30 April 2013

Camp Myth - now as an iPad app!

This is a plug for a writer friend, reader but bear with! Said writer is the fabulous Chris Lewis Carter, author of the Camp Myth series, of which the first book is out to buy from Amazon either in paperback or e-book (- and yes I'll be yawn-somely predictable and recommend you purchase the paperback - the wait for delivery is worth it, if only to see the fabulous cover art and illustrations in their print form). I wrote about when the first book got published as I was a happy backer of the Kickstarter project.

Anyhoo, Chris has worked with developers and in the trend of all things digital tech, he gives us the shiny app - a visual novel which works very much like a story-led game on the DS, not unlike Phoenix Wright or Hotel Dusk (see my post on Phoenix Wright mashup with My Little Pony - oh yes, reader, it exists and it is better than your imagination can conceive).

The Camp Myth app is available for iOS, so boo, not for Android but it's ok, I downloaded it on my sister's iPad. The story follows the main characters you're introduced to in the book series - adventurous fae, Felix, the nerdy cyclops, Argee and the feisty kitsune, Moxie. We follow their shenanigans during their time spent at a summer camp for mythological beasties, earning merit badges by doing some pretty dangerous tasks. Oh yes, you read right, reader. It is tres jolie/amusee -?? Gah, forgotten my French. The lack of proper protection for these kids embarking on fatal missions is reminiscent of the Harry Potter series.

 The look and feel is very nicely done and it's cool to see the character coming along as we're treated to seeing more of the Camp Myth world and more of Felix, Argee, Moxie et co - and their witty repartee. As the story goes along you get to make some choices but as you should know by now, reader, everything comes back to the story. It's engaging and sweet and I want to read more. Either you can unlock the next parts of the story by purchasing them for a small fee or wait for the release date. I'm going old school and throwing faith in the 'anticipation makes the experience sweeter.' I love the series feel and appreciate the drip feed approach - consider me hooked!

For a superior, legit review, click over to what Tapscape had to say. 

To recreate the cutesy video game style music with a flash of adventure, for your ears: Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - Hyrule Field

23 April 2013

You need something to hold in your hands: the brain's connections to writing and reading

This post is technically a write up of one of my entries in my Morning Pages diary. Don't know what 'Morning Pages' are, reader? For shame! You need to look it up in the seminal The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron (of which I've only read two chapters but yeah, that's my problem, not yours).

The need to post up what I ended up writing (splurge of the 'waking' brain) was propelled by a brilliant online article about the brain and the written word, vis a vis reading on paper/page as opposed to reading on screen. The subject began churning in my mind after watching a video that displayed how a school in the US still put high priority on the children learning cursive writing and not just using tablets. The video also showed a professor of linguistics arguing that nostalgia alone is not a good enough reason for children being made to write with pen and paper.

Image provided by http://www.aotearoaeditorial.com
I've always had the notion that there is something integral about the act of writing out by hand with a pen on paper. When I really want to arrange my thoughts and get serious about forming a structure, I revert (sorry, wrong choice of word), I gravitate to paper and pen. And I know it has little to do with the notion that it is some sort of fanciful, wholesome craft, it's something natural, obvious and the brain likes it (backed up by the article I reference below - 80% of students of University of Mexico 'preferred to read text on paper as opposed to on a screen in order to "understand it with clarity".') 

Anyhow, here's what I penned in said diary on the issue (somewhat fragmented and not quite polished, which I think better illustrates how ideas and language 'flow' - a word my English teacher forbade us from ever using - from one to other, an effortless continuity) :

