Operation Backlog Completion 2017
Feb 252014
 

I love alliteration.

Anyway, my main reason for this post is to let you know that I’ve received the schedule for when my drabbles will appear at SpeckLit.

Scarf – April 1
Numb – April 21
Cursed – May 9
Monsters – May 21
Across the River – June 18
Magic – June 26

So we have three months of drabbles to look forward to. Remember, a drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words, so you can head on over to the site now to see what sorts of things they publish.

Also, this past weekend, the wonderful people at Horror Books posted about The Book at Dernier.

Have you read The Book at Dernier yet? Let me know your thoughts on it in the comments below.

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Feb 192014
 

A few months ago, I learned about SpeckLit, an online publication devoted to drabbles. Drabbles are complete stories–with a beginning, a middle, and an end–told in exactly 100 words.

Until then, I hadn’t done much with drabbles. The only one I know for sure I wrote is the 100-word story about Sarah the ghost, which won me a spot on the midnight ghost tour of my college’s haunted library. All the difficulties of writing flash fiction are magnified, as you only have 100 words–and then you have to stick to that word count exactly.

Well, I experimented with some drabbles until I came out with several that I liked. Most of them were horror, or at least horror-themed, although near the end I challenged myself to actually write some drabbles with happy endings. (It was hard, but I managed.) I submitted 10 drabbles to SpeckLit to see what would happen, and this week I heard back from them!

Six of my drabbles are going to be published! Keep an eye out for them–their names are:

  • Cursed
  • Numb
  • Scarf
  • Magic
  • Monsters
  • Across the River

“Across the River” is one of the ones with a happy ending, believe it or not, even though it’s set in the Greek Underworld. Ah… I’d almost forgotten… now I want to write more Greek Underworld stories…

On a separate note, all three of my initially contracted “cold and twisted romance” stories are now available! More may follow in the future. I’ll keep you posted.

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Feb 012014
 

Hello all! Today we won’t be talking about writing (although my second twisted romance story is out, and this one closer to horror than the last one was), but about a few video games. I hesitate to call these “reviews,” as they’re more like my personal ramblings.

First up: Halo 4

Even though I preordered the game and started playing it immediately when it was released in 2012, it took me this long to finish it. This is because, shortly after I saw the Didact for the first time, my Xbox 360 opted to freeze and make horrible screeching sounds instead of actually playing any games. It took me a while to replace it, mainly because I was hoping its successor would have backwards compatibility. It doesn’t, so I finally replaced my Xbox 360.

It was easy to return to Halo 4’s story, and I enjoyed the rest of the game. I’m not the best shooter player in the world (some might say I’m awful), but I have a lot of fun with the Halo series. I’m also a lore nut, so one of the best things about finish Halo 4 is that now I can read Silentium! On the other hand, I still haven’t made up my mind if I’m going to read the third book in the Kilo-5 trilogy. I want to know how the story goes, but I’m not sure I can take another round of Halsey-bashing…

Back to Halo 4! The story was great, although a bit confusing… then again, I haven’t watched the Halo 4 terminals yet, despite unlocking all of them, due to needing to use Waypoint. I might just look them up online. And I’ve heard Silentium should also clear up some lingering issues, like questions about the Didact. (For those of you who haven’t read the Forerunner Saga, there are two of him. They’re sort of the same person and sort of not. I think the Halo 4 Didact is the Ur-Didact, but I’m not sure which was the one from the Halo 3 terminals.) Regardless of its confusing points, the story was great, it tugged at my heart, and my only regret is that the next Halo game will be for the Xbox One (and the rumored Halo 2 Anniversary probably will be, too). C’mon 343, how about a PC release, hmmm?

Also, I miss my favorite characters. I want the next game to involve the Arbiter, or at least his Sangheili (again, for those of you who haven’t read the books, the Covenant Elites you fight in Halo 4 are a crazy splinter group), aaaand I’m not saying I’d run around the room squealing in delight if a freakish parasite hive mind started rhyming at me in Halo 5, but I’m not saying I wouldn’t, either.

Halo 5 is what I want, and for PC is welcome
Fear the dangers of the Flood and show Sangheili’s spectrum

…Moving right along: Serena

You might recall me gushing over a horror point-and-click adventure game called Scratches. I’m still eagerly awaiting the developer’s next game, Asylum (Lovecraftian horror in a creepy insane asylum–what could be better than that?), but in the meantime, they’ve released a short adventure game called Serena.

Serena is available for free on Steam. If you have any interest in horror stories, point-and-click adventures, and narrative-focused games, give Serena a chance. It’s short, about an hour or so long, and has the feel of a Poe story put into game format. Gameplay itself is limited to interacting with items in your cabin to hear the narrator’s thoughts, but as it changed, I found myself unsettled by the story and anxious to follow it all the way to its dark conclusion.

It’s really hard to talk about such a short game without giving away spoilers, so I’ll just say that it’s simple, creepy, and definitely thought-provoking. Go try it out and let me know what you think.

Onwards: Lightning Returns demo

If you’ve ever said the words “Final Fantasy XIII” to me, I probably 1. made a sarcastic remark about “Final Hallway XIII,” 2. ranted at length about everything I hated about its gameplay and story, or 3. both. So you might be surprised to know that I even downloaded the demo for the third game.

I have yet to play XIII-2, although I have it. After hearing about its gameplay changes, I wanted to play it, and I happened upon a deal in which the original XIII was included for free. I probably would have tried out the improved (?) sequel by now, except for the little matter of my broken Xbox 360 that I mentioned earlier. My understanding is that the gameplay is vastly improved, the story is extremely convoluted, and that playing it won’t make the trailers for Lightning Returns make any more sense. Fair enough.

Lightning Returns also looks like a great departure from the first game, and since you get an additional costume (costumes, or schemata, all have different battle properties, so they’re basically job classes) for Lightning if you post your battle score against the demo’s boss to your social media, as well as an additional one if you play the demo on the PS3. So, I fired up my PS3 and downloaded the demo.

My battle score from the Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns demo

My battle score from the Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns demo

The demo left me feeling cautiously optimistic. There wasn’t a whole lot to it, and I didn’t get to explore the world, but I enjoyed the battle system. It’s more action-based that past Final Fantasy games. You only control Lightning, and different attacks are mapped to different buttons. These attacks change when you change Schemata. When your ATB gauge depletes for one setup, you can switch to another. (I went with Savior, Dragoon, and Black Mage for most of the demo.) Staggering has also returned, along with a couple other new twists to combat, such as a special mode that sends everything except Lightning into slow motion.

There also seem to be some interesting social features, as I saw other players as NPCs in my game and had the option to post a message and/or sell an item to other players. There’s some sort of Facebook app integration as well… I’m not big on online play and social media links, but this could have some potential.

I’m a little nervous about the fact that other than Lightning, Snow and Hope are the only returning characters I saw–I didn’t like any of the three when I played the first game–but Lightning and Hope seem more tolerable this time around, and the demo ended with a teaser that promised Sazh and Fang.

Here’s what I know about the story so far: the world is going to end, and Lightning is the Savior sent by God to save people’s souls…apparently by killing them. Lots of weird stuff at work there, and I have no clue how this fits into the same universe as all the Fal’Cie stuff going on in the first game, but at least it sounds interesting.

In short, I haven’t made up my mind yet, but I’ve seen enough to consider buying Lightning Returns. Maybe I’ll try XIII-2 before I decide for sure.

Well, that’s all for now! Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts on these games in the comments!

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