First Week Done and Dusted

Well I started this week an absolute bundle of nerves. I was worried about everything from getting on a train, to being around and meeting new people. But I have to say that now my induction week is over, I’ve really quite enjoyed uni so far. I spent the week meeting lecturers and students, finding out a bit more about my course and having a wander around campus.

One of my main worries was how I was actually going to get there. I eventually, and I’ll say, reluctantly opted for getting the train in each day. I was worried about this because I couldn’t even say when I’d last gotten on a train; I just know it was years ago. But after spending a week of going to a fro, I’ve realised that it’s not that bad. It probably would have been worse trying to drive in. At least with the train, I don’t need to worry about how I get there, where I can park and then remember where I’ve left my car. Plus, getting the train has given me an opportunity to catch up on some reading. I’ve already read a few short stories that have been on my to-read list for a while. For now, I’m happy to keep doing what I’m doing.

Another thing I was anxious about was finding my way around. I’d already been given a little map, but I still thought I’d get lost. But I quickly realised that everyone else was in the same boat as me. Every single one of us was wandering around, trying to figure out where we should be. In the end, though, I’ve found it relatively easy to find my way around campus. Next week I’ll have to start again because my actual lectures are in different buildings to the ones I’ve been in this week, but I’m more confident that I’ll work it out.

Happily I’ve found a place where I can get coffee and a park I can either sit in or have a wander around when I need a break from the busyness of central campus.

I’ve met some really lovely people, both students and lecturers, and I already feel less alone than I did on Monday.

It will take me a while to get into my new routine, but I feel like I’m already well on my way to adjusting to all the change. I know that it’s not bad change, but historically I’ve never been very good with any kind of alteration to my life and routine.

Overall I feel a lot more positive about things now and am even more looking forward to getting stuck into my course.

Having said all this, after this week I’m absolutely knackered. It feels like it’s been a very long week with lots going on. I’m so very ready for the weekend.

I hope you’ve all had a good week and will have an even better weekend.

Vampyr: An Awkward Trophy Guide

A while ago I wrote a review of the game Vampyr. At the end of the review I put a short section about one of the harder trophies to pick up if you’re going for the elusive platinum. I’ve had some great feedback about the post and how it helped them with something that was particularly difficult so I thought I’d do another post with some information on how to do some of the other hard to get trophies. Hopefully this guide will shed some light on them for you and help you on your way to platinum.

Unlife is Strange

For this trophy you need to water ‘Lisa’. This is the name that Jonathan gives to the dying plant in his room at the hospital. In order to save it and make it grow you need to pick up some fresh water and give it to the plant. This item can only be found upon beginning Chapter 4 of the game and can be found in a cabinet in a small shop across from where you save the citizen Mr Kimura from a level 22-24 ekon that you will have to defeat to gain access to the shop in question. Once you have the water, take it back to Jonathan’s room and give to the plant. After sleeping a total of three times, the plant will grow and the trophy will pop.

Bloody Roots

I’ve previously gone over the requirements for this trophy in an older blog post. But I feel there are a few things that need to be stressed about it. As well as bagging you a trophy, solving this puzzle will also snag you one of the best weapons in the game, so it’s well worth trying to get it.

  1. You need to find all documents in the game. If you’re doing a pacifist run this can be quite hard to do, but it’s still possible.
  2. DO NOT read Usher Talltree’s book that he asks you to collect for him. If you do, you won’t receive one of the other documents and so won’t be able to complete the requirements for the trophy.
  3. The puzzle seems to change depending on what the game randomises. The solution that worked for me (see previous blog post) might not work for you. You’ll need to check all the documents you collect for the small white pixel in the corner and the pattern displayed to make sure what your pattern is.

Tools of the Profession – Keep Your Distance – Weapon of Choice

All these trophies are impossible on a pacifist run. Some of the weapons you can only receive by killing a citizen and either picking it up off their body or by looting a key for their safe.

If you kill someone and then sleep, it might transpire that another character will go missing. If this happens, their weapon will be lost and you won’t be able to pick it up for the trophy. I’d recommend killing everyone in one night so this doesn’t happen.

Not Even Once

This can be easily missed. At the start of the game, Jonathan is given the option to bite or release a character called Clay. If you bite and kill him, that’s the end of your pacifist run. Letting him live will mean you can carry on and as long as you don’t kill anyone else you’ll get this trophy.

