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Monday, 16 December 2013

Choice of POV's (points of view)

As I was sat at the computer today, hard at work on book 3 of the Benjamin Knight series, I was reminded of a comment from a review some moths ago about the number of points of view in my novels.  The reviewer felt that I had too many, and it made if difficult for them to follow the story.  I was reminded of this because I was writing the 4th scene in chapter six, which relates to a different character from scenes 1-3.

For those who haven't read my books (please do, they're quite good apparently and very cheap on the kindle), my chapters don't follow the most common format in fiction.  I blame this on the fact that I watch a lot of TV.
What my nan would have called an 'idiot box'.

Bear with me here, and let me explain.

If I take the first book, it is split into 10 chapters, and then each chapter is split into a number of scenes, separated by roman numerals.  The first scene may be about Ben's story arc, the second perhaps Matthew's or Catrina's, and the third about the villain of the story.  Then back to Ben, then the villain again, and so on.  These aren't the same scene from a different persons point of view, but distinct parts of the story that all connect together.

Now, back to TV.

When I watch a television programme (and I really do watch a lot), I don't expect the 'main character' to be in every scene, and so many shows these days have a large cast of 'main characters' who all have interconnected stories (think Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead).  I don't have a problem following them, as they all tie together in some way.

Take Haven.  Last night, I watched the season finale (very good, with a cliff hanger as you would expect.  I hope they make a series 5).  Thinking about it, there were scenes from at least 4 different points of view.  There were the two 'main' characters scenes, scenes with the villain and his henchmen, scenes with the two newspaper men, scenes with the new girl and her magic book etc.  They all told different parts of the story that came together as a whole.

That's kind of what I am trying to do with my novels.  I'm trying to tell a big story that effects a lot of people, and I want the reader to really get a feel for how big the whole thing is.  If I wanted to describe it from the points of view of one or two characters, I could, but I worry something would be lost in the detail.  Good guy goes from A to B, some conflict on the way, gets there anyway and beats the bad guy, the end.  In my story, I have a lot going on, and I want the reader to appreciate that it has huge consequences for a lot of people in a lot of different ways.

As an added bonus, it also allows me to give a lot of 'screen time' (page time?) to the villain.  I really enjoy writing the villains scenes, not just because he is so fun to write, but because it gives me a chance to show that he wasn't just born bad.

A lot of fantasy stories have a villain who is bad just because.  He might just be 'The Dark One', or he lives in the part of the world where the sun never rises, or maybe he's the subject of an ancient prophecy, etc.  All fairly standard fantasy villain types.

I'm evil because I'm evil....

Writing scenes from the villain in my book has allowed me to explore where he comes from and why he does the things he does.  He was born, like everyone else.  He had a tough childhood, but eventually he overcame it.  He made choices, lots of choices, and often for what he thought were the right reasons, but still he ended up where he did.

Isn't that just life?

One of the things that you learn as you get older is that there is less and less right and wrong, and a lot more shades of grey (certainly more than fifty....).  It's a bit like the question we might put to our children - Is it right to steal a loaf of bread if you're starving?

Simple, right?

"No," my daughter would say, "stealing is wrong."  There you go.  Easy.  Next step, world peace.

"But you're starving," I say.  "You don't have any money, and if you don't eat, you'll die."

"Then yes, it is okay to take the bread," she might reply.

So I follow up with, "But if you steal the bread, the baker doesn't get any money to buy more flour, so he starves instead."  (I can be a complete and total b*****d at times)

"Oh," she says, "so you don't steal, but you have to steal, but stealing is wrong, but then you'll die, but the baker will die, so......what if you just take half the loaf?"

And that's about the time that I send her to bed for answering back.


You don't get to be smarter than me until you no longer poo in your pants!
Then there's the 'heroes', the ones the reader is rooting for and wants to win and all that.  If I take time to think about the heroes of my story, I have an unscrupulous trader who would sell his mother if it would turn him a profit, a man who killed his brother in a fit of rage and who fled before he could be tried and convicted, a grieving mother who is mentally unhinged, and a complete fish out of water who is always making a mess of things.  These are my 'good guys'.

This is part of what I have been calling 'The Batman Effect'.  Sounds cool, right?

It has Batman in the name, so it has to be cool.

This is referring to the rise of the anti-hero in modern books/films/comics.  The kind of guy who just gets the job done, because the ends justify the means.  The man you think, 'yeah, that'd be me, kicking ass and taking names'.  If only life were that easy.

This brings me back to the question of choices.  Again, a lot of fantasy novels have a 'hero', all flowing blonde locks and a noble steed, born of royal blood and bestowed with a magic sword blah blah blah.  He's good because he is, and that's what the reader expects of him.  He might be off to slay the evil dragon, but he can stop and rescue the fair maiden because there's no consequence to his being late, because he always wins, no matter what.

Perhaps if you're my daughter's age, that's great and that's what we want our children to believe the world is really like.  At some point, however, they do learn the truth.

In the really real world, some of the time, it's the bad guys who win.

If you're reading to escape the real world, perhaps you want a nice, clean, black and white world where everything works out perfectly in the end.  I've read many stories like that, and they make you feel good, but they also leave me feeling a little empty at the same time.  A huge war ravages the land, but it's ok because the prince and princess get married and the evil dragon is slain.  So what about the tens of thousands of people dead or left homeless and starving????  They don't get to live happily ever after.

Now, I'm not saying that the good guys fail in my story.  They totally rock and defeat the bad guy and everything.  It's just that, throughout the story, as in life, they make choices.  And those choices have consequences.  There might be a victory, but at the same time, I want them to think about the cost, and I want the reader to think about it too.

I really wanted the characters in my novels to feel alive, to do things because that's what that character would do.  I want them to make good decisions and bad decisions, and usually for all the right reasons.  And I want them to deal with the consequences of those decisions and come through the other end, changed, both for good and for ill.

Will I succeed?  I hope so.  At the end of the day, it's the reader who makes that final judgement.  I do have a bit of a cop out, writing a series of books as opposed to a single story.  I can always just tell you that I am going to resolve that in a later book.  Chances are, I was, but I might  also have forgotten and I'm actually really grateful that you reminded me.

