Smashwords Book Sale – 75% Off!

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A quick post to let you all know that from now until the end of July, both my current novels are available from Smashwords at 75% off!

That’s $1.57USD a book (local country prices will vary, though will still be 75% off).

Multiple e-book formats are available, so get a copy while the going’s good!

And don’t forget, I’m just a struggling indie author, so if you enjoyed your read, be sure to leave a review. Believe me, it helps a load. ✌️

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So Long Solo

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I did a mad dash to the cinema the other week to catch Star Wars’ Solo before it ended its run.

Overall, it was an OK film. Alden Ehrenreich did well as the young Han, and as the film progressed he slowly developed Solo’s customary swagger. It was interesting to see how he came to be named Solo, and how he got into the life he did, and the film made for a nice little background story. So you didn’t miss key moments in his past that link back to the original franchise, the original Star Wars strain would play, you know, as an annoying “hey, this moment is important!” to the audience 🙄.

I guess I’ve been spoiled by the likes of Avengers and Deadpool, where the humour is apparent and frequent (or in the case of Deadpool, thick and fast), and I forget that other science fiction films are less in your face. As is the case with the Star Wars franchise, where action and storytelling are at the forefront, and the occasional humour elicits the meerest of smirks. This was true of Solo, so if you’re after a laugh-out-loud kinda film, this ain’t it.

That being said, it’s an enjoyable addition to the franchise, though I can see why it may have stalled at the cinema. It’s a slow runner of a film, and to be honest, we’re being a bit saturated with Star Wars film of late, what with the trilogy. I know the same is more than true of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (3 films a year y’all!), but as I said before, they’re a different kind and calibre of film, which is possibly why ‘offshoot’ films continue to do so well (though time will tell with AntMan and the Wasp).

Still, I’m glad I caught it, but I hope they stop and have a think before releasing the Boba Fett film they’ve had in the pipeline, as I have a feeling that could do worse at the box office.

As a Marvel side note. I’m happy to report that the Paramount channel has come to UK TV (including Freeview). Why does that warrant mentioning? Because it brought with it Marvel’s Agent Carter.

Set shortly after the war, and Captain America becoming a popsicle, it sees Peggy Carter relegated to secretarial duties in the SSR, and having to deal with the misogynistic headache that comes from that. Then Howard Stark is accused of treason, and he drags Peggy into the fray to help clear his name, along with the help of his butler, Jarvis. I enjoyed the first episode, and it was cool to see where ‘Jarvis’ came from. Hopefully Paramount will see fit to run the first season in its entirety, and the second season quickly after, but it’s a shame it’s another Marvel TV series that got cancelled too soon.

#100DaysofCode – Weeks 10 – 12

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Week 10 saw me get more into CSS, learning about variables (which I never knew was a thing), and the basics of applied visual design. Despite me being irked about its recent and sudden addition, Free Code Camp’s new Applied Visual Design section was pretty interesting. As it turns out, with CSS3, not only can you do the usual manipulation of HTML to make fonts bigger, coloured, etc, but you can also use CSS to animate elements within a web page (eg. beating hearts, bouncing balls, twinkling stars) by simply adding a few shapes together, and altering their size, position, and/or colour over a set time.

In week 11 I moved on to learning about website accessibility. This was a little less coding, a bit more theory, but introduced concepts required by websites to allow them to be better accessed by people with visual impairments and the like. I did, however, get to learn some new HTML5 markup that I’d not read about before, such as the tags <main>, <header>, <footer>, etc.

Following on from that, I got back into a bit more CSS code, and covered a couple of new responsive layouts that came with CSS3 that I didn’t know existed, namely the CCS Flexbox and CSS Grid. Much like most of CSS, this was pretty simple to learn, and I may have to go back over my previous Responsive Web Design Projects, and various coding practicals, and incorporate their use in place of the slightly more cumbersome .col-md-* grid classes.

