Friday, 24 February 2017

Great Wall - Review: One for Fantasy Fans

I didn't see this sooner as the reviews were pants. Having seen it I was thoroughly entertained. It doesn't claim to be anything else other than a monster film and as a fantasy fan I was pleasantly surprised. The "things" are definitely monsters and bear no resemblance to dragons. It's along the lines of aliens in some respects as the things are thoroughly horrible and damned hard to kill.

It's set in 11 C China, I think, Mercenaries have heard of black powder and know it will make their fortune so they seek it out to take back to the West at any cost. However, at the Great Wall they get embroiled in an invasion and are tor between stealing the powder or helping in the conflict.

An enjoyable romp.


http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2034800/

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Losing a Contact Lens - What's Your Worst Moment?

My strangest experience losing a lens was when ice climbing Ben Nevis (Tower Gully). A friend, Andy, and I were climbing late in the season and occasionally you could hear a crack and whoosh as ice broke off. This was a grade 1/2 climb as there was a cornice, overhang of ice, at the top which we had to dig through.

I wasn't very experienced at climbing, but initially everything was great. I don't like heights, but the crampons and ice-ax made me feel secure and we climbed steadily for 30-40 minutes. I was wearing gas-permeable contact lenses and blinked just as some ice went in my eye and...pop...out went a lens.

"Hold on,Andy," I said. "I've lost a lens." Andy was above me and he dutifully stopped.

"You've lost it," he grumbled, pragmatically. "no chance of finding it now." He was from Yorkshire so a man of few words. We were, at this point, on a very steep slope (70 degrees) about one thousand feet above the ground. He was probably right, but as contact lens wearers are aware, lenses are too expensive to lose.

Looking around the slope I spotted the lens almost immediately to my front. It seemed glued to the ice and small particles of snow were being blown across the surface. I was terrified the lens would also blow away, but watching the small grains being blown over the surface was quite hypnotic. Fortunately, the lens was grey (the right lens is often grey to differentiate left (clear) from right) so it actually showed up quite well against the blue/white ice background. I looped my arm through the strap of the ice-ax which was reasonably anchored in the ice, took off my mitt and carefully extracted lens from surface, realising that it had actually frozen to the surface. Wow, incredibly lucky and saving me nearly £100. I put the lens back in and was ready for the climb.

Higher up and Andy yelled down that he had hit water-ice. This makes climbing very tough as the ice shatters when you strike with the ax which barely forms contact and certainly not enough to trust your weight to. We had to descend with the plan being to traverse across the slope and try again. This was awful. Looking between your feet at a thousand foot drop brings home the precarious nature of the situation and suddenly vertigo becomes very real, as does disco-knee. However, I realised I had no option, so overcoming my fear down we went.

I have never been so afraid. I realised just how vulnerable we were perched so high with a few millimeters of metal of the crampons and an ice-ax for purchase. Dropping about one-hundred feet, we traversed across and continued on up. Climbing up was less fearful, but after the recent scare my heart was beating for England!

The next heartache came near the summit. Andy had to borrow my ax whilst I sat inside the ledge beneath the overhang of ice. The view was incredible but very, very scary. Andy chipped at the cornice, making a tunnel for us to crawl through. He held on with one ax and chipped with the other. We managed to crawl through and upon gaining the summit we swiftly realised that we were standing on an overhang of ice a few feet thick and beneath that was a sheer drop. We moved very swiftly on to solid ground.

What an experience and what a tale to tell. Losing a contact lens and reinserting it on ice pitch. Incredible, but not for the feint hearted.


Andy and I in a White Out (Ben Vrackie I think). Andy looks cold!

Friday, 10 February 2017

If You Thought You Were Having a Bad day...

Hallam ducked beneath the blow, pushed his left foot forward, grunting with the effort and hacked sideways with his sword. Something hard hit his shield and if he hadn’t put his foot forward he would have overbalanced. The fight raged around him. Men and krell dying in their hundreds.
 Hallam screamed a war cry and pushed against the line of enemy, seeking to dislodge a foe and open up their shield wall. Krell pressed hard against his shield, hoping to achieve the same aim. “Hold the line,” he commanded, sensing a slight movement to his left. A line that went backwards was already defeated. A spear glanced off one of his greaves and he stamped down hard trying to snap the shaft. Warm blood flecked his face, causing him to blink. The copper stench in his nostrils nearly made him gag. “Push,” he yelled, trying to get his line forward.

The author pushed back the keyboard and leaned back. Time for a cuppa. He went to the kitchen and turned on the kettle, reaching in to the cupboard for a teabag. Humming softly, he filled the cup and stirred clockwise before settling on a couple of chocolate biscuits as a treat. Sitting in front of the monitor once more, he dunked a biscuit. He shivered and glanced at the thermostat.
“What the hell,” he muttered dialing up the warmth. His slippers were new and fur lined, a rare treat and kept his feet beautifully warm. Stig, an orange and brown cat mewed playfully to one side and the author tapped his leg, allowing the cat to jump up and settle on his lap, purring softly. Outside the sky threatened snow, but the author barely glanced that way.
Finishing his tea and smacking his lips the author settled down to create. His eyes focused on the monitor as he muttered, “Now, Hallam, what fresh hell can I create.”


