IS SECOND LIFE HAVING A SECOND LIFE?

Dandilyon Jinx, my alter ego

Back in 2011 I finished my first book. I was in Australia so most of my friends were back in the US. When you are an indie published first author with no platform, your friends are most likely going to be your early readers. Mailing books across the world was too expensive, so I turned to a virtual world—Second Life—and had a very successful book launch without spending anything.

I was pretty familiar with the metaverse already. With a world between us, Second Life was a rewarding way to hang out with family and friends. The experiences we shared are still among some of our best memories. Scientists have found that what we perceive in a virtual world is as real to us as the physical world.

Why do people develop second lives? A study by ResearchGate found five central themes: “Second Life as self-therapy, as a source of instant pleasures, as liberation from social norms, as a tool for self-expression, and as exploration and novelty.” But how does this translate into actual experience?

While this metaverse sometimes gets a bad rap, I have had good experiences with it. Besides being able to hang out and share life with family and friends across the world, I kept myself afloat. I wound up with an unexpected financial obligations shortly after I arrived in Australia when the camper I thought I’d sold turned out to be purchased with a stolen check. I was lucky all I had was a bounced check, but it also meant I had a monthly bill to pay and I wasn’t legal to work.

In Second Life, there is a whole system of money, a financial trading index, jobs and businesses. What you earn in Lindens, you can cash out for ‘real world’ currency. We started a clothes line called House of SilverJinx and the income from that kept my camper paid. It was a logical jump to use this same platform to promote my first book. And it did well.

Ryan and I bought some virtual land and set up the mansion from the book so readers could experience scenes and explore the fiction story. We had a book release party that was packed. I sent press releases out and wound up being covered by the SL Enquirer (the one I just started doing news stories for). Our End of Mae exhibit wound up being an Editor’s Choice destination. I gave away thousands of t-shirts, the first chapter with a link to the Amazon page and some other gifts including jewelry. I did readings and we made videos. Total price for all the promotion? $0.00.

Circa 2011… a lot has changed

Long story short, I wrote my second book about these experiences. We started to do the same thing with Bitter Suites, but I’ll be honest… when it was selected as a Bram Stoker Award® finalist I got distracted and we never finished building our virtual Bitter Suites hotel. This time it was my daughter helping me. We went from virtual adventures on the Eiffel Tower and Innsmouth to building a fictional hotel. The researchers are right. These virtual experiences still rank as some of our favorite memories. When we all lived in the same area physically, Second Life lost it’s use for us and we all kind of forgot it.

Until Kate Jonez, owner of Omnium Gatherum, had a book launch in a Metaverse. It was unusual to be back in. I’d forgotten how to use my controls and I was just awkward. I was also in a “loaner avi,” not the virtual self I was used to. Regardless of how discombobulating the experience was, it was a positive one. After the reading, the attendees went and floated around her place for a tour.

It was fun to be back, but it was the recent BaltiCon held partly in Second Life that got me fully interested again. The convention was a blast and I was treated to Segway racing, a dragon ride, an art show, a visit to Stonehenge… one of my daughters hopped in with me and we had as much fun as ever exploring. I messaged the SL Enquirer and asked if they wanted a story on BaltiCon, and they did, so I started making contacts.

The kicker for me was a few days later when I was in taking photos for the story and I saw a call I couldn’t refuse: Kultavate Magazine was offering a few last minute exhibit spots in their art show if you could set up in a few hours. I sometimes art, so I messaged, got a spot and just like that I was set up in an art show. I hung buttons on the walls between my art so people could visit the magazine and this blog.

And guess what? We have a whole new group of readers and authors interacting with us because of it. And we aren’t alone. The economic growth is sustained as many people are suddenly seeing the benefits and reaping the benefits.

There are a lot of writer opportunities in Second Life, probably even more than when we were active a decade ago, and I’ll share more on this tomorrow. I have been a metaverse enthusiast since I first discovered them. I’m excited to finally see these worlds being utilized for more.

For now, here’s a slideshow of some of the Bitter Suites build we never finished. All photos and builds are courtesy of Kyra Starr.

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POETRY EXPERIMENT: SACRILUCIOUS

Today I woke up in the mood to try something new. I love writing the linked haiku that I’ve been doing for awhile now but the challenge of staying within the 7-5-7 syllable pattern has gotten pretty easy. I’ve done enough in that style I can think in that pattern and toss them off pretty quickly… which means it’s time to change it up.

One new word, two videos and three Instagram creators have been colliding around in my brain for a few weeks now until this morning when it all came together. I love the challenge of the strict syllable count so I kept that but instead of 5-7-5 I went with 12-13-6. Why? Ask the muse.

