Wednesday 30 December 2015

Force Awakens, Specter - Are Scripts for Films Assuming Audiences are Stuipid?

Do film makers think their audiences are stupid? 

Spoiler alert. 

OK -- Specter and The Force Awakens were entertaining -- but come on film makers! In Specter, Bond blows up an underground bunker with one shot by hitting a surface gas tank, with sufficient delay to meander to a helicopter. What sort of health and safety was in the Villain's base? Was it rigged to blow up?

The Force Awakens was truly daft, yet another Death Star so easily destroyed. Hadn't the Empire learned anything from the previous two. It also was destroyed with seconds to go. OK we need a bit of excitement, but will Star Wars episode 20 be Death Star 16 destroyed with seconds to go. Also, novice Jedi defeat Master Jedi whereas Luke, the strongest Jedi in centuries, took months of training to fight Darth Vader.

What is happening to scripts? Do film makers think audiences are duped by CGI and nothing else matters? Why spend millions on films but allow daft plots? Spend money up front on a good tale. Audiences aren't daft.

Sunday 13 December 2015

A Book Review: The Devil in Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson

The Devil in the Marshalsea (Tom Hawkins, #1)The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The book is about a debtors prison in the 18th century. It is a grim place and the author has clearly done her homework, as attested by the facts at the back of the book.

The main character, Tom Hawkins, is a flamboyant character; a womaniser and a gambler. Even his best friend acknowledges that Tom is fated to find his way to the infamous debtors gaol. The novel is nicely written with a good and lively pace. There's twists to the plot that leave you wanting more. The characerisation is good and Fleet is a great addition. This is an interesting period of history that is well presented, with the squalor of the period nicely captured.

View all my reviews

Thursday 10 December 2015

Win a FREE book, Prophecy of the Kings by David Burrows

Win a FREE copy of the OMNIBUS edition of the Prophecy of the Kings. That's all three books in one volume - and the tale starts and ends in this volume. A concise and compelling tale for you to win. Hurry ends soon. Check out my Fantasy Jokes blog and see if you can do better. 

Visit my website for more information about my books]]

Sample joke: 

An Orc is stopped for speeding and the cop asks him to get out of the car.

"You're staggering," the cop warned.

To which the Orc replied, "You are quite handsome yourself."

Good reading 


What a Con: Weapons in Fantasy Role Playing Games

As a fantasy reader I feel a hole in my life when there are no good fantasy books to read and a fantasy RPG game can sometimes fill that void. I have played a few games but wouldn't say I am an avid fan. My favourite RPG is the original Diablo. With all the better graphics, Diablo 3 is a fantastic game on the eye, but has the game itself suffered?

For me, finding the holy-Grail of weapons is a big driver and I love playing an archer. Bows seem really useful at range and I loved some of the flame spells in the original and also in Diablo 2. By Diablo 3 though the weapons seem almost pointless as the characters seem indestructible.

What frustrated me most of all was playing Diablo 2 and at the very end of the game, having killed Baal, I was finally given a bow which was absolutely ideal. It gave +3 to all archer skills and did some hefty damage. But why was this at the end of the game when killing monsters was so difficult throughout? I spent ages on some of the Chiefs, being killed and having to go around the battlefield again and again. What was it though that kept me searching for those elusive weapons? It wasn't the same as a Barbarian or other class. Not for me at least. I would turn over every lose bolder, smash every vase and traipse around every level searching.

So what was it about the original Diablo game that was superior to the other two games? I liked being able to drop weapons in the market and use combinations of weapons to read spells, by increasing my spell casting ability, albeit briefly. The weapons also seemed more important the way they looked and the way they were named. By Diablo 3, weapons were more plentiful but the way they were presented was not the same, as a card of facts. By Diablo 3, money and buying weapons seemed pointless as the weapons in the armoury were always inferior by far and training the Artisan only made the weapons out of reach for my level. I completed an entire game without buying or crafting anything. There just seemed no need. Did I miss something?

Perhaps I will search for the ideal fantasy game in the same way I search for weapons. Any suggestions, let me now. I have tried Guild Wars, Morrowind, Neverwinter Nights, Baldur's Gate and many more and that elusive hunt for magical weapons continues.

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Not a Good Read: Son of Blood, historical fiction

Son of Blood (Crusades, #1)Son of Blood by Jack Ludlow
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

It's not often I on't finish a book and this is one such occasion. It started off very promisingly and the character Bohemund was nicely developed. However, it ground to a halt. I read about half the book and found it slow paced and lots of talking. I have read a few books about the Normans in Italy and I was looking forward to this tale.

View all my reviews

Sunday 6 December 2015

How Long Does it Take to Write a Book?

This is a difficult question to answer. My experiences are:

My first novel (Prophecy of the Kings) took many years to write and re-edit on many occasions. My more recent novel (Drachar's Demons) only took me about 5-6 months to write and then about the same to have it edited. So what's the main difference between the two timescales?

My first book was a learning experience and my English developed over writing the trilogy, I also didn't have a particular drive to deliver and so I could take my time. A lot of time was spent on the plot, which I hadn't formulated before hand and which developed as I wrote. There were long periods where writer's block was a real problem with my heroes trapped in a seemingly impossible situations. It took months to think through a way forward and often inspiration struck at unlikely times. I have a separate blog on writing a plot.

Drachar's Demons was different as it was a prequel. I had the plot pretty much mapped out, having written the trilogy. However, what the tale lacked was the detail and the characterisation.

So, how long might it take you to write a book? The key is having the plot already developed and not being tripped up along the way. I think I can manage about 4-5 pages per day. That's nearly a chapter. Assuming 30 chapters then I could write a book in a month, assuming no sticking points. Would the book be good? Very unlikely? At this rate of writing there's likely to be plot holes and inconsistencies in the tale, like having 5 donkeys on moment and 6 the next. It takes time to resolve these issues and often chapters need a rewrite. The editing process can be slow. If you have a full edit, the editor will help to find inconsistencies and may suggest re-ordering chapters. That's a lot of work. This process can add several months.

A copy edit is quicker as they are looking at spelling and grammar mainly and so edits can be turned around reasonably quickly.

Self publishing requires cover designs and layout of the typeface. Again, this is a lengthy process, Learning to use the self-publishing tools is an experience and can introduce significant delays. I had a particular problem with one package on Smashwords and it was getting books published to itunes. The difficulty was indexing the chapters and that was a nightmare. The slightest mistake meant the publication was rejected.

So the answer to the question, how long does it take to write a book is about one month, assuming the plot is already pretty much developed and you can face writing 5 pages per day. However, getting it to print would take about a year. Some established authors may be a lot faster as they will have an editor and book publisher on hand to help. The self publishing route adds considerable time.