Anyway, that sort on rambled on for a bit.  I did have a point somewhere, but I seem to have misplaced it.  If you got this far, good for you!  Give yourself a cookie or something.  And leave a comment, please.  I really like the feedback, especially if you've read either of my books.  Go on, be honest. 

How am I doing?

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Help with New Light

This post is part thank you and part research for me for some of the closing scenes of New Light (SPOILERS ahead - beware!).  First, the thank you!

As readers of this blog will know, I have been struggling to tie New Light together with the previous novels and make sure the timeline is consistent and that everyone gets satisfactory closure of their story arcs.  As you may or may not know, New Light is the 3rd book in The Chronicle of Benjamin Knight, and ends the story of Alexander's war, but it isn't the final book in the series.  Books 4, 5 and 6 are already sketched out in my head, and I will get to them at some point in the future (hopefully near future!).

Yesterday, my good friend Thomas Manning agreed to let me send him the detail of what happens to each of the characters in New Light, and hash out the details and story arcs to make sure everyone gets the ending that they deserve.  Let me just say, he was excellent!  As any writer knows, it's important to have someone to bounce ideas off, someone who won't hold back and tell you that a story or plot point is wrong or needs work.  Tom was that person for me yesterday, and I can't thank him enough.  Hopefully, now, all of the kinks have been worked out and what you will read in a few months time will be all the better for the conversation that we had.

Also, if it isn't, you now have someone else to blame!  (Only joking....)

Tom is a writer of sci-fi, fantasy, urban fantasy, and now apparently a romance novel I discovered yesterday!  His first book, Energize - From the logs of Daniel Quinn, is available here, and I have previously reviewed this great read and awarded it 4 stars.  The second story is well on the way and should be with us early in the new year!

Now, the research bit (and the SPOILERS).

As part of the conversation yesterday, I came to realise that Ben needs to use some more of the technology in the laboratory, and we decided that one of the things he would use is the ATV mentioned at the beginning of book 1.  I won't go into specifics, but after comparing images of military vehicles on google to the picture of the ATV in my head, I have worked out that the ATV in question is the German-Dutch made Boxer Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle (MRAV).


This vehicle can carry 3 crew as well as 8 passengers into very hostile environments.  It is shielded to withstand ballistics fire, IED's and even a tactical nuclear explosion at medium distances!  Here's hoping Alexander hasn't gotten his hands on any nukes.  (He hasn't, don't worry).

As well as the cool survivability options, it also has a top speed of 105km/h and a maximum road range of 1000km on one tank of fuel, so with some extra fuel in the back, it could get all the way to....SPOILER!!!!

The version in the laboratory isn't fitted with the 44mm grenade launcher or 12.7mm machine gun, but that doesn't mean it can't do plenty of damage on its own.  I wonder who'll get to drive it?

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Failed marketing strategy

So, it's just over 2 weeks since I posted out my unusual and hopefully eye catching marketing press packs, and so far I have hade absolutely no feedback or contact from any of the firms I posted them to.

Zero

Nil

The scientist in me assures me that a failed experiment is as important as a successful one, but that doesn't mean I have to like it!  On a slightly better note, I now have the cover of New Light to share with the world, check it out below.


It's the first cover to feature one of my characters, Ben in this case, but he looks enough like the description in book 1 that I was happy to put a face to him.  The shadows still give the reader the chance to put their own details to his face.

I am back to writing more of New Light today, still behind schedule but hoping to have the first draft completed early next year!

Friday, 8 November 2013

New push for exposure

Ok, done something a little off the wall yesterday to try and get exposure for my books.  I've already sent off copy after copy of press releases in the last year, just like a lot of other people I bet, and had absolutely no feedback or contact following any of them.  I expect they all just get filed in the big round filing cabinet on the floor.


So, I decided to try something a little different.  I've made up a false document, several actually, and posted them in a manila folder to various local and national papers, radio, book review magazines,  sci-fi magazines, and some of my favourite authors.  The document and fake newspaper clippings ask the reader to look into a mystery, involving a cover up, conspiracy, murder, and all the bits that make a mystery fun.  The articles and documents involve new characters and characters from my first 2 books, as well as, wait for it, ME!

That's right, I'm trying to break down the 4th wall here and engage these people in my writing at the same time.

Here are a few examples of the bits and pieces in the manila folder posted this morning...





There's also a letter from a concerned wife, a memo with some very revealing information about Excelsior Technologies (the fictional corporation in my books), as well as a heavily redacted document with clues littered through it as to what really happened.

There is also a CD with copies of both novels, just in case any of the people I have sent this to actually want to read them.
 
Will it work?  No idea.  Does it look amateurish?  Just a bit.  I only hope that it will make people pause before adding it to the ever increasing pile on the floor.
 
So, what do you think?  Interesting idea or completely insane?

Friday, 1 November 2013

Review of Thor-The Dark World

Here in the UK, we are lucky enough to have the new Thor movie open a week or so before the US (something that almost never happens), and I was lucky enough to see it on the 30th October with my family.


I am very happy to say that it was fantastic.  It followed up nicely from the Avengers, being sure to continue from the first Thor too, making a very personal story about the Asgardians and Thor and Loki in particular.

Beware, minor SPOILERS ahead.

Events start off with a piece of history, and then introduces us to various worlds of the nine realms.  We then follow Jane Foster as she tracks down some strange readings in London (played by the always wonderful Natalie Portman as before).  There's a lot of humour and fun in this part of the movie, especially with the character of Erik Selvig.  Shortly though, things begin to go wrong and Thor travels in to save the day, taking Jane Foster back to Asgard with him.

Once there, events slowly taken a turn, with the resurgence of a great evil and a spectacular action sequence as Asgard is attacked.  Events conspire that force Thor and Loki to work together, fighting against Malekith.  This is followed by the awesome set piece finale set in Greenwich in London and then some interesting revelations before the closing credits.

Oh, and just so you know, this movie has two post credit sequences, one after the stylised credits that nicely sets up Guardians of the Galaxy, and a second scene at the very end of the credits.

