Category Archives: Final Fantasy

#amgaming: Review of Stargazer, by Amaranth/John Wizard

Stargazer screen shot 3I spend a certain amount of time playing computer games, especially when I am trying to avoid doing any serious writing. And just like the books I read when dodging work, I love to talk about whatever game I’m playing. Today I am reviewing Stargazer, which was published in 2015.

I love old-school, indie-built, computer Japanese-style RPGs, and Stargazer, created by John Wizard in association with Amaranth, is one of the best games I’ve played in years. I’ve played it through four times over the last year, setting Aura’s magic up differently each time, and have not run across any glitches or bugs. Yay for that!!!

Magic no longer exists in the world, but Zach, stargazer and dreamer, doesn’t really believe that. The game begins when a meteor falls from the sky, and Zach goes to investigate it. He manages to avoid the Chancellor’s goons and discovers a girl who is suffering from amnesia. She thinks her name is Aura. There is an instant attraction there, and Zach is smitten. Their adventures begin, and they meet Scarbeck (a detective) Thyme (a healer) Grayson (a noble, but scary, knight), Kala, (has magic and rides a Firewing bird) and Amelia Mae (a 14-year-old genius).

Their romance is sweet, but not without stumbling blocks. There is no doubt how Zach and Aura feel about each other, but as for Thyme and Grayson…it’s a rocky road to the altar. And, in true Amaranth fashion, unless all the right criteria are met throughout the game, you won’t gain attraction points, and there will be no weddings.

The story line is a good fantasy story with a great quest, and the dialogue is hilarious, rife with snark and sarcasm.The art and graphics are excellent, colorful and highly detailed. Each setting is fun to roam around in. If I have any complaint, it’s the amount of walking back and forth over the same ground that one has to do to complete the many tasks, but that’s a minor irritation–the story keeps it interesting.

Stargazer screen shot 2The dungeons are difficult but not impossible, and the puzzles are challenging. The creatures are fun, and some are hard to beat, but you do gain strength, so nothing is impossible. You do have to be careful with the gold in order to get the best armor and weapons, as there are no goodie caves or secret weapons/armor stashes, although you can gain some good armor and weaponry in treasure chests.

Shybeard’s ship and Mala (the Firewing Bird) are delightfully hokey in an enlarged SNES Super Mario kind of way. Hawkeye is the lone graphic that is pretty much indecipherable.

The final battle is fun, and if you have met all the right criteria and gained enough attraction points for the two marriageable couples, you will get two weddings at the end. Or not, but either way, it’s a great game.

This is a terrific way to spend 25 or so hours, as there are over 200 puzzles and side quests to complete, all of which advance the story.

Amaranth and John Wizard are my 2 favorite indie RPG game makers, and they have lately collaborated with each other on several other games. Built using RPG Maker, their games are reminiscent of the old Enix/Square Soft games, for the Super Nintendo with strong story lines and fun side quests. They are as much fun as The Legend of Zelda, or Chrono Trigger or any early Final Fantasy game ever was.

Stargazer screen shotStargazer is available from John Wizard, or Aldorlea, or on SteamThis game is not for sale on the Aveyond.com website, which is what Google queries for Amaranthia redirect to. Amaranth has undergone some serious changes over the last year and their website is no longer the fun place it was, although gamers and indie game creators can still meet and discuss gaming and game creation in some limited forums.

I am not sure what to make of that—even though the John Wizard site redirects Stargazer questions to Aveyond, there are no forums there to discuss Stargazer, and the game does not appear on their website.

Regardless of that mystery, I give Stargazer 5 full stars, with no reservations whatsoever—I love this game.

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Write write write…

225px-Ff12castRight now I am writing two fantasies, both based in  the world of Neveyah, which was originally designed for an old-school RPG that didn’t get built.

When I write in Neveyah, I find myself gaming more during my downtime than reading. Dragon Age, Final Fantasy–those are my games.  Anything where I can go out and hack, slash, and throw a little magic around, while great music and wonderful storylines unfold–those are the games that intrigue me.  Anything to get to that all important cut scene!

Not only am I writing the 3rd and 4th books in the Tower of Bones series, I am in the re-editing process for Tower of Bones, the first book in the series. It has been a slow process, as my editor in England has been unwell, and has also had her own wonderful work to write. But it is getting there, and when it is republished, it will be what it should have been when it was originally written.

When I first started this gig, I knew I wanted to be an indie, even though I knew it would be hard, and my sales would be miserable. The point for me was that I could be published and have some control over my work.

