Spooky Books for Halloween

Hello there everybody! With the spooky season almost upon us, you might be looking for a good book to scare the shit out of you. I thought I’d put together a little list to help you with that goal.

These novels are listed in no particular order, and I’m just listing them because I loved them. I received nothing in exchange for these endorsements, but uhh, if Mr. King wants to give a cover quote for my next book, I’m all ears…

Now, without further ado…

Continue reading “Spooky Books for Halloween”

A long overdue update

Hello friends!

I just wanted to take the time to give you all a bit of an update on a couple of things. I’ve been a bit quiet for the past six months, and after saying I was going to give everybody monthly updates, that just hasn’t happened.

My bad.

Continue reading “A long overdue update”

New Release: Legacy of the Bloodreaver

Crematoria Online: A dark fantasy LitRPG series from Matthew J. Barbeler! For fans of Diablo, Bloodborne, Devil May Cry, and The Elder Scrolls.

Making friends has never been Lucas Hutchins’ strong suit, but now he has no choice in the matter. He has a promise to keep, but he’s not strong enough to do it alone.

Lucas forges friendships and alliances with a bunch of ragtag player characters: a purple-haired Apothecary with a passion for baking, a mysterious Occultist who takes role-playing way too seriously, and a Hellkin who just wants everyone to get along.

Meanwhile, the armies of the Crimson Queen are gathering in the realm of Sanguinaria. They mean to invade the Four Kingdoms and bend every man, woman and child to the Crimson Queen’s will.

Lucas must use his wits and his Investigator abilities to find out what the Crimson Queen is up to before it’s too late to fight back.

Get Legacy of the Bloodreaver now!

Praise for Rise of the Crimson Order: Crematoria Online Book One:

“This has got to be one of the best books I’ve ever read with Kindle Unlimited. Bravo.” – Matt, Amazon Review

“one hell of an adventure” – Shawn T. King, Amazon Review

“I loved the detective class and the abilities/actions are very well thought out. It’s refreshing to have something other than sword & board.” – Goonbag, Amazon Review

January 2020 Update

New year, same goals.

I’ve bought into the whole New Years’ Resolution thing in the past, but I pretty much have the same goals every year.

  • Write more
  • Make good health-related decisions

This year I’ve got an addition to the list, which is kind of tied into both.

  • Consume less, create more.

This is kind of a catch-all statement that captures my attitude toward a lot of things. The older I get, the more cynical I get about this consumer-centric capitalist nightmare we all live in. This year I want to be more conscious of the things I spend my money on, and the societal/corporate structures that my spending choices support.

I want to be financially independent and debt-free, so I can pursue a life of literary abandon. But the day job is what pays for the book covers, the editing and the advertising at the moment. Lots of work to do in that space.

It goes without saying that being the best Dad I can be is right up the top of the list.

Crematoria Online

The Legacy of the Bloodreaver Kickstarter is almost over, and I’m almost sure that it’s not going to be funded.

I’m okay with that.

At the beginning of the campaign, I was a little disheartened about the slow start. I’ve run two other Kickstarter campaigns in my life, and they were both effortless, resounding successes. One was funded in 8 hours, the other was funded in 2.

To have such a dead-on-arrival campaign for Legacy of the Bloodreaver didn’t feel great.

But as I was setting up the campaign, I knew the costs were prohibitive. The costs involved in printing a 500 page book, shipping it from Amazon’s KDP warehouse to me to sign in Australia, then to re-send out to backers, is untenable. Combine that with the weak Aussie dollar, and Kickstarter’s fees, I pretty much had to price myself out of success.

The last campaigns I ran ended up costing me money in printing and shipping costs over and above what was raised on Kickstarter, but this time I did my homework and costed the whole campaign accurately so that I would be able to cover costs with the funds raised.

$75 for two books from an Aussie indie writer is just too expensive, it seems.

But that’s cool. It just reaffirms that I should be focussing on ebooks as my primary release platform, and that audiobooks are the next platform I need to pursue. Putting the physical books as a priority doesn’t make sense for me at this juncture.

There’s just under 47 hours left in the campaign at the time of posting this, so if you want to put in a last minute pledge, you’re more than welcome. If the campaign isn’t successful, you won’t be charged a dime.

