Saturday, December 15, 2012

Short Story: The Ungreat Escape

My story, "The Ungreat Escape," is here from Cosmos! And it's available to read for free on their site, so double woohoo. It's a sci-fi comedy about Lorelei's not-so-well-intentioned attempt at robbing a jewelry store--jetpacks included!

Some background on the story: It originally started as a cover prompt for Comets and Criminals issue #3. Basically, Izz (Samuel Mae) had a cover but no story attached to it. So a few of use decided to fill that void. Obviously I didn't get in, but Lillie (aka Lydia S Gray) did--check out her story here.

The story underwent revision, gained 700 words, and was sent off again into the great big world. And for the record, it faced 12 rejections before it found a home (which means unlucky 13 was actually the opposite!)

With this sale, it gives me hope on writing a sequel or two since it's so, so hard to find an editor who enjoys your sense of humor. I love Lorelei's character, and I'll be the first person to admit she is a complete twit--but she's my twit--and the bizarre way she gets herself in trouble.

So hope you enjoy "The Ungreat Escape" and leave a comment if you'd like.

(P.S. I still dislike blogger's new interface/system. Took forever to load this post.) 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

November W1S1 Update

Ahhhh! December already! Where has the year gone? And of course, I neglected my blog (again). Before I neglect it too longer, here's the stats for November:

Stories written: 1 (I might be smudging this since it's a rewrite, but it's heavily rewritten, essentially making it a new story--or at least not the same.)
Stories submitted:16
Stories accepted: 1
Stories rejected:15

Another slow month, but once again, some good news: acceptance from Cosmos! Funny thing is, the story was originally rejected, but turned out to be a misunderstanding. A few emails later and one minor rewrite, it all worked out. I'm glad that Cat Sparks is a very considerate editor who heard me out. So thanks!

This is also the story that received the "interesting" comments from another market's death panel. Which goes to show that although a story may not be for everyone, there's always someone who'll enjoy it--and even pay you.

Other than that, my month was spent on revising as I've once again allowed to stories pile up, when they really should be out there receiving rejections, lol. 

So I've been listening to Bastille, which as far as I know, is just one singer. And of course, he's from Britain (I'm starting to think Britain has all the singing talent.) Great voice, awesome music videos. And what's even cooler, Bad Blood and Flaws are connected, which I find neat. Nice to see some creativity in a music video, ya know?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

October W1S1 update

Well this is certainly late! Can't say blogging is a top-priority, but I'll try to get around to it more often. So how did October turn out?

Stories written: 1 (2,600-word timeslip/slipstream)
Stories submitted:17
Stories accepted: 1
Stories rejected: 22

Yes, another sale! This time to Space and Time for a flash piece, which I'm quite relived since this story has been in circulation for over year; it made to 2nd-round at a few places, but alas, could not tempt an editor--till now. Plus, Space and Time has some very cool covers, check them out. (It's neat to see how their covers have changed over time.)

Not much else to report other than I'll try to get back on the Penumbra horse again. I'll probably do an updated review of The Secret World, now that the game is about 3-4 months old and recently had its first holiday event.

And now the ugly circus known as "politics" has settled (or will settle one the talking heads shut up) we can get back to stuff that matters, like cartoon kitties! I rediscovered Simon's Cat on YouTube, still funny as ever.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Movie Review: Eyes Without a Face

No Billy Idol here. Eyes Without a Face is a 1960's black n' white French horror film, about a surgeon father who will do anything to restore his daughter's face.

Now I really enjoyed this film, then again, I have a fondness for black n' white horror films, ever since seeing Vincent Price's House on Haunted Hill. There's something about the stark contrast of light and shadow that gives the film a creepy atmosphere.

The story grips you from the start, opening with some bizarre carnival music, a woman constantly looking over her shoulder as she drives, a slumped figure in the back seat. The woman dumps the body into a riverbank, which is later found by the police.

We meet Doctor GĂ©nessier, who claims that the body found is his daughter. Then goes home to greet his disfigured daughter in hiding, Christiane. 

Christiane, the tragic figure in all this is forced, not only to pretend she's dead, but to hide her face behind a blank mask. Yet we can see her  struggle with her isolation and her father's actions of kidnapping young women and stealing their faces. She, like the dogs her father keeps, are prisoners.

