Skyrim – When Will It Ever End!?

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The beautifully realised Solitude, Skyrim

I bought Skyrim for my daughter (Yeah, sure I did) some six years ago, and I have been playing it ever since.

For those who do not know, Skyrim is a fantasy video role-playing game. It’s correct and full title is, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It is an open world action role-playing video game by Bethesda Game Studios.

I am onto my fourth or fifth incarnation; the others got lost in PS3 game wipes, or I got bored and started a new character following a different allegiance.

When the first Skyrim games came out, game-players of all stripe were excited – video-gamers, LARPs and Dungeon and Dragons fans, flocked to play this well-rendered, highly populated, multi-themed addition to the Fantasy genre – who didn’t want to be that hero with the horn-ed helmet we saw as a cut-out stand throughout stores?!

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Who could forget this guy? Dragonborn

There is just so much to do and it keeps on coming (though some might argue it’s the same fight in a different guise).

The main quest is the resolution of the so-called Dragon Crisis – you do this, you become the Dragon Borne – cue expansive, emotional music. Then there are the the secondary quests: that’s all the ‘factions’; Thieves Guild, Companions Guild, Mages Guild etc, etc. Added to each guild are side quests. Add to this a civil war, which prompts you to choose sides, and all the side quests that go along with that. Then there’s the ‘gods’, dungeons, city stories, and bounty hunts.

Do I cheat? Of course I do! What’s a laptop for?

Currently I am playing a Level 62 Wood Elf (oh, did I not mention the races? Human, Elf, Argonian, Khajit, I’m not explaining them all), called Gylia Whitethorn. And this is one of the things I like about the game, you get to choose your race, your gender, your looks, your name; women enjoy playing sword and sorcery genres as much as males – and you don’t get the sexism like in Grand Theft Auto (that is such a male cisgender, ‘duh’ scenario). Gylia Whitethorn is, I suppose, what D&D players would recognise as a Rogue. She is an excellent Archer (100), Thief (100) and almost perfect Enchanter. What more could a girl want?!

I have completed the main quest, I am leader of ALL the guilds, I have been a were-bear and a vampire, I have lost, slain or accidentally had killed dozens of companions. I married and adopted 2 children, built my own houses and have collected enough gold and gems to choke even Smaug.

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Lakeview Manor – my first home don’t y’know

So why am I still playing it? When will it end?

Well simply put, the game NEVER ends; it keeps spawning dungeons, monsters, minor quests. I was expecting (five years ago) that there would be an ‘Hallelujah’ moment. I would be crowned Queen of Skyrim and all would come and bow before me -nah – members of the guilds are just as snotty towards me as ever before, and that is an irritating point, the ‘little people’ all have set dialogue, so even when you’re the head honcho of The Companions in Whiterun, no-one actually gives a toss, you still get sent on crappy little missions (should you choose them).

So why am I still playing?!

I honestly don’t know – sometimes I have played as a relief from a crappy day at work, “Eat my ebony arrow, Management.” In the beginning it was obviously to complete quests and gain treasure. But now I have so many magic staffs that I don’t know what to do with them all, honestly it’s ridiculous. I like the world the game is set in, I like to wander sometimes and just look about, until some wretched Ash Spawn attacks, and then, yawn, I take it out. However, when I look at images of Skyrim on the internet, there are many places I do not recognise or creatures I have not encountered, so what have I been doing all these years?

There have been long gaps between gameplay, over the years those gaps have grown, sometimes it is a couple of months I don’t play it.

Maybe the gaps will get longer until I just stop playing altogether, I can’t see me stopping altogether any time soon.

Maybe I will be an eighty year old granny, sitting in my fluffy slippers and dressing-gown, yelling at the screen through my false teeth as I take down another Draugh with a balletic swipe of my Daedric Blade. They will have to peel the controls from my cold, dead hands…

                                             “By Ysmir, you won’t leave here alive!”

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Skyrim, Slippers and Scones…

Interview with Joshua Grant – Diabolic Shrimp

Good morning readers,

If you’ve ever wondered what a ‘diabolic shrimp’ is, you’ve come to the right place! Imagine a James Bondy villain type living in his underwater lair, directing sea creatures with his super-duper-gonna-take-over-the-world-tech; Joshua Grant is the self-proclaimed leader of shrimp – I’m kidding, really (or am I?)

Seriously though, American author Josh has created his website under the name Diabolic Shrimp and with pretty altruistic reasons. He not only wanted to create a platform for writers to support one another, but he is giving 10% of his takings from his latest book to charity; one of which is oceanic research. Not such a diabolic chap at all. I invited Josh to share something of his life and his website with you.

                    Josh’s iconic shrimp brigade

1. Tell us something about yourself Josh.

I am a caring, compassionate guy with a moderate imagination and a mild case of misadventure.  I have a huge passion for science (particularly space exploration) and for making a difference in the lives of kids.  My favorite color [sic] is blue, I absolutely hate peanut butter (not allergic, just hate it), and I hope I live to see the day we colonize Mars.

2. Do you ever find yourself ‘flailing through life’?

My walk through life has been a pretty turbulent one (hence the ‘mild case of misadventure’).  I’ve suffered some major traumas in life, truly the worst things that anyone should have to go through, but God brought me through it and has allowed me to land on my feet a wiser and better person.  I’ve also experienced some crazy things in life like surviving a major flash flood, encountering several bears, facing off with a mountain lion while ghost hunting, and weathering a vicious storm while sailing the ocean.  So…maybe flailing? 

