Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Experiences? "Virtual World" vs. the "Real World" - or Life In An MMORPG

I posted a call-out to the forum members of an MMORPG I play at called "Dofus."  

(BTW, it's a French-originating site and online gaming presence, so it's pronounced "Doe-fooz.")

Experiences? I'm Writing A Short Story About "Virtual Life"
In An MMORPG Like Dofus....
"...the story is about someone (perhaps like someone we know?) who is living more of a virtual life in an MMORPG (i.e., a massively multi-player online role-playing game based loosely on Dofus) and doesn't realize (or care) that they are withdrawing almost completely IRL.

"I'm very interested in how you relate to Dofus and MMORPGs in general. Do you find yourself mentally/emotionally living in the World of Twelve sometimes?

  • Do you ever find you've played far longer than you meant to, and lost track of time?
  • Do you ever dream you're in the World of Twelve and running in the fields of Dofus killing or running from mobs? Like you're dreaming of "Inception" levels of Dofus in your sleep?
  • Ever see something IRL and say to yourself immediately, "Well, if this were Dofus...."?
  • Have you, or have you known, anyone who abandoned all else for a while just to live virtually?
  • Do you write, or read, MMORPG fanfic; and if so, what have you to say about the "alternate realities" fanfic affords and extends to the online experience?
"Please jump in if you have anything to say about the "virtual world" vs. the "real world." I know that I've found myself playing Dofus around the clock when I've been ill, or had time off, or was depressed at how reality suxorz and the MMORPG world was beyond soothing...and very seductive, too.

"Although I have written a only a few "fantasy" tales of the "Science Fiction and Fantasy" genre; what the Fantasy authors I know teach about the art form is that "a Fantasy is bringing a complete world to life."

"Here's the thing: Once, in the prior millennia (about 30 years ago!) the majority of creation of fantasy worlds happened in short stories and novels. Now, the "complete world" of fantasy is created by artists in the interactive gaming Fantasy field.

:I'm an alumni of the Clarion Professional Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers' Workshop, and I'm writing this story for the annual Write-A-Thon, which begins again this year in June of 2017.
"Here's my page at Clarion for all previous years, and will be the same for this year's Write-A-Thon submissions, including my short story about MMORPG vs. IRL.

"During my year at the live-in workshop the instructors were Harlan Ellison, Theodore Sturgeon, Chip Delany, Kate Wilhelm, and Damon Knight. (Yes, if you're thinking it was a while ago...it twas, and nearly at the inception of Clarion!) George Alex Effinger was a student there on one of the two coastal Clarions around the year I attended, and just about any luminary in the SciFi world (including George R.R. Martin) was at one time either an instructor, a student, or in some cases both at Clarion. Yes, almost any sci-fi or fantasy author you can think of...don't believe me?...I dare ya...look it up!

{This year's workshop instructor lineup includes Cory Doctorow, Dan Chaon, Linda Berry, C.C. Finlay, Andrea Hairston, Nalo Hopkinson, and Rae Carson.
"BTW, if you are a serious fanfic writer, and you think your worlds and words are hard worked on and you would like to see them made manifest in publishing, you might look into submitting to Clarion for next year's class. They also have scholarships. It's not a pay-to-play workshop, all students are chosen on the merit of their submissions. So, it's a bit daunting to vie for one of the around 20 workshop slots and have illustrious authors in the SciFi world vetting your work. But...! You get an experience of a lifetime and have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live and work in an intense day-night long six-weeks of total immersion with well-known, rather brilliant, sci-fi and fantasy authors.

"Your art (and you) will come out of the experience transformed into professional-level craftspersons; ready for prime-time! And I'd be happy to discuss Clarion with anyone interested in the workshop.

"By that you can guess that it's a serious writers' venue, so I want to do the subject justice, but the part about gathering research on how people really interact with the virtual world should be fun.
"So, this is the question: How much of the virtual and the real overlap? How do online worlds change us, and how do we affect the online MMORPG world?
"What do you think?
"Please, jump in!...I'd be very interested in hearing about your experiences in Dofus and how you integrate and navigate online and off-line "life."  
"You can hit me up, and the other Clarion authors, in mid-June at the Write-A-Thon, or follow my Clarion blog, and see the story I'm creating about living between two worlds, one virtual and the other real life, as both are sometimes all too real. Or, are they...?"