There's a bit of a Phantom of the Opera vibe, and I might be reading into this or maybe was intended, but the mask she wears certainly reminded my of the Phantom's mask, also both of them had disfigured faces. And Christiane sounds awfully close to Christine--the opera singer whom the Phantom was infatuated with. Music also played a large role from Christiane's sad longing, to the carnival music whenever the doctor's assistant is up to no good.

It's one of the few horror films which actually has some depth, instead of mindlessly running from a monster, characters make choices which have huge consequences. The father trying, but failing to successfully transplant a face; the assistant who is emotionally distraught, but continues out loyalty for the doctor has helped her before.

The ending is quite poetic, if not horrific. Christiane freeing herself (as well as the dogs) of her father's influences. While the dogs tear her father a part, Christiane disappears into the woods, a white dove in her hand.

The only drawback is that the police in the movie were complete idiots. They didn't do much of anything and didn't even come close to catching Doctor GĂ©nessier. But seeing as the story was mainly about Christiane, it's not such a major flaw.

Although this isn't a gory film--we don't even get a good look at Christiane's horrible face!--there is one squeamish part when doctor is removing a face, and maybe it's me, but there's something icky about seeing rivulets of blood as the scalpel digs into the skin.

Posted the trailer below. The wording is hard to read, but trust me, the film doesn't have the same issue.

If you can find this film, definitely check it out as a Halloween treat.

You know what else is a treat? Free stuff! Over at Milo's blog, he's giving away fun reads for the spooky season. So check it out! They're great stories, so you won't be disappointed.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Movie Review: Looper

I know this might be a little late since the movie has been out for two weeks, and two weeks is forever in today's fast paced world. But for those of you who haven't checked it out...

The gist: It's the year 2044. In thirty years time travel will be invented--and immediately outlawed. Disposing bodies is also quite difficult n the future.  Gangsters will use time travel to send people back in time to be assassinated by Loopers, this includes the Loopers older versions when it's time to close the loop. However, for Joe, his older self returns with a mission: get the Rainmaker.

Yes, it's a time travel movie, and like all time travel films it's terribly flawed. Personally, I think it's impossible to do time travel properly, because the theory itself is nonsensical. It did seem that the writers wanted the time travel to "work" in this film, but, uh.... You'll see.

For the most part, I enjoyed the film. Joesph Gordan-Levitt was great as young Joe, and I was quite pleased to see Paul Dano in this, although his part was short-lived (if you haven't seen him in True Blood, which was a boring film, but his parts make it worth watching). Bruce Willis is, well, Bruce Willis. But overall the acting was very well done.

The film also did a good job of setting a semi-dystopian tone, and thankfully, they didn't resort to ripping off Blade Runner's gritty city feel. You saw the poor and homeless camping out in tents, dressed in filthy clothes, while the Loopers ran around in nice clothing, going to clubs, doing drugs. You saw why someone would go for life of assassinating, 'cause it sure as hell beat the other life.

There was also an interesting mix of old and modern technology. You have hover bikes, but you also have Ford trucks. They also brought back the blunderbuss, which is essentially a shotgun, but blunderbuss is much more fun to say.

Gore. Yes there's a lot of it, but then again, this is about an assassin who shoots people with a blunderbuss. How could there not be any splatter? There's even instances where characters are completely covered in blood, and one rather disturbing scene.

As for the story, I thought it was a decent character-driven story arc, about young Joe going from a selfish nitwit to someone who cares about others. It's not quite an action film, which might disappoint some people. There are some shoot outs and one crazy-ass scene where Willis goes all Rambo on the thugs (and within context, was waaaaay over-the-top), but the story isn't about the action. The heart of the story is when Young Joe encounters a young mother and her child, out on a farm. 

But there were problems with the time travel, or maybe this was writer laziness, but the movie shows early on that whatever happens to your younger version affects your older version. So if Young Joe cuts himself, then Old Joe will have a scar. But yet, emotions didn't carry over. Young Joe develops feelings for this woman and her child as he attempts to protect them from his older self. Why doesn't Old Joe then also share in these feelings? But no, Old Joe is set to kill them no matter what. Not to mention, by interfering with the past, wouldn't that change the future, and thus change Old Joe?

Other than those illogical bits, it's a pretty decent movie and worth watching if you like a sci-fi film with some heart... and a lot splatter.

