The stories that inspire us – Skyrim

The stories we read, see and hear sometimes leave a lasting effect on our lives. Stories inspire us to be who we are. They shape our own journey and can take the mind anywhere. There are some stories that effect us so much, they even shape our future…

Buy The Elder Scrolls® V: Skyrim® from the Humble Store

I firmly believe that Skyrim may be the greatest video game ever made and stay with me here, even if you aren’t a gamer because there are very few video games that give players their own licence to shape their time in a world that is wholly interactive, beautifully constructed and most importantly immersive.

From the epic introductory music that leads into an ensemble of visual and audio beauty Skyrim follows the typical chosen one trope where you, the player are thrown in to a ‘Tolkienesque’ world of being a second coming who is able to face a returning ancient threat; dragons. How you walk down that path is entirely up to you, via magic, via combative brute strength or perhaps sneakily and stealthily that choice falls upon anyone who takes on this game making every journey unique and different – something all games stride to succeed in and maybe Skyrim does that the best and that is what sets it aside. No matter what action the player takes, the level system is counting, adding exp and shaping your character based on what it does in the world.

You can learn magic in detail, from conjuration to restoration but the real magic is all around. The end of 2011/start of 2012 was mostly a wonderful time in my life and perhaps that romanticizes the memories of when I picked up this game and took my first dive into this genre. Although I came late to the RPG genre at 22 I have certainly made up for it over the years with three Fallout games but for me it all started with Skyrim and I have decided to reignite this blog series because I have been playing the remastered version of the game on PS4 over the past few months and it reminded me of how beautiful this game truly is. Lockdown nights have been a breeze with Skyrim as a companion.

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Visuals of rolling hills covered in snow, tundras drenched in sunlight, mountains, sea and castle dominated cityscapes. There is no shortage of picturesque backdrops in this open world where anything can happen while the player chooses to do anything they like. Join one of the many factions from a secret sect of werewolves to a guild dedicated to thievery. Many a tomb await filled with the dreaded Draugr or it could even be an old castle filled with undesirable raiders to the ruins of an ancient civilization now populated with those pesky and tough Falmer. The game is a living and breathing work of art all of which can be further crafted by the player.

The actual gaming experience can be anything that player wants, you can pursue the main story line if you so desire or just go anywhere else the path leads you. Eventually destiny of an intricate and layered quest system will pull you in the right direction. What inspires me the most about Skyrim is the freedom for the game to let it be whatever the player wants it to be, the sheer scale of this production is on the grandest of scales and for that and to me it resides in video game greatness.

Can you name a story as accessible and immersive as the one of the Dragonborn? 

Life Signs by Christina Engela – Review

A trio of enjoyable sci-fi tales filled with mystery, fun and revelations…

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The second entry of Christina Engela’s Panic! Horror in Space series takes the reader on a ride of mystery through three tales of the ghostly, vampiric and even cursed objects; all of which are hazards that come with deep space travel.

Captain Stuart Flane returns to face these perilous situations and has developed a rap for finding trouble of such persuasions. He’s used to dealing with the macabre and that’s what all three of these stories have in common. All of them begin in one place and through the vessel of immersive and readable story telling they end up somewhere completely unexpected.

From poignant to quirky and fun, these stories pretty much cover everything that Engela is known for with a writing style and depth that will draw you in. I particularly enjoyed ‘Lange’s Legacy’ which carried a certain detective vibe while also being full of twists and revelations.

5 stars – A fun read that will appeal to most readers. A thank you to the author for providing a copy in exchange for a review left on Goodreads and Amazon

The stories that inspire us – PlayStation 2

The stories we read, see and hear sometimes leave a lasting effect on our lives. Stories inspire us to be who we are. They shape our own journey and can take the mind anywhere. There are some stories that effect us so much, they even shape our future…

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It is the most successful gaming console to date and this week twenty years ago it was released; apart from the wave of some readers probably muttering ‘Oh god I am old’ this is a fantastic piece of history to celebrate in gaming and I was lucky enough to be a kid at the time… 

158 Million people owned a PS2 with the original release coming out in Japan on the 4th of March 2000 – the rest of the world would have to wait until later on in the year and me, I got hold of one after spending all of my 13th birthday money in 2002. To this day I still remember shopping around finding the best deal which came from the now extinct (in the UK) Woolworths.

