Category Archives: writing

Moving Time

Due to being “let go” by my company 2 weeks before Christmas in 2023, I am currently financially “pinched” and this means a few things have to be sacrificed until I get my groove back.

One of these things is a self-hosted website. In the meantime, I will be here harmoniouscrow.com adding to the Gaming Adventure and ranting about whatever gets my goat. As they say. Come join me!

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare – Deja vu all over again

I’ve never played an “Alan Wake” game before, and I’d never heard of the character or the world prior to getting this game (As part of a Humble Bundle) about 3 years ago. I installed it back then, played about an hour of it, couldn’t get the hang of it at ALL, so I uninstalled it and promised to return at some point, but never did… UNTIL Spoopytober 2022. It was next in my Gaming Adventure anyway, and I thought it was an appropriate game for the Spooky season.

I am proud to say that I finally completed it! As usual, I am not going to go into TOO much depth, so as to avoid spoilers, but I am going to attempt to give a nice vague and all-encompassing short discussion about it, but more importantly about _my_ experience of the game.

To start, the introduction is quite “gentle” and leads you into the mechanics of the gameplay, the interface, and the limitations of Mr. Alan Wake. There are a few callbacks, apparently, to the other games, and I missed these, of course, unless they were shoved right in my face and mentioned by the “narrator” of the game. However, after this “gentle” introduction, it really starts to get wild, interesting, puzzling, and PRETTY DARN SCARY! The number of times I jumped IRL thanks to being snuck up on by the rather creepy “enemies” in the game… I lost count!

The world is quite empty, but you do meet a couple of people (mostly women… hmm) who help you in their own way, and the story progresses. The first time you loop (and I won’t go into that, because I don’t want it spoiled) I was actually a little disappointed! I thought, “All that work, and now I’m here!” but it made sense. As the story progresses, the weird objects you need to find and the strange conversations you have to have with the same people, but with subtle differences, seem to slide into place.

The puzzles are sometimes super simple, sometimes quite complex, and I found the “help” was not always particularly helpful, or the instructions were a little vague, but I still enjoyed it immensely.

Then you meet your nemesis, and that guy made me incredibly uncomfortable – and that’s not something that happens very often – so that’s a testament to the writing, voice acting, and animations/cut scenes. This guy CREEPED me out no end. Every time you had to interact with him in some way I will admit I kinda rushed it and clicked through as fast as I could! And he just gets worse as you progress – so that’s both interesting and disconcerting.

Maybe because “he” is also “you” but the darkest, cruelest, most depraved parts of you? I’ve never been comfortable playing the “bad guy” in games. I always end up playing the good guy, the reluctant hero, the thief with the heart of gold, the thug who changes his ways. Every character I play, unless absolutely set in the story and unchangeable, will evolve into an upstanding citizen, whether I like it or not!

Moving on!

While this game is a little older, the graphics (in-game and cut scenes) are pretty darn good! The atmosphere is very noir detective, but with elements of combat, puzzle, decision making conversations and interactions, and lots and lots of running…

The narration creates a very 1940’s detective novel feeling, and if that’s your jam, you’re in for a good time. There’s a little wry, dark humour involved, but it never takes you out of the story. As I mentioned above, the writing is excellent. I only rolled my eyes once in the game when you interact with a certain character, and the dialogue options were a bit “Oh, seriously?” for me. But other than that, the story, the interactions, the narration, it all adds to a full experience and immersion.

Once I got the hang of the interface, the action, the story, and the ultimate goal of the game, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m glad I played it, finished it, and I can tick it off on my Gaming Adventure list.

*sips whiskey* *adjusts trench coat* *puts feet up on the desk in the dark office*

So, Mr. Wake, we meet again. And again. And yet again.

Snippet 18

She saw it that day. She saw what was on the other side.

The split second she left this world lasted an eternity on the other side of the veil.

