Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Upcoming works from Declan Finn

Life is in flux at the moment, on multiple levels.

Personally, I'm getting married. While I have the church, I have the hall, and I've sent out all of the invites, there's also painting and carpet work to be done. Long story. But in involved moving four book cases, a bed, a chest of drawers, and finding out just how much stuff can hide in a carpet over the course of years.

Professionally, where does one start?

We're coming to the end of the Dragon Awards discussion. Eligibility closes this month, and voting ends the month after.

The Patreon account is going okay. It's going better than I thought it would this early. You will note that I don't discuss it this much.

Love at First Bite is coming out on schedule. Honor at Stake and Demons are Forever are going like clockwork. Live and Let Bite is on track.

Oh, hey! I'm editing Superversive's Moon anthology!!! .... Except Earth was pushed back by a month. Which means the date of publication of Luna is pushed back by at least a month, perhaps more. It at least allows me to wait on a few stories. But I like hard deadlines, because I'm a neurotic OCD nutcase.

And killing time by self-publishing? My cover artist is swamped with work. And no one wants me to do my own covers ever again.

Right now, the primary project is the one I initial announced as Patron Saint of Detectives. For all I know the eventual end title is either NYPD Saint, or Saint Nolan, Detective.  Either way, I just keep referring to it around the house as "the detective series."

There will be more on that later. I'll dedicate at least one post on it the closer we get to the publication point... which should be in September, after DragonCon. I'll probably even have artwork.

So, there's plenty of forward momentum, and progress being made on multiple fronts. Though a lot of that involves a lot of waiting. I suck at having nothing to do....

I'm sure I can make up some work.

The Dragons are coming.
If you don't have your ballot filled out already (either IRL or in your head,) here's my list. It includes the lists of other people, so there are options.
Just remember to vote.


Monday, June 25, 2018

Review: Tomb Raider

Image result for tomb raider movie bow
Bland rocks vs artistic temple
Sums up the different in a nutshell.
This will actually be a dual review. In large part because the film is trash. Garbage. I have never in my entire life walked out of a movie before. The only reason I didn't walk out of this one and into Death Wish down the hall is that my fiancee wanted to see the end of the movie.

Let's get this straight: Tomb Raider (2013) was a magnificent game with a beautifully crafted story, well-developed and rendered setting, and had depth of plot and character that I will set as a standard against other movies. Not other games. Films.

Yes, it is that good. If you don't believe me, play the game. If you don't feel the same way after you leap from the top of a burning temple, into a helicopter, seconds before the temple explodes .... then you're just lying.

Now, I know what you're going to say. "But, Declan! A film can't jam 10 hours of gameplay into a two-hour movie."

Alicia Vikander in Tomb Raider (2018)
Excuse me, but Tony Stark had a character arc and growth in Spiderman Homecoming, and he was barely on screen for 5-10 minutes. Don't tell me that two hours of screen time isn't enough for a character arc of your protagonist.

Which brings me to the film, Tomb Raider, starring Alicia Vikander.

In the video game, we start on the mysterious island of Yamatai, home of the Sun Queen, Himiko, a legendary empress of a long-deceased nation in the Pacific that makes the Bermuda Triangle look like a theme park. Why? Because Lara is a newly-graduated archaeology student, and she's assembled a team to go in search of the island. That's it. That's the motivation.

Image result for tomb raider
Get used to this view of Lara.
She spends a lot of the film like this.
In the film, we spend at least half of the movie just getting to the island, with no fewer than two gratuitous chase scenes ... a lot of talking at one another... and instead of Lara doing all of the research herself, showing off that she's a bright woman with a future ahead of her .... she's merely following in the footsteps of her father. She's not doing any of the heavy intellectual lifting, and it's fairly boring to watch her plod along.

Because that's what we expect from a Tomb Raider movie -- Lara Croft, running through paperwork, audio tapes, camcorder footage, and dusty offices in her family's mansion... which, come to think of it, was DLC, not the main campaign. Why have her running through tombs, or pretending like she actually knows her ass from a whole in the ground.

Good God, man, Angelina Jolie did a better job.

Image result for tomb raider mmaOh, and of course, Lara's an MMA fighter, because of course she is. Let's check box all of the "Strong Female Character" tropes needed in the movie .... but yet, somehow, the film infantilizes Lara by making her unable to take charge of her own damn life (oh, she's the heir to a billion-dollar Croft empire, but she works as a courier because she won't touch a dime of Daddy's money because "I can't believe he's dead." Sigh).

Also, she gets her ass kicked in the fight. Because that's how a badass rolls.

Ow, I hurt my eyes with that roll.

Oh, and the flashbacks. So many flashbacks. You know what? I don't care how she grew up. There was exactly one flashback that added anything.... and you have to believe that, just because Lara had some training with a bow and arrow when she was 12, she can hit what she aims for over 20 years later.

And then, an hour in, we finally get to the freaking island of Yamatai, the thing they focus on in every muthaf**king trailer.

In the game, they very subtly hint that Yamatai is haunted by supernatural dealings. The boat Lara's team arrives on is taken out by a horrible storm that tears the ship in half. It is a gloriously rendered sequence, taught with tension. And this is the first few minutes of the game, where you don't know any of the characters, and you barely even know Lara -- technically we don't even know Lara, especially in this version / reboot of the franchise. It is tense, gripping, and makes your pulse race just watching it. It's pure Indiana Jones.

Image result for tomb raider boat movieIn Tomb Raider, 2018, the ship is a rust bucket that's sunk because Lara browbeats some poor drunken schmuck into trying to find their fathers, because both of their parents were lost trying to find Yamatai. (Coincidence!!!!!)

