A New Way of Writing (For Me)

Before I start this blog post properly, I just want to say that the presentation that I was anxious about doing last week went really well. I wasn’t as anxious about it as I expected, and when it came time to perform it in front of the rest of the class, I lost any anxiety that I did have. I felt like my delivery was clear, and I even managed to make some eye contact with the group without simply just reading from the script, which for me, is an accomplishment. I’m really happy with how my group did, and even the lecturer said how we met and exceeded her expectations of us after she put us last because “we would be the best”.

Anyway, enough of that, I’m now working on my second assignment, which is the first essay that I’ll have to produce. For the essay, we have to review 10 different texts and present their arguments in a logical way. We had a few different ones to choose from (we could also pick our own), and I chose to go with “Review the arguments about diversity in Star Trek”. I like Star Trek, but I’m not a Trekkie. I’m also aware of some of the diversity that it has been involved with, so it seemed – as Spock would say – the logical choice.

First of all, finding 10 different texts on the subject was harder than it sounded. I kept coming up with the same articles or publications, which was just infuriating. But I did, nevertheless, find them.

The next task (which I’ve just finished) was to read, annotate and make notes on said texts. I’ve not done any annotating since I was at college *cough* 18 years ago, aside from the bits and pieces that I’ve done for the course already, and of course what I’ve done when going over drafts of my own work, although annotating in an academic way is so far removed from that, it doesn’t deserve comparison. Overall I’ve found this stage fairly easy, though. I find that I’m pretty good at pulling out useful information from a given text, so that’s really come in handy when I’ve been highlighting bits and pieces.

Now I’ve done that; I have to see how they all relate to one another. Which ones agree or disagree with each other, what they’re all trying to say, and see which points I want to talk about and expand upon in my essay. This (I hope) will be relatively easy, but I’m comparing it to the next step; writing the damn essay.

From what I’ve learned so far in my foundation year, writing academically is extremely different to the way that I’m used to writing, and that, at the moment, is tripping me up and making me second guess my abilities. I’m used to just writing whatever pops into my head, with no real thought for structure (until going through drafts) or word count. This obviously has to change with academic writing. I’ve got to get my point across in a simple way possible, within the word count, while making it all make sense. It’s going to test my abilities as a writer and probably make me question the way that I’ll write in the future. I’ve already picked up a few different tips that will transfer over to my novel writing.

I have until December 10th to write my essay on the diversity in Star Trek, so I have a little time, but still not much. I’ll have to get cracking, but at the same time, I don’t want to rush it. It’s going to have to be a balance as I want to be able to do other things too.

We’ve really been thrown in at the deep end with this assignment, and I just hope I can swim.

University Presentation Day

I’ve been at university for a good few weeks now, and we’re just starting to get going with things. So much so that today I’m about to do a presentation in one of my lectures, which will be my very first uni assignment.

For the assignment, we were given the choice of different articles that talk about a certain topic, and in a group, we had to figure out if we agree/disagree, find evidence to support our conclusion and then present our findings to the rest of the class. We started giving our presentations last week, but luckily, my group was chosen to go last, because, and I quote, “it will be the best one”; no pressure there.

Our chosen article was titled “Is Poetry Dead”. For some, this may have been an easy answer. Those that write poetry would have straight away said that it wasn’t. My group thought this too, but academically we had to support our argument. This is what we found challenging. But we worked together to figure it out and find our own evidence before we put it all together.

I gave myself the job of writing our script for the presentation, which I thought I would find difficult, but I found it easy and a little bit enjoyable. It’s our first assignment, and I found that enjoying it and finding it easy made me really think that I can do this university thing.

There have been a few times over the past few weeks that my head hasn’t been right, and I’ve just been thinking that I’ve made a mistake and I shouldn’t be trying to do a degree, but now I feel like I should be.

I’m a little nervous about giving the presentation today, but nowhere near as much as I would have ordinarily been before. I think feeling better about things and knowing that if all else fails, I can just read from the script has made it all seem a little easier. I don’t know how I’ll be when I actually have to give it, but I’m trying to stay positive about it. I still have a little bit of anxiety in my head, but I’m trying to push it to the back

I have a couple of other assignments that I have to work on now too, but I’m trying to break the back of them as early as I can so that I’m not worried about them at the last minute; otherwise, my brain may implode.

Reading this blog back, I can see that it’s a little bit all over the place, which probably shows where my head is right now. But I’m sure I’ll be fine.

Have a good week, and wish me luck!

Who Lives Beneath: A VSS365 Story (Part II)

This is the continuation of my Twitter story written through the daily VSS365 word prompts. You can read Part I here. Follow me on Twitter @GaxTZ to catch up each day.


