Various and Sundry

I am being terrible about getting The Prophecy out in a timely manner, I know. Apologies! I have about 2/3 of the current draft done and out to beta readers, in the hopes that feedback will help inspire me to get my backside in gear and finish revising the last 1/3.

In the meantime, here are a few entertaining things I’ve come across since my last post.

Until Dawn

Until Dawn is a survival horror game for the PlayStation 4 that I found to be a whole lot of fun, and creepy as hell! There are eight playable characters, and you cycle through controlling each of them at different times. As you play a certain character, the actions and dialogue you choose for them lead to different outcomes and affect their relationships with the others (through the game’s “butterfly effect” scheme). It is possible to reach the end of the game with all eight of them still alive, everybody dead, or anywhere in between. In my first playthrough I only managed to keep three of them alive until dawn. I did a second playthrough, this time using an internet guide to make sure I kept everybody alive, and right near the very end of the game the power went out in my house and fried the console 😦 The hard drive was salvageable, but we lost all save game data. I do plan on trying again, but it’s taking some time to muster up the morale to start all over again when I was so close to my goal!

Until Dawn™_20150817133154

The game tells the story of a group of teenagers returning to a mountain lodge on the first anniversary of the disappearance of two of their number at the same location. This may seem like an odd thing to do, but the reasoning behind this move is revealed later in the game and makes a very compelling kind of sense. But whatever happened to their friends the year before seems to be happening to them now, one by one. Is the horror here slasher in nature, or something altogether more supernatural? I highly suggest you play yourself and find out!

Another fun and impressive aspect of this game is the way it was created using full face and body motion capture. That means live actors performed all of the scenes wearing the bits and bobs (yeah, I don’t know the technical jargon) for the cameras to catch it all and computers to bring them to life on screen. The cast includes such notables as Hayden Panettiere and Rami Malek. And I’ll admit, I love me some Rami Malek…

Until Dawn actors

hayden panettiereRami Malek 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also on the video game front, Jonathan Boakes and The Darkling Room have released a delightful way to pass some time, a short interlude of a game called The Last Crown: Midnight Horror. Its predecessor, The Lost Crown, was a full-length enchanting ghost-hunting adventure game released in 2008. Production value may have been a bit low (the voice acting in particular leaves something to be desired), but it was beautiful to look at, fun, and wonderfully creepy! The team has been working on its sequel, The Last Crown: Blackenrock ever since, but alas, fans of the franchise are still waiting. Boakes assures us the release date is coming soon, but in the meantime, we have been provided with this fun miniature adventure to enjoy. It came out for Halloween, and in fact the story takes place during the week between All Hallow’s Eve and Bonfire Night, that night which marks the failure of the gunpowder plot attempted by Guy Fawkes and his collaborators. (Remember, remember the fifth of November!)

Last Crown Midnight Horror 2

 

Last, but certainly not least, I have FINALLY “discovered” Felicia Day. This after being told by multiple people over the past year or so that I should check out her work. I at last picked up her memoir, “You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)” and realized not only that she is hilariously entertaining, but also that we share many of the same interests: namely books and video games (and a history of violin playing). I have since been watching the live streams of her playing the same sorts of games I play, sometimes along with her brother (who is just as amusing as she is), and have also joined her online book club. The club, with the charming moniker Vaginal Fantasy, has its base over at Goodreads and reads primarily romance novels (often SFF) with strong female protagonists. Once a month there is a live club “meeting” on the web, where Felicia and three other lovely ladies (Bonnie Burton, Veronica Belmont, and Kiala Kazebee) discuss the month’s pick, and anyone watching can use the chat feature to type in their own comments or questions. (Felicia addressed me and answered one of my questions and I totally fan-girled all over the place!) You can find the Vaginal Fantasy Goodreads group at https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/62938-vaginal-fantasy-book-club

Felicia 1

Vaginal Fantasy
The ladies donned mustaches for the discussion of the group’s western romance pick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A sad truth is that I don’t know many people IRL who enjoy the same games I do, and I miss terribly the days when my sister and I would play them together. In a way, watching Felicia play them live over the internet helps fill that missing piece to a degree. Watching her and her brother play together is bittersweet, too. Although usually I’m too busy crying from laughter to feel sad. For example:

Kindle Book Awards Semifinalist!