What I didn’t realize, is that your friends, wonderful people that they are, are not editors. They don’t really notice anything but the most glaring errors, and they miss a great many of those! Places where you have repeated yourself ad nauseam, and places that are phrased in a confusing way are skipped over.  Large plotholes, clichés, and intriguing auto-correct mistakes get missed when your eager-to-help friends try to edit your work.

You see–very rarely are you BFFs with an editor to begin with–although, through this process, I have become BFFs with MY editors.

Your friends know they don’t like what you wrote, but they don’t know why, so they plow through it as fast as they can just to get the misery done with. They will spot a few problems, which helps, but isn’t going to make your ms readable.

Oh, they aren’t going to tell you that, but they will think it. “This is really different. I’m a little confused about the dog who was an arsonist, but it’s really…unique.”

Do hire an editor. Even if you plan to submit it to a large publisher, do this, so that what you submit will be the best you can offer them.

SO, right now I am working on two books, one that runs concurrent with Forbidden Road, detailing events involving Edwin’s father, John Farmer, and also the follow-up to Forbidden Road, concluding that tale. I am also occasionally working on the rewrite of The Last Good Knight, which is what  Julian Lackland’s story was originally, and is the book Huw the Bard evolved from.  That one is complete, but it needs to sit on the back-burner for a spell while I gain some perspective on it.  Then I will go through it one more time and find an editor for it.

Then, there is Mountains of the Moon, which is in the editing queue.  Not sure if that will be done anytime soon, but rushing to publish is no longer my thing.

Goodness knows how all this will come together, but I love it.

 

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How dining in Bedlam taught me to write dialogue

Days of Wine and Roses quote copyThe family I grew up in is a loud, all-talk-at-once kind of a family, with a lot of talkative members. Family gatherings are absolute bedlam–large, loud, full of life and great food, and long on opinions and ideas. We are comprised of musicians, artists, and authors, along with engineers and software developers.

Above all, we are avid gamers of all kinds, from old-school Super Mario, to Grid Autosport, to Final Fantasy X/X-2, to Halo, to Assassin’s Creed, to  Dark Souls 2, to Minecraft–and we love to talk, loudly and all at once, about everything we love. Somehow, we all manage to have our say and allow the others have theirs, but it’s like living in a blender at times.

We, and our friends, are loud and passionate and most people love it, but every now and then a visitor can’t handle the hullabaloo.  Sometimes, less outgoing girlfriends or boyfriends don’t get it, and the general din intimidates them.

In fact most people carry on conversations, where one person says something, and the  other one answers, and this goes on like a tennis match until everything has been said.

Huh. Who knew?

So, that is how we want to write our dialogue. We want it to sound natural.

Writers need to keep in mind that when people talk, they rarely follow any grammatical rules. Any English class that writers have taken will have stressed the importance of using proper grammar and punctuation in their writing. However, when we attempt to write dialogue, those same rules should be thrown out of the window. Many times people speak in broken sentences, with pauses, and even use incorrect words.