I climb up into the graveyard but have to prompt John to follow. From the way he is acting, I’m starting to think he’s regretting his decision to follow me.
We dart in and out of the memorials, trying to remain hidden against the vast waves of death.
The graves remind me that in year’s past, the dead had fallen like leaves in autumn. I know that I have to put a stop to it. No more shufflers will die at the hands of the overworlders. I set my sights on the goal before me and move forward.
As we push towards another wall, thought float around my head like seeds blown off a dandelion. At the bottom of the sheer stone, we look up towards the carpets.
“How are we getting up there?” John asks.
I answer with a sly smile.
I raise my cane and point it at the wall and concentrate on where I’m aiming. After muttering a few choice words, a green beam shoots from the tip of the cane. I stagger back with the force. After a flash of green light, thick vines grow up the wall and over the top.
After the noise of the growing plants, all falls silent. It’s only shattered by the caw of a blackbird flying high above.
It’s time to climb. I strap my cane to my back, grab a handful of the vine and pull myself up. John is only a little way behind me.
Halfway up the wall, I see a small gap from which a sliver of light is escaping. I pause to look through and can see multiple shadows moving inside. A voice shouts something. For fear that we are found out, I quickly continue up the vines.
At the top of the vines, we hoist ourselves over the crenelations and onto the walkway. Beneath us, the woods are alive with movement. Tiny lights zigzag through the trees. Searching. Crouching, we make our way along the battlements towards a tower.
We hear footsteps coming from the doorway. With no time to hide, we stand our ground. Out of the darkness comes a soldier with a nose like a heron’s beak. He looks at us in disbelief, but before he can make his move, a cold blast of air shoots from my cane.
The man stares in disbelief as a tangle of ice wraps around his legs and grows up his torso, eventually covering his face. He stands, frozen in time, as we dart past and inside the tower.
Inside the stone room, we stare in amazement at the countless jars hanging from the walls and ceiling, each one continuing several fireflies. Their light isn’t doing much to light the space, but there’s enough to cast creepy looking shadows.
Suddenly the wooden door across the room explodes into a million pieces. Shrapnels flies in all directions, striking both John and me despite our attempts to dodge. I feel a warm river of blood streaming down from my forehead where something had struck me.
The room is filled with the ebb and flow of myriad sounds. Shouting, screaming, explosions. The noise assaults our ears. I see John on the floor cowering where is was stood only a few seconds ago. The world around us seemingly dissolving.
In the chaos, feeling that this is the end, my mind goes back to the fun that John and I used to have as children. The times we spent beneath the ground, exploring the hundreds of tunnels. They were simpler times. Before the magic. Before the war.
I open my eyes and find myself beneath a shell of rubble like a scrap yard turtle. My ears ring, and the noises around me sound like I’m listening through water. My body aches, and I struggle to push some of the debris off me while attempting to get to my feet.
Through the ringing, I hear the voice of a stranger approaching. They seem to be telling others to search the ruins. I look around me, and my heart almost stops. I can’t see John.
“John?” I try. My voice is hoarse and dry.
I start to dig randomly, calling out his name.
Across the room, my eyes fall on a body being crushed by rubble. I don’t hesitate to dash over to it and start heaving the debris off this person. I think it’s John, but once I uncover the face, I see that it’s a woman and not someone I recognise. Where had she come from?
Lifting the debris off the woman, I help her to her feet. Once upright, she brushes the remaining dust from her robe.
“Who are you?” I ask.
“I’ll tell you in time. For now, you just have to trust me.”
I think for a minute.
“I need to find my friend.”
She looks around the destroyed room. When her eyes fall on one of the piles of rubble, she walks over to it, turns to me and smiles. I’m not sure what this is supposed to signify, so I hop over the debris towards her. She waves a hand, and the stones begin to move.
The rubble raises from the ground, moves across the room and then drops with several soft thuds. Johns body is now visible, and I rush over to help him up. With my friend now getting to his feet, I look back at the woman.
“We need to go to the cafe,” she says gleefully.
“What?” John asks with innocence and heavy breaths.
“We can get out through the cafe,” the woman says.
Both John and I must look confused because she clarifies, “This place used to be a museum. The cafe has an exit.”
“Oh,” is all I can maage.bin response.
Now a trio, we leave the destroyed room and head down a narrow corridor. We occasionally stop when we hear footsteps somewhere in the darkness. I feel like this hall should be darker than it is, but the woman seems to radiate light. I can’t explain it.
As we proceed down the intimate space, we hear more and more voices coming from all around us punctuated by explosions. It sounds like hell is breaking loose outside as the war continues, detached from our little group. At the end of the corridor, I see a sign, “Cafe”.