Overall, an absolutely great movie.  It wasn't as exciting or action packed as the Avengers, but then it was never supposed to be.  If a threat is so great that it needs all of the current roster of heroes to deal with it, it wouldn't work in a standalone movie.

I give it 9/10

Now I have to wait for Captain America - The Winter Soldier!

Friday, 25 October 2013

A new addition to our family!

Just a short post to introduce everyone to Logan!  He is a Toyger (which is a breed of cat for those of you not in the know) and he is absolutely delightful.  We have been waiting for him for what seems like forever (he is now 3 months old and couldn't come to us until he had had all of his vaccinations), but we picked him up this morning.

Check out his breeder Queenanne Cats for pictures of him when he was even smaller as well as the other Toygers and Bengals that she has!

Now, his first pictures!


Saturday, 19 October 2013

STEVE! - My review of Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2

There are many perks to having children, but one of them is getting to see movies that you wouldn't normally see.  Of course, it's not always a perk (The Smurfs anyone??), but on the whole, kids movies seem to be getting better.  Earlier this year, I thoroughly enjoyed Despicable Me 2, and today my 8 year old daughter and I went to see Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2.



Sequels they may both be, but they managed to take what was great about the first film and expand upon it whilst at the same time taking it in a new direction.  If you haven't seen the first film, you should.  Really, it's great, and you can pick it up on DVD for around £5 or so.  It tells the story of Flint Lockwood, a bumbling inventor who makes such amazing things as spray on shoes (that you can't take off), Hair Unbalder, and a monkey thought translator (whose only word throughout the first film is 'Steve!', his name).  His latest invention is able to turn water into food, and as well as making him famous, it almost destroys the world.

I won't say anymore.  If you've seen it, you know what happens, and if you don't, you really should.

The second film picks up at the end of the first, where he has just disabled his invention, and another inventor (Flint's childhood idol) comes in to help with the clean-up.  Suffice to say, he has his own agenda, and ultimately it's up to Flint and his friends to save the day.  This time around, the food has mutated into food based animals, some of my favourites being the cheese spider (a giant beef burger that spins webs made of cheese) and the tacodile (a large crocodile like animal made of tacos with red chillies for legs).  There is also one of the cutest little creatures seen on film in a while, Berry the talking strawberry, with big soppy eyes and little stumpy legs.  My daughter immediately announced that she would like one, so if they come out as toys for Christmas, I'm sure they'll clean up.

At the end of the day, bad guys get beaten, the good guys are all friends again, new friends are made and there's a lot about not judging something by what it looks like.  There are also some great lines, some for the children ('There's a leek in the boat' - a walking leek on the deck, a recurring gag that's somehow funny every time), and ones for the grownups ('She wants you to put your hands on her buns').  Everyone in the cinema was laughing all the way through, not just me!

One point to note, my daughter and I went to see this film in 3D, purely for the time it was on (2D was at 1030 or 1750, both inconvenient for us).  It added little, if anything to the film, and relied on unnecessary gimmicks such as fishing rods coming out of the screen at you.  Unless you're a huge fan of 3D, I would recommend seeing it in 2D and saving yourself a few pounds.

Overall, a great movie, and a worthy sequel.  8/10

Monday, 14 October 2013

Blog Hop

Right then, my turn on the blog hop!

Last week, friend and author Thomas R. Manning tagged my blog for the hop, so today it's my turn to answer those all important questions!

Remember, whatever the question,
this is always the answer....
 
1.  What are you working on right now?
 
I am about 30,000 words into New Light, the third book in my Benjamin Knight series.  Aside from the prologue, the story continues minutes after the cliff-hangers at the end of book 2, answering the questions (I hope) the readers were asking when they closed those last few pages.  I hit a bit of a wall a month or so back, and with family holidays and my honeymoon (yay!) I have written little in this last month.  Now I am back though, and I hope to crack on with impunity!
 
2.  How does it differ from other works in it's genre?
 
The Benjamin Knight series is a story that defies the attempt to categorise.  Just when you think it's Science Fiction, I throw a Steampunk wrench into the works.  When you're comfortable with Steampunk, it develops fantasy elements.  Then there's the political intrigue and a murder plot, a lot of action and adventure, all wrapped around a complex war story.  It's not referred to as 'Lord of the Rings for the Call of Duty Generation' for nothing!
 
3.  Why do you write what you do?
 
Benjamin Knight's story has been with me for over 20 years, and it has refused to go away.  I first started his story when I was at university, and despite not putting pen to paper for over fifteen years, he still refused to stay quiet.  Now he's getting his wish, and the first big chapter of his story is almost complete (the first 3 books of The Chronicle of Benjamin Knight tell one story, but there are many more stories to be told).  After this is done, I have 2 other stories currently fighting with me over which will get written next.
 
4.  How does your writing process work?
 
I tend to know the overall plot of the story, along with the important scenes that progress the plot, but a lot of the in between in fluid.  I like to sketch out timelines for characters on bits of paper, and then fill in the gaps as I go along.  This can lead to some interesting problems, but also some interesting revelations (I didn't realise what Alexander's true motive was until I wrote it!).  I've tried to plan out in meticulous detail, but I found this just interfered with the creative process.  I like the detail to come out in the writing as the individual characters speak to me (which they do, Alexander sounds like Malcolm McDowell).
 
Well, thanks Tom for inviting me to do this.  Next week it's the turn of Bryan Miller, author of Kyrathaba Rising, and also an excellent proof reader.  Check out his post next week!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Two weeks in Paradise – Part 5 – Submarine Trip

This, apart from the quality time me and my wife spent together, was the highlight of the trip for me. I never thought I'd get chance to go in a real submarine, not without joining the Navy or winning the lottery, and I loved every minute of it. I switched between photos and video, so check it out below!

 
What I didn't realise would happen was that the colour red almost disappears below the water. The further down we got (to a maximum depth of 35m), the less red things on the boat. When I thought about the physics of it, I suppose it's pretty obvious, but to actually see it happen was something else!

 
Anyway, onto the video, but beware, it lasts 17 minutes.
 
