Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Review: The Lord of the Rings extended edition DVD

As A Game of Thrones finally gets its DVD release in a few weeks I thought I’d get myself in the mood for epic fantasy by buying LoTR.

It’s been quite a while since I last saw it, and whilst certain extra scenes were obviously new (the one with Denethor, Boromir and Faramir standing out) others were not.

I enjoyed the films a lot, although I had forgotten how irritatingly cheerful the hobbits could be. Although the first film was released over a decade ago the special effects stand up very well, and even when things are clearly CGI (Gollum, for example) it’s close enough to reality not to jar.

Eowyn seemed to have more airtime, and be the better for it. The portrayals of Frodo, Gandalf and Aragorn were especially good, and the acting generally was well done.

I’m not especially into DVD extras, but I did have a quick look through some of them. For some reason the third DVD (each film has 4, 2 for the film itself and 2 for extras) always seemed of little interest whereas the fourth of each film had better offerings. I especially enjoyed watching one documentary about the stuntmen, and some of the cast documentaries.

Due to the time it would’ve taken I didn’t listen to any of the commentaries fully. However, I did see that there were a lot available, with four sets for each film, and I might go back and try them out.

£16 for around 11-12 hours of the extended film itself, plus four sets of commentary per film, with umpteen extras is pretty good value. The blu-ray is more than twice the price, but might be worth it if you’ve got a big telly.

Now, just over a month to go before I finally get to watch A Game of Thrones.


Sunday, 29 January 2012

Revisiting the past with an Angry Robot

A new author I know slightly (Anne Lyle) has helpfully pointed out that the publisher Angry Robot is set to have what’s described as an ‘open fortnight’ for classic fantasy.

What this means is that they’ll be accepting submissions from any Tom, Dick and Thaddeus, even if they have no agent.

I’ve got an old story I wrote a few years ago, the first part of a trilogy (I did the groundwork for part two but decided to write the stand-alone Bane of Souls instead). So, I’m going to dust it off, and redraft the first five chapters (for the initial submission) in time for the 16th April submission date.

At the moment I’ve only looked through the first chapter (one of the best, I felt at the time of writing), and it’s already clear that there’s plenty of room for improvement. I’m not going to alter the character of the book (the dialogue is more contemporary and the mood grittier than Bane of Souls), but I am intent upon improving the quality of the writing.

Compared to the older book I’ve taken a more structured approach with Bane of Souls, doing the world-building first rather than making many things up and then trying to fit the pieces together. However, the nature of the trilogy format does allow for a grander tale to be told, and I’m looking forward to re-reading and redrafting it.

It’s a very welcome initiative of Angry Robot to hold another open period (they did one last year as well). The tidal wave of submissions (32 a day) almost certainly make it impractical as a permanent approach to submissions but doing it occasionally means the publisher might just pick up a gem and authors without agents stand a chance of getting their work chosen.

One chap from the Chrons came within a whisker of success last time, so let’s hope he does one better and gets published (as well as me, obviously).

Hurrah for Angry Robot!


Friday, 27 January 2012

Review: The Serpent Tower (Volume Two of the Terrarch Chronicles) by William King

This story’s set a couple of months after the events of Death’s Angels. Not much has changed, except that Sardec’s now got a hook for a hand and (not unlike Sharpe’s success in…. Sharpe’s Rifles, I think) he now has the respect of the men.

The army’s marching through an allied state to attack the Dark Empire’s forces, when it comes across a problem. There’s a bloody enormous and impregnable tower held by a formerly friendly but now hostile chap. And he’s kidnapped the rightful queen and intends to marry her.

Also seeking to persuade the tower’s master to join their side is a loathsome pair of emissaries from the Dark Empire.

There are more of the strange monstrosities in this book than its predecessor, and I quite like that. However, the story itself feels like it should be a bit longer and perhaps have some more action. What’s there is enjoyable and easy to read, but it feels bit like a tasty meal with portions that are a bit too small. The fate of the Dark Empire emissaries would have been a nice dessert.

