#45 The ARCs are here!

Well met, my friends!

Today the advance review copies (ARC) of my novel “Age of Torridan” arrived. Despite my initial plan, I opted for just 35 ARCs, which seems to be plenty.

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Yesterday I tried to find reviewers and sent out six e-mails to various sites. About the same number stated that they would not take a look at independently published manuscripts. Interestingly enough, the elitist book reviews had a very appropriate post up, pointing out some of the terrible covers of self published books. As you can see, my cover is just a photo with a greyscale filter and adjusted brightness and contrast.

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As mentioned in my previous blog post, I already got in touch with an artist to create a proper cover for the release version of the book. Once the cover and the professional copy edit are done, I can put the book on amazon.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#44 Gearing up for Publication

Well met, my friends!

As some of you know, I’ve been working for a good while on a medieval fantasy novel, inspired by the early Dragonlance books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. My alpha readers provided feedback, which led to some new chapters. I’m finally in the last stages and am looking to release the book via Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and Createspace later this year. Here are the things that I still need to sort out:

1. Sanity Check:

I want to re-read the book once more to make sure that the changes I made in the early chapters do not invalidate the later sections.

2. Optional Line Edit:

A line edit is crucial, but since I’m on a very tight time schedule, I might shorten the line editing in favor of getting the Advance Reader (or Review) Copy (ARC) out the door.

3. Write Chapter Commentary for ARCs:

This is something cool I’ve planned for the ARCs – the feedback from my alpha readers showed me that there were a few subtle issues that only half of my readers picked up on. Since these things were not crucial to understand and enjoy the story, I left the clues as vague as they were. However, I want to provide some background information per chapter to explain what’s going on behind the scenes and what some of the choices were that I made. Since this is not something that interests everybody, I will include this in the ARCs, but not in the final release of the book.

4. Compile List of Book Bloggers / Reviewers:

As I am nearing the release, I want to drum up some interest beforehand. To that end, I plan to approach book reviewers and bloggers with an interest in fantasy to see whether they would like to have (and possibly review) one of the ARCs.

Of course I got so carried away that I only approached fellow authors so far (Rachel Aaron, Danielle E. Shipley, Michelle Proulx, and Kat O’Keeffe), but at least the response was positive, even if they are not in a position to review. Still, the purpose for printing ARCs is not only to give them to reviewers, but also as a thank you to my alpha readers and to give to cool people.

5. Print 50-100 ARCs:

I haven’t made up my mind yet, but right now I think 50 will be sufficient. I need 16 for my alpha readers, keep a few for myself, and then distribute the rest to reviewers and the above mentioned cool people. Since there is an equal mix of people wanting eARCs and actual books, the number 50 should be sufficient.

6. Line Edit:

The release version should be as error free as possible, so I am contemplating to pay someone for the line edit, in addition to my own efforts.

7. Commission a Cover:

I’ve already contacted an old friend of mine to design a cover. If that falls through, the next person to check is Zelda Devon and her fantasy-esque art style, which would be a perfect fit.

8. Format Book as epub / mobi:

When I gave the kindle version to my alpha readers, the formatting was all right, but not perfect. For the release version, I aim to do better.

9. Release on KDP and Createspace:

Even though I plan to have the ARCs done in early March, the cover, formatting, line edit means that the release of the book will be delayed till June. Once I have a more accurate estimate, I will be sure to mention it, either here or on twitter.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#43 Plans for 2015

Well met, my friends!

Last year I did not go to London for New Years, but celebrated the end of 2014 at my new flat in Düsseldorf together with my best friend.

Tomorrow, I will go back to Wachtberg for work. However, I successfully negotiated to be a part time scientist in 2015. The rest of the time will be spent writing novels and building up my own software company. The latter will focus on computer games. Even though I vehemently denied it’d be e-sports related, when I talked about it last year, depending on how things are developing that might still be an option. For the time being, I will start out by reactivating the old game design muscles and growing a community.

What are your goals / plans / resolutions for the new year?

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#42 Lindsey Stirling, Cologne 2014

Well met, my friends!

On Friday the 17th of October 2014, I saw Lindsey Stirling in concert for the third time. You can find my blog entry about her gig in Cologne in June 2013 here and her Las Vegas performance in May 2014 here.

