Friday, December 19, 2014

How to Get Published: 50 Successful Query Letters - NOW AVAILABLE!

Now Available for just $2.99 on Amazon Kindle!
(click on the cover for a closer look)

More than a decade in the making, How to Get Published: 50 Successful Query Letters is by Brett Weiss, who has authored seven books and has had hundreds of articles published in a variety of newspapers and magazines. A full-time freelancer, Weiss has been prolific on the web as well, writing for numerous markets. As Weiss will show you in this book, hard-working writers should get published frequently, and one of the most important aspects of this is to learn to craft a well-written query letter.

In addition to 50 real query letters that led to published articles and books (and in one case, a freelance writing job), How to Get Published: 50 SuccessfulQuery Letters includes tips on writing query letters, along with articles about and advice on writing in general. Whether you’re an aspiring writer longing to get published or you’re a veteran of the wordsmith wars, you’ll benefit from the behind-the-scenes information this book has to offer.

*An introduction with tips on writing successful query letters

*50 successful query letters written by Weiss, who makes his living as an author and journalist

*An essay on how Weiss “broke through” to become a successful writer

* “Anatomy of a Near Nervous Breakdown,” in which Weiss reveals how his writing career almost came to a crashing halt

* “How to Get Published,” which offers practical advice on the writing life

* “How Writing Can Supplement Your Income,” an article on how to write for publication while keeping your day job

* “Writers in Movies,” a fun feature on film versions of famous writers

* “The History of Typewriters,” in which Weiss details the origins of that most wondrous of writing tools

* An interview with James Reasoner, author of more than 300 books

*An interview with Brett Weiss, conducted by Chris Cavanaugh of Classic Gamer Magazine

Sunday, December 14, 2014

DC Comics Movie-Based Covers

From DC's website:

Lights, camera…COVERS!

Inspired by classic Warner Bros. movie posters, DC Comics’ newest batch of variant covers are fun, imaginative…and NOT coming to a theater near you. But you’ll wish they were. Whether it’s Supergirl realizing that she’s not on Krypton anymore, Aquaman fighting to Free Willy, Batgirl ready to lead the Revolution (just think about it for a moment) or the Justice League…well, it’s best to just see that one for yourself. 

These clever movie poster mashups are the most recent in our series of monthly variant cover themes. Previous themes include monsters in October, LEGO in November and this month’s amazing Darwyn Cooke variants. In January, we’ll be featuring variant covers that pay tribute to the Flash’s 75th Anniversary, while Harley Quinn steals the stage in February. Look for the 22 movie poster variant covers at your local comic shop in March, 2015.

These covers are incredibly cool--what a great idea. Someone at DC deserves a raise. Below are three of my favorites. You can check the rest out by clicking here.  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Video Game Gift Guide 2014

Here's my annual Video Game Gift Guide, reprinted from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Regardless of what you call them—gamers, joystick jockeys, armchair warriors—video game players are both the easiest and hardest people to shop for when it comes to the holiday season.

If they give you a list of titles they want for a particular gaming console, all you have to do is run to the store or hop online and whip out the credit card.

However, if you want to surprise the gamer in question, or if you are purchasing something for an unnamed recipient (at your company Christmas party, for example), you run the risk of buying something many devotees of electronic entertainment already own, such as the mega popular Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U or the unimaginatively titled but ubiquitous Destiny for the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

So why not buy something a little different, a little special or at least slightly out of the ordinary?

Here’s a list of nine items that most gamers would be happy to spot under the Christmas tree. Yeah, you should probably go ahead and keep that gift receipt, but you probably won’t need it.  
ColecoVision Flashback

Flashback to Christmas of 1982. Thousands of excited children awoke that morning to a shiny new ColecoVision, a “next-gen” console packaged with a stunning port of the arcade favorite, Donkey Kong. Kids who were especially un-naughty received a few additional games, such as Cosmic Avenger, Lady Bug and/or Mouse Trap.

Now you can recreate that experience (at least to some degree) for your own children with the ColecoVision Flashback, a plug-and-play unit with 60 built-in games (61 if you purchase the Dollar General version). Thanks to licensing issues, Donkey Kong and certain other key titles are missing, and the controllers have shorter joysticks than the original ColecoVision, but this is still an easy, cost-effective way to introduce younger players to the simple thrills of retro gaming.