I like the start of the book, and the ending is surprisingly abrupt (almost as much as The Empire Strikes Back). There’s some more interesting history/lore of Gaiea revealed, and Sardec and Rik continue their development, the former becoming more sympathetic, the latter less so.

If you liked the previous book you’ll probably like this, although I wish it had been a shade longer.


Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Tomb Raider Vs Uncharted

It’s quite a while ago now that Lara Croft and her improbable proportions bounded onto the screen. Game series seem to have difficulty enjoying a prolonged longevity. Sonic was really popular for the first 2-3 games, but he became outdated, and even the very long-lasting Final Fantasy seems to be doing its damnedest to shake off the last pesky fanboys (if I want something entirely linear I shall read a book).

The early success of Tomb Raider was due to a few factors. Firstly, Lara Croft. A lady protagonist was certainly not the norm in 1732, or whenever the first game was released, especially not one so well-endowed. Secondly, raiding tombs for treasure is cool. It was cool when Indiana Jones did it, it was cool when Lara Croft started doing so, and it remained delightful when her bĂȘte noire Nathan Drake appeared. Thirdly, there wasn’t really any rival (so far as I remember) so she had the entire antiquities thievery market to herself.

This year a rebooted version is to be released (unhelpfully entitled just Tomb Raider). This isn’t the first time such a thing has happened, but it will be the earliest Lara Croft we see (she’s not a veteran of theft and slaughtering endangered species, but a novice). Some say, and I agree, that this is make or break. The reboot, with a new, more realistic, Miss Croft design and voice actress, is an opportunity for a clean break. However, if it flounders she may well suffer terminal decline, not unlike the Roman army after the ill-conceived reforms of Marius which transformed the military into a more mercenary force with loyalty reserved for generals rather than the state. Ahem.

Uncharted is a new series, with three instalments thus far. I’ve played the first two (developed a habit of buying the inevitable platinum edition) and liked them both a lot, although I didn’t replay them much. The platforming is probably a shade better than Tomb Raider, but it’s in the gunfights that Uncharted really thrashes its older rival. Drake also seems a lot more likeable, and the graphics are fantastic (small and irrelevant anecdote: I played the first Uncharted game on a standard TV initially, and was really surprised just how big a difference the HD 720p definition made).

The individual treasures that can be found (and it’s hard not to find most of them) in Uncharted are a nice touch, although the generic treasures of Tomb Raider are actually more challenging and therefore rewarding to locate.

Apparently the new Tomb Raider will take Uncharted’s good points into account (which probably means copying them), and will have certain survival elements. I think this sounds pretty good, but, as usual, execution is what matters. If the survival elements are pathetic and tokenistic then there’s no point. If they’re all-encompassing and the mainstay of the game it might be enjoyable but wherefore art thou named Tomb Raider if that be so?

I hope the new game works well. I’ve played perhaps a third of the Tomb Raider series, and found it to be quite enjoyable, but not enthralling. Some extra realism, survival elements and a reboot, going back to Lara’s first adventure, might be the adrenaline shot the series needs.

There’s no solid release date, but it’s pencilled-in for Q3.


Monday, 23 January 2012

Review: Death’s Angels (Volume One of the Terrarch Chronicles) by William King

Death’s Angels is an unusual mix of fantasy, Sharpe-style technology and army (muskets abound) and a little Lovecraftian horror.

The protagonist, Rik, is a half-breed (half-Terrarch [elf], half-man) in the Foragers. They’re a sort of scouting unit, similar to a Light Company or the Greenjackets from Sharpe (they do have muskets rather than rifles, however).

The second leading character (and only other chap to get his own PoV bits) is Sardec, Rik’s Terrarch lieutenant and leader of the Foragers. He’s a snooty, arrogant sort, but not without the redeeming features of honesty and bravery. A bit like Arnold J. Rimmer crossed with Richard the Lionheart.

Supporting them is a cast of Foragers including the amusing ‘the Barbarian’, the nefarious Weasel, and Leon, Rik’s childhood friend (the pair were thieves together before joining the army). A few more Foragers would have helped a bit, I think (a few more are mentioned but appear only briefly) but the unit seems to work pretty well.

