Dragging My Niece to H-E-L-L and Back!

For two years now Dipper has been trying to get me to play The Secret World. I tried it and loved the concept – it’s like playing a horror film or book. Everything is true – the Boogeyman haunts an amusement park with a dark past, Cthulhu knows your helicopter out of the sky, and the world is controlled by a series of secret societies. (Not to mention the other really creepy mythology of the game, but I don’t want to spoil the fun for anyone – until another post, that is.)

I recently started playing in earnest with the release of Secret World Legends, which is a re-vamp of the game. Most of the original missions and storyline are still present, but Funcom tweaked the game. Combat is more streamlined, as is the tutorial process. Having experienced the old game to a degree, I feel able to say with confidence that the new iteration is much more fun for the new gamer. My brother, who has played it since it was in beta, is very much in love with the game. He hasn’t (to my knowledge) come across anything in the new game that he’s displeased with.

In any event, Phoebe watched Dipper play, and wanted to give it a whirl. She hopped on an alternate character that he had created and took off! She loves playing in the Maine-esque Kingsmouth town, which is populated by a haunted ship called the Lady Margaret, zombies, and other weird creatures. As Phoebe progressed through the game she wanted to start running dungeons. My main character is at the maximum level (50) and is able to take her through the first dungeon. In the first dungeon, you and your team are tasked to explore the wreck of the ship The Polaris (which is what gives the dungeon it’s name). As you fight through a series of bosses, you come to realize that the ship was besieged with horrible creatures and…..well, I won’t spoil it. Suffice to say Phoebe runs that dungeon on a daily basis and still isn’t tired of it yet.

Once she reached the level to do the first of the three H-E-L-L dungeons, she asked to be taken through. We joined up as a private team and entered. I’m a close-range fist weapon fighter (think Wolverine with cotton candy colored hair and teacher clothes) and Phoebe rocks a shotgun – hammer mix. When I say she rocks out, I really mean it. Those readers acquainted with any kind of raid or dungeon run know that sometimes when you’re taking a lower level character around, you’re stuck doing EVERYTHING. Not the case with Phoebe. She’s literally right in the middle of the fray, shooting and smashing her way to glory. (Though her motivation might come as a surprise. You can use in-game tokens to purchase digital pets for your character. As of right now, Dipper’s alt character has almost every pet you can purchase from a vendor, and Phoebe’s character on her own account is quickly gaining in the contest.)

One of the best things about playing video games with Phoebe is listening to her reaction to the content. Secret World Legends is definitely for mature players, though thankfully she skips through most of the cut scenes. In her eagerness to wipe out as many digital enemies as possible, I’m never sure how much of the story line she picks up while playing. However, she is a fast learner in terms of the raid mechanics. The first time I took her through I died while fighting Recursia. Recursia is a big-breasted dominatrix-style succubus who does not die easily. While fighting her, minions are released from a circle around her. If they get to her, she gets stronger. Well, I tasked Phoebe to keep the minions down since they don’t really fight back, they just move inexorably towards their destination. I was more worried about Phoebe than I was my own situation, and I got careless. I died – which in this game means the other players either have to kill the boss they’re battling, or die too. I was freaking out because I was sure she was toast. Much to my surprise, she jumped in with rabid vigor and destroyed Recursia with two swings of her hammer. I didn’t realize I’d died with so little of a window to go. I congratulated her, and she basically told me that she was pissed Recursia had killed me. Phoebe never fails to warm my heart.

She’s also eagle-eyed. There are little tidbits you can collect in all the zones called lore. Lore are little pieces of the mythology and story of the game and it’s inhabitants. Usually I’m pretty good at picking up lore, especially when running a dungeon with Dipper. Even so, Phoebe is extremely thorough and we were able to get two lore I didn’t have before. I have to check later, but I’m reasonably certain that I now have all the lore for the first H-E-L-L dungeon.

