bdwilson: (BD Wilson)

ABC Scarf

I supported the Litographs Kickstarter and got custom text on an infinity scarf.

What did I pick?

My first trilogy for Rhonda Parrish‘s Alphabet Anthologies 🙂

 

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4thewords

Dec. 29th, 2015 10:00 am
bdwilson: (Blank Page)

Edit, Dec. 1, 2016: The site has changed a lot in the last year, all for the better 🙂 I’m going to do a new post shortly, but in the meantime, know that this post was based on an earlier version of the site and much of it has changed.

I participate in NaNoWriMo every year, and one of the side effects of that is trying out the products from their various sponsors. I’ve had more than a few successes over the years, finding things like Scrivener that I love and can’t imagine working without. Others are just fun.

This year, one of the ones I tried out for the first time is the site 4thewords. I think they were a sponsor last year as well, but the early reports indicated they were having a very rough Beta, and I decided to give them a little more time the get their feet under them. Things seemed more stable this year, and their walk-through video once again convinced me this was something I’d find fun, so I decided to give them a chance.

It’s gamification for writing. Combining two things I love, so of course I had to try it out.

The first thing I’d say is that the updates they’ve rolled out this month are fantastic, and were sorely needed. The difference in the user experience even between now and when I started on November 2nd is enough that it was the difference between my continuing with the site after NaNo and not. If the writing interface had stayed the way it was when I started, I wouldn’t have remained with it, and may have even ditched it before NaNo was over. Given the updates, however, it’s a functional WYSIWIG, with the ability to create multiple files and organize them into projects, and something I can see myself continuing to use. It’s not a full-fledged word processor, but I have Scrivener for that, and this is an excellent way to get words on the page.

Read the rest of this entry » )

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HabitRPG

Jan. 29th, 2015 09:00 am
bdwilson: (On the Web)

Last year, a friend showed me HabitRPG, which for me was another in a long string of to-do list and productivity apps that I’d tried. I expected it to have a similar usage pattern to the rest of them: I would use it without fail for a few weeks, if I was lucky a couple of months, and then I’d lose interest. I have abandoned accounts on more apps than I remember exist. HabitRPG however, appears to be sticking.

It’s a gamification app, so I’m willing to try it right out of the gate, of course. I’ve seen a lot of posts out there going over the basics, and there’s an overview video, so I’m not going to go into everything it does.

HabitRPG Tutorial #1: Tasks from Tyler Renelle on Vimeo.

I’ve been trying to figure out why this one’s working for me, but I think in large part it comes down to two things: quests and pets.

There are two types of quests, boss quests and drop quests, but they both use the party system. I was lucky, as I had a party right out of the gate, and that means I’m kinda held accountable. In the drop quests, I’m a rogue, which means I have a good drop rate, so it means my contribution is useful. In the boss quests, I don’t have great damage (I still need to find out if I can improve it), but the boss quests have the added accountability factor of group damage.\

Usually, if I don’t complete tasks, I take damage. If we’re fighting a boss and I don’t complete a task, the whole group takes damage. That is remarkably motivating to me. (I haven’t wiped the group yet, fortunately, but I came darn close on a night I got distracted and forgot to check things off.) It helps keep me engaged. So, no pressure guys!

The other motivating factor, is somewhat related, in that many of the quests reward pet eggs that can be hatched with potions. There’s also 90 base pets that are acquired through regular drops, and all of them can be grown into mounts (which means you then collect the pets over again). That means my collector nature goes right into “gotta get them all” mode. Getting them all means getting things done.

I’ll admit that the XP gains don’t mean as much after it stops opening up new features, and being a rogue means gold isn’t usually an issue. (I’ve heard they’re going to change one of my spells to decrease that, though. I have to use it while I can!) However, with the features that do catch me, it means I’m still using the app and I’m still getting some things done. It’s also helping me keep organized, which I really appreciate.

This is working for me, and I’m having fun with it. Now I just have to tackle more those glaring deep red tasks. Damage and drops await!

So much to do!

