All words presented in this blog are purely opinion, not fact - unless specifically stated otherwise in the post.

Monday 25 February 2013

Thirty of Fifty-Two


The Last Samurai

Ok, so The Last Samurai is the only movie I can think off that I actually like, definitely the only one that I Love. It's such a beautiful story, the violence is an accompaniment of a point, it's not like a lot of films these days where the point is the violence. This movie is trying to tell you a story, give you a look into the past, into a beautiful and terrible culture that is all but gone.

The Last Samurai is about the emotionally broken American officer, Nathan Algren in the wake of the Meiji Restoration era of 19th century japan as the samurai culture mends his many wounds. At the begining of the film Nathan is a drunk advertising guns to Americans in a market place. He's hired by an old comrade to go to Japan and train the soldiers of the Emperor and consequently moves to Japan.

Despite Nathan's objections the army goes into battle early, long before the soldiers are ready. They are undisciplined and cannot fight well. They are routed with ease and Nathan is dismounted and nearly killed by the Samurai that they are facing. They, instead, capture him and take him back to their village.

Nathan spends the winter there, learning their culture, their language, their beliefs until the roads are clear and he can return to 'civilisation'.

The story explores how a broken man can find peace in the strangest of places. It shows the samurai's side of the Meiji revolutions and really makes you think about the points of view on both sides of the conflict.
From Nathan's point of view he's really just re-living the war with the native Americans, but from the other side. Well worth watching.

As I said, it's the only film with Tom Cruise that I've ever loved, and it thoroughly deserves it. Anyone who hasn't watched it yet should do so.

- James

Saturday 23 February 2013

Up, down, up, down, up, down.

So, yesterday was my birthday! I turned twenty-six! Yup, happy birthday me! I didn't die in the 365 days between my last birthday and my latest one. But it also meant that I didn't blog, which means instead I have to do it on the weekend, which is something I just don't do. I am not pleased.
But alas, that is what is to happen.

SO for a while now a friend and I have been talking about the three peaks challenge in GB. It's three hikes to the top of the three tallest mountains in England, Wales and Scotland. The mountains aren't particularly large compared to the mountains in other countries, Scafell Pike is 987m (3210 ft)  Mount Snowdon comes in at 1085m (3560 ft) and Ben Nevis is 1344m (4409ft). The trick isn't doing all the walks, it's the time limit. they are miles away from each other. There's 465 miles of driving to be done (roughly 10 hours by current driving laws) each of the climes are supposed to take about 5 hours each and you only get twenty-four hours to do it.

I bring this up because during this week my friend signed us up to do it for charity (Royal national Lifeboat Institute and Rescue global I think, but I didn't get a choice in that matter) on the 27th of July.

It should be really fun and exhausting and while I hope I get a job I'm going to have to take time off around then, I can't see myself doing all that and being able to get to work the next day. I just don't work that way!

I have been thinking about what sorts of things I'll need and I'm thinking I should replace my hiking books, get some warmer trousers and one of these bags to carry a bottle of water on each one as well as a couple of energy bars, just in case.

Anyway, it should be awesome, expect me to start asking for sponsorship as soon as I know how!

- James

Monday 18 February 2013

Writers have it hard... ish.

So I've finished my first run of edits of the short story and I'm going through it now for areas I'd like to be worded better and I'm finding myself wondering how many times published authors go through their work before submitting to their agents. I mean, do they finish writing it, send it off to the agent and get a bunch of edits back? Do they finish the book, re-read it, then send it or do they do, on their ridiculously long 400+ page books what I'm doing on my short story, which is something along the lines of;
  1. Write story.
  2. Edit one; look for plot holes.
  3. Edit two; look for areas that could be worded better and re-word
  4. Edit four; look for spelling/punctuation/grammar problems and fix them
  5. Final read through and send to publishers.
When I was younger I complained abotu books taking ages to come out, but really it's a very lengthly process before the Agent or publisher ever sees it.
This short story for example; I started it  about 2 weeks ago. I finished my first draft about a week ago. I re-read it for plot holes last Wednesday and I'm now re-reading it for wording improvements. (I'm about halfway through). Next I'll read it for spelling and grammar and send it to a couple of friends who will tell me they hate it and I'll shout STFU ITS AWESOME!!! and publish it out of spite- wait, no. I'll get a book cover done (not 100% sure where/how yet but I've got some ideas) and then I'll publish it to Kindle.