Any authors with a different experience, drop me a line and let me know.

Saturday 28 November 2015

The Prologue from Legacy of the Eldric; a Fantasy Tale by David Burrows

“Lay the body there,” Chanathan said pointing.
The three soldiers carrying the corpse dropped their burden with a meaty thud to the forest carpet. The men looked disgusted by their task. In the distance an owl hooted and one of the men looked around, fear glinting in his eyes as he scanned the hidden recesses between the trees.
“It’s an owl,” one of his companions said. Chanathan could hear the concern in the voice. Only months ago the sight of another man’s fear would have elicited sarcasm or even bullying, but after the recent horrors there was a greater bond between these men. Battle brothers was a common enough expression, but only men who had stood shoulder to shoulder in the darkest moments of combat truly understood what that meant, men who had felt blood splash their hands and blades and experienced the pervading stench of blood, sweat and steel in their nostrils. That was how such close bonds were forged.
Chanathan stepped up to the corpse and spat in its eyes. The body was that of a man in his thirties. He wore a robe whose colour in the dark of the wood was difficult to decide. It did nothing, though, to conceal the bloodstain that marked the deep wound that had killed him.
Chanathan turned on his heel. Coming between the trees in file were others who had fought demons only hours before. It had been close, but Drachar’s death had finished the bloody conflict and even now, men of the alliance were hunting down the enemy as they sought to escape. Many of the approaching men were sorcerers and all were clearly bone tired, stumbling as they came into the clearing. Even though they were exhausted, Chanathan knew that one final act was required to guarantee an end to the bloody war.
Ashona approached Chanathan. She looked close to tears, and Chanathan felt pity overwhelm him. His own tears threatened and he choked down his emotions, but could not stop himself from taking her hand. Victory felt so very hollow, not at all how he had imagined it to be so many months ago—death still befouled his mind like a toxin.
“Swiftly, we must bind his spirit. It must not be allowed to escape or the demons will crown him their king,” Chanathan said.
“Surely not,” Ashona replied. “How can the demons still follow him after what has happened? He failed them. He is dead. We have killed sorcerers by the score. They cannot summon demons—not for a hundred years at least.”
Chanathan shook his head. “You are wrong, I fear. He made a pact with the demons, a pact that even death cannot undo. He has given the demons everything they wanted. Countless souls sent screaming to their world for eternal damnation. If they get his soul too, they will bow to him and call him Lord.”
Ashona sobbed. “Then we have failed!”
“No. Not if we can banish his soul.”
“And how can we do that?” Ashona pleaded. Chanathan looked past the grime of battle and into her eyes. With more affection than he had ever felt before he stroked a strand of hair from her face.
Without replying, he turned to the other sorcerers who by now had spread themselves around the clearing. They looked a sorry bunch, blood-soaked and covered in gore. Some distance away he could hear the army celebrating; men calling out to each other, glad to find friends and relatives alive; drinking away the cold fear instilled by demons only moments before. Abruptly singing filled the air. Only troops fresh from the horrors of war could show such emotion. By comparison, the men around Chanathan were silent, begrimed with blood and barely able to stand.
“We must act swiftly. Until this night is done his shade will be confined to his earthly body. You there, Carlan, Aswall and Harecht, draw a rune of binding around the corpse. Tarlam and Herest, summon elementals at each corner of the rune. Air, fire and water will do for what we need.”
The men set to their activities while the others fell back to watch. As they worked, the din from the army became background noise. Woodland creatures occasionally called out, distracting Chanathan from his musing. What he planned, no one had tried before and he had to think, if this went wrong he would doom his friends, and himself.
Finally, the others were ready. He looked down at the corpse now lying at the centre of a rune, diligently drawn in the dirt. At each of the rune’s corners, tiny elementals glowed; their small voices clear even with all the other sounds around them.
The sorcerers gathered while the three soldiers hovered to one side, knowing they were witnessing a truly significant moment in history. This was a solemn time.
Chanathan raised his eyes skyward. Casting a rune in the air with his hand he called aloud, “Drachar, I summon you!”
Nothing stirred. A breeze caused the trees to sway and for a moment the rustle of leaves drowned out the distant celebration.
“Drachar!” Chanathan called more urgently. “You are summoned to pay for your crimes.”
A pungent smell filled the clearing. Unable to help themselves some men stepped back, fear pounding their hearts like poison coursing through their veins. A silver shape appeared, hovering eerily above the corpse.
“Bind them, both body and soul,” Chanathan ordered and others immediately spoke, casting runes to strengthen their earlier spell.
The glow took strength and the indistinct form of a man appeared. Hollow eyes stared deep into Chanathan’s soul and for a moment he nearly quailed, but then, by his side, Ashona squeezed his hand. All at once he was glad of her presence.
“Foul creature! Abomination!” Chanathan roared.
The spectre laughed. “But I am one of you,” a ghostly voice whispered, grinding the nerves of all present. “I, too, am one of the Eldric.”
“How dare you!” Chanathan shouted, suppressing a shudder. “You forsook us the moment you looked upon the demon world. Your twisted craving for power has destroyed you.  The king banished you. You were unmade and unnamed; the sands of your soul stained forever by the blood of betrayal. How dare you compare yourself to us?”
“You forget,” answered the now mirthless voice. “We were all banished. We left our homeland hundreds of years ago because our ancestors dared to look upon the demon world. I am more like you than you would care to admit.”
 Chanathan was stunned into silence. The spectre faded briefly and for a moment Chanathan thought it was gone.
“Bind it!” Prince Ellard said, stepping forward, looking up at the spectre. “You are a traitor! You killed the King!”
“He killed me first,” the spectre said in a peevish tone.
“Damn you! You betrayed your people! We will not let you find your way to the demon world,” said Ellard. To Chanathan it seemed that his eyes flamed with passion.
“But you cannot stop me! I am Drachar! I do as I will, and I will damn you all.”
There was a silence for a moment. Even the revelry seemed to have stopped as though the world was holding its breath.
“But you are wrong,” Ashona said softly. At the start of the war she had been such a gentle soul, but looking at her now…
Her eyes bored into Drachar’s and her shoulders were set in utter defiance. “We will banish you but not to where you expect to go!  Prince Ellard, give me your sword. Only one of the seven will help with this spell casting.”
Ellard stepped forward and handed his sword over. It was a marvellous weapon, forged from a meteor that had crashed to the earth the previous year. They hade made seven swords and each was proof against demons.
“What are you going to do?” Fear tainted Drachar’s voice, and briefly he appeared to shrink.
Ashona chanted as she drew a rune over the blade. Chanathan realised then her intent. The sword amplified the power of the person holding it. The rune was to open a gateway to another world and for a moment Chanathan feared Ashona was opening a gateway to Hell. He did not recognise the rune at first and then comprehension dawned.
Prince Ellard must also have realised for he rushed over to take back his sword, but Chanathan laid a hand on his shoulder. “It is all right. She knows what she is doing. She is opening a gateway not to another world but between them.”
Ellard frowned. “The nether regions?” he asked
Behind them Drachar wailed. His form glowed brighter and the surrounding sorcerers’ voices became more urgent. At that moment, an elemental expired; its scream echoing into the night air.
“Help them,” Chanathan ordered and others joined the sorcerers about the rune, summoning elementals to bind Drachar in place. Furiously he struggled and then the gateway was complete, purple and green streaming from it.
“Go!” Prince Ellard commanded, laying his hand on his sword. The ghostly shape drifted towards the gaping rent in space as an icy wind gusted, a prelude to the nothingness beyond.
“You shall not stop me!” he screamed. “I will return and then I will destroy you, your children and their children.” The light from his ethereal form faded as it progressed through the gaping wound. Then abruptly it was gone. Ashona stopped casting the rune and the rent slammed shut, Drachar’s final scream fading away.
Night noises about the wood returned as though the banishment had forbidden sound.
All at once, Chanathan sensed that it was too much for Ashona. She sat on the ground as though her legs could no longer support her. Others were leaving but at her collapse, they paused.
Ashona cried out, “I see it! I see the future. Drachar will return! I see the fires! I see the death!”
Chanathan knelt by her side. “Calm yourself. That is not possible.” The three soldiers came over, wanting to help but hesitating, too afraid to come too close.
Chanathan gently took her face in his hand and made her turn to look at him. “We have won. We have banished Drachar’s shade. This land is safe now.”
Ashona stared past Chanathan. He sensed she was seeing into another world.
Her voice was so low that he had to strain his ears to hear her. By his side one of the soldiers gasped. “It’s a prophecy,” he murmured in awe.
When Tallin’s crown once more does shine,
Drachar’s shade will rise sublime,
Three Princes Royal through time will sleep,
An appointment with destiny — three kings to keep,
Trosgarth’s arm across the land will reach,
Of war and famine — his army will preach,
And one will stand to oppose his throne,
A king resurrected from within his mountain home,
Of air, fire and water — he will be born,
To aid the people — when all else is forlorn

