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Issue 1: Cold Open
And away we go!
The year was 2012 and it was around 9 p.m. when the knock came at the door. Not expecting visitors, my wife and I exchanged puzzled looks on the couch. Jumping to my feet, I headed for the front door mere feet away. Pulling open the eggshell-colored door revealed a rainy, muggy Florida evening… and two police officers. Just like that, our Wednesday night had gone from uneventful to eventful.
The cops explained that mere moments earlier they had been chasing a man on foot and it was possible that the suspect had ducked into our backyard—which butted up against a horse pasture. But since it was raining outside, the policemen asked politely if they could come through our house to the backyard to conduct their search. And that’s where everything went wrong.
My wife is a southern gal, so the thought of anyone coming into a house that she hasn’t thoroughly cleaned of dust, crumbs, and dirt that doesn’t yet exist is mortifying to her. As soon as the cops crossed the threshold my wife began to fidget nervously. She put her hands behind her back and her eyes darted back and forth. And I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Stopping in their tracks, rain dripping onto the tile floor, the police officers turned their attention to my wife.
“Is there anyone in the house besides you two?” asked the first officer.
“No,” my wife assured him.
“Have you seen anyone tonight that you didn’t know?” asked the second officer.
“No,” my wife repeated.
“You seem nervous,” said the first officer. “Is everything okay?”
My wife was acting so strange—and dare I say guilty—it was at that point that I couldn’t help but wonder if we might potentially be harboring the fugitive the pair of cops sought. Under the weight of the interrogation my wife finally cracked.
“Please ignore the mess!” she said, tears forming in her eyes. “I would have cleaned if I knew you were coming!”
The cops continued into the backyard and conducted a search via flashlight, but the suspect was nowhere to be found. They apologized for interrupting our evening and went on their way.
Meanwhile, my wife and I spent the rest of our evening discussing how not to act around the police.
I’m Wes Locher. I’ve been writing professionally for a decade. I write comic books. I write video games. I write fiction. I write nonfiction. I write whatever seems fun, cool, and inspiring. I also love helping other writers to demystify the process of making a living through words. Welcome to my newsletter.
Is it a weekly newsletter? Bi-weekly? Monthly? Quarterly? Will this be the only one you ever get? I haven’t decided yet! How often do you want me to pop up in your inbox? Let me know.
OH, GREAT… ANOTHER NEWSLETTER I HAVE TO READ.
I know, right? It’s terrible. Feel free to unsubscribe if what I have to say is of little interest to you. I won’t be offended.
This newsletter will focus on the projects I’m currently developing, projects I’ve completed in the past, and any other bits and bobs I feel like throwing in, such as writing advice, questions and answers, bad jokes, etc.
So let me just say… if you’ve read my comics, nonfiction, prose, or video game work, thank you! I greatly appreciate your support. If you’re just here for the writing advice, that’s cool, too… but maybe consider also reading some of my stuff. You might have fun with it. The horror.
In fact, we’ll spend more time on those works in future newsletters, but I reserved this missive (my first) to address the elephant in the room.
HOLY CRAP, IT’S 2022!
Where does the time go? Does it even matter anymore? What is time?
I’ve always fancied myself a New Year's resolution type of dude. I’m goal-driven. I have things I want to accomplish. However, the past three years have taken my best-laid plans, balled them up, thrown them through a window, and then knocked me down and kicked me in the ribs a bunch of times. Relatable, I’m sure.
Rather than set goals for myself in this new year (that already feels an awful lot like the previous few years) and then stress out when I either A) fail to meet them, or B) don’t meet them with the timeliness that I would prefer, I decided that I’d keep a to-do list of passion projects and be happy to mark them off as I can. Simply not having hard and fast goals to attain in an unpredictable world has already been a weight off my shoulders. Case in point, I really wanted to get this first newsletter out the door in January, but I failed. That’s okay. I’m not sweating the small stuff this year.
