Hello, and welcome to my little corner of quirkiness. The purpose of this blog is to make it easier to connect with my readers. It's really that simple. The name of the blog, "Quirky Dreams," is relevant only in that my dreams are often quirky, unusual ones, and they are also where I get many of my writing ideas from. I dream in full-length, color, high-def story lines, and if they are remembered, I write them down. Parts or all of these dreams may enter a story. A story might be based around a single dream or an idea from a dream. Regardless of which it is, this is my writing blog, so kick back in your chair, bed, recliner, or airport terminal, and enjoy the blog.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cell Phone Fantasies

A girl in class today was boggled by the thought of not carrying a cell phone at all times. I, admittedly, hate carrying one. I enjoy unplugging from the digital world and absorbing the world around me. To me, the phone is a constant pressure. I have to check it, pick up calls, and reply to messages. Sometimes I just don't want that.

Today though, this girl found out that I don't always carry one.

"What if an axe murderer jumps out at you?" she asked almost as if she was worried for my safety. "What if someone is stalking you?!"

I didn't have a witty comeback. I'm not exactly Miss Popularity, and being social usually confuses me. I can do it in theory, but in practice is another story.

But something about that struck me, and I began imagining.

Imagine, I'm walking along down a dark road, minding my own business. I'm not sure what I'd be doing on a dark road alone to begin with, but let's just say for the sake of the argument, that I am. Maybe a dragon ate my car while I was in the corner store and no one had a working phone. Let's also say that no one cared enough to do anything to help me, and there was no such thing as police. Also, the dragon mysteriously vanished, so it looks like it's okay to venture out.

So there I am, walking down a dark road in air cold enough to hurt my lungs, with the wind rushing past and crunching across snow.

Suddenly, I hear another set of footsteps crunching on the path behind me!

I don't look. I don't want to be paranoid after all. It's probably just some other person whose car got eaten by a dragon. Besides, making eye contact is a sure way to start trouble!

The noise gets closer. I quicken my pace, my breath coming faster now.

The steps behind me break into a run.

I whirl around to face an axe-wielding maniac with a wild look in his eyes and--

--start dialing my cell phone?

No no, I say. That can't be right.

I whirl around to face an axe-wielding maniac with a wild look in his eyes and--

--whip out my trusty cell phone and throw it at him!

No, still not quite right. First of all, my aim is horrible! You should see me try to play baseball! There's a reason I'm always picked last. The cell phone would have a 90% chance of flying wide. Not good odds for someone in a life-or-death situation. Secondly, I don't think it would do more than make the maniac giggle a little.

Okay, okay. One more try.

I whirl around to face an axe-wielding maniac with a wild look in his eyes and--

--I pull out my iPhone and start using the app that makes gun sounds! The maniac takes off running, because after all, everyone knows an axe is nothing next to an iPhone gun!

Too bad my phone isn't an iPhone. Or anything that could use that kind of app.

Yeah, a can of pepper spray wouldn't be nearly as good as a phone! So remember, kids! Bring your cell phones along in case that axe murderer is looking for you! Maybe he'll...be distracted by a cool app. Yeah. Um. That.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Ugly Kids: To Hell in a Handbasket

The sequel to The Ugly Kids is finally done. That cover just didn't like me. It was actually easier to write the story than draw the cover!

Anyway, The Ugly Kids: To Hell in a Handbasket can be obtained on Smashwords. I suppose they'll eventually ship it out to other vendors, but for now, it's only on Smashwords.

I hope you all enjoy it!

Happy reading!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Vacationing From Vacation

It was a glorious dragon vs. Pikachu battle. The dragon growled and bit and bit and bit and...bit some more. Pikachu jumped on its head.

Then the food came, and Mark's daughter and I put down our toys.

I went to Otakon (the biggest anime convention on the east coast) this year, and I met Mark and his family for the first time. Kind of odd knowing someone for years and only now just meeting them, but it was fun.

There were lines everywhere. I'd been to that convention maybe...I want to say five?...years ago, and it had been pretty easy to get into things. MUCH less people back then too. This time, there were lines for everything. If you wanted to get into a popular event, you had to be there at least an hour in advance.

Regardless, it was still fun. Pictures can be seen here. I'm still working on getting more off my (and my boyfriend's) phone, so more will appear. Probably when classes end.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Social Networking

I know it's been a while since my last post. I don't exactly know how many people read this religiously, but I apologize if you do. Things have been a little chaotic.

Something I almost feel overwhelmed with lately is the fad of social networking. Let me start out by saying that I'm not knocking it. It's really great to be able to find the people you went to high school with or someone you lost touch with.

But I have to admit, as interesting as people are, we do tend to go overboard sometimes. Just look at all the people who post hundreds of pictures of their children on Facebook. Yes, your kid is adorable. I get that. I know you love the little rugrat. But I really don't want to see the picture of his first successful potty training. I don't care how cute you think the drool spot is. Really. One or two pics please. I'm not that interested in your kid.

