Monday, May 22, 2017

Lost - Final Part

    The marines ran down the hall at full speed.
    Having exited the hive, their boots clunked heavily on the hard metal of the corridor and their armor rustled as they moved.
    While the rotten egg smells had gone, there was a now a bizarre scent of anti-septic cleaner that had been overwhelmed by the stench of blood and excrement. The results of the fighting. It covered more of the walls and floor than any of them cared to think about.
    Cecilia clung tightly to Gordo as they went.
    To her amazement, he never tired. He was like a statue of man and muscle and determination. Even with her in his arms, he never even seemed to slow and he always stayed in the center of the seven other marines.
    A precious package protected on all sides.
    "How long, corporal?" the woman yelled as they ran.
    "Two minutes, Sergeant Raynor!" another man shouted in return.
    A screeching roar echoed through the hall and the beast that it came from was almost instantly blown away; the echoing booms of five pulse rifles exploding all around her. She tried weakly to cover her ears, but they had barely recovered from their last onslaught and the jackhammer thuds made less difference than before.
    The monster made a single heavy thud followed shortly by an undignified squelch as one of the marines ran through its remains.
    "Right here!" the corporal shouted.
    They turned hard and barreled down the way at top speed. It was only then that Cecilia realized that the constant klaxon that she had expected to hear was now fading. It was replaced with something else.
    Human voices.
    There were screeches and roars and the occasional boom of a pulse rifle, but the echoing sounds of people quickly grew louder and louder. The sounds of congregation. Of panicked people talking quickly. Of babies crying and people shouting and the sounds of people hurriedly shuffling about.
    "Private! Report!" Raynor yelled.
    "Civvies are boarding now, Sarge."
    "The hell took so long? We're supposed to be leaving."
    "Took those techies longer than expected to put the hunk of junk back together. Was supposed to be decommissioned, ya know."
    "So I keep hearing." Raynor growled through her teeth. "There's a little medbay on the shuttle right?"
    "Five minutes more." another marine yelled.
    Raynor slapped Gordo's arm.
    "Alright, Gordo. Get her on the ship. Hawk. Follow them and give her a once over."
    "Sir." a female marine responded.
    "We'll hold the line while the rest of them get loaded. Be ready to drop what you're doing if we have another wave of these assholes make a break for it. I think they know what's coming."
    "Sir." Gordo said in confirmation before dropping his voice to a slightly more gentle tone. "Alright, little lady, let's get you some painkillers."
    Cecilia whimpered in response and felt tears begin again. This time it wasn't pain. It was joy. Raw and unmitigated, she felt entirely grateful for the huge man holding her and the men and women around her who promised to fight to the last breath to keep her safe.
    Gordo and Hawk made for the ship.
    She felt them shoving past people. More than a few of the other passengers barked and guffawed for a moment, but quickly silenced their complaints as Gordo and Hawk pushed their way through. They were all panicked, talking rapidly and easy to upset, but no way were they going to pick a fight with the marines. Certainly not marines carrying an injured civilian.
    Soon they were through the shuttle and Hawk was closing the door to the medbay while Gordo gently placed her on the table. The fear and chatter quickly dimmed as Hawk latched the door.
    "Easy, girl. We got you." he crooned reassuringly.
    "Thanks Gordo." Hawk said as she approached Cecilia.
    "No problem." he responded before softly taking Cecilia's hand in his own gargantuan paw.
    "Alright, honey." Hawk said in a quiet tone. "Talk to us."
    "Cec...cecilia..." Cecilia offered weakly.
    "That's good. Your name's Cecilia?"
    Cecilia nodded in response.
    "Alright Cecilia, my name is Private Juliana Hawk and the big guy who carried you here is Private Romero Gutierrez."
    "They call me Gordo." he offered with a soft chuckle and a hand squeeze.
    "Only cause you're so fat." Hawk said sarcastically.
    "Ha! My old CO tried to make me run once." Gordo snarked before leaning down close to Cecilia's ear. "Once."
    Cecilia giggled a little at the dumb joke and immediately doubled over in pain. Her voice escaped in a half scream but the two marines were there to hold her.
    "Easy sweetie. We got you. Relief's coming." Hawk said. "Don't move."
    She felt a prick in her arm and, at once, a wash of euphoria, numbness, and just a hint of nausea ran through her whole body. It spread from her arm to her stomach and up the back of her neck to her head just as her fingers began to tingle.
    Cecilia let out an audible moan as her entire body physically relaxed.
    "There ya go." Gordo said with a laugh. "That's the good shit, ain't it?"
    "Mmmyea." she moaned softly.
    "It's alright, you're safe." Hawk said reassuringly with a soft touch to her hand. "We're gonna do some tests. Scans and such to make sure you're not bleeding out on us inside. But first I need to know, did they do that to you?"
    "Do wha?" Cecilia asked drearily through the haze of drugs.
    "The aliens. Did they do that to your eyes?"
    "Eyes? What about my eyes?" she asked, reaching up tentatively tentatively to make sure they hadn't been plucked out.
    Hawk quickly took her hand.
    "They're still there. You're ok. I'm going to guess you were blind before all this happened?"
    "Blind?" Cecilia confirmed with a half of a nod. "Blind."
    She waved a hand in front of her eyes and made a rude noise with her lips before saying, "No lights on."
    Cecilia could hear both of the marines audibly sigh in relief.
    She let out another moan as a fresh wave of drugs bounced around inside her brain. Those same silvery gray eyes slid shut.
    She could hear Hawk talking and she could feel Gordo holding her hand, but it didn't register anymore. She felt the shudder of the ship as it roared to life and a soft lurch as the ship left its dock. It didn't matter though.
    The drugs were too powerful and she was too weak at this point. And, more importantly, she was safe.
    She was going to be ok.
    Cecilia slipped away into a deep, dreamless sleep.
    She was safe.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Lost - Part 3

    Cecilia's fall was short lived. Sliding down the cold metal, she found herself ricocheting off the sides of the tunnel. Slamming this way and that, she tumbled downward for what felt like an eternity but only lasted for some twenty or thirty seconds; smashing against her broken ribs and almost assuredly breaking some more bones along the way as her already abused body was beaten about like a undignified pinball.
    She came to stop at the bottom after a short, vertical fall straight down onto something surprisingly soft and squishy.
    Not that she noticed.
    Curled in on herself, all she could do was wail. Her sobs heaving her entire body and only making the pain from the fall that much worse.
    Losing her hearing not ten minutes ago was stressful and a bit painful. This was all pain. Lots and lots of pain.
    Her ribs felt as though several knives had been jabbed into her torso and her hands mindlessly wandered to see if she actually had been stabbed by something. She wasn't. On top of that she found that she couldn't quite turn her head and her left arm didn't seem to be responding the way it was supposed to and didn't seem to be sitting in her shoulder correctly. Anything didn't feel directly broken or dislocated started to feel swollen and her joints began to feel locked.
    Cecilia thought this might be what it would be like to have been run through a blender.
    The room she was in smelt odd. It was like rotten eggs with a hint of fresh manure that had just started to age long enough that the scent wasn't as sharp or nauseating. The ground was warm and wet to the touch; with a little give but more elastic then anything else. Around her, there was the sound of movement; squishy, sloshy sounds that didn't sound human.
    "" she barely whispered.
    But no help came.
    There seemed to be a stirring of activity. Some movement far off.
    Too far, she thought. 
    And so, curled in on her self, her body weakly heaving from the abuse, as she passed out from the pain.