Meet and Greet

Just like last time, I mentioned the Misscliks.com website to Lindsey and indicated that we would be interested in conducting an interview. I decided to write for Misscliks (here is a list of my articles and the Lindsey Stirling Spotlight), because they took the unusual approach of covering positive achievements of female role models in geek and gaming culture. The typical media focus on tragedies and drama may generate site views, but I am of the opinion that this is not necessarily a good approach, long term.

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The picture of Lindsey, Drew, Gavi and myself was taken by Mackenzie Madsen, who seemed a bit surprised that I wanted to credit her. Hopefully I picked the right person, because I did not catch her contact details and went with a google assisted guess.

Q&A

There were no real surprises at the Q&A segment, people tend to ask the same things. Perhaps that is good, because unusual questions don’t necessarily generate better replies, as I demonstrated when I asked something at the Las Vegas Q&A. This time I was busy writing a twitter message, so I missed my opportunity to ask a question.

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Apparently my camera does not cope well with insufficient lighting, so most of my pictures were blurry and grainy like the picture above. I admired the beautiful pictures that other people took when I looked over at their cameras’ displays. I guess that means I need to buy new equipment.

A Great Big World

The pre-show band was called “A Great Big World“, whose big hit “Say Something” caught Christina Aguilera’s attention. I bought their album at the show, which contains a version with and without her.

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Instead of Christina Aguilera, the Vocalist/Keyboard guy performed the song together with Lindsey.

Lindsey Stirling

The 90 minute main show was as good as the one I saw previously. It’s apparent that Lindsey Stirling, her band and dancers are now seasoned professionals, who put on a well choreographed performance. I particularly liked that some of the song introductions – like her explanation of “swag” – differed from what she said in Vegas, while retaining the spirit of it. Whenever she talks, things are ever so slightly different, for example, she mentioned that her first violin “Excalibur” is actually from Germany, whereas this piece of information would not have been relevant in the USA. On the flipside, the segment where she asked the audience to turn around and introduce themselves to random people, did not work. I’d go as far as saying it couldn’t work in Germany, due to cultural constraints. I tried to talk to other people, but they immediately broke eye contact and pretended they did not see me, whereas it worked out just fine in the USA. The whole situation reminded me of my twitter message at the Gamescom:

Overall it was a great concert and I plan on going again when there is a new tour.

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When I tried to leave, there was the expected traffic jam. However, as they say “when they zig, you zag”, I drove off in the opposite direction and joined a significantly shorter line of cars.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#41 Gamescom 2014

Well met, my friends!

On Saturday the 16th of August and Sunday the 17th of August, I visited the Gamescom in cologne.

Initially I wandered around all the halls, just to get an idea of what to do and see. There were many cosplayers around like these guys:

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Or those guys. Who you gonna call?

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Last year at Gamescom I met some of the “Spieleveteranen” (Heinrich Lenhardt, Boris Schneider-Johne and Anatol Locker). This year I saw Jörg Langer by chance, who is also one of the “Spieleveteranen” and the initiator of Gamersglobal. Since he was busy filming stuff, I did not want to interrupt.

After they were done, I introduced myself and one convention visitor was nice enough to take our picture. From left to right, it’s myself, Jörg Langer, Christoph Vent and Benjamin Braun.

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On Saturday I tried 4 different games (Farcry4, Assassin’s Creed Rogue, Borderlands the pre-sequel and Call of Duty Advanced Warfare) and saw one presentation (Assassin’s Creed Unity). On Sunday I only played one game (Destiny) twice and saw one presentation (Witcher 3).

The game demos were of varying quality – it really is an art to rip a portion out of your game and still aim to provide an entertaining experience in a limited time slot. Typically there were long lines of about two hours for usually 15 minutes of game play. All of the games I saw were presented on consoles, which made it more difficult for me, as I am used to mouse and keyboard controls and did poorly on the gamepads. Case in point, when I played the Call of Duty multiplayer, there were two rounds, one of 5 minutes and one of 10 minutes. I died 11 times with 0 frags in the first round and did slightly better at 18 deaths and 6 frags in the second round. It’s a steep learning curve with those controllers.

Farcry4:

In the demo, you had the option to select sneak, ride or fly at the beginning. The map was always the same, but if you selected ride, then there was an elephant that you can mount. I picked fly and had a gyrocopter at my disposal. I am not sure what happens when you chose sneak, but glancing at other people’s screens, I had the impression that they gave you a sniper rifle in that case.

