Archive | January, 2009

Putting my keyboard where my mouth is

31 Jan

I wasn’t going to do this. I was watching my step, trying to stay away from places that might contain rabbit holes. I know I blogged about PixelVixen707 and I think I mentioned it is part of an alternate reality game that is part of a novel that will be released in June — Personal Effects: Dark Art by J. C. Hutchins. But I had no intention of getting involved in the game.

Why? Because once I get hooked into things like that, they nag at the back of my mind until I solve the problem. I can’t put them down. That and I’m more into romance than thrillers.

So what changed?

I read PixelVixen’s blog because she’s a great writer and she posts links to articles that she considers great writing. So last night I was unwinding from the work week, thought I’d look over her new feature: Pix Vix Picks.  Only there was a new post up and just skimming through I got caught up, and I wound up reading to the end where she talked about some weird interaction between her and her boyfriend’s brother. It was one of those oddly out of place things, like a cat toy in the home of someone allergic to cats. I just kept wondering why that post was there.

It crawled into the back of my brain and throbbed. I tried to make it go away with mindless web surfing. Then I tried to ignore it and answer email. When I finally logged off and put the laptop away, I knew. It always happens that way. After you sign off you know what you have to do. It took ten minutes to fire up the computer and log on the net and aim the browser at the website for the hospital where Zach Works. I’d seen something there and that little out of place cat toy was the answer to how to get in.

I had a moment’s creepiness when I got to the site. It’s pretend breaking and entering but it still feels a little weird sneaking in. It feels even spookier when you get in and find ID cards, and pictures with labels that indicate they are of a dead body. I didn’t look at those pictures. I’m trying to talk myself out of trying the emails and telephone numbers I saw.  I didn’t look at much because I’m barely running dial-up speed from home. I might look more from work. I’m not looking at that body. I need to find someone to look at those pictures for me.

But now I’m hooked. I’m down the rabbit hole and I know I can’t pull back. I put myself on the pre-order list at Amazon, but the book won’t be released until June. After looking around in a few more places, it appears the ARG is in place. There’s plenty to to sort through until the book comes out.

There is something about this kind of storytelling that empowers you. You can have an impact, figure things out, solve problems, be a burglar and not get arrested. That’s addictive.

I want to make clear, that while I’ve blogged about this ARG, I am not associated with the author or anyone working on the production. I’m just a writer who likes the genre and has a bad habit of falling down rabbit holes before the game is meant to start.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

The unreal are among us

27 Jan

How carefully do you read the profiles of bloggers when you stop by their page? If you’re like me, you’re focused on what they have to say and occasionally you’ll dig further to learn more about them. Maybe we should rethink that. Here’s why:

Name : Tatum McGarland
Age: 32
Gender: Female
Occupation: Grief Counselor

Blog: Under the Bridge

But not really. She’s a character in an online Serial: A Timely Raven

Or this one seems sweet and tragic:

My name is Alyse Hanssen, I’m 30 years old, and I need help finding my brother. On December 7th, 2007 my kid brother Teddy Hanssen disappeared.

Missing Teddy Hanssen

Teddy and Alyse aren’t real either. This is one of the character blogs used to promote the movie Cloverfield

Over at Teach Me Tonight there was a post on Fictions and Reality this week that mentions the difficulties of distinguishing fiction from reality:

“So what is fiction? Simply stories that do not pretend to be about real events. That’s the easy answer, but of course there is more to it than that. The relation between fiction and reality is not a straight-forward one. The two have a peculiar way of getting mixed up together; distinguishing the two is not quite as easy as one might think, or hope.” (Talbot 5)

Fiction, then, is selective. It can take elements of reality, but the particular elements which are chosen, and how they’re placed together to form a whole, reflect choices made by the author, both consciously and subconsciously. What of reality? To a certain extent, all of us construct that too…

Teach Me Tonight: Fictions and Reality

 I would add that reality can take elements from fiction and use them to form a more interesting if not improved reality.

We already discussed Pixelvixen707. She’s not real, but she’s doing a fantastic job reviewing games. She’s vocal about the industry’s neglect of female gamers. She provides a real service. There’s a dimension in the fiction and reality blend that we’re just starting to explore.

Character blogs have been around for a few years and maybe just long enough that it’s time to test the limits and see what we can do with a character blog. Or better yet, why confine characters to their blogs?

 Kelly Jamieson and Pixelvixen haven’t. A character from Kelly’s Sexpresso Night story, contacted PixelVIxen about her prior employment as a barista. Juliet (Kelly’s character) and Rachel (Pixelvixen’s “real?” name ) chat about coffee, gaming, men, and work.

You’ll learn about “tantric coffee consumption”, characterization, and secret code words for lets go have sex. Have a look.

So now characters are stepping out of their stories, crossing genres even, to get to know each other.  It’s like those fantasies I had as a kid about the toys in the toy chest sneaking out to have fun after everyone went to sleep.  What’s next? 

Blogging Tips for Beginners: Best tool for the job

27 Jan

To be a fiction writer is to be a blogger. Not all writers are as enthusiastic about that new aspect of our profession as I am. I love geek stuff. I love playing with new ways to express myself, and I really love the possibilities blogging can bring to stories.

So why isn’t every writer enthusiastic about blogging? I think the biggest barrier is a technological hurdle. So that’s the blogging issue I’m going to address first. You need more than a web browser to get this job done right. If you are trying to muddle along with Internet Explorer or Firefox, with no enhancements for blogging, you are wasting too much time trying to put your posts together. And that is one of the biggest complaints I hear: Blogging eats too much time.

While you can install add-ons that will improve the blogging experience with IE or Firefox, I’m not even going to waste your time trying to describe how. It’s better to use the browser that was designed for blogging: Flock. All the tools you need are built in and they are fantastic.

I have been using Flock since the first release and I started mainly to see how it functioned as a browser. Flock made a blog reader out of me and then a blogger. Here’s a snip of a five-star review for Flock at CNET (snip made automatically by my Flock browser).

Flock is designed to streamline and emphasize how you interface with social networking sites, RSS and media feeds, and blogs. Because it’s built on Firefox 3, its behavior will feel familiar and it supports most–but not all–Firefox extensions. And yes, the “awesome bar” is part of the latest version.

Flock Browser – Free software downloads and reviews – CNET

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be going over the basics of blogging for writers and I’ll explain how to implement these techniques with Flock. If you’re already using a blogging tool, you’re ahead of the game. If not, go download Flock. It’s free.

Get ready to love your blogging.

Blogged with the Flock Browser