The Northland Chronicles 4 is coming

I’m still alive.

I’m still writing.

The Northland Chronicles 4 is on the way.

Expect it in the middle of July.

More details to follow.

March Promo – Free Books for Kobo and Kindle!

There’s a massive Science Fiction and Fantasy promotion happening this weekend. The promotion features hundreds of books, including the Kobo edition of A Stranger North.

Kobo and Kindle users, don’t miss out! Click this link or the image below to see the complete list of free books.

sff promo march2016

A Clear March

February was not a good month for writing.

First I spent a few days in Tokyo. Then there were Chinese New Year festivities to partake in. And then, just as the the CNY celebration was winding down, a friend from Korea came to visit me in Taiwan. Needless to say I basically spent the entire month in a frenzy of planning while doing and doing while planning.

March is looking better. March is clear. I plan to get into a groove and wrap up the first draft of The Northland Chronicles 4. Although it’s coming along a bit slower than I’d hoped, the novel is turning out well.

I sent about a third of the TNC4 to my first reader. He’s enjoying it thus far. While that may not sound like high praise, this same reader also thought my first draft of Desolation’s Wake was in dire need of red ink. By that metric, TNC4 is looking to be the best Chronicle yet.

Maybe one day soon I’ll come up with a working title for it.

30 Absolutely Unfiltered Thoughts About the X-Files

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  1. The X-Files Season 10 finale airs tonight.
  2. I binge-watched the entire X-Files series during my freshman and sophomore years of college. It’s one of the few series that I’ve watched completely from beginning to end.
  3. When I was young my mom used to watch The X-Files every week, and she always made me leave the room. Was she worried I’d have nightmares or that I’d be inspired to pursue a career in paranormal investigation?
  4. In 2002 when I heard “Fox” I thought of good television. In 2016 when I hear “Fox” I think of Fox News.
  5. Mulder is cool. But David Duchovny’s career will always be defined by his role as hand model J.P. Prewitt.
  6. I did not know that extubate was a word. Apparently intubate is a word, as well.
  7. Episode 2, “Founder’s Mutation,” has been my favorite so far this season.
  8. My favorite scenes in Episode 2 were the ones in Goldman’s facility. The first trip into the facility was one of this season’s few genuinely creepy moments — those kids had serious deformities. And the closing of the episode, when the brother and sister reunited, provided genuine tension.
  9. I liked Mulder and Scully’s daydreams of lost possibilities with their son, William. These imagined flashbacks disrupted the episode’s flow somewhat — at first I wasn’t sure what was going on — but once I understood what they were I appreciated them.
  10. The X-Files looks stunning in HD. It’s probably the best-looking TV show I’ve ever seen (particularly the season opener). Then again, my opinion might be ill-informed — I don’t watch much big-budget network television.
  11. It’s interesting to consider how improved computer graphics and expanded budgets have affected the show. The X-Files’ early seasons were often about what you didn’t see; now the producers can show us nearly anything they can imagine. I’m not convinced this is a change for the better. Limitations have a way of stoking creativity.
  12. Lots of people are under the impression that David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson look as though they haven’t aged a day since 1993. Apparently these people missed the brief flashback in episode 4. There is definitely more old-man fat on Mulder’s cheeks than there used to be.
  13. That’s not to say that Duchovny doesn’t look good. He’s looking pretty swank for 55.
  14. Gillian Anderson looks great, too. She’s very attractive in an understated way. Can you imagine if the producers had cast a busty blonde to play Scully instead? I can’t either.
  15. Speaking of characters, I’m one of those rare fans who actually liked Agent Doggett. Sure, he wasn’t Mulder, but wasn’t that the point? Robert Patrick handled the role well. Would the show have lasted longer if fans had embraced him?
  16. I’m not sure it would have. I think Chris Carter and the gang were already running on fumes by Season 8.
  17. Agent Reyes, on other hand, was a character I never much appreciated. I felt like she was brought on board just so that the show would have a believer — a new Mulder.
  18. That said, I am curious to see what role Reyes will play in tonight’s episode.
  19. It took me a moment to recognize the Lone Gunmen. Are they still officially dead? Considering that we only saw them in a hallucination, my guess is yes.
  20. Let’s face it. The Lone Gunman was too geeky for broadcast television. That said, in our present day world of Wikileaks and Edward Snowden, a new show in the same vein as The Lone Gunmen would be more relevant than ever.
  21. Also, did you know that The Lone Gunmen saved the World Trade Center six months before September 11th?
  22. I’ve never really enjoyed goofy episodes like Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster, (although it appears I’m the only one who feels this way). I think The X-Files is at its best when there’s tension; humor doesn’t lend itself to tension.
  23. Is anybody else disappointed we haven’t seen more Walter Skinner?
  24. Mitch Peliggi isn’t bald; his hair merely migrated to his chin.
  25. Mulder has appeared topless in 40% of Season 10’s episodes thus far. If this ratio had held in previous seasons, we would have 80 episodes with shirtless David Duchovny.
  26. It’s nice to see that the Department of Homeland Security has been seamlessly integrated into the world of The X-Files.
  27. Episode 1, a “mythology” episode, was by far the weakest of this season. Will Episode 6, also a mythology episode, prove more interesting?
  28. Does anyone actually care about the series mythology anymore? It’s seems doubtful that it will ever be wrapped up to anyone’s satisfaction. As far as I’m concerned, the mythology is a convoluted mess that takes time away from more worthy episodes.
  29. It is pretty cool that Cigarette Smoking Man is still around, though. Even if he is supposed to be dead. Maybe we’ll find out that he’s a zombie. The X-Files could borrow a page from The Walking Dead.
  30. When can I watch Season 11?

