Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers

"I dreamt of blood upon the shore, of eyes that spoke of sin. The lake was smooth and deep and black, as was her scented skin..."

Welcome to New Orleans in the mid 90s, when Hoodoo was still called Voodoo and Marie Laveau was believed to haunt the cemeteries, fueling Voodoo spells with dark energy. Gabriel Knight is hard boiled detective; blonde, good looking and pushing 30. His mysterious past- a deranged artistic father, a curiously absent mother, a well to do grandmother- is intruding on his real life as he begins writing a novel on Voodoo.

Unfortunately the Voodoo Murders begin in the city, and his research takes him along the same path as the local police. They lead him through museums and parks, from jazz bands and the remains of voodoo veve- a part of a complete Loa summoning. They lead him to a dark haired, dark eyed beauty, who may or may not be involved, and is definitely in danger.

A haunting mix of culture, magic, mythology, and 90s misogynistic romance- Knight is a win as an adventure game. Explore the city of New Orleans and talk to well developed characters in an intimate dialogue setting. Educational, curious and enticing- it offers the best of point and click.

For a charming, amusingly subtitled review with the lovely Anne Jindra, link Here.

Love it? Buy it Here.

Want more games, amusement, and excitement? Check out Anne Jindra's YouTube Channel.

Voodoo in the Streets of Savannah

(Scroll down for purchase options)

One: Madichonnen

My life ended the day that my father took me to have my fortune told. It was my fifth birthday and it was evening. The heat from the setting sun was sweet and languid, caressing our skin as we walked down the beaten path to the beach. To this day I can feel the sand shifting under my feet, pushing up through my toes, still hot from the ball of fire that was now turning the sky a bloody scarlet as is settled beneath the sea.
The air smelled of salt, the soft susurrus of the waves whispering to me as I fidgeted with excitement, wanting to run on ahead. My father was shirtless, his ebony chest held high with pride as he walked with his only son, guiding him through the first step out of childhood. He ran his hand along his shaved head as he looked down at me and smiled.
The rickety shack wasn’t far, but it was very different from the huts of our village. It was a ramshackle thing, patched together from materials that had washed ashore. The ocean debris was salvaged by the small population of wild ones who lived entirely off the land, making their homes in the jungle and on the beach instead of working in the cities and villages.
People visited these solitary homes from time to time, bringing gifts that the ocean couldn’t offer. Sneakers, tea, spices. Anything the land didn’t provide you could trade for their wisdom, or for their company. I smelled burning basil as we got closer and my toes curled deeper into the sand at its sharp scent.
The inside of the hut was cramped and dark. Woven mats padded the floor and a small table and chair were shoved back against the far wall. A hammock had been halved, and was hanging in a tangle of rope in one corner. The medicine man sat cross legged in the center of the shack, his hair a stiff crest of dreadlocks that snaked their way along his corded shoulders and down his back.
He was humming softly under his breath, a single note repeated in a strange, uneven rhythm. My father set down the plastic bag that carried a pair of cargo shorts and a t shirt by the door. It wasn’t much, but it had taken him a month to save enough money for the offering.
Without opening his eyes the medicine man reached out one strong but slender hand, the roped muscles of his arm playing under his skin as he delicately scooped up a hollowed gourd. His eyes snapped open, pools of blackness in the growing dark. They fastened on me and my stomach dropped, fear intruding for the first time, piercing through my excitement.
“Come here boy.” he said to me, his voice gravely from lack of use.
Hesitantly I stepped forward, trying not to shame my father by shaking. I forced one foot in front of the other, focusing on the feel of the reeds that made up the woven mats beneath my feet. I concentrated on drawing each breath in smoothly and letting it out. It seemed to take forever to cross the small room, but eventually I halted in front of him and he raised the gourd, shaking it as he traced the form of my body, the humming growing in intensity but never straying from that single note.
Beads of sweat burst from my forehead, slicked the space between my arms and my body, across my palms. His face grew more distant, more alarmed as he moved. The terror rising inside of me reached a breaking point and I opened my mouth to scream at him to stop.
He flicked his wrist, scattering the seeds and bones in front of him, and it was too late. Too late to call back the future as it bounced and danced along the dirty beaten mats in the form of dead things; seeds that would not bear life, bones that no longer supported vibrant bodies.
The medicine man waved me aside and leaned forward, slowly tracing his hands over the patterns that curled out before him. His humming picked up tempo, the single note forced free in faster and faster staccato patterns as he studied my future.
I was shaking all over, pushed past the ability to control my body, too scared to worry about shaming my family. I watched him tense and knew that what he was seeing was terrible. My father began to catch the mood and shifted, crossing his arms over his broad chest.
The humming stopped and the silence was thick. The waves seemed far away and timid, unwilling to bring their voices into the darkened hut. The medicine man took a deep breath, placing his hands palm down on his knees and shaking his head sadly. When he looked at me his face was full of pity.
“You will live a cursed life, boy.”
My world crashed down around me. I didn’t want to know. I tried desperately to shut it out, shut everything out as his voice droned on and on. I focused on a single seed, caught in the edges of a bent reed, its frayed stem broken and twisted into grasping fingers. It filled my vision as his voice filled my ears.
“From this moment on, all faces will turn from you. You will find no shelter. You will long for love so fiercely that when it comes it will seem like the coldest, purest water on the hottest most hellish day. You will ignore my warnings, and in doing so you will doom yourself to slavery and pain. You will be shattered, split in two. You will serve darkness and death, and it will own you.”
A little, broken noise sprang from behind my father’s closed mouth, creeping out from his throat. I could feel the medicine man’s gaze, pinning me in place, could feel the gaping pits that were his eyes in the darkness eating my soul with each passing second.
I could hear my heartbeat roaring in my ears as I saw my future dissolve into discord and pain. There was no way out, nowhere to go, I couldn’t outrun the words. And so I just stood, just stood and listened.
“Your soul will be stolen. It will be locked away into a steaming hell. You face an eternity of imprisonment and suffering. Only after you are damned is there the potential for change. There is a slight possibility that you will escape.”
“There will be a small, fiery woman...”

