Thursday, August 17, 2006

MOVED!

Yep, I've moved my blog over to livejournal for a variety of reasons that I won't go into.

Here is the link - http://jgthomas.livejournal.com/

Keep on truckin'!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Fighting Fantasy Revival







I absolutely love this artwork, taken from "Talisman of Death" - one of the latest of the classic Fighting Fantasy gamebooks to go under the knife and be re-released in a sleek new format. Being a massive fan of the Fighting Fantasy series (I own the entire original series, all 59 of the books...some of the rare ones were pretty expensive) I was a little sceptical when I heard they were eventually going to be republished. I had spent many a happy hour in my younger years trekking through the Old World and Allansia, battling monsters with my pencil and dice. The Fighting Fantasy world was such an escape for me, and I was worried that reviving the whole thing might lessen the affection I held for it. I needn't have worried.

Some of the earlier reprints were a bit uninspiring, but they've really pulled the rabbit out of the hat now. Some of the new artwork is brilliant, and even better - they are finally publishing Bloodbones, the long-lost book 60 of the original series that never saw the light of day and was no more than a rumour on internet chatrooms for over a decade. But now it's here and the artwork is stunning. Can't wait to get my hands on it.

If you're completely confused as to what I'm rambling about, check out the FF homepage for all sorts of goodies and info - http://www.fightingfantasygamebooks.com/

Regarding The Order of Midnight, I spent a couple of hours tonight editing the prologue, giving it a bit of spit and polish. I was hoping to get cracking on Chapter 1, but I'm only 250 words or so into it. Having trouble getting a feel for it and I'm not yet quite sure as to its structure, how I want it to open, etc. I think I have a better idea now so maybe tomorrow I'll have another crack at that. As for the prologue, I'm very pleased with it. I think it is an exciting start to the novel and asks plenty of questions. I'll post a snippet soon.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Burning the midnight oil

Bleugh. That's my generic word for expressing a state of mind where you feel knackered, drained and pretty much ready for a nap. Which is more or less how I feel at this moment in time. It's 2:06 in the morning, my caffeine level is too high, and I really need to crawl into my bed and sleep. First of course, I have decided in my infinite wisdom to write a blog entry. Apologies if I'm rambling, but I've just put a gruelling 150 minute writing stint in, starting just before midnight.

It was however definitely worth it. The first draft of the prologue is now finished. I decided the tower scene I had originally planned for some reason wasn't quite working so I switched the scene to a snow-shrouded forest, changed the season and the added some wolves. Big wolves. Overall, I'm very pleased with the way the prologue has turned out. Of course it needs editing and will no doubt change in shape quite drastically, but I feel the basic structure is there and that most of what I've written tonight and in the last day or so will remain. It is of course a bummer to lose most of what I'd previously written, but writing is a process, an evolution and things change. You know how you leave your house at 10:10 to catch a bus at 10:15, only to find it came at 10:09? Writing is like that: you plan for one thing, something else happens and you have to deal with it.

So...first draft of prologue done. I'm glad that I managed to put in a major effort tonight, as I've not written an awful lot recently and tomorrow I have boring real-life things I need to do. The monthly target for August was 15,500 words (500 a day). So far I'm on 3176, so I'm ahead of schedule. I'd written 701 words earlier today and at 23:45 I had originally intended to play Diablo for 30 mins or so but ended up writing - for over 2 hours. This is definitely a good sign. Normally I write for 30 mins and play games for 2 hours, not the other way around. I'll post some of the prologue once I've dusted it down a bit.

On the subject of Diablo - gotta love retro RPG hack-and-slash action. The sequel is a far better game, but the original is not without its charms. I particularly like the storyline, which is something along the lines of "THE EVIL LORD DIABLO IS GOING TO DESTROY THE LAND AND YOU NEED TO STOP HIM BY KILLING HUNDREDS OF BADDIES." Wonderful stuff, how on earth did they think that up? That's pure originality. To be fair I was flicking through the Diablo 2 manual earlier and some of the background they have in there is quite interesting, so we'll let them off. Plus Blizzard made Warcraft 3, which has a wonderful history and storyline to it, so we'll let them off even more.

In other news, I watched Lake Placid earlier which was decent brain-free viewing (if predictable as hell). You can tell Summer is gradually drawing to a close here - the air seems cooler and there is a crisp feel to the air at night. Which is good, because Autumn owns.

One final thing which I ought to point out - my personal profile has my starsign as Aries. I AM NOT ARIES. I was born on March 20, which is the last day of PISCES. And I've even checked this on a proper chart, so there. I am, and always will be, a fish. God, I can't believe I said that - go check poker lingo if you're not sure why.