After several more dark hallways, we walk into the old cafe. It’s a shadow of its former self, although some of the tables and chairs are still arranged in rows.
“I’m glad you found us,” I say to the woman when we stop.
“It wasn’t an accident. I was looking for you.”
“What do you mean? How did you know we were here?” I ask.
“Think. Who would betray you?” She says in a calm, measured tone?
Betrayal? It was unthinkable. A shuffler turning against their own.
It’s then I notice John slowly edging away from us.
“John?” I ask in disbelief, “How could you be so treacherous?”
“I-I had no choice,” He stammers.
“Did you help them attack us underground?” I still can’t quite believe what’s happening.
John remains silent, but I can tell by his face what he has to say.
I can’t help but feel hurt by John’s actions. After all, we’ve been through together, for him to do something like this was beyond deceit.
“We need to go,” the woman says, snapping me out of my thoughts.
“How do I know I can trust you?” I ask.
“You don’t.”
I don’t know what to do. If John has turned against me, then who else? Would it be easier to flee back to my hovel? No. I can’t. There have already been too many shuffler deaths. I don’t know who this woman is, but I don’t think I have a choice but to trust her.
Still a trio, we make our way to the back of the old cafe. I don’t spook easily, but something about this room sends shivers up my spine. Perhaps it’s thinking about its use in year’s past before the world fell dark. I shake off the feeling and stay close to the woman.
At the door, she stops and looks back at us. I nod to prompt her to open the large wooden door that’s seen better days. It opens with an almost cliche squeal. We pause, hoping that no one heard the noise.
“Where exactly are we going?” I ask.
“Up,” she says simply.
I’m usually pretty good at judging a person’s inscape, but I can’t get a handle on this woman. First, she seems one thing and then another.
We come to a winding staircase that does indeed lead up. To where I have no idea.
I suddenly remember a dream I had a few days ago, before the attack. It involved a winding staircase, a witch and a knife. Did it foreshadow what was about to happen, or am I reading too much into this situation? Either way, I’m about to find out.
I sleepwalk through the next couple of rooms, not wanting to come back to the room to see my fate, whatever it is.
We soon stop though at another huge door, and I realise that we’re outside in some sort of courtyard.
“The gift shop is through here,” the woman says.
“This is where the death happens.”
“Wow, you could sugarcoat it a little,” I say.
“Why? It does. Changing the way I say it won’t make it any less so.”
She didn’t really need to say it at all. You could smell the scent of death and decay all around.
In the centre of the room is a small pit containing still smoking coals. I ask if it was a campfire. She tells me it’s used in the torture of shuffler. I grimace at the thought of how many we have lost over the years. We pick our way through the room, avoiding bones.
Hanging on one wall are ornate wooden objects hanging by some sort of thread. Each one is as intricate as a snowflake. I ask what they are, and she tells me they are the totems of one of the sects of overworlders. Not people you want to mess with by all accounts.
None of them had their own fingerprint as they saw it as identifying them as individuals; they preferred to be seen as a whole. As legion.
Luckily none of them are nearby; otherwise we would know about it. We skirt through the next few empty rooms.
We’re soon out on a street. The smell of primrose drifts through the air from some nearby laboratory. The overworlders were unlike we shufflers; they preferred science over magic. That was more fool them. Magic, in the right hands, was far more powerful.
From here, the town looks like it’s in retrograde. The buildings look dilapidated and are crumbling from their foundations up. The overworlders, despite wanting to take over, don’t seem to want to look after what they have.
Stalking through the town, hiding in the shadows and avoiding guards, we could be forgiven for thinking that we were winning, that our saga was coming to an end, but this was only the beginning of our fight back.
Soon we come up to another wall, the one that circles the centre of the overworld city. We stop as we see the mechanical sentries that stand dormant in large alcoves cut into the stone. Any sudden movement on our part could awaken them.
Any plans I have for once we’re inside are purely hypothetical right now if we can’t get past these metal beasts. As we tiptoe past, I raise my cane, ready to strike at a moments notice should the worst happen. I look back at John, who has stopped in front of one.
He steps closer and raises a hand like he’s going to touch one of the tin soldiers. I look him in the eyes, and without words, I implore him not to do it. Slowly he lays an open palm on a metal leg. In the blink of an eye, steams erupts, and red eyes glow. The mechanical man starts to slowly unfold from itself as it comes to life. John steps back from it, looks back at us and then runs away. I steel my resolve, fix my feet sternly on the cobbled road and hold my cane at waist height in preparation for the onslaught.