Atari and Intellivision Flashback consoles are also available.

Dollar General, Sam’s, Wal-Mart, $40
Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation
It Books
By Blake J. Harris

During the mid-to-late 1980s, Nintendo was king of the video game industry. The legendary Nintendo Entertainment System dominated the Sega Master System and Atari 7800 in terms of both market share and cool factor. However, beginning in 1989 with the release of the Sega Genesis and in 1990 with the hiring of CEO Tom Kalinske, Sega became a major player, challenging and even surpassing the mighty Nintendo—it was a David and Goliath story for the ages.

In Console Wars, which is based on more than 200 interviews with former Sega and Nintendo employees, author Blake J. Harris captures this epic battle in dramatic detail, resulting in a narrative nonfiction work that will appeal to both gamers and business people.

Harris is currently co-directing a Console Wars documentary, which is being produced by Scott Rudin, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg., $18.33;, $19.07
Game Informer Subscription
Sunrise Publications

With so much free content available via the Internet, the age of the video game magazine in the U.S. is largely a thing of the past—such iconic publications as GamePro and Nintendo Power have gone the way of the rotary phone.

However, thanks in part to its connection to GameStop, Game Informer is still going strong, regaling readers each month with news, reviews, interviews and more, including reports on development companies and video game conventions. The articles are usually well-written and insightful, offering far more depth than most of what you will find online. Plus, a subscription, whether digital or print, offers several added perks, including 10% off used games.

If you are unsure if the person on your shopping list already has a subscription, simply ask a GameStop employee.
GameStop,, 12 issues for $19.98 
Halo: The Master Chief Collection

Arguably the greatest first-person shooter series of all time gets an upgrade with Halo: The Master Chief Collection for the Xbox One, a new release containing Halo: Combat Evolved – Anniversary, Halo 2 (a high-def anniversary edition with extended cutscenes), Halo 3 and Halo 4, each with enhanced visuals.

The bundle also includes a variety of extras, such as a Halo 2 making-of documentary and access to the live-action digital series, Halo: Nightfall. Gamers can even check out the multiplayer beta for Halo 5: Guardians, a game that won’t hit store shelves until the fall of 2015.

This is a must-own for everyone ranging from hardcore Halo fans to those who have wondered what all the fuss was about, but have never actually played any of the games.

GameStop, $59.99;, $59.78
The History of Sonic the Hedgehog
Udon Entertainment

Sega exited the hardware business long ago—the Dreamcast was discontinued in 2001—but the company and its speedy blue mascot live on in such games as Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode II and Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, and in The History of Sonic the Hedgehog, a beautifully illustrated coffee table book now available in a more compact softcover version.

All but the most strident of Mario loyalists will fail to be charmed by this highly polished tome, which covers the history, the games, the spinoffs, the creators and the friends and enemies of Sonic. The book is Sega-friendly, so there’s not much negativity here, but it is a fun, informative read.

Did you know that Sonic wears red shoes because of Christmas? We didn’t either until we perused The History of Sonic the Hedgehog., $24.29
Little Big Planet 3 Plush Edition!

If there’s anything more fun than opening a video game on Christmas morning, it’s opening a video game that comes with a toy. The Plush Edition of Little Big Planet 3 for the PlayStation 4 is just such a gift, packaged with a six-inched stuffed Sackboy, the chief protagonist of the game.

While the tangible Sackboy sits in your lap (or occupies a space on your collectibles shelf), you guide the onscreen character as he runs, jumps and climbs through an array of craft-like worlds. Unlike most side-scrolling platformers, Little Big Planet 3 lets players unlock materials that can be used to decorate, design and share customized levels.

Sackboy is joined by three other playable characters: Oddsock, who runs fast and does wall-jumps; Swoop, who flies through the air and grabs items; and Toggle, who grows large to weigh things down and shrinks to traverse small openings.

Target, $59.99
Monopoly: The Legend of Zelda Collector’s Edition

Video games are all well and good, but it’s important to step away from the small screen from time to time in order to live a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle. Enter Monopoly: The Legend of Zelda Collector’s Edition, a board game that the whole family can enjoy.

