is beyond the reach of psychology." - Theodor Adorno
Interactive Horror Fiction
The seasonal mania of Halloween takes over the
northeast as it does every year with hay rides, corn mazes and
spooky, "haunted" attractions drawing in young and old alike to some
An ancient, long-closed military installation
along the New Jersey shoreline is woken up from its deep slumber to
host a Halloween attraction appealing to fans of horror and fright.
But what has awoken in
that dark place is more than anyone counted on and it won't be any
fun. At all.
To be Unleashed this Halloween Season.
October 1, 2012. 9:05 AM
Grand Damned Beta 1 Shipped Out to Beta Testers
20 Minutes Ago.
September 5, 2012
Here's the Score With Grand Damned
There is no score.
As I was finishing up a few loose ends and
getting ready to send Grand Damned into Alpha Testing I made a
There was just one opportunity to score points in
For newcomers -- any interactive fiction title is
known as the book you play or the game you read. That's why I
use the terms "interactive fiction books" and "text adventure games"
And Grand Damned is a text adventure game that
will not have a score. Reviewing all of the source code
revealed a single opportunity to score 50 points. And that was
only at endgame itself when you, the reader cum main character,
actually finish the story. Reading the last page as it were.
This wasn't an oversight. It was a natural
occurrence. Ordinarily I'll implement a scoring system with a
maximum score that the reader can earn as they make their way
through any of my interactive fiction books. Grand Damned, for
example, started with an arbitrary maximum score of 500. That
number was a WAG (wild-assed guess). An arbitrary number
picked out from the air as the number to fill the blank in. I
do this all the time. It's one of the first things I do,
actually. Sometimes I have a rough idea of a title weighing in
with a high score (750 or even 1000 points) a middle score of 500 or
so or a low score of 200-300. Along the way points are earned
for making important discoveries, moving the plot along in a
profound way, or solving a difficult puzzle that makes it possible
to achieve some larger, greater goal that takes you to endgame.
As I implemented Grand Damned with all of its
characters, caverns and killings and all of the different ways you,
as the main character, can take an active role in all of this
nothing led me to to add points for solving riddle X or deduct
points for ruining scenario Y.
I felt the need to award 50 points there at the
very end because the metaphorical key to unlock the hidden secret
that rolls out the red carpet to the end of the story was a damned
So much for a 500 point interactive horror
Looking at the game from 30,000 feet I just
didn't see any other avenue or opportunity to award points along the
way. I smiled at this realization.
Starting out on Grand Damned I set out to make
this interactive horror novel much more story based than the
previous dozen text adventure games I've written.
My subconscious mind steered me in this
direction, I made no conscious effort to veer away from a
scoring system. It just... happened.
The only other interactive fiction title I wrote
that had no numerical scoring system was Greystone. And that
was only a technicality since there was a score - of sorts - at the
very end of the murder mystery. It wasn't numerical (e.g. you
scored 350 out of a possible 500 points in 2000 moves) but your
performance as a homicide detective solving a murder mystery was
graded in terms of pure performance.
Not this time. Grand Damned is the first
interactive fiction book that comes to my mind -- written by me or
not -- that reads much like a conventional fiction book with the
added dimension of full interaction with the world created.
If you're a fan of horror fiction I think you're
going to really enjoy this.
August 10, 2012
Launch Day October 1, 2012.
I'm wrapping up a very minor character who
comedy relief adding just the right amount of black humor to my latest foray
in horror fiction.
So with Blabbermouth written into the story
what's left on the checklist? The beginning is bold, the middle
moves and endgame has been achieved.
During August I'll be polishing and finishing
`and entering Alpha Test. Then Grand Damned enters beta test on
September 1 giving Malinche's quality control teams a solid month to
work with me on banging out the bugs. Giving us four weeks to
bring Grand Damned to market on October 1 - right on time for the
lucrative Halloween market.
Artist and entrepreneur in perfect harmony.
I am in my happy place.
July 24, 2012
Deconstructing my DNA
Well July 4th came and went and Grand Damned
didn't launch. It's not even in Alpha Test yet.
Newcomers, don't be alarmed. When I miss a
deadline you can be sure that everything is absolutely normal.
For the past two years or so I've been a morning
writer. Unless I'm on vacation I have to implement Interactive
Fiction in the morning. Time and time again as I've
experimented with my schedule I'm brought back to morning writing as
the only possible way. I have to make morning writing work or
I might as well retire from writing fiction books.