4 out of 5 time-traveling stars.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

W1S1 September update

Egads! October already? Next thing you know, everyone will be recovering from their New Year's Eve hangover.

Well, while there's time, let's see some stats:

Stories written: 3 (2 flash and 1 sci-fi horror--not quite finished but I'm counting it, anyway)
Stories submitted: 24
Stories accepted: 1
Stories rejected: 21

I've already mentioned this, but had a flash story accepted into UFO anthology, which I'm really looking forward to. Alex (the editor and fellow W1S1er) is also posting some SFF humor stories online for free. So check it out

In other news, I'm hating the new interface blogger/Google forced on me. I know it's been around for a while, but was trying to avoid it. My interface screen is now the equivalent of staring into a lightbulb. I'm hoping there's an option of toning down the white--maybe a nice lilac color?--otherwise, I might go blind from blogging.

On the bright side, I bought The Secret World on sale for 50% off (woohoo!), and will be enjoying the hell out of it--unless the bugs piss me off. And yes, it's still a little buggy. However, the ambiance is just awesome. As I said before, it's like running through a horror film. 

Happy October writing, everyone!

Yes, my weapon is a rusty pipe--how cool is that?

(Pssh. Click on the images, they look better in full view.)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A UFO abducted my story...

...but in a good way.

I'm pleased to say UFO has accepted my flash story, "All I want for Christmas," for their humor SFF anthology. Normally I wait till the end of the month to announce acceptances, but this is a special occasion since I really, really wanted to be in this anthology, haha. And I didn't have to poison any cats, either. (inside joke)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


So I've done posts on books, movies, and TV shows... but not music. Would like to feature some favorite, underrated artists such as Emilie Autumn.

F.L.A.G. (Fight Like a Girl) is Emilie Autumn's 3rd studio album, released July 24, 2012. Song list:

1. "Fight Like a Girl"  
2. "Time for Tea"  
3. "4 o'Clock (Reprise)"  
4. "What Will I Remember?"  
5. "Take the Pill"  
6. "Girls! Girls! Girls!"  
7. "I Don't Understand"  
8. "We Want Them Young"  
9. "If I Burn"  
10. "Scavenger"  
11. "Gaslight"  
12. "The Key"  
13. "Hell is Empty"  
14. "Gaslight (Reprise)"  
15. "Goodnight, Sweet Ladies"  
16. "Start Another Story"  
17. "One Foot in Front of the Other" 

If you're unfamiliar with EA's music, her style is typically "industrial"--electronic, dark, fast-paced--though she throws in a classical twist, making her style unique. And something that I've always liked is that she does sometimes sing hoarsely and off-tune, but since her songs do get into gritty content, it'd make sense that her voice reflects the ugliness of such things. How many artists intentionally sing ugly? Not many, I'd guess. (Then again, how many artists can actually sing?) But she also has a whimsical, lighter side, which I was glad to hear in songs such as "4 o'Clock (Reprise)" and "Goodnight, Sweet Ladies."

The entire album tells a story of girls being committed to an asylum and the abuse they endured (i.e. drugged, raped, tortured), and generally dehumanizing women. Very, very dark stuff. But as the album progresses, the girls realize their strength in numbers and overcome their captors. Although their future is uncertain, they move forward, one foot in front of the other.

I found it to be a powerful album, and much more cohesive than her previous albums. It is on the feminist side, but it's not the male-bashing variety. Personally, I don't think you have to be a woman to enjoy this, as I'm sure any guy can empathize with what the characters go through.

However, if I compared these songs on an individual level to previous ones, I'd say I enjoyed more of the songs from Enchant and Opheliac ("Swallow" is still one of my favorite songs.) I guess that's the trouble when you write a story: as a whole it stands, but when you take chapters (or in this case, songs) out of context, it doesn't carry the same impact--except for the single "Fight Like a Girl," that can stand on its own.  

If you're into this sort of music, I'd recommend it. You do have to listen to the entire album to appreciate it, 'cause I know half-way through, I was thinking: Didn't she do this already with "Miss Lucy Had Some Leeches"? But then you realize the album expanded on that theme, and then some.

Friday, August 31, 2012

August W1S1 Update

It's been a minute since we've had a W1S1 update, hasn't it? This month seemed a bit low compared to last month--probably the editors on summer vacation--however, I did mange to get my Deep Cuts submission in the nick of time, after spending many, many hours staring at the ending (why are endings always the hardest to nail down?) And next month, I shall be anxiously awaiting the verdict on my UFO submission. Fingers crossed! By the way, if you haven't already, today's the last day to pre-order UFO.

