Friday, 30 March 2012

Bubblegum Memories

    A long time ago in a galaxy far far away… well actually it was London and about 1977 to be exact…

    A film was about to be released on the world that would change everything as we knew it, but this was in a time when there was no such thing as the internet, and TV coverage was not as it is today. This was a simpler time, when a film could be released without us knowing all the details before we stepped into the theatre… yes we called them theatres back then also.

    So there was this young boy in 1977, about to have this mighty film launched upon his innocent mind, and what did he have to get him excited about this coming attraction?

    Bubblegum cards. 

Yes indeed, that was this little boy’s introduction to the first Star Wars film.

    The cards came out before the film was released, so he clutched these wonderful cards in his little hands and dreamt about what the images meant, he imagined what the possible story was and who all these strange characters were. The films were special to him as kind Uncle Lucas always released them around his birthday, he would always remember where he had seen them and this initial epic would be the first film he clearly remembered seeing a film on the big screen.

    But the memory of the cards had its own special place, as these were where the imagination started. This was the year that crafted the individual that went on to make his own tales of imagination, and his own strange characters that hopefully had other little boys sitting somewhere waiting to discover more of his world.

    So let me now take you back to this time and share a few of these cards and maybe the memories that went with them…

    Artoo-Detoo was a little droid, we had no idea what a droid was in those days, today you can’t turn without falling over one, but back then this little bin-like fella was a strange looking character, and that was before we had even heard a single tweet from him.

    Darth Vader an imposing looking person, I mean just look at this picture. He is all dressed in black, so he must be evil, and he is pointing, so he is evil and of some authority, he also has someone dressed as a German behind him just to reinforce the fact that he is evil… and captures princesses for a job or fun.

    Luke and Leia, ah what a romantic couple they make. Here they are about to swing across the CHASM. That sounds scary and Luke sounds heroic to do it. Every boy must have wanted to be Luke and win the princess, and every girl must have wanted to be Leia and date a farmer. They were undoubtedly star-crossed lovers… what do you mean that is his sister, what sort of twisted mind thought of that one!

    Rebels defending, now this is another image full of mystery. Who are the rebels and what are they defending. This corridor was a centre of action in the cards, with a number showing the story and the previous Evil Pointer being shown in said corridor… no doubt pointing a bit more. It was also confusing to the little boy as there were pictures of our heroes dressed as Stormtroopers, so were the guys in white really the baddies?

    Finally we get to Han and Chewie, now these were the pair that got the imagination rolling. Han looked like a cool guy, and he had a freaking giant bear with a crossbow as his sidekick… and wasn’t a farm boy who dated his sister. This was probably who the boys really wanted to be, either that or Chewie of course.

And so that brings to an end this little memory of Star Wars and how a few cards stirred the imagination of a little boy. It was a simpler time, when we could be excited by the mystery of what was to come by the simple form of an image… and then bad Uncle Lucas gave us Manakin and those Midchlorine thingies, and the boy was already disappointed by the taste of gum now he thinks about it.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Comfy Shoes

    Comfy shoes are nice, we slip them on and get that familiar feeling, and they fit in all the right places. This week I slipped a comfy pair of shoes back on and it was like returning home again, although the comfy shoes in question were in fact of a big shiny clown sized nature… yes the Last Mask continues where it left of and I have started to craft the final two volumes, returning to the world that is welcoming to one and all.

   While editing the first novel I had no problem reading the tale over and over again, which seems a bit unusual for editing, and indeed was eager to get back on with the rest of the series, as I wanted to read what happened. That last bit may sound strange to you, as I am the writer, but it is true, I am just as eager to find out what unfolds in the story as everyone else hopefully is, and I am really missing a good, crazy read.

    The flow chart I use for the trilogy is nearly complete and I even wrote a rough draft of the very final scene, oh just wait until you read that one. So what I wanted to present here are two extracts from the first novel, which I hope show the world of the Joke and why I like returning to this interesting world.

    The first extract contains the arrival of our most darkest of characters and also contains some of the first writing done on the book, although it undoubtedly went through a bit of a change as it made its way to final edition -
    Dark tendrils of mirth crept out of the shadows and wove their way across the green fields towards the big top; the merriment of the show within the circus drawing them towards it like a bright flame.

    He was approaching. His black claws reaching out into this world like a slithering death, exploring this fresh realm that was full of new sensations, but also held many old memories for this ebony clown.

    The Harlequin moved with a grace that was not a part of this world, his dance a thing of sardonic joy and his smile a sneer of pain. His every step brought dead flowers to bloom for the briefest of moments, restoring their life back to vivid colour, before withering them once more to dried dead husks. Death passed in his shadows for he was the master of their dark depths and none would escape his decaying gaze. No mind would be left whole again on this day.

    Beside him crept silence, the pale shattered ghost of the twisted mime called Sile. Her face a distorted work of art that bore no resemblance to the beauty she once wore, a visage now twisted by the cruel humours of the Joke. Wisdom and madness lurked within her mind as her baleful eyes sought out their goal, broken pits of raven dark scanning the land with a hunger for this soul.

