Posts Tagged ‘reading

08
May
18

Attention Readers: Found Any Fighting Fantasy Books?

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If you happen upon a used bookstore that has one or more Fighting Fantasy and/or Sorcery! (a spin-off of the F-F pick-a-path books) books, let me know.  And, if possible, which books you find.  I am typically interested and hunting a few particular editions/copies.

I know of one British bookstore that has provided me with some, already, though shipping is a bit much, and–to be honest–I was a lil disappointed with some of the conditions (of the books).  Yet, there was one gem in the bunch, a first-edition American copy of Sorcery! 3, The Seven Serpents which looked fresh and unused.  I treasure it as much as I treasure the copy of Sorcery! 2 I got from my sister.

On that note, here is a short shopping list.   And, I’m going to be specific about cover art just because there are so many editions!  [I won’t mind one with a different cover if it’s in good shape, just for reading purposes.  But, the best covers are worth finding.]

@ Sorcery! Book 1:  The Shamutanti Hills (the natural green-white cover with the manticore looking a bit sketchy, orange spine and back cover, with or without the black and orange trim.)

@ Sorcery! Book 4:  The Crown of Kings (same as the above, orange spine, cartoonish/sketchy wizard on the cover holding the crown overhead on the castle balcony.)

@ Freeway Fighter (American <I presume> cover with the rope/vine border and Mad Max-ish action scene with the chopper and other vehicles after the red car.)

@ Caverns of the Snow Witch (For this one, I actually prefer the 200X cover with the raven-haired witch in the long white coat leaning forward, and the metallic, embossed title; it just looks better than the other versions I’ve seen.)

@ City of Thieves (The <American rope/vine> cover with the grim reaper-like skeleton in the middle of some kind of stone structures with a knight and some other shaggy thing to his left, a reptilian pelican-like thing to the right and red smoke rising along with the long neck of some other lizard/serpent behind the stone structure.)

@ Starship Traveler (The <American rope/vine> cover with the male and female space travelers fighting off the aliens in the foreground, the robot in the upper right corner, while standing on some kind of planet with a yellow-orange moon and a spaceship in the background.)**

@ The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (Now, this one has so many covers/editions and is the first and possibly most memorable; but the one I favor has the warlock (or wizard) casting a spell upward from the bottom with the coiling dragon up top AND THE TITLE IN THE MIDDLE <have to be specific because there’s another cover with the title on top of them both>…though I seem to recall another cover that had the dragon peeking through a doorway with a blue beetle-like thing attached to its back or head…if I could find that cover, I’d be ecstatic.)

@ Midnight Rogue (any cover/edition will do as I haven’t seen more than one; it’s just the one I recently got in the mail looked like someone pooped on it…and the return/exchange process was more than I cared to follow).

@ Tower of Destruction (This one might be the original/British cover with the nice floating tower at a tile firing fireballs at the land below; it looks interesting.)

@ Beneath Nightmare Castle (The one with the interesting female monster character clawing at the reader; again, ‘looks interesting.)

@ Citadel of Chaos (The <American> one with the armored figure centered among large worms and a gorgon woman in the background, holding his glowing sword overhead; great cover design!  Just like my favorite Deathtrap Dungeon cover.  Now that I mention it…)

@ Deathtrap Dungeon (The <American> cover with the guy in red standing to the left of the doorway, revealing an array of monsters in the dungeon; I currently just have a copy of the one with the slug on the cover.)

@ Sword of the Samurai (One of the most Uninspired titles; yet I am partial to Far East tales…which is why I am looking into this Lone Wolf Books ninja series; no particular favored cover.)

@ Scorpion Swamp (Another interesting title I have not seen, yet.)

@ Legend of the Shadow Warriors (One version, at least, has the intriguing cover with the pumpkin-headed figures lurking toward the reader; ‘looks interesting.)

@ Nightdragon (The black dragon on the cover I see reminds me of the “blue sword” mini-series I read book 2 of in elementary school, The Hero and the Crown.)

@ Return to Firetop Mountain (Book 50; one of a number of continuing stories in the series, which was also interesting compared to other pick-a-path collections; there were places and stories that reappeared in other books, keeping the mythology going; this had mixed results, as I saw with the Deathtrap Dungeon/Trial of Champions/Armies of Death story.)

@ Any of that Lone Wolf/Way of the Tiger ninja series (Though I’d like to see the first book before considering any of the others, just to be sure it’s worth following.)

There may be more.  But, this is what I came up with for now.


 

A little history…….

I used to have many of these books but foolishly gave them up for quarters when I was desperate to save up for Nintendo games, way back when a new game cost $50 and you knew you were crazy to invest in that 8-bit stuff when the next system was on its way.