One: Cursed

A brightly colored green and orange trolley edged its way past me, painfully slow on the unfamiliar ice caking the streets of Savannah. A few stubborn tourists leaned out the open window slots, ridiculously under dressed for the bitter cold. I turned my head from the line of exhaust streaming along behind, trying to convince myself it was thick from heat and not pollution. The sharp and acrid taste that filled my mouth and nose said otherwise.
I coughed and shivered, completely miserable and seriously thinking of calling it a night. My Nikon hung heavy around my neck but my wallet seemed painfully thin as it pressed against my generous, curvy bottom. I patted it, secure inside the back pocket of my blue Dikkies and sighed. My other pocket beeped at me and I popped open the snap, freeing my worn pink Razr and checking to see who was texting me.
Daniel. I groaned audibly. I should have given my boss a fake number, I hated how often he micromanaged me. Reluctantly I flipped it open, not having any real desire to check out what my editor had to say.
“Try to have the pictures in by 9. Two pieces on the ice storm so far. We’re counting on you.” I snorted.
“Tx, Boss. Btw, when you mass send a text it sticks FWD: at the front of it. Killin it on the motivation there.”
I stared at my snarky reply for a few breaths before reluctantly deleting it. I had no illusions about being the only photographer the used, not that it was any of my business. It was a good job, and not one I needed to lose to a fit of pique about the cold. I’d been spoiled enough to do that once, and six months in the ghetto was a harsh lesson on growing up.
C’mon Val, I teased myself mentally, You’re going to be way grumpier if you run out of food! Or vodka.
I was right, not that I needed me harassing myself about the realities of my bad habits. I wonder if other people are nicer when they talk to themselves. I adjusted my grip on my oversized handbag and trudged on.
The ice was as beautiful as it was unexpected and most of the people brave enough to head out into the unusual cold wore expressions of wonder. It cascaded from trees, coating the frothy green of the trailing Spanish moss, taking the normally beautiful neighborhoods of the historic district past enchanting and all the way to mystical.
The grand antebellum homes and businesses sported icicles with a bemused tolerance, the words “frozen in time” being repeated far too cheerfully by tour groups and visiting families. It was obvious that both tourists and Savannaians felt the new winter wonderland theme enhanced the ever present vibe of the city- the feeling that anything could happen.

I took the whole thing poorly and rather personally. I’d traveled eleven hundred miles to escape the chill embrace of winter, leaving everyone and everything I knew. They’d promised me no cold. They had lied, whoever they were.

Want More? Order it Here (On Sale: $1.49 :)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

How to create Art

"To draw, you must close your eyes and sing” ~Pablo Picasso

Creativity is derivative of a crossover from idea to concept, from life to form, from emotion to expression. It is epiphany. (Your moment of Zen)
Collect things as you go. Small things, things you pick up, put down and pick up again. Or simply can't stop touching, looking at, smelling, listening to. Staring at.
Things aren't just objects. They're stories, friends, adventures, road trips that start at 3 in the morning and end... never.

“The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity.” ~Walt Whitman

Restless days, where nothing satisfies you. Those are simply art days. Days that you want to create something, to see yourself, your thought, feeling, in the world. Leather journals, embossed notebooks, they'll keep your thoughts from then, until they get so tangled up that they have little thoughts of their own.
“The whole culture is telling you to hurry, while the art tells you to take your time. Always listen to the art.” ~Junot Diaz
When your idea finally coalesces, coruscating in front of you with all of the wonder you lost when you found out you were an adult, nurture it. Gather the things; jpgs, branches, bottle caps, seeds, colors that match from pictures that don't, and scatter them around. Your desk, your desktop, your house, they're your canvas.
Until it happens, and you start to work. And you love it. And you hate it. And the more you return to it the more it opens up to you and grows away from you and you fight with it and talk to it and eventually you finally call it, Art.

"A painting is never finished - it simply stops in interesting places." Paul Gardner.

For inspiration, for a journey to a place you've never been, and for a look at the facets of life- try the Collected Short Stories. Prose, as Art.

Curious? All formats available Here
(Still working with Amazon to convert to Kindle in other places!)
Buy at Barnes & Noble Here.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Assassin In India (7) - Bunker Down Before-

(Start with Chapter 1

I yanked out the scrambler, wiped the phone and smashed all four I'd collected on the ground, then drifted back out into pedestrian traffic. We'd guessed that Neha was in a black house, but now I had a good guess that it would be owned by one of two politicians. It wasn't a lot, but it was way more than British Intelligence had sent us in with. I typed awkwardly as I walked, swiping on my daisy chain. The text I sent out would appear local. They probably already knew about the divisions in the local government- but maybe not how deeply they ran.

