Monday, 12 December 2011

Top Ten Adventure Gamebooks

I always think those people who are keen to forget the past and only embrace the future are missing out.

So I'm going to indulge because Christmas is all about nostalgia (or something like that).

Adventure gamebooks - 

The first adventure gamebook I ever bought was a Fighting Fantasy gamebook called 'Deathtrap Dungeon'. I remember reading it in a caravan on holiday as a child. I have no idea where we were on holiday because I was mesmerized by the book.

I have no idea why these kinds of books aren't so popular anymore. If any kind of book could give the reader a sense of personal power, it is the adventure gamebook. So here is my top ten list of adventure gamebooks:

1. Return of the Wanderer from the three book series 'The Cretan Chronicles'. They were something else - set in a world of greek mythology they were addictively difficult. The downbeat ending of the series has all the elements of tragedy. It was simply brilliant.

2. Lost in Time from the Falcon series. (or was it The Rack of Baal?). Time travelling with a difference - even C.A.I.N the time machine gets anthropomorphic and goes wrong. It includes a sequence straight out of the genre of films such as The Thing. Superb.

3. The Seven Serpents. Part of the four book Sorcery! series. Atmospheric and difficult. Steve Jackson at his best.

4. Overlord. Part of the Way of the Tiger series. In this book you play a leader and have to decide which advisers to listen to. You can decide whether to keep your friends or your enemies close. You are the ruler.

5. House of Hell. Fighting Fantasy gamebook number 10. Atmospheric and at times very spooky.

6. Appointment with F.E.A.R. Fighting Fantasy. You are a superhero. The sheer depth of the storyline in this book is the clever thing. Engrossing and fun to read.

7. Beyond the Nightmare Gate. World of Lone Wolf series. There was just something about the nightmare gate which was so apocalyptic that it stood out from the other titles. You even get to go through the portal.

8. The Grailquest series. Set in King Arthur's Avalon this series has you playing the hero 'Pip' with his talking sword. The genius of this series is that you can take the items from one book to the next. You will need a lot of time to read the whole series, but it is worth it. Good for exploration.

9. Lone Wolf series. Set in the world of Magnamund. Again, in theory you can play these books sequentially and keep many of the objects. 

10. Creature of Havoc - Fighting Fantasy. The clever part of this book is that is so infuriatingly difficult to play.

What I can't understand is precisely why there are no mainstream publishers publishing adventure gamebooks anymore.

And what more could anyone need for everyday life-skills and the importance of making good choices?

'You enter a tavern, The Pierced Skull. Do you talk to the landlord? (go to page 29). Buy a drink (go to page 234). Talk to the mysterious hooded man sitting alone at a table (go to page 23)."

Don't forget my poetry ebook is free if you want it. Happy Christmas.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Free ebook

My poetry ebook Compliance is Futile is free up until Jan 1 2012. Just enter this code: QY92Y

See if you can navigate the confusing Smashwords page to download a copy free at the following site:

'It's not about the money'

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Pen and the Sword

Back in 2009 I was reading through the media jobs section of The Guardian on a Monday and I came across this job ad. It was headed 'The Pen is Mightier than the Sword'. Reading the advert it became obvious that the job was to be a speechwriter for the Ministry of Defence.

The non-ironic tagline was 'A Force for Good'. I was so angry at the time. I cut out the job advert and stuck it in my diary with a few choice words of what I thought of it. It wasn't just that the Ministry of Defence were paying £66,389 (plus bonus and benefits) to the successful applicant, it was that they had appropriated the phrase: 'The Pen is Mightier than the Sword'.

I got over it of course. In this life you tend to do that - things will make you angry for a little while, but sometimes we are powerless to do anything about it and the anger goes away (and anyway, anger is such a bullying emotion).

The problem is, naive as I am (and believe me, I have my naive moments), I still can't get my head around the way that the pen and the sword work together. It seems to me that they are diametrically opposed to each other. The pen should promote peace. The whole point of having a principle like 'the pen is mightier than the sword' is to fight for peace using the written word.

I keep reading articles in newspapers or hearing news reports on TV which are so uncritical of war that I find the old anger coming back again and again. And what right have I? I'm naive - we live in a world where reports in newspapers about subjects like the arms trade or the latest war are completely uncritical. That's the way it is.

