Category Archives: Uncategorized

Codemage — Back Cover Copy

Here’s another first for me: I just received the text which will go on the back cover.  So, people sit in a room and talk about good ways to describe my book? Um… rad.

It’s 1984. Fairies have broken into the human world. And they’ve discovered computers.

Punk hacker Robin Levesque’s job is to protect humans in the Annwn Simulation from goblins, piskies, and other fey beasties. Nothing she can’t handle with a Commodore 64 and a few lines of code.

When her brother is kidnapped by a headbanger who trades in blackmarket boons, Robin descends into a world more dangerous than any she’s ever known. The police are no help, and her bosses at the Eldritch Equipment Corporation refuse even to investigate. Then Robin herself is accused of magical crimes…

 

A First-time MUD Experience in 2014

I have spent a notable amount of my life in virtual worlds. One of my games, and my upcoming novel, are set in one, in fact. The big ones:

  • I dallied a year in World of Warcraft, which was essentially running around in a fantasy world and wondering when my friends were jumping on. Meh.
  • I spent many moons in Second Life, which allowed me to actually make stuff.  I built a few airships, and a little brass orb that followed me around and talked to people. This was fun.

Fun, but limited. At a certain point in WoW, I had done everything that didn’t require a three-hour minimum play time. I didn’t want to start paying for space in Second Life, and most of places I went were pretty barren.

This is what I want — to jump in as I see fit, be able to get together with friends, and see a ton of content, preferably user-made.

I recently read this article on MicroMUSE, a 1990-era text-based MUD which allowed users to build their own environment. Come on, now. Green-on-black text and freedom to create? This sounds perfect.

Having never played on a MUD (“played a MUD”? “been in a MUD”?), I figured it was time. I found a list and got to it.

I set up a character and played about fifteen minutes on a Tolkien MUD, right up until the NPC Numenorean who was showing me around ordered a beer and it came in a bottle. Napes.

Then I came across a cyberpunk-themed thing. Oh, why not.

So, this MUD, which I choose not to name, starts you off on a street filled with strip clubs, prostitution, and sex acts right out in the open. Fine. Sure. Dark streets, seedy underbellies, glowing neon. Straight pantone. But, the very first area you enter is the sex industry neighborhood?

Before long, an admin pulled me out of the game and put me in some sort of holding center until I wrote a history for my character. I did. Ah, but it was not good enough.

So I fleshed it out. And then received revision notes. This process took two days.

Finally, having passed this enforced-character-background barrier, I got back to it. Where “it” was wandering around from street to street watching kidnappings and harassment I could do nothing to stop. Just background text, apparently; the same way you might see “there is a tapestry on the wall”.

And here’s the kicker — the in-character chat was lame at best. Discussion of how fat a character is. Claims of sexual prowess. When I asked in the out-of -character help chat where I could buy a sword (this is cyberpunk, after all), I was told to look in stores. Oh, and anything can be a weapon in this game. And that’s an in-character question and should be asked somewhere else and here’s a link to the rules.

This is my problem with virtual worlds. The internet is other people, just like Hell.

I hear good things about Minecraft, but I don’t particularly want to play shared Legos. Something text-based seems perfect, or even something with basic graphics. Something we can jump in on from a handheld or phone. Where I don’t have to interface with anyone I don’t want to, but can easily join groups etc. Second Life without the graphics engine.

Wait, did I just describe Facebook?

 

Lend Your Talent… IN SPACE!

There are many things I love about being alive today. One of these is the ease of collaboration on creative projects what with this whole internet thing I’ve heard so much about.

I have a podcast.  A space opera adventure serial. Once every two weeks, I assume the persona of gentleman starpilot Zeno Stede and send a ~10 minute voicemail to his sister Tira back at the home station. It’s fun. Check it out, if that’s your kind of thing.