"Going to see Yuddh Mein Pyaar or Khoya Hua Ladaka, today, or tomorrow. Want me to pick you up and got a showing time you'd like?"

If they could, Intelligence would go through the most recent transmissions and try to find out which blackhouse she was kept at and where it was. It was a long shot, but people talked. They'd let me know who to ask questions about, now that I had it down to two, or send back a set of possible, coded addresses.  I was betting on the first, although the second would be amazing.

I was Special Forces. We don't get amazed. Ricky picked up his rucksack a couple blocks down and we split up, drifting in a lazy spiral towards the meet up. 

The streets in Nagpur had the usual mix of rural and high city traffic. It was that odd sort of place that kept some of its original architecture, which leaned wearily against newer, more western office style buildings and complexes. The alleys and older buildings were spotted with peeling adobe, revealing a weathered whitewash beneath- a plastered New York City. Graffiti grew more prevalent as I drifted outward from one of the city centres. Wiring ran down the alleys, along old school metal piping. I hadn't spotted anyone following us yet. 

I hit the rural straightaway that led to our second Bunker Down spot, and slid to the left of the sidewalk, my head cocked. Something was off. After a moment, I shrugged the feeling away- I wasn't going to loiter outside of our building, whether or not there were many people around. I was tan for a Brit, but my buzz cut made me stand out, despite my Indian-wear. That and the rucksack- dyed a dark tan for the trip to blend better.

I gave the building a quick once over. Marky had found a shady spot, where he was barely visible, idly thumbing his phone. I snorted, porn, probably- he was a randy bugger. Still he blent in well. The little cottage was maybe two bedrooms big, hard to tell from the outside. It was shaded by the odd, leaning trees found in India, hard to notice it from the sky, and harder to see us coming and going. A low brick and plaster wall blocked in the yard- if you stared hard enough you could see the street on the far side, which had even less pedestrian traffic than this one. 

I set my head to a slow nod and crossed over, checking left, right despite my reflexes. The building wasn't falling down, but it had seen better days. Hopefully the inside had a bit more spit and polish.

(Continue to Part 8)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Charlaine Harris: Dead Until Dark

 The series starts strong, but the overall storyline, the driving heartbeat of it, makes me describe the adventures of Sookie, a southern psychic waitress, as pure camp. 

The South has always been slow to change its ways, and the emergence of vampires could be an allegory for the struggles that the gossip hives of small towns create with their love/hate relationship of everything different, scandalous and otherwise scintillating.

The book largely stays true to those adjectives. Sookie is a blonde and beautiful southern belle who has always been able to hear other peoples voices... as they think. To her, vampires are a breath of fresh air, because it's impossible to read their minds. The last thing she wants is the dish on someone's failing relationship, what they're hiding and that last, worst thing that they did. It sets her apart in the Bon Temps. 

The storyline evolves naturally from there, into the novels that many are familiar with from the original series "True Blood". Vampires are able to reveal themselves, finally, due to the synthetic blood manufactured by the Japanese. It's the only hint of sci-fi, the rest is fantasy and unadulterated southern charm- from sexy alpha males to proper, old money, ways. 

Harris explores a good deal of mythology, which is presented fairly authentically- with a modern twist. For a guilt free experience, try the Southern Vampire Novels.

For a quick look at Charlaine's PC Game, featuring Dahlia (from a vamp's view!) click Here!

Excited? Buy it Here.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Dennis L. McKiernan: Caverns of Socrates

The Black Foxes are the best gamers on the D&D circuit, so good that they actually retired. Years have passed and when they get the call to head out to a remote millionaire's to try out the latest in gaming software, fully immersive virtual reality, how can they resist? They agree to play out a mutable version of the one of the goriest, but most engaging fantasy novels, and to endure the experiments necessary to prep them for it. But every agreement brings more challenges, can they survive the memories that aren't actually theirs?

And once they are inside, can love and experience overcome the gruesome realities that are so enchanting when played at a round table and so horrifying when they stare you in the face? Who is the actual villain? The AI gone rogue who has agreed to play the bad guy- for a true challenge- or the flawed human doctor who couldn't see the logical drawbacks to that?

Can the Foxes actually even emerge from the reality that their senses insist exists? And if they do- will they ever really be home?

The best of fantasy meets the best of sci-fi. In the same style as Rooster's Teeth's Red vs. Blue Series (Click for your moment of Zen)- but before Rooser's Teeth made it cool (stupidly smart, or smartly stupid)- Cavern of Socrates explores the myth that we can only ever know the shadows on the wall of the cave in which we are chained (original typo- changed, to remain). Never the world itself.

A study on culture without knowing it's a study on culture, an exploration into quanta before the science of nested realities was really being developed, Cavern is a true sci-fi novel- and I promise you it is also truly fantasy. It explores that derivative which is just hitting the markets- Virtual Reality.

Grow some :) Buy it Here
Limited Time (Paperback $1.99)

Friday, August 26, 2016

Terry Goodkind : Wizard's First Rule

Welcome to a world of magic and mystery, of boundaries and guardians, of magic that is born, locked away, and sometimes destroyed. Welcome to the Wizard's First Rule- People are stupid.

Goodkind creates a republic of countries that are loosely ruled over by a group of women named the Confessors. Confessors have the ability to command loyalty so extreme that it drives a person from the moment they are touched until the day they die. Confessors are called whenever a crime that is so egregious that it would result in death occurs, and when they accused would prefer a life of ultimate submission to their false accusation.