Actually Doing University Work

This week, as the rest of the university, is off to prepare for assessments, our course was also given the week off despite us not having any assessments for a while. For one of our lectures, we were given some work to prepare for a group presentation. This is the first “proper” work that I’ve had to do as a student, and I’ve found it quite hard, to say the least.

To prepare for our presentation, we had to go through a written article about a given subject; our group had a piece of writing titled “Is Poetry Dead?” Now, I don’t know a great deal about poetry, so I’ve gone into the read-through with an open mind, ready to take in what other people have to say on the subject. It wasn’t the reading and taking notes that I found difficult; it was getting the time and motivation to work on it.

If I don’t start work first thing (after my couple of wake up hours of gaming), I find it so hard to get my head into a place in which I can work and have my attention held. I don’t know whether this is just my head being a dick, or it’s because I’ve not been in education for a long time, so now we’re finally getting around to doing some real work; my head is just like, “what the fuck?”

After struggling all week, I finally managed to do what I needed to do yesterday, and I think I’m ready to get together with my group next week and go through what we all made of it. I’m interested to see if we have similar or differing opinions. But I’m also nervous about working in a group. Again, part of my anxiety is probably because I’ve not done this kind of thing for ages, but I think some of it is just because I’m not great at working in a group – my anxiety does summersaults because I end up with no confidence in what I’m saying.

The other reason why my anxiety is so high is that not only do we have to work in a group to put together our own argument relating to our chosen piece, but also present it in front of the rest of the class – I’ve never been great at this. I’m fine in class talking and giving my opinions, but when I have to stand up in front of everyone and talk, it creates a whole new level of anxiety.

Part of the reason why I’m doing this foundation year is to build up my confidence and my skills in areas like these that I might be lacking before heading off to start my actual degree course. I’m hoping that by the time I finish this year, I will have more confidence and fewer issues doing certain things. I’m not blinkered in thinking that I will be fine and my anxiety will disappear completely, but even if it just decreases some, then it will have all been worth it.

I’m getting into the swing of my daily life at uni, but I always knew that as soon as we started real work, I would start to struggle some. I’m trying my best to just get it done and not let my brain dictate what I can and can’t do, but sometimes it’s just so overwhelming and tiring to constantly be doing battle inside my mind.

Soon I have a meeting with the university to get a RAP (Reasonable Adjustment Plan) set up. This will hopefully give me things that will ultimately help me get through the course. It may include things like extensions on pieces of work or more time in exams. I don’t know if I’ll necessarily need these things, but my brain being the dick that it is, it’ll be good to have something in place just in case.

Now that I’ve done what I need to do, I’m going to spend the day working on my WIP – something else that I’ve been struggling to fit in this week. I’m only 950 words into my NaNoWriMo challenge, and I want to be much further in than that. I’m not pressuring myself, but it’d be good to get the first draft of And Then I Killed Her finished this month.

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

It’s NaNoWriMo Time Again

NaNoWriMo

What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It is a challenge to write 50,000 words on a new novel or your current WIP. You keep track of your progress on the website, where you can see how everyone else is doing. You don’t lose out if you don’t manage to do the challenge; it’s all just for fun.


Last year I took part in the challenge with my then WIP, It’s All in the Eyes. I ended up stuck as to where to go with that story, so the challenge pretty much fell by the wayside. But I did manage to add another 20,000 words to the story. This year, however, rather than carrying on with IAITE, I’m putting my current WIP, And Then I Killed Her up for the challenge. I’m currently 22,300 words in, so if I can add another 50,000 by the end of the month, then it will probably be near enough finished. I’d love to get the first draft of this WIP finished, I know there will still be a lot of work to do on it, but it’ll be another step closer to publishing.

This challenge is a great way to get you to write every day, even if it’s just a little. Having a goal to work to makes it easier to see how far you’ve come. I urge any writers out there to give it a go. You’ll also be able to see my progress on my profile over on the NaNoWriMo website.

This weekend I had another idea for a story pop into my head, so I spent a bit of time making notes for it. I don’t want to say too much about it at the moment, but it’s going to be different to other things that I’ve written.

In other news, my story over on Twitter using the #VSS365 daily word prompts, Who Lives Beneath, is still going strong. I will probably do another round-up as a blog post soon, so you’ll be able to read it without having to scroll through the thread.

I’ll leave this here for now; I’ve got some uni work that I need to get done. Have a good week!

Books I’ve Read This Year (Reviews)

Books, books, books. Books everywhere. They’re on bookshelves, in drawers, on my phone and my Kindle, and yet so far this year, I’ve read nowhere near as many books as I would have liked to from my list. This is because of a few reasons, some being writing my own stuff, gaming and reviewing and now going to University. That being said, since I’ve started uni, I’ve managed to get a few books under my proverbial belt, and in this blog, I will be talking about some of those, and although I’ve had issues with some of them, I would recommend each and every one to you, a fellow reader. The below books, by excellent authors, are ones that you have to check out.

Just as a side note, I’m not used to reviewing books so these are a little short. I’m hoping once I start doing them I can do more detailed ones.


