Monday, 27 June 2011

The Race for Life

Funny sunburn.
On Sunday my day started way too early. 6.30am is actually the worst time ever to wake up on a Sunday morning. It’s official. Scientifically proven fact (well... maybe...). From this groggy start, the day ended with sunburn, and a little reminiscing from yours truly.

Without even a cup of coffee passing my lips we (the fiancé and me that is) were soon driving to Oxford so she could run the race for life. I was on solid driver, water and cheering duty while she jogged 5k for charity. I wasn’t expecting much to happen; merely that I would watch her run about for a while before shooting off to resume normal Sunday activities. Instead, the day soon had me thinking about how we can take stories, and people, for granted at times.

Here on the blog we live in a world of fiction, commenting on, and reviewing, many kinds of fictional stories. In them, plenty of the characters and people that populate such stories die in horrible ways, get shot or stabbed or zapped my mind-lightning, or vanish into the Warp - or even live through tragedies that add a beat to the story, that develops the character or plot.

It is easy to take such things for granted in fiction.

We live in fantasy worlds here (okay, it’s awesome fun and a fantastic hobby), and we hunt out great stories and characters, looking at many genres and platforms to find our next hero. And all great stories are driven by conflict and the characters.

However, we all (well, most of us) return to real life, daydreaming of our chosen heroes and looking forward to the next read, film or game. We can sometimes forget how powerful the stories of the real life around us are.

The fiance is in there somewhere!
I had the honour of cheering my fiancé on at the Race for Life. It turned out to be a great, and eye-opening, day. Several thousand women of all ages and walks of life turned up to run 5k to raise money for Cancer Research, resplendent in pink and fancy dress. I heard many tragic and amazing stories about how everyday people have battled through the years against this beastly and evil disease. In fact my own Grandmother died of breast cancer before I was born, and my mother too battled the disease.

A party atmoshpere at the end!
Most women running had a sign on their backs telling us who they ran for – that in itself told a wide variety of uplifting, and sad, stories about the people you met. Sign’s such as ‘For Daddy’, ‘Gran and Grandpa’, or even ‘Me’ really touched us. My fiancé also told me of a dog she saw running with its’ owner that had a ‘Me’ sign on its back (poor thing).

It was a day for real, honest stories about people and humanity. It was also a day for giving people hope and helping to beat a disease that threatens many of us in life today – a story we don’t ever wish to be part of, but one that continues to be told. It’s days like this that really put things into perspective and offer up hard-hitting real life stories, whether you like it or not.

Ice Cream van got the biggest queue!

So, that was my Sunday. It ended as all busy days (and now Sundays) should. A nice glass of wine and a book on the balcony as the summer’s day faded into night.

For more information on the Race for Life and how to become part of the story in helping save others affected click HERE 

Monday, 20 June 2011

Penned Monkey Confessions...

‘In her panties lurked musky badgers.’

Got your attention? Good.

This is a direct quote from Chuck Wendig’s eBook, Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey. His book is filled with this colourful language, and the great thing about it is that it is book on being a professional author, with writing advice. Yes, writing advice. Professional Author.

Recently I’ve been doing a Creative Writing course and learning many great ways to throw out a little bit of word magic onto a screen. While studying I started reading writers and writing blogs and one that has now became a constant in my reading day is Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds. There he spouts wisdom in the arts of writing, in his own dramatic script.

Wendig has become a viral infection that’s dug deep into my writing life. He’s like a little monkey on my shoulder, whispering profanity-ridden sentences and snippets of golden counsel while I scribble in my notebook, conjuring up my next post or short story.

Confessions is a collection of his writing advice from his blog, and I’ve found it one of the most useful writing guides around right now.  Advice on how to be an author is plastered all over the place, from web forums, to books, to eBooks, to magazines, to retreats and university courses. Most have solid, good advice, structured in prescribed ways to help the student master the ways of writing. As I stated earlier, I’ve just finished a course at Uni, and I’ll tell you, I found it the basic advice and coursework hard to read and study (so I didn’t), dull at times (so I didn’t study), at times uninspiring (add negative statement here about not studying), meaning I’ve just about passed.

Confessions takes a different approach. Wendig’s prose is energised and memorable, while he drops in great snippets of wisdom, teaching (reprimanding and warning) us about the raw reality of being a writer. He tells you like it is, no holding back the punches. It is also a look into the life of a writer, which sounds mean, scary, exciting, and fantastical.