The Foragers are sent to kill a prophet and a wizard who have been rallying hill-men to their cause. They enjoy a partial victory, and the majority of the book deals with the aftermath of the half-failed mission and trying to finish the job.

There’s a nice sense of realism to Rik. He doesn’t tell Leon everything, despite being close, and is torn between his own desires and what he knows is a wiser course of action. Similarly, some of the Foragers aren’t exactly heroic, and the officers are portrayed as a mix of dutiful and very self-interested.

The start and end of the book were both very engaging, and had an edge of doubt when combat began. I like books with death tolls, and whilst Mr. King doesn’t go nuts bumping off characters there is an air of mortal danger about the battles. The middle seemed to sag slightly. It was perfectly well-written and developed Rik’s character a bit further but there was an absence of urgency or real excitement.

However, given I raced through the book (this seems to have become a habit) in a couple of days it certainly wasn’t seriously detrimental.

I’ve already begun the second Terrarch Chronicles book: The Serpent Tower.


Saturday, 21 January 2012


One of the best things and biggest challenges of fantasy (and sci-fi) is that worlds can be created that vary radically from the modern day or history. You can have dragons flying about, or golems marauding the highways, or a vicious matriarchy where the queen is always called Harriet, if you really want to.

It can be enjoyable to engage in a spot of ye olde world-building, and the preparatory work for stories is something I quite like doing.

However, there’s a potential pitfall, which is known as ‘info-dumping’. Basically, info-dumping is when, instead of weaving elements of the world or plot into the narrative it gets dumped all over the reader in a massive block of text.

This can take the form of a dialogue where things the author wants to convey can be clunkily thrust into the face of the reader. For example, imagine a city where drunkenness is rife (I know, I know, this is hard for an Englishman to imagine. But try). Instead of having two chaps exchanging statistics on liver disease and tutting noisily, it’s more natural (and more enjoyable to read) for them to be stepping over a rancid snoring drunkard lying in a pool of his own vomit whilst they walk along a raucous street full of taverns.

It can break immersion or just bore the reader when there’s a ream of information that’s presented in a clunky or tedious way, especially if it’s not relevant to the plot or protagonist.

Guy Gavriel Kay did a very good job with Tigana, when there was a lot of exposition regarding the backgrounds of characters. The reason it worked was because it was relevant, it informed the reader about the motivations and suffering the characters had undergone and enabled us to understand them better.

Another related problem is when describing something becomes excessive in its detail. The difficulty is that some people love tons and tons of precise detail and others like a fairly hazy picture, wanting the author to give them the gist and allowing their imagination to flesh out the details. There’s no right answer, although subgenres do differ slightly. An epic fantasy might have more detail than a rollicking yarn (A Song of Ice and Fire and Tales of the Ketty Jay, for example). Detail and Pace are like two kids on a see-saw. When one’s high, the other should be low.


Thursday, 19 January 2012

Action Versus Exposition

I’m always looking for new authors, and two recent fellows (Guy Gavriel Kay, who wrote Tigana, and Douglas Hulick, who wrote Among Thieves) have recently caught my eye. I liked them both a lot, and raced through their books in a few days each.

What’s quite interesting is the contrast between their writing styles. Obviously, both books are very different (third and first person, long-term revolution versus short-term underworld struggle) but one of the greatest differences is the approach to exposition and action.

Tigana had a lot more exposition than I’d expected (or have been used to, recently), with characters’ backstories and motivations revealed and explored in more detail than is often the case. Regular readers will be aware that my attitude to romance is the same as my attitude to getting caught in my zipper: it is to be avoided. However, in Tigana I found myself not unlike a slightly drunk chap being handcuffed to a bedstead and enjoying it almost against my will. I really liked the way that the characters were presented as flawed (sometimes acting in an anger-fuelled and idiotic fashion, for example). The concubine in particular was a very well-written conflicted soul, torn between loyalty to a cause and to an individual who was the greatest enemy of that cause.