 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Two weeks in Paradise – Part 4 – Catamaran Trip


This was an all day trip off the eastern part of the island, sailing from Trou d'Eau Douce, taking in the idyllic island of Ile aux Cerfs and also taking a speedboat journey down the Grande Riviere Sud-Est to get pictures of the amazing waterfall!


The view from the catamaran - just look how clear and blue the water is! 
About 4 catamarans made the journey together.


Looking down the Grande Riviere Sud-Est.
  We took a five minute speedboat ride from the catamaran down the river to reach the...

Waterfall!
If you look in the trees, you can see bats hanging from the branches!
The lagoon on the island of Ile aux Cerfs.
 

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Two weeks in Paradise – Part 3 – Swimming with Dolphins


This was the highlight of the trip for my wife. Despite having to get up at 4:30 am to get the coach, this was truly magical. Once we had travelled to La Carangue in the south-west part of the island, we boarded a speedboat which took us out to sea. The Captain had been doing this every day for around 17 years he told us (at the same time he told us it was his job?! Who could describe sailing everyday to watch dolphins swim and play in their natural habitat as a job!), and knew the normal routes the dolphins took as they passed the island.

Along with other boats, we followed their route until they were visible, and were lucky enough to find a school of approximately 30-40 spinner dolphins, swimming and jumping ahead of us. One we had taken our fill of videos and photos, the boat sped ahead of the dolphins to allow us to get into the water and swim with them as they caught up! It was amazing.

Sadly, I don't have a waterproof camera, but believe me when I say seeing such a large group of dolphins swim around and below you is like nothing else my wife or I had ever experienced, and something we will never forget.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Two weeks in Paradise – Part 2 – Tour of the Scenic South


For day 2 of my (sort of) review of Mauritius, I am going to talk about the all day tour we did of the 'Scenic South'.  Before I do that though, there is something much more important to mention:-
 
 
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY DAUGHTER JESSICA WHO IS 8 YEARS OLD TODAY!
 
Jessica is my very own Princess
I am picking her up from school and taking her out for a birthday meal, and I hope she likes all of the Moshi Monster presents she asked for!  If she ever reads this, I hope that she realises that I love her more than anything else in the world.
 
Anyway, back to the tour of the Scenic South.
 
This was a full day excursion, and absolutely fantastic. The coach took us to a variety of wonderful places around the south-western portion of Mauritius. Check them out below!

The dormant volcano of Trou aux Cerf's, last erupted 70,000 years ago.
 
The Sacred Lake of Grand-Bassin, home to one of the many beautiful Hindu Temples around the island.
 This whole area was incredible.  The temple itself is beautiful, surrounded by large statues of some of the most important Hindu Gods.  We were also allowed inside the temple, where my wife was lucky enough to receive a blessing.
 
The statue of Lord Shiva, standing at 108 feet tall!
You can see from the people stood in front of the statue exactly how big this is.  The detail up close is amazing, and across the road they are in the process of building another similarly sized God.
 

The Black River Gorges National Park and Waterfall 
 
This whole region is beautiful, with the waterfall off to the right (just out of shot of the picture sadly - check back later this week for more waterfall pictures).

 
 
Here I was lucky enough to sample many of the local rums, made from sugar cane grown on the island.  Suffice to say, they were all very tasty, and it was difficult to limit myself to only three bottles to bring home!


 
 
This whole place is wonderful.  One of the highlights was being able to get up close with the Giant Tortoises.  I imagined them to feel leathery but they were in fact very smooth to the touch!  Their shells are so varied and with so much detail up close.
 
 
This is quite a sight to see up close, surreal and beautiful at the same time.  Click on the link for details about why they are different colours!
 
Okay, that's it for today, be sure to check back tomorrow for pictures and video of us swimming with spinner dolphins!


Monday, 7 October 2013

Two weeks in Paradise – Part 1

Apologies for the lack of updates recently, but life has been a little busy! Following the family holiday at the end of August, and a few other minor bits and pieces, my wife and I were fortunate enough to finally take our honeymoon! Now, we got married on the 31st May 2013, so there has been a bit of a break since the wedding, but to anyone out there with jobs and children, I'm sure you can appreciate the logistics of taking two weeks away from everything and everyone!

First off, Mauritius is BEAUTIFUL! Truly paradise. To those of you who don't know, it is a small island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar. At approximately 55 miles north to south and 45 miles east to west, it is home to around 1.3million people. The official language is English, though most people tend to speak Mauritian Creole and French. It is home to many faiths, predominantly Hindu, with a significant proportion of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, and everyone does very well at living together and respecting each other's cultures.

My wife and I had the most amazing time, saw so much of the island and it's treasures, and I wanted to use this blog to show everyone pictures of some of what we got up to on our honeymoon.

(And before you ask, NO! There will be none of those sorts of pictures! You people are disgusting....)

Firstly, we stayed in a hotel in the north-east region of the island (Grand Gaube), called the Veranda Paul et Virginie Hotel and Spa. It's a small hotel but very friendly, with a lot of all inclusive water sports on the beach. They have their own glass bottom boat for exploring the local coral reef, as well as pedalos, windsurfing, kayaks, and snorkelling equipment.

The local beer (Phoenix) is delicious, a mild lager that is very refreshing in the 30 degree heat in September and October (a season the locals laughingly refer to as Winter!). The rum is also very tasty, also made on the island from their predominant crop – sugar cane. Many a day was spent by the pool, sipping at the beer, followed by a night of entertainment with a glass or two of rum and coke.

As I'm sure you can tell, we really didn't want to come home...

Anyway, for today, here are some pictures from in and around the hotel, just to make you all jealous. Over the next few days, I will post entries about the various trips and excursions we were lucky enough to do whilst in Mauritius, so check below the pictures for details.

View of the ocean as we sat drinking a cool refreshing beer

The outdoor restaurant

The view from our room

The beach

 



Part 2 – Tour of the Scenic South

Part 3 – Swimming with dolphins

Part 4 – Catamaran trip

Part 5 – Submarine trip

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Five ways in which GTA5 can ruin your life

Today I need to start with another apology - I have done no writing, none at all, since 00:01 on the 17th September.  The reason?