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bdwilson: (Last Word)

Welcome to the to A is For Apocalypse blog train! If you haven’t had a chance yet, be sure to check out the other stops on the train.

Car 8: Alexandra SeidelApocalyptic Blog TrainCar 10: Samantha Kymmell-Harvey

One of the first apocalypses I can remember seeing was in Wizards. It was showing late at a comic convention in a tiny room in the basement floor. Only a handful of people were there, which was good, as the room could maybe have held twenty people. A TV was placed at the front of the room, the lights were turned out, and the world appeared on the screen. Then it blew up.

We laughed. What else could you do?

My favourite apocalypse is The Stand, cut, uncut, mini-series, or comic book. I’ll take them all. It’s the whole story, but also the set-up touches, like giving the virus the name Captain Trips and almost personifying it. Or having the country with the outbreak decide they’re not going down alone. Or pointing out that even if 99.4% of the population catches the virus, there’s still a whole lot left.

The ones left. That’s what I like best. The post-apocalypse, whether we get the destruction of the world out of the way as quickly as in Wizards, or we spend some time in it like The Stand. If it ends in an explosion, or a virus, and whether it leaves behind radiation, bodies, or even zombies, I want to see what happens next.

Are there any humans left? If there are, do they start over, or do they rebuild? If they rebuild, what do they leave and what do they keep? Of what they keep, did they make the right choice? Of what they leave, is it ever uncovered?

There’s a lot of potential in these stories. Questions to ask and choice to make. As Wizards showed me so many years ago, the end is only the beginning.

Car 8: Alexandra SeidelApocalyptic Blog TrainCar 10: Samantha Kymmell-Harvey

A is For Apocalypse is out now! During the month of August, use the coupons listed on that post for 10% off at either Smashwords or CreateSpace.

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bdwilson: (Playing)

The Walk is a fitness game that came out in December. I picked it up right away, because it’s by Six to Start and Naomi Alderman, who also made Zombies, Run! (which I love). It’s got a similar philosophy behind it: activity and fitness motivated by story. That is, unsurprisingly, a motivation that works rather well for me. It also has many of the same voice actors, which gives it a nice familiar feel. No zombies in this one, but it’s a suspense thriller, so I’m still in.

Expectations are a little different for this game. Zombies, Run! is more of a workout app, where you set aside some time to go on a run. The Walk is more like a pedometer: it uses your fitness level for the entire day to progress through the story. One of the nice things is that you don’t have to listen to the story points right as they unlock. It works well for me, as I alternate between listening to them as soon as I can, and saving them up to blow through whole sections in one go.

iOS Progress

There are also game play elements based on the map: you can choose different paths through the mission to open up collectables which are extra images that add to the world. There are also landscape features, which appear as small squares on the map when you’re in range of them. They usually have little text notes for the scenery, but are sometimes sound files with additional stories. At first the landscape features annoyed me: if you don’t happen to open the app while you’re in range, you can complete the episode with some missing. I’m a bit of a completionist, so I found that frustrating at first. I’ve pretty much gotten over it. I don’t know if they actually increased the range at which the features appear (it feels like it), or I just started checking the app more, but I don’t miss as many as I did at the start. Apparently some of them also depend on the path you take, so I’ve accepted that I’ll have to do some maps more than once (though four times for the one I just couldn’t catch was irritating).

The only thing I’m not a fan of so far is the challenges. They’re levels with a twenty-four hour time limit, and you draw your own map to try and hit as many points as possible. There are absolutely not story sections (that I’ve found so far, anyway), in the challenge maps, and the few interesting points you open up aren’t really worth it in my opinion. I find them to be an arbitrary twenty-four hour delay in my story progression, and that grates on me. I know I could just draw myself a really short map and get it over with, and I might start doing that now that I’m into part two, but again, completionist. But when I hit the delay before they release part two, I was starting a challenge right before doing a run, and it seemed to get me through them. I might just save them up and complete them after I’ve finished the story.

The Walk is available for both iPhone and Android, and I’m glad part two came out already. I really didn’t want to be waiting for months to find out what happened next!