3. What is Diabolic Shrimp and what are its origins?

Diabolic Shrimp is my author website that’s also designed to support other authors.  I personally buy a book each week from the list of authors signed on to Shrimp.  I then go on to review that book.  I also buy a book each month to give away to readers for free.

I didn’t originally intend Shrimp to be an author support site.  Shortly after I published, I realized how difficult it could be for authors to connect with readers, and just how many sites and venues out there took advantage of authors without providing much benefit.  It was here that I saw a chance to make a difference for a group of people that needed it.  I decided to step forward and create a free space that authors could come to for concrete support.  It wasn’t very successful at first (I had 6 members for about half a year) but a belief in helping others and a bit of persistence has allowed us to grow to nearly a thousand members in the past four months.  It has honestly been a wonderful experience that has allowed me to meet tons of interesting people and create a truly caring community.

4. Shrimp – why shrimp?!

Haha!  It’s kind of an awkward story actually.  My site wasn’t originally called Diabolic Shrimp.  It had another name for about six hours.  I chose that other zany name on a whim.  It was only later when I was out with my friends that they told me it sounded kind of dirty.  I was moderately mortified, ‘cause I could totally see what they were talking about!  I then quickly changed it to Diabolic Shrimp.

It’s actually my little joke.  The Diabolic stands for my diabolic plan to eventually get every single author on there and take over the world.  The Shrimp is because individually we authors are the little guys, but when we band together we make a pretty impressive swarm.  That, and shrimp are fun little creatures.

5. Would you describe yourself as an environmentalist? And do you believe that people like yourself can make a change for the positive in the world?

I’d say I’m an environmentalist to a degree.  I believe all people have a responsibility to leave the world better than when they came into it.  That applies to everything, environmentally, relationally, or otherwise.  I know for certain I can make a positive difference in the world and will continually encourage others to do so.

6. Your latest publication, Pandora, is about a space leisure cruise ship that picks up the apparent survivor of an accident. Would it be right to describe it as sci-fi horror?

I sort of had a hard time classifying Pandora.  I wanted to have a new take on the classic ‘ghost ship’ trope, but also capture all the actiony thrill of the 90s horror films I used to watch as a kid, and then couple all that with a deep moral heart.  So it’s really more of a Sci-Fi Thriller packed with strange creatures similar to films like Aliens or The Thing, with an emotional twist.

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Pandora by Joshua Grant

7. Are there any authors that influence your writing, who are they and why?

Several authors have made a big impact on me over the years.  I always have to give a shout out to JRR Tolkien.  The Fellowship of the Ring film came out when I was a freshman in high school and I became a huge Lord of the Rings fan.  I read all the books (yes, even some of the Middle Earth histories), and that’s what really sparked my writing career.  Then Lois Lowry’s works like The Giver and Number the Stars really taught me the power that books have to inspire emotions.

I came upon the Horror genre only a few years ago.  S.D. Perry really blew me away with her fast paced, heart pounding novels.   I then got onto the Dean Koontz train.  Ultimately, I strive to make my writing a blend of these two masters.

8. What genre do you enjoy reading? And do you have a favourite book?

Oddly enough, Young Adult Fantasy is pretty much my favorite thing in the world to read.  Basically anything Rick Riordan writes works for me (shout out to The Lightning Thief).

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The watery theme continues…

9. You’re a teacher I believe, what subject do you teach and do you ever bring your experience into the classroom or vice-versa?

I used to be an elementary teacher, so I taught all subjects.  These days I just guest teach in both elementary and middle school.  I also work with middle and high schoolers at church (more on the emotional side of things).  I truly love getting to share my experience with the kiddos.  It was always a goal of mine to use my writing to inspire the younger generation.  I actually struggled with writing growing up so it’s empowering to show kids who also struggle that they can make it.  The only downfall is that parents keep showing up and saying ‘hey, I bought your book for my kid!’  I’m always a little mortified when I have to explain that it’s more for adults and watch them give me weird looks!  I guess it’s more motivation to finish Silly Tales from Albanon!                                                    (AP: You have said it, and now it is public Josh, it’s got to be done!)

10. When working on a book, do you have a special place you like to write, i:e: a garden shed, a room with a view, an underwater lair?!!

Ooo, an underwater lair would be awesome!  Oddly enough, my brain only likes to write at the kitchen table.  I can’t seem to write anywhere else.  Maybe I’m just hungry for more stories?  (I know, cringe)                                                           (AP: well there goes my image of a watery lair with the high-tech-gadgety-thing going on!!)

11. Who or what has been your biggest influence to date?

I’ve had a few major influences in my life.  My parents are the hardest working, kindest people I know.  I dedicated my book to them for their endless care and selflessness.  The kids I work with always inspire me to be a better, more creative person.  God is a huge influence in making me the functional, altruistic person I am today.  And on the business front, Elon Musk is a major role model.  He likes to help others and is constantly pushing the envelope.

12. If you could tell your 11 year old self anything, what would you say?

I would probably tell myself some lottery numbers. J  But aside from that, I’d tell my 11 year old self that he’s a worthwhile, good person with a heart that has more love and endurance in it than even he knows.

13. And finally – if you could be any sea creature, what would you be and why?!

I would be a…drumroll…actually, not a shrimp.  They get eaten by literally everything!  I’d either be an otter or a squid.  Otters are super cute and squid are some of the coolest animals ever.  Hmmm, maybe I should have called it Diabolic Otter…

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Sea otters take over the world?!

Thanks for the interview Josh, and good luck with your secret-domination-world-takeover, ahem, with your writers site.

You can find Josh at:

https://diabolicshrimp.com/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6179696.Joshua_Grant

 

Short Story

Good morning readers! On this mild Friday morning, I am offering a short story.

