27 September 2012

Dyslexic friendly fonts could be coming to Amazon Kindle

Open Dyslexic font
Image source: BBC
I'll preface this by saying I don't have dyslexia, so I don't know the full range of characteristics or causes. However, a number of my friends are dyslexic and they've said how difficult reading can be without assistance. Hopefully this will shift the balance, especially for lovers of fiction who are dyslexic.

Open Dyslexic is an open source font that was created specifically to make reading easier for people with dyslexia. The font gives a heavier weight to the bottom of each letter and number, adding 'gravity' to the words. According to creator Abelardo Gonzalez, this stops the letters rotating and mixing with one another, one of the characteristics of dyslexia.

Spellwright by Blake CharltonThe font is free to download as a stand alone font and as an app for iOS and Android, and it has recently been adopted by the Instapaper app. There are also talks with Sony and Amazon for the Open Dyslexic font to be available on eReaders, so we could be seeing dyslexic friendly books on Kindle for the first time.

Fans of fantasy author Blake Charlton will know that he has dyslexia and channeled that into his novel Spellwright, where the protagonist is a dyslexic wizard in a world where words and letters are an integral part of the magic system. I've tweeted Blake to see what he thinks of this new font; I'll update this post if he responds.

I'd imagine that dyslexia may be one of the reasons that some have for not reading too much. I can imagine how frustrating it would be to try to plow into a 400 page fantasy novel and struggle all the way through. If more platforms adopt this font, this could open up an entirely new world for people with dyslexia. As a non-dyslexic I find the Open Dyslexic font fine to read, so it would be awesome to see printed fiction with this font too.

Do any of you suffer from dyslexia, and does the Open Dyslexic font make reading easier for you?

[via BBC]

26 September 2012

Stormdancer giveaway winners announcement!


The entries are in, the contest is closed and everything has been counted in. Without further ado, I give you the five winners of the Willy Wonka Golden Tick- err, the hardback copies of Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations to the winners!:

Christopher Deen
Zoe @ Fantasy Bytes
Urban Fiend @ Urban Fantasy Fiend
Anna Smith @ Universal Gibberish
Georgina Kent @ Makeup Pixi3

I'll send you guys emails asking for your postal address today. Once I've got them all, I'll let Tor Books know and they can get your books sent out to you!

24 September 2012

LEGO Lord of the Rings video game trailer

Don't forget to enter my giveaway to win a hardback copy of Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff!


Lego Lord of the Rings video game
Source: Geekgirlculture

October is going to be a very good month for video games. Not only is the epic Assassin's Creed III released on October 31st, we're also getting Lego Lord of the Rings at roughly the same time. As a fan of LotR and Lego, I'm quite excited about this.

I'm hesitant at the addition of voices to the usually silent cast, but the game play looks fantastic and in keeping with the traditional Lego video game style.. Very much looking forward to this. Here's the trailer for the game.

What do you think of the trailer? Do you think you'll pick up either Lego LotR or Assassin's Creed III this October?

21 September 2012

Zombie Quest: Mastermind the hexes [app review]

Zombie Quest logo


Zombie Quest
Created by Synaptic Wave

Available on iPhone [US App Store | UK App Store], iPad [US App Store | UK App Store] and Mac [US App Store | UK App Store]

Review copy of iPad app given by publisher

This is my first app review, and hopefully the first of many. Zombie Quest is a strategy board game similar to Reversi/Othello; your objective is to have as many of your pieces on the board by turning your opponent's pieces over to your side. You do this by moving one of your own pieces to a space adjacent to an enemy, causing it to flip and join your army.

Easy learning curve

The gameplay is simplistic; one of those "easy to pick up but difficult to master" deals. I've never been good at Reversi-type games, and this would have frustrated me had I been thrown in the deep end. Luckily, players are eased into the game with levels of varying difficulty (which translates to using smaller boards for easier levels). What makes Zombie Quest stand out from other Reversi games is that you collect special powers with each  new level you beat (which is characterised with a particular monster and a particular power e.g. zombies, psychopaths, Frankenstein's monsters). These powers add a new dimension to the strategy and stop the game from becoming stale too quickly.