Among Thieves was a delightfully blood-soaked romp through the underworld, with plenty of violence, murder and treachery. The people in it had their character revealed more often than not by their actions, and although the history of the world and individuals was explored somewhat the meat of the story was its fast-paced plot and exciting, bloody action. Now I come to think of it, Among Thieves also had a difficult moral choice near the end.

There’s not an either/or choice between the two basic approaches of lots of exposition or lots of action. Tigana had a great big battle and numerous killings, Among Thieves had an intriguing approach to imperial succession and the history of the Kin [criminals].

Overdoing either can lead to pitfalls. Exposition’s probably easiest to get wrong as too much or too boring can lead the reader to find the work tedious, whereas too much action can be ok if the reader doesn’t mind something a bit shallow.

Violence is delightful, but the more it’s used the more accustomed to it the reader becomes. I tend to try and show an individual’s character by a combination of dialogue and behaviour, and focus less on thoughts and backstory (excepting the leader character). So, Bane of Souls is somewhere between the two (and if it’s as well-rated as either I’ll be thrilled).


Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Review: Among Thieves (A Tale of the Kin), by Douglas Hulick

Among Thieves is a fantasy story, set in the fictional city of Ildrecca. Slightly unusually it’s written in the first person and focuses entirely upon Drothe, a member of the underworld, known as Kin.

Drothe’s had a problem with delivery of a relic, and then his day goes from bad to worse when the worst hellhole in the city is plunged into an underworld conflict. Aided by blind luck, night vision and his ally Bronze Degan, Drothe tries to unravel the reasons behind the conflict before there’s an outright war and the empire’s enforcers go for the jugular of the criminal fraternity to restore peace.

It’s a pretty gritty read, but Mr. Hulick doesn’t overdo it. Ildrecca is done in enough detail (separate criminal cordons, some mention of imperial history and the foreign Djan etc) to be interesting without info-dumping all over the place. Exposition is generally concise, and the action is commonplace and frequently bloody. By chance, it’s (in those regards) almost the exact opposite of Tigana, which I finished reading a few days earlier and also liked a lot.

There’s zero romance (the closest Drothe has to a relationship is his possibly mariticidal sister), and magic plays an important role (both in terms of story and action).

I raced through the book. In fact, now I come to think of it, I only bought it two days ago. The moral ambiguity of keeping promises or breaking them to protect people, lashings of blood and criminal shenanigans kept me thoroughly entertained. I also enjoyed reading about the history of the empire and the creative approach the author took towards the emperor.

My only real complaint is that Mr. Hulick has yet to write another book, though his next (Sworn in Steel) is due out in June.


Sunday, 15 January 2012

Maurice, Phocas and Heraclius

The history of the Byzantine Empire is a bit of a rollercoaster. Whereas Rome essentially expanded, plateaued (and yes, Microsoft Word, this is a perfectly acceptable word) and then declined, Byzantium was up and down like a whore’s drawers.

Emperor Maurice is not the best-known of characters. However, his overthrow and the years immediately afterward are a fascinating episode in the history of the Eastern Empire.

Not surprisingly his downfall was largely due to an army mutiny, when they were ordered beyond the Danube for winter.

Phocas was just a centurion, but he succeeded Maurice and soon displayed a vicious streak that sadly heralded an era of murder and mutilation in Byzantine history. (Only people who were ‘whole’ could become emperor, which meant a habit for blinding potential rivals arose). Initially welcomed by people sick of paying Maurice’s high taxes, he was not showered with universal affection after mutilating and killing the (former) imperial family.

The lands conquered by Beliasrius had been established into two Exarchates (semi-independent colonies) by Maurice, in Italy and Carthage. The latter of these began by ignoring Phocas’ claim to the throne, and then dispatching Heraclius and Nicetas (by sea and land respectively) to kick Phocas’ arse and take over. The Excubitor guards deserted Phocas upon Heraclius’ arrival, and Hercalius signalled his new reign by lopping off the head of his vile foe.

