Thursday, 25 May 2017

Memories of the Eighties: Blood Bowl


I’m not sure if it a sign of getting older, but I find myself reminiscing more about material things that I had as a younger person. Perhaps it is because life is moving so fast and ‘things’ seem to come and go in an instant, but my brain harks back to a time when there was aspiration and expectation in life, instead of the hum-drum that getting up and going to work can bring.

With this in mind, I have delved deep into my psyche to remember fondly those items that I used to enjoy as a child. Now, with the milder weather lightening my mood, I remember the long summer holidays and how six weeks could feel like a lifetime.

This brings me neatly onto a board game that I and my friends used to play during that long break, produced by Games Workshop in 1986, namely:


 

BLOOD BOWL

 

Here was something that I had been waiting for a very long time, a fantasy football game.

It was very simple, and has probably been complicated as further editions have been issued; basically it was American Football with teams of Orcs, Dwarfs, Humans, Elves, etc, all doing battle against each other until the tournament was over. As per usual with these types of game, it was all decided on the roll of a dice, and it would be very unfortunate if your star forward, the one you relied upon to get to the line and score a touchdown, would be roughly tackled and killed.

Being a somewhat naïve child of the Eighties, I would usually go for the human team; the thought in my little head then being that humans were clean and fair while all the others played dirty. My grown-up eyes have learnt that this is not the case. I was also usually the loser in the game, being outwitted by those pesky Elves or overpowered by the mighty Orcs. It is not a very nice feeling to keep losing a game that you had bought yourself.

This was role-playing games made easy. Yes, you had to character build to a certain point, but most of it was decided for you and you could get straight into the game itself. There was no world building or deciding on characteristics, this was all pre-done by the makers. It made for a fast moving and accessible role-playing experience, and one that, given my impatience, was useful to me as I did not have the energy to emerge myself into the full Dungeons and Dragons universe.

The game was developed by Jervis Johnson directly for Games Workshop.

Blood Bowl is still available today, albeit in a much richer format, and has even been adapted into a PC/Video/App game. But it is the old cardboard version that sits warmly within my heart. In Tunbridge Wells, up Grosvenor Road, there used to be a model shop, and it was within that model shop that there was a section for role-playing games. It was there, one weekday morning that I chanced upon Blood Bowl and was instantly enchanted.

Move aside Warhammer, Judge Dredd, D&D et al; Blood Bowl was the way to go, and for a couple of years, it gave me plenty of enjoyment.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Writing and Creating Your World


I am finding writing enjoyable again. After a period of time when writing a sentence or paragraph that meant anything to me appeared to be an almighty struggle, I seem to have hit upon an ever evolving story within my head that gives me a purpose.

Perhaps I have an affiliation with fairies, as this story involves a deeper look into the fairy world.

The most enjoyable part so far of piecing together this story, which is constantly turning over and striding forward within my mind, has been the research for all things fairy.

There are numerous websites when you Google things such as fairy lore, or mythical fairy names, and  this has introduced me to such wonderful delights as the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, and dark fairies.

The Seelie Court appears to be the central governing body for all things fairy. If you are a member of the Seelie Court then you are a fairy with goodness and mischief in your heart. It is generally allied to the summer and the spring, and usually you would be likely to see Seelie Court Fairies at twilight.

Of course, there is always a flipside, and the Unseelie Court is just this. The Yang to the Seelie’s Ying, this contains the dark fairies and gives us a glimpse into the seedier side of fairy lore.

Then there are those who are not associated to any court, and live a life free of court traditions and any ties to a law of any sort.

This provides a rich backdrop on which to draw on when it comes to creating a world in which the story that I propose will take place. I am looking for a harder, tougher, more real world in which my fairies will find themselves. Competing against humans, angels and immortals, all struggling for survival and relevance in a world that is corrupt, greedy and warmongering.

Much like the current world that we live in.

Taking this as a start, I want to form a universe in which to place my characters that is both believable and magical, and this is what forms the majority of my thinking as I am developing the world inside my head. I picture it as being raining on a frequent basis, very dark, with very little in the way of hope or positivity as our characters are brought to life. These are people who have made some difficult decisions along the way, are weary of the life that lies ahead and make mistakes. They may be magical in the way that they have been formed, and heavenly in their birth, but the world has given them a cynicism that forms many of the decisions that they make.

Much like modern life, in which we are worn down by poor decision-making by our leaders, or by lack of faith, or by consumer pressure, or by sheer boredom of what is presented to us, these are mystical beings tired of the journey.

So there has to be something to wake them up, and what better something than an event which threatens their future.

Needless to say, that with all this world-shaping within my head there has been very little writing going ahead; but it is a necessary process in which to create a setting that you as a writer believes in.

