Friday Writing Update

So last Friday, I completely forgot to do a blog post. For most of the day, I was under the assumption that it was Thursday, so it didn’t cross my mind until later on in the day that I was meant to do a post. Anyway, today I’m just going to give a brief update on what I’ve been up to.

For the past week, I’ve been working on a new story. This one came about off the back of a VSS365 writing prompt post. I don’t want to give too much away, but the post can be seen below, and it might give a clue as to what type of story it is.

I’ve been trying to do the VSS prompt tweets daily again. I started to do them a while ago and then kind of fell out with them as I struggled to come up with anything to write. Recently, however, I’ve not had that issue, and I’ve been able to write a few sentences reasonably easy. I think doing these is partially why I’ve been able to get back into writing again. They’re helping me get my brain in the right place for being creative, plus I enjoy doing them. Most of my posts seem to follow a theme of horror or paranormal, which is fine, but I’ve also been able to relate some of them back to either released novels or ones I have in the pipeline, which also serves to give me more ideas of where I can go with them.

So far, my latest WIP is around 9000 words and counting, so it’s coming along pretty well. As usual, I’ve not done any real planning; I’m just typing and seeing where I end up. I’ve done some bits and pieces of research – i.e. Googling – to help me along my way, but most of it just flows from my brain.

As much as I want to work on some of my other WIPs, like The Next Stage 2, I just don’t know where I’m going with them. I don’t want to write for the sake of it and not do the story justice, so at this point, working on something new is the best thing for me to do.

Anywho, I’m going to get back to it now and see where the story takes me.

Have a good weekend.

January PSNow – Frostpunk (Review)

January’s PSNow titles were Bioshock, Bioshock 2, Bioshock Infinite, Frostpunk, Surviving Mars and The Crew 2.

As I’ve played the three Bioshock games a number times – there’s never too many – I decided to give something I’d never played a go; I chose Frostpunk.

Frostpunk is city-building survival game that was released in April 2018 for PC and later in October 2019 for consoles.

My first impressions of Frostpunk was that it looked like a slightly different take on the old Command & Conquer games; which I was all for. But playing it I realise it’s only like them on the surface; below it is a true game of survival.

Let me just say now that I usually hate tutorials in games. There’s only so many times you can be told how to crouch or push an object before it’s etch into your brain. But with Frostpunk we could have done with at least a tutorial for the first bit. That’s not to say it doesn’t have anything, it does have tutorial cards that pop up every so often, but for the most part it leaves you alone and for us it wasn’t quite enough and it took us a while to adjust to everything that we were required to do.

Once we got over that hurdle and after several grumbling restarts we started to get into the game for what it is and I have to say that we enjoyed it.

This game isn’t one that you play for fun. It’s hard and at times depressing, but once you get the hang of it it’s quite rewarding.

The basic idea of Frostpunk is that an ice-age has hit the earth in an alternate steampunk Victorian age universe and you are in charge of a settlement full of people that have escaped London in an attempt to survive. One thing that is confusing is that these people from London decide that in order to survive an ice-age they should go further north and establish a new settlement there. There isn’t really any explanation to this and it did leave me a little lost as to what we were meant to be doing.

The game is split into several different scenarios, which all come with their own tasks and difficulties that you need to overcome in order to win. There is also an endless mode where you build your settlement on one of the maps and see how long you can last multiple storms and other perils. But, at certain stage of the endless mode, you can’t really do anything new and all you’re doing is gathering resources to survive another day, by this point it got a little monotonous. The scenarios though are different, as they offer a bigger challenge with their set tasks. It’s all about planning and working out what to do an when and if you have enough resources to survive. These had more playability than the endless.

Gathering the resources – coal, iron, wood, steam cores (which for some reason look like they are a part of a Dyson hoover) – can be tough at times; your settlers can get injured during their work or even die. How you choose to deal with these events (and more) either improves the settlements’ hope of survival or increases their discontent. All this while trying keep everyone warm through a storm that goes down to -120°C.