Doing a pacifist run however, isn’t easy. You won’t gain XP from killing characters and will only get it from healing them or through normal combat. This might mean that your pacifist run is considerably longer than a genocide run.

Lore Keeper

As mentioned in the Bloody Roots section you need to collect all the in game documents for this one to pop and reading Usher Talltree’s book will stop you from collecting one of them.

It took me three runs to platinum Vampyr, but it can be done in two if you do one pacifist and one genocide.

So that’s some of the more awkward trophies in Vampyr. Happy hunting!

Today’s The Day…

Today I start my creative writing course at University.

Over the past few years, I’ve written 3 books – Creatures, The Next Stage and Blindsighted –  and in that time, I have learned a lot about being a writer, but now I’m doing something that will help me improve even further; I’m heading to university to do a course on creative writing.

A year ago, I never would have thought that would be happening. I thought I’d lost my love of IT, and I wouldn’t find anything else that I could genuinely get into, but I was wrong. Despite no longer liking working in IT, I thought that I would inevitably drift back into it as it was the only thing I’ve ever known and that I was good at.

Writing came out of nowhere as a hobby and something I would do after my day job or at weekends. But it soon became bigger than that, and I wanted to take it further by making it my career.

I’m by no means the best of writers, and I’m not so up my own arse that I don’t think I could learn more about the craft, so when the opportunity came up to go to university to study it, despite being sceptical at first, thinking I wouldn’t get in, I jumped at the chance.

Today is what this past year has been all about. It’s all been leading to this point. The beginning of a new journey in my life. One that I want to make the very best of and one I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

Today is a big day for me. I’m excited and anxious as all hell, but I’m going to go and put everything I have into it.

This week is going to be a big adjustment for me. It’s the first week in a long time that I’ve had to be somewhere and not be able to do my own thing. It’s been over a year since I quit my 9-5, and I still don’t think that I’ve adjusted to a new routine. Now I’m throwing myself into a new one, and I’m hoping that my brain doesn’t implode. I’m just lucky to have someone who is always behind me and supports what I want to do. Alex is always there for me and encouraging me, and I couldn’t have got here without her. Sorry to be soppy, but my wife is the best 😊

So now, I’m away to start on the new road my life has taken; wish me luck!

Coming Next Week: University!

Next week I have the start of all things university. I’ll be beginning my induction week on Monday, where I will learn more about my course and meet some of the people involved in it.

I’m simultaneously both looking forward to this and dreading it.

My anxiety is hitting the roof right now and only seems to be getting worse the closer I get to starting. This is usually the case when I have to do something, especially something new, but I’m generally okay once I start, so I’m hoping this will follow previous patterns.

I can’t wait to start, it’s a whole new adventure for me, and I look forward to everything it brings.

I’ve had my schedule through for when the course actually starts, and I’m not in all that much – in fact, I’m only in 2 days. As I’ve not been in full-time education for years, I’m doing what’s called a ‘foundation year’. This will ease me into uni life slowly and teach me how to study again (something that I’ve never been great at historically). I would imagine that my schedule will be a little busier when I start my true first year of the course.

For now, though, two days where I’m required to be there isn’t too bad and depending on what I have to do for uni, I will be able to continue with my current schedule of writing and blogging, at least for a bit. However, I’m sure I’ll eventually have to work out something new to take into account my course requirements.

As I said, I’ve got a mixture of hope and fear going into this course, but I’m mainly trying to stay positive. It will help me with my writing and maybe even help me get a job in the future.

While I’m studying, make my day even better by picking up a copy of one of my books. Each book bought puts a smile on my face, so head over to Amazon and check them out.

Life is Strange: True Colors (Review)

Life is Strange: True Colors is a third person graphic adventure released on the 10th of September 2021 for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5 and PC. It is the fifth game in the Life is Strange series but the third main game, following Life is Strange 2. Unlike the previous games, this game is split up into chapters and not episodes, and the full game was released rather than an episode every few months.

In-game, you play as protagonist Alex Chen, a woman that can see and feel other people’s emotions, while she explores the town of Haven to investigate the circumstance of her brother’s death. Alex’s psychic empathy power allows her to read and impact people’s emotions, which she sees as colourful auras surrounding them. Some of these emotions are more intense and relate to past trauma or difficulty that the character may be going through. She can then interact with items in the world around her to tell her the whole story and allow her to comfort the affected NPC.