Here were the inspirations that kick started this poem. The new word was “sacrilicious” found on the profile of dearlybeloved.creations where she makes “🖤Sacrilicious Prayer Candles & Art.” The two videos were Spirit In The Sky written by Norman Greenbaum and performed by Doctor And The Medics. The second video was the original Fabulous Secret Powers by slackcircus (videos below). The three Instagram creators are dearlybeloved.creations, hipness_and_outrage and cheapainn.

All of those elements percolated around in my head until this came out. You can hear echoes of all of them together in the poem, and in a way, it’s as close to an autobiography as I’ve come. I think all the isolation is opening me up. After visiting the inspirations, can you see the influences mixed up in this? This is a new voice for me. I don’t know if I love it yet or not, but I am interested.

Sacrilucious

I shop for inspiration in the Saint-o-mart
where holy ones for sale want to bless my heart with art
and I say why yes, please.

The music and the mayhem work to chill my bones
breaking all the ties that keep me stuck at home. I roam
but the love is all real.

I give my muse some lipstick and she throws it back
and says goodbye. I have a heart attack from the lack
I can’t live without her.

I look in the mirror and I see her inside
looking through my eyes and now she can’t hide. And we ride
into a starry night.

I dress for the party but have I gone too far
in mourning clothes. She says “Come as you are to the stars
this is revolution.”

So I tear out my heart and toss it to the sky.
I make the sacrifice. We have to die to get high 
this is sacrilucious.

And now the two videos. They have both been on my favorites list years.

Spirit In The Sky written by Norman Greenbaum and performed by Doctor And The Medics
The original Fabulous Secret Powers by slackcircus

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SPEC SUBS: SAVAGEPLANETS

New speculative fiction SavagePlanets online magazine seeks poetry and two sentence stories for their July issue. Non-paying market at the moment. I’m stepping in as poetry editor and my poem “A Goddess Exhales” is in their first issue.

Will update submission deadline when I have more information, but for now I would say asap for both. This will be their second issue, so a great opportunity to be an early contributor. Find out more information at savageplanets.com.

From SavagePlanet.com: The Future of Science Fiction has Never Been So Bleak… The expansive multiverse serves as the backdrop not only for stories of hope, heroism and humility, but also terrifying tales of fear, loss and despair. Join us as we explore the uncensored phenomenon we colloquially refer to as our reality. 

The mission of SavagePlanets is to create a community to bring together sci-fi consumers and content creators in a respectful and collegial manner.

It is also to create the best sci-fi in the Cosmos.

SavagePlanets 1.1, May 2021
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LIVE READING AT SFFCON

Today I’m happy to be reading and discussing some of my speculative poetry at the SFFCon Poetry Panel alongside fellow spec poets Wendy Van Camp (moderator), Akua Lezli Hope, Deborah P. Kolodji, DA Xiaolin Spires. You can catch us on YouTube here. Better yet, spend the weekend at the Science Fiction & Fantasy Convention—registration is free.

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SPEC FARE:BOSTON, LANGEVIN, WISWELL, ELLIS, SIMON, SNG, LEE, LINZNER, BALTICON, JINX & MANSTOOTH THE CAT

The first Iron Writers competition is open for voting. Eight authors have written a flash fiction incorporating four elements. Who will be Iron Writer June 2021? You decide. Read their flash pieces here, and vote for your favorites on the voting tab.

Bruce Boston‘s newest book Gallimaufry is now available. A collection of short stories that will have you unsure of where you stand… but this is not a bad thing in an eclectic speculative family of stories. From my blurb: “As you turn the pages you will be going somewhere, many somewheres, and it will be worth it. Truly a gallimaufry to savor.” Find Gallimaufry here.

Amy Langevin has an awesome new cover on her horror poem book The Man Who Married Death. I read this and loved it. Only for those who don’t mind being disturbed—this book will slice you deeply. From the description: Zylen LaRocque, a twenty-eight-year-old depressive, arranges to be taken by Death, but his suicide fails, and he ends up proposing to the supernatural entity instead. The new cover does the book justice. Find The Man Who Married Death here.

Congratulations to John Wiswell on winning a Best Short Story Nebula in 2020 for his story “Open House on Haunted Hill,” published by Diabolical Plots. I shared a panel with John during Balticon and I am so happy he got this recognition. I hope to know him better. He has a great sense of humor! Find John Wiswell here.

New speculative fiction SavagePlanets online magazine seeks poetry and two sentence stories for their July issue. Non-paying market at the moment. I’m stepping in as poetry editor and I have some work in their first issue. For more details, click here.