However, as crazy as 2021 was, it also offered its fair share of cool moments. I thought I’d recap them below not only to share them, but to serve as a reminder to myself that even a cesspool produces something beautiful from time to time.*
I’ve been seeing a lot of Top 10 lists hitting the internet in the websites I read and newsletters I subscribe to, but let’s be honest—we’re all very busy. So instead of Top 10s, I present you with…
MY TOP 3s - 2021 EDITION
I may have referred to 2021 as a cesspool, and yet, it still produced some amazing life moments.
TOP 3 MOMENTS OF 2021
1. New House
My wife and I bought a house in 2018. And that was cool and all, but then we had a child the following year and suddenly what once felt like a spacious house started to feel very claustrophobic. And it had no yard. (Pro tip: If you have a kid, you need a yard.) Due to Covid, mortgage interest rates are at an all-time low, so if we were going to pull the trigger, this was time. Long story short, in August we bought a new house with more square footage, and most importantly… a yard. It’s an old house. A really old house. Built in 1946. Haunted? Probably. Quirky? Absolutely. There’s a lot of doors in this house and I keep finding new things behind them. So far, no treasure chests filled with gold. However, I continue to search. More on this story as it develops.
2. Hit Video Game
As a day job I work as a writer in the video game industry. The whole goal of producing a game is to create something players will enjoy… and to make money. I had been freelancing for nearly five years when the company I now work for—Magic Tavern—came sniffing around with an employment offer I couldn’t pass up. They wanted me to write their next game and the clincher was that I could be “as silly as I wanted.” After a year of work, we released the game, called Project Makeover (which combines Match-3 gameplay and makeovers to help characters with big personalities live their best lives), in November of 2020 and it immediately went to number one on the iOS AppStore in 160 countries. While I never saw myself as a “makeover guy,” I’ve worked with the best dev team of my entire career and plan to create many other things with them in the future.*
*Sounds like a topic for a future newsletter, huh?
You may be familiar with Project Makeover. Maybe you’ve played it. Maybe you’ve seen our advertisements (sorry). On a flight back in June I sat near someone who spent part of the trip playing the game. Surreal. Project Makeover’s success only grew throughout 2021. The title was downloaded by more than 100 million people, was nominated for “Best Game” in the annual Best of Google Play awards, brought in more than $200 million in revenue, and at its peak was downloaded more than the WhatsApp, Instagram, Zoom, Facebook, and TikTok apps.
So, how’s it feel to have contributed to a hit game in which 90% of my writing was skipped by players? Well, I still put my pants on one leg at a time, just like everyone else. Just kidding. I don’t put on pants. I wear pajamas all day.
3. Bonding Time
Because of this virus that’s going around, my daughter spent a lot of 2021 at home. All day. Nearly every day. Have you ever spent weeks and weeks with a two-year-old? It’s like being around a drunk person who never sobers up. Despite that, I loved every second of it. My parents often tell me that because they worked while I was a child, they felt bad for sending me off to daycares and babysitters (which I don’t hold against them in the least). I’m happy that a global pandemic afforded me the time to be with my daughter during this malleable time in her life. Even though I totally lost my mind from time to time. Throughout 2021 I watched my daughter grow and develop her own unique personality. She’s become someone who loves dinosaurs and animals. Someone who loves holidays. Someone who thinks farts are utterly hilarious. I think I’m going to keep her.
Please note: I promise not to make this newsletter all about my daughter. I know it’s never fun to read about other people’s kids. (Even though my daughter is cooler than everyone else’s kid. But whatever.)
TOP 3 VIDEO MEDIA OF 2021
I’ll be honest, I don’t have a ton of time for TV and movies. (Make that, non children-focused TV and movies) so I didn’t get to see a ton of stuff. Because of that, this list is made up of my favorite (note that I didn’t say “best”) media that I actually got to enjoy.
