Thursday, November 17, 2016

What are the best examples of spec-fic CARTOON movies or shorts?

Over at the Lasers, Dragons, and Keyboards Facebook page, we asked, "What are the best examples of spec-fic CARTOON movies or shorts?"

So, here is my answer:

Oh, so many. Here are some of my favorites, sometimes with an explanation, or other commentary.



Star Trek: The Animated Series
Yes, there was a Star Trek cartoon. You know the line in the opening credits, "... it's five-year mission..." and there were only three seasons of the show. Well, the Animated Series covers the last two years of the Enterprise's mission.

Pros: the entire original cast returns to voice their characters. An animated setting lets the  Animated Series explore themes and stories that, for either money or technology limits, were un-filmable on the live-action TV show. The series even won awards for a few episodes.

Cons: The animation. Even by 70's standards it was pretty cheap.



Star Wars: The Clone Wars
The Clone wars cartoon takes place between Episode 2, and Episode 3. Great stuff. New characters, and more time with old characters. If you ever thought that things deteriorated way to fast between Episodes 2 and 3, then watch this show. It takes the time to show Palpentine's plan unfold. And, it really shows the relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan, and makes Anakin's fall in Episode 3 have some real emotion.

Star Wars: Rebels
... and here we have what happened before Episode 4. Awesome new characters, returning favorites from The Clone Wars, and they're starting to tie into events and characters from ANH.

Titan A.E.
It's been a while since I watched this, so I don't remember the details much, but I really enjoyed it. I should go re-watch it... Wait... found the DVD.. from the back:

"It's the year 3028 and the Drej, a vicious alien race, have destoryed Earth. Fifteen years later a youn man named Cole learns he possesse a genetically encoded map to the Titan, a spaceship that holds the secret to the salvastion of the human race. With the Drej in ho pursuit, Cole blasts off with the new crew of the Valkyrie in an attempt to find the Titan before the Drej destroy it... along with mankind's last chance for a home of their own."

Stargate: Infinity
First, if you haven't seen Stargate, go watch that. After the movie came out, they wanted to play with the world a little, and this is one of the things that came up. It's a continuation of the Stargate movie, but set in the future. Later, Stargate SG:1 came out, and that was set in a different timeline/reality. (So, if you're expecting any continuity between the two, you won't find it...)
Still, Stargate Infinity is a good show in it's own right.

Mobile Suit Gundam
The Gundam universe has spawned a LOT of sequels, and I think it has more spin-offs than Star Trek and Star Wars.
The basic plot across all the series is that humanity has colonized the solar system, and some of the colonies brake off and become independent... violently...
The war technology escalates until both sides are battling with giant robots.
Not just fun tech, Gundam is also known for exploring politics and human emotion and motivation.

Outlaw Star
This show has spaceships, magic artifacts, and a legendary power that the space-mafia (my words) is trying to get it's hands on. Gene, our hero, dreams of going into space... unfortunately, he's got a bit of a phobia about it... He starts out as a drunken bum, but turns into a man of character. There's action, adventure, comedy, and characters and a universe you'll fall in love with.

Cowboy Bebop
Seriously, if you haven't seen this.... Well, you have to...
There's space bounty hunters, mafia assassins, hidden pasts and one of the best soundtracks ever.

Read Or Die
Here's one for my writer friends. What if you were such a bookworm, you could manipulate paper at will? Yomiko is a Paper Master. When she doesn't have her nose in a book, she's working as an agent for The Library using her manipulation of paper to battle all sorts of literary evil.

Slayers
And here's one for the fantasy fans. Slayers is straight-up sword and sorcery fantasy... in the style of Mel Brooks....

There's literally dozens more I could list, but these are some of my favorites, and/or some you may not have heard of. List yours in the comments!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Reader question: How to not indent the first line of just some paragraphs in an ePub book?

Today, we have a reader question:

"Hi, I've used your awesome tutorial on a short story and now I'm using it again on a novel.