And this short story is only 42 pages. most fantasy books, the likes of which I usually read are around 600 pages, maybe a little more maybe a little less but around 15 times the length of my little story which will probably take me a month in total to get on the market.
It usually takes a fantasy author a year maybe 2 to get it out there, at least after the first book. It really isn't all that long when you think about it. I've been working on TLC for 2-3 years, and that's a trilogy of books that I still need to edit.

This is one of those cases of 'the more you do something the more you respect others who do it.'

And Brent Weeks, Brandon Sanderson, Peter V Brett, Gail Z Martin, Jon Sprunk, David Dalglish, Jeff Wheeler, Chris Hollaway, Mark Lawrence, Robin Hobb, Jim Butcher, Joe Abercrombie, George R.R. Martin and the host of other amazing writers that I've read over the years and haven't mentioned - I respect all you guys immensely.

- James

Thursday 14 February 2013

Valentine's Day

So I strongly considered ignoring the fact that it's valentine's day and moving onto another subject, partly because I'm single but also because it's a Christian holiday that celebrates one of their saints. However I put in my atheistic notions about Christmas so ignoring Valentine's feels kind of like I'm raising the birth of a person that I believe to be fictional above the life of actual people (specifically Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni, though there were many more martyrs by the name of Valentyne)

For me St. Valentine's day isn't about martyrs who died to give christian weddings to soldiers who were forbidden or martyrs who died because they were teaching christianity under the oppressive rule of the Roman empire, its just a day that people can set aside in their relationships to celebrate.

Like their anniversary it's a moment when the celebrations should come from both side, the effort should be equal and heart felt. Often it's not, but it should be.

I see Valentines day as an opportunity to be with the one you love, to show them just how much you care despite all the things they have to put up with on a daily basis, despite work keeping them apart or the day to day life keeping you from showing it, Valentines day is an oportunity to make sure your partner knows just how much you care.

I don't know if thats callous or beautiful, and it most certainly isn't the Atheism opinion as a whole. It's just my opinion, my feeling.

Happy Valentines day everyone. I hope the ones that you most care for and who most care for you show you the way you deserve to be shown.

- James

Monday 11 February 2013

Twenty-Nine of Fifty-Two


Batman: War games

Batman: War games is in many respects the basis of the idea behind Batman; Dark Knight Rises, or at least that's how I see it. It doesn't have anything to do with Bane or the league of shadows, but a former Batman side kick known as Stephanie Brown.

At the begining of War Games Stephanie has recently been fired as Batman's sidekick and she's out to prove herself. She's stolen one of Batman's contingency plans - a plan to get all of the gangs in the city under the leadership of one man - and puts it into action, but without one key ingredient; the man who is supposed to lead them.

Things go monumentally wrong, leaving Gotham as a lawless city of gangsters and villains who fight with no regard for the people of Gotham. With appearances from fan favorites such as Nightwing, Tim Drake's Robin, Catwoman, Oracle, Cassandra Cain's Batgirl and a host of villains.

I really like this comic arc because it shows Batman for the fallible human that he is. Shows the problem with  his secrets. It shows how he can do everything right with the intention of doign good but still get it wrong because of one thing he didn't see or one secret he didn't tell.

Stephanie Brown tries to make things right with Batman by putting his plan into motion, but the man who it hinged on doesn't turn up. She can't understand why until it's explained to her that that man is Batman and he wasn't invited.

With emotional revelations from pretty much every character, the War Games story arc keeps the readers guessing, keeps them entertained and gives them exactly what they want from a Bat family arc.

It's a rare series to be able to get a hold of, but if you can you should read it.


Friday 8 February 2013


So I started a new story. I'm not really sure what it's going to be yet, but I am aiming to write my first ever short story. A story that I can write out, edit once and publish for a low price on kindle or kobo or nook or any of those e-readers.

It's a Science Fiction story about an Imperial Admiral named Wren who's been exiled to the far reaches of Imperial space. At the moment it's a part of the Galledar universe set a thousand or so years from the events in Ghost of Galledar. However it's so loosely connected to those events that it could quite easily not have anything to do with that universe. so far I've had no reason to even mention their elemental abilities, I've not had to mention the feline race though I have sort of forced that in there at some points when it probably didn't need to be. Pretty much the only thing that I've used the Galledar books for in this story is the names of things.

