Sunday, October 25, 2015

I Remember When

Milk Wood

“I remember when saving a man’s life meant exactly that. People would be praised on TV for stopping someone from jumping off a bridge or for saving them from a train approaching at high speed. They were true heroes.
Nowadays, saving a man’s life means nothing of the sort. Anyone can jump off a bridge with little consequences, no one really cares, and there aren’t any trains anymore.
These days, people are hailed as heroes for saving a dead man’s life. Well, they’re half dead... Honey, where’s the gun? The beasts are at the door again and they are hungry.”

Monday, October 19, 2015

Writing Resources 2015

NaNoWriMo starts in two weeks. It's time to bookmark a few useful resources.

* Thesaurus - Synonyms
* Dictionary - English/English

* Word Counter
* Goal Calculator - in case you need to redefine your writing goals

* NaNoWriMo Platform
* NaNoWriMo Blog

* Master Lists:

Also, check last year's post Writing Resources 2014.

Sunday, October 18, 2015



“And he wouldn’t shut up,” said the prisoner in cuffs.
The detective nodded. A piece of gum was sticking to his left shoe.
“He went on and on about it.”
The detective tried to scrape the gum off with his right shoe. Shit. Now the gum was on both shoes.
“That’s when I hit him. I couldn’t take it anymore.”
The detective stood up. “That was simple enough. I have to go now. I have gum on my shoes. Stick around.”
“Yeah… Com’on... It’s not like I have a choice, right.”
“Right,” replied the detective. “And… shut up about it.”

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sonya Electrified, Part 6/6

Avatar Games

Then, a catastrophe happened. As quickly as he had appeared in her life, the man disappeared. He sold his house for two-pence and ran away.

What had she done wrong? Why did they all leave her?

Sonya was lost in her thoughts when the phone rang. It was the guy.

“You still didn’t learn the lesson, did you?”

She hung up, furious. She hung up the phone. She hung up her life, her job, her family; she hung up on everyone and everything.

When she turned the TV on, her face was on the news again and not for the best of reasons, not for being the courageous woman who overcame pain and abandonment. She was on the news for being the silly old bat that would never learn her lesson.

She grabbed her dogs, got in the car and drove away. No one ever heard of her again.

Each year that went by, the ex-friends and boyfriends and contacts, real and virtual, got together at the Electric Chair Café. They told Sonya’s story over and over again, and laugh, as they did many years ago.

No one would mention Sonya again in the media, except for that one time when they did a special on online relationships and the dangers of believing that there is happiness right around the corner. The title was “Sonya Electrified”. It wasn’t the most original or refined of titles, one must admit, however the message was there, for everyone to see, forever and ever, as it happens with each footprint we leave online.

As to the unnamed guy, the one Sonya considered a good friend, he shall remain unnamed. He was just a shadow.

“I wish I could take that back,” he mumbled, sneering. “Well, not really.”

When he sold the Café, he added a notch to his favorite table. No one ever noticed those notches. He was retiring. Mary, Louise, Anne, Theresa, so many. He couldn’t remember them all. And now Sonya. She was the jewel in his crown, the last to be broken. He’d remember her for a long time; perhaps he’d even include her in his upcoming book, he thought, closing his laptop. Who knows?

The End

Friday, October 16, 2015

Sonya Electrified, Part 5/6

Kats Beach

When the login was complete, she opened her list of friends.

“There must be a glitch…”

Sonya closed the viewer and re-entered the password. She waited. Then she opened her list of friends again.

It was empty. There was no one there.

For some reason, she felt compelled to open her list of friends in the different social media she subscribed to. Much to her horror, all her hundreds of friends had disappeared. There was no one in those lists, no one.

She was alone, completely alone. Those she had relied on had abandoned her, everyone, except that guy. He was still there.

She decided to send him an IM. He didn’t reply, although he was online. She sent him another IM, this time slightly more anguished. He didn’t reply.

Over the next following weeks, Sonya sent him dozens of messages, some more aggressive, others showing him how sanctimonious she was and that she needed no one. He never answered back.

This unimaginable situation became news when an anonymous tip sent the story to the media. One day, they were at her doorstep, dozens of them. “What do you feel? Can you give us any details? When did you find out? Do you know who that man is? Where he lives?” A million questions, a million arrows, stabbings to her heart, but mostly to her pride. 