Having been very lucky to own its predecessor PlayStation, like all kids I wanted the new thing and so that fresh plastic smell dominated the living room as I opened the packaging and set it up. The very first game I played was Medal of Honor: Frontline – which was a tribute to history itself while also nodding to the Spielberg epic ‘Saving Private Ryan’. A group of us crowded around the living room television while it took us away to artillery fire and allied soldiers on a beach in France. I have always embraced the imagination of where a game takes you and this was history.

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PlayStation 2 had a lasting influence on my life and even now as a writer its still inspires my stories. Back then I had all the time in the world to play but not a lot of income so new games would be sparse and arrive via birthdays and Christmas. I could always rely on a service which doesn’t exist anymore: Blockbuster video game rentals… The race would be on to complete a rented game in the handful of days I owned it and many many times I succeeded but again with a small crowd around the screen.

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Red Faction shaped my science fiction writing….

Not only did the games of PlayStation 2 shape my writing influence they also played a huge part in introducing me to the music I would come to align myself with.

These were still the days when parents overlooked age ratings on games and by Christmas 2002 my uncle gifted me possibly the greatest PS2 game ever and not for the reasons you think.

Yes the story was great and the whole production was amazing and Grand Theft Auto Vice City is indeed an incredible playing experience but for me it was a gateway to rock music.

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Bands like Twisted Sister, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Megadeath, Motley Crue and Tesla would blare out of my room while I cruised along Vice Beach – this was my safe haven and back then rock music was bullying material at school. That music paved my interest into the bands I listen to today and without out it there would be no Rock and Roll man!

Looking back on this era of gaming, it truly was a golden age and I’ve only mentioned the tip of what is a huge iceberg of games, so check out my favourites below….

Do you have any PlayStation 2 memories?

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Sonic the Hedgehog – Review

Hollywood forgets every so often that audiences are made up of real people who don’t always want films that carry a political statement or modern day protest. Breaking boundaries is great and all but sometimes films only ever need to be family entertainment in the form of an escape to be a success and that’s exactly what Sonic the Hedgehog is.

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My very first memory of video games is sitting beside my older brother while playing the then SEGA console of the time and seeing that blue speedy ball flash past the ever so colourful visuals while he collected gold rings. Sonic the Hedgehog is a gaming establishment and I have forever cherished the memories of playing those games as they came out in the early 90’s.

Over the years there have been a stack of video game to cinema adaptations. I can count the enjoyable one’s on a single hand and so when I saw they were finally giving Sonic the same treatment, like most I was hesitant in my belief. Turns out they did it and they did it rather well!

Over the weekend my brother joined me at the local cinema and like those days of old we watched that blue sphere rush through rich cinematic landscapes but this time with a narrative and so full credit goes to Ben Schwartz for voicing the ‘fastest thing alive’. And now after they improved the CGI of our main character it does look quite good.

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The story is simple and easy to follow; they’ve blended Sonic’s world with ours and so that’s the story; an alien hedgehog has been living in solitude on Earth until he gets discovered by ‘Green Hills’ local cop played by James Marsden who brings character balance to the film; he’s not only fun himself but bounces off the humour Sonic piles into the dialogue. Although there were many gags and funny moments; most were aimed at younger audiences but overall everyone will find the humour and fun in this. Our antagonist comes in the form of Jim Carrey, now say what you will about him; many don’t like his style or his performances but I thought he brought a perfect sinister level of creative humour that gave life to the iconic Doctor Robotnik – again another character who has never spoken in the earlier games. Some of his one-liners are typical Carrey which mainstream audiences will laugh at.

