Sunday, December 1, 2013

Get Your Kids to Go Outside and Play (a Game) This Holiday



Yet another assignment in my Future of Storytelling MOOC has spawned a terrific experience. This time it included a friend and her three-year-old daughter. 

The challenge
Using locations and original characters, tell a site-specific, location-based story. 

The Backstory
Melody Avise, former NASA scientist residing on the Space Coast of Florida in a post-apocalyptic techie commune, released daughter Blue to the world government's student dome in Virginia in preparation for Mars colonization. 

Blue's memory was wiped upon arrival at the dome, but before her departure years ago, Melody implanted her with a hormone-activated memory chip that would restore her memories. Meanwhile, something goes wrong with the program and Blue flees, using the memory map emerging in her mind to search for her Florida home. 

Melody's enhanced connection with her daughter (augmented intelligence resembling psychic ability) prompted her to leave concrete clues for Blue in case she returned. 


The Game
In order to help Blue remember, you will find the objects and post photos of them via social media in a public place Blue may view them to help jog her memory and bring her home. 

The first clue was left on Foursquare and shared via Facebook and Twitter.

A friend decided to pursue the game with her 3-year-old daughter.  Here are their photos posted on Facebook this morning:


Original Photo Set Above Copyright A. Anastasia 

The final cache contained a child's pearl necklace and was found under our community Christmas Tree. My friend's daughter wants to know when she can help Blue again. 


The success of the game is encouraging, and was simple enough for an adult-guided child to enjoy. The complications included unexpected crowds at the sites, making placement a bit difficult, and the limited number of possible participants. The share on social media was a huge hit, and conversations about the game are underway at the moment. This could lead to a much larger game, and an ARG is in the works!

Now it's your turn. If you want a story to get you started, you select elements from our mermaid tale below, or use an invented story or existing storybook to incite an adventure in your own neighborhood! You may be starting a new holiday tradition!





Friday, November 22, 2013

Face It, Gaming Is a Thing - A Good Thing For Writers!

Gaming. An emotional word. We are talking about playing digital games, either in an app, on a console, or online.

How do you feel about people who game? Teenagers who use TeamSpeak and collaborate with players all over the world, who team up to talk and yell online while killing zombies, are one scenario. 

Another way to play is via iPhone or Facebook, and involves apps such as Angry Birds, Farmville, Candy Crush, or my personal favorite mind break game, Flow. 

Lots of positive research is emerging about the happiness of gamers, and the increase in problem solving and social skills games teach. 

Yet gaming sounds rather bogus to some. It even makes some gamers' parents angry, because they believe that gaming does not serve as a valid activity, such as reading, watching TV, or going to a party. 

In fact many games involve all three of these things.

(Our philosophy is that mental downtime is a good thing for the brain. It's each individual's choice how to spend that time.)

What writers may not realize is that gaming relies on two very important elements, including 1. game play, or the feel of the game, and 2. story, or motivation behind the characters' action. 

If writers find publishing an eBook disheartening, there is another option now. Why not try writing a good story that gamers will want join?

We have one such story in the works. If you write science fiction, or any fiction, feel free to contact me at lopez@mermaidsbite.com for more information.



There is still time to join this free MOOC, The Future of Storytelling, which I am taking with over 80,000 friends from all over the world! This week we are studying the future of computer game storytelling:



Saturday, November 16, 2013

I’m Dreaming of a Beige, no, RED Christmas!


Check out the HGTV Christmas blog, and you’ll find a disturbing trend. Perhaps we can blame anything from IKEA to the economy, but the trend toward beige as a holiday color has begun to take the festiveness out of the festivities. 

Somehow red has become too garish to those who seem embarrassed by many Americans’ favorite holiday of the year--?

Chanukah has its brilliant blue, and Christmas has its green and candy apple or beet red. That’s tradition! (So if you want to change that to boring beige, billing it as the new Christmas color, you don’t have that power, random designers.) 

Christmas red inspires my holiday cheer!
Add some silver, gold, or whatever you like, but the Christmas tradition of green and red endures in our Southern village.

Why am I so emotional about this tradition? The psychology behind a red Christmas has its basis in emotional payoff. Red is passionate and demands attention. 