    Cecilia was awoken in a start by the sound of pulse rifles.
    In a second of panic, her hands snapped up to her ears to protect them from the roaring booms, but she had forgotten about her left arm. It barely responded and, instead, sent shooting pain up her spine that took her breath away from a moment.
    This, with the fear of the rifles and the sheer shock of everything else, was too much.
    She screamed. Loud, long, and hard.
    It was a horrible, desperate cry. Primal in its intensity and singular in its purpose. It begged anyone, any human that could hear it, anyone of the same species: please help me.
    Save me.
    The pulse rifles, still loud, seemed to ebb. As if someone had stopped firing.
    "Did you hear that?"
    "I think we've got a survivor!" Cecilia could barely hear a young woman shouting.
    Yes. YES! she thought, her mind begging her to find shelter. To find her own kind and escape this nightmare.
    She tried to push up off the ground. Tried to escape.
    She couldn't.
    Her left arm wouldn't support her weight and, when trying to push off with just her right, she found that the pain in her ribs was too much. She screamed again just from the effort.
    "Over there!" a man shouted.
    Cecilia tried and failed again. Tears were streaming down her face as she fought against the agony. She could hear the roar of the rifles growing louder and the sounds of men and women running.
    Along with something else.
    There were roars and hisses now. They seemed to come from the very walls. To unfold from the darkness around her like shadows given some monstrous kind of life. They must have passed right over her while she was out cold earlier. Or they just never cared about her to begin with.
    Now they cared.
    "I think I see someone!" the woman shouted.
    "HELP!" Cecilia managed to scream before doubling over on herself again. She coughed and her mouth filled with the startling taste of copper. Blood.
    "We're coming!" someone else shouted.
    "Son of a bitch! More!"
    The hissing at Cecilia's sides changed to violent roars that were cut short with the blaze of pulse rifles some short distance away. She felt their warm blood splash across her back and hair and the sticky, slick feeling made her retch. A half-second later, two heavy thuds shook the ground she laid on and did not get back up.
    "Cover me!" the woman yelled. "I'm going for her!"
    "We've got you!"
    The marine sloshed and squished her way towards Cecilia and, a moment later, she felt warm, soft hands wrapping around her good arm.
    "I've got you, honey." the woman said with surprising tenderness. "Come on."
    "I...I can't." she sobbed. " ribs. My arm."
    "I know, sweetie. I know." the woman said softly tugging her up to a sitting position. "But we can't leave you here. They're going to destroy the ship. We have to get you off."
    Cecilia, who had been curled in on herself, her eyes shut, finally glanced up in the marine's direction.
    The marine gasped when she did.
    "Oh are you down here?"
    "Down the air shaft?"
    The echo of pulse rifles intensified suddenly.
    "We gotta go!" the man yelled.
    "Gordo! Rifle slung! We need a lift!"
    "You got it, Sarge!"
    The ground shook as someone else came running; his armor and weapon clanking and clattering along.
    "Holy shit." the man began. "Is she...?"
    "Obviously." the woman said shortly. "She's pretty banged up and I don't trust her to be able to get out of here easy. Gonna need you to carry her."
    "How did she get down here?" he asked shortly. "How is she even still be alive if she's..."
    "Not now." the woman barked.
    "Sir." the man said shortly before leaning down next to Cecilia.
    She felt a second pair of hands wrap around her. Bigger. Warmer. Cecilia unconsciously leaned into them and sniffled.
    "This is gonna hurt, darlin'." the big man said. "So I'm sorry in advance.
    All at once, Cecilia felt herself leave the ground. Pain shot through her as the marine scooped her up and she screamed in response. The man cooed her softly and cradled her to his chest and she sobbed.
    But, her unconscious mind countered, she was safe. He was big and warm. He smelt of gunpowder and sweat and grime. His arms were large and hairy and muscled. She could hear his heart pounding, heavy and steady, in his chest. He was one of many marines with their guns and their grit and their determination to keep her alive. He was human and he would keep her safe.
    She felt the sobs calm slightly and she held tight to his armor.
    "Fall back!" the woman shouted.
    "Let's go!" the man yelled in unison.
    Cecilia held tight as they moved. They were surrounded on all sides by the other marines; seven others from what she could tell. They moved in unison, fleeing the hive as quickly as possible. And, as they moved, she heard whispers.
    "Did you see her eyes?"
    "My did she get down here?"
    "Do you think they did that to her?"
    "Enough chatter!" the woman barked.
    "Sir," an unknown male voice said, "We only have five minutes til the last dropship departs."
    "Then let's not miss our bus." the big man holding her said.
    "MARINES! WE ARE LEAVING!" the woman shouted. A moment later, the entire group took off at a run.


(Hello Lovelies, I'm glad you've been enjoying this little romp. There will be one more after this and then we will see about returning to 'Kappa in my Closet' along with a few other things! All I can say in my defense is that I was inspired because of the upcoming 'Alien: Covenant movie. Not gonna lie, I'm enjoying my version better. haha! See you soon.)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Lost - Part 2

    The pulse rifle kicked like she was holding a jack hammer upright. The barrel jerked up and ripped itself out of her hands. The room reverberated with the sound of a dozen explosions.
    A moment later, there was a thud as the creature hit the ground. The entire floor shuddered with the impact.
    Cecilia barely registered it.
    Her hands quivered and her entire body shook with terror. The BOOMs from the gun had been replaced by a high pitched ringing that threatened to drown out her hearing. She strained to hear anything but the penetrating 'tiiiiiiiiiiiing' in the throbbing pain in her ears.
    It was just too much.
    Curling up right there on the floor, Cecilia began to rock herself in place and sob uncontrollably. She screamed and clawed at her own ears as if the action would restore what was lost. As if it would stop the pain in her ribs and hers. As if it would bring back her hearing.
    Whatever it was. The thing. The creature. It had stopped moving. Stopped advancing. Even if it hadn't, Cecilia couldn't imagine her response would have been much different.
    After all, she couldn't hear.
    And so she cried.
    She stayed like that for an indiscernible period of time; eyes shut down and hot tears running down her face. Body convulsing through heaving sobs and soft wails.
    But she also listened.
    She listened for anything; trying to hear anything else but that high pitched ringing sound. She didn't care past that.
    Just stop the ringing. Stop the pain.
    In anger, she kicked the gun at her feet. It clattered away.
    It was that clatter that was the first new noise she was able to register.
    Her sobbing stopped and she opened her eyes.
    Reaching out, she grabbed the butt of the discarded pulse rifle and dragged it back. The rifle clattered back along the grooves of the floor and she openly gasped with joy. She pushed it back and forth a few more times just to be sure she heard it right.
    Soon, more things returned. She could hear the klaxon now. Its wailing scream high in the distance. After that, she could make out the sound of running and things moving through the halls above. She could hear a few terrified screams.
    Slowly but surely, the ringing abated.
    Throughout it all, the the thing never moved.
    Cecilia let out a long, controlled sigh, followed by a much less controlled whimper, and pushed herself from the floor.

    Cecilia had considered taking the gun with her, but quickly elected not to. She'd rather have her hands open and her ability to move around unimpeded. More importantly, she couldn't bear the thought of firing the thing again.
    The sound was just too much to handle. She'd rather deal with trying to run from one of those monsters.
    She had no idea what the creatures were that were loose on the station. They were big and ran around on all fours. They had great and terrible claws that raked grooves into the floor in shrieks of metal and they roared with a fierceness that made lions sound like pussycats. They seemed to be able to climb the walls and ceilings as easy as they walked on the floor.
    And they were loose.
    Cecilia could hear them running around above her. They moved like rhinos; thumping and galloping and slamming through whatever was in their way.
    It made her glad to be down here. Wherever here was.
    More then once she worried the floor would give way or she'd find one hiding in a shadow somewhere. But the moment never came.
    While she initially thought she was in some sort of a hallway, Cecilia quickly realized that there weren't any doors. After a quick walk, she realized that there was some kind of piping or conduits running along the wall and she had to squeeze through a few areas to keep going. Doing so was agony with her broken ribs.
     All the while, there was a vague, nauseating smell that seemed to waft in little puffs of breeze.
    Perhaps a maintenance tunnel?
    As time droned on, she was surprised to find that the world above got quieter and quieter. She groped her way along the tunnel and the sounds of galloping on metal started to fade. The screams stopped. The klaxon dulled into a soft wail. If she strained her ears against the growing silence, she started to hear a rustling sound. Almost like-
    Cecilia, following the noise, took a step forward and found nothing to catch her. She fell forward and her head slammed hard into cold meta. She immediately lost what little footing she had and slid forward.
    Her screams echoed off metal as she slid down the slick, angled tube towards infinite.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Lost - Part 1

