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


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!