Probably since 2001, when I started considering actually picking up a book and reading it (versus all my school years of being assigned reading), I found myself looking back at the fond memories I had of paging through those works by Steve Jackson (not the Lord of the Rings movie guy) and Ian Livingston (or LivingSTONE, depending upon where you find his name, apparently).  Not all of their works were great.  Like the Dungeons and Dragons series, some had lousy titles and repetitive scenarios with just different items to find and different doodles on the pages.  But, there were a few that crossed my desk and captivated me, inspired me to be creative with my own books…which, at the time, were like long comic strips and short comic books.

It wasn’t until 2011 that I started writing my own pick-a-path book, doing my “darndest” to pay tribute to the books I had enjoyed paging through (despite some of the grim, gruesome and frankly scary imagery which I do not support) while infusing some of my own creativity and steering away from the grim stuff that told parents not to buy these books for their kids unless they were twisted adults themselves.  [You know, the kind of adults that live in houses of Halloween stuff and think it’s cute their little ones want to play zombies and vampires or worship scary “rock gods.”]

So, a few years ago, I picked up copies of about a dozen of the old books, including a few “reprints” which came out around 2003.  I appreciated the fresh pages but missed the old cover art.  If you’ve seen some of these (American) covers, you know what I mean.  It’s just fabulous fantasy stuff (again, even if some if not most of it looks a bit freakish and grim, which I do not like).  I particularly liked the cover for Deathtrap Dungeon with the game master standing beside the dungeon door while all the creatures peered out and some escaped toward the reader.  [The British/original cover seems to feature just a little slug-like thing on a pool of slime; not as impressive.]

I’ll confess…  I never took the books too seriously and have yet to actually venture through one completely by keeping all of the notes and using the dice.  I simply enjoyed reliving certain scenes, hunting the seven serpents and imagining some of the creatures in the shady field-stone buildings and wilderness where you found them.

**The robotic/space books in the series, from what I’ve seen so far, were a bit dry and boring in comparison to the grittier dungeon and monster ones.  Maybe the authors had less interest or scientific knowledge to put into the books.  But, I still paged through a few because I was looking for glimpses of something to incorporate into my own work.  I remember drawing the characters from the one cover for Rebel Planet and then, more recently, trying to turn the same poses into other characters/creatures, sort of like using one image as a mandala.  There’s just something about getting staging and poses right that can conjure wonders.

I remember the infamous “red-eyes” that paralyzed you when they looked your way and the striped cats that could disappear into the bush…the golden Buddha-like statue with jewels you could take and the pillar of laughing faces…the serpent disguised as a boatman who offers you a ride before sinking you to the bottom of the lake.  I remember the floor with hands and stars that required a special path to cross…the massive T-Rex turning toward you as you entered the arena…the leprechaun testing your memory with the door/jewel puzzle before he gets struck by a crossbow’s arrow.

I remember working on book reports and donning a harpy costume one year.  For me, these books were my Harry Potter (which is rather sad when you think about it because these were a far cry from that effort at writing).  Fighting Fantasy was light on text yet inspiring enough to fuel so many projects of mine.  Looking back, I wonder how I got anything out of what I read.

Writing my own, I find myself putting so much more text to the page to describe feelings and locations as if I expect no one to have any imagination like the imagination I must have had paging through these F-F books.  My efforts are more like novels broken into alternate endings than short passages about turning a certain direction in a dungeon maze, the result of casting a spell with the wrong item or a very brief clash with some monster.  And, I’m not sure which is better.


 

You know what’s crazy?

Every time I write something like this, I end up doing an online search.  And, sure enough, a new version has just appeared.  [This just happened when I was writing about Cutey Honey, too.]  Apparently, Scholastic Books has been working on/putting out yet another edition of the F-F books with new covers as of last year (2017)?  I guess I need to hit the bookstores, again.  [But, I’d still like to hold some of those older editions, too.  Ya know?  Only then can we feel like kids, again.]

When I previously thought of these books, back in the late 90s, suddenly there were computer and video games based on them.  Then when I thought about them again, there was the 2003 re-issues I completely missed because–again–I am not a genuine bookworm!  I don’t follow the bookstore “feeds.”  I don’t run into people who talk about this stuff.  It’s like they all hide in a closet with candles and dice; and, if you find them they scurry like mice or bugs.