    All at once, reality seemed to explode into existence in a flash of pain and sound and smoke. Cecilia's senses burned and she found herself on the ground, clutching ribs that were alight in agony and seemed to have a bit more give than regular, non-broken bones should have.
    Around her, the world wailed.
    A klaxon screamed its warning for all who would hear, barely drowning out the sound of men and women screaming, boots stomping on hard metal, pulse rifles firing, sounding like a jackhammer on a steel drum, and the roar of something monstrous and unknown in the distance. All of it was muffled even more by the crackling booming of fire.
    She sat up quickly and screamed.
    "Ellen?! Kera?!"
    She couldn't remember what happened or how she got here, but she knew she wanted to find her sisters and quickly. Had they been with her? Were they ok?
    It didn't matter though. She had bigger issues.
    All around her, an inferno raged. The fire licked at her skin and she had no idea how to get away from it. Each time she breathed in her lungs were being seared with smoke and she felt herself coughing and hacking; an action that was getting progressively faster and therefore worse as she began to hyperventilate. The world seemed to close in around her as the panic threatened to send her over the edge.
    "ELLEN?! KERA?!"
    Someone running towards her?
    "Ma'am!" a voice screamed barely audible over the roar of the fire. "This way! Come this way! We have to get you out of here!"
    A marine.
    "I can't!" she said quickly, the panic only taking a firmer grip. "I-I can't!"
    It was all she could muster. The world burned with fire between them.
    "You have to! Come on! Please! Just run towards me. Run as fast as you can. I'll be here to catch you!"
    Her throat tightened and, despite the blazing inferno around her, Cecilia's palms went cold and sweaty. She shut her eyes tight.
    "Alright." she said, her shaking voice betraying her. "On three."
    "On three." the marine agreed.
    "One." she began.
    Before she could muster a 'Three' there was an echoing crash and a screeching roar as the metal of the hall bent and screamed in defiance of a preternatural force. The marine screamed back, firing the pulse rifle at something. They were silenced a moment later and all fear of fire was wiped away as the marine was slammed into Cecilia's chest, thrown like a ragdoll, sending them both sprawling backwards. The combined force and weight sent them clean past the flames and down a chasm that was open in the floor.
    Cecilia hit the ground below with a sobbing cry as the marine, dead weight, crushed her with their bulk; broken ribs burned and stabbed in protest of the pressure.
    "Get off!" she yelled and pushed against the dead marine. "Please get off!"
    Above her, she could hear the thing. It scrabbled and moved across the metal of the hall above with the sound of someone raking a dozen pickaxes against a grated chalkboard. It seemed to blend into a terrible crescendo of oncoming death with the klaxon as she desperately clawed at the body that weighed her down.
    She kept pushing, kept trying to get the corpse off of her shattered ribs and weak body. She felt the load soften slightly as the heavy pulse rifle clattered down next to her.
   The creature was just crawling through chasm she had fallen through, growling softly under the klaxon and the claws, when she managed to free herself from under the dead marine and scuttled backwards in terror.
    Cecilia only escaped back an inch or two before she hit the wall.
    Above, the creature seemed to realize she was trapped. It made its way slowly, carefully, down to the next level; it's growl growing into twittering, high pitch that reminded her of a cat stalking a bird.
    She shut her eyes tight, sobbing.
    Her hands fell to the pulse rifle on the ground beside her.
    She had never used one before. No official training of any kind. But she knew the concept of a gun. You point it at something and pull the trigger. Hopefully you have the right end pointed towards what you want to die. 
    The creature roared. Maybe it recognized the threat of the gun. Maybe it was just done playing with her. It scrabbled forward with that same high-pitched, gut wrenching sound of claws on metal.
    Cecilia grabbed the weapon's stock, raised the gun, and squeezed the trigger; praying it was even vaguely pointed in the right direction.
    Pulse rifle's are so much louder when you're the one firing them.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day

Hello Lovelies,

While I hadn't originally intended or scheduled to do anything for Mother's Day, I've been reading more than a few of the wonderful posts that you've all put up and I have to say: I'm inspired. So, I wanted to take a moment and wish everyone a very Happy Mother's Day.

While I myself am not a mother nor do I believe it's likely I will ever become one (that whole 'being a dude thing' doesn't work well for that regard), I have to say that I always tend to be a little introspective on Mother's Day. While I don't really talk about it, my mother actually died some time ago; pretty much right after I turned 18.

The thing I only recognized later on and the thing that many people are very confused by is that I actually didn't know much about my mother's past. I remembered her birthday but not the year she was born. I know that she grew up in New York and that's where she met my father before they eloped and ran away together. I know that I was named after my grandfather who had already passed on and that, to this day, I only have a single living relative from that side of the family. That's basically it.

The reason for it, however, (and again, I didn't realize this until MUCH later on) was that she raised me to not look back. She didn't talk about her past or where she came from. She didn't talk about the long lost or abandoned family. She didn't want me dwelling on the forgotten or the escaped. She wanted me to enjoy the now and to look forward to what was to come. I don't doubt that she more than anyone else in my history helped make me the person I am today.

Even more than that, she is the one that nurtured and instigated my love of reading. As a kid, she read to me more nights than I can count (dad also gets credit here to). But once I stopped asking to be read to, she kept it going. She always found a way to get a new book for me. To find something that would interest me. And, when I got a little older and started to think of nothing but video games, she made a deal that I had to do an hour of reading for thirty minutes of game time. Likewise, once I got even older, she encouraged me to start writing AND to start telling stories to other people. 

I will never claim that she was the sweetest person in the world, yet there was no falseness to her. If she showed you love, it's because she treasured you with all her heart. If she told you that you were screwing up, you probably already knew you were. She had this brutal honesty that was always matched with a well-thought out and kind word. She was never cruel, but she did have a tendency of calling me out on my bullshit (of which there was plenty).

The one thing I will always remember about my mom was her smile and her laugh. Even now, having lost her over a decade ago and having little more than two photographs of her, the one thing I will forever remember is that image. Silver haired with emerald and gold eyes like my own, her head thrown back and laughing loud at my silly bullshit.

And, the one thing I will regret, is that I wasn't there when she passed. My mother died of cancer twelve years ago. While she had previously gotten and beat it into remission, it returned quite unexpectedly and with vigorous speed. Having moved from her ovaries to her brain, it laid her out and gave me my first true understanding of loss. In my stupid, younger years, I had come to California to visit my dad and, afraid to see my mom like that, I refused to come back. Up until then, I always trusted she would get better. Maybe she'd feel bad for a while, but the doctors would fix her like they did before.

She suffered for two weeks. One morning, fifteen minutes after asking where I was and why I wasn't there, she died. To this day, I will never forgive myself for not being with her through that...all because I was scared because of how I'd feel because she was dying.

Maybe I didn't learn enough about not looking back.

While this all took an unintentionally sad turn, it does boil down to my point. Tell your Mom you love her. Give them a great big hug and a kiss and take them out for dinner or make them dinner or whatever it is you can to show your love. You will have them as long as you do and lose them when you do so make your moments count and make sure they know you love them. And, for all of you mothers in the crowd, I hope you have a wonderful and Happy Mother's Day.

I'll see you soon, my lovelies. <3

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Critical Failures vs. Spells Swords and Stealth: A Comparison in Quality


I mentioned a little bit ago that I'm big into the game "Dungeons and Dragons" for a number of reasons (I won't bore you with the details; you can check that bit out here). Well, because of that very post, I decided that my itch was strong enough to go grab a D&D fictional story. While there are a number of them out there that do the job and do it well, I decided I wanted something a little more meta.

Cue finding the 'Spells, Swords, and Stealth' series by Drew Hayes.

I was immediately enamored.

I finished the first book within two days and bought the second one without hesitation. The story, in short, circled around four characters within a tabletop RPG game known as Spells, Swords, and Stealth. These characters run into a bit of an issue when the REAL players show up in their sleepy little town. They are then forced to go off on an adventure of their very own where they'll face hordes of goblins, monstrous demons, mad kings, insane wizards, and a dungeon designed to destroy any who would enter it particularly real players. Oh, and did I mention that this is SOMEHOW happening in real time while actual people are playing, leading to those very books to change their information based on the adventures of the "NPCs" that our story focuses around?

And that's just book one.

I proceeded to devour all three books in the series and am waiting on baited breath for the next one to come out (although I unfortunately don't have any release dates). The writing was so good and it blended well-known game elements seamlessly with well-thought out fiction and story telling elements. On top of that, it worked fantastically to combine meta knowledge regarding the 'real world' with the happenings of the 'game world' that it constantly left you thirsty for more.

Overall, it was EXACTLY what I wanted that I went searching for more of the same. Since Drew hadn't produced more of that series, I decided to follow Amazon's recommendations regarding the "Critical Failures" series.

Man, that book is aptly named.