Just wondering if you know a way to stop the first line of a new chapter being indented? It seems I'd need to add something into the stylesheet to make this happen but I wouldn't know what."
 
To see the tutorial he's talking about, head over here: http://www.jedisaber.com/eBooks/Introduction.shtml

On to the answer:

CSS classes are what you're looking for (google that for a lot more info...)


Now, the below should work, but not all ePub readers are really good about properly displaying everything the ePub format supports. (In other words, this should work, but it might not in all readers.)


The code in the stylesheet that makes the first line of each paragraph indent is this:

p {text-indent: .3in;
    margin-left:0;
    margin-right:0;
    margin-top:0;
    margin-bottom:0;
    text-align: justify;
    font-family:"Times New Roman";}


So, first, you'd want to add code to the stylesheet like thus:

p.plain {margin-left:0;
    margin-right:0;
    margin-top:0;
    margin-bottom:0;
    text-align: justify;
    font-family:"Times New Roman";}


the ".plain" part can be anything you want, but you want it to be regular text (no spaces or other special characters), rather short, and unique.

The "text-indent: .3in;" line is what causes every HTML <p> tag to be indented. (The <p> is HTML for "paragraph") By removing that, our "plain" paragraphs won't indent the first line.

Great. So how do we tell our ebook that a paragraph isn't a regular paragraph?

Open your HTML file in a text editor (or, if your using Sigil, which I highly recommend), click the Code View button (it's the one that looks like "<>")

Find the paragraph you don't want to indent. Let's say it looks like this:

<p>This is the paragraph I don't want to indent the first line of.</p>

Change it to look like this:

<p class="plain">This is the paragraph I don't want to indent the first line of.</p>

And that should do it!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Book Review: Storming by K.M. Weiland

Today's book Reivew is Storming, by K.M. Weiland

From the "Back of the Book:"

"In the high-flying, heady world of 1920s aviation, brash pilot Robert "Hitch" Hitchcock's life does a barrel roll when a young woman in an old-fashioned ball gown falls from the clouds smack in front of his biplane. As fearless as she is peculiar, Jael immediately proves she's game for just about anything, including wing-walking in his struggling airshow. In return for her help, she demands a ride back home . . . to the sky.

Hitch thinks she's nuts--until he steers his plane into the midst of a bizarre storm and nearly crashes into a strange airship like none he's ever run afoul of, an airship with the power to control the weather. Caught between a corrupt sheriff and dangerous new enemies from above, Hitch must take his last chance to gain forgiveness from his estranged family, deliver Jael safely home before she flies off with his freewheeling heart, and save his Nebraska hometown from storm-wielding sky pirates."

Cons:

- The book bills itself as "diesel-punk." There might be one diesel engine in the whole story, but it's never referred to as such. It'd be nicer to have some more diesel based tech in the world. It's more like historical fiction with a few very mild fantasy elements thrown in. Not that that's a bad thing, I like historical fiction...

- I figured out who Walter was at about the 17% mark. This isn't really a bad thing, but it's treated like this big mystery that none of the characters have a clue about... yeah, if you can add, you'll be at least a little suspicious...

Pros:

- Everything... The hero is great. Hitch has a lot of heroic qualities, but he's been running away from problems all his life.

- Jael is awesome. She a little quirky, wild, and lots of fun to hang out with (well, in the second half of the book... she's a little dangerous to hang out with in the first half of the book....) And she's perfect for Hitch... if only either of them would realize it...

- The book really captures the adventure and excitement of the barnstorming pilot days. Makes me want to fire up the flight simulator.


Overall, four stars, easy. Great fun, (almost) couldn't put it down (wife wanted something at one point. I said, "But there's a girl hanging from an airplane!" She let me keep reading...) I really hope there's a sequel.



Monday, August 29, 2016

Book Review: Kitsune Tsuki

Today's Book review is Kitsune Tsuki, by Laura VanArendonk Baugh. From the "back of the book:"

"How does one find a shape-shifter who may not even exist?