She stood on sandy shores, waves lapping at her feet. The water was warm and soft. The mournful cry of gulls, high in the air, and the piping of Plovers reached her ears. The air was warm; not uncomfortably warm, but warmer than any beach she’d been on in her lifetime.

The sand was golden brown, with streaks of red and pale yellow, gentle and smooth.

She looked at her feet, bare and tanned. As she stared, she noted the breeze blowing her light cotton clothing around her legs; pale blue and soft as a touch.

She turned from the water to face the lands behind her. Dunes ranging in size from hillock to mountain, as far out as the eye could see, browns and reds and pale yellows in stripes and streaks, with golden syrup coloured ridges and deep red valleys.

As the breeze subsided, she could feel the heat waft forward towards her from the dunes, then be driven back again by the cool breeze from the water.

“Is this it?” she wondered out loud. She wondered what happened next. She was not hungry, nor thirsty, and she felt no discomfort from the hot sands. What did she do now? Was she meant to move on somewhere else? Was she stuck? Would there be someone to meet her? Was she alone here?

This was not what she was expecting. Well, really, she didn’t know what she had been expecting. The only time she’d pondered it deeply was in drunken conversation with her best friend Mandy, 3 bottles of wine into a good evening chill session at her place.

 

Her silent reverie was interrupted by the harsh cry of a gull, closer than before, and she turned back to the water. She saw a small skiff coming toward her; compact sails full of wind, moving the skiff through the water at a brisk pace.

A Plague Tale – Innocence

My next game in the Gaming Adventure (and now so very close to 700 games altogether.. SHUSH! Don’t judge me! Blame Steam Summer Sale and GOG and their ridiculous discounts!) is the tragic and beautiful, A Plague Tale – Innocence. Some may say it should have been played in the “P” part of the adventure, but I’m going by GOG’s list, as it shows all my games from various launchers/sites in one place, and it said that it was next. So here we are, and here we go…

First impression is that the game is GORGEOUS – the colours and textures are detailed and beautiful, and you immediately feel like this is going to be a game where the story is made even better by the amazing scenery and character design. The story, even if this had NOT been as beautiful as this game is, would still have kept me playing.

You start out in a beautiful moment, father and daughter (and beloved dog!) having a lovely evening stroll in a French forest in the 1300’s – Idyllic, peaceful, filled with Autumn colours and bird song. Here, you meet Amicia De Rune, and her noble father, and her gorgeous hunting dog, Leon. Father and daughter discuss her mother, and her little brother, Hugo, who is, apparently, chronically ill with a mysterious disease. Amicia doesn’t see her mother very often as she is dedicated totally to looking after Hugo, who Amicia also doesn’t see very often or know very well. Amicia is daddy’s girl, and is wanting to prove herself to her father, and impress him. She does this in various ways, and you can tell her father dotes on her and clearly knows her better than he knows his son. It’s a lovely scene, and you can thoroughly enjoy it… then some things happen (won’t spoil it) and Leon runs off after something. He is a hunting dog, after all, and a well trained one.

So we walk through the woods, discussing many things including the current war and the Inquisition, your ill brother and absent mother, and your father tests your skills with your (soon to be indispensable) trusty sling. It’s a lovely, gentle intro into the skills you will be using, and advancing, throughout the game. Amicia is innocent and, while a little sad and a touch jealous that she never gets to see her mother because she is always taking care of Hugo, kind and sweet.

That’s when things turn a little dark… not going to spoil the story, but some things happen and it’s downhill and pretty much running and hiding from there on out!

You start out very strained in your relationship with your little brother, Hugo, but through the misery, heartbreak, and sheer terror that you go through together, and the understanding that develops, you end up being incredibly close and loyal to one another. It’s quite touching at times. Hugo also starts out very innocent and gentle, but you are both changed tremendously by the things you see, have to do, and the people you discover along the journey. There are some incredible characters with their own deep stories, and these characters are not 2-dimensional in the least.

