Category Archives: Book reading

LAUNCH DAY! More Cosplay Disasters

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Yes! It’s finally launch day for my new e-book, “More Cosplay Disasters”!

In this follow-up volume to “My Cosplay Disasters”, I lay out the method I failed to develop properly to build another four helmets. This time I ruined:

A Captain Rex Clone Trooper Mod

A First Order Stormtrooper Helmet from “The Force Awakens”

Handles the Cyberman Head from Doctor Who

A Deathtrooper helmet from “Rogue One”

Each disaster is neatly laid out (which is more than can be said for my workshop) with accompanying photographs and a detailed account of where I went wrong (often, simply starting the project.)

There are many authors and makers out there who are keen to tell you how to do things right, but I’m pretty much the only person showing you how I do things wrong, thus proving that YOU could do a better job than me if you put your mind to it. Also, that I should have a different hobby.

The e-book is available exclusively on Amazon:

In the US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XCF665N

In the UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XCF665N

In Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B06XCF665N

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And anyone else, check your local Amazon variant!

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May the Fours be with you…

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Still putting one foot in front of the other, with three Weasels in tow…

It’s my forty-fourth birthday. Despite dire warnings regarding fruit and vegetables and the necessity thereof, I’m still here. Which is nice.

This summer has been long and very, very pleasant. We’ve had a visit from my parents and been out to see new places, as well as revisiting some old favourites. The Weasels have had independent adventure time, and plenty of family time too. Mrs Dim and I managed to take simultaneous vacations and discovered that we still like each other very much.

In past years I’ve put my books on sale and encouraged new readers to try them, but I think there’s enough misery in the world right now thanks to Brexit and the US elections, so instead I’m encouraging everyone to embrace the spirit of the Fours and review four books. ANY four books. Doesn’t matter if it’s a book you read last week, or your childhood favourite. Doesn’t matter if you post the review on Amazon, or on Facebook, or on a sheet of A4 pinned to the nearest telephone pole.

Reviews matter. They matter to the poor author who has torn their hair out arranging these 100,000 words into that specific order for your pleasure. They matter to other readers, who want to know if this is a book they should devote time to. And if Oprah and Richard and Judy and their ilk can influence entire countries to buy a book (“50 Shades” and “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” respectively) then you can encourage people too. Even if it’s just the author, relieved that someone has READ their book, thank you.

You don’t have to be a literary critic. You don’t have to analyse the beats of the plot, or the structure, or the effectiveness of the b-story. Did you like the book? Did it grip you from the beginning? Could you see it happening in your head as you read it? Did you want to read it right to the end? Were you sad when it was finished? These are the things people want to know about the books, not whether the symbolism was richly influenced by the pre-modernistic fiction of Northern France.

Summer’s pretty much done, and as Sean Bean is always here to remind us….

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Dammit, Sean, YOU HAD ONE JOB! Try again….

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Right. Thank you.

Yes, Winter is coming, so no more lying in a hammock reading books. Now comes the time for curling up in an armchair near the fire with books. It’s completely different.

So, may the fours be with you. Go FOURth and review books.

Favourite books of the week

Since I raved about LJ Cohen’s space masterpiece last week (or thereabouts) it seems only fair that I mention two books that have been delighting me since then.

Available from Amazon

A colleague at the library asked me if I’d read this book, and I had to admit I’d picked it up a couple of times but not committed to reading it. Finally convinced by the presence of Toffos on the cover, I took it home and read half of it that night, only putting it down because 1am is too late to be reading when you have a 6am start.

The book is a collection of letters written by Nina to her sister Victoria. Nina is working as a nanny to a couple of boys in London in the 1980s, and the letters really concern themselves mostly with everyday life, which sounds dull, but the family live over the street from Alan Bennett (who drops in regularly for tea), a few doors along from Jonathan Miller (who lends them a saw to trim their Christmas tree) and round the corner from a famous novelist.

The everyday life that Nina describes is crazy and strange, and yet completely believable. You only catch a glimpse of Margaret Thatcher once or twice, and there’s no mention of The Falklands War, or Northern Ireland, or unemployment (which are my abiding memories of the 80’s). It’s just the real (and sometimes surreal) life of a single Mum and her two boys, along with the young woman who helps them out with the little things, like cooking and playing, but not cleaning.

And it’s a lot more funny and interesting than I made it sound. Sorry.

Available from Amazon

Continuing the theme of real lives from a time I remember, I picked up Simon Pegg’s autobiography expecting the kind of detail-lite life story that I’ve often read in other celeb’s books. But this is not the case here. While the non-linear structure can make it tricky to parse the actual timeline of Simon’s life (he leaps about through time talking about his developing love of acting and comedy, the girls he’s loved and the major influences on his life and his work), this is a book worth reading. He uses his academic chops to dissect the appeal of Star Wars to the generation upon which it burst, and while I’ve read similar explanations in drier books, Pegg’s love of the movie and his unapologetic dislike of the prequels is backed up with solid reasoning. He’s famous for a quote about being a geek… Hang on, I’ll go find it….

