My Birthday Results!

Well, a total of 41 people now have a copy of “A Glimmer of Perspective!” That’s awesome. Sadly, I only got one review from it and it was from a person who I already knew. I was hoping for a blind review, but still, the review was awesome.

I received a free copy from the author in a birthday promotional.

The beginning starts a bit rough and wordy. In my mind, I was simplifying sentences as I read. But you can tell the author gets into his groove around the third page or so.

Unbeknownst to us, our feline companions are far more productive in our happiness and well being than we’re aware. The author drags the secret of that revelation to the very last page which made a nice reveal. And of course they do all this with very little praise or appreciation from us. The narrator (a female I believe?) comes off sarcastic and jaded, obviously very good at her task, taught from birth – a power passed down from mother to child.

I found this idea VERY refreshing and new. It kept my attention from beginning to end. If the author wanted, I think there is the potential for more plot lines around this premise. Can you imagine a whole fantasy story with these cats as main characters? I could.

There were a few snags. The author repeats a lot of phrases and words which pulled me out of the narrative a few times. Those could have been smoothed out by more editing. For example:

“As I grew wise, I learned I could guide…” and in the next sentence: “It’s not a difficult thing to learn…”

That sort of thing.

A Glimmer of Perspective is a great read. I recommend to anyone owned by a feline 🙂

I really enjoyed reading the review actually. I might actually do a short anthology of stories like the reviewer recommended. I don’t think the idea has enough in it to get anything bigger. Unless I expand the idea quite a bit, which is an option.

Critique Group Update

The OC Inklings is going very well. I got some great feedback on my own stories and for the most part, they were overwhelmingly positive. Which is impressive since that version was a half-done rewrite of the story. Heh. I plan on getting that up on Kindle before I go back to work. In fact, after I’m done here, I might work on that a little bit before allowing myself to play Civ 5.

We’ve moved to Week 2, which were two different authors. Now that’s the struggle. Each story was radically different. One was a fantasy novel in the vein of Narnia one was the beginning of a story that the author wasn’t quite sure what to do with. They both proved to be challenging in their own way. And that’s the hardest part about critiques. Sometimes, you need to be a little harsh. I try to limit that as much as I can, focusing on ways to improve rather than simply tearing someone apart.

But it’s hard.

What I am looking forward to is submitting Soul of the Scribe to the entire group. 🙂 That should be a great bit of feedback. I can’t wait to see that.

Birthday

The birthday didn’t go as planned. Sadly, my mom got ill the night before and couldn’t watch Caitlyn. However, I started the day with my writing group, which was awesome. Then Laura and I just had a pretty relaxed afternoon before going to Benihana’s where she surprised me with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Always great to see them. The next day, we started the day at IHOP and ended it with seeing The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Pretty intense at places. I had to admit that I loved the way the elves are portrayed…especially in combat. Quick, agile and practically unstoppable. It was amazing and I loved it.

Laura was a little upset that everything didn’t go as planned since we couldn’t have the dinner she wanted to have, but I held her and told her how happy I was with the time we had together. And then we ended up watching more of the Lord of the Rings series I got her for Christmas. 🙂

Gaming

As for games, I’m going back and forth between Civ 5 and Skyrim right now. I do love how well the stories seem to flow out of Civ 5. It’s a great freaking game, especially with all the various expansion packs. Yay! I forgot to mention that I did finish Uncharted 3 some time ago (mostly during a night when I couldn’t sleep) and I agree with the statements my friends gave me. It was good, but not nearly as good as 2. I felt entire sections of story were left out…and a lot was unexplained. However, I am a romantic at heart, so I did enjoy that little part. ^^

And that’s really all I have for this week. In truth, I’m a bit nervous about going back to work in a couple weeks. It’s sneaking up on me. But that’s for another time. Right now, since I already finished my 2,000 words and my critiques for the week, it’s time to relax for a bit. Maybe then I’ll look through some of the critiques on Beyond the Waterfall.

Good luck and have fun!

-rks

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NaNoWriMo Status: Victorious^4

National Novel Writing Month 2013

Well, let’s talk about the most important thing first shall we? After all, this is supposed to be a writing blog.

For the fourth year running, I have claimed victory in National Novel Writing Month. I’ve even already added my badge which you can see to your right if you’re on my main page.

