Jul 31, 2012

New York

Last week my wife and I got back from an 8-day trip to New York City. We've both been in love with New  York since we were kids, and it was a no-brainer that it would be the place we'd go for our honeymoon when we got married. We've spent the last four years planning our next trip.

So long have I been entranced by New York that deciding to set my first novel there didn't even feel like a choice. I just knew it was the right place. As I did my research I quickly found out that New York, Manhattan in particular, contained everything I needed as a setting for Locked Within.

There are few melting pots of so many cultures crammed into such a dense and ultra-modern place. For a story about reincarnation and the merging of old and new, drawing strength from different sources, there was no better place.

The city is filled with imagery from classical myth. Statues and references to the Greek gods can be found all over the place. Ever since the city's first major constructions, city planners have embraced a strong connection to the Old World, blending past and present in the city's art and architecture. I like the idea of a powerful city, a focal point of modern civilisation, where the old ways inspired the new.

My wife once commented on how well New York fit, saying "When the Old World wanted to hide from itself, what better place for it to go?"

The New York Public Library, along with several other landmarks, appears in Locked Within. I knew that if I was going to set a book in New York, I had to make it feel authentic. If a supernatural world existed there, it needed to be blended into the important places of the city, a real part of the environment. My goal was to make the reader feel that this book couldn't have taken place anywhere else but New York.

Riverside Park is located along the Hudson River. Beneath it runs Freedom Tunnel, a rail tunnel popular with urban explorers and a place the homeless took shelter before it was closed off. The park serves as a place of sanctuary for my hero, Nathan Shepherd, and while Central Park may be the most famous of Manhattan's many parks, Riverside feels cosy and secure, away from the city's eyes.

If you want to see more photos, stop over to my Facebook page, friend me, and take a look.

Jul 12, 2012

Blog Break

Yesterday was pretty emotional. Still, we got through it better than I expected. We had a nice breakfast out, went to see the new Spider-Man movie (excellent, by the way!), and released a balloon for Conor down at the beach.

I think the day was about as good as it could have been. We're both very glad we took the day off from work.

So, on Tuesday we're flying to New York. We touch down in JFK at 13:15 EST to begin 8 days of re-living our honeymoon and discovering new parts of one of our favourite cities. We land back in Dublin at 09:25 GMT on Thursday the 26th. That means 2 week's worth of blog dates where I'll either be travelling or distracted by all the New Yorkness. Since I've been woefully unprepared for this eventualiy, I figured I'd just take the two weeks off from blogging rather than try to rush and schedule 4 posts between now and when we leave.

I'm signing off until the 31st. I'll still be around on Twitter, Facebook and of course Gmail. So have a nice couple of weeks everyone!

Jul 10, 2012

Conor's First Birthday

Tomorrow our son Conor would have been one year old. We still miss him, and I know we always will.

We haven't really thought much about what we want to do to mark the day. We both have the day booked off. There's no way we could handle being in work. I think we're going to try and take it easy. Maybe go see a movie, just spend time together. In the evening my parents are putting a plaque with his name on it on my grandfather's grave. Conor's ashes are still on our mantlepiece at home. One day we'll scatter them somewhere nice, but we're not ready yet.

I'll probably be a bit quiet as regards e-mails, Twitter and Facebook.

Still, while it's going to be a hard day, my wife and I are happy. We've still got so many good things going for us. I've got my first book coming out in a few months. We're heading back to New York next week. And we've been blessed with two new babies on the way. I like to think Conor's been with us through all of it, helping us along when we need it.

Happy birthday, son.

Jul 5, 2012

An Important Announcement

I'm sure everyone who regularly reads this blog is aware that, last year, my wife Jen and I had a baby boy. Unfortunately, we lost him after only three days. It remains the single hardest thing either of us have ever gone through. I like to think we're stronger for it.

We knew pretty much right away we would be trying again once Jen had recovered physically and we were both emotionally ready.

Today Jen had her 12-week scan. She's pregnant!

Not only that guys, but there is another Skywalker.

We're having twins.

We were a little unsure at first, because the second one was so much smaller than the first, coming in at half the size. However Jen was brought in for another scan two weeks later, and to our surprise, the smaller twin had caught up to the larger one in size. At the scan today it was confirmed that everything looks good. Both twins are actually 7cm, which is 2cm longer than you'd expect for this stage.

The due date is around January 15th, but we've been told that they'll likely take her in early for an elective c-section. There's even a chance we could have them in time for Christmas!

So please forgive me if I've been a bit quiet lately. It's been so hard to keep this quiet. We're absolutely thrilled and I'll be keeping everyone up to date on the progress of our two little dots.

PS: Oh my god, we're having twins!! How the hell did this happen? Argh!! :-p

Jul 3, 2012

Hellas, My New Campaign

Any long-term gamer will tell you there's something magical about starting a new campaign. That point before you've actually started to play, when there's just a barest idea of what the game will be about and who the different characters are. It's pure potential and anticipation. Like children on Christmas morning, we gather around the table and hold our breath.

There are a lot of pitfalls to starting a new game. Will the players like it? Will it live up to the expectations? Will everyone understand the rules? It's on the shoulders of the game master (GM) to keep it all together.

This week my group is starting a new game called Hellas. It's a space opera inspired by Greek mythology. It blends bronze age aesthetics and culture with fantastic technology, creating a setting filled with both magic and science. Different elements of Greek myth take their place as alien species or updated supernatural beings. There are gods that will favour your heroes for their great deeds, savage titans who threaten to destroy whole worlds, epic space conflicts, battles fought with spear and shield, and an underworld realm known as Slipspace, home to myriad monsters and the means by which interstellar travel is possible.

I've loved Greek mythology since I was a kid. I studied ancient Greek civilisation in school and in college. The game itself promotes heroism and high adventure. When I first read about Hellas, it seemed like a game written just for me, the perfect game for me to run.

Hellas is intended to be run as a generational game. That is, unlike most games, as your characters grow old and retire, or die (or even ascend to godhood!) you take over the roles of your descendents. By the end of the game's 100 year-long campaign, it's expected that everyone will be playing at least the grandchildren of their original characters and get to see how they have shaped the course of history and forever changed the known worlds. Now if that doesn't sound epic, I don't know what is!

I'm very excited for this game. More than I have been for any game in a long, long time. We've got the player characters written up and I have the first several sessions planned out. I have my music playlists ready. I'm cooking some pastitsio for dinner, a Greek dish with beef mince and macaroni, as well as making some fresh red pepper hummus and olive tapanade for table snacks.

This Thursday night is going to be good.