Going Back in Time – Croc: The Legend of the Gobbos

Croc: Legend of the Gobbos is a 3D platformer released in September 1997 for the PlayStation and a year later for the Sega Saturn and Microsoft Windows.

The game takes place in Gobbo Valley and follows a young crocodile named Croc who has to venture through levels rescuing furry creatures known as Gobbos from an evil magician known as Baron Dante.

Back in the original PlayStation days, I never actually played the full game of Croc. We had a demo disk that had a few levels on it, so I got really good at playing those, but we never ventured to purchase the full game. I don’t really know why. I know that I’ve never really been a fan of 3D platformers like Mario 64, Spyro and the like, so this probably played a part in it.

When doing research for my book, Blindsighted, I had a character that has PlayStation, and I needed a game for him to be playing in one scene. After filtering through old games, I remembered Croc and decided it would be a good game for him to be playing as I remember enjoying what I played of it. Recently it was on my mind again, and both Alex and I wanted to play it again. After trawling through eBay, I managed to find a copy that was decently priced, so I took the plunge and bought a copy.

When it arrived, we dove straight in, but for me, it was just so hard. As with a lot of retro games, the controls are vastly different to those of newer games. I quickly got frustrated and left the game on the shelf. I’ve given the game a go a couple of times since then but always struggled with the controls. However, I knew that I wanted to do this blog post about it, so I thought I should give it another go it deserved. I’ve played a few levels this morning, and I’m actually getting the hang of it and enjoying it. I got stuck when I came to a boss as I struggled to time my attacks right, but I’m now willing to try and try again as I still think that Croc is a good game.

The levels, unlock games like Spyro, are pretty short, so finding the Gobbos and collecting gems is pretty easy in most cases. The combat isn’t difficult, but sometimes getting the timing right is. You can think you’re close enough and still struggle to get a hit on an enemy, or on the other side, you can think you’re far away enough not to get hit, but you still do. Where the game falls down like a lot of 3D platformers of this era is the camera. There is no using the analogue controller to move the camera. Instead, you have to use L2 and then move using the d-pad; this can be an issue when you’re trying to move or enter combat as it’s not easy to flick between character movement and camera movement. The graphics are standard early 3D, and as such, the game hasn’t aged particularly well but having said that, it still doesn’t look too bad. There are plenty of games that came out around the same time that just look God awful now.

Croc is a worthy addition to my retro game collection, and it’s probably one that I will go back to time and time again. However, I would love for this game to get a remake or a reboot on modern consoles. Even perhaps if it were added to the new PlayStation Plus subscription service, it would control better.

A New (Short) Story Coming Soon

I’ve been writing for just over four years now, and so far, I haven’t written any kind of short story, well, until now, that is.

The other week I had an idea for a story, and it was one of those where I just had to get it down to get it out of my head. I knew going in that it probably wasn’t going to be a novel, but I still didn’t know how long it was going to be. Over the weekend, I finished the story, and at the end of the first draft, it comes out at just over 9000 words. I’m pleased with where it is at the minute, but there are definitely bits that need tweaking or adding in the next couple of drafts.

As much as I wanted to purely work on Creatures 3, having this break to work on something new feels like it’s been a good thing for me. I was starting to get blind to the story in the next Creatures book, so this idea came at an opportune time. As much as I want to get the next book out there, I also don’t want to rush it, and it be less than it could be. I’m going to work on this short story, which is titled The Tasks, until I release it and then go back to Creatures 3.

When I’m a bit closer to releasing The Task, I will reveal more about it, like the synopsis and cover, so for now, I’ll leave you in the dark a little bit, but I will say that the story is a little bit Portal and a little bit Squid Game.

I’m currently working on the second draft, but I’m hoping that it being a short story will mean that I will go through the drafts quicker. I don’t really know; I’ve not done this before.

As far as my other books go, it was a great month last month for sales and Kindle Unlimited pages read. I think that putting them all back onto KU was the best decision for me as more people now seem to be reading them.

For now, though, I will get back to it. Have a good week all.