GTA 5

 
Queuing at midnight 


To my fan, (or maybe fans now?  I'm sure a second person out there has read it?), this is a personal apology to you, from the very bottom of my heart.  It's true, I'm addicted.  I'm an addict, and the first step (I'm told) is to admit it.

The problem is, I don't really want to stop....

GTA 5 really is that good, but I have discovered a few problems with it, however, that I felt it was important to share with the wider world.  These problems could have a significant effect on yourself, your friends and family, and your personal safety.  They could even, wait for it,

SAVE YOUR LIFE!

Or not, who knows.  Certainly not me.

1.  Driving.
In the UK we drive on the left.  The LEFT!  I have to keep reminding myself of that every time I stop playing for a few minutes and go to the shop or collect my daughter from school.  Also, red traffic lights actually mean stop.  They do not mean weave between or around the parked cars or just floor it and ram them out of the way.  They do not mean drive on the pavement.  In fact, NEVER drive on the pavement, ever!  Pedestrians will get hurt, and your insurance premiums will go through the roof!

2.  Language and speech.
I have friends, I have family, and I have co-workers and colleagues.  I do not have 'homies'. I have never and will never have 'homies', and I don't live in 'the hood'.  Also, remember the instructional videos you saw when you took the job?  The HR lady is right, believe me.  It is never, never ever, okay to refer to Stephen in accounting as 'my nigga'.

3.  The police
Just because you hear a siren when you are out and about, it doesn't mean that they're after you.  You do not need to accelerate and drive erratically, steal someone else's car, or drive into a local garage and demand they repaint your car right there and then.  In addition, getting out of the car and crouching behind a fence for a couple of minutes is probably unnecessary too.

4.  Food and drink
If you find yourself injured (maybe you've been ran over by a car, been shot several times, or somehow fallen off of a roof because you pressed x instead of square), go to a hospital.  Eating a chocolate bar or drinking some cola will not heal you.  It just won't.  Doctors, nurses, surgery, that's what you need for major life threatening injuries.  A Snickers just doesn't cut it.  Dial 999 and ask for the ambulance.

5.  Swimming
If you're lucky enough to live near the beach, change your clothes before you jump into the ocean.  Maybe you're an excellent swimmer, I don't know.  Maybe you've even swam across the Channel.  Ether way, doing it in a pair of jeans and a hoodie is not ideal.  In fact, it's downright stupid.  That's right, I said it.  Stupid.  Speedo's exist for a reason, people.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and remember, be careful out there.


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Struggling with book 3

Just a quick post today, a look at my process and how I am trying to sort out a detailed plan of where I go next.  I finished chapter 2 yesterday and then started chapter 3, putting me about 25k words into book 3 of the Benjamin Knight series (new Light).  Chapter 3 is planned out nicely, but it was when I started to map out chapter 4 that I ran into a 'wall'. 

I know where the characters are, and I know where they are later in the story, but how they get there just wouldn't come!  Hence me spending yesterday and today scribbling notes on bits of paper, brainstorming ideas and eventually drawing a timeline map of the major characters and where they go and what they do from one day to the next. 

It's huge. 

Seriously, it covers one wall of my office.

Look (but beware SPOILERS!)


And just the top



With maps and charts and working out how to convert knots into mph, I think I finally have an idea of how book 3 will pan out.  Of course, it's still fluid and most of the detail will come out in the writing, but now scenes are linked into chapters and no one does a 1000 mile journey in a matter of hours or anything daft.  Everyone gets to where they need to be when they need to get there.

Let's hope it's still worth reading when I'm finished!

Monday, 2 September 2013

One week in Haven

Back from a great week away with the family in Haven at Primrose Valley, and we all had a great time.  Now I'm back at the keyboard and cracking on with Book 3 of the Benjamin Knight story (New Light).

As for the holiday, we got to do a lot of fun activities.  We went to Flamingo Land and did all the rides and spent a long time wandering around the zoo.  We did archery which was awesome, and aquagliding which was even better!  The children did water walkers in the big hamster balls and my wife and I had a blast with target shooting.

Everyone had fun and now it's back to work for all of us (or school, or college for my son - good luck on your first day catering!). 

Time to go break some friends out of prison...

Flamingo Land Zoo



Seal Lions



Seal Lion show!

 
My daughter's glitter tattoo

 
Water Walkers

Monday, 19 August 2013

Darkest Before Dawn AVAILABLE NOW!

Second post today, I was going to combine it into the same post but the news is just too exciting to mix with something else!

DARKEST BEFORE DAWN IS OUT NOW FOR KINDLE

visit

 
 

and pick up your copy now for £1.95 or $2.99

Or, if you ask me nicely, I am giving away some review copies - just let me have an email address and your preference of mobi or epub (the pdf comes in at 35MB so is too big to send by email....).

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Knightfall Book Tour

Hi all, sorry for posting this late, had a slight family emergency but that seems to be sorted now - here's me wishing my dad well as he recovers from his surgery!

Knightfall has been on a virtual book tour since the 16th August and continues until the 29th August with an associated prize (woo hoo!).

Visit the blogs below, and be sure to have a look around at the other books they've reviewed too!

August 16th – Amina Black (www.aminablack.com)

August 17thRaftul Misterelor (www.raftulmisterelor.wordpress.com)
August 18th -Rachael’s Raving Reviews (www.rachie123abc.blogspot.com)

August 19th – Blog is I Feel the Need, the Need to Read (www.ifeeltheneedtheneedtoread.com)

August 20th – A Book Blog from Ecuador (www.readinginecuador.wordpress.com)

August 21st -Valsul Fluturilor (www.valsulfluturilor.blogspot.com)

August 22nd – Wicca Witch 4 Book Blog (www.wiccawitch4.blogspot.ca)

August 23rd – Bawaka’s Book Fair (www.bawakas-bookfair.blogspot.com)

August 24th – Teen Blurb (www.teenblurb.org)

August 25th – That Artsy Girl’s Book Blog (www.thatartsygirlsbookblog.wordpress.com)

August 26th – Printre Pagini (www.printrepagini.wordpress.com)

August 27th – Nervi de Toamna (www.nervidetoamna.blogspot.com)

August 28thMy Midnight fantasies (www.mymidnightfantasies.blogspot.com)
August 29th – Candy Coated Book Blog (www.sweettreatblogblog.wordpress.com)

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Kick Ass 2 Review

Just back from seeing Kick Ass 2 at the cinema, sequel to the 2010 hit about a regular guy who tries to do the right thing and become a super hero (check it out if you haven't seen it, it's awesome).  First, the Kick Ass 2 trailer.



