Monday, 24 November 2014

League of Legends

I’ve been playing League of Legends a lot lately, it’s very addictive and I think part of the appeal is the fact that no game is ever the same.  You can be on a killing spree one game reaching Godlike and legendary kill status, and the next, you’re struggling to even get assists ( or maybe I'm just very bad).

My favourite champion so far is Garen, I’m not a range attack player or a complex-technique player (mages).  I like the characters who are tanks and just smash at the frontline.  Even in Streets of Rage 2 I always chose Max the wrestler.  Brute force over skill any day!

Some tips I’ve noticed might help you if you are new to the game like me:

1.   Stay alive – Don’t feed the opponents with cheap kills.  If you only die two or three times in the game then that’s a good showing.  Sure, you might get abuse for retreating sometimes from your team but that’s just because they are jealous they died and you didn’t. 

2.   Don’t forget about the minions – that is how you rank up and get gold quicker. 

3.   Never surrender!  Momentum switches hands so quickly in League, all it takes is a few seconds of acting in unison with your team champions and before you know it, you’ve wiped out enemy turrets and taken the advantage again – just because you are losing on score is never an indication of the final result. 

4.   Don’t forget to use your Masteries, which you can re-allocate anytime by resetting.

5.   While the champions all have their pro’s and con’s, some partner together better than others.  Lux and Garen are one example I’ve found work very effectively together. 

6.   Just ignore the comment section sometimes, don’t take anything personally. 

I’m rank 11 at the moment, a long way to go.  Please leave comments with your tips, mine are probably a bit rubbish. 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

The Secret Lives of Bicycles

What if bicycles had lives like ours? They went to work, fell in (and out) of love, had a role within society; carried expectations, hopes and fears.
Together humans and bicycles have existed side by side and yet we are ignorant of each other. That is, until now…until this book.

The bicycles of Denmark are so much more than two wheels and a pair of handlebars. Discover the hidden truth: the secret lives of bicycles.

Amazon USA
Amazon UK

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Like Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings?

If you are a fan of the fantasy genre , please check out the first book in the Empyria saga: Shadows in the Sand.

Reviews:  30 reviews, 4.7 out of 5 average

In Empyria it takes courage to live, and more than mere courage to challenge those who want to kill you. Athmane and his friends must take up that challenge or become the next victims. Forced to move they now face many unknown dangers. This story thrives on tension and danger. The sheer depth of “Shadows in the Sand” is simply amazing. This book exceeded all my expectations with its incredible story line that was highly imaginative, inspired and totally unique. The fast moving action pulls me along on a thrilling journey, which is full of vivid imagination and suspense. His characters are unique and original, yet seem simple when you realize that they aren't perfect. This is the beginning of book one where the journey begins. As a side note: the characters are not only likable, but are generally upstanding citizens with strong moral fiber. I like that. Also, there is fighting and death, but the scenes are not written too gruesome or gory. I like that as well.


Shadows in the Sand is set in an apocalyptic world where human survivors eke out an existence amongst a harsh and brutal environment. In contrast to the exposition-heavy opening chapters the novel is extremely well written. It is also a largely based action tale, something rare for a first instalment of a fantasy series.

The plotline is beautifully simple. A tribe’s water pool is running dry and it is up to a hunter and tracker Athmane, along with his childhood companions, Faria, a craftsman, Bayoud a soldier and Mary a medic, to go into new lands and find out why.
This is no clichéd quest but rather a life and death mission. The desert however is full of perils such as sandghoulls and serpents which always keep the narrative fresh and exciting. The mood of the desert, especially at night; its beauty as well as terrible dangers are wonderfully evoked.

The work is very different from most fantasy novels and reminds me of one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, Frank Herbert’s Dune, yet this time with the tale told from Arakis’ Fremen viewpoint. That is not to say this tale is derivative. The story is entirely the author’s own.

The one staple fantasy character the author does borrow is the elf. Yet the reader need not fear clichés for they serve to act as an important catalyst in the narrative as it is realised the two races must work together if they are to withstand an encroaching dark, malign enemy.

This first instalment of Michael Diack’s Empyria trilogy promises great things. The canvas grows increasingly broader throughout as the author creates the foundation for the second instalment. If Diack manages to keep the same atmosphere and mood without falling into the usual fantasy stereotypes I believe this trilogy will be something very special indeed and attract an army of fans.