“Ashona”” Chanathan wailed, shaking her shoulders, “Ashona!” he sobbed.
The light in her eyes dimmed. She was too close to her shaol, her guardian spirit, and that had always worried Chanathan.
“Ashona,” he cried.
Slowly she shook herself as though waking from a dream. “Thank the Kalanth!” Chanathan sighed, grinning broadly.
Chanathan helped Ashona to her feet. By their side a soldier made a warding sign against evil, his mouth agape. Chanathan turned to him, “Forget what you have just heard. Do not mention it to anyone.” He doubted the soldier would; when she had spoken Chanathan had felt the compulsion in her tone. The man stared back blankly, angering Chanathan.
“All of you!” Chanathan commanded. “Forget what happened, under pain of death.”
Ashona looked at him bewildered. “Why? What has happened?”
Chanathan looked at her, truly glad she was back. “Nothing. We have won a great battle and darkness has been banished from the world.”
Taking her hand he guided her from the wood, towards hope and an uncertain future.
Behind them the three soldiers remained, but for a while only. Sensing the evil of the departed soul, they took to their heels, seeking the company of the living; eager to tell the tale of what they had just heard.

A Gladiator Dies Only Once by Stephen Saylor. A Great Read.

A Gladiator Dies Only Once (Roma Sub Rosa, #11)A Gladiator Dies Only Once by Steven Saylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was more a collection of short stories compared to his usual books about Gordianus, the Finder. It was still enjoyable and the pace was a bit quicker as a result. The tales also fill in some of the gaps in Gordianus' life since his other novels often have several years between tales. The tale from the main title "A Gladiator Dies Only Once" was perhaps a little predictable but good nonetheless and bought perhaps a little sanity to Gladiator tales. As per usual, the depth of knowledge on all things Roman shines through in the smallest details. An excellent author.

View all my reviews

Monday 23 November 2015

Captain of Rome by John Stack; a book review

Captain of Rome (Masters of the Sea, #2)Captain of Rome by John Stack
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a good follow on story from Ship of Rome. It's an interesting period of history with Rome trying to compete against Carthage's superior navy. There's some great sea battles and it doesn't always go Rome's way. The author has mixed in intrigue with Varro, a tribune, taking a dislike to Atticus, mainly because he is Greek in the Roman navy so doesn't quite fit in even though he is a very skilled Captain.

The writing is good and you feel that you are on the ships, watching the battle rage and soldiers in full armour falling into the sea to a horrible death as they are dragged beneath the waves. There's typical Roman inventiveness and the tactics seem realistic and well thought through. Quite a page-turner and I certainly wanted to finish chapters at a time.

View all my reviews

Friday 20 November 2015

New Star Trek Series in the Offing: 2017

Wow, knock me over with a feather. A new Star Trek series seems likely and after the excellent films I suppose that I shouldn't be too surprised.

Sadly though it's likely to be 2017 - However, the good news is the next film Star Trek Beyond is out in 2016, so a stepping stone in our wait.

Under-Rated Fantasy Writers?

Not sure under-rated is the correct term, but these are good writers who don't seem to feature a great deal:

Ian Irvine -- Well of Echoes and other books
Markus Heitz -- Dwarves

Anyone else think that some authors deserve more credit?

Jekyll and Hyde: TV series, fantasy or horror?

I have seen two episodes so far and it looks very promising, if quite dark. It's not just about Jekyll and Hyde and it has a range of bizarre and quite gruesome creatures as nasty villains. London has a very down-at-heel feel about it which seems appropriate for the time. You almost expect Jack the Ripper to appear at any moment.

If you missed the first episode it's available here:

Tuesday 17 November 2015

New Author Website -- Hope it Meets with Approval

This is my new website. Clutter free and an eye catching banner. Hope it works. Feel free to comment and offer advice. Failing that - buy the books :)

Mockingjay Part 2 - Looks Good

Very excited, only a few days to go. However, the local Odeon adds £1.50 for new films so it's either wait or take a journey elsewhere. I hope the film is good. Not having the Press is a good idea in light of Paris. It could hit their sales though as it's part of the build up.