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bdwilson: (View)

When we were younger, my brother — a devoted horror movie fan — discovered Full Moon Entertainment (now Full Moon Features). They had a large collection of direct-to-video movies, complete with behind the scenes clips at the end. While I’ll always have a fondness for the Subspecies series (that first movie had the entire room rooting for the villain by the end), the series that hooked me, and stuck with me, was Puppet Master.

If you’ve never seen it, Movie Bob did a great overview to kick off this year’s Schlocktober over at the Big Picture.

Killer puppets. Yes! I’m in. I think a lot of my lasting affection comes from the design of the puppets, and their characterization. They never talk, though they can make sounds, but they still manage to have personalities. I’ve also always liked how the opening scene with Toulon in the first movie sets you up to connect with them, even when you know they’ll be slaughtering people later on.

The series is pretty long now (I’ve discovered I’m even missing two in my collection that I now need to pick up), and it has had its highs and lows. I’d say most of the lows came later, as you’d expect, but I think the first one was Puppet Master 2.

It has a setup I would usually like — paranormal researchers — but it gets over-shadowed by the decision to cast Toulon as the villain. While I can understand, maybe, the whole death thing causing a personality change, the ending hinges of his betraying the puppets, and they just didn’t sell it to me. I’d write it off completely, but it introduces Torch, who is cool, and it’s where Jester starts wearing his hat, which be needed, so I can’t quite do it.

Blade ToyI think the best of the series is Puppet Master 3. It’s something of an odd choice for me. Blade is my favourite puppet by a huge margin, and the third movie includes his origin story. It comes near the end, so he’s hardly in it at all. Still, it’s a strong story even if you take it as a standalone, but also brings it back to the caring Toulon and does a good job of establishing the back story for the series.

Overall, the continuity is a bit of a mess. (As Bob said, “this is just not the series to worry about things like that in”.) That’s the sort of thing that usually kicks me out of a series, and while it’s still kind of annoying, I forgive it, because killer puppets! Seriously, how could you not love these guys?

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bdwilson: (Playing)

Recently, after a break of about two years, I started playing World of Warcraft again. A lot has changed, so I’ve also spent time on WoW-related sites trying to catch up. I can’t remember what I was looking for when I saw the changes to the Recruit a Friend program, but whatever it was led to a three month long distraction.

Back when Blizzard first introduced the RaF program, I had switched my main servers to play with some real-life friends. I didn’t move characters with me (because they were the other faction and I still played on the old server part-time). I didn’t have as many characters there yet, and hadn’t rolled either of the classes that I’d played for years.

I level slowly. I feel bad for my poor friends whenever they’re stuck waiting for me to catch up. The thought of levelling another priest and warlock wasn’t enticing, given how long I knew it would take me. The bonus experience from the RaF program was appealing. Not only would I be able to level two characters at the same time, but they’d level faster than usual. All I had to do was learn to dual-box.

My Original Dualbox Team

I loved it. I’m not the greatest, but I enjoy running my characters in pairs more than running them alone. I have a number of established teams, including that original RaF team, and I occasionally pull others together for different quests or areas. It has its frustrating elements (Horde cities have a serious obsession with spiral staircases), but it became my preferred play style.

To figure out how it worked, I spent a lot of time on multi-box forums. Since dual-boxing was working for me, I started considering running a 5 box team. I even picked up cheap keys for Vanilla during a Black Friday sale. At the time, though, it would have meant buying expansion packs for all the accounts and I wasn’t certain my computer could run five instances of the game. I never got around to getting the other three accounts.

On coming back, however, I learned those keys I bought would open up all content to Wrath of the Lich King, and the RaF program bonus experience now lasted to level 80. I’ve also upgrade my computer in the last few years, so I decided to give 5 boxing a try.

I discovered it was not as difficult as I’d thought it would be. The mixed teams were trickier than the handful on teams I ran that were all the same class, but it made gear drops better and let me use the heirlooms I’d already collected.

