Amber Room – A little bit of Hong Kong

I have never been to Hong Kong. I don’t count passing through the airport twice in my life as a visit. However, if the food is like the Amber Room in Wentworth Point, I’ll pack my bags now. There is a great culinary experience to be had.

I didn’t know what to expect at a Hong Kong style restaurant, but the Amber Room delighted me. There is a diverse mix of Asian and European dishes on the menu, with some great daily specials on their blackboard. To add to this joy are also many interesting drinks to try. What I love beyond the diversity of food is the portion sizing. The food serves are a generous amount. I have never left a hungry man or gotten home and gone to my fiancée; I am hungry again (Haha the usual response being we just had dinner).

All the staff are welcoming, attentive and friendly. It is really relaxing just sitting out the front with a cool breeze off the river in warm weather and inside with the cheerful vibe of the restaurant. I have been to the Amber Room quite a few times since it opened and am enjoying exploring its menu. I can easily say I will keep coming back.

Here is some of that yummy food:

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Satay Beef Sub – From their specials menu
I would absolutely love a whole plate of this yummy satay with chicken and rice. Satay dishes are one of my all time favourite treats.DSC_0499

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Curry Beef Brisket on Rice
Sadly I smashed the neat pile of rice already and took a picture as an after thought.DSC_0522

Homestead Chicken Fillet
I chose to have it with the mustard sauce.DSC_0527

Singapore Noodle
20180308_184555(Image curtesy of my Fiancée – The Nail Chronicle)

My Fiancée and I have also had other dishes like the Katsu Curry and Pepper Noodle. I really love how the Katsu Curry came with a side of steam vegetables, it really rounded off the dish. Haha, have you had your two fruit and five veg? A must mention also is their soups are really yummy! Their soup of the day is a great add on course to your meal.

Anyway I had a lovely time eating here (Writers do eat, when not writing). Feel free to like or comment. If you have you been here too, I would love to hear your experiences.

Links to the restaurant if you want to check them out:
http://the-amber-room-restaurant.business.site/
https://www.facebook.com/amberroomonpierside/

If you are into nail art or want to see more pictures. My Fiancée’s website is here:
https://thenailchronicle.com/
https://twitter.com/NailChronicle

Why do you write?

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I was asked the question, why do you write, the other day. It came point blank and out of nowhere. I could have made an off the cuff remark, something like, I write because I write, I write because I have always read a lot and well the obvious one, because I like to. I’m a thinker though, so I have gone away and reflected upon it. I mean you could think yourself into knots, I probably do at times. But this is what I have come up with at this point in time. There are various reasons, why I write and why writing resonates with me, so without further wait, here we go.

Firstly, I would say and this is the closest I probably have to an altruistic reason. I want to share with the world, a love and passion for reading and inspire it. To bestow the joy of the imagination, of thinking, characters and other worlds. I always think reading is amazing, not only does it provide an endless source of entertainment, but it challenges our ideas, teaches us and makes us grow as human beings. They say walk a mile in another person’s shoes, well a book plunges you in to other lives. You experience, infinite experiences, endless worlds, a different point of view and in many ways and drawn to empathise within characters whose ideas aren’t your own. I think reading, transfers and cultivates empathy to your everyday life. Yet of course even with all this exposure to experiences, there is just the sheer entertainment side, in which books are very much able to stand on their own two feet for.

Secondly, I have grown up with a love of reading. Writing is not as easy, as reading, in fact at times it can be damn hard, but I love experiencing these different worlds, getting to know different characters, the imagination and exploring. There is this aspect of why I write, because of the way I write. When I write, I am on the same journey as when a reader looks at my manuscript. I just write, it comes out and I end up in my imagination, where ever my imagination takes me. It is an amazing adventure, even when characters don’t cooperate with what you want them to do.

People ask me what am I writing about, the answer is usually, I’m keeping it a secret or if I am honest, I don’t know. The reality is usually, I don’t know until it is written. Sure sometimes there is an idea, but who know were the path will lead. I therefore like to wait till the end, when I have the big picture before I give a proper answer. The fact I am just as much in the dark, really is part of it. I must admit, I think if I the author were omniscient, I wouldn’t pick up a pen or put fingers to keyboard. I’d get bored.