Here are the stats:

Novel Name: “The Crafters of Taylin: Book III – Between Magic and Steam” by Ryan K. Stansifer

50,000th word: “Shall”
Final sentence: “…Vreen’neba nodded. “Head to gardens at the rear of the building. I shall summon an Elder Guide for you. They should be with you within a quarter bell.”…”
Characters: 278,510
Pages (paperback): 133
Pages (printed): 236

Date Completed: November 27, 2013
Time Completed: 4:02PM

Special Note: For some reason, when I first hit 50K and posted it into the verification program on the NaNoWriMo website, it showed that I was 300 words short! So I had to work for another little bit before I actually won. 🙂

And for the first time, I have donated to NaNoWriMo and purchased a Winner shirt too. I thought considering my circumstances, I needed a little reminder that I managed to pull this off.

I’ve been working on it on and off since then. I’ve taken a few days off, but today I punched out over 2200 words and I’ll admit it felt really good to do that. I want this story to move along. It feels different with this story. I feel like I have some serious momentum…and that it’s going places. I do worry I’m spending a bit too much time gawking at the scenery, but we’ll see. I’ve been told I often skimp on that, so maybe I’m just fixing it now.

Anyway, that’s the big thing. Huzzah!

And just for fun…here’s a Wordle Word Cloud of it!

NaNoWriMo 13 Word Cloud

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II

This was a little something I got myself this week during a few of the Steam sales. I’ve been wanting to play this game for a while now and I found I enjoyed it. In fact, after finishing it, I decided to do a rough review of it, just for fun. I’ll post this in the Gaming Section later.

Review of The Force Unleashed II. (Warning: Minor spoilers to follow)

Well, I just finished Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II. I liked it. And I know the true purpose of this game was really to feel as if you had complete and total control over the Force…and then some. In truth, to become a wrecking ball of Force Power. And I felt that sense. It was pretty freaking amazing. The sequence at the beginning of “The Return” was just amazing and audacious as hell. The boss fight when going after Kota? Even more amazing.

The cons though? Far and away the game felt too short. According to my playthrough, it was a little more than 9 hours. Now, it’s been some time since I played the original (which was just as fun), but I felt that this was a lot shorter. I also felt a little disappointed by the lack of environments. The fact that you don’t ever actually face off against Boba Fett bothers me. I felt like I missed an entire level.

And there were a few points where the combat was hard. I know they were going for the “special moves” style but while I played it on a 27” iMac on Boot Camp, I often didn’t see the special move button until it was too late. I often found myself just punching the random buttons I’d seen them to be and hoping I got lucky.

The story was solid…for the most part. But some questions are never answered…especially regarding what happened with Juno at the end. (I don’t think that’s too much of a spoiler). And the ending was a bit too much of a cliffhanger for me…especially since what we see at the end is obviously not the end result before the events of Episode IV. What can I say? I’m big into continuity (I remember the first one was an excellent example of working perfectly within the canon established by the movies).

Characters were pretty good. Starkiller was a bit…one sided, but the voice actor did a great job delivering those lines with the passion that was needed. Kota was a great version of a Jedi General we don’t often see…the rough and tumble brawling Jedi. Vader’s voice? Pretty darn close to the original James Earl Jones…as was his dialogue.

There’s only one hiccup…I think there was actually a choice at the end of the game…as I saw it for a brief second…but I think for some reason my version of the game (Steam) skipped it. Huh.

All in all, probably give it a 7/10.

Gaming Expanded

I enjoyed the double XP weekend in SW:ToR in the last few days. I managed to hit 45 with Jedi Lyssinna and took down the “Fallen” story quest line.

Haven’t played WoW much. But there are some other games I’m looking forward to playing soon. I’ll let you know what’s active next week. 🙂

I did also finish Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Now this? This was freaking fantastic. I loved it. I loved every freaking moment of it. It was a hell of a ride. That one requires a lot more time to give the story its due, so I’m not doing a review right now. But if I had to give it a score right now it would probably be a 10/10. Even better than the original. I can’t wait to get my hands on Uncharted 3.

New Equipment

Well, I don’t know if I mentioned this last week or not, but I ended up getting an Apple TV recently. I was pretty much forced to do it when I discovered that my Mac Mini 2009 would not play any DRM-enabled purchased content from the iTunes Store. I tried troubleshooting it for quite some time until I found that there was just nothing I could do. I couldn’t even find a single reference to the issue. I tried AirPlay, but that didn’t work either. The only way I could have fixed it was to remove the DRM from the episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and I didn’t want to do that. I could have gotten a refund on it, but in the end, I decided another solution was better. So we got an Apple TV which I found to be a better idea anyway. It takes the strain off of the poor aging Mac Mini and I’ve found I really enjoy the true AirPlay capabilities of it, along with the cool ability to do slideshows while playing music. The interface is clean and easy to use, though I did have some trouble with iTunes Match (which I got along with it).

