Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Skyrim: In Faendal's memory

Okay, so I am fully aware that this post will reveal my complete and utter geekiness. But I'm okay with that. I've made peace with my inner nerd. Also, remember that, as a writer, I tend to see everything as an unfolding story. Which will make sense in just a moment...

So, as many of you know, I'm a gamer. When not writing, I can usually be found on any one of my three consoles (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii) or on the PC with my Sims. When I have a new game, everything except writing sort of goes out the window, and I vanish from twitter for as long as it takes me to beat the game.

This season's addiction of choice is Bethesda's Skyrim.

I've done video game reviews before. You can even find some of them on this blog. This is not a review, exactly. This is more....well, I don't really know what this is. A story. Yes, that's what it is; this is the story of the life and death of a fictional AI character in a video game.

You've been warned.

Skyrim opens, as the Elder Scrolls always do, with you as a prisoner for some unknown, never-touched upon crime. In Morrowind you were a prisoner on a slave ship, in Oblivion you were stuck in the castle dungeon. In Skyrim, you have been captured with a group of rebels and taken to a fort, where you are to be executed with no trial. But, just as your head lands on the chopping block, a dragon swoops down and attacks. You escape, and after fighting your way through the fort's underground tunnels (filled with giant spiders, why are there always giant spiders?), you emerge into the huge, wide world of Skyrim.

Your first task, assuming you don't go tromping about the world and run smack first into wolves and bandits, is to head to the sleepy little village of Riverwood and meet your fellow ex-prisoner, or ex-captor, deciding which path you decided to take earlier in the game. Riverwood is more of a stopping point where you can sell all that stuff you looted from slain enemies before moving on to the larger city of Whiterun, up the road. You can get a few "starter quests" here as well, including one that has you fetching a stolen item from a group of bandits.

It's also where you meet an elf named Faendal.

Faendal is your first potential follower in the game (assuming you went to Riverwood first, like you were supposed to). He's a bit strange looking, and is in a messy love triangle with a handsome Nord named Sven and a woman named Camilla. Both Sven and Faendal like Camilla, and both try to get you to help them win her. As I was playing a fellow wood elf, and because Sven struck me as an ancient Nordic jock meathead, I decided to help out Faendal. Once he became my friend, he followed me to the bandit's hideout to help retrieve that stolen item, and fought bravely at my side against bandits, undead draugr, and giant spiders.

That was our first, and only, adventure together.

I'm a lone adventuring type. Even if I have the option to let someone join me, I usually opt out. Because Skyrim's followers will unerringly stand in doorways, push you over cliffs, step on a trap trigger the moment you're in the danger zone, and so on. I had to do one quest with a brute named Farkas, or as I like to call him "sir Clanks-a-lot," because he couldn't sneak to save his life. Once, he rushed past me to get to the big bad at the end of a dungeon, just as I was lining up for a sneak shot in the doorway, and blew our cover. I shut the door on them both and went and sat in a dark corner while they duked it out. Hey, Farkas was a quest NPC; he couldn't be killed.

But I digress...

Faendal was the one follower who could hold his own. His sneak skill was better then mine, he never triggered trap plates, and he would stand back and pop baddies with his arrows instead of rushing between me and my target and getting whacked in the back of the head (cough Lydia cough). I rather liked Faendal. But because it is possible, and very likely, for followers to die trailing you about the countryside, I left him in Riverwood with the knowledge that he was living out a peaceful life with Camilla.

(Faendal. He usually has a shirt on in game, but I like this image. :D)

Then, many many hours of game time later, I returned to Riverwood for the current quest, and was attacked by an Elder dragon.

My first Elder dragon, no less. I'd been attacked by several dragons before, or I would see them soaring overhead, looking for things to accost, because that's what dragons do. I would usually be in the middle of a quest when this happened, and would hide until the dragon continued on its merry way, and I continued on mine. Hey, I wasn't being cowardly; I'd killed several of them already, as its impossible to get through an hour of Skyrim without running into one. And knowing they would continue to pop up throughout the game, I knew I wasn't missing anything by killing yet another dragon.

But this Elder dragon landed right the center of Riverwood, looking for me obviously, and attacked. It was a tough fight. Riverwood's guards and several villagers joined in as well, and together we tried to defeat this monster that had come out of nowhere. After we finally killed the beast (which went to a rather cool cutscene of me leaping onto the dragon's head and stabbing it with my sword), it collapsed, turned into a skeleton as I devoured its soul (its a dragonborn thing), and I looked around for casualties. Not too bad, for a dragon attack, anyway. A couple no-name guards had perished, no one important...