I will give the film props for at least trying to get the same cinematic feel as the game. Except that, even though we're an hour in, I don't feel any connection to the two characters who are supposed to be at risk in this situation.

A lot of this film from here is paint-by numbers.

Tomb Raider (2013) has Lara crashed on Yamatai, and immediately kidnapped by insane cultists. We eventually learn they believe that Himiko lives, and that the Sun Queen will never let them go unless they find a sacrifice that will make her happy.

Tomb Raider (2018) has Lara land on Yamatai ... and she encounters an evvviiilll organization who is evil for the sake of being evil, led by a sad man who is running an archaeological dig at gunpoint by his shadowy bosses. They want to find Himiko because of her "powers," that she could kill by touch.

Tomb Raider (2013): Lara escapes and begins a desperate journey of survival, collecting weapons, learning to kill, in order to saves her friends. She goes from apologizing to a deer she kills for food, to killing a cultist, to eventually becoming a badass with an array of weapons and eventually goes on to cut through over 400 gun toting lunatics..

Tomb Raider (2018): Lara escapes, gets dropped off of a cliff, wounded, and kills a man three times her size with her bare hands without so much as a whimper on her part (despite having been run through the abdomen with a bit of tree branch). There are a collection of slaves on the island that we don't know and have no connection to, and I don't think even the protagonist cares.

She then trips over her father, who is alive, has been on the island for years trying to prevent our villains from making progress. And "It's a good thing I told you to burn my notes, otherwise they could use them" ... I think I liked it better when Sean Connery said it in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, as "Why did you think I sent you my diary? So it wouldn't fall into their hands! I should have sent it to the Marx Brothers." Our hero's father is kidnapped by the bad guys, and they threaten to kill him unless our hero does their bidding; at which point, she navigates through a series of booby traps, where the floor falls out from underneath their feet and "In the Latin alphabet, Jehovah begins with an I."

Did I mention paint by numbers?

... Lara kills a few people with a bow and arrow, because guns are bad? I guess?

It is also LAUGHABLE to see Alicia Vikander threaten a helicopter with a bow and arrow.

SPOILERS (game and film)

Tomb Raider (2013): The ghost of Himiko is real. Not only is she a witch who can control the weather, but she is an evil monstrosity that leaps from body to body. She's been trapped in a corpse for centuries, and the cult that runs the island wants to give Himiko one of Lara's friends as a fresh body.

Tomb Raider (2018): Himiko was just so misunderstood. She was a Typhoid Mary whose touch was death, and she sealed her corpse away behind all of these booby traps because she cared just so much....  yet couldn't be bothered to arrange for her body to be burned? What? Even Europe figured out that the Black Death could be destroyed by fire.

Tomb Raider (2013): The final battle is Lara cutting a swath through monsters and beasts and cultists using an array of guns, grenades, fire bombs, as well as a bow and arrow. She has learned to survive in a brutal environment.

Tomb Raider (2018): Lara takes on a guy about a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier in hand-to-hand combat, using skills she had at the opening of the film. No evolution happens. I would say this film was made by Anita Sarkeesian, but our heroine is attractive.

Tomb Raider (2013): Lara has learned that the supernatural is real. Her father wasn't crazy when he talked about legends being real. Because legends are real and they just tried to murder her.

It's time for her to go out and fight legends, and prove her father's legacy, as well as start her own.

Tomb Raider (2018): Lara knows that her father is dead, and he was totally insane for believing in the supernatural. But there's this evil organization out there that she is going to personally hunt down and destroy, setting up a sequel that will not happen, because no one signed the actress to a three-movie deal, and she's already moved on.

I can only imagine how the script writing worked for this film.
HEY! I KNOW!  Let's take this AWESOME, truly cinematic game about Lara Croft's survival on a mysterious island, haunted by the ghost of a witch, and witness Lara's growth from a timid, scared college girl into a woman hardened by circumstances as she uses multiple guns and weapons to cut through legions of insane cultists. ..... 
And then make a movie about Strong Female Character wood carving #3, that spends most of her time getting to a bland island, overrun with cardboard cutouts, so they can get their hands on a glorified biological weapon, and then take EVERY SINGLE PLOT POINT from Indiana Jones at the Last Crusade.
Gee, I wonder why "video game movies make no money."

They made a thrilling, gripping game with character depth into a bland, boring, aggravating exercise in naval gazing. They made Lara a "strong female character who needs no one," losing all of her evolution in the game, giving her almost no character development in the film. Her only super power is "solves puzzles and wins fights for no reason."

I'm not even saying "They didn't mimic the game perfectly." I'm saying that there was NO CHARACTER EVOLUTION OR DEVELOPMENT AT ALL.  But then again, it would help if she had a character to start with.

And you know what? The marketing people knew this movie was going to suck. They knew it. Because none of the trailers, none of the behind the scenes interviews, none of them focused on the entire first half of the movie. They all focused on the Yamatai sequences, and the handful of images and set pieces that mimicked the best parts of the game.

I actually liked Vikander. I don't like how she was written, but she definitely put an effort into being Lara Croft. She put more effort into being Lara than the writers put into the script.

Image result for tomb raider video game movieOh, and the visual design people. You know they played the game. The makeup, the wardrobe. Any side-by-side comparison shows you that the visual design people did their damnedest to make Alicia Vikander look like Lara Croft. You want effort, it's here.

There were obviously a lot of people who worked their hearts out trying to make this film look awesome.

But the writing team?

And yes, it was a team. Three people developed the script. Two people worked on the story. Two people worked on the scrip. Only one person worked on both. Oh, and that one person who worked on both? She wrote the screenplay for Marvel's upcoming Captain Marvel film, a D&D movie, and Sony's Silver & Black film for Silver Sable and Black Cat. Because Womyn.

