Today Gave My Faith in Humanity a Boost

When you spend your working hours listening to misery, being sworn at, and hearing tales of abuse, domestic assault, etc, it becomes very easy to be cynical about humanity.

Thankfully, today has given a gentle nudge to my opinion of my fellow world inhabitants.

It started this morning with the realization someone had cut our front lawn. Now, it wasn’t a neighborhood eyesore or anything, but it was in need of a trim. I hate yard work but had prepared myself to doing it. Well, I didn’t have to, because a very nice person did it for me (I’m guessing my neighbor, as we share a lawn).

Then, my eldest son was supposed to be going to a sports day. He’s autistic and in a developmental skills class. Once a year, all the DS classes in the region come to a local high school and participate in sports which have been tailored for their athletic abilities. Apparently, something happened at the host high school and they had to cancel.

Now, a disappointed autistic child, especially the type who can have sudden and violent outbursts, is frightening. But, there was a silver lining.

My son participates in the recycling club at school. He loves feeling like he contributes. There was a big workshop today at the school board offices that he was going to miss because of the sports day. Well, since it was canceled, a number of teachers and educational assistants worked together to see that he could go. This made him very happy.

Finally, I went through a drive thru to get some lunch for my wife and I. As I pulled up to the window to pay, I realized I’d left my wallet at home. I was very embarrassed and apologetic and told the staff at the window to cancel the order as I couldn’t pay.

A very friendly older lady was working at the window and she told me to “just stay there.” She came back with my food and said to consider it an early Father’s Day gift.

Right now I’m practically glowing. It really is the little bits of kindness people show that make this world wonderful.

Thank you to all. Those involved will probably never read this, but let the universe know I appreciated your actions and it made a difference.

All the best to you,

JR

Songs for a Bleeding World

Have you ever read a novel and wondered, “What music did the author listen to while writing this book/series?” Or have you read a story and recognized one of your favorite game/anime/movie moments and wished you could ask the author if they’d seen that same thing?

I often wonder those things while I read a novel, particularly a novel I enjoy.

In my desire to bring different things to this blog, I thought I’d pull back the curtain and show you some of the things that went into the creation of The Bleeding Worlds. They’ll be a series of posts about the music I’ve listened to while writing, the anime that provided inspiration both thematically and visually, and the myths which formed the backbone of the story.

Depending on my mood, I might even give you a glimpse of the stories that could have been. I’ve mentioned before how both Harbinger and Suture had large chunks of material deleted. I might just let you see what those things were and why I chose to change them. I only say might because a small part of me is afraid you’ll like those ideas better and wish I had kept the material 😐 (Maybe I could do an alternate reality telling like anime/manga often do!)

Songs for a Bleeding World

Today I focus on a song that has been around since early on in the process.

Song: My Dearest

Artist: Koeda, Supercell

From the anime Guilty Crown

The first thing that struck me about the anime Guilty Crown was the visuals. The second, was the music. My Dearest was the opening to the show and there was something both fun, hopeful, and epic about it. The driving beat behind the chorus, surging up and forward, combined with the visual of the main character drawing a powerful sword and soaring through the air amongst missiles, still inspires me.

To be honest, the entire soundtrack has been a constant companion through the first two, and now the third, books. There’s beautiful depth and breadth to the emotions the various songs evoke. But it all comes back to My Dearest, which was the track that hooked me on the show, and the music, from the start.

The song is by a group called Supercell, who first shot to fame using a Vocaloid as their lead singer.

As an aside, if you’re not familiar with Vocaloids, they are computer programs that are pitched with different voices. A musician can input words and then assign pitches to each syllable. The program then “sings” the words.

Here’s a video from Supercell’s earlier days using the Vocaloid Hatsune Miku

It’s not horrible, but you can tell there’s something a little…off with the singer. Then again, with all the auto tune in North American pop music nowadays, this doesn’t sound too crazy.

Anyhow, about the time Supercell did My Dearest, they had taken the band in a new direction and were using living, breathing, human, singers. The results never tire me.

Here’s the official music video for My Dearest so you can hear the song in its entirety.

So there’s post one. I hope it was at least a little entertaining. The next will be on an anime that helped inspire The Bleeding Worlds!

 

Monthly Update on the Progress of The Bleeding Worlds Book 3, Resonance

When I worked on Suture, I remained pretty quiet on the blog. So much so, a discussion topic popped up on Amazon asking about the release date. I thought, since I seem to be updating here a little more regularly, that I’d do at least a monthly post on the progress of The Bleeding Worlds Book Three, Resonance.

