A Trip to Perth

This one’s a little late but due to my laptop needing a new hard drive, that kind of took priority! So, after two awesome weeks in Melbourne, I was set for a 4 and half hour journey to Perth on the west coast.

First things first, it’s hot over there! I thought Melbourne was warm but bloody hell, this took it to a whole new level. Absolutely gorgeous, though. Some of the countries best beaches are that way, I had been told, and I can confirm that now (from what I’ve seen so far).

There’s so much more than that, and I was lucky to have a friend over there to show me around some of these really cool places!

Kings Park

One of the views of Perth from King's Park

One of the views of Perth from King’s Park

This is quite possibly one of the biggest parks I’ve been to. I spent over four hours one day wandering through it and still missed so much of it. It is HUGE! It’s also on top of a big hill (why do I do this to myself?!) but once up there, there were some stunning views.

Memorials, the Botanical Gardens (which is split into different regions) and views over the CBD and harbour. Remember the weather is essentially perfect so I had to delete a lot of duplicate photos!

Even better, along the edge of the park, closest to the water, is a

Quokka

Quokka

walkway with viewpoints and also a glass bridge! Not going to lie, that freaked me out a little (I don’t like heights, after all) but I still went over it, of course.

So. Many. Animals

So, after seeing penguins in St Kilda, I knew I was going to see these cute buggers called quokkas on Rottnest Island. They are ridiculously cute and very happy to approach people (but don’t feed them) for pictures. I also tried snorkelling for the first time. It was strange but with more practise I’ll get there.

Dolphin

Dolphin

Another trip took us to Penguin Island. We did a boat trip first and saw dolphins! They even chased the waves the boat made. That was cool. On the island itself, we saw a penguin feeding but the wild ones were hiding during the day. We did see one in a little cave, though.

We also went to a wildlife park where I was able to feed kangaroos, meet a koala and a wallaby among many more. That was an awesome day, too. Lots of pictures from that day – animals don’t listen to instructions very well!

Geeky heaven

Inside White Dwarf Books

Inside White Dwarf Books

One of my favourite things about Perth happened a couple of days in. I discovered a bookshop called White Dwarf books. Now, everyone knows I love books but this store goes to a whole new level as it’s a store specifically for science fiction and fantasy.

YES, YOU HEARD ME!

I stayed in there for hours chatting to the staff, who were cool. I actually missed a bus tour around the city, but I regret nothing. I could have bought everything in that shop.

Inside The Nostalgia Box

Inside The Nostalgia Box

About a ten minute walk is a place called the Nostalgia Box, a retro gaming museum. It’s a neatly packed place going through the history of video game consoles from the beginning through to the last generation and even though I knew a fair bit, I came away with a little more knowledge. Bonus.

And, of course, a bunch of consoles to play, too!

Cider and Pork!

Music at the Cider and Pork Festival

Music at the Cider and Pork Festival

The last weekend of my stay in Perth happened to coincide with the Cider and Pork Festival. This was a great night with good drinks, even better food and decent music.

I met some really cool people, one couple in particular stood out. We were chatting and they asked about my book. After explaining it to them, and what my job involves, they practically demanded I stay in the country longer than the current plan. It was really nice to hear people that enthusiastic about my work and I admit, I am tempted to stay longer if I can.

I want to point out here that these events in the UK are ridiculously expensive. While alcohol is generally more expensive in Australia than back home anyway, the prices I paid for these drinks were about the same as in bars, so it made no difference. A festival back home has a definite increase in price.

This is just a snapshot, we did so much! Those two weeks ended too early, I think. Back to Melbourne for a few more weeks with the F1 coming up fast!

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And now we wait

Here we are again. As I mentioned last time, I was making the final changes to my book – the ones that actually needed to be made. Those are now done (for the moment) and I spent the weekend searching for agents, creating a spreadsheet and finalising a synopsis.

Again, I could have spent weeks and months tinkering with these but that beats the point. I sent enquiries to five agents on Monday and now I’m playing the waiting game. It’s my least favourite game. Ever.

It needs to be done, though, so until then I better find ways to pass the hours (and boredom).