The Sentient made it to the semifinals of the 2015 Kindle Book Awards!

https://www.thekindlebookreview.net/kindle-book-awards/

This makes me so happy! Winning books in each of the 7 categories get a smorgasbord of promotional support, which is a huge deal for works written by indie authors.

Also, I got this sweet badge:

2015-SEMIFINALIST

Finalists will be announced September 1st. I guess I’ll just have to keep myself distracted until then by forging ahead with The Prophecy.

Bittersweet Dreams are Made of This

I’m hard at work on The Prophecy tonight, honest!

But I wrote this post earlier for another blog of mine, one in which I write about whatever the heck topic I feel like expounding upon at any given time, and decided I wanted to repost it here. It’s not related to my books or writing, but rather is a subject of a personal nature and something I feel compelled to share. So here it is. (And now back to work!)

 

My sister was my very best friend. She passed away 4 years ago and even now it seems I dream about her every night.

It may just be that I am more likely to notice and remember the nights I dream of her, but even if that’s the case, I sure do dream about her an awful lot.

Sometimes this is a joyous thing. It’s like having the opportunity to hang out with her again, even if we now spend our time together protecting giant (and I mean GIANT) spiders from mall cops with dubious intentions.

Every now and again my sleeping mind recognizes that she is dead and it’s as if she is communicating with me in light of that fact, commiserating with me about how sad it is to be separated, or showing me glimpses of some fantastical afterlife and assuring me I’ll join her there some day, but that the time for that has not yet come (a belief to which, sadly, in the waking world I do not subscribe.)

More often though, the dreams that acknowledge she has died are chilling. These I wake from unnerved, but also enormously saddened.

She spent 26 days in the ICU before succumbing to what ailed her. As her condition worsened, we faced new steps in attempting to manage the illness and treat her, and I remember when she first died the initial feeling was that this was just a new obstacle to overcome. Okay, now what are the treatment options for her death? How can we overcome this next hurdle? It took some time for the constant panicky adrenaline rush of her decline to wear off and to realize there was nothing more to be done. It was over.

Some of my dreams are fueled by this idea. She is dead, so now what’s our next step to help her get better?

Many times her “death” is represented in my sleeping mind as her being in bed, back in her old bedroom in our childhood home. The room is always dark, we have to be ever so cautious and quiet around her so as not to disturb her. Sometimes her body only appears there at nighttime. Sometimes I crawl into her bed at night, anxious, knowing that after I drift off to sleep I will wake with a start in the dark of night to find her in the room with me. This can be a happy thing, but also frightening because she is not always the only thing to break through the veil between worlds at that hour.

Other times the dreamtime logic insists that she lives again only when I sleep, and so it’s a happy and exciting occasion to bring her back in my dreams, although bittersweet in the knowledge that as soon as I wake, she will be gone again.

One of the scariest scenarios for me is the one where she has come back to life, in a manner, but is changed. She knows her family but feels nothing for us, she seems an entirely different person. Even then we are very protective of her in her “condition” (aka dead, returned to us on loan, a fleeting opportunity to be with her again even if she is not the same as she was in life.) Those dreams, when she no longer cares for me, are heartbreaking.

For some reason I have many, many dreams in which the house my sister lived in at the time of her death is a sprawling mansion filled with magic but also haunted by some great evil. I go there to try to encounter her again, but the horrible presence lurks there as well, and my sister’s spirit fears it as much as I do.