 Please click below to be taken to the Amazon webpage:
 Shadows in the Sand

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Red and Blue

King Martin, G-Boa, Kate and General Nectarine stood at the entrance to Mt Compton speaking to Albert. 
“This is ridiculous, all this fighting over a colour,” said G-Boa.
            “It started as a colour thing, but now it’s evolved into a deeper meaning: a loyal brand,” said Albert.
            “Why don’t you take a side, then?” asked King Martin.
            “Do you know nothing about my flavour?  I am a Swiss roll flavour, our flavouring is balanced perfectly in its acidity and alkalinity – we are pH 7 and completely neutral.  As such, our personality is always unbiased and we never take sides over anything.  I am ideal as the gatekeeper for Mt Compton.”
            “Fine, I guess we’ll side with the blue colour,” said King Martin.
            “But I like red,” replied General Nectarine.
            “Blue is a nicer colour and has always suited my package better.   I’m the king so I’m calling the shots here.”
            General Nectarine obeyed his king but was not happy and commented, “I now understand why they went to war.”   
            Albert handed the four of them blue bandanas and they tied them around the top of their package, just above the eyes.  Albert opened the blue gate and said farewell.   Albert locked the gate behind him and it was impossible to escape, as barbed wire surrounded the entire city.
            “We look stupid,” said Kate.
            The gate slammed shut behind them and the Super Spuds stared at the blue side of Mt Compton.  All the pavements, streets and walls were covered in blue paper – even the food was painted blue!  However, as the city was still an active human rubbish tip, Blood and Crip had agreed for the sake of the Super Spud race to settle their war using paint on paper, which was then stuck to buildings, roads, walls and anything else with white tack (Blood didn’t agree on blue tack as he hated blue).  When the humans came around, the Super Spuds took the paper down and hid, thus preventing suspicion as to why the entire rubbish tip was half-red and half-blue.  Once the humans left, it was then a mad scramble to put the paper back up and not lose ground to the opposition.  
Crip, a salt and vinegar flavour, greeted them and the rest of the blue side of Mt Compton clapped and cheered.
            “You’ve chosen wisely, well done.  Blue is the best colour in the world: calming, natural, heavenly.  As a blue, your mission is simple: paint the city blue and eliminate the reds.  I despise the colour red and its angry, fiery and aggressive properties.  It is so unnatural, you don’t see a red sky or a red sea, do you?” said Crip.
            “Actually, there is a Red Sea.  I had a mission over there,” said G-Boa.
            “What?  Don’t make me angry, there is no red sea, only blue seas reflecting the glorious blue sky above.  Here are some cans of blue spray paint, A4 paper, white tack and some paintbrushes.  Your orders are to fight anyone wearing a red bandana and if you come across red graffiti paper, rip it down and place your paper up instead, then spray it blue.   If you kill Blood, this war will be over and this city will have peace again.”
            “What does Blood look like?” asked G-Boa.
            “He’s as good looking as me, only he’s painted his package red.  If he wasn’t so stubborn this war would never have happened, it was obvious that blue matched our green sponge sofa better than red.”
            The four Super Spuds stood confused but respected the passion of Crip, at least.
            “I don’t feel right fighting other Super Spuds over a silly thing like colour.  This would never happen back in my city,” said King Martin.
            Crip was handed a paintball gun by his second-in-command, Snoop and declared: “Anyone who doesn’t fight will be shot, we’ll be watching.”
            Mt Compton was divided into two areas, with the middle area between the red and blue half a constant battleground with each side tussling to paint their respective colour and capture more ground.  The two teams were so even, though, that only around 10 centimetres width of land went back and forth between the two teams. 
            “I don’t see any steak and spinach flavours, only salt and vinegar, ready salted and saucy barbeque.  This should be an easy mission.  I want your word, Crip, if we help you must unlock the gate and let us have our freedom,” said General Nectarine.
            “If you win this war I’ll personally fly you back home,” Crip replied.