Sword of Truth Series - the Conclusion

I have really enjoyed the Sword of Truth series. Some books have been a little rambling and Richard always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Looking forward to this - definitely on my to buy list

Friday 6 November 2015

Our Cat Looking Cute

This is our cat, hiding in a very narrow space. How she gets in I don't know as it's a bit of a jump.

Norbert Ramsbottom's Kitchen Nightmares: Reality show -- fantasy style

Trolls don't normally make good chefs. Jason, yes I agree -- an odd name for a troll, hawked and spat whilst stirring a large cauldron, simmering nicely on the open hearth. The smell from the cauldron would hardly make your mouth water, strip the lining from your throat perhaps, but it could hardly be called appealing.

"Is it ready yet?" Art asked, his head appearing around the door as though devoid of a body. Jason grunted. What the grunt meant was anyone's guess. Art frowned. Goblins always frowned so, in fact, Art's facial expression didn't change, but Jason sensed his irritation, hawked and spat again, not caring that his grey-green phlegm went into his culinary delight.

Art shrugged. "I knew it was a mistake taking on a troll in the kitchen."
Jason growled and continued to stir the over-sized pot. Art looked around the tiny backroom. It used to be a busy kitchen, but since taking Jason on as a bottle washer the other staff seemed to have left or ... well, disappeared. Promotion for Jason to chef had been all too swift.

Art raised a clawed hand, "Not that I'm complaining," he offered quickly. "It's just that business has dropped off recently. Do you think our menu is too varied?"

Jason grunted and continued to stir. This was it, the only item on offer and apart from take it or leave it, this was the only choice.

"Perhaps I need a new marketing strategy?" Art offered up hopefully. "Perhaps targeting the Walking Dead or Ghouls. They're not fussy...or so I've heard."

Art peered over the cauldron's rim, careful not to get too close to Jason's reach. Last week there had been four waiters, now there were only two and they were very nervous. Very nervous indeed. Waiters were hard to come by and usually only elves, hard-up on their luck, applied. Still, staff shortages meant profits were up.

"What about that celebrity, Norbert Ramsbottom," Art declared in a flash. "I've heard he's turned around the fortunes of many a kitchen."

"Wot 'e taste like?" Jason asked.

Art was taken aback. Jason rarely spoke. "I think he uses his tongue like everyone else," he said, his eye narrowed in a suspicious manner.

Jason grunted.

Art walked out of the kitchen and was shocked to see that the restaurant was full for a change. At every table sat an over-sized troll. Drool formed puddles on the table tops in anticipation of the coming...feast? Art brightened, things were looking up. He failed to spot the hungry looks that followed him around the room.

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Do Fantasy and Historical Fiction Authors Describe Battles Accurately?

My thoughts centered around medieval battles and the use of swords.

A sword must have been a horrible weapon. I saw a clip where a pig carcass was hit with a sword and it's unbelievable the damage it did. Add to that blood and screams and it must have been a terrifying weapon. Apparently in some medieval battles the air misted red, I assume from all those severed arteries.

Do authors truly describe the awesome and horrible aspects of such a weapon? I think when you get to duels with rapiers it's probably a bit nicer but medieval broadswords must have been hellishly messy.

Do we want to know? Or would the real aspects of such warfare put us of reading?

Writing a Book: How to Create Memorable Characters - Tips.

This is not an easy task and the following thoughts are offered:

A good question to ask is what makes a character memorable from books that you've read. In Game of Thrones there are a huge number of characters so making a character stand out is a big achievement. Picking one -- Hound, he is memorable by the way he is treated by others and the name is a great reflection. So a nickname can make a character stand out, especially if it fits his personality. Joffrey is because he is such a loon, that you have to hate him. So making your character an extreme makes them stand out.

A good character author is Michael Sullivan. His two main characters are complete opposites: a thief and a loner versus an idealist. Immediately the two are tasked to work together and initially one tries to kill the other. Gradually, they gain respect for each other, so some form of conflict can make characters memorable.

Bernard Cornwell is great at creating memorable characters and his method is almost a formula; take someone outside their comfort zone. Sharp is an example and he is an officer from the ranks so everyone hates him. In Rebel one character is a Northerner who decides to fight for the South. Why, I can't remember - but you immediately have a character that instills sympathy.

Another method of creating a character is to think of someone you know or have met (and possibly disliked?) and to ask what traits made them memorable. We all know someone that has impacted on our lives in some way and you might be able to use that. I have but mainly for side characters. It helps when writing as you don't forget them easily that way and you stay in role when writing about that character.

My last thought is perhaps random. Not the thought but the method. Create a table of characteristics and roll a dice for each column. Listing the characteristics would be interesting, moody, indifferent, happy, arse-hole...

1. Nickname
2. How others treat/respect your character
3. Put the character out of their comfort zone
4. Make them extreme in some way
5. Chose from a random list and see what you get
6. Think of characters in books (films) that are memorable and ask why
7. Relate to people that stand out for you in your real life and use those traits.

Books Made in to Films, TV Series: Which Works Best, the Book or the Film.

I am rereading and watching the Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell which is quite topical as the series has just started. Not quite fantasy but not far off it either, with sorcerers (skalds) and plenty of gods. I am always amazed how dissimilar films and TV are when compared to the books. I don't always understand though why a TV series or film is made based on a great book, which is then rewritten! Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

Last Kingdom is all about Uhtred, a Saxon boy, who is captured and brought up among Danes whereas the TV series after episode 2 has him grown up already. I'm interested to see what is left in the book that they can use to make 3 more of the series. Having said that, the TV series is good and made me want to reread the books so that's also good. Imagination is great and I always think books are better than films but occasionally a film (eg Lord of the Rings) really works and it is incredible to see things become real.

I think you can't beat your own imagination and a book always wins out. However, occasionally it's the other way around and Stardust is my favourite movie and I wasn't enthralled by the book. Does that depend which you see/read first?

Listening to Music Reminds me of Books Many Years on.

How cool is that. I'm listening to Incantations by Mike Oldfield twenty (or so) years after reading Lord Foul's bane and the music still reminds me of the the trilogy. Somehow it captured the mood of the books really well.

If you've not tried it, it's worth doing. Headphones on and music on low and read away. It really sets the mood nicely. Great inspiration for when writing as well. Mike Oldfield used Celtic themes in some of his music and that's perhaps why it's so great with fantasy books.