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Body of Work: From Character Bibles to Author Roadmaps

Writer's Bible for Star Trek Voyager
Writing is not just a succession of endless submissions, humiliating rejections, and slavish discipline to mastery of craft. It also demands the painful scene of self-promotion and very public "flogging." No pain (ouch!)  no gain.


Welcome to "Fifty Shades of Black and Blue and Write and Read"...AKA selling yourself without selling out.

Deep breath. There. Got your safeword? Let's begin.

Self-promotion can be easier than you might think. (E.g., there exist a few tricks. At least, I came across a few. And I don't mind telling you that I firmly believe in taking the road less traveled, especially if I find it is also the path of least resistance.)

Shall we begin by taking up self-promotion? From social media to distance networking to speaking engagements, there are methods of self-promotion that are well-fitted for authors that range from the painfully shy to the outspoken extrovert.

Authors usually appreciate the etymological derivation of  English language words, so we'll start there.

According to the Online Etymological Dictionary "promotion" is a both an ancient and a rather recently coined word. If we begin with the 15th century's definition, which (being an antiquities language lover) I prefer,  "self-promotion" means "self-advancement"...and I'm certain you've noted that it is defined as an action verb.
promotion Look up promotion at Dictionary.com
early 15c., "advancement," from O.Fr. promotion (14c.), from L. promotionem,
noun of action from pp. stem of promovere (see promote).

Meaning "advertising, publicity" first recorded 1925.

Promotional "relating to advertising" first recorded 1922.

Now, we can get to the seemingly horrifying "OMG, you mean me?" part of that self-promotion thing. Yeah, I'm afraid that promotion = advertising.

And we know what "self" means...that's "you". (Stop looking over your shoulder. For this exercise it's okay to look at the reflection in your monitor.)
It looks like taking some form of action for authorship advancement is what is meant by self-promotion. I've blogged about this topic previously. Check out the painless self-promotion ideas I've used to good result.

To continue, here's where peering into your own future and that fearsome "body of work" stuff ties in like a birthday present bow with self-promotion.

It's not that difficult to create a character bible while creating your fictional characters for the page. And you know how important those background sketches are to maintaining teh consistency of your work. 
  I'll admit a good character/writing bible is an effective bedrock for the creative process when you're mired in the depths of character creation. For great tips on creating character bibles you could do worse than consult the "Character Bible How-To" online at ehow.com.

Now, let's advance that character bible concept to your author persona, shall we?
Think about this: might taking the time to create an "author's character bible" possibly lay down a sounder footing for your progress in developing the arc of your projected body of work?

Who knows what you know about your life experience better than you? Who would express that unique persona that is you without causing you to reel back with horror from some flack's excess elaboration about you than you?

How do you control your persona? Just like you control the personae of your characters: you write a character backgrounder. A "character bible."

Perhaps prior to writing about the solid story backgrounds of your characters, you should consider writing a personal character bible about the most important character in your writing life. You.

Consider it your rational resume as an author. Include all your germane experiences that apply to the genre in which you write.

And, so you can feel comfortable (as well as honest and able to defend your bio) it should be "The truth, the whole applicable truth, and nothing but the charming and gritty and fascinating truth."

I've recently done this, and it both assisted in creating an author's CV, and gave me insight into what I should and should not attempt to write per any specific storyline. It also helped a bit in fashioning a path towards a road that may lead to a body of work.

Get started. And, if you're feeling frisky, please post it to this blog (or, if your are enrolled in the Clarion Foundation
Write-A-Thon, post it there.)

I'll post my personal author's bible as an example to my Clarion Write-A-Thon profile.

After all: as a writer, when you are writing, you are your most important character.

What's your story?


This article originally appeared at CreateSpace by the author.

Shhhh...We're Hunting Wemberence Wabbits

(Written on Remembrance Day, July 27th, 2015) Be vewy vewy qwiet. Hear wit? Hear twhat?

We're stalking that weelusive wee small vowice.

Shhhh. We're hunting wemberence wabbits.

You know, those fleeting memories that rush by us like Alice's White Rabbit muttering "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date!"

