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‘One of the first things she noticed about him was the way his eyes seemed to sparkle when he smiled…’

Captivated. I wrote this quite a while ago. A story about meeting someone, and discovering some of the different facets that make every person unique.

Clickety click!

“The Riyria Revelations”
by
Michael J. Sullivan

There’s no orphan destined to save the world, nor ultimate evil to be slain…
just two guys in the wrong place at the wrong time trying to survive.

(Taken from the author’s website.)

I was drawn into this series because the blurb on the back of the first book didn’t sound like a typical epic fantasy novel. “They killed the King. They pinned it on two men. They chose poorly.” Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles – until they are hired to pilfer a famed sword. What appears to be just a simple job finds them framed for the murder of the king and trapped in a conspiracy that uncovers a plot far greater than the mere overthrow of a tiny kingdom.

The second thing that drew me in was the sense of humour evident within the first few pages. Royce and Hadrian are witty and banter even in dire situations, and there’s been many times that their conversations have made me smile or laugh out loud. And then there’s the characters themselves. Royce is dark, dangerous, unpredictable. Hadrian is idealistic, good-natured and the sort of person you like almost immediately. They’re opposites, but work so well together, both personally and professionally as Riyria – that’s what they call themselves. I’ve grown to love both of them immensely, and am glad the end of this series isn’t the end of reading about Royce and Hadrian, because Sullivan is writing another series about them (yay!).

I did have moments of being unsure about the book, though. Some of the dialogue and descriptions in ‘Theft of Swords’ just rubbed me the wrong way or weren’t as natural as I thought they could be. First impressions of Arista and Alric, the princess and newly crowned king of Melengar were iffy – I didn’t understand how a brother and sister could be so unnaturally unfamiliar with each other. But as the book progressed and I became more and more engrossed, I either didn’t notice anymore or the writing improved – probably the latter?

Having said that, even though there were moments in the first book that I was unsure, the plot was always intriguing enough, and the characters likeable and interesting enough, that I would read on. And am I glad I did! This series has to be one of my favourites. I love that it’s not your typical go on an epic quest sort of fantasy. I love the humour and sarcasm and the relationships that are formed between the characters. As in most fantasy books, this world has a history, but a history that is colourful and weaved into the storyline, a history that isn’t just some random facts thrown together but something that feels well thought out and relevant to the characters. The history of the world has shaped how they think and how they act. I also liked how I really didn’t know what was going to happen. This is possibly the second time I’ve read a book and seriously not known whether or not the author would kill off one of the main characters. The only other time I can remember this happening was when I read ‘Magician’ by Raymond E. Feist.

The final book of the series was the most exciting book of the three. At least, it was for me. I’d only got to page 200 and already felt like there’d been enough excitement for the climax of several books, not the first two hundred pages! And the actual climax? I have a habit of reaching exciting bits and my eyes involuntarily skipping ahead to find out what happens. You don’t know how much willpower it took to consciously keep my eyes on the words I was supposed to read! That climax was intense. Really. It’s been a while since I felt that anxious while reading a book.

Right, I’ve probably rambled on long enough! Basically: Good series, go read it! Michael J. Sullivan has written a prequel to this series called ‘The Riyria Chronicles’, the first book of which will be released in August 2013 and the second, a month after! Safe to say I am: a) happy they are both released so close together; and b) anticipating reading more about Royce and Hadrian.

8/10

Learnings From NaNoWriMo

It’s the end of November, and that means the end of NaNoWriMo! Technically, as it’s not yet midnight, I could still keep going with my story and write this post tomorrow, but… let’s face it, I’m not going to miraculously reach my target in two and a half hours.

That’s right. I didn’t reach it. I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I was aiming for 20,000 words this time round, after my massive fail in 2010. My total word count thus far? 12,062 words. Twelve thousand! That’s more words than I’ve written in the past year! So even though I didn’t reach my target, I did hit the ten thousand mark, which has made me extremely happy.

