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I write because…

It's how Harry Potter does it! :)

It’s how Harry Potter does it! 🙂

I write because of the pure enjoyment that comes from just creating and spending time in other worlds, exploring places and ideas that would never be possible (or, at least, pretty darn difficult!) in our own realm of existence. Imagination can give the characters I have running around in my mind a name and a backstory. Most importantly of all, it can give them a home. From this point, and as you spend more time with them, you get to see how they develop; they do things you expected, and, quite often, things you would never thought they’d dare to do. They develop alongside the world you’re building (or building on), and eventually you realise there is never going to be an end to this development. You’re in a deep hole and the only way to go is down, deeper into their psyche to find what makes them tick. They will forever keep changing, just as we do ourselves, until our time has passed. Looking back on what has been created at this point makes the whole process truly magical, and being the huge Harry Potter fan that I am, a spot of magic is something truly worth aiming for in life. That is why I enjoy writing.

The first time I ever really remember voluntarily writing a creative piece at school came sometime between the ages of six and eight. It was a collaborative piece with one of my friends, which we gave the warm and fuzzy name of ‘Welcome to your Worst Nightmare’. I don’t remember a great deal about it, but that can possibly be attributed to there not really being much to remember. We had our characters — both heroes and villains — and we had our action set-pieces. Our characters had names, and they looked like whatever we drew them like on the front page. That was the depth of our character development, but we were happy, busy as we were throwing them into whatever trials and troubles that had sprung to mind just a few minutes prior, while our classmates drew or played Connect 4 during the wet breaks we had to stay indoors for. The characters probably weren’t so pleased about the arrangement we had in place, but that was their life; they had to do as we told them. I don’t think we ever finished the tale though, which is a shame.

Writing is something that I’ve always come back to every now and then throughout my life. I had a few more instances where a story I’d written at school had grabbed me and made me build and develop on it afterwards at home. I’ve taken part in two NaNoWriMos in the last three years, winning my second attempt with a total of just over 51,000 words. With the exception of my first NaNoWriMo attempt though, nothing else of my fiction has really found its way onto my blog, and that’s something that I’d like to change now. This is why I chose to join Writing 101 and Blogging 201 this month. I hope to bring this little place back to life and make some friends in the process as we share our passion for writing together.

My first month of A Levels

If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen a few of my tweets about me embarking on a journey to amass a collection of three A Levels earlier this month. It seems quite scary that it was already seven years ago that I finished my GCSEs and made a decision that, as the years have flown by, I have only come to regret more and more. It was the choice to step away from education to pursue employment straight out of school. While this course of action wasn’t all doom and gloom I would be lying if I said it went anything like I had thought it would. This isn’t the part of the story that I regret the most though, it’s the idea I had given myself that I had missed my chance for further education, and so was stuck in this situation. I now know that this couldn’t be further from the truth, and can’t express quite how stupid I felt for thinking otherwise for all those years.

That’s all for the negative reminiscing though. I have a chance to put this right now and am determined to make it count.

The subjects I have chosen to study are chemistry, biology and maths. Chemistry and maths were definite choices from the moment I applied, owing to my hopes of progressing to university to study for a chemistry degree. Biology would’ve had to fight with history, but by the time I applied history was already full, so biology won my final subject choice.

The summer months were spotted with attempts to recall as much of my previous knowledge as possible. The Khan Academy was an invaluable resource in helping me to lay a good foundation of knowledge in each subject before making the jump to AS Levels. This foundation has held up relatively well. The only shortcoming has been some of the content that we’ve been covering in maths was never touched by me over the summer, quadratic equations being the prime culprit. This left me out in the rain trying to scour the darkest recesses of my brain for maths knowledge from seven years ago, which as you can imagine doesn’t work out too well. I feel more confident with the topics we’re covering in maths now, but the first few weeks were certainly a struggle.

Two-and-a-half weeks into the course we were greeted by our first set of periodic tests to ensure that we’re understanding, and are confident with the topics that we’re studying. Entering these tests I was most confident about chemistry, with biology second and maths, understandably, third. In terms of difficulty the opposite was true, and the results gave biology the chance to top the list. I scored an A in biology, B in chemistry and a D in maths. This surprised me because I was sure that chemistry would be where I would pick up the highest marks, but I was let down by some of my calculations. Overall, I’m more than happy with these results, especially my biology score. I just need to keep working with the same level of commitment to ensure those grades stay where they are (except for maths, that’s more than welcome to improve) up until the first real exams in January.