If you’re wondering why H-E-L-L is written letter by letter, that’s all Phoebe. For the longest time she wouldn’t say it because she thought it was swearing. Ever the teacher I tried to explain to her that it depended on the use.

Me: “Phoebe, ‘hell’ isn’t a bad word.”

Phoebe: “Yes it is. You just want to hear me say it.” (Her refusal to swear is endearing, and we are all patiently waiting for the innocence to fade and her vocabulary to become more colorful.)

Me:“Well, yes and no. It all depends on how you mean it.”

Phoebe: “Mhm….”

Me: “No, really. If you’re telling someone to go to Hell, it’s totally cursing. If you’re talking about a Hell dungeon, well, Hell is a place on the game map. It’s also a place some people believe in. In which case it’s a proper noun.”

Phoebe: “Mhm….”

There will be no taking Phoebe for a fool. I meant every word of what I told her, but she’s wise beyond her ten years and she had to take some time to think on it. We’ve progressed to the point where she’ll ask to go to the hell dungeon, but it’s more of a whisper. She’s still not totally comfortable saying it.

If you’re wanting to join in the fun, you can download Secret World Legends for free here or through the game client Steam. My previous post  about the game The Park is also a game in this series. There are some in-game purchases, and if you want you can become a monthly Patron, which allows you to teleport around the map at no cost, as well as other benefits.

If you want to find me in-game, send me a message and I’ll tell you who I am. Just don’t expect Phoebe to want to play – she’s web-smart! I’ll never forget the day a random person tried to group with her. Dipper and I were talking and we heard her yell, “Ew! NO. Why would he do that?!” Dipper and I were freaking out wondering what was going on, and when we realized that she didn’t want to group with another player we almost died laughing. The sheer indignation that someone random would actually think she’d accept their invite….it was nearly Victorian in her disdain! I would have given almost anything to have been there in person and not listening over a phone! On a serious note, thank goodness she’s smart about online interactions. While it’s true there are plenty of good people online, I don’t trust everyone’s intentions. (She may not be my niece by blood, but she is by heart and soul, and I’m very protective of her.)

Stay tuned for more news from Secret World and the H-E-L-L dungeons! I’ll be periodically posting our adventures. Especially considering Panda and I now have enough computers at our house for Phoebe to experience her first LAN party!

 

Nightmares Abound!

I’ve been a fan of Adrian Chamberlin‘s work since I first read The Caretakers. He’s a helluva writer, and has a sense of humor to match. After reading The Caretakers, I resolved to pay close attention to any anthology in which his work is featured, as well as to his own books.

I stumbled on Dreaming in Darkness awhile ago and had purchased it for my Kindle. Since I finished a run of books for review, I wanted to read something quick for myself. If nothing else, it would be vastly different than the books I had been reading, and I thought it would work as a palate cleanser until the next round of review books arrived.

Dreaming in Darkness was more than I could have ever hoped for, and just may have spoiled me for Mythos literature forever. There are only four stories in the book, which clocks in at  a massive 356 pages. Each story is by a different author, and I tell you no lies when I say that all of them were fantastic. After having finished it, I’d be pressed to select just one as a favorite. They were all so wildly different, yet united in that they were horrifying on a visceral level. These stories are what primitive fears are made of!

Before I go into each story, please note that I am giving vague descriptions of each. They are all wonderfully complex with solid and engaging characters. But I don’t want to deprive the reader of the surprise and terror by spoiling the stories ahead of time. Therefore, please forgive me for the thin descriptions.

THE ORDER – Aaron J. French

In this tale, retired detective Carl Sanford returns to the field at the behest of a friend. His interest in the occult as well as conspiracy theories makes him a particularly important viewpoint on the latest murder case. As Sanford and the others delve deeper into the case, they find that not only are many of the occult theories actually true, but that there is a cult called the Order of Oriphiel that seeks to overturn the world order and bring the Apocalypse.

