BOOKS – The Palace Job by Patrick Weekes

The Palace Job by Patrick Weekes.
Published 2012 by Tyche Books. Cover by Lili Ibrahim.

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Fan Fiction: Wolf’s Heart

 

Wolf's Heart cover by Aggie

Wolf’s Heart cover by Aggie

Wolf’s Heart

By Kristen Archer

Edited by Stephen Barteaux

Chapter 1

 

Solas pulled back among the shadows in the shattered ruins of Haven’s Chantry buildings. He took one long look at them all. At her if he was being truthful with himself. He’d claimed to offer Lavellan just that, the truth. He’d come so close to telling her his true name. All of his true names: Fen’harel, the Dread Wolf, the Betrayer, He Who Imprisoned the Gods.

At the last moment he’d rethought his brash decision. He’d covered his momentary slip by offering her a tidbit of truth out of their shared history. Crushing another false dream of her people. A heartless gift to leave her with.

I love her.” There. That was the truth. And it wasn’t enough.
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Meet The Artist – CoupleofKooks

Meet the Artist is back. This time interviewing an artist and gamer whose Dragon Age and Elder Scrolls fan art will alternately haunt and charm you and may possibly make you want to boot up Morrowind or DA:O tonight.
Consider yourself warned!

CoupleofKooks-Title-Image

There is a lot more to this artist than his haunting sepia toned fan art. He’s a 31 yo Wing Chun martial artist and competitive tea brewer* from Poland as well as a gamer and board gamer and he’d actually rank Bridge and Backgammon as his favourite games. On top of that he found time to do a lengthy bit of correspondence with me so I could, in good conscience, introduce you guys to his art.

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What else do you do with your time? Are you an architect and paint fan art for fun? Are you a student somewhere or a full-time artist?

For the last couple of years I’ve been working in the film industry as an animator in 2D movies and as a designer in stop motion movies. I also build sets, props and models for puppet films. Painting fan art and fantasy related pictures is fun for me, a method of relaxation and a way of improving my skills with something not work related.

TES: Neloth of House Telvanni

TES: Neloth of House Telvanni

What mediums do you use? Have you always used the same?

I feel best with digital painting, though I’ve discovered this technique just two years ago. Before I was painting with oil pastels, inks and acrylics. I switched to digital because it was much faster and much more comfortable to work with as a designer (making changes is so much easier now…). At the moment I use Photoshop (my favorite version is version 7, yes, the ten-year old one) and a kick-ass Wacom Cintiq tablet.

DA2 First Enchanter by coupleofkooks

DA2 First Enchanter by coupleofkooks

Why is version 7 of Photoshop specifically your favourite?

When I was studying I couldn’t afford a new computer or a new software and it was the only version that I could use back then. I got very comfortable with it over the years and later, when I finally switched to more advanced machine and could try out more recent versions, I learned to appreciate it’s simplicity. To be honest the only tools in Photoshop I use for painting are brush or selection tool and those and the painting engine didn’t change in years, so I’m completely alright with small, light, retro Seven :]

TES: Ancestor's Wrath by coupleofkooks

TES: Ancestor’s Wrath by coupleofkooks

CoupleofKooks is an interesting pseudonym. Do you run your deviantART account with somebody else?

By myself, though you can say there is one more person behind part of the things I publish on this profile. It’s my very good friend, BucklesInTheSun, with whom I write and create the Shades of Red universe. She is responsible for a gigantic part of the story behind almost every picture related to this project.
As for the pseudonym itself – it comes from David Bowie’s song “Kooks”, which I was listening to while creating an account on Deviant Art :]

DA2 Of Love and Other Demons by coupleofkooks

DA2 Of Love and Other Demons by coupleofkooks

(Orsino and Maidievh Hawke – Original Character story by ChristineFury. Read her fan fiction about Orsino and femme Hawke here: “Blood and Faith“)

What made you decide to practice Wing Chun?

