Video Game OST tracks FTW.

Some of my favorite video game soundtracks…

What’s the World Come To. – Zac Belica/Sarah Ravenscroft – Sin: Emergence

Swamped. – Lacuna Coil – Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines

Still Alive – Lisa Miskovsky – Mirrors Edge

Isolated – Chiasm – Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines

Electric Worry – Clutch – Left for Dead 2

I’m Followin’ James Bond!

I rather like to travel.  Really, I do.  And I’ve picked up this lifetime
goal of traveling to all of the locations used in James Bond movies.
Not the exact locations, but the cities or general areas.

Here’s what I got so far:
London/England – pretty much every film
Istanbul – From Russia with Love, The World is Not Enough
Mexico – Goldfinger
France(I drove all over) – Thunderball, Moonraker, A View to a Kill (paris), Golden Eye, Diamonds are Forever
New York – Live and Let Die
New Orleans – Live and Let Die
Bangkok  The Man with the Golden Gun (I’ve also been to the island, which is in Thailand in reality)
Austria – The Spy Who Loved Me, The Living Daylights, Quantum of Solace
Scotland – The Spy Who Loved Me, The World is Not Enough
Egypt – The Spy Who Loved Me (Cairo, Giza, Luxor, etc.), Diamonds are Forever
Greece – For Your Eyes Only
Germany(all over) – Octapussy, Tomorrow Never Dies
San Francisco – A View to a Kill
Vegas – Diamonds are Forever
Los Angeles – Diamonds are Forever
Amsterdam – Diamonds are Forever
Switzerland – On Her Majesties Secret Service (I’m counting Geneva separate)

While I have a few trips planned to places I’ve already been (New Orleans, Egypt), I think I should add Italy to the list shortly.  I’ll probably need to skip Uganda, North Korea and the like for the time being, but in a hundred years or so, who knows.

And ultimately, I want to go to space…Moonraker.

I’ve traveled to a few rather interesting places that aren’t related to the movies as well.
Budapest, the desert southwest US, the northern US, Canada, Sweden, Denmark.

Anyway, travel is fun.  I challenge people to do it, even if it’s only to a neighboring city.

Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse!

The zombie apocalypse is coming.  It might be tomorrow, or it might be next year, but it’s definitely coming.  Are you prepared?

I’ve been working on a plan for survival for some time now.  I think I’ve got it nailed down pretty good now.  We’ll see in the upcoming year or two.

First, my assumptions.  I’m going with the worse case.

Yes, some folk may sneer at fast zombies.  They prefer the old-school George Romero style leg draggers, but why simply assume those stupid lumbering fragile corpses will be the worst thing you’ll face.  I’m preparing for fast zombies.  The Left 4 Dead I Am Legend style zombies.  Ones who were turned while alive and still have zoom left in those bones.

I’m also going with the infectious zombie paradigm.  Get bitten and you turn, simple as that.  Even a scratch could give you the nasty.  The epidemiology of zombiedom would be rough.  It’ll spread far and wide, with very few left untouched.  And those will be the smart and quick.  No immunity get-out-of-zombie free card around here.

And, worst case, the surviving people go a bit feral.  More than a bit.  It’ll all be survivalist rednecks and the like.  They may actually be worse than the zombies.

So, here’s the plan.

Soon as the outbreak gets a bit real, there’ll be an increased military presence.  If y’all see more than, say, ten military choppers in the sky, it’s time to bail.  Until then, hide in your basement, or in your neighbors basement.  Gather food, water, fuel, clothing, guns, and tools, both power and not.

Once the choppers show up, and I’m picking choppers as an arbitrary sign that y’all should be able to see, well once they show up, I’m making my way to Shilshole Bay Marina.  There are plenty of boats there, and we’ll need the biggest sailboats we can find.  If you can’t sail, well, you’ll have to learn.

We’ll nab the biggest few we can find, load up all of our supplies.  Hopefully the diesel tanks will be full, but if not, we may need to fill up.  Water too.

We’ll then head north.  Don’t look back, stay in the middle of the sound, and head north.  Up past the San Juans, past Vancouver Island, almost to Alaska.  There are a lot of small islands up there.  A lot.  And Fjords.  Plenty of remote places to hide and set up a lair.