SHADRACH BESIEGED – Adrian Chamberlin

A centuries-long struggle to keep a horrifying idol out of the wrong hands comes to a terrifying climax at an abandoned monastery during the English Civil War. The majority of the soldiers caught up in the mess think they are fighting their Civil War. Little do they know that Shadrach and his old foe have also come together to wage their own war, and everyone around them will get swept into it. Not to mention having to cross a hellish forest with an agenda of it’s own!

THE SERPENT’S EGG – Jonathan Green

A writer goes and stays in a castle, hoping to find inspiration after his marriage and life crumbled in the aftermath of his first successful novel and the dry period that followed. He’s researching the legend of the Lambton Worm, and thinks himself lucky to find his host is none other than Lord Tristam Lambton himself. However, he stumbles onto a pagan ritual and from there everything goes to hell. He soon finds out that not only is the Lambton Worm no legend, but he now must fight this cult for his life.

NEW HEAVENS – John Prescott

Instead of bringing the Old Ones to us, we are brought to the Old Ones. Literally! Monoliths rise from the sea, people wander into the ocean only to be changed into horrifying creatures, and then one day, the Earth itself is transported somewhere else. Our characters are left to battle against the Old Ones in their own environment, among countless other horrors, as they also struggle to get the Earth back in it’s own universe.

Again, these descriptions are thin compared to the wonderful complexity of each story. The descriptions in all of them are guaranteed to give nightmares – I can attest to this personally, from experience. At first I thought I could pick favorites, but by the end, I was positive that every story is unique and terrifying in it’s own right.

All four authors masterfully blend suspense, thrills, scares, and mystery together. Dreaming in Darkness is an absolutely amazing book, and at $4.00 for Kindle, it’s an absolute steal! If you don’t have a Kindle, don’t despair. You can still read it with the free Amazon Kindle app.

Family Friday

Dipper and Phoebe came to visit us last Friday. Due to a possible obligation, they weren’t able to stay over, but it was still an amazing evening. Phoebe got things going by showing me her new Superhero Girls toy. It’s Wonder Woman on a motorcycle, and it’s downright badass! She also brought Clue, but we didn’t get a chance to play. The week had been rough on everyone, and we were all dying and ready for the sleep of the dead by about 9:30.

Since it was the last Friday of winter break Phoebe and Dipper had gone out around the town together. Among their stops were Barnes and Noble and Toys R Us. Dipper snagged a few graphic novels and a Gravity Falls Cinestory Comic for Phoebe, which I called dibs on after she finishes. (Phoebe liked Gravity Falls before I came along, but I suspect that she finds it even funnier now, since her dad and I are so much like Dipper and Mabel.)

Phoebe was also excited to give me the fuzzies that she and Dipper had picked out during the day. I’ve been all about the Resident Evil Funko line, and they found me Nemesis. As well as the Alien Queen from the Alien series. Phoebe found a Resident Evil manga at Barnes and Noble, that I didn’t even know existed. It’s called Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire, and it takes place prior to video game RE6. I snagged the Power Rangers t-shirt from Dipper’s Loot Crate, and Phoebe had some more Monster High minis for me. (Yesterday I snapped all the little lockers together. I just have to clean candle soot off the one wall and then hang them. I’m really at a loss as to what to do otherwise!) The little green Cthulhu is part of a series of vinyl toys called Dunnys. Dipper got it for me a little bit ago, but I was able to glue the wings on Friday (they snapped off in shipping).

Although I didn’t take pictures of the fuzzies I gave them, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have fuzzies waiting. I got Dipper the Hulk Mr. Potato Head, which means he’s only missing one or two more from the series. I also got him a Deadpool mini figure from Walgreens. I couldn’t resist! Phoebe got an Easter egg which turns into a bunny nose, some pens, and I honestly forget what else. I was so happy to see them that the first hour or so is a blur.