Dear Annabelle by Scout Dawson

Five years before his wife’s death, a grieving widower made a promise to his beloved Annabelle that he would paint the “real” her, to immortalize her image forever. Drowning in grief, he commits to his promise, but the cost of perfection is greater than he could have imagined.

My Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Dear Annabelle is a gothic tale the likes of Edgar Allan Poe. The imagery created in this macabre short story is exquisite in its excellence. It’s a quick read and one every lover of Gothic horror needs to read.


Nevada Noir by David Arrowsmith

In these three dark and brooding short stories, set in and around the US state of Nevada, a cast of disparate characters struggle with greed and temptation, and the cursed lure of easy money… an old man goes in search of his son in the aftermath of a terrible storm, a couple down on their luck make a life-changing discovery and an ex-cop has one last impossible decision to make

My Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐

This trilogy of dark stories are expertly woven into noir tales of greed, struggle and temptation. Each story stands on its own as it follows its respective characters through their struggle, with each one being linked in some way to the others. I read this as part of my kick with short stories, and I wasn’t disappointed. My one minor qualm is that I would love to have seen these characters more and perhaps have a little bit more to each story. But despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed Nevada Noir, and I’d recommend it to any lover of dark, gritty tales.


Early Adopters: Rogue Elements by D.T. Wilby

They thought they were going to save the world…

Maybe someday.

First they need to save themselves.

Over a decade ago, a group of misfits underwent genetic editing under the auspices of scientific research. They thought they could make a difference. They thought they were going to be superheroes, but MiliTech turned them into their own living, breathing weapons.

Outside of their honeymoon period, they are disavowed and relentlessly pursued by their creators. Disparate, they do the best they can to stay one step ahead, stay out of each other’s way and maybe do a little good where they can.

But as MiliTech’s net closes in, these Early Adopters need to make a choice – will they keep on running forever or will they take a stand? Can they work together to free a forgotten hero from a golden age, or will they just make everything worse all over again?

The age of gods and monsters is upon us as the Early Adopters Universe begins in Early Adopters: Rogue Elements – an anthology of nine entangled stories developing into a single explosive narrative. An action packed love letter to science fiction comics and graphic novels.

My Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

A Dark Twist on the Suberhero Genre. Going into this book I’d already read the “Star Crossed” short story that is a part of this collection, and it made me want to read more of this universe.
In this collection, each story is separate compelling read with we’ll crafted characters and environments but at the end they all link togther into an intertwined and tense finale.
Wilby has a firm grasp on his universe and leads you through it with a dark vision.
I look forward to reading more about these characters and settings.


Kerwall Town by S.D.Reed

After two strangers appear in the dilapidated 70s’ town of Kerwall, the lives of every resident change. Members of the community are forced together as the number of bodies and secrets increase with every passing moment. As tensions rise and the inhabitants reach breaking point the question is raised: is it Kerwall’s newcomers draining its inhabitants or are they simply slipping through the cracks which have existed all along. With knowledge as their only tool against the world’s deadliest predator, the hunt for power commences. Kerwall’s hope rests on the shoulders of its youngest residents, forcing them into the depths of the earth, questioning everything they’ve ever known.
Will Kerwall ever be safe, or is the whole town trapped in the grasp of these outsiders?

Warning: DO NOT ENTER ALONE. Drag someone with you and if you are unable make sure to leave with your sanity in tact.

This nod to classic horror will leave you feeling as isolated as every character, constantly checking over your shoulder until the very last pages. Beginning the universe in which Reed’s future novels will take place, Kerwall Town demonstrates the scope of genres which can be expected from him going forward.

My Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐

An absolutely riveting read, this book draws you into the town of Kerwall from the very first page in a very Kind-esque manner. The world and characters are so intricately crafted that you believe that you are a guest in the town and are walking it’s streets.
The plot is a slow boil with many a creepy scene that keep you reading.
My one criticism and why I didn’t give this excellent book 5 stars, is that the ending appears and disappears so quickly. The book builds up to a conclusion that doesn’t give the rest of the story justice and, for me, it fell a but flat.
Having said this however I would recommend that you visit Kerwall and enjoy your stay, while you can.


Thank you to all the wonderful authors out there that continue to put their work out there. I know that it’s not easy at times but you persevere despite that. Thank you.

Making Time to Write

I posed the question “When do you write?” to my Twitter follows and got the below responses.

Whatever you write, making time to do it, at times, can be extremely trying. We all have things going on our lives, whether it’s a day job, kids, family, friends, hobbies or a whole host of other parts of life, at it can be difficult to put time aside to sit down and write.

