Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Games, Life, and Storytelling

My love of games helped turn me into a writer.

Games and Life

Image courtesy of Dave Edmonds ~

And, I can’t help but feel that, long ago, our ancestors couldn’t tell the difference between a game and a story.

Also, games have been very successfully used to teach life skills.

So, I was excited today when my email held an article from Publishing Perspectives about goings on between writers and gamers at The London Book Fair.

The excitement was increased when I saw another article on Publishing Perspectives called Using the “World Itself as a Storytelling Canvas”.

That article was about Corey King, co-founder of ZenFri, which “creates and distributes cutting edge art & entertainment across a wide range of digital and traditional mediums.”

Corey had been on a panel at the Frankfurt Book Fair that discussed “Augmented Reality Storytelling: It’s the End of the Story as We Know It”.

ZenFri is best known for a reality-bending game played on iOS devices and called Clandestine Anomaly—a game that “…incorporates the actual neighborhood of each individual into the gameplay. Hailed at conferences around the world…as ‘the most ambitious augmented reality game ever attempted’, Corey’s mission is to define the narrative and gameplay conventions for what he sees as an emerging storytelling medium, one where the world itself is the canvas.”

Pulling myself back from the vivid fantasy of playing a game out on the streets, I want to talk about a venture that merges The Game with The Story—I featured it here two days ago, I’m already involved in it, and I’ll be inviting a few of my readers to join me

If you have the Spirit of gaming or writing in your blood, do read this past post—Storium — The Online Storytelling Game.

For those of you who tend to not take links out of blog posts, I’ll share three telling quotes from that post:

Is fiction just a game authors play with readers?”

when you’re writing, it can sometimes seem like you’re in a game with your characters and you’re not sure who’s going to win…”

If you want to write your best you need to be your best; and, if well-selected games can help you be your best, what are you waiting for?”

I’m currently creating a game over at Storium—I’ll be the Narrator—nine other folks will be the Main Characters (maybe you’ll be one of them?)—and, we’ll all write a story by playing a game, ok?

Stay tuned for Updates

“I think that most of us, anyway, read these stories that we know are not ‘true’ because we’re hungry for another kind of truth: the mythic truth about human nature in general, the particular truth about those life-communities that define our own identity, and the most specific truth of all: our own self-story. Fiction, because it is not about someone who lived in the real world, always has the possibility of being about oneself.”

~~ Orson Scott Card, “Ender’s Game”

Check out this video about Storium:

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A Present for *You* on My Birthday :-)

Turning 68 isn’t quite the same as turning 5, or 27, or 46, or 53… 

Reading Writing and Publishing

Image courtesy of Svilen Milev ~

While remaining Young At Heart is Highly Recommended, age has its advantages—making lots of mistakes adds up to a few successes :-)

Being an author who blogs about Reading, Writing, and Publishing means I will work on my birthday; but, also means I certainly won’t feel at all bad about it.

So, before I get back to work, I wanted to pass out a few presents to my readers—6 links to articles that might have something valuable you can use:

* Here’s one from BiblioCrunchBasics of Online Ebook Retailers

Thinking about self-publishing and wanted to know about the biggest retailers for your digital and print books? We break it down for you in our easy to navigate guide…”

* And, one from ForbesHow Public Libraries Are Solving America’s Reading Problem

“According to the Pew Research Center, libraries remain the most trusted institution in the United States, ahead of the military, small businesses, the police or religious institutions.  A staggering 91% of Americans say that libraries are important to their community.”

* From author Mary Robinette Kowal—Exercising your story telling techniques

A unique, two-part set of exercises that Mary comments on with, “People sit down to write a Story, and don’t think about the fact that dialogue, point-of-view, description, voice, and plot are all techniques that can be practiced individually.”

* One from The GuardianSo you want to be a writer…

Last week Hanif Kureishi dismissed creative writing courses as ‘a waste of time’, yet they have never been more popular. [10] leading author-teachers reveal their advice to students.”

* Another from The GuardianTen rules for writing fiction—from 27 different authors

* Finally, one from The ConversationChildren’s fantasy literature: why escaping reality is good for kids

“Fantasy is a genre of literature that tends to polarise people. The oft-repeated logic is that ‘serious’ readers prefer realism while fantasy caters primarily to children or those who view reading as a form of escapism. The assumption is that fantasy is of lesser value than realist writing…”

I hope you found something valuable in a few of those articles; and, I hope you’ll share your thoughts and feelings in the Comments :-)

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Storium — The Online Storytelling Game

Have you ever played a game and had it turn into a story? Storium

Have you ever read a story and felt like it was a game?

