Virtual Card Games?

I started writing a side quest for my LitRPG series. This is Cas’ story, and how she builds her own strengths and self confidence.

You didn’t have to read the litRPG series in order to understand Vertigo. This is a self contained story, with only minor references between the two.

Vertigo is a virtual trading card game. But trading card games are completely different inside a virtual world. Here Cas will have to hunt out the creatures she wants to add to her deck, and earn the right to their assistance.

Because this is a side quest I am releasing Vertigo for free a chapter a week. It is available on both Wattpad and RoyalRoad for free. The first chapter is already available. A new chapter will be released by Saturday every week. Bookmark, rate, and review please!

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Imagination is sometimes scarier than reality.

I always loved stories about the things that go bump in the night. That gurgling noise, or the tapping in the darkness that your imagination makes much worse than reality.

This weekend I have two short stories out for free. Both with that spooky feel.

Footprints: The demons inside are sometimes worse than those outside.
The Camera: This cursed item has blood in its gears. A Tales from the Crypt style short.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And if you love fantasy adventure, and or RPG games, don’t forget to check out The Hub World series.

 

Adventures Await!

The next book in The Hub World series is out!

The virtual world holds many dangers, and secrets.

Ever since that faithful day Jupiter was left standing alone on the beach, he’s been avoiding the virtual world. Staying away hasn’t been easy. When reality is nothing but a cell and powdered food, how could he resist the siren call of freedom and a chance to make amends with his best friend?

In order to find Cas, Jupiter must travel to The Hub, the center of all virtual worlds.

There are new opportunities, new people, and new AI’s just dying to meet him. If he can manage to find Cas, then maybe they can find out just how far the rabbit hole goes and just what troubles been waiting for them below the surface.

 

I also have two short stories that are free this weekend. Now is your time to grab them.

Footsteps– a man who takes a trip out to the woods to deal with his fathers death and ends up dealing with something else entirely.
The Ring – a thief finds a ring with some interesting properties….

I’m a book snob!

A few months back I got an email from Amazon reminding me that the book I pre-ordered is now coming out. I was kind of surprised. I don’t generally pre-order anything. But I looked up the book and discovered it was the XKCD hard copy of “What If?“, and thought I probably ordered it for my son (since he’s very sciency) so I kept the order.

I love the book and I’m glad I bought it. Every so often I pick it up and just read a few of the questions for those bite sized chunks of science in a slightly funny tone.

Then there was “Choose Your Own Auto Biography” by Neil Patrick Harris, “You’re Never Weird on the Internet” by Felicia Day, and “ASAP Science; Answers to the Worlds Weirdest Questions” by the guys over at ASAP Science. “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer. All of which are books I would love to read. All of which are books I don’t necessarily want to buy. At least not now at their price.

Most of these individuals made their name famous by doing things on their own. Felicia Day made a web series that is highly acclaimed on her own. ASAP Science is a well known youtube channel that they did on their own. Amanda Palmer has a fantastic music career that she became famous for ON HER OWN. And each of them went to a traditional publisher (or they were probably approached by the publisher) to do their book. Each time I heard this I was slightly disappointed. These well known figures who lead the “do it yourself” community … I guess I wouldn’t say they sold out, but they didn’t stick with the indie vibe that got them where they are today.

And I can’t say I fault the various authors for going with traditional publications. They get an advance, they don’t have to deal with editors, illustrators, formatters, etc, they don’t have to pay for everything up front. They just have to write it and hand it over and maybe go on some book tours. I get it, and I might even do it if I got a good enough advance (and liked the contract enough).

Besides the fact of losing their indie feel, there is the price of the books. $18 for print, $13 for ebook, and that’s with amazon’s discounts. “What If?” is a little older so there are used copies, but still… really? $13 for an ebook?

I think I’ve been spoiled having $2.99 to $5.99 ebooks. I look at those prices and think “If I buy that book that means I can’t buy the three other books on my wish list.” So they are sitting on my wishlist till the day they either go on sale, or I convince myself it’s alright to spend that much on a book. (Or maybe someone buys it for me for Christmas.)

Here’s the thing… I don’t even spend $15 on my video games very often. With Humble Bundles and Steam sales there really just isn’t a reason to pay more then $5 for most games. The few that I do get that are over $5 I wait till they’ve been out a while so I can see some game play, and hear some honest reviews about what the game is really like. I want to KNOW I will like the game before I ever spend the money on it. And the few AAA titles that were close to $60 when I bought them I had some hands on game time with before I ever purchased them. (Thank Star Wars Old Republic for that one. Bought it, hated it, and wasted $60 better spent elsewhere. Not doing that again.)

In an age where people increasingly have less and less money to spend on entertainment it makes no sense to keep pricing things at a premium all the time. (Especially things that are sometimes broken in the case of video games.) But as long as there are people willing to buy them at that price I guess it’s going to keep happening. I guess if I had more disposable income I would to.

What I Learned from Neopets

ponyI use to play Neopets every day. I’d log in, do my dailies, play some games, then do something else only to come back later in the day to play my favorite games again. I figured if I was going to play those silly little flash games I may as well get something for my trouble. That “something” was a digital pet with color patterns, digital toys, digital books to read, and hours of time… wasted. Right?