1. Favorite Video Game: No Man’s Sky (PS4)
Here’s my thing about video games—and forget that I work on video games every day—most of them require you to be proficient with controlling the game in order to win. I rarely get to play games, so when I come back to one after a 2-3 week absence, I’ve typically forgotten how to control it or lost the necessary reflexes I need to be able to win. This often becomes frustrating to where the game is no longer fun and I stop playing it.
However, I keep finding myself going back to the space exploration game No Man’s Sky. It’s totally chill. It’s calm. Monsters and people don’t try to kill me every five seconds. Ever wanted to climb into a starship, fly into space, land on an undiscovered planet and then explore? That’s what this game is. Despite being released in 2016 (I bought it upon release) it has been regularly updated and remains one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Whether you dig exploring, crafting, building, fighting aliens, rocketing around space, or making millions selling your space items, this is one to check out.
2. Favorite Movie: Spider-Man: No Way Home
Spider-Man’s my guy. My hero, hands down. I learned how to read on Spider-Man comics. So when a new movie comes out featuring my favorite web-head, I’m near the front of the line to check it out. I won’t say that this was a perfect movie, but boy was it a FUN movie. I like my media to give me escapism (see: my favorite game of the year). I don’t want to think about what’s going on in the real world. I want to be transported to a fantastical place. And I’d prefer if that movie was entertaining. I hate glancing at my watch and calculating the time until it’s over. No Way Home kept me entertained for all of its fidgety 2.5 hours, which is no small feat. Also, as someone who put in the hours to watch all the Marvel Cinematic Universe flicks, it was nice that this flick brought some fun to the table (I’m looking at you, Eternals, you snooze-fest, you).
Sure, I saw Mortal Kombat. Sure, I saw The Matrix: Resurrections. Sure, I saw that other thing that everyone saw, but they were just not as fun to me. Also, can we go back to 90-minute movies, please?
3. Favorite TV Show: Cobra Kai
Man, I came into this show late. Originally I was put off from watching it simply because I have no sort of emotional connection to The Karate Kid movies even though I grew up in that era. However, many of my creative friends begged and pleaded for me to watch this, insisting I would like what I found. I resisted until one quiet December afternoon over the holidays. I started and had trouble stopping. Cobra Kai is so campy it hurts. And yet, the writing is great, the characters are greater, and even teenagers are interesting (we all know they are not in real life). I realize there are four seasons of this show available. I have only completed viewing season one. Please don’t ruin anything for me.
I watched some other good stuff, too. Like everyone else, I saw Squid Game. I also enjoyed Locke and Key. My wife watched The Witcher. I used The Witcher to lull me to sleep.
TOP 3 BOOKS OF 2021
Hey, so I might not play a lot of video games, or watch a lot of movies, or binge a lot of TV shows, but you know what I DO do? I read books, man!
1. Consider This - Chuck Palahniuk
I’ll read any book about writing written by a successful author. They tend to provide guidance, kinship, and support. While I wouldn’t consider myself a “fan” of Palahniuk’s works (nor do I dislike them), I felt his writing advice, which came mostly on a technical, nuts and bolts levels—interspersed with fun, person anecdotes—to be interesting reading which made me rethink many things about how I will approach prose in the future.
Are you a writer? Need some writing advice? Check it out here: https://www.amazon.com/Consider-This-Moments-Everything-Different/dp/1538717956
2. Press Reset - Jason Schreier
Working in the game industry, it is my business to know to keep up to date on that industry. And even though games can be a cesspool all its own, Schreier’s book about failing game studios, layoffs, and professional nightmares is a wonderful, eye-opening piece of journalism, which exists to remind us that as bad as things can occasionally get… they can always be worse. While video games are a multi-billion dollar industry, it is also a very volatile one.
Want to get depressed? Check out the title here: https://www.amazon.com/Press-Reset-Recovery-Video-Industry-ebook/dp/B08HLR61MG
3. It Came From Ohio! - R.L. Stine
Seriously, Wes? An R.L. Stine book? You’re damn right! If you grew up in the late 80s or early 90s, I imagine that, like me, at some point you came across one of Stine’s Goosebumps or Fear Street books at your school library or Scholastic book fair. I was totally into those books. I read a large number of them. Of course, as someone who always imagined himself being a writer, I read whatever I could get my hands on. The beauty of Goosebumps titles was that I could read them in an afternoon, or over a weekend, getting some fun scares and laughs in the process.
