Tremor Warnings

Two recent events have shaken my routine. One a post and one a game. Nothing earth shattering, more tremors – warnings of what might or will occur.

This post about ‘diversity’, Social Justice Warriors, and the withdrawal of Amélie Wen Zhao’s Blood Heir set me thinking about my current WIP, Fevered Few and what I was attempting.

I’m a WASP hetero male trying to write a novel with a female queer protagonist in the North Wales Police. Am I heading for the pillory or worse – even if I am trying to use diversity readers?

I had already realised I needed to tread carefully after a somewhat different controversy arose over the sexuality choices in the game Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey.

It probably doesn’t help that I’m making my protagonist Welsh with a deaf sister, since I’m English and I’ve never even committed a crime – other than parking illegally or speeding. Okay, I’m disabled, with Quaker abolitionist ancestors and splashes of Latin and Scottish blood. But none of those are qualifications.

Okay, SF writers write about aliens but aren’t from another planet. However, we don’t see the aliens protesting; or is that why there are abductions and experiments?

Is the solution to stop writing my Welsh police procedural series and tackle a topic that I know about? Horses?

Dang, I’ve done that and got criticised for my lack of knowledge.

Falling? My life-story could be fictionalised, but who is inspired by that? Not me.

Insecurity 1. Meltdown imminent.

Later the same day, I went into Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and got thrown into a quest that required me to press/punch/mash keys in quick succession.

Fail. Retry. Fail. Retry.

Fail. Retry. Fail. Retry.

Fail. Retry. Fail. Retry.

The fingers on my left hand locked up, and my hand became a useless claw while my head thumped.

Insecurity 2. Meltdown imminent.

That was not the first time that my hand and my reactions failed.  I had the same problem in Shadow of the Tomb Raider last week. Plus, it occurs when I type so when I’m working on a novel or a post – like now.

Meltdown

The harsh reality is that my multiple sclerosis is threatening to disrupt my life again – if I let it. I need to amend the rules…move the goalposts. Or change rackets.

Well, keyboards.

But not the typing element as half the keys are missing.

  • Step Two – Dictation software. I’ve ordered Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium 13 – arriving on Saturday. However, training my Dragon will take time, especially as my speech is slurred – MS side-effect. It will mean that in a few weeks, I might get to write as fast as I talk.

Even after spending this money, I still need to decide if I’m writing the right novel – the one that will cover all these extravagances.

MS is a frustrating MonSter, and I must learn to roll with its punches and fight back. There will be other rounds, but I’ve got this one.

Yes, I need to consider Audible as my eyes are at risk – not just from reading. Double vision was my initial symptom back in 1999, so the warning is there.

More rabbit holes beckon.

#IWSG – Creative Outlets

Created and hosted by the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post is here again – and so am I.

My plans to develop and focus on Fevered Few, my NaNoWriMo novel are on hold for another week/month until a backlog of junk is clear and my depressed mind clears.

But I’ve been reading though – all pleasure and some as favours. Which brings me in a way to the topic of this month’s IWSG post:

February 6 question – Besides writing what other creative outlets do you have?

Nada – Zilch

Writing is my sole remaining creative outlet – unless I can count dreaming. But that’s linked to writing. I attempted sculpture – once – and struggled to play the flute, but that was decades ago. And the nearest to acting was my failed career as a producer.

So, writing remains my sole creative outlet – unless I cheat and add:

Reading and gaming

But those are both someone else’s creation, even if I spend my chilling time pursuing them. Anyway, in 2019, I have managed to read six books so far. One of those was the novelisation of a game that I have 90% completed, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey – that’s the link to my review.

Writing again. So…Nada y Zilch.

Or do I count my photography? Mostly for work though. Creative? Or is that the poser? Anyway, I can no longer hold any camera steady so that is no longer any sort of outlet.

Zara Phillips competing at Windsor CIC*** – photo by Roland Clarke

What is your non-writing talent/creative outlet?

***

The awesome co-hosts for the February 6 posting of the IWSG are Raimey Gallant, Natalie Aguirre, CV Grehan, and Michelle Wallace!

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey – a review


As a reader and a gamer, this was inevitable – a second game related book. Although the first was a book that led to a game – Witcher – while this arose from a game. But both related to games that absorb/distract me.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

by 

Gordon Doherty (Goodreads Author) 

THE OFFICIAL NOVELIZATION BASED ON THE POPULAR VIDEO GAME FRANCHISE.THE OFFICIAL NOVELIZATION BASED ON THE POPULAR VIDEO GAME FRANCHISE.

They call her misthios–mercenary–and she will take what she is owed.