  1. Don’t overuse character names in dialogue. People don’t use each other’s names in every sentence they speak, because it sounds silly. (“Helen, your hair is lovely.” “Thank you, Ralph.” “Do you want to watch a movie, Helen? “Sure, Ralph, but stop touching my hair.”) When you do use character names in dialogue, use them early in order to indicate to whom the speaker is talking, and after that, be sparing with the monikers.
  2. Avoid writing dialogue that’s really an excuse for “speechifying” (I love that word ♥.)  Avoid giving your characters long paragraphs with lines and lines and lines of dialogue that is uninterrupted.  In real-life conversations, people usually alternate in conversation, and like my family, they often interrupt each other. It is your job to capture the rhythm of real speech–but don’t make it choppy.
  3. The dialogue of one character shouldn’t repeat what was said by the other, unless it is for emphasis in that one instance. “So Helen, what you are saying is, ‘don’t be repetitive.'” “Yes, Ralph, don’t repeat my every word.” “Don’t repeat your sentences.”
  4. DON’T explain your dialogue by adding too many descriptors, such as: John shouted angrily, or Garran commented sulkily. If the meaning is effectively conveyed in what your characters are doing as well as saying, adding these descriptors undermines the dialogue and disengages the reader. Try removing the explanation and see if the meaning is still clear. If it isn’t clear, it’s time to rewrite. By letting the dialogue speak for itself, by describing it less and showing it more, you make it more compelling.
  5. DON’T get creative with your attributions, or ‘dialogue tags’ as we call them: stick to John said (not said John, which sounds archaic in modern literature.) Unless you absolutely need a John screamed or Edwin uttered (which you pretty much never do) just say it and let the reader do the rest. Fancy synonyms for ‘said’ are usually unnecessary and distracting.
  6. And now for my pet peeve:  people do not smile, snort or smirk dialogue. I mean really–“That’s a lovely dress,” snorted Clara. (eeew. )  In fact, it is often best to do away with attributions altogether for a few exchanges every now and then, if:  A. you have only 2 speakers, and B. you have established who is speaking.
  7. Most readers hope authors will avoid trying to convey accent by altering spelling. It gets tiresome to read an author’s attempt to rewrite the dictionary to fit a cockney or an Irish accent, so use colloquialisms and speech patterns instead. That said, if the character is making a MINOR appearance, using an accent will give the reader feeling that they know that character, without resorting to an info dump.
  8. Feel free to break the rules of grammar if your character shows a blatant disregard for what’s correct. If he wants to say, “I seen that movie last week. It were a real dud,” let him.  That is a way to show the description of your characters.
  9. Miss a few beats. Beats are little bits of physical action inserted into dialogue: John fell quiet and stared out the window. Marta turned and walked out the door. Used sparingly, these pauses serve to punctuate the dialogue, to give the scene movement, and to maintain a strong mental picture in the absence of description. They’re best placed where there is a natural break in the dialogue, because they allow the reader to experience the same pause as the characters. Pauses are essential to good dialogue, but don’t overdo it. If your characters are rattling pans, slicing apples or staring out the window between every line of dialogue, the scene becomes about the action and not the dialogue, and the impact of the conversation can be lost entirely.
  10. Once in a while, it is okay to have your characters tell a story within the story, but do it as naturally as possible. Speaking as an older person, I admit that some older character will be just dying to tell the younger ones how it really was. Please don’t use that plot twist as a crutch to dump a chunk of boring background. No one in real life wants to hear an old duffer go on about the good old days at Bob’s Fish Cannery, even if Skyler Webbley did lose a finger that was never found and didn’t notice it until his shift was over when he discovered his driving gloves didn’t fit right. (Just sayin’.)

In regard to proper use of punctuation: it is important to follow the rules in the general narrative but punctuation has a different role in dialogue. There are times when it is used to create pauses in dialogue.

Oh, dear. What have I done? Breathe, Irene, breathe! Inhale…exhale…it will be fine–it’s dialogue, for the love of  Chatty Cathy…we want it to sound normal, not necessarily literate. (Oh, dear, she’s turning blue… . Line editor down! Quick! Someone fan her with the Chicago Manual of Style!)

Or you can properly punctuate your dialogue to your heart’s content.  It’s your book, and your style–you make the decision.

Anyway, to write natural dialogue, observe others around you, see how they talk, what they do with their bodies, and where they pause. These are what you know of them as people, and are what you want to convey in your writing.  What we want our dialogue to do is  give the reader a clear visual of the scene, the characters and their environment. A truly great book is clearly visualized in the mind of reader, so give those clues and hints, but let the reader see for themselves the beauty or horror you are describing though good dialogue and properly setting the scene.

VOS QUOTE

 

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Filed under Battles, blogging, Books, Fantasy, Final Fantasy, Humor, Literature, Music, Publishing, Self Publishing, Uncategorized, writer, writing

My Writing Process Blog Tour

extra small caricature of connie  by street artist Stacey Denton

Today I am embarking on the  “My Writing Process” blog tour! In this blog relay, each author discusses his or her writing process and then passes the baton to three other authors. Last week, my good friend Lisa Koosis, passed the baton to me. Lisa is amazingly creative, as you will see when you click on the link to her blog, Writing on Thin Ice.  Please, do visit her blog, where you can read more about her exciting projects and her own writing process.

So, here goes…

1. What am I working on?

I am working on the third and final book in the TOWER OF BONES series, winding up Edwin’s story. This book has been very tough to write, because it keeps spawning new books! I can frequently be heard shouting, “NO! We must finish this book before we embark on a new one!”

I really do want Edwin Farmer’s story to be a 3-book trilogy.

*cough* Robert Jordan…Wheel of Time …fifteen books in the trilogy*cough*

There will be more books set in this world, I feel certain of it, but I intend to make each a stand alone book.  I love each of the characters so much in this tale, it’s hard to keep on task—but my self-imposed deadline is to have it ready for the editor by August. 

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? Why do I write what I do?