Stephanie Ellis had her story, “Cry Me a River” accepted for the What One Wouldn’t Do anthology from Scott Moses. Stephanie writes dark speculative fiction, finding success in a variety of magazines and anthologies, the latest being “Milking Time” in Flame Tree Press’ A Dying Planet, “Asylum of Shadows” as part of Demain Publishing’s Short Sharp Shocks! series and “The Way of the Mother” in Nosetouch Press’ The Fiends in the Furrows. She is co-editor and contributor at The Infernal Clock, producing three anthologies to-date and co-editor of Trembling With Fear, Horror Tree.com’s online magazine. You can read more about Stephanie Ellis here.

The Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest is open until June 30 for your terrible opening lines. Winners receive ” … a pittance (and bragging rights).” Find complete details to enter here.

Marge Simon did the cover art for Penumbric‘s June 2k21 special prose and art issue. Mary Soon Lee and Christina Sng also have work included. You can see Marge’s cover and the rest of the magazine here.

For those of you familiar with the Poetry Live readings/discussion on Instagram:” Amy Z. from hipness_and_outrage is having an art sale to raise money for the Magnificent and Musical Manstooth the Cat‘s x-rays. He is having pancreatitis issues. You can find Amy’s Etsy shop here.

Speaking of dynamic art people, Dearly Beloved Creations has created a custom living saint candle (image below) of Gordon Linzner to pay tribute to the Father of Space and Time. While this was a custom creation, these will be available for anyone to purchase on Dearly Beloved’s website soon. I name Gordon the Patron Saint of Speculative Ink. You can watch for him to be available here.

Amy Zoellers will interview poet Rina Inae live on Instagram @hipness_and_outrage this Sunday at 1 p.m. CST! Rina will be reading and discussing their new poetry chapbook Songs of Despair behind the Closed Doors” available here.

I’ll be reading poetry at SFFCon tomorrow along with Wendy Van Camp (moderator), Akua Lezli Hope, Deborah P Kolodji, and DA Xiaolin Spires. SFFCon will take place online this weekend from June 11-13. You can watch our poetry panel live tomorrow on this blog, or on YouTube here. Sign up for SFFCon to join fellow creators and fans of science fiction and fantasy in a fun, virtual gathering. FREE to attend, find full details here.

Finally, I have my first virtual news story up at the SL Enquirer as Dandilyon Jinx, my pseudonym. Headlined “WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE: DANDILYON JINX REPORTING ON BALTICON 2021,” I covered the recent BaltiCon that utilized Second Life to host and enhance their sci-fi convention experience. It was a blast by the way. From visiting Innsmouth to flying dragons, it was an experience I look forward to repeating next year. You can read that first story for the SL Enquirer here.

Art by Dearly Beloved Creations for Gordon Linzner’s Living Saint candle
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BEST BOOK YOU EVER READ, AND WHY?

The best book I ever read was The Visitor by Gene Smith and illustrated by Ted Lewin. Sadly, it’s out of print. My copy was a little paperback I’d gotten from the Scholastic Book Club. I believe it has a gold colored frame around a painting of an Irish Setter. The story was about an Irish setter named Sassafras who is put in a kennel while his family goes on a short vacation they never return from.

As the weeks stretch into months, Sassafras learns that his family has had a car accident on the trip and the father was killed. Sassafras will never be going home. He feels sorry for himself until he realizes that ever dog in the kennel is scared, sad and lonely too. With the knowledge that he wasn’t alone, he spends the rest of his days at the kennels comforting other dogs until the last paragraph. I cried countless tears over this book.

Why was this book so important to me? It taught me that everything and everyone experiences loneliness, sorrow and pain at some pain in their life—wherever we are, we aren’t alone. The book doesn’t have a happy ending, but Sassafras copes and has a decent life. It wasn’t the life he planned for or wanted, but he made due with what he got. It was a deep message for a first grader, but one I still think about.

This book is out of print, but I just found a used copy. Published by Cowles Book Company, now out of business, I would love to see this book available again. Maybe I will try to find the rights to it and bring it back myself.

But that’s the most important book I’ve ever read. How about you?

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IRON WRITERS CLOSES TOMORROW

Tomorrow will be the last day to get those flash fiction pieces up at the Iron Writer’s page. We have some excellent entries already. It is so cool to see how different writers treat the same prompts. The rules are simple. Write up to a 1,000 words incorporating the four prompts (a person, place, thing and sound/song), post it on the website and then sit back and let the voting begin.

You will have to register the first time (see image below), but then you will be completely in charge of your post. You can edit your piece, profile name and leave comments for the other stories. Just keep it on the positive side and have fun.

Read the entries so far and good luck everyone!

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REGAINING BALANCE, MAKING PROGRESS

Things have calmed down a little here so I’ve been taking advantage of the lull to reorganize and streamline. I’ve been filing stuff, tossing old files, decluttering, cleaning out my emails, wrapping up old projects… it’s been really nice. I started the week with 4,795 emails in my main inbox. I am proud (and relieved!) today to share that I am down to 1,165 to go. My goal is to get it near empty in the next few days.