First, in defense of a relative comparison, I will say that I did not read the entire series like I did with 'Spells, Swords, and Stealth'. The book is surprisingly well reviewed on Amazon and has high praises but, in my own defense...I just... I couldn't. Perhaps the others are better. However, given the teeth gnashing pain of getting through Book 1, I didn't want to waste my time or money if Book 2 was a repeat of the first.

So what's the book about?

In short, it's built on a similar overall concept. It's built on meta knowledge regarding tabletop roleplaying games. A bunch of friends who invite a brand new game master to play with them quickly realize that insulting him might not have been the best choice. And, if a few vulgar jabs, the game master transport all of the friends into the game world that they were playing a moment before. Dealing with the results of their actions, they're taken on a great chase from the law of the land where they experience all manner of monster and threat to life and limb as they learn the ins and out of living the game only to end in showdown that goes a little bit more sideways than you might imagine.

Sounds like fun right? What could go wrong.

In short: really bad writing.

To start, the book feels unpolished. The overall tone and flow of the story is incredibly choppy and tends to rock the book's pace like a new driver trying to learn a clutch. It gets where its going but not without banging your head against the dashboard a few times. Even worse, there's a point where it literally walks in a circle thematically by having one group go somewhere, while another group goes elsewhere ONLY to have them switch spots looking for each other AND THEN do it again. Quite literally having the characters just walk in circles.

However, the one that gets called out most in other commentary (and what I even took offense to) was the raw vulgarity of the writing. In the book's defense, most tabletop gamers are some foul-mouthed motherfuckers. We like to shoot the shit and make all sorts of bad or silly jokes. But there's a difference between bullshitting with your friends and turning that crap up to 11 and writing it down as a story.

Nearly endless cussing. Vulgar commentary. Rude asides. And so. Many. Fluids. Shit, piss, vomit, snot, cum, blood, and literally anything else that can come out of a body can and does. Characters ejaculate from healing magic and one character legitimately shits himself regularly. Men slip and hurt themselves in all manner of bodily fluids and there is regular conversation and focus on this vulgarity throughout the book.

I'm all for a sense of reality and, let's face it, life can be gross. But focusing a narrative on a character regularly shitting himself is bad writing. Once makes a point. Multiple times is just foul.

When all is said and done, these two stories seemed a fantastic comparison because, in my own opinion, they take the same subject matter and show the best and worst ways to do it. 'Spells, Swords, and Stealth' provides an interesting narrative and builds a world around it with a pace that leads you through your environment while still tying you back to the original game. 'Critical Failures' throws you into the story headfirst and than can't decide how it wants to proceed. 'Spells, Swords, and Stealth' provides a fascinating story within the context of the game while still showing you meta elements that ties everything together. 'Critical Failures' regularly has characters bitching about concepts a non-player will likely not understand and features more blood, piss, shit, and vomit than an emergency room that caters exclusively to frat-houses.

Overall, if you're looking for a fun and interesting story, I'd definitely recommend Spells, Swords, and Stealth. Maybe I'll return to check out Book 2 of Critical Failures one day, but that will likely be when the book is free and I'm very bored.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Just a Little News

Hello Lovelies,

Today, I just wanted to drop a little bit of news. Cover a couple of things going on, a few things going forward, and generally just give a quick update as to the overall state of things.

First and foremost, I hope everyone has been enjoying "Kappa in my Closet". The idea stemmed from a conversation my wife and I had sometime back about a very real attic entrance I have hiding in my closet. While we've only been up there once and there have always been ongoing jokes about any manner of spooks, ghouls, and monsters that like to hide up there, a conversation regarding a Kappa was always my favorite. In short, it's what inspired me to write what we've gotten so far.

With that said, I'm considering continuing the story. However I'm not 100%. It was originally meant to be a fun imagination piece; simply a 'holy shit, what the hell?' kind of bit, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that it's been fun so far. My only real problem is I have no idea how the hell a river monster ended up in Alex's closet.

Gonna have to think about that one.

That aside, I wanted to let you know that I've been considering everyone's input regarding the Book Reviews and I think I'm going to use it as an avenue for things that spark my interest versus random reviews. As mentioned before, this is not and was not intended to be a book review site...but let's be blunt here: I read a LOT. And, being the opinionated ass that I tend to be, sometimes I just get an itch to share my thoughts.

Why do I say this now?

Because I'm doing a comparison piece in the next post.

Yea. Now what?

With all things said and done, I wanted to take a special moment to thank everyone for their input. You're all wonderful and I want you to know I read every comment I receive. They really do help drive me forward.

But enough mushy stuff!

Drawing some inspiration from something Liz said the other day, I have a question for all of YOU:

What is your guilty pleasure genre?

Personally, I've always loved the creature feature. They can be zombies, monsters, aliens; pretty much anything where humans are pitted against beasts supernatural or otherwise. As mentioned in a previous post, my enjoyment is due to a reflection of man's prowess in the face of adversity, but adding big baddies just makes it so much fun.

What about you? What movie/book/play/etc. genre can you just not get enough of?

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Kappa in my Closet - Part 3

    Alex screamed. Long and loud.
    The creature before him seemed to twitch in response. It shook its head softly for a minute as if in shock or annoyance at the sound.
    Alex paid no mind.
    Instead, forgetting himself, he scampered backwards. Anything to just get away from the monstrous creature in front of him. That huge hooked beak. That mottled green screen. The...
    He fell backwards through the opening to his attic. His hands grasped at open air as he tumbled and he tried to catch himself on the lips of the edges, but it was too late.
    At the same time, the creature began to lunge forward. Its eyes were hungry, its claws were sharp.
    Absently, Alex wondered if he would fall before the monster got him.
    He was halfway through the opening when he got the answer.
    With inhuman speed, the creature was on him. Even as tumbled back through the opening, it crossed the attic with inhuman speed. Its large webbed claws wide open and closings around both extended arms.
    I'm dead.
    The thought was instant and twisted his guts into knots. It was so sudden and so alien it washed away all others. It was only forced away by the feeling of his arms being nearly dislocated as the creature pulled him back up into the darkness of the attic.
    Drawn back up to the waiting monster's beak.
    Alex screamed again and closed his eyes.

    "Stop it!"
    Alex stopped screaming in a gasp of shock. A moment later, he felt himself sat down on the lip of the attic.
    The creature's claws were vicious and an odd mix of slimy and sticky; kind of like a frog's skin. They let go of Alex's arms a moment later.
    "That's better." the creature said again with another shake of his head. "So loud."
    Alex couldn't do anything but squeak in response. His heart was pounding so hard it felt like it would tear through his ribs. His face was flushed, his eyes were welled with tears, and his thoughts were a muddled mess of emotion and panic.
    Yet he was alive.
    The monster settled down across the way from him and shook his head again; giving each ear a soft smack like a swimmer trying to extricate a bit of water. He paid Alex little mind for a moment while Alex, on the other hand, stared in amazement.
    After a minute of endless staring, the creature offered him a kind of odd smile.
    It reminded Alex of the time he'd given a turtle a strawberry.
    "Are you okay?" it asked tentatively.
    The creature's voice had an odd pitch that he didn't notice the first time. It sounded like one of those funny voices a clown might do. Really nasally and-
    "Kid? You okay?"
    "Uh. Yea." Alex said with a little nod.
    Was he dead? Did the monster already eat him? Why would he-
    "Good. I was worried for a second. Didn't want you to crack your head open on the dresser. That was a nasty fall you could have taken."
    Alex couldn't respond. He just stared.
    The creature was actually smaller than he originally thought. It seemed like he would only be a bit taller than himself. The real girth came from a massive turtle shell on his back. His skin was mottled and scaly like a reptile's. Except...
    "What's wrong with your hands?" Alex asked absentmindedly.
    The monster held up his claws to inspect them. The flesh was quickly drying into a cracked, gray-brown. Moving from the finger tips down towards his hands.
    "Oh damn!"
    The creature reached up and tapped the top of his head. For the first time, Alex noticed that it was concave; like a bowl. Set amidst a bowl cut of gray hair, it resembled a weird soup dish more than the top of someone's head.
    "Oh damn oh damn!" he repeated again, turning from Alex and running towards the pool.
    Alex couldn't help but watch. His shock turning to mild confusion and curiosity.
    As he watched, the creature dipped his head directly into the kiddie pool; splashing water everywhere. He stayed that way for a few seconds before coming back up. He repeated this a few times more before Alex realized the thing was making a strange effort to keep his head steady and upright each time he did.
    Finally, on the fifth try, the creature resurfaced and seemed satisfied.
    He walked back to Alex and plopped back down again. This time, the bowl on top of the thing's head appeared to be full of water.
    "What are you?" Alex demanded indignantly; more confused than scared now.
    "Me? I'm a Kappa!" it responded in that odd voice.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Kappa in my Closet - Part 2

