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Music Monday: Retro hour August 27, 2018

Posted by thejinx in music.
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Lo and behold! I haven’t forgotten about my “weekly” feature. I’m just terrible at sticking to it.

This week, I wanted to share some arrangements with a retro, vintage, even old-fashioned flair. I’m always amazed at the imagination of arrangers, and these songs in particular impressed me.

HyperDuck SoundWorks – Punk Hairdo Kid (download)

We’ll start back in the ’80s with this synth-pop arrangement of “Chrono Trigger” from the SNES classic Chrono Trigger. This one delighted me on first listen, both for the kitschy-ness and the quality of the arrangement, and I can totally picture this music to the opening of a cheesy 1980s cartoon about Chrono Trigger.

 

Cyril the Wolf – Dancing in the Jungle (download)

Going further back now with this arrangement of “Brinstar Green Soil” from Super Metroid that makes me envision a ’70s cop show in which Samus Aran hunts down aliens while driving a muscle car and wearing an orange and yellow pantsuit with padded shoulders. In fact, listening to this song spawned an entire novel idea just a couple months ago, which took over my mind and made it awfully hard to focus on anything else for a few weeks, at least.

HyperDuck SoundWorks – Yearnings na Gaoithe (download)

HyperDuck SoundWorks delivers again with this gorgeous ’60s ambient rock style arrangement of “Longing of the Wind” from Chrono Trigger. The mellow beat, lo-fi instruments, and added record scratches are expertly woven into an authentic-sounding tribute to early synth rock and smoothly transforms this classic tune into something almost timeless.

Brandon Strader – Terra in Jazz (download)

Now it’s time to go way back, as Brandon Strader arranges “Terra” from Final Fantasy VI in a Prohibition-era jazz style that feels so real, you can almost smell the cigarette smoke in a dingy little speakeasy. Once again, the arrangement is so smooth, it feels like the original song was made for this style.

Scrab Cakes – Silent Film Partita (download)

And I’ll close out this week with another completely unexpected yet brilliant arrangement, a piano solo of “Wood Carving Partita” from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night in the particular style of ragtime used in classic silent films. What else can I say? Like the other tracks, it’s an ingenious transformation of a singular original song, and it was a well-deserved win for the March 2017 Dwelling of Duels.

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Never ending stories August 24, 2018

Posted by thejinx in art, writing.
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I have some news to announce. The good news is: I’ve written a new story.

The bad news, of course, is I’ve written a new story.

Followers might wonder, so recently after I announced my intention not to write other books until I finish the Sisters of Chaos trilogy, why I suddenly wrote an entirely new book.

In short, I wanted to write a story for my daughter.

I’ve been wanting to write a story for her for years. But, as a SFF author of 100,000-word novels that lean more toward the grey side of the grimdark/noblebright scale, I found picture books just a bit too far outside my normal scope to attempt. Now that she is reading chapter books, however, I find an opportunity to write a story for her much more accessible.

I also made a realization recently. I hadn’t even considered writing a kid’s book before finishing with my trilogy, but it occurred to me that if I wait until then, she might be of an age when she can just read my regular work, and I’ll have missed the opportunity.

So, I sat down and wrote her a book. World, meet Mia:

mia

She’s nine years old, Hispanic, and lives on a space station.

Chapter books are still barely longer than my standard short story, so I was able to write out the entire book in a couple weeks. I still have some editing to do, but hopefully, the story won’t take much longer to finalize. The real holdup will be illustrations. Much as I would love to have someone else handle them, I just don’t have the budget for it, and I think my daughter would appreciate me drawing them myself.

Soon, I hope, I can share Mia’s story with the world.

Gen Con 2018 games wrap-up part 2 August 8, 2018

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Friday – 7:00-11:00 p.m. – Mistborn: House War

cover-cfg-13001-mistborn-house-war-retail-500x750I’ve been eyeing this game for a few years, because Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson is one of my all-time favourite book series. In this game based on said series, players take the role of the noble houses, gaining resources and solving problems in the Final Empire and trying to curry the most favour with the Lord Ruler – or, based on how the game progresses, the most disgrace.

I went into this game open-minded and very curious, but I wasn’t crazy about the theme of the game, since I was, essentially, playing as the villains from the books. The game play, however, turned out to be extremely compelling. This is particularly interesting in my case, because I don’t generally care for games in which one has to stab one’s friends in the back. However, the way Mistborn played, with equal parts working together with and against the other players, made it very interesting. The game wasn’t super complicated and there was almost no luck involved (no dice to curse me, huzzah!) which I also thoroughly enjoyed. Plus, the fact that maxing out the Unrest slider on the board means the player with the least favour wins adds a very interesting element to the game. Overall, this was a very fun game and I ended up picking up a copy.