Beige is neutral, lifeless, and easy to ignore. 

Are we trying to ignore Christmas? Will it make us happier or more engaged with our families and friends during the holidays to opt for a less obtrusive color?

  

Tell me how these holiday beads would be better in brown. Exactly. 


So you’re with me? 

OK, it’s time to deck the halls and paint the town red!



Monday, November 11, 2013

Beautiful Boats to Delight the Mermaid in You

Let's take a boating break, shall we? 












The photos above depict my son's 18th birthday voyage on our friends' Hatteras. 











The black and white photos are infrared, everything was shot with my Nikon D90. They look amazing printed on metallic paper. I'm creating a collection for our gallery at the Shoppes at Naples Bay Resort. 

Buoyant blessings!

Christiane Lopez

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Melody Character Study

As part of the Storytelling course and in the spirit of NaNoWritMo, here is the profile of one of the characters in our current project

Melody Character Profile

Melody, age 42, is the mother of the main character in a story concerning the near-future of life on Earth and other planets. She was a NASA scientist who was offered a special compensation package with the closing of the national space program in favor of an international pod of young scientists who are being housed in a dome in Virginia.

In anticipation of colonizing Mars, NASA scientists’ children are invited to live at a special boarding school that trains them as the first colonists. There is one caveat: The children’s memories of their families are wiped to eliminate “old world” thinking on the new planet. Melody created a hack she inserted in her daughter to restore her family memories when her daughter reaches adolescence.

Melody was part of a space program and was working in genetic modifications when she began to notice that the polluted air of increasingly radioactive Earth was interacting with the genetically modified plant life in such a way as to cause the plant life of Earth to rapidly die off. Her apocalyptic predictions of the future, corroborated by the findings of her peers, earned her the maligning label of “tree prophet”. Melody and her husband Frank, an astrophysicist from Japan, embraced the label and call themselves the Tree Prophets, as they try to solve the riddle of prolonging quality life on Earth outside the colonist boarding school dome until the time when (hopefully) third wave colonists will be invited to Mars.

When we meet Melody, her daughter has been at the training school for several years, and Melody has reason to believe the time has come for her daughter to go to Mars. She can only guess, as there is no contact between the school and other civilians. She does not trust the government, but wants what is best for her daughter, especially life in an environment that does not cause her lungs to fill with poison leading to illness and death, as is common outside the dome.

The Tree Prophets have cannibalized the old NASA stomping grounds outside of Titusville, Florida and are developing all sorts of technology in an effort to increase the quality of life for humans essentially abandoned on Earth. The east coast of the US is the safest place remaining on Earth and home to the elites and dignitaries also housed at the dome, further enforcing the covert behavior of Melody and her friends, who live on a science ranch of sorts on the Space Coast only a few hundred miles south.

Four sandboxes exist in the story, but Melody’s home is the only one she can access, while her daughter will experience all four as the first main character of the story. Melody has separate housing with her husband and dog, as part of the ranch compound which is home to several other scientists. Their projects include a community branch which Melody heads up that is responsible for food development and experiments in encouraging a canopy of new plants that will provide better air quality.

Religion and the arts are marginalized due to the intense focus on its mission, but the community has grown with the birth of a few children, which may be considered the first healthy generation on Earth in many years, thanks to Melody’s work with genetics and plant life. Her quest to stave off human extinction while awaiting a planet transfer is showing promise.

Sample Scene

Melody quickened. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw something flitter past the window. She chased it with her gaze and and found it was a blowing leaf. But it had hovered like a bluebird if only in her mind’s eye.

Frank looked up from his tea. “You’re thinking of her again, aren’t you, that Sarah Psyche look in your eye?”

Melody exhaled as the corners of her mouth fought a smile. “Mother’s intuition just might be a superpower, you know?”

Frank turned his cup in his hand as if in ceremony. “She’s fine. Up living the life at Virginia Beach, swaying on her weak stems, little hothouse flower. Spoiled by brilliance, coddled by technology.”

“Wow, Frank, you’re waxing snarky this morning.” Melody reached out for a handful of peanuts and returned to her diagram. “She’s fine, sure. Launch date for second wave is in a few weeks, rumor has it.”