Now of August stats:

Stories written: 2 (one 2,600-word sci-fi weird tale and one satirical flash fiction)
Stories submitted: 26-27(hoping to get in one final sub in for the month)
Stories accepted: 0
Stories rejected: 20

Starting to miss those acceptances, haha. Although who knows, maybe they're just around the corner... One can wish.

And from my explorations on Youtube, I bring you Personal Trainwreck! A short series of skits about a sleezy, over-hyped fitness instructor. Here are my two favorites, though check out
the rest, they're all great.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Character-dependent comedy

Little over a week ago, I posted some editors’ comments on a single story. I wanted to dig a bit deeper into one specific point that one of the panelist’s made:
If she [the character] doesn't take herself seriously, the audience can't take her seriously.  Ironic in comedy, I know... but nonetheless true.
False! (as were a many other things this panelist said) Some characters are purposely made to be silly, because we’re supposed to laugh at them. This is what we call character-dependent comedy, which is not quite as well-known as situational comedy or sitcom.

So I’d like to explain character-dependent comedy, then hopefully editors won’t make such idiotic assertions.

To start, as the name implies, the comedy depends on the characters, compared to sitcom where the comedy depends on the situation. The character will usually have an exaggerated personality trait (or traits); maybe they’re ultra-vain, or a perfectionist, or just plain crazy. Whatever the trait, this will likely be a source of conflict, either for themselves or those around them. Think of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, his egotism and condescending manner tends to get on everyone’s nerves.

Hyacinth from Keeping Up Appearances is another example of the exaggerated personality, specifically, superiority-complex. Let’s just say, she doesn’t mind asserting herself where she doesn’t belong.

The character also gets him/herself into trouble. Mr. Bean is notoriously known for his crazy antics, all of which are his fault. However, we love him for it.       

(You’re probably noticing that I have a taste for British comedies.)

As for the question of believability—can you take any of these characters seriously?—that’s not as much of an issue when your characters’ behavior is outside the norm. The point of the character is to be silly and outrageous. Duh. It’s not like sitcoms where the situation is outrageous, and the characters either suffer through it or figure a way out.

So a quick comparison/summary of character-dependent vs. sitcom:

-Exaggerated personality trait(s); not entirely relatable
-Source of their own problems; bane of other characters
-Get themselves into situations

-Relatively normal character(s); relatable
-Outside sources for their problems
-Thrown into situations

It’s a focal thing. Ask yourself: Am I laughing at the character or the situation they're in? And like anything else, not everyone will “get” that you’re supposed to laugh at the character; they may just view the character as an idiot, or unbelievable. I suspect that the panelist isn’t a fan of Mr. Bean. Which is the shame, ‘cause he’s missing out.

Okay, one more example, but this one's too funny to not post.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Many Perspectives of Editors

I've been debating about posting this since it involves posting editor's comments, and from personal experience, less secure editors can't help but email you about it (yes, this really happened once). However, this time I can turn it into a learning experience, specifically: every editor has a unique perspective.

For the veterans out there, you probably know this already: Editors are hard to please, and there's no pleasing all of them. But for the newbies, take note!

Last month, I subbed a humor sci-fi tale to a market. Initially, the first reader liked it, however, when it hit the appropriately named "Death Panel"...well, this was their various responses.

Death Panelist #1:
I didn't thrill to this at all.  While I'd like to consider myself studied enough to say there's a lack of solid timing and pacing with the jokes and humor, I'm a flubbering nub when it comes to technical rigor.  It could be the comedic timing's off, but what I've identified as my "can't get over" flaw is the voice.  The first thing that made for a unpleasant read was the reader invitational through the fourth wall, into a world I really can't conceive.  It'd be easier to walk beside the protag as it were in a conventional world, but when we're throwing up guard-screens, diving off balconies and flying up to giant domes and the potential cracks therein on a rocket pack, then it gets to be something a little more harder to visualize then jumping out of the Volkswagon Beetle and finding gum wrappers.  The second thing that was a definite, identifiable problem for me was the protagonist is really all over the place, and never really takes herself seriously.  Having a genuine motivation (which she does) isn't the same as seriously, believeably working towards her goal.  Where's her fear of failure, of getting shot, of falling?  If she doesn't take herself seriously, the audience can't take her seriously.  Ironic in comedy, I know... but nonetheless true.    

