Knightfall - buy it now

Friday, 25 October 2013

A new addition to our family!

Just a short post to introduce everyone to Logan!  He is a Toyger (which is a breed of cat for those of you not in the know) and he is absolutely delightful.  We have been waiting for him for what seems like forever (he is now 3 months old and couldn't come to us until he had had all of his vaccinations), but we picked him up this morning.

Check out his breeder Queenanne Cats for pictures of him when he was even smaller as well as the other Toygers and Bengals that she has!

Now, his first pictures!

Saturday, 19 October 2013

STEVE! - My review of Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2

There are many perks to having children, but one of them is getting to see movies that you wouldn't normally see.  Of course, it's not always a perk (The Smurfs anyone??), but on the whole, kids movies seem to be getting better.  Earlier this year, I thoroughly enjoyed Despicable Me 2, and today my 8 year old daughter and I went to see Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2.

Sequels they may both be, but they managed to take what was great about the first film and expand upon it whilst at the same time taking it in a new direction.  If you haven't seen the first film, you should.  Really, it's great, and you can pick it up on DVD for around £5 or so.  It tells the story of Flint Lockwood, a bumbling inventor who makes such amazing things as spray on shoes (that you can't take off), Hair Unbalder, and a monkey thought translator (whose only word throughout the first film is 'Steve!', his name).  His latest invention is able to turn water into food, and as well as making him famous, it almost destroys the world.

I won't say anymore.  If you've seen it, you know what happens, and if you don't, you really should.

The second film picks up at the end of the first, where he has just disabled his invention, and another inventor (Flint's childhood idol) comes in to help with the clean-up.  Suffice to say, he has his own agenda, and ultimately it's up to Flint and his friends to save the day.  This time around, the food has mutated into food based animals, some of my favourites being the cheese spider (a giant beef burger that spins webs made of cheese) and the tacodile (a large crocodile like animal made of tacos with red chillies for legs).  There is also one of the cutest little creatures seen on film in a while, Berry the talking strawberry, with big soppy eyes and little stumpy legs.  My daughter immediately announced that she would like one, so if they come out as toys for Christmas, I'm sure they'll clean up.

At the end of the day, bad guys get beaten, the good guys are all friends again, new friends are made and there's a lot about not judging something by what it looks like.  There are also some great lines, some for the children ('There's a leek in the boat' - a walking leek on the deck, a recurring gag that's somehow funny every time), and ones for the grownups ('She wants you to put your hands on her buns').  Everyone in the cinema was laughing all the way through, not just me!

One point to note, my daughter and I went to see this film in 3D, purely for the time it was on (2D was at 1030 or 1750, both inconvenient for us).  It added little, if anything to the film, and relied on unnecessary gimmicks such as fishing rods coming out of the screen at you.  Unless you're a huge fan of 3D, I would recommend seeing it in 2D and saving yourself a few pounds.

Overall, a great movie, and a worthy sequel.  8/10

Monday, 14 October 2013

Blog Hop

Right then, my turn on the blog hop!

Last week, friend and author Thomas R. Manning tagged my blog for the hop, so today it's my turn to answer those all important questions!

Remember, whatever the question,
this is always the answer....
1.  What are you working on right now?
I am about 30,000 words into New Light, the third book in my Benjamin Knight series.  Aside from the prologue, the story continues minutes after the cliff-hangers at the end of book 2, answering the questions (I hope) the readers were asking when they closed those last few pages.  I hit a bit of a wall a month or so back, and with family holidays and my honeymoon (yay!) I have written little in this last month.  Now I am back though, and I hope to crack on with impunity!
2.  How does it differ from other works in it's genre?
The Benjamin Knight series is a story that defies the attempt to categorise.  Just when you think it's Science Fiction, I throw a Steampunk wrench into the works.  When you're comfortable with Steampunk, it develops fantasy elements.  Then there's the political intrigue and a murder plot, a lot of action and adventure, all wrapped around a complex war story.  It's not referred to as 'Lord of the Rings for the Call of Duty Generation' for nothing!
3.  Why do you write what you do?
Benjamin Knight's story has been with me for over 20 years, and it has refused to go away.  I first started his story when I was at university, and despite not putting pen to paper for over fifteen years, he still refused to stay quiet.  Now he's getting his wish, and the first big chapter of his story is almost complete (the first 3 books of The Chronicle of Benjamin Knight tell one story, but there are many more stories to be told).  After this is done, I have 2 other stories currently fighting with me over which will get written next.
4.  How does your writing process work?
I tend to know the overall plot of the story, along with the important scenes that progress the plot, but a lot of the in between in fluid.  I like to sketch out timelines for characters on bits of paper, and then fill in the gaps as I go along.  This can lead to some interesting problems, but also some interesting revelations (I didn't realise what Alexander's true motive was until I wrote it!).  I've tried to plan out in meticulous detail, but I found this just interfered with the creative process.  I like the detail to come out in the writing as the individual characters speak to me (which they do, Alexander sounds like Malcolm McDowell).
Well, thanks Tom for inviting me to do this.  Next week it's the turn of Bryan Miller, author of Kyrathaba Rising, and also an excellent proof reader.  Check out his post next week!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Two weeks in Paradise – Part 5 – Submarine Trip

This, apart from the quality time me and my wife spent together, was the highlight of the trip for me. I never thought I'd get chance to go in a real submarine, not without joining the Navy or winning the lottery, and I loved every minute of it. I switched between photos and video, so check it out below!

What I didn't realise would happen was that the colour red almost disappears below the water. The further down we got (to a maximum depth of 35m), the less red things on the boat. When I thought about the physics of it, I suppose it's pretty obvious, but to actually see it happen was something else!