Designed for up to six players, the “Zelda-fied” take on the classic property-purchasing contest employs Deku Sprouts instead of houses and Deku Trees instead of hotels. Empty Bottle cards replace Chance cards while Treasure Chest cards supplant Community Chest cards. Instead of guiding a Shoe, a Car or other traditional token around the board, gamers maneuver a Triforce, a Hylian Shield, a Bow, a Slingshot, a Hookshot or a Boomerang. Naturally, rupees replace standard Monopoly money.

If you want to journey through the land of Hyrule and beyond without turning on the television set, this is the way to go.

GameStop, Barnes & Noble, $39.95
Nintendo 3DS XL - GameStop Exclusive NES Edition

Originally a playing card company, the Japanese juggernaut Nintendo turned 125 a couple of months ago. Next year, the Nintendo Entertainment System will celebrate its 30th anniversary. You can help the gamer in your life celebrate these milestones by giving him or her an NES-themed 3DS XL. With its handsome gray, black and red design, the handheld system pays tribute to the NES controller and console.

Other special editions of the 3DXL are available, including a Super Smash Bros. edition, and each are compatible with the entire 3DS library (along with most DS titles), including such franchise favorites as Donkey Kong Country Returns and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

GameStop, $199.99
Xbox One Special Edition Armed Forces Wireless Controller

The conundrum: your friend or family member loves his Xbox One, but you have no idea what to get him as he has all the latest and greatest games and is seemingly set for the foreseeable future. The solution: pick up this attractive Armed Forces Wireless Controller, which stands out from the pack with its camouflage design. Next time the recipient of this cool gift engages in a little multi-player action, and various controllers get strewn about the coffee table or couch, there will be no confusion as to which one is his.

More importantly, the device, which is ideal for the first-person military shooter genre, has a number of upgrades over the standard Xbox One controller, including vibration motors in the triggers that increase the visceral sensation of the onscreen combat., Best Buy, $64.99

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Foreword by Video Game Historian Leonard Herman

Back in 2010, when I was working on my third book,Classic Home Video Games, 1989-1990: A Complete Guide to Sega Genesis, Neo Geo and TurboGrafx-16 Games, I asked video game historian Leonard Herman if he would write the foreword. Much to my delight, he agreed and, of course, did a great job. Here's that foreword, reprinted in its entirety:


by Leonard Herman

Back in the prehistoric era of 1981, I came up with a great idea for a book. At the time there were so many games available for the Atari 2600 that it was difficult to tell them apart. How about if there was a book that described every game that was available for the system?

And so was born ABC To The VCS: A Directory of Software for the Atari 2600. It took me about a year to compile all of the titles that were available and write descriptions about them. And then I separated the book into chapters consisting of similar games. It was a great book, but there was one problem with it. By the time I completed it, there were new games available. And so I set out to include them also, knowing full well that new ones would always be available. And with the knowledge that there was a lag time in publishing, the time between when a book was completed and when it was printed, I knew full well that that book would be obsolete by the time it came out.

However, what I didn’t count on was the little crisis known as the Great Video Game Crash of 1983. And although some companies survived and managed to keep releasing games for the Atari 2600, the interest in the activity had waned, and I knew that there would no longer be any interest in the book.

However, within ten years interest in the 2600 and other early consoles began to stir again. I finally published ABC To The VCS in 1995, due to popular demand, and then released an updated second edition in 2005 that included the dozens of new games that homebrewers had released for the 2600 in the intervening years. In all, the book contained over 700 summaries. I thought it was a monumental feat.

But then in 2007, Brett Weiss came along and wrote a similar book. Well, on the surface it appeared to be similar because Brett also summarized every game for the 2600. But he also included reviews of the games, something that I purposely stayed away from. And if that wasn’t enough, he didn’t stop with the 2600. Brett included reviews for every game for every American console that had been sold between 1972 and 1984!

But just because one book was complete, it didn’t mean Brett’s job was done. In 2009 he released another edition of Classic Home Video Games, which contained summaries and reviews for all of the systems that came out between 1985 and 1988. Sure, it was only three systems, but one of them was the NES, which has a catalog of over 700 games.