The map consisted of a military base and you had a machine gun and a grenade launcher to wreak havoc. Since this was the first game I played, my non-existent gamepad skills were quite apparent. At some point I decided not to run into the base and fight, but instead take the gyrocopter to bypass the base and explore. Unfortunately there was an invisible line with a message popping up to turn around or be destroyed in 10 seconds. Oh well, so much for that idea.

Assassin’s Creed Rogue:

This demo was really well done: They had a short intro and then tell you that your task is to sink 5 enemy ships. When a ship is destroyed, you can salvage the cargo. Apparently it was also possible to board other ships in the demo, but I did not manage to do so. I only saw that on other people’s screens.

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Borderlands the pre-sequel:

This is the demo that I liked the least. The mission said “Enter Drakenburg, get AI core.” There is no time to waste, so I started running towards the Drakenburg. Then one of the guys working at the booth told me that I had 22 skill points to assign. Really? You give people 15 minutes to form an impression about your game and you want them to assign skill points? I thought that was an odd design choice.

Destiny:

Bungie’s Destiny impressed me the most. While waiting outside, they had a screen that showed game play footage and behind the scenes stuff. There was a different line to take pictures on one of the hover bikes. I snapped a picture, when a guy in a master chief suit dismounted from it.

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Inside, they showed a 15 minute video with different game play scenes and commentary of the game designers. This was followed by a 15 minute multiplayer match. Since they used similar controls to Call of Duty and their damage system is less realistic, I fared much better. In Call of Duty, I was pretty much immediately dead whenever someone shot at me. In Destiny, it is a bit more noob-friendly: You can survive several hits, so that you have the option to shoot back or retreat. Also, nobody seemed to realize that close combat in Destiny deals significantly more damage, so I typically ran up to people and one hit melee killed them, as they tried to shoot me. At the exit, they also gave you a T-shirt.

The demo was so good that I decided to queue up again, when it was time to decide, which was the last game to try.

The presentations of Witcher 3 and Assassin’s Creed Unity were quite impressive as well. The lines were also long and you didn’t get to play yourself, but having a competent player showcase the game allowed them to go through an entire quest chain and really demonstrate what’s cool about the games. They both looked awesome and I’ll certainly buy them, even though I did not have the time to play the earlier games in both franchises.

Towards the end of Sunday, I caught the last bit of the LiquidRet vs Grubby Starcraft 2 show match. It’s good to see that Starcraft is still around, even though the big e-sports event at Gamescom was Counterstrike.

Out of the two days, I felt that Saturday was better, since it had longer opening hours. The amount of people is roughly the same, which means that waiting times are around 2 hours no matter when you go. With that in mind, having those extra hours is quite important. Looking forward to next year’s Gamescom :)

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#40 MLG Anaheim

Well met, my friends!

In June I attended MLG Anaheim (Major League Gaming) and Vidcon, which will be covered in a separate blog post. On previous trips to the USA I learnt that taxis are expensive and that there is hardly any free parking in L.A.

Since I would be at the convention center for most of the duration of the trip anyway, I opted not to get a rental car. Thus, I ended up booking with supershuttle to transport me from the airport to my hotel and back (18$ per ride).

Without planning this, I ended up meeting up with some people from the Day[9] gatherings (see my blog posts from May 2013 and March 2014). First, I ran into Jeff at Starbucks. His brother Andy managed to snag a competitor pass for Starcraft 2. The spots in that competition were filled up with up and coming talents as well as a lot of the professional players, who did not qualify directly for MLG.

Later on I saw that Chris “Kobayshi Maru” Negrin posted on twitter that he and his friend Mark were heading to MLG as well. I saved some seats and we did get to hang out and catch up throughout the weekend.

At some point early on I found the Misscliks people: I also write articles for Misscliks.com, which focusses on the achievements of women rolemodels in geek culture and gaming. However, so far I hadn’t met any of them and had only interacted online. To the side of the group, I saw Geoff “iNcontroL” Robinson and Stephanie “Missharvey” Harvey. Since they were having a conversation, I did not want to interrupt. Still, I positioned myself next to them, in order to introduce myself once there was a lull in the conversation. This is where Anna Prosser Robinson impressed me: apparently she recognized me from my tiny profile picture and greeted me by name. She proceeded to introduce me to everyone there, the aforementioned iNcontroL, Missharvey, Stephanie Powell and Neil Sharum. In the evening I met the rest of the group, Neal “Koibu” Erickson and Geneviève “Livinpink” Forget, as well as some other cool e-sports people like Jaycie “Gillyweed” Gluck, Matt Wiltshire, Michael Young and Matt Marcou.

