Tag Archives: non-fiction

Horror Video Games Part 1: Castlevania N64

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I am a gamer, have been since first playing games on the Atari system when I was a kid. My first horror game was Friday the 13th on the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) and I remember playing it with my heart in my throat. Jason, in all his pixelated glory, was a near unbeatable foe. I never could survive an encounter with him. But, I think it was Castlevania for the N64 that woke a deep love for horror games in me.

Castlevania

The opening of this game still excites me, a sweeping view of a grand castle and the strains of a haunting and melancholy tune played on a violin by Malus. There are two playable characters: Reinhardt Schneider and Carrie Fernandez. Each have their own special weapons. Reinhardt has a whip and a dagger, while Carrie has magic orbs that home in on targets and a set of rings.

They share the same adventure, trekking through the Forest of Silence, the Castle Wall and then the Villa but then diverges to separate levels unique to one character. Some levels can only be accessed through Carrie (i.e. the Underground Waterway) or Reinhardt (i.e. the Tunnels). Others are shared. There are also several different endings that can be unlocked. That makes this game have a great re-playability.

I love the atmosphere. Dark, tense and horrifying. Time slips from day to night, which is important to some aspects of the game. There is blood and implements of torture, supernatural foes and some very disturbing bosses. But there is also beauty to be found in Castlevania. One of my favorite levels is the Villa.

The Villa is reached after completing the Castle Wall area and fighting several Cerberuses. A timeworn cemetery greets you as you pass through the Villa gates, some of the tombstones still retain their epitaphs and are readable. Entering the Villa, you find yourself in a large foyer with a staircase. Exploring the house, a small indoor garden can be found. Red roses encircle the room. If the time is right, you’ll meet Rosa. She is the garden’s caretaker, responsible for the white roses. What white roses? There aren’t any but as the scene progresses, we learn the reason why. Rosa waters them with blood.

A maze lies behinds the Villa and it’s here that you meet Malus, a frightened boy that has lost his family. This part never fails to make my heart race. In order to help Malus, you must follow him through the maze while being chased by a large creature reminiscent of Frankenstein’s creature wielding a chainsaw and two hellhounds. I can still hear Malus’s scared “Help me!” and the revving of the chainsaw in my head.

As Reinhardt, one of the most memorable moments is entering the Tunnels, a labyrinth of seemingly endless pathways. Shortly after discovering a poisonous river, a scantily clad woman emerges from the murky depths, her arms chastely covering her chest. Walking toward Reinhardt, more of her is seen. Below her waist is the body of a spider. These spider women are the dominate foes of the level, gliding down from the Tunnel ceilings, skittering toward you from the shadows and spewing poison whenever they get the chance.

The Castle Center provides a harrowing challenge. To release the seal and fight the boss, two ingredients are needed. One is mandrake, the other magical nitro and it’s with the nitro that comes all the fun. One jump, one slip from an edge or a hit from the traps or enemies and you explode. Playing through this, my hands shake every time. Once the seal is broken, a massive bull awakens. As you battle him, his flesh falls from his body, leaving only a gigantic skeleton until you defeat him.

Castlevania has left a lasting impression on me. From entering the Forest of Silence to fighting the incarnations of Dracula, it has held endless fascination and frustration. At times creepy and beautiful to downright scary (there’s a statue in the Castle Center that weeps blood which then becomes a monster), it is a game I return to again and again.

 

 

 

 

Of Many Things

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Hello.

I have been without internet for roughly 500 years. Okay, since June but it feels like a very long, long time. I missed my blogaversary and the release of Romantic Ruckus which contains my story, “Lingering”. I also missed a great deal of your posts, and I intend to at least catch up on some of them, if not all. My inbox is ridiculous and intimidating, there’s enough in there to keep me busy reading for months.

Dreaming Blithely has turned a year old. It’s hard to believe I’ve been sharing my thoughts and fiction with you all for that long. It has passed by so quickly. And I’m happy to have found such a great community of bloggers. Thank you for making me feel at home.