I do have a confession to make, though. *whispers* I rewrote. I know, I know. NaNoWriMo is about writing now and editing later. But I realised about 5,000 words in that I’d started my story at the wrong place, and I just couldn’t continue without starting fresh and beginning where I really should have begun my story in the first place: about a week earlier. Granted, it was such a big rewrite that I’ve probably only recycled one to two thousand words, so… I didn’t really cheat, did I?

I’m really glad I tried NaNoWriMo again this year, even though I didn’t reach my target. I learnt quite a few things about myself that will help me in the future as a writer:

P1050713

Psst. That’s my notebook. I decided to go A4 this time round, too.


Paper > Computer
I become far too distracted, far too easily, if I’m writing on the computer. I type a lot faster than I write, but when you combine the distractions of Skype, Facebook, and the Internet in general, my writing pace suffers (read: reduces to nothing). Writing on paper allows me to focus because, well, there’s nothing to look at except my notebook and my pen. Which leads me to my next point…

Place Laptop in Inconvenient Location
Every writer does some research at some point. One of those points is going to be while you’re writing. I’d wager most writers also find research very distracting: I’ll look up A, only to get dragged into B, and then C, and then two hours later it’s time to go to bed. When I’m writing at my desk, I place my laptop next to me on the bed. ‘Well, that’s not very inconvenient,’ you say, but what you don’t realise is that everytime I need to use my laptop I don’t move it back onto my desk: I access it by bending over while still sitting on my chair, which isn’t very comfortable, so it’s not long before I stretch, realise I was done researching a few minutes ago, and get back to writing.

You Do Have Time!
My favourite excuse is that I don’t have enough time to write. Well, it turns out I do have time, because I’m not a student anymore and, really, it’s quite possible to finish dinner by 8pm with plenty of time to write. It’s even possible to write after going out on a weekday and arriving home at 10pm, if you really put your mind to it (and don’t mind slight sleep deprivation the next day).

Quantity vs. Quality
I’m a bit of a perfectionist. When writing on a computer, I tend to edit while I write a lot, which doesn’t work out so well for me because I end up writing off a lot of what I wrote, spending hours agonising over wordings when I really should be writing more and moving the plot along. Which isn’t to say quality doesn’t matter, because I’m not averse to ripping a page out and rewriting it every once in a while, but… stop rereading, and get going! I’m going to type it up on the computer later anyway; I’ll do my editing then. Let’s get a draft done first, at least.

300 words/hour
My average writing speed. This is very helpful, because it will allow me to set realistic goals for myself in the future. Again, word count isn’t everything, and quality does matter, but you aren’t going to get a book if all you do is edit instead of writing.

Possibly a Late Night Writer
I’m not 100% sure of this. But there have been times when I dedicated whole days to writing, only to have days not be very productive and nights almost twice as productive. I think I also write more quickly later in the night, but that might just be because by that point I’m in a writing zone. Will explore this more next month.

Why Only During NaNo?
Why indeed? I wrote more during November than I did for the past year. I admit it is easier to concentrate for a short period of time on doing something intensely (I ended up staying at home to write rather than just chilling at a friend’s on several occasions, and didn’t make any effort to go away on weekends so I had time to write), but I plan on giving myself monthly goals from now on, rather than my previous mindset of “I’ll write when I have time”.

And lastly? I always discover this when I start writing again after a period of inactivity: why did I stop? Again and again, I realise how much I love writing, and again and again I wonder why I stopped.

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year? Did you reach your goal? Did you, like me, learn some things about yourself? I’d love to hear about them, and share in your celebrations of reaching 50,000 words (or whatever your goal was) or commiserating your, um, failure. Sorry. I couldn’t think of a different way of putting it.

SmartWard

Did you know that doctors still use notes written on paper to store important patient information? I always imagined that they’d upgraded to computers by now. After all, surely someone has invented a program that allows medical staff to track a patient as he/she moves in between wards, gets updated diagnoses and subsequently, requires different sorts of medications?

Apparently not. Apparently, this is still done using sheets of paper, and up to 5000 of these medical notes can go missing every day. That’s a heck of a lot of important notes to lose. Imagine the wrong blood being given to patients, the wrong medication… it happens a lot more often than you think it should!