I Did an Interview

A few weeks back, I did an interview with Andy N on his Spoken Label podcast. The podcast features interviews with authors and artists from around the UK. During the interview, we talk about how I got into writing, my latest book (at the time) Blindsighted, and where I see my career in writing going as well as future projects.

The podcast is available in many different places, including the Spoken Label website, YouTube, as well as Google & Apple podcasts.

Below is the video version from YouTube:

Tough Distribution Decisions

Throughout my writing career, I have tried to make my books available to a wide variety of readers and have had them up for purchase on a wide range of platforms. Still, over the past few weeks, I have been thinking about what is best for me and have to come to the decision that due to having zero purchases on other platforms that, I will return to my roots and throw everything I have at the Amazon Kindle and Kindle Unlimited market. I have weighed up all the pros and cons of this decision, and the pros of sticking with Kindle far outweigh the cons. I’m aware that some people don’t like to buy anything from Amazon, and that’s fair enough, which is why I made my books available on platforms like Google & Apple Books, but after several months of disappointing sales, I have realized that it’s just not viable to remain on these platforms. Yes, one of the factors is that I do not have any sales, so I’m not earning anything, but for this exact reason, when no one buys the books, there is no reason to be on them. Re-enrollong all of my work into the Kindle Unlimited program still allows a broader audience, and it’s an audience that I actually reach.

In the couple of weeks that I have been purely on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited, I have seen more sales and book reads than I’ve had in the past 12 months of being on other platforms. Some people may see this as a cash grab, but for me, it makes more sense to be on platforms on which people read my books; after all, that’s why I write them.

Rant over.

I will be updating my website to acknowledge where my books are available in due time. For today though, as in the UK we’re currently going through a heatwave, I’m going to spend the rest of the day in front of a fan playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.

Foundation Year of University Completed

So a week ago, I got my last mark for my final assignment for my first (foundation) year of university, which marked the end of the year. I can’t believe that the first year is over and done with. It seemed like forever for me to actually start uni and the academic year seemed to zip by so fast.

I’d be lying if I didn’t find parts of the year stressful. There were times when I didn’t think I would be able to complete the year. Things occasionally got on top of me, especially at the end of that first semester when three assignments were thrown at us in a couple of weeks, but I got through it, and it all seems a little silly now. Despite the stress, I’m pleased with how the year went. I managed to get pretty decent grades (mostly between 60-70), better than I honestly thought I would get.

I was anxious before I started; I didn’t know how I would be. It had been a while since I had left my job, so the thought of going out into the world and meeting new people worried me. But having an induction week, where I met lecturers and students, was a beneficial thing for me, despite the stupidly high anxiety I experienced. This week helped me meet fellow students that would ultimately become friends that I would talk and work with throughout the year.

I can’t say that it was a perfect year, however, there were a few issues that I had with it, and not just the piling on of the first few assignments. My lecturers, on the whole, were great, but by the end of the year, one of them was grating on me. We had a good intro to some things, but others, like how to reference (despite being told we would be taught it), we were just left to educate ourselves. Some of the instructions on the papers we had to write weren’t great. Don’t even get me started on the “group work,” which consisted of what was pretty much musical chairs.

All in all, it was a good introduction to university, but you could tell that it was the first time that the course had been run. For its faults, the foundation year helped me decide that I didn’t just want to pigeonhole myself into just doing a creative writing course, so I’m not doing an actual English degree that includes creative writing as a module.

I don’t know when I’ll be going back, I just know it’ll be in September sometime, so I’m using my time off to decompress and catch up on the writing and games I want to play. I am looking forward to returning and getting my teeth into the degree proper.

As a quick addition, is like to thank those that have bought, read, and reviewed Back to School so far. I’m pleased with how release day went, and it’s safe to say it was my best yet. Anyway, i’s back to working on blogs and Creatures 3.