What I don’t quite yet understand, though, is how they say they’re writing a Port (or Portal) of Peril book for younger readers.  Seriously?  I don’t think there was one book in that series that was remotely kind to younger readers.  And, by that, I mean kids under 10.  [That’s why that other pick-a-path series–which was a bit thinner per volume and without the need of dice or note paper–seemed more popular with my classmates.  I only found one book in that series that scared the crap out of me; it involved a robot that took you apart if you made a mistake.  It was either Choose Your Own Adventure:  Your Very Own Robot or the Dungeons and Dragons title Robbers and Robots.  DO NOT PICK UP THESE TWO BOOKS IF YOU HAVE LITTLE KIDS!  I can still see the sinister look on that robot’s face.]

I was rather young when I paged through those books.  I can honestly say they were safe enough for me to tolerate them.  [Though, I had to buy them with my own “scrimping and saving.”]  So, why the worry?  But, again, some of the artwork and grim descriptions…it’s a bit much.  Thankfully (I guess), I was looking at them before I had my “religious epiphany” which turned me away from some of the books and probably explains how I lost track of the series after about book #30 or so.  Thus, I have no interest in owning the whole series.  I just favor those which inspired me and might still inspire me and/or rekindle some fun reading moments of my youth.

The new covers look like cool comic books but still quite scary…scarier than some of the original works.

I also was just tipped off to a website that a comment pointed to a Lone Wolf series about ninja?  This looks VERY interesting.  And, had I read some of those as a kid, I would definitely have been a much bigger fan of Ninja Gaiden and the like (which I already favored, minus the scary evil bits).

Now, if only I could identify and locate the series about dragons that started with a book about a guy with a bolt stuck in his neck.  If you removed the bolt yourself, you died.  You went on a quest to free yourself via magic.

Here is a collected image of many of the original covers, not the ones I remember most with the rope borders.  You can see for yourself how some were rather frightful and not suited for young readers (or for me, actually).  So, I became and still am selective; and I’m working on some adventures/puzzles of my own that are not so frightful and/or grim.  The scariest thing you’ll see on the covers of my books will be a nurse with a dripping needle; and that’s plenty scary to me.  😛

fightingfantasy-series-collected-1


 

Here are some other pick-a-path books I’ve read/paged through you might like, if interested.  [And, if you want more info about the ones listed above, I’m sure you can find it online; but feel free to ask me anything.  :)]   These are sure to be less frightful than the Fighting Fantasy series, if you want to share them with younger readers and not have to worry about the kids getting nightmares.

@ Dungeons and Dragons:  Endless Quest:  Mountain of Mirrors  (Nice cover art, a very chilling setting and one freaky, scary, cool talking doorway.  I also recall reading a few of the other jewel/dragon books in that mini-series, including Revenge of the Rainbow Dragons, but this one was slightly more memorable…slightly.)

Choose Your Own Adventure(s):  [These can be read in a short time like bedtime stories.]

@ #17 The Race Forever (‘Recently re-read this one; decent story/layout; you get your choice of a few cars and paths through varying terrain to take, pairing up with different co-pilots.)

@ #30 Chinese Dragons (This one tugged at my interest in the Far East; it reminds me of the Oregon Trail game in how you are leaving home to undertake a long journey and questioning the strangers you meet along the way.)

@ #17 Pirate Treasure of the Onyx Dragon (A decent pirate adventure for kids of which I am presently blanking though I can see the cover.)

[I picked up an Indiana Jones pick-a-path not too long ago which was very disappointing.  I think you had to make no more than three decisions throughout the 100 page segments; the rest of the story just had you moving from one page to a distant one and then back again.  A far cry from the complexity of the F-F series and not even as interesting as some of the Choose Your Own Adventure series.  I think there has just been an ongoing interest in pick-a-path books though it’s like finding a needle in a really big haystack of teen monster fiction.]

So, in short, if you ever have the chance to exchange or give gifts to yours truly, and you like sharing books, a pick-a-path book is often a good choice (for me).

 

05
Jan
16

When Bookworms Write Erroneous Sentences…

I feel the urge to bang my head against a table…

and then grab the bookworm’s head and slam it against a wall, hoping to dislodge whatever causes their malfunction to write properly. 

I mean…COME ON!  You claim to read hundreds of books every year!  Learn to use the proper verb!  There ARE tons of books you want to read.  There IS a long list.  You ARE not aware of your written mistakes.  There IS someone getting irked by it…especially if you ever end up on a list for writing awards.

Grrr-AH!

15
Dec
15

WordPress Post Interstates?

*****

What sense does this make?

You see a post you care to examine.  But, when you click on it, you get a one or two line blurb and a link that tells you to click it for the “full post.”

I would think you clicked the initial “link” to see the full post.  So, why the extra page?  Is this some means of saving data-load speed?  Reducing traffic by eliminating those with the attention span of gnats who may only read the first line of a post and drift off in thought?