So far I'm enjoying reading it, but it is taking me away from completing TLC. However I'd started to grow annoyed by that and needed a break. I think this is a good thing to do while I'm getting back in the mood for TLC. It keeps my mind creatively active and works on a genre I'm not particularly well versed in, while simultaneously doing a little to put myself on the author map. right now I'm a single point so tiny that it might as well not be there. Hopefully after a few short stories I'll be able to point to them and say 'see, I can write and sell it' when trying to publish. And if not then I'll be able to self publish and already have a small following to read the new books and point them out to others and then they will point them out to others and so on... maybe.

But enough about what i hope to do with it; for your reading pleasure (I've decided to start talking like I'm a good writer, not someone who is inconveniencing people) the first small part of;


“The elf known as Draegon kneels atop the building and aims down the scope of his rifle. A smirk slides across his features and he pulls the trigger, sending the sniper rifle’s bullet soaring straight down at the target. It hits him dead between the-” Dylan narrated.
“Wait,” Wren said. Raising a hand to his elven friend. “Roll a dee-ten on whichever’s higher; Dex or Luck.”
“What? Come on, it’s a gun, not a sword. It doesn’t take skill to use, it’s got targeting systems,” Dylan argued, waving a hand at his elf assassin character sheet as it floated above the holo-projector.
Wren raised an eyebrow. “This is set in the twentieth century, or the technological equivalent of Galledar’s twentieth century. They didn’t have targeting systems for rifles back then. Just like they didn’t have laser pistols or commercial space travel. Your character looks down the scope - which really isn’t anything more than a zoom lens – and fires when he thinks that the bullet will hit the target.”
“Ugh…” Dylan groaned. “Fine.” He pressed a finger to the dice menu on his holo-display and dragged down to the ten sided die. He released and a short animation of a rolled die appeared, landing on a one. “Aw crap. Eight on Luck”
“Ok, you fire the gun and it misses the Orc president, hitting the elven president next to him….” Wren reached for his own holo-display and rolled a dee-six. It comes up as a two. “In the arm.”
“Dammit,” Dylan curses again.
“At least you didn’t kill him,” the youngest of their group, Magnus - a scrawny felie boy with shaggy black fur that had a lynx like quality to it - consoled, sitting forward, to get a good look at the pieces on the table. “Okay,” he says, looking up at Wren behind his Quest Master divider. “I look around and see if there are any security bots-”
“No security bots, not invented,” the fourth member of their group, Charlie, reminded his friend.
“Right.” Magnus nodded, looking around the table’s figures. “Sorry.”
“Try helicopters,” Charlie offered. He turned to Wren. “Am I saying that right?”
“Yeah.” Wren nodded. “You want to look for helicopters?” He asked Magnus. The youngster nodded. “Ok, roll a dee-ten on perception.”
Magnus rolled his holo-dice and it came up as a nine. He looked up at his Dwarf investigator’s character sheet and read out his perception total. “Sixteen,” he said.
“Ok, cool. You don’t see any helicopters, they’re not allowed in the area because it was considered too dangerous with the Orc and Elven president appearing. You do, however, see a government sniper on the opposite building.”
“Why didn’t we see him before?” Dylan asked, frowning.
“You didn’t look.” Wren shrugged. “He’s looking around for the shooter and turning to look in your direction.”
“I use a cloaking spell to cover all three of us,” Charlie said quickly, reaching for his dee-ten. “Rolling against intelligence…” he looked up for confirmation that it was ok. Wren nodded and Charlie let the dee-ten roll. “Five,” he announced, scrolling through his human wizard’s character sheet. “Plus my seven; twelve.”
“Okay, the shield goes up over you, but it doesn’t extend to the others,” Wren describes.
“If we stand behind him what happens?” Dylan asks.
“They see through him and see you,” Wren responds. Dylan frowns and looks down at the map.
“Is the sniper’s building higher than ours?” Magnus asks. “How far away was he?”
Wren smiles. “Marginally higher and pretty far.”
“Okay, I lay down by the lip of the building, where he can’t see me.”
“Me as well,” Dylan says.
“Ok, roll against either; Dex, Int, Perception or Luck.”
“Dee-ten?” Dylan asked. Wren nodded. The two of them rolled dee-tens and both came up as tens. They rolled again. Dylan got sixteen and Magnus got eighteen. “That’s twenty-three on luck.”
“Twenty-five on perception,” Magnus responded.
“Both of you manage to hide from the sniper and he passes over both of you.”
“Awesome,” Magnus exclaimed.
A ringing sounded on Wren’s holo. He frowned at it, time was up. He pressed it off. “Well I guess that’s all for this week. Meet back here next week?”