We love the Life is Strange games; they’re always so well done and really enjoyable to play, so when True Colors was announced, we couldn’t wait to play it. However, we didn’t think it was going to be as good as previous instalments in the series because from the trailer, the power that Alex has looked a bit crap; but we were so wrong.

We picked up the game on its day of release and dove straight into it. Straight away, we were blown away by how beautiful the game was. The idyllic setting of the town of Haven looks incredible. The colours are vibrant, and the amount of detail is impressive.

When you first arrive, you get to explore the small town with Alex’s brother Gabe. He introduces you to the townsfolk, and they all greet you with a smile and a cheery attitude, But it’s not long before something goes wrong and the cracks in the town begin to show. Before long, you start to see exactly what Alex’s power is, and it’s far more impressive than the trailer would lead you to believe.

As with the other games in the series, the choices you make in dialogue or in certain situations affect how characters interact with you and how the game – while still sticking to a fairly linear story – plays out.

As you explore the town, you find out more about the citizens and their secrets and have the opportunity to help them through something that they are struggling with by using your empathetic power.

As well as the main story, there are several mini-games within the game that you can play at certain times. These range from arcade machines to table football.

In a chapter of the game, the town performs its own LARP – live-action roleplay – for the benefit of one of the children. This is incredibly well done and involves taking part in several turn-based battles against different foes, exploring the town for jewels and scrolls and battling an evil presence. When this switches from normal town view to how the child sees it, the graphics kick up a notch and look even better than before – if that’s at all possible.

The fact that this game was released in its entirety rather than an episode every so often means that you can just play through it once you start the story. This made us feel more invested in the story as we didn’t have a chance to forget what had happened in a previous episode. I think this release method works so much better than episodic release, and I hope that this continues for the next game.

Everything about this game is brilliant. The graphics, the characters and voice acting and the story. All of which makes you feel so invested in the game and the characters. And as always, the soundtrack is incredible and really sets the mood of the game.

Even when only halfway through the game, we knew that this game was our favourite from the series. There isn’t a bad thing to be said about it. Alex has to be the best protagonist of the lot.

It’s probably pretty obvious what I’ll be rating this game, but I’m going to say it anyway. It gets a 10/10.

Do you enjoy the Life is Strange games? Which is your favourite? Have you played True Colors? What do you think of it?

What To Write?

Being a writer sometimes means that you have to juggle your different ideas. I recently asked my fellow writers on Twitter how they decide which idea to work on;

I currently have around 9 ideas that are in various stages of development. Some are just a very basic idea, some have a number of notes written for them, and others have several chapters done.

I tend to flit between ideas often. If I have a new idea that I want to develop, I will spend some time working on that before continuing with previous ideas. Some stories come easier than others. For example, I got a bit stuck with my story It’s All in the Eyes, and then I had the idea for Blindsighted. I found the latter flowed smoother and quicker, and I could fully develop that into a release.

At the moment, I’m working on, And Then I Killed Her, which for now is coming freely. However, if I get stuck, I may move on to one of my other ideas.

Having said that, if I come up with a new idea – for example, I came up with an idea for a new story the other day that involves a homeless wizard – I may spend a few minutes writing a few sentences or jotting down the basic premise, but I won’t spend a great deal of time working on it.

Some books, like The Next Stage 2 and Creatures 2, are coming off the back of a previous entry, so I have a few ideas bouncing around of where I can take the story, but because – in my mind – they have to live up to the book that came before I spend a bit more time figuring things out. Creatures 2 is around halfway written, but I got a little stuck and decided that I would move on to something else rather than struggling with it.

It can be a blessing and a curse to have a lot of ideas bouncing around. On the one hand, it’s great because you’ve always got something to work on if you have issues with a current WIP. But on the other, it can be a pain because I want to work on several at a time. For example, I’m really excited about my wizard story, but my current serial killer WIP is going so well that I don’t want to stop writing it if I lose my flow.

As I’ve found from asking folks on Twitter, everyone has a different way of figuring out which story they will work on at any given time. As with many things, what works for one, might not work for you, so find your own method.

My University Journey

If you’ve read some of my previous blog posts, you’ll know that I’m starting university in September. I’ll be off to The University of Salford to study a creative writing course, and I honestly can’t wait. Although a part of me is quite nervous.

