It’s a new calendar year! I hope to continue as I have. With a few little adventures to New Mexico and New York City in the works.
January and February is when I tend to spend the most time on video games. I think this is because that’s the time of year when I’m low energy but not on Power Save mode yet.
2017, Nintendo 3DS
A worthy remake, I hear, though I didn’t play the original. It took me a while to get into it, but then I was sold. The mechanics for moving around in time are fun although I sometimes thought I needed a walkthrough to avoid wasting a bunch of time.
Good music and voice acting, turn-based combat, and an interesting story. That’s what I like from my RPGs.
2018, Nintendo Switch
I’m addicted to Octopath because it’s…well…fun. The characters are reasonable if not remarkable, the music is pleasant if not earwormy, and the combat is well-balanced.
Primrose Azelhart is my favorite character so far because I love myself a tortured heroine. She has waited so long and suffered so many indignities for her revenge…but what will she do once she gets it?
Winter (in the northern hemisphere) holidays are coming up: whatever you do or don’t celebrate, you may get some time off to relax. When I have a chunk of time, I love to binge-read a series. Here are some romance and science fiction series I recommend for this holiday season if you haven’t already read them. All of them are complete.
Historical romance series set in Victorian England. Features intelligent, complicated characters I can’t forget. Favorite character: Violet Waterfield in The Countess Conspiracy. Some would call her difficult. I find her amazing.
I’ve made it clear that I adore Anna Hackett’s books. Lots of action, monsters, treasures, and other discoveries make the lives of the protagonists very interesting. Favorite character: Nera Darc from Return to Dark Earth. Quiet, deadly, and kinder than she lets on.
Hackett also made a small box set to start you off on the series.
Paranormal historical romance. Callihan presents non-traditional supernatural creatures in a way that always kept me guessing. Watching the characters fall in love was mesmerizing. Favorite character: Hollis Evernight of, well, Evernight. I sympathized with her specific communication struggles.
Feel like some action-packed science fiction with romantic elements that will remind you of Mass Effect? Go read the Paradox trilogy by Rachel Bach. Since there’s only one protagonist, I won’t pick a favorite character, but Devi’s voice is engrossing and I was always rooting for her.
The year isn’t even over yet, but so far I’ve found more wonderful music that inspires me and keeps me forging ahead in life.
Seventh Wonder – Tiara
Lovers of prog metal, rejoice! Seventh Wonder are back. Science fiction story, virtuosic passages, non-standard time signatures, amazing vocals…it’s fantastic either because there aren’t any surprises or in spite of it. If you like outer space, apocalypse scenarios, or fantastic vocals, you’re in for a treat.
Between the Buried and Me – Automata I and II
Between the Buried and Me are a different kind of prog metal than anyone else I can think of. They use swing elements. Or anything they can think of. It feels like the kitchen sink, but it also just works. This year they released two parts of Automata and it’s way too big to fit into my head.
Kobra and the Lotus – Prevail II
Just plain good fun heavy metal. Sing along and rock along. Kobra and the Lotus make music that makes me happy and ready to take on tasks I don’t want to.
Amaranthe – Helix
Warning: video contains blood. Like a lady in a tub full of it, and then she vamps. A lot. Pun possibly intended.
Poppy metal with dubstep in it. There isn’t anything I find deep in Amaranthe‘s music, but it’s good schlocky fun. Good music for programming when I’ve already had my caffeine for the day.
Some humans can’t work with music on. I find it difficult to work without! Maybe someday I’ll write music again.
I whine about there being many books and little time quite a lot. But it’s also true that there’s a ton of wonderful music (okay, mostly metal) I listen to every year. This year brought me some anticipated progressive metal releases and some pleasant surprises.
Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
Okay, to me this album sounded like a second pressing of Haven– which is my favorite Kamelot album, but I didn’t feel like I learned anything new in The Shadow Theory. The compression in the production is a bit much. But there’s amazing guitar work, synths, and the vocals are fantastic. Add in the cool science fiction story and it’s worth a listen if you’re already a Kamelot fan.
Chthonic – Battlefields of Asura
I discovered the band this year, and they already have a special place in my heart. The frontman is my grandmother’s congressperson. Weird and awesome, right? Chthonic show the world the tumultuous 20th century history on the island of Taiwan and that the struggle for democracy is something recent and special. This album makes me hopeful for the future. Also, the music. It doesn’t quite sound like any other band. Worth a listen for anyone interested in traditional Taiwanese music or any kind of metal. Also deserves some distinction for the lone woman in the band not being the singer.
Light the Torch – Revival
Howard Jones got eaten by stress and diabetes. Being a vocalist has its own perils because of all the touring, and that the instrument is so delicate. So in the past six years, Jones has apparently gotten control of his blood sugar and is back with Light the Torch. Revival is their third effort (this band was previously known as Devil You Know and changed its name when it changed some personnel). I enjoyed the elements of metalcore, prog, catchy choruses, and of course Jones’s amazing big voice.
Angra – Omni
Angra offer something other power metal bands generally don’t: awesome South American folk elements. Bittencourt and co.’s latest offering holds together better than most of their other albums. The band tries a little of everything while still making a cohesive listen.
I’ve been revising and editing for long enough that I’d forgotten what putting words to keyboard/screen without having it all sketched out feels like. Granted, I still have a rough outline for what goes into the scene, but now I have the freedom to play with more generative plot hooks.
The key is finding that balance between freedom and having something to write about. If I don’t have enough guidance for myself, I run into choice paralysis and can’t write anything. But some good things do come to me spontaneously while I’m drafting, and I don’t want to miss out on too many of those. I would bet that the balance is different for every writer.
So far in drafting, I’ve unearthed some interesting character details and an important motivation for the antagonistic forces. Maybe the month will bring me more storystuff to fill in the plot holes. But for right now I’m plowing ahead with what I already outlined.
Anyway, if you’re doing NaNoWriMo, best of luck to you! Whether you’ve written a hundred or a hundred thousand words by the end, you’ll have something you wrote. You’ll have created something.