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You’ll find plenty of nods and tributes to the original games such as names, music interludes and even dialogue moments. For big time fans of Sonic; check it out, you will most probably enjoy the majority of it. To see my original gaming hero reach number 1 in both the US and UK film charts is quite special and credit where credit is due because they have done a good job in providing a film that might not be protest towards anything or have a ground breaking cast; but it’s entertaining and fun for all ages. Sometimes that’s all stories need to be!

8 Rings out of 10 

The stories that inspire us – ‘Dumb and Dumber’

The stories we read, see and hear sometimes leave a lasting effect on our lives. Stories inspire us to be who we are. They shape our own journey and can take the mind anywhere. There are some stories that effect us so much, they even shape our future…

Comedy is often overlooked in this world. The ability to make one laugh is possibly the most human thing someone can do and to me one of the easiest ways to make someone comfortable or uncomfortable. Most of us know there is a very fine margin between comics and depression but laughter can be a vessel out of the darkness.

‘Hey, wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?’

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‘Dumb and Dumber’ is a film that many might judge by it’s simplistic title and much of the story is simple but to me it’s a fun and even heartwarming story about friendship. Two friends Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) are going nowhere in life ‘unless you wanna work forty hours a week…’ and set out on a road trip to reunite a briefcase that Lloyd witnessed a woman drop before getting on a flight. It’s the typical road trip buddy story where the pair find themselves in stupid but very funny situations.

‘Why you going to the airport? Flying somewhere?’

Like a lot of cinema in history it has a few non PC moments but for most of the film Dumb and Dumber carries an innocent level of comedy in the realms of stupidity – both on a physical and literal level. Without over analysing it, the script is a juggernaut of quotes that I say to myself quite often. Much of my comedy influence has come from this film over the years where both actors put in considerable performances and today their resumes are decorated.

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Carrey and Daniels are household names

The film appeals to a wide range of ages which is the key to all successful comedy. There are more adult style gags which will go over younger audience’s head’s while the physical and straight up silliness will get everyone laughing. Although this film was released in the early 90’s it still stands up quite well and the soundtrack like all Farrelly brother’s films is golden.

‘You know, Lloyd, just when I think you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this… and totally redeem yourself!’

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For many years and even today this is film that brightens up my day. It’s fun, silly and easy to watch. You can find the influence of Dumb and Dumber in much of my work from my novella ‘The Teleporter’ to the Pantomime plays I have written.

It is my opinion that without comedy the world would be a much darker place. And if you are ever feeling down in any way my advice; find something that makes you laugh – for me that’s Dumb and Dumber.

Do you have a go-to comedy film or series? 

Weekly Ramble #58

I’m sad but proud. After spending ten consecutive years performing for my community drama club I have hung up my ‘acting’ boots – they were a fine pair of acting boots, very comfortable in fact and the parts I have trod on that stage will stay with me for life. The truth is I thought I would be a lot more upset but I guess the pride and happiness of what has been achieved in those years is shining brighter than anything else. And the real truth is, I’m not leaving for good, I’m just leaving the stage…

Over the past couple of years the Iver Heath Drama Club has entrusted me to write their annual pantomime shows; a leap in its own right and possibly the greatest compliment my writing and myself has ever received. That’s what I am going to continue doing, writing stories which is the dream that was forged out of performing for that wonderful club. I vowed to that family to pledge my pages, my pen and my stories – a deal that I will honour for as long as I write.

As a performer I got the perfect ending on that stage, having adapted our own version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs I was then cast as the Magic Mirror which is apt because ten years ago it was my first role. Sometimes things go full circle. This time around I gave that role more meaning and along with everything I had gained on that stage it became the epitome of all of me. Even though it sounds like this was all about me, it wasn’t and this ending was about passing on the torch, or crown to those who deserve it.

