Monday, November 25, 2013

It's Okay to Say Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays!

As we enter this festive time of year, I want to go against popular Christian rhetoric and say that it's okay to use the phrase Happy Holidays. In fact, I think our stance against this phrase is part of the reason groups are so adamant about removing manger scenes and religious carols from public places.

Within six weeks, people in this country will celebrate Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, Epiphany, New Years, and a whole host of other celebrations that I'm not even aware of. It takes a lot of gall for us to expect retailers to tell all of those people Merry Christmas.

It also displays a lack of sensitivity to insist on telling our Jewish friends Merry Christmas when we know they celebrate Hannukah. It's like people coming up and wishing you Happy Birthday! on your anniversary. You're glad that they want you to have a good day, but you really don't feel like they care enough to know you or take the time to personalize the sentiment.

Does this mean saying Merry Christmas is wrong? No! Of course not. If someone I didn't know wished me Happy Hannuah, I would thank them for the sentiment and acknowledge what it is - a wish for this time of year to be a good one. Now if they wished me Happy Kwanzaa, I might look at them a little funny, but I'd still thank them.

This is the season of Christ's birth. Christ didn't force people to believe in Him. He opens his arms and welcomes any and all who come, but He doesn't force them.

We need to stop expecting people who don't worship the birth of Christ to wish us a Merry Christmas. Instead we need to show them the love of Christ by loving them right where they are.

Even if they wish us Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Musical Inspiration: Steal My Show

I love music. Music can drive an emotion, evoke a memory, or spark a thought. It works into your mind, providing an easy way to take the thought or feeling with you.

There's good and bad things to this.

The bad thing is that if a song sparks an inappropriate thought or sad emotion, it can be difficult to get rid of it. On the other hand, music's inherent ability to marinate in your brain makes it a great source for inspiration.

Whenever I'm working on a new manuscript, I turn to music to help me get to know my characters. I usually end up with a playlist of about ten songs that helps me define the main characters' arcs. I play it while I'm planning and writing and it helps with my character consistency.

It's not often I find a song to inspire my writing career as a whole, but recently I did. I think it's been out for a while and I've even heard it before, but I really listened to it a few weeks ago. It's now my theme song for my writing as a whole.

tobyMac: Steal My Show

http://youtu.be/KA_HoEC9ixc

You don't have to be pursuing a career in the public eye for the message of this song to resonate with you. Take time this week to let God have center stage in your life no matter what you're doing.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Experience Regency England with Jane Austen and Never Leave Your Couch

If you have ever read a Regency novel and wished you could be in that world, I have some exciting news.

Right now, a woman named Judy Tyrer is creating a way for you to do just that.

The game is Ever, Jane and it's an online role-playing game. What that means is that you go online and create a character to live in this virtual world. You interact with other characters, try to better your character's position, and basically immerse yourself in this fictional world.

[caption id="attachment_371" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Three ladies and three gentlemen in period dress. The current character selections for the demo program. Character customization is expected to be part of the final project.[/caption]

Online role-playing games have been around for a while, but they mostly deal with fighting and the like. Ever, Jane takes that concept and drops it into a village in the English countryside during the Regency.

A Chat With The Creator


I had a chance to sit down with Judy Tyrer and talk about her new venture. The interview is a bit long, but gives a great deal of information about the game. You can also scroll down for my initial thoughts on playing the game, the potential of the project, and why this is such a cool KickStarter project.

Why did you choose Regency England for your role playing game?

The Regency period is fascinating because of the way society clung to traditions.  The upper classes were terrified after the French Revolution and instead of opening society, they locked it down.  The social traditions provide a wonderful backdrop for a game allowing people to build status by doing all the socially correct things (morning visits, leaving cards, having just the right depth of bow or curtsy for the circumstances, etc).

I completely agree! This is one of the reasons I love writing in this time period. The accuracy is, of course, important for immersing yourself in a historic culture. What types of research did you do to construct an accurate Regency World?

I am still doing research and need to do a lot more.   The game was based on the novels themselves in terms of setting up the rules.  Beyond that I have a bevy of books from "Jane Austen: The Illustrated Treasury",  "The Jane Austen Handbook", "What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew" (though I left it somewhere and need a new copy),  "Jane Austen: Game Theorist" (not history, but fascinating), "Jane Austen: Good Manners", "Georgette Hyer's Regency World" and of course all of her letters as well as her novels.