Anyway, Legacy of the Bloodreaver should be going up for preorder on Amazon very soon. I’m really proud of this book, and I think all you LitRPG folks are going to love it.

The First 10 Weeks of Dadhood

Tobias turned 10 weeks old this week, and it’s a bit crazy how quickly that time has gone. Maybe it’s gone so fast because I’ve only worked my day job five out of those ten weeks, and the remaining time has been a flurry of editing, nappies, spending time with family, and all the chaos that Christmas brings.

It’s not hyperbole when I say that these last ten weeks have been the best of my life. The arrival of this little dude is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Just look at that cheeky little bugger.

Modest Mouse said it best. “When life gets longer, awful feels softer.”

Other Writing

He’s a little tiny teaser of a cover I’ve had commissioned for Beasts & Bastions volume 1, done by the excellent and twisted horror specialist Dean Samed.

I’m still working on the first draft, but I’m hoping this book will drop sometime in 2020.

I’ve published five chapters of Beasts & Bastions on my website already, but I’m sad/glad to say that these chapters are now defunct. The first two chapters will be changed a bit, but the whole starting in the forest thing is going to be scrapped, and the characters are going to be changed a bit. I’ve got a better opening, which I’m going to start drafting after I get Crematoria Online book 2 out the door.

I’m also going to be helping edit the latest anthology from my local writers group (The book is titled Misbehaving), which is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. On one hand, I don’t feel qualified to edit or critique someone else’s work, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity for growth. So I’m in.

I also had a piece published on Junkee.com about my experience discovering my aboriginal ancestry, and all the baggage that comes with. You can read it here.

Legacy of the Bloodreaver Kickstarter

The Legacy of the Bloodreaver Kickstarter is now live!

This campaign is the best way to get signed copies of my Crematoria Online series. If you have a second, please spread the word on your social media channels, and to anyone you feel might be interested!

December 2019 Update

Well, here we are, the last day of 2019.

It’s been a hell of a year. I am not being hyperbolic when I say this has been the best year of my life. It’s had its challenges, sure, but those are all smoke in the wind now.

My greatest highlight is becoming a father. I’ve been a surprise dad to Little Miss 7 for a couple of years now, but having a bub is a whole other ball game. It’s been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever experienced, but also once of the most rewarding.

The other highight? I’ve had the most successful year of my life as an author. My Crematoria Online series has gained some serious traction, and it’s so awesome to see people as excited about my work as I am. I’m still working full time, so this is just baby steps, but at least I’m taking steps in the direction I want to go.

Here’s to a bigger 2020!

Crematoria Online

Still working away. I’ve put the Legacy of the Bloodreaver Kickstarter together, and I’ll be kicking that off soon. But I’m also doing a rewrite on the last quarter of the book. I want Legacy to be the best book it can possibly be, so taking the time to rewrite feels like a necessary thing to do.

Here’s a sneak peek of the Legacy of the Bloodreaver ebook cover!

Did I mention that there are now Crematoria Online t-shirts?

Other Fiction

I’m also writing another LitRPG/GameLit serial called Beasts & Bastions, which I’m publishing to my website here as I go. I’m also uploading to Royal Road if you’d prefer to follow it over there.

Keep in mind that this is pure alpha – I won’t be doing a structural edit until the first arc is done. But if you like it raw, then give it a read.

It’s a ‘bunch of friends get transporting into a tabletop roleplaying game’ story, but set in a distinctly Australian setting. It’s going to use a whole bunch of Australian mythological creatures, as well as classic monsters with an Aussie twist, while also celebrating my aborginal roots.

It’s going to be unlike anything you’ve ever read before.

I’ve got so much faith in this series that the first arc already has a Dean Samed cover on its way.

That’s all from me for this year, folks. I hope 2019 has treated you well, and I hope 2020 treats you even better.

November 2019 Update

Wowzers, this update is super late! 10 days into December! Sorry about that.

I spent most of November preparing for my son’s arrival, and then after he came along it was a complete blur. But the hard stuff (and honestly, there hasn’t been an overwhelming amount of hard stuff for me) is completely outweighed by the good stuff.

The first baby cuddle, the first time he grabbed my finger in his tiny hand, the first time he smiled, and even the first time he peed during a nappy change (which hit yours truly right in the open mouth – lesson learned) – all of these moments are incomparable to anything I’ve ever experienced before in my life.