Not everyone agrees with the Confessors, or their practices, and some are kept ignorant in order to be protected from magic. They created two borders, one to wall out a nameless evil, and one to keep magic itself at bay. Guardians stand along that border, strange, strong, competent men and women that hunt down whatever is left of things that attempt to cross.

Even in this rich and strange world, the tradition of prophecy exists, and a young man is thrown out of his town and into the story through betrayal, assistance, and love. He travels the length of the varied countries and learns that the places outside of his homeland are so different and sometimes wonderful that they may actually make the pieces of his life fit back together.

Together with the Mother Confessor he finds himself pulled down a path of mystery and predestination, challenging the borders and the enemy that lies on the other side.

Humorous and Epic, Wizard's First Rule explores the full palette of human emotion and experience.

Looking for a Game that takes you through the whole experience? Try TangledTales.

Interested? Purchase it Here.
FREE as a Nookbook- for a limited time.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Legend: Star Studded Cast and Christian Mythology at its Best

The crossover of Christianity into mythology began hundreds of years ago as the Roman Empire reached Ireland. It's said that, as they leaped from their ships and waded ashore, they took in the sky clad Celtic warriors, painted blue and singing their eerie war cries and, for the first time in the history of the Empire, the Legions faltered. Their witches darted in and out of the ranks, carrying torches and casting enchantments, and the Legions ventured forward.

The short version is that Ireland was conquered. The long version is that The Holy Roman Empire fell and we wound up with Yule, Easter and Halloween. Since then, the oldest of mythologies has become entangled in the Christian belief system (some say that Jesus, after he rose, took a path to Ireland to find Lillith's descendants). Legend is an excellent example of this.

Lily is a Lady from the hill and Jack is a forest boy. He knows the secrets that peasants share, about fairies, spirits and monsters. She's kinder than most nobles and wanders down to the dells and forests often, eventually falling in love with Jack. Her innocence is the innocence of a sheltered life and his is that of a wild thing, not knowing the corruption of politics.

He takes her to see the two unicorns that keep their wild places filled with wonder and magic and, against his warnings, she touches one. Innocence is lost and the goblins steal the mare's horn, an eternal winter falls. If you're not reading between the lines here then you're probably missing the true story that makes legends.

Lily is stolen by the Devil (played by Tim Curry) and offered her hearts desire, if only she'll seek power. She lies, and asks to kill the last unicorn, so that she has a chance to free it. In the meantime Jack (Tom Cruise) seeks out his fairy friends and goes on a series of quests to save her and bring the unicorn back its horn.

Magic and mythos, fury and desire, Legend is a great way to steal away for an hour or so. You won't want to come back.

Never seen it? Buy it Here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Kate Quinn: Empress of the Seven Hills

Marrying for the desire to explore and research rather than for love, Sabina takes a path less traveled and is somehow revered for it. The men in her life are strong willed and intelligent senators, centurions, and rulers, but they listen to her all the same. The women in Empress are feminine but strong and the male leads are unique and as hungry for the domination of place and self as any ever written. Despite being female writer, she somehow captures the unbending determination and open eyed, unashamed reach of a genuine men, powerful men.

A little light on mythology (the second book has a great description of the old Greek Practices of Enlightenment), but big on history, Quinn writes an engaging novel with enough intrigue, romance and driving plot to keep you turning pages late into the night.

While she takes artistic liberties (for instance, Vercingetorix the Red is a created character, as opposed to Vibia Sabina, the patrian girl that steals his uncultured heart), Quinn stays true to Roman history and the book serves as a decent guide to the rise and fall of a roman emperor.

One of the few book series that tracks a true relationship, from its first flutter of young love, through separate marriages and an unsuspected child, Empress of the Seven Hills stands apart from the rest of the fantasy and neo-fantasy world. The relationship is so real that it actually serves as a backdrop, rather than a centerpiece for the gripping narrative of political struggle, patrician desire, and war.

When I was eighteen I thought I knew everything. When I was twenty, I knew I had known nothing, but now at least I knew something, and by the time I was twenty two I realized that pattern would recur for the rest of my life. Sabina is the only character I've ever met who follows the same evolution, while never losing her artless, but voracious, desire for life, for Rome, and for her empire.

For an educational, but immersive read that paints a picture of an empire that will never be forgotten, Empress can't be beat.

Order Here

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Mercedes Lackey: By the Sword

It was the 1980s and feminism was taking fantasy writing by storm. There were movements (Lackey is quoted as apologizing in a cover letter for a predecessor to "By the Sword", saying I know it's another rape and revenge story...), countermovements (Chicks in Chainmail was a huge pun based series of short stories meant to take back the C word), and drives to provide role models for young women, and growing kids.

Fantasy was still based largely on reality- which is no bad trick. It wasn't until modern day that we started to experience completely religion free examples of magic (Harry Potter, Twilight, most crappy urban fantasy...). Lackey was an example of her time, with lots of mythological references, but she created such driving, immersive and character based stories that she rocketed to the top of the market.

While she started the Valdemar series with "Arrows of the Queen" (based off of a dream she had, although she warns would be writers to avoid the enchanting thought of doing the same- please see "How to Write" for inspiration instead), "By the Sword" is viewed as her debut novel.