Why do I write science fiction? Well to be honest, I grew up on Star Trek. I was absolutely captivated. The Star Trek Universe asks a lot of the big questions, it explores an endless amount of themes. Growing older, the thing that has stood out has always been the sheer optimism for the future, the goodness of humanity and things we can aspire for. Patrick Stewart as Picard and the morals, the society established really resonates. What Star Trek to me is like a beacon of hope. I think that if there was something I would like to capture for my writing it is this optimism for the future, it is this innate goodness in humanity and of course it is the awe of space. The need to reach out and explore that final frontier. It is heart breaking to see all this dystopia fiction, played out as the main thing for science fiction. The future is a lot brighter than that, there is a lot more to science fiction and I have an unwavering faith in Humanity to see us to a future that is amazing.

So with Star trek as the start for my love of science fiction, I got to watching, and reading, a lot of science fiction over the years. I really migrated to science fiction from fantasy, but generally drift between the two. What sort of books did I read that inspire me in the genre, well it is more authors, Neal Asher’s, Jack Campbell (John G. Hemry)  and Ian M Banks for a start. Charles Stross.  My love of science fiction naturally, made it became a home genre for me. I probably won’t ever write hard/high science fiction, because sadly I am not a theoretical physicist and it really is characters that captivate me rather than numbers. That said that doesn’t erase the need for diligent research and reasonable speculation!

Why do I write fantasy? I write fantasy, principally for the magic and just like science fiction, there are an endless amount of interesting worlds you come across. This is my other genre I grew up with. Think of books like, Forgotten Realms books, The Black Magician trilogy, Rift War Saga and many others. There is a very immense amount of freedoms given to writers in the genre and well you can explore lots of themes and ideas. It is also an incredible amount of fun to write.

I guess this at the moment is why I write. My reasons probably will change and grow, as I change as a person over the years. So I will say, this is why I write at this point in time. I hope that when I do get published, you as the reader are able to get the same amount of enjoyment, as I have writing and go on to read widely.

So let me pass the question along to other writers and authors. Why do you write? Feel free to comment below or on social media.

Have a great day where ever you are in the world.

 

A YouTube Banner – Designing Begins

On to banner design for the YouTube Channel. Time to dust of the old skills, unused since 2005 or was it 2004. I don’t quite remember, that’s how long ago it has been since I have done digital imagery things. I guess somethings you learn in school do stay with you, even if they are lost in back half of the filing cabinet of the mind.

So this will take a bit longer I think. I’m not sure were I want to take it yet, so it will involve playing around and experimenting. So let’s start with what I think I want shall we. That would have to be, to make the banner, science fiction to the max. There needs to be stars, endless universe, maybe nebulas, a few planets and well what’s not more space opera than having a starship!

Let’s begin and see what GIMP and my rusty skills can do.

Here is me playing around with a few design ideas:

I wasn’t sure about this first design. That primary star and planet looked a bit odd and the scene looked a bit overcrowded with the nebula. I was going to put in a moon as well, but it isn’t in there for the same reason. I think it will fit a starship coming in from the right hand side though. Would really enjoy putting in a few more planets and make it a larger star system. What do you guys think? I feel like its a not bad effort first effort, got a long way to come but we are getting there.

Space background 1

My second design:

I think the stars are a bit dull. You kind of need to zoom in to see them. I am loving the blue gas giant though. I found a really useful texture website https://www.textures.com/. It essentially gives you x amount of free credits to download textures usable in anyway you choose, pretty much, except reselling them as textures (Their website has a full FAQ on what they will and won’t let you do with it). I completely forgot about using textures to be honest and used some internal gimp effects on the previous planet. I’m loving what the texture pulled off. Bit of Gausian Blur and some motion blur really altered the ice texture to look like layers of gas.

I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to make planetary rings in GIMP, everything was coming out a bit like lines, but you know the internet provides (http://www.scottphotographics.com/creating-planets-and-planetary-rings-in-gimp/). That link takes you to Michael Scott’s website and step 6 is were I learnt how to do the whole planetary ring thing.

Part of me is not liking that I seem to keep these planets to that lower left hand corner, but I guess it is as good as any.

attempt with rings

Third design so far:

So here is my third design so far and I am loving the ice planets. Main issues in this one really are the overcrowding. I was going to try and fix up the spacing so I can put in a star with GIMPS supernova effect and the use lighting effects to have the shadows across the planets, but then I won’t be able to fit a space ship in. Once again the background stars seem to be a problem. Too dim.

