Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Sleeping Pillowbook now available!

Sleeping Pillowbook is a small collection of unconnected poems about different things. It's basically meant to serve as a preview of my poetry.

It is now available for download through

Thank you!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Poetry preview and poetry timeline and poetry rambles

In the near future, I will begin putting some of my poetry on for sale. It might be a weird choice, but I'm a weird person so I think it fits.

I recently had the idea to make up a small sort of preview of some of my poetry. Maybe 10 or 12-ish poems, just so you can get an idea of my style and what you'd be getting into. I'd like it if people purchased my works when they come out, but I understand that taking a leap on a new author is risky and I also understand that not everyone jumps for joy at the thought of poetry. So I think I will work on this preview and have it up in the near future.

Incidentally, do any of you recall the name "24 over insomnia"? It was a collection of poetry that was on FictionPress ('s sibling) years ago, but it got taken down because people kept plagiarizing it. I wish that I could go back and read it, because it was such a huge inspiration to me.

Once Yumi-chan is finally behind me (progress is slow but forward-moving) I will be focusing more on poetry for a while. The timeline in my head goes something like this:

1. Poetry preview (up sometime this week)
2. fractured starlight
3. A free poetry collection
4. A different not-free really dark poetry collection.
5. A collection of very sarcastic poetry. (Way way in the future.)

This isn't set in stone, but it's how I'd like it to go.

I'm also toying around with what visual novel idea I'd like to try for next. I have a few scripts kind of started but am not committed to one yet, and at least one of them will be too costly to produce for a while. We'll just have to wait and see.

I hope that was a sufficiently non-boring update. Go back to your life.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Circus Reviews - Highway Blossoms

I don't normally start things off on a serious note. But to be honest, seeing a thread in the Steam forums about how anyone who plays this game is a creepy deviant pissed me off, especially in light of recent events. So in slightly alcohol-induced anger, I'm going to stick it to the man and play me a nice lesbian road trip visual novel, because I can. That and I've been waiting for this to come out forever and was ridiculously overexcited to see that it was launching early, but you know.

Nineteen-year-old Amber has taken her grandfather's old motorhome and started on a journey across the desert, to get to a music festival. By chance, she happens upon Marina, whose car has broken down on the side of the road. Amber takes pity on Marina and drives her to get some gas, but by the time they get back, Marina's car has been stolen. Luckily Amber isn't in a big hurry, and she agrees to be Marina's chauffeur for an expedition involving a hidden treasure and a new gold rush.

Amber and Marina are a compelling main pair, and have a lot more depth than you might think if you just played their first few scenes. Amber is trying not to deal with the grief she feels for her grandfather, and it's portrayed in a way I can really relate to. She worries about Marina's airy personality, while Marina herself wants to be as helpful to Amber as Amber is to her. The way their relationship develops and the conflicts that later come into play are realistic and at times heartbreaking to read. I also like that this story doesn't even try to make either of them closet keys. They both just know that they're lesbians, something that can be surprisingly rare in lesbian stories, and I appreciate that it's just treated like an ordinary fact, as it should be.

The most prominent side characters are Mariah, her childhood friend Joseph, and her younger sister Tess, all of whom are also looking for the treasure. Well, to put it more accurately, Mariah is looking for the treasure and Joseph and Tess are along for the ride. They're all an interesting bunch, and I actually would have liked to see more of the relationship between Mariah and Tess and learn about why the ten-year-old Tess is traveling cross-country with her sister. Then again, they're in the story about as much as they need to be without being annoying, occasionally providing a rival for Amber and at one point giving her some valuable advice.

The story of the treasure is an interesting one, although at times it feels very secondary to the relationship, which is par for the course in a romance. Still though, the fact that there's all this gold to be found and the characters don't ever mention how they're going to cash it in and how they'd deal with hypothetical fame resulting from being the ones to find this treasure. And then there's the fact that if that many people were already searching for it before them, I feel like someone would have had to have found it out of sheer dumb luck. But honestly, it doesn't bother me that much; it's not meant to be the main focus and it's not treated that way. And yes, it's still cool to be hunting for actual gold.

The artwork is beautifully done, but what adds to it is the presentation. Specifically, it's the use of animation and the Ren'Py 3D Camera System, made by Alice in Dissonance, the folks behind the Fault series. There are all kinds of little animation touches, like when the characters are driving somewhere, and they all add a great sense of immersion and polish. As great as all these things are, though, I regrettably have to mention the fact that on my initial playthrough, I was unable to adjust any of the music or sound volumes or the text speed; the sliders didn't exist. Not sure if this is a bug or what, but much as I enjoy the music, I also enjoy the ability to adjust it. (EDIT: No one else I've found has had this issue, so it may simply be an issue with my computer and not the game itself.) There's also a point where Amber is talking to two other characters and her sprite is transparent...I might just be weird to notice that, but it was a bit distracting.

