Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Vampire Valley (Short Story)

A young boy is lost within Vampire Valley as nightfall draws in. As the sun goes down and the weather takes a turn for the worse, hunters are on the prowl and it's not long before the child's fear and imagination takes over believing that danger lurks around every corner. Not all of the dangers are within his imagination however so it's imperative for him to find a safe place to hide. In the meantime the boy's frantic mother searches the valley knowing all too well the life and death risk she is taking.

* * *

I remember that frightful day as though it were yesterday yet I was no more than a mere child when my life almost came to an end. The fragility of life comes all the more apparent when something as simple as getting separated from my mother for a few hours nearly caused my existence to cease. I was alone that day with only my wits to help me survive as I wandered alone within Vampire Valley.

It began with the inevitable panic as I rushed around frantically calling out to my mother hoping she was within earshot.

"Mummy!" I screeched at the top of my voice causing my throat to become sore, "Mummy!"

The darkening sky above appeared to spin and my breath grew shallow while I tried in vain to attract help. I was already light-headed due to panic. The dirt ground beneath my ragged boots crunched while the bare trees above offered no protection against the elements. My shoulders hunched from the cold and it was sure to rain as the grey sky darkened further.

"Mumm..." I yelled before stopping mid-sentence hearing a rustle within the thicket.

Could it be my mother? I wondered. Is my ordeal over? Am I rescued? Maybe it was something else, perhaps a monster on the hunt with me as its prey. I didn't want to wait around to find out if I was being stalked so instead ran as fast as my legs could carry me practically slipping against the loose ground. My breathing was fast, my belly ached with each breath, but it was essential that I did not slow, even for a moment, until I reached somewhere safe. I could feel raindrops already starting to fall.

I ran on and on, as fast as I could, but could still hear sounds behind me. The sounds of breathing, the sounds of snapping twigs and the sounds of snarling creatures. The sounds echoed throughout my mind, causing me to feel giddy, filling my head with extreme panic, and it wasn't long before they surrounded me. I could see nothing, just the trees among the darkening sky illuminated by the full moon. But I knew of the reputation of Vampire Valley and the monsters lurking within the darkness. They were ruthless hunters and could be hiding all around me luring me into a trap.

I collapsed in a heap with total exhaustion not being able to run any further while panting heavily trying to regain my breath. I sensed movement from behind but the moment I turned and saw nothing. The fear of being followed diminished only to be replaced by sensing more movement from behind. My imagination was playing tricks upon me but my eyes were not so easily fooled.

The sound of a bird swooping from the thicket both startled me and filled my heart with relief. I clearly wasn't being stalked but within a flash my imagination took over again and I wondered as to what had startled the bird.

With just a hint of a smile of relief I spotted my eye on a dilapidated shack among the trees, not long for this world but sturdy enough for temporary shelter. My ankle twinged as I jumped to my feet but ignoring the pain I hobbled as fast as I could towards the shack practically diving inside. Swiftly I slid across the creaky wooden floorboards then huddled in the corner hugging myself for warmth and to self comfort my shattered nerves.

It wasn't long before the sky darkened further, causing the already crisp air to bite, as nightfall fell. The rain poured heavily tapping against of what remained of the tin roof of my shelter, yet it barely covered the sound of my own breath that croaked with each inhalation.

My ears were poised listening intently at the sound of something approaching but with the sound of the pouring rain ricocheting from the dilapidated shack it was difficult to know whether it was my imagination playing tricks again. Maybe I had been lured into a trap after all for there was no escape from my present location.

It took me a while to reach the conclusion that it wasn't my imagination and footsteps were actually making their approach. I held my breath while my body shook as I saw the silhouette of a figure standing within the open doorway. It was difficult to see clearly within the partial moonlight. It was a woman wearing Victorian clothing shaking raindrops from an umbrella as she entered. The stench of death oozed from her pours filling the shack with the aroma of fresh blood. The woman looked down at me, grinning widely, revealing her razor sharp fangs that appeared to glow within the near darkness.

"Mummy!" I called out jumping to my feet and rushing over to her.

She hugged me tightly as tears fell from my eyes. I was safe once more.


Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Mirror's Edge (Comic Book Review)

I bought a Mirror's Edge graphic novel recently from an online book store, via ebay, that sells used books. For a fairly recent publication it has that addictive old book smell to it that kind of smells bad yet pleasant simultaneously.

The comic is a full graphic novel rather than a compilation of smaller comics and is 144 pages long. Other than the intro page and one page of ads for other books the rest is all story. It's published by Wildstorm Publications.