In addition I have Annabel, who lives in London and whose ancestress lived during this period (a book is about to come out on her I believe, she was reading proofs at one point) and has a treasure of interesting personal family stories and insights.  I often search the web, of course, and wikipedia is always a good source for references (I don't trust the articles as much, but they always link lots of great resources to check out).

I have some of those books! How will the game allow users to immerse themselves in Jane Austen's world?

[caption id="attachment_372" align="alignright" width="289"]The screen capture shows game controls and options. Interacting with one of the other characters.[/caption]

Ever, Jane provides a sandbox based on Regency Period England in which they can meet other characters and develop their own stories together.  Gameplay is based around a set of personality traits.  So the first decision a player makes is what kind of character they want to play.  Well they choose status above all else as Mr. Collins or will they choose Happiness, as Marianne does?   But you must also choose what to sacrifice to improve.   Mr. Collins would probably have sacrificed Happiness while Marianne certainly would sacrifice Duty.  These initial choices set the tone for your character and help you make decisions.

We currently have invitations and gossip in the prototype.  Invitations allow you to raise whatever trait you are working on, but requires strategic thinking.  You need to understand the motivations of the character you are inviting for if you try to improve your status with someone who holds you in disdain and either rejects or begrudgingly accepts out of duty, your status may decrease instead of increase.  

Gossip allows you to relay events from the world in a way that can either boost your friend's reputations or destroy those of your enemies.   You can embellish the truth or, as Mr. Wickham does, outright lie.  This pulls player into the story further as they must participate in events in order to have things to gossip about.   If a player is being gossiped about sufficiently, they will get a notice that someone is looking at them strange, or other hints that will let them begin to wonder who is saying what about them.   If I am lying about you and you find out, by asking one of the people I lied to, then whatever damage I was trying to do to you, perhaps lowering your status, will comeback twofold on me, lowering my status instead.  And the more people who hear about the lie, the more devastating the results.   I shall probably have to move to another village where no one knows me.

We are adding dinner parties, where status is shown by who enters the room first and who sits next to whom.  These are wonderful events for gathering gossip.  They will have mini-games such as cards and other parlor games fitting the times.

And we are adding balls where everyone will be hoping to dance with the suitor of their choice.  The balls will require correct gowns, carriages, sufficient dance instruction, etc.  There will be spontaneous balls after dinner parties, small country balls, servant's balls (they like to dance too), and the grand balls at the estate.  If we get sufficient funding to add Bath and Brighton, we will add public balls.

The gentry starts Ever, Jane at either Mr. Button's School for Boys or Mrs. Hatch's School for Girls where they learn the necessary skills for coming out and entering society.   From there they can travel back to their home villages.

Immersion itself comes from the story and the involvement you have with other players.   My current character is at Mrs. Hatch's because that is where her two older sisters went.  She will likely spend the first few days homesick and meeting friends that will help her take her mind off her family.   I hope she finds a partner in crime who will bend the rules with her as she has never much cared for being the goodie two-shoes types her sisters are.   She has chosen Happiness and could care less about her Reputation.  I suspect she'll be losing more Status than she gains over time unless she matures.

Other than the upper KickStarter levels, will there be a way to attain higher status such as titles and estates?

Estates and Titles are available for purchase or as part of a higher level subscription.  The economy is not yet designed, but as one raises in status, one's income increases making it easier to support more servants and family members.   Our idea is to leverage the hierarchy of the world with a hierarchical subscription model and augment that with the ability to purchase items that aren't in your subscription level if you want for a special occasion.   I don't want to limit players abilities to participate based on real world wealth, so we will need to have some form of advancement through the merchant class, perhaps requires a generation to move up into the upper gentry.

 

A Trip Through The Basic Game


You can download the basic game from the KickStarter project page. I took about an hour to play around and see what the game was like.

[caption id="attachment_373" align="alignleft" width="358"]A view of gameplay with the scenery in the background. A view of gameplay with the scenery in the background.[/caption]

While I play multiple styles of computer games, I've never been interested in the first person role play games. (Those are the games where you see as if you are the person. If you've ever played Sims, you know you can see all the characters from an aerial view. In Ever, Jane and games like it, you see as the character.) Learning the controls is taking a bit getting used to, but is becoming more second nature.

I walked around a bit. Learned about writing invitations and the like. Then I took a walk with a group of other players. We viewed some of the countryside and had a chat. Imagine a really involved chat room where you get to create a Regency persona. It was more fun than I expected it to be as we talked about views on love and marriage, Napoleon, and America's recent addition of Louisiana.