I began writing in the genre commonly called Steampunk, some 4 years ago. Steampunk is one of those awkward to describe genres, occasionally referred to as, Speculative Fiction. The ‘founders’ of this style; Tim Powers, K.W. Jeter and James Blaylock write dissimilar stories, but the commonality in this kind of literature is the cross-over of timelines, that technology is often; but not strictly, driven by steam and a fantastical/fantasy/punk quality.

I wrote this piece for my daughter; and read it later at Wirral Writers group. She was studying for A Levels at the time and the pressure of handing in assignments on time was the prime influence. It is a light-hearted take on the theme of time travel;

 

The Milford Papers

The thing rose almost silently from the dark water. Tiny, oily bubbles accompanying the rising pale dome of a head streaked with filth. With what might be called a sense of intelligence, the thing headed for the steps built into the stone-faced quay, and began to climb.
“The Monster!” Came the shout from a steamship passenger; a pointed finger directing the gaze of the dark men along the ropey quay.
A cry of alarm from the dockside drew further spectators.
The dark men; burly men, sinewy men, hard labourers with grease and coal etched into their faces, advance upon the hapless thing. And with raised fists, bale hooks, picaroons and wood off-cuts, beat the now landed creature. It staggered and flailed, urged back under a flurry of blows and snarled curses, these men who were broad backed, with strong muscles, and of sharp eye, paid no heed to the bizarre waving of limbs and strange snaps of light the thing gave off. Its alien wings twitched spasmodically. It was quickly and efficiently sent back to where it came from; tumbling backwards into the dark water, fizzing and sparking all the while, enveloped in the darkness the thing was presumed dead, or as good as. The docker’s returned to their duties.
And below the surface of the river, the thing thrashed, its legs pumped frantically as its hands scrabbled about its own being. And then. It simply vanished.

*

“Christ Almighty!”
“Calm down Milford.”
“Calm down?! Calm down?” The young Milford screeched. “I almost got killed this time. I’m not bloody doing it again. Nothing is worth that kind of hammering. Have you seen me?!” He pointed at newly ripening marks on his upper body.
“Hm?” The older man was inspecting the limp skin of ‘The Monster’.
“Professor. I said have you seen these bruises? I’m black and blue thanks to those thugs.”
“Who was it this time? Hm? What did they look like? Is the phonology like ours? Yes? What about syntax? Do they –“
“Professor!” Milford yelled over the gush of questions. “I couldn’t hear them. I had my helmet on. My bloody head.” He rubbed the back of his neck and skull that had been rattled under the reign of blows.
“Well, the suit seems to have taken a fair old pounding.” The Professor said. Milford’s mouth dropped open. “But nothing we cannot repair, hm?” He fondled the slippery fabric, pale as the underbelly of a sea bass, now detached from its complicated helmet. “I think a few simple repairs and adjustments will have it working good as new, better even.” He studied the multi-beam antenna on the helmet and the hinged time-space array panels, drooping from the shoulders of the suit.
“Professor. I don’t know if you’re aware, but we, sorry, I, keep missing the place. Or the time. I don’t know which, I’ve never got beyond five steps before some hooligan attacks me! Oh, and thanks for asking how I am.”
Professor Arbutus waggled his finger. “No, no, no, hm, no my boy. Not the wrong time.” He gently laid the suit next to the weed and mud smeared helmet. “I am absolutely, one hundred percent certain that the time is correct. Just a matter of co-ordinates. All we need to do – “
“I’m not doing it.”
“Pardon?”
“I said. I. Am. Not. Doing. It.” Milford said, then added civilly, “Sir.”
“Well now. Hm, yes, no. I see. Well in that case.”
Milford squinted at his professor, lips tight, don’t you dare old man, he thought.
“I cannot pass your coursework.” Damn!

*

Milford worked closely with his tutor for the next few days. The Finals were looming and he still hadn’t completed his paper. He had made adjustments to the multi-beam antenna, adding Albertian Relativity Sensors, whilst the professor fashioned his personally designed Continuum Lures for the time-space array panels.
“Should work a treat, hm?” The Professor smiled his apparently vacant smile.
Milford scowled at his tutor. “I bloody hope so. It’s me who has to wear it.”
“Language Milford.” The kindly voice warned.
“Sorry sir, but, well you know it hasn’t been as successful as we hoped before.”
“Don’t you understand the enormity of what we’re attempting Milford? My word. You young people today take everything for granted- “
“No sir. We don’t. Look, I’m sorry but Tasker has already completed her dissertation, handed it in to the Board this morning. And Barnes’ thesis is practically complete.”
The professor patted his students shoulder awkwardly. “It’ll be fine boy. Trust me. One more time.”