Yes, the story is linear – you don’t get to choose where you go or when you go there, but even that does not detract from the game or the story. Some places you revisit, and they are forever changed. Some of the people you lose along the way for various reasons, and each time it tears a little more at the heart. By the end of the story, after you accomplish your goals and help some of your companions accomplish theirs, you are emotionally exhausted, but tentatively triumphant. It’s bittersweet, and the ending is not quite what you expect.

As mentioned, the story is very dark, and quite gruesome in some places, and there are rats…. lots and lots of rats. So if you have a phobia, I would not recommend the game. As for the story, and the period it’s set in, it’s a dark, tragic time filled with violence and atrocity. Be warned. You will be changed as much as these children are.

Even the NPCs and guards and soldiers and everyone else you come across are very interesting and their dialogue makes sense in their position/location. I had many moments where my heart was pounding in my chest – and sometimes these were the _sneaky_ moments!

The visuals are incredible, and the music is absolutely on par with it. It’s a soundtrack you can get lost in. Each location has its own theme and song, and the action/sneaking music is also superb.

It’s a game to get lost in for a good few hours. This is my second attempt at the game – I don’t remember why I stopped playing the first time – but I remember exactly where I stopped, and when I managed to get passed that point and move along in the story, I was pretty proud of myself. When I reached the end of the game, I was even prouder.

I can heartily recommend this game. I have hundreds of screen shots and I will remember it very fondly.

Au revoir Amicia. Bonne chance Hugo. J’attends vos prochaines aventures avec impatience!

PS – Let the credits roll to the end for a little bonus…

PPS – all images are taken in-game.

Midnight Faces

I had this weird idea a few moments ago, as I lay in bed at 01:45 am: A calendar called “Midnight Faces” which was 12 (and possibly more bonus images) “photos” of kids who had ignored or defied or just not believed the Rule that if you held a silly/ugly face when a clock struck 12 it would stay that way. I thought that hyperrealistic art style of the guy from “Things I have drawn” would work best. Kids like Gertrude Farnsworth. “You are always eight, Gertie. Except when you’re not.”

Or Alexander T. Wallap. “Yes, Lex, The Rule applies even with experimentation. Sorry, kid.”

Laurance Epple. “We push boundaries to learn, yes, but The Rule has strict boundaries that cannot be bent or folded or even bumped. ”

Perhaps some Lore about The Rule, and how to undo it? The history?

I will see if I can contact the artist, and see if he is interested. I don’t want money, just a little credit/internet nod in my direction.

Writing this down so it is seen that it was my idea. Patenting it, so to speak.

Snippet 17

The Beast raises his shaggy haired arms with muscles twitching and sweat sliding

Between his fingers twines a snake with eyes like sapphires and teeth like diamonds

And pearls of venom dribble from tips of fangs and the hiss escapes like sibilant whispers

Of black words and black thoughts and black deeds with shadowed wings and sharpness

Like knives of iron and quick slick slices and cold plumes of crystal breath rushing

With force of gale and gust and grabbing hands snatching and snarling and scratching

Skeletal branches against the giant Moon’s light with bats alight and eyes glowing

In the pitch black undergrowth with clicks and snicks and snaps and crackles and cackles

Of stooped women in ragged black clothes with gnarled hands and wise gazes that fix

Upon your face they delve and dive into your life and do not allow lies and liars

Betwixt the veil and the shadow and the land you live on and in and over and under

Ground yourself in the old and the deep and the cruel and the kind and the wheel

That continues on even after death after misery after tragedy after loss and tread softly

As the Moon slides down below the tree line and you are left with nothing but the warmth of your heart and the burning knowledge in your head.

 

 

I Have Plans For The New Year

I Have Plans For The New Year!

 

 

I have plans for the new year

I don’t have resolutions, but I definitely have plans, and maybe a few goals too. Resolutions are for people who don’t really want to expend too much effort, because they know that resolutions made for new year are not normally expected to be kept beyond February, March latest. Nobody will hold it against you if you give up 3 months in to the year! My plans are for the whole year, and even beyond if they work out the way I am hoping they will!