I loved reading the Hobbit to Hergest Ridge and Lord of the Rings to Ommadawn

Short (Sad) Story for Armistice Day

This is where I had died.
I stood overlooking verdant fields that were alien to me. In my day this was mud and shell craters; barbed wire and death. Even the sky was different, intensely blue and probably crisp on this October day. Ghosts do not feel cold, but I remember it, clutching my rifle which seemed to suck the heat from my hands. My hands white and nerveless, shaking from cold and fear.
I looked to my left; others were appearing. Friends and comrades that I had known so well in a past so long ago. Jack nodded to me, a smile hovering on his lips. I nodded back, a response enacted every year on this day. My actions were not my own, this was how it had happened. I knew what was to come, but I could not change it. I was in a play and we were mannequin's, our strings pulled by an unseen hand, making us dance to a tune no longer remembered.
Corporals dressed the line, there was no sound, ghosts do not hear, but I could see Old Frank's mouth forming the words I knew so well. Old Frank was his nickname, but he wasn't old. Twenty three, whereas I was twenty. We looked up to him; he seemed to know what to do and when and we followed him. That I couldn't hear him was a blessing in anticipation of the hell to come.
To my right others were appearing. Why did we dress the line? I no longer remembered. It was probably important once, but not now. The line was moving and I took a few steps. Tentative at first and then more firmly. We were the second wave and the men in front of us, including Frank, blocked our view. We could afford to be brave for that line of soft, yielding flesh was a barrier against the hail of lead to come. Such an inadequate and over used phrase to describe the reality of war. One throw away line that encompasses all the terror and horror to come. I cried, but tears would not come, the puppet master had not yet decided it was time for tears.
What a waste. I had wanted a wife and children and even grandchildren perhaps. A dream far too distant for a twenty year old boy. All too soon someone fell in the line in front and to my right. It looked as though he had tripped. My eyes were riveted on the men in front of me, praying that my protection would remain. I needed them to absorb the horror to come. Perhaps this time I would live? I remembered hope and prayers. My eyes flickered to the heavens. It was at this point that Old Frank had sworn, his left arm ripped from his body as something unseen violated his body. A preacher had told me that swearing was a sin. I prayed that Old Frank went to heaven and not hell. Swearing was not too bad. Not among all this terror. Please God, forgive Frank and do not commit his soul to purgatory.
His blood and flesh had splattered my face and I ducked, as I had done, so many years ago. I felt the warmth of his blood and remembered the copper taste of his blood in my mouth. I spat and wanted to vomit. This was not how war was meant to be. When we joined up we had talked of heroic deeds and how swiftly the enemy would capitulate.
A gap had formed in the line of men to my front and I could see the barbed wire and beyond that the enemy trench. Terror tore at my heart. I remember I had wailed then, not for Frank but out of fear for myself. I felt the wind of a round buffet my cheek and my wail turned to a scream. That had been close and I looked to my left just as Jack spun on the spot; I watched as he collapsed to the ground; I could almost hear the puppet master's glee as his strings were cut. Jack, a furrier from Blackheath. A man who had comforted me as I crouched crying at the bottom of our trench last night, so long ago. He had given me his chocolate. Such a princely gift in this time of deprivation and squalor.
I crouched as more men in the front line fell. Blood misted the air and again I tasted it's coppery tang. I wiped my eyes, nearly dropping my rifle and having to fumble to hold it firm. I should have dropped it. I should have jumped in a shell hole like some men did. The terror of failure and cowardice outshone the fear of bullets. Why? Bullets are far more deadly; a testimony to the front rank thinning dangerously now to the point that we were the first wave. I could see helmets above the enemy trench and flashes from muzzles. I remember the sound: the din, the screams and the bangs and the thumps. The slap of something fast hitting flesh. Men to my side fell and I stumbled, thinking that I was hit. I remember the screams of incoherent rage from my remaining comrades, the only act of defiance as we walked to our deaths. The enemy suffered then, our screams must have haunted their dreams. We suffered more though. Flesh against lead. It was a very uneven contest.
Simon fell. We had worked at the same hop farm for several summers past. Our summer holiday away from the colourless terrace street we called home. A different life. Cool summer evenings spent outdoors under cloudless skies. Stars rather than shells. I prayed that I was invisible, which I was. I was a ghost and yet terror tore at every fibre of my once body. Memory is a terrible thing. I remember men funnelling towards a gap in the wire. We had been told not to do this. It was a death trap covered by more than one machine gun. Such a terrible weapon where more than one round span bodies around, the puppet master working hard, tugging at strings in time to some forgotten beat.
My time was coming. I remember no longer caring. Death was better than this hell. Was I a coward? I still walked forward, but my rifle was forgotten. I was doing my duty, sacrificing myself for my king. I couldn't even claim that. I had been told to advance. I had been trained to do so. Failure and the fear of cowardice still dogging my steps.
I spun then as something punched me in the kidney and then the other way as something slapped my right shoulder impossibly hard. The sky and the earth exchanged places and I looked up into a blue sky, a bird winging its way as though fleeing the battle. I should have done that. I should have had the sense to flee. I would have had children and spent my summers working at the hop farm. Life was leaving my body. I remembered the pain fading and night surrounding me.

My thoughts turned to my comrades. We would meet again. Next year.

Last entry for Halloween - a trifle late, but awesome

Wow - this is a great and very amusing picture. How did they do that??

Saturday 31 October 2015

Has Reading Become a Chore? Any suggestions?

I have found at times reading is a chore, which is a great shame. There's a lot of books (some that turn out to be good) where I read a couple of pages then put it down. I have some historical fiction books that I've read recently and overall they are good but they don't have that wow factor.

I want books that keep me up all night and I want to read the next chapter. Only a few authors achieve that. I recently read some less well known authors Karen Azinger and Michael Sullivan and theirs were very easy to read books with a nice flow (in my view). There are on the cusp of not-put-downable (which I am finding rare), but they are better than most.

I also like Bernard Cornwell and his books are certainly un-put-downable. Not always guaranteed but nearly always. Simmon Scarrow's books are the same. Tolkien certainly hit a high note and I always liked David Gemmell's Legend.

I am struggling though to find authors that hit that un-put-downable standard. Any views?

Why do Swords Feature so Strongly in fantasy Books?

They are eye catching I suppose. Most novels are set in a medieval type setting so weapons are numerous and even then swords featured strongly, but not exclusively. So what about the other weapons?

I am a Saxon re-enactor and have used a sword, single handed spear (6 foot), double handed spear (9 foot), scramseax (long knife) and an axe. Many of you are correct that swords are a status symbol and a sign of wealth. In terms of using weapons, I found the axe clumsy and the head too small. With a sword you could get away with moire mistakes. The sword has a cross guard and that and its length protect the hand. I have broken fingers fighting with the seax as I occasionally blocked with my hand rather than the blade. Ideally I liked a short spear to start a fight as that had longer reach, but when a fight became messy I dropped the spear (if possible) and ended up with the sword.