*
The figure that came to stand before the lectern was greeted with a wild burst of applause that threatened to deafen Milford. He was astounded. People stamped their feet upon the marble floor, the applause and cheers rose to the ceiling and seemed to curl around the tunnel vault and wrap itself around the audience. Milford’s hand trembled as he jotted in the small, leather bound notebook. He had expected him to be shorter. And then he spoke.
“Ladies and gentlemen. Here we are…” The speaker paused, his eyes twinkled. “…again, in the most perfect room in the world, in this most rich and beautiful port.”
The audience erupted into laughter and cheers, causing Milford to furtively press a finger into one ear. And so the evening continued, the speaker read extracts from his past works, enacting the parts and portraying the voices of his characters so flawlessly, Milford imagined there were hidden players lending their voices. The man combined whimsy and pathos, joy and exuberance, the audience was spellbound. Great oratory and acting combined; Milford squirmed with delight thinking of the examiners reading his thesis. His professor would have loved to visit this evening. Milford had been studying Literature for a mere seven years, his tutor had devoted almost seventy of his years to it, Milford felt he owed it to the old man as much as himself. And so, Milford scribbled like he’d never done before. He enjoyed the evening immensely.
When the crowds eventually dispersed beyond St. George’s Hall, Milford made up his mind to speak to the great man. He found him in a rear room, glass of some deep, syrupy liquid in one hand, bottle at his elbow. He looked Milford up and down with his acute eye, shook his hand firmly, laughed bawdily at his own jokes, and Milford was twisted with anxiety inside – should he tell the great man he would die the following year? Complete that novel sir.
The writers hand came down companionably upon Milford’s shoulder. He proffered the other to shake. Time to go realised Milford.
“Sir?” He managed to mumble. “I…” His voice trailed away, flaccid, impotent, suddenly afraid.
“Son.” The writer smiled. “If I may be allowed to misquote myself, ‘It has been the best of times, it has been the worst of times, an age of wisdom, an age of foolishness, everything is before you.”
He took a brown, felt hat from a stand. Buttoned his heavy overcoat and turning at the doorway, smiled at Milford, winked and, swaying slightly, left the building.

*

The lights fizzed and hummed. Professor Arbutus looked up from his current project.
“Milford my boy!”.
He tottered forwards to release Milford from the Deep Time Suit. Removing the helmet, he was halted in his waffling by the glistening on his student’s cheeks. Milford sagged onto the nearest seat.
“He’s going to die Professor.”
The professor sat down opposite Milford. He noticed the suit was comparatively pristine this time. Milford yanked a small, leather bound notebook from inside the outfit. The professor took it gently, almost reverently. He thumbed through his student’s notes making exclamations of delight.
“Did you get the dialogue?” He pressed.
Milford began laboriously unfastening his one-piece, revealing the historical costume beneath. He unknotted the tie and from within its lining, pulled out the tiny recording device. Arbutus grabbed it and thrust it into the Vox Processor.
As the rich, deep voice filled the room, the Professor clenched his fists and almost jigged on the spot.
“He’s going to die Professor.” Repeated Milford morosely.
“Milford my boy.” Lectured the aged man before him. “Mr. Charles Dickens has been dead for five hundred years. Now pull yourself together, you have a thesis to write!”

END

*Dedicated to Erin
* In 1869 Charles Dickens gave his last speech at St. George’s Hall, Liverpool. He died in 1870.

*Featured Image – Film still from La Jetee, 1962

Who Wants To Save The World?

 

independence-day-movie-original-post-20th-century-fox

NASA is hiring a Planetary Protection Officer to protect Earth from alien harm!!

Apparently, NASA is currently looking for a Planetary Protection Officer to defend planet Earth from the threat of invading alien life!! True.

This is actually real government job! But before you get all excited, here’s what it’s really about – NASA needs a scientist to help fight alien life —but it is microscopic! The Planetary Protection Officer will be in charge of keeping our space exploration equipment free of contamination; from  earth microbes and also microscopic organisms from outer space that may be attached to returning equipment.

Oh, so a ‘cleaner’ then?

It got me thinking about what use I would be in a world that REALLY needed a Planetary Protection Officer. I have been a fan of science fiction stories for as long as I can remember.

I had comics and annuals of The Fantastic Four when I was a little kid. I grew up on a diet of Star Trek and Doctor Who. I love films like Contact (Jodie Foster) and Netflix series like The Expanse. And I suppose like many of us do, I place myself in the role of one of the characters; not always the MC, main character, when watching – it’s what makes us root for them.

I never wanted to be Captain Kirk, or Lieutenant Spock, strangely, I most aligned myself with Khan Noonien Singh.  Khan was a genetically engineered human from the late 20th century. He only wanted a place of his own – he was a major player in the Eugenics Wars, tried to take over The Enterprise – but was left, stranded on a planet that was toxic, his true love died and Khan blamed Kirk for the rest of his life. I know, I know, not entirely a nice chap, but I couldn’t help feel sorry for him.

“Ah, Kirk, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish best served cold? Well…it is very cold in space!”

~ Khan to Captain Kirk


Later we had the redoubtable Captain Jean-Luc Picard and then Captain Kathryn Janeway. It took me a while to like Janeway, but when I did, I committed fully – but I never wanted to be her. I don’t think I am Captain material; even in my wildest fantasies. But was he, Khan, born bad or made that way?!

I think most of us fantasise the ‘if I could be…’ scenario when we watch films or read books. Super hero films being the most obvious. How many times have you had or overheard the ‘nerd’ conversation – “So, if you could have any superpower, what would it be?”

I haven’t got a clue – or didn’t have until I watched Heroes. Remember that one?

It was about ordinary people around the world discovering that they have super powers. Their lives intertwine as they work together to prevent a catastrophic future; who can forget ‘Save the Cheerleader, Save the World’? All the characters had a single superpower – except the evil guy whose ability was stealing everyone else’s – Sylar, played by Zachary Quinto, who late went on to be Spock! There was another character, Peter Petrelli who was a Paramedic, he was able to absorb other people’s abilities after touching them, albeit for a short while. So my chosen power is the ability to absorb powers from others (by Peter or Sylar’s methods! See! It’s Khan all over again!)