The writer has to believe in what they are producing if they expect a reader to share the same experience.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Writing a Novel: The Pain of the Beginning

I have been twisting and turning in my sleep.

Nightmares and dreams, needs and desires, course their way through my bloodstream as my brain continues to work out the possible from the impossible.

How can I turn this around?                                   Where do I find a path that is right for me?

In the depths of despair you have an option to turn to others for guidance; it is then that you can discuss a certain path that you may wish to take. My case is simple: I am in a job that I dislike; I have ambitions to turn to my passion, which is writing and acting; I feel like I am hitting a brick wall.

So what is the answer? Keep your head in the sand; accept that there is no more to life than getting up at 7am, heading to an office where you are not enjoying yourself, coming home mentally and physically exhausted as if you have been in a boxing match, eating and drinking and then turning in only to repeat the exercise the following day?

Or do you stand, against every fibre that is burning in your body, and say to yourself no, this time it will be different?

That is the first hurdle that I have to leap when it comes to writing anything. There are three questions: what is the point anyway? Will I finish it? and What the hell am I going to do with it?

There are no answers, mainly because you will not know anything until you have a finished product, but that is removing the fundamental thing that is vital to the writing process:

Enjoying the journey.

It is within this backdrop of thought that I was struck by an idea for an adventure. Now there are many adventures in my drawer that have been started and not finished, but there are some that have made it into the outside world, notably Pirates Vs Fairies. This current idea has legs, in part because it is about a species that I seem to enjoy writing about, Fairies.

It is only when the world is completely silent that you can hear a plane through a window. Imagining it, floating on a cloud cushion thirty thousand feet away, is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. Yet, when the silence is broken, thirty thousand feet may as well be thirty thousand miles.

Flies tend to avoid approaching fairies, but this instance was different. It was not every day that a fairy would be found dead in his apartment, let alone a decomposing corpse stripped of all its magical qualities. The only trouble was that there was a reason flies and fairies did not mix, and this unfortunate insect, upon reaching out to feed on the blood of the victim, internally combusted with immediate effect.

The room now fell into total silence.

I was immediately enthusiastic about an article I read on the Folklore Thursday website which explained that fairies were the offspring from randy angels having it away with human women. This to me was very interesting. What if this was true, and if they are still walking among us? Not flying around gardens like little insects, but fully grown and indistinguishable from human beings with the exception that they have an insight into another realm, what we would consider to be heaven. They are the inbetweeners, caught between being celestial and human. How would that make them feel, to be unaccepted on both sides of your lineage?

So the above is the beginning of a novel. A murder mystery involving fairies, humans and angels.

My progress will be posted here in part, and if there is anyone out there who would wish to offer me advice or show an interest in seeing the full product, then here is where you will find me.

It is the writing process as much as the storytelling that fascinates me, there will be lows, and I aim to blog those horrible days where nothing comes but a blank page or a load of nonsense. But there will also be days where you feel as if you cannot stop, that the characters are moving along of their own devices. That is when you know you have something magical happening, and that is a very strong reason for writers to write.

Writing is a drug: it leaves you feeling cold and needy at times but euphoric as well. In the main, when you have a brain that is constantly on the look-out for something or someone to be inspired by, it gives your thoughts a purpose, writing is a purpose, and no matter what happens to the final product, it is a wonderfully uplifting thing to do.

Zac Thraves is a writer, actor and storyteller and would love to be invited to perform a reading at your local establishment. Please email zacharystories@hotmail.com.


Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Fairies and their Origins



I have recently spent some time looking into fairy lore and came across an article that suggested fairies are the off spring of angels.

This article, which I found through Folklore Thursday, explained that in the past, angels would come down to Earth and form a close relationship with female humans, and the end result of this pairing would be to give birth to a fairy. It is said that the angels were so overcome with desire for the beautiful female form of the humans that they would be willing to risk their place in heaven for them.

Of course, in the male orientated world that is our religious beliefs, all angels were male, meaning that they could sow their seed into any woman that they found desirable. Interesting that God did not see fit to create female angels. Or, more to the point, the tales that have derived from man years of telling have conveniently swiped over any type of female angel.

But perhaps that is being too basic, in The Bible, and in religious pictures, angels are not depicted to be in human form so could not be one gender or another. Still, for the benefit of the creation of fairies, a male angel having sex with a female human is a step forward in explaining how fairies came to be.

Fairies are renowned for being mischievous creatures intent on causing mayhem to the human world around them. So the very idea that a fairy would have a human and an angel as their parents is something that I find very intriguing.

Fairies form a large part of our culture, both here in  England and throughout Wales, Scotland and Ireland. They are seen not as the little sprites that we have come to know, mainly through the likes of Disney, but were tall, strident and confident beings with a very sexual nature.