Kerowyn is a little sister, a repressed girl with tomboy tendencies, forced to worship and work for Agnetha in her home- the mother aspect of the triple Goddess. Her mother is passed away and her brother is about to get married, her grandmother is a thing of myths and warnings. It sounds like a Disney Film waiting to happen.

Her brother's wedding is stormed and her daydreams come true via nightmares- what's now run of the mill in fantasy, but Lackey did it before it was cool. Her grandmother's magic sword wakes for her and basically saves her as she tracks down her brother's new wife, runs off to a life of mercenaryhood and eventually meets and falls in love with the fabled Heralds of Valdemar.

The mindmagic, the enchantments, the guardian spirits- all of the elements of the story from the traditional to the cliche (the Hawkbrothers are a white version of Native Americans) are true to form and are a great study point for anyone interested in the influence of mythology on modern day fiction.

Overall it's a gripping, if feminist, action packed example of exactly why Mercedes Lackey is one of the richest authors in the history of man.

Curious? Buy it Here

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Assassin in India (6): Tucking up for a Bit

(Start with Chapter 1)

"Got a guy, says he's Hindi. Foreigner. Call our group leader and take him to the meeting spot?"

I keyed it into my phone and sent out to both of them. My left hand was causing a problem with my texts, but I couldn't very well carry with it. I'd had to set down Ricky's rucksack to fish the location scrambler out of the hidden pocket in my money belt, so I found a shady spot where not too many people could see me. The chip went into the borrowed mobile's micro USB slot. Thank God he didn't have an Apple. Odds were that I'd get a quick reply. Either way it was hard for most people walking or driving to tell I was Anglo from this far away. I'd been getting some looks.

I rubbed my face while I was waiting for the dead Indian bloke's phone to chirp back and it came away sticky and disgusting. Fuck. I almost laughed. The left half of my face was bathed in blood. The phone chirped out a standard digitune while I fished for a cloth and treated my face to some isotonic water. I took a long pull off the bottle while my phone did all the heavy lifting and translated the message.

"We got a buyer. Wait til dark. Meet up at the hall at 8." I keyed in a quick reply.
"He mention Vinay. Don't know if it's a problem."

While I was waiting, Ricky's voice came over my radio, scaring the living shit out of me. Guess I wouldn't need the eppie stick.

"Soooo…" Ricky drawled…"that guy I was going to meet. That still on?"

I laughed. Should Ricky crawl up the building and shoot him now that he found him. I glanced up at the sky to check for choppers, but it was hard to see in the city centre. I had an itch to say yes, the skive had spotted the lot of us, and could probably put out some pretty good IDs. But it's possible he wasn't military, and my money said that Ricky would get dead if he went up on that rooftop with helicopters all over the place. I heard sirens in the distance. They'd called in the local cops for help.

"Invite him out for a coffee later, we gotta meet those girls. NNW23. Now 224."
I gave him my progress and next eight blocks worth of walking from our last meet up, clipping the radio as I said it in case the guys had theirs on and weren't muffling it. I needed Ricky to come get his pack now, or it was getting ditched.

"Got it. Tell them to keep the engine warm." He wasn't far. I clicked off my radio and checked the mobile one last time. My dead Indian chap's other friend had checked in with a question. Word was moving, wasn't it? Thankfully my first contact had replied fast- handing out intelligence treats will do that.

"Don't try to get ahold of Vinay, they're not friends. IAF moved so we gotta get him to the meeting hall now. Vihaan says not to talk to anyone else. He's a keeper."

(Continue to Chapter 7)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

How to write

I've won awards for English writing and writing reviews on not English things, and made a job of writing for someone who wasn't, for a little while. I've written thesis papers, poetry, short stories, lesson plans, research. I've gotten accolades from people who know. Why?

Because I know people. And because I am willing to edit.

Sometimes the written word fights with me. It struggles with my blinking cursor until I retreat back into the soft curve of penstrokes, the only hard lines charts and checklists- or my ideas drift further out to the more abstract representation of semiotics in art.
Sometimes it talks back, the word. Typos I read past ten times before I catch them, giving my forehead to the keyboard, because all I read was what I made, instead of what I wrote- again.

Yet the Google-fu, artistic turns, checking and re-checking, none of it tops knowing people. Knowing what you've got, and what you haven't.
Got, that is.

Why did they put it down? Why wasn't it what they needed, craved, wrapped themselves up in until the moment for them wasn't what was but instead was what wasn't? There's a reason, and it's always one of two.
There are two types of readers, concrete and abstract.
Concrete readers want the word to tick away like the piano playing against the metronome. The rise and fall fitting into meter, stanzas; content matching content even as it moves.
The abstract wants the word to live in the page, for it to draw them along as they feel their eyes fall asleep and their minds awaken and they wander along a path of adjectives and rich nouns until they see a picture where there isn't one.

What's alive then, and how to trap it into a story? 

Or poetry, or turn of phrase, review. Something, anything that will stand out. Isolate your elements and double check your form. There are two parts to a piece, the reader's and yours. It's up to you to weave a coherent thought in between those two and create a something that isn't really there.
Emotional description, physical stimulation- these elements are woven into every chapter as it moves in (roughly) a plot, plot, character development pattern, carrying the reader along. Too long without action and he'll put it down. Too long without growth and she will.
Compelling as it is, the hook, the action, isn't enough for everyone. Lose your grip on literary convention and you'll lose your concrete reader. That person who is gauging your work, just waiting to think: what a great topic sentence. What a well-chosen adjective that decreases the need for superfluous text. What brilliant use of bold, italics, or those big quotes that people put in articles. What great writing.