    Slowly. Painfully slowly. Alex poked his head up over the lip of the hole leading up into his attic. This was immediately preceded by his flashlight which darted around in every direction.
    The light sliced a white beam through the dark, dusty surroundings.
    The area closest to him was about what he expected an attic should be: large, empty and dirty. The walls were covered in a thick coat of dirt and cobwebs. A long, cardboard box that was probably older than his mother was shoved into a little corner.
    However, moving his light carefully over the area above his room, Alex started to notice oddities.
    First and foremost, the floor in this area looked disturbed. Tracks and streaks of clean wood could be seen everywhere in the thick dust. On top of that, empty, plastic water jugs littered the ground all about, particularly in the corners where they were piled in the hundreds. It all led to...
    "A kiddie pool?" Alex asked in confusion.
    Sure enough, there, at the far end of the attic, situated just above where his bed would be, an oversized kiddie pool sat surrounded by a veritable wall of empty, plastic water containers. It appeared old and worn, the designs having peeled and faded at many points.
    Alex, overcome with surprise and curiosity, crawled up into the filthy attic.
    The roof overhead was just tall enough to allow him to stand, but not much else. Cobwebs tangled up in his hair and spiders went unnoticed as they fell from the rafters and skittered away.
    The flashlight's beam was focused solely on the kiddie pool which, to Alex's shock, appeared mostly full with the exception of several splashes here and there.
    Splashes that looked distinctly like footprints.
    "Hello?" he asked dumbfounded, moving the beam side to side.
    A rustle of plastic and a few falling jugs was his response and he stepped back in surprise towards the open attic door.
    "Hello?" he repeated again. "If you're in there: come out now!"
    His voice cracked and shook as he spoke, betraying his fear.
    Nothing moved this time.
    "If you don't come out, I'm gonna call the cops!" he yelled at the suspicious pile of empty jugs. "They'll come and they'll take you away!"
    Still no answer.
    Alex turned to look briefly at the open attic door one more time. The air seemed to burn his lungs with the stench of dirt and dust and god knows what he was looking at but...
    Slowly, he stepped closer to the pile, his beam focused on it once more.
    The problem with wandering around in the dark, particularly when you're feeling scared and not looking where you're putting your feet, is you tend to miss things. Alex sure did.
    He was already falling backward when he felt the half eaten cucumber under his foot roll forward.
    There was a crack and a THUD and everything went dark.

    Alex woke to darkness.
    Actually, that's not accurate. It was dark, but he could still make out a faint glow.
    No. Not a glow. A flash.
    His flashlight!
    Alex sat up in a start and immediately regretted it. His head was throbbing and felt like someone shoved a steel spike into his brain. He shut his eyes tight and clutched his forehead only to feel something warm and sticky in his hair.
    Alex glanced up at the noise and saw a very large man sitting in the kiddie pool, fumbling with his flashlight. The beam cut here and there, but failed to illuminate the odd, rotund man before him.
    His breath hitched in his throat.
    The man, whoever he was, was large. Had he been up here the whole time? Alex could barely make out some sort of a weird, flat top haircut but what was more noticeable was his bulk. The man's torso appeared, quite literally, round.
    Alex sat there frozen as he watched the man fiddle with the light.
    Who was this man? How was he in his house?
    He glanced over his shoulder towards the exit and, as carefully as he could, he started moving back towards it.
    Alex made it maybe a foot before the wood creaked loudly. In the relative quiet, it made him flinch with how loud it was.
    And it was not missed.
    The man turned to look at him dead in the eyes.
    Tiny beady eyes.
    A long, hooked beak.
    Green skin that showed faintly in the flashlight.
    He wasn't a man. He was a monster.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Kappa in my Closet - Part 1

    "Alex!" his mother called from downstairs. "Did you take the water again?"
    Alex came running downstairs to find his mom tapping her foot incessantly. Her face was turned up into a half-scowl and she nodded towards the empty spot in the bottom of the fridge where the several gallon jug of Arrowhead should have been.
    "Did you?" she asked again, her eyes narrowing.
    "No, mom!" he shot back quickly.
    They had been having similar variations of this same conversation for months now. Really, ever sense they had moved into the little condominium near the river. At first, he thought it was just a weird happenstance, like his mother had forgotten she used it or they had forgot to buy some at the store. But now...
    "Look, I don't mind you drinking it." she snapped with more irritation than anger. "But you have to tell me so I can get some on the way home from work, honey."
    "I didn't drink the water." Alex shot back.
    "Then where did it go, huh?"
    "I don't know! Maybe it was the ghost!"
    Alex's mother let out an exasperated groan.
    "There's no ghost, Alex."
    "Yes there is! I've been telling you that ever sense we moved into this place. It sounds like someone's walking around on the ceiling."
    "It's just the wind, sweetie."
    "I know the difference between the wind and someone walking!"
    Alex's mom glared down at him for a minute, trying to decide what to say. This argument had been getting worse over the last few months but he refused to give up the story. Finally, with a sigh, she got down on one knee.
    "I know it's been hard, honey. Getting up and moving half way across the country wasn't easy on me either but..."
    "But mom it's..."
    "But..." she emphasized, cutting him off. "But I'm sure if you let yourself relax a little, maybe make a few friends, everything will be just fine. I miss dad too, but that doesn't mean you should stay cooped up all day."
     Alex opened his mouth to protest but nothing came out short of a small squeaking noise. He shut his lips tight and felt the tell tale burning behind his eyes.
    "Oh honey, I'm sorry..." his mother said, pulling him in tight for a hug. "I know...I know."
    A sniffle escaped and he could feel the tears readying at the thought of his father, but he shook it off. Instead, he wiped his nose with his sleeve and gave his mom a smile.
    He was acting like a kid, not the twelve year old he was supposed to be.
    "It's ok, mom. Promise."
    "I didn't mean to upset you, sweetie."
    "It's ok." he reassured her again.
    "Alright." she said with a little nod.
    His mother stood up and went back to pulling the groceries out and setting them on the counter.
    "Why don't you go play outside? I'll call you for dinner when it's ready."
    Alex gave her a little nod before turning for the stairs that led to his room.
    "Make sure you tell me about the water next time." she called after him. "The same goes for cucumbers too!"
    "Okay mom!" he called back, but saw no further point in arguing.
    He hated cucumbers. If she didn't know that by this point, he doubted he'd have any luck convincing her otherwise. She probably just forgot she needed to buy some.
    After dinner, the sun had set and Alex had settled in at his computer. He had taken his mom's advice earlier and gone to the river near his house but it had proven uneventful.
    Turtle River was cool and all, but was way too big and a little too fast for him to really have fun in. Given he didn't know how to swim and he didn't have an adult with him, he had to settle for just sitting on the little beach watching the water bubble and tumble over itself. Plus, given it wasn't quite summer yet and he had to leave school early this last year, Alex was stuck alone again.
    Thinking about it, Alex couldn't help but sigh.
    Now, he was just relaxing. His mom had headed out for her work at the lab and he had just started up a round of "Astro Chicken" when he heard it again.
    Thump. Thump. Thump.
    Alex's gaze snapped skyward to the ceiling where just a little bit of dust seemed to drift down following the footsteps. He'd heard the sound more than a few times during their months in the condo, but it was almost always when he'd been in bed and half awake. This time it was clear as day.
    He stood and examined the ceiling closely.
    There were no footprints on his ceiling of any kind. No sign that anything had been there. But he had definitely heard it.
    He kept searching.
    A few minutes of closely examining his ceiling later, Alex found himself in his closet. He was staring at a soft indentation over his dresser. It was square and about the size of a trashcan lid. When they'd moved in, his mom had said it went to the attic and he remembered thinking thoughts about dingy old boxes full of clothes and more dust than his nose could handle.
    Now, he thought about stories of ghosts and monsters.
    The sound came from above his room again, but curiosity held firm. Maybe something was in the attic? Maybe it was just an animal or something.
    Swallowing hard, Alex retrieved his flashlight from his desk and returned to the closet. Carefully, he crawled atop his dresser and, using the light, pushed gingerly on the square, indented section of ceiling.
    It gave.
    He pushed harder and he felt the tile slide away, revealing darkness and drifting dust above him.
    He shone his light up but all it showed was a slanted, wood ceiling.
    Something was moving again. Faster than he'd heard before.
    Again, Alex tried to steel himself. Maybe it was just an animal. Maybe something had just gotten into the attic and, seeing the light, had gotten scared and tried to hide.
    "Yea. That's it." he said to himself.
    He was going to look and see some little nest of raccoons huddling in the darkness. Or maybe there would be some kind of a squirrel or even an owl tucked back into a shadow.
    Monsters weren't real after all.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Bad Blogging Habits