Anyway, onto the video, but beware, it lasts 17 minutes.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Two weeks in Paradise – Part 4 – Catamaran Trip

This was an all day trip off the eastern part of the island, sailing from Trou d'Eau Douce, taking in the idyllic island of Ile aux Cerfs and also taking a speedboat journey down the Grande Riviere Sud-Est to get pictures of the amazing waterfall!

The view from the catamaran - just look how clear and blue the water is! 
About 4 catamarans made the journey together.

Looking down the Grande Riviere Sud-Est.
  We took a five minute speedboat ride from the catamaran down the river to reach the...

If you look in the trees, you can see bats hanging from the branches!
The lagoon on the island of Ile aux Cerfs.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Two weeks in Paradise – Part 3 – Swimming with Dolphins

This was the highlight of the trip for my wife. Despite having to get up at 4:30 am to get the coach, this was truly magical. Once we had travelled to La Carangue in the south-west part of the island, we boarded a speedboat which took us out to sea. The Captain had been doing this every day for around 17 years he told us (at the same time he told us it was his job?! Who could describe sailing everyday to watch dolphins swim and play in their natural habitat as a job!), and knew the normal routes the dolphins took as they passed the island.

Along with other boats, we followed their route until they were visible, and were lucky enough to find a school of approximately 30-40 spinner dolphins, swimming and jumping ahead of us. One we had taken our fill of videos and photos, the boat sped ahead of the dolphins to allow us to get into the water and swim with them as they caught up! It was amazing.

Sadly, I don't have a waterproof camera, but believe me when I say seeing such a large group of dolphins swim around and below you is like nothing else my wife or I had ever experienced, and something we will never forget.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Two weeks in Paradise – Part 2 – Tour of the Scenic South

For day 2 of my (sort of) review of Mauritius, I am going to talk about the all day tour we did of the 'Scenic South'.  Before I do that though, there is something much more important to mention:-
Jessica is my very own Princess
I am picking her up from school and taking her out for a birthday meal, and I hope she likes all of the Moshi Monster presents she asked for!  If she ever reads this, I hope that she realises that I love her more than anything else in the world.
Anyway, back to the tour of the Scenic South.
This was a full day excursion, and absolutely fantastic. The coach took us to a variety of wonderful places around the south-western portion of Mauritius. Check them out below!

The dormant volcano of Trou aux Cerf's, last erupted 70,000 years ago.
The Sacred Lake of Grand-Bassin, home to one of the many beautiful Hindu Temples around the island.
 This whole area was incredible.  The temple itself is beautiful, surrounded by large statues of some of the most important Hindu Gods.  We were also allowed inside the temple, where my wife was lucky enough to receive a blessing.
The statue of Lord Shiva, standing at 108 feet tall!
You can see from the people stood in front of the statue exactly how big this is.  The detail up close is amazing, and across the road they are in the process of building another similarly sized God.

The Black River Gorges National Park and Waterfall 
This whole region is beautiful, with the waterfall off to the right (just out of shot of the picture sadly - check back later this week for more waterfall pictures).

Here I was lucky enough to sample many of the local rums, made from sugar cane grown on the island.  Suffice to say, they were all very tasty, and it was difficult to limit myself to only three bottles to bring home!

This whole place is wonderful.  One of the highlights was being able to get up close with the Giant Tortoises.  I imagined them to feel leathery but they were in fact very smooth to the touch!  Their shells are so varied and with so much detail up close.
This is quite a sight to see up close, surreal and beautiful at the same time.  Click on the link for details about why they are different colours!
Okay, that's it for today, be sure to check back tomorrow for pictures and video of us swimming with spinner dolphins!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Two weeks in Paradise – Part 1

Apologies for the lack of updates recently, but life has been a little busy! Following the family holiday at the end of August, and a few other minor bits and pieces, my wife and I were fortunate enough to finally take our honeymoon! Now, we got married on the 31st May 2013, so there has been a bit of a break since the wedding, but to anyone out there with jobs and children, I'm sure you can appreciate the logistics of taking two weeks away from everything and everyone!

First off, Mauritius is BEAUTIFUL! Truly paradise. To those of you who don't know, it is a small island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar. At approximately 55 miles north to south and 45 miles east to west, it is home to around 1.3million people. The official language is English, though most people tend to speak Mauritian Creole and French. It is home to many faiths, predominantly Hindu, with a significant proportion of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, and everyone does very well at living together and respecting each other's cultures.

My wife and I had the most amazing time, saw so much of the island and it's treasures, and I wanted to use this blog to show everyone pictures of some of what we got up to on our honeymoon.

(And before you ask, NO! There will be none of those sorts of pictures! You people are disgusting....)

Firstly, we stayed in a hotel in the north-east region of the island (Grand Gaube), called the Veranda Paul et Virginie Hotel and Spa. It's a small hotel but very friendly, with a lot of all inclusive water sports on the beach. They have their own glass bottom boat for exploring the local coral reef, as well as pedalos, windsurfing, kayaks, and snorkelling equipment.

The local beer (Phoenix) is delicious, a mild lager that is very refreshing in the 30 degree heat in September and October (a season the locals laughingly refer to as Winter!). The rum is also very tasty, also made on the island from their predominant crop – sugar cane. Many a day was spent by the pool, sipping at the beer, followed by a night of entertainment with a glass or two of rum and coke.

As I'm sure you can tell, we really didn't want to come home...

Anyway, for today, here are some pictures from in and around the hotel, just to make you all jealous. Over the next few days, I will post entries about the various trips and excursions we were lucky enough to do whilst in Mauritius, so check below the pictures for details.

View of the ocean as we sat drinking a cool refreshing beer

The outdoor restaurant

The view from our room

The beach


Part 2 – Tour of the Scenic South

Part 3 – Swimming with dolphins

Part 4 – Catamaran trip

Part 5 – Submarine trip