Recently I’ve found it harder than usual to get some writing down. If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that I’ve recently started uni, and although I’m only in for a couple of days a week, it still eats up a lot of its time alongside house things. To add to our workload, because we can’t make life easy for ourselves, we’ve also just got a puppy. Although she is adorable and we wouldn’t change her, she is a lot of work, and as we’re currently trying to house train her, we have to constantly watch her, ready to put her outside at a moments notice. So being able to take some time out and sit and do some writing just isn’t happening at the minute.

Having said this, however, on a Monday, I have an hour for dinner between my lectures, so I’ve been taking a bit of time to eat and get some writing done. So far, this is working pretty well for me, and I’ve been able to write at least a few hundred words in the given time, which isn’t half bad.

It’s been a little bit frustrating at late not being able to write when I want to as I’ve had a tonne of ideas and have had to settle for just making notes instead and hopefully understanding what they mean when I come to go through them. At the moment not being able to write can’t be helped, sometimes other things in life just take priority. I’m just trying to get settled into uni and dog ownership and trying to not get too down on myself while I do it.

My current WIP, And Then I Killed Her, is coming along pretty well, and I’m slowly chipping away at the first draft. I’ve got plenty of notes to work with, and I’ve always got new ideas bouncing around my head. The story has already gone through several different versions and has probably been my most changed work so far. Some of this is because I’m starting to incorporate things that I’m learning in lectures and seeing things that didn’t quite work for one reason or another. I feel like this novel will probably end up being my most polished (after The Next Stage) as I’m taking my time with it to make it just right.

Alan Wake Remaster (Review)

Alan Wake is an action-adventure horror game that was released in May 2010 for the Xbox 360 and PC in February 2012. A remastered version was recently released for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

In the game, you take control of Alan Wake, a writer that has come to the sleepy town of Bright Falls to relax and get away from his career as a writer. His wife soon goes missing, and he finds himself being pursued by the darkness that has taken her and is now engulfing the town and turning the residents against him. He must use sources of light to fight back against these ‘Taken’ to get his wife back and to find out why his writing has now become real.

When Alan Wake was first released back in 2010, I was more of an Xbox kind of guy, so I was happy that I had the console to play it. When I first saw the game advertised, I knew it would be a game for me – dark and creepy. I bought it on release day and spent the next several days (and nights) visiting Bright Falls and fighting my way through the Taken.

I loved the game from the very start; the concept wasn’t anything new, but the way it played was so different. It wasn’t just a shoot your way through enemies experience; you had to use light to help you defeat them before you could shoot them.

At the time, the graphics were brilliant (although the original does look a bit dated now), and the story was excellent too. Little did I know that many years later, I would identify with the titular character so much. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the game, I just couldn’t get into the DLC American Nightmare that was released later.

I longed for either a sequel or a remaster for so long that I never thought that it would happen, and it was only by chance that I happened to see something about a new remaster that was coming, and for the first time, it would be released on PlayStation consoles. The best thing was it wasn’t much of a wait. I pre-ordered it straight away so I could get my copy on release day, and as soon as it came, I could get stuck in.

The remaster isn’t a great departure from the original game. The graphics have been tweaked slightly, but it still looks like an Xbox 360 game in spirit. The cut scenes do look much better, however, and you can see that it is different from the original release. The excellent soundtrack is still there, and you’re treated to some brilliant Poet’s of the Fall tracks, among others, while you play. Several easter eggs can found that relate back to the game Control that obviously wasn’t around at the time of the release of the original. These take the form of QR codes that, when you scan them take you to various websites related to the games, as well as letters that discuss events in the game relating to the AWE expansion for Control.

Alan Wake remains one of my favourite games, and the remaster has just added that extra playability and more widespread availability now it’s on more than the Xbox consoles.

I’m already a fair way through my current playthrough,  but I have a feeling that it will be a game that I will go back to now and then after I’ve finished it, just like I did with the first release.

The original game was definitely a solid 8/10, but the remaster has reminded me why I enjoyed the game so much and has knocked it up a notch to 9/10. Alan Wake does have a couple of issues. There are still a number of glitches that, although they don’t break the game, can be very irritating. I’ve already been trapped on a bit of scenery that’s ultimately led to my death several times.

Whether you played the original or not, I thoroughly recommend that you pick up the remaster of Alan Wake. You won’t regret it!

A New Member of the Family

Getting a pet is something that Alex and I have discussed on and off for quite some time. Whenever we talked about it, though, we realised that it just wasn’t the right time. The main reason behind this was the fact that we were always in rented accommodation, whether it be a flat or house. The issue being that we’d either have to pay a stupid amount to allow us to have a pet or worry about and repair any damage that it may do to the property. But now we’ve bought a house, and we don’t have to worry about those things. We’re both now also in a better place mental health wise, and we can see only positives to getting a pet – well, I say pet, I mean dog.