    And before this grim pair trotted a dog wearing a big, frilly white collar, a pug whose face also bore the marks of the Joke. A snout made red and an eye circled in blue, highlighting the face of the one called Rex, a compatriot of the dark who knew where the true power was.

    Across the fields they moved, this grotesque trio, leaving a wake of death in their path. The Harlequin knew their goal was now near, as this was the time and the place of which they had told, but the clown still remained out of reach, his face unseen by Sile’s dark eyes.

    The music of the circus continued to draw the shadows near, but for others the missing of the performance would cost them very dear.

    Hopefully the contrast of light humour and dark poetics comes across in this scene with the contrast of a pug dog trotting along in the company of a dark twisted pair, a theme often repeated in the novel. To write the world of the Joke it takes getting your mind in the right place, but with this series it currently seems to be no problem doing that. You worry that maybe you can’t repeat what you have done before, but it feels like they are waiting for me to get back.

    And now we come to our second extract, the point where we are introduced to probably the most memorable double act in our journey through the Joke -

    Bludgeon Lane was not a very noteworthy place within the Joke, not a sight that you would go out of your way to see. It was a fairly quiet lane, due to the fact that only one house remained occupied, and the fact that that house remained occupied was the reason no one else wished to live in this lane any more.

    The house was a lopsided shell of suffering and degradation, a home to the horrors of a twisted pair, the two nastiest, most evil individuals you would ever have the misfortune to meet. And if you did happen to meet them, it would most certainly be to your misfortune.

    Within its dank depths a single tiny candle fought a valiant battle against the darkness, fighting back the shadows that echoed with the cries of terror and pain, as a clown sipped at his tea with pleasure and disdain.

    Flopsy enjoyed a nice cup of peppermint tea at the end of a hard day’s work, and today had indeed been full of hard work, some of which still remained under those dirty nails of his. But now was the time to take a brief pause from the activities of the day, and to put his big feet up for a moment’s break, to enjoy the melody of pain and suffering that crept up from the depths of this place.

    Savouring the pleasure of the tea, while seated in his favourite chair, he let the labours of his love wash away, until he heard that familiar gentle jingling of bells approaching from the dark, making the tails of his cap shake gently, and his big red nose quiver with anticipation.

    The lonely candle shuddered.

    And so we meet our tea loving clown, a scene that I had been waiting to write as the drawing of the double act had been crafted long before this scene, so their expectations of what I was going to do were high and I couldn’t disappoint them now, as they can get violent.

    The shape of the final two parts of the trilogy is shaping up well and the comfy shoes are indeed feeling very comfortable for this epic journey through the Joke, so I would like to now leave you with an exclusive peek at book two, the very first piece of dialogue from said volume.

“Popcorn, Mister Scamboldi?”

Friday, 23 March 2012

Campfires and Stars

    Once more, gentle reader, let me return you to our lovely cave, the place we tell our tales sitting around a roaring fire, the attentive minds of our audience hanging on each word we utter, well except old Rumforl at the back who seems to be snoring.

    Our agent Ugg is busy counting his goats and dreaming of all the things he can do with them, but that is not of concern to us, and we will deny any knowledge of said doings when the authorities turn up. No we, the teller of tales, are in our element, we have a tale and we have an audience for the telling of this here tale, so what could possibly be better.

    Let’s be honest with ourselves, we are not going to get rich from the goats charged once Ugg has taken his large cut, we are not going to have a bevy of fur clad, beauties hanging off our finely crafted arms, and we are not going to see our names carved into the side of the mountain. This is our lot in life, to sit around the fire and tell our tales, but this is the best part of our job, this is the reward for our hard work. We sit there and regale our finely crafted musings, and we watch the reactions of our audience as the tale unfolds, accompanied by the constant bleating of Ugg’s new goats of course.

    Time passes and we now find the cave has gone, Ugg has been banged up, and our audience no longer sit with us and enjoy our tales. We now sit on our own, crafting our work before casting it into the wide world for distant readers to enjoy. Our tale may be gathered up and enjoyed upon the far shores of this planet but we may never see this, we may never know the effect our work has on our audience. But then one day we get a reply, maybe it is a review, maybe it is a bleat… sorry tweet, and on that day we connect with our audience again, taken back to the cave and our lovely fire. We hear what they enjoyed, we are told about their experience with our story and we get our greatest reward, the knowledge that someone has taken the journey through our tale and that they have enjoyed what you have done.

    Reviews and feedback are our reward today, they are our way of knowing that what we spent hours toiling over has achieved a goal, and that someone out there really wants to hear your tales. They are far more valuable than the dreams of riches, beauties, and mountain size names. So if you have read a book let the author know if you enjoyed it, show them that the work, they have probably done in the seclusion of their creative sanctuary, has reached out and affected someone else because that is what we love.