To help you, you can research new and improved building such as Steam Coal Mines or a Factory – where you can build spidery automatons that can be used instead of human workers. You’re also able to set laws around what happens to people if they steal, whether you want children to work for you, and even if you want to build your settlement around religion or stern authoritarianism.

There is a lot going on in this game and at times it can be overwhelming if you’re focusing on one thing and not reacting to other events. But it’s a challenge that we rose to and managed to complete a few of the scenarios along with a fairly lengthy stint in endless mode.

I would recommend this game to anyone that enjoys sim and management games, like Sim City, Constructor or Tropico. I struggle with this type of games these days – I find I just don’t have the patience for them, but this kept my attention for long enough this month that I’m going to give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.

I don’t know what the new games on PS Now in February will be, but hopefully there will be one like Frostpunk that we can get our teeth into.

Lockdown Writing

I live in the UK, and we’re currently in our…wait a minute, I know this…third lockdown, and we’re experiencing all the fun that goes along with it.

Lockdowns have been sh!t, to say the least. We all have to find ways of getting through them; some people have built things, others painted, watched, read, played, but it has been writing for me.

During this time of world collapse, for me, writing has been a great escape. I know I left my full-time day job at the start of 2020 to focus more on writing, but continually being unable to leave the house is also a good catalyst for getting more writing done.

The first lockdown and the proceeding events gave me time to focus on finishing off The Next Stage. I had more time that I ordinarily would have spent playing games or watching crappy movies that I instead used to be more productive.

It’s so easy during these lockdowns to while away the time without actually doing a great deal, so for me to be able to focus on something has not only helped me pass the time, but the focus has also helped my mental health.

More time for writing doesn’t just mean the act of writing words, but also the planning of a story. I’ve been able to do more research on specific topics that I want to have in my books.

For my latest book, Blindsighted, which is a supernatural horror, I’ve been able to look more depth into hauntings, spells, and even – without giving too much away – spells. The added time for research means that I don’t rush it and simply add the first idea that I come up with; I can look into a few different things and pick which one I think will work the best. I did quite a bit of research for The Next Stage, but it makes me wonder how much I could have done if I had been writing it during these lockdowns. I feel like I put a lot of detail into it as it is, but maybe it would have been even greater if I’d written it now; not that I feel it’s lacking in any way.

It’s not just the writing that has passed the time during lockdowns, but also everything else that comes with being an author.

The publicity of a newly released book took up quite a bit of time. Spending my time on Twitter, not just posting ranty comments – although there have been a few – but interacting with fellow authors, reviewers, and the writing community, in general, has taken the place of the those physical interactions that I may have had while not in lockdown. Even though I’m an innately antisocial person, I still struggle when the choice of being social has been taken away from me. I also started my Instagram and even this blog during one of the lockdowns, both of which have helped me get my work out there to more people.

During the start of this lockdown, I also did my first radio interview; something that came out of nowhere and I never thought I’d ever do. But now that I’ve done one, I’m looking forward to the next.

Even these blogs have helped me. This has been another outlet for book publicity and my frustrations and want for social interaction.

Through my interactions with Twitter, I’ve found that I’m not the only one who has focused on writing through this uncertain time. Fellow writers have also used this time to finish projects they’ve worked on for some time and even publish more works than they would have been able to in an average year.

More books being published, I’ve found, has also helped other non-writers through the lockdowns. Being able to escape to other worlds has got them through the worst times. This, in turn, has again assisted the authors by providing that little bit more income.

I hope we can get out of the lockdowns and the restrictions as soon as possible, but having writing to focus on makes the time go a little quicker and makes it that little bit more tolerable.

Welcome to Another Week

I’ll start the week with some good news that made me happy this morning.

I woke up to my first review for The Next Stage on Goodreads, and what made it even better was that it was a 5-star review. It means so much that even just one person has read and enjoyed what I’ve written and to get that rating is just…wow.

