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 a single 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.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Egyptology: Search For The Tomb of Osiris (Book Review)

I was given a book recently all about ancient Egypt and the Tomb of Osiris. It's one of those expensive large books that contains lots of folded maps, pullouts and various things inside that make the experience a whole lot more interesting to read, getting the reader involved with the exploration. I've read similar books and it makes it so much easier to learn when the author explains how facts were derived rather than just stating them.

This book was different though in that it was a reproduced journal of a failed attempt to search for the Tomb of Osiris ending abruptly with the author's supposed death. The final page even has stains on it that may have been coffee or possibly blood. The book was written by Emily Sands, a brilliant name for an archaeologist by the way, and mentions personal notes as well as records of facts about ancient Egypt.

I was a little suspicious about it due to the illustrations being so beautifully drawn while the text itself was so brief. I'm sure that if it was supposed to be the main journal shared by the team of archaeologists it would be full of detailed notes. There was a photo too but the author wasn't pictured but she may have been the one taking the photograph. The publisher also mentions at the beginning and at the end that, while the journal claims to be true, it could be an elaborate hoax as some of the facts mentioned wouldn't have been known to the author at the time. She talks of Tutankhamen's canopic jars for instance before they were revealed to the world.

Rather than the book simply being facts about ancient Egypt it became more of a story about an amateur archaeologist and her friends as they search for a missing tomb. I couldn't put the book down and read it from cover to cover in one sitting totally hooked on what happens next caring more about the author than what was actually discovered. I do hope that it's all a big hoax however because I the thought of people dying whilst searching for a lost tomb is upsetting. There were detailed sketches of the tomb's entrance though so if the tomb is ever found then it would prove it all true.

A brilliant read from cover to cover.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Why I Don't Talk About Mental Illness

This may seem a unusual subject on a blog about books but it's something I feel needs to be mentioned even though I've no desire to get into the specifics of my illness. I've been suffering with mental illness since I was a child and it's not something that can be 'cured' no matter how many years of therapy I've had or will have in the future. When it comes to writing I find it allows me to focus my mind and keep me occupied, it's also allows me to express myself in a way I would normally find so difficult.

Obviously, being a writer I've written a book about my mental illness and my experiences seeking treatment. I mention it on my website as well as briefly mentioning that I have such an affliction. Other than that I try to avoid the subject altogether.

I want my stories to be judged on their merits not on the mental state of the author. If I write a terrible book I'd like someone to tell me my story sucked, I don't want them to think it was a good attempt for someone suffering mental illness. If I write an epic novel that becomes a best seller I want to be celebrated for my achievement as an author, not an author who wrote something wonderful despite suffering with mental illness.

Then there's the stigma of mental illness or as it seems nowadays the opposite. I've noticed in recent years, especially on social networking sites, that people will describe themselves as having mental illness within their profiles. I'm all for people talking about mental health, I think it's important that people share their experiences, but in some cases people are branding the name of specific mental afflictions like a badge of honour. The problem with this is that I'm sure a lot of people are simply making it up or self diagnosing for the sake of appearing cool. People with genuine mental illness are suffering day in, day out, they'd give anything to live a normal life. Brandishing their mental condition at every opportunity is the last thing on their minds.

On Twitter if there's a mental health awareness week, or something similar, I happily talk about such things not hiding my illness from my followers, but the rest of the time I shut up about it and talk about books or whatever subject I find interesting at the time.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Bad Programming

Many years ago, back in my younger days as a computer programmer, there was an expression GIGO (Garbage In Garbage Out) which basically meant if you type garbage into the computer you'll also get garbage out. There was also a two word expression 'Bad Programming' which was in reference to a programmer who failed to make the software in question fool-proof. Many a time a program may ask for a simple input and the user may type in words instead of a numerical input and the program would crash with a 'type mismatch' error message. Then there was software that worked perfectly within one operating system but failing to work within another. As to who was at fault was a matter of debate but it still counts as bad programming.

The point I'm making with this blog entry is about compatibility issues within internet browsers. I'll be the first to agree that Microsoft lost its way some time ago, like a sailing ship with no captain, and I could list a huge amount of issues within Internet Explorer and Edge but there are plenty of bloggers out there that already do that.

Generally speaking I use Google Chrome and my websites are specifically designed for display within that browser. On rare occasions I'll use Edge because it can view PDF files without requiring Adobe Acrobat which is a brilliant feature. The PlayStation 4 has a browser built in too which is a variation of Apple's Safari. I still use Internet Explorer sometimes but generally it's just to test that my websites still work on it.

One thing I will never do is have a message on any of my sites that says "Best viewed in Google Chrome" or words to that effect. When making a website it has to work in every browser. It doesn't matter if Internet Explorer is a pile of poo, if a website doesn't work on it then it's bad programming! There's no point in moaning that Microsoft are years behind innovation and the like, if you have a website that isn't going to work for most users then you'll in effect lose customers.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Writing Is An Art

"were" is the past tense of "are".
"was" is the past tense of "is".
"were" and "was" can both be used as past tense of "am" unless it follows "if" in which case only "were" should be used, unless the "if" in question asks for a person's age in which case it should be "was" as past tense of "am" and never "were."