First of all, I write from the point of view of a gamer—I am a freak for the great Final Fantasy PS2 and PS3 console games—Final Fantasy VII, VII, X/X2 and XII are among the great classics in gaming. I haven’t invested in a PS4, and I may not, as I haven’t had much time to play lately, and wasn’t impressed with 2010’s FFXIII.

I know what I love about those games, and want to inject that into my books. I want the action, the romance, and the drama of a full throttle action/adventure and I want it set in a sweeping landscape, with my characters beset by nearly insurmountable challenges. Magic must have limits and no character can have unlimited power. Those limitations are what drive the action, because the characters have to struggle to overcome them. The power of the story is in the struggle. The final redemption must be worth the struggle!

3. How does my writing process work? 

That’s where I went off the rails on this final installment in this particular series—I didn’t stick to my usual process, which was clearly outlined. But I had so many sudden brainstorms, I went way off track. Normally, when I first have the idea to write a book, I visualize it as the walkthrough for an RPG game.

I spend days writing down the ideas as they come to me, obsessively building the outline, the shell of the story. I make personnel files, descriptions of environments, designing the political and religious systems, creating the rules for magic, and drawing maps. Each world is unique, and I want to know what I am writing about.

I write the beginning and the end, and key action vignettes, fitting them into the framework of my outline.

Once I have that all done, I start at the beginning, and write, connecting the dots between the vignettes. When all the dots are connected, I have a book—albeit a raw rough draft of a book. I set it aside, as it is in desperate need of a complete rewrite, but I can’t do that until I can see it through unbiased eyes.

The second draft goes to Irene Roth Luvaul, who helps me shape it into a submission-ready manuscript. Then it will go to Carlie M.A. Cullen at Eagle Eye Editors. My work is linear, with a specific goal or “quest” and many obstacles in the way of achieving those goals. Some will live, and some will fall by the way—my task is to make it an emotionally gripping journey for the reader.

 

NEXT WEEK

Stay tuned for the next part of the relay as I pass the baton to three talented writers, who I have the good fortune of working with at Myrddin Publishing Group. Next Monday (May 12) they will answer the same set of questions, so please stop by their blogs to read more about their projects and their own writing processes.

 

Dark Places Front Large (1)Shaun Allan, Author of Sin and Dark Places

http://flipandcatch.blogspot.com

A creator of many prize winning short stories and poems, Shaun Allan has written for more years than he would perhaps care to remember. Having once run an online poetry and prose magazine, he has appeared on Sky television to debate, against a major literary agent, the pros and cons of internet publishing as opposed to the more traditional method. Many of his personal experiences and memories are woven into the point of view and sense of humour of Sin, the main character in his best-selling novel of the same name, although he can’t, at this point, teleport.

A writer of multiple genres, including horror, humour and children’s fiction, Shaun goes where the Muse takes him – even if that is kicking and screaming.

Shaun lives with his one partner, two daughters, three cats and four fish!  Oh and a dog.

 

1 CP Night Watchman coverAllison Deluca, Author of The Crown Phoenix Series

http://AlisonDeluca.Blogspot.com

Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain.

Currently she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey.

 

 

 

 

Swartz_After Ilium_FrontCvr_200dpi_3inStephen Swartz, Author of After Illium, The Dream Land Trilogy, and A Beautiful Chill

http://stephenswartz.blogspot.com

Stephen Swartz grew up in Kansas City where he was an avid reader of science-fiction and quickly began emulating his favorite authors. Since then, Stephen studied music in college and, like many writers, worked at a wide range of jobs: from French fry guy to soldier, to IRS clerk to TV station writer, before heading to Japan for several years of teaching English. Now Stephen is a Professor of English at a university in Oklahoma, where he teaches many kinds of writing. He still can be found obsessively writing his latest manuscript, usually late at night. He has only robot cats.

 

 

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The Eye of the Beholder

finalfantasy12_ps2box_usa_org_000boxart_160wSigh. I read a lot of indie books. I’ve said this before, but I read or at least crack open around 6 books a week. It never fails–just when I am really enjoying reading a book, something comes along to yank me out of it. Like an asteroid landing in the backyard or squirrels taunting the dog–it’s always some darned thing.

Unfortunate phrasings that yank me out of a book:

“She lay there staring with her creamy blue eyes, water pooling in the corners.”

“Her eyes were the same color as the deep purple velvet drapes.”

VAYNE final-fantasy-xii_305674Meh.  Enough about their eyes already. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be told what to think when I am reading a book. The fact is, what I consider beauty is not necessarily beautiful to someone else.   So how do you describe a character in such a way that the reader will find them as attractive as you want them to be?

