Update on ‘The Fleet of Sinsai’

FOS alternate cover

It has been a while since I’ve posted on my blog. Rest assured this is only good news for those awaiting the conclusion to the Valerious Chronicles. The last few months have been hectic, but progress has been better than I thought. I am writing the final act of book 3, with five chapters to go.

My initial editing has already begun and Beta reading will commence in Jan/Feb. At this stage I plan to have the final book released In May 2015. The champagne is already in the fridge!

So far I am excited with how The Fleet of Sinsai is shaping up. The last novel in a trilogy is the most difficult, as I need to bring everything together whilst keeping an exciting pace and good narrative flow.

With Christmas rapidly approaching I am looking forward to catching up on my reading. I’m halfway through Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb at the moment and looking to pick up some Brandon Sanderson soon.

Wish everyone a fantastic holiday period full of good food, company and above all good books.

Why Reviews Matter

 

2014-11-05 19.52.15-1

I had a discussion with a fellow artist not that long ago about why we do what we do. This person was not a writer, but their particular medium of art was also one where reviews are an important part of success. Our lengthy discussion revolved heavily on gaining enjoyment from seeing others appreciating our work.

Afterwards, on the train, I was looking through some of the reviews I have been lucky enough to receive and found myself feeling exhilarated. The profound truth is that though you may make a sale, or have someone download your work for free, you will never truly know whether they liked it or not unless they write you a review.

What is it that drives people to write reviews? I still don’t really know the answer. I know that I have only recently taken to writing reviews and much of that is driven by my own desire to receive reviews. I like to think of it as good fortune. If I give a little out into the world, perhaps I will gain a little back.

A review to an artist is a confirmation that what they are pursuing is worthwhile. That it means something to someone. Even if it is a bad review, we at the very least know that someone read or listened to our work. And we can learn from the criticism. This is the only way we will know as artists, what people like, and what they do not like.

So I encourage you all to take five minutes when you read a good book, listen to a great song, or watch a great film, to write a review. Or even just click a box to give that piece of art a star rating. The artists appreciate it more than you could know.

My Top Picks – Part Three

What are my biggest influences? There are too many to cover in one post. This is part three of my series of posts to show the key books, movies, music and shows that have influenced me, not only as a writer, but as a person.

 

Star Trek:

We are at a point in time where the amount of Star Trek available for consumption is mind blowing. Not only are there five shows and twelve movies, there are comics, video games, board games, card games and books. I began watching Star Trek because of my mum, who was a big fan. It was almost routine for us to sit down and watch the latest episode of Next-Gen or Deep Space Nine and Voyager in later years. As I child I can recall watching Star Trek IV; The Voyage Home, on a monthly basis.

What is it about Star Trek that captivated me so? Firstly it was the individual characters who became a second family. Every new voyage was like going on an adventure with a band of best friends. But the truth of it is that Star Trek appeals to something in human nature. The desire for discovery, and for betterment. The federation is an almost utopian idea. A world where we have shed all of the prejudices and vices of the past. We have rid the world of poverty, of greed, of war. All that is left is a unified civilisation which strives to spread peace throughout the galaxy and learn all that can be learnt.

Despite this we see the crew of the enterprise go through all of the very same drama’s which are present in the world today. However, they are presented to us in conflicts with alien species or new space oddities. Even though the Earth has managed to find lasting peace, we still find war and avarice in the far reaches of space. Star Trek showed me that no matter what, peace is not eternal.

 

Magician by Raymond E. Feist:

Arguably this is the single most influential piece of art in my life. When coming up with a list of things for this series of posts, the first thing to spring to mind was Magician. It is the one book that changed my life. It was one of the first epic fantasy novels I read front to back and I still recall the feelings I felt when turning those pages.

The story of Pug and his journey to become a magician captivated me like no other story ever has. When reading it I recall the sensation that this was what had been missing from my life. It had everything you could ever want. There were battles, an invading alien army, magic, dragons, dwarves and elves, but most of all it had amazing world building and characters.