Sonya was now known all over the world for being the epitome of abandonment and betrayal. Television stations from all over the world featured her story. A channel, in particular, offered her an impressive amount of money to roll a 2-hour long documentary featuring her comfortable life and her dogs. “At least, I’ll have the dogs,” she thought, but she never said it on camera. That would’ve been too ridiculous. It would’ve made her look like a country girl and she wanted to look like a country girl, yes, but sophisticated, not a simplistic moron.

With the money, she bought a house by the sea. It was not big, but it was very nice. She was happy. Amidst the whole tragedy, she had, once more, managed to come out of it triumphant, she thought. And money does tend to attract people, so she would make new friends.

And she did. There was this one man especially. He lived in one the beach houses near hers. He was a middle-aged man, as sophisticated as her, as interesting as her, as available as her.

They started dating. He was all she had ever wanted. She didn’t need social media or virtual worlds. She had him. She was his. She belonged to him unconditionally. She had learned her lesson. No more strangers in her life. Her family was happy; she was happy.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

November is Coming!

Milk Wood

One of the most valuable aspects of being a writer in Second Life® is the possibility of becoming part of a writing community. I've been told a few times, however, that the expression "writing community" may scare away those who prefer to avoid specific questions about their work in progress or about their Real Life identity. That's understandable.

So, let's just say we are a group of people who meet at Milk Wood to write. No pressure. Unconditional support. Peer-to-peer motivation.

The writing sessions start at 2am SLT, 10am PRT/UK, Monday to ThursdayFriday will be added to our schedule throughout November. After the initial 30 minutes, we take a 15-minute break. Then, we resume for another 30 minutes. Saturdays, the write-in takes place at noon SLT, 8pm PRT/UK and we write for 30 minutes.

These sessions are open to all sorts of projects - plotting, writing fiction, blog posts, academic work, revising and editing.

Only two weeks away from NaNoWriMo (and alternative events such as The NoteBook Project), it's important to:

  • Create a writing routine
  • Increase your writing pace
  • Prepare an outline (even if vague) of your writing path for November
  • Gather writing resources
  • Establish a solid net of support and motivation.

That's exactly what happens at the 500 Word Snatch writing sessions.
Plenty of good reasons to join us, wouldn't you say? :)

Sonya Electrified, Part 4/6


When her eyes got used to the bright light, the harsh reality sank in. One after the other, familiar faces lined up clapping and laughing in an incomprehensible mockery. Faces from the past, school friends especially; friends from the present, many she had never met in person but with whom she chatted online every day. 

She couldn’t understand why they were there or why they were clapping. Distorted smiles filled with excessive laughter had her confusing the apparent joy with applause, actual applause.

Perhaps they are celebrating my life, my achievements, my generosity, my friendship.

It was when the champagne rained over her head, messing up her hairdo and making her mascara leak all over her face that she finally accepted that that was no celebration at all.

As she tried to fight her way out of the Café, someone grabbed her arm.

“At your own risk,” said the man. “And nevertheless you came. Don’t you ever learn?”

He was… Oh… She had talked to him over a few weeks. The beginning of a virtual relationship had developed rather quickly, to her joy. She opened up to him completely, shared some of the most inner feelings and fears. She felt reborn with his virtual presence and she knew he felt the same about her.

It lasted a very short period of time. He shied away from her. She didn’t want to go back to mulling over the whys and the hows of the sudden separation. But, yes, that was him, right there in front of her.

“I don’t understand,” she stuttered.

“This is how much I know about you. I had never met you face-to-face and yet I know all this about your life.” He moved his hand in a semi-circle, pointing at the room.

The familiar faces were staring at her.

“But these are my friends…”

“No. They are nothing to you. They are strangers you decided to think of as your friends. They are shadows, nothing but shadows. And I decided to bring those shadows to you.”

The crowd looked at her in silence, a mocking sneer about to explode in a wave of uncontrollable laughter.

“Why?” she asked.

After taking a good look at her, laughing and patting one another’s backs, they exited the Café, happy with the result of this project, as she heard someone call it. And there she stood, alone, once again, in the dark grim Electric Chair Café.

The waiter went back to cleaning wine glasses with that dirty rag. The barman turned to the game on TV.

Sonya was so emotionally drained that she sought comfort in her virtual world of choice. She entered her username and password, and waited. Everything would be ok.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sonya Electrified, Part 3/6

Ten Pages

Nighttime came quickly. She walked inside the café, unsure of whether she was feeling exhilarated or fearful.

A few people sat at the bar. One or two tables were taken by a few couples. She chose a table and waved discreetly to order a drink. The waiter stood leisurely at the bar, cleaning wine glasses with a dirty rag, and he took his time to serve her.

