Archive for the ‘enthusing!’ Category

By Sword, Stave or Stylus - High ResolutionI don’t get huge numbers of reviews, so I sometimes get over-excited when I receive one, especially one as glowingly positive as this recent review by Writerbee of By Sword, Stave or Stylus. To quote the start of the review, ‘These fantasy genre stories take wordsmithing and storytelling to great heights.’ I really can’t complain about a review like that!

By Sword, Stave or Stylus is available as ebook via Amazon.

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A good fight scene isn’t just an action star beating on some goons. It shows who the characters are and progresses the story. It has a unique style, a gruesome ballet of extraordinary human movement.

Here are my three favourite recent examples.

Daredevil’s Hallway

Netflix’s Daredevil had a lot of action. But my favourite part came in episode two:

Two things I love about this scene:

It’s stylistically unusual, the movement on and off screen creating a novel perspective and engaging the viewer’s imagination in working out what’s happening out of shot.

It shows the protagonist’s character, and that the violence is affecting him. He’s so exhausted he keeps having to stop and rest against the wall, but nothing’s going to stop him reaching his goal.

Snowpiercer’s Sense of Direction

Snowpiercer uses fights not as interruptions to the characters’ dilemmas and journey, but as part of that journey. By continuing its left/right breakdown of shots, and using this to show characters making decisions as well as making progress, it connects the action in to a cohesive and powerful narrative.

The Raids

The Raid and The Raid 2 feature some of the most breathtaking fight scenes in modern cinema. Sure, their plots are primarily vehicles for those fight scenes, but from the floor-by-floor carnage of the first film to the punch-up in the confines of a car late in the sequel, and right through to its brutal climax, they keep showing something new.

Agree, disagree, can’t see the point in on screen violence? Share our thoughts, and great examples I’ve missed, in the comments below.

Daredevil has shown that the combination of superheroes and gritty noire drama can work on TV as well as in comics. If that’s a new idea to you, or one you want to explore further, then I recommend one of the all time great overlooked comics – Sleeper by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.

Sleeper is the story of Holden Carver, a secret agent under cover in an organisation of supercriminals. Except that he’s been cut adrift, without a handler or support, and being undercover means acting like the people he’s pretending to be. As loyalties tangle and motives blur, Holden is faced with the terrible question of whether he’s really a hero or just another villain. And worse yet, which does he want to be?

I’m not going to provide a detailed review. There’s so much to love about this comic that I could spend weeks picking over the details. Sean Phillips’s art is the perfect choice for a noire story, full of shadows and worn down looking characters. The supercriminal underworld is well thought out. The characters have both novel hooks and hidden depths. The plot is twisted but always coherent. The page layouts play with the comic book medium in ways that will delight long time comic fans without getting in the way of casual readers.

This book only ran for twenty-four issues, collected in four volumes. That means you can enjoy the whole story without getting lost in the endless web of superhero connectivity or decades long arcs. If you don’t have a comic shop nearby you can download the free Comixology app and buy the e-reader version through there. And you should. Because Sleeper is amazing.

Content warning though – Sleeper is full of violence, sex, bad language and unpleasant characters, sometimes all at once. It takes a dark palette to enjoy it.

I watch a lot of YouTube videos, both to relax and to provide writing inspiration. One of my current favourite channels is PBS Space Time, where astrophysicist host Gabe Perez-Giz explores some often crazy questions about space. I love the combination of bizarre topics with real science, which is very fertile ground for science fiction ideas. Here are two of my recent favourites – ‘Could you fart your way to the Moon?’ and ‘Could NASA start the zombie apocalypse?’

One day, maybe we can all fart our way to the moon.

Some people – both fans and critics – still seem to want to stick fantasy in a special cultural corner. But lets face it, when one of the most popular works in the genre is getting regicide jokes onto Sesame Street, that genre isn’t the wimpy kid in the corner any more.

And as if to prove that Game of Thrones can be combined with just about anything, here are two very different parodies I stumbled across within minutes of each other. Enjoy!

When I go on holiday, even though I leave the writing behind I always find myself stumbling across inspiration. Of note this time…

Walking with (slightly unconvincing) dinosaurs, great for ideas for monsters.

Walking with (slightly unconvincing) dinosaurs, great for ideas for monsters.

One scientist's idea of intelligent life evolving from dinosaurs. Star of some future story.

One scientist’s idea of intelligent life evolving from dinosaurs. Star of some future story.

Dorchester's teddy bear museum, a place of the uncanny and terrible puns.

Dorchester’s teddy bear museum, a place of the uncanny and of many terrible bear-related puns. For any Thomas Hardy fans out there, this is the family of the Bear of Casterbridge. Because Bear = Mayor, and Casterbridge was based on Dorchester. Funny, right? Right? Why are you not laughing? I did.

Why yes, a soft toy of an infamous sadist sounds like an excellent idea. That's an inspiringly wrong juxtaposition of elements.

Why yes, a soft toy of an infamous sadist sounds like an excellent idea. That’s a brilliantly wrong juxtaposition of elements.

A tree with a scarf. I love it when random creativity escapes into the world like this.

A tree with a scarf. I love it when random creativity escapes into the world like this.

Not story inspiration but I made all my old Lego! And half my brother's! So much fun.

Not story inspiration but I made all my old Lego! And half my brother’s! And a new set I bought! So much fun.

Finally, the best cheesecake I've ever tasted, and I eat a lot of cheesecake. If you're ever in Dorchester, check out the Old Tea House.

Finally, the best cheesecake I’ve ever tasted, and I eat a lot of cheesecake. If you’re ever in Dorchester, check out the Old Tea House.

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Dirk Dynamo is enjoying a life of learning with the gentlemen adventurers of the Epiphany Club. Joining an expedition to find the Great Library of Alexandria, Dirk finds himself on the island of Hakon, where colonial life is not what it seems. With monsters in the jungle, conspiracies in the mansion and ninjas dogging his trail, can Dirk and his friends find the first clue to the Library before they meet a deadly fate?

The first in my series of Epiphany Club novellas, Guns and Guano, will be up on Amazon by the end of March. A tale of action, adventure and ingenuity, it’s the start of a series of five novellas featuring adventurer Dirk Dynamo and aristocratic inventor Sir Timothy Blaze-Simms, heroes of some of my previous short stories. I’m really excited and proud to be putting this out there.

You can read a couple of Dirk and Blaze-Simms’s earlier adventures in my steampunk collection Riding the Mainspring, available free to anyone signing up to my mailing list. And keep an eye on this blog for more news of the new release.

Very excited I tell you!