Death Panelist #2:
Hmmm, some funny stuff here. It reminds me of some of the stuff Harry Harrison used to write. not as rip roaring funny as I like but not bad.

Death Panelist #3:
I vote no - I couldn't get into this one either. (Of possible
relevance, it always takes me about 30 pages to get into books written
in present tense, so that may have been part of the problem.)
 Death Panelist #4:
I felt like the writing was a bit hard to follow in some places and didn't really think there was much "to" the story.

As the saying goes: give a story to ten readers and you'll receive eleven different opinions. But don't get discourage if one or two or a dozen editors don't "get" your story; I think there's an editor out there for every story, it just takes some time to find them. Doubly so for humor, which has a tough time tickling editors' funny bones.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Story Review: Coyote Cal’s Guide to the Weird, Wild West

This review was long overdue, but better late than never, right? (Which reminds me, I have another review in the works that’s even longer overdue… Whoops!)

So the is the second installment of the Coyote Cal and Big Yap adventures, created by Milo JamesFowler, and available on Amazon. If you’re not familiar with the series, the title says it all: they’re weird tales set in the Wild West, dealing with all manner of supernatural spooks. A parody of those old west shows such as Bonanza and other spaghetti westerns. It plays upon the stereotypes of the genre like the charming hero with the pearly white smile, the grumbly goofy side-kick, the vengeful villain, etc.

In this adventure, Cal comes up against the gunslinger Sleepy, his undead twin Easy (and when you put their names together, you get “sleep easy” har har), and Donna “The Witch” Jamison. My favorite scene was when Sleepy and Cal face off on the train, where they exchange words—and unusual threats.

Although a little more disjointed than its counterparts—the first scene was excellently described, but after that, scenery details were dropped—Coyote Cal’s Guide to the Weird, Wild West is a fun read that’s sure to make you laugh. And all for the bank-breaking price of 99 cents!

Also check out the first and third installments of the series.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Book Review: Slan

Haven’t done one of these in a while; been reading more short stories than novels, lately. So I'm jumping in the time machine, back to the golden age of science fiction, for A.E. Vogt’s novel Slan.

Quick summary: The psychic mutant Jommy Cross is under constant persecution from humans. From a young age, he’s forced to live with a wretched old woman, till the day he’s old enough to take on his father’s legacy. But it’s not only the humans he has to fear, but also another new twist in the evolution of mankind.

I make it a point to read the classics of SF, mainly for the tropes since the writing is usually lackluster *coughAsimovcough* but Slan took me by surprise. There’s—gasp!—an actual character in this story. What I mean by this, is that pulp SF often focuses on the tech and plot, and the character is just a piece to be moved from scene to scene. Granted, Jommy is one-track minded, but he does live in fear, struggles to get out of tight situations. Even the little bit we see of Kathleen, the young slan girl living under the president’s protection, is interesting—mostly in how she has to deal with constant harassment and the threat of death, even rape. Though the most intriguing background figure has to be the world president, Kier Gray. Despite is coldness to Kathleen, he always defends her against the council, even when he’s outnumbered. But why and what for?  

That’s a key feature about Slan: how it produces these mysteries, one question compounding another. Where are the true slans? Where did these tendriless slans come from? Why so much hatred for the slans? A.E. Vogt also isn’t afraid to throw in a few shocks.

The psychic aspect is very well done; it’s not simply speaking through a wire, but rather, Jommy is able to see and hear through other people, as well as transmit images. Or how a slan can be overwhelmed when too many thoughts come at them.  I especially like the scene when Jommy and Kathleen meet up, and how their thoughts become interlaced, so smooth that it’s like their thoughts were made for each other. Thought that was cute.

Unfortunately, there are no relationships formed. Jommy’s only relationship is with the vile Granny, who uses Jommy for her own gain. Though I have to admit, Granny grew on me. She seemed to be the one entertaining character with some history to her. Everyone else has sort of a blank slate for a past. Even as Jommy grows up, all he does is learn. He doesn’t play, watch movies, go to the park, etc. Nor does he even complain about missing out on these pleasures. What does Jommy do for fun, exactly? It’s those sorts of things that make him feel flat—he’s still a character, but one that lacks a lot of personality.