However, this has led to another thing. I’ve been having serious issues with my sound system. When I played ME3: Citadel a couple weeks ago, during the fight scenes, the audio started to become severely garbled. We’ve had situations where the dialogue suddenly drops out from the sound, leaving only the music and sound effects. Or it might just die entirely. It’s all very random. In truth, the system is at least 8 years old now and it’s finally starting to show its age.

Our current sound system is JVC TH-C6. If you’re curious, you can find the old CNET review here. It was a very highly rated system and has served us great. In fact, the way I got it is pretty funny.

I used to work for the CompUSA in Reno, Nevada. Now while there, I was our Lead Merchandiser. I was in charge of sales, special sales, clearances and more. I single-handedly made our Gaming Department the ONLY profitable gaming department for stores in our region. Now, we had one of these things on demo, but one of the standing speakers was broken. And while searching our back stock, I realized we had one new in the box. The unit by then was what we called -N66 status, which is pretty much the deepest level of discontinued we got. So I went to my store manager, told him we had just a couple left and I wanted to blow them out at $100. He agreed…and I immediately bought the new one in the box. Now, according to what I can find, this unit usually sold for something like $400+. So yeah, I got it as a freaking steal.

Ah…good times.

Anyway, it’s time to retire the good old boy. And after taking an enormous amount of time researching things, I’ve decided on the Sony STR-DH540 5.2 Channel 4K AV Receiver 725 Watt Receiver and the Yamaha NS-SP1800BL 5.1-Channel Home Theater Speaker System to replace it. Hopefully these will turn out well. There’s also the possibility that a family member might be able to get something even more awesome, but since it’s Cyber Monday, I want to grab these deals before they vanish. If they come up with something better, I’ll return it. The sound is just getting so awful, but I want to get something that’s going to last me for a good long while and it looks like these things will.

Cartography Coasts

Well, I promised you all that I’d give you a guide on how to make cool coasts in Pixelmator, right? Well, I’ll be posting that in the Dreamer section in just a few minutes. Ha! I’m actually making you GO TO MY WEBSITE instead of just reading these emails (if you’re reading by email anyway). If you want to see the difference, check out last week’s post. I’m very happy with how they came out. And I might just give you guys a work-in-progress of the entire map sometime soon!

“Creating Coastlines for Maps in Pixelmator”

That is if I can find more than one person willing to leave a comment that they want to see it. Heh.

Ponies

I can’t wait for the weekend. It’s Caitlyn’s 3rd birthday party. It’s going to be awesome…because it’s Pony themed.

What? Don’t act like you’re surprised.

In fact, have some Pony.

You might also want to watch it on the Hub Network to pump up the ratings a little.

Castle-Mania…Scooby-Doo would be very proud. There’s even a Pony of (Fore)Shadow in it!

Anyway folks, I’ve rambled on for far too long already. If you’re reached this far, you get an invisible secret internet cookie.

Good luck and have fun!

-rks

Home Strech

NaNoWriMo

Well, I’m really close to finishing NaNoWriMo. I didn’t expect I’d be able to do it this year and I’m glad I was wrong. Because this story it turning out pretty cool. In fact, yesterday, I spent a bunch of time brainstorming the construction of Yellow Jubilation, the tak’tak home city. Below is Ak and Pauline telling Gaina a little bit about it.

“Yellow Jubilation isn’t what most people think of when they think of a city,” I said quietly. “It was built out of a unique part of the Thornwood by the tak’tak after their ‘birth.’ The whole area had been hit by a severe moonbreak some years before, creating these enormous trees hundreds of feet high built like steel.”

“Oh come on, Ak,” Pauline laughed. “You can do better than that!”

“I’m tired, Pauline,” I grunted. “It’s been a rough night.”

“Yellow Jubilation is unlike anything you’ve ever seen,” Pauline said in a voice of whispered awe. “The most of the ground floor is nothing but a huge port for the harbor that ships to the Western Isles and the Athlon Sea. The rest of it is an enormous series of farm terraces. But five hundred feet above that is where the city really starts. The trees actually grew together, their branches forming a massive platform that’s at least three miles wide. There are some larger areas and some smaller areas, higher and lower, but you could walk from one end of the city to the other without ever touching the ground. They’ve built entire towers out of these trees where the tak’tak’s live and work and everything else.”

“Sounds like an amazing place,” Gaina said.

“Oh and the Library there! The Rooted Library,” she continued. “It was actually grown from the Pillar, the greatest tree in the very center of the city, directly below the Triumvirate’s Amphitheater. It was built vertically and reaches all the way to the ground floor.”

Anyway, I’ve also had a ton of success with my new mapping system. Below you can see the original versions I posted last week.

I particularly like the way the forests came out...These mountains took way too long...

And here you can see the updated version with the new coastlines.