Looking back on the last four weeks I’m very pleased with how I’ve managed so far. I feel that I’ve coped well with the transition back into full-time education, I’m enjoying all of my lessons, and everything is made so much better because I still get to see my partner-in-crime and brilliant friend James during breaks and lunch. Now that I’m settled in I want to try to pick up where I left off here back in July. All going to plan I want to keep a steady stream of posts going up until New Year, when I should be heavily focused on revision for the dreaded January exams. I did actually want to bring Musical Monday back yesterday, but it will definitely be making a return next week. The games and music are already chosen, and given my recent gaming habits I bet you can guess what series will be taking centre stage. 🙂

Thanks as always for stopping by; it’s always appreciated. I can’t think of a better way to end this post than to give a huge thank you to Warwickshire College for allowing me this opportunity to further my education, and to my family for supporting me in my decision to return to full-time education.

Holiday and a thank you

After I press publish on this post I will most likely be seen flying around the house in a similar fashion to how you’d expect a hyper-active cazador from Fallout to behave. This is because my family begin our holiday today, and in a classic holiday preparation move we’ve left everything until the last possible moment. That 9:30am target for leaving Rugby is looking more and more unlikely as the seconds flick by. Everything I want to take with me is sat on my bed, just waiting for me to put it in bags, so I wanted to write a quick post on here to cover a few topics before I go.

Firstly though a little bit about our holiday. We’re heading out to Skegness for a week, which is a common holiday destination for us. We didn’t have a holiday last year, but the two years previous to that Skegness was our destination. The site we will be staying at is about 20 miles outside of Skegness, which means it doesn’t get the same level of customers as sites in Skegness. This means that it has a lovely and peaceful atmosphere that is difficult to find at the more popular sites. Overall, I quite like our holidays to Skegness, but after visiting Snowdonia National Park earlier this year, I would quite like to spend a week there either next year or in 2014. There will most likely be a blog post appearing about what we did when I return.

The next topic I wanted to talk about is Musical Monday. I have written next weeks episode, which is scheduled to be published in my absence at around 8pm BST on Monday. I wanted to ensure that there wasn’t a second week where one wasn’t posted because I know, with my habits, that two weeks would become ten before I could even imagine. That’s certainly not what I want to happen.

And finally I wanted to give a big thank you to everyone who has visited my blog and had a read this month. The number of visits I have had through July has completely blown my previous highest out of the water. It did actually equal this back on the 16th July if I remember correctly, which I couldn’t believe, and since then it has gone on to all new heights of its own. After holiday I plan to add a lot more variety to the content that I post, so I like to think there are exciting times ahead. I do have some posts that are nearing completion that I originally wanted to post before my holiday, but I haven’t been able to complete them as yet. They will definitely be posted shortly after I return to Rugby though.

I hope you all have a great weekend, and thank you as always for stopping by. Now, I guess I should go and get packed. 🙂

Musical Monday V – some forgiveness required

As I look back at the games that have entered my life over the nineteen years of gaming I have enjoyed I can easily recall many fond memories which will always stay with me, and I will certainly still look back on with a smile long into the future. From my beginnings helping my Grandad complete some of the puzzles in Pushover and working my way through the timeless classic Lemmings, to finally picking up the platinum trophy in Wipeout HD and completing Mile High Club on veteran in Call of Duty 4 after losing my will to continue on more than one occasion. During my time writing my Musical Monday posts I have enjoyed going back to some of these games that have left me with fond memories and celebrating them through their music. For this episode though I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted to shine the spotlight on two of the games that I have been meaning to play for some time, but have yet to do so. I do ask in advance for your forgiveness for the second game I’m going to mention.

I can think of only one game to start this week’s selection off, and that is The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Ever since I took a friend’s advice and bought Oblivion back in the winter of 2008 I have loved this series. This was one of the first role-playing games that I had experienced, and I am so glad I did. Fast forward a few thoroughly enjoyable months and the same friend said that they had recently turned their attention to Morrowind. This conversation planted the seed of thought in my mind, and after taking a moment to look into it, I decided that I too would like to experience this game. Whilst I am yet to play Morrowind myself I did find myself deciding to search for a ‘let’s play’ on Youtube one quiet afternoon last summer. After a little bit of searching I settled down to watch one by GixG17. He had taken the same step back from Oblivion to Morrowind that I was planning to take, which allowed me to relate to his comments about the game and experience easily. His commentary and self-made interactions with the NPCs also added a very interesting and entertaining aspect to the videos and simply made the play through a pleasure to watch. I loved listening to the music playing in the background whilst watching his videos, and quickly found myself searching for it to listen to the soundtrack in all its glory. Relaxing and upbeat, it’s the sort of music that I could easily lose hours of my day listening to. I love all of the Elder Scrolls’ soundtracks, but I think Morrowind’s might just take first place if you asked me for my favourite. Since my recent return to PC gaming early last week I have decided that the time has come to finally experience this brilliant game for myself, so I’ve made a note to buy it at some point in the coming weeks.

