31 October 2012

Cockneys vs Zombies is Easter Bunny* [movie review]

*Cockney rhyming slang: Easter Bunny = Bloody funny 

Cockneys vs Zombies
Director: Matthias Hoene
Studio: Tea Shop & Film Company
Distributor: StudioCanal
Running Time: 88 minutes
Released: October 2012 [out now on DVD and Blu-Ray]
Won free cinema tickets in a competition at work

Cockneys vs Zombies shows what happens when a group of amateur bank robbers are pitted against the undead of London. Brothers Andy and Terry (Harry Treadaway and Rasmus Hardiker) are in the middle of making off with £2.5 million when the zombie apocalypse strikes the East End of London. Andy and Terry fight against the growing horde of undead to reach the care home where their grandfather Ray (Alan Ford) has barricaded himself and his motley group of geriatric survivors.

29 October 2012

Common mistakes to avoid when writing fantasy

Editing common mistakes in fantasy

This is what I tell writers: “Make your fantasy a reality.” Most of them fail miserably at doing just that.
You need to create a reality that your reader can believe exists and functions the way it does with characters and a plot that your reader can believe makes sense within that world.
If you can’t make your reader believe it, you have no hope in hell.
So how do you do it? Well, it’s easier to tell you what not to do. These mistakes writers make occur across all genres.

24 October 2012

Iron Man 3 trailer revealed!


So yesterday saw the release of the first trailer for Iron Man 3. What we see is the "hero stripped of his power by a villain he can't beat" plot akin to The Dark Knight Rises. After the runaway success of The Avengers, this one has a lot to live up to.

Though it looks really good, it seems like an obligatory sequel that has run out of story to tell. I'll still definitely go see it in the cinema, and I'll definitely go and buy the DVD, that's a given. I think we've all been spoiled by the likes of The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers, so this one pales in comparison.

Take a look at the trailer after the jump.

22 October 2012

Top heavy metal albums for sci-fi fans

During the A to Z Challenge, Jamie highlighted a different metal album every day that featured an element of fantasy. Since I like both metal and fantasy, I enjoyed his posts and discovered new bands.

That got me to thinking – what about the connection between metal and science fiction? This geek is proud to say there are lots of bands with science fiction themes and songs!

Heavy Metal Official Soundtrack OST coverBlue Oyster Cult has dipped into science fiction many times, with songs such as Godzilla and Take Me Away. Several of their albums were themed from start to finish. Fire of Unknown Origin was comprised of songs written especially for the animated movie, Heavy Metal. (Sadly only Veteran of the Psychic Wars made it into the film.) Imaginos was a concept album – a modified child called Imaginos, gifted with superhuman powers by aliens, navigates two hundred years of history searching for an artifact. (No, he did not work for Warehouse 13.)

21 October 2012

Birthday giveaway winner announcement


Thanks to everyone who entered my Birthday Giveaway! The results have been counted and the die has been cast, and one name rose above the rest. Hit the jump for the winner.

17 October 2012

How to turn a press release into a bookmark

The Wisdom of the Shire by Noble Smithby

One of the perks of being a fantasy reviewer is that I sometimes get sent review copies of books by authors or their publishers. Sometimes these review copies come with a press release to give more information about the book, author etc. After a while, these start to accumulate, so what are you to do with them?

How about turning the press release into a custom bookmark especially for that book?

Here's how I used a bit of origami to turn a press release into a bookmark without damaging the press release itself (in case I needed it for future reference). I'm using the press release from The Wisdom of the Shire by Noble Smith for this example as it's the most recent book to arrive in the post.

This tutorial bases the folds around Hodder & Stoughton's press release template; press releases from other publishers might need slightly different folds. If any of the other publishers want to send me press releases in the post, I'd be glad to do more tutorials so you can make a bookmark for any book.

15 October 2012

Why writing is just another form of performing


In this huge, crazy world, there are so many ways to entertain people. We have musicians, actors, and we have writers.

Yep. Writers.

In my family, my husband and his brother both play guitar. My husband plays bass, his brother; six string. My daughter is a genius with music. She has taught herself over the years to play anything by ear on just about any instrument (check out the video below to see her playing the guitar). Later, she taught herself to read music with the help of teachers at school and her uncle.

14 October 2012

Felix Baumgartner's space jump looks like a scene from Doctor Who


Felix Baumgartner jump looks like scene from Doctor Who

Science fiction has become science fact! This immediately came to mind when I saw Felix Baumgartner freefall from the edge of space and had to share it.

In case you don't know, it's from the Doctor Who episode Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. Educate yourself.

Did you catch the space jump?

11 October 2012

Frankenweenie [movie review]

Frankenweenie UK movie poster
Director: Tim Burton
Studio: Tim Burton Productions
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Running Time: 87 minutes
Released: October 2012
Saw at an advanced screening (3D)

Frankenweenie tells the story of a young Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) who brings his pet dog Sparky back to life. Though he tries to keep his resurrected pet a secret, it doesn't take long before Victor's classmate Edgar (Atticus Shaffer) finds out and uses Victor's discovery to wreak havoc on the townsfolk.