But I attribute those problems to the fact that this is pulp SF, which, once again, doesn’t concern itself with the interpersonal aspect of characters’ lives. Then there’s the laughable belief that it only takes a month to travel to Mars, and that Mars has a breathable atmosphere and oceans. Ah, good old golden age.

But the biggest failure of this story—and you can’t blame the pulp style for this—is that the ending is oversimplified, silly, lacks a real conclusion. The story leads up to a massive infodump that reveals all, then just… ends. What about the space armada that’s coming to destroy the humans? To me, that was more important than how Jommy’s atomic disintegrator works.

There is, fortunately, a sequel… but it’s written by Kevin J. Anderson, based on A.E. Vogt’s rough draft. I’ve read Anderson’s collaborative work with Brian Herbert, and was not impressed. In fact, I warn people against reading the Dune prequels because they’re just god-awful. However, the copy of Slan I picked up does come with the first two chapters of Slan Hunter, and you know, they weren’t bad. The annoying part is that I have to hunt down a copy at the library to finish the dang story.

Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Lend a Fiend a Tentacle

Lovecraft eZine needs your help! No, I wasn't prompted to do this; I just really, really, really hate to see a good zine go under due to financial issues. And I think we've already lost too many good zines this year. If you follow the site, you know editor Mike Davis puts a lot of effort, updating almost daily with lots of neat, Lovecraft related stuff. He also publishes quality Lovecraftian stories, free for everyone's enjoyment. If you click the link and watch the video, he's also offering special contests for monthly donators. So if you can donate, that's awesome. If not, try to spread the word. 

And if you're a podcast reader or an artist, Lovecraft eZine could use you, too.

For something tentacle related, found this video on Youtube:

Don't know about you, but if I caught an octopus while finishing, I'd piss myself. Seriously, look at that thing!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

June Buggies (W1S1 update)

Stats for June W1S1...

Stories written:1 (~3,600-word sci-fi humor)
Stories submitted: 28 (several of these re-submitted or sim-subbed)
Stories accepted: 0
Stories rejected: 27

A LOT busier this month, which makes things a bit more interesting. Still got a few stories that I need to kick out the door.

And in case you missed it, check out my wee spooky tale "Invitation" over at Lovecraft eZine. There's an audio version up, too. However, not to sound unappreciative, I didn't think the reader captured the voice--and they mispronounced my name. If anyone is curious, my name is not pronounced phonetically, since it uses Celtic spelling (yes, it's an Irish name). Siobhan is pronounced "Sha-von" (the 'bh' makes a 'v' sound for some reason). Not "See-o-bon" or "Sigh-o-bon," or any other horrible incarnation.    

While on the topic of Lovecraft, I did a slight review of the beta for the Lovecraftian-esque MMO game The Secret World, which comes out today, I believe. Really enjoyed playing this game, although I'm going to wait before jumping into creature infested lagoons. 

And hell, why not go all out with anything Lovecraft. If you've seen the film Prometheus, you're probably wondering how stupid those scientists could be--but then again, people seem to drop IQ points whenever they're in a horror film. Well, this clip from the awesome Key of Awesome might explain it. Enjoy!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Entering The Secret World

Over this past weekend, I was fortunate enough get into the 4th beta weekend for the MMO game The Secret World. And boy was it fun. The basic premise is that you literally woke up with super human abilities, which attracts the attention of a secret organization. You have your choice of organization: The Templars, Chaos Dragon, and The Illuminati. I went with the Illuminati, although there isn’t a huge difference in which faction you choose other than location, uniform, and the occasional faction mission.

Unlike other MMO’s, there are no classes or levels; instead, you receive points which you can use to buy abilities and build a deck, so to speak. I went with a fists/elemental combo; fists because of self-heals, and elemental for range attacks. I really enjoyed the build, running around and clawing at things like Wolverine. Though I have to say, the assault rifle looked like a lot of fun, too. Wasn’t impressed with the spellcasting animations—you have your hands out to the sides like some weirdo--and only the elemental spells were cool—Hammer of Thor, especially.

Your starting area is Kingsmouth, set in New England, where a mysterious fog has crept in, bringing with it creatures and drawing the townsfolk out to sea—only to return as the undead.    