Sonya waited for her date. She waited for an hour. She thought about what her life had been till then. In her late 50s, single, no children, she had focused on her job and her hobbies.

She waited for two hours. She went to every class reunion. She stayed in touch with school friends and old neighbors through the social media. She went to any gathering she could. She met so many people, hoping, always hoping, to have some sort of companionship. She even went into virtual worlds, exploring new possibilities.

She waited for three hours and no one showed up. Perhaps it was a prank. Perhaps someone she actually knew had sent her that private message. Perhaps they were waiting, spider-like in their little cobwebs, to see her squirm online, complaining about human nature being oh so miserable. Being as self-righteous and self-centered as she was, they knew she would be extremely vocal about what happened to her. No detail, of course, but the message would be there.

Deep inside, she knew she would do just that. Somehow, she had to have her petty little revenge. That little something that would make her feel at peace with herself. She had been tricked, yes, but she would let the world know that she wasn’t the sweet lady everyone said she was.

Her anger grew steadily as she thought about those wasted three hours. She had even done her hair right and added the bit of extra make-up.

As she was preparing to leave, the dark ambiance of the Café lit up with a blinding light. For a fraction of a second, she thought it was some sort of religious epiphany she was experiencing.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


The "Take 5! Writing in a Virtual World" series was featured in the NaNoWriMo @ Second Life blog.

The aim of these posts is to motivate writers to use virtual worlds, in this case Second Life®, as a very useful writing resource.

Sonya Electrified, Part 2/6

Gehena Vampire Clan

She didn’t like that place. It freaked her out, but she agreed to meet him. After all, he could be the love of her life.

Right before she got in the car, she decided to check her messages again, just in case. There were several more, complimenting her photo. But there was one from that same guy, the one she was about to meet. The message said “At your own risk.” That was it.

She just sat there, behind the wheel, for a long time, wondering what that meant. Was it a warning? Was it a way to discourage her? After much thought, she decided that it was a message sent to her by mistake. That message was meant to someone else. That was it.

The 15-minute drive seemed like it took an hour. She had the feeling that she shouldn’t be doing this. However, she was determined to find someone. She was determined to leave this terrifying loneliness behind.

Sonya had her faith. True. The church people had been so nurturing in her times of intense pain and depression. They called in on her to make sure she didn’t need any food or anything done for her. They dropped by and offered to clean the house a bit, do some laundry, and iron a few things. She had always refused. She was proud. She would make it. Alone.

What she really needed were not people to do her chores. What she needed was a man, a man to hold her, a man to hug her, to protect her, a man who would whisper in her ear how much he loved her. And, despite the fact that her gut-feeling told her to stay away from this blind date, her gut also told her that this was the one.

Sonya didn’t tell anyone she was going to the Electric Chair Café.

Although her family was supportive and her friends were constantly trying to get her to go out, they were also weary of her trustfulness. Behind that front of apparent toughness, there was a very fragile and insecure person. And let’s face it, the Electric Chair Café was not exactly the safest place to meet strangers. No place was, but this Café in particular had the reputation of being sleazy and dark. Many thought that a generous flow of drug trafficking and other illegal businesses were a constant there. Many of the women sitting at the bar were hookers and the men in the reserved tables at the back spent their nights playing poker with bets that amounted to the hundreds of thousands.

She didn’t care. She was on a quest to find love. She was on a quest to find the love of her life.

Many had been a part of that path. Some had left her behind, no second thoughts, no guilty conscience. Most of them didn’t stand the insistence and the uncomfortable feeling that a web was being woven around them, tighter and tighter so that, one day, it would be impossible to get free. In many ways, what had attracted them to her in the first place would become exactly what would drive them away. 

An ordinary mourning period ensued where she tried to empower herself, convincing herself that she didn’t really need anyone to be happy. After all, she was a strong woman, wasn’t she?

Then, something like this completely unexpected meeting would happen and there she was, open to any situation, to anyone, anywhere.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Sonya Electrified, Part 1/6

Milk Wood

“Time bares it away, and in the end there is only darkness.”
Stephen King

Oblivious to the fact that she was being tracked down online, Sonya happily continued to share her life with anyone who wished to follow it.

The photos, the quotes, the links, each piece of the puzzle building a portrait she felt comfortable with. This was the image she wanted people to have of her – powerful, but sensitive, and a friend, especially a good protective friend to those she cared for.

And she cared for many, the known and the unknown, the ones she thought she knew well and the ones she wished she did.