Since that's never going to happen I'm back to
Here's the rub - I need to workout in the morning
too. Once 9AM hits my day goes in to full-tilt-boogie mode and
clearing my head to write and finding a clear hour to exercise is
nearly impossible. Add to that my huge responsibility as a husband
and a father and you quickly and easily see my dilemma.
Quite literally, there just aren't enough hours in the day.
So go find more hours, right? Right, but...
As it stands now I get up at about 6 AM. To
get it all done I need to get up 5 AM.
The things is - I tried getting up at 5 AM to
accommodate my morning drill and my body refused to cooperate -
every time I tried.
I think I need to hire R. Lee Ermey as a
I see no other option. I must either hire a
drill sergeant or BE my own drill sergeant to get me up at 5AM and
get it all done. I'm going to go back to the "Perfecting
Sleep" section of Tim Ferriss' groundbreaking book The 4-Hour Body.
Tim Ferriss tells us that flaxseed oil, almond butter and a 20
minute nap will do the trick. I'll also recruit a US Marine
Corps drill sergeant to get my ass out of bed with my feet hitting
the deck at 0500 every day.
On that note I'm pushing back Grand Damned to a
Halloween launch. Probably October 1.
Why? Because progress has been steady -- but
slow. And I also want to capitalize on a Halloween launch for
my latest work of horror fiction because horror stories gain so much
more traction on Halloween as so many more people are in the mood to spend money to be scared senseless.
See? Artist and entrepreneur in perfect harmony.
Now if only my body will get on board.
May 25, 2012
As I boarded the plane to Punta Cana, Dominican
Republic about a week ago I had the intention of finalizing grand
Damned and send it to the quality control testers for proofreading
and final trials.
So what happened?
The seats on the plane are too small to
comfortably type on a laptop and my six year old daughter was too
excited to sleep late in our hotel suite to let daddy do some early
morning writing to put the finishing touches on Grand Damned for the
six days we were in Punta Cana.
And when daddy got back to the United States, the
demands of his two businesses stepped into punish him for even
daring the attempt to take a vacation by delivering a punishing
double load of work and commitments
Still and all I have no regrets for going on
vacation. All the proof you need is
Grand Damned is on track to be finalized next
with a (probably and hopeful) July 4th launch date.
April 16, 2012
Field Trip to the Frontal Lobe
Over this past weekend I conducted two different
expeditions to Fort Hancock; one under the shining sun and the other
under the dim moonlight.
The light and the dark figured prominently during
my excursions as I gained exclusive behind-the-scenes access that
most of the public never gets to see. My creative juices were lit
on fire like a flame thrower to an oil well.
The light of a compass by a radar station.....
....and the dark of an abandoned mortar tunnel circa World War II
Apart from the 400+ pictures I took during the
blur of a 24 hour period, I came away with a treasure trove of
notes, insights and ideas stemming from the history of Fort Hancock
(and greater Sandy Hook) spanning some 400 years from the 1600s on
forward to present day.
Am I dabbling in historical fiction? Maybe I am.
So what? Grand Damned is firmly rooted in the dark realms of
horror fiction but that doesn't mean thrill seekers and horror story
fans won't be dazzled by some very intense historical fiction that
some people might be surprised was written by me.
Here are some of my favorite shots from
this past weekend...
Sunset Over the Sea at Fort Hancock
House #2 - As a Matter of Historical Fact,
All Hell Broke Loose Inside. Literally.
One of the Many Abandoned Buildings that May
not be Empty.
The point of all these pictures is not to put
together a coffee table book . It's clear I'm not
a photographer in any sense of the word. But I am
an Implementor of interactive fiction. And when I implement a
real location there's no better way to give myself actual factual
fuel for my creative fire than to stand on the ground I'm writing
about. A decade of experience has taught me that firsthand
experience is the key to working my magic as an Implementor in
transforming a very real place into an interactive fiction
destination. I always strive to extend your sense of self, as the
reader, to personally involve you in my interactive fiction books
with an added dimension of realism.
"Keeping it real in the fiction world." is one of
April 2, 2012
All The Players Are Taking Their Places
Today I started placing the chess pieces where
they belong on the board at one of the more dramatic endings of
Grand Damned. While there's still a lot of "middle" to fill
in, we all know how important is it to know where you want to be so
you can establish the best route to get there.
Old-timers already know by now that one of the
signatures of my writing is to implement intricate mid-story actions
ending in a crescendo (and sometimes a cacophony) of interactive
fiction action to what I call "endgame". In this case, I'm
giving readers many more possibilities in putting an end to this
horror story early enough to stop "endgame" from ever happening.
