Return to Normality and Setting Goals for 2010

Originally posted on another site on 8 January 2010. The comments made in reply to this post have not been transferred.

As my holiday period will come to an end in a couple of days, I find myself thinking toward what 2010 could mean for me. Of course, I could leave it to fate to find out, but I’m not always satisfied (rarely, in fact) with what is offered (or forced) onto me so I think I’ll try to set my own path. It might be more satisfying.

I’ve already declared that 2010 is the Year of Doing. This means that instead of talking about doing things, I’m going to do them. No excuses!

I have always put myself out there and made public goals. I find it’s the best way for me to actually try to keep them. It’s a written commitment, which means I can’t pretend I never set the goal in the first place. Ah, the things I do to myself. Anyway, the goals I’m going to set will be kept simple as there’s no point attempting to reach goals that are too high as I’ll only be disappointed at the end of the year.

So what’s on my list for this year?

1. Complete the planning for Whispering Caves by the end of summer (end of February).
2. Write the first draft by the end of the year.
3. Compile a list of publishers for Cat’s Eyes and submit, submit, submit.
4. Write a proposal for the children’s non-fiction and, again, submit, submit, submit.

That’s it. It’s not a lot, but it will be a good Year of Doing if I achieve these four goals. If I manage to do anything else along the way, that will be an added bonus.

That’s my year planned, in a few short sentences. What’s yours?

“Black” PS2 Walkthrough

Originally posted on another site on 6 January 2010.

It’s the holidays and I always get into gaming during the holidays. Once I return to work (next week) I’ll probably only play games occasionally until my next holiday (hopefully in May).

So this holiday has seen me finish Shadow Man: 2econd Coming and start “Black”, an all out shoot ’em or be killed game. From the moment the game commences it is “fight for your life” and edge of the seat gaming. It could easily be one of the hardest games I’ve played in a long time. Yet I know two people who have completed it and as I want to stand proudly beside them both and sing my own praises, I will battle through to the end (and I mean that literally).

There’s eight missions, but they are extremely long and can be exhaustingly frustrating too. It took a while for me to catch on that it’s no use running into a room filled with enemies, guns a blazing. That is the quickest way to die. Once that sunk in, I learned to move slowly and patiently through the levels, hoping that each corner I turned would present me with a checkpoint. Each level, except the first (which is the shortest level) has two or three. However, if the console is switched off then when you return to the game later you’ll find yourself back at the beginning of the level. Believe me, you don’t want that to happen. If I reach a checkpoint, I must play until I reach the end of the level or that’s what I tried to convince myself.

I’ve completed four missions. For me, the second mission was the hardest so far. Missions three and four, although difficult, weren’t that bad. Mission five, on the other hand, is trying my patience. It’s so difficult and frustrating. It’s so easy to be killed in a frenzy of oncoming enemies. It’s so easy to forget to keep an eye on the health bar and press the necessary button when needed (if there’s a health kit available, that is). It would be so easy to suddenly become a person who curses, regularly! After several hours of play, I couldn’t reach the second checkpoint and as it was beginning to get late and my arm was aching from the tension of playing, I decided to break the golden rule and give up half way through a mission. Oh how I’ve let myself down. 🙁

Tomorrow, after a good night’s rest, I’ll slaughter the ba…, er, I mean, I’ll slaughter the enemy and I’ll complete the mission. Tomorrow!

In the meantime, I’ll be checking out the Black Walkthrough at IGN to ensure I’ve got the right moves, weapons and attitude. 🙂

Game Review: Shadow Man 2econd Coming

Originally posted on another site on 5 January 2010.

Shadow Man: 2econd ComingAs I’m on holiday for a couple of weeks, I generally play video games on a regular basis – most days, in fact. This holiday season, I chose to play Shadow Man: 2econd Coming, which is a game I started once before but never actually finished.

On Saturday (which is when I finished the game), I discovered that I was very close to the end last time I played and it makes me wonder why I didn’t carry on. Perhaps I couldn’t find an essential item. Or maybe work resumed and time became an issue again. I don’t know what the reason was, I’m just glad to be able to report that this time I did finish it.