“Rumor?” Frank smirked. “You have gossiping voices in your head, now do you?”

“It’s logical that the last launch cycle was for terraforming, and the next will be colonization, we’ve discussed this. Not everything is a feeling.” Melody smiled now, forcibly defensive.

“Just tell me when to look up. I’d like to catch a glimpse of our little bluebird as she blasts into space.” Frank smiled, too, his wincing, worried smile. 

Melody threw a peanut at his mouth. “Look up!”


“Har, har,” Frank picked up the peanut from the floor next to his chair and tossed it to Tucker, who raised an eyebrow before slowly and licking up the treat, then bathing the wood surface beneath with dog slobber for several moments. That process brought chuckles from his human family every time.  

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Top 5 Makeup Treats: $ave Money while Saving Face

What girl doesn't want to look her best? 


That's my excuse for this post. This is my response to aging avoidance my way with an emphasis on remaining an advocate of natural beauty.


Let's put natural beauty to a vote

Which is your favorite artistic photo, meaning which photograph brings a sense of true beauty to the model?


  OR  

It's the same Swedish model, Mini Anden, in both photos. The black and white photo on the left, which features lots of freckles and very little makeup, has been repinned from my Boho But Natural Pinterest board 159 times. 

The second photo shows heavy makeup with Mini's freckles covered for a slick and cosmopolitan look. 

Most notably, she looks many years older in the second photo. 

The girlish quality of less makeup is more attractive on the majority of women, and it certainly has my Pinterest followers' approval. 

As we age, we need a fresher feel, as makeup tends to slide into the creases of our skin producing awful results, and visually emphasizing the downside of years of laughter and sunshine. 

A lifelong user of natural remedies and cosmetics, I find using less makeup becomes more of a challenge each year, but it's easier with the proper tools. 

Lifestyle Check

Run, drink lots of water, eat right, drink moderately, watch sugar intake, don't smoke, try to get enough sleep, and on and on... 

Even so, the sun exposure on my freckled skin has probably photo-aged me. Plus if you have sensitive skin, you must be choosy about products.

My aesthetician says "you're doing something right" because she thinks my skin is in excellent shape, and people seem surprised that I'm a mom of a teenager. Unless that's all just flattery, this skin care regime must be at least partly to blame. 

Here's my Top Five



  1. Skin Eternal Cream from Source Naturals with anti-aging ingredients DMAE, alpha-lipoic acid, C-ester, Coenzyme Q-10, MSM, and a kiwi scent--no fish oil smell,  yay! This is the night cream, but you can wear it all day even in the Florida heat. It protects and nourishes your skin despite exposure to the elements. Read the reviews, most women adore it.
  2. True Match by L'Oreal Paris doesn't come from the high end market, and it doesn't cover freckles completely, because it works with your natural color and beauty to enhance instead of hide your skin. Dab a little extra on problem spots in lieu of concealer. Rest assured you'll look your best in broad daylight. It's OK for a beach day, there is sunscreen in the formula. Promise: No breakouts from this product. Ever. 
  3. Nutrogena Healthy Volume Mascara lays it on thick, but without irritating your eyes. Mascara goes a long way toward natural beauty as long as you apply it so that no one can tell you're wearing it. This formula does the trick beautifully. 
  4. Nutrogena Nourishing Eyeliner creates a smoky eye without producing red eyes. Please choose any color besides black unless you're Joan Jett. Black eyeliner is great for the young and the goth, but not at all attractive on midlife clubbers. Besides, a color that matches your brow can do double duty as a brow enhancer!
  5. DMA Lipshine gives a little gloss and a lot of nurturing for a kissable mouth. No hard work here, just luxe lips!


Check out the look of Duality Makeup Artistry lips


(Yes, completely blown out porcelain skin before summer set in...)

If you have sensitive skin, troubled skin, aging skin or all of the above, you will love the natural nurturing of this beauty kit five. Total cost of this collection is about $70. 

Or you can skip everything but the $20 cream for a raw beauty regime, no makeup needed. 

