Wednesday, 21 September 2016

September Update - Mr P the Pigeon

OK, so No Man's Sky got very boring very quickly.  I actually haven't played it since my last blog post about it.  It had huge potential and I still love the concept, but it was not a 50 pound game.  And worst of all, it crashed and crashed.  The developers have gone silent on social media, and so they should.  Good news is, I'm busy playing The Witcher 3, Destiny: Rise of Iron and next month is Battlefield 1.  Oh, and I also have the Death Star dlc for Battlefront.


On the writing front, I have finished my first children's book which I am seeking to get illustrated.  I am contacting my artistic friends, professionals and browsing the services on Fiverr ( but I am dubious about that site).  I'm also sending it off to publishers, but if that fails, which it most likely will, then I will self-publish. I’m very happy with the story and writing for children is also extra rewarding, helping/ encouraging them with reading as well as promoting good morals and life lessons through your stories.


Also, Garden Hopping is now available as a paperback through Amazon.  This is a collection of short stories and my novellas: The Gauntlet, and Looking for a Job.  It’s priced at 4 pound 50 pence, which is the cheapest I could put it for the length of the book.


Garden Hopping paperback edition 1
 

Friday, 12 August 2016

The Man in the Woods


We never dared to venture into the woods when it was dark.   The closest we ever got was to the fence.  We would turn our backs to the trees, then close our eyes and play a game of chicken – who was the bravest?  We were only eight years old, with unlimited imaginations and an enthusiasm to create a competitive game out of anything our small village could present to us.  For us, standing next to the woods in the dark was the ultimate test.   

It was the golden age of innocence, we were too young to believe there existed real evil in the world, so we invented our own monsters.  The woods, located behind our primary school, was the perfect environment to act out our wild fantasies and discuss its possible inhabitants – swamp monsters, giant dogs, huge earthworms and, of course, witches.  It was the most mysterious and dangerous place in the village. 

We had been in the woods several times before with our teacher during school hours.  Dense, leafy bushes and towering, ominous trees mixed with nettles and other weeds.  There was a small, murky pond in the middle, covered by algae and waterlilies.  It was nothing special, nor was it even that big, yet there would always be the distant crack of a twig or rustle of a bush which led us to believe we were being watched.  But we had always felt safe because the teacher was there and obviously, in our minds, nothing dangerous could happen with an adult around.

Twenty seconds.  That’s how long I had lasted that night before I sprinted away from the fence in a frenzied state.  It had been a personal record, but I still hadn’t beaten my best friend, Jack, who was still there when I had finally felt safe enough to turn around.  I remember shouting: “You’ve won again, Jack.  Come on, let’s go home.”  But then the bushes below the trees had rustled and out of them had come a man.  Jack had screamed, while I had frozen in terror.  As quickly as he had appeared, the man had left, carrying my friend back with him into the woods, vanishing into the darkness.

Jack was gone.  The man in the woods had been real all along.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

No Man's Sky - Early Play Review


I spent a good six hours on this last night and discovered and explored eight planets.   I started on a nice, fairly hospitable planet with abundant gold resources which I was able to mine and sell in the market place, giving me a timely boost to funds.   The drones didn’t pester me too much, but they can be annoying.  I have a long way to go to be able to afford a decent starship, which is needed, because you soon fill up your inventory.  It’s actually quite frustrating,  I think they need to raise the maximum limit on the number of resources you can carry at a time.  For example,  a 1000 carbon instead of 250.  You soon hit maximum and end up being told ‘inventory full’ a dozen times.

Overall, it’s a wondrous game, which appeals to the exploratory nature in all of us.  Not knowing what is going to be on the next planet or moon is a thrill - I feel like I’m in Starfleet exploring for the Enterprise.  I think it is a great game to just pick up, on and off, and spend a few hours eating away at.  You could spend your hours just on one planet, or even your whole day.  When you’re not being attacked by pirates and drones, it’s very relaxing especially with the soundtrack.   Piloting your starship is an excellent feeling, even though it took a while to get the hang of the controls - be prepared to hit a few asteroids as you learn the ropes!  The graphics in the space are also mesmerizing sometimes, I spent a lot of time just staring at this beautiful, cyan aurora around one particular planet.

I’d like to see more geographical features on the planets, some higher mountains, deep valleys etc  I’m being picky though, there have been some amazing caves I’ve ventured across and even floating rocks, which were cool.   The fauna is incredible too, I came across a T-Rex like species last night which I accidentally shot and sent into a fit of rage against me.  Unfortunately I had to blow it up with a plasma grenade, which I felt bad about but it was me or him.

Some tips:

The space pirates are brutal and in the early game, I don’t see how it is doable to defeat multiple enemies.  Save your valuables in your exosuit and not your spaceship!  Otherwise when your ship gets destroyed, you will lose everything you’ve been mining the last few hours!

Be nice to the aliens, they always give you good rewards but respect the monoliths and artefacts – don’t go prying into them or you lose credibility.

You need to learn as many new alien words as you can, it’s the only way to make sure the puzzles aren’t a complete guessing game.

Verdict: 4/5

It will be interesting to see how this game develops and the patches and DLC that comes out for it (if any).  It’s got massive potential but could so easily swing the other way, in the light of all the other great games coming out soon and the next few months.  But for now, I’ll be endeavouring to reach the centre of the galaxy.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Update

It's been a very long time since I last updated my blog - sorry!