Saturday – 7:00-10:00 – CATaclysm the Board Game

Shiraz Sheikh and Brent Logan Kickstarted CATaclysm the RPG last year, a game in which humans are gone and cats have evolved into the adventurous heroes, with oversized rats being their primary opponents. What my husband and I played was a prototype of an RPG-in-a-box version of CATaclysm, which the game creators plan to Kickstart later this year. I didn’t know this much going into it; we saw a listing for a cooperative miniatures game starring cats and decided to go for it.

Simply put, this was easily our favourite game of Gen Con. The game play was fantastic, the theme was just the right balance between silly and actually quite sensible (the heroes, being cats, take damage if they stay in water, except the Maine Coon, of course), and the 3D printed minis and prototype board, cards, and pieces were of excellent quality, not to mention adorable. Shiraz also did a fantastic job explaining the rules clearly and concisely, giving us just enough detail to get the gist of the game without bogging us down with unnecessary information, simplifying game play for the sake of the demo, and letting us mostly work it out ourselves while still being on hand to answer questions, clarify rules, and occasionally make suggestions. I also really like the fact that the enemies are all AI-controlled, so no one has to play against everyone else in the group.

I absolutely loved this game and am seriously looking forward to October, when they plan to Kickstart the game. I highly, highly recommend this game for fans of the RPG-in-a-box style.

And that’s a wrap! It doesn’t sound like much compared to last year, but I got in just the right amount of games for me, more actual board/table top games than I took in last year, and really enjoyed what I did play. It was a great weekend.

The Gen Con 2018 haul August 7, 2018

Posted by thejinx in conventions, life.
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20180806_122042I shared a photo of our Gen Con haul this year in my previous post, but I wanted to go into a little more detail than that, since we picked up so much stuff that the photo is a little busy. So, here’s the breakdown:

Books

Games

Artwork

Miscellaneous gaming merchandise

  • Seven X-Wing Miniatures promo cards
  • One pack version 2.0 T-65 X-Wing damage deck for Star Wars: X-Wing
  • Four packs version 1.0 damage deck promo cards for Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures
  • Four packs card protectors
  • Assorted dice

It was definitely a larger haul than usual, and certainly my own largest yet. Thanks again to Gen Con for providing a space and for all of the producers/creators for creating work I enjoyed so much.

Gen Con 2018 games wrap-up part 1 August 6, 2018

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Another fantastic Gen Con has come to an end. I had a blast, as always, particularly since I took a cue from last year and scheduled my evenings full, rather than leaving myself to my own devices. I also came away from the convention feeling very inspired and actually have some time to do something about it, so hopefully I can get some work done on some of my projects this month.

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Our haul this year

Strangely, though, I didn’t find as many events in the evenings that interested me, so despite my desire to game until midnight this year, two nights ended (or at least were scheduled to end) at 11:00, one at 10:00, and Wednesday night I was done by 9:00. (I was glad for that early night, however, after getting up at 3:30 that morning to make the drive.) Then the other nights ended up finishing early as the games wrapped up before schedule. I didn’t mind going back to the hotel early, though; adding a few hours of gaming onto an eight-hour work day is pretty exhausting.

And I did play some great games I’d never discovered before. So, without further ado, here comes my 2018 games wrap-up post.

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Super Dungeon Explore July 30, 2018

Posted by thejinx in art.
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Off and on over the past several months, I’ve been painting miniatures from Super Dungeon Explore (the Forgotten King expansion), and now, I thought I’d finally share my progress so far.

The Forgotten King

SDE-forgottenking-1 SDE-forgottenking-2

Rabid Squirrels

SDE-squirrels

Billman

SDE-billman-1 SDE-billman-2

Pets (The Colonel and Admiral Fuzzybottom)

SDE-pets

Thunder Vale Huntress

SDE-huntress-1 SDE-huntress-2

Treasure chests

SDE-bigtreasure SDE-littletreasure

New art: Garrick July 17, 2018

Posted by thejinx in art, enduring chaos.
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Awfully late with this one, but I wanted to share this fantastic drawing of Garrick from Enduring Chaos by Stephen Peterson of TriCity Studios!

Scenes from the mountains June 19, 2018

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Sharing some shots from a recent trip to Colorado and Taos, New Mexico. Among the outings were a ride on the Royal Gorge train, a visit to the Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO world heritage site, and the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. A few of these were taken with my phone, but most were using my camera. In my usual way, no editing of any kind was done on any of these pictures.