I am in absolute awe of my wife-to-be Abbie. She is the strongest person I have ever met. I thought I knew what true love was before the birth of our son, but I didn’t have a fucking clue. I feel like my life only just started last month, that I’m seeing things through a brand new set of eyes. I feel like everything leading up to this was just practice.

Crematoria Online

In book-related news, Rise of the Crimson Order got a new cover last month, and new versions of the books are in the process of being uploaded to Amazon. The changes are not major. They include:

  • rebalancing of stats of the items Lucas receives during the book, to ensure they adhere to the overarching gear power curve of the whole series
  • addition of one scene, which alleviates some deus ex machina in a later chapter. If you’ve bought the Kindle edition of the novel, you should be able to update the manuscript when the update is live

I’m in the process of finalizing the new paperback version of Rise with the snazzy new cover.

This whole rebranding thing is for a reason. Early in 2020, I’ll be launching a Kickstarter Campaign for Crematoria Online book two. This will include a reward tier where you can get the whole story so far, which will include the two books, new cover(s) and matching spines, so it’ll look all pretty on your shelf. Book three will adhere to the same style when it’s done.

I have a lot of faith in Crematoria Online – I think it’s one of the finest things I’ve written, and I’m really excited to take you all on the journey through this story. So far, I have a whole Lucas Hutchins arc planned out, that will go for a minimum of two more books (four in total), with a potential for more after that.


Hahahaha, NaNoWriMo was a bust. I got 17k words written during the month. That’s still better than a kick in the teeth, but nowhere near the goal of 50k.

PS, if you want to see gratuitous baby + proud dad photos, visit my public Instagram. ❤

October 2019 Update

I was determined to get this out on the last day of the month, this time! This is just going to be a short one.

Crematoria Online

Working, working, working.

There are two major scenes that I need to add in to Crematoria Online book 2 before I can do my last editing pass. This process has been super slow, and I’m not going as fast as I would like to, but real life and my day job has a habit of getting in the way. But the day job also pays the bills, so it takes precedence until my writing can pay the rent!

This month I put together a new gear generator for Crematoria Online to make sure that all of the gear that Lucas and friends receive is level and rarity appropriate as the series continues on. And I do mean for it to continue on for some time.

I shared the basic underpinnings of this generator over on my blog earlier in the month. If you’re thinking about writing a LitRPG or GameLit novel, and want to get an idea of how you might chart out a power curve, I’d recommend checking it out.

As a result of this gear curve being actually figured out now, I’ll be revisiting Rise of the Crimson Order to ensure that all the items in there fit the curve. I’m also going to revisit that novel and make some big quality of life improvements in the first book, in preparation for the release of book two. I want to give the absolute best reading experience I can as the series continues on.

Speaking of improvements, Rise of the Crimson Order will be getting a new cover soon. Book Two will be getting a cover in matching branding, ready for when it launches.

I was hoping to have another short story out for Halloween this year, but it wasn’t finished in time. It’s still coming though, but I’m not sure when.

Other writing

Next month marks the start of NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month that I participate in almost every year. This year I’ll be participating, but I know I’m not going to hit the 50k goal. My son is going to arrive any day now, so my writing time is going to be diddly squat.

However, I have wanted to put together some non-fiction books for some time. Crematoria Online Book Two will be sixth finished novel, and my eleventh total book. I

’m starting to feel like I know what I’m doing well enough to be able to provide some advice to people who are just starting to take their writing seriously. So I might split my NaNoWriMo focus between the first episode of a serial LitRPG, and those couple of non-fiction projects.

If you want to be my NaNoWriMo Writing Buddy, shoot me a request!

Last year I published a tough love guide on how to prepare yourself for NaNoWriMo. You might want to have a look at that, too.

Writing power curves in LitRPG/GameLit

I’m knee-deep in Crematoria Online book two at the moment, and one of the main concerns I had was making sure that the progression of statistics was consistent, meaningful, and fun. Making them foolproof on the author’s part was also important, because he is an accomplished fool.

So I put my Excel-fu to good use and made a spreadsheet.

I’m sharing my learnings, because I feel like the math/stats aspect of writing GameLit/LitRPG is not something narrative-focused writers come to easily. So this might help.