Right, I need to visit napnap land.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Stumbling at the first hurdle...

The last day or so has really hammered home how easy it is to lose your confidence and enthusiasm the minute you hit a snag with writing. Last Friday I bashed out 2000 words in a few hours. Since then I've managed barely half of that. I'm having second thoughts about the prologue. Not so much about the setting, but more about smaller things that don't seem too important but actually are - like the order things happen, and whether certain things happen at all. While I've been ruminating on the finer points of the prologue, I've started thinking that maybe I should change it quite drastically. I'm at the point where I feel like I'm back at square one, where my mind feels like it's playing the bloody devil's advocate. Yes, that could work but what if you did this...or what if you tried this, and then you could do that... Argh.

There are many different ways of writing, but I'm one of those writers that falls into the category of pretty much having to have everything planned out before I write a scene. I need to know the finer points of what happens. I guess this fits with my personality (I'm generally well organised and like to plan stuff before I do it) but then again when I was at college or university most of my work was written off the cuff, with minimal planning. I guess that creative writing varies quite considerably from academic writing.

In any case, I really need to get this prologue sorted or risk my progress getting screwed altogether. I have a day off from work on Friday, so I am aiming to have a solid idea as to what the situation is so I can have a good crack at the prologue then.

Writing aside, I've discovered that my ipod isn't bust after all. For some reason it just won't charge when I plug it into my pc. Yet when I dug out my knackered old laptop it quite happily charged after I plugged it in. I almost felt sorry for my laptop, the poor thing shuddered the whole time like it was going to implode and took the best part of 10 minutes to boot up. A little message keeps popping up saying "WARNING - THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH THE COOLER SYSTEM. PLEASE RETURN FOR SERVICE" so I guess the whole thing is screwed. Then again I've not used it for about 16 months, since I got my new desktop. I was secretly hoping I might be able to load up Lords of the Realm 2 on it, but I don't want to keep it on for longer than 30 mins in case it self-destructs. Plus it is about as fast as a geriatric hamster.

In other news, I tried to eat some toblerone and nearly ripped my thumbnail off in the process of trying to seperate the chunks of chocolate. Probably the dumbest injury I've suffered in a long time, since my friend at university jumped into an ironing board, bounced off onto a table loaded with bottles and caused one to shatter and nearly slice my throat. Fortunately it gouged a chunk out of my chin instead and I only spent 8 hours in hospital, waiting to have my chin stitched up (which took all of 10 minutes).

Good days...

Not good...

3 bad things about tonight (well, last night given that once again it's the early hours of the morning).

1: I wrote approximately 0 words.

2: My ipod seems to have just died on me, after 18 months of loyal service. Watching me trying to survive without my ipod would be akin to watching a fish trying to survive without water.

3: "I'm going to go to bed at 11" I promised myself. Yet I'm writing this at 12.13.

C- Must try harder.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

December Underground, 500 words and a relapse

What an album. I downloaded AFI's latest effort from itunes last night (well, early this morning. Ugh.) and it is very good indeed. I was anticipating that they would struggle to follow up the work of gothic brilliance that is Sing the Sorrow, but they've done mightily well. There are some nice melodies on the new record, some crisp guitar riffs and one or two wonderful guitar/synth moments. My favourite track would probably be The Lost Frame, or possibly Summer Shudder. Both are excellent tracks, although Love Like Winter and The Killing Lights are also very worthy of mention. Fantastic stuff.

I finally lapsed and played some poker. I was so aware of how poker once ruled my spare time and was worried that if I started playing again it would prove detrimental to my writing. However, so far this hasn't proved to be the case. I've played 3 games so far, but I have no desperate desire to play, it's purely at the moment something I only do after writing. I've made myself promise - no poker unless I've already reached at least my daily target of 500 words. I was worried this might take me into a mindset where I would be writing, thinking "great, only 50 words to go before I can stop." But this hasn't happened. This used to be the case, but not now - something has definitely changed. I'm enjoying the writing; it feels right, it feels worthwhile. I have a good feeling about this story, that this is what I'm meant to be doing. And this belief is lending a real determination to my efforts. And as I'm sure all rookie writers know (or should do) determination is so, so important. You have to believe in yourself. And you need to get your arse in gear and make use of that determination and belief.

At the moment, I have both the belief and the discipline. I'm writing frequently, eager to hit my 500 words a day. This is a manageable total, and one I feel I can reach. I won't make it every day, but there will also be days when I manage 1000+, so hopefully it will even out. I've set myself a 16,000 word total for August and I'm damn well going to make it.

