Who Am I And What's Going On?

This will mainly be reviews of novels (mostly fantasy) and music (mostly rock & metal). From time to time I may review other stuff, because everyone likes rating things out of ten.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Day 7

Friday was a bit shit. Wrote about 130 words then played Xbox and messed around online. I really couldn't be bothered.

Saturday was more productive. Slammed about 2,100 words yesterday.

Today I've reached my first major landmark of 10,200 words, my reward being this:




Abstrakt AB:01
10.2%
Vanilla Bean Infused Belgian Quad


Awesome, can't wait to drink this beast tonight. Maybe it'll even inspire me to write more!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Day 4

Hello word target, pleased to meet you.

Did more than my 1666 words today, and feeling pretty good about it. Also I like how my novel is going, despite some horrific writing and desperate editing required. There's some kind of world and plot and characterisation slowly forming. I wrote some pretty fucked up shit today. It was nice.

Up to 6,404 on Day 4.

Tomorrow will be interesting. I usually go out drinking after work on a Friday. I probably won't get any writing done whatsoever tomorrow night and will be playing catch up on the weekend.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Day 3

The first day of serious time constraints, and I'm quite pleased with my output despite not reaching Ye Daily Targete.

Got home from work and had about 20 minutes to kill before heading out again for soccer. Got home and realised I needed some beerz if I was to do any writing whatosever. Picked up a sixer of James Squire Sundown Lager, and finally went to work at 8:15pm, alternating between doing actual writing and messing around on the NaNo forums.

Managed to churn out 1,253 words today. I'm happy enough with that. Reckon I can make it up with a 2K effort tomorrow (so long as I don't end up playing tennis tomorrow night which is a distinct possibility).

Today I introduced a couple of new POV characters to my repetoire. Joining my firewielding dragonkin hitman and my potty-mouthed angel cop is a stoic birdman warrior and a sardonic goblin pirate. Fuck yeah.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Day 2

So I've decided to do NaNoWriMo this year, and decided to revive my blog as way to talk about/pump myself up/record my progress/procrastinate.

I failed epically last year. It was pathetic. Got like 3,000 words down, if that. Lame.

The good news is that this year I'm already on 2,611 words on Day Two. Okay, still below the average required of 1,667 a day, but I'm happy enough. Besides, it's only 3:15pm. Plenty of time left to reach that goal.

It helps that I pulled a sickie today. Not something I do often, but I wasn't feelin' work today.

Had no idea what I was going to write about, in fact didn't even realise it was NaNoWriMo until yesterday. Turns out I'm writing a fantasy story, a kind of fantasy kitchen sink, with pretty much every race imaginable (except elves and dwarves, and not much in terms of humans). It's set in a city, with some kind of China Mieville nu-weird vibes, also some underworld stuff going on and probably some Abercrombie dark humour. We'll see how it goes.

Here's a couple of snippets of what I've written so far (these aren't the full chapters):

PROLOGUE - VAMPIRE UNICORN ATTACK

They attacked in swarms, leaving a trail of blood in their wake.

Through the baking deserts in the south and the icy valleys to the north, and all those plains and valleys and lush forests in between. They rode like death, ploughing ever eastwards, expanding their territory, conquering new lands. Cities and kingdoms fell before them. Emperors kneeled or were destroyed. Whole civilisations were wiped out. Fear went before them, yet they left nought but despair.

They were vampires. They rode unicorns. And the unicorns could fly.





The city of Valakknar was the last vestige of mankind. It stood in a valley cushioned between two gigantic mountains, it’s mighty towers reaching to the stars as if trying to compete with their titanic rivals.

There gathered the remaining might of mankind. Heroes and champions from every land rode to the banners of Valakknar’s King. Others followed. Those fleeing the vampires and their dread unicorns rode east to Valakknar’s safe haven. Knights and soldiers, assassins and criminals, nobles and peasants, men and women and children. They flooded the city and there the world of man made it’s last stand.

Vampires are not a race known for their patience. They should have waited, besieged the city. There were too many people. The food would run out, the water too. Disease and famine would be the murderers of the human race.

But the unicorns were restless, so their vampire masters drove them on. They flew over the city’s mighty walls with ease, and came crashing down upon mankind’s final defence. Shields were clattered, swords thrown aside in fear. Horns skewered limbs, fangs devoured necks. Lightning speed and mammoth strength was too powerful for mankind to withstand.

They died, and the vampires drank. They died, and the unicorns frolicked in their remains.

They died. All but one.

And the Gods watched on.