Now, it's rare for a sequel to be as good as it's predecessor (more on that below), and sadly, that's the case here.  That's not to say it's bad, far from it.  It's got plenty of action, extreme graphic violence, swearing inappropriately and special effects.  It just seems to lack some of the 'heart' of the first film.

Slipping into SPOLIERS territory here, I found myself enjoying the sub plot of Mindy trying to find out who she really is (and it's Hit Girl, obviously) better than the central 'I want to gather a team of super violent criminals to kill Kick Ass and burn down the city just because', and the Mindy side plot wasn't that great.

The cast did a fantastic job again, and Jim Carey was excellent for the few scenes he had (whatever he might be saying about the movie in the press), but far and away Hit Girl stole the show whenever she was butchering some bad guy for the hell of it.

Overall, a good movie, and if you enjoyed the first one it's definitely worth a watch.  If you haven't seen the first one, go get it now and watch it, you won't be disappointed!  (And if you really want to see something at the cinema, Alan Partridge is better, in my opinion.)

Score 7/10

Now, onto films where the second film was better than the original (not the third film as in Army of Darkness or Iron Man 3 or series like Lord of the Rings where really it's just one extra long film)

Empire Strikes Back
Superman 2
Godfather part 2
Despicable Me 2 (saw it a few weeks ago with the children - amazing!)
Rambo (First Blood part 2)
Terminator 2
Aliens (many may disagree with that one)
Blade 2
The Dark Knight
X-Men 2
Spider Man 2
Star Trek 2 - The Wrath of Kahn
Dawn of the Dead (original)

Those are just from looking on my shelf, I'm sure there are many others, let me have your thoughts below!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Smell my cheese! My review of Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

No, not a quote from the movie, but a scene that makes me laugh out loud when I just think about it (as I'm doing now in actual fact!).

Like many people in the UK, I've enjoyed Alan Partridge as a character for many years.  From his early appearances on The Day Today (particularly the scene where he believes that jockeys must be children!)



To his talk show on the BBC - Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge




To his down and out times in a Travel Lodge (Would you like me to lap dance for you...?)



And back to relative fame doing various shows fictional radio station North Norfolk Digital and Radio Norwich



If you like Alan Partridge as a character, the movie is an absolute must see.  It's like an extra long episode of Alan Partridge at his best, and I really didn't want it to end.  There wasn't a section that seemed forced or unnecessary , and I can honestly say that I laughed constantly through the whole thing.

I didn't think I'd see another comedy this year on a par with the Worlds End (another excellent movie), but Alan Partridge certainly exceeded my expectations, and I hope he gets a chance to appear on the big screen (or the small screen) again.

Finally, I really do have to share the smell my cheese scene, I can't get it out of my head!

AH HA!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Review of Kyrathaba Rising


Intriguing high-brow sci-fi

I received Kyrthaba Rising as part of review exchange with the author William Bryan Miller. It tells the story of the surviving pockets of humanity, who live underground after Aliens have attacked and destroyed the surface through a nuclear assault.

Four survivors manage to insert themselves into a virtual reality full of Orcs and magic, that may be more than it seems, whilst the humans and androids in the underground bunker of A3 deal with murder, intrigue, deception and a full on alien attack.

I enjoyed the book overall, it was very well written and with excellent editing and proofreading (I don't think I encountered a single error that comes to mind). It isn't what I'd normally read, but I'm glad I did, and with how it ended, I would be keen to read books 2 and 3 to discover the rest of the story.

My only gripe is that the reveals at the end of the book didn't completely gel with what I'd read in the book so far. Maybe the details of the how and why will be revealed in later books, in which case I applaud the author for drafting such a complex metaphysical tale!

Score 4 out of 5 stars

Review system
5 stars excellent
4 stars very good
3 stars average
2 stars below average
1 star poor


Available from http://www.amazon.com/Kyrathaba-Rising-The-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00E3YJ4HY/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1375879540&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=kyrthaba

Monday, 5 August 2013

The New Doctor

So, Peter Capaldi?  He has a slightly quirky look to him, but seems a lot darker than Matt Smith and even David Tennant to some extent, I hope he has darker stories to go with it.  I was hoping that the BBC would come bursting through my door at 7:25pm last night, but it didn't happen.  Oh well, maybe I'll get the gig next time....

Another 5 star review for Knightfall overnight, this time from William Bryan on Goodreads (make sure to visit his blog here at http://williambryanmiller.com/) and I am also reading his debut novel Kyrathaba Rising at the moment as part of a review exchange.  I'm not as fast a reader as him so I'm only about half way through, but I'm enjoying it so far.  Check it out on amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E3YJ4HY

It's a sci fi story set about 250 years in the future where humanity has been almost wiped out by an alien nuclear assault, and the last few pockets of humanity live deep underground.  There's murder and mystery, aliens and a virtual reality that might not be all it seems!

Back to book 3 again today, I can hear Alexander preparing his torture equipment already, he can't wait to get started....

Friday, 26 July 2013

My process

I have finally got my new computer up and sorted.  It's a laptop (Lenovo Z580 if anyone is interested, cheap but lots of memory), but I'm using it hooked up to the TV in the office.  I've finally managed to get it to look exactly like my old computer (desktop, files etc) so it's like nothing's different!  Got to love that OCD....

Got a nice new keyboard too, really springy keys that let you know when you've hit them.