I have set my mind on the Octopus method of contributing to my awesome family: multiple streams of varying levels of income, which adds up to something viable and useful. Yes, it will be hard work – all of it will. Everything I am choosing to shove my finger into will require a great deal of time and effort, but in the end, it will be worth it. Pieces of the pie will add up to deliciousness.

A lot of my ventures will depend on some small steps and things to occur before I can continue, but they aren’t deal breakers, just conveniences.

In no particular order, my plans for the new year include:

  1. Writing for a science fiction anthology that I was invited to pitch a story for.
  2. Setting up my vintage inspired apparel shop again and getting to work on some clothes for clients!
  3. Keep on trucking with my jewelry line via my online boutique – even if it’s a small passive income, that’s absolutely fine with me!
  4. Keep adding my photography to stock image sites and Twenty20 (via Instagram) and work on my social media marketing (for my jewelry and vintage clothing as well)
  5. Begin a dog walking service on the post! Once we get our fencing up, I will be able to take my dogs for a set 3 walks a day, instead of 6 or 7, as they won’t require bathroom breaks to be included as we will have a little back yard for them for that! Once my dogs are set in a good routine (I would never neglect them for anything, especially money, or other dogs!) I will offer my services to the neighbourhood. I’ve already been approached by a few people, asking if all three were mine and if I walked for other people, so I know there’s a market for my skills. I will also brush up on my first aid skills, and get my CPR/BLS certificate for dogs (I have the course ready to roll, just need to make the time to complete it) so that I can set people’s minds at ease about that. I will have a few stipulations of course, for the dogs I will walk, but I really think it will work. Even if it’s just a few dogs a day, Monday to Friday. Will have to rethink things when summer rolls around, as the humidity is killer here in Georgia.
  6. Work on my website – on my own and also with my awesome friend Vanessa of VMCA.

There’s so much to do, I’m pretty excited! I will be busy, and tired, but I will finally make some sort of contribution to our family and feel good about myself and my worth. I feel good though, knowing that I definitely have plans for the new year!

Snippet 16

“You don’t need to know everything, do you?” she asked coyly, crossing her legs and sitting back in the big soft armchair.

That smirk of hers was well known now. She was on the cover of every tabloid magazine and a lot of men’s magazines as well – those that wanted the publicity.

Jacqui tried not to sneer at her. She despised this type of woman. Famous for being famous, or famous for being infamous, in this case.
Famous for being disgusting, is what Jacqui thought, but she was not an independent journalist, she worked for someone. She had a boss, and her boss told her to interview this idiot, expecting sales to be made from it.
Jacqui said she would do it, but it was not likely the boss would be too happy with the interview. She wasn’t going to be “nice” to this IQ-challenged, money-grubbing bitch. Why be like all the rest of the magazines and blogs? All cooing and fawning over her like she was some kind of important person who made a difference in the world. She wasn’t. She was a piece of trash, in the worst way, and came by her “fame” through the most low means.
Jacqui was not going to hold any punches in this one. She was tired of this shit. Tired of people who did nothing, helped no one except themselves and thought this made them better than everyone else. Oh no, bitch, not this reporter. You’re in my sights, she thought to herself and tried not to grin evilly.

The pause that Jacqui took to arrange her recorder, and fold her notebook to a clean page and click her pen, made LaDonna (“Like Madonna, but with a La!” insert stupid giggle here.) very uncomfortable. She shifted in the chair and uncrossed and recrossed her legs. Her smirk was gone, replaced with thin lips pressed together.
Jacqui took a moment more to stare at her, to really look at her. She was actually very plain under all the makeup, even a little left of plain. Her hair was clearly not naturally blonde and she had a slightly droopy left eyelid which would catch up with her in a few years. Unless, of course, she found some wealthy man to pay for her corrective surgery. It wouldn’t surprise Jacqui in the least if she got married in the next few months to some aging starlet or wall street fat cat. That’s how this type worked. Strike while the iron is hot, while the fame is high, while the media loves you – because it’s gone in a flash. Well, this one will be gone in a flash, if Jacqui had any say in it.