Once you finish the story, there's a "Goofball Mode" that basically adds a whole bunch of extra call-forwards and memes. It is hilarious and worth your time. And in addition, as you've probably heard, this game has a free adult patch to add H-scenes. They're all tastefully done, but I have to take some slight issue with one, so HOLYSHITACTUALSPOILERS for once


Never fake an orgasm, Amber. Never do it. It's a bad idea. I guess this is probably a matter of personal taste (no pun intended) but orgasm faking really bothers me!

Okay, I'm done with this tangent now.


Despite some small flaws, I am overall very impressed with Highway Blossoms. A lot of work has gone into it, and it really shows. The story, while not winning any awards, does pull your interest, and the characters are fun to be with and hard to watch struggle. My favorite thing, though, is dat animation. It's just such a nice touch and it adds an amazing feel of refinement that I haven't seen in many visual novels. As a developer myself, I'd go so far as to say that Highway Blossoms is a game to admire on a production level, and I hope to one day make a game as good as this.

Highway Blossoms is available on Steam. The all-ages version on Steam can have adult content added with a free patch available in the Steam forums.

Final verdict: A few bugs and holes in the plot aside, Highway Blossoms shines in its characters and artwork, but most of all in its production quality in regards to innovative camera use and animation, and it sets a very high standard as a shining example of what talented folks can do with Ren'Py.

Highway Blossoms is developed by Alienworks and published by Sekai Project. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I received a free copy of this game in exchange for my review.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Circus Reviews - Heirs and Graces

This review has been edited since its original posting.

Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever played a game where you play as a male and can only romance males. It feels like an underrepresented genre to me, so Winter Wolves' Heirs and Graces, which launches today, is a welcome release.

Their latest stat-raising dating sim follows a young man named Marcel, who spent his life growing up in poverty with his mother after his father, a noble lord, abandoned them. In order to meet his father without imposing demands or making things awkward, Marcel applies to work in his father’s home as a servant, but his plans go awry when his father recognizes him. Still, it seems to work out, as Marcel’s father is willing to give him a chance to prove himself worthy of being the house’s heir, and Marcel himself finds plenty of interesting folk around the castle to occupy himself with…

I haven’t played a ton of Winter Wolves games, but from the ones I have played, stat-raising seems to be a signature feature and it makes a return here. I have certain issues with stat-raisers in general, most prominently in Always Remember Me. I do wish that there was more upfront explanation in regard to what stats help with which relationships, and I also find it a bit confusing that the stats page includes characters that you haven’t necessarily met yet (obviously this is only a problem in the early game, but still). Even with these flaws, though, there are some improvements. The days are occasionally broken up with events featuring romanceable characters that help refresh the pattern, and somehow it feels like slightly less of a grind.

The characters are all memorable, and probably the strongest point of the game. Despite what you might call a standard fantasy setting, neither Marcel nor his potential love interests fall into stereotypes, and all of them are interesting. Serious butler Vincent, ex-gladiator Kamal, doctor Borges, and elf lord Eloy are your options, and though I normally tend to sway for one love interest or another, all four of these guys appealed to me. (And to Marcel, of course.)

Despite my praises for the writing and characters, I’m afraid I can’t always say the same about the art. The sprites feel very pale and washed out in comparison to the backgrounds, and their expressions don’t always match what they’re saying. The backgrounds themselves are fine, and the GUI is functional. But the sprites, being at center stage, can distract.

There are also points throughout where little details that could have been fixed or tightened up, but weren’t, detract from the overall experience. As previously mentioned, naming characters that I haven’t met yet in the stats as if they should be familiar to me doesn’t quite work for me. There is a help feature included on the page, but it doesn’t include all the information I want, like what stat goes with which character. It also didn’t volunteer the information I really needed. I feel like something like what Long Live the Queen does with its tutorial, and giving the player a choice to play a tutorial, might have worked better.

So I have my clear and obvious problems with the game, as you can see. And yet, I really enjoy it. Not being told I had to pass skill checks frustrates me, but I want to go back and do them over anyway. The characters may not look fantastic, but they’re very well-developed, and the writing is ultimately strong enough to draw your attention in.

Also, I got to tell an elven lord that I hope he dies alone and this somehow made him like me. Always fun.

Would I have preferred a more polished experience in places? Absolutely. Am I unhappy with the experience I had? Not at all! I’m quite pleased to call Heirs and Graces the best Winter Wolves game I’ve played to date, and I really hope they keep it up with their future releases.

Heirs and Graces is available directly from the developer. Buying direct from Winter Wolves will also allow you to redeem a Steam key when it goes on sale on the platform.

Final verdict: While the sprites aren't fantastic and there are quality-of-life details that could have been fixed, Heirs and Graces is kept up by its compelling writing and fantastically written characters.

Heirs and Graces is developed by Winter Wolves. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I received a free copy of this game in exchange for my review.