Just today I experienced sleep paralysis. You know, when you’re aware that you are half-asleep but can make no move, nor bring yourself fully awake? But my mutinous mind was convinced that my sister had returned as some malevolent spirit and was possessing me, not allowing me any control over my own body, bringing me to insanity. I worried for all my loved ones, who would not know why I would rise from bed as a completely changed, deranged person.

I don’t know why I dream of her returning with a totally different personality or as some dark presence. But whether it’s one of those dreams, or one where I get to briefly spend time with her as sisters or continue the never ending struggle to “cure” her from her death, to this day I still wake up crying. Four and a half years later.

I hope tonight will be one of the nights where we just hang out and do nonsensical dream things. That would be nice, spiders and all.

300x300
My sister in the year before her death. She went to the Otasaga Resort Hotel in Cooperstown, NY for a weekend-long event with the folks from the SyFy show Ghosthunters. She won the chance to have this light-painted photo (of ghosts attempting to communicate) done with two of the shows regulars, Amy and Britt of TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society)

 

Striking the Match

I tend to swing between periods of furious writing and droughts mainly fueled by two things: a rush of self-doubt or loss of confidence (no one is going to want to read this anyway, boohoo!) and, well, distractions.

What I really need is a fire lit under my you-know-what. This is usually achieved when I see a new review or get positive feedback (they like it, they really like it!)

Rest assured, I finally did sit down to work on revising my draft of The Prophecy just this evening. (By the way, here is something I’ve noticed in my work as well as that by other indie authors: we are booklovers, and as such, we delight in writing protagonists who are booklovers as well. Here’s a tidbit from the chapter I worked on tonight: “He had underestimated my appetite for reading when I had nothing but time on my hands and an urgent need to keep my mind off of my own all too real troubles.”)

So consider the flames fanned beneath my butt. I certainly hope to get more editing work done tomorrow.

In the meantime, before heading to bed, allow me a moment to expound upon the aforementioned distractions.

Besides the full time job and two lovely little boys, I’ve also still been working on training this pretty baby:

11182059_10100445551163856_3035460121576670424_n
Miss Maya (aka Peakes Brook Night Prowler!)

She’s a smartie and picks up commands pretty easily, but she’s also a puppy and therefore sometimes kind of batcrap CRAZY. (Batcrap. Never used that phrase before, but it has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it?) She is bell-trained, meaning that she rings bells hanging from the doorknob when she has to go out to do her business. She has been doing this for a month or so now. However, today she realized she could ring the bell any time of day, all day, over and over again, just because she wanted to enjoy the great outdoors. And of course you don’t want to call her bluff at the wrong time. So yeah, there was a lot of in and out and in and out today.

The other main distraction was, as usual, a video game.

Since my last post I have played one more chapter in the Life is Strange story. It’s still a lot of fun, but I do have one complaint. The character you play, Max, is an eighteen year old girl, who reunites with her childhood best friend, Chloe. I give the game props for allowing what seems to be the possibility of a romance between these two female characters. However…Chloe treats Max like crap!

lifeisstrange

I realize the situations that arise are designed to force the player to make choices that somewhat alter how future scenes in the game play out, but some of them leave a bad taste in my mouth. There is a huge movement of players who “ship” Max and Chloe, a prospect which quite honestly makes me cringe.

Some examples: Chloe gets caught with marijuana and tries to pin it on Max. You, playing as Max, can either take the blame or deny it. If you tell the truth (it’s Chloe’s weed), the rest of the game is littered with digs from Chloe for throwing HER under the bus. At another point in the game, Max and Chloe are at a diner when Max’s phone rings. The call is from a classmate who is being bullied and has been showing signs of severe depression. Chloe tries to dissuade Max from answering the phone, saying, “I thought you were here to hang out with me, not to talk to her.”

Lis
Chloe Price from Life is Strange

Chloe is a fun character in that she adds an interesting facet to the story, but her relationship with Max, even when they’re just friends, SCREAMS “unhealthy and emotionally abusive” to me.