I think a loose, general description will solve the problem, and give the reader the framework to build their mental image around.  In my TOWER OF BONES series, the men in Edwin’s family have this sort of cachet that makes them irresistible to all women. It is the Goddess Aeos’s way of ensuring that the girl she has selected for them  falls in love with them, and their bloodline is continued.

final-fantasy-guys-xii-basch_255851But what do they look like?  Well, they are blond, blue-eyed, and  well-built, muscular from working on their farm. To men they seem rather average, nothing spectacular. They aren’t the best looking man in town, so what is this charisma they seem to have?

To women, they are an irresistible banquet of masculine  pheromones.  This creates many opportunities for mayhem, and I have had a lot of fun with that  particular plot-line, especially in my current work in progress,  Mountains of the Moon.

For my other characters in various books–Christoph Berryman is dark, with short black hair and elfin features. Julian Lackland is blond, handsome, the image of the knight in shining armor. Huw the Bard is dark, blue-eyed with black curling hair. Friedr Freysson is tall, with long curling red hair and a beard. Aeolyn is small, with dark hair worn in plaits that she coils around her head like a crown.

Final-Fantasy-XII-Balthier-final-fantasy-12-3118596-540-1200This is as descriptive as I get, because I want the reader to imagine the characters’ beauty and magnetism in the way that is most appealing to them.

Because I am a romantic at heart, ALL my characters are exceedingly good-looking in their own different ways. I just don’t want to beat the reader over the head with my personal vision, other than the general description to cement them in place.

In many ways, my mental images of my characters are drawn from the many wonderful characters in the epic Final Fantasy series of games, which these images are also from. I love the fabulous art work that Square-Enix, the makers of these games put into their characters, making them a blend of the best of all we are as humans.  Since a great deal of my time has been spent playing these games, It stands to reason a certain amount of that kind of storytelling will creep into my work.

And this is the way it is for every author–your vision is definitely not what your readers see, and to force them to see what you do ruins the flow of the tale. A good general description, with hints or comments about their beauty or lack thereof is all that is needed. The reader’s mind will supply the rest.

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Filed under Books, Fantasy, Final Fantasy, Humor, Literature, Publishing, Romance, Uncategorized, writer, writing

16 bit Inspiration

Final-Fantasy-VI-final-fantasy-vi-24610210-800-600Final Fantasy VI, originally released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in America as Final Fantasy III,  was one of my favorite games ever–I had it for both the SNES and the Playstation.

(From Wikipedia) “The action takes place on a large, unnamed world. During the course of the game, its geography and landscape change due to various developments in the game’s plot. During the first half of the game, the world is divided into three major continents and referred to as the World of Balance. The northern continent is punctuated by a series of mountain ranges and contains many of the locations accessible to the player. Most of the southern continent has been taken over by the Empire, while the eastern continent is home to a large patch of land called the Veldt where monsters from all over the world can be found. Halfway through the game, the world’s geographical layout is altered, resulting in its three large continents splitting into several islands of various size situated around a larger continent at their center. This altered layout of the game’s locations is referred to as the World of Ruin.

final-fantasy-vi-20060509061309295“In contrast to the medieval settings featured in previous Final Fantasy titles, Final Fantasy VI is set in a steampunk environment. The structure of society parallels that of the latter half of the 19th century, with opera and the fine arts serving as recurring motifs throughout the game, and a level of technology comparable to that of the Second Industrial Revolution. 

“Railroads and steamships are in use, and a coal mining operation is run in the northern town of Narshe. Additionally, several examples of modern engineering and weaponry (such as a chainsaw, drill and automatic crossbow) have been developed in the Kingdom of Figaro. However, communication systems have not reached significant levels of development, with letters sent by way of carrier pigeon serving as the most common means of long-distance communication.”

I loved that game!  I played it and beat it four times, and still to this day love it.  One of the things I loved the most about it is the sheer, unabashed love of FUN that the creators injected into it.

Final_Fantasy_VI_Opera_by_Saint_KaedeThere is a wonderful scene that takes place in an Opera House, complete with an entire opera, that is performed during a 12 minute race to save Terra from a demented octopus intent on killing her. The opera can be seen and heard here via YouTube, in its full glory.  In the original game, the music was performed on a midi and was really good, but the original composer has since released fully orchestrated versions of all the music he composed for the Final Fantasy empire at Square/Enix over the years, up to Final Fantasy IX.

distant worldsThe music of these games attracts me as much as the incredible story-lines and great artwork.  The primary composer of music for the main series was Nobuo Uematsu, who single-handedly composed the soundtracks for the first nine games. I just recently purchased Distant Worlds, his 2007 compilation of the work he did for the franchise, and it is part of what I listen to when writing.