Please add your natural makeup tips below. xo



Monday, November 4, 2013

After Contact: The Future of Storytelling


I had to wait a few days to answer the first assignment for The Future of Storytelling, which asked me to write about a favorite movie.  (With over 70,000 classmates worldwide, I doubt my response has been missed just yet.)  But while favorite movies may come along once in a lifetime, in a sci-fi focused family like mine, when a book series you've read all your life becomes a movie it can complicate things. 


My favorite movie is Contact, and my son's was, too, until yesterday. We saw Ender's Game and it was epic. Also it was true to the story, thanks in part to the young adult series author Orson Scott Card's heavy involvement, including rewriting the screenplay six times. 

When Carl Sagan's novel Contact was made into a box office hit film, it answered the second question of sci-fi, "Are we alone?" You cannot help but be inspired by Jodie Foster's intelligence and tenacity as Ellie Arroway, the scientist who holds out her father's hope that other beings exist and may be trying to make contact with humans on Earth. 

When my son was 8, we viewed the film together. That began an important conversation with my son that has lasted his lifetime thus far. 

That year I bought him the first book in the Ender series. Ten years later, Ender's Game was made into a film to answer the third pertinent question in sci-fi, "What happens after contact?" That's my son's favorite question, with possibilities as endless as the imagination. 



The military focus of Card's story arch peaks with the emergence of Ender Wiggin, a young boy who games his way to commander of an elite fleet set on destroying the alien enemy who has attacked and been defeated in a previous Earth battle. 


Every effort to isolate Ender fails, as the genius misfit wins over bullies to miscreants with his emotional intelligence and battle savvy. 



Spoiler alert: Eventually he connects with the leader of the alien enemy and creates a strange diplomatic solution to the genocide for which he was unwittingly responsible. 

Science fiction is always about connection in the story. More than any other audience, sci-fi fans want to relate deeply with their heroes, who are typically  misfits. One may conclude the need to belong bonds the genre, and in an age of arguably less real  human connection, sci-fi engages young and old alike around good storytelling. 

By creating alien nations, these stories cure the alienation of humanity and bond humans under the cause of survival and exploration.  

Perhaps Contact will remain our family's top film, but we have made room at the top for a story about young adults of the future who hold the future of Earth in their hands as part of Ender's Game.

3 Questions Sci-Fi Answers

  1. What is the future like?
  2. Are we alone?
  3. What happens after contact?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Torching a Dream: Chris Sanderson's Lampwork

When Chris Sanderson and I met and began working together a couple of seasons ago, our clients fell in love with her glass beads for their serious rank as eye candy for the handmade minded. 

Artisan jewelry is the town and country standard for savvy women. You're sure to shiver with delight as we did exploring her shiny tradition of fine focal pieces for catching the Florida sunlight. 

It's like putting on a fashionable party to wear one of Chris's lampwork pendants. 

Her work brings joy to the wearer, and she says it’s fun to create, too. 

It takes years of practice and classes with the North American masters, such as Libby L. of the International Society of GlassBeadmakers gatherings, to accomplish such stunning beads made of six layers of glass. In some beads Chris incorporates sterling silver to produce a dazzling iridescent effect.



I was warned last season that a mermaid bead was on the way, and it arrived this week. My admiration for Chris just leveled up, she is a genius! 

Take a look at the mesmerizing lampwork process in the video Chris provided (below), compliments of her supportive husband, and set to smooth jazz. She makes it look so easy. 

And as for what she'll do for your look, let's just say her handcrafted pieces tend to attract the right kind of envy. 

A new fall bead Chris is producing involves etching the glass surface for a matte finish, as she explains:




Here is a new style of bead that I am really loving.  I especially like how this technique looks with opaque fall colors.  It involves etching the bead after it's made with a tumbling process and then to enhance and protect the glass it gets a fine coating of oil/beeswax and this part just makes all the striations pop! 