The story begins with Faith as a runner but is initially set before she gets her tattoos. The story is faithful to the original Mirror's Edge game containing most of the same characters albeit without her best friend Celeste. I suppose the story counts as a prequel so it's possible they haven't met yet. Faith's sister makes a number of appearances too as a disapproving yet caring police officer.

Whilst discovering a fellow runner being attacked Faith assists and fights off the attacker where upon the runner's bag is dropped spilling its photographic contents. Faith realises they are surveillance photos of her father and suspects that he may be in danger due to the Libertas freedom movement he had once been involved in. As Faith continues to investigate she discovers more about her late mother and her and an electronic device she had been working on. There is a lot more to this story which I won't mention because of spoilers.

The entire feel to the comic matches the Mirror's Edge game precisely and its clear the authors have done a good job researching the source material, being true to the characters and not wavering from the lore. It's a very easy read too, divided into chapters and laid out neatly upon the page. Some of the chapter covers have Faith's appearance being off-model but that's only a mild criticism as she is clearly pictured within the story itself. My only real criticism is the ending appeared far too swift and didn't fully resolve the mystery about Faith's mother.

An exciting read.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

The Art of Mirror's Edge Catalyst (Book Review)

I've always had a lot of mixed feelings when it comes to the Mirror's Edge video games as I enjoy them immensely yet at the same time feel that they could have been a lot better, especially Mirror's Edge Catalyst which didn't feel finished. As well as the games there are a number of books and comics available.

The Art of Mirror's Edge Catalyst is a beautiful book containing stunning images taken from the game as well as concept art, promotional art and illustrations of in-game props such as Faith's running shoes for instance. There's also a lot of art from the original Mirror's Edge too.

The text is brief and written in the style of collective first-person with the game creators known as DICE explaining their love for the game whilst showing the related art work. Even at 200 pages long it can be read in one sitting but re-enjoyed over and over again looking at the stunning pictures.

The book is available in hard back and measures approximately 12 inches x 9 inches (30cm x 23cm). It's published by Dark Horse Books.

In summary I'd say this book is a must for all Mirror's Edge fans yet I can't help but feel it over praises the game showing the potential of what the game could have been rather than what the game turned out to be. I suspect the book was compiled while the game was still in production.

Stunning artwork.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Resident Evil Subtitles

Just a quick post today. I thought I'd mention something I noticed about the subtitles when I was playing Resident Evil. I've mentioned something similar before when talking about 66 and 99 quotation marks but I noticed that it also applied to this game.

It appears the programmers couldn't decide, or didn't notice, the varying styles of quotation parks within their game.

“things” & "thing."

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Changing Internet

For someone who was into computers from an early age I was quite late when it came to using the internet. I had been using bulletin board services via a computer modem for a number of years before I signed up to the internet. It was 1999 and I signed up with MSN as my Internet Service Provider. I was so naive back then and confused as to why I had both MSN Explorer and Internet Explorer installed even though they were both made by Microsoft and did exactly the same thing.

It didn't take me long to start creating websites of my own. I wasn't bothered by attracting lots of views, even though many of them were popular at the time, I simply made sites about subjects I had an interest in. Gaming, anime and sci-fi, to name a few.

Internet Explorer contained an edit button so it was a simple task to view the HTML code of someone's website and see how they put it together. People also often had a Links section on their website too as to list other sites containing similar subject matter. There was always an email link too to send the website creator a message.

While re-uploading some of my older websites I noticed how old fashioned many of them look, with a Links section and email option. Modern sites are far more likely to have Facebook, Twitter and other social network sites rather than an email option. Linking to other sites however is far rarer as I guess people don't want to promote sites that are essentially their competitors.

I was thinking about other ways the internet has changed over the years.

Home made websites are certainly on the decline but in many ways this is more down to people setting up Facebook groups about a particular topic or fandom they are promoting.

I also noticed chat rooms have changed drastically. They used to be a place for living out a fantasy of pretending to be someone else but not only do people tend not to do that anymore they will often cry the word troll when they point out someone isn't who they claim to be. I've been called a troll for splashing water in a virtual pool with someone pointing out to me that the pool doesn't exist. Ten years ago they would have splashed me back and we would have swapped anime pictures as selfies.

YouTube has changed drastically too. It's hard to believe but there was a time when people just posted their home movies and gaming clips for the fun of it without monetising their vids incorporating an ad. There's even been cases of people copyright flagging people's content for simply having the same idea as someone else. As for the comments section it's now beyond a joke with the amount of offensive things said.

Why is it that all the ads on adult sites take mere seconds to appear on the screen, yet on newspaper sites and Microsoft sites the ads grind the page to a halt? I've never understood that. Does this mean Pornhub employs only the best talented programmers while Microsoft doesn't? Makes you think.