Their desires have played out in many folk tales, not least the Fairy King Lir, who had a wife that died after she had given him four children. The new wife became so jealous of his love for his four children that she condemned them all to live as swans.

Next time you see a swan, gliding gracefully over the water, perhaps you are seeing a glimpse of fairy royalty.

Fairies can be good or bad, light or dark, and the general way of thinking is that you are most likely to see a fairy at twilight.

Of course, twilight is a very magical time for anything, that moment before the sun sets and it is just light enough to glimpse into other worlds. Before the night takes over and the world is plunged into darkness.

For further readings about fairies and their lore, I would direct you to the very informative Folklore Thursday website, which can be found at:

Fairies have been in popular culture for hundreds of years, and probably the most famous fairy of them all, the Tooth Fairy, you would think has been around forever, but he or she only came to our attention in 1900. Whether you believe in fairies or not, children will always believe in the idea of earning money.
Zac Thraves is a storyteller and writer living in Kent; if you wish to book him to come along to your party, young or old,  or to give a speech at your local school then please contact him at zacharystories@outlook.com    

Friday, 5 May 2017

Suffering in Stillness and Clouds, a poem


 
Tonight we will be dining on broken clouds.

Nothing will touch the edges of hunger.

And sunshine will carry us on to the morning,

Giving us a glimpse of the loneliness of love.

Where are we now? My eyes, fuelled by pain

Are now waxworks in a museum.

And my face, that burned along to the moonlight

Can now only turn to the other direction.

A dining table stands centre, and

In the briefest of moments, it is littered

With fruit for a feast. Until the drink-stained

Surface returns and reminds us that this is

A road less travelled.

A cordoned-off mist waits, while around it

A gathering takes place to the slaughter.

How do we know that we are not the feast,

And the clouds that we dine on are not us?

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Falling Stars and the Future; a poem

It never rose in the first place,
ash falls around my shadow
hiding my means of escape.

What is your name?
Whisper it to me and
watch while the stars fall,
angels cry to the night sky
as if your name had just

ended the world.

How is it that we all work?
When,
in the visions and reasons
and confusions we are all
a question; nothing basic,
indescribable wonders of

the universe.

Brandishing guns and
hell-bent on self-destruction.

Like stroppy teenagers sent
to their room.

We count all of our chances
on the one hand but put
two-and-two together and
we could all climb away from
this end of days.

Stars fall while we talk.

Open the wine; think nothing;
pretend that tomorrow is another
day.

Brisk walking helps,
your doctor will say.
Stand still and they will all pick you off.

And when your time comes that
will be it, shame as I was looking
forward to the repeats.

Change can come in in an
instant, like coffee, it will taste
sharp and be murky in colour.

Look to the stars and pretend you
are free, then remember, no-one
likes change...

least of all the esstablishment.


Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Remembering Battle Action Force

Way back in the day, when the world would appear to me to be a rather large place and we spied in the air for Libyan planes planning to drop bombs on the British homeland, there was a series of adventures featuring a group of soldiers against a villainous organisation.

That villainy was led first of all by Baron Ironblood who would become the Cobra Commander, and he was foiled on a weekly basis by ACTION FORCE!

In the US, there was G.I. Joe, and very good it was too; so good that they re-marketed it for the UK in the form of Action Force, which took the mantle left over from Action Man as the new set of figures to collect.

Back in the Eighties, action figures were a big thing. Since the success of Star Wars action figures, toy companies jumped on the bandwagon and introduced us to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Thundercats, Transformers and Action Force. All of these were tied in with comics or cartoon shows, which helped create the universe for which you could play for hours but primarily were there to promote the product. Action Force were no different, and they used an old war comic called Battle to promote the new range of toys.

This was called BATTLE: ACTION FORCE.

It was released during the early Eighties and quickly became a hit. The idea was to tie the Palitoy range of products in with the comic to create one large universe. You could collect very figure that was featured in the comic, from Duke to Baron Ironblood. This was then re-imagined into a further expanded universe with Cobra, a far more sinister group of baddies which would further expand the Action Force group of heroes.

The comic ran until 1986, where it lost the licence for Palitoy to Marvel. The series began a steady decline and eventually it was merged with that other classic British comic Eagle.

But Battle: Action Force remains close to my heart, and the line of figures gave me much enjoyment in my local toy store, which was called Whites Bazaar, and is sadly no longer in existence.

It may not have lasted long but it has left an indelible memory on a generation. Who would devour the stories of Duke, Snake Eyes, Ripcord; or the Red Shadows and Cobra soldiers.

Battle: Action Force is a comic of its time, and with only Commando out there still in print for good old fashioned war stories of derring-do, it will remain nothing more than a wonderful memory.