Coalition Wilds (New Coasts)Harklanian Union (New Coasts)

It actually looks semi-realistic now. I’ve done a rough outline on my process as to how I did this. I thought I’d have that ready to publish, but I want to do it again to make sure all the steps are correct. I found some great guides online at The Cartography Guild for GIMP and Photoshop, but Pixelmator, while similar, is actually an entirely different animal. And honestly using this technique gives me a LOT more control than any of their techniques did. (And I can’t stand GIMP. Drives me crazy).

You’ll also notice that I took some time to redo the city markers (capitals are in dark orange, cities are in yellow and towns are in purple), add in some rivers and lakes and even expand a few forests. I’ve also added the infamous Borderlands between the Wilds and Folas, a dangerous area unclaimed by anyone. (I decided I had made Taylin far too civilized) By the way, the red dashed line is the path of the RCS Rose on her maiden voyage.

By my next post, I should have NaNoWriMo done and won! Hooray! I’ve been pushing myself with a minimum of 2,000 words a day. That’ll be hard today since I’m getting sick with a sore throat, exhaustion and other general ickiness. But I’ll do it. This will be my fourth year running. 🙂

Princess Twilight Sparkle

Well, Season 4 premiered of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic on Saturday morning. You know, I don’t know if I’ve ever watched Saturday morning cartoons before, even as a kid. It was a bit of an adventure since I don’t actually have real cable TV. So I got to watch an HD Livestream of the event that was kindly provided by a myriad of awesome people in the Brony community.

I then found a full YouTube HD copy of it. Now yes, I did download this, however I did also purchase the Season Pass through iTunes. The way I see it, if I want to get a gray copy of it before I buy the legit thing, that’s okay. Because Hasbro still gets my money. 😉

Thoughts on the episode? Well, you should probably skip this part if you haven’t seen it yet. And if you haven’t seen it yet, what’s wrong with you. In fact, let me make it easy on you. Here’s the link!

Now you have only yourself to blame.

I adored it. I find the fact that Twilight is essentially the same character with the worrying tendencies, the same care for her friends, the same love of lore is all still there. She’s just grown up a little, such as the scene where she commands the Royal Guards to continue their search for Luna and Celestia.

John de Lancie was wonderful as Discord. Simply brilliant. As stated in Equestria Daily’s Followup, Discord was doing an excellent job of teaching Twilight a lesson, though it’s only revealed at the very end of things. In fact, this is the most Q-style thing he’s ever done. Q was famous for trying to teach Picard and his crew “lessons” about their own internal struggles and conflicts, about the future and about what they could be. “All Good Things…” is probably the best example of this.

I loved the lore revelations of Celestia’s banishment of Luna (and how much of a badass Nightmare Moon really was), the defeat of Discord (and why Discord was in such a strange pose when he was turned into stone) and the revelation of the source of the Elements of Harmony.

But the best? The best thing was that they had to give up the Elements. Beyond anything else, this shows me the maturity and brilliance of the storytellers. For three seasons, the Elements of Harmony have been the “In Case of Break Glass.” They have been a very effective weapon against Nightmare Moon and Discord. I did enjoy that in A Royal Canterlot wedding, they didn’t make it to the Elements, but had Shining Armor and Cadance save the day instead.

What does it mean? It means that they can’t just depend on the Elements to get them out of stick situations. The Elements could have easily become the go-to weapon. But by removing them (at least for the time being) it forces the Mane 6 to handle problems in new and different ways. It’s truly brilliant.

Equestria Daily did a far better follow up than I could though. Complete with hysterical screenshots, including Discord in a French Maid’s outfit.

Other Things

Other things are going on. Such as my mom recovering from her knee replacement, me being sick, our continuing issues with Caitlyn’s discipline and other matters, but right now, I’m just too tired to go through the rest. However, I will mention that I finally got “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.” I’m loving it. It’s great storytelling…especially considering Nathan Drake usually approaches things with “Seriously?” He’s got a great attitude. It’s just fantastic.

What was even better was the letter that came with it, from a dear friend. Considering the day I had and the way she gently teased me about the whole My Little Pony thing, it was just perfect. That actually did more for my spirits than the game itself.

Oh yes, I also finished Mass Effect 3: Citadel. Best DLC I’ve ever played. EVER. Seriously, it’s freaking amazing. The game isn’t complete without it. You haven’t finished Mass Effect 3 if you haven’t done that mission. I’ll do a bigger write up on it another time. 🙂

And Tali’s doing just fine. She had her first bath last night. 🙂

That’s it for this week. And I’m only going to have one video this time…and of course, it’s the one above!

Good luck and have fun!

-rks