Oh, yeah, and this woman, Geneva Robertson-Dworet? This was her first writing credit, and yet she's already part of another major franchise. Who is this woman, and who did she have to blackmail to be put on this film?

And the director is ... Norwegian. That's it. That's his claim to fame.

I hated this movie. At this point, you can make a better investment paying $10 for a used copy of the video game for Playstation or Xbox.

Film rating: 2/10

The Dragons are coming.
If you don't have your ballot filled out already (either IRL or in your head,) here's my list. It includes the lists of other people, so there are options.
Just remember to vote.


Guest Blog: Winter is Coming. So?

Personally, my thoughts on Game of Thrones is that it's a Lord of the Rings parody that got turned into a snuff film by mistake.

Dave's opinion is more nuanced.


David Morris
June 12, 2018

Winter is Coming. So?
My Problems With Game of Thrones

For Declan's Blog Exclusively

Greetings. My name is David Morris. I have known Declan Finn personally for well over a decade, since he helped me edit some 24-Alias novels. We don't always agree politically (I'm a centrist libertarian) or on television, but we have mutual respect for our abilities as writers. For that reason, he has gracious allowed me to guest post this piece at his site.
A basic introduction. While I have written a formidable amount of fanfiction for the last two decades, the majority of my writing over that period has been based in television criticism. In that sense, Declan was instrumental in getting me my first professional piece at the now (mostly) defunct Since that website stopped publishing television reviews, I have posted at two website - under my pen name David B Morris., and at my own personal blog (Yes, I know its misspelled; I didn't do a spellcheck, and by the time I registered it was too late. C'est la vie.)
The article you're currently reading represents my five hundredth post at the latter. In recognition of this, Declan has graciously allowed me to do a special guest post at his website, commemorating a series that I am sure everybody at this blog has a reason to despise: Game of Thrones. I appreciate his generosity at allowing me to make this posting on his website. It is my fondest wish that, having read my article, you will go to both my websites and start following me. I can't always promise that my choices in television will be entirely to your liking, but that's the job of a critic.
This piece will also probably be fairly longer than the majority of the pieces I usually write. Considering the length and breadth the series takes up, there's a certain logic to that, too. That said, most of what I know about Game of Thrones comes second-hand, so if I get any names or plot points wrong, they're my mistakes, and I hope you don't hold that against me.

