Twilight Watch; a Review

Twilight Watch, book 3 of Sergei Lukyanenko’s Watch series. For those unfamiliar, the Watch series is about supernaturals living among us called Others, mainly consisting of vampires and magicians and witches and werewolves, etc., who are either on the light or the dark side. The watches, divided into a day and night watch are, respectively, supernatural police forces who keep watch on its counterpart to maintain order. Supernaturals in disguise, as it were.

Twilight Watch, by Sergei Lukyanenko

Twilight Watch, by Sergei Lukyanenko

Overall, I was very satisfied with this one. Day Watch (#2), not so much. I guess the night watchers are more appealing to me as a reader.

We come back to Anton from Night Watch. He’s dragged back into duty during vacation with the news that an Other is planning on transforming humans into Others via a spell that supposedly doesn’t exist. Well of course it exists, and Anton must find this schemer before he does such a thing and permanently erases the human race. We wouldn’t want a world full of enchanters and werewolves and vampires now would we.

Pros:

  1. Lukyanenko delves into the morality and politics of being an Other. I must say, any supernatural novel or series is incomplete without this personal question becoming an issue for the character. I was very glad to see this.
  2. The book was written in three parts. Anton is unsuccessful in part 1. When I began part 2, I was thrown because the setting and characters took a 90 degree turn. But by the third part, parts 1 and 2 are wonderfully woven together. Lukyanenko delivers.
  3. I still get a kick out of the fact that Lukyanenko’s vampires cannot consume from a drunk. In Russia. Where vodka abounds. Garlic? Vampires scoff. Whiskey? You’re done. Stinks to be a vampire in Russia.

Cons:

  1. By the time the plot thickened, I had already predicted who the schemer was. The blurb on the back cover gave it away, too. Why would they do that? I wanted to think there would be a twist about the whodunnit, but alas, there was none. This may be a big no-no to some readers, and maybe it’s just because I’m a fan of Lukyanenko, but his story-telling is very entertaining despite the main plot being easy to predict.
  2. Okay. The lyrics thing is getting dull. I love music, don’t get me wrong, but when I read lyrics to a tune I don’t know, it … falls flat. And the lyrics aren’t even that fantastic. But its his book so he can do what he likes with it. But this is the main reason why I would never put lyrics in a piece of literary work, no matter how brilliant I think the words to a song are.
  3. Again, lots and lots of dialogue. Like, 80+% of the story was dialogue. But in this book, it didn’t bother me as much, but still rather noticeable.

I’m a nice reader. 8 out of 10, the minus two mainly for the predictability of the story. But he’s laid some serious foundations for the next book in the series so hopefully I can find the next one, The Last Watch, somewhere on half dot com where I buy most of my books. I much prefer a nappy used book than a crispy stiff new one.


A lifetime later

It feels like a lifetime. What prophetic words from my January 2012 words predicting it of being an interesting year. Now let’s redact that to three years.

Life aside, my writing projects have resurrected themselves in my mind. I began to rework that Nano novel from years ago, but after spending a couple weeks on its backstory, I felt it compulsory to go back to Parallax. Is my passion in that story? Perhaps.

After reading its fifty or so pages, I tossed the manuscript. Absolutely nothing new for me, it’s the third incomplete first draft I’ve trashed since its inception. No regrets at all, so happy to do it. Except this time it was about 50 pages worth. That kind of hurt. Again, nothing new. Now the pressure is really on to make this four times better than the last, and I’m anxious of this challenge.

So I have to ask myself, why do I write? In my youth, it was for pleasure, to expel the visions in my head and expound the seemingly brilliant bursts of awesome ideas to vomit them all at once into various settings and characters based off of pictures that inspired those visions. They all stunk badly, turned into a mishmosh of random themes and quirks that vaguely followed some sort of pathetic plot turned into one giant let down.

Strangely sounds like the story of my life. Weird.

Moving along.

But it all depends on perspective. I could view myself and my aspirations and dreams as a complete failure, and so give up while I’m ahead. Or, I could view it as a period of trial and error, necessary mistakes that needed to be made, else I be forever bogged in a state of amateur stupidity. I’m typically optimistic and self destructive so I’m going to see these past ten years as a necessary learning curve I had to take. With a few spectacular free falls from the cliffs.

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Analogies aside, I’m back in this writing thing.

I write because these stories keep developing in my head, my mind never fails to wander back to them, want to improve them, and make them come alive, one day. It’s not about the money, it’s about satisfaction with myself, proving to myself that I can do this. Make something finally come out the way I want it to. To get my point across successfully. (ie to write a book I would love to read.) 

Why do you write? And why the heck aren’t you writing in your story right now?


Distraction-Free Writing Programs

As mentioned in a previous post, I partook in NaNoWriMo 2011, and rather than use my beloved WriteMonkey like I did for NaNoWriMo 2009, I used yWriter 5. Recently, I’ve tried a few other distraction-free writing programs that are currently out there, and I’ll give you a quick review of those I tried.

* Just as a side not, I tried Scrivener again for the second time in as many years, and I still don’t like it. While certain areas are customizable, its layout and format just rub me the wrong way. While some areas in it are customizable, its layout and format just rub me the wrong way. I’m sure it’s fine for what it is, some people even claim to “live” in Scrivener, but I just can’t. A pen and notebook are more organized. I find Scrivener messy and aesthetically very unpleasing. That’s all I’ll say about that!

