Secret Messages

Origins

Before I leave the 1990’s behind for good, there is one story that is worth repeating. It’s not well known, and is the basis for a love affair with computing and the Internet which has failed to diminish over the last twenty years. It began on the back of unabashed fandom obsession for a TV show many people will never have heard of, but which is an important part of UK genre history. The year is 1995, and the TV show was BUGS.

This show was notable because it was created with input by Brian Clemens who was responsible for creating both The Avengers and The Professionals. It was, despite the now highly dated nature of the title sequence, pretty decent fare, and I have a fanfic written (almost complete) that covered my favourite period of the show. However, that was not all I was responsible for during that time period. For a brief and glorious two year period, I was Webmistress of the Official Website.

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Bureau Two was my baby: the Wayback Machine has copies of the site still archived from 20 years ago, when I was responsible for upkeep and was being paid by the production company to do so. This was the first time an external website was linked to the BBC’s own architecture, making it pretty much unique, and I was immensely proud of the achievement. The date on this capture’s apposite too: six days before the debut of the show’s Season 4, which was cancelled as a result of the Omagh Bomb on the 15th, as the opening episode contained an explosion. The series never really recovered after that, and was quietly cancelled, after which I signed over intellectual property rights and handed the data to the production company for upkeep.

This was my first experience of ‘professional’ writing too, and I was pretty proud of it. I liaised with the production company, had an editor to sign off all the work, and did it all off my own back. It made me realise I was capable of better things than simply the job I was beginning to hate, and gave me a vital lifeline away from my normal routine. Personal circumstances however transpired to push me away from pursuing this full-time, and becoming pregnant pretty much put the brakes on everything that involved dealing with other people. However, it allowed my fiction to finally get a look in. With confidence in web design, I started a West Wing ‘Fansite’ whilst waiting for my son’s birth in 2000, and succumbed to the rapidly emerging online Cult of Fan Fiction.

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We spoke about this last week, and you can read all the sordid details I’m prepared to admit there. On reflection, these were important times: using other people’s characters as a means to find my own voice has a fair deal of merit. I never made any money from them, nor would I wish to, but the lessons learnt concerning narrative structure really matter. More significantly, 2000 was when I began my first novel, which I pulled out this week after an absence of several months and again began to tinker with.

This time, however, it is going to be finished before the end of the year is out.

GSME #16 :: Fix You

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As it transpires, I’m still not done with Social media faffing, and as this landscape is becoming increasingly significant in my understanding of the Internet generally, Tuesday will now be the day I return to this subject matter when warranted. For starters, it appears that Twitter’s analytics finally got fixed, and my effort to regenerate all corners of the social media presence is bearing fruit:

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I made an important connection late last week, and with that on top of now using Twitter polls to generate engagement and discussion, I’m getting some really interesting feedback from my existing audience. By inviting new people to think more about WHY they play games, or act as they do on Social media, I hope that some of them may have a interest in the Internet of Words project, based on my ability to demonstrate logical thinking and a decent attitude in my ‘personal’ account. I should probably state for the record it is never my intention to exploit anybody except myself. I don’t invent drama to generate clicks, I’m not here to upset people and create controversy. More often than not, that happens without me needing to do anything at all.

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The plan this last week has been simple: get people talking. Using monetary means to drive interest has not worked, buying follows and retweets doesn’t make people read my stuff. That means the next logical step is to ask people what does make them want to engage, and the Twitter polls are proving incredibly fruitful in that regard. However, that means having a good question to begin with, and being prepared to discuss the results without applying a bias to the outcome. This I can do well, it is one of my strengths, and two years worth of objective reporting on Warcraft suddenly stands me in good stead to do so.

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However, I’d be a big fat liar if I didn’t look at my monthly Contest tweets and know this is why I’m continuing to make progress. People love free shit and this remains the best money I spend each month. There’s no point trying to deny that this method does give results, but this then 100% relies on me keeping that audience. It is not like buying followers: every person is a living, breathing, unique entity that requires me to engage them. My biggest issue since after my operation has been to do that. Now I have some traction and ideas to throw into the mix? I can work on increasing my 149 engagements. That’s nothing by the way, a pinprick when stuck net to the average viral tweet. I’m not about to become a Global superstar any time soon, and thank fuck for that.