Zombie Quest iPad screenshot

Looks great, but lacks replay value

That being said, the game lacks replay-ability. Special powers aside, the levels become fairly repetitive with different character and level skins over the top. Two player mode is better for replay value, but this is mainly due to having a second person playing against you.

The graphics of Zombie Quest are fantastic; it has a very cartoon-y style and it works well in defining the pieces on the board. The animations for activating the power ups, such as dropping a claw onto an enemy piece and removing them from the game, fit in very nicely with the overall look of the game. What did annoy me was the somewhat misleading title of "Zombie Quest" when the player character throughout remains a werewolf, and zombies only feature as AI enemies. A mild gripe, but as a zombie fan I felt a bit cheated.

In short, Zombie Quest is a fun game that looks really good and plays just as well. The gameplay is simple to pick up, and though it'll take a little while to master your strategy and beat the game, there's no incentive to play it through a second time.

All images were provided by the publisher.

Pop a comment and let me know if you'd like to see more fantasy app reviews!

19 September 2012

Copyright images and a call for featured writers


Don't forget to enter my giveaway to win a hardback copy of Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff!


Creative Commons licence drawing
Image source: karindalziel
I need to get some new photos on this blog. There are two reasons for this:

  • Photos I linked to but didn't upload myself in the early days have since been taken down, leaving my posts with gaping, blank holes in them.
  • Most of the photos I've used here are probably protected by some kind of copyright.
In this day and age, copyright is a sticky situation, especially for bloggers. Time was, we could use whatever the hell we wanted so long as we weren't making money off of it, so it counted as fair use. These days bloggers are getting sued by owners and receiving take-down notices for using other images and videos, even if they attribute and link to the source. It's pretty scary, so I'm not taking any chances.

It'll take a while, but I plan on removing all images from this blog (almost 400 posts worth) and I'll be using either my own images or things that are okay to use under a Creative Commons Licence. As for things like book covers, author photos, movie posters and screenshots of movies and video games, I'm no sure. I plan on keeping these as is and then get in touch with publishers and getting their opinions. Watch this space!

Guest posts wanted!

Image source: leg0fenris

I want YOU (yes, you), to wax lyrical here! I'm opening the doors for featured writers for a while, so if you want to write about anything related to blogging or the fantasy genre then let me know (a lot of other topics are fair game too, just let me know your idea)! Either pop a comment below or send me an email at mithrilwisdom@gmail.com and we'll take it from there!

What are your thoughts on using copyrighted images on your blogs? Do you have an idea for a guest post? Go crazy!

17 September 2012

Genre Favourites blogfest - time travel, British fantasy and Billy Joel

Don't forget to enter my giveaway to win a hardback copy of Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff!
Genre favourites blogfestIt's the Genre Favo(u)rites Blogfest! Hosted by the ever-awesome and super skilled Ninja Captain Alex, this is where we show where our allegiances lie in movies, music and books, plus a bonus guilty pleasure genre. At my last count, there were 168 people taking part, so go say hi to the others!

Everyone by now will guess my favourite genre in all three categories (hint: it's not contemporary thriller). So I've decided to make things a little more difficult and so I've gone for sub-genres instead. Enjoy!

The Time Machine poster

Movies - Time Travel

Surprisingly, when it comes to sub-genres I go for something in science-fiction. I'm a sucker for anything with an element of time travel in it. One of my all time favourite movies is The Time Machine from 1960. There's something about the way time travel is handled and explained that made a kind of sense to me. I'm looking forward to the latest time travel movie, Looper, with Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Music - Symphonic Power Metal

Yup, that's a real thing. Symphonic Power Metal music is filled with fantastic imagery, superb lyrics and a great melody. What marks this out as something different are the use of keyboards and the use of guest musicians to create a symphonic feel.One of the best examples is Ghost Opera by Kamelot.