The onmyouji Tsurugu no Kiyomori, a practitioner of the mystic arts, has been engaged to protect the warlord's new bride from the fox spirit rumored to be near. Tsurugu and the shadow-warrior Shishio Hitoshi face an impossible challenge in teasing out a kitsune shapeshifter from the samurai and servants –- if such a creature is even present at all.

The handsome mute twin servants belonging to Lady Kaede are certainly suspicious, but it is the beautiful and strong-willed lady herself who draws Shishio’s mistrust. Tsurugu and Shishio must move carefully, for accusing the warlord’s bride falsely would be death. But failing to identify the kitsune to the warlord is equally perilous, and there is more to discover. For an onmyouji knows secrets even the shadows do not….

Kitsune-Tsuki is a historical fiction novelette, the introduction to the series KITSUNE TALES"

Cons:

- This book is too short. :)

- If you're not at least slightly familiar with a few Japanese words, or some cultural background, this story is going to be a little overwhelming at first. There is an included glossary to help with this, but there's a lot of Japanese words, place names, and character names.

Pros:

- This is just a wonderful tale set in historical alt-Japan. The story really gets the fell of Japanese culture, and pulls from several different elements of Japanese folklore.

- The ending is a surprise twist the fits with the theme, and sets up the sequel. (I'd go more into it, but spoilers.... ;) )

Overall, I give it four and half stars. I really loved this story. It was a fun little mystery with some great characters, fun plot twists, and a story world that I want to spend more time in.

 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Book Review: Robo Raptors and the Gutsy Rebels

From the "Back of the Book:"

"When 2000 lives are at stake, the Defiant Few, an elite rebel team, has no choice but to intervene.
But in this dark conspiracy, who can they trust?

Word about a plot to attack a civilian cruise liner gets to Jones, Dark Horse rebel mastermind. His elite team, the Defiant Few, mobilize. They assume the enemy’s scheme is more than what it seems. But what? Is it a trap set by M.A.S.K. or the Confederacy, or both, to acquire a Dark Horse ship rigged with Rory West’s super-advanced technology?

Without evidence, they can’t know which of their enemies is willing to kill innocents for tech treasure. They need intel while they plan for countermeasures. So they ready a trap of their own; one where fourteen-year-old Rory’s androids and robo-raptors could make all the difference. Will the Dark Horse rebels outsmart their enemies one more time?"

Cons:
- The plot jumps back and forth a little in the beginning of the book. This takes a little getting used to, as there's at least three main factions. Once you figure out what's going on, you get a look into what's happening big-picture.
- The ending felt a little rushed in a "Here, Clueless Character, let me explain what happened to you" way. It wasn't quite that bad, but bordered on it. It would have been nice to have one more scene to play everything out that was happening somewhere else.
- The good guys have a bit too much of an edge tech-wise. I never felt they were in any real danger, as they always were one step ahead of everyone else.

Pros:
- This was a fun read. I enjoyed the characters, the plot was fast-paced, and there were plenty of funny parts interspersed throughout.
- There was a lot of character diversity here. Gristled veterans, sneaky villains, over the top villains, clueless officers caught in the middle.
- Fun tech. Come on, who doesn't want to read a book about robot dinosaurs?
- Old-fashioned heros. These days, most heros have to be dark, struggling, broody, weighed-down emotionally...  Every once in a while, it's nice to have a classic hero character, someone who's got it all together, knows the right thing to do, and does it all the time. Now, if over-done, that can get cliche... In this book, its not over-done. The hero characters aren't main characters, and they get properly used as people for the main characters to look up to.

Overall, I liked this book. I reminded me of a sci-fi B movie... no, not that way, in a good way.
It's a little over the top in places, and doesn't take itself too seriously. It's a fun ride, with heroes, villains, and lots of action. Four stars, easy. Would read again.




Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I'm not dead! ... Really...

Wow, it's been longer than I thought between posts here...