Anyway, today I thought I would talk a little about my process.  I am working on book 3 of The Chronicle of Benjamin Knight, started it at the beginning of the week and I've done the prologue and the first four scenes of chapter 1.  I know where book 3 is going (as I've said before, it finishes the story of Alexander and the war), and I know certain pivotal scenes that occur, but everything else is fluid.  I have been trying to organise the first couple of chapters today, so I sketched out a timeline of what will occur on each day, to try and help get the scenes in order.

As always, beware SPOILERS!!!! (That is if any of you are actually able to read my terrible writing!)


From the timeline, I can then see what scenes need to occur and try to organise them into the correct order, and I end up with something like this.

 

I've tried doing it on the computer, but it's just not the same.  I need to be able to scribble on it, cross bits out and draw arrows showing where things get moved too.  I'm sure there are programs that would let me do just that, but for now I'll stick to what I know.  Maybe when I write something else, I'll consider a different method. 

I feel a lot happier when I have it all set out, and I can then just sit at the computer and write 2-3 scenes a day (depending on length and free time), and then start the process all over again.  I tried planning a lot further ahead with book 2, but things changed in the process of writing the story so I ended up redoing a lot of it in the end.

Anyway, back to it, I have a very large battle scene to write....

Monday, 22 July 2013

Murder Mystery Weekend

Just back from a fantastic weekend away for my birthday.  We went to Cardiff on Saturday, spent the day going around the city (but didn't have enough time to do the Dr Who Experience, so we are going again in a few weeks to do just that!), and the night at a murder mystery dinner.

I've never done anything like it before and I didn't know what to expect.  I must say though, it was fab!  There were 7 actors and a narrator, and in between dinner courses they acted out scenes to set up the characters.  Then after the main course, there was another scene before the body was discovered, and after desert we were able to question everybody and look at the props and piece the clues together.  I had a fantastic time, trying to solve the murder.

I tried to channel my inner Jessica Fletcher (from Murder She Wrote - all you youngsters out there will need to Google it I guess).  In the end, even though we solved a lot of the clues, we got the murderer wrong, but it didn't matter, everybody had a great time.  After an hour of questioning, the actors showed the final scene where the murderer was revealed and the clues explained to explain it all.  It really was so easy when they explained it....

On the topic of Jessica Fletcher, is she the most prolific serial killer ever to appear on TV or what?  Even Dexter Morgan has nothing on her body count.  Every week, she'd go to a wedding or visit some friends for a weekend, and one or more people would die.  The police never had her as a suspect, and only said thank you very much when she said 'They did it!'.  Her only qualifications were that she wrote murder mysteries, a job where all the time she is thinking about ways to kill people and fool the cops to make a good story!  Why did people keep inviting her to places???  Did they want her to kill their friends and family members?  Did she do it on commission?????

Anyway, rant over, but if you meet a kindly old woman called Jessica Fletcher on a trip somewhere, don't turn your back on her and sleep with one eye open....

Sunday we went to Bath and wen around the old Roman baths there (the only baths in England fed from a natural hot spring).  It was incredible, almost 2000 years old and still so much of the original architecture is visible.  Well worth a trip.  We didn't have time to do the Jane Austin Museum, so we'll be going back to Bath again too.



Back to writing today, back to book 3, and more of Alexander having fun with his torture devices....

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

New Light - Book 3 of The Chronicle of Benjamin Knight

I have started book 3 this week, and I've just finished writing the prologue (there is a prologue at the start of book 2 as any reader will find out in just a few weeks hopefully - just waiting to get it back from the editor).  The prologue for book 3 tells the back story for two important characters and adds a bit more depth to their motivations and the choices they will make in book 3.

It's so exciting to be progressing like this.  I need to sit down and properly map out book 3, but it will conclude he story of Alexander and the war.  I hope people like the way it ends.  There are still some big scenes to come and the odd revelation, but I hope it all ties the three books together into a whole.

We'll see!

Off to the gym now, do some exercise to try and shed some blubber.  Then maybe a little bit of Borderlands when I get back, I am really struggling to kill the third incarnation of the Handsome Sorcerer!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Negative book review

I have received my first negative book review (in addition to the one that compared Knightfall to the TV series Revolution, they still gave me 3 stars which to my mind is 'average' and hey, if I can score an average mark with my first novel then it can't be all bad).  At first I was a little upset about it, but then I read it again and I realised that the reviewer had a lot of good points.  I emailed them, and they were kind enough to give more feedback in the form of unanswered questions, which I will try to answer below.  First, the review....

'I received this book free for review.

Ben is a teen prodigy who has discovered a way to acquire limitless energy. During the testing phase, unexpected events unfold and Ben awakens to a new version of his own world.

I’m not sure I understand where the author is going with Knightfall, and how Ben’s own world plays into the events of his current world. After the first chapter or two it has nothing to do with Ben at all. The reader does not get any insight as to what is going on in Ben’s head, other than a few vague journal entries. Does he think about his family, or his own home? He doesn’t even seem to be trying to find answers or get home; leaving me to wonder ‘what is his purpose?’ Is he in the future or a parallel dimension? Since this is the first book in the series there is still room to answer the many questions I have, and I have many more.

I wish I could say that I enjoyed this book, but to be honest I didn’t. The first couple chapters were very intriguing, but I think at some point along the way it became too overwhelmed with different POV’s and unimportant details. New characters and ideas just seemed to be haphazardly thrown into the mix of rapidly unfolding events.'


As I said, a lot of relevant and important points raised.  The questions are below, and I will answer them in turn -

1. Why isn’t Ben trying to get home?
When Ben first gets to his new world, he has no idea where he is or what has happened.  His first thought is nuclear war (an irrational knee-jerk reaction really), then on the Road Trains he thinks it may be the future, but he doesn't know.  One of the reasons he decides to go through all of the technology on the trains is that they are a piece of his home, and he hopes they my tell him where he is.  Until he knows where he is, he can't think about how to get home.  He thinks like a scientist, practical and based on facts and theories with an experiment to prove or disprove them.  Once he knows where he is, he can then start on a way to get home, if he thinks it is possible.