I do check in with my Neopets now and then. Now it’s more to waste a little time in between writing, or when I have a spare moment available. Usually my pets are starving when I get there, and they stay starving more often then not. But as I was playing today I realized there were some things about Neopets that reflected lessons I’d learned in my every day life. Lessons that a child playing Neopets could easily understand and use later on.

Buy low, sell high!

This could be a stock exchange commercial. But seriously, it works. It works when you’re buying supplies to make jewelry or trinkets to sell  in your Etsy shop. It works when you’re sourcing the paint for your canvas, or the fabric for your dress. It works when you are scheduling your time for working on your novel. Put in less money then you sell it for. Money includes effort, time, etc.

But remember, the first few are usually the loss leaders. You don’t make money on them, you make money on volume. So don’t out price yourself. Realize that you probably will have to settle for breaking even for a little while until you manage to gain a following and some fans, and then you can go hog wild and make a living.

The more stock the more sales

This was the one that got me thinking about this article. Neopets gives you your own shop where you can sell the digital items you’ve gathered. I was filling up my shop, setting prices, when it dawned on me: the more items in my shop the more likely I was to have sales.

It wasn’t just that my shop would be more visible because I was more likely to have the specific item someone was looking for. It was the fact that the more I had in my shop the more people might just find my shop organically, and the more spur of the moment purchases they might make. Even if the prices were high. Even if they didn’t necessarily want that copy of “Babaa Care”.

It’s the same with my own Amazon store. The more books I have in there the more likely I am to get a random customer. The more likely he is to just pick up a couple of things instead of just one while he’s there. It works with other types of merchandise as well. Who goes into a shop that only sales milk? No, we want a store where we can get eggs, bacon, and cheese too. So give your customers what they want. Create more things for your shop.

Work a little every day for the best rewards.

A big part of Neopets is the dailies. Every day you can go to a website that has a link to all the dailies, or you can remember them. I preferred the websites to start with, though few of them listed all the daily activities you could do. Each activity gave you a new item, a few neopoints, or an avatar. Each one got you closer to the million neopoint mark in your bank.

But this applies to the real world as well. Every day, adding a little bit to your art, or writing, or music.. every day studying or going to your day job. It all adds up, little by little, till you have something to show for it. It’s just another reason for me to write every day, even when it sucks. Even when it’s hard.

Nothing Lasts Forever

Neopets often add items that are limited time, or seasonal. They change games, update areas, add and subtract things. Everything changes, both online and off. Nothing lasts forever. And one of the things you learn in Neopets is that it pays to collect those things that are limited. Just like comic books in the real world. If only a few people can get them, or if they disappear over time, then they slowly become more valuable.

Gambling doesn’t pay.

There is a bit of controversy around the gambling available on Neopets. They have their own version of the Lottery, and scratch cards. You rarely win. In fact you make more money from scratch cards by selling them in your shop then you do by actually scratching them off. Other things, like Poogle Racing and Keno allow you to pay in money, but rarely pay out. Thankfully it’s all neopoints, but you get the picture.

The virtual doesn’t, and shouldn’t, stay virtual.

Some time ago Neopets added real life items to their catalog. Plushies, console games, wearable, etc. Working in digital media as I do with books this is a great lesson for me as well. Digital items shouldn’t always stay digital. There should be some branching over to the 3D world. What if I made a plushy that I could sell? Or a poster? Or wearables? It’s a great marketing strategy and makes the real life and digital life closer to each other because you have something you can touch and feel on this side of the screen. What’s more, they always gave a digital item with the real world item. Tokens, free items, and digital merch to go with the plushy you bought. These items were FREE for Neopets to give away, so it made sense to add value to their real world objects by having digital items go with it. As a writer/artist/etc you can do something similar. Add QR codes for free books, or digital backgrounds. Give something digital away with every real world purchase. At the very least a free (or greatly reduced) ebook with every print book.

I’m sure there are more, but I am too tired to think of them.

Let’s talk about sex

Ever since #gamergate began I’ve been seeing feminism all over the place, and especially people saying video games, and the men who play them, are sexist. This upsets me on several levels, and I’ve spoken about a few but I have one that effects me personally that I’ve avoided for a few reasons.

The spat of feminism, and some of the things people have said, including a few people I use to think of as friends, makes me feel like they think I (and other women like me) am a slut just because I like sex.

Over the last few years there has been a move to say we live in a rape culture. That women are treated as nothing but sex objects, and it encourages man to rape and abuse women. It makes it feel like the “rape culture” enthusiasts have decided that if you are female and sex positive then you are just doing what men want you to do, falling into the stereotypes, and unable to think for yourself.

One of the most vivid memories I have from my marriage was the day I told my husband I thought something was wrong with the way he was treating me. His response was “Who told you to think that way?” as if I couldn’t think of something on my own. As if I wasn’t intelligent enough to think for myself.

Now we have a contingent of feminists that attack anything that shows women in a sexual way. Sexy outfits in video games, Anaconda by Niki Manaje, porn, etc. It’s all made for men, according to this segment of our population. It degrades women. It makes them targets.