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Books - British contemporary fantasy

Ever since I read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, I was hooked on the idea of fantasy as something that could easily be in the here and now as opposed to in an entirely different world. After reading the likes of China Mieville's Kraken and Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London, this has only been strengthened. These authors take the city of London and make it almost a living entity into itself and inject a distinctly British vibe to their writing.

Guilty Pleasure - Cheesy 80s pop (music)

For all my talk about being a metal-head, I occasionally love to put on an 80s Greatest Hits album and just listen to that for an hour or so. The 80s produced some horrific hair and fashion styles, but it gave us some pretty good music ... that could just be me being nostalgic.

What's your guilty pleasure genre?

14 September 2012

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff [book review]

Want this book? You're in luck, because I'm giving away hardback copies of Stormdancer! Check out the giveaway to win!

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff UK coverReviewed by

Stormdancer by Kay Kristoff
Published by Tor Books
ARC - 352 pages
Book one of The Lotus War 
Published September 2012
Review copy given by publisher

Read the synopsis for Stormdancer on Goodreads

When it comes to fantasy, I'm a stickler for culture; that elusive balance between characterisation and world building. With a setting and a premise as unique as Kristoff's, the 'culture' box was well and truly ticked for me. The land, customs, clothing and language are all heavily influenced by feudal Japan and Kristoff has taken great care in creating a new fantasy world that also has the feel of the familiar. I'm guessing that somewhere in the back of Kristoff's mind is an entire book entitled "The History and Customs of Shima and it's people".

The relationship between Yukiko and Buuru is a slow burner as they come to realise their connection with one another. I enjoyed Buuru's almost constant indignation and condescending attitude to those around him, and as he starts to warm to Yukiko and their bond becomes stronger, he begins to think more like her, which is a well handled transformation.

Stormdancer started off a little slowly for me, and it took a little while to get fully into it. There was quit a lot of exposition towards the start, though given the kind of setting Krisoff is writing about, this was probably necessary. The pace quickly speeds up, and there's a great scene aboard a sky-ship that will quicken the blood.

I really enjoyed the adaptation of steampunk lore to an Eastern culture; chainsaw katana, the importance of blood lotus and 'chi' to fuel the technology, and samurai clad in suits of iron armour formed to look like Japanese demons. The steampunk elements worked really well in this setting and brought a new flavour to the genre.

Stormdancer is a fresh take on the steampunk genre that successfully introduces a new, rich culture and a brilliant cast. A slow starter, but definitely a keeper. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the Lotus War trilogy, and what will happen with Yukiko and her thunder-tiger.

12 September 2012

Interview with Jay Kristoff, author of Stormdancer, and a giveaway!

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
Written by

I've got a very exciting guest here today. Jay Kristoff, author of the Japanese-inspired steampunk fantasy Stormdancer, is here! As well as a great interview with Jay, there are also five copies of Stormdancer up for grabs, courtesy of Tor Books.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Stormdancer giveaway

Thanks to the good folk at Tor Books, I've got five hardback copies of Stormdancer to give away! Just enter the Rafflecopter widget below to be in for a chance to win one! This giveaway is open only to UK residents (sorry guys across The Pond) and it'll run until September 26th. Good luck!

Jay Kristoff Interview with Jay Kristoff, author of Stormdancer

[MW] Hi Jay. First off, thanks for the interview! Just to give some background for the uninitiated; who is Jay Kristoff?
[JK] Thanks very much for having me!
I’m an Australian-born author. My debut novel Stormdancer, a steampunk fantasy inspired by feudal Japan, was sold at a three-way auction, and will be released on Tor UK and Thomas Dunne book in September of 2012. I’m as surprised about it as you are.
[MW] Until now, the steampunk genre has been more or less firmly rooted in the West (Victorian England/American Wild West). How did the idea for a Japanese steampunk come about?
[JK] I’m always careful to tell folks that the setting for my book is Japanese-inspired, but the setting isn’t actually Japan. Stormdancer isn’t alt-history, it’s a pure fantasy setting. I’ve used feudal Japan as a cultural touchstone, but some of the concepts and structures and language is different. Some I’ve taken from entirely different sources. Feudal Japan didn’t have many griffins, for example :)