The first time I used the RaF program, I think I only levelled the one team, so my expectations for this round were low. In the end, though, I managed to level five groups on four servers, getting one or two of my existing characters to 80 for each one.

Of course, three characters from each team were going to be left behind, as I didn’t plan to keep more than the original two accounts after the three months was up. Another bonus of the RaF program, however, is the ability to gift levels: one to the veteran account for every two earned on the recruit account. In the end, I managed to boost enough characters on the original account to make up for the ones I left.

I enjoyed being able to run dungeons on my own. It’s not as good as having someone else to react to things, though. After all, if I miss something, I’m all there is. While I’m glad I’ve finished the RaF time (playing on a time limit isn’t fun), I’m going to miss my teams.

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bdwilson: (An App For That)

I’m a pantser. I have tried outlines in the past, but it has never gone well, and I’ve always had more luck writing the first draft without them.

However, I’ve started using outlines for revision. It helps me figure out what scenes from the first draft aren’t needed, which ones are in the wrong places, and the balance of the events. When Scrivener for Windows introduced their beta, I found that the index card view organized things in a way that worked for me.

Index Card AppI’ve started using my iPad for brainstorming and plotting, however. Partly because it’s a new toy, and partly because I can think about the items and interact with them in a different way. When I decided I was going to use it for outlining, I went looking for the right app, and discovered the perfect one: Index Card (cost $4.99).

The app lets you create multiple different projects, and displays the cards as if they’re on a bulletin board. You can give them different colour labels and even write on the back (you have to open the card to flip it over). You can also drag and drop them in different places quickly, which makes it easy to reorganize events while you’re still trying to hammer them out.

Read the rest of this entry » )

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bdwilson: (Points of Interest)

Can’t Stop The Serenity is a global series of screenings of the film Serenity, held as a charity fundraiser.

This year, CSTS Edmonton‘s local charity partner is the Youth Emergency Shelter Society (YESS). There will also have a separate auction with items table set aside to raise funds for Kids Need to Read, and the remaining 75% of all event proceeds will be donated to Equality Now to support women’s human rights!

Tickets are $15 each, and this year they are screening not only Serenity, but also Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog!

When: 25 June · 12:00 – 17:00
Where: Metro Cinema Society, Zeidler Hall, Citadel Theatre
632-7 Sir Winston Churchill Sq NW
Edmonton, AB

For more information, see the Can’t Stop The Serenity — Edmonton site, or the Facebook Event.

 

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bdwilson: (An App For That)

I am a big fan of to-do lists. They make things easier to keep track of, and there’s the sense of completion you get from crossing an item off. Some of the first apps I downloaded for my phone were to-do lists. Yes, I have more than one :)

The one that has taken over the rest, however, is Epic Win (cost $2.99). I think this was the first app I ever wanted to buy before it had even been released. It applies gamification to your every day tasks, giving you XP, coins, and loot as you work through things you need to get done. You start by picking an avatar, and then adding your quest (task). When you enter the task, you also give it a related stat: Strength, Stamina, Intellect, Social, and Spirit. As you complete tasks, your avatars stats go up. You also assign an amount of XP: 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, or 300. The XP will level up your avatar, but also progresses it on the loot path. Loot consists of comedic items. The gold was added after the initial release, and doesn’t have a use yet (at least not that I’ve seen), but that just means I’ll have a stockpile when it does.

They had added a number of features since the release. My favourite is the ability to connect to your Google Calendar. It was a little flaky when it first rolled out, but seems to have been fixed. Events added to your calendar can automatically create a related quest in Epic Win, and an Epic Win task can be added to your calendar. (You still have to go into the calendar to set the time.)

I find the performance a little choppy, but I can’t tell if that’s the app or running the app on an older phone (I have a 3G). Other than that, it adds an extra level of fun an satisfaction to completing the things you need to do anyway.

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bdwilson: (On the Web)

I posted earlier about Extra Credits. On of their earlier episodes talked about the web-based game Echo Bazaar. As my Facebook friends are likely aware, I started playing it a little while ago, and I love it.