Revisiting the Creatures Universe: Four Years Later

If you’ve been following along, you should know that the second book in the Creatures series, Back to School, is due for imminent release (25th June 2022, to be exact). It has been four years since I released the first book in the series, and indeed my first book, and it feels like a lifetime ago. Creatures was something that I had to get out of my head, and I decided to publish it on a whim. Little did I know that I would find in writing something that I love doing, and now three (soon to be four) books under my belt, I can’t see me doing anything else.

The writing of Back to School began right after I published the first book. I ended Creatures in a way that if I wanted to, I could continue the story, and I had an idea at the time where I wanted to take it, but I hit a wall with the story and only got a couple of chapters in before I had to stop. As I’ve said before, I didn’t see the point in writing something I wouldn’t be happy with. I moved on to The Next Stage, which would ultimately be my second book. I didn’t even pick Back to School up again until after the release of Blindsighted.

The manuscript for the first book in the series wasn’t perfect, so I decided I would go back through it, sort out any issues and republishꟷone of the joys of self-publishingꟷand this made me want to continue the story and made revisiting the Creatures universe seem like the right thing to do at the time. During my re-editing process, I really enjoyed re-reading the book. I hadn’t read it since its release and had even forgotten some of what happened. I would have ultimately had to end up reading it again anyway to write the sequel, but with the dual purpose of editing at the same time, I killed two birds with one stone.

When I picked Back to School back up (it was still just called Creatures 2 at this point), I finally knew where I wanted to take the story and characters. I had a clear idea of the story that I wanted to tell and how I would do it. Once I started writing it again, I just couldn’t stop. I found that the words just flowed through me and onto the page. I was having such a good time writing the old characters, and being able to create new ones and bring them into the universe was great.

Of course, like in the first book, there are many deaths­ꟷI’m not going to go into them because I don’t want to spoil the storyꟷand there are some particularly gory ones. I found that I’ve been able to flesh out the original characters more and give them a little more personality and growth; I just hope that readers will like what I have done with them. There are many new characters introduced, some major and some minor, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ve done them justice.

Story-wise Back to School follows directly from the first book, and there are many references to the original story throughout, so I would suggest if you’re planning on giving book two a read, then you should read book one firstꟷthere will be a discounted Kindle offer of the first book in the next few days running up to the release of Back to School so keep an eye out for that.

I’ve enjoyed working on Back to School so much that I’ve already started work on the third book in the series. I’m hoping that it won’t take me another four years to release it, but who knows; I could have another idea about one of my many other projects that I decide I have to work on first.

As I said at the top of this post, Back to School is out on 25th June 2022, that’s only five days away, and I’m really excited to get the book out there. Having said that, due to Amazon KDP being a little more on the ball than usual;, the paperback version is available early, so if you head over to the books page on Amazon, you’ll be able to pick up a copy early. You can also preorder the ebook version on Kindle, Kobo, and Google & Apple books.

I’m excited about the release, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what people think of it. I hope that people enjoy revisiting the Creatures universe as much as I did. And like I said, keep an eye out on here and my social media for news about the offers on the first book.

Update + New Book on the Way

It’s been a busy few months, what with university, writing, and other stuff, so as much as I wanted to revive this blog sooner, I just haven’t had the time to sit down and write anything worth posting. But now, with the imminent release of the second book in the Creatures series, Back to School, I thought it would be a good time for a catch-up.

I’ve now finished my first year (foundation) of university, and I have to say that I did much better than I expected, save for a few assignments (although I did pass them), I got some decent grades which I’m really pleased with. At times I found the experience a little daunting, and I did have a few very anxious times. I found it hard to start some of my assignments, but once I got going, I was fine. I found the foundation year a useful step before going into my degree proper. It gave me a taste of what to expect and also allowed me to prove to myself that I do have the skills needed to do the degree. I’m now on the summer break, and I’m really looking forward to going back in September.

