Friday, January 26, 2018

How I Fell In Love With Esports

NA LCS Spring Split 2014
It was Season 3 Worlds for League Of Legends. That was wayyyyy back 2013, just after my debut novel came out. I was aware of the MOBA genre of games, but I didn't actually play them because...

Guys, I'm the queen of sore losers.

I could see myself being a giant ball of rage, and that just wasn't good for my health or the safety of my family. But my husband played and it looked cool. When Worlds came around that Fall, the hubs turned it on for kicks. I was like, "What is THIS?"

Then I proceeded to watch it every second I could. I watched more than my husband, and he just laughed because he didn't expect me to be so on board so quickly. Which is silly, because I've always liked gaming...but this did have a "sport" element and I never liked those. Being able to watch an entertaining, informative, professional stream without suffering the losses myself? It. Was. Perfect. That was the year of SKT's first Worlds win, and watching their domination and skill cemented my love for this new thing in my life.

And then I watched the next Spring split. Even found my way to the L.A. Studio to watch it live. And then the Summer. And Season 4 Worlds. I've been watching ever since—following the leagues all over the world, getting into off-season player moves, watching how the production has evolved, studying the narratives they build around players and teams.

What I fell in love with first? That the games had commentators who helped me, a relative noob, follow along. It was a bonus that I didn't have to listen to the endless swear words you have to endure if you watch a single player's stream on Twitch. It brought a sense of credibility. Of accessibility. And those casters drew me in until I could understand the game on my own.

Then I fell in love with teams and players. A story builds as these teams battle on the rift, and the author in me grew to love learning about how each player got to where they were. I love the ones struggling to make their names as much as those who are on the top. I've grown to appreciate the rivalry narrative in a way I never have before.

I also fell for the production. I was a techie in high school, and all the work that goes into producing a quality show...I notice those things. And LoL put a lot of attention into that side, which made the tournaments look even more legit and credible, because they were presented with good design.

Naturally, this new passion found its way into my writing, and THE VENGEANCE CODE is a result of that. In fact, I watched a lot of pro-gaming while writing the novel. If you're familiar with LoL, you'll probably see a lot of similarities between the MOBA in TVC (which I call Heroes Of Gaia, of HoG [yes, bad abbreviation was totally intentional]), though I chose to simplify a lot of concepts in hopes of making it clearer for people new to Esports.

Spring Splits have just started up in League Of Legends, so if you're every curious to know more about what inspired THE VENGEANCE CODE, check out You better believe I'm watching while I draft this sequel! (Watching the new Overwatch League as well, if you're into that.)

Monday, January 8, 2018

COVER REVEAL: The Vengeance Code

Cover Copy: 

She’s a nobody in the bunker, struggling to survive.

He’s the heir to a fortune, determined to follow in his mother’s fatal footsteps.

Only she knows her father was murdered, his code stolen.

His father’s virtual reality program kills people.

Linix can’t possibly trust the heir of the man who destroyed her family. And Cache can’t accept a position in an industry that kills its customers. But when the only thing more dangerous than the games is not playing them, they’ll have to figure out how to win. Together.

Hi! I figure I just give you the cover first, and if you wanna read more you can. Isn't it AMAZING? My cover artist is the best, and I feel like she only gets better for every book we do together. So a massive thank you to Michelle Argyle (Melissa Williams Design) for rocking THE VENGEANCE CODE cover. 

You guys perhaps have a few questions, the first one being: Natalie, why are you using a pen name?

I'm glad you asked, friends. For me personally, taking this pen name is a fresh start. My own name on books has been amazing, but there's a lot well. Secondly, I didn't feel my name fit in the genre I plan to now focus on: Science Fiction. I don't want to say it was too girly, but well, it was. This one isn't necessarily male, but also not so female either. And it also looked really odd to me when we put "Natalie Whipple" on the cover. It didn't fit. Nat McKenzie is like the cool version of me, and the last name is my grandmother's maiden and chosen with purpose. You will see this name on all my impending sci-fi (Yes, there is so much more to come.).

Another question you may be asking: Where did this book come from and why haven't we heard much of it?

Well, after facing a lot of rejection in publishing (this book included, having failed in submissions), I began to hold any project I loved very close to my chest. I didn't want to be hurt, and I feared sharing even the smallest pieces of my work because it felt like no one cared...and that was what hurt the most. 

But! THE VENGEANCE CODE was originally a NaNoWriMo project. I wrote the first draft in Nov 2014, which I can hardly believe. It was titled "Punk Gamer Book." And for awhile I called it after its setting, "Bunker 8." It's bred from my love of pro League of Legends, conspiracy theories of secret government bunkers, corporate Kdramas, and a fascination with flawed and evolving technology. So really a whole kitchen sink. Like usual.

The first seeds of the book grew from my curiosity in developing virtual reality tech. So many stories start in a place where VR has been perfected and works flawlessly. I wanted to take a different approach and place it in a broken state, where the program caused something I call "Virtual Phantom Pain" to its users...and this pain, turns out, eventually kills people. But instead of fixing it, the powers that be decide to use that to control the population in their Bunker. The creator refuses to go along, is murdered, and no one is the wiser.

It's a story of trying to right wrongs against impossible odds, of being trapped in a scenario everyone hates but doesn't think can be fixed, and finding the determination to face it all head on. Plus video games and stuff. 

Finally, and most importantly: Where and when can I get my hands on THE VENGEANCE CODE? Cuz I need it now.

THE VENGEANCE CODE will be available for purchase in March! Online at most book retailers in both Ebook and Paperback! I am hoping for a mid-March release date, but I'm still in edits so we shall see. Not too long a wait! You guys will be just fine.