It’s a fairly simple to learn game: your character starts in Newgate Prison of Fallen London, and your first task is to break out. You have a certain number of actions available at any given moment (represented by the candle at the top left hand of the screen), and these are used to progress in your storylets. You also have a total number of actions per day.

One of favourite thing about the game is the atmosphere created. A review I read described it as “Lovecraft meets Edward Gorey for tea on Baker Street”, which quite accurate. Since I love all three of those, it’s not surprising that I love the feel of the games and the tone of the storylets.

Read the rest of this entry » )

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bdwilson: (On the Web)

I’ve been following a number of shows on the Escapist for a while now, but I don’t think I’ve linked to any of them here before.

The newest show on my “must-see” roster is Extra Credits. I came to this one late.  I think it started during a brieft period where I wasn’t checking in on the shows. In January I clicked on their Piracy episode, since it was a topic being discussed in writing circles, and I wanted to listen to the video game take. After I watched it, I watched every episode they’d already posted.

Their latest episode at this moment is an excellent open letter to EA Marketing, but I’m going to embed one of my favourite episodes so far: Choice and Conflict.

Read the rest of this entry » )

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bdwilson: (Idea Book)

For the past few weeks, I have been trying a new toy: a LiveScribe Echo Pen. Except for NaNoWriMo, I love doing my first drafts by hand. There’s something about it that is different from typing them into the computer first, and when I tried to switch, it just didn’t work.

The downside, of course, is the extra time it takes to type the first draft into the computer, especially if you’re like me and like to keep track of your current word count. With the Echo pen, I can translate the handwriting into typed text, and it cut down that time. There’s still a bit of touch up — it always reads my sentences that start with “He” as “16” — and it’s forcing me to pay more attention to my handwriting than I otherwise would, but it’s been an beneficial addition to my process.

It will never teach me to stop crossing things out, however, so I’ll just have to get used to deleting the gibberish that results :)

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bdwilson: (Storybook)

I have been following the Merit Badger site for a while now, and have been intending to start collecting the badges for a while. Today seemed like a good day to start, not just because it’s the New Year, but because I am writing on the laptop while lying on the couch, which means inviting feline “assistance”.

Read the rest of this entry » )

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bdwilson: (An App For That)

I haven’t had this app long, but I like it. On the list of things that motivate me, being able to mark a day off when I’ve done what I’ve supposed to is pretty high up. Silly, but true. Unfortunately, all my calendars are now digital, and that doesn’t seem to be a typical design feature.

A little while ago I went looking for an app for that, and found Streaks (cost: $1.99). It lets you create multiple calenders, and then you can mark the days off as you complete your goal. At the bottom of the calendar, it keeps track of your streaks, both the current and longest ones. If you have days that you take off (for example, weekends) then you can set the particular calendar to skip them.

There are four different default themes available. I wish you could set a different theme for each calendar, but that’s about the only thing I can think of that I’d like to see added. It’s simple, and exactly what I was looking for.

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bdwilson: (On the Web)

I read Twitter almost exclusively on my iPhone. Given the format, it makes a lot of sense to me to display it that way, and I tend to prefer the Twitter apps to the web site. One of the downsides, however, is that I follow a lot of people because they give links to excellent stories, and I hate surfing the web on my phone. I didn’t really have a satisfactory system of marking things to read later, until I switched to the official Twitter app, which supports another of additions, including Instapaper.

Instapaper is a system of temporarily saving links to read later. For people who skim Twitter or RSS feeds when we don’t have time to sit down an read full articles, they can flag a link a something they want to come back to, and then log into Instapaper to see that list when they have the time to devote to reading.

The site has a bookmarklet that you can add to your browser, so while you’re surfing, you just click the button, and it adds the article to your list. In the Twitter app, you put your account in the settings, and then when viewing a tweet, “Read Later” is one of the options if it contains a link.

Once it’s been added, it shows up in your Instapaper list, with a link to the site, and in this case, with the display text of the tweet that caught your attention.

It’s a quick and easy way to keep track of articles you want to read, but aren’t able to do so when you come across them.

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