You can automate your statistics in a way that makes sure your characters will always be getting level-appropriate gear. It’s as easy as putting your character’s level into a cell, choosing the rarity, and boom – your spreadsheet will pop out appropriate stats for that piece of gear.

The best part? Once you’ve set this up, you can use it for your entire series. I wish I’d done this before publishing Rise of the Crimson Order!

First up, you need to esatblish three elements in a single worksheet:

A table of levels and default stat growth

For thes above dummy stats (none of these are what I used for Crematoria Online), I chose an arbitrary formula: Primary Stat = Level*2.5. You can choose absolutely any formula that fits with your intended power curve.

Next, you need a table of gear rarities and the effects those rarities have on the stats of the items

Once again, these values are arbitrary. Choose your own values that will work for your world.

Lastly, you need a table of equipment slots and their gear weightings

A piece of chest armor won’t have the same stats as a pair of gloves, or a necklace, or a pair of boots. These stat weightings are designed to give some variance in the actual stats on the items, so they feel more appropriate.

Once you’ve set all of these tables up with your own data, now you can create your gear generator. You could do it on the same worksheet as your stat tables, but I like to keep them separate. It’s much cleaner.

Here’s where the fun starts.

You’re going to need to harness the power of VLookup to get this working. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll realise just how powerful Microsoft Excel is even without getting into the realm of macros. Here’s the Microsoft page on the function, but there are heaps of resources out there that will help you learn it.

There are four main elements to your gear generator that you need to understand before proceeding:

  • Blue – These cells require Data Validation. Set these up as a drop-down list, so that values from your table of gear rarities and table of equipment slots are selectable.
  • Grey – this is free text, but you’ll only be putting your numeric level numbers in here
  • Yellow – VLookup. These cells are there to grab the modifiers and stat weightings you’ve put into your raw data tables so you can use them in formulas here.
  • Green – formulas. This is the nuts and bolts of how your stat score will be generated. Without the above three types of cells set up, the formulas won’t work.

The VLookup can get a little tricky, so I’ll break down what I’ve done. For the yellow cell next to Weighting I want my spreadsheet to automatically change the weighting whenever I choose an equipment slot.

This is the formula: =VLOOKUP(C2, Ref!N2:O14, 2, 0)

Double dutch, right?

Let me break it down.

  • C2 is our reference cell. This is what the VLookup function looks at to determine what other value is should display. In this case, it’s looking at the cell containing Head.
  • Ref!N2:O14 is an absolute reference to a table selection. It encompasses two columns – N & O, and continues from row 2 to row 14.
  • 2 refers to which column in the defined table we want our VLookup to display once it finds the value in C2. The cell values such as Head, Chest etc are column 1. Our stat weightings are column 2, and the weighting is what we want to display.
  • 0 refers to whether we want an approximate match, or an exact match. We want to be exact, so we choose 0 = FALSE.

For the modifier VLookups, I have directed my spreadsheet to look at the cell next to Rarity instead of the gear slot cell. You should be able to set this up yourself now.

If you get those working, your spreadsheet is going to sing.

Once your drop-down lists have been set up, and your VLookups are working, you can now start on the formulas to calculate your gear attributes.


The 2.5 in the above formula matches the *2.5 I used in my original table of levels and primary stat calculations. If your stats grow at different rates (eg, health grows faster or has a more complex calculation behind it) then you’ll need to alter this final formula to suit.

These calculations are subjective, and the ones I’ve used in these examples are just examples. Play around a bit and make sure your math matches your story!

So now that it’s all done, here’s a couple of examples of the output.

A pair of max-level Rare legs

A pair of max-level Epic legs

Once the gear is generated, I play around with the stats a little before putting them in the book.

Placeholder Rare Legs
Requires Level 20
Armor: 60
Stamina: 54
Strength: 45
Block: 28
Thorns: 15


Placeholder Epic Legs
Requires Level 20
Armor: 75
Stamina: 57
Strength: 54
Block: 36
Thorns: 19

As you can see there, the stats don’t exactly match the output of the spreadsheet, and I’ve done this intentionally. There’s always a level of randomness to stat generation in most games, and I like to make sure there’s an element of variance in my books too.

So there you have it. Go forth and create your own power curve spreadsheets if you like, share it around, and let’s demystify this element of GameLit/LitRPG writing!