There is something so evocative about his music, it helps me concentrate.

And so, today I leave you with another YouTube example of Uematsu’s work, Love Grows, from The epic Final Fantasy VIII, featuring the enigmatic Squall Leonhart as the reluctant hero.  Great stories, awesome side-quests–those early Final Fantasy games couldn’t be beaten for sheer entertainment value.

I am still playing Final Fantasy XII on the PS2, perhaps not obsessively, but still enjoying it. I have Final Fantasy XIII for my PS3 – but I have to admit that I am unable to get completely into it. The story-line seems awesome, and the graphics are gorgeous, but I can’t seem to get too far into it.

Perhaps I’ve grown up a bit, and have my own fantasies to write.

667px-PlayStation_3_Logo_neu.svg

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Telling the Tale

tales from teh dreamtime - proofsI am so excited–Tales from the Dreamtime has made it into print, and is halfway through the process for being made into an Audible Book through Amazon’s ACX services.  We should have a finished product before the end of February. The narrator is a wonderful reader, Craig Allen, and the way he reads my work is perfect–he instinctively understood what I was thinking when I wrote it.

There is a sense of having “made the grade” in hearing your work read as an Audible book, and a feeling of wonder. Did I really write that? Wow! It’s actually kind of good! 

James_Jefferys_-_Self-Portrait_-_Google_Art_Project Public DomainI’m quite pleased with how well the novella translates to being read aloud. My reader has had very few questions, and that is entirely due to it’s having been professionally edited. Irene Roth Luvaul was the editor on that book, and she is awesome, as are all the gals at Eagle Eye Editors. I actually have three manuscripts in editing with them right now–Tower of Bones is finally getting the Eagle Eye Treatment, which it should have had in the beginning. This is how you learn.

The original editing on Tower of Bones was a labor of love by my friends. It is a great example of a typical indie production, and while it’s not unreadable in its current state, it has too many words. The story has potential for greatness, and Maria Johnson at Eagle Eye is bringing that out. I have developed a leaner style of writing since that book was written, and Maria is cutting the fluff.

Also at Eagle Eye, Huw the Bard has been under the knife–the fabulous Carlie Cullen, who edited Forbidden Road is putting the polish on Huw. With this kind of continuity, I will be able to develop my author name into real brand, with as good a product as I can possibly offer.

Found on FaceBookWhen the good ladies at Eagle Eye are done with me, all my books will be as high quality as any published by a large publisher. This is what I have been working toward, getting my work as professional as is possible. Sometime being an indie means you were flung into the deep end of the pool, but eventually you do learn a few things.

My raw manuscripts are not really very literate.  Oh, I do the best I can, but like all authors I tend to use certain phrases too often, adore clichés, and of course, there are those pesky typos that require correction. Also, in the course of my writing frenzy I stick a comma in anywhere I pause, apparently. (snorfle.)

150px-250px-FFX-2_boxBUT the real story today–grandma is gonna kick back and play her game, all day, and no, I don’t need any fresh air , thank you. The most awesome thing ever–Square Enix  re-released Final Fantasy X, this time for the PS3, and it has been remastered. Not only that, they have created a sequel to it, Final Fantasy X-2, and released them together in a package that has been getting rave reviews.The direct sequel to Final Fantasy X, the game’s story follows the character Yuna from Final Fantasy X as she seeks to resolve political conflicts in the fictional world of Spira before it leads to war. This will be the next purchase from Amazon, since Grandma LOVES gaming as much as she loves reading.

But right now, Grandma is replaying Final Fantasy XII, so she has to go now. I will never stop playing this game–I love the characters so much. The story line is deep and rich, and the personalities of the characters are multidimensional.

Don’t touch that controller, that’s mine.

225px-Ff12cast

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What I’m reading

name of the wind  -patrick rothfussSome authors write so well you live the work with them. I love that when that happens. I’ve been reading a lot, as you probably know, and I love to talk about what I have recently read.

Last week, on Best In Fantasy, I reviewed book one of Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles, The Name of The Wind.  I had this to say about it: “The blurb didn’t really sell me, but when I was deciding whether or not to purchase this book, I noticed that the negative reviews were written by people who are not really into reading for pleasure, and some of the negative reviews seemed written by moderately illiterate non-readers. To me, this is a mark of a classic—Tolkien, Jordan—all the great literary-fantasy authors attract 1-star reviews by people whose favorite genre is whatever is written on the toilet-paper wrapper. My instinct was correct—this book is a true classic, both literary and fantasy.” 