If that’s your kind of thing to write or read aloud, I’d love to hear from you. I’m sure Zeno wouldn’t mind lending the mike to a buddy for an episode. Or maybe you write or perform music, and think Tira might like to hear what the wetware bards of the Ghost Parade are playing these days. Maybe comics are your thing, or crocheted spaceliners.

We should chat sometime. This is the beauty of our era: we can! Email me at wakingcassandra at gmail dot com to discuss sans pressure or just to nerd out about space.

Tor’s Fiction Affliction – Genre-benders and Urban Fantasy

In my previous post, I looked at Tor’s Fiction Affliction lists of new titles in a given month, curious as to how many are first-timers. Here are the stats on genre-benders and urban fantasy.

Genre-benders seem to be where the newbies are. Five of the nineteen appear to be by first-time writers!

Three in urban fantasy, too.

Thus, there is hope. Next we’ll go on a little journey through the publisher who are putting forth these books, and see what their collective deal is.

 

Say Yes to Storynexus

Let me begin by saying that I am very much pro- Storynexus. I’ve built two worlds with this interactive fiction system, both of them parts of larger universes. I would recommend cobbling something together to any writer. Please find my reasoning below.

All the worlds should do this.

Seriously. The tool is easy to use, allows for as much complexity as you want, and lets people interact with little stories or epic arcs in-world in a casual gaming fashion. Somebody get on the horn with Norton Juster and tell him to spend a few weeks rocking some interactive Phantom Tollbooth action.

Using The Phantom Tollbooth as an example, the writer can let the reader grind around in Dictionopolis running missions for King Azaz or playing spy for Digitopolis and planning a coup. That damned Awful Dynne shows up at random intervals unless you find the secret to beating him, and Alec Bings needs your help to keep his head from driving into the ground.

Let me emphasize that grinding thing. You can let the players set the pace of the story. Somebody wants to kick it with Chroma the Great, trying out all of the results of the related cards? No problem. They can move on with the big plot whenever they want.

Put some on meat them bones.

In writing The Annwn Simulation 1985,  I got to play with some of the stuff which would have been useless in the novel. Magic punk bards on tour? What would have been indulgent padding in the prose piece made for one of the most fun game stories.

I built this world when I was stuck on my latest novel. The characters had started getting into the real meat of the story, and I just couldn’t seem to push through it. I was bogged down in world-building problems (aka plotholes). How did the fairies get to our world, exactly? And why can’t they go back? And is this simulation, like, housed somewhere or what?

It just so happened that Failbetter opened the Storynexus tool to the general populace around the same time. I took some time off from straight prose writing and spent the next month or so writing quests and cards. This forced me to operate in the world without having to worry about whether or not the MC’s beliefs and failings were coming through.

Give ’em what they want.

Letting the player run around making the choices — choices with actual consequences — as they try to solve the game’s overarching mystery is a very different challenge from novel-writing, but requires a very similar problem-solving ability. Sure, my MC chose her path. But what would her life have been like if she chose another one? What choices can I provide which will let the player feel like an actual participant in their fate? And you get to explore the paths the MC shunned, which is just rad.

A bit at a time.

You can out as much text on the cards as you want, but for the most part it’s better to keep things short. This means I could crank out a card during a break at work without having to worry about getting back into the scene or chapter or section or whatever. When you spend a year writing a novel, being able to get something actually accomplished and usable in less than half an hour is a really good feeling.

Build as you go.

So, you build up a few locations, some fun little quests, and a large story. You want to add more later, well you can go right ahead. The bones are there, so adding episodic content is just a matter of writing a few new cards.

 

My experience with the community has been very positive, and the players who have reached out to me have all been cool. My vote — get building.

The Catalog

Finally took some time to organize my writing folder. And just since I’m a wacko, here’s a catalog of what I found.