Heraclius may have a claim to be one of the unluckiest of emperors. He was tremendously competent in the field, and spent many years giving the Persians a damned good thrashing and reclaiming Byzantine territory. But history was against him.

The Persians were soon obliterated by the rise of Islam, and the Muslims took many of the lands Heraclius had previously conquered. Added to this, the emperor suffered intense pain due to disease. If that weren’t bad enough, the fact that he’d married his niece meant that many of his subjects weren’t particularly sympathetic and viewed his agony as divine retribution. Last but not least, just about all his descendents were rather inept emperors.

However, I do think Heraclius was a good emperor. Marrying his niece aside, he was competent and decisive, and won many victories in the field. He also reorganised civil and military structures to help alleviate the corruption that had set in under Phocas.


Friday, 13 January 2012

Review: Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay

I got this after a number of people recommended it. Tigana’s a stand-alone fantasy book in which magic is important but not common, and which takes place in a fictional world.

The story unfolds in The Palm, a peninsula of nine provinces, which has been carved up between two tyrants, each of which act as the other’s counterweight. It follows a group who seek to free The Palm from the tyrants. That’s a rather threadbare summary, but one of the best parts of the book is when unexpected turns and new information comes to light, and I’d prefer not to risk spoiling anything.

It took me rather by surprise. There’s a lot more exposition than I expected, and relatively less dialogue/action (though there’s still some). The author’s quite content to have occasional flashback scenes and spend time building up events and moments of import, and the effect is to mean that, whilst the book doesn’t have lashings of blood, it does have characters that are deeper than is usual.

What’s pleasing about the longer explanations and descriptions is that they serve a point. It’s not a case of info-dumping masses of irrelevant detail or presenting the reader with a wall of text enlivened only by the odd brick of interest. The exposition relates to the motivation of characters and the meaning of situations, adding to the depth of the book.

I won’t give away the ending, but I was wondering if there would be enough space to see it resolved in a realistic rather than deus ex machina way, and was pleasantly surprised by the final twist.

In summary, it’s a book that relies less on blood-spattered adrenaline and more on realistic and enjoyable characters. The tyrants are particularly well-done, (they aren’t carbon copies of one another), and I was slightly staggered to find myself thoroughly devouring the chapters about the romance between one tyrant and one of his concubines.

After finishing the book I searched but it seems that there’s no more books in the world of The Palm (as yet, anyway). Mr. Kay seems to have a penchant for historical inspiration (I’ve downloaded the sample of a book set in a Byzantine-style world) so I may well end up reading more of his stuff.


Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Skyrim covers

There have been quite a few Skyrim covers and related tracks on Youtube, from the Pianoborn and metal covers to the rap of Dan Bull and the silliness of Harry Partridge.

However, one of the best I’ve heard is a new(ish) one by Malukah (http://www.malukah.com/). She’s also done a cover of one of the bard’s songs, which is also excellent.

She does have a blog, although most of it’s in Spanish. Sounds like she’ll be releasing a few more tracks, and they’re also available as free downloads.


Monday, 9 January 2012

Are good games becoming rarer, or is it me?

Being born in the mid-80s, I was fortunate to enjoy both excellent cartoons and the birth of the gaming industry. I can still recall waiting for 30 minutes (no, youth of today, I am not jesting) for the cassette games to load on my Amstrad, during which I’d do some reading.

Naturally, as a child, I loved the new delights videogames offered. I belonged in the Sega camp, when the SNES and Mega Drive were at war, and then shifted to the Playstation when Sega eventually lost the conflict. It seems ultra-fast blue hedgehogs are no match for a moustachioed plumber.

I can still remember some fantastic, old, games. Games like Phantasy Star IV for the Mega Drive, Vagrant Story for the Playstation and Shadow Hearts Covenant for the PS2. They’re still being cranked out (Skyrim being the latest and most obvious example), but I keep feeling somewhat… lacklustre about gaming generally.