There is no doubt that my writing in most influenced by the many books set in Midkemia. There is no doubt my characters are influenced by the characters I grew to love from Magician. I have not recommended a book more than this one. I would never hesitate to recommend it. It is, in my opinion, a perfect example of the emotion, excitement and enjoyment that the fantasy genre is capable of. If I were deserted on an island, it is the one book I would want to have with me.

 

To see my other posts in this series click below.

My Top Picks – Part One

My Top Picks – Part Two

A Blast from the Past Revolutionised – HeroQuest

It came with a simple enough comment. We all have nerd vices.

With regard to the majority of my friends, this is a horrendous understatement. Given time and disposable income there are no bounds to the insane projects we will come up with. You could be financing a space empire in Eve Online, writing Fantasy novels, collecting four of every magic the gathering card, wargaming, or trying to own every single Nintendo console in existence (There are a lot more than you would think). We’ve done it all. And like most people our age we have fond memories of the board game HeroQuest.

IMG_20141011_151742

We’ve come a long way. So many late nights. So much Mountain Dew.

For those who don’t know, it is essentially Dungeons and Dragons simplified into a board game. It captured the imagination of young nerds across the world and I am safe to say elicits nostalgic sighs from many people who wouldn’t want you to know they played this as kids/teenagers. Just read this fantastic write up from Rock,Paper, Shotgun. It comes with the original TV spot which cannot be missed.

Now, speaking of nerd vices, Davide Rizzo, a prodigiously talented web designer/graphic artist, who also happens to be one of my Beta Readers, has tapped into his memories and created a web based application which allows you to make your own HeroQuest maps with the click of a button. (Note, you need Chrome Browser for it to work properly) For those non tech-savvy people, it may look simple enough, but the time and effort which has gone into this can’t be underestimated.

Heroquest

Open source and easy to use. What are you waiting for?

The maps can be saved as text files on your computer to be loaded up again via the map creator at any point in time. At this stage the tool is only for map creation and would suit anyone looking to map out a dungeon for an RPG or even a game of HeroQuest if you still have it. The code is Open Source and available on CodePen, which hopefully provides potential for someone else to pick it up and create some working online games with it.

I encourage you all to have a play around with it and admire the work. There are plenty of projects sitting on peoples hard drives which will never be made public. Here is a great example of someone who has taken the effort to create something really outstanding and then shared it with the online community for free use.

dwarf

Hmmm, I wonder what’s behind this door… Probably Treasure …

If you are interested in seeing more of Davide’s work you can follow his blog here and see his website here.

 

 

Game Review: Zelda – A Link Between World

2014-10-08 19.07.21-1

Pre-warning: As a Zelda fan of monumental proportions there may be a slight bias in this review. A Link Between Worlds (LBW) is the first fully exclusive 3DS Zelda title, following on from the 3D remake of, in my opinion the single greatest game of all time, Ocarina of Time. I came into it with high expectations having read multiple positive reviews in the lead up to its release.

It took me a while to find the time to play it, but once I did there was no turning back. A return to the top down style of the original Zelda was welcome. As with Super Mario Land 3D this is the first game for me where I played the entire way with the 3D effect on and turned up to full. I found the level design to really benefit from this and am glad Nintendo are choosing to embrace the 3D in their flagship games.

The storyline in a Zelda game never fails to satisfy. It is the Hero’s journey in its simplest form, each time with a slight twist or variation. LBW is no different. The concept is simple, there is a mirror world to Hyrule, aptly named Lorule. Without spoiling anything, Link ends up forced to save Princes Zelda from the clutches of a crook in Lorule who has turned her into a painting. It kept me interested, but importantly kept the focus on the adventure driven gameplay, which is what the series is about.