This means… I can start new projects! Just kidding, but we are making ground lately on some things we’ve been planning for awhile. Iron Writers is up and running (stories can be submitted until the 10th) and we are suddenly up and running with a virtual Space and Time museum—more on that tomorrow.

There was even time to relax. Ryan and I ate popcorn and watched The End of the F***ing World which was an absolutely brilliant series. We’ve seen both Season 1 and 2 now. I really didn’t know how they could follow up after the end of the first season but they pulled it off and the entire thing is well done. The acting was fantastic, even the deadpan monosyllabic answers only highlighted when the emotions did kick in for the characters. If I were ever to write a show, I would want it to be like this.

I’ve also been getting to spend a lot of time with my daughter Kyra as we put together this museum… which means I watch and make comments while she builds this museum. Aside from the poetry reading coming up this Saturday at SFFCon (see events), preparing S&T #141 and doing some writing of my own, it’s been somewhat quiet. Quiet is good. Quiet leaves time for play.

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SURPRISE! I HAVE AN ART EXHIBIT

My alter ego, Dandilyon Jinx

I have art on display at the Kultivate Spring Exhibition from June 7-13. Yes, you read that right. I do sometimes “art,” but it’s not something I pursue regularly. I don’t have time after the magazine and my own writing, so I make visual stuff and forget about it. But for last minute virtual art exhibits, it’s nice to have something stashed in the closets.

So how did this happen? Second Life, of course. Ever since BaltiCon and Omnium Gatherum’s virtual book launch, I’ve been poking my nose back into it. Tonight I was in there picking up some interview questions for a story I’m writing for the SL Enquirer when I saw an offer I couldn’t refuse:

Group Notice From: Windlight Magazine Readers, Johannes Huntsman

I have 6 exhibition spots available if anyone would like to set up as an exhibition artist at the Spring Art Show. You must be able to set up by 8pm slt tonight. All spots are free, first come, first serve. If interested please drop me an im and/or notecard.

John

An emergency art mission? Sounded like an adventure to me. I messaged John, and within the hour I was standing in a virtual sandbox putting together my show. By 8 pm slt, I was done. It’s a simple exhibit, just 12 pieces of mine with a color change galaxy floor and a giant location pointer with an earth spinning inside it. That’s to remind everyone that we are here, in the moment, in this universe. I think I really just wanted to make a glowing galaxy floor that changes color, honestly.

I took a tour of the other booths tonight when I was done and I am really in love with some of the work. I have some purchases planned, but I wasn’t sure if it’s rude to buy the artwork before the show opens. I’ll share some of the artists through the week and probably do a live stream tour this week at some point to show what it’s like… and that glowing galaxy floor. Spoiler alert: the Kultivate Exhibition is amazing but you will likely be underwhelmed by my glowing floor.

If you are already a Second Life resident, pop in and say hi! You can find out more details at Kultivate’s website here. For the moment, here’s a sneak peak at what I’ve been exploring.

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HWA LIFETIME ACHEIVEMENT AWARD: MARGE SIMON

How did I miss this congratulating Marge Simon for this? StokerCon was such an insane time is my official excuse, but it isn’t adequate. Congratulations to a dear friend on a well deserved honor. Marge Simon is one of those wonderful people that will tell you like it is with love. She is a champion of talent, always busy doing something to help someone.

When I first joined HWA she graciously took me under her wing. One of my favorite memories is standing outside the hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan during a StokerCon in matching hats, smoking cigarettes, something neither of us did regularly, but it was wonderful. Congratulations to a beautiful woman with a sly sense of humor, a discerning eye and a heart that bleeds ink.

From the HWA: Marge Simon lives in Ocala, Florida with her husband, poet/writer Bruce Boston and the ghosts of two cats. She edits a column for the HWA Newsletter, “Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side.” Marge’s poems and stories have appeared in Pedestal Magazine, Asimov’s, Crannog, Silver Blade, Bete Noire, New Myths, Daily Science Fiction. She attends the ICFA annually as a guest poet/writer and is on the board of the Speculative Literary Foundation. She has won the Rhysling, several Stoker’s and the Strange Horizons Reader’s Award. She is the second woman to be acknowledged by the SF &F Poetry Association with a Grand Master Award.

Marge has been a member of Pen of the Damned since June 2019. If you’d like to reach out to Marge, you can find her using the Facebook link below, and by all means, feel free to visit her Amazon author page so you too can experience why this distinguished poet and author is so incredible!

Facebook: Marge Simon
Amazon Author Page: Marge Simon

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