Blockbuster – where did you hide?

Every once in a while I pick up a book and as I start reading it, it turns into this revelatory, almost overwhelming, experience. Dos this happen to you, too, sometimes? You start reading and as you make your way through the book you go “How come I had never heard of this book before?” or “Why is not everyone talking about this book?” or something down the lines of “It is a shame this book is so overlooked, because it should be a best seller.”

Blockbuster coverWell, guess what? It just happened to me again and the book in question is Blockbuster by Sven Michael Davison.

The book is an incredibly witty and irreverent take on Hollywood. In essence, it is the written equivalent to something like “Die Hard” — an action story that is superbly balanced with hilarious moments, great characters, cool action and everything else that makes some of those blockbuster movies so memorable — and more.

Imagine, a group of terrorists infiltrate and take over a major Hollywood studio and take everyone hostage, from the action mega stars, the diva directors, the writers, the crew, the assistants, all of mahogany row… everyone. Can you imagine the possibilities this scenario offers? I mean, rally? Why didn’t I think of that?

What makes this book even more irresistible is the fact how it pokes fun at Hollywood, its image, lifestyle, glamor, business, the people. In every paragraph would will find a little nod at a well-known movie, actor or director, and I love the way it is always disguised a little, turning it into a fun little guessing game every time a name or movie title is being dropped.

One might suspect that I am biased when it comes to this book, because Sven and I go back some 10+ years, but I honestly do not think so. In fact, Sven and I have been working in Hollywood at the same time, and that’s how we met, because he used to be one of the head honchos creating DVDs for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Yes, my friends, if you own any Fox DVD that was released between 1998 and 2009, you can bet your sweet bottom on it that Sven had a hand in it, if only to call up the movie’s stars and book them to record a commentary track or to film an interview featurette or documentary.

And that is just the thing. Sven knows Hollywood inside out. And it shows in his book. There is an authenticity to his story that I can fully attest to. As I said, Sven and I have worked Hollywood during the same time period and I am very familiar with the people, the biz, the lingo, the status symbols, the facade, the schmooze, and so forth.

When Sven describes the circle of assistants, each of whom is trying to get their own project off the ground, each of them using the other to serve as a front for potential investors, it reminds me of the way the game is played in Tinseltown.

When he names his assistant characters with names like “Delicious” or “Botswana,” it may sound funny at first, but interestingly enough, for some weird reason, these are exactly the kind of names you find in the front offices of movie executives.

But it goes much deeper than that in the book. The way people talk, the way they carry themselves, the self-conscious way with which they behave is all too real. Add to that the level of detail Sven puts into adding little nuances about the security guards, the layout and design of the studio lot, the made-up history of his Mogul Studios, or the love for the subject matter when his characters geek out over high-end equipment, and you get a feel for what Hollywood is really like. It may scrape off the pink dreams you may have had, but always with a wink in his eyes, Sven reminds us all that making movies is a business — nothing more and nothing less.

The thing that struck me most from the first sentence, however, was Sven’s use of language. His opening chapter describes the shoot of a blockbuster movie and like the movie itself, his vocabulary is completely over the top. It is the same popcorn-style writing. Absolutely hilarious and off the wall. Rich with adjectives and metaphors, immediately bringing to your mind images of some of the greatest action movies you’ve ever seen.

Then the style changes, as the story moves away from the set and settles into a more realistic tone that is nonetheless as energetic as a sprite, filled with pixie-dust and wonderful wordplay. I found myself relishing every sentence I read.

Anyway, before I get too carried away, as I said in opening, I was completely floored by the book. I had promised Sven to read it some time ago but it took me months to actually get around to it. Boy, do I regret that now. The book is like a fresh breeze.

Do yourself a favor, grab the reading sample on Amazon and check it out. If you are a movie buff or simply someone who enjoys movies for a little escape, you simply owe it to yourself to check Blockbuster out. I guarantee you, the first chapter will hook you completely! To me, Blockbuster was like a kick in the butt, forcing me to face the question, “Will I ever be able to write a book as cool as this?”

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The mobile games space is tricky. Long gone are the days when mobile developers were able to work directly with carriers, get their games placed straight on phone decks and charge upwards of $5 for a game. Things like free-to-play, micro-transactions or ad-support did not exist in those days. Every game was a Premium title and once you managed to land on a carrier’s deck, money was guaranteed. Success was predictable.