While the high of the most successful IHDC show begins to wear away I shall recede back into writing stories and reading some truly wonderful stories on my TBR list. While one door closes many other will open not just for me but for those who let me belong to what is a fantastic community run club. I have already drafted next years script!

And just remember this;

The greatest stories aren’t the ones we read,

The greatest stories aren’t the ones we write,

The greatest stories are the ones that we live.

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The stories that inspire us – ‘Beauty and the Beast’

The stories we read, see and hear sometimes leave a lasting effect on our lives. Stories inspire us to be who we are. They shape our own journey and can take the mind anywhere. There are some stories that effect us so much, they even shape our future…

I was five years old when the theatre bit me and it bit me hard. It wouldn’t be until fifteen years later that I walked through the doors of a drama club and realised my life long dream of becoming a performer. Even though I was and still am introverted on the surface, in 2010 I finally had the confidence to take the plunge onto the stage.

In recent times Disney have boasted their adaptation of Beauty and the Beast to be as old as time. Perhaps it is and the theatre production which bit me hard just happened to be Beauty and the Beast – a tour of the Disney inspired version. Although it was quite a while ago now I still remember being captivated by the colours, the sights, a walking candlestick and of course the spectacle of a Beast overcoming a curse and magically transforming into a Prince. It’s a story that has and always will have a place in my heart. The animation and recent live action film are both spectacular to enjoy as an adult and for children alike and the same can be said for the original fairy tale.

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In fact the original fairy tale is probably the best of all fairy tales and even though that is just my subjective opinion the premise, characters and overall story is pretty solid and you can understand why Disney have had success with it. Even though their version is scaled down in some senses by omitting the sisters they add their own spin on things in their own fashion.

My own story telling and performing have always run in a sort of parallel. For some years they were hand in hand but very separate. I would write science fiction/horror while my performing self would appear in pantomimes based on fairy tales and comedy farces or even some Shakespeare. Being in shows gave me confidence to reveal to the world that I wanted to be a writer – it also helped both socially and even in job interviews. I guess you can say I owe a lot to performing and those two hands which held those separate things – story telling and performing would eventually clasp each other as I put together a short comedy play known as ‘Hotel Doom’. With moderate success for a community drama club production my eyes were set firmly on another sight; a full length pantomime play – a British tradition and the big time annual ‘thing’ that my drama club did to survive.

I began work in adapting my own version of Beauty and the Beast taking influence from the many shows I had been in along with that original tale; of course some minor inspiration came from the ‘mainstream’ versions but all in all, the script is original and my own. My main inspiration came not only from the solid source material but also from when I was a kid myself looking up to that stage and seeing the Beast transform along with those colours and everything else.

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Those who know me closely will know the outcome. The Iver Heath Drama Club took on my script and in a sense took a huge leap; never had anyone in the 70 plus year history of that community club had ever written a full length show. The script was way more expansive and ambitious than anything seen at that club. The cast of 18 performers and chorus ensemble put on a show that sold out all performances and even had standing ovations; even now I get emotional thinking about how that whole show went. All of it was inspired by a story that has lasted the test of time and that is the true dream any writer or creator has – to see their work last that test of time.

Beauty and the Beast is a story that inspired my writing and helped it reach heights I would never imagine. Up until now it is my finest moment in story telling and combines my performing and writing.

It still pays dividends as this year Iver Heath Drama Club have entrusted me again to put on another show inspired by Snow White; which is yet another pinnacle fairy tale.

Do you have a favourite fairy tale? 

 

 

 

 

 

The stories that inspire us – ‘Timeline’

The stories we read, see and hear sometimes leave a lasting effect on our lives. Stories inspire us to be who we are. They shape our own journey and can take the mind anywhere. There are some stories that effect us so much, they even shape our future…

Welcome to a new series that hopes to give insight to some of the stories I have experienced that shaped me and my writing. Many of them I hold close to my heart and some you may end up taking on as recommendations. Without the stories in this series I would not be here today!