What is the point of writing? What is the point of journalism? Is it to work with the status quo? Is it to re-enforce the latest political agenda? Is it to write propaganda? Or is it to try to ensure peace - to question, to criticize wars so that lives aren't lost on both sides? What is the point of using a pen or keyboard? Is it to make things better or worse?

I hope the person who eventually got the job has job satisfaction. The job does stipulate that such a person should be 'imaginative', so maybe they could imagine their way out of the cognitive dissonance that doing such a job should cause? Personally I think it would have been a Faustian moment for him (or her).

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Marketing Mania

I've been spending time working on my first novel and trying to market my poetry anthology 'Compliance is Futile'.

It's a frustrating business. I've managed to get a couple of press releases into local papers:

This is a story from a press release I sent to the local free paper 'The Chase Post'.

And this is the story written for The Sentinel, for which I was interviewed over the phone following a press release.

The rest has been internet marketing. I've learned a few things. The main lesson is that marketing is a frustrating business and every writer really could do with an agent to do it for him or her.

The novel is coming on very slowly. I've got the basic plot, theme and characters. It is simply a matter of writing it all out now. And that may take some time.

In the meantime I have to consider everything else as research.

Monday, 8 August 2011


Finally my book is available as a paperback from

I was interviewed by a newspaper from my home town, The Sentinel.
You can read the story online at:

It was strange being on the other end of the interviewing. The interviewer got my age wrong and knocked off six years (better that way round). During the phone interview I said:

"I once came into the Sentinel on work experience."
"That's what I'm doing here now," admitted the budding reporter. I imagine that she will do well because she was thorough and direct in her questioning. All through the interview I wanted to say: "Just make everyone a cup of tea or coffee - they like that."

The recent phone hacking scandal has had the usual effect on the perception of journalists. Any trust gained has been set back years because of the invasion of privacy of a few. Almost every rule from the NUJ code of conduct was broken. And the whole profession is about as popular as when Princess Diana died.

It is all about the way in which writers and broadcasters treat their readers and contacts. If readers and contacts are treated in a condescending and uncaring way then there is something wrong with the journalist. The writer has to listen.

So, over the past few months I've been thinking about the way I treat my readers (yes, that's you faithful reader!). I've realised that, even though I've never been involved in phone hacking or anything unlawful, I've not always had my readers' best interests at heart. Even if I don't have that many readers, I still think I could be more considerate. So, I'm sorry.

I draw the line at offering compensation.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Compliance is Futile

We live in an instant world and suddenly the world of publishing seems to be relatively instant too. I made my first venture into the world of self-publishing yesterday. Determined to get my first book published I opted for Smashwords as a publishing platform and I now have an ebook.

The whole process took me about a day (the poetry collection itself took place over years). By midnight I had clicked the 'publish' button. Strangely my upload was in a queue of about 400 other works (it was day-time in America where Smashwords are based).

I wrote the blurb and picked a cover image (a sculpture of Joan of Arc at the Louvre in Paris 'listening to her voices'). I played around with the picture a little and uploaded the finished result. Then I got my free ISBN number.

The whole process was free and that was what I liked about it. Sometimes it seems as if the entire world of writing and publishing is there to make money from writers. There are so many scams out there for writers that it is necessary to be very careful.

But now I have an ebook of poetry published (finally) and I am ridiculously pleased with the whole thing. The finished product is available as an ebook in different formats for devices ranging from the Kindle to the PC. It is poetry rich in metaphor and simile and it is written for everyone.

If you want to see a sample of the book or even buy it (for $0.99), then you can see my Smashwords page at:

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The paper airplane test

During my ongoing quest for a church to attend I have devised a genius test. I’m calling it: 'The paper airplane test'.
The criteria are simple:
  • If I’m sitting in a new church, listening to a sermon, do I feel free enough to make a paper airplane and throw it?
  • If ‘no’ - avoid church in future.
  • If ‘yes’ – consider attending church.
It sounds childish, but this is a test for people of all ages and it does have some rationale.
I’m not suggesting I should throw the airplane at the preacher during his sermon (although I like to think that if one of the disciples did that during a parable, Jesus would find it highly amusing and not look at them as if they had just performed their own mini 9/11).