And for a guide, the following five structures, or strictures, to measure.

Scene and setting
Platonic forms and ideals
Ritual style and movement
Artistic style and emotion
Hue and biological triggers

But above all, remember this. Each literary convention, every rule, was made to be bent, not broken. Be different, and do it well. 

Reference Material:
Tudor, A. "The Theory and the Sociology of Film"
Plato, "Republic"
Suzuki, T. "The Way of Acting: The Theatre Writings of Tadashi Suzuki "
Expressionism and Otto Dix
Olsen, J. "The Effects of Color on Conscious and Unconscious Cognition"

Note to the Reader: The quotes from a concrete reader are an actual set of quotes, from a conversation with a friend, while I was asking her if my semicolon could live, or if the second part of my sentence was a dependent clause. Or the first, since the subject was implied from the previous sentence.

For inspiration through a wide variety of styles, click Here. Help set the price :)

Legend of Kyrandia: Traditional Modern Mythology, Cutting Edge Interface

The year was 1992 and the Company was Westwood Studios. The Legend of Kyrandia was released with a very small amount of fanfare, receiving reviews in only a few magazines. It instantly became a cult classic, missed by most of the population- but with a rabid following.

You play Brandon, the Royal Mystic's grandson (known only as grandfather to the innocent protagonist), your quest is to save the bond between the otherworld and the world of man. The magic is fairly traditional for fantasy at that time- a combination of puzzles and energy infusions. The Neo-Wiccan mix makes for an easy to understand framework, with a cast of quirky characters.

The point and click interface is incredible. Instead of a dozen options there is one- click on something or click on something With something, and see if anything happens. In a gamer's world of experimental interfaces and combat development, the simplicity of the click and flag interaction is refreshing and uncomplicated.

The graphics were beyond cutting edge for the time, and the soundtrack is actually enjoyable, it's an mp4 format from two decades ago. If you're into adventure games, mythology, quirky cult classics, or any of the above, you'll adore Kyrandia.

Live it again and have a laugh with Anne Jindra's trailers

Buy it Here

Want more reviews, more amusement, and more random trivia than you could possibly need?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Assassin in India (5) - Stop, Drop and Roll

(Start with Part One)

He got up and grabbed them and I nodded, taking another puff or two. Time passed.

"So what's all this on about? My mate didn't say much, we almost left our gear, but like I said, you know? We were in the region once, didn't go so well. Who's trying to drop us?" We'd backed the war in Afghanistan, almost a decade ago now. His face lost all expression, but I'd chatted up civvies before. He thought he had the drop on me, that was a good thing.

"IAF," He said. The look on his face told me he thought he was really smart for pulling that out. I got out a map and studied it. The base was pretty far away, I double checked the central government region.

"Yeah, I got that from the choppers. I mean who would make the call around Sadar?" I asked, referring to the area of the city where all the government buildings were.

"Maybe Vinay Chandra? We don't like Hindis around here either." The look on his face was ugly. He was starting to think about blowing me in. That was bad, but at least I wouldn't have to make change tonight. I'd heard that Vinay was one of about five people who could be involved in this when we got briefed. This barmy bloke knew somebody.

Religious tensions had passed fuck all and headed straight to piss off when psychics got labeled as prophets, India was getting hit harder than most. A lot of Buddhists didn't care, but the Abrahamic religions were losing their minds over the announcement from the Middle East and anytime someone popped up who got labeled a psychic in another religion they went down, hard.

Neha had gotten snatched within days- she had a reputation. Unfortunately her family also had some connections with the East India Trading Company. England decided to get involved. I thought they were idiots, but I thought that all government officials and most officers were idiots. I had an ex. Well, two. An Ex and an ex.

He stood up and started walking towards the back of the house and his hand strayed towards his pocket, where the outline of a cellphone stood out pretty clearly through the twill of his loose pants. He was dead before he hit the ground.

I loaded my backpack up and grabbed Ricky's, swearing about his mouth the whole time. It wasn't light. The loose bills he'd pocketed went into my moneybelt, along with the kid's cell phones, and their mom's. They didn't have a landline and I was about to risk my ass by texting and walking.

I slid my cell into my running strap and connected it to his with a usb cord. I scrolled through his texts, which were mostly in Devengari or Modhi. I focused on the Modhi, they would be the Muslim supporters. I couldn't read either worth a damn, but the translation program on my cell was working overtime so I got the gist. Within a minute I'd dismissed most of his contacts. Two of them were political. I shot out a fast message.

"Got a guy, says he's Hindi. Foreigner. Call our group leader and take him to the meeting spot?"

(Continue to Part 6)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Finder's Seekers: Ghatti's Tale Book 1

Gayle Greeno starts a world apart in this science fiction series that passes very closely for fantasy. Humans have landed on a planet that has a race of extremely large, sentient cats. The founders quickly form a close bond with the psychic cats, using them to help run the loosely knit justice system named the Seekers. Years pass and the roots of their society are forgotten.

When her lover Oriel is brutally murdered, Doyce starts hunting for answers. A series of crimes leads her to a spoiled member of the upper class who she can  barely stand, let alone work with. Unfortunately he's a Seeker and she is forced to follow his lead.