I love the aesthetic of the samurai age. There’s an almost poetic beauty masking what was an extraordinarily violent system. Great story hooks. Wonderful imagery. But like you’ve said, many steampunk authors seemed to be focused on Victorian England and Colonial America, and that seemed like a real shame to me. The world was an amazing place in the 19th century, and there were some incredible cultures that could serve as inspiration for a fantasy setting.

Stormdancer UK Cover[MW] From what I gather you've dabbled in tabletop board games in your time (if the die has less than 12 sides, I don't want to know about it). Has your experience in gaming helped you in crafting the world and the complex culture of Stormdancer?
Hey, Cyberpunk 2020 was a d10 system. Don’t be knocking Cyberpunk! :)
I think Role Playing has absolutely been invaluable. When I really think about it, I’ve been building worlds in one way or another since I was twelve years old. It begins as a set of rooms full of monsters and loot on grid paper, but as you and your players get older, the need for bigger, more complex systems rises, until very soon you’re building entire cityscapes or worlds or universes. The idea for blood lotus (the flower from which fuel in Shima is derived) was actually born in a city-based Pathfinder game I ran a few years ago.
So, never let it be said that sitting in a dingy room with your friends rolling dice is a waste of time.
[MW] What pearls of wisdom can you give to aspiring authors who want to be the next Jay Kristoff (without having to steal your face)?
[JK] Understand that marketability is just as important as words these days. It’s a terribly mercenary way to view the publishing world, but being an author is more competitive than it’s ever been. I heard somewhere it’s estimated around 200,000 new manuscripts are written every year. Your concept needs to stand out. My literary agent in New York gets sent 500 new queries every week. What makes your novel special? Why should you be the one?
There’s all the usual stuff about write every day, write what you love, blah, blah. But honestly, understanding how the market works is one of your most important tools. That, a great beta reader, and an unswerving, almost insane level of self-belief.
[MW] If you could play a cameo role in a movie adaptation of Stormdancer, what part would you like to play?
[JK] The voice of Buruu. Although I’d probably have to take up smoking to get the growl right. :)
[MW] I understand that Stormdancer is the first of a trilogy. Can you give any hints or sneaky insights into what lies ahead?
[JK] Civil war. Yukiko’s power growing beyond her ability to control. Secrets of Buruu’s past. Old enemies. New friends. Betrayal. Murder. Rage.
Rage like you wouldn’t believe.
[MW] *Obligatory Dave Grohl resemblance question* How often do you get mistaken for the Foo's frontman?

[JK] Let me put it this way – if I had a dollar for every time it’d happened, I’d be driving a much nicer car :)

Thanks again for answering my questions, Jay!

Stormdancer is released 13th September in Hardback and ebook. You can find Jay Kristoff on his official site, www.jaykristoff.com and on Twitter as @misterkristoff. Go say hi. Now.

Do you have a question for Jay? Thinking about entering the giveaway? Don't forget to tell your friends about it so everyone has a chance of winning!

10 September 2012

First thoughts: Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife) by Kamelot

Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife) by Kamelot

Power metal band extraordinaire Kamelot have released their latest single, Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife). This track comes from the album Silverthorn, their first album since Seventh Wonder singer Tommy Karevik joined the band. As well as a 2 minute teaser on YouTube they have the track available to download on iTunes for £0.99 ($0.99 in the US). Here is the teaser clip from their official YouTube channel.

I really like it. Karevik has filled Roy Khan's shoes well without jarring with the band's existing canon. There is a heavy Khan-like tone to a lot of this track, but I assume that this is meant to be a transitional piece to get fans to adjust to the new singer.