I suppose I must confess that I had to open a side window and Google some things to make sure I was getting my history in order.

I haven't yet gotten to spend enough time in the game to see much about the invitations or the gossip actions, but it is a lot of fun pretending to be walking around in the early 1800s.

Since many things are still in development, there isn't a whole lot to do, but the potential is very evident.

The KickStarter


If you aren't familiar with KickStarter, it's a crowdfunding application that allows people to seek funding for their projects. People put an idea up on the site and they have 30 days to reach their funding target. Ever, Jane is just such a project.

They have created a demo to allow people to see the potential of the project, but they are currently seeking the funding to create the full scale game. You can see the KickStarter project page here.

Why It's Awesome


I'll be honest in that I don't know how much I'll get into Ever, Jane as a player. I've never played the role-playing games like before, so it might not be my cup of tea. But there's a reason it's worth supporting even if you don't think you'll play the game.

It's revolutionary.

You can read more about the unusualness of a female oriented game written by female programmers in this GeekMom article. But the gist of it is that this game is breaking new ground. If there are more female oriented games and programs, there might be more girls interested in coding and programming.

I have a degree in Computer Science, and I can tell you, there weren't many girls in my classes. Even fewer in my field. It's been a while since I pounded out syntax instead of synonyms, but I remember the days well.

It's also a brilliant way to reach an entirely new group of people with the charms and awesomeness of the Regency period. I'm always a fan of that.

So check out Ever, Jane. And if you see Regina Audley walking around the village, be sure to say hi! (That's me!)

 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Things For Writers (and Others) To Remember ~ This Week in Media

Maybe it's because I'm caught up in the NaNoWriMo excitement, but there was a lot of stuff in my social media this week that spoke to me as a writer. Some of it motivational, some was inspirational, and some just made for a good mental break.

1. Remember the Underlying Message of Words


* This post I saw on Ashley Clements' tumblr is really interesting as it goes into the underlying meaning of a single sentence. As an author, the impression that words give of a person's attitude and motivations is extremely important. Click on the pic to go to Ashley's tumblr for the full post.

11_8Psychology

* Given that words have such meaning, let's make sure the words we write and say are worthwhile.

@iamkidpresident: Don't say something mean. Say something meaningful #bemoreawesome


2. Remember to Be Yourself

Every author is different. They have their own voice, views, and style. Whether in writing or in life it is SO important to remember that you are an individual.

11_8NoCompete

3. Remember to Take Care of Yourself - Body, Mind, and Spirit


@feliciaday: I've taken my vitamins like 5 days in a row. I deserve a parade or something, right? #selfdisciplinez


* I, too, went a full week with taking my vitamins. This is an amazing accomplishment! The Hubs is so proud of me.


@hankgreen: "Paying tuition and skipping class is like paying for a hotel room and sleeping on a park bench" GO TO CLASS


* The mentality I wished I'd had at school and the one I need now. I have so many opportunities to further my writing education and I don't utilize them.


@ohjesly: The best life advice I can give 1. Never lie 2. Own your imperfections 3 be nice or shut up 4. love 5. wash your hands after you go potty



4. Remember to Find (and Focus On) the Good


@mkwiles: cleaning out my photos on my phone and smiling at the last few months. It's funny how we focus on the lame when there's so much good


@LaurieAEakes and I are doing a praise challenge next year. Join us! #Praise2014



5. Remember to Have Fun


* On tumblr, there's been a 50 Days of Doctor Who challenge. I haven't been participating or following it much, but this one... I want this one to happen:

11_8WhoMusical

*And a good giggle now and then never hurts.


@SuperWriterMom: I do not like you in the dark I do not like you in the park. I do like you with a yam. I do not like you 6 AM. @ohjesly: So I just realized that because our bodies are like 70% water and 30% meaty stuff we're all just kinda walking around being soup @jonacuff: Didn't get bit by a goose today. Pretty good day.





@RachelleGardner: "Ooh! Independent bookstores! I should buy one of those on Amazon!" - Stephen Colbert


Monday, November 4, 2013

What Writers Can Learn from Marvel

I love a good series. I tend to write in series and I have ones that I keep on my bookshelf and revisit time and time again.

What is the pull of a series? The world. When the author has multiple books to work across, they have time to build a world of characters and culture that readers love to visit repeatedly.

Side characters that would normally be shallow and nearly meaningless gain more depth and appeal as they appear across multiple books.