“The women who partisipate in these things don’t know any better. They can’t think for themselves. They are just doing what the menz want.” Or so it sounds.

We came so far from Victorian prudence teaching children to hate sex and their bodies, all the way to free love in the sixties. We found a new identity that said women were in control of their bodies and could do what they liked. That women had the power over themselves. They could have sex without fear of pregnancy, get pregnant without a man, have their own jobs, incomes, mortgages. They could be in the military and by and large they had the authority over themselves and their minds.

They could think for themselves.

I do not disagree that there are some men who treat women as second class citizens, nothing more then a wet spot to stick their penis. I’ve had my fair share of encounters with them. They are assholes who aren’t worth my time. But these few men do not change the fact that I still have control of my body. I still have the desire to be desired, loved, and yes,  sexualized at times by my significant other. And there are women who enjoy being sexualized by every man who sees them. They enjoy it, and there is nothing wrong with that.

We are sexual creatures. We shouldn’t allow a few bad apples to ruin all the progress we’ve made over the last century.

Then we have the other side of the situation where this contingent of feminist treat men as mindless walking penises, unable to think with their larger head if there is any depiction of sexy females anywhere around.

Sigh. Any woman who’s been in a relationship long enough, who likes sex, will eventually get turned down for sex. Men have the same issues we do. Sometimes they are sick, tired, stressed, angry, worn out, or just plain not in the mood. Just like women *gasp*.

(As an aside, if a couple have different sex drives, meaning one wants it more than the other, then one party is less likely to turn down the other, ever, because they are afraid if they do they might not get sex again. This happens to men and women. But that’s a different subject.)

And one more thing, to those who say we sexualize women and not men I say: you’re not paying attention. “Why are women portrayed in bikinis and men in suits?” Have you seen a Calvin Klein ad lately? Those men are in underwear, sometimes with button up shirts undone. Topless photos of male actors are just as readily available online as topless actresses. No there aren’t a lot of nudes, but if you insist that women don’t like porn then that’s why. Besides the fact that the flacid penis is just weird, not attractive. (hint, a lot of women do like porn.)

How about Chip’n’dales? Or Playgirl magazine?

The truth of the matter is that sexy men don’t sell stuff nearly as well as sexy women in an ad. Is that because women are less visual? Is it because women are too smart to fall for that kind of advertising? Maybe it’s just that women have such a wide variety of sexual preference that they can’t find the one real “sexy” male body type.

Playgirl magazine does not sale as much as Playboy. A lot of women who do like porn prefer the type of porn that is “directed at men”. Why are we faulting marketers for following tends? If naked men sold product we’d see a lot more naked men. They don’t, for whatever reason. That doesn’t make men pigs, or women prudes, it makes us true to our human nature. Men and women have physical and mental differences.

In short… Sex is natural, sex is fun. Stop trying to inflict your beliefs on sexuality on other people. Last time I checked my body and mind are still my own.

Feminism in Video Games

578253Anyone who knows me knows that I have an addiction. I spend far too much on video games, humble bundles, and steam sales. I play far too many video games when I should be writing. In general… Hi. My name is Crissy, and I’m a game addict.

I own 281 games on Steam. I have a binder FILLED with more games like Baulders Gate, Settlers, and Might and Magic. Games that I love, and sometimes install just for the nostalgia. That isn’t even considering the consoles I own, and all the games for each of them.

I don’t finish a lot of games. Most of the time it’s because the game looses my interest and I go off to the next shiny thing. Sometimes it’s because the game is too difficult for me and I’d rather just watch someone else play it on a let’s play. Sometimes it’s just not my type of game and I never get past the first few levels. But I’ve been playing games since I was a teenager, and own a lot of consoles to prove it, so I’ve also had my share of completions.

Why am I talking about video games? Because this week there has been a HUGE upsurge in interest regarding Anita Sarkeesian and her “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” series. Most of it started because of the controversy around Zoe Quinn and the accusations that her ex boyfriend leveled on her.

Now, let’s reflect for a second that Zoe’s EX BOYFRIEND accused her of things and tons of people just jumped onto it without even considering where the source came from. I don’t presume to know if it happened or not, I honestly don’t care at this point. What I do know is that it is a suspicious situation, and people on both sides of the Quinn debate have been assholes to each other, and especially to Miss Quinn herself.

Then there is Sarkeesian, the controversy surrounding her kickstarter and where the funds went. The rumors about her statements that she didn’t even like video games. Reports that she stole art images and let’s play footage. Then her portrayal of games as “sexist” without even really looking into all the information about the particular game she called sexist. All of that, but she still didn’t deserve the threats and late night calls that she received. So many that she left her home to take refuge elsewhere.

Regardless of what is in video games, neither of these women deserved to be treated like that. No one, man or woman, deserves to be treated like that.

On the video game side: Yes, video games could use a little more dimension in the way they portray women. Yes, video games can sometimes seem sexists to some people. Yes, there is a conversation to be had. But let’s be honest about the portrayal of women in games vs. reality, shall we?  Continue reading