You can tell that Kamelot have been influenced by Tommy Karevik's progressive metal leanings in the time changes and in the keyboard solo. The slow paced verse at the start doesn't go too well with the guitar and sounds a little disjointed, but the rest of the track flows with great pace and the guest vocals are top notch as always.

I strongly urge anyone with fantasy metal leanings to listen to the track and pick it up from iTunes. I for one can't wait for the release of Silverthorn on October 29th (October 30th for North America). Expect a review of the full album when it comes out. In the meantime, grab yourself Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife) on iTunes, it's a great track.
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7 September 2012

Worst crimes against books


Any bibliophile will tell you that books are important. Not only do they preserve the knowledge of Mankind, but they also contain the world's collective imagination. Without books, we as a species are found wanting. Books are very important. That's why it's in every book lover's interest to look after them, that's why bookshelves and dust jackets were invented.

Yet, there are still very heinous crimes that are being perpetrated against books every day. Here are the worst (I deliberately didn't put book burning on this list. There's a special circle of Hell reserved for book burners; that's another post for another time). Thanks to Miriam E Lewis for rigging up these posters!

Dog-eared corners

Dog eared pages - some men just want to watch the world burn

Torn pages

Torn pages - some men just want to watch the world burn

Writing in the margins and highlighting

highlighting text - some men just want to watch the world burn

Food stains

Food stains - some men just want to watch the world burn

Water damage

water damage - some men just want to watch the world burn

What's your biggest pet peeve with the way people look after their books?

5 September 2012

Getting into the writing zone [IWSG]


It's the first Wednesday of the month, so it's time for the Insecure Writers Support Group - a monthly event where bloggers share their insecurities when writing and offer advice and support to others.

For a while I've been trying to sit down and start doing some writing, but the blank document just stared back at me with it's little type cursor blinking incessantly. There's a story in my head, I can see it pretty damn clearly, but there's a disconnection between my brain and my fingers to type the words.

So I think to myself "Okay, pantsing isn't the way to go on this one, I need to plot/outline/do something else!". Good idea in theory, but again I've no real idea where to begin there. The story in my head has no defined structure so it's hard to put that into an ordered plot. Where do I begin?

I've seen a few different methods that are 'tried and tested' for novel writing e.g. the snowflake method, the mitosis method (start with 1 sentence. Expand to 2 sentences. Expand to 4 etc.) but it's hard to figure out which works best without investing so much time into one or another. I need to figure out the best plotting/outlining method before I can properly write this story, but I'm clueless as to which works best.

What's your experience with plotting/outlining stories? What methods work best for you? Any examples will be useful, so let me know!

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3 September 2012

Do books have an expiration date on spoilers?

See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil
Source: savannahchik
A few years back I decided to read the entire Harry Potter series through from start to finish. This was when Order of the Phoenix was in the cinema, so the books had finished but the movies hadn't. I mentioned to a co-worker that I was reading through the books and that I'd got up to Goblet of Fire. He then started talking about the series, including all the twists and revelations that happened at the very end. I unwillingly received a spoiler filled review of the entire series. I still carried on reading the books, but something was lost now that I had prior knowledge of all the ins and outs. I suppose that's why they call them spoilers.


Doctor Who looking at the Tardis diary spoilers
Source: >Rooner
There's been a general discussion about spoilers in movies and TV for some time, and how long you should wait after a show/movie has aired before spoilers are classed as spoilers. For example, the revelation that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father is no longer a spoiler as it's been some thirty-odd years since The Empire Strikes Back was out.

That's all well and good for TV and film, but what about books? Should there ever be a time limit on these spoilers? I don't consider the death and reincarnation of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings to be a spoiler, but that's mostly because the movies were ten years ago. Were the movies never made, I'd consider that still to be a major spoiler, even though it's been sixty years since it was published.

Should books have unlimited protection against spoilers? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!