Hello Lovelies,

First and foremost, let me say thank you regarding your commentary on the 'Book Reviews?' post. It actually proved a great deal more insightful than I was expecting and helped me solidify how I felt a little bit more. In short, this is not and will not be a 'review' site, however I will probably throw snippets in here and there regarding stuff I read that really grabs me in one direction or another. It's kind of why I did the initial two and, I think, I the reason I'll turn to in the future.

Now, to get serious, this bit is not going to be me providing you a list of what to do and what not to do. Unless of course you think REALLY hard about what I'm saying and discern your own list. In that case, it's not my fault. It's yours.


Instead, I wanted to address a few things that I've personally noticed I've done wrong as time has gone on that I've tried to react to. I've found that putting my own faults on display not only helps other writers who might run into the same pitfalls, but it's also wonderfully humbling to put up a mirror to my own failures.

To start: I had a very bad concept as to what I wanted this site to be when I started. When I started, and let's be honest here, I began with the concept of generating foot traffic. Nothing more. I wouldn't go so far as saying 'I wanted to create ClickBait', but I had this idealized image in my head of somehow creating a site where I just had ad revenue rolling in. While embarrassing to admit, it didn't take me long to recognize the fault in that belief. Instead, I found new meaning in the ability to share my writing (for better or worse) with others.

The next problem I've run into isn't necessarily regarding writing itself as much as it is personal life. In short, as many have said, life sucks. There are many, many things that consistently make demands on your time. Some are normal, like work. Some are not, like health. Some are bad, like exhaustion or writer's block, and some are good, like a surprise party or vacation. There's lot of demands on your time and accepting that is the best way to get around it.

This brings me nicely to the next point, proper scheduling and forethought. I can't count how many times I've tried to 'make a writing schedule' only to find myself canceling it or just staring at a blank page for an hour because nothing comes to mind. Instead, what I've only recently discovered, is the usage of Scheduling your writing. This can be something as simple as using the 'schedule' button in blogger, but is can also be as simple as saving your work to post later. I can only imagine how much more I might have made if I had let myself write when I had the inspiration to. If I had let myself create when I had the time versus when I stuck myself to a 'specific schedule'.

Learn from my mistake, kids: write when you want and build up a buffer. It'll help you proceed.

Last, but certainly not least, is my terrible incapability of interacting with the blogging community. While it's a nice belief that writing will make others come to you just through the usage of tags and such, the truth is that you have to network. You have to give and take, eb and flow; interact with other writers present within your community and on blogger.

I. Am. Terrible. About. This.

Building into the original problem of not having enough time to ever do anything I want to do, this is one that can't be scheduled as much and more needs to become a regular thing. Reach out to your fellow bloggers. See what they're saying. Respond to their comments. Talk with them. Originally, I would always build this into my blog posts (checking what everyone was doing), but I'm realizing it's a lot cleaner and easier to just check things here and there. This is doubly intensified when I have scheduled content because, whenever that item hits, I'm not thinking about checking other blogs...I'm likely at work or the gym or making dinner.

So, if we were making the list, here are the points: Recognize why you're blogging (because you're likely not going to get rich doing it). Recognize your own limitations in life and capability. Schedule posts based on what and when you want to write versus holding yourself to a standard. And interact with people.

Sound good? Good.

With that said, I hope you all are doing well and will join us again on Monday.

- RB

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Book Reviews?

Hello Lovelies,

As many of you are plenty aware, I recently decided to do reviews of the "Alien" movie novelizations. Now that I've completed all four, I wanted to address this as well as what is to come.

Getting started:

Why did I do these? In short, I myself had been on a reading binge of exactly those books and felt inspired to share. It was definitely outside of my normal writing habits and, to be candid, I'm not sure I'm a huge fan of it or not. However, it got my writing bug itching so I had to scratch.

Were they any good? I suppose this question is more to be directed at others. I'll be candid in saying I haven't ever really tried to do book reviews before. I did video game reviews once upon a time and those I truly understood how to break down. With regards to books, I feel like I was less reviewing them as much as I was just prattling on about things that caught my attention (both good and bad). That said, I'd love to get your input simply because the reviews never seemed to have much commentary (which, in my mind, means they likely weren't worth much).

Am I going to keep doing reviews? I guess that is kind of coupled with the last question. While I started the first two simply because I had the itch, the second two were done simply to complete the group. I feel like I have a lot more inspiration to do stories other than the Alien series, but I'm not sure if it was worth it. Again, I received very little feedback and commentary on these reviews and I'm not sure if they were even considered worthwhile. While this might be an inspiration for some to improve, my focus has always been more fictional works than reviews. I'm simply not sure if it's worth while to continue.

What else would you review? Should I review, the initial stories that come to mind are simply the ones that I enjoy. That said, that's a very mismatched pile of fiction, sci fi, and fantasy, some I'm again not sure if it's worth it. As previously mentioned, my focus has always been on fiction production more than reviews.

So, with everything said, I'd like to hear from all of you. I feel it's unlikely I'll do more reviews. Or, at the very least, it's unlikely I'll do them with any real consistency. However, as always, I'd love to hear your opinions. Did you particularly enjoy these glimpses? Would like to see more reviews? Is it worthwhile to pursue.

Thanks everyone! Let me know your opinion. It will help me for moving forward.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Alien Resurrection Novel Review

Last, but certainly not least, we reach the fourth and final of the official installments of the Alien franchise. One could make an argument about "Prometheus" and "Alien Covenant" (to be released), however I think I'll actually discuss the book reviews themselves in a secondary post so that the review isn't inundated with nonsense.

Before we start, I want to clarify something that I didn't initially realize when I grabbed the book but recognized as I dug in. That is: "Alien Resurrection" has a different author. While the initial three stories were told by Alan Dean Foster, a true veteran in the industry when it comes to novelizations, the fourth one was done by A.C. Crispin. And, having just plowed through the previous three, I have to say that you could tell (in a good way!)

So, let's dig in.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the Alien series, Alien Resurrection was the last of the "Quadrilogy" as it was affectionately known. Picking up several hundred years after the last installment, Ripley was dead and gone. That is, until scientists, utilizing DNA recovered from "Fury 161" are able to clone and recreate her. There's only one problem: her DNA has become intermingled with that of the Alien creature she fought so diligently against. Now, she is less than human; more of a monster that is linked both physically and mentally with the true prize the scientists hoped to acquire: a genetically recreated alien queen. But, as it would with these monsters, all hell breaks loose soon after a pirate crew arrives on the top secret science vessel. The few survivors must ban together to get out all while the ship barrels towards Earth with its monstrous cargo in tow.

The first thing that I noticed, as I touched on before, was the difference in the author. As I've mentioned in all three previous iterations, Alan Dean Foster has a deep and affectionate love for detail. Lots of detail. Occasionally, way too much detail. As it stands, detail is not necessarily a bad thing. However, sometimes the fine-toothed comb approach proves more of a hindrance than anything else, particularly in the first novel, when it brings the story grinding to a halt. As it were, the first three all definitely have a 'touch-and-go' story pace that resembles someone pumping the gas in a car. Alien Resurrection faces no such issues.

The fourth and final installment flows smooth as butter. While I technically still like Foster's "Aliens" novel better overall (primarily due to content versus style), I would be disrespecting Crispin's work by not recognizing that everything simply flows better. The book is a page turner if ever there was one.