The second game, or more accurately, series in today’s spotlight also needs no introduction. It has received almost universal critical acclaim since its first appearance as a part of The Orange Box back in 2007. It is, of course, the Portal franchise. I honestly have no good excuse for why these two games have not made it into my collection, especially when a quick search of the internet shows I can pick up both The Orange Box and Portal 2 for less than £15 each. Both have been on the list of games I want to buy for some time, and I know that I will definitely enjoy playing them as I do love a good puzzler. It wasn’t until me and my college friend were discussing some of our favourite gaming music from times gone by and he brought these games up that I realised how good the Portal soundtracks are. I love them! Especially the two credit themes. I am planning to correct this issue of not owning either of these games in the coming weeks, but in the meantime the soundtracks are doing a brilliant job of keeping me entertained.

That’s all for Musical Monday this week. I’d like to give a huge thank you to my sister Kirsty, who possesses a graphic design ability that I can only dream of, for designing my new Musical Monday banner. Thank you to you guys as always for stopping by and having a read. I hope to add a touch of variety to my content here between now and next week, when Musical Monday will return to celebrate some of my favourite Nintendo DS game soundtracks. It seems only fitting considering that’s what I’ve been listening to while writing this week’s post.

[Video credits: Morrowind – TurinMroczny, Portal 2 – TheMediaCows, Portal – OverTheGun]

Musical Monday IV – from libraries to mountains

It’s Monday again, which means it is once again time for me to bombard you with some of my favourite video game music from times gone by. Last Monday I was saying that I hope for a July filled with pleasant weather. Since then we’ve seen our country drenched under a month’s worth of rain. I have been ill since last Thursday though, so a positive in some regards is that I was never caught out in it. Unfortunately, it also meant that this post suffered a delay in being written, and was still in progress as Monday became Tuesday.

The first game I have chosen to be in the spotlight this week takes us back to a point-and-click adventure game by the name of The Longest Journey. This is another game that I have to be thankful to my Grandad for helping me discover, after he shown me the demo during one of my weekend visits in 1999. Without him sharing this with me, it is quite possible that this wonderful game would have completely passed me by. It would have been a great shame if this was the reality because I have always been a big fan of point-and-click games, from Monkey Island to Broken Sword. I remember that when I was given The Longest Journey for Christmas that year my computer’s hard drive required a quick spring cleaning session before I was able to install it. The 1GB of space it required was a sizable chunk of my 6GB total my computer had to offer. Whilst this was an annoyance at the time it was certainly worth it to experience such an enjoyable game.

The theme I have chosen sits comfortably in the middle chapters of the story. At this point in the story April is required to visit the Library of the Sentinel Enclave to learn more about The Divide and history of The Balance between the Magical world of Arcadia, and her home world, the technology driven Stark. This theme is played in the background while you are reading a selection of the library’s vast collection of books. I would always take my time reading the various stories and historical accounts, taking in every detail while thoroughly enjoying this music. I really wish that other games would include music similar to this when you are reading books. I would happily sit for hours in my character’s Arch Mage quarters on Skyrim reading through the books I have collected on my travels. I still do of course, but I feel music like this would certainly add to the atmosphere.

My second choice for this week’s post welcomes one of gaming’s most well-known characters into the Musical Monday spotlight. Lara Croft will be reborn in her upcoming game, currently scheduled for release in early March 2013, but for this choice we will be going back in time to her second adventure. The story was an interesting one; Lara, and her adversaries, were on the trail of the Dagger of Xian, an ancient artifact with the mysterious power to grant those brave (or stupid) enough to stab themselves through the heart the life and luxuries of a dragon. I think if I was presented with this opportunity I would kindly refuse and go and play one of my Spyro games. To use a saying that may only just fit this situation, it’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.  Tomb Raider II was also the game that first introduced the popular sport of locking butlers in giant freezers (admit it, you couldn’t resist doing this at least once).

My chosen theme is one that you will encounter in the later stages of the game. Simply named ‘Skidoo Pursuit’ it plays when, you guessed it, Lara hops onto a skidoo for the first time during her adventure through Tibet. This first experience of skidoo riding never lasted for a few seconds because I insisted that she switched that noisy contraption off and listened to this music. After the music had finished she was more than welcome to continue her journey, but silence ruled during these two-and-a-half minutes.

As always, I hope you enjoyed listening to these themes as much as I do. For next week’s episode I plan to talk about some of the video game music that I enjoy listening to even though I haven’t actually played the game it belongs to myself. Some will be music that I have enjoyed while watching Let’s Plays on YouTube, others will be music that has been recommended by friends. Rest assured that each game that I will mention has a secure place on my ‘to play’ list. I will also hoping that I won’t be struck down with illness next weekend, resulting in another post being fresh off the keyboard at 2am the day after it was meant to be posted.

[Credits: The Longest Journey theme video – SuperGuitarDude, Tomb Raider II theme video – MioRaem]