So if you want to wear the finest artisan conversation piece this fall, or give an incomparable treasure as a gift, here are a few reasons to place Chris' lampwork bead jewelry at the top of your list:
  • Beads handcrafted with up to six layers of glass sparkle with depth and quality.
  • Chris anneals her beads in a digital kiln to make them hard to break.
  • Chris Sanderson is a designer, artist and professional businesswoman with a stellar reputation, tons of talent, and experience studying under lampwork masters. 
  • Her limited edition beads are scarce. She can only make so many, they are unique and take time (watch the video above!).
  • Your purchase entitles you to receive special offers on all future beads.
  • Can you believe her prices? No one else will guess, either. Plus, you'll look like a princess wearing her artwork!





Friday, October 18, 2013

MicroPoetry Slam! Twitter Poets United in Beauty for 140 Characters

Micropoetry #mp flows like free verse haiku (twihaiku, some call it), poetry that wraps up a story or feeling in a few succulent syllables. 

I've become a Twitter poetry lover. To me, there is no excuse for not reading, savoring each quick rush of beauty. No TLDR here, just well-crafted verse leaving you craving more. 


Sometimes snippets of longer poems, sometimes published as complete works, Twitter poetry entices with concise bursts of passion.

Some of the published poets I follow on Twitter have agreed to share a few of their works here. You will want to follow them on Twitter, too. Finger snaps!




1

It is difficult to remember
how much of us is water
in our thirsty skins.


2

I touch the language of water
to bead or rain
or suck in

& know my body
drowns in it.


3

Lie naked on ice
with no scent

water does not foul
without life or decay

& its groaning
is not us.


4

We are wed
to the transparency
of water & air

as much as to
the murkiness
of fog & depth.


5

When I was young
all I needed was love.
I must still be young.

Bauke Kamstra PositivelyWyrde 

____________________________

She wants
his words to be for her
wants to watch
his mouth as he reads
each line of love
wants for a moment
to feel what she has.
___

Apple season finds
her missing summer berries
the sweetness on her
lips, her mouth remembering
their taste those warm days & nights.


___________________________

when the world
crumbles beneath your feet
catastrophic life quake
comes the time of
knowing one's strength

Grace 

_______________________________

*** Check out Twitter friend @Poejazzi for great poetry, music, and London’s Premier Spoken Word/Music night. Curated by Joshua Idehen, Charlotte Morgan Nwokenna and Inua Ellams. ***

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

How to Measure a Social Media Specialist



This opinion, although backed by research and facts, may step on some toes. In our information overload age, analytics and measurements often cause professionals’ gazes to glaze over while reading them, but they matter. My apologies in advance to anyone who finds offense. Even in the D.I.Y. world, there are qualifications for presenting as an expert—do you want to pay for less?

When we, as students, would attempt to call my Tai Chi instructor “Master”, he quoted his own Master, “How much Kung Fu do you have when you have ten years of Kung Fu? A little Kung Fu.” Or if you prefer, allow me to quote the wisdom of the 70s Hostess jingle: It takes a while to eat a Chocodile. 




Although we are addressing a recent media, it takes a while to become a (real) social media professional. Unfortunately, some social media speakers being paid big bucks don’t pass muster or meet minimum requirements for the title.


Full Disclosure: Check My Scores
Klout, Kred, & PeerIndex

Social Media Influencer minimums suggested for a speaker are:
50 Klout
650 Kred
50 PeerIndex 
(Source: Darren Woolley
) 



Forbes Scoffs at Anti-Social Media Marketing Execs

“Life as a top executive of any large company is a tough job. It’s especially tough for CMOs [Chief Marketing Officers] given the high turnover rate. From my experience, having a large following and creating a stronger social network of influential people around you – means you become nearly unemployment proof. It also means you have the ability to influence employees, partners, suppliers and customers directly by using the same platforms and tools that they use every day. It means you can receive instant, personal feedback without having to wait for the data analysts to tell you their interpretation of the situation. It’s the dream situation for a marketer, and most of the marketing leaders are not doing it.” 
(Source: Forbes.com Meet the Top 20 Most Social CMOs of the Fortune 100

Here are some social media influencers Forbes ignored, authored by a writer on the list, to use as a comparison for so-called experts. 


He Brands Like an AutoBot

You can buy all of the followers you like, force yourself on thousands of Facebook friends, and repost, share, retweet, act like a total bot, re-blasting celebrity tweets in social media… and still lack the engagement that makes you an influencer. 