The big change in this game is the ability to merge into almost any wall you come into contact with, thanks to a special bracelet you receive early on. Rather than a gimmick, this was worked into every dungeon so that puzzles literally had a new dimension to them. I absolutely loved merging into walls to reach new areas. It somehow felt like every time I was cheating the system, even though I knew the game was designed that way. The art style of Link when he is merged into the wall is also terrific. I was sceptical at first, but once I saw it on my 3DS, I was sold. As for the art of the main game, I couldn’t flaw it. Beautiful and vibrant, well suited for the capabilities of the platform.

The top down gameplay was no different to previous Zelda titles, which, as it isn’t broken, needn’t be fixed. The biggest change to me, which is one that was at the same time refreshing and disappointing (I am still not 100% on how I feel about it), was the item renting system. At the beginning of the game you are introduced to Ravio, a new oddly dressed character who allows you to rent almost all of the items in the game from the outset. This means that no longer will you be collecting the bow, boomerang and hookshot from your dungeons. Now, if you have the cash you can get them all straight away.

At first it is exhilarating to splurge all your rupees and run around with bombs, ice and fire rods and a bow straight away. But once you begin completing the dungeons you start to realise one big thing is missing. The much loved sensation of opening a chest in a dungeon, looking for that brand new item. For me that is one of the things that made Zelda great. And though there is an item in each dungeon. They are more secondary things which did little to keep me excited. To lose the excitement of opening a chest overshadowed for me the new flexibility from the beginning.

It must be noted that I did not realise that each item could be upgraded until the very end of the game. If you start playing this and are collecting the little soft shell crabs as I like to call them, make sure you regularly go back and return them to their mother. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you play. Don’t be a sucker like me and upgrade all your items at the end, when you barely have time to use them.

Overall I felt the game had a good length, I might have liked to have seen a few more mini games and non dungeon areas to explore, but there were plenty of dungeons. No game could ever come close to Ocarina of Time. Skyward Sword on the Wii did a great job of trying and came close. A Link Between Worlds comes up there, just shy of that. A terrific game, well worth every penny, just short of absolute greatness.

Rating 4/5

Recharging

It’s been a little while since I have posted. I have been taking a few long breaths following the crazy weeks that were the launch of The Tyrant’s Onslaught. As much as it was a terrific experience. I needed some time to relax.

2014-09-21 15.29.08

I was lucky enough to spend some time in the Yarra Valley and switch my mind off for a few days. Today I started writing again, chapter 14 of the final novel in the Valerious Chronicles, and it felt great. It reminded me that to create great art your mind needs to be at its best.

I feel that I am back in that space, where I can focus on getting the final book done. I have been taking the time to read some different things, a few comics (Saga is amazing!!) and some horror, which I haven’t read a lot of. It has been a refreshing change.

2014-09-21 12.22.07

Visiting the Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary also rekindled my love of animals and reminded me to make sure I get out of the study/office more often to seek inspiration from our furry, slithery and feathered friends.

2014-09-19 12.39.59For now, back to it. Unlike the wombats I can’t sleep all the time. I have a third book to finish!

Review: Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

2014-09-11 22.03.57

Fitz! What a character … What a story! I don’t know why it took me so long to start reading Robin Hobb, but I don’t regret it. I don’t regret it because now I have so many of her other books to explore. Assassin’s Apprentice was hands down one of the best fantasy books I have ever read. There we go, review over. No need for any more praise than that. Ok, you aren’t here to read a ten second review. Here are a few more thoughts.

This was a refreshing example of a coming of age story for me. The first person narrative worked extremely well in making you feel like you were watching the story unfold from Fitz’s mind. It kept other characters mysterious and at a distance. It also kept up a good level of suspense. A good page turner for me is a book which constantly leaves you hanging, needing to know more, to unravel more clues. Hobb did this splendidly with Assassin’s apprentice.

The thing I reflect on the most is how much I liked the different characters. Fitz has many mentor figures as well as a few adversaries who are all unique, flawed and well developed. In addition to this his affinity with animals was something which added a real flavour to the book. I always like it when a character has great companions. To have great animal companions, well, it doesn’t get much better than that. Drizzt anyone?