The systems included in the second book marked the end of a video gaming era. A new era began in Japan on October 30, 1987, when the Japanese manufacturer NEC released its PC-Engine game console. The PC-Engine, which was released in America as the TurboGrafx-16, was hyped as a 16-bit system, although in actuality only its graphics processor was 16-bits. However, Sega released its Genesis not long afterwards, and it was a true 16-bit machine. And after playing second fiddle to Nintendo for years, Sega finally dominated the market. But Nintendo didn’t sit on its laurels. And although its 16-bit Super NES came out a year after the Genesis, it eventually caught up with the other’s popularity. (Author’s note—the Super Nintendo will be fully covered in the fourth volume of the Classic Home Video Games series).

A new generation of video game consoles meant a whole new slew of games that needed to be summarized and reviewed. And in this book you’ll find games that influenced the industry like no others before it. CD storage meant larger games and full-motion video. Sixteen-bit processing meant faster games and more realistic graphics. And along with this combination was a recipe for gaming violence unlike anything ever seen before. Two games mentioned in this book: Mortal Kombat and Night Trap, directly led to the game rating system found today.

If this is the first Classic Home Video Games book that you’ve picked up, welcome to the club! Sit back and enjoy the ride, and then rush out and purchase the two previous volumes. If you’re a regular, write to Brett and let him know how much you enjoyed it.

But don’t expect a response real soon. He’s probably already working on the next book in the series!

Leonard Herman is a technical writer and computer programmer who became hooked on video games after he played Pong at a local bowling alley in 1972. He later became interested in home video games when he purchased his Atari VCS in 1978 and eventually accumulated a collection of nearly 600 cartridges. Mr. Herman, who is also an award-winning lyricist, has written articles for Games Magazine, Edge, Electronic Gaming Monthly, Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine, Pocket Games, Classic Gamer Magazine, Videogaming & Computer Illustrated, and Mr. Herman has served as an advisor for Videotopia, a traveling video game museum exhibit, and the Classic Gaming Expo, an annual video game exhibition with an emphasis on classic games. His book, Phoenix: The Falland Rise of Home Videogames, was the first serious history of the video gaming industry and named the #2 video game book of all time by Game Informer magazine. Mr. Herman resides in New Jersey with his wife Tamar and sons Ronnie and Gregory.

Click on the links below for more excerpts from Classic Home Video Games, 1989-1990:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

R.I.P. Ralph H. Baer, "The Father of Video Games"

Ralph H. Baer -- March 8, 1922 – December 6, 2014

Inventor of the Brown Box, which was licensed as the Magnavox Odyssey (1972), the first home video game console.


From CNN: Ralph Baer, the inventor of the first home video game console, has died. He was 92.

His family confirmed the death, at his home in Manchester, New Hampshire, to the New York Times.
Baer was an engineer with a defense contractor in 1966 when he began toying with the concept of playing games on a television.

The German native, whose Jewish family moved to the United States before World War II, patented several video game prototypes. The "Brown Box" would go on to become the Magnavox Odyssey, the first commercially available home gaming system. The Odyssey was released in 1972 and ran a tennis game that predated, but was similar to Atari's Pong.

According to the Times, Baer was waiting for a friend at a bus terminal in New York City when an idea gripped him and he began scribbling on a note pad. The idea was a "game box" that would let people to play board, action, sports and other games on most television sets.

A boss at his job gave him $2,500 and two staffers to pursue the idea. Baer and his employer, Sanders Associates, would file for the first video-game patent in 1971.

While his console launched what would become a multi-billion-dollar industry, his single most popular product was actually "Simon," the memory game that was released in 1978.

Simon, with four colored buttons with corresponding audio tones, became an instant best-seller. Versions of it are sold to this day.

By the time of his death, Baer had more than 150 patents. He was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 2006, the same year he donated all of his prototypes and related documents to the Smithsonian Institute.

Baer is survived by two sons and a daughter and four grandchildren. His wife, Dena, died in 2006.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Sunday, Dec. 14 I'm appearing at Game Over Videogames in South Arlington from 1 to 4, selling and autographing books. If you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, I hope you can stop by and say hi. Even if you aren't in the market for a book, feel free to hang out and talk classic video games.

4648 S Cooper Street, Suite #240
Arlington, Texas
(817) 468-4263
Sunday, Dec. 14 from 1:00-4:00