Does that mean you, as the main character, will
miss out on the grand ending I've been spending weeks cooking up?
Not at all. That's the beautiful part. You can enjoy
Grand Damned over and over again and be surprised in entirely new
ways by taking different actions during the course of the novel that
can lead to entirely different, probably unexpected, endings.
March 27, 2012
Grand Damned Cover Art Unveiled
Long time fans know what this mean; when I unveil
the cover art you can be sure the release date is not too far
March 22, 2012
Still Alive. Still Kicking.
Still busier than ever and rebalancing my daily
schedule to get some interactive fiction writing in has been a
frustrating, sometimes even maddening, daily struggle. Trying
every possible combination of schedule management, I'm back to my
original plan of writing in the morning with a couple of tweaks.
It's worked very well! I'm back to writing
steadily every day -- after nearly a month writing drought. I
tweeted about this a few weeks back; my inability to write was not
for lack of ideas, or any sort of writer's block. As the old saying
goes --there just weren't enough hours in the day.
Just yesterday I wrote the first of the many
possible endings of Grand Damned and it felt great!
My original intention of a spring release
probably isn't going to happen. But if I miss my original mark
it won't be by much.
As I blogged just previously, I'm done with
hard-and-fast deadlines. Sure I need a rough idea of a target
otherwise this book might never get written. Late spring is
entirely possible. Early summer? Could be.
It won't be too much longer before I release my
next work of interactive horror fiction but it definitely won't be a
October 21, 2011
The Death of Deadlines
First let me eliminate any suspense; Grand Damned
is not launching in ten days. That's right friends and
neighbors! I blew yet another deadline. I think I've toppled
the late great science fiction author Douglas Adams and rightfully
assume the throne as the king of blown deadlines.
But wait. I can explain...
Clear out of the blue sky my
Support activities have exploded and I'm booking record revenue.
I'm also clocking an insane amount of hours managing the sudden
surge in client volume. The explosion of IT consulting volume
got to the point where I was forced to make the command decision to
spin off our web development division to stem off additional surges
in client volume nobody could handle. In Star Trek lingo I
avoided a warp core breach allowing the engines to cool down a
bit so my ship could keep on moving -- at full speed thanks to a
Just to put this into perspective and not to
brag; I'm making more money than I've ever made in my entire life as
I put in a grueling six day workweek. This sudden, new reality
forced me to reconsider my place in the world and count every single
one of my blessings. In this harsh,
unforgiving economy all I can do is thank G-d for my fortunes that
my hard work can be so handsomely rewarded.
If that weren't enough to throw me off my game, a
developer has approached me to write a series of Facebook games.
Yes, I mean write. I'm not making the games;
the propeller heads in the development department will do that.
I'll be writing the stories behind the games. That means I
get roughly 10-12 lengthy emails per day and I'm on one or two
conference calls per week. Since it seems I'm the star of this
show insofar that my stories drive everything else, every single
aspect of development of the entire Facebook game platform is run
past me for my approval.
I know, I know. Don't complain, right?
Right! But here's the thing -- when was I
supposed to get any actual writing done?
Well this week after a near meltdown forced my
hand, I recomputed my daily schedule and took it out on a test
The new routine is working beautifully. The
key is in the balance of what I do with my life on any given day. In
all things extremes must be avoided. I should spray-paint that
fact on the wall of my studio so I never forget that crucial fact of
I'm happy to say that I got some writing in every
single day while successfully juggling every other ball in the air.
At full speed. And I didn't drop a single one.
My wife and I even managed to have marital
relations and my daughter is starting to remember my name again.
(Yes I'm exaggerating - but not by much.)
That's all well and good but I cracked the code
to my new beautiful life just two weeks out from the scheduled
launch date for Grand Damned - my second foray in horror fiction.
But fear not brave reader! Grand Damned is 75%
complete at this point as I take a decidedly sharp turn in the
direction of storytelling and a bit of a swerve away from a pure
text adventure game.
Don't fret. Grand Damned will stand as much
as a text adventure game as it will as a work of interactive
My new life is working so well I managed an
afternoon field trip to Fort Hancock this week and loved every
minute of it. Here's some of what I saw this week and wrote
about the past few days...
The Lighthouse at Fort Hancock on Sandy Hook
is the oldest operating lighthouse in America. You'll get the
Ninety-five steps lead up the top...
My signature as an Implementor of interactive
fiction is to capture every detail. I already signed
The view from the top is breathtaking.
I invite you to join me.