The environments alone were magnificent; it’s like running through a horror movie, with abandoned cars and buildings, barricaded forts. A strange haze over the town, large waxing moon when there are no lights.  Grotesque monsters, coated in barnacles or tentacles coming out. Clusters of zombies on the side of the road, in front yards, wandering the woods. Oh, and they run.

The Savage Coast has even more weird crap, such as a literal motel Hell, a haunted theme park, and an academy that ain’t your Hogwarts.

And if you think that’s wacky, you should meet the characters inhabiting the world. I love that everyone had a personality with a few screws loose, and the voice acting was superb. My particular favorite was the germaphobic schoolmaster who’d call out: “No running in the halls! The floors are slick with gore.” And his colleague refers to him as “the world’s revenge on sarcasm.”

It was easy to become immersed in the world, and I actually dug the storyline, which is rare for me since most MMO’s put little effort into the story. With this, like in true Lovecraftian fashion, you want to know what the heck is going on. Is this place a supernatural hot zone? Did God decide to give Solomon Island the finger?  And what’s with all this black goo?

Other Pluses:
-Missions come in all kinds of variety, from killing monsters to sneaking into bases. You even get to do some spy work. There are puzzles, some that require using Google. You make a call to turn in your mission report, instead of running back to the questmission giver (BIG plus right there).

-Combat is fun and engaging. You can run, jump, dodge while still attacking. Automatic targeting.

-Boss fights are mainly focused on survival (watch the ground!)

-No mana! Your abilities are only limited by cooldown times and how fast you can push keys.

-No professions. You don’t need to gather materials for hours on end or search for a blacksmith to make you a weapon. Every character can now take a part items and reassemble them into something useful. The system may take some getting use to, but I found it very novel the way you had to assemble the material into the shape of your weapon or talisman.

Me kicking a wendigo's ass (click it, looks better in full size)

Not so pluses:

-Zombie rush! Okay, I get it: zombies are everywhere. But do they have to swarm me right in the middle of a fight with a tough creature? I’d say most of my deaths were due to this.

-Walking everywhere. With all these abandoned vehicles, couldn’t I steal one to make the journey go a little faster? Doesn’t even have to be a car. A motorcycle, moped, even a friggin’ bike would be fine.

-Why can’t I zoom out? With a world this big and awesome, I’d love to zoom out and take a gander. This would also be helpful in boss fights, where I felt the limited camera view inhibited my performance.

Would I recommend this? It’s tempting to say ‘yes’ because I really want this game to succeed, despite that EA is the publisher—and I'd rather tell EA executives to go fuck themselves. But… I’m going to wait and see. There were a number of buggy quests, and since the betas could only report on two areas, there’s probably more down the line.

There’s also the chance that it might not catch on since it’s aimed toward an older audience, evident by the number of times ‘fuck’ is used, sexual suggestions, graphic horror content. This is not something I’d let kids play.

But as many said, it’s fresh and interesting take on MMO’s.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Short Story: Invitation

Lovecraft eZine's issue 15 is up, and so is my story, "Invitation." It's free to read online. I also got story art (yay!), created by Leslie Herzfeld. Thank you, Leslie. :)

This story was originally developed from a vignette that I'd written years ago. Just something weird involving a hand and chess pieces. But since vignette's are harder sales, thought I'd steal the premise and turn it into a Lovecraftian horror. Tentacles not included. For me, I have a preference to write Lovecraftian horrors without the Lovecraft mythos; unspeakable horrors are simply more fun when you create them yourself. And I've had a few ideas about continuing with the the Hand that reaches out from beyond this dimension.

Anyway, you're invited to read "Invitation," and leave a comment if you feel so inclined. Enjoy!--or be spooked. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Revisiting Prometheus and Bob

Someone reminded me of this show, and wow, does it bring back memories. Prometheus and Bob was a short, clay animation show, part of the KaBlam! line-up. The premise was an alien "Prometheus" came down to Earth 900,000 years ago and attempted to educate a caveman "Bob". These attempts, however, rarely went well.

As fortune would have it, some kind folks uploaded a number of "Prometheus and Bob" episodes on Youtube. Here's a few of them (the sound is a bit poor, so you may need to turn up the volume). Enjoy!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Something Random

So I was looking through stats on my blog yesterday and something came up in the search words:

Sorry about the smallness, but any bigger and it'd run off the page.