Marketing. That's usually enough to send me running. As someone learning to market her ebooks, I have to say, I think a lot of us go about it the wrong way. I think very often we are so inundated with internet marketing that we usually just train our eyes to pass over the stuff. I know I do that with Twitter spammers. They use a program like Hootsuite to send out spam links to their own material on a timer. I don't know if this actually works, but I find it severely annoying. I thought Twitter was to connect with people, not to provide a one-way marketing spam site. I've had people recommend that I do something similar. I just can't make myself do it. If that kind of thing annoys me, why would I subject other people to it? I'd rather have meaningful little conversations with people who actually want to talk with me.

LinkedIn. Tried it. Everyone told me "It's great for making connections for when you need a new job!" Well...the problem is that by the time you need a new job, you've already linked yourself to all your coworkers, and they now know that you're looking for a new job. How long before your boss knows you're sniffing around competitors? The entire company? It felt to me like Facebook could do the same thing at any rate. Why manage another one?

Lastly, Google+. Seems like a decent social networking site, but I'm just not sure if I really want to manage another one. I'm on it for the sake of some friends, but unless those friends give me a nudge, I'm not all that interested. Maybe I'm just burned out.

I know social networking is the hot thing and has been for a while, and there are some really nice benefits to it, but I think perhaps the way it's used is starting to burn me out on certain aspects. I don't check my Facebook nearly as often as I used to. I like Twitter a bit, but the spamming desensitizes me to new posts. Maybe you readers can pull something useful from my ramblings to market your own stuff, maybe not. I hope you do. Making the internet a better place and all that, one rant at a time. ;-)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Good Memories

I was talking with Mark today about my high school writing days, because I had a friend in my classes who used to read as I wrote. Almost a co-author, though she did no actual writing. She was a literal genius who would run amok, pat people on the head, and call them "fluffy." Occasionally someone was "ew...not fluffy" and took offense.

I'll be honest. My writing was awful back then. But it was so much fun to write with someone. I did it for the fun of it (still do!), but it was never so much fun as when writing with her.

What amazed me though were the similarities between her and Mark. No, Mark does not pat people on the head and call them fluffy. However, both of them come up with the most outrageous ideas that make me laugh. Mark has his blaster ballerina moments, and this friend of mine had her "Give him a feathered boa!" moments. On another occasion, she wanted me to put a character in a diaper. At one point, I wrote her into a story, because she was just a character in and of herself.

I guess this is me just reminiscing some, but it explains a lot of things when I think about it. Blaster ballerina or feathered boas, I just like writing with someone who's a little crazy. :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Video Game Stories, Part 2

I'll admit I can be a very critical person at times. I often focus on the negative and ignore the positive. This is not because I'm a negative person. It's just that I'm constantly looking for ways to improve things, myself included.

That said, I think it's just as important to look at a good example of story use in a video game as it is to point out poor use. Knowing what constitutes a poor game story only tells us what not to do. It does not tell us what we should do.

To that end, I want to take a look at some of BioWare's Forgotten Realms games. For you non-gamers, Forgotten Realms is Dungeons and Dragons setting on which a series of role-playing games was based where you design and play a character in that particular fictional world. Games that BioWare created, such as Baulder's Gate, are often spoken of as the standard that other fantasy role-playing games are held to. One of the reasons for this is the outstanding story lines and use of story in a gaming environment.

For the sake of this post, I'll only be looking at Neverwinter Nights, but many of their games follow the same rules. I highly recommend Baulder's Gate as well!

In Neverwinter Nights, you start off with a cut scene that sets the tone of the story. You're stuck in a plague-infested city, with limited hope for a cure. The walls are sealed as part of a quarantine, which effectively limits your exploration, but in reality, the city maps are huge, so there's plenty to do even then.

The cut scene explains the setting and why you are where you are. No more. It does not insult the gamer's intelligence. It does not try to teach you anything in a video tutorial. It doesn't cause your character to perform any actions you don't want him/her to do. It just tells you the state of things and why you are standing in an Academy. Perfect! I'm caught up in the story, and I'm ready to play it out!

The first part, as in any game, is the tutorial. You go through Academy training. The great part though? You can skip the training completely if you want and get right to the game!

Sometimes these things are worthwhile to play through though simply for the dialogue. This is a great aspect of the Forgotten Realms series. You have dialogue options to choose from. Depending on what your character says/does, different results occur. I often play through the same game story line several times in several different ways just to see all the neat plots that I missed the first time around! I will admit that this was probably a lot of work. You're basically creating dialogue trees or loops instead of straight dialogue, which can increase the size of the project exponentially. But the ability to choose what you character will and will not say is wonderful. Maybe you don't want to run a quest for someone who is mean to you. Maybe you want to slay an innocent peasant and play the villain. Maybe you want to trick someone into giving you more gold. Maybe you want to donate gold to the person who needs it. That's the best part! You decide.

