on Wednesday at 3:00. Anyone who is interested, show up.” I usually showed up. My Mother didn’t drive, so there really wasn’t a way for us to get to a meeting. But the Witnesses were ALWAYS there throughout my childhood. My Mother died in 1996 shortly after my unbelieving Father came into the Truth. Seven of her nine children have dedicated their lives to Jehovah. 

I was 14 years old and a freshman at Elsinore High School, on that beautiful Fall day in 1964. I bounced off the bus and walked down the dusty road to our home by the lake. I saw an older lady standing at the door talking to my Mother. I walked past them into the house, looked at the lady and said “Hi Ya Sister!” “Hello, she replied.” A few minutes later my Mother came into the house and asked me how I knew that lady was a Jehovah’s Witness. “Gee Mom, they’re all over the state of Michigan. I figure they must have a few of them in California!” In a huff I walked away. Little did I know, that through a series of starts and finishes, six years later, those “few” Witnesses would help lead me to baptism in 1970. So, for over 50 years now, I have loved saying “Hi Ya Sister!”

 

Thank you again to all who submitted stories and experiences. I enjoyed reading each and every one of them, and I plan on doing more of these contests in the future!

In other news, an exciting project that I've been teasing for a while now is nearly ready for a big announcement, so stay tuned right here for that!

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Another "Bloom of Youth" Contest Winner

Hi all! As promised, here's the second winning entry for the "Bloom of Youth" writing contest. Enjoy!

I was serving in London Bethel as a driver for a couple of years. One day I was driving the Bethel van sitting at traffic lights when the Bethel phone rang and I foolishly answered it. Just at the same time that another brother was driving the other way towards me. He reported me talking on the phone which is illegal (even though I wasn’t actually driving the engine was on).

The result was I was asked to leave Bethel and removed from all privileges in the congregation. This experience taught me many lessons and I feel did me a lot of good.

I am now serving as an elder in Mill Hill congregation near the old Bethel. If anybody makes a silly mistake and loses privileges I now feel I can encourage them to have the correct attitude and learn from it, then become stronger.

Submitted by D.P., United Kingdom

Friday, November 27, 2020

"Bloom of Youth" audio book finally here!

Great news! After months of waiting for news back from Amazon's Audible service, The Bloom of Youth is now available in their store! If you've already got a subscription to Audible, be sure to give it a listen. If you'd like to hear an extended sample, check out the first chapter here on my YouTube channel.


Also, I apologize for the long wait in sharing the winning submissions I received for the bloom of youth writing contest. I'm still waiting to hear back from one of the applicants (so if you submitted a story and didn't hear back yet be sure to check your email!). In the meantime, I've decided to share one of the stories today. (I'll share another one next week) Enjoy, and thanks again to all of you who participated!


My Bloom of Youth Story, submitted by M.S.


I was raised around the Truth my whole life. My mother has been faithful to Jehovah for a long time. Unfortunately my father was disfellowshipped when I was 13, so he has been away from Jehovah for 24 years.

Growing up as a teen I had influences from both my parents as well as young ones in the congregation leading double lives at school. I thought I could just lead a double life myself. And I did, or thought I did successfully up until I was 18. One of my classmates had lost her grandmother in death, so I started witnessing to her about the resurrection hope.

She looked at me and said, “You don’t really believe that, do you?”

"Yes, of course," was my reply.

She said, “If that was really true, why are you with us?”

Wow! It was like my world started crumbling. I couldn’t fool my schoolmates. I couldn’t fool Jehovah. And I needed to make a change... I decided that I needed to be either all for Jehovah or all for the world, I couldn’t do both anymore.

Fortunately I made the right decision. I have been serving Jehovah now for many years. I’ve been pioneering since 2004. (Been to Pioneer School 3 times, 2 of those times with my husband.) And I have been able to serve where the need was great up until August of this year. Now my husband and I are living with my mom in US and hopefully she will be joining us in the pioneer work soon! Serving Jehovah is the best life ever and I really wish I figured that out sooner!




Tuesday, November 10, 2020

"Bloom of Youth" writing contest now closed

Well, today is November 10th, meaning that the writing contest for your "Bloom of Youth" stories is now closed. Thank you all so much for submitting your stories! I thoroughly enjoyed reading each and every one (I even read a few to my wife, who loved them just as much!)

I have already contacted the three winners of this contest, and I will be shipping your hard copies of Time and Unforeseen out to you as soon as I hear back (so check your emails!). I'll also be sharing your stories here within a few days, and I'm sure many of you readers will enjoy them! As for those of you who didn't win this time, thank you again so much for participating and sharing your wonderful, funny, and sometimes emotional stories!

As I teased in my last podcast, I'm also very close to announcing some very big news regarding a project I've been working on for some time now with another brother and close friend of mine. This announcement will likely be made at the end of this month (at the very latest, December 1st). It's something that I think could not be coming at a better time, and hopefully will bring a lot of enjoyment and wholesome entertainment for many out there.

So please stay tuned!

Sunday, November 1, 2020

"Time and Unforeseen" Now Here!

 


Hi all! It's November 1st and Time and Unforeseen is now available on Kindle and as a paperback on Amazon. I hope you all enjoy Will's new story!

The "bloom of youth" contest is still open for anyone wanting to submit a story for a chance to win free books. It will end on November 10th!