...Oh. Oh, Faendal.

There he was, lying in the grass, his bow beside him. He had perished fighting the dragon, defending his home. And, looking down at his body, I actually felt sad. Sad that this fictional character, this NPC in a video game, had died.

I couldn't leave him there in the road. In Skyrim, bodies don't disappear; he would be there every time I came back to Riverwood, and I couldn't have that. So, I took the key to his home, dragged his body to the river flowing right outside the village, and let the currant take him away. I watched his body until it disappeared downstream, then went to his home. Inside his simple cottage, I placed one of the dragon's bones I'd collected from the beast on his bed, and left feeling quite melancholic over the turn of events.

This got me thinking.

In a novel, this would be a turning point in the story. This would be the part where the reluctant hero would curse all dragonkind and vow to wipe them all out of existence. No more hiding from dragons, hoping they would pass him by. No more fighting them just for self-defense. With Faendal's death, the hero swears vengeance upon the monsters that killed his friend, and will now rush into battle wholeheartedly, in Faendal's memory.

Hey, that would make a pretty good book...

So, there was a point to this long, rambling post. And its one I've made on several occasions. Those who say video games do nothing but rot your brains are wrong. A video game is a story, just like any novel, one that is told a bit differently, but a story just the same. And if a video game can nearly move me to tears for the death of a fictional NPC, then I'd say its done a pretty good job.

And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Check out this post for another Skyrim character death story. It's hilarious, but it also gives me a bit of hope that I'm not the only crazy obsessed geek out there. :D

Until next time, I'll be fighting dragons.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A one-eyed kitty story

As some of you know, my orange kitty, Sniper, had been having some eye issues for awhile. A couple months ago, his eye became cloudy and filmy, to where it looked like cotton balls were floating around his pupil. We took him to our regular vet, who at first thought it might be FIV or Feluk (it wasn't, thank God!), but when those tests came back negative, he sent me to an eye specialist in Louisville.

After examining poor Sniper, the specialist said it his eye issues could be caused by any number of things: fungal or bacterial infections, cancer, ect. She gave me some drops to put in his eye (three times a day), and told me to check back in a couple weeks.

Sniper was not happy about the drops.

When he went back, however, his eye pressure had dropped from 80-ish to the 12-15-ish it was supposed to be at. We were all very happy, and the vet said to keep him on the drops for another month until they ran out, then to bring him back to see if he was better.

Unfortunately, he didn't get better.

His eye pressure had skyrocketed back to 80 when he returned, and the red cloudyness had gotten so bad that he could no longer see out of that eye. So, with few options left, we decided that the best thing would be to have the eye removed. Then the eye could be sent to a lab, and we could figure out for sure what was going on.

So, a little sadly but knowing it was necessary, we made the appointment.

Sniper went in for eye surgery two days ago and, happily, he is doing perfectly fine. The vet informed me that a one-eyed cat could see just as well as a two-eyed cat, and they really don't miss their other eye at all. Sniper seems completely normal now, and though he does look a bit like a bedraggled pirate, he doesn't seem to even notice he is missing something.

Now, we're just awaiting news on that eyeball.

Here is Sniper the day after surgery. His eye socket is a bit bruised, but that's normal, according to the vet. The reason he looks so annoyed is that I'm forcing him to stay still to take a picture, and he was looking for a way to leave. We did the whole "hold still until the human is just about ready to take the picture and then dart away" dance for about five minutes before I finally snapped this shot.

Sniper goes in to have his stitches removed next month. Thanks for all your concern and well wishes. Will continue to update his progress on twitter; you can follow me @Jkagawa if you want to see how he's doing.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Immortal Rules: Cover reveal (the real one)

So, MTV's Hollywood Crush was fabulous enough to host an exclusive cover reveal for the Immortal Rules this morning. You can check out their post and awesome site here .

So, now I am free to reveal, for your viewing pleasure, the real cover for the new Blood of Eden series: Book 1. The Immortal Rules.

Ready for it?



Its much different then The Iron Fey covers, as a warning.



Still here? Okay, okay, I'll stop teasing. Here ya go. ;-)


Ta daaaaa!

As per usual, HarlequinTeen's cover department has hit another home run, I think. I love the dark, gritty feel of this cover, and the blood tear is just the perfect touch.

Oh, and here is the blurb.

You will kill. The only question is when.

In the dark days since the insidious Red Lung virus decimated the human population, vampires have risen to rule the crumbling cities and suburbs. Uncontested Princes hold sway over diminished ranks of humans: their "pets." In exchange for their labor, loyalty and of course, their blood, these pets are registered, given food and shelter, permitted to survive.