9 October 2012

The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams [book review]

The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams UK Cover
The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
Bobby Dollar #1
ARC - 406 pages
Published September 2012
Review copy provided by publisher

Read the synopsis for The Dirty Streets of Heaven on Goodreads

I liked Bobby Dollar as soon as I started reading The Dirty Streets of Heaven. He has an endearing and sarcastic outlook on humanity that makes him instantly likable, and his distrust of Heaven's pencil pushers adds an extra level of depth to his character. Although there is a supporting cast of sorts, they don’t feature too heavily and so aren't fleshed out nearly as much as Bobby himself.

Williams has given us a tantalising glimpse into the politics of Heaven and Hell, revealing a complex relationship that goes beyond what the traditional lore tells us. In this world, Heaven and Hell exist as fact, and there is definitely life after death.

What is striking about this book is that the forces of Upstairs and Downstairs offer one another a sense of diplomatic civility that betrays a more complex situation than we are used to. I definitely want more of an insight into this in the following novels, as it felt like Tad was deliberately holding back information to tease us.

There were quite a few info dumps that bogged down the pace of the story in certain places, but overall Williams has a slick style that lends itself well to the pacing of urban fantasy. He is able to ramp up the tension without breaking the quick flow of the story.

I wasn’t keen on the romantic elements, and towards the end of the novel there was such melodrama that I rolled my eyes more than a few times. The novel could have done without this, and it felt like it was added to satisfy the paranormal romance market. Fortunately the romance aspect didn't impact upon the payoff at the end, which was most satisfying.

The Dirty Streets of Heaven is a successful branch into urban fantasy territory for Tad Williams. His style works well in the genre, and his crafted mythology combined with the instant charm of the protagonist marks it out as a fantasy series worth keeping an eye on.

6 October 2012

Birthday giveaway - The Straight Razor Cure and Tomorrow the Killing by Daniel Polansky

Birthday dragon with balloons and a gift
Image source: ktshy

Today is my birthday!

Some of you may know that I follow the Hobbit method of birthdays. Every year on my birthday I host a giveaway to give a present to you. This year I've got some awesome swag (again, this is a UK only giveaway. Sorry the rest of the world).

Thanks to Hodder, I've got a paperback copy of The Straight Razor Cure and an ARC of Tomorrow the Killing by Daniel Polansky. I absolutely adored both of these books, and I know that whoever wins them will love them too.

Here's what I said about the books:

"The Straight Razor Cure is dark, eloquent work filled with a very real presence that permeates both the world and the characters within it. Polansky has created a wickedly delicious fantasy that leaves a profound impression on the reader."

"Tomorrow the Killing is a vicious and bloody tale that grabs you by the throat and pulls you along for the ride. The world is dark, and the characters darker still. A must read that will have you hooked from page one; just remember to come up for air now and again."

Just use the Rafflecopter widget and start entering! I'll leave this giveaway open until October 20th. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

3 October 2012

The importance of setting milestones [IWSG]

Insecure Writer's Support Group
Image source: Alex J Cavanaugh
Musings by 

Here's the latest installment in the Insecure Writers Support Group series - a monthly blog hop hosted by our Ninja Captain Alex. The point of IWSG is for writers and bloggers to share their insecurities with each other and offer support and advice.

A few friends of mine have recently self-published  a few fantasy novels as eBooks. As can be expected, they're very happy and pretty proud of themselves, and I'm proud of them too. For one of them, publishing this book means that "they've made it" as a writer, and their goals have been reached. The other one sees this as a tool to increase their exposure and gain more interest in the books they already have in print, so they're still seeking out that definitive point where they can say "I've achieved what I set out to do". In both cases that's fine, and I'm happy for them.

But what if you never feel that sense of achievement? What if you spend the rest of your writing career chasing after a phantom accomplishment, blind to all the success that you've had thus far?

This is why it's important as a writer to give yourself milestones or short term goals to give you those little slices of "whoohoo!". This will keep you going as you head toward unlocking your ultimate writing achievement. The point is to give yourself these small goals to keep you motivated, such as:

  • Someone marks your novel as "to-read" on Goodreads
  • Your book is shortlisted for an award
  • You reach the top of a list on Amazon or Goodreads
  • Your first positive review
  • You get invited to give a talk or a quote about how to write
Focusing on these markers will help you to keep your bigger goals in sight and stop you chasing shadows. Not only that, but you will also be able to recognise your success thus far and know that you've already achieved so much.

What are your writing milestones?

1 October 2012

Dishonored animated web series promises gritty steampunk

Dishonored Tales from Dunwall web series logo

In the run up to the release of their steampunk stealth/shoot 'em up Dishonored, Bethesda have released a trilogy of animated shorts set in the fictional whaling city of Dunwall. Tales from Dunwall follows three different characters and what their parts they play in the overarching plot of Dishonored.

The game has been on my radar for some time, but I'd been holding out for the release of Assassin's Creed III at the end of October. After seeing these clips, I'm rethinking my purchase priorities. The game is a mix of old school stealth games like Thief and newer FPS games like Bioshock. Add to that a smattering of Elder Scrolls open world and you've got a pretty exciting prospect. Dishonored is released in the US on October 9th, and in Europe on October 12th.

Chapter One - The Awakening

Chapter Two - The Hand That Feeds

Chapter Three - In The Mind Of Madness

[via VGI]

What do you think of the clips? Does a dystopian steampunk video game appeal to you?