I applied for my course back in December 2020 as I had left my job earlier in the year and got a little disillusioned with working in IT. I needed a change, and as I had found something I loved – writing –  I wanted to do something that would help me further my skills and perhaps stand me in good stead for a future job role. I was tentative to apply because I’d obviously already had my A-Level results, and they weren’t the best. I was worried that the length of time between now and college was too long, too.

It was an easy process to go through, and although I didn’t have to wait until my results came in, I still had to wait to find out if I had a place or not. I had a pretty decent personal statement that I tried my best to sell myself with, though, and I hoped that this would be enough.

The waiting for the application deadline and the university’s response was unbearable. I just had this feeling that my poor results and age would go against me.

The deadline for a response from the uni was May, and just before it was up, I got a conditional offer. This offer was based on me proving what grades I got at A-level. Now came the fun part; finding the evidence. I knew that I had them with my ROA (Record of Achievement), but as we’d just moved house, I had no idea where that was. After a bit of digging, though, we found it, and I sent it over. Although that was the only thing I had been asked to do, I still had a feeling that it was going to go wrong in some way. So, when an unconditional offer came through just a few days later, I was over the moon. I’d done it; I’d got into uni.

There wasn’t much for me to do in the following few months other than sort out my student finance and wait to start. But as time passed, I began to get more and more anxious about going. As much as I was looking forward to it, there was always that small part of my brain telling me that they’d realise their mistake soon and I won’t be able to go after all.

Thankfully, that time hasn’t come, and I’ve recently registered properly for my course and have received my student card through. I now feel like I can relax and stop thinking that they’ll rescind their offer, but now I’m just really anxious to start.

It’s only a matter of weeks until I start, and I’m trying to get myself prepared. I’m going to spend my time putting together blogs that I can schedule and reading up on my modules and whatnot for the course.

For the first time in a long time, I’m looking forward to my future (work-wise), and I can’t wait to get going.

Dead Space: The Most Terrifying Game Ever

Dead Space is a survival horror game that was released in October 2008 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.

The game is set on a mining spaceship that is now infested by creatures known as Necromorphs. You take control of Isaac Clarke, an engineer that has to investigate what happened aboard the ship. He not only has to fight the aforementioned Necromorphs but also increasing psychosis. As you explore the ship, environmental noises and music, along with the darkness, serve to disorient you and draw you deeper into the horrific nature of the game. This game throws enemies at you that you can’t outright kill. Instead, you have to dismember their bodies one limb at a time until they stop coming at. When you’ve got multiple enemies coming at you, this serves to increase your anxiety to dangerous levels.

Back in 2008, when Dead Space came out, it was straight on my list. I couldn’t wait to get my teeth into it, but this wasn’t to last.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love horror games, but I’m a wuss when it comes to playing them. As much as I wanted to play this game, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I would dip in and out of it every so often, never able to spend much time playing as the anxiety it would induce was incredible. Time moved on, and I all but forgot about it. When the sequels came out, I wanted to play them, but I saw no point as I hadn’t finished the first one.

Over the years, I managed to collect all three games but still didn’t play them. Recently, however, I’ve been on a kick to finish games that have been on my to-play list for far too long. Many of these games are horror games such as Alien Isolation, Resident Evil VII, and Dead Space.

I was looking for a game to stream when I decided that it would be a good idea to do Dead Space, and I used this as motivation to finally get it finished.

As soon as I started the game again, I remembered why I had so much trouble playing it. To begin with; it’s terrifying.

I don’t know what exactly makes it one of the scariest games I’ve ever played, but I think it’s a combination of enemies that just keep on coming for you, the darkness of space, the near-constant background noise of things running around in the ship and the fact that I’m still a wuss.

After several weeks of streaming – doing a couple of hours at a time – I finally finished Dead Space this weekend, and now that I have, I’m so glad I decided to play it because it’s a fantastic game. Everything about it is so well done.

I’m going to give Dead Space a 9/10. The graphics and effect are excellent. The music and sound are top-notch, and the gameplay makes you want to keep coming back for more despite knowing that it’s not good for you.

Having now finished the first game, there is a part of me that wants to jump straight into the second, but there’s a bigger part of me that just isn’t ready for it just yet.

It has recently been announced that all three games in the series are getting a remaster for the new generation of consoles, and I feel like I really have to finish the original versions before the new ones come out. Will I actually do this? God knows. Will I try? Probably, but I don’t think Dead Space 2 will be the next game I stream. I think I need something a little tamer. But stay tuned.