The next time I’m in a church I shall see if I feel free enough to do it. If there is a stifling, constrained atmosphere then maybe the church has failed the test. Of course the church in question may say that it is my fault that I feel that way and they can’t be held responsible for my feelings. Talk about shirking responsibilities! I’m having none of this! If I have stomach ache in church whose fault is it? Hmm? Hmm? That’s right – it’s God’s fault – and by sheer spiritual delegation the church’s fault (never mind what I ate beforehand!).

The serious point I'm trying to make is that in a church, a person should feel a degree of freedom of thought and expression. A person shouldn’t feel worse at the end of a church service than when they went in. The bible explicitly states: 'Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom'. So I think it is a reasonable test to see just how present the Holy Ghost is within a church service.

I think I may be able to extend the paper airplane test to any situation or place. A surgery waiting room, a train, pub or restaurant. The possibilities are endless...

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Stories make the world go round

Stories make the world go round. Not money. Not love. It's true - look around you, there are stories everywhere. On TV there are soap stories, films, news stories. There are newspapers full of stories, there are countless novels and short stories in bookshops and magazines full of true life stories. The internet is full of all kinds of stories, videos and blogs. People relate to each other through story, 'I went into town today and you'll never guess what happened...'.

Your life is a story. History is a story. We are the heroes and heroines in our own stories, our own protagonists, kings and queens in miniature eclectic kingdoms.

There are a million and one diaries out there with the hidden thoughts, feelings and records of individuals who have the patience to see their life in terms of a story, a sequence of significant events. Some of the stories are honest, some are lies, some are true, some are exaggerated. Some are more believable than others.

If life is a story, it isn't too strange that no chapter can be repeated in exactly the same way. Past chapters can be romanticized.
'It was better back then.'
'Those were my glory days'.
Can't they happen again?
'There was less fear in the past'.
'It was safer'.
The past is always safe.

Sometimes characters in the stories leave us. New characters appear. Sometimes there are antagonists. There are challenges and themes and ironies. There has to be a plot. It has to be something - even history is a plot full of particular events.

How are we supposed to enjoy the present scene and characters when we are still thinking about the past or wrapped up in the future? Or if the present is intolerable, how are we supposed to be proactive enough to give ourselves our happily ever afters?

By acknowledging that the fear will always be there. By acting even when there is fear. By not romanticising a past which was never as good as it seemed.

After the second world war there were two kinds of people who came through it. There were those who looked back on the war-days with a kind of rose-tinted nostalgia.
They would say: 'People got together, communities worked together, everyone was in the same boat, we had good friends and we were united.'
Then there were others who said: 'It was a scary time and we were afraid'.
Who was being more honest?

Stories make the world go round.

Write yours well.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Afterlife Vote (AV) Party political broadcast from the 'yes' campaign

Under the new voting system a 'Yes to AV' (Afterlife Vote) will mean that we will all get a say in our afterlife.
Obviously the old FPTP (First Pray, Then Paradise) system has a number of flaws.

For a start it is simply unfair. Even if a person votes for 'Heaven' they may not get what they want. If they do not vote hard enough or they are unable to vote (or they are simply unhappy with the choices available) then often they will not get their first choice. Voter apathy is also a factor - with so many people dis-engaged from the process, how can we hope to get the kind of afterlife we would all like?

A 'Yes to AV' vote will make for a much fairer system.

To illustrate the new AV system please consider the following example. You could choose -
as your first choice and
as your second choice,
your third choice could then be 'Heaven'.

It will no longer simply be a vote for 'Heaven' and a default state being experienced if no vote is made.

Under the current system, the choice has usually been either 'Heaven' or 'Hades', with many people unsure of what they are voting for (or if they even have a choice). This is clearly unfair.
Then, of course, there have been the vote rigging scandals (the less said about them the better). The system has been open to corruption.

The much fairer AV system will allow an individual to put a cross next to either 'Oblivion', or even a more obscure choice (such as 'Purgatory').

Many people fear that under the new system 'Hell' will get in as a default position. But this is not so, under the new Afterlife Vote.

Let us be very clear - The new system will allow you to make a series of positive choices. And let's face it, 'Hell' has been in power far too often in the past. To avoid this in the future the 'Hell' 'choice' will be dropped. It was always unfair.

Although this sounds complicated, it really isn't and is much fairer than the old system. There will be far fewer scandals too. And furthermore the end of the world will also take place through a smooth transition of power (there will be a referendum on the details of the tribulation).

During times of recession you may wonder what the cost of this new system will be.