Here are some interesting stats of the last year:

Top 3 Countries with the most views

US 616
United Kingdom 120
Canada 112

October was the busiest month at 216 views

Top 3 Posts

Home Page/ Archives 441
About 53
Love Stories Part 1: Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy  41

Top 3 Search Terms

7 Nights of Darkness
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Love stories Severus and Lily Darcy Elizabeth Jane Eyre Rochester

Interesting Search terms

@moanarabella
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Back in late November/early December, I sent in a quirky little love story by the name of “Lingering” to Strange Musings Press. Much to my surprised delight, it was accepted for inclusion in their anthology, Romantic Ruckus, stories of love gone hilariously wrong. Since I couldn’t do much in the way of promoting the anthology when the Kickstarter campaign began and then after its initial release, I’d like to talk a little about it now.

The opening line came to me first, part of a conversation my MC, Gabe was having with her husband about her ability to talk to the dead. You see, Adam didn’t believe her gift was real until after his death. Haunted by Adam, Gabe didn’t feel the need to date until a charming customer enters her life. As she prepares to move on, Adam grows protective and a rather strange love triangle forms. If I may say so without sounding like I’m tooting my own horn, “Lingering” is a funny and sweet story. It is one of my favorites, unlike anything I’ve written before.

If the anthology seems like something you’d be interested in, check it out. I think clicking the link to see the awesome and hilarious cover is worth it alone.

Again, I’d like to thank you all for spending time with me and stopping by my humble blog over the past year. It truly has been a joy to get to know you. 🙂

 

 

 

Short Story Spotlight: The Grammarian’s Five Daughters

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Growing up, I was never into short story anthologies. I read Goosebumps, Choose Your Own Adventure books, various novels, and the works of Shel Silverstein. And as a young adult, I went through a Stephen King phase, reading about anything of his that I could get my hands on. Which included his short story collections. And that’s when, I think, I discovered the magic of the form. Short stories were, and still are, a box of chocolate to me. Each story was a different flavor and texture, some nuttier than others and some containing a delicious surprise that was unexpected but thoroughly enjoyable.

About ten years ago, or more, my brother gave me The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: The Thirteenth Annual Collection, edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow. Inside is gathered the stories of many talented writers, the tales steeped in shades of magic or probing the darkness. It is a delight to read, and every so often the volume calls to me from my bookshelf and I once more lose myself within its pages.

One of my favorites, and it so difficult to choose (which is why I will list some more favorites at the end of this post) is The Grammarian’s Five Daughters  by Eleanor Arnason. This story is whimsical, part fairy tale and part grammar lesson, both beautiful and charming. If interested, you can read it here The Grammarian’s Five Daughters

And as threaten–uh, promised, here are some of my other favorites:

  • Crosley by Elizabeth Engstrom
  • The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse by Susanna Clarke
  • Halloween Street by Steve Rasnic Tem
  • Darkrose and Diamond by Ursula K.Le Guin
  • The Girl Detective by Kelly Link
  • Harlequin Valentine by Neil Gaiman
  • You Don’t Have to Be Mad by Kim Newman

 

Do you read short stories and what are some of your favorites?

7 Nights of Darkness: A Low Budget Horror Movie

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7 Nights of Darkness is one of my favorite horror movies, though those of you who are familiar with it might think I’m a little crazy. It is a low budget movie made in 2011 by Allen Kellogg who also stars as Carter (one of my favorite characters, by the way). The special effects are a little crappy (and I say that with complete love of the movie), but still effective, except for the part where Lina (strapped into the lobotomy chair) is being taunted by Randy and her face turns into a computerized greenish sort of screaming expression which I think is supposed to be the ghost possessing her. Still, I did scream at that part the first time I watched this movie.

The movie is about 6 people doing a reality show. They must spend 7 nights in an abandoned asylum and complete the given tasks in order to split the 1 million dollar prize money. It sort of reminds me of that old MTV show (I think it was on MTV) Fear, where people took cameras and ghost-hunting equipment into empty hospitals, prisons and asylums. Anyway, back to the movie.