You can find me streaming over on Twitch using the link below.

Publishing: It’s Your Decision

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen an increase in people talking down to or just downright insulting those of us that self-publish our books. I don’t understand this mentality. There are many reasons why someone might choose to self-publish their work and several different ways that they can do it. None of these reasons means that they are any less of a writer or that they deserve to be talked down to or treated like crap.

For me, self-publishing was always the way I was going to go. So when I wrote Creatures, publishing using KDP seemed like the logical choice. It was my first book and something that I just wanted to get out into the world. I didn’t fancy spending hours trying to bag an agent or a traditional publisher, and it meant that I could have more creative control over the story, look and feel of the novel. Yes, there is a lot of work required for marketing your self-published book, but even that is nothing compared to querying multiple places.

Creatures did alright going the self-publish route, so when it came to my next novel, The Next Stage, it was a no brainer, really. Even though I knew that this was a better novel than my previous one, I still wanted to have complete creative control over my work.

Being a traditionally published author doesn’t mean that your work is any better than those that choose the self-publish route. I’ve read some brilliant self-published stories just like I’ve read some shite traditionally published ones.

Editing of self-published books is another thing that has been dragged through the dirt. Many self-published authors do so without any financial backing. They have to do everything from writing, editing, cover creating and marketing themselves. Sometimes things slip through the cracks editing -wise. I get less annoyed by errors in a self-published book than I do when finding them in traditionally published books that have professional editors behind them. Plus, the good thing about self-publishing your book is that if you or someone else spots an error, it’s a simple case of editing your manuscript and re-uploading it, whereas God knows what it would take to change a traditionally published book.

I’m not mentioning any names, but one person in particular on Twitter has been kicking up a stink recently and trying to rip self-published authors to shreds. However, when I looked into their publishing, they’re using a hybrid publisher. A hybrid publisher is a publishing house that wants you to pay and do all the work, but they take credit for the work. In other words, you pay for the privilege of being a self-published author. In simpler terms, you get ripped off! Maybe this method works for some people, but it seems too dodgy to me. It certainly doesn’t give you the right to piss all over other people’s hard work. I got an offer from a hybrid publisher for The Next Stage, but I didn’t have £3000 – and wasn’t willing – to throw at them to basically do nothing

I guess what I’m trying to say in this blog post is simply this; stop being a dick. People have reasons why they take the route they take with their work, and it’s not for anyone else to comment on.

I’ve had it said to me that self-published authors aren’t real authors and couldn’t get traditionally published if they tried. The thing is…I don’t want to try. I’m happy – as are many other people – with the way that I publish, so I say again; stop being a dick.

This post turned into a little more of a rant than I originally planned, but I get fed up of idiots gatekeeping being an author. If you write, you’re an author. Whether you publish your work or just have it in a notebook that only you look at. Don’t let anybody tell you what route to go with your work. At the end of the day, it’s your time and effort that’s gone into it, so do with it as you see fit.

Whichever way you decide to publish your works, remember one thing – don’t be a dick.

The Joys of Physio

Yesterday I went for my monthly physiotherapy appointment. Over the last week or so my hip has felt a little worse than it has done and it’s felt like the exercises I’ve been given have just been irritating it. I mentioned it to my physio and he had to do his usual range of motion stuff and he told me that my hip is starting to seize up slightly. I’ve now been told to add some rolls into my exercises…It just gets more and more fun!

One good thing, though, is that I’m seeing the consultant on the 20th of September to hopefully discuss surgery. I feel like this has been dragging on for ages now, and I’m totally fed up with having to take pain meds multiple times a day. There are days that it really gets to me. If they’re still going to drag their feet with the surgery, I don’t know what I’m going to do. Don’t get me wrong, the thought of having surgery fills me with so much anxiety that that alone sometimes tips me over the edge, but it’s either that or being in pain even longer; and if rather not be in pain any longer than I have to.

But, looking on the bright side, in further along with the whole thing than I was a few months ago, so there’s that.

This time next month I will have started university. I’m hoping that this will keep my mind occupied and away from my hip pain. I just hope that all the moving around won’t make things worse for me.

I’m trying to stay positive, but sometimes it’s hard. For now, I just have to throw myself into my writing and hopefully I’ll be getting my surgery before I know it.

That’s it for me this week. Have a good weekend all.