    But this is only half the story because there is another side to this tale, the things we could not see when we were sitting in our caves telling tales, things called stars. What we don’t love are stars that are not of the five varieties, the less than perfect score. And why do we hate them so much?

    They are saying our work was not of tip top quality, implying it was lacking in the audiences response, but they are also of an annoying ambiguity. Someone pops along and slaps a four star rating on your work and then happily skip away without a word, leaving said writer pondering the score. You sit there and you think why has my finely crafted tale only achieved a four, what was lacking to make it drop a star? And god forbid someone gives it a single star without comment, is this just someone who hates you, why are they so against what you have done?

    If we get a five star we know someone has enjoyed the work, and a response of said enjoyment is always appreciated by us, but if we get a lower mark then surely we should have at least some comment upon how our work was not enjoyed to its tippy top level. They do not inform us of how we can improve and at the end of the day that is what we aim to do.

    So, gentle reader, please remember in this time of global expansion it is rare for a teller of tale to connect with their audience, feedback that our tales connect is our gold and empty comments our bane. So be careful with your stars, and be kind with your comments.

    And if all this talk of the cave is baffling you then please check out the Blog from days past.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

A Grin Development

   Today marks exactly two years since I had an idea, so I thought for today’s blog I would share a grin development, or how my game Grindle got to where it is now from that day.

A Simple Idea – Grindle Prototype

   I came up with the original idea for Grindle on the 7th March 2010, after my friend discussed with me about doing a game together for mobiles and if I had any ideas. 
   At that point I didn’t have a clue, but when I went to bed my strange mind got to work and when I awoke the next day I had Grindle in my head, a game where you are shown a row of four grins of different colours and then after are asked to pick a certain colour. A simple idea that I felt would be easy for my friend to program but would also make for an interesting game. So that next morning I set about doing some rough graphics and even knocked up a basic version of the normal game in Game Maker to show him what I had come up with. There were also three additional modes – Time Attack, Full House, and Grindle Mode.

   So with the Prototype complete my friend set about doing a version for Android. A number of months passed and progress was slow, with eventually the project seeming to die, but I wasn’t willing to let it end there and as I am one never to look at something and say I can’t do that, I decided to do a version of my game myself.

A Foolish Plan - Grindle Extreme

   Returning to Game Maker I set about implementing the other three modes. I had no experience with programming so this was very much a learning process, trying to work out how to make random grids, having countdown clocks and various game play ideas that I hadn’t a clue how to do. 
   At this point I came up with the design having a tribal tattoo feel to it, which would hopefully appeal to the a modern Alternative market. 
   After a few months of hair pulling work I eventually had it done and in November of 2010 released Grindle Extreme on the Game Maker site. It got a few good comments and made me realise a number of things that needed adding, but it was an achievement for me to have got the game complete and working to how my initial design had laid out.

   The game then sat there twiddling its fingers until in 2011 when I decided to submit it to the publishers of Game Maker, as they also published some of the games made with GM. The creator of Game Maker replied to me a couple of months later and said he felt that the game was interesting and well executed, but he didn’t think there was enough in it. I asked him if I gave it an update would he be willing to have another look and he said he would.

The Final Fantasy - Grindle Oni   

   With the goal of adding more I then spent two months making the next version of Grindle, which I called Oni. The Alternative tribal look was refined, the graphics were all redrawn for a potential HD product and a lot was added. The game now had an additional nine game modes including a follow the light pattern game, a variation on Find the Lady, and a twist on the picture puzzle games. 
   I learnt a lot during this time about programming and it was even trickier doing it as I had to add the new elements while also building them around the existing ones. But two months later I had Grindle Oni finished, it had 120 Challenges, a tweak system to alter the game, and two new tunes to go with the original, yes I did the music also.

   So there is stood Grindle Oni, and again I felt I had achieved a lot with this. Looking back on the original what once looked good now looked very crude in comparison. And then I submitted it back to the publisher. 
   A while later I got the response, an extensive list of feedback on my game and apart from some cosmetic elements that could be improved the overall comment was there was too much. Yes the game now had too much content, is it possible for a game to have too much?

   In typical Winterflood fashion I had made the game too much. 

   Later he put me on to another company who was now handling the publishing of their games; the man there looked at the Grindle Extreme version by mistake and said he was interested but when I showed him the Oni version they pondered it for a couple of months.

   In the end they felt it didn’t fit their idea of the mobile market today, so I had manage to produce a game that matched my books and art, something distinctly me but without a possible market. With this apparently final nail in its being published I then decided this month to share the game with the rest of the world, it would just be sitting on my computer doing nothing otherwise, and I still think people will enjoy it.

   I hope you enjoyed this little recap of the games journey from quick idea to final product, I don’t know if there may be still some development in it but it is there for people to play and hopefully have fun with. So please now raise a glass and wish Grindle a happy birthday and if it had a cake it would no doubt have a Grin on it :)