I have to say, I loved his cover, also. It totally reflects his style of writing, beautiful, harsh and mysterious.

Desprite Measures Deborah JayBefore that, I read “Desprite Measures” by Deborah Jay. That book is completely different, being an urban paranormal fantasy-romance. I had a great time, and this is what I said about it: “Okay–we all know the cover above looks like I’ve taken a side-trip into a lurid romance. Don’t be deceived by the cover! Yes, there is some graphic sex, and yes there are other elements that might hint that grandma has taken a dip into a lurid romance novel, but stick with me! Desprite Measures by Deborah Jay is a modern day urban fantasy. It is not a deep book, but is perfect for whiling away rainy afternoon. “

Dragula, Nicole Antona CarroI had been in wacky mood for a couple of weeks. During that time I also read Brawn Stroker’s Dragula” By Nicole Antonia Carro. Was I surprised: “I bought Brawn Stroker’s Dragula, by indie author Nicole Antonia Carro on a whim. When I read the title, I was expecting something incredibly camp and lightweight, but that is certainly not what I got. Instead, I found a tale full of people I could call friends, and situations I hope my friends never find themselves in!”  I absolutely enjoyed the book.

Happy Hour In Hell, Bobby Dollar 2 - Tad WilliamsAs everyone knows, I love indie authors, but I also love certain authors whose work I’ve been following since long before the indie option was even thought of. One of those authors is Tad Williams. He is famous for writing one of the most enduring fantasy series ever, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, but he also has written  some excellent urban fantasy. His style is hard-edged. A few weeks ago I read “Happy Hour in Hell, Book 2 of Bobby Dollar.” I had this to say about it:  “Okay, now we are talking deep. Happy Hour In Hell (Bobby Dollar 2), by Tad Williams takes us from the bowels of Heaven to the heart of Hell, and its a rough ride, and a heck of a good story…. If you like your angels as painted by Michelangelo, you are in the wrong place. Bobby isn’t that sort of an angel. Bobby gets in and does Heaven’s dirty work with his bare hands. He’s a hard-boiled detective, a bad-boy, and he’s the sort of angel my mother warned me about. But he’s also just the sort of angel you want on your side when you suddenly find yourself dead, and your soul is being judged.”  That is one entertaining book.

the eyre affair jasper ffordeSpeaking of entertaining, I finally got around to reading “The Eyre Affaire” by Jasper Fforde, and I found it to be painfully funny: “Over Thanksgiving, my son, Dan, pressured me to drop everything and read The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde.  Published in 2000, the Eyre Affair was Fforde’s first novel. The book was generally acclaimed, with critics calling it “playfully irreverent,” “delightfully daft,” “whoppingly imaginative,” and “a work of … startling originality.” My son adores this book and the entire series. I found it—interesting—and I heartily enjoyed this book despite the tortuous plot, the side trips that go nowhere, and the occasional moments of HUH?!? WTF….” 

the cold, Aura BurrowsI love Audible books, and have been listening to a lot of great books. In fact, I’ve  been following a serial posted on BigWorldNetwork.com, an affordable source of online reading. The website bills itself a s cross between TV and Books, and I really like it. I think this type of publisher will be a big factor in the shape of the industry over the next decade. They have talented authors, and you can either read OR listen to it being read on-line all you want for $3.00 a month subscription The series I have been following is The Cold, by local Olympia area author, Aura Burrows, who is also a friend of mine. I am into episode three now, and this tale is gripping. I love the way the reader, Willow Wood, tells it. In fact, I plan to indulge in two or three more episodes today, once I have my work done!

I have another friend, Joan Hazel, with a book launching on Wednesday. She has written the second installment in her paranormal romance series on shape-shifters, this one titled “Burdens of a Saint”. It launches Wednesday, and she has kindly agreed to talk about writing, and will be herewith me.

My reading schedule is jam-packed, and that’s the way I like it. Nothing like a good dose of fantasy to keep me busy! I hope you are finding plenty to love in what you are reading.

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What lurks within my mind

the belgariadEvery author is an avid reader. If not, they should be.  I began writing because I read so fast the library couldn’t stock new books fast enough to keep up with my habit, and I certainly couldn’t afford to buy them in that quantity.  I was limited to one new paperback book a payday in those days.