I'm still on the prologue, which is taking shape nicely. It involves a desperate confrontation on top of a crumbling tower in the middle of a storm; a clash over the Soulstone of Ishra, Light of the Divine - one of the four Soulstones of the Firstborn. The four stones - a ruby, sapphire, emerald and amethyst - contain the souls of the four Firstborn Phaeron. Beautiful and flawless, they have caused the mighty Phaeron civilisation to tear itself apart... for behind their beauty, they hold the key to the secrets of the universe.

I'll post a snippet from the prologue when I'm done; should be finished by Friday night at the latest.

Oh, as an afterthought - an online memorial book to David Gemmell that is going to be passed onto his family can be found at the following link. I hope it becomes a wonderful epitaph and something that brings his family comfort in the days to come.

http://pub40.bravenet.com/guestbook/3359808728

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Lies of Locke Lamora

Most books I read tend to take me a good few weeks to finish (we're talking big books here), as I am far too easily distracted by other things, such as brain-free internet surfing. The bottom line is, I guess, the fact that there have been very few books that I absolutely have to read non-stop. The Lies of Locke Lamora, however, is one of them. It took me only a few days to read. I found myself reading it on the train both to and from work, during my lunchbreak, and in the evening when reading is normally the last thing I do.

This book is special. Aside from Martin's ASOIAF, I've never had this much enjoyment from reading a novel. This book is just pure pleasure to read. Last night I couldn't put the book down, it's like an addiction. I just loved the city of Camorr, the characters, the society, the witty dialogue (hilarious in parts) and the brutality. Lynch strikes an excellent balance between humour and ice-cold seriousness, and builds up the tension perfectly. And the sharks are great.

In short, utterly brilliant. But I do have two problems with it. Firstly, how the hell am I going to last until next Summer when the 2nd book is due? (Write your own novel, dammit!)
Secondly what can I possibly read in the Fantasy genre that is going to come close to topping this?

I guess they are nice problems to have.

*I'll try and get a full review up soon.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Trollslayer by William King (book review)

With the hugely sad recent death of David Gemmell, decent British heroic-fantasy authors are alarmingly thin on the ground. Thank goodness then, for Bill King and his Gotrek and Felix novels. Trollslayer is the very first of these novels, and is the subject of this review.

Set in the bleak, grim world of Wahammer from the hugely popular Games Workshop franchise, Trollslayer follows the exploits of Felix Jaeger, a rogue-like university dropout with a silver tongue, and Gotrek Gurnisson, a homicidal dwarf that bears the title of Trollslayer. Gotrek is doomed to wander the Old World in search of an honourable death as payment for a past crime of a terrible nature, while Felix swore a drunken oath after the dwarf saved his life and now finds himself accompanying the surly dwarf, with the responsibility of recording their travels and, ultimately, Gotrek’s glorious death.

The relationship between the two companions is one of the highlights of the book. The two of them could not be more different, with Gotrek actively seeking battle and bloodshed, while Felix tags reluctantly along, praying fervently for their safe passage. This leads to several amusing conversations and situations, and King is adept at portraying Felix’s unease and panicky response to battle, as well as his failure to understand fully the violent streak in his dwarven friend. Gotrek by contrast, savours the violence of battle, and can’t understand Felix’s reservations. Their different backgrounds and race traits make them a mismatched pairing, frequently at odds with one another and unable to understand their respective motivations.

Gotrek’s desire for the ultimate opponent leads them all of the Empire, from dark woods infested with beastmen, to deserted dwarven cities teeming with goblins. The action is thick and fast, with the two companions often caught up in desperate battles, and nefarious plots. Bill King certainly knows how to keep the narrative going, and there is barely time for Gotrek and Felix to grab a breather before the next wave of mutants/beastmen/undead races towards them.
The novel is broken down into chapters, which are effectively short stories in their own right. This breaks the book up nicely, and a short to preface to each chapter by Felix Jaeger gives the impression that the story that follows is drawn from his own memory, giving the writing an almost personal quality.

In an age where fantasy writing more often than not tends to lean towards the epic, it is hugely refreshing to read a book that is not big and not overly clever, but is instead a thoroughly enjoyable read, with lovable characters and fast-paced action and adventure. And now that the Felix and Gotrek novels have been released in two omnibus versions, you can get three novels in one volume for a reduced price. Trollslayer is the first novel in the first omnibus, alongside Skavenslayer and Daemonslayer.

If you like your heroic fantasy fun and fast-paced, you could do a lot worse than pick up Trollslayer and join Felix and Gotrek on their adventures through the Old World.

I have also published this review on http://www.sffworld.com