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Pathfinder – Adventure Card Game: A Distraction

I recently acquired myself a new board game/card game. It’s a little like Dominion and Dungeons and Dragons but not quite either of them.

2015-04-14 09.58.16Mostly this is a deck building game where you adventure through different scenarios and try to beat the bad guys before your time runs out. You have characters and classes like dungeons and dragons but everything is simplified onto several cards and you have a basic beginner deck rather than the equipment normally chosen at the beginning of a dungeons and dragons game.

2015-04-14 11.30.49A half played game with two characters looks a bit like this —-> The adventure path, adventure and scenario card lay across the top (there are 6 adventures in the adventure path +the tutorial adventure in the base set, and then the adventures have 5 scenarios in, with the tutorial having another 3 scenarios), the base set comes with the tutorial adventure and the first of the 6 adventures in the adventure path. The other 5 adventures can be bought seperately for approx £13-15 which isn’t too bad for 5 scenarios given that they take anywhere between 1.5-3hours to play. I also bought the character expansion set which allows me to have 6 players at once and 11 base characters to choose from.

2015-04-14 11.31.11The next section down (the top part of the picture <—-) is the turn counter. At the start of the scenario 30 blessings cards are counted out, each time a character starts their turn they flip one over. This acts as a game timer. the next set of cards down are the locations. You have to try and find the Villian or his henchmen in the different locations before your time runs out. As you can see there are four of these, one of which is out of cards to explore and one of which has a bad guy on top. This game is part way through and the far left location has been explored and the bad guys there defeated.

This game also has a really nice way of playing solo and can be repeatably played quite easily. I have a feeling I’m going to lose a lot of time to this one, although it should be pretty fun with my friends too.

Taming Virtual Pets

As is pretty obvious by now, I’ve not been doing much writing so far this year. I just seem to have hit an emotional brickwall when it comes to telling more stories. Instead I’ve been spending a lot of time in Entropia, playing around with their newest feature, pet taming.

BristlehogThey introduced the first pet in the autumn of last year, a sort of cute little hedgehof/fluffy porcupine thing called a bristlehog. I found myself drawn to taming these things almost instantly and before I knew it I had over two hundred of the tamed critters in my inventory and storage and was training up several to higher levels. I soon found that people would pay me more than it cost to train up the bristlehogs for my higher leveled ones and a friend in game did a lot of research and shared data with me on the most cost effective way to reach each level, as well as a whole bunch of other information on them.

CornundacaudaI didn’t think much more of it as I got stuck into my NaNoWriMo and the wonderful world of Mycroft and Amelia (those books still are on their way, I promise). But in early December two more of the creatures that existed in the world of entropia were made tameable and I found myself once again out there catching myself a few of the six legged Combibo and the rather large but almost majestic Cornundacauda (don’t ask me who named that one). Neither of them are very good looking but they seem to be wanted by a few people so I again found myself making money taming and training them.

eudorian trollEvery month since I’ve probably made somewhere between $30-40 a month on pet taming and training (about £20-25) and a similar amount from the in game deeds I own that I mentioned previously a few times, but this month something quite spectacular happened. They introduced some brand new pets that weren’t creatures previously found in the game and some rare and incredibly rare versions of them. One even looks a bit like the rock trolls from Frozen. In about a week I’ve found myself making what I would normally make in a month and it’s continuing to supply me with a steady and easy to earn income rate. I’ve even started crafting the tools required to tame with and found myself profiting there as well (crafting in entropia is incredibly difficult to profit from).

KaninAll in all, while I’m struggling with writing it’s been a great way to spend my downtime and make some spare cash on the side as well as have some fun. The great thing is a lot of it can be done at the same time as other things so it won’t hinder my writing when I do finally find myself able to pick up a pen again. If anyone wants to play the game and find me I play under the avatar Marie Elf Woodell so look me up and I’ll show you around.

Social Media: A Distraction

This is a topic that’s been well re-hashed but it’s not something that particularly bothered me. For the most part facebook and twitter was something I could regularly come and go from without much of a problem, but lately I’ve noticed a bit of a change.

I’ve noticed that writing at home five days a week often leaves my extroverted nature feeling a little lonely. Normally when I had this problem I would go write in my favourite cafe for a few hours and be amongst the people there even if I didn’t interact massively (It was almost guaranteed someone I knew would be there or appear after a few hours) I would usually feel a little better.