Kassandra was raised by her parents to be fierce and uncaring, the ideal Spartan child, destined for greatness. But when a terrible tragedy leaves her stranded on the isle of Kephallonia, near Greece, she decides to find work as a mercenary, away from the constraints of Sparta. 

Many years later, Kassandra is plagued by debt and living under the shadow of a tyrant when a mysterious stranger offers her a deal: assassinate the Wolf, a renowned Spartan general, and he will wipe her debt clean. The offer is simple, but the task is not, as she will need to infiltrate the war between Athens and Sparta to succeed.

Kassandra’s odyssey takes her behind enemy lines and among uncertain allies. A web of conspiracy threatens her life, and she must cut down the enemies that surround her to get to the truth. Luckily, a Spartan’s blade is always sharp.

            Review 4.4 stars

As a fan of historical fiction and a gamer, this was an enjoyable book throughout. I admit that I finished the main questline of the game, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey before reading this novelisation. And I played Kassandra preferring the performance of the voice actress, Melissanthi Mahut.

Kassandra is a mercenary who is caught up in a conspiracy that threatens her life – and the future of Greece. Here past is entwined with Sparta’s past and one she can’t avoid.

This novel was as immersive as the game but building on what I already knew of the ancient Greek world and from the game world. Not surprising from Gordon Doherty, a writer of ancient historical fiction who clearly knows how to make a historical period come alive – in this case, the Second Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta at the head of their respective Leagues.

Once finished, I was interested to see how far the historical detail departed from reality, knowing that some have called the Assassin’s Creed universe ‘alternative history’. In this storyline, there are elements and a few characters that are fictional and perhaps ‘alternative’. But the background, the world and many of the principal players are historical – like my favourite, Brasidas. The characters come alive – helped I admit by meeting them in game – although they may not have the complexities that some readers might expect.

The game is visually stunning – as Greece is – but this novel adds the smells of the world from the flowers and sea breezes to the unwashed bodies and corpses. There are moments that are darker, more visceral and realistic. That’s the power of crafted words.

I’ve idolised Sparta – sometimes – but I’m convinced now that Sparta is not the place for me. Athens is more suited to my artistic and democratic temperament – but under Perikles.

This novelisation adds more to the plot – even alternative motives and actions that embellish a storyline that must work in a game setting where it’s hard to have multiple endings. For me, there were few surprises, but I enjoyed the development of characters and situations that fleshed out events and structure. Time was more akin to what one would expect – journeys take days and weeks; scouting out a target can take weeks, if not months; events occur over months, even years. We mustn’t forget that the Second Peloponnesian War lasted almost thirty years, from 431 to 404 BCE.

This novelisation ended with a clever scene that worked for the Assassin’s Creed universe and was perhaps better although different from my ending. A fun and recommended read if you enjoy this genre of book.

Story – four stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Characters – four stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – four stars

Editing – four stars

**

I’m still exploring the game of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, although I am now on side-quests and exploring places unfound – and I have yet to slay the Minotaur. At some point in the future, I will review the game – if there is the demand. For now, the focus will be on books – albeit the current one is non-fiction.

Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt – a review

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I was struggling to find a book to review this week: okay, I have some with short reviews to expand on, but I can’t fully remember the key points that I had to make. And I am behind with my reading as I’m struggling with finding characters I like. I also wondered if anyone would notice me missing a week.

Would you have missed a review? Or are the reviews interesting?

However, I was determined to write something. I never said these reviews were exclusively about books so how about a game instead, I decided. This felt inevitable back in April when I posted W is for Witcher, looking at the origins of the Witcher games. That post looked in depth at some of the elements, but my experience playing the game was limited back then – but not now.

Let’s don our armour and sharpen the swords then.

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The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt is an action-adventure RPG based on The Witcher series of fantasy novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, it is the sequel to the 2011 game The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, in which the player becomes Geralt of Rivia, the titular Witcher – a monster hunter for hire. He possesses superhuman abilities and is a master swordsman. a dying breed that makes their living killing the monsters that threaten people.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (Polish: Wiedźmin 3: Dziki Gon) is the third and final instalment in the series of games developed by CD Projekt RED featuring the witcher Geralt of Rivia. The game was originally scheduled for release in late 2014, then pushed back to 24 February 2015, and finally released on 19 May 2015. During the first two weeks since release it had sold more than 4 million copies worldwide, more than doubling the total sales of its predecessor The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.

The game has proved to be one of the most successful and popular games of recent years – if not ever.

Review 4.9 Stars:

Back in April, I was new to the game, but I was sucked into The Witcher world – and just starting out on my journey. Since then, I have logged over 500 hours of playtime, finished the main game and the two ‘expansions’ – Hearts of Stone and Blood & Wine. I am now on my second playthrough, using the New Game + feature, whereby a player can start the story afresh but with the level reached at the end of the first playthrough – so my Geralt was level 55 and the monsters were boosted too.