I was worn out and didn’t feel like cooking, so Tkout ordered us pizza and wings. He got pineapple on the pizza which is basically my favorite thing. After dinner, I did dishes and we sat down to watch Just Add Magic. Tkout changed the filtering on our router, so I couldn’t use the Amazon streaming app until he did some legwork. While we waited Phoebe and I decided to do some reading. She’s working on the Gravity Falls comic, and I was telling her that not only would Dipper and I be able to read it sooner, but I was sure her dad would count it towards her 20 minutes of reading homework. I sat down with Dreaming in Darkness, which I’m working on so that I can post a review. I chose the couch, because I knew Zelda would come and sit with me and hopefully I could keep her calm. It’s difficult to read with a Boston terrier zooming around the living room! Phoebe was over the moon that Chloe decided to sit on the top of the chair Phoebe had chosen.

Chloe likes Phoebe very much, but she’s not always up for the kind of attention Phoebe wants to give her. Since Chloe is at least 7 years old (she’s a rescue cat so we don’t know for sure) she’s not as spry as Vampira. When Phoebe is home, Vampira basically lets her do whatever she wants, within reason. Chloe isn’t like that. She likes to occasionally play with a toy, but more often than not, she wants to just sit and be petted by whatever hooman she chooses. Treats don’t hurt either. Now that Phoebe has learned that trick, she’s definitely used it to her advantage, and Chloe’s delight. Chloe dozed off while Phoebe read, and on occasion Phoebe would reach up and pet Chloe. Zelda did what I hoped, and stayed with me on the couch. As you can tell from the picture, Phoebe is a truly intense reader and really gets into the story!

I had been dreading seeing it for some time because I wasn’t sure what I was in for. Since she’s 9, she’s at this weird age where her shows are either insipid and torture (Bunk’d, I’m looking at you! Bizaardvark gets honorable mention for really annoying supporting characters.) or they’re really fun (Justice League Unlimited for sure!) Just Add Magic was a pleasant surprise for sure. It follows a common recipe – sisters (in this case friends) realize they can do magic, and they use it to try and have a positive impact. In this case, it’s a magic cookbook that the girls find in the attic. I like the strong female leads.

It was a really amazing Friday night. As much as I was sad that Phoebe and Dipper didn’t stay, part of me was glad because I was absolutely dead to the world once I hit my bed. There would have been no late night comic book talk with Dipper or movie marathon with Phoebe. I would have dropped absolutely dead and stayed dead until late the next morning. There’s also zero chance I would have gotten up early to watch TV and build Legos with Phoebe the next morning.

I promised Phoebe the next Family Friday we would play Clue and watch more Just Add Magic. Although I think we will wait for Dipper to go to bed for that last part. I’m not too sure that’s his bag. With any luck I can talk her into more Justice League. Or the classic Batman movies. By classic, I mean my classic. It’s high time she learned that Batman is Michael Keaton, Joker is Jack Nicholson. And as much as nobody seemed to notice, Harley Quinn pre-transformation in Suicide Squad is a dead-ringer for Kim Basinger‘s Vicki Vale.

(Just to prove my point, to the right is a snapshot of Miss Vicki Vale, from Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman.

In the shot below, we have Miss Harley Quinn, of the 2016 Suicide Squad. Game over. I win. Right down to the glasses and classy shirt! Oooh..does that make Harley a foil for Vicki? Maybe. That theory will have to be put to the test in another post, another day.)

 

 

Scary crochet patterns…

Homemade Cthulhu, adapted from pattern in Cree...

Image via Wikipedia

This post does not include the many patterns you can find for free online.  I don’t want to post those just yet, because I want to make sure that I give proper credit to those brave men and women who came up with them.  Again, links to amazon.com are provided.

Not too many of these types of books out there yet, but let’s hope!

Now for some watery terror !

An artist's visual representation of the Elder...

Cthulhu - tentacles and all. Image via Wikipedia

What a fabulous book!  “Beneath the Surface” was an amazing book!  Judging by the Cthulhu looking beauty on the cover, I thought these stories would be all about the ocean.  I was really off-base with that assumption, and all the better for it!