One of my best friends is a medical doctor and she’s seen so many of these cases that she’s finally decided to do something about it. So she thought of ‘SmartWard‘, a cross-platform app that aims to improve communication and reduce human error in hospitals – ultimately allowing doctors to save more lives! She developed this app during the London Startup Weekend (and won!), but that doesn’t mean the app will soon be available; her team still needs to advance to the next stage of the competition.

I don’t normally post asking people to vote, or like a page, or do things, but – please vote for my friend’s app! Her team needs to advance to the global stage in order to become closer to realising their dream, and you can help! All you need to do is go here and vote for their video (that’s the ‘Vote’ button, not the Facebook ‘Like’ button!) before voting closes on the 27th of November. You can vote multiple times (up to a maximum of once a day). Let’s help them reach the next stage so they can properly develop this app!


An example of the ‘SmartWard’ UI.

NaNoWriMo

Otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month, which challenges you to write 50,000 words in the month November. When my friend heard I was going to try it, he said, “That sounds like a punishment to me!”

Well… maybe. But I am making it easier for myself, because I know I won’t achieve anywhere near 50,000 words by the end of November. How do I know this, you ask? Well, the last time I attempted it, back in 2010, I managed a grand total of… wait for it… 3487 words. Oh yeah. That was a massive fail.

So this time, I’m giving myself a bit of a more realistic goal: 20,000 words by the end of November, which is roughly 670 words a day. I won’t make it into the official list of NaNoWriMo winners, but, by the end of the month I will have written quite a big chunk of the story that’s been in my head since the beginning of the summer. (And, no, I won’t tell you what it’s about just yet. I might when I finish it and possibly decide it isn’t too stupid to be read by someone other than myself.)

Anyway, the going has been pretty good so far. If I manage to write about 1,000 words today, then I’ll be on track to reach my word count by the end of November. The one thing that is really threatening the achievement of my goal is… having a social life. It sounds conceited, doesn’t it? Oh, look at me, I’m so popular, I have such a big social life. Well, no, not really. But going out on week nights really kills the word count for the day!

My friend is attempting NaNoWriMo with me, so it will be nice exchanging manuscripts at the end of the month and reading what we managed to churn out. (Although, sorry Vinsant, you’re going to have to wait for me to type it all up, because I’m writing by hand!)

If you want to try it, well, it’s not too late! (Well, it kind of is, but meh.) I’m going to go back to writing now. Because I’ve just spent a precious 20 minutes typing this up when I should have been writing!

P.S. You can follow my progress on littlepurpleoctopus, because I don’t fancy cluttering this blog up with short posts everyday.

Short Story: The Game

Er, this is one is a bit of a fail. I like the concept, I just got bored of writing it halfway through and haven’t been bothered to try and rewrite so that I wouldn’t get bored of writing it halfway through.

… meh, it happens, right? The story’s salvageable because I got bored at a point that could also be an ending, it’s just nearer the 400 mark rather than 750. Oops, I’ll try again next time?

Luxate
Verb
To put out of joint; dislocate.

Clickety click!

I’m Alive!

Sorry for dropping off the face of the earth. I started my first proper real job* at the end of July and I’m still trying to find that work-life balance. Well, I do have a work-life balance, but the ‘life’ bit of it is so far looking like this:

Find new friends. Have some sort of social life. Attempt to exercise. Watch Running Man/Korean drama/movies at the cinema/YouTube videos. Practise piano. Attempt to write something fictional.

As you can see, read blog/write blog has yet to make it onto that list. I’d forgotten how short evenings are when you’re working!

… well. They’re even shorter when your friend introduces a Korean drama to you that is so addictive you’ll watch several (hour-long) episodes in a row and stay up ’til way past your bedtime in order to find out what happens next. I have only ever seen two and a half Korean dramas, but they’ve all been incredibly addictive. Not sure if most Korean dramas are like this. Not sure I really want to find out, either.

So, how is everyone? I promise a proper post soon – I still have a 750-word challenge to finish off/give up on and possibly a book review.


*Okay, so technically, my yearlong placement was a real job, too. But I was still considered a student back then.