The one thing she didn't want anyone to think about her was that she was gullible, a simple mind wrapped in painful feelings of abandonment and an almost childish need to be loved.

With every fragment of her life shown to the world, she covered her own image with a layer of an astonishing lack of caution.

Sonya didn't care. She had no time to waste. She jumped from one online relationship to the next, clinging so much to men that she scared them away in only a few months.

But she would not stop; she would never stop, because Sonya’s goal was to be loved no matter what, no matter by whom.

The day she decided to finally post a photo of herself online – so far she had been coy and hesitant about doing it – she received 3 private IMs, praising her. That was good, she thought.

One was from a guy she hadn't talked to in years, but whom she just couldn't drive herself to delete from her friends’ list – to be honest, she never deleted anyone from her friends’ list, just in case they needed her. The guy threw in a nonchalant “Wow!” with an avalanche of smileys waving, winking, high-fiving and clapping. She thought that was cute.

The second was from a friend who had left her hanging one night in the chat room she visited every Saturday for a bit of company. The chat room was called “Mature, Single and Looking”. She called him a friend, but he was far from being an acquaintance, let alone a friend. However, she liked saying “my friend this… my friend that” at the office. It made her look very social. His IM had a “thumbs-up” and a “kiss” smiley. That was nice. See, he was a friend after all, she thought.

The last IM was from someone she couldn’t identify. She didn’t recall his name and he was not in her friends’ list either. She didn’t recognize the name, she didn’t recognize the person on the photo, she didn’t recognize the profile and they didn’t have any friends in common. The IM said “Hot and sexy! We have a lot to talk about. Meet me tomorrow. 9pm. Electric Chair Café.”

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Anwan Willows

The us we used to be disappeared.

“How did this happen? When did we drift apart?” She did that, talk incessantly. I just couldn’t process what she was saying anymore. It was all a numbing blur.

I still remember the long walks at the beach, holding hands, the salty promises of eternal love.

I still remember, right before the wedding, the eagerness of that forbidden kiss and the way we looked up at the balcony and saw my future wife waiting.

We continued to meet secretly, but this us we used to be disappeared… There was just you and her.

Friday, October 9, 2015

5 Things Virtual Reality Can Teach you About Writing

1. Less is more. Each sim is, in most cases, a self-contained universe and you can look for what you need in a surgical way. Choose one and only one to start with!

2. Keep it simple. It’s very tempting to go crazy and try to include every single interesting detail you came across in your story. Don’t! Be selective. Many sims are so rich in details that you could write several books with the ideas you get from visiting them!

3. Never give up. If you don’t know where you should go next with a story, take a look around the sim and choose one object. Then, ask questions – Who does this belong to? What kind of person is the owner? What if the object did something unexpectedly? What would happen? – and you may even stumble upon a new character for your work in progress!

4. An interesting location makes a writer write. In Real Life, where you sit to write is extremely important. Parking your avatar at a pleasant location – or totally unpleasant, if that’s what you need – is equally relevant. Whether you prefer to have your own virtual writing office or sit in the sim, spend a bit of time finding the right place. It’ll improve your writing, believe me!

5. Writing buddies rule. Last, but not least, sitting around a virtual table with a few accomplices, aham… writers, is an important psychological boost. It creates momentum and an unspoken comradery that is hard to explain!

A final word. I cannot stress enough how a virtual world can make your life as a writer easier. Resources, ideas, other writers, are only a click away. The added bonus is immersion. You access the information you need from within, as an actor. This may sound like a small detail. However, it could just be the difference between success and failure. Have fun!

Feel free to contact me if you need any help.
In Second Life® - Lizzie Gudkov
Via email –


Thursday, October 8, 2015

5 Simple Ways to Make the Best of Writing in a Virtual World

1. Stick to a writing schedule. A writing routine prompts you to become more efficient without having to constantly motivate yourself. Inworld writing sessions are a great way to focus.

2. Choose the events you attend wisely. A word of caution is needed here. The temptation to attend as many write-ins as possible is huge. After all, you want to write a lot and fast (yes, I mean you, Wrimos!). My experience taught me that it is more productive to choose one and try not to miss a session.

3. Take your time. Some days will be incredibly productive while others will be awfully discouraging. Allow yourself time to think, to research, to take a break. Above all, don’t stress over it. 

4. Make good use of writing prompts and time rules. Some write-ins are quite casual; there are no rules. However, I find the ones providing a prompt and defining some sort of time constraint rather interesting. The prompt will trigger new ideas and the length of time you’re given will motivate you to increase your writing pace. Some people are not comfortable with time restraints though. But think of it as exercising your writing muscles and exorcizing your anguish.