Seriously.  Who comes up with these notions?

 

…And, while I am at it.  Again, why did the old Comments I Made option disappear from my menu and get replaced with “what’s trending” and “new posts you might like?”  Where did the Explore Tags option go?  Now I am limited to tags I insert into the search bar and add to my list of “favorites?

11
Aug
14

Ending a Story (Book or Movie); Which Is Better?

Have you ever finished reading a book or seeing a movie and wrinkled your brow when some aspect wasn’t resolved as thoroughly as you would have liked?

Some might say there’s a writing strategy in this. It leaves the door open for a sequel. If you become invested in the characters you just met, surely you’ll buy into another “peep show” to see them, again. But, what if there is no sequel? Or, what if the sequel simply brushes the previous unfinished details under a rug? How cruel is that?

Which is better?

~Ending a story/movie with bits and pieces unresolved in hopes of resolving them in the next installment?

If this works, you–as the creator/s–can keep leaving things unfinished until you have to stop writing for whatever reason. You–as a viewer/reader–can’t complain much about dissatisfaction because there’s a fair chance another chapter will come along and answer your nagging questions.

OR

~Ending a story/movie with every potential loose end tied up so the whole is as satisfying as it will get on its own regardless of any possible sequel/s?

This version (in movies) can be further enhanced (to my delight) with a little scene after the credits which “hooks” the viewer with hope for a sequel, adds to character appeal (like an encore at a concert/play) or (if you start rolling the credits with one little/big question left unanswered) fills in the gap to complete the story. If there are more books/films, you–as a viewer/reader–may pursue them, provided you enjoyed the (or one of the) previous installment/s. It’s likely you’ll find some more appealing than others.

—————

[Some might say I impacted your decision with my previous choice of words.]

Would you like my lengthy opinion and a little information about myself? Then, by all means, carry on.

I personally prefer the latter though I am tempted to try the former. I like to think–in the few pieces I’ve completed and in just about anything I write–my purposes for the plot and characters (and any other storytelling aspect that can provoke thought “outside the box”) have been satisfied.

When I think of police shows on TV and the few mysteries I’ve read, I suppose misdirection and empty interviews are part of the chase. But–and maybe this is why I struggle with reading/writing them–I get a little headache from “wasting” time (and paper/resources) on matters that won’t impact the ending or have closure on their own. So, if I do include some (initially) fruitless search/interview–if I pursue a suspect with a criminal record only to find they are not tied to the present case–I’d like to follow up with some scene or mention of the party involved either carrying on with life or reconnecting with the “detective” (either to express thanks or to seek revenge/retaliation for wasting their time). [There’s not much I can do/add if a location is void of clues/evidence.]

Sometimes, I am so eager to reveal information that I cut a story short and wonder if there was any point in writing. There’s a plot. And, I’m sure more happens with and around the character/s. But, I only see the “big reveal.” Who wants to read a three-page-or-less story which basically amounts to a character profile? In an effort to counter this dismay, I have tried adding “filler” only to feel guilty of wasting paper/reading time. In a different light, it might look like a “slice of life,” a moment in time with the character/s intended to improve viewers’/readers’ perspective of personality. Hopefully, you’ll feel as if the characters are sharing space with you. And, if you like them, you’ll want them to be your friends. But, the tendency with that filler is to get carried away with dialogue that has no impact on the direction of the story. It’s just talk, the busy-ness some of us experience in our heads when we wake from our slumber. If it’s not talk, it’s action that feels like a dance thrown in to change the present mood without any significant impact on the main story’s direction. It’s like pausing from chasing someone to study a butterfly. I’m not sure what fruit the little branch should produce, but I don’t like dead ends (unless I am crafting a pick-a-path in which a few are expected where decisions are misguided/impulsive).

Other times, I get a little carried away with lacing/weaving little tidbits of information into my writing which, hopefully, will make the reader pause and think. Some are references to something I’ve heard, read or seen (better known as “pop culture references”). The rest are innocent-looking pieces of a bigger puzzle/disguised keys to locks found elsewhere. I’ve been forced to write pick-a-paths because of this (and because of my other struggles with making key decisions sans “co-writer” input, including sensible/clever character names). And, while I stash these “easter eggs” in various corners of a fairly simple maze–turning the simple into something fairly more complex–a part of me wishes to embellish details with theatrical flourishes and subplots until what was supposed to be a light-weight paperback suddenly feels a bit thick and heavy. Either I write these massive pick-a-path books and dismiss the potentially unnecessary cost/use of paper and ink…or I need to cut my writing back somehow and erase nearly every trace of creativity, leaving only the most basic details to identify a person, place or object. Or, I make the crucial decisions and write one version of a story to the end before walking away from it.