A new attempt

Overall that is my first three designs, I am not sure were I will take the next design. I might try and go for a multi-planet view with better spacing. Experiment more with nebulas. Do I want asteroid belts? Naaah I probably don’t want asteroid belts. Most importantly, I need to design and stick in a spaceship.

On a side note on the software I used:  GIMP is a free open source editing tool. Pretty much download and off you go. If you need more scripts or bits and bobs just add em in there. It appears to have a huge crowd of people around it. So far I am really satisfied with the program, considering A. my rusty skills B. Macromedia Fireworks is extinct. It is a close enough substitute for my skills and knowledge so I can’t complain. In all honesty in this case, it’s not a case of you get what you pay for. It’s a pretty damn good program and I am a happy chap. If this experiment is a success, I may move to photo shop or something else later.

Anyway, here there be planets. Feel free to offer any tips, thoughts and advice in the comments section. Have a great day!

P.S. This is actually surprisingly a really fun challenge. I mean I know stories will be my thing, but this has definitely been a fun adventure so far.

 

 

Restoration of the plan!

Ok so I had a pretty damn good set of goals laid out. ‘The plan: Finish the ending for a fantasy novel, finish a novel, complete 5 shorts and start editing.’ Well that went out the window, moved apartments, visited family back in Perth (Many years overdue sadly) and a myriad of other things. So next semester has crept in for my studies. But hat doesn’t mean the plan is over! It just means a modification will arise.

This year, I won’t be getting Chrissy break holidays, because I am accelerating my degree. So how am I to resolve this decline in time. Well that seems simple enough for me. I am going to get up at 6am, when I am freshest and assign 2-3 hours for writing time each day. If by some miracle I find more time or secret moments between the hours then I shall steal them too. I think whoever coined the adage, early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise, deserves a medal. A good sleep cycle, helps a lot and for me it feels like every hour slept before midnight is like two to three.

The important part, will I cut my cloth to fit me? No, I don’t think I will at this time. I have knocked out three short stories, so I just need to knocked out a final two and that is sorted. The novels now that is a bigger project. I am at about 75,000 words into my science fiction novel, I probably have four to five chapters to go. I think most of my energies will go there. If the end of the year comes slinking along and I find myself drowning, the fantasy novel’s edit will have to go by the wayside, but I am confidant to try to do it all. We can but try and I think we should reach for the stars, that way there is always room to manoeuvre.

Anyway, I am happy with what I have accomplished at the end of this set of holidays. What does progress to me look like, when busy with life? About 17431 words.

When nothing comes out of twitter or this webpage, it means I am hard at work on a project. I will hopefully try and be a bit more active.

Onwards! Step by step, we get there. A hill only looks like a mountain, until you are at the top of it.

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Editors – In for a Penny in for a Pound

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Aren’t we lucky I still own a pound! I’ve only been to the U.K once in my lifetime.

So what about my progress with editors? Well I scoured the internet far and wide for editors in Sydney. I couldn’t really find an editor specialised in science fiction, I don’t know why (Did I look far and wide enough?). Maybe Australia just doesn’t do science fiction as much as abroad. It would be a shame if that were the case, but us Aussies do seem to also read science fiction and speculative fiction. Anyway so no specialised editor, what am I to do. Well I chose a bunch of editors I liked the sound of and got in touch. I mean I hadn’t engaged an editor before, so its a whole new experience. It meant picking brains and getting sample edits.

I quickly realised that expenses could skyrocket from a set price per manuscript, to an hourly rate of $70-80 upwards. If I recall one estimate for my copy edit, of a 9000ish word manuscript was quoted at about $590 and that wasn’t including another $350-$400ish for a structural edit. It was an amazing shock. I mean if it could cost that much for editing and magazines might end up paying you less, how does an author keep food on the table? How can you at least cut even and get your work published? Good grief, think of how much editing a novel would cost. I’m probably lucky this is a labour of love, or I might turn away from this career choice.

Well I think the easiest way to overcome editing fees, would be to learn to edit yourself. This is what I am inclined to do, as it’s perfecting the craft of writing, but it doesn’t hurt to say sometimes you can’t see the trees from the forest at times. So I persisted.  With this persistence, I managed to get a total quote of $350 for my short story ‘The Observer’. It was quoted to me by a two man editor team. Great guys. They took me through the process, explaining how it all works. After I got a sample edit, I decided right let’s give this a go.

A couple of weeks later, they sent back my work, in track changes in Microsoft word. There was a long list of suggested polishes. A bunch of comments with advice of what works, what doesn’t, as well as t why and effect that was having. There was well thought out summarised comments at the end. It was also reassuring, having two different people looking at my manuscript. Two minds are better than one, as they say.

Ok editing box ticked. It’s been an adventure. The next few weeks, it was taking ‘The Observer’ manuscript to points of publication. Basically constituted sending the manuscript by email or through online submission portals. Then came the waiting weeks or months to send it to the next one (Places don’t like taking simultaneous submissions, which makes it very hard on the author). I got a few rejections so far, but this is an ongoing process. I’m not particularly stressed.

So here we go, in for a penny in for a pound. I sent my next manuscript, ‘The Solar Wind of Dreams’ to the same editors again. This time the fee was cheaper, because the manuscript was in better form. What do I take away from that? If you have the extra time, go over your manuscript again. Even a few more passes before sending it to the editor, can help with the editing cost. Otherwise maybe keep running it by an editor, as your final part of the process (Yes I know how tempting it is to get back in and start changing things after you have finished your painstakingly long editing process).

I have really enjoyed having my work edited, because I feel it really did help. It also gave me the opportunity to bounce ideas and thoughts off people who have industry experience. I can’t say that means my manuscripts will be instantly, a published done deal, but it sure has made them shine that much more.

Hopefully some of my experiences can help the next person, starting out on the journey to being published.

The Unboxing

The unboxing begins! Zenbook UX390UA. For months, I have been exhausted carrying my 15″ Zenbook U500VZ. Back and forth from uni. Day in day out. Otherwise lugging it, when I’m out and about writing. No more!

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Dadadadadadadadada.

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Snazzy little pouch to carry the Zenbook around. That’s a nifty little bonus. Lifting that up, here it is tucked away. The Zenbook!

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Lovely set out. It’s an absolute maze of compartments in this box.

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Got that swanky little sleeve to carry the laptop in. The charger, ooo an adaptor for USB C (HMDI, USB C and standard USB port) nice and handy. Oh sweet, a little microfiber cloth to clean the screen. A real box of goodies.

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Here we have it, the Zenbook UX390UA. Can just hear a choir making that ahhhh sound (I could add in me in making that noise, but I’d sound like I was strangling a cat).

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I think this is great. With only Intel HD 620 graphics I think there is no way to play games, so no writing distractions (Well it probably can do it… But I’m going to pretend it can’t, because this is just for writing/work). There is an Intel I7 U, with 8GB of DDR3 in it, so no computer lag! Haha I think it was a prerequisite, because I have known people with little netbooks, that really struggled with lag doing basic things.

In comparison to my bigger laptop which weighs in at 2.2kg, this tiny 12.5″ is a mere 910grams and thin as thin. I think something ridiculous like 11.9mm thin. I mean look at the Zenbook UX390UA against its older 15″ relative the Zenbook U500VZ.

DSC_0117DSC_0120 The lighting just doesn’t do justice to the snazzy gold trim.

Let’s start it up. There isn’t that much bloatware I can complain about. It’s lightning fast and I got everything setup in about an hour. Everything I wanted uninstalled vanished, got everything I wanted on it like MS Office and setup my email. Change all the settings to what I like. Usual setup joy of buying a piece of tech.

A few days usage and I can say, the keyboard is really comfortable, but I keep whacking the equals button for backspace, the limited tactile response to key presses is also a little strange. I think that is just a case of retraining the brain. Touch pad mouse works really well. You kind of need that, cause this laptop doesn’t have a touch screen like its older relative and to plug in a mouse you need the adaptor on you. I would however, highly recommend this laptop for any writer on the go. If colour is your thing, it also comes in quartz grey and rose gold, sporting that golden edge.

Now did it pass the it doesn’t weigh a tonne test! Yes yes it did. When you add all my other belongings to my bag, it feels like I have forgotten my laptop.

After a month of agonising over the HP Spectre 13.3″ and this 12.5″ Asus Zenbook UX390UA, followed by a fortnight of agonising and finding the cheapest quote. I’m one very happy writer.

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