Final Fantasy Rankings (Part 3 – Espers, Eidolons, and Materia)

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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

This is the final installment of a three-part series. Those just joining us now should be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2.

#3: Final Fantasy VIIFfvii_usbox

Final Fantasy VII was a big deal.

Hell, it still is a big deal. How big? Consider this: In late 2015, when Square Enix announced they were developing Final Fantasy VII Remake, the company’s shares rose to their highest value since November 2008 — a seven year high.

I’ll grant Final Fantasy VII this: It is certainly the most iconic Final Fantasy; it’s the game that made Final Fantasy a mainstream property in the West. Even now, two decades after its original release, Cloud and Sephiroth are still the series’ de facto mascots (and their swords are still as big as ever.)

But Final Fantasy VII wasn’t just iconic; it was an immaculately crafted game, loaded with cool characters, amazing cutscenes, fun minigames, and shocking twists. If social media had existed in 1997, this scene would’ve blown up the internet. No scene in gaming had ever carried this kind of weight … and perhaps none has since.

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Final Fantasy Rankings (Part 2 – The Muddled Middle)

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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

This is the second part of a three-part series that ranks the Final Fantasy games. In case you missed it, Part One is here.

Today we continue ahead with fantasies old and new. Enjoy the rankings and check back this weekend for the conclusion!

#6: Final Fantasy VIIIFf8_logo

Let’s take a walk down memory lane. It was the late 90s. Sony was pummeling Sega and had Nintendo on the ropes. I was in middle school. (Fortunately I can remember all of this. Unlike the characters in Final Fantasy VIII, I never junctioned any Guardian Forces.)

First there was the Final Fantasy VIII demo disc. My friend and I played that demo disc until his Playstation’s laser seared a hole through it. (Only then did we start in on the free game that had come packaged with the $50 FFVIII Demo Disc.)

Then came release day. I asked my dad to stop at Best Buy on his way home from work to pick up a copy of Final Fantasy VIII; I paid for it with my allowance money. It was the first time I ever played a video game on release day (previously I’d always been a year or two behind the release curve). Needless to say I was excited.

I popped Disc 1 into my Playstation and fired it up. The opening sequence set the mood: An epic soundtrack! A mysterious sorceress! Guys fighting with swords — swords with GUNS!

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Final Fantasy Rankings (Part I – The Warriors Arrive)

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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

A significant portion of my childhood was devoted to Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy VI (known at the time as Final Fantasy III) came out in the U.S. when I was 8 years old. It was my first taste of the series; I’ve been a fan ever since hearing the MIDI organ blare the first notes of the game’s gorgeous title sequence.

Actually, that isn’t entirely true. Final Fantasy and I have had our ups and downs. There were years when I didn’t play any Final Fantasy, followed by weeks of binge gaming to catch up with what I’d missed. But it seems no matter how long I stay away from Final Fantasy, sooner or later I always return.

Now, nearly 30 years after the series’ inception, I join the debate: Which Final Fantasy is the greatest of them all?

Admittedly, answering this question is nigh impossible. The considerations one must account for are overwhelming: Story or gameplay? Cecil or Tidus? Terra or Tifa? Espers or job classes? Chocobo racing or Triple Triad? None of these comparisons have definitive answers.

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