As I have mentioned in my column and blog many times, all of my criticism takes a narrow view. The shows that I recommend are only series that I have time to watch. At my most active, I can watch maybe ten percent of all the series currently on the air, and as a result, many, many good series have fallen by the wayside. I never got into Downton Abbey, I only sporadically watch NCIS, and there are so many streaming services that I barely can watch a few key ones on Netflix and Amazon.
But there are some very popular series that, even given the fullness of opportunity, that not only would I never watch, when I hear what they are about and what happens on them, I am frankly appalled that these are the series that my fellow viewers have chosen to embrace. Even worse, I wonder what it says for the public that so many of them worship these series. Today, I'm going to discuss one such series that has already infected its network, the audience, and frankly the world for reasons that I can't comprehend: Game of Thrones.
Now, I'll be honest. Initially, I chose not to watch Game of Thrones out of any political or artistic reasons. When it premiered, Sundays at 9, I would, usually and faithfully be watching The Good Wife with my mother. Political points of view aside, it was a truly brilliant written, acted and often extremely funny, courtroom drama that absolutely represented the best of what network TV could do. In fact, I would spend many articles raging why the Emmys would choose to overindulge one series and practically ignore the other. (End of digression)
I know, that's a weak excuse. Even though streaming was still in its infancy at the time, HBO makes a habit of repeating its original series so many times after the premiere that I could've chosen to watch the initial episode of Thrones at any time after the initial premiere. The major reasons I chose not to watch it were even simpler. I didn't know anything about the books they were based on, I had major problems with any television series based on fantasy, and it sounded too much like a mix of period piece and swords and sorcery for me to even consider quality TV.
A couple of words about George R.R. Martin. At the time, I didn't know what a polarizing figure he was among the sci-fi community. I only knew him through his work on the 1980s incarnations of The Twilight Zone and Beauty and the Beast, and the odd sci-fi story I'd read, none of which I'd found particular impressive. Furthermore, as much as it's easy to blame him for a lot, at least some of the blame must go to showrunners and head-writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. Indeed, a good argument can be made that much of what happens on the series is more their fault then it is Martin's, particularly in the later seasons where (presumably) they have begun to depart rather largely from the published books. This doesn't absolve Martin, particularly as Benioff and Weiss stuck pretty close to the spirit and text of the novels, but let's at least to be willing to put some of the blame where it belongs.
But even if I didn't have all the baggage that pertains to Martin and the world of Westeros that many people, the fact is, most of my problems with the series would still be there. How much of this you want to blame on Martin or the show's writing staff is open to debate, but the fact the problems are there, and frankly, I think they would've been insurmountable. Let me state them for the record, and explain my problems with them purely as a television critic.
1. The cast is too large. Now, almost immediately I must quantify this. I don't have a problem with series with large casts. The New Golden Age of Television works as well as it does, because of large, multi-talented casts. It would take an entire article to go through these great series, so I'm going to limit it solely to HBO dramas.
OZ, the prison drama that basically started the revolution, began its run with more than a dozen regular members and nine semi-regulars, and would expand with each successive season. Deadwood had nearly twenty lead actors to start show and managed to do a fairly good job expanding all of them in its (unfortunately) too limited run. And of course, the gold standard for great television, The Wire, had one of the most sprawling cast in the history of the medium, starting with two dozen lead actors, and often putting in a whole new group of regulars with each new season.
But the difference seems to be, each series was run by a genius, who knew how to keep things from spiraling out. Oz was in a claustrophobic setting, and there was a fairly high death rate. Deadwood was limited almost entirely to the breadth of the town, and made its missteps when I tried to give too much room to new characters. And as Simon and his co-writers constantly said, The Wire was the Great American Novel with the central character being Baltimore.
Game of Thrones, in the meantime, seems to deal entirely with so large a realm that it needs a map over the credits to tell you where everything is. And it keeps jumping about from location to location so frequently that its nearly impossible to figure out where the hell you are. There's also the fact that each season so far has been ten episodes a year, as opposed to the usual thirteen for HBO, so that even this close to the series end, its hard to tell who exactly the main characters are. (I read one article a couple years back saying that even the biggest characters on Thrones are often limited to no more than forty minutes of screen time per season.) Again, I have no problems with ensemble shows in general, but even in previous ensemble shows, at least the major characters would interact occasionally. In many cases, most of the major characters didn't start interacting until Season 5, and that's mainly because Benioff and Weiss diverted from the text. I know sometimes you need a chart to keep characters clear; Game of Thrones would seem to require a wall.
That's a huge burden for any series, and that wouldn't bother me so much, if not for the second point:
2. Characters keep dying, and they keep dying horribly. Again, I don't have a problem with series where characters are killed. A fairly solid argument could be made that's part of what makes the New Golden Age so special: no one is safe. (Declan may have problems with this, but even he admits it works at times: his favorite season of 24 was Day 5, and that's the day which by far had the highest body count.) And indeed, so many of the great shows of this era - in addition to the ones I've mentioned, I'll add Breaking Bad and Lost - work so well because when the death comes, it stings a lot.
What I have problem with our series where the characters seem to die arbitrarily or for the sole purpose of shock value. This isn't the sole property of Thrones, either: Shonda Rhimes seems to be even bloodier, and I've had major issues with series like Sons of Anarchy that seem to delight in killing people unpleasantly. What makes Game of Thrones particularly unpleasant is that it seems to revel in killing off its very large cast in particularly unpleasant way often before we even get to know them. It was one thing when Ned Stark got killed, the series had built so much around him in the first season, you almost forgot what was in the book. But from this point, the butcheries just seem to come constantly and using all the gore that HBO can get away with. Indeed, they seem to delight in following characters for an entire season, and have you get attached them, and then mindlessly slaughter them in as public a way as possible. (It probably goes without saying, but if you get a wedding invitation in Westeros, don't RSVP.)
All of this has a level of reaching the kind of detachment you need to get through your typical teenage slasher movie, which would be fine. Sometimes you need that to get through some dark series. Except it now seems that the whole point of the series - the battle for the Iron Throne - is solely go to depend on which character is still alive after all the slaughter. Now, I know battles for thrones can be bloody, but this is ludicrous. Frankly, I'm amazed so many people are still taking it seriously. Or maybe that's not why they watch. Which brings me to my final problem:
3. The copious, ridiculous sex. Declan and I had a running gag about a similarly blood and sex soaked HBO series. We said that the real difference between True Blood and porn is that porn has less nudity. You could substitute Game of Thrones and not have much a debate. Of course, the major difference between Thrones and Blood is that in Thrones, the majority of the sex is incest, half the time known, half the time it is unknown, and all if it pretty violent. Hell, the pilot opened with a scene where the Lannister twins were spotted having sex, and the more onlooker was thrown out a castle window! It's gotten a lot worse from there,
And even when the people who are having sex aren't related (which is the other half of the sex) it can get pretty darn perverse. If there's a field for this kind of sex (and given the mass popularity of the novels and the series, its probably a lot bigger than we'd like to believe), at least, its not doing anything radically new, even on the levels of TV series. (There've been two series on the Borgias that came around the same time, and I think True Blood as well had a fair amount, though again, that's just rumor.) What is the most horrifying part of the sex is the brutalization of women. Now, you would\think in this new era of female abuse there'd be some mass outcry for the way that female characters on this series have been debased and often brutalized. There was a fair amount on controversy when one of the surviving Stark children, barely in her teen, was essentially raped on her wedding night. But it didn't last very long, mainly because not that long afterward all everybody cared about was whether or not Jon Snow was alive or dead.
One could make the argument that this shaming of women is part of time and place, but since we don't know when or even where this series is taking place, that holds very little water with me. It doesn't seem to bother millions of other fans, and that troubles me even more. Not quite as much as the untold millions who worship Shonda Rhimes or The Walking Dead, but it is very troubling.
However, I will be honest. There is one thing about Game of Thrones that I admire. It is simultaneously the biggest and smallest thing about. I speak, of course, about the magnificent Peter Dinklage and his work as Tyrion Lannister.
Unlike the majority of viewers, I had actually heard of Dinklage before his work on this show. He is a formidable and charismatic actor who, but for his stature, would have been a superstar actor in a field. As it is, he had already managed quite a remarkable career in the independent film industry, most memorably in The Station Agent and Find Me Guilty. The matching of him with this kind of fantasy role should've been a no-brainer, but Dinklage, prior to this series, avoided these roles because he didn't want to be typecast. Indeed, he made it very clear when he was cast in the role of Tyrion that he didn't want to have to grow the conventional beard associated with so many fairy tales. When he finally had to grow one, he made it clear it was going to be that of desperate fugitive, not a cuddly dwarf.
Dinklage is by far the best thing about this series. He plays Tyrion like Richard III melded with Frank Urquhart/Underwood, with the drinking and whoring of Falstaff thrown in. From the beginning of the series, he has been one of the more magnificent schemers - he's literally the red-headed stepchild of the family, and he knows the only way he's going to get power is by manipulation. For that reason, he is generally loathed everyone, and the feeling is mutual He is probably the only character on the series one feels even the remotest amount of sympathy for, even though he would probably disdain the viewer for doing so.
And of course, he is responsible for the one truly glorious moment of the show. In season 4, after months of being suspected of the murder of his nephew, he goes before the court, and yells out: "I did not kill Tyrell Lannister, but I wish to God I had! His death brought be more pleasure than a thousand whores!" You could hear the ping of brilliance in that moment, mainly because it was surrounded in the filth and noise and bloodshed of hundreds of other beastly acts. Now, I'm not saying that Dinklage deserved the Emmys he's gotten for Game of Thrones, but he deserves to get awards for something, and if this the only way to get them, I can't begrudge them that.
But for all that, Game of Thrones is almost entirely a bloody, disgusting orgy of violence that even for HBO represents the worst elements of pay cable with little of the benefits. I'm inclined to give the network some credit because I know its because of popular shows like Thrones and True Blood, HBO has been given the latitude to experiment with less showy dramas and comedies. We probably wouldn't have gotten The Deuce or Big Little Lies or Insecure or any of HBO's other brilliant experimental series without these monstrosities.
What bothers me is that HBO seems to be its future is Game of Thrones. The series is scheduled to come to an end in the summer of 2019. But there are at least four other prequel or sequel based series being planned, and one is already in production. Is this going to be what HBO looks like in the 2020s, with half of its schedule devoted to Westeros?
The world of television has been expanding exponentially in the new millennium. For the most part, I consider this a good thing, as it has allowed for truly magnificent programming. And HBO must be given credit - a lot of it -for leading the charge. But HBO lost its place at the top of the pyramid when it expanded its reach beyond its grasp ten years. Could winter really be coming, not only to Westeros, but to HBO? There are plenty of other services more than willing to take the crown. Indeed, AMC, Showtime, and Netflix have spent most of the past ten years showing they have the imagination and the will to do so. I really hope that the network that showed the realism of Sopranos and Six Feet Under and so many other great series hasn't decided its future lies with dragons and Wind Walkers. That would be a fate I'm not even sure Jon Snow would want to come back for.