Something I found refreshing was the fact that this was an opening book of a trilogy and did not focus on world changing events. Don’t get me wrong, I am a massive fan of the ‘save the world’ stories. But it was nice to see a first book focus more on the main character’s growth, with some world changing events only hinted at in the background.

Hobb also has a great magic system in place. One which makes it a powerful thing in the world but also dangerous to use. I felt it added that real fantastical element to the tale, but did not overtake the narrative. There were times when I really wanted to hear a little bit more about ‘The Skill’ but I am sure that will come in later novels.  

Now let me come to my favourite part of the book. The Fool. Most fantasy stories have some element of prophecy or destiny in them. The Fool is a character who is mysterious and hints at prophecy, but not in a blatant way. I did not at once feel like he was contrived or merely used to drive the story. I felt like he was a living breathing part of the world. And I can’t wait to find out more about him.

Overall I cannot more highly recommend this book to anyone who has not read it. In fact don’t read any more of this, go out and by Assassin’s Apprentice and start reading!

Rating 5/5  

It’s Launch Day!

2014-08-31 10.57.29

 

What are you wasting your time reading this for? Today is release day for The Tyrant’s Onslaught. Get your eReader or pick up a hard copy and get reading. And if you haven’t read book one of the Valerious Chronicles, well frankly I don’t know what in the world you’ve been doing!

I hope to see you all celebrating with me!

Amazon

iTunes

Paperback

 

 

Review: Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen Donaldson

2014-08-16 10.31.58

I have seen multiple lists of iconic fantasy novels to read. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant have almost always made an appearance. Because of that I finally managed to find the time to read the first entry. I will be upfront, I did not really enjoy Lord Foul’s Bane. I knew little about it prior to picking it up, other than the fact that the main character was an anti-hero.

Having read the book, I now feel that much of this book’s success can be attributed to it being one of the few Fantasy novels of its time to push certain boundaries. Therefore I need to give it credit where credit is due and say that Thomas Covenant is a terrific anti-hero. By the end of the book I actually disliked him more than at the beginning. I do not want to spoil anything for would be readers but there is a particular event at the start of the book which really surprised me. And not in a good way. In a way that instantly made me want to read something else because I detested the character so much.

What saddens me is that Donaldson is a great writer. At times I really loved his descriptions, names and characters. But as a whole I just found it tiresome to finish the story. I didn’t care whether Thomas Covenant achieved anything. The basic premise of the story reminded me heavily of the Lord of the Rings. Yet it was different enough not to feel like it was borrowing too heavily.

What I particularly liked was the different cultures which Donaldson developed, such as his giants and the people of the plains. They were a unique take and I found that refreshing. Saltheart Foamfollower was a character I instantly liked and, to be honest, kept me reading when I considered giving up. After finishing the book I hopped online to see what others had thought. Normally I do not do this but as I really didn’t enjoy the book that much, I felt that perhaps I had missed something.

Never have I come across such polarizing reviews. It seemed that people either loved it or hated it. One star or five. I found few reviews that sat in the middle. Many of the negative reviews centered on that certain event at the beginning, and I can understand how that could turn someone away from reading any more of the book quite quickly. However, I found that when I read why people loved the book I started to see their points.

Lord Foul’s Bane is best looked at through a lens. It may not be the best story, but it set out to create a unique world, with an anti-hero main character whose actions and behaviour go against what we expect in a novel. I think you need to consider when it was written whilst judging it. Fantasy writing has changed significantly since then. Modern novels trend towards faster pacing, more dialogue and less exposition. Donaldson covers some great themes in his book and I think it is true to say that reading the Chronicles is hard work. You almost feel as though you are studying an ancient roman text. That being said it is an exceptionally well written story.

So now I ask myself would I recommend this book to my friends. The short answer is no. I do not feel that I would be looked upon favourably in doing so. But credit must be given. I understand why some people would love this book. And Donaldson is a great writer. I have simply decided it is just not to my taste.

Rating: 2/5