In week 12 I began tackling FreeCodeCamp’s newly added Responsive Web Design Projects. Thankfully, there were only three added to this section. What I’m not so thrilled about is that they removed the checkboxes from beside the ‘user stories’ (i.e. the bits you need to ensure are included in the project to pass). Their presence made keeping track of what you needed to do easier, now I have to make comments everywhere in my code to make sure I don’t miss anything out.

That aside, I managed to finish the projects without too much fuss (although containers and grids gave me a bit of grief) and as well as a generic ‘form’ and a ‘technical document page’ I created a ‘product landing page‘, which I adapted for my novel (hey, I’m a struggling author, I need to self-promote whenever I can!).

That all done, I accidentally stumbled on the section where I could mark off my projects as complete and get my certificate for the Developer Certification section.

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With that achievement successfully in the bag, I could no longer put off the inevitable, and I returned to the newly expanded Javascript section to wage war on the redesigned console. It does not go well. I’ve said it before, but I miss the previous functionality of the ‘return’ statement that came with FreeCodeCamp’s old coding console, and the alternative (using F12 and the console.log statement) is just muddling.

I doubt I’ll get any more certificates before the end of my challenge, since the Javascript curriculum has expanded dramatically, and my work-through of the sections has been curtailed considerably by the new console. However, I’m sure I’ll keep working on coding during my free time (just not every day, especially when I start my second year of uni study) and maybe one day I’ll get another certificate.

Dead Awesome

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It was with a bit of trepidation that I went to go see Deadpool 2 at the cinema the other week. Apparently, the first showing of the film to test audiences didn’t go down too well, and there ended up being a load of reshoots. Usually, for a film, this news does not bode well for its quality.

However, it turns out the reshoots were just to add more screen time for Cable and Domino, and that the initial showings were well received (the joys of skewed/fake news!), and the film I went to see was just as hilariously violent, chaotic, and fourth-wall-breaking as the first.

I gave both Avengers: Infinity War, and Deadpool 2, 10/10 on IMDB, but I think Deadpool 2 just squeaks into the lead at the decimal point level for me. The laughs came fast, it didn’t take itself seriously (quite the opposite), and I crushed a bit too hard on Cable. Plus, the post-credit scenes were quite cathartic in a couple of places for Marvel fans like myself.

In other Marvel-related news this week, I got a free £10 from PayPal to add to my wallet, and this time I bothered to spend it, getting the first Avengers film on Google Play. Sweet!

Monthly Reads – June 2018

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June’s been a bit of a chill month reading-wise. No long, grandiose novels, but rather two more instalments of the Death Note series, an X-Men comic, and a Marine Conservation Society magazine (which, in all honesty, I skipped through the majority of).

I’ve noticed that with the new storylines on the offing, the Essential X-Men comics have been reformatted, and are now 51p dearer. That extra few pence does, however, get me a marginally longer read (75pgs vs 69pgs) and a thicker spine with the volume info written on it (making it easier to find these instalments amongst my 100s of other volumes).
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Part 5 and 6 of Death Note has Light relinquishing his Death Note, and with it, all memory of Ryuk and his past as Kira, allowing him to help L track down a new Kira who’s appeared and is systematically killing of businessmen. I’m still enjoying this manga series very much. Book 6 also marks the half-way point in this novel series (there are 12 books altogether) so I’ve still got some way to go till I reach its conclusion.

The rest of the month has seen me go back to my DVLA books, as I’ve got my first driving lesson scheduled for the beginning of July (eep!) and I need to take my theory before then (or at least after the first couple of lessons), and I’ve pretty much forgotten everything I learnt from last month’s read-a-thon (stupid brain!). So back to learning I go!

Bird Song and Second Drafts

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I’ve finally finished the second draft of my third novel. Seems like it’s taken me an age to read through it, and I’ve realised I’ve not included a prologue, so if I’m to keep in line with my previous novels, I need to write one. However, I’m going to put the manuscript to the side for a while, otherwise, with plenty more rewrites to come before I publish it, I’m going to start getting sick of what I’ve written, and that’s not going to help me approach it with an objective mind.