This attitude comes through strongly in the book – Simon has discovered things he loves, and he doesn’t see why they should be treated with any less reverence than sports fanaticism, or classical theatre.

Another thing worth mentioning is his theory of microcosmic accretion (although that’s my term for it). He’s looking at the reason he became part of a group that went on to such success – Edgar Wright, David Walliams, Jessica Hynes and many others. His theory is that similar interests and life views filter people towards one another, which I guess only works if you embrace those loves and are willing to stand up for them. He’s discovered that both he and Edgar Wright were in the same movie theatre for the premiere of “Akira” in the UK when they were in their teens, though they didn’t meet and begin collaborating until years later. He and the woman who ultimately became his wife had many friends in common and had even been in the same locations a couple of times before actually meeting.

We (outsiders) often look at groups that change their chosen field and remark how strange it is that so many people of a similar mind should emerge at the same time – Monty Python, or George Lucas, Spielberg and Coppola. Pegg’s theory is that this is not Fate, but the inevitable consequence of admitting the things you love, and giving full rein to your enthusiasms.

I’m in awe of the fact that he’s met so many of his childhood idols – Leonard Nimoy, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Carrie Fisher, Gillian Anderson, JJ Abrams. It seems the only one he missed out on was Lee Majors. There may be an argument that fortune plays a part in his success, but if so, it’s a very minor one. Simon identified his loves early on, and worked hard to achieve his success. Stand up is no easy route to take, and along the way he’s made sure he kept his friends around him and makes no secret of his admiration for the talents of others.

 

 

The Great Canadian Adventure is FREE!

Great Canadian cover

Yes! To celebrate the fact that it’s been EXACTLY 7 years, 2 months and 14 days since we arrived in Canada, I’m giving away my account of our first year here for FREE!

It’s filled with fun pictures and interesting facts! It’s an e-book, so people won’t see it on your shelf and ask why you bought it! It’s free, so you won’t regret spending money on it! And it’s an Amazon product so you can leave reviews warning others away from making a similar error!

(I may not be good at this marketing thing.)

You can get your copy from Amazon.com, or Amazon.co.uk . If you live somewhere else, check out your local Amazon site and see if it’s free there too!

And ok, yes, it may not be because of the timing, but because i haven’t given away any of my e-books in a long time. There’ll probably be other giveaways coming up soon. I’m busy working on a new play, co-writing the next pantomime, and there’s a side-project running over on Wattpad that I’m not convinced will be worth publishing, but is making me smile. Also, I haven’t made any kind of replica film prop for more than a week.*

 

 

 

*There may be a complete set of plans for a Cyberman head in the bottom drawer of my desk. I refuse to comment.

Reading the Last Discworld Novel – The Shepherd’s Crown

The last Discworld book completed by Terry Pratchett.

The last Discworld book completed by Terry Pratchett.

When Middle Weasel was nine years old, we read her “The Wee Free Men“. It had been around for seven years at that point, but the main character, Tiffany Aching was nine years old too. She is a determined young girl, looking to make sense of the world, unwilling to take at face value the nebulous explanations offered by adults . In this way, she and Middle Weasel were very much alike. In the book, Tiffany decides that she wants to be a witch, and when the Baron’s son goes missing, Tiffany goes off to save him. She knows that in the “real” world, it’s boys who do the saving and girls that get saved, but no one can give her a good reason why this is so. Armed with a frying pan, she defeats the Queen of the Fairies and restores Roland to his father, earning the respect of the senior witches along the way. She also learns a lot about herself.

wee_free_menThe Wee Free Men is supposed to be a children’s story, but it’s by Terry Pratchett and it’s got a lot to it. There’s comedy, certainly, provided by the titular blue heroes, who generally help Tiffany. But there’s a lot of philosophy too, a lot of musing on the reality of life, and why we see things a certain way. Terry Pratchett has always flipped genre stereotypes, and here he takes on the massive task of inverting the old prejudice against the old woman who lives on her own in the woods with only her herb garden and cats for company.

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Middle Weasel liked the book, primarily for the comedy, but enough that she took on the subsequent Tiffany Aching Stories. Either with us or alone she read “A Hat Full of Sky” and “Wintersmith” and “I shall wear midnight“. Along the way, Tiffany grows up, sometimes a little faster than Middle Weasel. She learns that being a witch is more about not using magic, not because you can’t, but because you can. It’s about doing the job that’s in front of you. It’s about helping everyone in a million tiny ways, and not expecting thanks. It’s about learning that when you dig a hole well, your only reward is a bigger shovel.