Where I am right now and how things are going is suiting me just fine.

Coming Up

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If you’re a Patreon, you’ll already know that it isn’t long now until the first of my Book of the Month content is available. What you won’t know is what else is being offered, quite apart from the special weekly poetry and micro-prose options. We mentioned participation via visual prompts yesterday: as one of my Patrons rightly pointed out, it doesn’t need to be a moving image that acts as a catalyst. With that in mind, lets lay out how the weeks will pan out going forward. I’m still working on graphics for these features (just me here as the one woman staff) and they’ll be added when complete.

MONDAY:

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Many people have asked me about how I write, why I do and the experiences that have shaped arrival at this point. Monday’s posts, for the foreseeable future, will present a rough autobiographical journey from my first inklings of being a storyteller to where we now stand.

TUESDAY & THURSDAY:
GENERAL WRITING POST.

Whatever crosses my mind, writers and writing in the News, general stream of consciousness gubbins… gonna be a pretty mixed bag on these two days. Might try some longer form poetry or chain up some prose in a rough sequence… we will see. This is the area where I’ll allow spontaneity to shine, and which will probably be written ‘live.’

WEDNESDAY:

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Wednesday is Patreon Day, and that means a scheduled essay or piece of fiction, depending on what time of the month we’re in. To get more details of this, visit my Patreon page, and if you haven’t already, perhaps consider a pledge. However, there will be a second post on Wednesdays, which will pick up a word and consider how its definition has changed in recent years.

FRIDAY:
‘MAKE YOUR OWN CONTENT’ DAY
& NOVEL UPDATES

I’ve still not thought up a snappier title for this (working on it!) but Fridays will be when you can suggest images as prompts to next week’s poetry. This will also be the day when I keep you up to date with Novel developments and what I’m currently working on in terms of fictions generally.

I take the weekends off, as a rule, but that’s because there has to be some time to write for pleasure as well as business. You might get a post Saturday and Sunday from time to time, so we’ll pretend this is every day and say no more about it, ‘kay?


That’s the basic plan going forward, but I will review things again at the start of October. The key I have found to keeping things interesting is continuous reassessment, and I’ll be listening carefully to feedback and suggestions on every step of the way.

For now, however, this will do for starters

Pulp Fiction

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Its been a while, my friends, since fiction was spoken about in these parts. It is not like I’ve lost the urge to tell stories, just that life has decided there were other, more pressing matters that needed to be considered first. Now they are out of the way, it is time to sit down and consider a way forward. There is, quite amazingly for me, a plan to boot.


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First order of business is to get MMXCI complete and in a workable state to edit. You’d think after seventeen years I’d have cracked this, but a vital piece of narrative development only became apparent late last year. The plan is to try and have this finished by the end of July.

Once complete, I’d like to destroy it enough so it could be offered as a potential manuscript. It remains the best original narrative I’ve ever been able to create, and I’d like to make the most of that as a selling point.

 

 


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Then, there is Chameleon, still incomplete after my start on it during NaNoWriMo last year. I’ve now rethought the plot and have significant reason to extensively rewrite what already exists. What is more likely to happen is that I’ll edit to the current finish point and then continue onwards to completion.

This I’m planning to do through August and September, leaving October to consider what will get the nod for NaNoWriMo 2017. I already have an idea on the table, in the planning stage…

 


 

After that, I’m going to use the Internet of Words as the means to write short stories better. The call has gone out this afternoon for beta readers, and if you’ve expressed an interest you can expect to see a story in your Inbox early in July.

However, that’s not all there is to it: join my Patreon and on Thursdays you’ll have a chance to contribute to the following Friday’s exclusive fiction content! If you don’t know about this already, click here to find out details of how to pledge.

If you’re interested in my storytelling abilities, and original fiction pieces going forward, then please feel free to follow this Blog.

Internet of Words :: Launch Week

In about 30 minutes or so, I’m going to throw open the Patreon doors for Twitter followers to become early adopters of my Great Writing Project. Today has been my most successful day of blogging in terms of audience for many, many months. Are the two connected? Probably not, but what I’ve proved is that certain types of content sell better than others, and that has given some pause for thought going forward. That’s a reflection for tomorrow, for now it is time to finally commit myself to a long term plan of attack.