Whenever we discussed getting a dog, the one breed that we always came back to was German Sheperd. There are a few reasons why we wanted this breed; they’re easier to train than some breeds, they’re obedient and loyal, great for guard dogs and a breed that will generally want to go out – something that we sorely need to do.

With my hip getting better, I will now be able to take a dog out for walks, and by doing this, it will hopefully make my hip even stronger. Both Alex and I enjoy going out for walks, but we struggle to find the motivation to do it. It’s generally just easier to stay in and play or watch stuff sat on our arses. But having a dog that needs to be walked will be the best motivation we could have.

The other day we were discussing it again, and we found a breeder and some puppies that we were interested in. We made an appointment and were able to go and view them that evening. It was a bit of a trek, but it was worth it for a reliable breeder.

When we got there, we found that there were only two puppies left available, both female. We weren’t really too bothered about which gender we got, so we were happy to see the girls.

We sat for over an hour with the two puppies, playing with them and learning about them from the breeder. We found that they were both adorable and the urge to have both of them was strong. We watched how they interacted with each other and us and made our decision based on the temperament that we saw exhibited. By the time we were ready to go, the one we had decided on was dozing off, and the other was still darting about the room. As much as we wanted an energetic dog, we also wanted one that we could tire out, and that would relax with us.

Happy that we had made the right choice, we made our way home. While in the car, we were discussing names for our new doggo. One that we’d mentioned before was Rogue. This was mainly because, in my book Blindsighted, the protagonist gets a German Sheperd and names her Rogue. While we were talking to the breeder, she mentioned that the puppies’ fathers name was Zeus. That got us thinking about names that revolved around that. Alex was looking things up, and we found that one of the daughters of Zeus was Athena. She was all for this, but it took me a while to come around to the idea, but I did. We now had a name for our puppy.

We couldn’t take the puppy away with us when we viewed her because they can only leave the breed when they are 8 weeks old – we were a few days short of that. But we made an appointment to go and pick her up on Saturday morning.

With this arranged, we now had a couple of days to “puppy proof” the house. This meant us taking up one of the rugs, lifting some plants off the ground and hiding some cables and wires that were available for the chewing. I also spent most of Thursday running around various shops picking up bits and pieces that Athena would need; a crate, collar, bowls, toys etc. With all that done, all we have to do now is wait until tomorrow. This is harder than it sounds.

I’m sure that there will be a lot of pictures and videos posted either here or on my Twitter and Instagram. But below are our first pictures of our little bean.

Bring on tomorrow!

Who Lives Beneath: A VSS365 Story

I’ve been doing the VSS writing prompts on and off for a year or so now, but like most people, I tended to do separate little stories, scenes or poems. But when it came to September, I had an idea.

If you don’t know what I mean by VSS365 writing prompts let me quickly explain. VSS stands for Very Short Story and the idea behind it is give inspiration to writers each day of the year. When you write your story or poem, you have to incorporate the given hash tagged word for that day into it however you wish.

Now back to my idea. It started as an idea that I would develop into a novel; it was a very basic idea about a homeless wizard, but like with And Then I Killed Her – my latest WIP – I wrote a VSS tweet based on the word for the day, but unlike ATIKH I decided to continue the story through tweets while including the daily writing prompt.

The story has been going since the 9th of September, and I’ve only missed a couple of days. I’m finding that creating a story whilst incorporating a writing prompt word allows me for more freedom and for the creativity to flow. I never really know where a story is going, but this way of writing is even more unknown as I don’t know what the prompt for the day is going to be.

The other challenge is that obviously, with Twitter, you have a limited number of characters that you can use, so I have to fit in what I need to say with only using the 240 characters. Sometimes this is quite easy, but other times (because I need to make sure that all the punctuation is in there) can be quite tight and I have to rewrite bits to fit.

I’m going to keep the story going for as long as I can, and, depending on how it works out, I might look at developing it further into a full novel, but we’ll see what happens.

Overall I’m enjoying the process, and I just hope that my readers are enjoying it so far.

Below is the progress of where the story is up to until yesterday (I’ve taken the hashtags out). Enjoy!