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Tiffany faces challenge after challenge in the series, and each time the challenge is brought about by who she is, and resolved by it too. The other witches support her, but never do the job for her. By the time we reach “The Shepherd’s Crown“, Tiffany is in her teens and working flat out as the only witch on the Chalk – the downs where she lives, not terribly unlike Wiltshire, where Terry Pratchett made his home.

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I felt guilty when I heard that Terry Pratchett had completed this last book before he died – guilty because I was pleased. When Douglas Adams died, I eagerly bought the collection “The Salmon of Doubt“, because it contained seven chapters of an incomplete Dirk Gently Novel, but reading those chapters and knowing the story would never be finished was terrible. The introduction to “The Shepherd’s Crown” explains that Terry Pratchett would probably have revised this version of the book a few more times before publication had he had the chance, but I’m glad it was published. Other stories and outlines that were incomplete at his death will never see the light of day, something I am simultaneously sad about and glad for. His daughter recently said on Twitter that she might work on tie-ins or spin offs, but the books “remain sacred to Dad”.

Some fans have read all but the last page of the book, so that the Discworld novels will never end for them. I couldn’t be that way, devouring the book in a single night. The story is classic Pratchett, and I found it more satisfying than the last Sam Vimes outing (“Snuff“) or the final Moist Von Lipwig story (“Raising Steam“) even though I’m a big fan of both of those series too. The story does leave one thread loose, but not in a way that will bother most readers. I won’t go into the story itself, because you should read it – and if you haven’t already, start with “The Wee Free Men” and work your way through, learning about Discworld witchcraft along with Tiffany.

Quite early on in the book, Death comes calling. Death is a frequent character in all of the Discworld novels, and actually is the central character in more than one. As anthropomorphic personifications go, he’s a kindly reaper, and in this instance he says more than he usually would about the nature of the life led.

“…YOU HAVE LEFT THE WORLD MUCH BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT, AND IF YOU ASK ME, said Death, NOBODY COULD DO ANY BETTER THAN THAT…”

(For those who don’t know, Death always speaks in all caps.)

It struck me, on reading this line, that this was a worthy aim for all of us. Instead of trying to change the whole world, instead of raging and demanding it change to conform to our view of right, perhaps we should do the job in front of us, help those around us, and do it because it’s the right thing to do, not because we expect to benefit.

Free again!

Free until Friday! Probably should have mentioned this  earlier...

Free until Friday!
Probably should have mentioned this earlier…

Thanks to an attack of camping, I’ve been offline for the first couple of days of the free giveaway of “Tribute” my only YA novella (so far…)

“Tribute” tells the story of Lisa, who has grown up thinking that legendary rock guitarist Stone was her father, only to discover, on the day of his funeral, that she might actually be the child of the band’s frontman and long forgotten star, Pitch Blend.

Lisa struggles to bring her parents together and find her own place in the world in this coming of age story.

Which is free, on Amazon until Friday.

Amazon US

Amazon CA

Amazon UK

Free stuff for the rest of the month!

Available NOW at Amazon!

“My Cosplay Disasters” is the first of several free e-books available this month.

August seems to be galloping past, and before long it’ll be my birthday again. Instead of demanding shiny things and an outrageous party, I thought this year I would give away a bunch of e-books, one each week, and only ask people to leave reviews on Amazon in return.

To be clear, I’m not asking only for GOOD reviews – I would like honesty. If you hated the book, or thought it was childish, then say so. Actually, I don’t think anyone would be surprised.

From Monday the 17th, “My Cosplay Disasters” will be free from Amazon. Next week, I think it’s “Tribute”, my awkward attempt to turn a stage musical I never finished writing into a YA novel. Then the week after that there’s another one, but I did all this late at night two days ago, and I can’t remember what the plan was.

Leaving a review can be a pain, but it really, really matters to authors. If you’ve read a book recently, try leaving a review on Amazon, or Goodreads, or your own blog or wherever. It’s ok to be honest, as long as you’re talking about the book and not taking potshots at the author’s personality or life choices. Your words could influence someone else, maybe help them discover a book they will love for the rest of their lives. Or maybe save them from a literary disaster.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the thank you letter I would have to write for the presents you would send:

Dear ________,

Thanks so much for the review you left for me for my birthday. It was a lovely surprise to see the notification pop up in my email and then the live review on Amazon.

I had a lovely birthday, with a late start and then a pleasant walk in the sunshine with dog and family, followed by lunch out and an afternoon movie back at home. It turns out forty three is a lot like forty two, but with less literary connections.

Hope you are well, and that we get to see you soon,

love,

Dim