In romances, readers get the opportunity to glance at their favorite couples' happily ever afters even as they watch the next couple fall in love. The deeper the world and tighter knit the characters, the more it feels like coming home.

So what is the key element to tie a series of books into the same world?

Avengers PosterI watched my first Marvel superhero last year. The hubs and I were granted a rare weekend to ourselves. It didn't work out for us to go anywhere for the weekend, so we decided to just have movie night at home. We watched The Avengers and I was hooked. The weekend turned into a movie marathon and we watched Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and The Incredible Hulk. Iron Man 3 was between theater and rentability at the time so we didn't watch it.

More recently we started watching Agents of SHIELD on television.

That was when I realized the true strength of the world Marvel was building. Samuel L. Jackson was on my TV screen and I wasn't watching a movie. Granted he was on there for only moments. It probably wasn't more than one day on set for him, but just that little touch tied the show so closely to the movies that you knew you were in the same world.

I would have thought that Phil Coulson, being a main character in both The Avengers and the television show would have been enough, but it was Nick Fury that really connected them for me.

For authors, I think that proves the importance of the side characters in building a world. It isn't enough to take a secondary character from one book and make them the main character in the next book. It's the little people moving in the background that really put your stories in the same world.

If you've followed me for a while you know I'm a big Julia Quinn fan. She has a remarkable example of a minor character making it evident that all your characters swirl around in the same fictional pot.

How to Marry a Marquis CoverLady Danbury appears as an eccentric, sentimental old lady in How To Marry a Marquis. She then pops up for a page or two throughout the Bridgerton series and the Smythe-Smith series. If you read all of Julia Quinn's books then you know and love Lady Danbury and seeing her again makes you smile. If you only read the one book, she provides a splash of comic relief in the guise of the wisecracking matriarch that you both fear and love. 


Lady Danbury and Nick Fury are both stereotypical enough that you can feel like you know them in a just a few moments, yet developed enough over time that they feel real.

That is what you need in the background of your series. Secondary characters that the reader of a single book can appreciate but regular readers can love. Build a couple of those into your series and see a greater depth in your fictional world.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Things You Should Remember to do Every Week

My media roundup this week reminded me of somethings we should try to work into our lives on a regular basis.

1. Remember to be inspired.


[caption id="attachment_332" align="alignleft" width="250"]Pitcher makes an amazing grab for a line drive. Batter is stunned by the catch Amazing Catch. Stuns even the batter.[/caption]

I pulled this gif from Hank Green's tumblr. (See the post here.) I love the awesomeness of this. Everyone is stunned that he makes this catch.

Aside from it being cool, it's a message for how important it is to practice and drill so that your reflexive reactions are right. The pitcher didn't have time to think about that catch. It was a reflex.

 

Who doesn't love a good underdog story? Go over to John Green's tumblr to see more about the story of a football (soccer) team in England that worked their way up to the professional league. Watch the video. Seriously. I think the announcers start crying. Besides, where else can you here an announcer claim to have soiled himself while narrating a game?

11_1Soccer

2. Remember Who You Are


Louis Giglio - You may be a lot of things to lots of people today, but before you're anything else you're a loved child of a perfect Father. Phil Cooke - Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself." - William Faulkner Matt Papa - no sermon, no song, or piece of artwork will ever fully display God's worth. It's all refrigerator art. but our Daddy loves it.



3. Remember to Giggle


Brett McIntosh: Certainly not the first to post, but this is wonderful. (Picture of Martin Luther and caption: I got 95 problems and the church is one of them")


Happy Reformation Day!


Jon Acuff: God took his hair on home to glory." How i just heard a wife describe her bald husband.


adam Stadtmiller: Google "Dogs Diving underwater" and click images. You will be happy you did.


I did this. I might have nightmares now.



4. Remember to keep perspective.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeremy Cowart: No problem on that $5 coffee that will last 10 minutes. But $1 for an app that I'll use for a year? I don't know. #MericasMentality


C. S. Lewis Daily Quotes: The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour. Sally Killpatrick: "WolfeSelma: Nanowrimo: The most inconveniently timed support group in the world." Word


Seriously. Who picked November for this crazy endeavor?!? Why not January or March? At least a month with 31 days.

5. Remember to get excited and have fun.


Cover of Julia Quinn's new book - The Sum of All Kisses


 

Did I finish it before I went to bed that night? You betcha.

Doctor Who Magazine - It's November - the Month of the Doctor!


 

What have you done this week that fits these categories?