How about playing a game that actually helps you and few other folks write a story?

I’ve blogged before about how stories and games can interact:

The Fiction Game

Is fiction just a game authors play with readers?”

Writing & Games ~ Sometimes It’s Hard To Tell Which Is Which…

when you’re writing, it can sometimes seem like you’re in a game with your characters and you’re not sure who’s going to win…”

Games for Writers ( or, really, anyone :-)

If you want to write your best you need to be your best; and, if well-selected games can help you be your best, what are you waiting for?”

Now, I’ll introduce you to a new online storytelling game—STORIUM.

The game is still being Kickstarted but they do have a Beta version you can play with ( I just donated $10 and have access to the Beta :-)

From the site:

“Storium is a new kind of online game where you and your friends tell any story you can imagine, together.”

“Stories are part of what makes us human.”

“They’re all around us, from books and movies to TV and video games.”

“Experiencing a good story can be one of life’s great pleasures. But telling your own can be even more fun!”

“Storium uses familiar game concepts inspired by card games, role-playing games, video games, and more.”

“In each Storium game, one player is the narrator, and everyone else takes on the role of a character in the story.”

“The narrator creates dramatic challenges for the other players to overcome.”

“In doing so, they move the story forward in a new direction.”

“Everyone gets their turn at telling the story.”

“What makes Storium special?

  • Total freedom: You decide what happens in your story.
  • Multiplayer: Write and play with your friends, online.
  • Asynchronous: Play at your own pace.
  • Worlds: Pre-made playsets that help you tell stories in different settings and styles.
  • Something for everyone: You can tell any kind of story you want!”

They have two videos on the site:

First, one of the creators telling you about the background of Storium and what their Kickstarter Project is for.

And, one showing you the basics of how a game of storytelling works.

If you’re already a writer, this game could help you relax any tensions you might have about how writing “works” and even inspire new ways to create your own stories.

If you been toying with the idea of becoming a writer, this game could become your “basic training” :-)

“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”

~ Muriel Rukeyser

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Friday Fantasy ~ Number Nineteen

Mythological War



~ They arrived at the island in high spirits.

Trevor and Megan had won the national Name The New Flavorific Cereal Contest.

Their prize was this all-expense-paid, week-long vacation on Grand Muse Island.

As they left the boat and began their walk down the gorgeous path leading to the area where they’d stay, Megan stopped Trevor with:

“You be the minotaur and I’ll be the sphinx!”


“You’re the bull-headed one and I like the way that little sphinx is looking at you; so, since I love you, I’ll be your sphinx and you’ll be my minotaur.”

“Megan, Megan your imagination

“Yep, and you love it, right?”

“I can stand it

Trevor was smiling as he stopped to look at the minotaur, giving Megan a quick hug.

“Well, Meg, I am pretty horny right now

“Hmmm Now the little sphinx looks like she’s a bit upset


“Well, the minotaur is in sort of a ready to fight pose

“Yeah, and that little sweet sphinx looks fiery angry

“Wow, fiery angry. Trev’s gone all poetic on me

Another, longer hug—a lingering kiss—a languid walk to the bungalow


The next morning they made a point of spending time at the lake shore, soaking up the sun, and having their feelings subdued by the half-ring of mountains.

“Think there’re any sphinxes in those mountains, Trev?


“Think they can make minotaurs do their bidding?




“What are you brooding about?”

“Thinking about us

“We make you brood?”

“Ya know, Meg, I think I am that minotaur—muscling my way up a mountain of work issues

“So that’s you You said you were brooding about us.”

“Yeah, and you’re the sphinx lady, flying around in those fantasy worlds in your books

“So, what’s to brood about?”

“We’re so different

“Different is good, no? I help you rise above your work and you help me work through the times I just want to be anything but a writer.”

“Is that enough?”

“Enough for what?”

“We’ve been married for three years now

“I’m glad you can count

“Can we keep it working?”

“Trevor, you’re doubting our marriage?”

“So many people start out happy and just wear out being together

Megan stood up and walked back to the bungalow.


Trevor woke up on the couch.

He made his way to the kitchen nook and began cooking breakfast.

Megan woke to the smells and shouted:

“I didn’t tell you to sleep on the couch!”