The Dragons are coming.
If you don't have your ballot filled out already (either IRL or in your head,) here's my list. It includes the lists of other people, so there are options.
Just remember to vote.


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Latest reviews on "Demons are Forever"

I got some great new reviews on Demons are Forever over on Amazon.
.... I was totally floored. Knocked out of left field. If you're looking for a fast paced, action packed, hard hitting, no holds barred, tension roiling, nailbiting read that captivates from the start .... From the get go, this page turning bombshell hit the ground running. You have a wild rollercoaster ride that takes you through serious issues and surprises. The characters were realistic, intriguing and complex with an undeniable chemistry that burns between the two main characters.  .... The scenes were so vividly detailed and descriptive that it gives the illusion you were right there in ground zero with them. Twists and turns abound with nerve racking, adrenaline pumping, pulse racing suspense that keeps you on the razors edge. A whirlwind of activity that you can't help but feel like part of the storyline .... Finn did a magnificent job weaving this world he created that just pulls you in until everything else ceases to exist except for whats right in front of you. Phenomenal job Finn, thanks for sharing this thrilling read with us.
And ...
There are some wonderful lines that made me laugh out loud in the midst of the tension. If possible, I liked the characters even more than in the first book. I wish I could be more specific here about the things I liked in the story but I don’t like spoilers. Declan Finn has been added to my list of favorite authors.
This was fun
I dont usually do paranormal romance, but I must say it doesn't follow the normal or expected paranormal romance storylines. The main female and male leads do get a bit involved but not to distraction. While there is a bit of romance, it is not overwhelming. ... The action this time goes beyond New York and Brooklyn and so this does not feel like just another rehash of a first book, but is truly a well written and excellent follow up. Mr Finn writes a very good action sequence and there are several of them in this book. I am looking forward to even more action, adventure and, yes, even a little romance in the rest of the series.
And it goes on like that for a while.

I think some people like it.

The Dragons are coming.
If you don't have your ballot filled out already (either IRL or in your head,) here's my list. It includes the lists of other people, so there are options.
Just remember to vote.


Monday, June 18, 2018

How to Train Your Dragon Awards

It's June.

By the end of the month, everything published between July 1, 2017, and this June 30th, is eligible for....


Yup, I'm going to do two more posts on this. One now, once in July, after the window closes.

This year, I have one horse in the race. One. I've got a single book that is eligible: Good to the Last Drop, book 4 of Love at First Bite... It is the last sequel to the Dragon Award nominated Honor at Stakeand Demons are Forever. Good to the Last Drop came out last year, and was removed for the rerelease. So we'll see what.

Anyone who has read the book and thinks the series deserves another Dragon nomination, feel free. Fire for effect.

If you have not yet read Good to the Last Drop .... sorry about that. But it'll make a good filler vote if you're missing something in fantasy, YA or horror?

As we get closer to the Dragons deadline, I've refined my thoughts along the way. Not much, though. If you have something you want to suggest, I am deadly serious, leave them in the comments.

Best Science Fiction Novel

Karl Gallagher: Torchship Captain.
Reviewed here. I enjoyed this book so much, that if David Weber needs some help getting Honor Harrington going again, he and Karl should talk.

Robert Kroese: Dream of the Iron Dragon
Kroese puts out good stuff, from Rex Nihilo to Erasmus Keane. This one is "Vikings in space." This is actually Jon del Arroz's pick for his Happy Frogs selection.

.... Yeah, I know, I still don't have more than that. I still haven't read Andy Weir's Artemis, nor has anyone else I know. It's been on my pile for a while now. Hopefully I'll get to it before heck freezes over.