This game, for me, was extremely difficult in places. I sometimes spent an hour or so attempting one small manoeuvre over and over again. It was frustrating beyond words and I’m ashamed to say that my puppy may have learned that his mummy gets very cranky when she can’t do something almost instantly.

My partner sat watching me play for a while, on several occasions, and he tells me that no matter how frustrating the game might have been for me, it didn’t compare to how frustrated he felt just watching me.

“Oh, have I checked this corner,” he mimicked in a high voice that sounds nothing like me. “Oh, that’s right, I did, but I better check it again…and again…and again.” And then in his own voice, he added, “Just shoot the bastards and move on!”

How rude!

He’s exaggerating, of course, I don’t check the same corner three times…unless I’m lost and don’t realise I’ve checked the corner three times already. And I can’t help checking every corner of every room. I cut my teeth (well, now I’m exaggerating a bit) on Resident Evil and in that game you have to check every inch of every room otherwise you miss something important. That’s been breed into me and I can’t help myself.

Pushing the frustration aside, this is a brilliant game. The graphics aren’t as great as they are these days, but who cares when you’re having fun?! Besides, back in its day they were pretty impressive. Just goes to show how far we’ve come in eight years.

Yes, the game is on PS2, but don’t let a small thing like that stop you from enjoying a great game. Get yourself a console and the game and get started on it today. You won’t be disappointed. I highly recommend this game.

DVD Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Originally posted on another site on 4 January 2010.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceAnother DVD I received for Christmas was Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Before I go any further, I must tell you that I have read the entire series of books. You can read my book review here.

So where do I start? I guess I should point out that when the movie started, I greatly regretted not having watched the previous one again, just to refresh my memory of where events were at.

I was surprised by how much the actors have grown up. That was a bit distracting for a while.

The graphics are, as always, excellent. I especially liked the effect when watching a memory commence – that pencilled in look around the edges at the beginning of them. Very impressive!

As for the story itself, I felt hugely disappointed. So much attention had been given to presentation that it felt promising at first, but unfortunately the same attention had not been given to substance (the plot). This meant that the storyline was lacking the details the author had put in and the movie didn’t feel as if it were going anyway. It was a let down. As I have read the books, I knew what was meant to be going on, but G has not read the books and became totally lost. When the movie ended, he told me that he was confused and I had to explain a few things to get him up to par. This is a sign that the movie lacked critical details.

Overall, I felt the movie was a “filler-inner”, setting up the audience for the last instalment. This breaks a major rule in story telling as it broke a promise to deliver a story; which is a beginning, middle and end. When the credits rolled up, I didn’t feel satisfied that a story had been told and neither did G. We both felt cheated!

Knowing what the last instalment brings, this makes me wonder if the film industry will be able to bring it together and deliver an ending that will leave the audience in awe. Because not to do so will mean they have failed miserably at their jobs. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

At this stage of the story, because we are closing in on the end, I would have liked to have watched a movie that left me gasping for more. I should have been writing a review that proudly displayed five out of five stars and I should be complaining that I simply cannot wait for the last movie to be presented to us. Instead, I do none of these things. For me, the movie Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the worst movie so far. I hope, truly hope, that this isn’t an indication of what’s to come.

DVD Review: Twilight

Originally posted on another site on 3 January 2010.

TwilightI’m on holiday, which always means that I have more time to do things I normally wouldn’t – like watch DVD’s. And as it’s the Christmas holidays, it also means that it’s more than likely that I received a couple of DVD’s as presents, which I did. One of those movies was Twilight.

Of course, I had heard of the books and the movie, and I had heard a lot of conflicting reviews on both. However, I had no expectations about the movie and, apart from knowing it was connected to vampires, I had no idea what the story was about. In turn, I didn’t have an advanced feeling that it would be good or bad, I was 100% neutral. This meant that when the movie started, I was able to view the story unfolding before me through my own eyes, instead of being biased by what others thought.

