Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I’m not going to bother summarizing The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for you, everyone knows what its basic premise is. I am likely the last person on Earth to have not read this series, or watched the movies. I didn’t want to watch the movies because I knew that I would someday get around to reading the books, and the books are always better than the movies. I had so much pre-hype and built up expectations surrounding this book. There was no way a YA Novel with this much attention and popularity was going to meet my hardened Fantasy Nerd expectations.

 I went into the book expecting it to fall short. I was wrong, and it was an amazing and exceptionally dark story. It went way beyond my expectations. I was enjoying the book so much that I even went to the library to get the audio version so I could listen on my commute to work. The thought of not knowing what was next in the story while in the boredom of traffic was not an option. I was really taken by surprise at the level of storytelling Suzanne Collins brought to the table in The Hunger Games. It was action packed, highly suspenseful, and utterly heartbreaking. Suzanne paints the picture of her dark world with a very vivid brush. The movie makers should have had no issues getting the feel for the world of The Hunger Games. I did wonder after finishing if the themes and events described in the book might be a bit much for the YA audience. Ultimately I decided that it wasn't.

The Hunger Games isn't violence and death for the sake of it, although that might be the impression we have gotten through the media. The Hunger Games carries with it a basket of important life lessons. Lessons of sacrifice, family, freedom, and helping those in need. I knew I had just read something special when I began drawing comparisons to John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Yes, you read that right. Steinbeck’s classic novel drew on many of the same themes Collins did in The Hunger Games. Of Mice and Men was about dreams, loneliness, helplessness, and making hard choice for those you love most. Characters in both stories find themselves in situations where they were powerless, abused, and oppressed. In my mind it was an easy comparison.

 I am looking forward to read the rest. Wanted to add a quick note about the audio book since that’s how I consumed a large portion of the story. The audio book was published by Scholastic Audio. This may have been my first Scholastic Audio book. Carolyn McCormick was the narrator/voice talent, and she did an excellent job. It’s such a dark book with so many tragic moments that need special attention from a narrator. Carolyn manages to capture the emotional ups and downs very nicely. I will be listening to the rest of the series on audio also.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Epic Battle

I had a Geek Dad moment recently. My 3 year old daughter asked me if she could play with one of my Ninja Turtles I had on the shelf in order to “have a battle” with the Disney princesses…I shed a tear of pride at how awesome an idea that was. I may have encouraged the war with the inclusion of Moses and a few Pokemon. The Pokemon were decimated early and are not in the picture.

What you are seeing here is the remnants of the most epic of battles between greatest armies ever assembled.

 Team Princess Vs. Everyone Else 

 “Team Princess” consisted of Ariel, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Batgirl, Minnie Mouse, My Little Pony, and Donatello (Ninja Turtle) This team made sense as the ultimate force for good. Who better to augment the pure offensive power of the Little Mermaid than the strategic intelligence of the “brains” of the Ninja Turtles, Donatello? The combination of a My Little Pony and Batgirl proved to be a genius duo that has changed the role of mounted cavalry forever. Not sense since the Mongols rode out of the steppes has mounted warfare been so effective.

 The opposition was Team “Everyone not affiliated with Team Princess” which had random Ninja Turtle Villains, The Joker, Pokemon, and Moses. Moses was the surprise addition here. Who knew he would start batting for the bad guys? All those years of Egyptian oppression finally boiled over when he cast Minnie Mouse from atop the playground. He would get his comeuppance later when Ariel made a sacrificial dive to take out both Moses and The Joker in what I thought would be the climatic finish. However, the battle took a unexpected turn when My Little Pony needed to brush her hair and Team Princess forfeited at the brink of victory for the impromptu grooming session.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Chronic Not Blogging Disorder

I like to write, and I like technology. How do I combine the two? The simple answer is simply write a purely tech blog. There are a million of these and they are nothing special. I am also not really interested in writing a “tech blog”. Sure, I like playing with new tech, but I don’t necessarily have anything new to offer in regards to insight on said new tech that isn't already being done on a million other websites. There are plenty of places to get the latest news on a tech gadget by more well established groups in the industry. I’m fairly certain my perspective isn't going to offer any more insight than a seasoned IT journalist, nor do I have the access to provide it.

However, I do have the urge to write and to share thoughts on the tech industry. My approach will need to be different than most, and may not be the type of perspective everyone is looking for. I am certainly not after sponsors or to please advertisers. That’s a thin rope many tech sites have to walk on a daily basis, and I'd rather not go there.

Tech is just one of my loves. I also happen to love Family, Fantasy, History, Gaming, Humor and Travel. Each of those topics are also quite well represented in the blogosphere (is that term even used anymore?). My answer to the issue of how to blog about my interests was to try encompass them into a single entity. A cultural identity I associated as "Geek". Hence the name of my blog, Geeks On Fire. Geek being the interest, and fire being the passion for those interests. I'm keeping the concept, and I will continue to write about the wide range of my interests, but I plan to experiment over the next few months with a bit more focus on the tech side of things. I'm in a new job where the option to write about tech is on the table, and that's too good of an opportunity to let pass by. The scope is open, and the role is far from defined. It needs to be within my interests, and within the interests of my company. I hope you enjoy the content exploration as I try to find the right niche. When the time is right and I found the groove I need to be in, I will share where you can find the new content. My normal Geek posts will still be here, but you will see some different things cropping up in the near future. Con season is approaching, so be prepared for that stuff to hit the blog again.