From secret societies of psychics, to mystery and murder, Finder's Seekers is a win. The relationships between the Ghatti and the Seekers is interesting- they interact with more playfulness than the Heralds and their Companions in the Valdemar series, but serve the same function as wandering judges and investigators. The relationship between the main character and her spoiled, rich companion is cliched but fun and you'll stick with the series all the way through just to spend time with the characters in their world.

The sci-fi element adds a cool twist- while it seems forced in the Valdemar series, in the Ghatti's Tales it's very integral and woven in from the start. The series can get a bit gritty but overall is an enjoyable read with engaging personalities and good dialogue. It's a little something different, especially for fantasy novels from that era.

Buy it Here

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Assassin in India (4) - Working finkers

(Start with Part One)

We'd go ahead one by, not as a unit. But the civilians parked near us didn't need to know that. I took a minute to work out how fast rumors travelled. Nagpur was a tourist spot city, and we only had four FLET. There weren't that many white males with rucksacks there. We might need to drop them and cut free.

"Speak English?" I asked the guy puffing on my fag. He shrugged. I'd taken a bit of a chance putting out orders in front of him, but he had two bullets buried in his house, so it was worth it since my cover was proper fucked.

"I'm just a tourist, that's all," I told him and he laughed. I checked the room over again. There weren't any real religious items in with the bits and bobs around the house, so I was taking a punt if I talked more, but we'd already hit our drop spot and the Brahmin wasn't there.

She was some hot shit on scuttlebutt lately so I wasn't about to drop names, but maybe I could shake something loose. He was dumb enough to laugh at my joke so he spoke English and wasn't well connected, didn't have a lot of cake from up. But people talk. I was too well kicked up to touch my gun, but I felt it pressing against my side. Ricky still hadn't checked in. I hoped he wasn't taking a sight. I'd put him next to me for a reason, he had a mouth like a hot bird.

"We were heading in to visit the Dragon Temple, to worship Ganesh," I continued, puffing once on my cigarette as the seconds ticked off in my head. Joey, my corporal, would move first and I'd go last, 15 seconds apart. It was as tight as we could cut it with choppers and a sniper out there. The guy gave me a bit of a look and I went on, talking just like I would at one of my friends back home. I'd mixed the two temples on purpose, and she wasn't a priestess at either.

"One of my mates back home is government. Way high up." I paused and pulled a face and he took a seat, vibrating with interest.

"Somebody must have got ahold of something over here. It's never happened before, but it's the only reason I can think of that we're getting shot at. M' mate warned us all to bring protection, but none of us thought thing's'd go to pot." He glared at the wall and I winced. At least he didn't have a hole in him. I was leading him through the gaps in my story faster than he could work them, emotionally. Hopefully he'd cough up some chatter in the five minutes I had to sit here and shoot the shit with him.

"My friend said something about unrest before me and the boys came here. I don't know. There aren't a lot of Hindi's in England. They tend to keep us together."

"You came at a bad time. You owe me money." I looked at the wall again and flinched. I had a cash belt, but I wasn't going to use it. Instead I reached in my pocket and pulled out a handful of lower rate bills. I'd have to swap out some of my bigger ones with one of the boys when we bunkered back down.

Continue to Part Five

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Assassin in India (3) - It's nice to be nice

(Start with Part One)

"Did he say anything about her back end coming up after that? I've heard it's fucking nice." Tommy quipped and I clipped the button before answering.

"We've got a man out on recon, cut the radios." The last thing we needed was some pasty in intelligence catching our static and hacking through our scrambler.

I walked across the thick carpeting to the far wall of the living room and sat down, assembling my HK417 and laying it across my knees. They had a nice 50" LCD on the wall beside the door. I hoped it'd make it. I considered the couch, white rattan that was slowly collecting a plaster and insulate spray pattern. I decided to hold against the wall after all. I studied the rug, trying to figure how much blood I'd lost. I popped an isotonic pack and dumped it into my bottle, just in case.

While I was fishing around I pulled out an eppie stick and tucked it into a strap in my sleeve. Command said don't use them, but they were in every sergeant's med kit. A shot of adrenaline could save somebody's life, but the boys got bored too easy for them to be standard issue, even for Special Forces. Another sharp crack sounded like it hit our area. I took a deep breath and kept waiting.

After about five minutes with no gunshots, the head of household walked back out. I grabbed my personal kit and offered him a smoke. He took it, walking over to the couch and staring down at it in disgust. I lit my own. I don't smoke, except to get closer to civvies. He got back up to take the lighter and I heard choppers in the distance.

"Fuck."  I thumbed out a text and reached up to my shoulder and clipped on the button, speaking in a low voice.

"Ok boys, apparently this guy is legit. It sounds like IAF is sending in support. We're moving ahead to bunker two in two minutes. Get your shit together." We'd look like foreign backpackers unless you were checking too close- but we'd have to disarm, we couldn't have all this gear strapped on.

"We'll that's just fuck all, isn't it?" Mikey spit out sarcastically and their radios went dead again. I left mine on, I had a fucked cover and a lovely civvie with a tasty bird to interrogate- politely. Who gave a shit if one of my boys checked in.