The ringing sounded again, this time it sounded higher, less like a ring more like a siren. He frowned at it again and pressed the off button, but it wouldn’t turn off. He started shaking and he realised that Magnus was holding his shoulders. The table was gone, Magnus was in its place, shaking him. “Wren, snap out of it,” he said.
Wren frowned at the youngster and watched as he rapidly aged. He blinked and the room was gone. Young Magnus was gone. Young Wren was gone. He was aboard Kino-class Imperial War ship ‘Relentless’, and it was under attack.
“Sir, you’re alive. Good,” Magnus said, stepping back as Wren blinked.
Wren took in a few deep breaths and forced himself back to his feet, getting his bearings. The circuits in his command seat had blown and he’d been sent flying. He had blood dripping down his face, but Magnus seemed fine. His XO and his oldest living friend patted him on the shoulder and looked into his eyes. “Are you good to go, sir?”
Wren nodded. “Report.”
“Sir,” Magnus responded, saluting and turning to face the holo-displays. “Three pirate war ships including the supposedly destroyed Imperial Hunter-Class destroyer, Jeopardy,” Wren’s eyes widened and he looked up at the screens. How the hell did they get a hold of Charlie’s ship? It’d been six years since Charlie and his crew had been blown out of the sky… and yet there was the ship they had been flying in when it’d happened. “Six cruisers and five carriers remain; they have a hundred and fifty fighters. Their assault has taken us down to only a handful of fighters-”
“Sixty, sir,” a junior officer called from his post. The man stood in front of his console, chair knocked away from him in the assault.
“Sixty fighters remain,” Magnus continued. “We’ve lost the Indomitable and the Victory and only one of our carriers remains.”
“How the hell did they amass such a force?” Wren cursed, looking up at the holo-displays. He watched fighters explode, watched the last carrier get attacked. “Dammit, we can’t win this.”
“Sound the retreat,” Wren sighed, shaking his head.
“Sir, the carrier only holds thirty fighters and we have-” Magnus’ eye flicked to the holo-displays. “Fifty seven still out there.”
“Tell the others to clamp onto the outside of our hull,” Wren ordered. “It won’t be a fun journey for them but they’ll survive.”
“Yes sir,” Magnus agreed, nodding to a junior officer.
“Set co-ordinates tee-zee. Via New Xelaren,” Wren ordered, watching allied ships explode on the holo-displays as they peeled off and attempted to latch onto his ship.
“We’re returning to the core sir?” Magnus asked.
Wren nodded. “On the off chance that this isn’t a fluke and the pirates have become more organised; the King needs to know.”
His eye twitched as he watched a strafing run across the side of his ship blow seven of his defenceless fighters to pieces. It wasn’t a good plan. It wasn’t a smart plan. It wasn’t an honourable plan. It was survival. “Ready, sir,” Magnus said.
“Make the jump.”
“Sir.” Magnus nodded to a junior officer and the ship shuddered. The holo-displays showed the Carrier zip out of existence and then Relentless did the same. A couple of fighters that hadn’t clamped on properly peeled off and were disintegrated by the kinetic energy that rippled off of the ships high speed motions.
He cursed and closed his eyes, turning away. “Full casualty report,” he said, placing his hands on his hips.
“We don’t have it, sir,” Magnus apologised. “We won’t have it until we drop out of the jump and link with the Carrier.”
Wren nodded. “An estimate then?”
Magnus took a breath and, after letting it out slowly responded, “Full crew of the Indomitable, one-thousand-two-hundred men. Full crew of the Victory, one-thousand-two-hundred men. Full crew of the Obsidian, the Hematite, the Amethyst and the Jasper, Two-thousand-six-hundred-and-Fifty-Six men. One-hundred-and-seven one man fighters. An estimated twenty-five percent death rate aboard the Quartz, though we’ll have to wait for their report.”
“And on Relentless?” Wren asked, already cursing himself for his failure.
“Lower three decks have hull breach, we had an explosion in the med bay and the weapon engineering. Reports are still coming in, but I’d estimate that we lost three-hundred men,” Magnus responded.
Wren cursed. Magnus’s estimations were usually accurate. He really had failed. An estimated five-thousand-six-hundred-and-seventy-five out of seven-thousand-and-seventy lives lost. More than an eighty percent death rate. He hadn’t had such a crushing defeat since his simulated battles against Charlie at the academy.
“Estimated time to arrival at New-Xelaren?” He asked.
“Two hours,” Magnus responded.
Wren nodded. “Very well. Send the holo of the battle to my cabin, make sure the spaced levels are sealed, get the fires out and contact me when we have an exact casualty rate.”
“Very well, sir,” Magnus nodded.
“XO Magnus, you have command,” Wren said before turning and walking off of the bridge.