High download numbers no longer guarantee actual revenues

As I said, a lot has changed. Today, there’s virtually no money to be made in the mobile market. Less than 1% of all games generate 99% of all revenue in the industry. For every “Angry Birds” or “Clash of Clans” there are—quite literally—a million games that do not even generate $5 per month. It has been disturbing for me to watch the industry implode in a matter of weeks once the iPhone launched in the summer of 2007 and Apple opened the floodgates for hobbyists to publish their own games. Nothing has been the same since and the self-destructive cycle has continued for years, eroding, what little market there had been left. Today, every mobile game is struggling to find an audience. What makes matters worse is that even with an audience, every mobile game is struggling to make money because high download numbers no longer guarantee actual revenues.

1,000 new mobile games appear in the Google Play store every week

And yet, the stream of new games seems endless. Did you know, for example, that currently 1,000 new mobile games appear in the Google Play store EVERY WEEK? With numbers such as these, and the industry essentially being forced to make games available for free, it is hardly surprising that practically no one is making money in mobile games these days. Not with micro-transactions, not with ad-support and certainly not with Premium titles.

This disturbing trend is the reason why I joined Gigataur recently, a Canadian publisher that has developed an exciting new way to monetize mobile games and put money in developers’ hands, where it belongs. As part of my assignment, I have spent the past months looking through hundreds of mobile games—mostly casual titles—evaluating them, and I thought, I’d make a short list of some of the most notable, overlooked gems I’ve discovered on that journey. Please join me and, perhaps, try out one or two of the games for yourself. Speaking of gems, let’s kick the list off with…


battlegems1. Battle Gems (AdventureQuest) — Artix Entertainment

While being a general “Puzzle & Dragons” clone on the surface, I found the game has a lot more to offer. Not only does it have an incredibly witty charm and is larded with hilarious comments and names, but it also offers solid gameplay that never gets stale. In fact, the game is so huge, I have yet to see the borders of the game’s world map. Seriously, this game is humongous… and gorgeous, and its user interface makes it possible to start playing without much of a learning curve. You jump in, start matching gems and kicking some monster butt.

throne2. Throne of Dragons — Rocket Games

Slot games have come a long way and the titles that Rocket Games is dishing out are not only some of the most beautiful ones, but also some of the most balanced ones, making them nothing but fun to play and explore. As a fan of fantasy settings, “Throne of Dragons” instantly appealed to me and kept me coming back with its awesome graphics and its fun slot play. Tall Wilds, oversized slot cards and fun mini-games keep the play interesting while unlocking new slot machines in the process. In the same vein, try their “Riches of Zeus” also, a slot game with tons of features, mini-games and a seemingly endless supply of unlockable machines. Slot games simply don’t get much better than this.

4elements3. 4 Elements — Playrix Games

This is a fascinating game that amalgamates many genres. It combines features of hidden object games, match-3 games, puzzle and trading card features, all in one game. The graphics in this game are top notch, making it look like a million bucks, and the design keeps you coming back to explore and uncover more of the rich features. Sadly, the free demo, which ends after a few short levels, only gives you a hint of the wealth of features and the breadth of diversity that “4 Elements” has under the hood.

questrun4. Quest Run — Phoenix Online Studios

While not strictly a casual game, this RPG-inspired game of tactics is so easily accessible that it would certainly qualify as casual in most aspects where it counts. The game has a few quirks and its difficulty level can be quite infuriating, but neither have really caused me to put the game down. In fact, every level that you defeat will feel like a true achievement, making you thirsty for the next one, always giving it just “one more try.”

earthcore5. Earthcore: Shattered Elements — Tequila Games

“Earthcore” is a great example that showcases how collectible card games do not have to be hardcore and do not have to overwhelm the user with options and features. Solid fun and easy to learn, the ultimate challenge of the game is mastering tactics in order to defeat your opponent in player-vs-player battle. The game has great graphics and its overall production value make it a real highlight of the genre—or at least I found myself going back playing it again and again.

CreatureQuest6. Creature Quest — VC Mobile Entertainment

From the creator of the classic “Might & Magic” RPG games comes a top tier fantasy collectible card game that will hold you spellbound. I am using the term “collectible card game” loosely here, because, at its core, this is an RPG with collectible aspects to it, centering around PvP battles. Clearly, the game was developed with the highest production values in mind and it shows in every nook and cranny. From the gorgeous art to the lovely animation details and nifty gameplay features, this game is ripe with everything genre fans love. To me, it has been one of the most fascinating discoveries of my recent mobile explorations.

trooper7. Puzzle Trooper — Gumi Inc.