Metal Gear Solid was great, but MGS2 replaced the hero with a whiny boy in need of a haircut. I enjoyed MGS3, but then 4 decided to go completely overboard with endless bloody cut-scenes. Likewise, Final Fantasy VII was very nice, X featured a whiny arsehead as the protagonist and apparently XIII (I don’t earn sufficient money to throw it away on the bonfire of a series now trading entirely on its name) is as linear as the Channel Tunnel.

There are also tons and tons of FPS (first person shooter) games. However, they’re not really my kind of game. I quite like strategy games, but being a PS3-only gamer (there are enough distractions on a PC without adding gaming to it) there’s not exactly a huge range (Red Alert 3 springs to mind, and it’s ok).

So, what is there? An Elder Scrolls game twice a decade, possibly Dragon Age (assuming EA actually let Bioware make the sodding game without a ridiculous deadline next time), Uncharted and…. Er….

I might get the next Formula 1 game, but even as a fan I’m not going to spend £40 every year buying a slightly different variant on something I already own.

An awful lot of the better games are just sequels in established series, and, except for Uncharted, it’s been a while since a properly good series started. I know lots of people love Assassin’s Creed, but I bought the second game (reckoned to be the better) and got bored with it.

Maybe I’m just viewing the past with rose-tinted glasses. After all, everyone remembers The Beatles and Queen, nobody remembers Love Is A Rubber Ball Bouncing Back To Me (I forget who performed it, but in my defence it was about 20 years before I was born).


Saturday, 7 January 2012

Zenobia: the Palmyrene Empress

In the 3rd century AD the Roman Empire was falling to bits. Emperor Gallienus was an intellectual and a good man (he did his best to combat a persistent plague that afflicted Rome) but lacked the respect of the greedy soldiers, and it didn’t help that his father Valerian was the only emperor to ever be captured by the enemy (after which he embarked upon a new career as the Persian king’s footstool).

The problem was that armies got a new emperor bonus, basically, and therefore had a constant incentive to proclaim their general emperor, and this happened a lot. Gaul and Iberia fell under the sway of a breakaway emperor, and the Palmyrene Empire (effectively led by Zenobia and her husband, then Zenobia when her husband died) arose in the East. Zenobia also managed to take over Egypt, a key province for Rome.

Gallienus was succeeded by the Gothic Claudius, a fantastically talented but short-lived emperor who probably had a hand in his predecessor’s untimely death. He himself died after just a year in the job (of plague rather than being murdered) and was succeeded (after some quibbling from his brother) by Aurelian.

The empire had been fracturing and effectively rudderless for some time. This had meant that soldiers that should have been guarding the Roman borders were being pulled away to fight their own side and reunite the empire, making it spring time for the barbarians wanting to raid the empire. At the same time, Zenobia and her husband (and son, later) were left alone and their authority was sort-of-recognised. The Palmyrene Empire included much of Turkey, Egypt, and modern day Lebanon, Syria and bits of Iraq.

Unfortunately for Zenobia and her young son, Aurelian was just as skilled as the Gothic Claudius and once he’d finished slaughtering the Goths, Vandals, Juthungi, Sarmatians and Carpi (and beating the breakaway Gallic Empire into submission) he turned his attentions east.

Initially Zenobia ventured to battle with the emperor, but her forces were crushed, and she was captured and taken to Rome. The queen appeared in golden chains during Aurelian’s victory parade. It’s unclear whether she got her head lopped off, died of disease or lived (briefly) in reasonable comfort. (This era lacked the excellent histories of earlier times due to the rampant inflation, frequent civil war and common killing of emperors, alas).

And so the short-lived Palmyrene Empire was strangled almost at birth by Aurelian. Had the Gallic Empire enjoyed a similarly talented emperor or Aurelian himself been murdered a year or two earlier Zenobia might have remained a ruler and the Palmyrene Empire might have become a long-term buffer state between the Roman Empire and the Persians.


Thursday, 5 January 2012

Pockmarks and yellow teeth

Lots of fantasy now is gritty. There’s bloodshed, incest, betrayal and so on and so forth. A Song of Ice and Fire is a good example, as A Game of Thrones had to be toned down for those weak-kneed TV audiences.