I don't think that Brian Niemeier wants another dragon award.

Suggested by the internet.
The Recognition Run
TheMutineer’s Daughter by Chris Kennedy and Thomas A. Mays
Johnny Rockett and the Beautiful Six
In the Rift, Uphoff
Sheik of Mars

Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)

This one drives me crazy.

There's no Butcher.

I don't think that Monster Hunter Saints will be out by the end of the month. And Larry doesn't want another Dragon Award.

There's no Carrie Vaughn.

No Kim Harrison.

There's the sequel to Terry Goodkind's The Nest... which I haven't read yet.

Monster Hunter Files is an anthology.

The only thing I have is War Demons, by Russell Newquist, my editor and publisher over at Silver Empire books... he sent me the ARC, then my Kindle promptly died.  Take a look at War Demons, then tell me what YOU think.

Jon's Happy Frogs list has Lindsay Buroker for Dragon Storm ... whoever that is.

Other than that ... Good to the Last Drop if you want it for fantasy instead of horror? But my series has been horror in previous years.

So, right now, I'm going to back Russell at the moment.

Alternate suggestions brought to you by the internet.
The Mountain Throne: Book I of the Sindathi Twilight Trilogy (Volume 1): Aaron Moore
The Minäverse, Jill Domschot
A Tempered Warrior - Jon R. Osborne
kDira's World
Dark Moon Rising
The Sword of Amatsu (Empire of the Sun and Moon Book 1)
Sidequest: In Realms Ungoogled

Best Young Adult/Middle Grade Novel
The Awful Truth About Forgetting (Books of Unexpected Enlightenment Book 4) by [Lamplighter, L. Jagi] 
The Awful Truth About Forgetting (Rachel Griffin, book #4)....

Seriously, can we get Jagi an award for this series already? I reviewed it here, but really people, just do it already.

This is one category that I don't feel bad about only having one nominee.

Suggested to me by the hive mind of social media.
Valor's Duty, Kal Spriggs.
Devastator by Jason Cordova
Imani Earns Her Cape

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel

A Place Called Hope (Z-Day Book 2) by [Humphreys, Daniel]I want to say David Weber. But I suspect that this might sooner go to Timothy Zahn for the Honorverse prequel novels. Just a guess. Again, I can't recall when their books came out last year.

You may also which to consider Daniel Humphrey's A Place Called Hope. Why? Because book 1 received the Dragon Award nomination last year in Apocalypse, and Dan mentioned online that book 2 is actually MilSF. So that's probably a good bet.

Also, Mark Wandrey and Chris Kennedy -- A Fiery Sunset. It's on my pile ... along with the other books they've put out. My backlog will soon smother me.

Suggested by the internet
Legend, Christopher Woods -- which was suggested as another candidate. It also seems set in the Mark Wandrey Four Horsemen universe, which is part of the backlog.
Last Flight of the Acheron

Best Alternate History Novel
Still no sequel to Another Girl Another Planet by Lou Antonelli Other than that...

Hans Schantz,  A Rambling Wreck. I've read it. It was awesome.  AND I HAVE FINALLY REVIEWED IT.

About damn time. Jon's Happy Frogs concurs.

Suggested by the internet
Best Media Tie-In Novel

Thrawn: Alliances (Star Wars) by [Zahn, Timothy]The category probably opened up as a good way to avoid having a flood of Star Wars or Star Trek books flood a category.

What I would like to happen is to nominate Timothy Zahn's Thrawn book of last year ... but that came out too early for this year.

Don't worry, there's a sequel!

.... Except that Thrawn: Alliances is coming out in July.


Well, at least it's eligible for NEXT year's Dragon Award.

But now that we have a Media Tie-in category, can we have a best comic book movie now? That way it's not a Marvel Vs DC knock down drag out every year?

There is only one problem: This category replaced best Apocalypse. Huh. I wonder if everyone hit peak Distopia fatigue all at the same time.

And yes, you'll notice that, no, I don't actually have a nominee for this one. I have nothing. If you have something, comment below.

Jon del Arroz and Happy Frogs suggests Deadlands: Boneyard .... who or what, I don't know. Moving right along...

Best Horror Novel

And we're back to this.  Sorry, but the only horror I go near is what I write.

So, there's Good to the Last Drop. Again. Yes, sorry about that.

Now, I could argue that Good to the Last Drop is the culmination of the previous three novels, two of which were nominated for Dragon Awards. I've got demons, Vatican Ninjas, vampire hordes, shapeshifters, and anti-Vampire "civilians" (a collection of police, street gangs, and the Mafia, because welcome to New York, you bloodsucking bastards).

Personally, this might be more Urban Fantasy than horror, but the last two were in horror, so I guess no one at the Dragon Award committee objects.

Suggested to me by readers are
Footnotes From the Apocalypse, by L.A. Behm II
Ghosts of Baikonur (Footnotes from the Apocalypse Book Two), by by L.A. Behm II
A Time to Run by Mark Wandrey

Happy Frogs suggests Russell for this. For conflict resolution, I have some thoughts below.

Best Comic Book  / Best Graphic Novel
Dark Maiden #1 -- by  Jonathan Baird, this one looks like fun. It really does.
"Dark Maiden" is the continuing story of Joan d'Arc the young girl who was the savior of France during the 15th century. The story picks up almost 600 years after her death with her resurrection on Earth. Armed with knowledge of the truth behind the afterlife, and pursued by agents of both God and Satan, she journeys through our modern world on a quest for meaning in life beyond simple good and evil. She is empowered with the ability to see past the mundane world and into the spiritual realm. This time around, unlike during her first life, she sees the universal conflict between the forces of chaos and order in a new light.