CreaWriter

Creawriter was the first distraction-free writing program I tried. It’s easy on my memory, which is important because I use a laptop that likes to overheat a lot. There are two versions, a free and donor version (any donation over 5€ accepted) . In the free version, the background, background transparency, and background sound file is customizable, and typing sounds are donor-only. Fonts are limited to three basic fonts (mono, serif, and sans serif), and font sizes come in only three options (small, medium, large).

I give it a 5 out of 10. Visual customization is good, though the white “wings” where the buttons are on are a little distracting (they disappear when you start typing). I feel that the buttons on the right could be designed better. Personally, I prefer something more customizable, and while typing sounds are a little perk in these sorts of programs, I find it a little strange that they’d leave it out even in a free version. See their website (towards the bottom of their site) to see what more you get with the donor version. Or click the thumbnails below to see if you like it!

  

OmmWriter

OmmWriter: I really like it, but it eats at my memory. If I turned its preset background music off, I may far better with it (for I hate typing on a laptop whose internal CPU temperature is 174C … you do the math), but otherwise, it does tend to eat my RAM and CPU.

It has a very Apple feel, and it figures because OmmWriter was originally for Mac. I’m happy to see it available for Microsoft because I really like it. Font is limited to three typefaces, four different font sizes, it does keep a word count at the bottom of your writing area, and the writing area is fully movable and resizable. This program is very visually appealing. The only downside is that it becomes just another full-screen writing program if all those nice typing sounds and background music is turned off. Background, background music, and typing sounds are not customizable, though the donor version ($4.11+, the amount is up to you) gives you quite a few more backgrounds, music, and typing sounds to enjoy.

Easy on the eyes, and recommended if you’re into a very clean and simple program. I give it a 8 out of 10 for the minimalism and aesthetic softness of it. The music gets a little loud (earphones recommended) and I didn’t find an option to turn it down other than turning down my volume, which is a little unfortunate. I like those ambient typing sounds!

Focus Writer

Focus Writer reminds me of a basic text editor (like WordPad) with the functionality and snazziness of Write Monkey. With background pictures, and the option to not be in full screen mode. You can create entire savable themes, choosing any background picture (with the option to tile, stretch, or center), any font and color in your computer to switch to any mood you’re in with a few clicks. There’s a timer that comes with the program (set for word count or time) and did I mention you don’t have to keep it full-screen? I know, it kind of defeats the whole purpose of “distraction-free” writing, but sometimes alt-tabbing for whatever reason out of a full-screen program gets a little … tedious. It also has a built-in spellcheck (it can be turned off).

The only so-called problem I had with FW was that the typing sounds had to be manually changed, as in, you have to go to the folder you installed it into and replace the typing sound file with something else (I would presume you need to keep the same file name, so back up the old one if you want it back!). But that’s negligible. No background music, but I think it helps with how much memory it eats, because FW doesn’t eat too much of my memory. I give FW a 9.9 out of 10. I’m sure there has to be something wrong with it, I just haven’t found it yet. Of all the three programs I tried here, FW comes out on top. Tips are welcome for the programmer!

  

I’ll save my review of yWriter 5 for another post. I enjoyed it, but well, call me old-fashioned, but I still prefer keeping all my notes and timelines and character sketches hand-written in a notebook in front of me. I will say, that out of all those writing programs like Scrivener, yWriter (free!), Liquid Story Binder, WriteItNow, CeltX (free!), RoughDraft, PageFour, the list goes on, yWriter is my writing program of choice. Next to MS Word, of course. Questions and comments are welcome!


New Years Update

Apologies to those who’ve watched me disappear from this blog. I won’t list all my excuses here, but I’m glad to be able to say, with some bitter-sweetness, that I’ve restarted the series that proceed The Red Forest. It’s lacking a title, but I began it in November for NaNoWriMo and reached about 51k words, which, coincidentally, is the approximate word count I’ve reached so far in Parallax. That project has been in hiatus since summer of ’11.

Here’s to a new year, yes? I hope to at least complete one of those novels I’m working on, because I have a third story that’s been lulling around in my mind for the past two months. I must admit, new story ideas don’t come to me extremely often, but when they do, I let it simmer in my mind for a while. Sort of like a test for strength, if you will. Am I the only one who makes “deals” and “conditions” with themselves? I told myself I won’t begin this new story until I finish at least one of my novels-in-progress.

The new story? It seems, at the moment, to be in the SF/F genre, parallel or alternate universes and such… multi-dimensional, that sort of thing. And all that inspired me was a four minute cut scene from a video game preview. From that video, a cascade of ideas and characters assaulted me, and it’s stood the test of time because I’m still thinking about it. But I must complete the first draft of one current novel first!

Otherwise, life’s been busy and I don’t get half as much free time as I’d like to write (or paint). I have a part-time job, I have two consistent commissions for a website and illustrations for a friend’s writing project, and I’m also homeschooling my kindergartner as well as doing all the other things a mother and wife does. Feeling very unproductive as of now! But I apologize, I said I wouldn’t explain [all of my] excuses. I’ve been reading a lot too, there were some winners and losers in my reading list, but the good certainly outweigh the bad. My past reading list is here, and I successfully completed my goal of reading at least forty books in 2011!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holidays. Anyone make some New Year’s writing, or otherwise creative, resolutions for 2012? I have an inkling it will be a most interesting year.