We’ll find a nice abandoned island, possibly with a few structures on it, and a fjord with a dock.  Good for hiding.

Once we make set up, we’ll use that as our home port for….pirating.  Yes, the plan is to become pirates.

It’ll be tough at first, as most of the water traffic will be motorboats, faster than our sailboats, but once fuel becomes a bit scarce, the tides will turn, so to speak.  We’ll mount cannons on our deck (that’s what the tools are for, to make cannons.)  We’ll have cutlasses.  We’ll be good old-fashioned pirates.

Water traffic will die down, so we’ll need to do what all good pirates do when there’s not much fair game on the open seas.  We’ll pillage.  We’ll head to small towns here and there, chop our way through any zombie hordes, which should be easy ’cause you only get tens of thousands of zombies in small towns in the movies and video games.  Any survivors?  We’ll need to deal with them, but we’ll have surprise on our side.  Who expects real pirates.  And hey, maybe they’ll want to join us.

There should be plenty of ale and rum to be had.  Zombies don’t drink booze.  We’ll of course go after that first.  And salt pork.  And lemons.  Don’t want to get scurvy.

I think good old fashioned piracy is probably the best strategy for zombie-end-days survival.  Well, it’s at least the most stylish.

Yarrrrr!

Seriously? 78 minutes of summer?

Ok, this is getting ridiculous.
78 Minutes of summer?  Come on, Seattle.  I know you can do better.  I had such high hopes when we had the first sunny 4th of July in memory.

After this last winter, we deserve a little pity.  Maybe it’s the solar flares.  Maybe it’s Leviathan or the Kraken.  I don’t know and I don’t care.  I want a little bit o sun.

And here Minnesota is suffering through 120 degrees of apparent heat. I’d be willing to take 15 or 20 of those degrees.  Just for a little while.

Argh!

Review: Black Blade Blues by J.A. Pitts.

Black Blade Blues (Sarah Beauhall #1)Black Blade Blues by J.A. Pitts

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this book after I sat in on a norwescon session on gender in speculative fiction. J.A. Pitts was the sole male representative on that panel, and after hearing the discussion on the challenges of stepping outside ones gender in writing characters, I decided to give his book a try.

I probably set the bar pretty high as far as the content of this book goes. I’m a Seattle native, and I am part of various alternative communities. I’ve also tended to read urban fantasy written by women, as that’s what’s out there, and I like female protagonists.

And I like Sarah, the protagonist of Black Blade Blues. The first half of the book was heavy on character development. Sarah’s internal emotional conflicts with her sexuality, her relationships and the crazy events happening around her were quite real to me. As I’m all about empathy with the characters in the fiction I read, this was quite a big positive for me. I will say that J.A. Pitts did well in crafting a protagonist who’s a woman, who’s lesbian, and who’s a blacksmith.

The action doesn’t really take off until the last third of the book, but the major action sequence was dramatic, exposing the protagonists to both loss and success. Still, if you like to focus on the action aspects of urban fantasy, you may have a bit of a time getting through the first half or so.

I also rather liked the Norse mythology take on urban fantasy. Not your typical vampire and werewolf fare, even though I love that stuff too. The mythology was sufficiently familiar to me that I had a context in which to experience the story. It might be a bit more challenging for those who aren’t familiar with some Norse mythology.

This book was an obvious setup for a series, the end leaving enough open that I look forward to reading Honeyed Words.

View all my reviews

The Seattle Freeze

Hope everyone had a good independence day!

So, Stacy and I ended up chatting about the Seattle Freeze.  I don’t remember exactly why, but I thought it was an interesting topic, and I’ve heard about it from numerous people, so hey, why not drop my thoughts in a blog post.

Seattle folk may seem polite, even friendly.  But try to make real friends and you may quickly come to the conclusion that we’re all fake cold cliquish xenophobic jerks.

Well, you’re absolutely right.  Throw in a good dose of passive-agressive too.

I blame the crappy weather.  Seasonal Affective Disorder on an epidemic scale.  Everyone gets it.  There’s no escaping.  We self-medicate with epic amounts of coffee, our liquid sunshine, but the caffein just aggravates our i’m-going-somewhere-important-so-excuse-me-please-and-get-out-of-my-way attitude.