Among the Superhero canon, my all-time favourite was Batman. Who actually has no super powers, but was a billionaire highly trained physically and with ‘all the best toys’. Recently, my decades old devotion to the batty one has shifted – I still love him, still want to be him, but there’s a ‘new kid’ on the block for me – Deadpool. He is witty, tough, unpredictable, indestructible! Who wouldn’t want this? Oh, his face is a mess, like scary Halloween night in an abattoir mess, so he has to wear the mask. Would he ever work for NASA? I don’t think so. Would he ever fight to save the world from aliens, sure, if there was something in it for him I suppose. That something is his girlfriend, Deadpool after all, is a romantic; a scary, loopy, kick-ass romantic, but a romantic none the less. I think that’s what would drive him to save mankind.

But what about the ordinary folk, I hear you say, what about those who have no ‘special abilities’ and want to help save planet Earth from those pesky space invaders? I.E: YOU and ME? What sort of people will we need? Thinkers?  Muscle?  Builders? Carers? I know we need them all, but for the sake of my stupid argument, and in keeping with stories; there is only ever 1 hero, who will it be?

Some ideas for ‘ordinary’ people  – (other defenders of Earth are available)

Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games

Sherlock Holmes – Sherlock

Lyra Belacqua – His Dark Materials

Lara Croft – Tomb Raider

James Bond – James Bond

Buffy Summers – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Rupert Giles – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Frodo Baggins – The Lord of the Rings

Peter Quill – Guardians of the Galaxy

Rincewind the Wizaard [sic] – Terry Pratchett’s Discworld

Evelyn  ‘Evie’ Carnahan – The Mummy

I am surprised to see not one but 2 librarians in there, plus a librarians assistant (Rincewind, he never mastered wizardry and so helps out The Librarian – an orangutan)

 

‘I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer, or a treasure-seeker, or a gunfighter, Mr. O’Connell, but I am proud of what I am… I am a librarian.’

~Evie Carnahan, The Mummy

 

Forget the words of Bonnie Tyler – “I need a hero, I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night” or Tina Turner – “We don’t need another hero,”

Let the ‘little people’ be the hero’s (Good grief, I sound like something from Team America!)

Ever fancied yourself as a bit of a hero? How about the protector of mankind? If you had to choose a non superhero to be our Planetary Protection Officer  who or what would you be?! And why?

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No pressure!

 

Female Superheroes

Where are all the female superheroes?

Have you ever noticed how few known female superheroes there are?

Go ahead and name some….

I bet if I asked you to name artists from history, they would be mostly male, if I asked you to name only female artists, I’m guessing it would take you longer.

I bet you would also have to think a little, not so much, of the names of female authors – not doing too badly in that department, though female writers go through phases of exposure in the media, the general trend seems firmly bent towards male authors.

But today I am interested in the superhero, or graphic novel hero, comic-book persona; whatever.

Deadpool-Merc-with-a-Mouth
You kiss your mother with that mouth?!

Most of us; especially those who take an interest in this genre, will have noticed the recent explosion of ‘super-hero’ movies being touted to us popcorn-munchers. Today I watched Deadpool, for the first time. I know! Where have I been?  Right? Resisting the urge is my reply (I’m not a huge fan of Ryan Reynolds, usually) however, I really enjoyed it. It made me laugh, it made me groan (in the right places), the action was action-y, and not too much of it, the dialogue humorous. I can’t bear those directors that think if they put a tonne of CGI and violent crashes/fights/explosions/speeding trains/etc in, then it will make a good movie – IT DOESN’T – it is tiring on the eyes and leaves no room for narrative development.

Deadpool had a good balance. I loved his wisecracking ways, and have to admit, I haven’t actually read the comic (eek!). But it got me started, again, on my rant of – where are all the female comic superheroes? Wonder Woman? Pah! I saw the original TV show, it was horrible. (And isn’t Wonder Woman a bit of a crappy name?) I want a female superhero/anti-hero, who is smart, and sassy, who will make an impact and be remembered as much as Batman – and mostly – I want her to be British! ( Other European nations are acceptable)

Search the internet all you like, British heroes are a rare breed; some websites even include Sherlock effing Holmes! He’s not a superhero! I like him, don’t get me wrong, and he’s a genius dude, but he is not a comic superhero!

I know there are female graphic artists and writers out there, and I take my hat off to them, it’s a real hard slog. But I want the storylines and art to equal the male, and I rarely find that. I want  Alan MooreNeil GaimanGrant MorrisonBrian Bolland and Mike McMahon, John Wagner, Alan Grant, Pat MillsAngela Kincaid Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Alan Moore, Mike McMahon, Dave Gibbons. Fans might see a pattern emerging in that list; they all work; or have worked for 2000 AD comics. I want a female Sláine or Deadpool (I know they made a Lady Deadpool, but, meh). The closest character creation, for me, was Jessica Jones – but she’s American.

slaine
Slaine by Simon Bisley

So, please, please, please, can someone, somewhere create me a female superhero to be proud of.

Thank you.

(And British)

P.S: don’t put her in a figure hugging 1940s latex suit – unless it is done, like Deadpool, with tongue firmly in cheek – yours, not hers!

 

Jessica Jones

You shoot that gun at me–I will pull that bullet out of my ruined four hundred dollar leather jacket…and I will shove it up your ass with my pinky finger. And which one of us do you think that will hurt more? “

 Jessica Jones

 

 

It’s Monday, what are you writing?

Good morning all !

First, let me slide this in here swiftly; new anthology, Tick Tock, is out now on Amazon. This is an eclectic mix of poetry and prose, sci-fi, fantasy, fiction and more, from Wirral Writers. I have three pieces included – The Scream of the Butterfly, Blackbird and Farewell. I hope you will enjoy it.

Now, it’s Monday, for some reason it is looked on with misery or a feeling of bleurgh! I fell into this trap during my mid to late twenties – but why?

It’s only another day to write something amazing!!!

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What are you working on at the moment?

