Review of Brad Carl’s Debut Novel: Grey Areas

I first had the pleasure of talking with Brad Carl on twitter, when I was just getting my account started and finding my first followers. Through this entire ‘me trying to review his book’ process he has been the most supportive, understanding guy to talk with. I was supposed to have this review up weeks ago, and then last Friday, and then yesterday… we all see how that has worked out for me.

In the interest of full disclosure, he did offer this book to me for free. HOWEVER, he offers everyone the first book in his Grey Areas Saga for free. And you just can’t beat free. It’s the lowest you can go.

So, I undertook reading it.  And I knew right away that I wanted it to be the first book I reviewed on Amanda Heiser Writes.

The novel opens with Henry Fields moving to the very small town of Gable, Iowa. Please envision corn field after glorious green cornfield. He quickly gets hired at the local gas station and asks to be paid in cash. Across the way is a diner where he meets Claire Mathison, and though Henry is mysterious and certainly shies away from personal details, Claire is very much attracted to him.

The story moves slowly at the beginning. And the action-filled payoff happens quickly. But Brad does well with the characterization of Henry and Claire in the meantime, I’m very excited to read their adventures in the future books (especially seeing as how the first ends in a cliffhanger).

Henry is very clearly running from his past, but the subtle build up and the suspense of waiting to find out what he’s running from was written well. You could also tell that Henry was very practiced at noticing details and categorizing people in the way that each character he meets is described. I’d normally fault an author for showing, not telling, but I really think that it works well in how Henry is developed. It also leads me to question just how long he’s been running, and what kind of background he has. That kind of attention to detail doesn’t come out of nowhere, and I wonder if he’s been trained. I hope to see this explained further as I keep reading this saga.

Claire is straightforward and strong willed. At least in the beginning. Some of her first conversations with Henry really had me rooting for the small-town girl. I was a little disappointed with how she approaches Henry when she’s ready to move the relationship forward. It was a stereotypical weak girl moment, and after being painted in such a strong light, it was a jarring and seemed out of character. I’m hoping to see her strength played to in the next three books. It’s rare to read about strong secondary women, and I don’t want to see her be the classic damsel in distress.

I believe that the next books are set up well. Most of the background information seems to be out front now. This was also Brad Carl’s debut novel; I would expect the pacing to be a bit faster through the rest of the saga as well. I’ll let you know as I read them.

Now, I’m not one for blowing smoke up anyone’s bum; I liked this book. I have every intention of paying for and reading the next three books in the saga. And when there’s a wealth of free reading material on the internet (shameless plug of self-promotion), wanting to pay money for a book by a relatively unknown author matters. You may not walk away thinking you’ve read (INSERT CLASSIC MYSTERY BY WELL KNOWN, FAVORED AUTHOR OF YOUR CHOICE HERE); but I really think, if you give Grey Areas a chance, you’re going to want to read the next three books too.


Fort Triumph Strategy RPG Game Review

Hey guys! This isn’t the normal post for Amanda Heiser Writes, it’s a guest post by a friend of mine. I’m all for reviews, but I am not a gamer I am horrible at all games more complicated then Computer Solitaire. So Angel Sisson, of TwoGeeksOneCamera, a gamer, a writer, a human extraordinaire, has done me this favor and written up a review of Fort Triumph. I hear it’s an RPG Strategy game, fascinating. 

(Image is from the KickStarter page for the game)

Hello everyone, Angel here! I’m currently writing this blog post on behalf of a company
known as Fort Triumph. They recently approached me to take a look at their game demo,
Triumph RPG -link above-to see what I thought about it.

Now for those of you who enjoy games with a bit of strategy and goofy humor then this
is a game for you. It’s a bit wonky with actual implementation of the fire spell, I burned down the entire village on simi-accidental circumstances, and the strategy part is rather on the nose when scripted but very off in most battles due to rogue AI. I found, after several playthroughs of the demo, that it is a hard game to get far in if you don’t watch your spells. Fire travels quick and you can very well crush your own characters if you target the wrong spot. You need to think carefully before casting anything.

That being said there are a lot of fun little details and ideas this demo did well. There are multiple heroes for one. Each has a separate role and they fall into it very well.
I grew rather fond of the caster myself -cough–flames everywhere–cough- and the barbarian like fighter was fun to kick around goblins with.

The health system was rather straight forward too. You get a small dot counter above your characters that tell you what you have left and, though it disappears on occasion, it can be nice to have when trying to keep up with everyone.

The controls themselves were easy to use and close enough that they make strategy, when it worked with AI, quick and simple.

The best part of the demo, that I found, was the heroes’ little stories themselves. They were humorous and self mocking with just enough snark that I giggled almost every time I played it.

After seeing the game and testing it on several different settings I have a high approval of this demo. For what it is, a uniquely fun concept, it held up nicely even if some of the mechanics did what they were meant to far too well. For those of you who would like to take a look at the game demo yourselves take a look at the kickstarter link found above in the introduction. They have until Tue, May 23 2017 at 2:03 PM EDT to hit their funding goal so if you like what you see then I recommend backing them.

My rating for this demo is 7/10 and one of my recommended games.


Q & A  (for more FAQ, jet on over to the Kick Starter page linked in the intro at the top of the post)

  1. Will there be customizable heroes for the full game? If so will they be preset classes or can you choose?

We are planning to allow players to customize heroes looks and name at the very least, as well as being able to pick their abilities and specialize them to their tactics. There might be more customization if we achieve our funding stretch goals and are able to expand our current plans.

  1. Will the full game have randomized maps?

Absolutely, almost all of the tactical missions will be randomized, some will have greater constraints based on the player’s progress through the campaign, but no two fights should ever be the same.

  1. Will we have talent trees or is the character progress linear?

There will definitely be talents, abilities or skills to pick from, the exact form of our character progression is still being developed. One thing it will NOT be is linear, though.

  1. How long has production taken so far? If uncomfortable with that question no need to answer.

The first doodles of code were written over three years ago, back when the game was a neat concept developed occasionally. However it can be said that full scale development only started once some artists got on board, which means about a year ago.

  1. Through development has there been any parts that you found most enjoyable about working on the game?

We all love gameplay and balance debates best, most likely. We can spend hours theorycrafting and breaking down aspects of gameplay, and often produce basic test builds just to prove our points. Since we started public playtesting it’s gotten even better, with us reading out people’s suggestions and figuring out how they can be made part of our vision.     

  1. Will there be additions to the game after it’s ‘finished’ DLC or Addons? If unsure no need to answer.

            While we are unsure, we absolutely love working on Fort Triumph, which means if Kickstarter succeeds, early access sales go well and we have the resources to continue building our game – we will probably be all over that.

  1. What stage is the demo in? Alpha? Beta? Or is it just a pre release teaser?

Our current demo is a pre-alpha, with a planned alpha period starting after   Kickstarter (once we have full systems prototypes implemented), a beta starting       alongside Steam Early Access, and release coming next year.

  1. Is there anything you’d like to have people know about the game? Anything your team is really proud of?

We’re aiming for a new experience in the genre, and we LOVE the way physics affect the turn based tactics formula so far. Would love for you to give our demo a try, help us gather Kickstarter support, and join our development process with feedback, votes and suggestions.


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