I have since updated my website with details of where Ben is (I wasn't going to tell people where he is until Ben worked it out for himself, but people asked and so I told them.  Essentially, it can be read here http://www.jackson-lawrence.com/page8.html and there is no way for him to get home).  Initially, I was going to leave the dream sequence in the first chapter as the only answer.

2.  Why is he so set on helping the crew from the Road train? Does he feel he owes them for saving him or does he feel caught up in events?
The first people he meets in his new world try to kill him, then he collapses in the snow and nearly dies.  The people on the Road Train save him, and he is grateful as well as wary of them.  There is some sense of obligation too, but mainly he hopes that hey may help to keep him alive while he searches for answers as to what's going on.  Then he gets caught up in the events that unfold rapidly around him, nearly dies again, they save him again, and then he offers to help them solve their problems in return for their aid.

3.  What are his feelings as he’s traveling with this crew? What does he think of this new world he’s in and does he miss his old world?  
In his own world, the people he worked with in the lab every day are his friends and family.  He takes a liking to the Road Train crew because they remind him of other people (referring back to where Ben is and how this world came to be).  What he likes the most though is the world and how everything is new and different whilst at the same time almost the same.  As stated above, Ben is a scientist and finds the trains, the world, the bridge, the crazy cities and villages, and everything absolutely fascinating, a bit like a magpie when it sees something shiny.  He stops wondering where he is and is more interested in how a road train works, why the cities are arranged the way they are, why bits seem new and some seem very old, randomly thrown together.  He is surrounded by questions that his brain is desperately trying to answer. 

4.  Does he think about his family? (They’re mentioned in the first chapter and he seems to miss them at that point).
He has seen less and less of his family over the preceding 5 years, and is less attached to them than he would have been if he had lived with them.  He also knows that they should be okay because they were in London when the lab exploded in mainland Western Europe.  He misses his friends at the lab more, and reflects a little on that when he finds their rooms in the lab, but then he is running and trying to stay alive, whilst filled with wonder and amazement wherever he turns.

5.  Ben is a genius, so what can he offer this group from his own abilities that will benefit them, and how will it help to get him home, if in fact he is thinking about getting home?
He offers them the use of the vehicles in the laboratory in the hope that they will allow the Road Train crew to get to their home more quickly and warn them about the attack.  He also gives them weapons and equipment that will aid them in their fight (eg the night vision goggles).  With regards to what his genius can offer, he understands mathematics and physics, so not a lot in this medieval world.  Apart from the reverse engineered mechanical items (guns, Road Trains, I was going to have an Archimedes screw on a farm at one point but deleted it), they are at a medieval level of social and political development.

6.  The electricity in his lab is still functional, why, if this world doesn’t have electricity?
Electricity in this world is more of a myth, a legend, a 'something' that will make the old technology work.  People have no idea what it exactly is, and when Ben tries to explain that lightning is just natural electricity, they first can't believe that he can harness lightning, and then doesn't really believe him anyway.  The dynamo with the bulb he makes is dimmer than a candle, so how can it be the electricity that will make all of the old technology work?  How do you explain what an electron is and how it orbits the nucleus of an atom in various layers and the forces that it exhibits to someone who only really understands what they can see and feel?  Its a bit like explaining how a modern internal combustion engine works to the person who first discovered the wheel.  I have a character in book 2 who collects pieces of old tech and imagines electricity to be a sort of key.

When they arrive at the lab and see working technology, they have no idea what is does but are more impressed.  Then more fighting and they have to forget about it for a while.

7.  Is this the future or a parallel dimension?
This is a pocket dimension, see the link above for more detail.

8.  Will we eventually find out what happened to his team in the lab and why their bodies were missing?
This is not the same lab, this is a construct from his subconscious as described on the link above.  As to what happens on the earth Ben left, there is a 3 mile wide crater left behind that has an impact on that world.  I hope to write those stories one day in a trilogy called The Succession War.

(Not in the list of questions sent by the reviewer but pulled from the review)

9.  After the first chapter or two it has nothing to do with Ben at all.
The book is called 'The Chronicle of Benjamin Knight', and that's what it is; His journal as he explores his new world and the events that unfold there, which were happening anyway, he just impacts on them slightly and they change because of his presence.  The world is both created in the instant he falls into it, but also has thousand of years of history (broaching the concept of non-linear time that may be explored in a later book).  I never promised Ben would be the main character, and I don't promise that he will survive through all of the future stories in this world.  He may be it's creator (even unknowingly), but he is as vulnerable there as anyone else.  He is our eyes, as it were, to another person's story, at the same time as becoming part of it.

10.  I think at some point along the way it became too overwhelmed with different POV’s and unimportant details. New characters and ideas just seemed to be haphazardly thrown into the mix of rapidly unfolding events.
I take the point about too overwhelmed by point of views.  I tried to keep them to three, and hopefully did a better job with book 2, and may well go back and re-write pieces in the future.  The book is not really meant to stand alone as a complete story, though, just tell how Ben got to the world and the first part of Alexander's war.  It is supposed to make the reader ask questions whilst enjoying the events that occur, leaving many more questions than answers.

I really enjoyed LOST and that method of story telling.  An off hand comment from a character in season 2 may have be pivotal plot point in season 5, you just have to pay attention and wait for the pay off.  The new characters and ideas may seem to be haphazardly thrown into the mix, but that's because you haven't gotten the whole story yet, just the first part.  I really want the pieces I set up to pay off, and if they don't then I have failed in telling my story.

For example (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT HERE).....









Still with me?  Here goes.
Three of the characters have supernatural type abilities in this story.  They all use them in Knightfall, one of them unknowingly while the other two use them consciously.  I hope when readers find out who they are, they will go back and say 'ah, now I know why that scene seemed odd/weird!'.

So, that's the questions answered, and I hope that they will help others who have similar questions make sense of it.  I realise that not everyone will like my story, and that's fine, I saw someone gave Stephen Kings's IT two stars of Goodreads the other day (I know, I didn't believe it either!).  I really appreciate the feedback though, how else will I get better?  I want to keep writing, I have a lot more stories to tell, and anyone who tells me when I get it wrong should be thanked.

As usual, comments below please, let me know what you think!