Perhaps we need to see heroes with other weapons a bit more often. The Silmarillion certainly had at least one hero with a bow. Any thoughts?

Friday 30 October 2015

What Music Inspires you When Either Reading or Writing a Book?

I like listening to music when reading or writing, but finding appropriate mood music for fantasy is difficult. Music really helps to set the scene and can really deepen the impact of a tale. If you haven't tried it, give it a go.

Here are a few of my favourite albums and which books I enjoyed reading to them. I set the music low and usually wear headphones to cut out the background noise.

1. Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and the Silmarillion, Mike Oldfield's Hergest Ridge or Ommadawn
2. Stephen Donaldson's Lord Foul's Bane and other books - Mike Oldfield's Incantations
3. Enjya - good for most fantasy books.

When I listen to the above tracks years later I still revive the mood that accompanied the tale. I feel that I'm in the presence of Elves, Dwarves, Orcs and Goblins,

Anyone else out there like to read/write to a good album?

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Apologies, Mixing my Genres

I must apologies to fantasy fans who visit this site as quite a few reviews have been historical fiction orientated. It's an easy leap for fantasy fans and many novels about Rome, Egypt and other civilisations feature epic battles, gods, politics and much more that make fantasy tales so great. So if you are short of something to read, and have finished all my novels if course, there is always historical fiction.

#Bookreview Rome's Lost Son, by Robert Fabri

Rome's Lost Son (Vespasian, #6)Rome's Lost Son by Robert Fabbri
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book has some slow moments, but also some fast action. What I like about this series is several authors have included Vespasian (the main character in this novel) in their tales. Narcissus also features, the Emperor's freedman. It's interesting to see the different viewpoints and there is some general agreement. It's good to read about Vespasian in his own right. I think I've read all the previous books and the tale is certainly epic, stretching from Armenia to Britannia (earlier novels).

This book sees Vespasian on the brink of despair. That part of the tale is nicely handled and quite believable. There's a lot of politics and at times too many names to keep up. The writing doesn't have the same depth or pace as some other writers in this genre, but it is still a good tale. There's not many battles in this book and one of the ones there is makes you marvel that Rome was such a top military power for so long. Some of the opposition sound horrific.

View all my reviews

Tuesday 27 October 2015

The Last Kingdom - TV Series

The series is based on Bernard Cornwell's books, so how well does it do as a TV series? The plot line is excellent and fairly close to the book. That's good as the books are a success and popular. It follows the tale of a young Saxon boy, renamed Uhtred when his brother is killed. Uhtred is captured by Danes and because of his plucky spirit they spare him and he is raised as a Dane.

If the series continues to follow the books it will be pretty good. England at the time is close to defeat and Uhtred plays a significant role, helping King Alfred. Bernard Cornwall always has a twist. In Sharp it was having an officer raised from the ranks that others didn't see him as a gentleman and therefore an officer. In Rebel it was a Northerner joining the Southern cause and again not being quite accepted. Here, Uhtred is never really trusted as he is a pagan (being raised by Danes) among some of the most god-fearing people of the time. It makes for an interesting clash of personalities.

However, there are some glaring mistakes. The interpretation of a shield wall is all too wrong. It may be that this first adaptation was unique to the first battle. In the scene the Danes form a three wall tall shield wall with no gaps and men crouching at the front to cover their feet. This is fine against arrows, but against another on-foot army it wouldn't work. You simply wouldn't have the numbers and the enemy would just outflank you.

 The battle is more fluid than a static wall of several layers.

Let's hope that the Last Kingdom changes battle tactics in future episodes, otherwise two armies facing each other in a shield wall would be very dull indeed. Otherwise, a very interesting programme.

Monday 26 October 2015

Dragon Rider - Book 2 of the Prophecy of the Kings

The eternal; question, who would win -- a dragon or a demon horde? Add sorcery to the mix and any outcome is no longer clear. War overshadows all reason.

Read Dragon Rider, Book 2 of the Prophecy of the Kings,

Agincourt by Bernard Cornwell: a Book Review

AzincourtAzincourt by Bernard Cornwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It seems appropriate writing a review on the anniversary of the battle.

History is incredible. The similarity between Crecy and Agincourt (Azincourt as used in the title of Bernard Cornwell's book) is incredible and yet no one, especially the French knights of the time, seemed to have learned from that. The two battles are nearly 80 years apart and there are a lot of similarities. The long bow proves a dominant weapon in both battles.

In Agincourt the English, having spent far too long besieging Harfleur, decided to snub the French and march to Calais through France rather than prolong what was meant to be an invasion. The french army shadow the English army and Cornwell's description is excellent, of the starvation and illness dogging the English army's footsteps. It seems that every river crossing was blocked by the French and so the English route became far longer than necessary.

Cornwell describes the battle from the viewpoint of an English archer, Hook. The French were incensed that "rabble" were fighting knights, the gentry of the French aristocracy. Hook, is a down to earth, pragmatic character who comes across really well . As in most of Cornwell's books, the battle is not the main theme, rather it is Hook's clash with a knight in a massacre earlier in the war in Soisson. The tale involves saints and a terrible French knight who Hook knows he must face, although of course there is a twist in that tale.

Bernard Cornwell makes you feel as though you are living in through that period, which is no mean achievement for a writer and sometimes historical fiction novels fail to achieve that. I describe this issue in an earlier article World Building Tips for Authors

View all my reviews

Friday 23 October 2015

Writing a Book: World Building Tips

My experience is in fantasy and I would think that and science fiction are the most difficult genres to create your own world. Having said that, a problem for many writers in some other genres is conveying their world appropriately and a few books that I've read in the historical fiction genre failed to convey living and breathing in the past. It's an interesting point to explore why that happened and that may give you tips on building a realistic world.

1. Language. Some historical fiction writers don't manage to achieve a sense of being in the past Talking in Latin is a step too far and wouldn't be expected, although a smattering of historical words here and there are essential. For example naming weapons such as the gladius or pilum), and using appropriate names for their familiar surroundings (that may not be familiar to us) such as viaduct, and forum, to mention a few. Even getting a few words right though cannot sometimes convey the world correctly. Stephen Saylor did an excellent job describing a drop of water falling onto a riders neck as he left Rome. Looking up he saw moss on the stonework at the point of the leak. That description really takes you to Rome. For fantasy and sci-fi authors, in a previous article, I spoke about creating names and trying to make them sound sensible. creating names This is harder than it sounds. Some genres get it spot on and Star Trek is a great example, Warp speed for example is likely to be adapted to breaking the light barrier should it happen. So, create your own words and use them to describe ethnicity (e.g. Elves, Dwarves, Alvalah), creatures, weapons etc, but make them sound right and remember that just naming them doesn't bring your world to life..