So far, my word count sits around 25,000 words. That’s approximately a third of Harbinger’s total word count. Not too shabby, right?

Ugh.

I love what I’ve written. Well, maybe love is too strong a word. I’m pleased with what I’ve written. This is definitely on the right track.

So why the Ugh?

I have a third of the words of Harbinger, but not a third of the story. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve only scratched the first ten percent.

This book will be the longest I’ve written.

Which I suppose is a good thing. Go out on a high note and all that, right?

So there’s quite a lot of writing left to do. I’ve set a pace for myself I’ve been meeting or surpassing every day, so steady progress is being made.

I refuse to rush this. I won’t let the end of my series fall flat on its face. I owe it, and you, more than that.

So there’s my update. If there’s any major breakthroughs in the next couple of weeks, I’ll let you know. Otherwise, I’ll see you in June 🙂

Anime I’m Currently Watching – Log Horizon

Since MMORPGs (Massive Multi-Player Online Role Playing Games) became a thing, anime has had series asking the question, What happens when the game becomes far more than a game?

_hackSIGNAn older series to pose this question was the multimedia project .Hack//Sign, which incorporated an anime, manga, and video game series all at the same time. In the anime, a single character finds they are unable to log off. The story revolves around this mysterious player and the deeper mysteries surrounding the game’s origin and purpose.

5fe886f3daa6485efecf1ea6dc5207931343265548_fullMore recently, a series to have huge success, was Sword Art Online. In this series, players interacted with the game via a virtual reality helmet. The creator of the game goes a bit batsh!t crazy and traps all the players inside the game. If they die in the game, they die in real life. If someone disconnects them from the game in real life, they will also die. The only way to escape is to win the game by defeating the ninety-nine floors of the main dungeon.

I really enjoyed Sword Art. So when I heard a similar series had been released, called Log Horizon, I had to check it out.

log-horizon

Initially my impression was that Log Horizon was just another Sword Art clone. In the anime, players of a MMORPG called Ender’s Tale find themselves waking up in the game world. This occurs just after a new update is added to the game.

Several episodes in, I realized though Log Horizon started from a similar place, it had something much different to say.

In Sword Art, the players have a goal, right from day one. They know why they are stuck, they know the basic rules of how they are stuck, and they know what they must do to escape. The series focuses on the characters as they level up, find allies, and face off against challenging odds to win the game.

In Log Horizon, the situation is very different.

The players have no idea how they ended up in the game world. In fact, unlike Sword Art where players played the game at all times as they though were truly “living” it, Elder’s Tale was a more traditional game where players sat at their computer and manipulated a character on screen.

So the players waking up “living” in the game world is far stranger and more disorienting.

Log Horizon also deals with the hopelessness and despondency people face when their life has no goal or purpose. Unlike Sword Art, even if you die in Log Horizon, you revive just as normal. So even death lacks a consequence or meaning.

Log Horizon is much more about politics, morals, and how to build a new society with order and rules when you’re starting point is pure chaos.

I’m a little halfway through the series and loving it! Though the character designs are a little drab and/or cliche, the actual characters themselves are cool and the story is engaging. I especially appreciate how they keep comparing how things worked in the game, compared to how they operate now it’s a living world. There’s a lot of thought given to the mechanics and back story of Elder’s Tale and it gives added depth to the series. I almost wish Elder’s Tale was a real game!

So if you dig the whole genre of characters trapped in an RPG, check out Log Horizon and share your thoughts.

Log_Horizon_Anime_b14

Child of Light – The RPG I’d Hoped For

In my past post concerning Child of Light, I gushed about how beautiful the game looked. The question I still had was, how would it play? Well, I’m here today to provide my promised feedback.

Story

child-of-lightChild of Light is a fairy tale. It starts with a young duchess apparently dying, but then awakening in a magical land. She embarks on a journey to find a way home and in the process, save the land from an evil queen.

Yes, it’s like so many other fairy tales you’ve read. But even though the overall story is cliche, the assortment of characters you meet along the way, combined with the visuals and game play, make for a charming experience that will evoke warm childhood memories.

Graphics

homepage_slide_child_of_light_screenshot_temple_127570Beautiful. I mean, what else is there to say? The game looks like living water colour paintings right out of a children’s book. The character designs are unique and whimsical. There were numerous times I just sat and stared at the screen to enjoy the visuals.