The war rages beneath the ground. The shufflers fight valiantly against the overworld bosses, but it just isn’t enough; we are losing.
I rush back to my hovel, take one last look around and grab my cane. I have to use my magic. It’s our only chance.
I scuttle through the old store, avoiding the overworlder patrols. They always do the same circuit, and I have their route memorised. A light suddenly shines in my face, and I have a moment of panic before I realise who it is from the ragged breaths. John had followed.
I stand at the shore of the river. The overworlders have already destroyed the bridges to their capital. I need to find a way across. John points at something across the water. A string of lights is coming through the trees. We can’t let them find us.
We hide in some nearby bushes and let the lights pass us by. John and I decide that we should walk along the river to see what the score is; see if we can find a point to cross. Eventually, we come across a section that has stones we can use to step across the water.
We cross the river and carefully tread through the woods. The lights we saw earlier have disappeared into the mist, and we are now alone in the darkness. We walk about a mile before we come to an old wooden shack. I push the door open with a creak. Inside we find steps.
I remember something from the shufflers’ lore. It’s said that under these woods are a network of underground tunnels that lead directly into an overworld city. These steps must lead into those tunnels. With trepidation, I take my first step down the stone staircase.
Slowly we make our way down the stone steps. When we are at the bottom, we’re not prepared for the gore that we find. The floor is strewn with bodies, both of shufflers and overworlders. Something big went down here, and not long ago.
“Well, at least it’s not us,” John says.
I go to remark on how glib that sounded, but I bite my tongue.
We step across the human detritus, always keeping our eyes on the darkness in front of us. Hopefully, we won’t be down here long. I try not to breathe in the death.
To save us from the worst of the darkness, I light a torch that hangs on the wall. Once it’s alight, we see the true horror of the underground tunnel. There isn’t an empty bit of floor. John mutters that he wishes we were still in the dark. We push forward.
In the dim light, we hear something hit the concrete floor with a wet splat.
“What was that?” John says with a tremor in his voice.
“I don’t know; it could be anything down here,” I say, raising my cane.
There’s a soft, squelching sound that seems to be getting closer.
“Jellies!” John cries.
In a matter of seconds, we are surrounded by several squelching slimy orbs emitting a horrible screeching like a demonic choir.
I waved my cane at them, and a blast of fire burst from the end, hitting the first Jelly. It burst like a balloon.
After several more bursts of fire, all the jellies are defeated. The dark tunnels return to their eerie silence, with only the crackle of our torch to keep us company. With my cane still raised, John and I venture forth further underground, hopefully towards our goal.
“Do you know where we’re going, l?” John asks. His words echo around the black tunnel. He quickly puts a hand over his mouth as if he didn’t mean to speak aloud.
“It won’t be far now,” I say, adding “I hope” in my head as I light a wall sconce with a flare from my cane.
After what feels like an eternity in darkness, we reach another set of stone stairs leading up. We see the pale light of the moon streaming through the entrance. At the top of the steps, I carve my symbol – a circle with two parallel lines going through – it into the wall.
We’re about to step through the stone archway out into the forest when we hear a guttural grumble from behind us. We expedite our exit and run into the trees, leaving the noise behind us. After several minutes we stop, both out of breath. I also feel a tad nauseous.
Prior to continuing our journey, I take a minute to check my small bag of supplies. Wrapped in my knapsack, I had all manner of substances and elements that would help me with spells and incantations. I didn’t know what I was going to face, so I’d grabbed all sorts.
“Where are we going from here?” John asks.
I’m feeling a bit brash, so I just say, “Into the city.”
John’s face says it all. He doesn’t want to storm into a city full of overworlders, but I know if we don’t do something, the war will be over, and we will be the casualties.
“Okay,” John says. I can hear the trepidation in his voice. He’s always one to fret about things, but given the situation we’re in right now, I can’t blame him, even I’m feeling it.
We move forward to the bright fires of the city walls. I have no idea how we’ll get in.
As we approach the high walls, we come across a rivulet of what looks about as far from clean water as you could get. With our eyes, we trace its source and see that it’s coming from a wide pipe that protrudes from the stone.
“Well, we’ve found a way in,” I say.
We approach the pipe and see that it is covered by a metal grate. I raise my cane, steadying my aim with my other hand as a blast of freezing air sprays from the tip. After a few seconds, I lower the stick and approach the grating. One swift kick, and it shatters.
I pull John up into the pipe and look out at the crepuscular light of the waning day. We will be inside by the time it’s dark, which should help us sneak through the streets. I hope.
We trudge further into the pipe through the thick sludge, trying not to inhale too much.
After a few minutes of walking through the pipe, we hear some noises up ahead.
“W…what was that?” John says with a stutter.
Standing in silence, we strain our ears—the Sound of talking approaches.
With nowhere to go, we flatten ourselves against the wall of the pipe.
Suddenly the minimal light in the space is blocked off by a shadow from above. I carefully peel away from the wall and look up through the vertical pipe and see someone stood over the grating. Cautiously we hold our breath until the figure passes and the silence returns.
Soon we approach a ladder. We consider continuing through the pipe, but looking at John, I see he’s pale and like he’s about to vomit.
At the top of the ladder, I lift up a grate and poke my head through. I’m greeted by a sea of tombstones in the cemetery above.


That’s it for now. I’ll do another update once I have another chunk of VSS tweets.

Let me know what you think of the story. Do you take part in the VSS hashtag? How do you use it?