Saturday, 23 February 2013

Film Review: Die Hard 5

There are action films and then there is Die Hard.  A special film franchise that I have extremely fond memories of watching while growing up as a teenager.  Sure, they were certificate 18's but were they really that graphic?   Just a bit of f-bomb swearing, which all teenagers hear and lots of action and violence, nothing worse than what I was playing in video games.  John McClane was my ultimate hero, the action pieces were stunning and the villains memorable, even charming in their own evil way.  A great movie makes you love the heroes and villains equally, and Die Hard 1-4 did that perfectly. 

Let me start by saying I love all the previous Die Hard films, even the fourth, and I'll quite happily re-watch them anytime of the year.  They are the kind of the films that if you're flicking through the channels and you notice it's on, you watch them.  Die Hard 1 had the excellent Alan Rickman and Bruce jumping off the Nakatomi Plaza; Die Hard 2 had the epic plane explosions, while Die Hard 3 had Jeremy Irons, Samuel L Jackson and a huge container ship exploding.  Heck, I even loved Die Hard 4 with the car taking out a helicopter and the fighter plane chasing down Bruce at the end.  They all have that little extra edge and character quality over other action films.
This fifth instalment was just generic rubbish, loud with slow motion action shots and corny one-liners.  There was no meaningful dialogue and I didn't care about the plot, it was just rushed and the feel of a movie shot to make some money.  No!  You don't make another Die Hard, Star Wars or Indiana Jones for example, unless the script is at least going to match up to the glory of the originals.  These films are just too special, but they do anyway and surprise surprise, they were all lesser films compared to the original trilogy.  I was so disappointed with Die Hard 5 and just plain bored by the middle of  it.  The action scenes had no effect upon me whatsoever and there wasn't even any hand-to-hand fight scenes, just a load of machine gun fire and even the big set piece at the end was ruined by cheesy slow motion.  The villain was dull, the script cliched and I don't even remember the bad guy's name.  It just had the feel of Mission Impossible 2 with the useless slow motion, although it's a worse action film than Mission Impossible 2 for sure and that's saying something.  There was never any sense of danger or purpose that you got with the other films and I just didn't care about the outcome.   I stuck with it because I refuse to walk out of a cinema, especially when the tickets are near a tenner now.  If you're a fan of Die Hard, you'll still probably want to go because that's what Die Hard fans do but you'll likely feel just as strongly negative about it as I.

Rating: 0 out of 10.  I won't be buying it on DVD and I doubt I'll watch it when it's on television in a few years.  Still love Bruce Willis though and the originals, I'm just insulted this film was allowed to be made!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

A Very British Blog Hop 2013

Welcome to A VERY BRITISH BLOG TOUR 2013 – a collection of blogs, books and authors who are surprisingly very British.
Paul Anthony invites you to take part in ‘A Very British Blog’ by visiting and supporting the websites of authors involved in the tour and who are dedicated to turning out some of the finest books available in Britain today.
Each author named at the bottom of the page has asked been asked the same questions but the answers will obviously all be different. You merely click on the author’s name at the bottom of the page to see how they have answered the same question.
By the way, we British have certain conventions, traditions and procedures that are expected. There is a dress code in the reading of this British blog and you are expected to comply with it.
For example… NB… (You may chuckle if you wish)
Gentlemen will wear suits, white shirts and dark ties. (Military ties are expected wherever possible). Ladies will wear dresses (one inch above the knee, no higher, no lower) and floral summer hats. A break for TEA and cucumber sandwiches is expected at some stage and is permissible. The list at the bottom the page is not a queue. We British hate queues and will accept them no longer. It is an invitation and you are expected to accept that invitation and support the home-grown product. Now then, let us proceed in an orderly fashion. As you know, we are all very boring and staid in Britain, aren’t we?
Well, there’s a myth about the British and your starter for ten Stuffy, class conscious, boring, staid! But is this still relevant in today’s world? Let’s find out from our wonderful writers what they feel about it.
So, without further ado, here are the questions from THE VERY BRITISH WRITER:

To Michael Diack:

Q. Where were you born and where do you live at the moment?
A. I was born in Lancaster and I grew up in nearby Morecambe.  I went to university at Manchester and after graduating, I eventually managed to get a job abroad working in Oman.  My girlfriend is Danish so on my leave I’ll fly home to the UK, check my house is in order and then fly to Denmark and spend my time there.   Guess I spend 205 days in Oman, 80 days in UK and 80 days in Denmark. 

Q. Have you always lived and worked in Britain or are you based elsewhere at the moment?
A. I lived in Britain up until the age of 23, when I got a job in Oman as a field geophysicist.  For the last 4 years I’ve averaged less than 80 days in the UK.  Technically I’m a resident of both countries but I always come back to the UK every leave, as I miss my friends, family, bacon, alcohol and the greenery!  I guess my job might eventually take me elsewhere one day too, just hopefully not somewhere dangerous.

Q. Which is your favourite part of Britain?
A. It has to be the Lake District.  Every year during high school my friends and I would go camping and spend a weekend in the Lakes, I love the scenery.  With my degree and going on regular geology field trips I got to go to a lot of amazing British places, from the Welsh coastline to the Scottish Highlands and down to the Devon coast - there is some real beauty to Britain and it’s easily a match for anywhere else I’ve been in the world.  Favourite city has to be Manchester.  I love the fact that it’s big, but not too big, so you can walk everywhere in the city centre.  London is a great city, but just too big and manic for a small city lad like me.  

Q. Have you ‘highlighted’ or ‘showcased’ any particular part of Britain in your books? For example, a town or city; a county, a monument or some well-known place or event?
A. The main Super Spud city in the book is called Mt. Hiba and it’s based in a rubbish tip in Manchester.   Most of the place names for the Super Spud cities reference names from places in Oman that I’ve worked – Hiba, Birba, Harweel.  I do try and reference as many British things as possible from James Bond, King Arthur, London, Wales, Manchester Airport, British Airways and Murray Walker. 

Q. There is an illusion – or myth if you wish - about British people that I would like you to discuss. Many see the ‘Brits’ as ‘stiff upper lip’. Is that correct?
A. I think maybe you’re right, especially by people who haven’t been to Britain and they’ve just seen the television programmes or Hugh Grant, and they think we all go round saying ‘gosh’ and ‘blimey’.  I think it’s funny though and to be honest there is worse things we could be stereotyped as.  As a northerner, I know there is a friendly jokey banter about ‘posh’ southerners so if us northern Brits think some of us as ‘stiff upper lip’ then undoubtedly that’s the rest of the world will be thinking too.

Q. Do any of the characters in your books carry the ‘stiff upper lip’? Or are they all ‘British Bulldog’ and unique in their own way?
A.  One of the Super Spuds who lives in Mt. Thames, London is called King Charles and he is quite posh, everything he says ends in ‘blimey’ or ‘bugger off’.  But he is the only posh one really, although there is also King Arthur and he loves nothing more than eating raspberry scones with cream and drinking tea down by the lake.  Most of the characters reference popular culture, there is G-Bat (Batman), Han-so-slow (Hansolo) and G-James (James Bond) so they all have mannerisms based on their respective character.

Q. Tell us about one of your recent books?
A. The Super Spud Trilogy, three books in one, is about magical potatoes that come alive once they’re placed in their foil packaging and not eaten by their use-by date.  Their personality is determined by their flavour, so steak and spinach flavours are packed with iron and become strong and soldier-like in their persona.  Tuna flavours are enriched in omega-3 brainfood and become very smart.  There are loads of different flavours and characters.  The Super Spuds are forbidden to be seen by humans so they live in our rubbish tips and go about their own adventures.  It’s a satire and also references nearly every popular film and television show I grew up with: James Bond, Batman, Robin Hood, Star Wars, Star Trek and Disney (to name just a few).  It’s been well received for its originality and humour, although not all get the humour and quirkiness.  It’s a book for adults and young adults, there is no sex or swearing but a lot of cartoony violence so it probably isn’t appropriate for those under the age of ten.

Q. What are you currently working on?
      A.      Currently I’m writing an autobiography of my last 5 years, from an unemployed graduate desperately seeking work to working in a desert in the Middle East.  I’m also writing a fantasy novel set in the desert and always some short stories. Hopefully I’ll get to publishing them this year.

Q. How do you spend your leisure time?
A. Depending on the time of the year I’ll go skiing with my friends or sailing.  Mostly, as I get 3 weeks leave at a time, I’ll just relax with my girlfriend at home and play computer games, poker and board games with my friends.

Q. Do you write for a local audience or a global audience?
A.  I guess for a global audience.  I’d love to be featured in local magazines and I’ll certainly work on getting in contact and asking if I could write any articles.  At the moment, my US Amazon ranking is better than my UK one so I think I need to work on becoming more noticed in Britain.

Q. Can you provide links to your work?
A. Of course, here they are.

Links to me:

Twitter: @Superspud_book

Links to the book:

amazon UK:
Amazon US:
Book Depository:
Barnes and Noble:

To see how our other authors responded, click on an author’s name below.

9. John Hanley
10. Terry Tyler
11. Geoffrey West
12. Maria Savva
13. Bev Spicer

Friday, 8 February 2013

Operation Waterstones

For the last six weeks at work I was busy working on a little operation to try and get Waterstones to stock my book.  I selected 42 Waterstones stores, one for each day of my work hitch and once a day I handwrote an A4 size letter to the manager of that store.  I included the press release, a summary of my reviews and a little bag of Haribo to try and bribe the manager.  I'll be posting them out tomorrow, probably at a ridiculous sum postage cost and crossing my fingers that at least one Waterstones will like my letter and agree to stock The Super Spud Trilogy.  And if not one of them does, well I guess I'll choose 42 different stores for my next hitch!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Author Interview: K.C. Blake

It's my great pleasure to welcome popular YA paranormal writer K.C.Blake to the blog. Her novel Vampires Rule has a whopping 145 ratings on Goodreads and an impressive average. Described as simply 'awesome' with great characters and plots,she is certainly a YA author to watch out for.

Q:What inspired you to become a writer? 

 It was in the seventh grade when we read The Outsiders. I fell in love with that book and I wanted to create something that would make other people feel the same way. I never wanted it to end. Then I decided to rewrite the ending of another book. It only took six pages, but I was hooked. I’ve been writing ever since.

Q:You have a great following on Goodreads and loads of great reviews for your books, well done! Any secrets of your marketing success you can share?

 My secret? I try everything. What works for one person doesn’t seem to work for others, so I try a little bit of everything. For me, blogging and Goodreads has worked well. I’ve met a lot of interesting people. Also, giving away the first book in the series is a good idea. That allows people to get a taste of how you write. If they like you, they’ll be back. I’ve given away copies of two of my books in exchange for honest reviews. Some people didn’t like them, but that’s okay. A lot of people did.

Q:Where do you write?

 Well, I am always working, even when I don’t look like I am. I listen to music and pace around my living room or go for walks outside while assembling scenes in my mind. I carry a notebook and write everything down as it comes to me. Then I do the actual writing at my desk, mostly at night. For some reason I love to write at night when the world seems to be sleeping. My imagination really takes off then.

Q:Who is your favourite author and why?

 At the moment, Cassandra Clare. I love City of Bones (and all the other City books she’s written). Her writing flows. I love her word choices, the imagery, and her characters. A Beta Reader turned me on to her a few years ago. After reading one of my books, the woman told me I should check out Clare because she thought my writing was like hers. High praise indeed. If my books are even a fraction as good as hers, I am on the right track.

Q:Where do you find inspiration to write?

Sometimes from good movies or other books. The characters have to become real to me and fill me with positive emotions. Sometimes even negative emotions can inspire me to write though. Also, I get inspired by listening to music. Or it can be as simple as something another person says to me. When I was in college, something weird started happening. People who knew me kept insisting they’d seen me in places I hadn’t been. That got my creative juices flowing. What if I was blacking out? What if there was a doppelganger trying to steal my life? Turns out it was just a girl who ‘resembled’ me from afar. :)

Q:How important are readers’ reviews to you?

 Very important. I wish more people would do reviews after reading a book they like. I don’t think most people understand how important reviews are. At Amazon, the more reviews you get, the more visible your book becomes. The funny thing about reviews is even when people love your book they seem to focus on the negative rather than the positive. Cassandra Clare once said something (on Twitter) about wishing she had a dime for every time a person claiming to be her biggest fan started off with a complaint about her books.

Q:Any future projects in the offing? 

 I just finished my NaNo project, BAIT, and I am working on the second in the series, HUNTER. I am hoping to have both books out this summer. After they are finished, I plan to write the third book in the Witch-Game Series, TEMPTING FATE.

Q:Random One: Favourite band?

 At the moment, Aerosmith.

Q:Random Two: Your best and worst flavour of ice cream?

 Love anything that is chocolate like Rocky Road or Neapolitan, but I don’t like Pistachio.


My blog:
Vampires Rule (free copies)
Crushed (2.99)
Witch Hunt (2.99)

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Author Interview: Nic Wilson

I’d like to welcome Nic Wilson, a novelist and journalist. He writes everything from science fiction, fantasy, topical political fiction, and horror.  His latest novel, Whores, has been reviewed as a very well-written, gritty novel with an extremely fast-paced plot, memorable characters and a political dystopia that is chillingly thought provoking.  From some of the future projects in his works, he should be a writer to watch closely this coming year!

What inspired you to become a writer?

I’d say, if anything, I was inspired not to become a writer. I was a big fan of Poe at an early age. His work is wonderful and evocative and psychologically disturbing, which I think makes it perfect for any elementary school kid. But the man had a pretty horrible life. Poverty, addiction, crippling loneliness and loss, dying early and alone. So from a fairly early age I internalized the idea that the best you could hope for from writing was that your words would outlive you- but that was probably because you’d die young. I grew up poor enough not to want to continue. So I really tried to get a real career and an education, but I could never stop writing, detrimental to my life expectancy though it may be.

I don’t know what it is, honestly. There’s a joy to sitting down and stringing sentences together that just does it for me. I technically graduated, and just this week had my day job upgraded to a full-time 'real job', but I’m going to keep writing, because it makes me happier than any other combinations of happy-making things I’ve found. Now that I’m really pushing for other people to read what I’ve been doing, I’m hoping I can spread some of that happy around.

There is a lot of talk at the moment about e-book pricing, what do you think is the ideal price for a self-published writer?

I don’t think there’s any one ideal price. For starters, the e-book ecosystem includes single essays and Tolkien-esque fantasy novels. To complicate things, without complex coupon schemes there’s a 99 cent floor for most distribution platforms. That completely mucks things up because a sub $1 price, which would probably be ideal for sub-novella works,  doesn’t exist,. Another wrinkle is that there’s a fairly spendy bit of equipment in an e-reader or tablet that people have to buy up front that sort of inflates the customer’s cost which, authors unfortunately have to contend with by setting lower prices. Finally, it’s basically dependent on the audience, and since it’s a small but dedicated audience, I think a lower price-point is justified in the short to mid-term as we evangelize the e-book idea to the wider world.

Ultimately, I think I’d like to see prices settle to about $3 for a mid-length novel from an established author. That’s roughly the cost of a paperback novel, with all of the printing, distribution, warehousing, shipping and other associated costs stripped away. More for larger novels, and less for shorter ones. That would leave room for those just starting out to set a lower price threshold, so people could try their work without feeling like they’re investing in a book they don’t like.

Where do you write?

At home, though really, I'll write anywhere, so long as I'm isolated. I have three animals who are always good for a distraction, climbing on my shoulders, trying to use the laptop as a springboard. I've never been the write-in-a-coffee-shop type. Having other people around cripples my concentration. Even my fiance knows that when I'm writing, she needs to stay somewhere she can't even theoretically look at the screen, otherwise I can't focus on the task at hand, past the feeling of being watched.  Am I paranoid? Because I feel like you think that I’m paranoid?

Who is your favourite author and why?

The most influential writer on me has probably been Warren Ellis. But I did a two-year stint in journalism, got a chance to interview him- and learned the wisdom of the idiom about meeting your heroes. Suffice to say it soured me a bit on him.

At a minimum, though, I owe Ellis a debt because he steered me, through Transmetropolitan, to the work of Hunter S. Thompson. Thompson had a breezy, hilarious as hell writing style that I think helped me realize writing can be fun, and then later, that writing can be fun and socially aware. More than anything, I think that summarizes my writing ethos.

Where do you find inspiration to write?

I think my main inspiration is people. I like to write about fantastical and strange circumstances. But at the center of them is people: normal, emotional, irritable, and often times irrational human beings. It's just as fascinating to me the way human beings react to crazy happenings as the crazy happenings themselves.

Beyond that, my inspiration is usually pretty far-ranging, but to paraphrase my fiancé, my writing is usually me working through things in my own head. Whores came from the US debates last year, though I have a hard time calling them that with a straight face, over female healthcare and rights.

I have several other novels in early draft stages, due for release this year, but Whores is the only one that's been finalized and published at the moment. They all follow some theme that felt important to me at the time. Dag is about environmental issues, corporate culture and unorthodox families; Nexus is a space opera about privatization, exploitation and genocide; The Necromancer's Gambit is about the role of government in an underground world of magicians; and Banksters is about how at home greed and sociopathy are in the financial sector.

I look at writing these novels as exploration, or maybe a vivisection, an excuse to view different aspects of the world, whether it's new science, a political discussion, or the troubles of a friend or family member.

How important are readers’ reviews to you?

I’ve been regularly publishing writing on my website for something like seven years. But my site was always very bare bones, no social media aspect, no interaction. It felt kind of like I was in a beat poet coffee bar, doing my thing on a stage, to a bunch of empty chairs.

The e-book thing is different in that now there very much is criticism, and interaction- including interviews. I love it. I want to know how people feel about what I’ve put so much time and myself into. And I hope they enjoy what I do. There’s very little more gratifying, honestly. But not everything I write will be for every person. I hope that by marketing myself in an honest way, I can help people find things of mine they might enjoy, and avoid things that they won’t. Reviews are just a mechanism for that.

Any future projects in the offing?

Always! I'm naturally a fast writer, and since the first draft is the most exciting one to work on, I have a massive backlog of works in the editing process. They should be due out in the next year or so, since I'm prioritizing their release, rather than focusing on new work- though I do have those in the pipeline as well. But the stuff in the editing process:

Dag: is the story of a woman working for the Department of Agriculture who gets entangled in the web of a military-industrial conspiracy, when she'd rather just go home to her foam mattress and a quart of rocky road ice cream.

Nexus: is about a generational ark spaceship filled with people who will never again see their home world. It's about how they handle internal conflicts as they grapple with their independence, their isolation, and their sponsors interests, while bargaining with new species for mining rights.

The Necromancer's Gambit: A group of magicians based in Portland, Oregon tries to maintain order in the face of a series of murders, and a challenge to the societal authority.

Banksters: A sociopath climbs the corporate ladder.

Homeless: A scourge makes every building on the planet uninhabitable, and we see how weak the fabric of society really is.

The Singularity: A physicist investigates a temporal  distortion, and how it might be related to a football player's progressive  dementia at a remote rehab  clinic  on the  Oregon coast.

As for the projects on the agenda:

I'm finishing up the last 20% on Lunacy, which is the story of a manned Mars mission that gets thrown off course when one of the crew members is bitten by a werewolf.

After that, around summer, I've got the sequel to Nexus. I don't want to spoil too much, but the original Nexus ends with a revolt, and we're going to see what happens after the mutiny. I'm looking forward to discovering how to make a scientifically realistic car chase using spaceships.

In the fall, I'm writing another sequel, this one to The Necromancer's Gambit. The first Gambit novel ends with a lot of betrayal, and with the worst threats having only been temporarily dealt with.  So the sequel, tentatively titled Kindred Spirits, is going to be about the aftermath of all of the duplicity, lies, and lawbreaking, as all of the various chickens come to roost. There's going to be magical hell to pay.

Random One: Favourite film?

Hmm. I’ve never been much of a film buff. I think I’m just turned off by the reliance on stock characters that the medium necessitates; with only 2 hours or so to tell a complex story, you don’t have time to flesh everybody out. So I tend to be drawn into serialized TV. I think my favourite film is probably based more in what I’m craving at any particular moment, which at times would include Monkey Shines and Mallrats, for obviously very different reasons. But I think I could narrow it down to a single director, since I’ve absolutely loved both Looper and Brick: Rian Johnson. His movies just squat in my brainpan and refuse to leave; as an example, The Singularity is in many ways a reaction to what he did in Looper- though I’d stress there’s hardly a common link between the two, The Singularity being a rather low-key medical/science mystery character study with nary a shotgun in sight. Brick is my favourite-definitely of the two- though I’d say that’s mostly because time travel flicks always have a caveat that its gimmick is somewhat spoiled upon repeat viewings (which is perhaps the main thing The Singularity was a response to). But this interview just reminded me to go online and buy Brothers Bloom- which I haven’t seen yet. So yay interview.

Random Two: Where in the world do you most want to visit?

On principle, Disneyland. I vacationed there so much in my metaphorically distant youth, it'll always be my automatic getaway spot. I have every Disneyland video game that has been released, and portion them out, so I always have a little pick-me-up when I need it. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of places I'd love to visit, but those can always come after another trip to Disneyland, or after a stopover.

Beyond that, I’ve been planning, since I set The Singularity on the Oregon Coast, for a trip there, both as research, and to see how much of my remembered setting was accurate. And I’ve been promising the fiancĂ© that trip for a while, now, too.

But for maybe a more exotic trip, I’d like to see London. America’s still a fairly young place, really, and I’d like to visit someplace truly old. And I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with British culture, too. This would almost certainly blossom into a full-fledged romp through Europe.

Really anyplace. Any place that doesn’t have insects that lay eggs under your skin.