Pretty much the only social network site people used when I first got the internet was MySpace. While it still exists its a mere shadow of its former self, now there's a vast variety each with their own distinct features. I use Twitter a lot as well as Pinterest and Facebook. In fact I have two Twitter accounts with one specifically for gaming posts. In the past it would have been a lot more fiddly to post gaming screenshots and clips directly to a website. Social networking is also a good way to send people messages without knowing their email address.

In summary I think it's a mixed bag, with some internet changes being for the worse and others a great improvement. Where the internet is heading is another matter entirely. There's been a lot of talk recently about net neutrality and how it's going to be abolished. It basically means the Internet Service Provider you use may choose to block their competitors' sites if they so wish. An ISP with its own movie player website may not want its users using YouTube for example. Whether this will work in practice however is a totally different matter and I'm sure ISPs that still keep net neutrality in place will be the ones that remain popular.

An internet oldie.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Author's Notes - The Writing Process

I was watching a movie recently, it was a horror film called The Ballerina, but while it was great I felt slightly annoyed by the background music continuing to play over the sound of the characters speaking. So I went to select subtitles but realised there weren't any. This was a rented movie that was streamed through my PlayStation and it didn't contain that function. I'm sure it would have if I had purchased it on DVD.

Back to the subject of this blog entry. I was thinking back to my early days as a writer and all the books I wrote for Lulu Publishing. Lulu's website is all about book publishing and while users have to sign up to it in order to purchase a book it's still structured around writers rather than readers. In other words I was certain most people who used Lulu's marketplace were also authors so I always added a little extra chapter at the end of each story. The chapter being "Author's Notes - The Writing Process". It was essentially a couple of pages of notes about how I came up with the plot, how long it took to write and resources I researched in the process. I liked the idea of giving other authors an insight on how other writers create their work. Later when converting the books for the Amazon Kindle editions I skipped those final chapters.

Just as with the movie without the option for subtitles I realised my books had been lacking something that they once possessed in the past. While most readers may not be interested in author's notes I'm sure there are a lot that are. My latest book contains author's notes and I'm going to make sure to include them in all future titles as well as new editions of existing titles.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Writing Erotica

There's a stigma when it comes to writing erotic books making it a whole lot more complicated than other genres. They can often be judged as offensive or degrading even if the erotic element is fairly tame.

There are also authors who see them as a cheap way to make a quick buck. It's no surprise that erotic short stories are popular on the Amazon Kindle and while many are written with passion by an author with talent there are also substandard books that were clearly written for the sake of getting another sale. I don't judge writers for that for in my experience an erotic short story will far outsell a much larger novel, and I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the authors of erotic books started out writing mainstream stories.

I've read an erotic book that was a trilogy of tales about a woman with a magic futa wand that would temporarily give whoever she used it in an incredibly large penis. This would then lead onto a sex act. The premise of the plot was very simple, and essentially comedy, yet it was clear the author had a passion for her work and didn't skimp on details as to how she felt seeing the giant penis inflate in front of her.

I've read another book about a woman with large lactating breasts who decides to feed her two boyfriends. That is the entire plot in on sentence yet the book was 30 pages long describing even the minutest of details.

Some erotic shorts however tend to be too clinical in details, or incredibly brief, essentially listing a number of sex acts rather than actually describing them. I've also read a detailed story about a woman hiking, meeting men upon her journey, then indulging in casual sex. Strangely this too would mention no more than a paragraph or so about each sexual encounter before the main character would be on her way again.

Personally when it comes to my own writing I've noticed there's a tenancy to feel awkward or embarrassed about writing erotica that doesn't apply to other genres such as horror for instance which may be incredibly violent and disturbing. In some ways writing about a werewolf ripping out someone's guts in a gory frenzy is considered fairly normal whereas a story about two lovers giving each other anal sex could be seen as perverse. Maybe I'm a prude or just easily embarrassed. I suppose it's down to the reader making assumptions about the author's inner thoughts. If someone knew I thought about werewolves killing people they'd know it's just a fantasy whereas if a reader knew of my sexual thought's they'd wonder if I actually partook in such activities.

Most of my stories tend to be set around mythology, warriors and fairies but it's erotica that sells. It's a sad fact but when it comes to publishing ebooks a 10 page erotic short will far outsell a 300 page novel, yet on the other hand it's far less likely to receive a review. My guess is people don't like to admit they read erotic books so avoid reviewing their purchase.

"The difference between pornography and erotica is lighting."
 - Gloria Leonard.