October 1, 2011
One Way In, One Way Out.
And just one way to win. I implemented the
ending of Grand Damned today and along with it, something of a shock
to established Malinche interactive fiction fans; there's just one
ending to Grand Damned.
I've become somewhat famous (notorious, as my
volunteer force of quality testers would put it) for implementing
multiple successful endings in almost all of my previous interactive
fiction books. But not this time. There's just one
way to finish Grand Damned.
It won't be easy to finish Grand Damned.
But it will be simple.
September 20, 2011
Tinkering with the Pipe Works
How do you know you're on the right track with
any given endeavor? When a good friend and trusted advisor echoes
your own thoughts without you saying a word.
Pushing interactive fiction forward with
different venues and dimensions, I'm taking a much more story-based
approach to Grand Damned relying less on mindbending puzzles and
complex mysteries and more on the story itself; the plot, the
setting and the characters.
That's not to say that Grand Dammed will be any
less an interactive horror novel; it most certainly will! You, as
the main character, will do much more than just read screen after
screen. You'll be exploring the vast expanse of historic Fort
Hancock, at one point a centerpiece of the defense of the United
States for more than a century only to be gracefully transformed
into a state park all can enjoy. There are people you'll
encounter (both dead and alive), intriguing situations and mysterous
As I'm fond of saying; horror fiction is, in one
sense, a mystery novel wrapped around an outer layer of pure,
In more mundane news; I took a shot at the first
compile and resolved some 70 bugs. I'm within 22 of a good
That usually means I'm done. But I'm
approaching Grand Damned differently. I'm compiling as I go
and ending up with a more-and-more complete work of interactive
horror fiction every time. But I'm not nearly done yet.
August 5, 2011
Clearly I'm on a New Jersey kick. My last novel Four
Badges, released just about a month ago, is a murder mystery set
in rural Northwestern New Jersey. I'm at it it again with
Grand Damned, my next work of horror fiction set on historic
Fort Hancock in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Where'd I get the inspiration? A trip to the beach, of
course! The Sherman family has frequented Sandy Hook for some
years yet we remained blissfully unaware of the historic piece
of real estate just down the street from the beach known as Fort
Hancock. We stumbled on the place quite by accident while attending
a community theater performance.
"Community theater by the beach? How's that possible?" I
thought to myself. After a sumptuous meal at Bahr's
Landing a couple of minutes away, we made our way to the
theater. We drove right through the Sandy Hook toll plaza
and kept on going. Past all the beaches. Past the
ludicrously expensive restaurant (I'll explain later) and then
we kept on driving. It was quite an experience. It's
pitch black. We past the only areas of Sandy Hook we ever
knew and we kept on going. Then suddenly two enormous
missiles jumped in front of the headlights.
Yes missiles. You know the things. They're
large, they rocket up high into the sky and a very short time
later they blow something up.
That's when I knew I was on to something.
We drove the past Ajax missile and the Hercules missile (a part
of the NIKE defense system the United States deployed during
most of the cold war) and stumbled upon something that I found
nearly as exciting as sex....
... a full blown (and fully defunct) US Army base.
That's when I knew I'd set my next novel there.
Checking my watch led me to curse. No time to explore.
The show was starting in just about fifteen minutes. It
was Agatha Christie's The Unexpected Guest. The
performance was spot on. The costumes were authentic.
The actors gifted.
Fine fine fine let's move on to the important stuff.
After the show I did my best to contain my boyish enthusiasm.
I pulled out of our parking spot, slightly damaging the front
underbelly of my car in my haste. Fine fine fine. Nothing
a mechanic and a checkbook can't fix. Let's go.
Let's go. Let's go.
Driving around that old fort, crawling down each dark road and
discovering relic after relic I had to stifle a giggle here and
I've already returned there once in broad daylight and, to my
delight, armed with a proper camera. Ever try taking
pictures with an iPhone in virtual darkness? Not fun. Not
productive. Pointless, really. Still, I tried.
The picture above? At first I couldn't identify what purpose
that massive concrete construction might have served. It
was just today I discovered it was a gun battery. Which
one? There were several. My preliminary educated guess is
that the picture shown above may be of Battery Granger.
It's closed today but with the magic of interactive fiction I'll
be taking you inside.
Let me not be shy or humble here; y'all are in for a seriously
scary treat with a twist nobody will see coming!
Will I make it by Halloween? Maybe not. But that's OK.
I'm not rushing this baby. I'm going to savor every moment
of it and deliver some top-notch horror fiction even it takes me
until NEXT Halloween.