Game Play

Child-of-Light-Walkthrough-NORTH-AMERICA-630x354Regardless of the beauty and charm, if the game mechanics stink, the game would be a miserable experience. Thankfully, Child of Light delivers.

The game play is a mix of exploration ala sidescrollers of the past where certain obstacles had to be overcome with levers etc. (not to mention avoiding dangerous areas), combined with Japanese style RPG battles.

Enemies are present on screen as you explore. This allows you to avoid some, but the game levels your character as you progress, so it’s worth while to do battle. When you come into contact with an enemy, you are transported to a battle screen. You can have up to two characters on screen at any given moment. One thing I appreciated with the battle system is you can swap characters in your party anytime during the battle without penalty. If you’re familiar with the Active Time Battle system many RPGs employ, you’ll understand this. A bar along the bottom shows the time you have to wait before you can take action. Once you reach the “Cast” point, you choose what you want your character to do. Different actions take different amounts of time. This determines how fast your character travels through the Cast phase and then performs your selected task.

To complicate things (or make them more strategic) if an enemy strikes you during your Cast phase, it knocks you back on the ATB bar, meaning you have to wait longer before acting. You can do the same thing to your enemies if you hit them while they are in the Cast phase.

As if this didn’t add enough, there is also the ability to separately control your firefly companion during battle. He can perform actions such as slowing monster’s progress along the ATB bar and even healing your own party members.

The combat system is pretty simple and straightforward, but as you add new companions with different specialties, you can get very complex in how you play during the harder battles later in the game.

Other RPG Elements

I mentioned above that your character gains levels. Not only do these increases grant you higher hit points, magic points, etc., they also give you points you can use on an ability tree. This allows you to learn new skills, or upgrade existing ones.

Also, you find items which can be used to permanently up character stats, healing potions, magic potions, etc.

Finally, you find gems which you can combine and then add to weapons, armor, and jewellery to give you other bonuses.

Final Thoughts

Worth every penny! The most fun I’ve had with a Japanese style RPG (which was made in Montreal, Canada, funny enough) in a long time. The various game systems are simple enough to not be frustrating, but still retain a level of complexity that harder core players can enjoy.

The graphics, story, and game play mesh into a wonderful experience. It took me about twelve hours to complete a play through on Easy (I think they’re renaming this ‘Casual’).

If you love RPGs, play this game. If it doesn’t sound like your thing, then at least Google Child of Light and look at the beautiful images 🙂

 

Because of Twitter – A Sneak Preview of Book Three’s Cover

When I logged into Twitter today, I was offered the chance of updating my profile.

Now, if you haven’t been keeping up with Twitter news, they’ve decided to make several changes to your personal profile page. In the end, it makes it look very much like a Facebook profile page.

This isn’t a bad thing. I’ve often wished Twitter would allow a larger, and more prominent, banner image. Another handy feature is you can pin a post you specify to be “Featured” on your profile. The featured post will always be listed at the top of your profile.

Now, as an Indie Author, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take advantage of this opportunity to pimp my wares. So I created a new banner, which is very similar to my Facebook page banner for one exception… it has a picture in the place where book three, Resonance, will go. And yes, that picture is the beginning of the new cover. It’s not a hoax, or a stand in. The image you see will in fact be the background image for Resonance’s cover.

More elements will be added, to keep it in line with the design style of Harbinger and Suture, and when that happens, I’ll be posting the completed cover image here first.

In the meantime, here’s the beginnings of Book Three’s cover, as seen now on Twitter.

Book3-Cover

Video Game Poetry – Child of Light

More and more, video games become my source of entertainment and inspiration.

Particularly with the rise of Indie games and even large studios taking a chance on less “commercial” games. With the age of downloads, iTunes Stores, etc, companies seem far more willing to take a chance with more niche projects.

A game I recently learned about fitting this mold is Child of Light. It’s being produced by a smaller development team within Ubisoft called Ubi-Art.

I read somewhere (forgive me for not quoting, but I’ve lost the link) the developers wanted this game to be like playing through poetry. Check out the gameplay trailer below, and I think you’ll agree they succeeded.

 

Just watching this fills me with inspiration and makes me want to write fairy tales.

But don’t worry, Bleeding Worlds will be finished first 😉

This releases at the end of April. I’ll absolutely be buying it, and I’ll give you some thoughts.

What do you think? Look enticing, or not your thing?