I needed discipline and order in my life for various personal reasons, and because of some health issues I had to add regular exercises to my daily schedule. I was never good at training by myself so I needed something more social. I gave Wing Chun a try because a friend of mine started practicing it and I thought it will be easier for me if I had some company. At first I was all scared and bruised, then intrigued, now it simply raises the quality of my life. Very much. I am aware how cliché it will sound, but training martial arts is indeed training your own character. Now I added Tai Chi to that to balance this energetic style with something more gentle.

Shades of Red: Fallout by coupleofkooks

Shades of Red: Fallout by coupleofkooks

What video games have caught your interest this past year?

I’m constantly in love with Skyrim, so the most important thing that I’ve played during last year was a Dragonborn add-on. Also I keep playing Morrowind from time to time and the last two of Fallout games, which is my all time favorite series. Looks like Bethesda knows how to keep my interest. For years. And years… :] Aside from those masterpieces I tried out Far Cry 3 which I enjoyed, Hitman: Absolution which was fun and oh so pretty and Assassin’s Creed 3 which bored me to death.

TES Dunmer of Skyrim by Coupleofkooks

Often when The Elder Scrolls games are discussed it seems the art style has fans, haters and few on the fence. What attracts you to it?

I haven’t participate in any serious discussion of that sort, but I myself have mixed opinion about Elder Scrolls art style. Morrowind was, and still is a perfection for me, even though it has obviously aged. But the unique mood and superb visual ideas were what dragged me into Vvardenfell in a first place. The awkward animation and ugly characters is something that quickly disappears and stops bothering in a wonderful world of this game, even if one starts to play it now, in the era of flawless graphics. On the other hand the next part, Oblivion, is a game I’ve had very hard time with. Eventually I learned to like it and I kept it on my HD for few years, but it took me months to get used to awful faces and strange colors. I find this game ugly, simple as that, but it has strong moments that even with the unattractive visuals manage to be quite a show for the eye – Shivering Isles for examples, the best expansion ever published. Skyrim, especially modded, heavily modded, is a game I really like to look at. Lights, weather, auroras – I simply like to spend time in this world.
That’s when it comes to visual side of the Elder Scrolls game series. In general what attracts me most to those games (same goes for the Fallout series) is the open world and the possibility to mod the hell out of it. I love this feeling when You finish the intro / tutorial part and find yourself completely free to do whatever you want and go wherever you want. Even though you’re playing the same game again You can tell a completely different story. Fantastic thing.

TES: Sheogorath by coupleofkooks

TES: Sheogorath by coupleofkooks

How do you feel about the character art changes being planned for The Elder Scrolls Online? And are you going to play when it comes out next Spring?

I don’t like those changes too much. They feel like very general fantasy kind of style, pretty, shiny, generally super-cool, not something specific to the series. Elves for example. I really like the idea for these races in TES series. A little bit ugly, with strong features and facial hair – in ESO they change into I’ve-seen-them-in-all-other-games kind of elves. But yes, I’m going to give it a try.

TES: The Old One by coupleofkooks

TES: The Old One by coupleofkooks

“The Old One” in particular, of your TES pieces, seems to ooze Skyrim; not just because of the dragon silhouette but for that tell-tale white-out from the typical Skyrim weather. What were your thoughts (if you remember) on how to compose this piece and include the snow fall?

Actually the thought was very simple – I wanted to paint a dragon (and Paarthurnax was my favorite) and I wanted to try myself in painting this particular kind of weather. Since I was deeply into painting TES fan art this seemed like an obvious choice.

DAO Archdemon by coupleofkooks

DAO Archdemon by coupleofkooks

It seems you once had a love affair with Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2. Given the E3 announcement this year of the third installment, Dragon Age Inquisition, do you think you will be interested in playing? How do you feel in hindsight about the first two games and where BioWare may be taking that story?

As for a Dragon Age series I was more attracted to the fandom than to the game itself. I like how everything is so alive among Dragon Age players. Pictures, fanfics, role playing games – fantastic and very inspiring fandom to be in. As for the games – I don’t really like them that much, though I find some character really intriguing and a lot of costumes and places really, really well designed. The story and the world is interesting enough for me to look forward third part of the series though, I think I would be most happy if BioWare would take us to Tevinter. It’s the place in DA universe I like the most. But from what I’ve heard – no chances for that.