Think of social media as a museum or newspaper that you curate. If you take the “me” out of social media (just say “no” to selfies!) and focus on paying it forward, you will get somewhere. People appreciate your appreciating them, retweeting them on twitter, sharing their photos on Facebook, and liking their photos on Instagram.

Try this:
  1. Beginning with Instagram and your smart phone, add your original photos that are interesting, if a little off-topic. 
  2. Share them to all available social media from the app (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Foursquare) and watch the love grow. 
  3. Curate your content. If a friend’s friend happens upon your feed, timeline, or boards, she always will find something interesting to peruse.

Even the most interesting and expensive exhibit at the zoo captivates its audience for less than 60 seconds, so get to the point. You are branding yourself by entertaining and helping to brand businesses owned by those in your audience. Be generous and creative. Your curated collection may be a limited engagement, in that you hide or delete some of your content that does not receive a strong response after 24 hours. Your most popular content becomes your permanent content.

Watch your Google Analytics to learn where your clicks are coming from, because friends and followers leaving social media platforms to find your website, blog, or landing page counts as engagement on a whole new level. Hooray! They clicked through to visit your wares, raising your site traffic and conversions numbers (sales) over time.

Getting Engaged

As I travel through my social media connections, followers’ avatars become their identities in my brain. Their content tells me what they are up to, whether selling vintage jewelry, or flirting with politically-ranting followers.

I tend to follow Creatives (writers, artists, photographers, musicians, and other entrepreneurs), so don’t engage in political discussions, but share lots of Etsy and Amazon links to the products of my followers. In turn, they tell the world about mine.

The key is that we become friendly with one another, familiar with each other. Sometimes my friends send me photos of mermaids they think I’ll like. That’s really thoughtful, and tells me they know me pretty well! Likewise, if I see a beautiful Hibiscus bloom in my backyard, I know the photo of it will receive a string of <3’s from particular tropical followers on Instagram.

Curate your content, personalizing it for your audience. That’s what marketing and branding is all about. This engagement with your followers connects a good feeling, a familiar feeling, to you and your brand.

Formulaic vs. Natural Flow

Is there anything that stinks worse than spending hours as a grade-schooler writing and editing a letter to your favorite author, or the US President, only to receive a boiler-plate letter in response with the famous person’s signature stamped at the bottom by an intern? 

When Marguerite Henry typed and signed a response to me personally, using a typewriter with a quirky “r”, it became a treasure! Not only did I get an “A” on my report, but I was encouraged in my own writing to be human, honest, and find my own voice. The authenticity of Ms. Henry’s response to a little girl writer who loved horses, and the Misty of Chincoteague series most of all, informed my approach to writing ever after.

It’s called Influence for a reason.

 You can only influence people who respect you enough to engage with you. If you set off their cornball meter, they will ignore you or use you, but they will not engage with you or send you thoughtful photos of mermaids. 

Brand yourself as a real human being, but stay above the fray and be positive (social media is not the venue for drama about how your teenager stayed out all night).

Think about how you turn to positive people again and again because of the way the engagement makes you feel (see Maya Angelou’s poem on the topic).

  1. Feed the Feels: Feel out your followers for positive ways to influence them to love you, thereby loving your brand.
  2. Share the <3: It starts with engaging them on their level, sharing what you know they’ll love and, when relevant, generously sharing their brands with your followers.
  3. RT “you”: Spot check your timeline and feeds for selfies, self-promotion, and un-liked content – cull it down to about 10%. Tweets that mention “you” get retweeted the most!
Klout comic by xkcd via my 18-year-old son, who does not like social media because it has nothing to do with Reddit, gaming, or coding. Incidentally, Reddit Founder Alexis Ohanian’s Klout score is 86.

I have worn the cone of shame for hundreds of lost marketing dollars at the hands of a faux-cial media specialist. I’m not bitter, but better with my D.I.Y. Social Media, for which I am paid a handsome $99 fee for individual hand-holding during guided social media setups. I would do it for free but for the hand-holding part, which can last up to three hours. Note: Show-me works best in person with generations older than Millennials.