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Finding light out of darkness June 9, 2018

Posted by thejinx in life.
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Once again, mental health is on our collective consciousness. The reasoning is tragic, but I’m glad that it is, because sometimes, those still fighting need to hear that others are thinking about them, that there is help available. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain show us, once again, that depression doesn’t care how successful or inspiring one is. Even people who seem like they should have nothing to complain about can suffer from it, and I guarantee you that those so afflicted berate themselves for feeling so miserable.

We need to talk about it. We need to hear that there are so many people out there – friends, family, and strangers – who care and who want to see sufferers improve. We need to tell the un-afflicted that sometimes it’s not enough just to say you’re there, that you need to actively reach out when someone withdraws. And we need to share our stories, especially the stories of success, so that those in the deepest pits know that there is a way out.

With that in mind, I just wanted to add a few things to the conversation, based on my personal experience:

1. Get help if you’re hurting. You go to the doctor when you’re sick, so go when your mental health is suffering. Seems like a no-brainer, right? But there’s a wealth of reasons why the afflicted don’t seek help when they should. I waited entirely too long to seek help for my anxiety, probably mainly due to pride. But I’ve been on medication for a couple months now and it has made all the difference. And don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t immediately make a difference; I got lucky this time, but when I was fighting depression in high school, I went through at least half a dozen different medications before I found one that worked for me.

If you don’t have a family doctor or you live in the U.S. and don’t have health insurance, Google is your friend. Search for mental health resources; they are out there. You deserve to go through your life without hurting. The search may be exhausting but you are worth the effort. You would do this for someone else, wouldn’t you? So put in the work for yourself. Look for what you need to get better, whether that’s medication, therapy, support groups, or just getting out more.

2. If physically possible, get some exercise. I have neglected this one much more recently and managed to forget that it is a crucial part of my treatment. Medication alone just isn’t enough for me, and it’s an easy way to work on feeling better while working out other treatment options. You don’t need any special equipment to do it. Couch to 5K is a free smartphone app and is an easy, gradual way to start jogging. Wii Fit and dancing games can be done from the comfort of your home and offer rewards and incentives for continuing. Do twenty minutes of jumping jacks if you have to. I know that when you’re in the throes of depression it’s extremely hard to do, but force yourself to do it.

3. Repeat after me: it is okay to take care of yourself. This is something I frequently have to remind myself. It doesn’t matter how much I truly believe it, I still have to convince myself that I’m allowed to take a break from work. Your health, and your mental health, are a priority. So go ahead. Cancel that event if you have to. Buy that blended coffee drink. Take the long way home and take a drive out into the country. Go to that local attraction you’ve always wanted to see. Go to the movie theatre alone. You take care of you. I know it can be hard, particularly if you work retail (hat’s off to you folks), but sometimes you need it, and you definitely deserve it. Mentally ill people are some of the hardest working and most caring and giving of themselves, because they tend to be so concerned with others. You deserve a break, in whatever form that may take.

I was there. I remember those days, and occasionally still have them, when I feel worthless and unlovable and ugly and a waste of resources. Frankly, it hurts a little just to write those words. But I’ve been fighting it long enough and I’ve learned enough to know that it isn’t true. So if you don’t believe it yourself, then take it from me, someone’s who’s gone through it and (mostly) made it through to the other side:

You are worth the effort.

You deserve to be happy.

You are allowed to help yourself.

The world is better with you in it.

Your friends and many others want to see you feel better.

You are not alone.

New art: Thunder Vale Huntress June 8, 2018

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On the topic of badly delayed posts, it’s time I shared some art I did only a full month ago. For Christmas, we got ourselves a box set of Super Dungeon Explore. As soon as I saw the Thunder Vale Huntress figure, I wanted to paint her.

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However, I wasn’t crazy about her in-game colour scheme.

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I saw her differently, so I decided to paint her my own way.

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Then, for some reason, the night I finished painting her, I was overcome with a desire to draw her as well. My muse, ADHD as it is, decided to devote my weekend to it. Not only that, but I broke out art supplies I haven’t touched in years, such as my 11″ x 14″ Bristol board (now possibly my favourite paper for markers, which I hadn’t tried before) and the brush pen I had yet to seriously try. I even went and attempted some serious comic inking, as well as more detailed horse anatomy than I’ve ever tried drawing before.

SDE centaur

Admittedly, I am pretty happy with this drawing (even if most of my shading on the horse body disappeared when I added the brown). I just wish my muse would get this excited about the projects I’m actually supposed to be working on.