That is the genius of the new Afterlife Vote system. It will be paid for simply by cutting red-tape and transferring money destined for Defence. The irony being that the money destined for Defence will then be used to defend each individual's destiny.

Vote 'Yes' to AV.

You know you want to.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The end of the story?

Beware the Beast of Revelation! (or the gila monster in this case).

It isn't the end of the world. I've checked. I think there is hope for your children (should you have children).

Quite often someone will declare that it is the end of the world. I've come to the conclusion that the only reason people say that the end of the world is imminent and that we are living in the very last days is to keep me going.

Can you see the hubris? I think people purposefully say that the latest disaster or war is significant in an end-times wrap up scenario so that it annoys me so much that I get taken out of myself and write a blog entry trying to debunk the whole idea. I'm that egotistical.

Okay, we do have a revived Roman empire in the EU. Okay, we have earthquakes and tsunamis and wars and recession and crisis after crisis. I admit the news is depressing.

But is saying 'These are all signs and we live in the very last days - expect the second coming - it could be today!' really accurate (or responsible)?

There are certain signs which must take place. They are prophecies from the books of Daniel/Revelation and the gospels which must happen before the world ends.

1. Firstly, the temple in Jerusalem has to be rebuilt because it features in Biblical prophecy. It hasn't yet.

2. Where is the antichrist? He just isn't around yet. There is no political world leader who is controlling everything. Satan has singularly failed to become a human being so far.

3. Look at the (Ban Ki) Moon (by the way, that was just word-play not an accusation). The moon hasn't turned as red as blood. Sometimes it is a bit coppery when there is an eclipse. It isn't as red as blood. I think that the moon will turn red when it gets populated by people and there is a man-made disaster on it (just a thought).

4. Jesus said that the love of many will grow cold. Okay, sometimes people are selfish and greedy and don't show much love or mercy. But look around, there are plenty of people who show faithful love and who still act unselfishly.

5. The mark of the beast. We may be closer to this with the idea of implants which can be used to buy goods, but we are still a step away from it. It hasn't happened yet.

There are other prophecies which haven't taken place yet, these are just five.

Having said this - as most of the world thinks that Jesus will never return anyway, this blog entry is all a bit superfluous. Jesus will return in the future - just not imminently. I don't think we are going to see another civilisation, for example. And there is not much chance that we are going to see the sun die in thousands and thousands of years. Jesus really is going to return eventually. Just not yet.

If you want some information which will really help you in an end of the world scenario - read the book of Daniel. In this book it says that Edom and Moab will escape the tyrannic rule of the antichrist. They are the ancient areas which correspond to the country Jordan.

So tell your children and your children's children (if you have them) that should things get really bad they need to run to Petra. Or, even better, to run away to an even safer place (God).

Thursday, 3 February 2011


January 29th came and went without any major incident. Gypsies can be wrong after all.
I do believe in invisible things though. For example – gold tooth fillings.

I spoke to a Christian who swears by the miraculous appearance of gold fillings (all praise to the heavenly dentist!). This Christian said that she had seen it with her own eyes – first there was a rotten tooth, then there was a gold filling. The reason I believe her story is because the gold filling appeared at a time when gold fillings are no longer fashionable in the Christian world. They’ve gone the same way as gold dust. These days it has to be about ‘glory clouds’ or ‘miraculously appearing gemstones’.

All I want is one big diamond to drop like dew into my hand during worship – is that too much to ask!!?

Actually I have to go to the dentist tomorrow. God never heals me. I just know that I’m not going to receive a gold filling before the dentist gets to me. Bitter experience tends to stifle some kinds of faith. If only I would believe for that gold filling or that diamond from paradise I would receive my miracle? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sadly my teeth are probably going to need treatment from a very human dentist (not all of us are kept on the books of the heavenly gold filling clinic). I should just count my blessings that I can get treatment.

But I do believe it happens – that people get miraculous gold fillings and miraculous healings. I get into trouble (with God) for saying things like ‘he never ever heals me’. But where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. Or there damn well should be! It is more of a challenge than an observation anyway.

If I really got a gold filling I’d be tempted to prise it out and put it in an envelope for spare and unwanted gold items.

No, I’m not going to get a gold filling. Call it a lack of faith if you want. But as I sometimes sing…

‘I love you more than gold or silver’.

So I’m holding out for better miracles