But wait, that’s not even the game that has been ruling my life lately! That honor goes to the Game of Thrones episodic adventure by telltale games.

This is fun. A lot of fun. There is so much about the story and characters that I love. The first episode was released in December, but I only jumped on the bandwagon a few days ago. I tore through episodes 1, 2 and 3. Lucky for me, episode 4 was just released today (and yes, it’s finished already). Sadly, I probably now have about 6 weeks to wait before the 5th and penultimate episode.

mira2
Mira Forrester is handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell

So I love love love playing this game…BUT (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?)

I started reading George R.R.Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series years ago, when the fourth book in the series had just been released. I read through them all in short order, then had another 5 or 6 years to wait for the next book. In the meantime, the TV show came about, and I enjoy that a lot as well.

The game fits in with the show, even with the same actors providing voices for their characters, and it begins the night of the Red Wedding (you know, when Robb and Catlyn Stark…you know). You get to play as several members of House Forrester, a family mentioned in passing in the books. Telltale gets the feel of Game of Thrones just right, which is amazing. However, this means the game has also inherited the same pitfalls as the book and TV show. Namely, an overwhelming sense of futility because EVERYTHING BAD THAT COULD EVER HAPPEN CAN AND WILL BEFALL ANY CHARACTER YOU CARE ABOUT.

ramsay
Ramsay Snow. Er, I mean Bolton! Lord Bolton!

Any time things start to look up for someone, anyone, you know things are about to get real ugly real fast. The problem with this being true in the game is that it takes away some of the fun of playing as the characters, knowing that whichever choices you make, terrible consequences are going to befall them no matter what. Do what you will in the game, everyone’s pretty much f****d anyway.

I still love this game. A lot. It just also drives me to drink, weeping into my glass as I drain it.

468px-2015-02-02_00034
Talia and Rodrick Forrester

Anyway. Thanks for letting me rave and rant for a bit. Now, as promised, I have work to do on The Prophecy!

Local Author Showcase at Barnes & Noble

On Thursday, May 7th I will be at the Barnes & Noble in Dewitt, NY from 6:00 to 7:30 PM for their Local Author Showcase! I was hoping to have The Prophecy published in time for the event, and although it doesn’t look like that will be happening, stop on by for a chat and to check out The Sentient as well as books from other authors in the area. Local bookworms, unite!

Puppies and Good Causes

First order of business –  revision is coming along on The Prophecy, and I’ve been devoting more time to it lately. I have finished with the video games (at least until the next episodes come out in another 6 weeks or so), although I am still dealing with this adorable time-suck:

Someone's got her big girl ears!
Someone’s got her big girl ears!

I’m learning that training a German Shepherd Dog requires a ton of commitment and work, but can be incredibly rewarding.

Secondly, science fiction and fantasy indie author Intisar Khanani is having a really special sale going on right now. Through April 7th you can download her eBook Thorn, a fun fairytale retelling, for $0.99 from amazon. All proceeds from the sale will go to helping a friend of the author’s adopt young brothers with special needs. Check out more at Khanani’s website: http://booksbyintisar.com/thorn-flash-sale/

ThornWhat’s not to love?!

Beautiful Distractions

A series of retweeting brought this little gem from author Joel Ross to my attention the other day: “Recently learned that the collective noun for a group of writers is a ‘procrastination'”.

I really, really keep meaning to work on revising my draft of The Prophecy! I have to admit, though, that I’ve only gotten through the first three chapters so far. In part due to the normal constraints of a full time job and two young children, but also in large part due to this:

11024597_10100414472171406_4995963553646365721_n

I have never in my life had a dog before now, so this is a huge learning process for everybody involved. I knew puppies were a lot of work, but I didn’t quite realize just how overwhelming they can be. Oh, how I look forward to the time when cleaning poop no longer takes up a significant chunk of my day! Even when I might once have had time to work on my book, I literally cannot risk taking my eyes off this little cutie, for fear of something wholly undesirable happening in and/or to my house.