Most deaths in Mt Compton occurred due to the drive-by paintballing, which would often be discrete like out of the back of a car, or from a motorbike.  The high-velocity impacts nearly always killed the Super Spuds, although death was actually preferred to the shame of having your package marked an opposing colour.  General Nectarine and G-Boa surveyed the middle ground and felt optimistic about what they saw.  General Nectarine was easily the strongest Super Spud and G-Boa was unrivalled in his field skills.  General Nectarine picked up a rusty old wok lying on the ground with his left hand and, carrying a paintball gun in his right hand, he shouted, “Everyone take shelter behind me, we’re going for the tactic of shock and awe.”
            General Nectarine and G-Boa led the assault, and followed by Crip and hundreds of blue bandanas, they proceeded to the middle ground.   King Martin held Kate’s hand as they stayed behind General Nectarine and the king said, “I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future or how long we will be stuck here.  But you’re beautiful and it was amazing what you did back in Mt Hollyspud for my friends.”
            “I’ve never met anyone genuine before, all the actors are so in love with themselves they don’t know how to love anyone else.  I’m looking forward to being your queen and helping the people back in England.”
            The sounds of paintballs firing disturbed their romantic moment.
            “The fighting has begun,” said King Martin.
            The red bandanas had never seen anything as ferocious in battle before as General Nectarine.  The American population preferred flavours like hamburger, cheeseburger and Texas barbeque.  They thought the spinach part of the steak and spinach flavour sounded too healthy and generally shunned the flavour, so S.P.U.D. agreed not to sell them anymore in the country.  Tuna flavours still sold well, though, Americans just hated vegetables.  General Nectarine was by far the strongest and most courageous Super Spud ever to step foot in Mt Compton.  With his left hand, he wielded the giant wok and batted red bandanas out of the way, sending them flying in the air over several metres.  With his right hand, he fired the paintball gun with perfect accuracy, even adjusting for the wind and every one of the paintballs hit their mark.  G-Boa used his martial arts skills to take down Super Spuds and he hadn’t even fired his paintball gun yet, instead preferring to humiliate the red bandanas by ‘stabbing’ them with his paintbrush and marking them blue.  Overwhelmed and outnumbered, the red bandanas retreated from the middle ground and Blood decided to greet the attackers face to face.
            “Stop this attack.  Or everything will be destroyed!” shouted Blood.
            “Do you surrender?” asked General Nectarine.
            “I don’t think you understood what I just said, fool.  You’re the ones who must surrender your weapons and that wok, or soon there will be a very large bang.”
            “I won’t lay down my wok, but keep talking and we may come to some agreement.”
            “This is the end, Blood.  I knew my blue would prevail,” said Crip.
            “If you kill me or continue this attack, the orange paint bombs will explode and destroy all of Mt Compton,” said Blood.
            Before their disagreement over red and blue, Crip and Blood were unanimous in their hatred of the colour orange.
            “You’re lying, there is no way you could sneak in to our territory, plant a paint bomb and not be caught,”
            “I always had the brains between us, remember?  I put stubbornness aside for a day and ordered twenty of my men to go undercover, taking off their red bandanas and putting on blue ones.  They sneaked into your half and planted the bombs as a failsafe in case of my capture, death or if we lost the middle ground.  If I don’t return home every night and enter the code, the paint bombs will go off.”
            “He’s not lying,” said G-Boa, who had interrogated many Super Spuds and knew when they were telling the truth.
            “That’s right, it’s mutually assured destruction through the ghastliness of orange,” said Blood.
             “Let him go.  We have no choice, an orange-covered city would be the death of all of us,” said Crip.
            “Wait! While you two are together, I think you should have my honest opinion.  I think you both are a bunch of arrogant, stubborn morons who don’t deserve such a loyal following of Super Spuds.  Blue and red are also both nasty colours, why don’t you just like purple?” said Kate.
            “Purple, what’s that?” said Blood and Crip together.
            Kate took the red and blue paint and mixed them together to create purple. As the colours fused together to create purple, Blood and Crips’ jaws began to drop and they slowly looked at each other.  They both jumped in the air, high-fived each other and hugged.  They loved the colour and immediately agreed on painting their living room purple.  In a matter of minutes, all the red and blue paper had gone and the citizens removed their bandanas.  Blood and Crip played the song ‘Purple Rain’ by Prince and all the inhabitants held hands and sang along to the words.  Mt Compton was now a peaceful city once again.
            “Solving gang warfare is easy,” commented G-Boa.