Are you struggling to get that character with the rather bland personality to be a hero?

Is there a flaw in your timeline?

How many fluffy aliens does it really take to run a spaceship?

All relevant questions; to someone! And you know what? You’re the ones who have the answers – it’s your world, your people, grab them both by the short and curlies and shake the living daylights out of them until they comply. Bend them to your will. Be the boss, go on!

Now go write!

 

 

*Postscript – I am letting you know, so I don’t deceive my readers, some of my links  now connect to Amazon. If someone buys something via my link, I get some coin, not a lot, I’m not going to be able to buy a new washing machine, but I want you to be aware.

 

 

Why you should play Dungeons and Dragons.

There has been a lot said about this fantasy table top role playing game (RPG) over the decades, from the 80’s when it was deemed ‘anti-Christian’, to the 90’s when it became ‘Satanical’ and into the 00’s  when it was played by ‘nerds’. Now I want a go…

A little background…

The game was originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, and first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR)

Regarding the view that it promotes anti or irreligious feeling, influences teens to be drawn to commit suicide or even murder, I strongly object. If you look at statistics showing deaths as a result of ‘religious wars’, you find the numbers reach into the thousands, even millions. The Crusades alone were accountable for up to 9 million deaths (according to some sources).

The Crusades were a series of religious wars sanctioned by the Latin Church in the medieval period, especially the campaigns in the Eastern Mediterranean with the aim of capturing Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Islamic rule, to recapture Christian territory and defend Christian pilgrims. The term “crusades” is also applied to other campaigns sanctioned by the Church.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crusades

 

death-toll

This is a section of an image of the Death Toll Comparison Breakdown from Wait But Why site is a fascinating accumulation of statistics. http://waitbutwhy.com/2013/08/the-death-toll-comparison-breakdown.html

 

So it seems that war in the name of God was, and is acceptable, and by default, so are those deaths.  My research led me to discover a total of 130 deaths attributed to D and D – the large majority of these were suicides. I am not taking away the fact that it is always tragic when a young person takes his or her own life- and over 90% of these were male, but looking deeper we will find that there was an emotional even mental health issue at play here.

130 is a long, long way from 9 million, so should we ask ourselves, if people played games instead of following a religion, might we not have less death on our hands?

The view that Dungeons and Dragons (or D & D) leads young players to become involved in Satanism and Satanic rituals is also unfounded nonsense. Many members of Christian churches were up in arms about D & D in the 90’s as it was deemed a ‘gateway’ to the ‘darker’ side. The vast majority of these concerned parents were American. Reading some of the comments, or news reports of the time reminded me of those black and white info films they used to show of the dangers of smoking cannabis – ‘Reefer Madness’ is a fine example,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbjHOBJzhb0

and is laughably naive to anyone today who  views it today. The knee-jerk reaction must have been invented by the Americans, as anything that they cannot comprehend immediately, or that does not fit into their clean living, white picket fenced world is deemed evil.

I’d like you to take a look at what others have said about playing D and D, don’t just take my word for it – after all, I’m one of those ker-razy people who play it!

Craig Hallam is an English writer. I have met him on a couple of occasions, and I can tell you that he is a very lovely man; kind of word, polite and friendly; he used to be a nurse – how decent can you get. He plays D and D. Visit his page “How D&D helped my writing – I’ve found it’s a massive help to maintaining creativity. When my books are stumbling… and I can’t get my Auth-on, D&D has been exactly what I’ve needed.” https://craighallam.wordpress.com/tag/dungeons-and-dragons/

Ethan Gilsdorf is an American writer, poet, editor, critic, journalist and teacher – second decent human career. He plays, or played D and D. And can explain a lot better than me, why you should play the game. I GAVE A TEDX TALK “WHY DUNGEONS & DRAGONS IS GOOD FOR YOU (IN REAL LIFE)” Ethan Gilsdorf explains the positives, for himself, of playing the game, and why it can be good for you too. http://www.ethangilsdorf.com/ethanfreak-blog/2016/5/25/igave-a-tedx-talkwhy-dungeons-dragons-is-good-for-you-in-rea.html

Playing D and D, I have learnt about so many things I did not learn in school. My knowledge base has expanded. Why? Because when you are the DM; Dungeon Master, or in my case Mistress, you are tasked with writing a scenario, or story if you will, that will not only fit the players, but challenge and entertain them, not for a couple of hours, but possibly for weeks on end! And if you veer away from the ‘traditional’, rule toting aspect; like we did, you better find something to keep your players playing.

Research, research, research.

I reckon I could teach university students a thing or two about how to research.  Because we moved from the original themes of dwarves, elves, wizards, dungeons and, er, dragons, we have to work with each other – collaborate – on what we all wanted to do. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the experiment doesn’t work, but mostly, it is still fun. In fact, now I come to think of it, in over 25 years of playing (Yes, you read that correctly TWENTY FIVE YEARS), we have to my knowledge only had 3 games with dragons in them!

Where/when have we played?

By this, I do not mean what time and what room in the house, I am referring to game scenarios. After the traditional scenario/setting, we have played; an all Dwarven world, post-apocalyptic Mad Max style world, 12th century Damascus, World War II, the future ( space, cyberpunk, extra-terrestrials), Discworld influenced landscapes, Time Bandits influenced game, horror film influenced games, pensioners, demi-gods, siblings, postmen!! The variations go on and on.

You can see how the imagination is tried and tested – excellent for an author.

So, to me and my ‘team’; some of this might surprise the sceptics amongst you:

We’re all of us, over 50 years of age.

One of us is a professional musician and educator.

One supports the elderly.

One supports students with learning difficulties.