In deciding to re-play, I had to have found the game more than just entertaining – in fact, the storyline is engrossing with multiple endings possible and the settings are brilliant. That excellent storytelling has been great, underpinned by reading the 1993 collection of short stories by author Andrzej Sapkowski as well as his second series – see my reviews of The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny.

CD Projekt has built on the world of Sapkowski, and there are plenty of references to past events within both the main quest line and in the side quests – and the overall world-building is impressive. There is a clever aspect to this game – cheeky at times even as the depth of the narrative produces amusing references to other games, books, artwork etcetera. What other game would have a major-domo called Barnabas-Basil Foulty.

Graphically the game is immersive and, well-not exactly beautiful, except in the final region of Toussaint, but the settings reflect that this is a world ravaged by war as well as monsters. The countryside and cities – rough, bleak and vibrant – feel real albeit not cinema-realistic, but I never expect that in a game.

The gameplay element is more complex than other games with a lot to learn and master – and that has been ratcheted up in my second playthrough as I have decided to tackle it on the hardest setting – Death March. This time, I must prepare Geralt for battle and not plunge in all gung-ho – or he dies too easily. Some of that though, is down to oddities in aspects of the game mechanics, like Geralt’s a habit of auto-finishing enemies off while there are others still alive.

The quirks in the mechanics have been annoying – like his inability to jump more than a few inches – but these are very minor compared with the massive number of pluses. One minor irritation in the main game is the NPCs wandering the world who tend to bump into Geralt or his mare, Roach. In Toussaint, the people have more manners (or the developers improved the AI).

Some players have had issues with Roach floating in the air – but I had no problems, so I suspect this glitch was sorted in a patch. My Roach seems to wander off, but she is usually looking for something to eat or drink when Geralt is busy – extremely sensible. It would be cool to build houses but that is not an essential, although Geralt gets a vineyard to do up in Blood & Wine – with BB’s help. By then, you can also dye Geralt’s armour.

Roach01

I must end this lengthy player-review by saying that my favourite aspect must be Gwent. This is an in-game card game that is popular in the Witcher world and was invented by the dwarves – they get annoyed when a new deck is introduced in Blood and Wine, initiating a clever side-story. Most innkeepers, merchants and even central characters play Gwent, and some sell individual cards. Geralt can collect cards and take part in Gwent quests and tournaments – with trophies. I must admit that I even have a physical Gwent set with the game board and all five sets of cards. Does that make me a card-geek?

In summary, a great game that has justified the countless awards and accolades received. I will be enjoying Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt for many more hours playing on Death March – despite the quirks and glitches. I’m eagerly anticipating the rumoured Witcher 4 – even if it will be some years before it emerges. Plus, I still have five more of Sapkowski’s Witcher books to read.

Setting: 5*

Storyline: 5*

Gameplay: 4.5*

Graphics: 5*

Entertainment: 5*

Features: 5*

 

Sword of Destiny – a review

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Ever since I met Geralt of Rivia in the game, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt and posted about it in W is for Witcher, I have been exploring the origins of that world in the creations of Andrzej Sapkowski.

After reviewing the first book in Geralt’s chronology – The Last Wish – I kept reading. I will eventually review the game but I have many hours left so today my Witcher journey continues with a review of the second collection of short stories, Sword of Destiny:

SwordOfDestiny

Sword of Destiny (Saga o Wiedźminie #2)

by

Andrzej Sapkowski

The New York Times bestselling series that inspired the international hit video game: The Witcher.

Geralt is a witcher, a man whose magic powers, enhanced by long training and a mysterious elixir, have made him a brilliant fighter and a merciless assassin. Yet he is no ordinary murderer: his targets are the multifarious monsters and vile fiends that ravage the land and attack the innocent.

This is a collection of short stories, following the adventures of the hit collection THE LAST WISH. Join Geralt as he battles monsters, demons and prejudices alike…
The Witcher series 
The Last Wish
The Sword of Destiny 
Blood of Elves
The Time of Contempt
Baptism of Fire

The Malady and Other Stories: An Andrzej Sapkowski Sampler (e-only)

Review 5 stars

I’m attempting to remain chronological in reading and reviewing Andrzej Sapkowski’s absorbing books about Geralt of Rivia, although I first met the White Wolf in The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt video game. I also know that there are some shorts that might not fit this chronology.

However, the six short stories in this second collection are on the one hand standalone but on the other, there are strong threads linking them – not least the White Wolf himself, Geralt of Rivia.