5. Never feel you have to share what you’ve just written. Sharing is wonderful, don’t get me wrong! Sharing rough (very rough!) drafts of texts with spelling and grammar mistakes, typos and all sorts of inconsistencies is a waste of time, in my opinion. One thing I’m adamant about is that you should never feel you must share what you’ve just written only because everyone else is doing it. No! Share your writing when and if you have a specific goal for doing so – getting feedback on a bit of dialogue, on the description of a setting or on a particular character.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

5 Easy Steps to Start Writing in a Virtual World

1. Choose. Imagine you’re writing a story taking place in medieval times and you live in a modern city that is as far from being medieval as you can possibly imagine. What do you do? You check history books, videos, photos and online resources. Does this research help you build a medieval world? Sure! Can you do better? Yep! In a virtual world, you can find all variations of medieval environments you can possibly think of. And this goes for any sort of environment, cities, the countryside, tropical beaches. The trick will be choosing what fits your story needs!

2. Visit. Once you’ve chosen a sim or two (and don’t forget to be picky), teleport there. Allow everything to rez so you can see where you’re going!

3. Observe. Take a stroll around the sim (it could be a parcel and not an entire sim; there are some examples of absolutely amazing places created in small bits of land). Don’t worry about writing or taking notes, enjoy the place. Notice the buildings, the different structures, the colors, the lights and the shadows. Become aware of details you may find useful for your story.

4. Listen. Many locations have a very immersive “soundtrack”! Try visiting a sim depicting a snowstorm. If you live in a place, like I do, where snowstorms are unheard of, this is quite an experience. Wind and thunder, the sound of the ice cracking under your feet… impressive. 

5. Write. Find a nice spot and sit down. One of my most memorable experiences in Second Life® (SL) was floating in a lake and trying to translate the images and sounds into words. As writers are crafters of intricate webs of words and sentences, so are SL sim builders and designers. Make use of all the effort put into those locations and turn it into material for your writing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

5 Reasons Why Writing in a Virtual World Is a Good Idea

1. You can meet other writers to exchange information and resources, to provide and receive support.

2. You can attend write-ins to create a writing routine and to improve your writing pace.

3. You can immerse yourself in environments overflowing with stimuli. Experience weather changes, seasons, sounds and different types of locations. Beaches, a mountain, replicas of cities and historical monuments, different epochs, are a mere mouse click away.

4. You can experiment with your story settings by building them inworld. Visualizing these settings will help you maneuver your characters effortlessly and will prevent narrative inconsistencies.

5. You can create an avatar (or several!) to recreate your character and literally walk in his/her shoes!

Monday, October 5, 2015

5 Common Misconceptions about Virtual Worlds

1. Too expensive. To access some virtual worlds, you must pay a fee. However, many, such as Second Life®, have a free account option. So, don’t let this stop you from joining in.

2. Sex everywhere. Virtual worlds do have a lot of sex related locations and events, as it happens in Real Life (RL). Having said this, it’s not all about sex. Choose your destinations according to your interests and you’ll never see adult material.

3. Drama queens galore. As in RL, drama is relative! Surround yourself with people who are not prone to having bouts of drama and you’ll be fine. However, should you find yourself in the middle of unexpected drama, don’t hesitate to choose one of two options - teleport away or just click that little square thingy at the top of the viewer, the one with an X in the middle, and nip it in the bud!

4. People suck. It’s true that some groups, especially those meeting on a regular basis, for example at discussions, are usually close-knit groups and its members often have a very particular way of interacting. As a new member, it might be difficult to fit in. Don’t feel discouraged though. Take your time. Observe at first, and then start participating actively.

5. Boredom proliferates. The endless route of going club hopping is as good a choice as any other. The problem becomes evident when boredom sets in. So, try diversifying your virtual experience. You can go for a walk, go to a concert, a theater play, visit an art exhibition, go shopping, attend a reading event and, of course, writing sessions!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Good Buddy


Call him, call him.
He couldn’t call him... What about Helen? And the kids?
That nagging voice at the back of his mind wouldn’t give up though. Just call him and get it over with.
His life would crumble to pieces or it would start anew. The lying, the hiding, the cheating, the faking, all would be a faint recollection of a tortured past.
But the damn questions he’d have to face. Where did you meet him? When did you meet him? Did you ever love me?
Call him. “Hello? Martin? This is Frank.”
That was it. It started. Finally.