No words from Trevor, just cooking sounds


Later, after Trevor had left the breakfast on the table and walked out of the bungalow, he returned with flowers in his hand.

Megan wasn’t there


That evening, Trevor answered a knock on the door.

“Megan, where were you?”

“Hi, I’m your local sphinx and I wanted you to know that if you don’t grow some wings, I’m leaving you.”

She walked off


The next morning, Megan returned to the bungalow but Trevor wasn’t there

She walked back to the lake, where she’d spent the night.

There was Trevor.

“Megan, I don’t know what you want

“Well, Mr. Minotaur, it’s pretty simple—decide if you can stand a woman with wings.”

“Stand you? I love you!”

“In your bull-headed fashion

Megan walked away.


Later that evening, Trevor returned to the bungalow, quite drunk.

He walked in and saw a note on the table:

There once was a minotaur who said he loved a sphinx.

The sphinx loved him, too.

But, the minotaur was so bull-headed he thought he was boring.

So, the sphinx decided she would fly to the mountains…


As he struggled up yet another path, he began to realize he’d never find her this way.

Alert the authorities?

Wait back at the bungalow?

He struggled on


As the sun rose, Trevor stopped and slumped against the rock wall.

Megan appeared from around a turn in the path and said:

“I was hiding by the bungalow and followed you up here

“You scared the shit out of me!”

“Good! So, what’s your decision?”


“You want to stay married or not?”

“Who said I didn’t?”

“You did.”


Megan walked away


Years later

The little boy said:

“Mommy, when will daddy come home?”

Megan rose from her writing desk and said:

“As soon as I finish writing this little sphinx story, dear

Copyright, 2014, Alexander M Zoltai
Read More Friday Fantasy

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Are Your Ideas Getting Enough Attention?

I feel Everyone has at least one idea that would help others if it could be shared and get the attention it deserves… 

Getting Noticed

Image courtesy of Sigurd Decroos ~

But, there’s too much “content” flooding the ‘Net now about how to get attention.

Most of it is wrong

And, that’s not just my opinion.

It’s backed-up by a noted researcher at the Wharton School.

His name is Jonah Berger and he’s an expert in the Science of Social Transmission.

Also, even though this blog is mostly for Readers, Writers, and Publishers, the information Jonah has discovered is something Anyone could use to generate more traction for their ideas (and, for the writers reading this, a book could be defined as a creatively designed sequence of ideas, even if you’re showing and not telling the ideas, eh?).

In fact, I have two past posts that feature Jonah’s ideas, with videos of him that are well worth watching (even if you don’t write or publish books):

How Can An Author Make Their Book Go Viral?

Need Some ENERGY To Get Busy On Book Promotion? ~ Meet Jonah Berger :-)

And, for those who don’t do much reading, writing, or publishing, I’m sure you have some ideas that others would love to know about; but, you just haven’t yet discovered how to get them the attention they deserve

Let me list Jonah’s Six Principles of Social Transmission:

SOCIAL CURRENCY – “The more something makes you look cool, smart, or in-the know, the more likely you are to share it.”

TRIGGERS – “Triggers are stimuli that pop up in the environment, reminding you of a product or idea—and making you more likely to talk about it.”

EMOTION – “The more emotional connection we feel toward a message, the more likely we are to pass it on, especially if it makes us laugh, or feel angry, excited, or inspired.”

PUBLIC – “We look for ‘social proof’ when making decisions about what ideas to follow; we imitate things when we can publicly see other people doing them.”

PRACTICAL VALUE – “We share information when we believe it’s useful and will benefit our friends and family.”

STORIES – Stories are the currency of conversation, so get people to pass along your message in a great narrative.”

Jonah has a cool book, called Contagious: Why things Catch On, that digs deep into these principles; and, he now has a full-blown study course.

The course is 18 video presentations totaling about an hour and a half and the site does make you pay for the course; however, if you think you could absorb the 1.5 hours within a month, you could pay their one month fee of $25—though the site has lots more than Jonah’s material

But, there are three videos you can watch for free:

Jonah’s Introduction

Reminding people with triggers

Telling stories that carry your message

I just watched those videos and, even though I’ve heard Jonah talk about his ideas before and read his book, I still picked up some valuable information

And, for you writers, here’s a link to one of my past posts about getting folks to notice your work:

Breaking The “Rules” of Book Promotion ~ 6 Different Views

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