As far as writing goes, it’s been a bit hectic. I was getting in somewhere I could, before and in between lectures. I didn’t have it in me to write in my spare time at home. I just felt like whatever I wrote wouldn’t be great, and I didn’t see the point in rushing it and hating what I’d written. To begin with, I was doing a lot of work on my paranormal thriller, And Then I Killed Her, and although it was going pretty well for some time, I hit a wall with it and just didn’t know where to take the story. Again I didn’t see the point in writing for it to be nonsense that I’d have to completely overhaul, so I moved on to another project. This project had been in the works for four years, and it was the sequel to Creatures. I’d started writing it as soon as the first book was released, but for one reason or another, I just didn’t carry it on. This time, however, when I picked it back up, I could see what story I wanted to tell, and since finishing uni, I have blasted through the remainder of what I wanted to say.

If you follow me on social media, you’ll probably already know that Creatures 2: Back to School is almost ready for its scheduled release on 25th June 2022, which is exactly four years after the release of Creatures. I’ve done several rounds of edits so far, and I’m now doing my final round by going through the paperback proof. This is my favourite part of the editing process and the part that I feel is most important. As I’ve mentioned before, having a physical copy of my book and going through it with highlighters and post-it notes at the ready allows me to find things that I have missed previously. I don’t understand what the difference is, but I thoroughly recommend doing it with your own books if you’re a fellow writer.

Unlike my other books, I’ve been able to put the Kindle version of Back to School up for pre-order. If you head over to the Amazon page, you can pre-order it so that it will automatically be delivered to your device upon its release. I’ve already quite a few (more than I expected, to be honest) of orders, and it’s great to see people are willing to pre-order my books. Of course, with this comes a little bit of extra pressure. I need to get all my edits for the book done and uploaded before the 21st ready for release. It’s going to be an interesting few days.

I’ve spent this morning doing some background admin for Back to School. You’ll notice on this website that it now has its page next to its predecessor, along with its current links for where to buy it. I’ve added a page on Goodreads so you can add it to your TBR list, as well as being able to link the two books as a series for easier navigation. I have also scheduled a free book promotion for Creatures on the days leading up to the release of Back to School, so if you haven’t read the first book in the series, you can grab a free copy to read before you read the sequel. This is kind of important because the new story follows on directly from the first. I do intend to make this new book available on other platforms (Google & Apple books etc.), but this may have to come at a slightly later date; but I will keep you posted with any updates on this.

Well, I think that’s about it for now; I better get back to editing. Keep an eye out for more updates.

Book Covers: How? Why? When?

Recently I’ve been thinking about book covers and what other authors do to create theirs. As usual, I asked my followers on Twitter for their thoughts:

Don’t judge a book by its cover, the old saying goes. But let’s face it, we all do. A cover is usually the first thing that you see of a book and can cause you to predetermine if you’re going to enjoy the book or not. For those that self-publish, like me, covers can be a source of great frustration and could be a stalling point for your creative process. After all, if you can’t get a decent cover for your novel, how are you going to release it?

For me, covers are a double-edged sword; I both love and hate creating them. Like many members of the self-publishing writing community, I create my own covers. Mostly because I can’t afford to pay anyone to create them, but also because, like publishing my own books, I enjoy the creative process and control that it gives me. Of course, the issue that comes up every time is my lack of skills. Now, I’m not completely clueless; I have enough skills to put together a basic coverꟷas evidenced by my booksꟷbut when it comes to more elaborate designs, I fall short of doing what I want to do. I have these extravagant designs in my head, but when it comes to putting it together, it just doesn’t work. Ideally, I would love to have someone else put them together. I could just throw ideas their way and see what they come up with, but alas, that’s probably not going to happen for a while. But having said that, there are plenty of resources that the ‘broke’ writer can avail themselves of. Websites such as Canva and apps such as Desyner are my go-to’s. They are relatively simple to use and provide a whole host of images and fonts that are free to use.

