Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Virtual Coffee Shop ~ The Value of A Second Life . . .


I served a year in a war zone and got a deadly liver virus.

The military gave me a small pension and (hopefully) got rid of the virus.

I live in a studio apartment and have just enough money to pay for food, rent, electric, water, and Internet access.

When I finally got my pension (I had to wait, of course), the back-pay to the date of applying let me buy a computer.

I wrote and published and am promoting a book–totally financial outlay, $200.

Part of my promotion is in a virtual world, Second Life. I’ve written about my involvement in a number of posts

This blog and my time on other blogs and forums cost me nothing extra. Second Life coasts me nothing extra.

However, the value I get from my ability to use the Internet is priceless.

There are three discussion sessions I facilitate each week in Second Life–one that explores the issues raised in my book, a writers’ chat, and a readers’ chat.

People from many parts of the World attend these discussions.

I wanted to give you a mere taste of what it can be like talking to folks in a “virtual coffee shop”.

I saved the transcript from a recent session and edited out a section of the conversation. Since folks are typing all these words (they appear over the heads of our virtual bodies), the typos, misspellings, and malformations are really a part of the “verbal” landscape.

I don’t appear in this excerpt because I was participating with my voice and not my keyboard. I’m the facilitator and excluding what I said doesn’t effect the conversation.

Here’s a glimpse into what a pensioned, veteran writer-type guy spends time doing in his apartment

Readers’ Chat, Book Island, Second Life–11 June 2011:

Miranda: i have to figure out how to write a romance novel that isn’t tacky
Miranda: and like the other ones
Bob: Frances DeWall, or DeWalt is a zoologist whose written several books comparing human to other animals.
Miranda: i don’t like romance novels
Wendy: define tacky
Anne: i think so but yeah..define tacky
Anne: lol
Sandy: better write the romance novel it is in you to write
Miranda: well the books that are about fantasy and sex
Mike: I’m afraid I haven’t read any romance novels — tacky or otherwise :)
Miranda: and house wives escape into it
Wendy: oh
Bob: And Age of Empathy uses in years of observational data and studies to demonstrate the inherent empathy in other social animals — to overturn the idea that selfishness is our most defining feature.
Sandy: what is tacky about romance novels? precisely..
Miranda: more want to write one about unconditonal love, over coming adversity
Miranda: and life lessons
Bob: Yes — it’s really, really good.
Sandy: so housewives novels are…crap?
Bob: Frances deWalt
Bob: I believe
Mike: I remember seeing that — looks interesting but haven’t picked it up yet.
Miranda: can you see what i mean
Bob: It’s really good. Reminds us of our nature, as animals.
Miranda: A lot of romance novels don’t have substance
Sandy: seems to me if a sector of readers NEED to escape into certain fomrs of book…they should be tended to very carefully by writers
Miranda: or things people can use in every day life
Bob: And that it’s not a bad thing.
Miranda: yeah i’m more of a realist
Miranda: well i do have comments on the stuff already
Miranda: they like things they can relate too
Miranda: and ehlps them
Miranda: helps
Sandy: what you are asking is to circumvent the typical pulp arrangement …which SELLS….to supply a quality work, as you see it, which sells EQUALLY…..
Anne: maybe what i write is romance but i dunno..i try to hide the romantic stuff in all the other junk thats going on haha
Sandy: not going to happen….in the same market
Sandy: no…the romance novel
Sandy: I mean the romance novel
Miranda: hmm well just an idea
Sandy: why?
Sandy: why hide it?
Anne: i try to make it more subtle lool
Anne: okie not HIDE but make it less obvious
Miranda: because if you write the same way everyone else does you don’t see change
Sandy: what change?
Mike: ;)
Miranda: in society
Sandy: because if it is the choice of publishers….it will be as it is
Miranda: what people read they influence their minds and if you read negative you live negative
Sandy: NOPE
Miranda: if you read postive you live postive
Sandy: assumption
Anne: I agreeee Hattie
Anne: :-)
Wendy: for somethiing romantic I suggest Perks of Being A Wallflower, it’s juvenile, but earnest imo
Miranda: everything that goes in your mind comes out
Sandy: one cannot presume that any reader will be influenced in any particulalr way
Miranda: well that is my mission to influence
Mike: hmmm… interesting point Hattie.
Miranda: change in society globally
Mike: But now you got me interested in some negative reading :)
Sandy: mission? then hope it fails
Anne: wow…
Sandy: be a GREAT writer…and you may HAVE influence
Miranda: hmm well i’m just going by my comments
Miranda: what my readers are saying
Sandy: I still argue that one cannot assume…influence on any particular reader
Miranda: so if i fail it’s because what they want
Sandy: still the same
Anne: eek
Sandy: sigh…what if …perfection eh?
ÄlveKatt : I kind of agree. Once a book is out, i isn’t the writers story anymore.
Miranda: well i met an author and he told me he wished he was doing what I am doing which is writing first and getting comments and see what they say
Sandy: correct…the inner life of others is not so easily penetrable
Miranda: than write a book
Anne: I’m sorry…i think if you are true to you and what you realllly believe in ..in your heart..other people are bound to see that and yeah…you can influence anyone—even if they dont know it
Miranda: other wise you waste your time and money he said
Miranda: exactly
Sandy: comments? do you expect every reader to comment? to gather your statistic?
Miranda: i agree with that 100%
Miranda: that is why people like me
Miranda: they see how genuine i am
Anne: lool
Sandy: SOD true to you….
Sandy: that is nothing to the quality of the eventual piece.
Anne: keep fighting the good fight hattie haha
Anne: :-)
Miranda: i will
Miranda: if you know where your readers are at
Miranda: they eat it up
ÄlveKatt : I have learnt a lot from books that the authors never thought of themselves. And some people say “But the author didn’t intend that interpretation”. But I just don’t think that is relevant. What I learnt is still a part of the story.
Sandy: there must be the talent of observation….and mission, does not pursuade me there is particular observational skills
ÄlveKatt : Whether the writer intended it or not.
Miranda: i don’t read anything less it has lessons in it that i can take from it
Sandy: more than ‘beliefs’ which are not truths, but surmises
Bob: Depends on what people are looking for. Right? Information/broadening of perspective. Escape. Both?
Sandy: I do not.
Wendy: escapism
Bob: Sure, sure.
Miranda: well like a group of Sandys park rangers didn’t like my writing, but self help people love it, just depends on the group
Sandy: I look to be Impressed……period
Bob: I think you have to write for yourself, first — but defiitely the audience, second.
Miranda: i think i don’t need to impress, or be approved i write from the heart
Miranda: emotion
Sandy: emotion….I will put the book straight back on the shelf
Miranda: when i read one of my friends writings i love it because he writes with emotion and heart
Mike: For me it depends on the type of book too. Some books I want an interesting narrative and I’m not necessarily looking to take any more general lessons from.
ÄlveKatt : I read for a variety of reasons. Not all at the same time.
Bob: Shuns emotion?
Bob: Why?
Anne: well than god for most of us not everyone is just like her lool
Wendy: if i read a book and it lingers once its over, quotes and or images echo
Sandy: in Art especially
Anne: some of us are sapppppy emotion loving people.
Bob: Sandy — why do you shun emotion?
Mike: In non-fiction material I’m looking for a good, coherent argument with sources.
Miranda: well all art, music, writing has emotion
Sandy: there are no gods…you are entirely on your own….exposed
Miranda: it’s where it comes from
Wendy: how can write if you have no emotions
Wendy: oh
Miranda: exactly
Miranda: emotions produces creativity
ÄlveKatt : I once read a book that had lingering bad aftertaste, It was so bad.
