Friday, June 28, 2013

Last call for submissions to WRiTE CLUB!

I interrupt my regular scheduled blog posting to bring you this message from DL Hammons at Cruising Altitude 2.0.

Writers, sign up for WRiTE CLUB now, or you will regret it for the rest of your life. Every morning after June 30th, you will have to drag yourself out of bed, hitting yourself again as you remember you didn't sign up, go through your day in a morbid trance because you know you missed out on this wonderful opportunity.

Okay, those might not be DL's words.

But these ones are:

"Are you ready to RUMBLE?!?!?!?!"

If you don't know what WRiTE CLUB is, it is a good-natured writing competition, where pairs of writers bout off with 500 word samples, submitted under a pen name. See here for all the details and if you want to sign up!

It's a lot of fun, and a great place to get constructive criticism on your writing from a lot of readers.

Want to join in the excitement? This Sunday, June 30, is the cut-off date for submissions. You know you want to.

Let's rumble!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My Attempt to Read Zombie Novels

The nice folks at Titan Books were kind enough to offer me a couple zombie novels to add to my to-read pile. I've never tried the genre, but decided I'd give it a go to see what all the fuss is about.

Plague Town and Plague Nation are about Ashley Parker, a "wild card" who is immune to the zombie virus. Because of this, she is recruited by the government to fight the rapidly expanding plague of zombies.

Ashley is sassy, witty, and bad-ass. She also uses an awesome sword, which gives her even more points in my books.

One of my favourite scenes is in Plague Nation when one of the "regular" soldiers makes some inappropriate comments about her, and she (giving him every chance to apologize and walk away) ends up breaking his nose without breaking a sweat.

I also appreciate many of the geek references that I didn't expect to find in a zombie novel. The author often mentions movies and shows like Star Wars and Big Bang Theory, and makes many other pop culture references.

Ashley's wit and quick tongue make for entertaining reading, but I wish she'd show some weakness at some point. She seems to deal with pain and stress by being angry, and I did find this tiresome after a while. That's partly what held these "okay" books from being "good" for me. I love characters that show me they are truly human.

I am also the first to admit that zombies aren't really my thing, and these books have confirmed that for me. There was lots of violence, lots of blood and gore, lots of swearing--all things to be expected in zombie novels, of course. I do like action, but violence for the sake of violence seems to be what zombie stories are all about.

My final thoughts: entertaining, but not my cup of tea.

My next foray into the zombie universe will be the Walking Dead, and if I don't like that, I give up on zombies!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Top 10 TV Themes - #5: FIREFLY

Last week was crazy around here, so I apologize for my lack of presence here and at other blogs! But I'm back for Music Monday.

For the next few Mondays, I'll be sharing my top ten favourite genre TV themes. These are those themes that I don't skip through when I'm re-watching a TV show, because they're so good or catchy. Today, we're at number 5, which is the theme song from:


Probably wouldn't normally care for this song, but it is exactly right for the show. Perfect theme song for a perfect show. 'Nuff said.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Top 10 TV Themes - #6: Battlestar Galactica

For the next Music Mondays, I'll be sharing my top ten favourite genre TV themes. These are those themes that I don't skip through when I'm re-watching a TV show, because they're so good or catchy. Today, we're at number 6, which is the theme song from:

Battlestar Galactica

This is from the 2004 series, not the original. Also very eerie (I seem to like that, don't I?) and dark--fitting for the serious show with its amazing acting and gritty story.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Video Game Review: SKYWARD SWORD

Platform: Wii
Series: Legend of Zelda
Released: 2011

Many of you already know that Ocarina of Time is one of my favourite games of all time, Majora's Mask not far behind, and that I love the Zelda series. So it was with excitement that I put the disc into my Wii and began playing many months ago.

When you begin the game, you are introduced to Link's new home of Skyloft, which was new and interesting--plus, Link gets to ride around on his big red bird, a Loftwing, which is pretty fun.

Skyward Sword stays true to the Zelda formula, introducing the villain who forces Zelda to go on the run and Link, the foretold hero who will save Hyrule. Link proceeds to undergo a series of dungeons and tasks while chasing after Zelda, who he never quite catches up to.

There are three regions of Hyrule to explore on the land below Skyloft, and instead of moving on to new places once he's finished their dungeons, Link keeps returning to those regions and as the story progresses, they expand.

Link is also accompanied by the spirit of his sword, Fi, who is sometimes almost as annoying as Navi. I know my Wii remote batteries are low, Fi, quit telling me! I know my hearts are low, Fi, that's what the annoying beeping is for! Oh well, she does have a useful dowsing ability that allows you to find certain objects.

The puzzle-solving element is why I love the Zelda games so much, and Skyward Sword does not disappoint. The dungeons were a lot of fun. The bosses all had their interesting tricks to beat them using the newest item you'd found. The story was nothing new, but I wasn't expecting to be blown away by it. The Wii remote controls were also super fun to use.

Warning: This game goes on forever. I kept thinking that I was near the end, and then I'd get thrown another task to do. Think you're on your way to see Zelda? Think again! You have to save this flying whale. Oh wait, you saved him? Well now you have to collect four pieces of a song. Done that? Time to collect the pieces of the triforce! This game will tease you with hints of victory and then dance away out of reach time and again.