We go from our condos to our cars to our cubicles.  Drop us inside a safe little box, protected from all the scary people on the outside, and we’re happy.  Not like other big cities where people do experience one another in crowded subways, crowded sidewalks and the like.

So how does one actually go about making friends and meeting people in Seattle?  Same way you do everywhere else.

1) Be interesting.  Get a hobby.  Read books.  Play with computers.  Like sports.  Whatever.  You gotta have something in common with people to get the time of day around here.

Me?  I took up bellydancing because I’d always wanted to.  And surprise, surprise, I made some really great bellydancer friends.  I also happen to like goth/industrial music, and hey, Seattle has a surprisingly great community for those on the dark side.

Most recently, I’ve taken up writing fiction.  Other writers are coming out of the woodwork, now that I’ve come out of the literary closet.  No surprise there, as probably a quarter of us in Seattle want to write a book.

2) Be available.  You don’t meet people and make friends by hiding at home.  You just gotta get off your ass and be around people.

Mumble-mumble years ago, I discovered coffee.  Seattle coffee.  The double-tall-half-caff-split-shot-macchiato-with-extra-zest kind of coffee.  Mine was simpler, a single tall mocha, but you get the idea.  I ended up going to The Last Exit on Brooklyn most evenings to sit and read, or work on the computer.  After a bit, I became part of the Exit crowd.  The regulars who’d look dismissively at me when I walked started to smile and nod.  Soon, I ended up becoming friends with a number of them.  Just because I was there all…the…time.

Bellydancing?  I didn’t sit at home bellydancing in front of my dog.  Well, I do that sometimes, but that’s beside the point.  I took classes.  Lots of them.  Classes with people in them.  That is, in fact, how I met my bellydancer friends.

And hey, I discovered sci-fi and fantasy cons recently, and I’ve found I like other writers.  How about that.

3) Be patient.  You won’t immediately make friends with a core group of Seattle folk.  It may take months, even longer.  You’ll run across a lot of shallow people, a lot of flakes, and a lot of drama magnets.  Avoid them.  Just hang in there, and do items one and two above.

4) Don’t be desperate.  Show some self confidence.  If you come across as a pitiful clingy loser, you’ll never meet anyone.  Well, except for other pitiful clingy losers.

5) Don’t be pushy.  Seriously, I don’t want you to shove your life story down my throat.  If I’m interested in talking to you, I’ll talk  But if you sit down next to me on the bus and regurgitate your opinion on the political situation in the U.S. into my lap while I’m trying to read a book, I’ll likely not want to be your friend.  I’ll probably want to chew my arm off just to get away from you.
Fortunately for you, I’m a native, so I won’t start a fight or bitch you out.  I’ll just shove my nose deeper into my book.

Sound like the typical advice for making friends anywhere?  It is.  You just gotta do a lot more of it in Seattle.

Spend a year or so becoming part of a clique or two, and you’ll be set to do your passive-aggressive best to those losers wandering around Seattle.  Hey, most of them are from California anyway.  Fair game.

And another thing!

I received my feedback from the Red Cross auction.  Carolyn Crane, Diana Rowland, Jackie Kessler, Jeanne Stein, Kevin Hearne, Michele Bardsley and Sonya Bateman, all great urban fantasy authors, spent at least an hour reading and critiquing the first chapter of my book.  That’s seven hours of professional writers reviewing my work.  Probably more time time than I’d received from my writing teachers during my entire school career…

I got a lot of great feedback, most of it quite positive.  A lot of them rather liked it, which makes me feel all warm and gooey inside.  Like maybe I might have a chance at this writing thing.

Generally, the feedback boiled down to….

My characters were real and likable.

I’ve got a good handle on dialog.

I need to be more careful about tense, as I sometimes dropped present tense in amongst a mostly past tense writing style.

Need to proofread better for typos, punctuation and grammatical errors.

For the most part, I pulled off what I thought was a huge risk, starting with a page or two of dream sequence.  Only one person stated that they hated that.

I need to expose the emotional state of my main character a bit more directly.