The truth is I have all but given up marketing for my books, nor I am writing anything new.  I want to write, I really do, but I just can’t seem to bring myself to do it.  This was never the case before, writing was always pleasurable and never a chore.  I loved it and I still do, but I don’t have the same enthusiasm for the entire process as when I first self-published back in 2012.  I’m also making very few sales, perhaps it’s the summer or perhaps I’ve just faded into the ranks along with thousands of other KDP authors.


It’s not writer’s block, I have a few ideas for new novels but there’s just no will in me to write.  It’s not about the money, it never has been.  It’s just simply not fun for me anymore to market my books via trawling the forums, contacting reviewers, plugging away on social media etc...  The market is saturated and I think I have to face up to reality: my writing is simply not good enough to be competitive.  Over time the good will always rise to the top and the rest will sink into obscurity.  I got good reviews, I got bad reviews.  Mostly good, so I can take pride in that and I’ve learned a lot from all the feedback about how and where to improve.  I’ve also met some awesome people along the way.


A successful writer once told me if you don’t make it within the first few months on Amazon, you simply won’t make it.  I think this rings true, the odds are stacked against you.    If I was to have another stab at this publishing malarkey, it would probably be via investing more time and effort into contacting literary agents.  I need help, quite frankly.  I can’t do anymore or go any further without an agent. 


I’m still open to interacting with readers and I’ll happily lend out review copies.  I’m keeping all my work live, of course, there is no negative side to this.  Even a bad review is publicity!
For the future I’m going to try and keep this blog up to date with things that interest me – book reviews, film reviews and games!

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Amazon terms and conditions



Who ever reads the terms and conditions that we actually sign up to? 


Not me.  But I came across this little gem in a forum and I thought I'd share it here also, Amazon either know something we don't - or obviously, I hope - it's an in-joke, to show that people will click 'accept' to anything before reading the terms. 


https://aws.amazon.com/service-terms/


57.10 Acceptable Use; Safety-Critical Systems. Your use of the Lumberyard Materials must comply with the AWS Acceptable Use Policy. The Lumberyard Materials are not intended for use with life-critical or safety-critical systems, such as use in operation of medical equipment, automated transportation systems, autonomous vehicles, aircraft or air traffic control, nuclear facilities, manned spacecraft, or military use in connection with live combat. However, this restriction will not apply in the event of the occurrence (certified by the United States Centers for Disease Control or successor body) of a widespread viral infection transmitted via bites or contact with bodily fluids that causes human corpses to reanimate and seek to consume living human flesh, blood, brain or nerve tissue and is likely to result in the fall of organized civilization.    



Friday, 5 February 2016

Crew 3361



I spent five years on this crew in Oman, on a rotation of 6 weeks on and 3 weeks off.  It was a fully autonomous mobile city in the desert, home to around 400 people - mostly Omani's, Indian's and expats.  I have very fond memories of the people I worked with and I have a lot of respect for them, not just their hard work ethics but their mental strength as well, in terms of saying goodbye to their children for 6 or 8 weeks at a time.  I don't think I could have done that.


I enjoyed the desert environment most of all, it was the closest I've ever felt to being on another planet - a silence and emptiness that is both haunting and mesmerizing.  It's hard to describe unless you experience it, especially compared to the chaos of normal urban life.  There are some images which will stick with me forever: beautiful sand dunes, weathered jebels, utterly flat mud beds, raging wadi's after rainfall and sandstorms rolling in across the horizon.   It was a desert, but it was never just nothing. 


Starting work at 6am in the field every day, I would watch the sunrise for 6 weeks in a row and in the evening, see it go down again to the sound of the call to prayer.  It was a privilege looking back, especially as I can't remember the last time I saw the sunset or sunrise since leaving.  In the winter I'd shiver in the morning under a blanket of fog and in the summer I'd curse how it could be 30'C before 7am.  The heat in summertime was a punishing 50'C.  It was brutal and pushed my physical and mental strength to the limit, but I also thrived off it.  Indiana Jones was my hero growing up, and on my own in the field I got to imagine I was him.  I'd go for runs never knowing what was over the next dune or in an outcrop, it was always an adventure.  Of course most of the area had been scouted already, but it excited me to think that even on the smallest patch of desert I was walking on land that had never been walked on by humans before. 


The low oil price has meant this crew has to shutdown, perhaps it will mobilize again in the future, perhaps not.  But it leaves behind a legacy and expats who will be life-long friends.  Muscat is a beautiful city, perhaps my favourite and Oman a peaceful country, with generous and welcoming people. 



Thursday, 4 February 2016

Drowning in passwords

I'm a data manager, so I'm pretty organized and efficient in most aspects of my life.  But recently, like in the last year or so, I've become so swamped with using dozens of different passwords for websites that I've had to write them all down.  I can't even remember my pin codes sometimes for the different debit/credit cards I have, as I have both UK and Danish bank accounts (plus a work card).  I feel embarrassed by my inability to remember my codes, even though most of them are the same with a number change here or there.


I have various websites through work which require a password change every three months, plus the usual websites which everyone uses: Facebook, Twitter, Gmail.  I wanted to play a little online poker, that was two new passwords - one for the website, one for the card payment website.  I had a courier deliver a package to me, but I was away so I had to sign up to their website to get it re-delivered on a different date. 


Maybe I could de-register from many of the websites, but I know somewhere down the line I'm going to be needing that company again and I can't be bothered to register again.  I'm ranting about a first world problem, I know, but I needed to let it out.


So for now, my master password list is safely hidden.  I hope I'm not the only one who has one, but if I am then maybe I do need to get my memory checked.