Well I hope you enjoyed that, it's still the first draft so I have a fair way to go, but there you have it. Enjoy your weekend everybody!

In-recognition-of-UK's-new-stance-on-gay-rights-laws... probably-not-appropriate-but-fuck-it.
- James

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Twenty-Eight of Fifty-Two


Jim Butcher's Codex Alera and Dresden Files

OK, so I've only read - listened to - the first four Dresden Files books. I listened to them on Audible and they were amazing, though that could easily be because James Marsters (Spike from Buffy, Brainiac from Smallville, you know who it is) was reading it. He just sounds perfect for the role.
I have finished the Codex Alera books (barring any book he's released recently that I don't know about, but I'm fairly sure the series is over), and those ones I actually read. It took me about 3 years, but I read them.
I started the first Codex Alera book back in 2009 when I went to Scotland for the day for an interview. I reach about 300 pages waiting for cabs and planes and waiting for my interview, but by the end of that day I was just absolutely sick of it. I didn't want to touch it anymore and didn't pick it up again until I started working again this time last year. On the journey to and from work, and in my lunch breaks, I finished that book and the five other novels in the series.
I powered through it in a month, less than. There was one book that I read 1/3 of in a day, almost missing one of my trains.

Codex Alera is the story of a young man without any powers in a world where everyone, even the weakest person, has powers. It's a story of a young man finding his place in the world and saving a lot of people along the way.
The first two books are a little boring but the third and onwards are awesome. Set in a Romanic world where everyone (except Tavi) has control of elemental spirits called Furies. they can use these spirits to control all of the elements, but few people have a spirit from each element.
Tavi, a young farm boy gets caught in a fury storm one night while looking for lost sheep and runs into an agent of the emperor. He and his whole family get caught up in wars and monsters across the lands of Alera leading to the shocking reality of who Tavi really is, but I won’t give that away.
Fun fact; Jim Butcher wrote the Alera books when someone bet him that he couldn't write a story about Pokemon and the lost Roman legion and make it interesting. Conclusion; he both failed and succeeded. Succeeded; it’s an awesome set of books. Failed; I don't think you can remotely say that it's got anything to do with pokemon.

The Dresden files are about Harry Copperfield Blackstone Dresden. A wizard in Chicago who advertises in the business section. He mostly specialises in murders, but he helps out with other things as well.
I like to describe the Dresden Files as 'Harry Potter, if Harry was a homicide cop' but since he doesn't' work specifically for the police in the books it’s a little inaccurate.
The first book is your average detective story (but with magic). It's good, really good even, but they get great as you keep reading. The first one is a standalone book but the rest have continuing plots, in the background at least. Events unfolding that are related to previous books and future events. It's really cool and you have to pay attention. I consider myself good at figuring out plots but a lot of the time I've not managed to figure out what's going on. Sometimes I do, but I prefer not guessing.

Anyway, they're both really good stories, read them... you know what'd be awesome? If I got published I could do give an away with each of the of 52s.
But I'm not yet.

- James

P.S. I can't afford the lock pick gear so I'm learning sound editing.

Friday 1 February 2013

Twenty-Seven of Fifty-Two



HK-47 is the only character to make appearances in all of the old republic games. He was a companion in Star Wars: Knights of the old Republic one and two but he's also an enemy in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

HK is an assassin robot built by Lord Revan when he was the Dark Lord of the sith. When Revan vanished the HK unit was sold on and from there it was sold on and on and on leaving a swath of dead bodies - targets and masters - in his wake.

My love of this character goes back to my love of Dexter and of Darth Bane; he's bad. he's a bad bad man who likes to kill things and it's facinating. Yes, OK, in the end he's not so much bad as he is  a servant of Revan (who is also baddass) but he's still hilarious.

From his inability to call living people anything but 'meatbags' to his love of all things mean and violent HK-47 set the tone for the star wars universe in a way that no other has. Funny but dangerous. Scary but still somehow believable, regardless of the fact that it's a sci-fi creation of metal and death.

A good example of HK-47's awesomeness is this wookie-pedia page. It's a list of his best quotes. Peruse at your leisure.

Anyway, if you want to discover HK-47 for yourself you should buy Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 1 and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2 from steam. Well worth owning, and only £6.99 a piece.

- James

P.S. The podcast is coming, promise, just got the intro to do, we decided it needs to be more than the one we had. It's coming, promise!