blog - page 2

review: Oron Amular - The Call of the Mountain

Firstly, the necessary disclaimer that I know Michael the author and that he asked me to write a review. That said all the thoughts are my own and I willingly bought the book with my hard earned cash. So without further ado on with the review!

The Call of the Mountain is a starting point, a teaser, a taste of what is to come. It is the first of three books and I personally hope there are more to explore the world that Michael has built (more on this later). It is a quick read leaving no room, getting straight to the plot but not without sprinkling some mystery and intrigue to leave the reader wanting more.

The book introduces the reader to several characters who each have their different quirks and distinct attributes each with a history that glimpses through resulting in three-dimensional character resulting in page turn after page turn. This is an accomplishment given the book is less than 200 pages and a plot additionally twists and turns in enormous detail taking the reader as a willing participant with the characters on the quest to the mountain of Oron Amular.

Turning back to the world that Michael has built, it has been long in the making. This can be seen from the glossary and maps included in the book, a stable for any fantasy epic. I was also fortunate enough to be invited to the book launch where Michael has his notes detailing thousands of years of fictional history and hand-drawn maps lands and kingdoms waiting to be explored.

To conclude, it is a great book for long time fantasy lovers or for those want to give a fantasy novel a try, I can heartily recommend it as a book to add to any shelf. It is available online or to order at your local book store.

#fantasy #review #book

starting a business: part 1

As I venture into this new season of freelancing I thought I would write specifically about the tasks, questions, challenges & choices I am making. I am offically 3 weeks into this so this post will detail what I have done to date.

Week 1

The first step was to register for a limited company with Companies House. Fortunately they have an excellent step by step guide here which makes the whole process simple enough. With setting up a company, comes picking a name, I went with ‘akmiller technologies limited’ mainly because I have this domain (akmiller.co.uk). On a side note I would like to come up with a ‘better’ name soon, but that can wait.

The next item on the list was a business bank account (an yet other piece of plastic!). There are a lot of accounts out there, between the traditional high street banks and the new online/mobile accounts the choice is dizzying. I finally went with Coconut as it has invoicing built into the app which I think will be very helpful once I get the clients rolling in.

Finally I started to get my tooling setup. This included Asana for project management, Forestry for my website, Calendy for meeting scheduling. The list goes on, but they are the main ones I setup in my first week. All of these at about setting up internal processes for myself so I don’t forget anything and to ensure I am delivering on time.

Week 2

I am fortunate that I already had a couple of clients lined up and certainly helped in making the leap less scary. My second week was doing work for one of my clients which includes designing there brand and website. By this point they had provided content for the site, so I started compiling the pages and design options for there logo. I also spent time doing a website refresh for a second client

When I was doing that I was giving my website content a refresh, adding a contact page and a portfolio page. I was also finishing up some pro-bono work for my church related to the podcast feed and backend management platform

Another thing which needs to be done when setting up a limited company is Corporation Tax, VAT if you have revenue (turnover) over £85,000, PAYE to pay people with salaries (even yourself). All of this is something that an accountant can really help with, I had a recommendation from my sister and knew a couple of people myself, but I have still yet to finalise anything.

Week 3

This week was shorter as I had a preplanned holiday, so I spent the time on some internal tasks such as getting testomonials, trying out a couple of ideas and trying out ideas for my own personal logo.

In terms of client work, the client came back with a preferred option but wanted different colours, so I iterated the colours on the logo and started to produce patterns, business card designs and larger logos.

Week 4

I am starting week 4. This week I will be chasing up some decisions from clients, applying to some contract roles and writing a proposal for a potential client. Also I need to pick an accountant, and I remembered that I ought to have business insurance as well. In terms of tooling, I also started to get time tracking sorted out but it is not part of my routine yet. This is another habit I need to build up.

#business

a new season awaits...

I am back and the plan is to write at a more sustainable, consistent pace… fingers crossed!