Do not forget the importance of brain, hand, pen and paper, a seamless line of action, one that is a low energy act with a high satisfaction rate; little or next to no resources are needed - no draining of electricity, no charging, no Wi-Fi, no pulling at any source of physical energy. All that is needed is the simplest of tools in hand. Scientists should recognise the importance of acts and crafts, so many activities, that work or require a tool in the hand - sculpting, cutting, sewing, cooking, surgery, drawing, engineering, gardening, carpentry, fishing, archery - anything that requires an implement to create and form something, fundamental to our brain waves, to the unfolding of a creative vision. How many times do we find it so hard to get something down on the screen? No one computer tool does it all perfectly. You have to chop and change. But the tool in hand, the paper, the tangible material, eliminates that initial halt/barrier, it begs that the activity happen right away; the unfashioned parts of wood that need assembling, the allure of the blank page, the sketchbook that is clean and ready for your drawn expressions, experiments, developments.  
I enjoy going to graduate shows and picking up the sketchbooks to see how they develop; the penmanship itself is like the map lines of the artist's mind and expression. None of that can come across quite so vividly and immediately on the digital screen. Sure, there are many amazing digital creations, digital paintings etc, but they don't give you a glimpse into the 'workings out'. For my own coherency, I have all my notes that I've written on pages in the digital space. Anyone, in theory, could view them. But there would be no fun that way because they are alone arranged for me. You would switch off from this somewhat blah display of digital notemaking, revisions etc. However, if I were to put on an exhibition, where my sketchbooks, illustrations and notebooks were on display, my 'workings out', it would be a story in itself, it would have meaning. It would give you a sense into the process, into the madness of the craft. Like with maths, you may get the end answer but everyone knows the accomplishment comes from the 'working out of it all', the language of the brains' processes and comprehensions, making those connections between this and that, elements strung together so that you align x with y. (I definitely feel dumber since leaving uni and I definitely don't connect up knowledge quite like I used to because there's little sense of an actual 'space' in which this happens).  
So please give students this indelible craft, this necessary act that gets the brain warmed up. Don't deny them the joy of how their brain truly works, how they truly tick. That way they'll have material, a retrospective that allows them to realise their own improvements, their evolution. You simply cannot track that through digital means. You cannot lay it all out and really see
After writing all of this, I was struck by the idea that reading is an actual physical activity, it's not just creating images in our minds, it goes beyond. And lo, I found this article from Scientific American, via one of my fave blogs, Forever Young Adult.
'...evidence from laboratory experiments, polls and consumer reports indicates that modern screens and e-readers fail to adequately recreate certain tactile experiences of reading on paper that many people miss and, more importantly, prevent people from navigating long texts in an intuitive and satisfying way. In turn, such navigational difficulties may subtly inhibit reading comprehension. Compared with paper, screens may also drain more of our mental resources while we are reading and make it a little harder to remember what we read when we are done. A parallel line of research focuses on people's attitudes toward different kinds of media. Whether they realize it or not, many people approach computers and tablets with a state of mind less conducive to learning than the one they bring to paper. 
"There is physicality in reading," says developmental psychologist and cognitive scientist Maryanne Wolf of Tufts University, "maybe even more than we want to think about as we lurch into digital reading...

Understanding how reading on paper is different from reading on screens requires some explanation of how the brain interprets written language. We often think of reading as a cerebral activity concerned with the abstract—with thoughts and ideas, tone and themes, metaphors and motifs. As far as our brains are concerned, however, text is a tangible part of the physical world we inhabit. In fact, the brain essentially regards letters as physical objects because it does not really have another way of understanding them.

12 April 2013

Poetry to plug the holes

I'm not really one for poetry, I kind of skated around it for years, thinking it required some other kind of intelligence to pen. Now it's what I do when I can't think of anything else, an ice-breaker in the otherwise awkward catch-up meeting I have with my on-going writing projects, projects which just sort of stare of me and ask "Soooo..."

(HAD to include this image I found when I typed in 'poetry is hard')

I was flipping back through one of my notebooks (has a pretty cover but not too pretty that I can't bring myself to write in it) to see how long I've been jotting my morning pages when I stumbled on this crude little creation:


With complete faith
I take this step, 
I make this leap,
I strike out in a sea of mist. 

No beacons light the way;
I become my own light, 
Shining bright enough to make day. 

In complete faith I am guided
By my own words and will, 
Running, no fear of standing still.

In complete faith, 
I take this step,
I make this leap, 
Even though the ground
Has ceased to be,
I now float or fly 
As is meant to be.

I don't actually have a good one for this, (I was shocked to realise my last two posts didn't even include them! Oversight!) So instead I'll fix on whatever I was listening to as I wrote this: 'Our House Below' - Cecile Corbel from 'The Secret World of Arrietty' Soundtrack
Our House Below - Instrumental Version by Cecile Corbel on Grooveshark

3 April 2013

Published: Short story in Annexe Magazine's new online fiction series

Ok, no excuses for not posting sooner, really and truly. I actually had a hit a bit of a block on all writing fronts, including what to post up here. That dam has now given way and there's been a bit a deluge :)

I am well chuffed to report that I was involved in an exciting project orchestrated by the fabulous Nick Murray, editor of Annexe Mag. When he told me about XY, he pitched it as a story written by several writers, all getting a certain section of the narrative - in one genre - and it was up to the writers to deliver it either via prose, verse or any other writing format from film or drama. We were given bare bones information - just three characters and a skeletal outline - sans knowing what the other writers' parts would be covering. This first issue is noir and I ain't ever tackled that beast before but heck, I gave it shot and now me name's in print *smiley face*

It's been pretty cool to see how the shape took form, as no one was quite sure how this was going to work - I mean, you're writing in the dark, excuse the pun. But it sort of works and the different formats and styles blend in their own way; each one really distinct but somehow linked with a loose cohesive strand to the one that precedes it and follows it. I must say I share company with exquisite crafters of the written word - Eley Williams, John Boursnell, Akiho Schilz, Jack Swain and Ben Gwalchmai.

Anyhow, please feel free to check it out and judge for yourself - it makes a perfect commute read or procrastination perusal.

Being lame, 'cos I typed in whatever into YouTube: