Star Wars Fan Fiction Experiment

One of the joys and hassles of writing speculative fiction is the world-building involved. I found that out recently when I started writing a new Science Fiction book. I’m at the stage in my writing at the moment where I just need to get on write and improve my storytelling skills (I think anyway) rather than focus on world-building, so that part of things can hold me back. So I had a think about Fan Fiction – as long as its not for profit then its allowed. So I thought I’d give it a go.

You can see my first effort and follow along with it as it progresses here at Wattpad. The story is called Into the Heart of the Empire. I don’t know what’s going to happen yet, so I’ll have as much fun as you will discovering the story too!

Here’s the start of it:

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away …

Following the Battle of Yavin and the destruction of the Death Star, a new hope has been kindled in the universe. The Evil Empire is not all powerful. The Rebel Alliance has shown that it is possible to stand up for freedom and against oppression. Across the galaxy there are stirrings of resistance to the Empire.

Even in the heart of the Empire’s industrial infrastructure there is unease and a willingness to question the word of the Emperor and his forces of oppression. One such place is the Imperial dockyard on Malykan, a system of the Inner Rim.

The ship shuddered as it came out of hyperspace. The battle damage it had sustained made handling difficult and it felt like at any moment the drives might fail.

Jana Yaku could think of simpler ways to die than taking on the mission the Rebel Alliance had assigned her. To be fair to them, she had volunteered and she was the only pilot (she thought) that could pull this off. But still … she regretted her decision now.

The mechs on Yavin had patched up the ship has best they could. The whole point was that it was supposed to be battle-damaged—that was her cover story, but Jana wished that the Rebels who’d knocked this ship out hadn’t been quite as thorough in their work. That’s ironic, as it was her, in a Y-Wing bomber who’d disabled the Imperial Reaper class Escort frigate. Two proton torpedoes had ripped large holes in the frigate—one just forward of the engines and one taking out the Frigate’s bridge. Twisted metal and plastiglass had been bent and welded back into shape by the Engineers on Yavin, but where Jana sat on the bridge was still an uncomfortable and unnatural place to be.

“Reaper-class Frigate, The Ravager, please acknowledge.”

She sighed. She knew it wouldn’t be long until she got a challenge from the Imperial Navy. After all Malkyan had to be one of the most intensely militaries parts of the Inner Rim, given the Imperials built a large number of ships and weapons there.

Total War Warhammer First Impressions and My Greenskins Campaign Video

So I started playing Total War Warhammer last night and also a bit this morning before work – just a couple of hours so far, but here are my first impressions:

  • It’s a bit simpler than other Total War games – which is no bad thing – the interface has less clutter and units for example have fewer special powers, which makes battle management easier.
  • There’s no prologue campaign to wade through – which again is good – you just go and decide which faction you want and get going – although the advisor tips are quite heavy to start with.
  • It’s genuinely fun and I wanted to keep playing. I think partly because there’s no concerns over historical accuracy, the silly stuff like battlefield artillery feels right, whereas in other games like Rome it seems out of place and contrived.
  • The Warhammer world isn’t quite the one I knew and loved from Warhammer Fantasy Battles 3rd edition – some of the humour has gone and been dumbed down into things like shouting Waarggh! a lot. The orc animations look a bit daft to me, but that’s down to the direction Games Workshop went with figure design. But I think Creative Assembly seem to have faithfully recreated Warhammer as it was before Age of Sigmar.
  • The factions are quite few – again this is good – with a game like Rome II I just feel overwhelmed – I’d like to play all the factions, but I feel I never will and anyway how different are they. But with this playing a campaign with each faction seems manageable and they also feel quite different too.
  • Battles work quite well and basic tactics work better than other Total War games did before getting lots of patches. They seem to have got things right from the start this time round.
  • I found some of the graphics disappointing – I think it’s the underground battles actually that look  a bit rubbish. Overground it all looks a lot better.

Here’s a screen capture video of me opening the game – it shows the opening video and the start of the Greenskins campaign.

Book Review: Frostborn by Lou Anders

Frostborn CoverFrostborn (Thrones and Bones 1) by Lou Anders

Hardcover, 352 pages

Published August 5th 2014 by Crown Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2014)

ISBN 0385387784 (ISBN13: 9780385387781)

I don’t usually read many Middle Grade of Young Adults books, but I decided to give this one a go after hearing Lou Anders interviewed on the Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing podcast. I’d heard of him as an editor of Science Fiction and Fantasy, but didn’t realise he was an author as well. He came across really well and his book sounded cool – I really liked that he’d actually made the game that was featured in the book – Thrones and Bones – and the viking inspired fantasy world that he talked about appealed to me as well. I got lots of ideas about world building from the interview – including using Fractal Terrains map making software – which I looked at after the podcast (didn’t buy yet it but played around with the demo – it’s good!)

Anyway enough of the asides, onto the book! Frostborn is about two main characters: Karn, a human boy who is more interested in playing Thrones Bones than learning about farming, and Thianna, a half-giant girl. They both have enemies. Thianna’s is fairly obvious – some of the other giants don’t like her, but Karn’s nemesis is a bit more veiled, so I won’t spoil that part of the plot. Thianna also possesses a horn which was given to her by her dead mother, which seems to have special powers – and that brings in a good part of the thriller element of the story. Karn and Thianna both end up on the run from their respective societies. Lots of escapades result and the plot keeps moving at a good pace. There’s also some funny bits in at as well – for instance the skeletal inhabitant of a barrow and associated ghouls who chase Karn.

Needless to say everything gets resolved in the end and the villains get their comeuppance. I liked the humour of the book – the lack of too much seriousness meant that it was a much easier read than many other epic fantasies that begin as rites of passage stories. Both Karn and Thianna had a sense of humour as they struggled to assert themselves, and I found that really refreshing. The viking style fantasy setting was well done–fairly simple, not too many kingdoms etc. I thought it was a good fantasy novel for young readers – and adults alike. Just need to have a go at Thrones and Bones now – you can actually buy the game apparently!

If you’re interested in buying Frostborn (or anything else) then click on one of the Amazon links below. You’ll also be supporting this blog.

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Top 5 Reasons Why I’m Excited about Total War: Warhammer

As you might know if you interested in strategy PC games, Total War: Warhammer is just around the corner – due for release next Tuesday! I’ve already pre-ordered and can’t why to play.  Here’s my top 5 reasons to be excited about the new game.

  1. Bloodbath at Orc's DriftFirstly it’s because I’m an old git (relatively speaking) and remember playing Warhammer Fantasy Battles when it first came back in the early eighties. Spent many a happy hour with school friends playing McDeath and The Ziggurat of Doom, not to mention the epic Bloodbath at Orc’s Drift – which I’m sure included a badge saying “I bathed in blood at Orc’s Drift.”
  2. I stopped playing though when I left school at started University – a couple of games while at Uni, but that was it – I finished with Warhammer on it’s 3rd edition. So it’s fascinating to go back to the game and see how it’s developed.
  3. I also love Total War games – again getting into them right at the start with the first Shogun game. Somehow I still think that was the best – battlefield tactics somehow just worked better – a bit less real time rushing around perhaps? I’ve been looking for a Total War Warhammer game for ages. There’s some mods but an official game is where it’s at.
  4. Totalwar dogfightThere’s some great new features for the game that will make it unique for Total War games – flying stuff and magic. I can’t wait to play with those things. Also the idea of Orc and Dwarf nations that don’t follow the standard nation building rout of these games will also be fascinating to play. I think I might start with the Orcs!
  5. Perhaps if Creative Assembly pull off this game, they’ll get the change to do Lord of the Rings Total War – or Game of Thrones. A strategy game for either of those licenses would be awesome!

Here’s a trailer that hope will get you excited as well!

Book Review: Sharpe’s Eagle by Bernard Cornwell

Sharpes_Eagle_PBSharpe’s Eagle by Richard Cornwell

Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 3rd 2004 by Signet (first published January 1st 1981)
Original Title
Sharpe’s Eagle
ISBN
0451212576 (ISBN13: 9780451212573)
Edition Language
English

Although this is the eighth book in the series of Sharpe book – going in chronological order, Sharpe’s Eagle has the distinction of being Bernard Cornwell’s first Sharpe book. He went back and filled in much of the history of Richard Sharpe at a later date – his time in India for instance which is referred to in this book.

This book is also of note as it’s the only place where Sharpe’s hair is described as being black – Cornwell didn’t mention his hair colour again in other books in the series, which is a good thing given Sean Bean is blond!

Well enough of the anecdotes about the book. What’s it about and is it any good? The story covers the Talavera campaign, during which the British army under Wellington entered Spain with the intention of capturing Madrid supported by the Spanish army. The story begins in Portugal with Sharpe’s company of riflemen being attached to a new regiment, the fictional South Essex commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Sir Henry Simmerson. The Colonel is proud and incompetent and he and one of his officers, Lieutenant Christian Gibbons are the main villains of the story. Gibbons is accompanied by a beautiful Portuguese noblewoman, Josefina Lacosta. The South Essex has the job of seizing a bridge on the line of march of the British army with the cooperation of a Spanish regiment. Due to the incompetence of both the Spanish and Simmerson the regiment is nearly destroyed by French dragoons and cannon. But Sharpe disobeys orders and manages to save most of the regiment from destruction. Not before the South Essex loses its King’s Colour. One of Sharpe’s friends – an officer of the South Essex dies, and Sharpe tells the dying man that he will capture a French regimental Eagle in order to take revenge for the loss of the King’s Colour. Thus the stage is set for the rest of the book.

The British army makes its way under Wellington to Talavera. Most of the rest of the action is the march to the city and the battle itself. There is a good deal of conflict between Sharpe, Simmerson and Gibbon – and with Gibbon Josefina is the main subject of that conflict – the love interest for the book!

I won’t say anything more about the story in case readers of this post haven’t read it.

So what did I think of it? I really enjoyed it. I’ve read other Sharpe books before and other novels by Cornwell, so I was familiar with the style and content of his work – and it didn’t disappoint. There’s plenty of action to keep you turning the pages, but although he’s sometimes accused of being a bit lightweight on history, I found that there was plenty of historical background and content in the book to keep me interested. The characters are well defined too – although some are a bit stereotyped in a way – you can see that they fulfil a function in the story for instance – such as Major Hogan who’s there as a kindly older father figure who tries to help Sharpe. But the characters work well and Cornwell has a knack of bringing them to life and making you believe in them.

Verdict? Heartily recommended!

If you want to support my blog then please consider buying a copy of Sharpe’s Eagle (or anything else) by clicking on the Amazon links below.

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Book Review of Late Medieval France (European History in Perspective) by Graeme Small

Graeme Small
Paperback, 256 pages
Published November 15th 2009 by Palgrave Macmillan
ISBN
0333642430 (ISBN13: 9780333642436)

Let me say first that I am not a full-time academic – just someone who studied Medieval history a long time ago at University and who is now interested in an amateur way in the period. I give that caveat as this is the kind of book, I think, written for the academic reader in mind – i.e. an undergraduate or postgraduate student. Whereas my brief review here will be more from the point of view of a general reader. I read this book to give me some more background for my own writing – specifically my Stonehearted series.

The book covers the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries – ending its timeline in 1461 with the death of Charles VII. That in itself I found interesting as a general reader – does the Middle Ages for France end in 1461? Whereas in England we think of it ending in 1485 with the Battle of Bosworth? That distinction wasn’t explained in the book, but I guess it might be obvious to students of French history.

The structure of the book is a bit unusual – I thought as it was an academic work it would probably be more thematic – i.e. perhaps looking at different sections of society or different themes affecting the period – the rise of the bourgeoisie maybe? It did contain some of that – for instance looking at urban France and rural France, but also quite a bit of the book did also contain narrative history of the reigns of the French king. This was probably the part of the book that I found most interesting. There were some interesting insights for me in why John II was a bad king for instance – down to him not building up his noble allies in Normandy for instance. So that section was definitely very valuable. Other parts of the book were good – interesting to hear about trade networks or the lack of for instance, and also how Paris at this time wasn’t terribly significant – regional cities were quite important instead. So I would say if you are interested in the period and the Hundred Years War then this is worth a read – you get a good perspective from the French side of things.

However, what let it down for me was that academic dryness of the text – I struggled to get through it at times. I think part of this was the insistence on a specific thesis being put across – the idea of a split between East and West parts of France. The West (i.e. Normandy, Brittany, Aquitaine) being the rebellious part of the kingdom, whereas the East was the more loyal settled area. The tension of Burgundy looking to go its own way though making a big impact on the stability of the East. I though this theory was plausible and had its merits as a way of looking at the period, but sometimes I felt it got in the way too!

Late Medieval France by Graeme Small is available from most good bookshops I expect, as well as Amazon. If you want to support this blog go ahead and buy a copy from the Amazon links below.

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Jake Savage and the Field of Battle – New Flash Fiction

The field between the manor and the church had once held a crop of wheat, but all the yellow stalks were bent and trampled destined never to become bread. Instead they were weighed down by the bodies of the dead, the blood of French and English soldiers blending to blacken the crop and the soil.

Jake grasped a handful of wheat stalks and tried to pull himself to a sitting position. But he couldn’t. There was a weight on his stomach and legs. He levered himself on his elbows and regarded the obstruction—the heavily armoured corpse of a French knight was sprawled over him. With a jerk of his knees Jake was able to shift the armoured corpse enough to move it. The body rolled away. Jake didn’t want to look, but he couldn’t help seeing the face of the Frenchman—he’d worn an open bascinet, no visor to protect his face and he’d been paid back for his recklessness. The knight’s face was opened from top to bottom by a knife that had been jammed in there and twisted so hard that the face’s features were distorted like a lump of dough that had been kneaded by a baker.

And then Jake remembered that it had been his knife and that he had done the kneading. He felt his head. It was sore and tender. Someone must have hit him. But not hard enough. He had been lucky, unlike this knight he’d killed. If he’d been a knight and able to afford a bascinet with a visor, he’d have bought one. No matter what if you could get so terribly injured like this knight. But for an archer like him the cost was beyond his reach and besides the visor would get in way when drawing the bow.

Without the weight of the Frenchman on him he was able to stand. He did so and looked around. He wondered where the rest of the retinue were. He couldn’t see anyone around apart from the field littered with bodies.

That was Ralph de Chester there he realised—the decapitated head of his ventenar stared up at him. Poor Ralph, he’d not been a bad leader to the archers. And near him lay more in the colours of ??, Old Cob, John the Snake, Hugh, Richard. On and on the names came to Jake’s mind. He stalked across the field, using his sword to prod at the bodies and turn them if he couldn’t see their faces. They were all there. Even Sir Robert himself and his son, the young Robert. They were all dead. The whole retinue.

He was the only one living out of all of them. The French must have won. Jake went back to each body looking for signs in life, in case like him some of them had only knocked been knocked cold by a blow to the head. But no, the wounds were ghastly and all mortal—deep cuts from swords axes or skulls smashed by hammers and maces.

The fighting had been bloody, brutal, fast and violent when the two forces met. Jake thought that neither had known of the other in the vicinity until each one came across from the opposite side of the field—the English from the church side and the French from the manor.

There had been about forty of the French—and the English had numbered thirty two. Jake counted the bodies. He was careful not to count any twice. Sixty five. Could there have been any survivors apart from him?

He shuddered. The day was darkening. The sun had sunk behind the clouds over a wood in the West while he had been counting. Long shadows of the trees lurched across the field and Jake imagined that the spectres of the dead were getting up to walk—to leave their bodies in the night.

And who would they haunt? Who else would they pursue, but him, the only one who survived the encounter of the bloody field?

Jake turned and ran.

Fast.

New Game that I’m in to: Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game

Recently my 8 year old son and I visited our local Games Workshop – he was really excited to see that they had Hobbit and Lord of the Rings miniatures – being an avid collector of Lego for both these films. So we’re mulling over getting into the game! I used to play Warhammer when I was a teenager, so know a bit about gaming with miniatures and painting them up. Before we take the plunge and get a whole set of figures – we’re thinking about the Hobbit Escape from Goblin Town starter set – I ordered 3 dwarfs just to practice painting. I did the undercoat and then my son did the dry-brushing beards, armour effects and the blue tunic bits and the boots – I worked on the more detailed bits like flesh tones and helped tidy things up a bit. They’re not the best painted miniatures ever, but I think they turned out all right!

Onto the game itself, Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game is a bit like Warhammer but more skirmish orientated – I managed to find a copy of the rules at my local library and we’ve had a couple of games using my son’s Lego figures – we found the rules simple to pick up but also with enough nuances to make it interesting – I think we might be getting that starter set soon!