Odd things start to happen, a bucket comes flying out of nowhere, a baby is heard crying in the middle of the night in an empty bassinette, maggots appear on pizza, and these occurrences wear on the nerves of the contestants. The above mentioned possession of Lina scares the hell out of Randy, and he tries convincing the others to leave with him. When that fails, he asks them to at least help him get Lina (once more catatonic after the brief screaming incident) out. They agree but when they enter Randy and Lina’s room, they find the lobotomy chair empty. Lina is gone. One by one, the contestants disappear until only Carter and Brooke remain.

I think the reasons why this movie is a favorite and effectively scary is that it uses several tried and true horror movie elements. Jump scares, atmosphere, tension-building and disturbing (okay, maybe unnerving is a better word) scenes. It also employs several elements that can be found in other horror movies, namely The Ring, The Grudge, with just a dash of House on Haunted Hill thrown in for good measure.

If you are a fan of straight-to-DVD movies, (or creepy ghost girls and dolls) I recommend that you check out 7 Nights of Darkness. I don’t think you’ll be too disappointed. And make sure you watch through the credits, there a bit of a surreal bonus scene that’s worth watching.

What low budget movies are your favorites?

 

Love Stories Part 3: Sayuri, Nobu and the Chairman

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Memoirs of a Geisha is a beautifully written novel by Arthur Golden which was made into a visually stunning movie directed by Rob Marshall. I enjoyed both versions immensely.

Chiyo and her sister, Satsu, are sold by their father as it becomes apparent that their mother’s health is rapidly deteriorating. He is not a young man, either, and while this might seem to be a callous thing to do, I believe he hoped to give them a better life. However, it doesn’t work out for Satsu as well as it does for Chiyo. The sisters are split, Satsu fated for a brothel and Chiyo handed over to Mother, head of the Nitta okiya.

It’s not an easy life for Chiyo. She agrees to become an apprentice geisha, attending school with her friend, Pumpkin. From the first moment they met, Hatsumomo dislikes Chiyo, perhaps sensing the girl as a future rival. As the leading geisha, making the most money, Hatsumomo is in a position of power and she makes it her mission to make life hell for Chiyo, especially after Chiyo catches Hatsumomo in a clandestine affair with someone beneath the geisha’s status. Chiyo confesses to Mother about discovering the affair and Hatsumomo is forbidden from seeing Koichi, her lover, ever again. Unable to endure Hatsumomo’s cruelty, Chiyo plans to runaway with Satsu. However, the night she was to meet Satsu, Chiyo falls from the roof of the okiya in her attempt to escape, incurring Mother’s anger and even more debt that must be worked off. Chiyo is also no longer allowed to be trained as a geisha.

Years pass. Chiyo’s life is one of a servant, she runs errands and does chores while Pumpkin continues her education. One day, Chiyo meets a business man, known as the Chairman, who cheers her up by purchasing shaved ice and gives her a handkerchief with money in it. From that moment on, Chiyo vows to become a geisha in order to be in the Chairman’s life. Filled with purpose, Chiyo donates the money to a shrine and prays. She keeps the handkerchief as a memento.

Not long after, in what seems to be an act of fate, Chiyo becomes an apprentice to the popular geisha, Mameha, and her training begins once more. With the transition of becoming a geisha, Chiyo is given the name Sayuri, and she is introduced into geisha society and customers. Her heart soars when, after so many years, she once more meets the Chairman. Sayuri feels that finally she will be with the man she loves. As Sayuri starts making her rounds to teahouses and accompanying Mameha to events, she catches the eye of several men, one being the Chairman’s friend, Nobu.

In order not to spoil this novel for those of you who haven’t read it, I won’t venture into detail but I do want to say that as the novel progresses, a triangle between Nobu, Sayuri and the Chairman forms, one that really tore at my heart. I rooted for one, wanting Sayuri to find the happiness that she deserved but there came a part, near the end where I was sure she was making the wrong choice. I was so involved that I yelled at the book and tossed it onto my nightstand where I glared at it for several minutes before picking it and continued reading. I will also state that I was very happy with the end.

Memoirs of a Geisha is a beautiful novel, feeling like a fairytale and a true memoir. Arthur Golden created a truly captivating story, one not easy to put down and I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t done so already.