DHKA.com articles.
The old blog.
A coded story hidden in a book.
A book about fairies and computers.
A sci-fi book retelling an irish myth.
My first Nano novel – space opera
A sci-fi TV Pilot.
Some flavor text for an old game (Arcanum)
Several missions for a game which has yet to be released.
Interactive fiction — nightmares
Interactive fiction — Revolutionary War
A mission for Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds (took runner-up for that one!)
Several issues of a magazine.
My version of Episode I.
A play about geeks.
A play in space
A play about nightmares.
A story about a barbershop.
A story I wrote for a WoW contest.
A story about time and Civil Service.
A story about living in virtual reality.
Three stories currently on sub.
And a whole bunch of false starts.

Feels good to go through it like that. Over a decade of stuff. But, I swear, the NEXT one’ll be the good one!

Props: Mur Lafferty

I posted some thoughts on audiobooks and authors a while back, and mentioned Mur Lafferty’s Afterlife series. She commented on my post, actually, which was this cool bit of community feeling for me. Wait, I talk about someone’s stuff and they want to have a conversation about it? What a time to be alive.

Here was this author, podcasting away and distributing her stuff online for free listening. Plugging away, working at it.

And now her mainstream debut is reviewed on Tor. This makes me happy. Grats Mur!

 

Incorporating Game User Identity into the Novel: Yea or Nay?

Here’s an odd one for ya.

I’m in the revision phase of my latest project, an urban fantasy novel. I recently wrote some interactive fiction set in the same world via storynexus. It started as a world-building exercise, and quickly got legs of its own as I played around and built story after story. I now get to see analytics on number of players, number who played all the way through, number who bought additional content, number who hit Like on a bit, etc.

Rad, right? Instant, tasty feedback.

The reports provide one particular type of info which is giving me some extra food for thought-munching — character names. People put in names for their characters and ran around in my little world. The world of the novel I am currently writing.

So, can I use those?

Wouldn’t that be cool? You check out some IF. You dig it, like it, buy some more, etc. A book comes out, set in the very same universe as that game you liked. And the main character refers to your character as a coworker. Your character shows up on a list of known operatives. A hit list. An email CC. Bathroom graffiti.

There are a number of questions, of course. Is that even legal? Are user names copyrighted? By whom? Would I have to ask the user? Would I want to, or wouldn’t it be more fun to just let people stumble on it?

This all assumes I get this thing published, of course. But still. The level of engagement with people who have an interest in the content would be a blast for a transmedia nerd like myself.

To Edit, or to Finish?

That cursor just keeps on blinkin’.

I’m at about 3/4 of completion of the first draft of my latest novel, and I just can’t seem to get those words down. Everything to this point has led up to the previous scene, in which all secrets are revealed. Nothing left but to go and do the thing.

So, why am I struggling?

This is the first time I watched the book change as I write it, the first time character motivations and world-building issues have morphed as part of the process. So how can I finish without going back and making sure everything lines up? How can I finish an arc which is still slipping around?

I think I’ve gotta bring this thing to conclusion. Why go back and fix if I’m not done building?

Wish me luck.

Frankenstein, the Interactive Novel

Finally had a chance to pick up the recent Frankenstein thing. I say “thing” because it’s not a book and not a game — nor is it really a combination of both. It’s something new. [Please pretend I inserted a fitting MW Shelley quote here. I mean, there must be one. Heck, I’ll take a Percy if it’ll serve.]

From the singularly glowing reviews I had read, I expected something literate and well-made. What I did not expect was to be utterly gripped after the first few choices.

How? How did this happen? The best I can tell is that it had something to do with point of view. It wasn’t “what do you do next”. It was “shall I tell you about…” and “oh lord, what should I do?”. Sure Mary can take much of the credit, but I just couldn’t stop reading. There  was none of the “but I want to climb to the top of the guillotine and sing When Father Painted the Parlour! Isn’t this a choice game?!?!” feeling. Just enough choice to let me decide what I wanted to read. I could skip backstory or go off on scientific tangents. A fun way to read, I’ll tell you that.