Catching up on, well, everything

I’ve spent a lot of my free time over the last two years working on the book. I’ve balanced it with work and seeing friends and family at various places and events.

What I’ve missed out on are games, books and TV shows. So, while I’m waiting for responses and getting myself ready to start the next project, I’ll be playing catch up (and not feeling guilty about doing so).

I’m up to date on Game of Thrones, at least!

There are games I started and never finished – and others I never even started – and there is a mahoosive pile of books to read that glare at me whenever I don’t pick one up. Seriously, it’s a little creepy at times.

I don’t have a job yet, although I’ll start looking for one shortly, and I’m enjoying the downtime right now. My batteries are getting close to full for the first time in ages! Until I get back into a normal routine again, I’m going to enjoy this.

Oh, and…

A writing challenge!

After discussions with other writers, I’ve decided on something to do over the next month or so. Starting next Monday, I’m going to write some short stories, one each day (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc). I’d better get those random thoughts and ideas together this week!

However, that’s not going to keep me going long…only one week!

The following three weeks, I’m going to edit those stories on the same day I wrote them – so the following three Mondays I’ll edit the story I wrote on the first Monday. The same for Tuesday, Wednesday etc.

By the end of four weeks, I should have seven stories which are looking pretty sharp. If I get a job by then, it’ll be harder but I’ve missed the shorts and think this will be a good way to get back to them.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes over the next few weeks!

Reliving a Childhood Dream with Pokémon Go

I’m going off on a tangent tonight – this post isn’t strictly about writing but there is still a link. We’ll get to that later.

Like many others, I’ve been playing this mobile game since release. It’s a fairly simple game. It uses a map and GPS to spawn Pokémon near you. You then throw Pokéballs to catch it. There are different versions of the catching devices that improve the capture rate and various levels of monsters that appear. Travel to different locations and you’ll find different monsters. The game encourages you to go and explore the area – although in some cases, it’s best to do this with others, unfortunately.

I’m not here to review the game, however. There’s plenty of posts for that, and I’m not saying it’s the best game ever – there are faults and great features. This is a little more personal than that.

The nostalgia

Favourite Pokémon so far in Pokémon Go

Favourite Pokémon so far in Pokémon Go

I grew up with Pokémon. I was a part of the generation that fell in love with the games, the trading cards and even the TV show. I’m not ashamed of that. Hell, I still have some of the cards somewhere – they took a while to collect.

As a kid, I was full of dreams. That’s not uncommon. Talk to any child and their imaginations are off in another world. Stories run amok. Rules and conventions go out the window. Its surreal watching and listening to them go – yet I can’t recall exactly what my thought process was like back then. It’s a shame, as I’m sure my already active imagination would be a never ending source of inspiration.

Other than wanting to be a Jedi, having my own Iron Man suit and many others, I wanted to go out and catch Pokémon. The card and GameBoy games were the closest I could get. It was fine but growing up, I realised how silly it was.

It still is.

Yet here I am, 20 years later, actually doing it. Granted, it’s on my phone but I’m going out, meeting people, discovering places I had no idea even existed after seven years in Manchester.

This whole thing has sparked something in me. I’m doing more exercise, reliving a dream and finding motivation for other endeavours I’m working on (the books I’ve been putting off editing). If that’s only thing it does, I’ll still count the whole experience as a win for me.

In the end, it might wear off, but hey, why not enjoy it while it lasts?

The opposing view

An example of the map in Pokémon Go

An example of the map in Pokémon Go

I’ve seen a lot of people bashing Pokémon Go and for the life of me, I don’t understand why. Apparently it’s sad that people walk around staring at their phones – yet we do that anyway with Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram etc. We LIVE on phones nowadays, for better or worse.

I’m firmly on the side of Pokémon Go, whether people like or not. It’s done good for plenty of people – why not focus on that?

So here are just a few points I raise to people:

People are now playing games and getting exercise – it beats sitting on your backside playing Candy Crush or that ilk (note: I have nothing against those kinds of games, but I’m not bashing them either.