This concludes my Love Stories series, I hope you all have enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it and sharing my favorite fictional love stories with you. 🙂 Happy Valentine’s Day to you all.

Love Stories Part 2: Severus and Lily

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Okay, I’m a bit of a Potterhead.  I own and I have read the whole series several times, I have the movies and there was the one time that I crocheted a Gryffindor scarf. There has been a little bit of an uproar lately about the romance between Ron and Hermione after J.K. Rowling admitted that she regrets the characters becoming a couple. But I’m not going to discuss that romance, although it is one that divides the fans of the series. I’m going to talk about the relationship of Severus Snape and Lily Potter.

It’s there, hidden beneath the plots and subplots of the series, behind everything Snape does. He has an almost tangible dislike for Harry since the very first moment they meet. Harry looks very much like his father, Snape’s childhood nemesis and tormentor, but as is so often said he has his mother’s eyes. And, as it’s discovered in the final book of the series, Snape was very much in love with Lily, although a friendship between the two is mentioned in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

The story of the relationship unfolds in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, after Harry finds Snape dying. He collects his memories in a flask and gives them to Harry. In chapter 33, Harry discovers by way of the pensieve used to view Snape’s memories everything Severus has done, from the first meeting between Lily Evans (Potter) and Severus Snape to the moment he departs to aid Harry, Hermione and Ron. And what is told in that chapter really blew my mind when I first read it, gone was the villain that had been painted and a silent hero emerged. I cried.

On Pinterest, I have come across pins centered on this love story. Here’s a couple.

Taken from my Happy Geekery board

 

This is one of my favorite love stories despite the fact that it is an unhappy one. Even after all the years, Severus loved only Lily Potter and as any Potter fan worth their salt can attest, his patronus is a remembrance of her.

 

 

 

 

Love Stories Part 1: Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy

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When I think of love stories, Jane Austen comes to mind. Her novels have given me hours of joy where I am lost in Regency England among the lives and romance of her characters. I have laughed, growled in frustration at misunderstandings between characters and have cried with delight when arriving at the end…and then mourn that the story is over. I set the novel aside with a great sigh befitting a lovelorn heroine and return again when once more it calls to me, luring me into a  jaunt to the past…

Pride and Prejudice (1813)

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of  a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

And so opens a novel about morals, relationships, family, love and society. It centers around Elizabeth Bennet, the second daughter of five blessed to the Bennet family. Elizabeth is my favorite character in I think all of Jane Austen’s novels. She is independent, clever, slightly sarcastic and cares deeply about her family. Instead of being insulted by Mr. Darcy’s disdainful dismissal of her as a dance partner, Elizabeth laughs at his snobbery. It isn’t an auspicious meeting between the two, neither impressed with the other but I think it would have been a different sort of story altogether if there had been fireworks and eyes meeting across a crowded room. What’s a good love story without some conflict?

After Jane became ill and is forced to stay at the neighboring Netherfield, Elizabeth walks the distance to nurse her sister. She arrives with her hem and shoes covered in thick mud, without a care about her appearance. And to Mr. Darcy, her willingness to travel by foot the miles between Netherfield and her home shows only Elizabeth’s best qualities.

I don’t want to spoil the novel for those of you who haven’t read it, so I’ll forgo delving into details but the developing relationship between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy is one that is battered against obstacle after obstacle. There are family obligations and drama (on both sides) which crop up, misunderstandings, societal class and lies all conspire against the spark of romance between the two. It isn’t until the end that issues are resolved and feelings realized.

I highly recommend reading this novel, especially if you are a fan of historical fiction or history in general. Published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice displays the social norms and rituals, culture and expectations of Regency England. Plus there are several very good movies based on the novel. My favorite screen adaptation is the BBC movie starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. The one referred to in Bridget Jones’ Diary. Interestingly, Helen Fielding has said that Bridget’s story is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice.

And just for fun, I’ve decided to end this post with a clip from one of my favorite television series (Red Dwarf) that touches on the likely lasting impact of Pride and Prejudice. It’s also really funny. Enjoy. :)