It's been a busy summer. Both day jobs have been busy, Realm Makers was fun, and I've been busy with the Lasers, Dragons, and Keyboards podcast.

I'll have a blog post up on Realm Makers eventually, and I really should remember to post here when we interview someone over at LDK.

So far this summer, we've talked to:
- Randy Streu
- Mary Ruth Pursselley
- Kessie Carroll
- Patrick Carr
- Mike Durran
- Tosca Lee
- Amy McNew
- Kat Heckenbach

... and more! So, I have been busy, just forgot to talk about it...

Also, I have been reading, but some of that has been beta-reading novels that aren't out yet, so I can't talk about it. Let's just say some good stuff is coming...

Monday, April 25, 2016

Win a copy of A New Threat...

I'm still alive! I'll have a new bog post up soonish. In the meantime, go win a book:

I'm giving away a copy of A New Threat over on Goodreads. Go enter to win!

Monday, April 4, 2016

So I Finally Switched to Linux...

I first encountered Linux back when I was in high school, around 1997, or 1998. At that point, I knew I wanted to do something with computers, and I'd come across Linux.
My first distro was Red Hat. I believe it was version 7.2 (I either bought the Red Hat Linux Bible, that came with a copy, and later got a boxed copy from Circuit City, or the other way around. I don't remember now.)

This was back in the days of dial-up internet. I'd already setup a home network for sharing files and printers. I installed Red Hat on an old computer, and configured it as a software router to share the dial-up connection with the rest of the network. I even had it set to automatically re-dial the connection if it dropped. (Yes, we had a second line just for the dial-up connection.)

That server lasted for several years until a combination of two things convinced me to replace it.
1. We finally had another option than dial-up internet available in our area.
2. I was studying for my Windows 2000 server exam, and wanted a Win2k network to learn on.

The old Red Hat box wouldn't run 2000 server, so I went down to Best Buy and got the cheapest computer they had (this was a few years after 2000 server came out, so it still met the specs.) When I went to check out, they asked me if I wanted the extended warranty. I'm thinking, hmm, the first thing I'm going to do when I get home is add RAM, a bigger hard drive, and install Win2k server... so, uh, no...

It came with Windows ME on it, so before I turned it into a server, I booted ME to play with for a while... to see if it was as bad as everyone said. It was worse. It crashed on me a few times, and I only had it running for a few hours. I powered it down, upgraded the hardware, and installed Windows 2000 server. Sometime around the same time (it might have been a few months prior...) the Red Hat machine was shutdown and replaced with a tiny little router. Ah, broadband.... *smile* (Well, it was a 1 to 2 mb connection, but it was exponentially faster than a 32k connection shared with three or four computers... Yes, 32k... it was supposed to be a 56k connection, but the line quality out in the middle of nowhere leaves something to be desired...) Sadly, the hardware for the Red Hat machine went to the junkyard.

That cheap e-machine was the best computer I've ever had. It ran 24/7 serving up files, a web development test server, and running what was possibly the smallest Active Directory network ever for over ten years, only getting a brief nap (let alone reboot) when the power went out (well, it was on a UPS, so the power had to stay out for a few minutes...)

Around the time the Red Hat machine was shutdown, Mandrake Linux had a really good reputation (Not to mention that Red Hat, now Fedora, switched from KDE to GNOME as it's primary desktop, and I can't stand GNOME, especially GNOME 3...), so I had that dual-booting with Windows 2000 on my desktop computer, but I just played with it a bit, it wasn't really my main computer.

A few years and some upgrades later, I had SUSE Linux (I don't remember now what made me choose SUSE...) triple booting with Windows 98SE and Windows XP. (And that's not counting the laptop that was dual-booting OSX and Windows XP.) Still, I was mostly using Windows. Why triple boot, you ask? Mostly just because I could. I was even doing it with the Windows boot loader, instead of GRUB... now that was a challenge. At the time, I was doing a lot of work with a bunch of different proprietary programs, none of which would run under Linux. Linux had several programs which would do almost the same thing, but not quite (plus, I was used to the way the ones I was using worked), and a few that actually worked better (I would still LOVE to have the Kate text editor on Windows...)