The story in these games is actually played through. Don't get me wrong. This still requires a writer. Only the writer plays the computer side of things (the NPCs, or Non-Player Characters). Bad guy is discovered? You actually go through the portal and haul him back for a trial. Trial time for a minor character? You get to play the defense attorney or judge! A cure needs to be created? You get to do all the hard work of finding the components! The writer just makes sure that you have the ability to get the information you need to complete the story line. Sometimes the information is buried in dialogue choices. Sometimes it's obvious. Intelligently, the main story line information is usually easily found. Optional side-stories are sometimes not and must be searched for.

The "levels" of the game are broken up into "chapters." One of the really neat things about the game was that the completion of a chapter rewarded you with seeing the results of your actions in a narrated cut scene. Maybe your actions, as well-intended as they may have been, brought misery to someone. Maybe they brought hope. Either way, you get to see what far-reaching effects they had, and you are set up for what is to come next. It's a pleasant and engaging reward for work well done. The cut scene wasn't too long, and again, it didn't presume to have your character act for you. It didn't reveal anything it shouldn't for that moment.

Which brings me to the last item I want to talk about. The story was often filled with twists and turns that left me staring at the screen and wanting to know more. I played for hours just to find out the next part! I felt like I was living a book, and that is what really grabbed me. I think this is a series of games any fantasy reader could really get into, if only for the story.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Video Game Stories

So, I'm an avid gamer, formerly a game-a-holic. I no longer play multiplayer anything due to my tendency of spending several long minutes wondering if I really need to get up and tend to that emergency, and is it worth letting my character or someone else's character die. I miss World of Warcraft, but it's not worth the loss in writing productivity. I only play games with pause buttons now.

This new single player me has led me to pay more attention to game stories and how they differ from your typical book or movie.

Lately, I've been playing Settlers 2, which is an older 2D game from the 1990's. I love strategy games, and this one is particularly entertaining. Then I noticed that Settlers 7 had been released this year! I quickly bought it based on enjoying Settlers 2 so much.

Well, it's not quite all that I had hoped it would be. They have a multiplayer aspect which they seem to be pushing. I'm not going to bite. Multiplayer is off limits. Instead, I turned my attention to the campaign, which, for you non-gamers, is single-player mode where you follow a set of scenarios and achieve objectives.

It opens with a story. I'm excitedly watching it...and watching it...and watching it...and...attention slipping...annoyance setting in...scowling...

FINALLY we begin. But by now, I've already determined that I'm probably on the wrong side of the fence in this battle. The story has given me TOO much information right at the outset and ruined the twist that I can sense coming further down the road. Worse! I had to sit through the many cut scenes and dialogues without doing anything! So now, we've already started off with the following problems:
  1. I'm bored because instead of actually playing my hero through the story line, it's been all laid out for me. This is appropriate in movies and books, because those are passive stories. You're sitting back and waiting to have the story unfold. Games should first be played through, then show cut scenes, and only THEN display text. The key is to engage the player. By time I get to the first level, I'm annoyed and bored.
  2. I already know where the story line is leading me. They've hinted that I'm fighting on the wrong side of a battle far too strongly. Great. Any writer or reader can tell you what the problem with that is. Only, it becomes much more of an irritating issue when you're working toward a goal you know is probably wrong, and you have no options to refuse that course of action. To progress, you have to pretend to be stupid and go along with it. If that's the case, what was the point of introducing the "role-playing" aspect to it?
Alright, annoyed, I begin the tutorial and complete the first step of the campaign. Yay. I turn it off, go do something else, then come back to see if it's any better in level two.

Nope. It's more tutorial. Finish that. Third level. More tutorial. Fourth level. More tutorial, and still no sign of the twist that I already know is coming, despite EVERY villain hinting at it! I'm also constantly getting lectured on new items and things to do! Really, it's not that hard!

How long does a writer spend introducing the characters and world before launching into the story? Usually, not very long. The characters, world, and rules are all learned during the course of the story, quite often without very much explicit explanation.

By now, I really don't want to return to the game. The story has lost me. The characters are so stupid as to be ridiculous. I have to play dumb to play my character. I already know the coming twist. Every level of the campaign has been annoyingly preachy and restrictive (whatever happened to a "turn off tutorial" button?!).

On more of a game design note, it doesn't even feel like a strategy game, so much as a mission-based game now. I can't use the map creatively anymore. I'm enclosed by the geography, so there's no exploration. I feel like cattle in a chute. There's only one way to move.

Bottom line? I think I'll stick to Settlers 2, where I am playing out the story line and I decide how to progress. That, very basically, is the difference between game writing and other story forms. The player needs to act out the script whenever possible. Not the writer.