Still, I did get one piece of motivational good news, and that is someone’s bought a copy of my first novel. It’s the first sale I’ve had in about two years. So if you’re wondering if self-published authors live a glamorous life of multi-million dollar sales, no, we don’t! Writing is a labour of love with very little returns.

In other good news, the house martins have returned (again). Mum and dad managed to survive the attack on their nest, and the decimation of their first brood, and after a couple of weeks of being MIA, they came back to the nest. Dad sang the song of love, while mum cleaned the nest by kicking all the crap out of it at such an angle that it rained in through my open window. Charming! They then shored up the nest by fixing the hole, and on Sunday, they spent their first night back in it. I know, because their squabbling woke me up at 1am.

What’s interesting is they seem to have returned with reinforcements. There’s been a couple of other house martins flying about with them, and trying to get into the nest. It could be that they’re some of last year’s brood, as they do stick around to help with the next clutch, but that’s usually a clutch within the same year of them fledging, not the proceeding season. A year on, last year’s young should be setting up their own homes, with male chicks nesting close to the parents, and the female chicks buggering off to pastures new. Perhaps these guys have failed to find partners, and have decided to stick around with the parents instead. I just hope this new batch survives, because at an average lifespan of 1 – 2 years, mum and dad haven’t got long to go 😔.

#100DaysofCode – Weeks 7 – 9

business-1839876_1280.jpgThe last few weeks have seen me carrying on my daily coding challenge.

In week 7, I finished off Free Code Camp’s Intermediate Front End Development Projects, with the last project being another API-based one; pulling in information from Twitch to load a list of online streamers. Again, getting my JSON function to work was a nightmare, and again, I had to resort to using someone else’s code for the basis of my script. However, unlike with my Wiki search engine, the initial coding I’d written wasn’t too far off what needed to be done. I wanted to loop through an array, and push a person’s name, then their online/offline information, into another array. But no matter what I did, I just couldn’t get the two things to happen simultaneously, and correctly. I’d either get a list of people’s names, followed by their info, or I’d get the people listed next to their info, but their names would be listed as ‘undefined’. In the end, it turned out that all I needed in my for-loop was the word ‘let’ at the beginning, which let the function retain the memory of its position in the array long enough for it to extract the info I needed. Jobs a good’un!

For the rest of week 7, and heading into week 8, I made headway on Free Code Camp’s Intermediate Algorithm Scripting problems. I took a rather haphazard approach to completing the tasks, as I couldn’t work all of them out straight off the bat, so I picked and completed the easier ones, with plans to come back to the more convoluted ones later. One I had no choice but to use someone else’s code, namely the one calculating the lowest common multiplier between numbers, not because the coding confused me, but the actual maths did. I’d made a promising start, and had made a program that calculated the lowest common multiplier between two numbers that worked fine, only to find the question wanted the lowest common multiplier between a range of numbers. I just couldn’t figure out the maths for that, let alone write code for it, so I had to take the easy way out.

Week 9 saw my day-streak finally broken, thanks to Free Code Camp’s site undergoing a complete overhaul and being offline for a day. When it came back up, I found that the Javascript terminal had been completely revamped, and no longer had the ‘return’ functionality that allowed me previously to troubleshoot my script as I went. Someone pointed out I could do similar using F12 and console.log, but it just wasn’t the same. Additionally, I found new sections added to the modules I’d already worked through and marked off as complete. Frustrated, I bounced, and headed back over to Codecademy to learn the basics of SQL, which was the last programming language I needed to give a once-over before the second year of university starts in Sept/Oct. As it turns out, SQL is a lot less scary than I was thinking it was going to be. Unfortunately, Codecademy doesn’t cover a rather important bit of information, namely where/how tables are stored. Here’s hoping my uni course covers that.

With that done, I’ve headed back to Free Code Camp, and will spend the rest of my 100 days going over the new sections, trying to get the JS terminal to work (hopefully by then they may have reintegrated the return function again), and perhaps moving onto the ‘advanced’ sections if I have time.