I quite like this. Even in a fantasy-based context the idea of deadly wars and constant mortal peril feels somewhat unrealistic when every (or almost every) major character survives.

When I was writing up the six reviews of the Codex Alera books I never used the term. They’re highly enjoyable, certain elements do make the skin crawl and they feature political plotting, but they lack a certain cold, negative realism.

I think grittiness indicates the writer is aiming to reflect the unpleasant side of human nature as realistically as possible, warts and all. It doesn’t necessarily need things like sex or grotesque punishments/torture, but a realistic risk of death or serious injury and characters with as much vice as virtue are probably required.

As well as trying to portray human nature in all its horribleness, the effects of the fantasy world (often basically Middle Ages England) should be considered. People should mostly have yellow teeth and pockmarks, and child mortality should be sky high. Plus, healthy tans would be from working in the fields as a peasant, whereas the well-to-do would have paler skin (and being fat would be a sign of prosperity rather than a daily overdose of pie and cake).

It’s quite interesting to note the long term change in fantasy from the black and white, good versus evil morality of Tolkien and CS Lewis to the grey, ambiguous worlds of Abercrombie and Martin. In the same way, the worlds are less often populated with heroic, virtuous chaps and more often by the ruthless and the sinful (in short, they’re more realistic).

I have some difficulty deciding whether Bane of Souls should be described as ‘gritty’. I won’t give too much away, but the storyline revolves around a spate of murders, and the people who die aren’t just Anonymous Peasant #32. On the other hand, sex is alluded to but not featured explicitly, and the swearing is minimal (this wasn’t a conscious choice, it just seemed to clash with the dialogue style I opted for).


Monday, 2 January 2012

Plans for the year ahead

2011 was a decent year, although I did miss certain things I wanted to achieve. Bane of Souls was properly finished, but the redrafting took longer than expected, and I wasn’t able to get it released. However, the text itself is completed, and I’ve begun to plan for Altmortis (working title of book 2).

There were plenty of good fantasy/history releases, including the Unofficial Manual series, A Dance With Dragons, The Heroes and Skyrim.

This year Samurai (the latest Unofficial Manual) is set to be released in February, and in March the Game of Thrones DVD is finally released. Given it finished well in advance of December I’m surprised it wasn’t out for Christmas, but there we are.

Mass Effect 3 comes out in March. I don’t have either previous instalments, but they’re highly regarded and I might get ME3. I think there’s a Formula 1 2012 game, and if so it’ll almost certainly be out around September time. Hopefully the Bioware chaps will actually be given enough time to develop the next Dragon Age game instead of being made to rush it and compromising the game itself. I read somewhere or other that it might take on certain Skyrim elements regarding a more open world approach, and it would be interesting to see how they manage to marry the tightly scripted Dragon Age approach to a more free-flowing Elder Scrolls style.

There’s also another Tomb Raider reinvention, with an updated look for Miss Croft and a new voice actress (I do love Keeley Hawes’ voice), as well as some survival elements. According to Wikipedia, it should be out in the third quarter. The Last of Us, a survival story of a chap and a young girl who looks a bit like Ellen Page, might come out in late 2012 or early 2013. I can take or leave post-apocalypse stories, but it does look pretty good.

Obviously, I want to release Bane of Souls this year. I’ve got a few things to do first, though. For a start, getting a cover done, which means selecting an artist and then waiting probably at least a few weeks. Then I intend to look at making a basic little website for the book and subsequent ones, and I’ll need to format the text once the cover’s done. I’ve been fiddling with that for my Kindle, and I think it should be ok.

Then I want to start work on Altmortis. I’ve done much of the outline and background work already. Some of the cast were present in Bane of Souls, which will make it easier to write about them, and add some continuity as the setting changes. Like Bane of Souls, it’ll be a stand-alone book, but set in the same world.

I doubt I’ll be able to release Altmortis in 2012, but if I can publish Bane of Souls and get Altmortis’ text done I’ll be satisfied.

Thanks to the people who read my blog during its first year. I hope you like the fantasy/historical stuff and look forward to writing more in 2012.