2. Culture. As I said, language alone doesn't solely build a world. So why do some historical novels do well and others don't? It's because they simply don't achieve a connection with the past. You need to pick on a few really crucial aspects of your world and build them into the story. For example, in Roman times people believed in the gods. They would usually not do anything without a divination. Some authors fail to include that and this omission can be felt by a reader. It is as though a link has been broken. In fantasy and sci-fi writing, it's important to have some sense of culture that is different to ours. Some authors have borrowed heavily from our past and in some sense that can be appropriate and helps achieve an identity that everyone can relate to. Avatar is very similar to the Pocahontas story and the creatures of the planet are very similar to Native Americans. And why not? Their culture is primitive and their weapons are bows and arrows. Joe Abercrombie world is closely associated with Mountain Men. That adds realism and why shouldn't people living in the mountains have the same fears and face the same problems independent of their world. So you can adapt culture from our history, but add a few changes perhaps. You need to include this and build on it in the story. Once again though, the person in the narrative has to live that culture rather than using a few words here and there. You do not offer a libation to the gods, you stand by a river and search for a horse-shaped pebble and sprinkle wine over it. Looking up in the hope to see a sign that your offering is approved. A rook cawing may make you feel that it has, or ay send a shiver down your spine. You need to find a bridge.

3. The Environment. Again, some authors in historical fiction fail to build on this and hence lose the sense that you are actually living in the past. Imagine a Celt arriving in Rome for the first time and seeing the buildings and most importantly the Colosseum. That is a wow factor that really tells the reader that he is living in the past. Bring home the environment; that's the buildings, the roads (or lack of them), the forests etc. What is really important is to describe how people feel in these environments. Romans in Syria would complain about the dust and sand in their sandals (is there a link there? Sand - SANDals?). They would be hot and thirsty. The person needs to live in their environment and you need to make the reader believe that. What makes that environment different to ours, that may simply be the lack of air conditioning. For many readers being in a desert may not conjure up the real problems of actually being there. Add in a few gods from their culture, like not crossing a river/desert without a gift to some lesser god, and the tale becomes believable. Describe their feelings walking, say, through a run-down, mud brick house with a cooking fire still smouldering in the middle of the room and the smell of stale smoke hanging in the air. Show how their environment is different to ours.

4. Living. You need to explore how people live. Again historical fiction is a good example, Romans reclined on couches when eating and death was common place, therefore, life was cheap. I have separated this from culture as that section gets over long otherwise. Don't fall in to the trap of over describing food for example and do not give over-long lists. You can again borrow from our past and have people living in tents, being nomadic, being tribal etc, but consider what that means and describe how that makes life different. It is that that peaks the readers interest. You need to decide how people live and how they fight. Fighting is easy -- if the people have swords and bows then their defences will be appropriate to those weapons. If they have gunpowder, then people will adapt and you will have forts rather than castles. Do they ride horse, dragons or grakyn? Whichever you chose, they need some form of saddle perhaps, reins or some other control, stables, feed etc. The more you add, the more believable the world, but drwa a balance and don't over do it.

5. The Enemy. We are now straying into the plot which I describe in Creating a Plot, but we are still world building so it is worth mentioning here. The enemy need their own language, culture, environment and lifestyle. Are they creatures (Orcs, goblins etc) or are they people of other nations. Even in fantasy you don't necessarily need fantasy creatures and many authors (e.g. George Martin (up until the point of dragons of course)) create worlds where conflict arises simply because of ambition or cultural differences. 

An interesting point for fantasy and science fiction writers is there is a lot of choice. You can create unique worlds by simply mixing and matching any number of the above items. As an example, your people could be blind, living underground and worshiping worms. Whether such a tale would work is up to you and although I made this up at random - if you've read Duncton Wood you will see how an author did make the above example work. 

Finally, if I have missed anything or you disagree -- let me know and post a comment. 

Best wishes

An example of my world, Demons, Grakyn, Dragons and Death Knights. A world of fortified cities, superstition and fear.


Thursday 22 October 2015

One for Fantasy Fans - The Last Witch Hunter

I enjoyed this. It's got witches, which is always fun, and the big bad witch -- is truly bad. Vin Diesel takes on the role with the usual aplomb, hard man style and taking no prisoners.

The tale starts off in the past and then moves to the present. I liked the glimpse of the past and would have liked it to have stayed there. That part of the film is quite well done and the action gripping. In the transition to the future, some of that is lost. However, it wasn't disappointing, but it is one for fantasy fans mainly.

Michael Cain plays a priest looking after Vin Diesel's character and his role was a little too like Alfred in Batman. Elijah Wood has a part, but he features only a little and his role is a little wooden (pardon the pun). Fortunately he doesn't feature much.

Still -- it's quite good fun and I enjoyed it. Probably not memorable though.

Sunday 18 October 2015

Shortest Ever Review?

I am not complaining, all reviews are good, but I think this is the shortest I've had to date :)

"Enjoyed much, kept interested and wanting more." 4 out of 5 stars

Great to hear all reviews so please keep them coming. No matter how short.

Review Link

The Death of Dulgarth by Michael Sullivan

Just released so definitely on my to read list. Loved his series to date, Excellent fantasy from an imaginative author.

Death and Glory. Is it an Option?

Death and glory is not an option facing a demon when your soul is forfeit to eternal damnation. Would you stand and fight?

Read more in the Prophecy of the Kings.

Friday 9 October 2015

The Battle Immortal - Karen Azinger

I believe this is now out. It's a great series to date so I'm looking forward to reading book the 7th and final installment. Not sure how all the various threads will come together as there's a lot going on. If you haven't read the series it's well worth while

Monday 28 September 2015

Eagles at War by Ben Kane, a Book Review

Eagles at War (Eagles of Rome, #1)Eagles at War by Ben Kane
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I think Ben Kane's Hannibal series is his best. Eagles at War seemed to plod for me and no characters really stood out that I cared for. I found that I read a couple of pages a night and didn't feel gripped by the tale. It clearly builds up to a significant battle and it doesn't happen often when the Romans get trounced, but I found the build up over long and the battle -- less than epic. I have liked his other books, but this was too much of a struggle.

View all my reviews

Saturday 19 September 2015

Merlin and Gandalf; Is there a link?

I wrote yesterday about Merlin and that started to make me think about inspiration for Tolkien and similarities between Gandalf and Merlin. I know a lot of purists will say no, but it is an intriguing thought. There's certainly a lot of interest on teh Web in who would win in a fight, Merlin, Gandalf and Dumbledore. 