Dark Maiden is an examination of the metaphysical question... "What does it mean to live a moral life outside the confines of traditional religious belief?" Joan's story is one of personal sacrifice and heroism without the comfort that her reward is in heaven. She knows what awaits her in paradise and it is anything but a reward.

She is also haunted by the question "What is the favor she must perform to pay for her soul's freedom?"
Happy Frogs wants Timothy Lim -- My Hero MAGAdemia #1. 

Because Jon.

TV Series, TV or Internet

iZombie ... Was okay this season. I'm not sure they deserve it this year. They need a better class of brains. Because while in season's past, Liv could toggle off and on brains, this year, she ate someone and seemed stuck in that persona for most of the episode.

Midnight Texas was fun, and Charlaine Harris has a solid fan base. Truthfully, I'd vote for this.

Lucifer ... is dead. The series is canceled. I'm not sure if a Dragon Award would be a good consolation prize.

Arrow ... is on my s*** list. They get three episodes next year, otherwise I'm done with all of CW DC TV.

The Punisher .... no.

The Defenders ... No

The Orville. Probably. Also the Happy Frogs pick.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie

Justice League?  No

The Last Jedi: Hell no.

Thor: Ragnarok ... maybe.

Spider-Man: Homecoming ... eh. I liked the three main characters. Why was anyone else in the film? They were a waste of time.

Bright ...? No. It was okay, but I wasn't anywhere near as blown away as everyone else. Happy Frogs wants this to win. I rate it a solid meh.

Black Panther ... was overhyped.

Right now, I'm thinking Ragnarok.  I haven't seen Infinity War yet, but the reactions are so mixed, I wouldn't bet money one way or another.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game

This is a problem when you have so many games doing loot boxes that I have urges to just tell all of the games to go screw themselves.

Middle Earth: Shadow of War
X-Com 2: War of the Chosen
Super Mario Odyssey .

There are, of course, Persona and Yakuza games that came out this year.... just don't ask me when. Nier: Automata I've heard great things about, but it came out in January or February 2017, and thus isn't eligible.

You know what? This might come down to Cuphead or Super Mario Odyssey.

Happy Frogs wants the "Doki Doki Literature Club"... whatever the heck that is.

Best SFF Mobile Game

Middle Earth: Shadow of War:

Yes, I like the mobile game. Move along.

Happy frogs will go along with it.

Best Board /Miniatures / Card / Role-Playing Game

Star Wars: Destiny - Fantasy Flight Games  (stolen from Happy Frogs)

Alternate Nominees

Now, of course, there are alternate options. Brian Niemeier went from Horror to SF. I, Daniel or Russell could be in any of several categories. So could Jagi.

So let me run down the list of awesome and I'll give you some suggestions in case you have definite nominees for certain categories, but not others. Think of these as filler nominees for categories you're not just certain about.

Good to the Last Drop .... Fantasy / Paranormal. Military SFF (I have Vatican Ninjas), Horror (because Vampires) ... and YA, as I had written for that reading level originally.

Karl Gallagher: Torchship Captain.  Best SF or best MilSFF. I really doesn't fit anywhere else.

Robert Kroese: Dream of the Iron Dragon -- Best SF, Best MilSFF. Perhaps Alternate History.

War Demons, by Russell Newquist, -- fantasy / paranormal; MilSFF (war veteran comes home with a magic sword); horror;

The Awful Truth About Forgetting (Rachel Griffin, book #4).... YA, fantasy / paranormal.

Daniel Humphrey's A Place Called Hope.... MilSFF, Horror, Fantasy (it has zombies)

Mark Wandrey and Chris Kennedy -- A Fiery Sunset. Best MilSF, Best SF,

Hans Schantz,  A Rambling Wreck: Best Alternate History, or best SF.

Right now, that's all I have. Suggestion box is open. Please submit.


Thursday, June 14, 2018

THIS SUNDAY, on The Catholic Geek: Moira Greyland, The Last Closet, and More 06/17

The Catholic Geek: Moira Greyland, The Last Closet, and More 06/17 by We Built That Network | Culture Podcasts:

In this prerecorded episode, host Declan Finn returns.

About time, too.

After an opening monologue about leftists banning best selling authors from conventions, E3, and the Dragon Awards, Declan is joined by author and harpist Moira Greyland, where Moira will discuss her book, The Last Closet.

Along the way, they will discuss sexual abuse, the SFWA and their complicity in the crimes of Marion Zimmer Bradley, and LGBT culture.

Relevant links.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

#E32018: #NintendoE3

We open the last presentation of #E3 with ... a game rating? Are you seriously going to have a film that isn't perfect for children of all ages? Huh.

Daemon X Machina ... Mechs and lightsabers?  Huh. Okay.

Then next is ... what the heck? Umm... did someone get a new art director for Final Fantasy?

Xenoblade Chronicles 2? I knew that some of those voice actors sounded familiar.

Apparently, some Pokemon game. A Super Mario Party game.

Another Anime game.... Fire Emblem: Three Houses?  I heard good things about Fire Emblem.

And it's apparently a strategy game..

A few indie games, like Hollow Knight. Minecraft, Mario and Rabbit? Dragon Ball Z. A Crash Bandicoot Nintendo version? Hmm. Okay. Some Fallout and Dark Souls. Wolfenstein 2... I guess they really want all the money all those other games are making. 

Then there's more Super Smash Brothers: Ultimate, now with a few hundred characters... okay, only every character they've ever had. Literally.

And that's it. Huh. That's odd. I would have expected more in depth reveals.

Oh well.

If you're not interested in this, then you might want to try these books instead.

The Dragons are coming.
If you don't have your ballot filled out already (either IRL or in your head,) here's my list. It includes the lists of other people, so there are options.
Just remember to vote.