I'm not exactly sure how search words work, but I take it that someone typed in "people who want likable protagonists are asshats," and my blog came up in the search. Sort of an odd, WTF moment. Anyway, it made me laugh and thought I'd share it. And no, I don't think wanting a likable protag makes you an asshat.

For some more funnies, Key of Awesome made a spoof on those iPhone 4S commercials. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What's There to Like?

As a writer, you hear a lot of advice, do's and don'ts, "rules" and so forth. Some of it is good, but not all of it. One piece of advice that I keep hearing is, "make your protagonist(s) likeable or sympathetic."

Now my motto is to make a character interesting, because who doesn't love interesting stuff?  I don't aim for likeable since I don't believe there's a human being alive who is perfectly likable in every way; there's always some flaw--and I mean real flaws, like negative attitudes, nasty dispositions, etc. So it seems silly to attempt that with characters. But yet, writers will try to create perfectly likeable protagonists--which ultimately backfires.

For example, Song of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy, the main character Edie is made to be a likable protagonist: she's kidnapped by pirates (sympathy points!), she doesn't hold any real negative feelings toward her captors, and even kind of makes friends ('cause they're not sorbad after all), she tries to help out her unwilling bodyguard... You get the idea, she sounds like an awfully nice person. So what could go wrong?

Towards the end of the book, Edie and the pirate crew land on an alien world where they plan to harvest some terraform technology. However, the terraforming went terribly wrong, and now there are giant carnivorous plants. So Edie tries to play hero (mind you, she's a tech person, and has no training in the art of saving lives)--instead of, you know, getting her ass out of there. There's nothing you can do for a guy that has been swallowed up by an over-sized venus flytrap, and only his arm is sticking out.  But wait--if she were abandon them, that'd be a mark against her likable nature...and we can't have that! Frankly, I would not blame her for fleeing, especially from a threat that is waaaaay over her head. It's the smart thing to do.

But it doesn't end there: Edie uses up the toxin that keeps her alive on a no-good asshat, all so he could not suffer. Nice sentiment, but the character just dug her own hole. Might as well have gotten eaten for all it's worth.

Not bashing the book, it is quite good...until you get to those last few chapters. Then all you can do is shake your head.

If you've seen the fourth installment of Indiana Jones, did you ever wonder (on top of all the many flaws) why Indie kept trusting that traitorous bastard Mac? I guess Indie never heard of the saying: Once burned, twice shy. Indie kept dragging Mac along and Mac kept screwing him over, and it made Indie look like a complete idiot. Why?! There's also a real lack of Indie doing any sort of killing--btw, I highly recommend Red Letter Media's reviews; they're hilarious (in a dark way) and the criticism is spot on.

Those are just a few examples, but you can see how trying to make a character likeable is not only constraining, but frustrating. Would it really have been so bad if Indie had shot Mac? Or threw him into a lake full of piranhas?

Whereas writing interesting characters would allow for some deviation in morality, because we're all essentially hypocrites (you can deny it, but you are one, whether you realize it or not), or a complete lack of morals. Interesting comes in many, many different flavors and you can even mix and match. Likability only has one flavor, and it's vanilla.

Think of vanilla ice cream: it's okay by itself, but it's so much better if it had toppings like nuts, chocolate syrup, sprinkles... The more varied and distinct the toppings are, the tastier the ice cream becomes.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Marionettes are creepy (W1S1 update)

Seriously, look at those dead eyes. It has no soul! Now from souls to May stats (I know, awesome transition):

Stories written:1 (~2,900 words slipstream)
Stories submitted: 17 (several of these re-submitted or sim-subbed)
Stories accepted: 0
Stories rejected:14

Well, got the one story written, but overall a slow month. Wanted to do some reading and editing, and while I did manage to toss out a couple stories that needed a bit of touching up, didn't get as much as I wanted done. 

And humor seems to be in the air--or at least I hope so, genre-wise. I definitely think humor is one of the most underrated genres of literary fiction, and although highly subjective, with all the crap happening in the world, it's nice to be able to laugh. There's also benefits to laughing, such as reducing stress and learning (watch the whole video, there's some interesting psych stuff).

As for stuff making us laugh, I found some humorous skits on Youtube. Enjoy!

And because I can't resist throwing in something creepy...

(It's a mask + suit for men who like to dress as women... Unfortunately, it winds up being terrifying to witness.)