Now I read up to 6 Kindle downloads a week, and I feel very fortunate to be in such a position to be able to read as much as I want, whenever I want.

It is that yearning for a good tale that fires my imagination, and gets me writing a new tale. Today I am thinking about NaNoWriMo in November, and  wondering what I will write.

Imago Chronicles Book One  Lorna SuzukiI have read many books this year, books about elves and dragons, books about vampires, books set in the future, in alternate realities–so many books.

Now I have to find the next book that lurks within my mind.

I ask myself, “What do I want to read today?” What story do I want to have told to me, what will take me to that amazing, wonderful place where my heart and mind belong to the book in my hand?

There is a seed growing in my mind…the kernel of an idea. I know it will be a tale of people striving to overcome forces greater than themselves…perhaps the fate of their world hangs in the balance.

Final_Fantasy_VII_Advent_Children_2004Perhaps they are not always the most well-behaved of people, but here is a hero lurking deep within them, waiting for  some catastrophe to bring out that heroic side of them. Perhaps the local slacker is about to save the world…

 

 

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What to do…what to do….

220px-Hayao_MiyazakiI found out today that the great Japanese artist and filmmaker  Hayao Miyazaki is retiring from making movies. His career has spanned over fifty years. Miyazaki  attained international acclaim as a maker of anime feature films. He and Isao Takahata co-founded Studio Ghibli, a film and animation studio. The success of Miyazaki’s films has been compared to that of  Walt Disney, British animator Nick Park and American director Robert Zemeckis. To be honest–I LOVE his work.

I first heard of Miyazaki in 1986, when my ex husband bought a little VHS movie for our daughter, Meg, called Warriors of the Wind. It was a wonderful movie, and we watched it over and over, but it felt incomplete, as if we only had part of the film.

It turns out that was indeed the case: the true name of the movie was Kaze no Tani no Naushika, translated to Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds.  The movie tells the story of a young princess of the Valley of the Wind, Nausicaä (Shimamoto),  who gets involved in a struggle with Tolmekia, a kingdom that tries to use an ancient weapon to eradicate a jungle of mutant giant insects. Nausicaä must stop the Tolmekians from enraging these creatures.

230px-Nausicaa2coverThe underlying story is so powerful and is told so well that I was immediately hooked on Miyazaki’s work. According to Wikipedia, the most prominent themes of that movie are the anti-war and environmental focus of the film. (quote)  “Nausicaä, the heroine, believes in the value of life regardless of its form and through her actions stops a war. Loy and Goodhew state there is no evil portrayed in the film, but the Buddhist roots of evil: greed, ill will and delusion. Fear is what drives the conflicts, the fear of the poisoned forest results in the greed and resentment. Nausicaä, besides from being a transformative force, leads people to understand and respect nature which is portrayed as a welcoming, spiritual, and restorative for those who enter it peacefully.[6]

Nausicaä’s commitment to love and understanding—even to the point of death—transforms the very nature of the conflict around her and changes the attitudes and the hearts of those whose stubborn adherence to their biased views have brought the conflict to the boiling point.

It is said that Miyazaki’s inspiration for Nausicaä sprang from the works of Ursula Le Guin‘s EarthseaBrian Aldiss‘s HothouseIsaac Asimov‘s Nightfall, and J.R.R Tolkien‘s Lord of the Rings

Ff12castAll I know is his work in this movie is gripping, sweeping and superlative. My Tower of Bones series was originally written to be an anime based RPG, that was proposed but never built. When I began plotting the game, I had the great Final Fantasy style plots in my mind, and Miyazaki’s art and influence is clear to anyone who has played them as obsessively as I have. When the game fell through, I was so in love with the story and the characters that I HAD to make it into a book. In my mind, my characters are much like the ones in the poster to the left. Sadly, I’ve never been able to get a cover designed that reflects this.

Because of Miyazaki I have been a devoted fan of Anime and Manga since the 1980’s. That love of sweeping sagas where good triumphs over evil at the cost of great personal sacrifice drives my own work today.

Mr. Miyazaki, I will miss your brilliant work, but I will continue to to cherish those wonderful movies you have so diligently and carefully crafted for us over the years. I can only wonder what your poor heart is feeling now, with the ever-worsening, mindbogglingly horrific Fukushima disaster. My heart and my prayers are with the people of Japan and indeed with the Pacific Ocean as the same water that washes the shores of Japan also washes the coast of Washington State.

Miyazaki’s great works taught me that we are all just one small living, breathing world, and each one of us is responsible for making it better or worse.

I choose to make it better.

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