“So, LaDonna, tell me about your childhood. Nobody seems to know where you came from, or who your people are.” Jacqui began.
“I prefer not to talk about my childhood, because it’s not important.” said LaDonna, her confidence returning as she got her set answers ready and knew where she stood.
“I believe you signed a document when you agreed to this interview, that stated you would answer all questions put to you. Or no deal. Let’s begin, shall we?” Jacqui said with a slight smile and a cock of her head.
“I don’t remember signing anything!” LaDonna giggled, “I was probably high on something at the time!” she added, in what she thought was a suitably conspiratorial tone but was really just a stage whisper so that her “crew” of hangers-on would hear, most likely. Jacqui heard a few snickers from her loyal entourage. Loyal for not much longer, she thought.
“Whether you remember or not, LaDonna, you signed it. I have a copy if you need to be reminded.” she said.
LaDonna’s face twisted and Jacqui watched something churn there that she hadn’t noticed before in other interviews. Rage. A temper. Wonderful!
“I don’t like being talked to like a child!” flashed LaDonna, and made as if to get up and leave.
“Does it bring back bad memories?” Jacqui asked quickly, jabbing it at her like a knife.
LaDonna gaped in anger and Jacqui could see how bad her teeth really were. Yeah, she needed to get those done too, when she found her rich man. Her face flushed and she stood and crossed her arms like a toddler about to throw a tantrum.
“Sit.” said Jacqui. The voice worked on her dogs at home, so it should work on this woman, who was far less intelligent. She definitely heard a titter from behind her, in the dark corner of the room, from one of the cronies.
LaDonna looked toward the corner, but couldn’t see who it was. She kept her arms crossed, but she sat in a great huff. She made a great show of adjusting her far too short dress, and checking her far too tall stilettos, and then crossed her arms again and stared belligerently at Jacqui.
“Where were we? Oh yes. Your childhood, LaDonna. Tell me about it.” she began again.

Dame Mix-a-Lot

Nothing to do with big butts, promise. Mine is being carefully kept in check by energetic walking and playing with my dogs, 3 times a day, and a run every second day. I’m also going to get back into my yoga… might have to do it in a separate room, of course, because according to Berners: if you are on the ground, you are on their turf and they pile on top of you in a big happy furry love flop. Not so nice when you’re trying to go from Downward Dog into Plank etc.

Our Dog Food Adventure unfortunately came to a painful end, after Gina developed a horribly inflamed stomach and colon and was pooping blood and had almost permanent diarrhoea for 2 days. She was so stoic and polite about it, that I don’t really know when the problem started, and only saw that something was wrong when it got that bad. I felt terrible for my poor, gentle girl. But she’s all fixed up now, after 2 weeks of various medications to soothe her stomach and colon lining, to put back the good bacteria in her tummy and some antibiotics to kill any nasties that decided to take root while she was under the weather. I switched her to “sensitive stomach” prescription diet and she is doing impressively well on it. Stomach is settled, good poops, she seems more energetic and full of vim and vigour – but that’s also because the weather is finally turning to Berner weather: icy cold, lots of rain, lots of puddles, mounds of fallen leaves under every tree! Azzie also had tummy issues with the diet I had them on – but nothing as severe. She had ups and downs and it was highly unpredictable which way her tummy would go each day. She also developed an itchy problem. So I switched her over to “sensitive skin” prescription diet and she is doing remarkably well too 🙂 Besides the occasional “dietary indiscretion” which causes some tummy woes, she is in excellent health. The itching subsides during the day, but I think there is something else she is allergic too (besides GRASS, which she LOVES to roll around in when it’s wet!) in the other food or treats that they get, so I’m in the process of elimination now to see when the itching stops – until then, she gets a Loratadine 10mg tablet every evening to help her relax enough to sleep. (Vet approved, don’t worry, and the absolute mildest dose I can give)

So unfortunately, the Dog Food Adventure is over – some dogs do very well on raw diets, some do very well on “human food” diets, but my girls just need to stick to something tried and tested. They are now very healthy, and very happy, and this makes me a happy furry mommy.