CHAPTER ONE - VALOPYLIS


It was earlier that week that Raktar and his brother had been given this task.

They’d been working for the same gang for a while, a year or more, performing hits for Mauvir, a vampire criminal who controlled the underworld in most of the city’s south. He paid well, and the Dragonkin rewarded his payment with effective results. Mauvir seemed almost fond of them, using their fire and claws more often than the skills of his vampire kin.

The imp was a dealer of arms and magic, and Mauvir had performed many transactions with the demonic little being. But something had happened. Imps were not to be trusted at the best of times. Raktar didn’t know the details, didn’t want to know, but if he had to guess he’d say the imp had some how screwed the vamp out of a drachma or twenty. And Mauvir didn’t take being stolen from very well.

The imp had to die. The payment Mauvir had promised the two brothers upon receipt of his cold, still corpse said that much.





The Dragonkin had created an elaborate ruse to meet the imp in order to procure a vial of poison from a land across the Winter Sea, but as he’d walked into the meeting spot where Raktar waited, the imp had known something was wrong instantly. Raktar didn’t know much about their abilities - some said they had premonition, others mind-reading, and some said they were just incredibly intuitive - yet the little creature had turned and fled without a word, dropping his vial of poison to smash on the cold cobblestones of a dingy backstreet.

But Trekkir was watching from atop a nearby roof, and tracked the imp across the dark suburbs to this monstrosity of a cathedral, where the goblins had worshipped the Lord of Hell.




As Raktar strode through the cathedral he kept catching glimpses of the black little creature. At the end of halls, at the top of a staircase, skidding round a corner. Raktar gave his brother telepathic directions the whole time.

He stepped through another doorway at the end of a hall to find a large, spiralling stairway. He heard the imps frantic footsteps higher up, echoing. He followed, for what seemed like hours, upwards and upwards. Where was this creature leading him? He flashed his brother a quick warning: “Could be a trap.”

“I’m outside.” Raktar reached out with his mind, felt Trekkir scaling the outside of the same tower he was climbing. His brother was further up. “I’ll check out the scene first.”

Minutes later, Raktar heard his brother’s screams in his head.

Monday, June 14, 2010

England Tactics

Originally posted at Westeros:



So, a reimagined starting lineup. If you'll indulge me to play manager for a few moments.

For obvious reasons I'd choose Hart over Green.

The defensive issue is King. I'd pick Carragher to replace him for the Algeria and Slovenia matches. He looked sloppy a couple of times against USA but shouldn't have a problem against either of those teams.

Gerrard + Lampard = fail. We need a midfield that can retain possession. I feel a defensive midfield pairing of Barry and Carrick would do the trick. A lot of people don't rate Carrick but he's the best short passer we have and has excellent positioning. He maybe struggles to play the holding role on his own, but would do well with Barry alongside him.

Wtf, why do I have Defoe on the left? Where is Lennon? Heskey played well, why is he dropped? Chill, let me explain.

Other than the poor midfield, Heskey was the main reason that we didn't play possession football against USA. Most of the time the defenders (especially Cole and Johnson) would just hoof the ball up toward Heksey. So to solve that problem, take him out of the team.

Lennon seems a bit pointless bombing down the wing and getting in crosses without two centre forwards. He can't cut inside either. Therefore I'd drop him. SWP and Milner were rubbish on the left. Drop them.

Instead I'd play Joe Cole as the playmaker in a free-fole which is the position he plays best. He's England's most naturally gifted player and we should let him flourish. It would also suit the possessional central midfielders and give them someone to link up with. Cole would then play the final ball to Rooney, Gerrard or Defoe.

I've put Defoe as kind of a LF rather than a winger, envisiong that he'll play a narrow role and try and get behind the defence from opening worked by Rooney and Joe Cole. He has the speed to get past most defences.

Gerrard I've put on the right. I just think he'd work well there, either getting in a cross or cutting inside and playing a more central role and allowing Cole to drift wide.

Where's Lampard? Dropped for consistently playing crap for England and having no role in these tactics. Trying to cram in players just because they're good doesn't work.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

On The Shelf: May 2010

Hey homeslicers, welcome to another episode of everyone's favourite feature ever, On The Shelf, in which I preview some books that just chillin' in my bedroom, waiting to be read by Yours Truly.

Between The Assassinations by Aravind Adiga



The White Tiger was a fantastic novel which won the 2008 Man Booker prize. Full of dark, sardonic humour and showing a poorer and more ruthless side of India, Adiga's first novel was a revelation, and I can't wait to check out his latest.