If you’d like to get in early, go follow @InternetofWords on Twitter right now for your access credentials.

Otherwise I’ll see you all for Launch day via Patreon on the 15th.

The Final Countdown

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I mentioned back on May 5th that I was going to have to go in for what turned out to be quite important surgery. My recovery, although fairly swift, is not as rapid as I had either hoped or planned for. As a result, my intention to go live with Patreon next week is, on reflection, somewhat optimistic. That means there will be some minor changes to project timings, to allow me a chance to get completely back to normal and present the level and depth of content that I think this entire project deserves.

With this in mind, amended timings are as follows:

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Early Adoption Patreon will now go live on June 12th, with general access available on June 15th. This also allows me to finally complete the Top Tier rewards to be photographed, and have the enamel badge rewards in hand. I’m also considering some additional rewards that I’ll let readers of the IoW Twitter feed know about starting next week. If you want to be a part of my Early Access Team, please follow @InternetofWords on Twitter where there’s already a daily dose of Micropoetry and Haiku to keep you entertained.

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I’ve decided to do a massive update of all of the various online presences ahead of the Patreon launch too, as an excuse to standardise everything across the board and organise better going forward. The physical changes for this are already in place, it will now simply be graphics and content that changes long term. Here’s a reminder of where you can find me, and that all of these places will be getting a freshen up starting tomorrow:

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I’d love to tell you more, but honestly I’d like to keep some surprises under my belt… needless to say, it’ll be worth your time.

I look forward to seeing you bright and early tomorrow morning 😀

Blogging For Noobs :: Architecture and Morality

Blogging for Noobs

Once upon a time, I wrote something about someone in the white heat of extreme anger. This particular person had done something to me which, on reflection, I probably deserved. I’d been neither kind or understanding to them, and in fact I’d taken the piss out of not only how they’d acted, but how they chose to respond to me. Basically, it was the worst possible thing I could have written at that moment in time. Then, to make matters worse, if that was in fact possible at that point, I went ahead and posted it online where that person not only could see it, but respond if they chose. When did this happen, I hear you ask? 2001. This event took place sixteen years ago but I can remember it as if it was yesterday, because it resulted in a phone call to my home from someone I had never met.

When you write stuff on the Internet, you have to be prepared for the consequences.

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When I watch certain people on Twitter, it becomes apparent that they genuinely don’t grasp the gravity of what happens when you press ‘Tweet.’ Of course, there are some people for whom having a Worldwide audience is the drug they’ve craved for decades, and those individuals are normally pretty easy to spot. They’re the ones that don’t care who they hurt, what they say or indeed if the truth is present in any of their output. When you blog, especially if there’s a decision to target specific people or a particular events, not naming names is really the best idea you’ll ever have. Don’t make things personal, use ‘we’ instead of ‘I’, ensure that you can’t be considered as libellous… there are long lists of what morally should be considered for any work longer than 140 characters, written by people far more worthy than me.

In the past, I’ve unintentionally upset someone totally and completely by accident. I’ve conversely called out a troll who wouldn’t take ‘go away’ for an answer. I’ve reported numerous people for abuse and I have a blacklist on all of my blogs, because sometimes you won’t upset people by accident but by the simple expedient of disagreeing with them. Doing that with conviction, and having the confidence to defend any viewpoint, is probably more dangerous than having a swipe at your best mate for standing you up last week or poking fun at the bloke who served you take-out when you were pissed. As a rule, there are those on the Internet who will never take kindly to you not agreeing with them. If that is upsetting, writing blogs is probably not for you.

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I have been told, too many times now to remember, that my ‘rude and dismissive’ attitude is why people don’t like me. Many bloggers might be here to try and win popularity contests, but my personal work is the way it is for a very good reason. When I launch the Internet of Words project in June, that will have a completely differing tone and style, and it may become necessary to set up a separate site to accommodate that as time goes on. I’m well aware of how to write for separate and distinct audiences, and that those who have gotten upset at my words get upset by lots of other things too that are nothing at all to do with me to begin with. You will not please everybody, it is a physical impossibility. However as a blogger you have a moral duty not simply to your audience, but more importantly to yourself.