One of us is in the IT sector.

One of us is a support in the community.

One is an artist.

We’re all parents.

And we drink tea at ‘half-time’.

In conclusion, I have nothing against religion per say (you have no clue as to what belief system I follow if any) and I am deeply saddened by the death of anyone under the age of 50. But a table top role playing game is not the reason people fall by the wayside in one form or another. It encourages fair play, comradery, storytelling, imagination, patience, acceptance to name a few aspects. And its great fun!

What about ‘the nerds’, I hear you ask…

…well, that goes without saying.

 

 

10 Good Reasons to Play D&D by AMERON (DEREK MYERS)

http://dungeonsmaster.com/2010/11/10-good-reasons-to-play-dd/

 

The Joy of Book Swaps

Currently reading/read it. Book review – The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie.

So, I just finished reading the above title; ‘The Blade Itself’ by Joe Abercrombie, #1 in the trilogy The First Law. I obtained the book via my writers club annual book swap, an idea I introduced when I joined, after having run a one off many years ago, when I worked for a well-known book sellers.

What you do: find a bunch of like-minded bookish types, oddities like yourself helps, but if pushed, colleagues will do. You select a book that you have enjoyed reading, something that you wouldn’t mind sharing with someone else. You know when you meet people and one of you says, “Did you see the latest (–fill in the gap–) last night?” or “Catch that Superman/Batman/Catwoman/Froglegged Bee Keeper Man movie?” How often do people say, “Hey! Read any good Philip Pullman recently?” generally NOT!

Sorry, I digress. So, you get your well-thumbed copy of whatever you have enjoyed. You wrap it in plain paper. Everyone else in your nerdy group does the same. The disguised books are put into a box (or whatever) and then you all take one out – no not your own idiot! You read that already, look at the wrapping paper! You take it home, unwrap it and hey presto! You have a new title to read, free!

Now here comes the good bit. Initially you might go, “Ugh! What the —-! I’m not going to read that!” and fling it aside. But hold on there just give it a go, you might be pleasantly surprised. I haven’t had a dud yet ; which leads me to the current title.

I opened my grubby brown paper package and first off I went, “Ugh!” I hated (and still am very unsure of) the cover. If I saw it in a book shop, I would definitely ignore it; dull, brown, with a clichéd, surly, tangle-haired ‘thug’ on the front. then the person who had dropped it into the swap box informed me, it is the first of three. Really? Did I want to spend my time reading this, well-thumbed…The End…that’s how it begins, oh, okay…four pages in and…I quite like this, I think. When I was introduced to the second character, the writing had changed gear. This was a vastly different individual to the first, physically, mentally, emotionally; and the writing matches it. Some reviews I read revealed readers were divided, many thought the writing ‘clunky’. I think it suits the format perfectly. Abercrombie has altered, only enough, the feel of the writing to represent the different characters point of view, as much as writing the POV itself.

Its a fighting/fantasy world, where men are men and women are thin, pale and decorative (except for the odd one or two!) The initial protagonist has a slightly crappy name – Logan, hmm, too much like ‘Logan’s Run’ or Logan the Wolverine I think, but, beyond that, he’s not 2D, as some of the other characters believe him to be. Logen Ninefingers is an infamous warrior with a bloody past. He has plans to settle a blood feud with Bethod, the  King of the Northmen. He spends a lot of time, for a hulking brute saying, “Still alive.” There’s more to him than meets the eye. Then there’s Inquisitor Glokta, a cripple, a former fencing champion, now a torturer extraordinaire. A truly brilliant creation, you have to love him – no really, just wait and see…we get a lot of Glokta’s internal thoughts, in italics, running alongside his conversations and can’t help but admire the ability to keep two trains of thought going, an obeisance in his expression, whilst wanting to vomit all over the person he may be speaking to. Finally, Captain Jezal dan Luthar; in the words of Glokta, “…an arse…”  he is also a nobleman and would-be fencing champion. He is vain, shallow, selfish and self-obsessed, one wonders why the important bald chap who arrives in the Agriont needs him.

I love how Abercrombie weaves the separate lives across the landscape. There are multiple protagonists in this tale, along the lines of Game of Thrones, but what each of them wants becomes unclear, which I liked. How they will succeed in their initial task is unknown, I will have to read #2 – and I will. Definitely. I think it is hard in these times of Game of Thrones on TV, fantasy ‘heroes’ on the big screen, to get a book in this genre noticed. Fantasy writing is a massive market, with hundreds, possibly thousands of would-be-authors of the style out there. Abercrombie has grabbed my attention, and that’s a rare thing these days.

So, for the New Year, go and run a book swap, you may find a hero wrapped up in that package!

P.S: other covers are available.

P.P.S: apparently, there’s a graphic novel series too!

 

 

 

 

NaNoWriMo A Go Go!

So, anyone who has been involved in NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – will know the joy of reaching that goal.

I just reached it; 50,000 words in 1 month is the challenge and it has been a heck of a ride.

For well practised and  experienced writers, or speedy typists, this may not seem too daunting a task. But if like me, you are a professional procrastinator and a victim of Research Obsession, then it can be quite a challenge. I have just had a look at my calendar and check how much time I actually spent on it, how many days did I not get to write at all or write very little? Here’s the findings:

  •  As a part-time working adult, I ‘lost’ 12 days to my paid job.
  • I ‘lost’ 3 days to visiting and doing chores for parents.
  • 6 days, my daughter was home from University, so I wanted to spend time with her of course.
  • 2 imposed Sunday Dinners.
  • 2 days lost to P.C malfunction – my laptop went haywire and files were corrupted – I subsequently lost many sections of the writing, plus 3 years worth of stories that were saved here.
  • I counted, 9 full days spent on writing. 9! The rest was done as and when I could; before visitors arrived, in-between meals etc. etc.