Chuck Wendig is a modern writerly-type. Gone are the wispy days of dreaming that you’ll become an ‘overnight bestseller’ (that’s a myth anyway) after writing your first tome of greatness. Gone are the writers who happily make golden word-princesses upon pristine pages over the span of several years in a land of milk and honey. There’s a growing breed of hard working (drinking?) freelance authors that have the skill and determination to weave their magic in different styles and genres, finishing novels every three or so months and EARNING that pay check at the end of a project.

Beware the side effects of this book however: You’ll find yourself swearing more, spouting dirtier metaphors and similes, and talking to your Granny about becoming a Penmonkey. Oh, you’ll also find that you'll be a better, more focussed writer (well, only if you still want to be a writer, that is).

On a final note, I've just realised that if I had just picked this up (for around £3.50) before doing the University course,  I may have saved hundreds (and hundreds) of pounds. You live and learn.

5 out of 5 ink-stained monkeys.

Go buy the book HERE or have a look in Amazon. For more of Chuck’s unique writerly advice visit his website Terribleminds

We’re not finished with Wendig yet. Let’s see how good he is. Look out for my review of one of his short stories from Irregular Creatures soon.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Let’s reminisce: The Horus Heresy: The First Heretic by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Mr Dembski-Bowden has been mentioned a few times here at Random Words – once for his rather interesting, funny and profanity ridden (and fantastic) Blog, and the other a quick mention of his novel The First Heretic. Realising that I merely added a few lines on what has become a legendary addition to the Horus Heresy series, not to mention a New York Times bestseller, I decided to pick up another copy on my Kindle and reread it for a blog posting. Also, with the advent of The Age of Darkness changing the tone and progressing the story of the Heresy to a new stage, I thought it would be good to look at a seminal piece in the series that captured the fall to Chaos and heralded the dawn of the Heresy wars.

This novel charges forward with power armoured force from beginning to end, following the Space Marine Chapter that fell first to Chaos, the Word Bearers. If you’re a Loyalist you shudder at those words, and I had serious ‘Bearer Hate’ before reading this novel. They are clearly the scum of the universe, weak-minded Chaotic puppets, surely? Not so clear after reading.

The First Heretic does a great job of blurring the lines, especially through the main character Argel Tal. He grows within the pages of this book to become a brilliant symbol of the Heresy – that of faith, heroism, friendship, loyalty and tragedy. He is a multi-layered protagonist, torn between his love for his Primarch and the real human feelings he has for the choices he makes.

It’s the characters that make the story. Dembski-Bowden carves humanity into his prose, cutting chaos into his characters, who even as they become removed from their gene-birth, still hold true, albeit in a warped way, to their human roots as they walk into darkness.

An honourable mention goes to the human Cyrene Valantion, who becomes a Confessor of the Word for the Word Bearers (a great turn of event for the character who starts the story as, hmm, shall we say ‘less than holy’). She adds depth and helps the reader balance the bloody battles with some great character development for the Space Marines.

Lorgar. Primarch of the Word Bearers. A bold leader who loves his father so much that he is driven to worship him as a God. Of course, that is his flaw and this is the 31st Millennium, where there are consequences for such devotion. Lorgar’s dark path begins after his beloved Emperor orders the destruction of Monarchia, a shrine-city created for him. Emotionally scarred from the mass murder of his people, and after humiliation in the ruins of the city, Lorgar sets out to look for others to worship, taking his Legion with him.

A bold novel that offers a glimpse into the seductiveness of Chaos and shows how the basic flaws of humanity, and blind love, can cause destruction on a universal scale.

5 out of 5 Falls to Chaos.

Check out  The Black Library for more on the Horus Heresy.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Space Marine: Kill Team

Check out this video from THQ's new arcade shooter, Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team, for Xbox Live and Playstation Network:
You can unlock the Power Sword for the actual game in it! Nice.

Here's a link to the Space Marine Facebook page for more info: Space Marine

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Future

Random Words has been neglected recently. There are many reasons, but let’s be honest, it’s mostly down to laziness, beer, HBO, wine, women, George R. R. Martin and... well laziness again.

Over the next few months I'll be making some changes and posting more frequently. So here's the Plan: 
Yip, it’s a little photo of my writing notebook with the plan to change the blog

Here’s what I have in store for you:

Guest blogs

Game reviews (and not just Xbox)

Novel and short story reviews/articles

Focus on Games Workshop war gaming in July/august

More from Black Library

And more links to great SF/horror and Fantasy sites and blogs.

Reviews and comments on films and TV
It all starts today, with a little face-lift for the blog. Hope you like. Looking forward to the months ahead, and all comments and feedback on the changes are totally welcome.

Right, where to start...

This just rocks!