Since I moved house and out of the immediate vicinity of Bath I’ve not found anywhere quite like my old cafe and as such I often spend all week writing at home (It’s also a lot cheaper). This has led to me seeking some sort of social support from facebook and twitter and while this sort of works, this actually mostly makes me feel lonelier in the long run.

I may post something and get a few comments relatively quickly that I can reply to and feel a brief spark of connection with someone, but it doesn’t last long as people have things to do. And even worse, posting something and having it slip into the oblivion of facebooks ‘what we think you really want to see’ algorithim (it happens a lot more than you’d think). As a result I find myself reaching even more for my phone or tablet to check facebook in a cycle of feeling lonely, reach out on social media, feel even worse, try again. Rinse and Repeat and get so little work done you also feel bad about that.

While I say this, I also have to admit facebook and twitter can be amazing. Facebooks groups, especially are great for finding people like you to talk to and get advice from and I can’t count the number of awesome people I’ve found through retweets on twitter. They can be great, but they need to be approached with caution.

Castle Clash: A Distraction

So I often blog about some of the games I’m playing and this is my latest little time waster. It’s an android app which works very well on my tablet.

The game looks a bit like this, although this is a dungeon and not your base. You have heroes and other units that you create in your army barracks/training grounds. The heroes level up based on experience and you can level up the units with money, a bit like age of empires.

You also build up your castle in your own homeland, working out the best positioning of your watch towers, hero bases and resources so you withstand attacks best, of which there are two kinds. The waves of computer generated attacks and also the attacks from other players trying to steal your resources.

There’s also some great dynamics with the heroes and the hero arena where you pit your heroes against the heroes of other players and earn honour badges as well as improve your hero rank. This doesn’t level the heroes up but provides very important honour badges (they’re needed to unlock each set of 20 levels for your heroes). This provides an extra level of strategy because the heroes that are great in the arena aren’t necessarily the best heroes for defence or attacking another players base.

On top of all this there’s the guild side, which does seem to be getting developed at the moment. Players can sort of team up and combine resources (shards specifically) to get benefits, such as 10% extra resources in attacks and can collectively team up on uber heroes of massive levels to gain more honour badges.

I’ve recently created a guild and a few of my friends have teamed up with me and it’s added a lot to the fun. If anyone else would like to join me and bash some monsters with us, my guild is called Ethanar and at this point I’ll accept anyone who wants to join in too (apparently this only works on Android as the Android and Iphone databases aren’t in sync).

Gaming Apps

These have got to be some of the biggest distractions in the modern world. It’s so easy to think ‘I’ll just play this for five more minutes’ or ‘I’ll just do one more race’ and over an hour later you’re still not writing but playing apps on your phone or tablet.

Despite knowing this I don’t avoid apps very well. Mostly I really love them and it’s entirely because it is a great breeding ground for the indie artist in the gaming world. So many indie makers have had hits with apps. Angry Birds and Temple Run are just a couple, and it’s amazing.

Being an indie in the writing world, I have a lot of respect for indies in all types of creative career. I support so many more indie singer/songwriters and I love supporting indie gamers. The internet has really made it so easy for indies to thrive and for that I am truly grateful. What’s also great is the lines are blurring between them all.

I rarely know if I’m playing an indie app or a big makers app. I just browse and find the ones I like and if I keep coming back to the free ones I buy something from their in game store to say thanks for amusing me for so long. It’s brilliant.

Now I just need to figure out how to play apps and write books.

Ideas, Inspiration and The End of the World

At the moment I’m trying my best to get The Fire of Winter finished. I originally expected it to be about 100-110k long. Definitely the longest I’ve ever written but it just keeps getting longer, as you can see from the progress bar, I’m now estimating a good bit more.

The biggest problem with a book this long is my ideas and the research I need to do. So far this year I’ve had nine new ideas, several of which are the beginnings of a dysotopian world which lends itself very well to a series of stories. These are some of the most exciting sorts of ideas because they have the fun world building around them as well as the ideas themselves.