Gumi is a heavyweight in the mobile space, but even in their deck, you can find games that never really became break-out hits, the way some of their blockbusters are. To me, “Puzzle Trooper” was such a game. I love the attitude of this title. It is a “Puzzle & Dragons” clone but what made it stand out for me was the fact that it looks like “Metal Slug.” It has the same awesome art style, the same quirky animations and the same cool sense of humor. While it may not be re-inventing the wheel when it comes to gameplay, it manages to create an experience that is all fun. And then some.

pirates8. Pirates Storm: Ship Battles — Gameone

If you love classic Arcade shooters, this is your baby. “Pirates Storm” is a vertical scroller with sailing ships and a modern, clean, casual look. But don’t let it fool you. The action is frenetic, to the point that frequently, the game appears to run out of screen real estate, because there are missiles flying at you from all imaginable directions. The game features everything you could ask for, cool graphics, homing rockets, cool explosions, pick-ups galore, huge explosions, gems, and whatnot. What’s there not to like? But boy, it is hard…

zeus9. Zeus Defense — Alawar Entertainment

This tower defense game gets my thumbs-up, because I love the look of it. Using a mythological Greek setting, it conjures up memories of Disney’s “Hercules” with its colorful art style and atmosphere. It features tons of mythological monsters that try to overrun your settlements and it gets incrementally harder, dishing out some serious boss battles as well, so don’t let the cute look fool you. This is a full-bodied game with plenty of specials and features as you go along.

nords10. Nords — Plarium

Ever heard of “Nords?” Probably not, but you should have. This is a cool strategy game with the look and feel of “How to Train a Dragon.” Colorful, yet ferocious, the game is actually a massively-multiplayer game in which you have to carve out your place. With cool battles, awesome world building, and beautiful characters, the game offers top-tier production values throughout. And it has depth, I tell you. Factions to choose from, a crafting system, different units and champions to chose from, make “Nords” a real heavyweight that sadly flew under almost everyone’s radar.


This is just a relatively small excerpt of some of the game highlights I stumbled across recently, but I felt that I should share some of the great games I stumble across on my journey. But now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorite mobile games that you feel have been overlooked? Let me know so I can take a look at them as well, and perhaps include them in a future list.

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Also, if you are a developer with a cool mobile game, feel free to contact me at ! As I mentioned in the opening, we have exciting opportunities at Gigataur.com that open up additional revenue streams for developers without interfering with their current business. Send me an email and I’ll be happy to tell you more about it.

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I just wanted to make a quick update before the weekend, to point out that I have been guest-blogging on two sites today.

The first one is over on thriller author J.A. Konrath’s blog where I discuss some of the strategies I have employed with my “Jason Dark” series in order to get it noticed. You can read about some of the efforts and how they turned out right here! And please, make sure to join the discussion and let have your thoughts on the subject matter as all and any feedback is tremendously welcome.

I am also guest-blogging at the horror site Fatally Yours today in celebration of “Women in Horror Month.” In my post I am talking about the tremendous influence female authors have had on the genre despite the fact that these contributions are all too often overlooked or belittled. Check it out. I am sure you’ll get a kick out of it, as it is not a straight-forward editorial but instead more sort of a story.

I’ve just finished two books I’ve read and I wanted to make sure to let you know about them, too.

First, I read The Heretic by Joe Nassise. I had some reservations at first and held out on the book for a while because of its catholic connotations, I guess. I’m not a friend of organized religion at all and I rarely touch books that have religious themes. Their moralizing simply gets on my nerves. However, in the case of “The Heretic” that was a huge mistake. Not only does the religious theme take such a backseat that it is virtually non-existent other than working as window dressing, but the story itself is such a riveting read that I had trouble putting it down.

Presenting the reader with a modern-day story in which Templar Knights are a Vatican-sponsored SWAT team to fight supernatural baddies, the best way for me to describe the book is one word: Blockbuster!

This is the kind of story you would find in a Jerry Bruckheimer movie – seriously – filled to the brim with large scale action but also offering enough depth and emotion to make the characters tangible. I loved the story and the way Nassise tells it in a very fluid way that is always serving the story and never distracts from the moment. Cade is a great character with a lot of potential and a lot to like about, helping to make the book memorable.

If you want some no-holds-barred reading material, “The Heretic” should go on your to-be-read list right now!

The other book I just finished is Scott Nicholson’s latest novella Crime Beat. Boy, what a fun little read. This one just grabbed me right away and begged to be read in two sittings. I don’t know what it is but Nicholson’s style in the book is almost whimsical despite the subject matter of the story – a serial killer making headlines in an American small town. I don’t want to give away too much about the story because Scott does a much better job at it than I would and part of the fun with this book in particular is seeing it unfold.

I love the characters a lot and Nicholson makes it easy to sympathize with them. Again, it is his observational aptitude that brings these guys to life as the mull over things that we all have had in our minds. Add to it the almost subliminal sense of humor that is sprinkled in throughout and you have the recipe for a perfect read.

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