(Video uploaded by IGN)

And while we’re on Dragon Age, like The Elder Scrolls, that’s a unique art style; mature, dark and a little gritty and used. Is it safe to say that’s your kind of style?

Yes, it’s very much safe to say so.

DA2 No Compromise by coupleofkooks

DA2 No Compromise by coupleofkooks

Which game releases are you keeping an eye on for the future?

Fallout 4. Really. I know no announcements have been made yet, and it’s not really certain the game will be in production, but I really, really look forward for even the smallest info about this particular title. Also S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2. No idea if this one is even planned but I would really like to visit Zone again. As for non-postapocalyptic games? Another TES title – always.

DA2 Have Confidence by coupleofkooks

DA2 Have Confidence by coupleofkooks

A huge thank you goes to CoupleofKooks for answering all my never-ending questions of the past few months! This post may have been a long time coming, CoupleofKooks, but I’m proud to have your art displayed on my site!

If you want to immerse yourself in more of CoupleofKooks mellow parchments and shocking reds, visit his (on occasion quite steamy!) galleries at: coupleofkooks.deviantart.com.

Tag the comment box below – we’d love to hear your thoughts on CoupleofKooks’ art and opinions!

* (Actually he tells me he already brews the perfect tea so no competition really. I just wanted to be dramatic  ~Aggie)

Meet the Artist – Evolvana

Taking illustration to the outer limits of what is epic and grandiose – meet Evolvana, a gamer and visual artist from France who will woo you with grandiose views of Middle Earth or behind the Wall. Vana  has spent a lot of time in New Zealand and Japan before returning to France during which time she also journeyed in games and books from the Thrawn trilogy and Final Fantasy to Game of Thrones and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Join us after the break as we talk about her travels, her own dark fantasy project and the do’s and don’ts of in game romance.

Meet-the-Artist-Evolvana1440

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Glass, Gadgets and Gears of War

SWTOR writer Alexander M. Freed has launched his own website, AlexanderFreed.com, with a peek behind the workings of the Dragon Age comics he has lately been co-writing with Dragon Age lead writer David Gaider.

Given that I just finished my first play-through of Dragon Age 2 (Late to the party, I know! There were reasons) this naturally pinged my radar with promises of more story with Alistair, Varric and Isabela. Check out Alexander’s very cool look into the process of writing with someone else and writing for a new medium and make sure you keep an eye on the workings of this guy. And while we have David Gaider on the proverbial table (heh, there’s a visual for you /brow waggle) I would implore you to swing by his blog The Bittersweetest Thing and read his post on Romances. It’s one I go back to and re-read every time I sigh wistfully about not being able to romance a particular npc in a game (aaah Varric, you and me, we could have been great…).
You can follow these two gentlemen on Twitter to: @AlexanderMFreed and @DavidGaider.

The Mary Sue snorted (ladylike) at quotes by Gears of War art director Chris Perna this Tuesday, when on the one hand he gushed about how wonderful it was that female gamers felt empowered by their female characters and on the other hand how unviable a female lead would be for a videogame.

Or in other words, to paraphrase Tomb Raider’s executive producer Ron Rosenberg at E3 last year: “Lolwut nobody wants to be a woman, brah.” Who am I to bring up Ripley or bash people’s faces in with the complete DVD box set of Buffy the Vampire slayer. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, but mostly you can only sell video games with straight  white, male leading characters. Why? Because! That’s Why!

I won’t launch into a sally about just how Neanderthalian I find that mindset but consider this: Take his first comment in the context of the second and can’t you sort of hear his mind adding the phrase”It’s so cute they feel empowered, the little dears…”

Bra burning at 5, don’t be late!

Creativebloq.com features an article on the 3Doodler that has just grabbed my imagination by the jugular. This mind-bogglingly cool gadget draws in 3D right into empty air! Much like a 3D printer this pen heats and cools plastic into shapes, except here it’s a thin stream which solidifies in mid-air as you draw. Watch the video and try not to use the word ‘magic’!