Almost every story in this book was a blast.  “Thorguson” by Scott Christian Carr started the anthology.  It details a submarine captain in his ship at the bottom of the ocean.  His whole crew is dead, but they’re walking around and banging on the sides of the ship.  We never find out why they died, but we do find out what they’re up to, and it’s not too pretty.  The story is written from the point of view of the captain as he faces his horrible end.  Great story!

Next up is “Raw Materials” by Derek M. Fox.  After reading this story, I will never go for a road trip.  Not an unplanned road trip, nor a planned one.  Nor will I stay in a hotel that isn’t run by a chain.  As one couple finds out, the kindly but slightly odd proprietors may just be after your hide!  All around creepy story.

“Stone Creek Station” by Scott William Carter provides an interesting look into a wish most people have at one time or another in their lives.  His character decides to go on a road trip after his wife leaves him, and he winds up in a little town with a big secret.  He follows the town elders out to a train station seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  As it turns out, the train station is for the dead, who come and visit periodically.  Wouldn’t everyone like to talk to their deceased loved ones?  After reading this story, I know I changed my theory.  This story is both thought provoking and sad, and certainly not one to be missed.

Marie Brennan puts an evil twist on the Walt Disney Sleeping Beauty tale in “Kiss of Life”.  I’m not going to say anything else, excepting that it’s a times a riot and at times a terror, but it’s definitely a story you NEED to read.

Angeline Hawkes delivers an interesting look at the power of relices in “The Relic: Father Santiago’s Bones”.  It’s also an interesting look into why we choose the relics we do.  The father in question is actually part of the Inquisition.  He allows the rape, torture, and murder of an innocent girl in front of her own mother.  The mother curses him, and when Father Santiago dies his bones become relics.  However, they are not the good kind that grant prayers or heal babies.  They are cursed, and when certain people touch them, a terrible thing happens.  (I can’t tell you, because it will ruin the story.)  This story is also a must-read!

To be honest, I liked the book so much that I almost wrote a summary for every story.  If there is one book you buy this month, you need to buy “Beneath the Surface.”  It includes all the stories mentioned above, plus a money tree that punishes it’s finder, a sadistic and hungry mattress, a nameless and ancient horror about to be unleashed, and a witch who steals souls.  There are many other stories in the book – and you NEED to read them all.

Cute crochet minions in every size…

Creepy Cute Crochet

Image by SewPixie via Flickr

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Yes this is a media review site.  However, this book is fairly important to me because it was what got me to start learning to crochet.  I was searching for “Cthulhu” one day when I was bored and I came across “Creepy Cute Crochet” by accident.  I went out and bought it the same afternoon (you should have learned by now that I am in impulse buyer of zombies, and anything book related.)

The patterns are ranked in terms of ease, but since I’m still a beginning I haven’t done any of them yet.  The patterns are really nice and cover tons of ground with regards to the subject matter.  There are even wizards, Trojan warriors, and Amazonian women to crochet.

This book is a must-have for any crafty zombie lover !  In fact, I was perusing another blog and found out that windgie79 at craftster.org actually used the patterns as the basis for a whole set of Left 4 Dead zombies.  She made the specials, and they all look pretty cool !  If you want to check them out, go here: http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=286431.msg3245554#msg3245554

By the way – for those of you who are not familiar with amigurumi, they are cute Japanese crocheted dolls / toys.  They have branched out into all sorts of things such as ornaments for Christmas trees.  Amigurumi started out being animals, but the art form has taken on inanimate objects.  The key word being cute…just look at the figures on the book above.  Cute.  You can look up all sorts of patterns if you like, including one I just got a few minutes ago that features an eyeball with a nerve ending.  (http://www.instructables.com/id/Crocheted-Eyeball/ if you’re looking for the pattern.)