Although this series will cover stories from all mediums it starts with a book that might possibly be one of the most important I have ever read. This is the story of destiny and how I came to find a story called Timeline. 

I grew up near Heathrow Airport, in fact the runway stood no more than two miles from my house. We were parallel to it so we didn’t get the flight path noise, plus in that distance there were a stack of fields and houses in that space. The sounds of take off and jet engines I found comfort in, I still do. Eventually I found myself a job at the Airport. In 2005 I was sixteen years old without a clue about the real world, what real work was or who I really wanted to be. The dream of being a writer was still forming and back then the prospect of being anything and nothing all at once fed the imagination of the dreamer in me. Back then I had never properly read much apart from some kids stories and of course ‘the Lost World’ by Conan Doyle – another entry for another day perhaps…

The work I found wasn’t great. It was a bottom rung of the ladder type of gig although the money wasn’t bad for someone my age. My first job; aircraft cleaner. My stint at Heathrow only lasted about six weeks – sixteen year old Lee didn’t want to work Christmas so he handed in his notice… but the one thing I did get out of that job may serve as my reading and writing destiny. This is what I found, discarded and probably aimed at the trash… (you don’t ever throw books away, that’s a rule)

82388540_2767793129922668_5957050524938272768_nI picked up this book while cleaning and immediately the authors name grabbed me.

‘That’s the guy who wrote Jurassic Park, I’m sure…’ 

And I was right. Michael Crichton is the guy who wrote Jurassic, so if he can tell a story that good about dinosaurs then what can he do with time travel?  Being a big time fan of Back to the Future my mind was open about another time travel caper. So what can he do with time travel?

My answer is: everything you can imagine and more! I took this beaten and weathered book home and read it cover to cover in around ten or so days over Christmas 2005 – I had no friends anyway…

The picture above was taken especially for this entry. Timeline sits on my shelf alongside eleven other Michael Crichton novels. When I open it, I still smell that musk of old pages, it takes me back to that moment where I discovered a novel about realistic time travel. But it’s not just about that, like all good books, like all good Crichton books, it’s about so much more. As well as being a history lesson, it’s a roller coaster of science, action, deception, twists and turns. When I finished reading this book I had only one goal in life – to read more of Crichton’s works and I did. My aspiration and dreams of becoming a writer began to form because of this man’s work and his stories.

If there is a truly pinnacle moment in my writing and reading journey it would be when I found Timeline. Only three years after I had found this book Crichton sadly passed away and I remember exactly where I was. I will never be able to thank him personally for the story that inspired me to go on a write my own works under his influence with his works on my shelf beside mine where they will always be. The inspiration of stories lives on in those who have read them and experienced them.

Have you ever found or been given a book and it ended up being a masterpiece?

Weekly Ramble #50

Weddings can be an incredible thing. I should know, I’ve been to 2 in the past week. Both of which were for some of my best friends and people I know. Whatever your outlook on love and togetherness all reservations and opinions of such are reunited when you see a couple who mean the world to you get together. Sometimes it takes a wedding to truly realise that two people are meant for each other.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve become a person who cares less about my own success and more of a person who cares to see others do well. Perhaps that’s me being the connoisseur of stories, seeing real characters in this world answer to destiny and succeeding.

In fact there is nothing more in this world that I want than to see others achieve success and to find themselves. Of course love can be a huge part of that for many of us, but there are folks out there who are yet to find such things and can still be happy. Perhaps happiness like love is in the eye of the beholder.

Being just a few days removed of my own brother’s wedding I am starting to process how special that day was, not only for him and his now wife but for the family and friends that were part of it. Families have a way of drifting apart for whatever reason but life is too damn short and sometimes it takes something like a wedding to reunite old memories and acquaintances. Family, friends and love is important to us all, it’s what makes us truly human.