I think the word you are looking for is: Duuuude!

And while we are on the subject of amazing new things our clever species is coming up with, Google has a new video out giving us the experience of Glass:

And don’t forget wearing the trendy headset will make it ever so much easier to roleplay Mass Effect

Glass-Effect

See what I mean?

Cory Doctorow wrote a chilling viewpoint for Publishers Weekly on digital rights management (DRM) and what it implies to allow your own, private device to deceive you. Whether or not you agree with his conclusions and examples I think his is an article well worth the time spent reading it: I Can’t Let You Do That, Dave.

To help you shake of that gloomy feeling that everyone is spying on you here is EA’s Twitter with a link to RatedRR’s attempts at making exploding arrows á la Crysis 3. I realize that linking this glorification of a deadly weapon may chip away at the staunch belief of certain acquaintances that I am a peace-loving, bra-burning, herbal-tea-drinking flower-girl, but so be it. Sometimes it’s just really cool to watch a bloke explode fruit with a bow an arrow, don’tchaknow. Besides being a pacifist doesn’t mean you won’t club someone over the head eventually. Exploding arrows everybody! Enjoy!

When Gamers Rhyme With Valentine

So it’s V-Day

And what have we done?

Made thousands of verses

Most of which don’t rhyme… much.

 

Isn’t it fun how we can go from earnestly comparing Thee to a summers day to the verbal mallet method of Roses are red and violets are blue, all in the name of love? I have collected some of our geekiest, most lovable, fun, scary and occasionally toe-scrunchingly awkward Valentine’s Day poems from my favorite worldwide community of gamers and geeks. You should be able to click the image to follow them back to the original tweet.

Please enjoy!

Susan Saville, always one you find in the midst of the funniest BioWare tweet convos gave us this Dragon Age poem:

Gamerlady sails in to lift up the common denominator with some genuine sweetness lest we forget what it’s all about:

StoppableForce, my source to keeping up with World of Warcraft news on Twitter offered up a few of his own:

According to my friend, Techn0phile, Batman will have his say on the matter. Or not, as it were:

Grant_D takes a swing at professing his love for the Playstation 3:

Ajay reminds us that there can be no geeky Valentine’s without Star Wars with his own romantic Yodaism:

And while we are extolling the virtues of classicism:

But it’s not all Twitter-birds and flowers as Ben ‘The Flasherman’ Fox’s note of love will show:

Gruesome! And more gruesome:

Which goes very well with the red fingerprint he has on his Twitter profile!

And it gets even gruesome-er (it’s a word) with Matt ‘Sanspants’ Fleming throwing his considerable writing weight behind the task of rhyming:

and…:

Fortunately, there are few things as certain in life as where Sanspants humor will eventually lead him:

“My gosh Aggie, that’s just not funny!” “Yeah, it is…!”. What can I say? I’m a classy girl!
He’s not done yet though, one more:

Where you find Sanspants tweeting funnehs, his trusty sidekick Varsh won’t be far behind:


This man can woo the socks of any girl, can’t he just!

Wooed. That’s me, right there!

The day, however, is far from over and the thing about rhyming is, rather like pistachios, once you start it’s really hard to stop. So I will be adding any additional poems to this opus of gamer love and of course, there can be no poking fun at others without having a go at it myself. So here’s my contribution to the literary apoplexy we are courting:

Feel like you can win our hearts with the most geeky Valentine’s poem yet? Give it a go in the comments below and I’ll add it to our collective conscious… Ehh I’ll add it here I mean! Go on, I’d love to see what you come up with!

We are back and I know it will completely floor you to realize that the first geek back in the Rhyming game is Sanspants with this lament to inspiration:

I also felt I could do better than before so here is my second contribution:

Ray Muzyka linked us a Mass Effect poem by deviantART user Lordess-Alicia and while the BioWare doctor didn’t write this one I still think it belongs here. Well done Alicia!