Since I was there for leisure and not work I opted to watch some Starcraft (II). Perhaps Blizzard should consider enabling an offline mode. It’s an old game now, there is no need to worry about piracy. I bring this up, because when the internet at the venue gave out, all the other games like Call of Duty and Super Smash Brothers Melee continued, but due to the always online “feature” of Starcraft, its matches were interrupted. On the bright side, it gave everyone the chance to check out the other games.

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To me, one of the big surprises of the event was the popularity of Smash Brothers.

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It was entertaining to watch and the Smash fans cheered even louder than the Starcraft crowd.

My brother is making fun of me for being very selective about my time whenever I am in London. The thing is that I know several dozen people in London and I couldn’t even manage to meet up with everybody, if I am there on a weekend. Thus, when I am there, I plan out different time slots, which I then assign to people. Often times, I also prioritize, leaving the Friday and Saturday night slots for good friends, whereas I’d meet up for lunch with people I am less close with. There are exceptions, of course – people I see on every trip won’t be disappointed, if it only works out for lunch every once in a while. This time I was on the receiving end of this, as a friend of mine was extremely busy and had to juggle around his breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings. Due to scheduling conflicts, I ended up meeting my friend, who is also one of my Alpha readers, for breakfast to talk about game design, magic the gathering and the discoveries I made, while revising Age of Torridan.

Back at the venue, the Starcraft matches were pretty crazy – the best moment was when Scarlett switched from Zerg to Protoss for a game and received standing ovations. I loved the atmosphere and the spectators’ energy. Earlier on I had used up all of my credit on my pay as you go phone. I had one more code to charge another 15 Euros, so I decided I would only use my phone in an emergency. However, when Scarlett switched to Protoss that counted as an emergency, so I enabled roaming to post on twitter about it.

The highlight of the trip proved to be the after party at Matt Wiltshire’s and Michael Young’s hotel room. They nailed the important ingredients for any party and I ended up leaving at 7 a.m. when we were down to six people. Even though I was the only person above thirty, I did not feel out of place – everyone was just so friendly and awesome. Thanks for making me feel welcome, I had an absolutely terrific time!

Hopefully MLG Anaheim and Vidcon will be on consecutive weekends next year as well, as I would love to attend them both again.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#39 “Skin Game” Launch Event

Well met, my friends!

Today I went to the launch event of Jim Butcher‘s latest book “Skin Game”, which was held at Mysterious Galaxy in Redondo Beach.

I arrived early in the morning, so that I could get a low number for the signing, but several other people had the same idea.

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Still, I managed to snag number fourteen, which wasn’t too bad, considering how many people ended up being there in the evening.

Before the signing there was a Q&A segment. What really impressed me was that Jim Butcher repeated each question before answering it, so that people at the other end of the room would get the full story. I’ve been to Q&A sessions where you only get to hear the answer part, because the questions directed at the author don’t carry far enough into the room for everyone to hear. The complete session can probably be found on youtube, as people were filming. I only want to mention a few of the questions and answers:

Someone asked about another short story collection in the spirit of “side jobs” and Jim mentioned that there would indeed be another one called “brief cases” once he collects enough material. There is an option for a new TV show with the additional point that if it ever gets the green light, Jim Butcher will probably be involved as a consultant / executive producer.

Someone asked about Harry Dresden’s character in the D&D game that he played in one of the books, which prompted a bit of a digression. First, Jim said that Harry plays a barbarian, but would also gets into arguments about how magic should work. This then triggered the confession that Jim Butcher once saw a Star Trek movie with an astrophysicist…

In general he lightened the mood with jokes throughout.

I didn’t even ask questions this time, but someone else brought up beta readers, so he said that in case of his books it’s more of a “beta asylum”, because a regular reader can just turn the page and find out what happens next when there is a scene that makes one turn over the table in frustration. The beta readers on the flipside might have to wait a long time for that next page to get sent to them.