And before we can capture them on paper, *whoosh*...down the rabbit hole they disappear.

Why is this so difficult? We're oft told as writers to "write about what we know." Sounds as simple as a bread and butter sammich, eh? 

So why is writing about one's self so vewy hard?

What's up Doc?

It's just writing which drawn from our own life. This should be the one thing we know all about, right? So why isn't it just that simple?

As today is a historic date in "wabbit hunting" and "remembrance" we should never forget that writing from our own history is going "down the rabbit hole."

Happy hunting writing!

Know...Grow...Go! Writing Juvenile Storybook Fiction (Ages 2-8)

Scout, the Search and Rescue Beagle
Writing for the juvenile fiction market is tricky.

There are rules for this genre that are quite specific to your audience.

The first thing to consider is that your audience is separated into age groups that vary according to your imprint's requirements.

When you are self-publishing online, however, you have a little more latitude in defining your groupings. How much you rely on illustrations to tell your story has a good deal to do with where your juvenile fiction book will be classified.

I am currently developing the narrative and illustrations for a series that falls into the "Storybook" age group: (Ages 2 to 8.) These books feature a character (shown above) I've named "Scout", who is a search and rescue trained beagle.

Even in children's literature, it can also be useful to write what you know.

When I was growing up in Michigan (Michigan haz two seasonz: Huntin' and Fishin'...) we raised beagles and trained them for a year as hunting hounds. I suppose you could call them a "value-added beagle."

In my adult years I have volunteered for search and rescue sweeps, including work with the astounding Tim Miller and his team at Texas EquuSearch Mounted Search and Recovery Team.

I've always loved our beagle breed, and so wished to spread appreciation of their impressive skills, "dogged work-ethic," genius at tracking and scenting, and incomparable compassionate character.

Now, about beagles and science-fiction: Dogs in space? Well, seeing that you ask, a resounding "Yes!"

Working on the series, I wanted to include one book where I highlight the fact that long before the first man went into earth orbit, a dog took that spin. That's really taking your dog out for a walk!

On on November 3, 1957. the Soviet Union launched a doggie-flight with the passenger being a Moscow street stray they named Laika, sole living occupant of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2.

How is that for canine "search" where "no man has gone before?"

So, an illustrated Storybook about a trained search and rescue beagle on a space mission?

Absolutely! After all, dogs were in space first!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Starting With the Big Finish: Always Leave 'Em Haunted

June 2015:
The start of a this year's Clarion Write-A-Thon.

June 1960. 
The start of what was my first genre-based addiction.

I was five years old. And the start of this "affliction" that in those less-than-halcyon times was viewed by the adults in my limited milieu as highly inappropriate for a pre-schoolgirl; unspeakably wrong for "little ladies" of the era.

I was hooked on horror and Hitchcock.

The big horror movie event of that year was the release of Hitch's newest: Psycho.

And I wanted to see it like I wanted to take my very next gasping horrified breath.

The hype was brilliant because it had to be.

Because it was a budget flick shot in black and white when Technicolor was all the rage, because the subject matter was dead extreme and quite experimental for those tender times and thought to be at the very edge of what was possible in the genre. Today we tend to forget how Psycho set the horror mark to a new level upon release.

So, Hitchcock dreamed up a gaggle of gimmicks. No one to enter the theater after the movie started, and you had to agree that if you died from shock, Hitch was off the hook.

And for me the worst of all the hype rules: No one under the age of 18 unless accompanied by an adult.

Add to that barrier the final crushing gimmick: after the full theater run ended, Psycho was not to be aired on network television until 10 years later. This was pre-Netflix stream, pre-torrents, pre-DVD. Radio, TV and movies were literally the only shows in town.

You think my teetotaler, church deacon, pillar of the community/pillar of salt of the earth mother was about to take me to see this abomination? In 1960?

She'd rather hand me a loaded Derringer and advise me to go play Dillinger downtown. Way rather. At least bank robbery would be contributing to my upkeep.

What's a horror-loving, hyper-hovered-over kid supposed to do?

For one thing, not get to see Psycho until 1970.

But I did get the maternal unit to buy me an Alfred Hitchcock short story anthology. Hardcover. And I learned a little about closing a story with a haunting image.