I only recently learned that Stine—like me—grew up in Ohio, so I was anxious to read this autobiography of just how he came to produce hundreds of books over his career. It was a funny and insightful read… just as potent as what you’d find in Stephen King’s On Writing.
Wanna get smacked with some nostalgia? Check it out here: https://www.amazon.com/Came-Ohio-Life-Writer-Goosebumps/dp/0545828902
I may not play a lot of video games or watch a lot of movies, but I do read books. Quite a few. There’s always a stack of paperback books on the table and at any given time I’m flipping between a piece of nonfiction and fiction on the iBooks app.
Here’s a list of everything I read in 2021. Did you read any of these? Wanna talk about them? Hit me up! I’m happy to report that there was only one book that after I finished, wondered why I’d stuck with it. It was a good year in reading.
1. Hits and Misses - Simon Rich
2. Boss Fight Books Presents: Resident Evil - Phillip J. Reed
3. Hatching Twitter - Nick Bilton
4. Boss Fight Books Presents: Silent Hill 2 - Mike Drucker
5. American Kingpin - Nick Bilton
6. The Writing Life - Annie Dillard
7. Zen in the Art of Writing - Ray Bradbury
8. Just the Funny Parts - Nell Scovell
9. Consider This - Chuck Palahniuk
10. Save Point - Kyle Orland
11. Pity the Reader - Kurt Vonnegut & Suzanne McConnell
12. Springfield Confidential- Mike Reiss
13. Press Reset - Jason Schreier
14. I am C-3PO - Anthony Daniels
15. Serving the Servant - Danny Goldberg
16. On Writing - Stephen King (annual reread)
17. Gwendy’s Button Box - Stephen King
18. Face It - Debbie Harry
19. Elliot Allagash - Simon Rich
20. Don’t Panic - Neil Gaiman
21. Brief Answers to Big Questions - Stephen Hawking
22. Bourdain - Laurie Woolever
23. The Storyteller - Dave Grohl
24. Monsters in the Dark - David L. Craddock
25. Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon - James Hibberd
26. In the Weeds - Tom Vitale
27. Daily Rituals - Mason Currey
28. Nightmare Mode: A Boss Fight Books Anthology - Various
29. From Cradle to Stage - Virginia Grohl
30. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires - Grady Hendrix
31. Ant Farm - Simon Rich
32. Throttle - Joe Hill & Stephen King
33. It Came From Ohio! - R.L. Stine
34. Is This Anything? - Jerry Seinfeld
35. The Bad Beginning - Lemony Snicket
WANT SOME WRITING ADVICE?
You can’t improve on what’s not there.
I talk to a lot of writers of all stripes and skill levels and a pattern that has emerged among the aspiring scribes is that they become so paralyzed with the pressure that they’ve put upon themselves to write something great, that they end up being unable to write at all. It’s just them staring at the blank page. The flashing cursor. The judgmental Clippy, if they’re using an older version of Microsoft Word.
Sit back and take a breath. Get out of your head. It’s okay to write crap. You have to write a LOT of crap before you produce something worthwhile. In fact, there’s not a lot of writing that is great on the first draft. But before you can create something great, life-changing, and endlessly quotable, you have to write something… anything.
After all, you can’t improve on what’s not there.
If you have a question about writing, any of my current projects, or just want to share some existential dread, let me know! Reply to this email, or hit me up directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll answer the question here. It’ll be fun. Maybe. Hopefully.
THE ROAD BACK
Thanks for subscribing and reading! I have a huge project launching in just a few months that I can’t wait to tell you more about. But we’ll save that for another newsletter. Bi-weekly? Monthly? Quarterly? Stay tuned to find out!