What else…. hmmm *thinks*

I’ve put all my items up in my shop again, but haven’t had any clients ordering vintage clothing so far…

I am strangely both happy and sad about that. The perfectionist in me grimaces at the idea that I will get an order and I would not get it PERFECT first time, in time, so I don’t WANT any orders! But the vintage lover and creative side of me says PLEASE! Bring it!

I tried making stuff for myself (I have a fabric stash… *hangs head*) but I just seem to lack the inclination. I did finish a nice wiggle skirt, done in black micro suede, but as usual, I did it “my way” and it came out nothing like the way it was meant to. It’s like when I make for myself, my perfectionist self wanders off to a back room and ignores me until it’s “all over” and she can come out and say “told you so!”

I do want to make some casual tops and some yoga pants, just for fun. I have some GREAT patterns. Some are not “vintage” inspired – they just looked simple and useful.

 

I was pondering trying NaNoWriMo this year. I just wish my brain could stick to one idea. I have so many “snippets” but I just can’t seem to “see” further than the scene that I initially write.

My husband is away, again. I miss him terribly. Very little contact, so it’s very quiet in the evenings for me and the girls.

I read. I watch my tv series. I watch movies.

He might be going away again, quite soon after he gets back from this one.

Not sure how I feel about that yet.

I just take it day by day. Try and fill the hours after sundown.

 

I’ve also, after much thought, decided to go back to being vegetarian. (lacto-ovo, for now, in case anyone cares about the technical stuff) after many years “break” from it.

I initially decided I wanted to be vegetarian at the age of 16. It lasted 10 years, and then due to various things, my diet was NOT up to par, and I became anaemic and under weight and very weak and had terribly low blood pressure (even more so than I normally do) and I finally saw the doctor and she said I _have_ to either fix up my vegetarian diet (which I did not see happening, due to the circumstances at the time, which I won’t go in to now) or start eating meat. I chose meat. Now I will admit that I like the taste of meat – I am a meat eater, no doubt – and that’s not why I chose to go veg last time, nor this time. I simply couldn’t handle the inner mental/emotional battle that I seem to have with myself about eating animals whenever I think about it too much.

I’m not going to evangelise to my husband and force him to come over to the “Veg Side” – we have tofu – this is not an activist thing, or a soap box thing. It’s a personal thing and has nothing to do with him. I will continue making him DELICIOUS food, with meat, and I will also make myself delicious food, without meat. Simple as that. More work, but that’s totally OK. I’ve been eating meat-less for about a week or so now, and I must admit, I feel great. I’ve lost 2 or 3 pounds (the bathroom scale is set to pounds, to help me learn the silly American way 🙂 and the stove is set to Fahrenheit) and I feel lighter. Of course it could be my imagination, the weather, and the exercise 🙂 I’ll take whatever I get, really!

 

I’ve also tried to start incorporating meditation in my day. Just 10 or 15 minutes to start. Some days I forget, or I just don’t “feel like it” – but the days I do make a plan, I feel calmer and more patient (especially with the dogs, and annoying people)

It will take time to reach a proper meditation level to feel any REAL benefits (like yoga) but I know it works, as I used to do it a lot when I was on my own. It would take the form of a silent ride, sometimes, or a walk with the dogs in the rain, with not another soul around, or a longer than usual run with music in my ears and the wind blowing me forward.

I have rediscovered Debussy (not just Claire de Lune) and the dogs and I spent an afternoon relaxing (they were snoring, happily) while we enjoyed his music.