But, as I said, I also love the process of designing a cover. The cover design is something that, when I’ve hit a wall with writing, or I’ve got some time and don’t want to write, I can pick up, have a play, and see what happens. Like when writing, if I have an idea, I have to do something with it, or it will be lost forever like the fabled lost city of Atlanta (I know what I said). For example, with my current WIP, I’m about three-quarters of the way through the main story, and last week I decided to have a break from writingꟷbecause, let’s face it, sometimes we need itꟷand to do some work on the book’s paperback cover. I spent the next few hours knee-deep in PaintShop Pro and came out the other side with something not half bad. I would like to show it off, but if I’m honest, it’s just not ready for viewing yet. I’m not 100% happy with it, but that’s okay; I still have time to work on it. But what I will say is that I have that urge that I had with The Next Stage and re-design my existing covers…I need to stop it.

My covers are simple, but simplicity isn’t always bad. In fact, I find more and more books that are going the simplistic route; look at books like The Fault in Our Stars, which have a simple but effective cover. However, as I progress with my writing, I’m also getting more adventurous with the design of my covers. My last book, Blindsighted, finally had an image, which was a big thing after my previous two books, and I have a feeling my next one will be more, let’s say, complicated and (hopefully) better.

With all this in mind, though, we all know that a cover can sell (or not sell) a book. Whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, it is an important part of the package that, if done wrong, can be a disaster that your book might now come back from, so if you’re not confident that you can make something decent, it might be a good idea to get help with it. But whatever you choose to do, enjoy the process, it’s your book, and you should love every bit of it.

Chapters: To Name or Not to Name

Chapters, some books have them, some don’t, and everyone has an opinion on them, so I asked my fellow writers over on Twitter for their thoughts. Below are some of the responses.

As you can see, the responses varied. Some people like short ones, others long, others don’t care as long as they work with the story being told. Another contentious issue is the naming of chapters. So what are my thoughts?

When it comes to reading, I enjoy a short chapter. It appears to make the book easier to read. I say this because I’m one of those people who likes to put a book down when it reaches the end of a chapter. When I stop in the middle of a chapter, I don’t particularly appreciate going back into a book. It simply makes it more challenging to read. So, because the chapters are short, I can say, “I’ll just read one more,” and it won’t take me long. I’ll probably save it for another time if it’s a long chapter. I’ve seen really long chapters and ones that are only a paragraph or two long in my reading life, but the responses I received from my fellow authors/readers are correct; if it works for the storey, it doesn’t matter how long the chapter is. Of course, some books, such as Terry Pratchett’s novels, do not even have chapters. When I’m reading these, it’s all about finding that logical stopping point in the narrative, like switching to the voice of another character. Some people may find this off-putting, and I understand how they feel; it took me a while to adjust, but it works well in his novels.

When I’m writing, my chapters are pretty short. This isn’t a conscious decision, mind you; it just seems to be the way things turn out. I have, however, written a few long chapters when a scene calls for more detail or fleshing out. However, there are some advantages to this writing style, particularly when it comes to editing. It means I can keep using my “just one more” method and not stop in the middle.

The naming of chapters is also a topic of debate among authors and readers. Some people may interpret chapter titles as a spoiler for what will happen within the chapter, which could ruin their reading experience. I understand this, but I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’ve read many books, and there’s a lot of naming, not naming, and even adding timestamps and other things. It’s never ruined my enjoyment of a book for me, and sometimes I don’t even notice what a chapter is called. I don’t read “Chapter 4” and pay attention to it, so chapter names/titles don’t bother me.

I’ve used a variety of styles in my writing. My first book, Creatures, had numbered chapters, but it was divided into three distinct parts, each of which had a name, but would anyone have read these title pages? I’m not sure. I used numbered chapters again in The Next Stage, but this time I added time and date stamps to show when the action in the scene occurred. This, I believe, not only aids the reader in determining what is happening and when, but also aids me in editing by allowing me to get the timing correct within the storey. Incredibly useful! The only thing that Blindsighted had were chapter numbers. I started naming them, but I gave up halfway through because I saw the names as minor spoilers that, in a way, ruined the mood I was trying to set in the book. However, in my most recent WIP, the second book in the Creatures series, I’m still using “Part 1, Part 2, etc.,” but I’m also naming my chapters. I’m finding it helpful to name them in this case because it helps me remember what happened in each; whether I’ll keep them in the finished manuscript is another question; I haven’t decided yet.