I have a ‘voice’

I’ve some good imagery

Some of the actual comments totally floored me.
“Your use of language and structure is very professional.  You obviously study craft.”  “I think you have an awesome command of craft and getting people and speech and action right”
After years of getting ignored or even disrespected by english teachers and the like as I was a science nerd, I totally dropped any idea of doing the writing thing.

“I think you have a lot of really cool inventiveness in here that I haven’t seen before.”  I woulda thought I would write more like the authors I read.

Funny how the same writing affects different people, although definitely not surprising.  Some of the folk really connected with my work.  Others not as much.  In many cases, specific sentences pleased some and displeased others.  I’d rather connect with some than none.  And if I were to connect with all, then it’d be watered down commercial crap.

Now I just gotta revise the rest of it.

Reuben turnover

Reuben turnovers are win!
We had some corned beef so I decided to play around a bit.
Sliced it up into little bitty chunks, stuffed it in a pastry shell with
some sauerkraut and swiss cheese.  Cooked it up.  Served with
stone-ground mustard and thousand island dressing for dipping.

Total win.

Now, as I’ve not posted in about a month…being that I was sick, busy and cranky, I’ll catch up.
During that time, I managed to attend Norwescon.  It was grueling.
I’m not so much one to attend the gaming/cosplay/party side of things as, well, I save
my partying for other darker venues.  However, I did attend just about every writing
panel session that I could.  Like 9 hours of sessions every day (well, ‘cept Thursday and Sunday).

I barely had time for food or even coffee, as the sessions were back-to-back.
Takeaways:

Paranormal romance has a happy ending 🙂  Urban fantasy doesn’t.  (ok, a generalization)

Modern marketing for writers consists of blogging, twitter and facebook, and cons to some extent.

When revising/editing your work, read it aloud.  Or have someone else read it aloud, even if it is your computer.  That’ll catch spelling and grammar mistakes fairly well.

If you want to find an agent or publisher, look in the bar.

There was a fair bit more, but most of that boiled down to ‘write’ and ‘read lots’.

Now I just gotta get to revising my writing…only about 60k words to go.

Back to School!

No, I’m not actually quitting my job to re-enroll in university for a BA in basket weaving.

Please forgive my ramblings…I blame the vicodin and cold medicine…but here’s whats been going on.

Yesterday, I returned from a five day weekend in Pittsburgh, home of my alma mater, Carnegie Mellon.
It’s been, OMG, twenty years since I graduated from that tiny little school, but it feels like yesterday.  I’ve not been to Pittsburgh for seventeen years, but once I was standing on the cut, looking down the mall at Hamerschlag Hall, the engineering and computer engineering building, well, it call came flooding back.

We arrived in Pittsburgh last Wednesday at about Midnight, picked up our rental car which turned out to be a small SUV and not the compact I’d reserved (no extra charge though).  We checked into the Wyndham Grand downtown, and were delighted to see that it is literally next to point park, the site of Fort Pitt, where Pittsburgh was born.  We had the most amazing view.

The next day, we wandered around downtown.  Strangely enough, I’d never really gone downtown in the four years I lived there.  My friends and I kept to campus, buried under a huge workload, surrounded by a moat of beer flowing from the fraternities.

We found great coffee, shopped a bit (I found some great shoes), met a really cool artist, explored some great architecture, and wandered through an old church graveyard full of revolutionary war veterans.  Cool stuff.  Afterwards, we headed to CMU and explored some of my old haunts after registering and nomming some burgers.

Friday morning, we made it to CMU early enough to catch the last few Buggy races.  Not just any buggy either, but my old buggy team, SDC.  And they kicked butt, ultimately winning (along with Fringe).  Then we grabbed nom at the all campus BBQ, saw the MOBOT races, took a tour of the robotics club (of which I’m an alum), attended a general alumni reception and otherwise goofed around.

Saturday, we headed back and attended the ECE (electrical and computer engineering) alum reception, the LGBT and Friends reception, and finally the class of 1990’s reception.  Lots of fun, but I did manage to hurt my foot pretty bad on the way to the 1990’s reception.  I misjudged when stepping off of a step, ion heels.  Possible fracture, I find out tomorrow.  Yuck.  Oh, and I caught a cold 🙁

A lot of fun and nostalgia packed into a long weekend.