I’ve also read a lot of really good books lately that often make me want to try to write something similar. I’ve said before that the Sherdan series was inspired by the tv series the 4400. It also has political conflict in it that can be similar to the political strife in the Game of thrones series and I love loads of the characters in that. All of it serves to make me rather distracted from my current writing task.

For research I’ve also been studying the biblical end times prophecies (not an easy thing to do) with the help of a friend and it’s very distracting. I’m just aware it would be quite a lot of time out of writing if I don’t at least start studying it before this current book is finished and I want to write the next, but mostly it’s just making me very eager to write book three in the Sherdan series before I’ve even finished the current book.

Also I’m tweaking book two in the Sherdan series and having it proofread to get it ready for launch in about 5-6 weeks which makes me want to delve into the world of Anya and Sherdan again. Hopefully soon I can.

 

Calling vs Career

This has been a pretty hot topic in my life recently and I’ve had a lot of people giving me advice on what to do in certain situations regarding writing over the last few months. After a while I realised that, whenever I got two opposing sets of recommendations for what to do and how to do it, it always came down to whether I approached writing as my calling or my career. I’ll start by defining what the two are.

Calling, according to my understanding of it, is what you feel you are meant to do with your life. In some ways, your reason for being on the earth. It’s the things you can do from your unique blend of skills and life experiences to make the world a better place. I believe my calling is directly related to being put on earth by God for something He’s decided he wants me to do. There are some things that are generic in that. The bible lists a bunch of things every follower of Jesus is meant to do, like ‘Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.’ But in essence, I also believe I’m meant to tell stories in one form or another for the foreseeable future.

Career is more of a financial thing. It’s the success and financial reward an occupation brings. Having a good career is when we reach the top of that paricular occupational ladder and earn a larger amount. It’s very much about the stability it brings to life and how other people measure us against each other. When you have a career you know what you’re doing between 9am and 5pm on week days (mostly anyway) and you know what to put on that occupation slot of all those official forms.

Personally I couldn’t care less about my career. I really mean that. If I make money, great, if not, well I still intend to keep writing and telling stories. Some of it will be easier to do if I earn money but that’s only because it takes money to make some of the stories and do some of the ideas in my head. That doesn’t mean I won’t be sensible and try and make money but it does mean when it comes to a decision where one option is about following my calling and the other about following my career, I will pick calling.

A great example of this is writing in more than one genre. You’ve probably noticed I do this. I’ve got two novels in historical adventure, a novel in sci-fi, which is the start of a series, and several fantasy shorts with a series in that genre on the way as well. That’s three genres. This is considered a bad move in terms of a career as a novelist/author.

Readers like to know what they are getting. The quickest way to build a loyal fan base and sell lots of books is to write in one genre and deliver one style of book again and again. Everyone who likes my work can then buy everything without having to worry that they might not like it, and I can ensure every new book sells better than the last (as long as I don’t royally screw something up).

Writing in more than one genre leaves fans unsure about each purchase and even a little confused sometimes. They need to check what genre it is before they buy and while they love one of my books they may only like elements of others. I know this happens because I had a conversation, only last Sunday with a fan. He loves fantasy and tried my sci-fi book because he liked the fantasy stuff. He didn’t like it as much and he won’t even touch my historical adventure novels. To him I’ve wasted my time writing those (he didn’t actually come out and say that last bit and I’m not sure he’d even go so far as to think it, but it’s essentially true).

But the problem is, a lot of my story ideas are inspired by some kind of revelation and often they only fit in the genres and scenarios they came to me in. If I choose to write in only one genre, I wouldn’t be writing two-thirds of the ideas that come about as a result of storytelling being my calling.

When I pick a new idea, the first a formost decision is what ‘feels’ like it needs to be written next. Which one is it the right time for, regardless of how it fits with what I’ve already got (sometimes I get a nudge one way or another and sometimes I don’t but I always check before deciding with any other method). For now, both my sci-fi and my fantasy feel like they need to be written. There’s lots of great ‘moments’ in those characters lives that keep bugging me to be told. So I imagine that for the next little while I’ll be alternating between those two series. But that doesn’t mean I won’t ever write another historical adventure. I’ve got some more ideas for them, just right now they aren’t bugging me to write them.

So I’m writing in more than one genre and I’ll continue to do so despite the fact that this decision is proving detrimental to my career, at least in the short term, because for me, telling stories is about so much more than how many I can sell and how much money I can make. It’s about telling the right story at the right time so it’s relevant to my readers, no matter how few.