How many kids have the phones and/or data allowance to play this game properly? Granted, this is becoming an obsolete point but parents also won’t them wander the streets alone at all hours with expensive devices. I hope.

Twenty years ago, most of these kids weren’t even born! If this is aimed at younger generations, why not choose a later generation of Pokémon that they’re more familiar with? The first generation brought the kids in as it’s a brand they know but also mine, as we remember them!

Another note – I realised I could still name most, if not all, of the original 151.

Instead of going out of your way to bash it, decide it’s not for you and move on. Unless people are trespassing on your property or interrupting your life, they aren’t hurting you. Get over it.

Why it even matters

The Gyarados took a long time to evolve...the second one won't take as long!

The Gyarados took a long time to evolve…the second one won’t take as long!

In the end, none of this does. I’ve rekindled something that I hope will help me in the future. It’s spawning new ideas already – although I need to get the books I’ve got in good order before writing more.

More importantly, I feel better. The extra exercise is doing me good (remember that swimming thing I started a while back? It’s still going on) and my jeans are very loose on me now. Woo!

Sure, the game is a bit of a grind but there’s a nice feeling of accomplishment when you get things done – that Gyarados took FOREVER.

I suppose, we just need to focus on the good more than the bad. There’s plenty of both around and it colours how we see the world and the people in it. My writing may be dark at times, but it’s not always negative.

Next time, I’ll be back to writing related posts. Ciao!

Return of the Writer

Once again, ladies and gents, you have my apologies. I had hoped to get back into the swing of things long before now but the book took a lot more out of me than I first thought. I really needed some time to recover – mentally more than anything – and to be able to look at all three books with a fresh mind.

Now, I feel like I’m finally at that stage. Oh, and I like puns. You should know this by now (and in case you didn’t get it – shame on you – that’s a Star Wars reference at the top. Can’t believe I explained that).

I’ve not been sitting idly by, however. Some things have been going on. So, my friends, join me on what, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a riveting tale. Maybe. Possibly. Okay, probably not but bear with me.

Where have I been?

I’ve been here and there, keeping busy without exhausting myself further. Or trying not to. I tried reading but that was a little too close to home and I found that even gaming wasn’t as appealing as I’d thought it would be. I did keep up with swimming, other than last week where I had other exercise plans (dodgeball – don’t ask but I do have a medal!). Hell, I even tried quitting smoking.

The one thing that is worth noting is that over the last couple of weeks is that it was the fifth Manchester Children’s Book Festival. I’ve volunteered at every single one to date and this year was no exception, although following the pattern of the previous two, I’m not as involved as previously but that doesn’t stop me enjoying it all the same.

It’s fantastic to see so many children getting involved with reading, writing, performances and much more – anything creative and wacky! It’s been a pleasure to see the festival grow since 2010 and I’m looking forward to next year already.

Expect a more detailed post on this in two weeks. I wouldn’t want to break tradition now, would I?

Finding motivation

One thing that I think has been really lacking for me is motivation. Since finishing the first draft of the most recent novel, I’ve been finding it hard to come back – for whatever reason. Life can work for or against us and we subconsciously associate that with actions, activities, emotions and such. I think when I’m not happy with something big in my life, it stops me from wanting to write as I feel that should be fixed first.

It doesn’t apply all the time but it does have an impact.

I also had a conversation with a friend about writer’s block, which I’m still not convinced actually exists as a thing but yet I’ve yet to encounter a writer who hasn’t used this term when they struggle. That seems to be more to do with ease – we all understand it, from varying sources – so it doesn’t need explanation. Despite that, why is it a thing and is it only a thing because we make it so? I don’t think I’ve had writer’s block as I write at work and generally. Hey, I’m writing a blog post right now! It’s an interesting thought, though.

Actually, I think this is a topic for a full blog post next month. Look out for that!

Putting together a plan

My manuscripts: one novella and two novels - not related to each other

My manuscripts: one novella and two novels – not related to each other

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have three projects to edit. The novella is first up, and I’ll be starting that at the weekend. I like it’s length but the ‘professional’ feedback (from agents and publishers) suggest it would work better as a novel. I’ll decide that as I go through the draft but I’m not convinced yet. There are other things that need to be fixed, however.