Another good question was about recommendations regarding up and coming authors that didn’t get as much exposition so far. At that, he threw out the name Benedict Jacka.

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When it was time for the signing, I said “I flew in all the way from Europe to see you.” but unlike my trip to the UK to attend the Patrick Rothfuss signing, this time it wasn’t the complete truth. I actually flew to Las Vegas to see Lindsey Stirling, so I did confess that I was exaggerating, but that I did get a rental car and drove from Vegas to L.A. for his book launch.

I got an extra book for Day[9] and mentioned that he plugged Jim Butcher’s books several times on his show and also in his “Why we like it” series, which surprisingly only has about twenty thousand views. I’m very much looking forward to reading “Skin Game”.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#38 Lindsey Stirling Las Vegas Concert

Well met, my friends!

As expected, the highlight of this vacation was the Lindsey Stirling concert at the House of Blues in Las Vegas. This was her tenth concert of forty six of her North America 2014 tour.

Before I arrived in Vegas, I spent half a week in London, catching up with old friends. It’s also more convenient as there is a direct flight from Heathrow to Las Vegas, whereas I would have needed to change planes, if I had gone from Düsseldorf. On the plane, there were two wedding groups and one stag night group. I sat next to one of the guys from the stag night group, who in turn sat next to one of the women getting married in Vegas. Here I thought those weddings were only valid in Nevada, but I guess I was wrong. Anyway, they asked me why I would be flying to Las Vegas, so I showed them Lindsey Stirling’s video Crystallize and told them that I’m going to her concert.

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Just like last time when I saw her at her Cologne gig, her sister Brooke Passey took the photos during the meet and greet segment. I had to ask Drew whether it was her, since she used to have blonde hair back then. In the photo above, I explained that I also write for the misscliks.com website that focuses on positive achievements of women in geek culture and gaming. Despite practice, I botched my pitch a bit, but fortunately I was able to fall back on the letter I wrote in advance. When I got the picture with Drew, Lindsey and Gavi, I didn’t know they were making weird faces, but then again, I probably would have just smiled anyway.

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When I went to get a coke at the bar, the guy, who stood in line behind me, was there as well. After another bit of small talk, we headed to the stage where we ended up talking to a few of the other meet and greet attendees. His name was Justin and there were Brett and Elizabeth and another girl, but I forgot to introduce myself. Justin raised a good point that it’s hard to find someone, who creates original songs for the violin, rather than just performing classics, which is one of the reasons he likes Lindsey Stirling. During the meet and greet segment, I did manage to ask a question this time: “I was pleasently surpised to find such a strong track like ‘eclipse’ in the bonus material and that made me wonder, what factors govern whether a song is put on the regular track list or on the bonus material?” I’m hitting some points with my questions, for example I haven’t heard that particular question before and it shows that I listened to the CD including the bonus tracks, but on the flipside the question lacked a bit on the emotional impact. Thus, the answer was short – it’s simply a matter of preferance, so the songs that she likes best get regular slots on the CD. Brett actually recorded the whole Q&A segment on his phone, so I asked him whether he could e-mail that to me. During the Q&A it became apparent that our position wasn’t the best, as the instruments blocked out the view. Brett joked about it that he strategically positioned himself in front of the drums, so he could catch one of the drum sticks. However, he actually did catch one in the end!

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Before her segment, the band Archis performed. Their lead singer Dia Frampton also joined later on for her collaboration song “We are Giants” with Lindsey Stirling.

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While performing on Youtube’s Dance Showdown, Lindsey met the dancer Anze Skrube. He planned the choreography for her video of “Stars Align”, which happened to be Justin’s favourite LS song, and also for her tour. So for most of the songs, Lindsey was accompanied by two dancers Stev-o and Pete. The music is already fantastic, but coordinating all those moves really lifts the performance to a whole new level.

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Lindsey played a good portion – or maybe even all of it? – of her new album, as well as hits from her first CD, like “Crystallize”, “Moontrance” and “Stars Align”.

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Towards the end of the show, Gavi switched to a portable keyboard. Despite my blurry on stage photos due to the lack of light, I managed to get a good shot of them having fun.

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It was an amazing show that is even better than her 2013 tour. If you can, do check out one of her concerts (the dates can be found on her homepage). I’m definitely looking forward to her return to Cologne this October.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#37 Book review: The Way of Kings

Well met, my friends!