Writer’s block

I’ve been asked quite a few times what I think of writer’s block and how often I get it so I thought I’d post about it on my blog.

I don’t actually believe in writer’s block as such. I actually just think one of two things happens. We either get worn out creatively and need to recharge our memory banks with experiences or we get distracted too easily. Both can slow down a writing schedule alone but when both strike together it can pretty much kill a well planned schedule. I know that from first hand experience. As I write this I’m actually struggling with both. My creative capacity feels dry and I just don’t seem to have any motivation to ignore the many distractions trying to get my attention.

Today I want to talk about ways to refill that creative well and get the new ideas and juices flowing again.

The first thing I try when struggling is a good old fashioned walk. I know where all the good walks are near my house for good and bad weather. I also find walking to a coffee shop can help but sometimes it’s just good to get out the house and let the brain dwell on anything else it might want to process before it can get back to my complicated plots and character’s lives. The sunshine is also really good and stops me appearing quite such a pasty faced geek.

If that doesn’t work I’ll take a day or two off and indulge in all my hobbies. Anything that might put ideas into the pot, like reading books, watching films and playing computer games. It’s important that there is inspiration coming into the mix and fresh ideas so I usually find this is a good time to read, watch or play something a bit more out there and different to my usual fare.

If that still leaves me feeling uninterested or uninspired I switch to one of my other creative pursuits. Either clothes design or drawing or anything else that’s different enough I can get the pressure off and try and create without deadlines or need for it to be any good. If pressure or worry about something not being good enough has been the killer of my creativity then this works a charm.

Finally, if I’m still struggling after all that I’ll consider my options carefully. I may just need some more time off because it’s stress that’s caused the problems. I may just need to recharge and talk to people, or I may need to just give myself a good kick up the butt and get working again. Very very occasionally I might need to stop the project I’m struggling with and come back to it a few months down the line. Sometimes the timing just isn’t right.

Either way. It usually get’s resolved eventually. Now I’m off to play some games…

Regrets

I recently read a blog by author Bobbi Holmes about death and she mentioned that it had made her wonder if family of deceased authors read the books they wrote because they realise the author has left something of themselves behind.

It made me think, especially about the idea that something of us goes into our art, and that it’s an important part of us. My words have me in them, and anyone who reads them is connecting with me, even if they are the other side of the planet.

As a writer I know it means a lot to me when people I care about take the time to appreciate my art. There’s very little that says I value you more than someone taking the time to read something I put hours of my time, countless emotions, and a small part of some vulnerable inner place.

I sometimes wonder how many people realise that something like this goes into the creative process and I wonder how many realise it too late. I Know if it was me I would struggle with feelings of regret. I would regret not reading while they were alive, and I’d regret not telling them if I appreciated it, but most of all I would regret how I hadn’t let them know I cared, that I wanted to get to know them.

So today I want to remind myself to appreciate the creativity of the people I care about, to do something that let’s them know I care, to take an interest in them and try to ensure that when they are gone, I’ve one less possible regret.

Moving House

Yup, that’s right. I’m on the move. Well, hopefully.

At this point we’ve had our chain completed. We’ve accepted an offer on our flat, made an offer on the house we like and they’ve also now found somewhere they’d like to move to. So solicitors are all churning through paperwork.

Thankfully, we’ve got an amazingly short chain so it bodes well for things being speedy, something we’d really love. The shorter the interruption the better.

It does mean we’ve already packed up a chunk of our lives into boxes. Nothing too major yet but we wanted to get started. Anything we don’t think we’ll need or use is being put away in brown containers until we get to the other end.

While I’m really looking forward to the new house (I absolutely love it, and no, it’s not the one pictured here. This is just one example of the quirky kind of thing I like, although out of my budget this time around) I’m not looking forward to the interruption this will bring to writing. But it will mean I’m in a cheaper area, have more space, and I’m significantly closer to a coffee shop to go write in. I will, of course, have to find one I like but I’ll be closer to several options so it’s a good start.

I wonder what the cat will make of it all!

I updated this blog on March 1st, with extra information regarding chain etc as on the time of writing things weren’t as far forward as they were on the date of publication. Everything should be correct as of now.