Off to buy this today methinks!

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Age of Darkness Trailer

Just found this trailer while surfing the net. Yes, I have written 'surfing the net'. You just don't hear it as much these days, y'know?

Anyway, here's the trailer from You Tube on the upcoming Horus Heresy short story collection. Good to see some new HH authors, especially Rob Sanders, who was a proper good chap when I met him.

Age of Darkness Trailer

I'm sure I'll have some reviews pending when it comes out soon. Check out the Black Library website for Pre orders: Pre Order here

Friday, 18 March 2011

Short Story Review: Primary Instinct, by Sarah Cawkwell

For my first blog review in a while I have decided to look at a new Black Library author, Sarah Cawkwell. Having just picked up the new ‘Victories of the Space Marines’ short story collection from Black Library, I flicked down the contents list of the nine Space Marine stories within its pages. The title ‘Primary Instinct’ caught my eye, as did the authors name, as I had never read a story by Sarah Cawkwell. Finding new authors and talent is always exciting so I decided to read her Silver Skulls story first.

It had an atmospheric start, with an Assault Squad of marines and a company prognosticator (Librarian) searching a jungle world for their deadly xenos enemies – The Eldar. However, nothing is as it seems on this world and soon they find themselves battling for survival from an unexpected foe.

This is a great introduction to the Silver Skulls, giving us some background to the Chapter and especially their psychic beliefs, which drive them onwards in the Emperors’ name. The short story had some great descriptions and a decent fight scene or two, and sets up the Silver Skulls for further stories without giving too much away. I liked the twists and turns in the plot and would like to see some of the main characters developed in future. The end had a subtlety to it that left you wanting more, while setting up yet more action to come. There’s another Short in Hammer & Bolter 5 which I'm off to buy to find out more!

Overall, a good introduction to a Chapter of Marines I didn’t know much about, and looking forward to see what the author has done with her Silver Skulls in her debut novel The Gildar Rift.  Victories of the Space Marines is out this month in GW stores, check the Black Library website for more information.

You can also download 'Primary Instinct' in ebook format HERE

4 out of 5 skulls, coated in silver.

Friday, 7 January 2011

The Horus Heresy

In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war.

Before that, however, in the nearer  future, there’s betrayal on a universal scale, brother fighting brother, falls from greatness, corruption, oh, and war. Lots of it. Mix in sub plots of religion, love, friendship, heroics and serious family issues, and you have one of the greatest ongoing science fiction series out there. There’s a reason the 41st Millennium is grim, dark and war-torn. This is it.

The Horus Heresy is not a new story. We all know how it ends (and if you don’t, you’re amongst the few and probably live on a distant world untouched by the glory of the Emperor. Word of warning, comply and rejoice when the Emperor’s Crusade gets to you). It’s interesting that even though most of us reading the now fifteen book (and eBook) strong series (not to mention the six audio books!) know how it all ends, we still read all the stories. The Horus Heresy is not just about the end in itself, but how it ends.

My sister's boyfreind's dog, Dizzy. Awww...
And we all know that, using the power of Maths, just having the right answer is not good enough, the magic is in the process of getting there. This is one of the times that I’m glad Black Library agreed with my Maths teacher. The Horus Heresy has been a gripping series, with three New York Times bestsellers (so far, I’ll bet my sisters boyfriends dog on more coming very soon), and includes some seriously great dramatis personae (Loken, Garro, Erebus, Horus, Primarchs – come on, that’s the sauce of awesomeness), and some of the best writing from Black Library since they appeared out of the Warp to sell us novels. This is space opera at its best. 

Here’s my top five. I’ve chosen them using my secret ‘Horus Heresy’ grading system, handed to me by an ancient tech-seer of the Imperium.

1. Horus Rising, by Dan Abnett. Where it all began and still one of the best. The audio book is just out too!
2. Thousand Sons, by Graham McNeill.Perfectly written, with amazing scenes and a great cast of characters.
3. Prospero Burns, by Dan Abnett. Not what I thought it was going to be, which makes it rock even more. Remember: there are no wolves on Fenris...

4. The First Heretic, by Aaron Dembski-Bowden. Dark, brutal, brilliant. A great look into Chaos!
5. The Flight of the Eisenstein, by James Swallow. Fast-paced and gripping chase through space! Loved the ending and Garro.

Check out these links for your preferred format of The Horus Heresy: Audio, Novels or eBooks

The ebook format is a great addition, adding to the wide appeal of the series. Looking forward to many more novels in the Horus Heresy coming soon! 

So, you have my Top 5 so far, what's yours and why?