Continue to Part Four

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Assassin in India (2) : Find him and kill him

(Start with Part One)

"Report." Ricky was mouthing off in the background, some bit about my attitude towards civilians in a foreign country and command's creative use of my head and ass. It must have clipped through the radio because the boys were laughing as they checked in. They better have their scramblers on or we'd stick out like a firework during Ramadan. Special Forces are the only inbred blokes stupid enough to laugh during a firefight. It's what my CO had disgustedly told my unit before we got shipped out. It was our worst habit during training, even when they used live bullets. There were a lot of bets about it getting us killed back home.

"We're pretty damn sure he's on a rooftop somewhere," Terry said, smartly. I rolled my eyes and tested my wrist. I didn't puke. I pictured him leaning out from behind the cover of a house, his rucksack to the side, Glock out. Command had given us all standard "Indian wear", loose fitting, darkly colored, cotton shirts and darker slacks, you could hide a sidearm under them fairly inconspicuously. Terry was sandy haired and burned easy in the sun, he stuck out in the crowd. He'd had to shove a tube of sunscreen into his pack, and his cheeks were already turning red by the time the sniper went off.

"Ricky's mouth volunteered him to run point, so he's got two options," I let go of the button and gave the boys a minute to think about their mouths, insubordination and bullets. They were pretty intelligent for all the twatting about. They'd get it.

"Option One. He can run down the fucking street while you cover him and check up on the angle of the bullets." If they were having a laugh, they were keeping their fingers off their radios while they did it.

"Option Two. He can go out the back and make a circle until he finds a way up and try and take this mucker from behind. Either way we're parking it for a bit."

Ricky looked pale, but stripped his gear out of his pack, pulling out a semi automatic pistol, and assembling most if his rifle before sliding it into a dragbag and slipping it over his shoulder. He shoved a hand through buzzed black hair, rubbing at the back of his neck. Climbing hooks went on either arm, clipped to the metal loops on the inside. He double checked their caps before locking a few extra clips on the strap under his belt and a knife to the inside of his left wrist, under his sleeve.

"What if there's more than one?" Mikey said, breaking the silence. The radio crackled as he scratched his beard.

"What if there's a bunch?" Davey followed up, laughing.

"Shut up." I told them, "We'll help him count."

"He's…uh… He's not taking Option One is he? Because he should probably let us in on it about now," Timmy said, his high voice cracking as he laughed at his own cheeky fucking remark. His hair was longer and darker than Ricky's and if he hadn't dyed it fucking purple he'd blend in better than Ricky did. I believed in kicking down insubordination quickly, but I hadn't noticed it wasn't a shade of black til after we got here.

 "No, he said to kiss his mother for him and went for it, but I told him I'd already done that for both ends of her and sent him out the back." I told Timmy, dropping my pack and setting up. The man of the house stormed into the back, his feet sounding off even against the thick oriental carpet. I'd be hot too, if I were him, but I wasn't so I could give the steam off my piss about it. I had a hole in my fucking wrist and we still didn't know where our mark was. I should make up, but I wanted to ask questions with my Glock right about now.

Continue to Part Three

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Let's Read: The Assassin In India - (1- A Weekly Serial) But Home Invasion is "Bad"!

It was 2 pm and I was already bleeding. Shrapnel this time- a cut across my cheekbone. I started to worry after whether it'd make a good scar or just fuck up my face but I caught Marky looking back from the alley he'd made a run for when the shot went off. The shit that goes on in our heads while we're killing people. If any of my mates caught me checking on my own face, I'd hear about it for a week.

The next shot went clear through my wrist. It was my left one, so I don't know how the fuck he pulled it off, what with being on a rooftop and all. I'd gotten to the corner of a building while I was tracing the first bullet. This one blew through the brick of the building behind me as I doubled over, digging some more shrapnel into the back of my head.

Ricky popped under my left shoulder, hauling me up and kicking in the door of the house I was parked behind. I almost punched him, it set off my wrist so bad. It's why we don't feel during combat. I took a look at the dark, frightened faces of the family inside and was glad that I'd given up on giving a shit a good bit ago. Guilt sucks.

"What the fuck, Sarge?" Ricky spit out as he dropped his rucksack and started rummaging about for the med kit, "What were you doing out there, taking crap cover like that?"

"I don't give a shit if you come in on a shining white fucking tank and blow up every damn person shooting at me, you don't get to fucking talk to me like that, are we clear, Private?" I turned and my fists closed. A fountain of blood shot out of my wrist. I almost went down on a knee. Ricky laughed.

"You gonna propose to me or let me wrap up your damn wrist, Sarge? Your face looks like a fucking mess but it stopped bleeding at least." Ricky pulled out a can of VetiGel and got going, plugging the hole in my wrist.

"Apparently I'm still pretty enough that you're going on about marriage," I shot back, "Get me a damn report! Did we pop that bugger or what?" I was pretty damn sure if I didn't do something I'd vomit from the pain.

"Yeah, you're pretty fuckin ugly," Ricky was talking under his breath, shaking loose some gauze and a wrap. At the same time Danny hollered in- "Sure on Sarge, let's all sound off so he knows right the fuck where we are!"

A bullet blew through the plaster wall of the building and buried itself in the floor at Ricky's feet. He gave me a look like he thought he was my damn drill sergeant.

"Radios, Sarge. It's why God invented radios." The woman crouched in the corner, her dark hair a mess and her sari fallen off center, grabbed up two children and ran wailing into a back room. Another bullet blew through the wall.

"No, Ricky. It's why God invented civilians." I reached up to my shoulder and thumbed the button down with my good hand.

(Continue to Part Two)