Your words, like it or not, are ‘out here’ pretty much in perpetuity. You might think you can delete posts, but you really can’t. All this stuff has been recorded somewhere, and the more contentious your subject matter is, the bigger the potential to never take it back. So, this week’s advice is simple and succinct: don’t write anything you’re not prepared to stand by a year, a week, a decade from now. When you write, make every word matter, but always be mindful that even though you’re doing this for yourself, that’s not the only audience who’ll potentially consume it. For every rant made in the heat of anger there is always a consequence, as is the case with everything you will ever write. If that’s something you’re not prepared to stomach, then it’s time to stop writing.

If you can cope with that responsibility? It all gets better from now on.

GSME #10 :: Back and Forth

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Ten weeks into our journey, and there’s a moment to stop and take stock of the last two and a bit months:

April was, like it or not, my quietest month for a while, which probably has a lot to do with me taking time off at weekends and being less involved with the gaming side of of my feed overall, as I prepare for the new project. I’ve also started quite aggressively blocking and ignoring people who simply join in the hope I’ll follow them back, simply for audience numbers. Despite this, I’ve seen an up-tick in new followers. All told, I’m pretty satisfied with where things stand, even though (as I discussed in the week) the CoPromote attempt to get the new venture some publicity pretty much was a waste of time and effort. However, things aren’t as woeful as they perhaps first appear.

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I effectively took the weekend off, and that’s demonstrated by the end of graph tail off. However the rest of the week was really rather robust: only Tuesday and Wednesday had anything to do with the CoPromote push, Friday was all my own work. In fact, these numbers give me hope that my forward planning could really start to show some results. Plus, having wanted to keep my engagement at 2% or above, today’s rate is already showing I don’t need an excessive number of tweets to do that, just to use the right content when I do.

The next couple of weeks will show a real split for focus: I’ll be setting up analytics for the IoW site once we hit early July, but until then I see no point in worrying over the details. There’s no intention to stop running or creating any of my other content either, but I will be amending posting days and content in the next two weeks. Basically, it will be all change yet with a focus on getting a better quality of response overall. I’ve decided that numbers really don’t matter nearly as much as getting a decent return on interaction and education.

I also still have some CoPromote reach to spend, and there are some new plans for that going forward.

I Saw the Light

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I spend a lot of time hanging around artists. It has become something of a cause célèbre for me: however, if there was less time admiring others’ work and more time perfecting my own, shit would get done far faster. Right now, however, inspiration is lacking just about everywhere: art provides that fix, vicariously reminding that passion can be seen and felt in pixels and pen strokes. Encouraging others is, like it or not, a greater source of satisfaction than staring at my own inadequate efforts and finding the means to become better. This is, I now realise, a writing slump. Non fiction fortunately does not seem to be suffering from the same malaise, and when critical thinking is applied to the reason, an answer as to why isn’t far behind.

Fictional worlds currently are not required as ‘escape.’

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Time for some brutal honesty: those imaginary spaces were created in my youth, more often than not, to run from from the less than happy domestic situation I found myself within. Only when my kids were born did circumstances dictate that imagination could be used just as it was: the work I have stretching from 2000 until now does, in nearly all cases, exhibit the same basic qualities. There are great ideas but never the ability to complete on them because the confidence in my work simply did not exist. Last year, I found the means to move forward with the help of Ian Fleming. The temptation would have been at this point to go full on fiction projects but in my heart the words now exist in two places where before only one mattered.

I’ve really started to gain pleasure in objective writing away from fiction.

That’s why this new project was born: it allows me to effectively continue therapy for myself using the written word. Where that leaves fiction however is both nebulous and uncertain. Last night after a family row I began and subsequently made worse, I sat alone in the bedroom and grasped that sometimes, there is a reason why everything needs to happen in a certain way. My desire to write has at no point diminished, in fact it grows greater with every passing day. However, what is written has become as significant as my favourite colour or most essential piece of music for relaxation. All the fictional ideas remain part of what I am, but with the practical skills learnt through non-fiction work there is now the means to re-invent each one as something better.

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The best way I can find to describe this is what I would imagine the process an artist goes through when learning the fundamentals of their craft. Learning to ‘see’ and draw people realistically might seem a waste of time to the Anime nut, but that basic grasp of anatomy and proportion, when learnt, allows you to think outside the constraints of accepted norms. Once you learn how to do something so well it can happen in your sleep, then comes the ability to step outside the restraints set upon a mind that looks simply at one thing alone. This, it is becoming apparent, is where I am now.