Hallam groaned, recognising the fearful cry from the darkened sky above, “Grakyn,” he screamed, hoping that the archers to the rear could see in the half-light. The battle was going horribly wrong. He prayed to all the gods for a change in fortune.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Writing a book: Social Media, the Pitfalls

This is oversold in my opinion. Facebook has a limited catchment and if you believe other posts this is deliberate to make people spend on advertising. What I've heard is that Facebook messages don't even appear to all your contacts and it can the percentage of people who see your post can be quite low.

Twitter does seem more helpful and hashtags are very useful as these put your post on various lists. For authors the following hashtags are useful, but are not exclusive. I'm sure there are many more so feel free to add to this list.

#books #read #readthis #booklook #review #shortstory #bookreview #samplesnday #storyfriday #fridayreads #iartg #writertip #writingtip #selpubishing #kindle #freebook

However, Twitter posts scroll very quickly down the page so disappear  from view fast.

Aboutme is a useful page to have and people look at this site without doing to much work.


LinkedIn is mainly about seeking jobs, I think. I am on that but not very active on that forum. 

My blogs are setup to always post on Google+ but that is one site I rarely hear from.

Pinterest is useful but the information you can post is limited, unless I am doing something wrong.

I have not tried Instagram but a colleague who is a very active photographer uses it a lot. It's really about showing images and photography is good as you are getting new images to show frequently. Having a few book covers may not suit that media, in my view. For a fuller list of social media sites try here

My experience is that Social Media is nice to have but won't necessarily drive lots of people to your website. Facebook messages, for example, will appear in front of the same people over and over and it is likely that, unless the message changes, they will become bored of it. I haven't yet spent money on advertising on Facebook but from the response from other people it is not always money well spent. 

I am not advocating not using social media but pointing out that expecting instant traffic is unlikely and one problem is you can commit a lot of time to it for little reward. 

One irritation I have is there are lots of posts on the Internet about book marketing and many spout lists of things you must have such as an author's website and being active on social media. That is so easy to say and yet how to direct traffic from these sites is actually very hard and at that point the advice dries up.

Role Playing Games for Fantasy Fans

Path of exile comes recommended although it can be very frustrating, I've played others, Diablo I through to III, Guild Wars and POE is the only game I come back to.

If you are a fantasy fan and like finding new and better weapons then POE is a great starting point, It's well worth getting advise and on their website folk offer up example skill trees to follow. It's very complicated and the choice is excessive perhaps and makes for a challenging game. It can also be very frustrating. Many folk offer advise but it's usually half-thought out or wrong. There are soime real experts and finding these is essential.

Perhaps it is too complicated? The screen shot shows an example damage from one attack method. Achieving high damage is incredibly difficult and requires very expensive equipment that takes hours of game play to afford. Some bows, for example, cost 40 Ex and yet in going from level 1 to 89 I have only ever found 1. Trade is an essential part of the game but good equipment drops are far few and far between and making your own costs lots of Orbs of various types. As I say -- it's very complex.

Check it out at https://www.pathofexile.com/

The complex nature of POE.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

An Author Goes to Pot!

So what does an author do when not writing?

Well today was not a good example. I went metal detecting with a club, but it was -6 degrees C this morning and the car's brakes were frozen on. Not to be put off, I borrowed my wife's car so not a disaster. However, fog remained in the area all morning keeping the ground frozen. It was so bad that my spade bent almost double trying to dig. After a few hours I decided digging was almots impossible and so gave up.

And the rewards? A couple of old belt buckles and something possibly from a horse's harness.

The conclusion - remain indoors where it is warm and write!

Friday, 20 January 2017

My Two Top Romantic Fantasy Films: Does This Make me Soft?

OK, weird subject but what the heck. Weird in the sense that Fantasy ought to be heroes bashing goblins or at least slaying the odd dragon. Not that the dragon has to be loopy-odd, just rare-odd. Bringing romance into fantasy has its place of course and a hero rescuing a damsel in distress, such as in Shrek, has plenty of room for development.

My two top favourites are Beautiful Creatures http://www.warnerbros.com/beautiful-creatures and Stardust http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0486655/. Groundhog Day sneaks in for comedy element as a distinct runner up.

I only saw Beautiful Creatures recently and whereas it's not alone and other films have followed this line, such as Twilight, I found Beautiful Creatures to be less pretentious and quite refreshing. The CGI magic sequences were very well done. The plot rocked along at a gentle pace and hooked me from the start. The characterisation was good and Jeremy Irons played a great role. I thought Alice Englert was suitably gorgeous to entrap a young man's heart.

My favourite film still remains Stardust. It's the rare occasion when a film is better than the book. The humour is well done and I'll always remember bubbling candles. The scene in the first fantasy market was great and showed tremendous imagination in the film makers' minds. Like Harry Potter's Diagonal Alley, I could wander around there for hours.

Great films and we want more.


Alice Englert as Lena Duchannes