So, I feel pretty chuffed with myself. The worst part was the laptop corruption. I spoke to computer ‘experts’ who were not really sure what had gone wrong, but they agreed that it was strange that the files could not be found in the backup section either. I was lucky to have a good friend who lent me his own laptop to carry on.  I really did not think I was goin to make the deadline, as I will be in work the last two days, so it had to be completed today.

When I began NaNo, I only had the bare bones of an idea. As I wrote, the story grew. I did not, in all honesty, know what I was going to write from day to day. I just knew I had to keep writing. The story is nowhere near complete; I reckon it needs another 30,000 to 40,000 words. then it needs ‘putting together’. Because it was written on two laptops, and is fragmented, due to the corruption that occurred, I have to try and gather it all into one document.

My husband just asked me, “Was it useful, though?”

Yes, it was. It forced me to keep focused, I didn’t veer off into aimless research, I didn’t play on the PlayStation and limited my time on my allotment. I can only equate it to driving. It was like being a rally driver as opposed to a day tourist –  start, drive, keep your eyes on the road and do not slow down to admire the scenery, or stop for tea and cake in a roadside café. There are no gears or brakes in the NaNo car!

The image displayed is the cover design I selected at the beginning of joining NaNo; a foetus. The story follows two girls in a future where child birth control is one of the themes. But now, it represents, to me at least, the birth of an idea, the nurturing of that idea, and growth. I don’t know if the story will ever be published, or if it’s working title; ‘Skypea and the Tyger’, will prevail, but it has been an interesting experience.

For those still writing, keep at it. If I can do it, so can you. Black out your windows, put on your driving gloves, and go!

http://nanowrimo.org

 

 

 

Review – Deep Space Accountant by Mjke Wood

Deep Space Accountant – Sphere of Influence (Book 1) by Mjke Wood

When I was in my final years of high school, we had a fleeting discussion about our careers. Not like now, where even a six year old seems prompted every five minutes to make a decision on his/her future. No, they were simpler days back then, I, and my friends, gave little thought to a job based future. All I was certain of were two things,

1. I wanted to be an artist, and 2. I did NOT want to be an accountant.

My mum would have had me learn to type and get a good secretarial job. So off I went to art college. I hate maths with a passion, I cannot emphasise how much numbers do NOT thrill me, in fact, I could go as far as to say, numbers frighten me. I think I might have dyscalculia (Like dyslexia but with numbers). I forget numbers, I’m rubbish with formulas and sequences (I even forgot my home phone number on more than one occasion); which brings me to Elton D Philpotts (If you want to know what the D stands for, you will have to read the book!).

Elton D Philpotts does not have dyscalculia, he does not struggle with numbers (at least, not in the regular way), he does in fact, have an extraordinary memory with regard to figures. He can see a sequence once, and remember it, and it is this ability that winds up with him in deep space.

‘Could this be the worst job interview in the history of the universe? Possibly. So when Elton D Philpotts lands his dream job he can’t help wondering how. And why. Somebody in the Space Corps needs him, and they need him bad. But the work is dull; nothing like he expected. Then he sees things he should not have seen: A hidden ledger, dodgy accounting transactions, bogus gate receipts. And when a whole starship disappears who are they going to blame? A frantic race across the Sphere of Influence takes Elton and his friends into adventure and dangers he could never have imagined.’

                                   Deep Space Accountant Sphere of Influence

Deep Space Accountant is, as can be easily surmised from the title, a sci-fi novel. The protagonist, Elton D Philpotts, is an unlikely hero. He is the common man, he is a ‘regular guy’, a normal bloke, like most of us. He is at a stage when he is questioning his career – is this all I have managed to do so far with my life? Many of us have asked ourselves this question, but Elton’s friend Walther persuades him to apply for a new post (The pre-interview sequence is hilarious). Elton makes a discovery that will change his life, meets new people that will also add to that change, and discovers a new side to his own character.  Philpotts is a Relativistic Accountant, who values assets that may be travelling at nearly light speed. Because time passes at a different rate relative to back home, it means that assets will depreciate in value at a different rate.

Mjke Wood has a very quirky sense of humour, and a very affable style of writing. I found myself smiling at unexpected moments – when the heat is on, he throws in humour (or a ‘pig’. Again, you’ll have to read it to find out!). I do not mean that to sound like he randomly adds the humour, there is nothing random about this story. It is obvious that a lot of research has gone into it. The world, or worlds, of the future are fully realised, the science is totally believable – to me at least, and the plotline is flawless.  It’s like ‘The Office’ meets ‘Buck Rogers’. Because of Wood’s writing style, the technology, and there’s lots of it, is not overly difficult to comprehend and often has comical consequences; like the smart clothing named Jim or Kim, depending on the wearers birth gender. There is attention to detail, from how a common-or-garden drinks machine is powered to how starships travel, relativistically speaking.

Definition of relativistic. 1 : of, relating to, or characterized by relativity or relativism. 2 : moving at a velocity such that there is a significant change in properties (as mass) in accordance with the theory of relativity

Deep Space Accountant has spaceships! Anarchists! Worms (yes, worms!) and invoices!

You can find your copy of Deep Space Accountant as a paperback and an eBook on Amazon. It’s also on iTunes and Kobo.

Also by Mjke Wood – ‘Travelling in a Box’, a family’s experience of holidaying abroad in a caravan. Available at Amazon.

http://mjkewood.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/deep-space-accountant.html