There was other stuff last night that surfaced, things as yet there is discomfort thinking about or even writing down. I want to mark yesterday as a watershed, moment when the reality of what sits in my head was finally reconciled with how I act when things happen that are out of my control. Words have give the chance to explain feelings, but until there’s clarity on exactly what those are, all that remains is silence. Some days, a lot of money would be offered to find the means for every feeling and emotion not to happen simultaneously, yet that’s where I am. Once everything can be sorted, then there’ll be the means to explain, but not today.

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I still need writing as therapy, but not in the same way this journey began. As I move forward, the desires have altered, needs sublimating into something more complicated than I’d first grasped. This isn’t just about telling stories any more: I am the story.

There is a lot more here to be considered.

Blogging For Noobs :: Look Up

Blogging for NoobsPart Three of our Ten Point Blogging Guide deals with presentation, and the fact that it matters just as much about HOW you offer readers content as the words themselves. You would think by now that people grasp how important it is for your webpage to be legible, especially when you consider how many people now read on a screen the size of a tea mug. This is something to really keep in mind as a blogger, a fact that newspapers and publications continue to just not grasp. I don’t care how many bells and whistles you think need to be included on your Webpage, if the text is illegible or there’s too many images to load, you’re out of luck.

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The problem, of course, is that the Snapchat generation is used to a level of mobile presentation that any smaller blogger will struggle to either emulate or repeat. In these cases you’re stuck with making your words matter, and doing all the fancy stuff to sell them. That means your first point of business after establishing a Blog needs to be the means by which you sell that: we’ll talk about the Social media ‘dance’ in more detail in a few weeks, but for now you should be considering at least some of the following:

  • Twitter account in the same name as your Blog
  • Facebook page (see above)
  • Instagram Page (you get the idea by now)
  • Snapchat account

… and the list goes on, especially if you’re working in a niche market that might benefit from (lets say) a Pinterest account. You want to do this now, early on, so that as you prepare for the new wave of interest in your work, everybody gets to see what you’re writing straight away. You’ll also be amazed at how tolerant people will be of a fairly simplistic website if it a) doesn’t crash their phone and b) doesn’t cost them a fortune in download charges. If you want to be fancy with presentation, concentrate on separate platforms that promote that and keep your blog clean, simple and most importantly easy to read.

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Next up (and this will matter if things really take off) is how you format posts. One long, huge wall of text will switch people off. You can write thousands of words, sure, but if you do, break them up into small, easily-manageable chunks. Use pictures or line breaks whenever possible: you don’t need to be clever with the GIFs and the fancy graphics, but if you know that’s what your audience likes, then go right ahead. Most importantly of all, please make sure your spelling and grammar are up to standard, because there’ll be some bright spark out there ready to abuse you for being illiterate if you don’t.

Most blogging tools (like WordPress I’m using now) have a spell check service, as do most browsers. There really is no excuse for mucking it up, but if English is not your first language you can go right ahead and write in the format you feel most comfortable using, and let Google Translate do the rest (if you use Chrome as a browser.) I read a number of French language gaming blogs in this way with no issues at all. The reminder here is to pick the form of words you feel most comfortable using, and allow that format to guide your actions. It’s a global marketplace after all, something many American and English bloggers often conveniently choose to forget.

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In the end, what matters just as much as the words you write is the way they’re subsequently presented. Both Blogger and WordPress have the ability to preview sites so you’ll see how they look on both tablets and phones, and the best thing you can ever do long term for your reach is ensure that the Web is the last place you check is looking fine before you commit to a layout. We’ll go back and work out your Social media policy in a few weeks, but for now I want to get you in the habit of making the most of all this hard work you’ve now put into presentation. That means, yet again, pulling out a pencil and paper or a spreadsheet and starting to foster a regular routine of posting.

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On the window to my left is stuck this schedule, and every week at this time I’ll sit down and plan the upcoming week’s work. Next time I’ll ask you to consider when you’d like your content to be posted, and how you go about building a consistent schedule to ensure that is what happens. For now, go ahead and keep fiddling with that web template but remember to ask someone else if they can read it as well as you can, or if it works in low light or on an older iPhone.

This stuff matters far more than you realise for establishing an audience.