I think I nailed the best man’s speech. They laughed and enjoyed my words which were from the heart. There was emotion, laughter and fun – not just in my speech.

In a world where many of us all have our own struggles, it was days like that which make it all worth it and you probably know the saying by now, ‘love is all you need..’

Chilling Book Recommendations for Halloween… part 1

Halloween is just around the corner and considering horror is probably my favorite genre in both cinema and reading here are some chilling books I’ve read over the past year which I recommend…

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“Something happened tonight, I don’t know what. Something that ripped the veil between the Chicago of the living and the Chicago of the dead…” 

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‘Undertown: A Novella’ by K.Noel Moore is a chilling and clever fusing of history intertwined with real events set around the historic crime wave/prohibition era of 1930’s America.

I found myself reading this novella in one sitting within a few enjoyable hours. There are plenty of references and terms used in the narrative which are authentic to the historic era with a handy reference/definition section placed at the end of the book (something I felt was a nice touch and shows the author has put in a large amount of care, research and thought into).

Overall Undertown is a perfectly paced, easily readable and well written history novella with just the right amount of chills and atmosphere to make it stand out.

 

‘In space, not all things were certain… not even death’

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Next up is ‘Demonspawn’ by Christina Engela which is a sci-fi horror space story with psychological mystery and suspense throughout. The somewhat damned crew of the I.S.S. Mordrake; a ship seemingly stranded and damaged beyond repair in the furthest reaches of space then stumbles upon another ship, derelict and just floating there…

The story reminded me of films such as Alien and Event Horizon but Demonspawn could easily stand shoulder to shoulder with them. There were many concepts of the sci-fi genre in this book that were original and put together in a way not seen before anywhere else. You can grab yourself a copy here.

 

‘A slow burning tale that twists into the deep shadowy darkness of the unexpected…’

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In Blood of the Sixth’ by K.R Rowe  there’s a lot going on under the surface of a story which sits within the realms of gritty urban horror, mystery and witchcraft.

Blood of the Sixth has a complex interwoven plot which is delivered in a way that makes it an easy to follow read; something I imagine the author has worked tremendously hard to achieve. The whole layout of the book from short sharp chapter length, to characters all the way to general story has been well thought out.

For some parts of my reading experience I genuinely laughed and others I found to be quite harrowing (again in a good way) as there were some real graphic violent portions all of which fitted well for the genres. The use of description in some instances has been painstakingly constructed and again the hard work by K. R. Rowe is obvious to see so trust me when I say this book is good!

‘A modern vampire story that takes the reader on a journey of twists and turns…’

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There are only a handful of authors out there who are keeping the vampire genre alive and one of them is Villimey Mist who presents ‘Nocturnal Blood’ a story than convinced me throughout the duration of my reading experience that it truly is a great addition to the genre!

I found Nocturnal Blood to be a highly readable tale of bravery, friendship, character development and vampires; a genre in modern times that doesn’t get nearly enough credit especially when stories like this exist. Its also an important story in a sense that the M.C suffers from anxiety and O.C.D which is a brave thing for an author to write about!

The sequel is coming very soon so now would be a perfect time to grab yourself a copy!

 

“There are more than shadows lurking in the darkness of those trees.”

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Wait what? Your plugging your own book in this thing? My answer to you is fu** yeah and why not! Keeping with the theme of vampire stories here’s mine. ‘Darke Blood’ is a story that reviewers have convinced me is worth reading – I personally thought for quite some time it wasn’t that great but some awesome people have left some awesome reviews for a story I literally had to find my inner author to finish writing it! The journey is turning out to be worth it in the end and the sequel is coming next year!

Here’s a recent review by Blair from the awesome Feed the Crime blog… 

And with that self promo I have no shame in this is the end of part 1, stay tuned next week for part 2! 

Have you got a chilling book rec? Drop it in the comments because here at the Hall of information we are always looking for more book reads!