So having quit my job at the end of June, I then took some time to apply to some other jobs, but it seems that the tech industry for all it’s perks still requires people to work 5 days a week. If I am looking for a job I would like to be 4 days/week maximum. On Thursdays, I look after my son, which is exhausting but something that is irreplaceable, basically where I spend my time is more valuable than that extra day’s worth of salary each week.

Anyway after multiple failures to secure a job, an interesting thing started to happen at the same time. Multiple people started to approach me about developing a website for them and a couple of them have even referred me to others as well.

Therefore at the beginning of August I registered my own company, akmiller technologies limited! I am excited and nervous all at the same time, but I pray and hope that this will grant me the flexibility to have time with family, earn a living and even develop some ideas that I have. I also plan to write here more, particularly about the practical steps to setting up a business, some of the challenges I face and the ideas that I have started to develop.

Speak soon!

PS If you want to chat with me, jump over to the contact page and get in touch.

#contracting #business #freelancing

Off topic - Games I have recently enjoyed

Something slightly different today, as the title suggests I will have a small ramble about some of the games I have enjoyed playing recently.

First up is Ronin, meant to be a copycat of Tom Francis’ Gunpoint and the inspiration is very obvious, this games takes the stealth genre and slams in the puzzle genre in a highly effective way. It creates what I would term a realtime puzzle, this is one that is different almost every time due to what you do before the puzzle component starts. An explanation of the gameplay would help at this point; there are two distinct phases of play, realtime movement & turn-based movement. The realtime movement is when the player is moving stealthily and has not been seen by enemies, however as soon as the player has been seen by an enemy the turn-based action kicks in. In this mode you can see where shots are going to be fired and given your only weapon is a katana, the player needs to get up close and personal to take down enemies. This means jumping back and forth, dodging bullets, knocking out enemies and waiting for the opening to go for a kill. The extent at which you will need to do this is reliant, however, on how good your stealth skills are. If you can take more enemies down while in stealth mode, the turn-based puzzle becomes easier. The story is light on details but sufficient to keep me engaged for length of time to play the game, with the difficulty curve stretching me at all the right points along the way.

Second is The Room and The Room 2, these are both incredibly detailed puzzle games with an intriguing story as well. The puzzles are not too obscure, but the hint system ensures your never really rage quitting with frustration. In these games there is an incredible physicality to any action you perform, be it opening a drawer or a chest, there is weight to every object in the game. From this it is my hope that they take these games into room scale virtual reality as I think they would make an amazing experience and would naturally fit into that paradigm. I would also recommend using these games to introduce someone to video games as the puzzles can be solved between 2 of you, discussing what to do next.

Finally today I have enjoyed playing the latest (Shadowrun)[http://store.steampowered.com/app/346940/] game. This time based in Hong Kong you are thrown in at the deep end with the story kicking off with a bang. This time around they have significantly improved the hacking part of the game (enjoyable as I normally play a Decker) by introducing barriers which can be destroyed or hacked around, stealth within the Matrix, and ambushes in the real world. However what really draws me back is the world that the team has created, it feels complete and lived in. Across all 3 recent games that I have played (Shadowrun Returns, (Dragonfall)[http://store.steampowered.com/app/300550/] & Hong Kong), the dev team have kept the consistency of world intact while having three independent campaigns. This is likely in part down to genre, which makes world building easier than most genres, however it is still impressive to be consistent in the writing, art, sound to bring a real sense of belonging and liveliness to a place.

What I love about all of the games I have mentioned today is that they can easily be played on a laptop without a mouse, so are perfect for a longish commute (dependent on battery life). This is great for myself as it forces me to play games that would normally be lower on my list when sat in front of a more powerful capable machine.

#offtopic #games #ronin #trackpad #shadowrun

Sleep > Writing

Sleep is more important than writing a long article…that is all. Time for more sleep before I have to be awake for the whole day.

#sleep #writing