(Deep breath) This, too, shall pass…

And okay, okay, I may have gotten sucked into more video games, too. I have always loved adventure games for the PC. There is no longer much demand for this type of game in the US. A lot of them are produced in Eastern Europe these days, and many of those depend on crowdfunding to raise the necessary money to develop them. Even then, the games tend to be released in separate “episodes” rather than all at once. Certainly not ideal, but beggars in the world of PC adventure gaming can’t be choosers, and they are still a good deal of fun.

As of right now, these are the two episodic games I have been playing:

Zoe-with-coffee-closeup
Dreamfall Chapters

 

 

 

life-is-strange-episode-1-impressions
Life is Strange

 

 

 

 

 

Dreamfall Chapters follows Zoe Castillo, a young woman in futuristic “Europolis,” who finds she is the key to stopping the Undreaming, which threatens both our science-based world and the magical realm of Arcadia. This story began in The Longest Journey, followed by Dreamfall, and should be concluded with the last episode of Dreamfall Chapters.

g6hyhyijcc3sj0g96ye4
Chapter One begins just how the last game ended: with Zoe in a coma. Here we see Dreaming Zoe and Past Zoe, all in Coma Zoe’s head

In Life is Strange, you play as Max, a girl who has recently joined a prestigious private academy for high school seniors. Blackwell Academy has an acclaimed photography program, which is what drew Max there despite the fact that she had to move away from home and attend school with strangers, many of whom are snobs and/or bullies. In the course of the first chapter, Max learns that she can rewind time; very useful when your chosen course of action may have sub-optimal consequences.

life-strange-rewind
Handy thing, turning back time

Both of these titles present you with choices throughout gameplay, and what you choose to do affects the path the story takes and its outcome. They’re like interactive choose-your-own-adventure stories! So much fun. Both games have a neat feature at the end of each episode, where you can see what percentage of other players made the same choices as you.

On top of all this, there is my TV show obsession, The Originals, and of course I still try to make time to read for fun everyday as well.

ogs116klaus
If you think you have family troubles, imagine if you were all the world’s very first vampires with one thousand years worth of drama

But fear not! I promise you the day will soon come when I give myself a swift kick in the rear and get some serious work done on The Prophecy! I do tend go through periods of procrastination followed by intense writing sessions. If other people could just cut it out with all the brilliant storytelling they do in their own medium, I wouldn’t get distracted and could get to work on my own stuff! (Seriously, though, please don’t stop. There’s some wonderful stuff being made out there, keep up the good work everyone, you’re all amazing.)

The Prophecy Front Cover

 

News in Twos

First and foremost, I would like to share with you all that the first draft of The Prophecy is finished! Of course there’s still plenty to be done, but it’s an exciting milestone nevertheless. Things are moving along!

In other news, I just received a folder full of old stories I wrote when I was around 12 or 13 years old. A friend of mine and I would create our own little books, magazines, newspapers, etc, then send them to each other by way of our fathers, who worked together. This friend’s mother was just going through old stuff, getting their house ready to be put on the market. When she found all of the stories I had sent her daughter near on two decades ago, she saved them for me. It’s a fun little trip down memory lane, but I also have to say, having illustrated my own works, I am rather impressed with my drawing skills at that age!

Here are pictures from a few of my favorites (not the best quality photos)

 

image1(1)
Faries vs. Minator. The difference between a minator and a minotaur? Apparently, my version had fangs as well as horns. Not sure about the faries.

 

image2
Hooking the readers for the next book!

 

image3
Would you just look at the majesty of the dragon? Doesn’t seem so white, but no matter, the majesty!

 

image4
They fairy king and queen. I am particularly proud of this picture, never mind that I have no recollection of drawing it

 

image5
Dude, I don’t even think I could draw a hand like that NOW

 

image6
Clearly, someone was going questing. Bedroll, canteen, rations – check!

 

image7
The skirt only adds to his ferocity