Here is my review for Brandon Sanderson‘s “The Way of Kings”.

The review rules:

I’ll start with the genre and my rating of the book, followed by a synopsis, explaining what the book is about. Since this will be done from memory after I’ve read the book, it may not be entirely accurate. The rating will be as follows: 5 / 5 is reserved for those awesome books that completely blow me away. Think “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss or Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series. 4 / 5 are great books that are worth reading. Most likely this will be the majority of book reviews, as I probably won’t spend the time to write up reviews of mediocre books. Still, for completeness sake, 3 / 5 are good books, 2 / 5 are books I would not read, if I were able to go back in time and warn myself about them and 1 / 5 books are the ones that are so aggravating as to incite anger.

After this subjective rating, I’ll talk a bit more about the book in the actual review and list what I thought was great about it. This will contain spoilers!

Brandon Sanderson’s “The Way of Kings”

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Rating: 4 / 5

Synopsis: A fractured nation of ten provincial rulers is entangled in a drawn out war against a tribe of warriors. At the forefront, this war is about revenge, but it’s equally about securing the plains’ resources in the form of the coveted gem hearts. Two of the three main view point characters are involved in this war effort, but there is a third view point character and some minor view point characters that illuminate the political intrigue and mysterious dealings that will probably become more important as the series progresses. As with all Sanderson books there are several different types of magic in the world, which use the series title giving stormlight as fuel.

Review (without spoilers): My friend Peter mentioned that he did not like Sanderson’s Mistborn books, but loved “The Way of Kings”. He’s a huge fan of epic fantasy books like Steven Erikson’s “Gardens of the Moon” or Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.” Unfortunately I don’t share that fondness, so for most of the book, I was tempted to give it a 3.5 rating. Epic fantasy just isn’t my cup of tea. The rules of story telling become mere guidelines in works of such magnitude. For example, new authors are cautioned not to have two characters, whose names start with the same letter. In “The Way of Kings” every letter is used for multiple names, which becomes a necessity by sheer number of characters. There’s Kaladin, Kalak, Karm, Kadash, Jasnah, Jezrien, Janala, Dabbid, Dunny, Dalinar and Danlan to name a few. Brandon Sanderson even goes a step farther and wrote a scene where Dalinar and Danlan are interacting. Of course when you’re a brilliant storyteller like Brandon Sanderson you can get away with deliberately breaking the rules, but for a reader, who doesn’t love epic fantasy, this is a bit tedious.

However, the last 10% of the novel were so good that I upped my rating to 4. The thing with epic fantasy is that you seem to get 90% build up and 10% payoff. The ratio is much more favourable in regular fantasy, but trust me: that final bit is worth it. Sanderson has cast his hooks throughout the story and when he finally pulled, I couldn’t help but be moved. If you love the genre it’s a must read and even if you don’t, it’s still great and worth your time (but do read the Mistborn books first, if you haven’t done so).

Review (spoilers!): This section contains some spoilers for “The Way of Kings” and Sanderson’s Mistborn series, so proceed with caution. As I have indicated in the spoiler free review above, for a long portion of the book I did not like it as much as I wanted. The reason is the selection of view point characters: I enjoyed Dalinar’s scenes – he is an honest person that does interesting things. Shallan starts out as a crook and only redeems herself towards the end of the book, so I did not care for her scenes all that much. Although I did like Kaladin in principle, the amount of crem he has to slog through was a bit much for my taste. When I read his parts, I couldn’t help but feel that if Brandon Sanderson wanted to turn “The Final Empire” into epic fantasy, all he had to do was make it twice as long and fill up the additional pages with a detailed description of Kelsier’s ordeal in the pits of Hathsin…

As usual, the story is self contained, while leaving enough unresolved points of conflict to keep reader’s wondering how the story will continue in the next book (what happend to Gaz, by the way?). The big ending with Kaladin, despite being burned time and time again, running back to save Dalinar’s men provided a strong emotional pull. Tugging the reader like that is a truly masterful display of skill. It saved the book for me and made me admire Sanderson’s writing even more.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

P.S.: There are five alternate chapters of “The Way of Kings” in the Altered Perceptions anthology. It’s only available as part of an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for the medical bills of author Robison Wells.

#36 San Francisco road trip

Well met, my friends!