Some see him as emotionless and ruthless, but his potion-subdued emotions emerge, and he is torn by his heart and by his destiny. Sapkowski creates an evolving and complex character who has a code, relationships, habits, quirks, dreams, nightmares…and destiny.

That destiny unfolds in the stories – and I know in later books. However, the author doesn’t use a linear style for the plot, weaving the threads with flashback memories, nightmares and encounters. Some readers might find this approach confusing, but when the pieces fall into place, I sat back and admired the craft, grinning with pleasure.

Each story deals with an event in Geralt’s journey, introducing both new characters and old ones, like Dandelion, the bard and Yennefer, the sorceress. From the opening story, The Bounds of Reason, when we encounter the mysterious Borch Three Jackdaws, we realise that this is neither a black-and-white world nor classical fantasy, but a multi-faceted and richly-visualised world of many hues, some grey and muddy, some earthy and verdant, and some red as blood or purple as lilacs.

Each character, in this and the other stories, has levels of complexity, none more so than the child called Ciri in the last two stories – The Sword of Destiny and Something More.

I could write about all six stories, but other reviewers can do that better. Do I focus instead on Yennefer’s devious attractions or Dandelion’s humorous escapades? Not this time – even if they are both play memorable character-driven episodes.

Ciri is the person who fascinated me most, watching her cope with events as a child, her raw emotions and reactions, seeing her encounter Geralt and struggle together with Destiny. The whole plot comes together in their story, with seeds sown in one of the key stories in The Last Wish collection and continued in the novels (and games).

Everything takes place in a world that mirrors issues that our society still struggles with, like prejudice and racial segregation. Pogroms directed against elves and dwarves echo the horrors that the Jews suffered, totally – and witch burnings were for real. And the persecution of ‘minorities’ continues. People even dislike Witchers so abuse and exploit them – so why not send all Moslems back where they belong.

Geralt’s world is filled with monsters, and sometimes the human ones are the worst – as in ours. Sapkowski takes folklore and cleverly twists it, posing dilemmas. What side do you stand with, Order or Chaos? Are all dragons evil because a knight-errant must rescue maidens in distress? Sapkowski also raises topical issues, such as the struggle to preserve the natural world, vanishing species struggling to survive. Do we have a right to their land?

I have just taken a few enjoyable steps exploring Sapkowski’s creation, even if I’ve visited the world others built from his imagination. Playing the Witcher 3 game and reading the early books creates moments of ‘understanding’ about this complex world. The depth originates in Sapkowski’s mind, so I must keep reading.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

#AtoZChallenge #roadtrip 2018

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This year, #AtoZChallenge Bloggers are being asked to pick ONE post from our #AtoZChallenge 2018 offerings and link it up to share.

The Road Trip – #roadtrip – is where bloggers continue to visit each other from May thru March. So, for me, that will be a chance to visit more of the #AtoZChallenge posts that I missed, especially of those visitors who managed the full A-to-Z. I even found some amazing new sites to follow, notably: Song A Day, a great music blog that is expanding my musical tastes (and inspired my 2019 #AtoZChallenge theme).

Plus, this informative folklore website, The Multicolored Diary, by Hungarian storyteller Zalka Csenge Virág, which delves into areas that fascinate me.

Folklore and mythology, as well as storytelling, are tied to many of my #AtoZChallenge posts, even if video games were the starting point.

When I was looking ahead to this road trip, in my #AtoZChallenge: Reflection, I hinted at what might be my favourite post and why, asking, “Will the writing-related research or the gaming-experience lift the award? H is for Hellblade or L is for Lord of the Rings? Or maybe something unexpected.”

Were you taken in by that red-herring?

Did you guess that my favourite post was W is for Witcher?

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Or why? Well, that had less to do with the average number of comments, and more to do with ongoing research into the world that has emerged from The Witcher series of fantasy novels by distinguished Polish fantasy author Andrzej Sapkowski.

There proved to be so much to explore, from a Slavic mythology and folklore tradition that I barely knew to a game that I had only just started – The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. That game is my current escape, not least for the Gwent card-game within that fantasy world, but also for its excellent storytelling. As my Thursday Creation Review tomorrow will show, Sapkowski’s first collection of short stories, The Last Wish pulled me into the world of Geralt of Rivia and laid the world-building foundations, sowing seeds that resonate within the games.

Did you rate any of my posts as a favourite?

Are you sharing a favourite of your own on this #AtoZChallenge Road Trip?

Have you found any stand-out posts that we need to read?

If you are on the Road Trip then please be sure to include this phrase in your comments:
“Stopping by from the #AtoZChallenge Road Trip!”

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