God of War by Matthew Stover and Robert E. Vardeman



God of War is one of the very best gaming franchises of the last decade, not only for it's epic visuals and fun gameplay, but also for it's stellar storytelling and iconic main character, Kratos.

Matthew Stover is acclaimed around the 'net for his Caine and Star Wars novels. I personally haven't read them (as yet), but from what I hear, he is capable of the kind of brutality and badassery that can do God of War justice. I haven't heard of Robert E. Vardeman.

Sounds like a good match, but I'm wary of a video game adaptation. I'll go into it with an open mind, though.

The Folding Knife by K. J. Parker



The only Parker I've read thus far is the excellent Engineer Trilogy. Her style is unique and at first I wasn't sure about it, but I was eventually charmed by her sardonic humour and nihlistic characters. The Folding Knife is garnering strong reviews and threatens to be even better.

Women by Charles Bukowski



I recently read Bukowski's Factotum. I haven't posted a review, because, to be honest, I don't know what to make of it. It was certainly a fun book but I'm not sure whether it was actually good or not. Certainly very different to everything I've read, and I'm keen to check out more... so that's probably good.

Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets by David Simon



Like everyone else on the Internet, I think The Wire is the greatest television show ever of all time. Therefore, this book must also be amazing. It's science.

Friday, May 21, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Jade Man's Skin by Daniel Fox



Jade Man's Skin (Del Rey, 2010)
Book Two of Moshui: The Books of Stone and Water
By Daniel Fox (a pseudonym for Chaz Brenchley)
Page count: 419
Time it took me to read: 4 weeks

Dragon In Chains was one of my favourite books of 2009, telling the story of an Emperor fleeing a rebellion far to the edges of his empire, eventually reaching the island refuge of Taishu, where mysterious and magical rock jade can be found. Into the Emperor's sphere he draws a fisher girl who becomes his concubine and a native tribe boy who becomes his bodyguard. Meanwhile, at an island lying in the middle of the strait, an ancient order of warrior monks dedicated to keeping the Dragon-In-Chains imprisoned are decimated. The dragon finally breaks free, her only "chains" now being the young boy Han, the only barrier to true freedom, yet she cannot kill him, and he cannot control her.

Jade Man's Skin is a highly competent second book, continuing the Emperor's story as he prepares to strike back at the rebels. A few new elements are introduced to the story, perhaps the most important being the Li-Goddess, an incorporeal force that has power over the strait between Taishu and the mainland, who openly opposes the newly free dragon.

Fox's prose continues to be his strongest weapon. While not quite reaching the gorgeous peaks of Dragon-In-Chains, his lyrical, sometimes poetic flow is always a pleasure to read. An example? I shall indulge thee:

"And then it had turned and was leaving, leaping away, and was gone; and its absence was a sudden aching hollow in the world that the night could leap into, rush and rush and never hope to fill."

The characterisation in Jade Man's Skin continues the strong tradition began in book one. The main characters we follow are Han, Mei Feng, Ju Shan, and Old Yen. We get a new POV from Jiao who was a strong supporting character from the first book, and we get an extensive POV from the Emperor's messenger Chung, as well as several minor viewpoints. I have to say, at this point, Mei Feng - the Emperor's favourite and only concubine - is easily the most enjoyable character. She is a little dynamo of anger and decisive anger.

The dragon herself is different to traditional epic fantasy, being mega powerful (she destroys a whole fleet of warships with ease), having mega water magic (she can make typhoons out of nothing, or make a thick mist float up from the sea), and having no wings. She flies without wings, instead using mega flight magic. Her flying is usuallly compared to the flow of water, or split ink flowing over a page.

The plot in Jade Man's Skin is usual fantasy fare, but is well done. The war between the Emperor and the generalissimo continues, and as the balance of power sways, so continues the struggle for freedom for both Han and the dragon. There's lots of politicking and battles and standard modern fantasy stuff. Except in like, China or Japan or something. The Asian thing adds an interesting flavour to the book, and Fox pulls it off well.

Despite the general youth of the protagonists and the pretty prose, Fox does not shy away from the brutality of war in this series. Nothing here reaches the most disturbing scenes of Dragon-In-Chains, but there's still plenty of violence and danger and little bit of violent rape danger.

The Books of Stone and Water is quickly becoming one of my favourite ongoing fantasy series. I think it's a trilogy, so I very much look forward to the release of book 6, which I'm guessing will come out in 2011 (as you can see I've done my research).

8/10