The next thing that stood out compared to the previous installments was the similarity to the original screenplay. While this sounds weird, all previous iterations of the stories have featured severe departures from the canon. Things like "aliens with eyes" and "poisonous stinger barbs" are just some of the immediate thoughts, however all of Foster's novels feature information that is directly contradictory to established information from the films. Instead, Crispin sticks pretty solidly to the original story with only a few addendums that explore character motivation and background. Side characters that aren't overly explored in the original movie, such as Distephano the soldier and Purvis the hapless miner, are examined more deeply; making them more relateable and understandable characters vs. their relatively cardboard cutout design in the film.

Overall, the book is a good read. It's smooth and delivers and exciting and thrilling story that keeps you flipping pages to see what happens next. If you've read the previous books, its a good departure from the previous style. If you've seen the movies, it'll be an enjoyable translation of the onscreen action with just a little sugar to sweeten it up. Even if you haven't read/seen the others, I would definitely recommend this even as a standalone title.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Getting back to it

Hello Lovelies,

I wanted to take a moment and just apologize for the silence over the course of the last week.

Long story short, I've been doing what I can to insure that I have early posts scheduled and everything is flowing smoothly. Overall, I feel it's been going pretty well, but unfortunately I was pretty down for the count for the last week or so. A combination of work and sickness made it so I effectively had no time followed by no capability/drive to produce anything of noteworthiness. In other words, I crashed hard and didn't come back up for a good week.

Oh well.

So, with that sad, I just wanted to let you know that everything should be a bit more smoothed out now and we should be back on track. I hope I didn't miss anything too big or crazy. How are you? I hope you're doing alright.

Either way, I've had a passing thought for a while now that I've been trying to figure out an ideal way to react to. In short, I have a few faithful readers who I enjoy speaking to regularly and there are many more people I'd like to invite to join us. So what's a good way to encourage it? I've been looking at book giveaways and, while Xenophobia is certainly stuck hard in the editing phase (because I'm a horrible, terrible person) I've been looking at other possibilities for acquiring digital books that I could occasionally raffle off simply as a "thank you" to readers.

I believe I've found a good possibility for just that, but I wanted to raise the question:

Have you ever given away free books?
Are they your own or simply celebratory gifts?
What process have you utilized to do so?

I know I've seen a raffle system wandering across the literary blogs, but I can't remember what it is off the top of my head. I think it's Rafflecopter, but I'll need to look into that as well.

With pleasantries aside, let's get ourselves back on track. :)

- RB

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Alien 3 Novel Review

Continuing on our trend of reviewing the last few 'Alien' novels, it's time now for Alien 3! (I promise, we're almost done and will move on to different novels shortly).

To begin, let me say that this actually turned out notably better than I really expected. To many who know the original movies, 'Alien 3' is generally considered the weakest of the group. Out of place, a little slow, a little boring, and just generally an all around 'meh' experience, I don't think I can name anyone who claims 'Alien 3' to be their favorite in the series. However, I'm happy to say the book did a bit more for me than the movie adaptation.

For those that are unfamiliar with the film, 'Alien 3' picks up almost immediately after the events of the 'Aliens' story. The survivors of the incident on Acheron are in cryogenic sleep and on their way back to Earth when disaster strikes. The sleepers are jettisoned in an escape pod and land on a nearby planet: Fiorina 161. The unfortunate part? 'Fury 161' as it's called is a largely uninhabitable planet utilized as a Penitentiary. Upon waking on this desolate world, Ripley finds that the disaster that destroyed her ship might not have been an accident and that she might have brought something else with her down to 'Fury 161'. Now, with 'the company' en route, racing to collect the Alien specimen and silence any witnesses, Ripley is in a race against time to kill the creature that is picking off the prisoners one by one while realizing that she herself might have brought more than one Alien with her to the planet...

As I mentioned before, I was largely surprised to find I enjoyed the book a great deal more than a movie. Many felt that the original film was unnecessary, drab, and failed to really do anything interesting with the formula. While I can't argue against the fact that the film simply feels like a rehash of the first movie's 'picking-a-group-off-one-by-one' concept, there are a few things the book did very well.

First, we had a large exploration of Fury 161 and the prisoners who live on the planet. While we got a few bits of information in the film regarding the planet being a 'shit hole' for lack of a better term and that there is a lice infestation, we really didn't see more than that. In the book, there's a greater focus on what the planet is like, what drew Weyland Yutani to mine there, what creatures live on the planet, how the facility itself works, and what day to day troubles all of the above afford the prisoners. Likewise, all of the prisoners get a more in-depth examination. While I doubt you could name more than a couple of the prisoners in the film, you are allowed to get a feel for a many of them this time around. The one that really grabbed my attention was Gollick, who plays a pretty big role during the Alien Hunt later in the book but who is largely ignored during the film with the exception of a couple key scenes.

Likewise, the actual interaction with the alien and the sheer panic of the Alien Hunt during the mount and climax of the book are fantastically well done. While the film by no means failed to deliver in these scenes, the book did well to portray the panic and chaos in these moments when everything that could go wrong did. Likewise, Ripley's odd 'experience' with the Aliens is delved into a little more deeply in a way the movie can't simply by adding a greater understanding for the senses and thoughts that would be involved here.

In short, I was happy to have read this one. I was blown away that I my least favorite movie actually proved to be a better read than the first book's adaptation. Worth a shot if you enjoy the series.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Reading between the Lines

Hello Lovelies,

Today I wanted to take a moment and talk about the importance of subtext and giving a story a purpose. In short, what is it that you really want your story to say.

To clarify, this was actually something I had a huge issue with in writing early on and is still something that challenges me to this day. However, giving your story subtext, a moral, or a meaning to the overall is what makes the difference between a story and simply imagining/fantasizing on paper. A story provides a goal or a narrative whereas fantasy is just that: the ideal wanderings of the mind. Allow me to give you an example that strikes close to home.

Consider Xenophobia. The original concept behind Xenophobia was just meant to be a little 'twist'. It was meant to describe this horrible place that just sounds monstrous and frightening but then the 'twist' was to reveal that we were actually talking about humans/Earth. While the concept is fun and the 'twist' is little more than shock-value silliness, there really isn't much else THERE. It's just meant as a quick, idle fantasy.

On the other-hand, where the story WENT is another matter all together (and the reason the beginning of the book is taking so much to re-write.) The story started to become an examination of human political behavior and is meant to reflect very real actions that are being taken today. You have people just sitting back and watching. You have people moving to war on grounds of fear and misunderstanding. You have people standing up in battles who were never invited and you have people who are just there to watch and amuse themselves.

With this in mind, a solid story will always involve some deeper meaning. It will allow a person to 'read between the lines'. Part of what personally helped me was a friend's recommendation.

 "Anytime you watch a movie or read a book, try to figure out what the story
it ACTUALLY about? What is it telling you? What is the 'purpose' behind it?"

It was honestly a great exercise. It allows you to look at literature and entertainment with a whole different light and apply that seem concept to writing. If you're not able to apply a meaning and you don't know what you're actually telling your audience, why ever would someone bother reading it?

This isn't to say that every book out there needs to be the Odyssey and not every writer needs to be Shakespeare, but having a purpose behind your writing, a goal for the narrative, will give your story more substance. It will draw you away from the amateur habit of just writing endless description and either too much action or dialogue. Instead, it will focus you.

You could probably find thousands of ideas, however here are some ideas for morals and purposes:
 -  "Don't make a big deal about a minor problem."
 -  "The fallout of a lie may be worse than accepting responsibility for the truth."
 -  "A new friend may be worth more than an old one."
 -  "Don't bite the hand that feeds you."
 -  "It is not only fine feathers that make a fine bird."
 -  "Anger is a fire that burns all, friend and foe alike."
 -  "Necessity is the mother of invention."
 -  "Pride goes before the fall."
 -  "Misfortune provides insight as those those you should trust."
 -  "Deeds speak louder than words."
 -  "The power of one falls short of the power of many."
 -  "The wealthy are only as rich as how they use their wealth."

I hope this inspired some of you. Do you have any good ideas for morals or purposes? Share in the comments below for everyone to enjoy!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Looking at it from Both Sides

"Ha ha ha!" laughed the villain. "My recipe calls for only the finest baby unicorn penguins! Even though eating one will literally cause thirty atomic bombs to go off around the world, I must sate my hunger!"

Sound familiar? How about this?