—————

I refer you to a particular martial artist who likes to do his own stunts–and sometimes fumbles with his English–but also who ends a dubbed movie without much–if any–resolution. I’ve heard this is the common difference between American and “foreign” films. The former like to “dramatize” stories with scenes lacking action and/or filled with sentimental dialogue. The latter have a tendency to roll the credits after a fight, explosion or (if it’s a Bollywood film) dance sequence (for examples). [Because we all feel like dancing at the end of a story…even if it’s a sad or scary ending. Right? Well, ‘not me. The “big boss” has been defeated. Who cares what happens to the love interest and her/his hero? I’d sure like to know what became of the couple and any other characters thrown into the story who might have had more to say/do after their last appearance.]

And then, there is this series of hefty mystery novels I’ve been reading over the past two years, heavy on pages and details about real estate, light on essential content and closure. Throw in a tendency to wrench the whole shebang with a surprise account of something that happened some time ago–which connects to the key suspect you may not have suspected until then–near the end of the book, and you’ve got a not-so-nice little pot of guilt for spending time with three-hundred-plus pages sitting next to you while you recover from the gripping rush of the last fifty or so. [Don’t even get me started on printed errors missed by poor editing beneath the banner of “best author.” Nor do I want to ramble on about an obsession with a certain beverage and/or how nearly every character smokes so heavily that I find myself choking.]

I’ve read seventeen in the series which (to my knowledge) is only outnumbered by–perhaps–Nancy Drew and/or the Hardy Boys. [I’ve never read so many books in any two years of my life. I can’t be sure, but I may have read fewer books all four years I attended high school.] Maybe only three or four have sufficiently won me over. And, even they lack something. I started reading them as a sort of research for a project of my own. I have stuck with them because 1) they help counter some anxieties I suffer, 2) I am slow to shift gears in pursuit of other books I have yet to identify/select and 3) I keep hoping I will repeat my early triumph with a volume that I’d be inclined to read again later. My greatest satisfaction was in identifying the “villain” early on in the first book…followed by what may have been my biggest disgust and/or eye roll when that character did something unnecessary/unpleasant. There was a nice little red flag (or “red herring” in this case) that put this individual at the top of my suspect list. And, while other characters tugged at my attention, I never took my eyes off that one. Outside of this pursuit, there were a few others which seemed vexing and incomplete.

I suppose giving the layout of every road, building and physical action (including every detail of something as simple as leaving a room/house or visiting a restroom) helps with making a movie (if the visuals match the text exactly or if no one minds certain details being painfully altered). [And, I suppose “sex sells” if we’re to believe what some say. But, I like my sex scenes left subtle/suggestive and properly placed between characters who have sufficiently set the mood…not thrown in at some random location to break up an otherwise uneventful scene or to fill a quota for sales.] Maybe I am just ill-informed/inexperienced or lacking in imagination and unable to generate such accurate information. But, couldn’t some pages be saved by eliminating the manufacturers of building materials, the impact of moisture on a surface (which in no apparent way affects the story) and the exacted routes (including street names/numbers) a character takes while driving (or running or walking)? Couldn’t the house simply be small and white in new or weathered condition? Couldn’t the rain hitting the rooftop simply be that, be the crushing blow to some character’s life or be a metaphor for something else? Couldn’t the character drive a “winding path” across the state over a designated length of time (if it matters) with minimal mention of scenery to let readers know what sort of terrain is being traversed? Couldn’t someone fetch a glass of water without noting irrelevant details of the scenery and/or how their hands perform the task in what may be a not-so-unique way? Or, am I wasting my time picking on someone who others value for that precision?

The good person in me says “leave it be” because we all do things the way we’re told/taught or what feels right. But, some part of me itches to ask these questions.

 

[If you find any incomplete sentences, I apologize.  I started writing this in a huff and posted it without going back to check.  But, do let me know in case I don’t remind myself:D]

24
Jun
14

They’re Writing Books About Reading Books? Now, I’ve Read Everything

If you’re reading books which tell you about a long list of books…written by women who have read a long list of books…just think how much more fruitful it might have been to glance at an online book review, join a book club or talk with fellow bookworms as you encounter them to compare notes before diving right into the books themselves.  If you spend 10-30 bucks on one person’s reviews of a list of books, you should pay every person you meet who tells you about a good book they read.  It’s only fair.

I fear the day when dumpsters are loaded with these review tomes like the PC books no one wants for anything but coasters and cheap painting canvas material (because regular canvases are too expensive?).  Writing books about reading books…whatever happened to social interaction and word of mouth?




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