#E32018: #UbiE3, #PlaystationE3

I continue to look at this week's E3. First, I want to finish looking at UbiSoft's presentation....

I didn't get through all of For Honor .... they still seem to lack a story, in favor of gameplay.... and they want to convince us that people wearing Crusader-level armor includes ... women.

Sigh. You know what people? I play Tomb Raider and don't have a problem with certain level's of "kick-ass kick" (99% of that gameplay is shooting, anyway), but do you people even understand how heavy medieval armor is? And they're not even using chainmail. They're using plate mail. Do you know how heavy that is? Are you kidding?

I'm not even going to be bothered with putting up that trailer.

Next is...Well, this looks very much like we're doing Greek mythology ...

Oh, wait, it's another flipping Assassin's Creed game.  Screw this. I'm out.

And yes, it looks beautiful. but I gave up on this POS series after a fistfight with a Pope in Saint Peter's for a plot point that wasn't about the main plot of the game, but the "overarching" subplot that's the weakest point in the whole series. We won't even go into history so terrible that Dan Brown is going "WTF?"

Okay, to heck with this. Ubisoft just fed a lot of time to Assassin's Creed. That was a waste of time.

On to Playstation. Let's see what they're doing.

They're going to open with The Last of Us 2.

They made the entire opening trailer that added nothing to our knowledge of the game except for "Ellie's gay now"?  Really? While I don't object, given what we know of her history from the DLC ... they dedicated an entire trailer to that? Really?

The really worrisome part of this is that I'm getting a distinctively Walking Dead vibe from the setting ... what very little I'm getting of the setting, because a quarter of this trailer is dedicated to setting up the "Ellie's gay now" stuff.

... And then she's stabbing someone in the neck. Well, that was a tonal shift designed to give me whiplash.

Why does this feel like they've decided to make Ellie even more vicious than Lara Croft? Do they really have Tomb Raider envy that bad? I'll grant that she spends most of her time dodging and running, but as far as continuing the story -- which was the most important part of The Last of Us part 1 -- this is fairly disappointing.

Next up a few teasers that barely even tell me what the games are. Something that is obviously Destiny 2 oriented.... I guess they couldn't afford Nathan Fillion to come back.

Then there's Ghost of Tsushima

What is this? Kurasawa directing a Batman Arkham game? Not that I'm objecting to that or anything...

A teaser for something called Control. Coming out in 2019. You'd think they'd have more content for it if it were coming that soon.

.... What is this? Mouse simulator 200?

No. It's apparently another Resident Evil game. A Resident Evil 2 remake. In January of 2019?

And, finally, Kingdom Hearts 3 ...

And we're going back to the Pirates universe, acknowledging the next chapters of that terrible franchise (seriously, how did it get past movie #3?). They, too, have gone the Black Flag pirate simulator route.

The graphics have become borderline photo-realistic with the live action actors.

The other day, I thought they were cutting back on the Disney worlds in their game. Apparently, I was mistaken, with Pirates, and Toy Story, and Wreck-it-Ralph, and Frozen, and Tangled, Monster's Inc., etc.  Oh well. At least they look like they're going to wrap-p some of their own mythology.

January, 2019.

And then, from Hideo Kojima ... a really beautiful game that seems to make no sense at all.

I think this is some sort of survival stealth horror?

Anyway, there is also Nioh 2, which looks like Samurai Dark Souls.

And then, there's ... Spider Man.

The game play looks very much like Spider Man Arkham Asylum with some DMC beat 'em up. And I'm good with that. Heck, they even start with a prison break at the Raft, using a plot point in New Avengers #1.

Cinematics look good, gameplay looks good. Costume .... looks stupid, but I'm sure there's a skin for that.

And that's the end of the Playstation conference.

The Dragons are coming.
If you don't have your ballot filled out already (either IRL or in your head,) here's my list. It includes the lists of other people, so there are options.
Just remember to vote.


Monday, June 11, 2018

#E32018: #UbiE3, part 1

My continuing coverage of E3 this year moves on with UbiSoft at E3. Ubi is known for Assassin's Creed, every game with Tom Clancy's name on it, Prince of Persia, and even the lackluster Watch Dogs.

... WTF? Was someone on drugs during this presentation? Because the opening act in the panda bear outside and the marching band ... huh?

Anyway, the first game looks like ... Hoth?  Hmm. I'm guessing it's the sequel to Beyond Good and Evil from ... many moons ago. Funny, I have some vague recollection of that game being set in a more tropical setting.

While I have no horse in this race, I will say that it looks far more interesting than the original game did...

And for some reason, the protagonist from the first game appears to be the villain of the sequel? Huh.

......... and the people on stage inform us that this is a prequel. Okay.

Let's see ... Rainbow 6: Siege contests. Racing games.

Sigh. And we're back to The Division 2. The Graphics are okay. Though "The Government Agency is going to save you" feels a lot less realistic than it's supposed to.

They're promising a story. But they also want to talk about American dictators.

Skull and Bones is coming, at long last. It was announced a while ago.

They're billing this as "There are no heroes" in this game.

It's almost as though they decided to make Assassin's Creed: Black Flag boating sections into a full game.

Transference seems to be a mystery- horror game backed by a video game company owned by ... Elijah Wood.  Who knew?

Well, this looks ... creepy.

And then there's ... Star Link

Starring ... Star Fox? I know it's called Star Link, but it's a furry at the helm of a space fighter.

Also, more "For Honor."  Eh. They couldn't get me interested the first time.

I have to get going, and UbiSoft is doing a two hour presentation, apparently. So, more later.

The Dragons are coming.
If you don't have your ballot filled out already (either IRL or in your head,) here's my list. It includes the lists of other people, so there are options.
Just remember to vote.