OK, King Arthur tales didn't have Orcs, but why would they? Being mainly Celts, the villains of the time were Saxons and they were also heathens. What a great enemy. In the medieval times the enemy (in Europe) were usually Christians and that gave knights a massive problem, as the bible said "thou shalt not kill." Bishops around the 12 C often went in to battle, but armed themselves with the mace as that wasn't considered to be a killing weapon. The fact that injuries were so severe that people died later probably didn't occur to them. The crusades were also a blessing, in a sense, as again the enemy were not Christian and so could be killed with impunity.

So at least Arthurian legend had an enemy similar to Orcs, in some respects. 

Merlin came to being in the 12 C, as mentioned in my earlier blog. What is fascinating is that the character Merlin fired imagination sufficiently that he is still around today, nearly 1000 years later. That might be because of the Arthurian legends of course, but it is still interesting that he is considered with some awe today. What makes him so fascinating?

This is perhaps where the similarity to Gandalf occurs. Both were wizards of some renown, dressed in robes and the very familiar pointed hats, I am not sure what the original description of Merlin was in the History of the Kings of Britain, but Disney certainly thought so. The Sword in the Stone (1963) was later than the Lord of the Rings and Disney may have been influenced by that. 

The main discrepancy between Merlin and Gandalf is that Merlin's father was supposedly a demon.  But, certainly Merlin's actions were good and would Arthur have permitted his presence in court if he was deemed evil? There is no mention (as far as I am aware) of Gandalf''s parentage, unless he was one of the original Valar, or at least a minor player of theirs. 

What is interesting is that both men rarely fought and if they did their powers were limited. Neither could destroy an army and both sought to bring men and arms together at the appropriate time to defeat the "enemy". That is very clearly a very strong link between these two great wizards. Perhaps that is simply the art of a good author, for if the wizard was too great then there wouldn't be much of a tale to tell. The wizard would be too god-like and would simply defeat anything sent against him. So although this is a link, there may be extenuating circumstances. 

My thoughts were not to prove conclusively that Merlin and Gandalf are one and the same, but just to explore the similarities. If there are others then please feel free to add a comment. For me though the greatest portrayal of any wizard was certainly Ian McKellen in Lord of the Rings. Marvelous.

Image Courtesy of Wikepedia

Friday 18 September 2015

Merlin - Fact or Fiction

I read the article (linked below) with interest. I loved reading The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart. She really brought the legend to life and cast an unusual slant, but a very believable one, about Merlin. His feats, in The Crystal Cave, were relatively minor, but the locals, being superstitious, helped to grow the tale and you can imagine how much the local tales developed over time.

The article was interesting therefore, looking in to the history of Merlin, clearly with some speculation. Fiona Ingram, the author of the children's tale The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, has nicely laid out her views.

It is broadly accepted that Merlin is a fictional character introduced by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the History of the Kings of England. This was written in the 12 C and interestingly when Malory wrote Le Morte D'Arthur (a great book) Merlin was a bit of a villain because having a demon for a father at a time of inquisitions was not a good idea. Perhaps this is why Malory gave Merlin a timely death to appease the witch-finders of the time.

Whether Merlin or Arthur ever existed will probably never be known, but The Crystal Cave remains one of my favourite reads. It is such a shame that so little is know about the 5th Century. Having said that, if it was better known then we might not have such wonderful and rich legends.

Does Fantasy Artwork Need to be so Damn Sexy?

For me fantasy is about heroes and villains, good against evil. Yet fantasy artwork is all about scantily clad women in very small and ill-fitting armour. Not that that is a bad thing and there is some very fine artwork in this vein. Boris Vallejo is a good example of this and I have to admit this video is very watchable.

I use artwork for inspiration and female characterisation is a distraction (for obvious reasons) rather than an inspiration. Yet many authors have written tales of beautiful women being rescued by some hero so clearly gorgeous, voluptuous women is a key to many tales, otherwise they might not be rescued. (Shrek being a notable exception :) ).

Today's fantasy seems to turn that on its head and an author needs to have as many female leads as male. Certainly many of  the fantasy artwork depict Amazons with spears and swords who seem vary capable warriors.

Myself, I still like artwork that inspires and the Tolkien artwork below does just that (and not a naked woman in sight).

Wednesday 9 September 2015

A book review - Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine.

Lady of HayLady of Hay by Barbara Erskine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

OK, I was spoilt with River of Destiny. Lady of Hay, I found, was way too long. The premise was good but somehow it failed to deliver in the same way as River of Destiny. In the latter, there was more of a ghost theme and that worked well. The regression in Lady of Hay to past lives was a good idea but the sheer length of the novel caused a problem for me. I found I only read a few pages a night and it has taken quite some while to read it all the way through. The period (early 12 C) was good and the depiction was very believable. The author does a great job researching the background information. King John and Matilda are very well portrayed as are many of the other characters. Some aspects are a little less believable although some of these aspects combine to form a neat twist at the end. I enjoyed it but not as much as River of Destiny.

View all my reviews

Best Ever Fantasy PC Game?

Diablo I fitted all the qualities for a good role playing game. I loved this game and recently replayed it again, although it really struggled with Windows 10! It's a great shame that Diablo II was no where near as good and the reviews for Diablo III look really poor.

So what made the original game so good? For me it was the weapon and spells you found along the way and the leveling up. It was also really great that the monsters leveled up in a similar fashion, the deeper in the (dare I say?) dungeon you went. I usually play more than one round of the game as the items get better the second time around. Even then you might not find all the best items and spells and my recent sojourn left nearly half my spells missing. That is my one complaint...why make it so difficult to find "good" stuff? That also seems to be a complaint on Diablo III.

The other thing I liked was that the levels were clearly bounded. The edge of the dungeon made it very clear. In Diablo II I often got lost in too large an area and lost site of the plot, as it were.

I tried the on-line version but that was very hard. You couldn't save the game in the same way and you lost all your items when killed. I also ran across a couple of other people online and they brutally killed me and took all my "stuff". Gits.

Back to Diablo, I liked the Rogue as she was the quickest to escape danger. Don't ask why but she was called Edwina the Bold. I played on Guild Wars which was quite like Diablo but a large online game. As per usual I had a character called Edwina the Bold which sort of worked against me. Some lads tried chatting me up, assuming I was as female as my character. That put an end to that game very quickly as it felt sleazy giving the wrong impression, From now on I'm Baldric the Brave!

For fantasy fans this was a great game. Sorcerers, magic weapons and armour and a host of horrible creatures to battle.

Great game.