Not having read the books, I have no idea how true the movie was to the books…and I don’t care about that either, as I don’t intend to read them. The movie, for me, was OK. If I were to rate it out of five, I’d give it a three. It wasn’t terrible or unwatchable, but it wasn’t a great movie that will be watched over and over again either. It was a movie that I enjoyed at the time, but it didn’t make a lasting impression on me.

The main male character was strange to look at. I believe this was deliberately done, but I found it a bit distracting. The main female character was ordinary and I mean that in a good way. She wasn’t some Hollywood glamour queen, she was a normal looking human being and that made the movie all the better.

The plot is an old one. It’s been done plenty of times before. But I enjoyed it anyway. The graphics were good, there was enough action to make it exciting and I always like the romantic side of a story so I wasn’t disappointed there. Having said that, I felt that the love between these two people was too quick and not powerful enough.

I don’t really have a lot to say about it. As movies go, it was a good way to pass a few hours after a busy day, but I’m glad I didn’t pay to see it.

Introduction to Whispering Caves

Originally posted on another site on 2 January 2010.

Long ago, in a land far, far away…oh, hang on, that’s Stars Wars not Whispering Caves. Anyway, a long time ago, when I was young and unhappy I wrote a manuscript (two, in fact) that was 200,000+ words. This particular one was written as a form of escape from real life and it was a romantic fantasy in which all good things happened and all the characters were lovable and perfect. Everything was tinged in rose coloured happiness. It was beautiful, but, it wouldn’t have made a good best seller. Actually, it would have been the biggest flop in history! But I loved it.

Back then I was a closet writer, writing for my own enjoyment only. Since then things have changed. My life is no longer unhappy and I am a writer who strives for publication. I have grown in all ways, especially as a writer…yet the manuscript is still a favourite of mine.

Over the years I have tried to transform the manuscript into something other people would be willing to read, and hopefully enjoy. Yet on each occasion, my efforts were unsuccessful. I have always been the first to admit that. In the last six months, I have found myself revisiting the manuscript yet again and, this time, I believe I have the knowledge and know how to do the job properly. This time, I’m willing to give my characters flaws. I’m willing to give them real hang-ups and real problems. I’ve managed to pull myself away from them and tell a real story. A story with a plot, with conflict and emotions. At long last, I’m willing to put these characters through the wringer…and high time too.

I scraped the previous story completely, but kept the setting and the bare bones of the characters (ie their names and parts of their histories). Over the last few months I have been rebuilding the story from the ground up. The setting has been tweaked, as have the characters. A new plot is unfolding slowly. There are still a few unsure bits that I can’t fit into the puzzle all that well, but I’ll find a reason for that with time. And…to my delight…I wrote a short story which tells the events of how my people came to be in the world I’ve created. Everyone were given names and backgrounds and the setting was blended especially well (if I do say so myself) into our own history. I wrote this backstory in the form of a journal written by the main character, in first person. This allowed me to explore reasons and methods for what was happening. By the end of the short story, I felt I had a solid background for Whispering Caves. Almost none of this information will be included in the manuscript, but it’s important I know how things started, where names came from, why some traditions were kept and others discarded. The result is that I have a firm foundation to build the story upon now and that makes me feel very confident that this time I’ll get it right.

I’m Moving Back In!

Yes, I’m moving back in. After much thought, I’ve decided that I don’t want to give up my domain name. When the time comes to renew my hosting account, I’ll move to another, cheaper host instead. I have no problem with my current host, except for the cost, which is four times dearer than the same sort of setup I can get elsewhere (which I can get for less than a $1 a week). It’s a shame because having a host in the same city as me has been ideal when I need something fixed in a hurry, but it’s not worth the extra money I’m spending out.

Also, I’ve been checking the stats for both sites and this one remains well in front – with three times the visitors on a daily basis. I don’t think it’s a good idea to let that go without serious consideration.

Over the next few days/weeks, I’ll be moving individual posts here from the other site. After that, all new posts will be placed on both sites as I’m not going to let the other site waste away to nothing…and who knows what will happen in the future. Maybe, I’ll make the other site a mirror of the writing side only of this site. I’m not sure yet.

So, yeah, I’m back and you can expect an influx of posts…starting today.