This is the kind of nonsense that puts people off writing. Now I'm going to tell you a secret that all writers know that most people don't. There is no right and wrong when it comes to spelling and grammar, there are preferred spellings and preferred rules of grammar but it's never a case of being right or wrong.

Writing is an art. A writer's intention is to create a picture in the reader's mind about what is happening within the story taking place. The writer will often skip details that are deemed unimportant while going into precise detail about events relevant to the plot. The written word becomes a tool that coneys the story, not just telling the events but taking the reader upon a journey letting them see the events taking place.

There's no right or wrong way to paint a picture, and there's no right or wrong way to write a story. Of course once a writer has finished the story they will go through it with a fine tooth comb checking the grammar and spelling but it's just for the sake of making it an easier read.

Don't be too concerned about the structure of writing. Just get that story down. If someone tells you you're wrong for using the word "laid" instead of "lay", or tells you the word "agasp" doesn't exist just ignore them. You are the writer not them, write it your way.

Incidentally I'm a big fan of the Oxford comma.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Writing Tools

Recently I came to the conclusion that I found it far easier to write within Microsoft FrontPage than within Microsoft Word even though FrontPage is a web editor. I think it's because I can see what I'm writing far more clearly than with Word which distorts the font size and paper making it larger than how it would be seen in printed form. Obviously I could simply adjust Word's settings and zoom out but I find the text gets scrunched up that way. Once the written work is complete it's a simple copy/paste and format check into Word to made sure everything's hunky-dory.

I remember reading about Patrick Moore who used to type on an old typewriter made in the 1800s, far earlier than before he was born, simply because he had used it all his life and felt no need to get to a newer one.

There's also the story of a professional writer who had a 266Mhz PC with Window 98 and an early version of Microsoft Word. He would start the computer, wait for it to fully boot up, then click on Word and it would open in two seconds. He later purchased a 3Ghz PC with Windows 8 and the latest Microsoft Office including Word. The computer's fan was noisy sounding like a vacuum cleaner. He clicked on Word and it took twelve seconds to start. No doubt he went back to his old computer. This may be an urban myth as an anti Microsoft story but it's certainly believable. Incidentally Windows 10 is a constant annoyance for me, luckily I have Windows 7 on my little notebook computer.

I think the point I'm making is that there is no best tool when it comes to writing, it's all about what's best for you. If you prefer to hand write you may have the hassle of having to type it out later but your creative juices flow far better when you're feeling relaxed. Get the story written down in the most comfortable manner as possible, you can deal with formatting, spelling and grammar later. You don't need the latest fancy word processing software to do it. You can even use Notepad that comes with Windows to write you manuscript, if you publish on Amazon Kindle it even allows for that.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

66 & 99 Punctuation

I was thinking about this recently whilst copying files from Microsoft Word to HTML web format then having to test the website in different browsers to see if the 66 & 99 copied properly. This also applies to curved apostrophes and elongated dashes but I wondered how many other punctuation marks are effected.

If you don't know what I'm referring to the 66 and 99 represent the types of double quotation marks. In the days of typewriters and early computers there was just one key to represent the double quote and it would always display as straight quotes. (Shift 2 on a standard UK keyboard). Modern computers still work the same way, but Microsoft Word cleverly detects whether the double quote should be a 66 or 99 then displays the correct character within the font selected. So instead of straight double quotes" you get 66“ and 99” accordingly.

As I already mentioned this also applies to the single quote or apostrophe and also the length of a dash. So it's something to look out for when copying one format to another. So far I haven't noticed any other changes but I'm sure there could be a lot that I simply haven't noticed yet. It doesn't bother me too much but I like consistency when it comes to that kind of thing.

Incidentally I once saw a poster advertising a pantomime that contained both a straight and curved apostrophe within the same banner. I wondered if I would have noticed before I started writing books.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Vampire Woman (Book Review)

This is one of the first books I bought on Amazon Kindle. I think it was the cover that first attracted me to read the book description, then I became intrigued wanting to read the story.

I won't go into too much detail as to not ruin the plot but it's basically a short story about a vampire who's respectful to her victims and always makes sure to leave them alive after feeding. Even though she does have fangs, and the urge to bite, she instead uses a blade attached to her ring to leave the wound clean. She uses cunning and skill to lure her victims, and despite being hundreds of years old takes advantage of modern technology not relying on the old ways of a vampire. Despite living in a large creepy castle this story is set in modern times.

The story focuses upon the horror of what's taking place rather than gore which unfortunately is a trap a lot of modern horror stories fall into. It's not overly frightening per se but that may be down to the fact that it's written from the vampire's point of view, she's not afraid of herself after all.

My only criticism is the title 108 Mystery Stories at the top of the cover which is somewhat confusing.

The author, Jangle Charm, has a wide range of stories including children's books, mystery stories, romance and many, many more.

A caring vampire.