I believe that the debate over chapters will continue as long as books are written, and that the way they are organised may change over time. So whatever method you prefer, stick with it and enjoy writing/reading the way you want.

Researching Your Writing

Research is a big part of writing, but we all do it a different way. I asked my fellow members of the writing community on Twitter how they research and below are some of the responses.

It’s often joked that if someone were to look at an author’s Internet browser history that they come off as a serial killer, and I’m here to say that that isn’t far from the truth. Some of the things that we have to research for our work can, to the outside observer, seem a little, let’s say, dodgy—for example, working out splatter patterns for gunshots or which vein to cut without the person losing too much blood too quickly. But there are also some things that we research that might seem a little odd to others, things that people might not necessarily think about, but when writing, it is something that you want to get correct for accuracy sake.

Our research can take many forms and take us to places that we might not have ordinarily gone, and, like our writing, our research skills will grow and evolve over time. For example, in my first book, Creatures, there is a section where I talk about a certain area and what wildlife would have been present there. Now, I could have looked in certain books for flora and fauna that may exist in the UK, but instead, as is our society at present, my first port of call was to do a web search for it. I’ve been thinking about how we do our research these days, and it got me thinking about how things used to be done. Today, we have a wealth of information at our fingertips. All we have to do is type in what we want to know into Google, and we can pretty much find out anything that we want toꟷwhether that information is correct is an entirely different storyꟷbut we trust it. In years past, we might have had to visit libraries or read through volumes of information to find what we need. It might have taken ten times as long to research a particular subject to a level where you could insert it into your story. If we wanted to know about a location, we might have had to visit it ourselves to know how it’s laid out or how it looks. For example, The Next Stage is set in Washington DC in the US, now, I’ve never been to Washington, so I had no idea where things were in relation to streets or historical landmarks, but I was able to create a path for my characters by touring the city virtually using Google Maps. Again, this made things so much easier as I could walk around the city without leaving my house, and I’ve been told that it’s a pretty accurate representation of the city. Using this method, I was able to revisit the city at the click of a button, so if I wanted to double-check something, it was something that was beyond me. As for skills growing over time, well, that’s a no brainer. Through research, we learn not only about things that we’re looking for but also where to find that information. We learn which websites, books, etc., will give us the information we require, and alongside this, we learn how to use the information that we gather. We learn to translate it and put it into our created worlds. I am better at research after writing three and starting countless other books. I’ve learned what information is of use to me and how to find said information.

It would be easy to write a book and not do any research for it. But in my opinion, it just wouldn’t be as good. Somehow readers know when something isn’t accurate, whether that’s because they have personal experience of the thing you’re writing about or they’ve done the research themselves, and in a way, you owe it to your readers to be as accurate as possible, because these days, it’s easy for anyone to fact check what you write. Of course, there are some genres where research might not be needed. For example, if you’re writing fantasy with worlds that are wholly created by you and don’t follow the logic from the real world, you can pretty much say what you want, and people will go with it. But in some cases, you may still want to do some research. If your story includes battles that involve swords, even if it’s set in a purely fantasy world, you may still want to research different swords and how they are handled. It just lends that little bit more realism to the worlds that you create. I’m sure even in the days when there was no internet, that authors still did a lot of research. There will always be someone that is knowledgeable in the subject that was written about and so will have called the author out if something didn’t add up.

For me, research is a key aspect of being an author. If you’re not great at research and you don’t want to improve your skills in the area, then you will soon fall by the wayside, and people may not enjoy your work as much as they might do if you take that time to properly work out if that calibre of weapon would have made that wound, or if this street joins onto that one. Realism, in some novels, is key to the enjoyment of said novel. And I feel that if you bullshit your readers, they won’t be readers for long. But not only is research good for your writing, but it is also good for you. Through researching subjects for your novels or other works, you learn more about the world that you might not necessarily known before, and this alone will allow you to write about things that you might not have ordinarily done.

In summary, research is good; research is your friend. Research will improve your work and will pull your reader further into the world you have created.