"Bad concierge. No tip for you!"

Protip: Sometimes the last line comes to you at the initiation of writing and defines the story arc.

Sometimes during the process of crafting your prose, the finale starts to write itself.

And, sometimes you have to wander the woof and weft of your writing to find that big finish.

By "haunted" I don't necessarily mean "scarred and scared into cardiac arrest." Rather, leave a lasting impression.

Welcome to 2015 Clarion Write-A-Thon. Pull up a pen, dim the desk-light, dare darkness 'til daylight and begin. Ready...Steady...Start.

Ready to think the unthinkable? Steady with the unwavering eye. Start the Write-A-Thon and remember...

Always leave 'em haunted, begging for just a little more terror.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

When All You Have Are "Cow Tools"....

Gary Larson is undeniably brilliant, but he is not a perfect pen and ink talent.

Yet he used his unpretentious illustrative ability to convey clearly many quite abstract ideas. And he would do it in one panel.

He could reach into his very simple bag of cartoon inker's "Cow Tools" and produce an image that opens a window on a different way of seeing the world. One that reveals a unique viewpoint and explores general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.

He was more of a philosopher than a illustrator.

Larson's work raises the question: why aren't more philosopher's funny?

His work also suggests that you don't need to have every possible talent perfected to tell a story.

But all I have at my disposal for crafting stories for the 2013 Clarion Foundation Write-A-Thon are a few ideas and the basics of the writer's craft I learned at Clarion East in 1972.

That's my little bag of Cow Tools.

And yet I believe that sometimes, if you work very hard and simply do as well and as right as you can, that will be enough.

(Have a beef? Moooo-ved to comment? Please do so below.)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Sell Yourself As An Author Without Selling Your Soul

Publishers dream sugar-plum dreams where all of their authors find their own way onto Oprah, 60 Minutes, articles on the front page of the New York Times, and just about any and every possible media purview...while giving out with brilliant interviews from sea to shining studio.

They want us to be "book famous", and the less they have to do, the sweeter the promotion sugar. But it seems that Oprah won't take my calls, and the NYT is not returning my inquiries. What now?

If you have a specific topic on which you write, one method of self-promotion is to join affiliated associations...but don't stop there.

Seriously consider applying for speaking engagements at the germane conferences that cater to your specific genere of writing.

I've worked broadly in Information Security, and IT in general, since the late 1980's. To keep my CISSP in good standing, it is required I perform a certain number of hours of "study" per year. Knowing this is a requirement for many InfoSec professionals, tech ssecurity associations put on nice lunches, with a few minutes for a speaker, that meet the requirements of a "teaching seminar". Some of these "teachers" have presented little more than "Good Security, Good Meet, Good Gawd, Let's Eat!" to cover the "teaching portion" of the presentation.

Many associations not only make it easy to join, but even the shyest author finds chatting at a convivial meet-up of like minded people enjoyable, and find themselves handing out their card, with e-mail address to keep in touch with other members. And some of them may very well look you up and by your commercial or self-published book. They've met you and know you...they may want to read about your expertise in the subject matter.

You never know...unless you try. And joining associations that interest you are quite fun and worth the investment.

For the more extroverted, there are thousands of seminars and subject-matter conventions held world-wide where you may submit a written engagement subject and full text of the speech, and find yourself speaking to dozens to hundreds of folk in your area of interest, where you may also pitch your publication during or after the presentation.

Whatever path fits you best, it is best to network with others in your subject-matter area. You learn much, and your publisher is pleased at your self-promotion and added certifications.

What do you think? Have you any experience with associations and networking that might be of help to us all? If so, please comment below.

Here is a link to a seminar panel presentation I organized some years ago for DefCon (the hacker's convention). It has led to an InfoSec series I am currently fleshing out. It's the second presentation on that page, and our talk covered digital security and a few things relating to my work as Director of Security, Napster (talk about a work title oxymoron!).

Remember, it's not scary out there when the people you'll be meeting and presenting to are people who love the things you love to write about. You can be very serious about work while being equally serious about having fun.

This is a link to a list of upcoming sci-fi conventions...you know you wanna. Roadtrip!

(This article originally appeared HERE at Amazon-affiliated CreateSpace.)