For now I leave you with a Firefly miniature I painted terribly, but love it dearly.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Preparing for Gencon Indy 2014

Gencon is a destination I've been going to for years. It's the largest gaming focused convention in the Midwest. Every year I go and report for, and this year is no different. I usually only do a post show article, but I thought I might start this year a little different by telling you what I'd like to do at Gencon, and share some the cool things that will be going on. There are 11,000 scheduled events during the show, so let me know if there is something specific you want me to report on while I'm there.

2014 Exhibit Hall Map of Gencon
The first priority for me is to hit the exhibit hall  or show floor, and check out the booths for all the companies. Last year I discovered some unexpected surprises, and some familiar ones too. I plan to keep to the same strategy and try to discover new things while checking in on my favorites.

Framed Minotaur print, the snake was added by my daughter.
One of my favorite places to go is the art show section. There is a world class Fantasy artist every 4 feet in this area. I am always amazed at the beautiful art there. I usually try to stop and say hello to Emily Fiegenschuh. I did an interview with Emily a few years ago for FanLit, and I've been a fan ever since. I even bought a print from her that is now one of my most favorite things.

Author Ally is another great place that I like to cruise through. This year's Author Guest of Honor is actually my favorite author, Jim Butcher. While I would love to get a few minutes of Jim's time, the GoH is very busy, and Jim is a rock star of the Fantasy genre. Getting a chance at a hello and a handshake will be nigh impossible. I am also quite awkward when meeting individuals I am fan of. I never know quite what to say, or I'm really afraid that I might be bothering them if approached outside of a sanctioned time. I find myself trying to unsuccessfully pretend like I have no idea who they are or that maybe make like I see really awesome people I adore everyday. I tend to make it a rule of not approaching anyone who isn't "on the clock". On the occasions that I do gather the nerve to approach someone I'm a fan of, I fumble around and say something not impressive. Like asking "How's business?" to Pat Rothfuss author of two NYT Best Selling Fantasy books, whose business is very likely quite good. Pat just made another blog post asking fans to please "not touch his kids" if they spot him with them at a convention. The fact that he even has to say this to his fans makes me sad. It also makes me not want to be associated as a "fan", because they are obviously crazy.

There will be tons of game companies to visit, and I have a couple I wish to go out of my way to see. I recently reviewed Achtung! Cthulhu for Modiphius games, and would love to swing by their booth and see what they have to show. There will be others I seek out, but many more that I will just stumble upon. The vendor booths are endless, and full of surprises.

My recently painted Ashlynn D'elyse for Warmachine.
The best part about Gencon is obviously the games. Massive rooms filled with tables where every board game you can possibly imagine is being played. My focus in this area is Warmachine by Privateer Press. It's the only game I regularly play and have invested in a lot of time in. Gencon is the only time of year I actually get to play it. I'm looking forward to getting in a few rounds between explorations into the convention events.

That's all for now, if I find out about anything worth noting I'll post it up before I leave. My post convention report will go up on like always. Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Writing Prompt Post - Introduction to the Concept

This is the first of what I hope to be many writing prompt exercises. I will post a writing prompt and if it's not my own I will post a link to it. This will be way more fun and informative if others join and post their own responses, but it isn't necessary. At worst its a chance for me to put some small bits of material out there. Keep in mind these prompts will mostly be very short pieces. Exploring an idea generated by the prompt. It can be just a single scene or even just a couple sentences that explore the prompt's concepts. If something longer ends up coming out of it, save it. You never know what might turn into a marketable work. Anything of in-depth substance is best kept off the public consumption unless you just want to give it away, which is ok too.

The first prompt I have is this:

"Overwhelming anger leads to serious consequences"

That's it. That simple prompt lead me to the scene below: Critiques are welcome so long as they are constructive and keep in mind these are created fast with the emphasis on the exploration of creativity rather than mechanics.


     Her bloodied corpse lay twisted and lifeless in the dirt at his feet, and her killer stood not more than a swords length away.

 “There’s your bitch Din. I done’er up nice for ya. Delivered her in one piece as I promised “ Jek said with sneer. 

 He spat near her body and emphasized his disregard for her life. 

Din didn't respond at first, but not out of fear, but from anger. By the gods he was angry. A heated rage filled his mind. The heat came first to his face, and then pulsed behind his eyes. He started to tremble, and Jek took a nervous step back away from Din and the body. Din gritted his teeth with a growl that crawled up his throat, and then it bubbled out and burst forth into a hate filled scream. It was an animal scream. born of pain, of guilt, and of pure rage.

 He leaped forward with sword in hand and was upon Jek before the bigger man could do anything, knocking him to the ground. Jek through up his hands in a feeble attempt to stave off Din's attack. It was a futile effort as Din began to bash at Jek's forehead with the pommel of his sword in fitful flurry of strikes. Again, and again, and again Din pounded while he still screamed. The stunned crowd just gaped in response, not sure if they should flee or watch. The steady thumps of Din's hilt took on a wet tone. The blood flecked across Din's face as he continued his onslaught onto Jek's misshapen skull.

 Din's manic pounding slowed. The wet smacks stopped, and Jek's twitching body stilled. The crowd was silent, and for a few moments only Din's heavy breathing was heard. Someone screamed, and the silence was shattered. The crowd fled shouting about a monster, about a killer, about Din.