It’s late, but I figured I’ll write about it anyway, before all the details fade away. This blog post is about my USA trip in March 2014 that I mentioned in the previous blog entry.

Saturday 15th of March:

I arrived in Los Angeles, after more than 10 hours on a plane. I did not manage to sleep during the flight. Instead, I watched the following five movies: Escape Plan (IMDB score 6.8), which was an 80s style Schwarzenegger and Stallone action movie, despite being from 2013. I’d say it was decent, but the best scene was Schwarzenegger’s typical move, where he grabbed a stationary machine gun, carried it under his arm and mowed down hordes of attackers. The next movie was Ender’s Game (IMDB score 6.9). Strange enough, they sorted it in the “family” category, even though it was pretty dark. Unfortunately the writing excuses guys already spoiled the ending for me, otherwise I might have ranked it higher. Next up in my ranking was Thor the Dark World (IMDB score 7.3) and then the Wolverine (IMDB score 6.8). The latter is a dip down when it comes to the IMDB score, but I liked it best out of the four. I did not want to gamble on the last movie, so I re-watched Lost in Translation (IMDB score 7.8), which is still great on the second viewing.

After this movie marathon, I felt pretty knackered, but I wanted to stay awake for as long as possible in order to beat the jet lag. Following a slightly modified tip I read on Daniel Negreanu’s twitter account, I also tried to reset my food clock in addition to the sleep clock. Negreanu phrased it as “Don’t eat x hours before you plan to go to bed in your new time zone”, but I changed it to eat according to the local time, even if you are not hungry. Basically it is the same advice that holds true for sleeping: you just follow the habits of the new time zone, even if it means over eating on the first day.

The guy at the rental car place looked like the actor Jeffrey Tambor from arrested development. Since I was alone on this trip and didn’t have someone to look at maps during the drive, I also rented a GPS. When I complained that the rubber suction pad to fix it to the windscreen was missing, the guy told me: “It is forbidden by California law.” Instead, the GPS was affixed to a sandbag, which was put on the dashboard. Weird.

Sunday 16th of March:

I walked around Beverly Hills and was shocked to see that there were a lot of vacant shops for rent. I guess with all the commerce shifting online, it should not have surprised me that much.

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Despite the popular claim that fast food is so much cheaper than healthy food in the USA, I found a bag of mixed vegetables for 1.19$, whereas the frozen pizzas cost 3$.

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So even in the USA the Herbertz diet would be affordable. That’s my “don’t try this at home!” diet of replacing my usual dinner of pizza and fizzy drinks with vegetables and water, which allowed me to go from 94.4 kg (207 lbs) to 79.5 kg (175 lbs) over the course of a year.

Monday 17th of March:

At 6:30 in the morning, an earthquake of magnitude 4.4 woke me up. A lot of people on my twitter feed commented about it.

I missed the opportunity, because I went back to bed. Hours later, I also mentioned it, before leaving Los Angeles. Originally my plan was to drive around the coast with a few stops and then to reach my hotel in Santa Clara in the evening. I picked Santa Clara, since it is 50 miles from San Francisco and other locations, which would allow me to take day trips. Also, hotel rates in San Francisco are more expensive than the ones in Santa Clara. However, I misjudged the distance to get there from Los Angeles a bit, so after driving along the coast for a while, I had to abandon that plan and head to the highway instead. If I were to do it again, I would split this one day trip up into two days and visit a few places along the way. On the way I noticed a bill board that advertised the in-N-out burger (check out Daym Drops’s review) 16 miles away. From all the different burger places (Johnny Rockets, KGB, Heart Attack Grill, in-N-out and probably some others that I forgot) we tried in Las Vegas last year, I liked that one the best, so I made sure to stop there.

One of the odd things about driving in the USA is the way warning labels are arranged on the pavement. The argument is that you are speeding by and read a single word like “signal”. Then a bit further down the road, you see another word “ahead” and are supposed to combine it to “signal ahead”. However, anyone who isn’t a mole and has half way decent eyesight will see both words at once and read them from top to bottom as in a book. The notices then become “ahead signal”, “clear keep” or “xing ped” (pedestrian crossing).

Tuesday 18th of March:

The highlight of the day was meeting up with my buddy Dr. Bob (not the one who appears on google image search) at the Fire Station. When I mentioned that I wanted to take a day trip to San Francisco, he suggested to take the Cal-train, which is as fast as going by car, but is cheaper and more convenient than driving and paying for parking.