Mt Compton transformed into a city of polite-bys, handshake-offs and absolute zero-crime.  It even became a cooler city to live in than Mt Hollyspud as its fashion laws were more relaxed, in fact, it only had one: wear purple.  As the crime rate was now zero, this drastically reduced the crime level statistics for America as a whole.  This feat was recognized by the President of the United States and he sent a request to Mt Compton ordering King Martin and his friends to visit him in the capital city called Mt AC:DC, located in Washington.  Unlike the rest of the Super Spud world, in the United States there was only ever one unified ruler of all the Super Spud cities: the President.  The President was voted into office every six months – or earlier if he or she died – and unlike the other countries flavouring had nothing to do with being elected (or becoming the monarch).  The deciding two factors, primarily, were a massive campaign fund and high-power friends in close places.  The current president was President Bush, a Texas BBQ flavour and he had replaced President Julie, the first female Super Spud to hold power.   President Bush lived in the Spud House, a large white building in Mt AC:DC with a generous lawn and even a fountain.  There were rumours of a sophisticated network of underground passageways and deep survival bunkers dotted around Mt AC:DC to ensure the President was always protected in emergencies.  America’s Super Spud intelligence agency was also located there in a building called the Hexagon.  Under orders from President Bush, Clint had no choice but to command the opening of Mt Compton’s gate and ensure the four Super Spuds were put on the first postal box to Washington.  

This was an extract from Super Spuds Book 4 - Over Land and Sea.  If you enjoyed it and would like to read more about the Super Spuds, please click on the book covers at the left hand side to be taken to the Kindle store.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

The History of Middle-earth: Part 2

The second volume of The History of Middle-earth focuses on The Lord of the Rings, whereas the first volume centered around the First Age and the mythology of The Silmarillion and the Gods.

I think this second volume will appeal to anyone who has read The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, but perhaps wouldn’t consider themselves hardcore fans, as I think the first volume was certainly one for the die-hard contingency due to its ‘heavy’ tone and unfamiliarity.  It was, at times, pretty difficult reading owing to the sheer grandness of the mythology and the multitude of names.

This second volume was nicely structured and easy to read, Christopher Tolkien introduces each chapter describing his father’s notes before following with the first draft of the various chapters of The Lord of the Rings.  It was fascinating to read about how Tolkien developed his story chapter by chapter, without really knowing where to go with the plot.  In fact, it was obvious from his letters that he was never really interested in writing a sequel to The Hobbit.  He enjoyed writing about hobbits because they were personally amusing to him and nothing more.  I was also surprised by the large gaps Tolkien took between writing the manuscript, and how he wrote the chapters often on the back of examination scripts of the students he taught.  I think Christopher Tolkien deserves a lot of credit for his work decoding the quite often ineligible writing of his father and the lack of any order to the notes.

  It was also great to read how the ring-bearer was originally Bilbo’s son, Bingo and that Strider was called Trotter.   It was also originally penned as being Gandalf the hobbits met on the road after leaving Hobbiton before Tolkien, in a moment of inspiration, changed it to the Black Riders.  As a fantasy writer, I know how difficult, yet enjoyable at the same time, it is to control the timescales and interplay between events.  This is why I’m in complete awe of how Tolkien created and coordinated the perfect fantasy story involving so many characters, over hundreds of miles and over such a length of time.  

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loved Lord of the Rings, but coming in at a whopping 2,000 pages be prepared to spend a hefty amount of time reading it!

Friday, 21 February 2014

The Year of Unemployment

Pleased to announce my new release, a factual account of the year I graduated and was unemployed.

The optimistic – arrogant, perhaps – vision of a graduate’s future career is quickly beaten out of him by a sequence of hilarious and cringe inducing failures to secure work. Living at home with his Mum, this is an unimpeded insight into a young man’s struggles and successes in work, love and computer games! 

Laugh at the honest self-appraisals with a knowing nod to having shared those same experiences. If you cannot empathise with Michael, you are probably young enough to learn from his mistakes and commit his advice to memory. Ten pounds says you won’t, but you’ll have the chance to remember this amusing account of a year of unemployment in the future!    

I hope the Year of Unemployment will strike a chord with undergraduates, graduates and basically anyone who appreciates a funny, honest read packed with self-depreciating humour.  

Available on Amazon for only 77p!