"It's truly incredible." said the side character in awe. "Now that you've thrown off the shackles of eating any kind of meat, you are clearly the best of us all. Our one true God has granted you the ability to smite all of the redneck gun owners who would do nothing but overthrow society with the desire to eat all that they see because clearly they have no morals or wills of their own outside of an insatiable desire for blood!"

How about this?

Honestly, I hope not. Because if it does you very well might be reading some serious garbage.

Now, before I receive another angry e-mail claiming I am supporting some weird nuclear-penguin eating agenda, let me just say this: this was the first random example of a terrible villain and hero that came to mind. Overly psychotic, blood-thirsty monster and exemplary, pure, perfect, holy hero who could never harm another soul. With that said, do you see the problem with these examples?

In short: these characters aren't even black and white. They're at best white or black in their design. That said: let's talk characters!

What makes a good hero AND villain really interesting is their relatability. While you might be inclined to make a villain truly monstrous or a hero a shining beacon of light, I would discourage you from such writing tropes. They're rarely done right and doing so makes them confusingly evil or unattainably good. Instead, look at it from both sides. Why is the hero good? Why is the villain evil? Where did they really come from that makes them who they are?

While I'm pretty sure I've used this line before, it's still one of my favorites and is definitely worth repeating.

 "No one thinks that they're the bad guy."

With that said, consider that from the perspective of the villain. Most real people aren't going to actively make choices that are just outright evil. Example given, eating the one, lone unicorn penguin AND destroying the world via nukes linked to said unicorn penguin seems a liiiiiiiiiiittle out of realistic trains of thought for any given individual. Instead, consider the choices that got them there. Consider where they are coming from but also where are they going. There's a reason antagonists are called antagonists versus fucking-evil-bad-guys. It's because they are working opposite to protagonists. And that doesn't mean evil...just opposed.

But hey, let's apply that same logic to the heroes. Surely you've heard the 'misunderstood villain' shtick before, but what about the fact that the hero doesn't think they're the bad guy either! They're not the bad guy. Right? Riiiiight? There's no way that this guy whose a shit driver and cuts people off in traffic is bad. Or the guy who doesn't tip is bad. How about that hero who kind of hates black people. He's the good guy right? Well...he's the protagonist. And just as the villain isn't necessarily evil, the hero isn't necessarily good.

In fact, they're all just human.

Unless they're aliens.

Then fuck those guys, am I right?

PS: Sorry to all of my alien readers. I love you and couldn't help myself.

So going forward, I would encourage you to consider your heroes and villains both not as tropes, i.e. good and bad, but as people. People working towards opposite ends in opposing ways. People with goals that they want to fulfill for some reason or another. The thief who needs money. The fighter whose been misled. The princess with an addiction. The man with a mission. None of these are necessarily good or's just how you use them.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons and Writing

Hello Lovelies,

Every now and again, particularly when I'm going on tangents about writing subjects, I mention that I play Dungeons and Dragons. To my surprise, I've actually gotten a few emails on the subject in the past year. I didn't think much of it at first, but I feel like I should explore the concept a little because of the range of curiosity I've received.

First off, allow me to clarify. This is not a gaming blog. I won't go into the finer details of the games because it just doesn't fit here. Instead, allow me to clarify why it tends to come up within the realm of 'writing'.

So, to begin: What is Dungeons and Dragons?

For those who are unfamiliar, D&D is a tabletop game and is conceptually no different than a regular board game like Monopoly or Life with sets of rules and guidelines. While some people do actually use a board and figures, the real draw of the game for most people is what I often refer to as 'Interactive Storytelling'. There are plenty of different groups in the game's history that like to claim different things about the game (my favorite being that it 'teaches players how to use real magic spells and/or summon the devil'), but the game is little more than being able to direct a character within a fantasy story. Imagine the story of "Lord of the Rings" if you were able to control the actions of Legolas. Everything else is happening around you from the book but YOU as a player have the opportunity to control that single character, what they do, and how they react to the world around them.

Sounds interesting, huh?

I thought so, but this is where the writing comes in.

While once in a grand while I'll actually be a player, most often I act as what is known as the GM, which stands for Game Master. In short, I'm the one who has to wrangle and direct all the players along with providing a narrative and world to exist in. Modules, i.e. pre-done stories and adventures, do exist that can be purchased and utilized, however I honestly have never used one. Instead, I simply create my own content for my players to use. Sometimes this is good, sometimes not so much.

This brings us nicely to the next major point: Why do I find Dungeons and Dragons useful for writing?

Well, aside from the obvious challenge of having to create an interesting plot hook for players to follow, D&D forces your writing to the next level. For one, you can't really just have a cardboard cutout for them to explore. You need a world. Countries need cities. Cities need infrastructure. Locations need populations. People need personalities. Anyone or anything that a player is ever exposed to needs to have a purpose, a reason, an existence. Any player could decide that they want to strike up a conversation with a random character in the street or they might want to investigate some element of a location that seems relatively pointless in the scope of things only because YOU didn't imagine the use for it originally.

The same can be said for designing the narrative itself. It's very easy to set up a plot hook of "The king was killed by an assassin, go find out who did it and why.", but what about down the road? You now have to be able to plan for WHERE the players will go and how will they will act and design your game around that.What roads will they take? Who will they talk to? What will they find along the way? You need to be able to imagine every opportunity and option that a player will take (you won't be able to...but try) and then build those options. You need to be able to smooth the surface and be ready to lay the train tracks as the train is rolling. Sometimes this is something easily planned for but sometimes this requires you to think and write and act literally in the middle of the game; conjuring life to characters and places that hadn't even been considered yet.

So, in short, D&D is an invaluable tool for me that encourages creative thinking and narrative. It forces me into realms I hadn't considered before and, more than once, has actually contributed to my public works simply because it inspires me like little else can.

With that said, what really gets your blood flowing and helps you write? Is it simply writing alot or perhaps there's something else that gets your fingers flying? Let us know in the comments below.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Follow Up: Religion in Space

Hello Lovelies,

So, after some heated discussion with someone, I realized that I might need to add some clarification to my last post regarding religion in space. While I won't go into the finer details, the essence of the conversation went about like this...

"Why in the HELL are you talking about people's religions?! You have
 a writing blog! Stick to your stupid little stories and don't pick fights!"

While this is not the direct quote, this is definitely the gist of what started the conversation. With that said, allow me to clarify.

I run a writing blog. I live under the belief that any topic within human existence can be focused on in writing. How they are handled will naturally be up to the author and based on the author the approach can be well-done or it can be offensive. The existence of a subject should not be a reason to start a fight with someone.

The fact that Muslim individuals might face an odd circumstance based on a currently followed belief is not trying to pick on Muslims. The face that Christian individuals are currently the most commonly represented religions in most science fiction novels/books/movies is not trying to pick on Christians. Pointing out observations and considerations is not attempting to be bigotted. Only applying hateful thoughts to those works is.

With that said, allow me to answer the first part of the question, "Why?" Religion, at least within our current context, is a huge part of human culture. It exists. Whether you consider one, some, all, or none to be good or bad, it exists. And, as it exists, it very well may be a source of inspiration for some people in their writing. Personally, I haven't chosen to focus too heavily on the topic in my own writing because I haven't had a story come to heart that was inspired by the topic. But that doesn't mean if there's a potentially interesting idea I think it should simply be ignored.

In short, what I'm saying is to two fold. First, to the writers: don't censor yourself if you've got a story to tell and it might be a sensitive topic. People can and will find things to get angry about. Sometimes they're very justified. Sometimes they aren't.

Second, to those that were offended: I'm sorry you took it the wrong way. The act of addressing a concept, of talking about a thing that exists, is not hate. If I ever spoke in a demeaning or hateful fashion on this topic or any other, you're more than welcome to point it out. But the act of simply talking about a subject that some people aren't necessarily comfortable with, whether it's because you're for or against it, doesn't make that topic any less viable. Again, for the people in the back: acknowledging something's existence is not being hateful. So once more, I'm sorry we don't see eye to eye, but I don't believe in hiding from something like religion just because it's a touchy topic.

With that said, I'll get off my soap box. I'm hoping I didn't scare too many away, but I needed to say my peace. Whether it was meant that way or not, I don't take kindly to being bullied over what I originally thought of as a largely inoccuous and academically interesting concept.

I hope you have a pleasant day and will hopefully see you again soon.