Wednesday 19th of March:

I followed Bob’s advice to take a day trip to San Francisco. The Cal-train is indeed pretty nice, but I should have boarded it at Sunnyvale, which is in a cheaper zone than the one I started from and it has more trains that stop there. By accident I walked past the GDC in San Francisco. In the meantime, they’ve pulled Day[9]‘s talk from the free to view section of their website, but Nika Harper‘s talk is still available as of writing this.

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I walked through China town, expecting it to be a few streets like in London. Instead, it was quite extensive. As you can see in the picture, people in San Francisco know that you are supposed to turn your tires when you’re parking at an incline.

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Eventually I reached Fisherman’s wharf, where I saw the sea lions.

In the evening I met up with my friend Martha for dinner. The very next day she flew to London and met up with mutual friends. I told her that I had been eating a lot of Mexican food during that trip, but when she enquired about that, I had to admit that it was mostly Chipotle. That counts as Mexican from a European perspective, right?

Thursday 20th of March:

Although Bob suggested to see Alcatraz instead, I drove to Alameda on Thursday. They have the decomissioned aircraft carrier Hornet there, which was turned into a museum. I certainly recommend seeing it, but it’s essential to go there after lunch. Apart from vending machine snacks, there’s nothing to eat on the ship and there is nothing near by either.

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There were two guided tours on the ship, which were included in the ticket price. First, I joined the one that showed the flight deck, the tower and the bridge. The second tour went down to the engine room and showed that the commands from the bridge would then be cross referenced on a chart to see how many RPM would correspond to a certain speed in knots. If the main bridge and the secondary bridge were gone, the procedure was to manually reset the rudder and then turn to one side by using only half of the engines. In addition to the tours, there were a few areas that one could freely visit. Since the Hornet was also the ship that welcomed the Apollo astronauts back, they put the mobile quarantine station on display, where the astronauts had to live for a few days until they were transferred to a bigger quarantine facility for a longer duration.

Friday 21st of March:

Before driving back to Los Angeles, I took the opportunity to visit the Winchester Mystery House.

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Unfortunately it was forbidden to take pictures inside, because some film studio reserved exclusive film rights, but they haven’t even started working on their movie. Wikipedia has a whole list of haunted sites across the world and apparently the Winchester Mystery house made it into the top 10. It’s certainly worth a visit, if you are in the area and have two hours to spare. Even though I did not manage to do so, I would recommend booking the tour for Friday the 13th when they do special flash light night events. Spooky!

Saturday 22nd of March:

As mentioned, the highlight of the day and of the whole trip was the Day[9] meeting with its separate blog entry.

Sunday 23rd of March:

Unfortunately it was time to go. A bit more than one week is a nice duration in the sense that the 10+ hour flights are justified, but apparently it isn’t long enough for me to get homesick. I certainly could have stayed longer, but since I’ll be back twice more this year, it didn’t matter all that much.

It’s strange that out of all the people, who were queuing up for the security check, I was the only one that opted out. They didn’t even have any regular gates anymore, so I was told to step through the Terrahertz scanner when it wasn’t turned on. The security person, who operated the scanner, was alarmed at that and asked around what was going on, so I mentioned that I was getting the pat down.

In the waiting area after the security checkpoint, I waited in line to get a pizza. The start of the line wasn’t clearly marked, so everybody was confused. The dude next to me used that as a conversation starter and I found out that his name was Pierre and that he was going to Japan for a week. My advice for him and his buddy Sean was to memorize the few characters that they needed, like the one for the stop they want to get off of the train or the ones for the tuna mayo onigiri (there’s one that looks like a mirrored E and another one that looks like a smiley face…). Later on, as we were all waiting to collect our pizza, he complimented a girl about her leopard trousers. Her name was Britta and even though she’s American, she lived and worked in Munich, so she spoke both English and German without any foreign accent as far as I could tell.

Then Pierre says to her: “Do you have a social network, like a facebook or twitter, where I can add you? Is that weird, because we just met?”

That was some serious channeling of Carly Rae Jepsen right there, but it actually worked!

On the flight back, I only watched one movie (Red2, IMDB score 6.7). This time around I managed to get some sleep, so I wasn’t as jetlagged when I arrived back in Germany.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

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