That being said, it was a lot of fun, and I highly recommend for a very enjoyable playing experience. It's no Ocarina of Time, but it's a welcome addition to the Zelda franchise!

Gameplay: 8.5/10
Story: 6/10
Graphics: 7/10
Music: 7.5/10
Overall fun rating: 7.5/10

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Best Magic Systems: Part 3

I've talked about Avatar: The Last Airbender before, and I have no trouble mentioning it again! It deserves a spot on my best magic systems list, that's for sure.

Avatar takes the clichéd system of four elements--air, water, earth, and fire--and turns it into an amazing world full of colour and back story.

In Avatar, magic users are called benders, and most can only bend one element (the exception, of course, is the Avatar). The world is divided into four nations: the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads. Each nation has their own history and is part of a distinct society. The story is set during a time the Fire Nation is vying for control over all.

The Avatar developing his four powers is a major part of the story. He actually has to learn to use them all, the abilities don't just come naturally, and certain other powers and responsibilities come with being the Avatar (I won't spoil them here).

The magic system is part of what makes this show so awesome (the other parts being setting, characters, storyline, animation, tension, pacing, action, backstory, humour, I could go on...). So good.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Top 10 TV Themes - #7: ANGEL

For the next Music Mondays, I'll be sharing my top ten favourite genre TV themes. These are those themes that I don't skip through when I'm re-watching a TV show, because they're so good or catchy. Today, we're at number 7, which is the theme song from:


I didn't care that much for the show, but who can resist the dark, eerie cello music?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

IWSG: Fantasy Cliches

As I am plotting a new fantasy novel, I keep worrying that I'm not telling anything new. Now, I know that there's nothing new under the sun, but even if the story is familiar, I still want to tell it differently than how it's been told before.

This got me thinking about cliches, and which ones I'd like to avoid. Some cliches are okay--beloved, even--but others I could do without. Here's a list of a few:

  • The orphaned hero -- Sometimes the parents should be alive, darn it! The orphaned hero does make the reader feel sorry for the character, I suppose. (examples: Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Spiderman)
  • Talking animals -- I can live with this one, though I don't know if I'd use it myself. (examples: Smaug, Charlotte, Aslan)
  • The chosen one -- I get tired of prophecy telling people what to do. I want the character to choose to be awesome, not have it chosen for him/her! (examples: Harry Potter, Rand al'Thor, Shea Ohmsford)
  • The villain who's evil for evil's sake -- Give them some good back story, I say! (examples of great villains: Voldemort, Zuko, Saruman)
  • The wise, bearded wizard -- I like this one, but it is used a lot. (examples: Gandalf, Dumbledore, Merlin)
  • Enchanted swords -- Ah, the good old sword that can save the world... (examples: The Sword of Shannara, The Sword of Truth, The Blue Sword)
  • Good vs. Evil -- Sometimes it's not all black and white.
  • Alternate worlds -- There has to be a really interesting spin on it for me to read another story about a kid falling into another dimension. (examples: Narnia, Wrinkle in Time, The Sword Bearer)
  • Ugly evil faction -- Evil can be pretty, you know! (examples: orcs, trolls, Voldemort's minions...)
  • The large, often fuzzy, friend -- Okay, who doesn't like this one? (examples: Hagrid, Chewbacca, Fezzik)
Which cliches peeve you in fantasy fiction? Which ones are you okay with?

This post is part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Check the link for some of the other blogs participating in this event!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Top 10 TV Themes - #8: DOCTOR WHO

For the next Music Mondays, I'll be sharing my top ten favourite genre TV themes. These are those themes that I don't skip through when I'm re-watching a TV show, because they're so good or catchy. Today, we're at number 8, which is the theme song from:

Doctor Who

Do I like it just because I love the show? Probably. Though it is appropriately spacey, scifi-ish, and timey-wimey, if you will.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Best Magic Systems: Part 2

When reading sci-fi and fantasy, I am always attracted by unique magic systems. Sometimes authors come up with the most creative ideas that enthrall me and give the fantasy world life. I am going to share with you the few of the best I've come across.

Second on my list (and these are in no particular order) is the magic system from the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. It is such an intricate, well thought out system and is perfect for a sweeping fantasy saga like Wheel of Time.

In Wheel of Time, some people are able to channel the One Power, which has two sections: saidin and saidar. Men can channel saidin and women can channel saidar. The One Power can be woven into spells using the five elements: earth, water, air, fire, and spirit.

At the heart of the story is the fact that saidin has been tainted by the Dark One, so any man who channels it will eventually go mad and die. Because of this, female channelers formed an organization called Aes Sedai and hunt down male channelers.

There are so many complex rules to the magic system that I don't even know where to start to tell you how amazing Robert Jordan's creative mind is. For example, the Aes Sedai use the One Power to bond Warders to them for protection, they can make inter-dimensional portals, they can heal, create illusions and wards, use mind control, and much more.

Not every channeler can do all these things; everyone has their own strengths and abilities. Men are generally stronger with earth and fire and women with water and air. Women can form a circle to do more powerful channeling and shield someone from the One Power.

Jordan's world has the most amazingly complex magic system that I have ever read about.