Mike: Yeah — I like that for both books and movies.. whether you find yourself pondering the book/movie after it is over.
Sandy: Not so. Emotions…..muddy the water of possible perfections
Miranda: well when you paint than where does it come from
Miranda: or when you write
Bob: Perfection of what?
Miranda: your feeling something
ÄlveKatt : There isn’t really a concept of perfection without emotions.
Sandy: ‘you are’….is you’re
Patti: It depends on whether you are writing from a formula; if we’re talkin great lieterature, then I agree
Miranda: yeah but who you are without emotion is empty
Bob: Perfection of what, Sandy?
Mike: lol!
Anne: lool
Miranda: there is no perfection
ÄlveKatt : Perfection is as abstract a word as emotion.
Miranda: we are all imperfection creatures
Wendy: more abstract
Sandy: I think you have a great deal of experience to …aquire
Sandy: Perfection in the Arts of a piece..
Miranda: you can strive for perfection, yet their is no absolute perfection
Sandy: yada yada….’we are”””thank gods””you are nothing without emotion”’….simplistic
Bob: Emotions are central to the human condition. Central to the qualia of our reality. With the exception of extreme neurological abnormalities, such as in extreme autism or some such. Otherwise, emotions are everywhere. The human condition — reality — is messy. The absence of emotion is simply an avoidance of reality. We might as well be reading furnace installation manuals. No?
Wendy: is it your own idea of perfection for your pieces?
Miranda: I agree
Sandy: I am discussion authors….
Sandy: discussing
Bob: Even the coldest most humbling perspectives of our reality, such as presented by Carl Sagan, carry a certain poetry — and emotional awe.
ÄlveKatt : Phil, I resent that. People with Autism have emotions. What they lack is the ability to display and read them.
Bob: This is what it means to be alive.
Sandy: some of the worst, navel gazing crap comes rom those writers whos unleasehed egos are feasting on their own emotional alcohol
Patti: David, well, emotions play a part in how you come up with your definition, Ii agree, but the process is an intellectual one.
Miranda: perhaps it’s when you let go fo the ego you don’t need to control or live by logic
Mike: I’m always a bit wary of speaking about ‘perfection’ actually. I’m not sure that’s a useful category for thinking of things.
Miranda: ha ha
Mike: ‘Flawed’, on the other hand, is chock full of possibilities :)
Bob: Sure, Sandy — and some of the most vapid material comes from authors unable to engage the emotional aspect.
ÄlveKatt : I have high functioning autism. People tend to think I am very unemotional. When in reality it all comes down to that I have poor control of my facial muscles.
Miranda: without emotion reading seems dry
Bob: AlveKat — my apologies. Poor example.
ÄlveKatt : My emotions just don’t show.
Bob: Emotions make life worth living. Seriously.
Sandy: Just-because-one-can-cram-a-piece-with-ones-own-emotional-detrisits….does not make them a competent writer nor a quality author
Miranda: yeah autism is about what stimulates you
ÄlveKatt : Unless I make an intelletual effort to contort my face to mirror what I feel at least.
Bob: No, Sandy. But that’s a straw man argument. Because it’s not what I’m proposing.
Miranda: yeah
Miranda: are you considering emotion is drama
Miranda: cause that is two different things
Sandy: Phil….pointing for one….does not include and opposite or another point.
Bob: Yes, give us some examples of books devoid of emotions.
ÄlveKatt : Still can’t really express what I feel with my face.
Miranda: yes so we can see your point
Sandy: Emotions….are the ONE fuel the incompetent can call upon to make their mark….and I trust very few minds with the notion of ‘mark’
Anne: text books?
Miranda: so we can come back next week and figure out your perspective
Bob: lol
Sandy: based on them
ÄlveKatt : Phil, my student literature on Neuroscience.
Anne: back of shampoo bottles?
Mike: One of the worst books I’ve read was this self-published thing called ‘First Ark to Alpha Centauri’… horrible book on many levels. One of the failures of the book was that the characters just didn’t react like you would expect humans to. It wasn’t that the characters lacked feeling — rather, it was misplaced, malformed, and unbelievable to the point that it made the characters kinda unreal.
Bob: Sandy — please give me some samples pieces devoid of emotions. Other than technical manuals.
Sandy: And?
Miranda: yeah those shampoo bottles are exciting
Anne: lool
Anne: pamphlet on how to work my tv is too
Anne: lool
Miranda: lord that kind of stuff kills me
ÄlveKatt : Technical manuals make me very emotional. But that is usually the translators fault…
Bob: Apparently Sandy enjoys How-To articles and statistics.
Miranda: text books in class too
Miranda: when it’s all research
Miranda: *$*LoL *$*
Bob: We exist in an emotional world. It’s fundamental to being human.
Miranda: usually like to see anothers perspective
Sandy: My choice…is the strip as much of it away and look at what remains…..I find, time after time, that the opposite occurs in novels…that the one fundamental…is the emotional bone…nothing much further. No matter how you arrange the words….they are there to inject emotion…thas it.
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7 responses to “Virtual Coffee Shop ~ The Value of A Second Life . . .

  1. Whitkins June 14, 2011 at 5:11 am

    My name is Whitknee not Wendy (; _ ;)

    Like this

    • Alexander M Zoltai June 14, 2011 at 5:45 am

      I changed the names in the transcript because it was easier than getting approval from everyone to reproduce the conversation

      I admire you for claiming your name in this venue ;-)

      Like this

  2. Simone Benedict June 14, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Thanks for letting us glimpse into your life, Alex. Just Enough is a perplexing place to be. Nerve-wracking at times and at other others, full of gratitude that it isn’t Not Enough. Just Enough would make a great story, I think.

    If not for your computer and internet access, say our time was twenty or thirty years ago, do you ever think what you would be doing instead?

    Like this

  3. Alexander M Zoltai June 14, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    No computers and Internet?

    I honestly think I still would have turned out a writer–maybe broken in through newspapers and expanded from there :-)

    Like this

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