The hard drive in the computer finally died, and when I put a new one in, I just loaded Windows on it. Still, I had Linux running in a VM just to play with.

And that brings us to today. Microsoft has ended support for Windows XP. Windows 7 was a little wonky to use, but bearable. Vista was junk, Windows 8 was worse yet. Windows 10 is great compared to 8, but Windows 7 is still better. So, after reading Linux forums, and playing with SUSE 13.2 in a VM, it hit me. KDE, at this point, is better than even Windows 7. Most of the stuff I depend on these days is a web app, and Firefox has always run on every platform. Most of the current Linux tools had matured enough that they now work better than the ten-year-old Windows programs I was using for various tasks (hey, they work, and they work better, and/or are cheaper than modern Windows programs...) Gwenview, KDE's basic photo viewer, alone replaces and works better than three different programs I was using for quick-and-dirty photo cropping and resizing. Most of the modern programs I was using were open-source, anyways, and had been developed first for Linux (Sigil, Firefox, Calibre, GIMP, Inkscape, Filezilla...) And, WINE has matured enough that it now runs most of the Windows programs I need.

I'm still dual-booting Windows 10 and SUSE Leap 42.1, but now Linux is my main OS, and I only go to Windows for the occasional game or such.

So, how about you? Anyone running Linux, or tried it?

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Book Review: A Sea of Purple Ink

Today's book review is A Sea of Purple Ink, by Rebekah Shafer.

From the "back of the book:"

"Once their gifts made them heroes. Now they’re branded as traitors. 

Reese Davis has been on the run for years. Her crimes include being born with a supernaturally quick mind, and doing everything within her power to protect the other outlaws from the paranoid king.

Every day is a fight to survive as Reese leads her small gang in a calculated game against the secret police, who are obsessed with finding and arresting anyone with special abilities. Her mission is to locate others with abilities, sneak them out from under the police’s noses, and spirit them away to safety. But dodging the police is difficult work even for a mastermind, and when a rescue turns into disaster, Reese stumbles upon evidence of a frightening conspiracy and learns that the king is no longer her worst enemy. In fact, he doesn’t seem to remember who he is.

Faced with what could be an elaborate trap, or worse, Reese must help the man who made her an outlaw survive the havoc he created, or risk the creation of an even more ruthless regime.

Blending alternative fantasy, dystopia, and superpowers, A Sea of Purple Ink is an intriguing, adventurous ride for ages 16 and up."

I don't normally like dystopias, but I do like superpowers, good writing, and fun characters. The story sucked me in, and I burned (pun intended) through this book in about three hours.

The story reminds me of Mistborn, in all the good ways. (There's mists, and people with different abilities living in a dystopia.) The characters abilities are different, and wording unique to the world is used for the abilities, giving the world an almost Steampunk feel. Which is a nice break from the medieval feel for most fantasy, or the future setting for most dystopias.

Over the course of the book we get to know Reese, her sometimes boyfriend, and the king pretty well. Sadly, we don't learn as much about the other characters. They still have plenty of depth, but from both the first-person perspective, and the fact that the story isn't about them don't let us get to know them as well. Niela, for example. She's Reese's friend, she's had trouble drinking and fighting, but we don't know much else about her.

My biggest problem with this book is that it doesn't have a sequel. I want to spend more time in this world, get to know the other characters, and find out what happens next.

I give this book four and a half stars, easy. It'd probably get bumped up to five if the author writes a sequel that's this good (I like to stay in worlds I like. In my opinion, it adds to the story world if there's more to it than one book.)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Win another free book!

So, my co-conspirators and I just interviewed Jeff Gerke at Lasers, Dragons, and Keyboards. As part of the interview, we're giving away a copy of Jeff's book: The Irresistible Novel!

Check out below for how you can win!


a Rafflecopter giveaway