After that, I’ll start on one of the novels. The sci-fi project is up first, as it’s more recent and I think it needs less work. The story is well rounded, it just needs to be padded out in places, with a few more explanations and sub plots, supported by a little character development. That might sound a lot, but it won’t be as bad as you might think. Of course, after that comes the nit-picking of later drafts.

Finally, I’ll work on the fantasy novel. That needs a fair bit adding to it for me to be happy. The good thing is, I know what to add, the big question is where it should go. I have some ideas but the edit will help identify weaker areas and the plot holes that I know exist.

If I can get all that done over summer, I MIGHT just have one ready to send out by the end of the year.

If I’m lucky.

Returning to The Night Watch Trilogy

Night Watch Trilogy

The Night Watch trilogy

It’s been quite a while since I first read The Night Watch – I can’t remember when, I just know that I was hooked. I stormed through it in a couple of days and the rest of the trilogy followed the same way. The Day Watch was probably my least favourite (but still fantastic) and The Twilight Watch had me re-reading different sections to try and make sense of what was going on – it happened very quickly!

Not the standard novel

While not always, I’m definitely used to reading a novel in a format I’m expecting. Chapters break it up, with further breaks at appropriate points. It’s one story from start to finish. Fine. Cool. The usual.

Not this time. The Night Watch, and every book that follows in this series is split into three parts. They still form a more complete story but there are bigger gaps in these breaks and the narrative of each is more focused. This gives each book more depth without having to drag its feet. In short, think three novella’s rather than one novel. However, they tie in well together.

This theme continues in The Day Watch and then The Twilight Watch. There is excellent growth for main and supporting characters, with some appearing and others returning at different times. The first story in The Day Watch deviates from the ‘norm’ in that it’s the only one to follow a different character – rather than Anton, our protagonist throughout the other eight stories we follow Alisa. This still ties in well and I won’t say more so I don’t spoil it for you.

Morality plays a key role

So, the basic premise: the world consists of humans and Others. These Others can use their powers to cast spells, transform and enter the Twilight, a second world that runs alongside our own. Time slows down and the energy is drained out of anyone who spends time there. Others are split into Light and Dark depending on their emotional state when they first enter the Twilight, as well as determining what they’ll become (a magician, shape shifter, witch, healer and such) and in a lot of ways, this is where the problems begin.

Anton is a relatively new Other compared to many other characters you’ll meet along the way. As such, he still believes himself to be mostly human and as a Light Other, he is concerned with protecting human beings as often as he can.

The older, stronger and wiser Others have lost this part of themselves. They are stuck in a war, a power struggle and endless games to tip the balance in their favour and they are prepared to use any means necessary to get their way. This includes influencing people’s decisions when they enter the Twilight and even prophecies from years before. We’ll touch more on prophecies later.

Anton encounters moral dilemmas in almost every story in the series and it’s how he decides to handle the problems that arise which determine who he is. Will he become an Other like his teacher and head of the Night Watch, Gesar and his rival Zabulon (head of the Day Watch) or keep a hold of his humanity? Maybe there’s a third option – that’s what Anton is looking for but he doesn’t always find it.

There are some great characters you’ll meet along the way such as Semyon, Olga, Alisa, Edgar, Arina and more although my favourite is Tiger Cub. One story sees Anton and his Night Watch colleagues visit her home and it sounds like paradise to me! Got a favourite?

Do let me know!

Are there some problems in the translation?

While these books have been translated well, there are instances where I feel it’s been too literal. I’m no expert on the Russian language – in fact, I have no idea about it – but some phrases just don’t read write and at times it reads fine but the message behind it is just a bit off.

I don’t think it really impacts the text too much but as a reader it would be nice to have those things fixed. I’m no expert on translations and contracts either (yet – one day, maybe!) but I’d have imagined some creative license could be taken with the author’s consent to solve some issues. You’ll also notice a lot of song lyrics and I do have to wonder how these translations hold up.

If you’ve looked into this, I’d love to know what you found.