Since then I’ve had another 2 reviews, both 5-stars. So at the moment, it stands at the highest average it can get.

I am honestly beyond chuffed with these reactions to a book I put so much into.

Today, I’m continuing to work on It’s All in the Eyes. So far I’m at a total of just over 20,000 words and the story is really coming along.

While I write, I do bits and pieces of research on various things when the plot requires it. I can’t do any before because I just write and see where my brain takes it, and so far it’s taking it to some interesting places.

I have no idea when this book will be finished and out, but as I’m getting more confident in what I’m doing I feel like it won’t take as long as The Next Stage.

I’ll continue my updates and maybe even give out a few teasers when I feel like I’m ready to.

In the meantime grab a copy of The Next Stage and let me know what you think.

Location, Location…Book

What follows is a brief blog of some of my research process while I was writing The Next Stage. I hope that it can give a glimpse into what I’ve been doing and why, and maybe it might help fellow writers with their writing too; although I’m no expert.

When I wrote Creatures, I pretty much just wrote what was in my head. Although it’s set in England, the town of Highfield wasn’t really based on any real place; it was just a small country town surrounded by fields and trees, with a secret underneath. I did little bits of research for parts of the plot and some of the descriptive elements, like the types of wildlife that would be in small woodland areas in England, but I didn’t do all that much. It just came out and got written down.

But, when it came to The Next Stage, and it’s setting, I thought it would be a good idea – for accuracy’s sake – to do a lot more.

I’m English, and although I’ve been to America, I’ve never been to Washington DC. DC seemed like the right place to set the book as it has many notable locations, and I could bring in some elements that I thought would really work for the plot.

So, having never been, where did I start?

First thing was getting a map of downtown DC and it’s surrounding area. Luckily this kind of thing is more accessible now with Google Maps and the like, without the need to go and buy a paper map and sit poring over it. Although in some ways, this would have been useful.

I found the locations at which key elements of the plot would occur. Some of these are major landmarks, others just streets, or nondescript buildings/apartment blocks. With the story being set way the future – and after a long, destructive war – I could tweak some of the city to fit.

Eventually, I ended up printing off sections of the map and – with the help of a handy cork notice board, post-it notes, and string – pegged out where these locations were and what happened at them. By the time I’d finished, it looked like I’d been tracking a killer, which on reflection was very apt. Once this was done and I was writing the story, I would revisit it on occasion and make alterations to the story where needed.

I would also use Google Street View for certain aspects to see what the streets actually looked like and have a better spatial awareness of what my characters would see or hear. Having this visual representation also helped work out how long it would take characters to get to certain places or what obstacles they might encounter. The fact that Google Street View is probably out of date doesn’t really matter in this case because, as I said, the story is set way in the future, so there would be plenty of changes between now and then anyway. I’d use Street View in tandem with the directions function so I could see approximate journey lengths between two places. I could also see what the difference would be if the character was either on foot or in a car. It would enable me to write certain activities in a more realistic and believable way. I didn’t want to have a character at X location move to Y in 10 minutes when in reality, it would take 30 or more with traffic.

For specific notable locations, I did as much research I could on them. I looked at the size of the place, what was near it, how the sun moved through the sky at different times of the day, what people could see if they looked out of a window on a particular floor. I would also imagine what those places might be like in the future. Would they still look the same? Would they have changed purpose? Would they have gone entirely? This came in particular use when thinking about what state the city would be in after the war where it had been a central location for the conflict.

All this being said, I’m going through my most recent draft and still referencing all the notes and research that I did months ago, so as much as it took quite a bit of time and work to put together, it was definitely worth it. But along with all this, I’m continuing with the research to be sure of what I’m looking at and that I portray it in the correct light.

I just hope that this effort to make the world of The Next Stage a little more realistic shines through in the writing, and it adds that little bit extra something for the reader.