Unregistered humans cling to fringes, scavenging for survival. Allison Sekemoto and her fellow Unregistereds are hunted, not only by vampires, but by rabids, the unholy result of Red Lung-infected vampires feeding on unwary humans. One night, Allie is attacked by a pack of rabids, saved by an unlikely hero...and turned vampire.

Uncomfortable in her undead skin, Allie falls in with a ragtag crew of humans seeking a cure, or cures: for Rabidism and for Vampirism. She's passing for human...for now. But the hunger is growing and will not be denied. Not for friendship—not even for love.

What sayest thou? How does this compare to the Iron Fey covers? Do you think VAMPIRE when you first see it? Is it creepy enough? :D

Let me know!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Immortal Rules: Cover reveal

Who wants to see the cover for The Immortal Rules?

(Not the real cover)

You do? Excellent! Then you'll want to check out MTV's Hollywood Crush tomorrow (no firm time yet) for the exclusive cover reveal for The Immortal Rules.

Have I already seen the cover? Yes, I have.

Is it awesome? YES. Yes, it is. :D

So bookmark Hollywood Crush or follow them on Twitter @hollywoodcrush to keep up with the excitement.

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Interview with the Voice of Ash

Hi everyone!

Okay, so last week was the interview with the hilarious and charming Josh Hurley, the voice of Puck. The previous week we had the fabulous Khristine Hvam, the voice of Meghan. So for our last guest, it is my absolute pleasure to welcome MacLeod Andrews, the narrator of The Iron Knight and the voice of the ice prince himself.

1. Was it hard getting into the character personalities? Or intimidating even, since we love them so much?

I think with any book that isn’t a series you’ve already recorded it takes a chapter or two to solidify your narrator. This was the case for Ash although I came into it with a voice in mind. I modeled him after a young version of a highly regarded older actor. I don’t want to influence anyone’s listening though, so I’m not going to tell you who. Being an Ice Prince I knew Ash needed to command respect, carry himself with elegance, and a degree of emotional detachment. Puck’s playful snark came to me pretty quickly. The Big Bad Wolf was pretty much a constant struggle to growl deeper.

2. Do you read the books for fun, as opposed to a job/audiobook?

I enjoy many of the books I record. If you mean the Iron Fey Series, unfortunately no, I haven’t read any of the other books. Though after reading this one I may have to change that. On my own time I’ve mostly been reading historical nonfiction.

3. Who are their favorite characters from the books?

From Iron Knight I would have to say Ash, Puck, Grimalkin, BBW, Glitch.

4. What do you have in common with Ash/Puck?

Like Ash, I think I have a strong sense of responsibility and follow through. And am also looking forward to a son or daughter with the right woman some day.

5. What were their favorite moments of the audiobook? What was the most fun to record?

The River of Dreams, the doppelganger fight, when they came back for the Big Bad Wolf, when Ash became human and still had some powers, and the third trial for Ash’s humanity. My favorite section to record was definitely the third trial where he experiences a potential version of his life as a human. I couldn’t keep myself from breaking down a little in that section.

6. Whenever they are given the voicing over job, do they get to know the characters first?

Sure, I always read the book first and in this case I contacted the previous narrator Khristine Hvam to ask about the characters I encountered.

7. How's was it like to portray/read Puck/Ash?

It was fun and emotional reading Ash. He’s practically a superhero. And his journey lays bare fundamental aspects of the human condition in a powerful way.

8. What scene did they have most difficulty narrating?

Nothing stands out. Maybe the town where the forgotten faery are sucking the life out of our heroes. I recall there being a number of minor characters to voice there.

9. Do they do any preparations before recording?

First I get the book in PDF format and load it onto my iPad using the app iAnnotate. As I read the book I bookmark new characters and start taking note of their attributes. I also assign a “stamp”, like a symbol, to each character. Every time the character has a line of dialogue I put their unique stamp next to it in the margin. If the book is part of a series like this one, I’ll contact the other narrators to check pronunciations and character voices. If there are no other narrators, I’ll often contact the author to ask for pronunciations and whether they hear their characters in a specific way. Sometimes I’ll look up samples of other books from similar genres to hear how other narrators have approached similar material.

10. If you were fey, would you be Seelie, Unseelie, or Iron?

Probably Seelie. I think I’m too emotionally present and cheerful to be Unseelie. But I do like to ski, so there’s that.

Thanks so much, MacLeod! And if you'd like to know more, check out his blog here. You can also listen to a snippet of The Iron Knight at audible.com. Or, if you'd just like to say hello, follow MacLeod on Twitter @MacLeodAndrews.