Introducing dio

What exactly is dio (lowercase)?

Well its a visually enhanced and web empowered text adventure designer for things like Zork or Colossal Cave.

Its also a multimedia platform that lets you turn  your image, audio and video file folders into an experience.

And it provides advertisers a way to make commercials more interactive, user friendly and fun.

Its an “explorable space” that’s half web design and half social network.

And dio monetizes all the junk you have sitting on your computer!

Forbes is interested.

dio-cave

 

dio is a new tool/game/webdesigner/explorable space created by Linden Lab, the people who brought you Second Life. At its most basic it lets you create games like zork and colossal cave, just with pictures, videos, audio, and a lot more bells and whistles. They envision this going far beyond that though. They imagine advertisements for say, a hotel or museum, or what have you, where you can go in, look at each room and interact with them in various ways. There are a lot of potential applications for artists or creatives of all types to get their create on with dio and share in a new interactive way. I could see an artist or photographer making some kind of interactive fun game around their photogallery.

I’m already thinking of designing a mini game allowing someone to take a tour of some of the settings and characters in my book series, but I can think of a lot more intriguing ideas for it. The best part is that Linden Lab is very good at monetizing and investing their creator partners in the process. They are trying to build in ways that dio creators can earn linden dollars through activity within their creations, and there’s already a ‘linden stock exchange’ where you can sell your linden dollars for real world dollars. I used to support myself exclusively through the sale of my lindens to the tune of $3000 a month or so. Not too shabby for pixels, 1’s and 0’s. As Linden Lab adds more games and explorable spaces, they will probably start expanding how you can earn linden dollars and what you can do with them, which is interesting. You could earn dollars in dio and spend them in Second Life, or vice versa.

The master’s inspiration

What-I-want

There’s a wonderful quote by Heinlein from his book ‘Glory Road’ that’s captured my imagination lately. Some of it is in that picture I threw together above, but the full quote is quite a bit longer and much more evocative:

“What did I want? I wanted a Roc’s egg. I wanted a harem loaded with lovely odalisques less than the dust beneath my chariot wheels, the rust that never stained my sword. I wanted raw red gold in nuggets the size of your fist, and feed that lousy claim jumper to the huskies! I wanted to get up feeling brisk and go out and break some lances, then pick a likely wench for my droit du seigneur – I wanted to stand up to the Baron and dare him to touch my wench! I wanted to hear the purple water chuckling against the skin of the Nancy Lee in the cool of the morning watch and not another sound, nor any movement save the slow tilting of the wings of the albatross that had been pacing us the last thousand miles.

I wanted the hurtling moons of Barsoom. I wanted Storisende and Poictesme, and Holmes shaking me awake to tell me, “The game’s afoot!” I wanted to float down the Mississippi on a raft and elude a mob in company with the Duke of Bilgewater and Lost Dauphin. I wanted Prester John, and Excalibur held by a moon-white arm out of a silent lake. I wanted to sail with Ulysses and with Tros of Samothrace and to eat the lotus in a land that seemed always afternoon. I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid. I wanted the world to be the way they had promised me it was going to be, instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled-up mess it is. I had had one chance – for ten minutes yesterday afternoon. Helen of Troy, whatever your true name may be – and I had known it and I had let it slip away. Maybe one chance is all you ever get.”

Wow.

Many of these stories and characters mentioned are familiar ones. Excalibur, Huckleberry Finn, Sherlock Holmes. I’m familiar enough with them, and I assume most of those reading this are as well.

Some are a little more obscure but still most true geeks would at least be aware of them. A roc’s egg, Barsoom, Ulysses, the Nancy Lee, Prester John, Lord Tennyson’s Lotos Eaters. Obscure but knowable.

Some are completely unknown to me. What is Storisende? Where is Poictesme? Who is Tros of Samothrace?

One phrase I must admit I had to look up. “Pick a likely wench for my droit du seigneur” – Mr. Heinlein that’s a very politically incorrect sentiment these days. Still slightly politically incorrect is the rejoinder, “I wanted to stand up to the Baron and dare him to touch my wench!”

This is akin to finding the holy grail, in a way. Heinlein is one of the masters of science fiction and someone who has created stories that have filled me with magic and wonder and a sense of what a real man and woman are supposed to be like. This is almost like a genetic map of his own geekdom. It’s like being a guitarist and finding a list of all the musicians who influenced your favorite band. These are the things that filled Heinlein with that same sense of wonder and romance. It’s a treasure trove to be sorted and studied very carefully.

I’m very interested in exploring more about this quote and the many wonderful stories I’ll find along my journey into geekdom past. I’m sure I’ll break a few lances and hearts along the way. The game is afoot!

Dancing Bones Cover

Mistress of the Dancing Bones

A Terror plagues Avenesse. Lead by the outlaw Dualo, renegade nests of vampires murder Avenesse’s mortals and nephilim alike. With the help of the ancient gunslinging witch hunter Etienne Dusang and the talking demon horse Uisthre, Ashia unravels the Terror’s secrets. She must also endure Dusang’s companion, the mischievous and deadly feline changeling Tamalandrea.

When the mortals of Avenesse were faced with extinction by the monstrous undead legions of the Deathlands, they were desperate for salvation. Vampire clans answered with a horrific bargain, offering protection in exchange for mortal blood. Facing the choice of slavery or annihilation, many mortals submitted to their vampiric masters. Hundreds of years later, the vampiric noblesse call themselves nephilim and zealously guard their mortal subjects’ precious unlife-giving blood. To the nephilim blood is currency, vampirism is political power, and renegade vampires must be destroyed.

Ashia Boucher is the halfbreed mortal daughter of the nephilim marquis charged with protecting the frontier province of Rataan’s easternmost border. Her father shields Ashia from the Empire’s harsh realities and turns a blind eye to her willful curiosity and exploration of forbidden blood necromancy. Once Ashia escapes the prison of her father’s protection, she must develop her unique necromantic abilities or die to her family’s many enemies.

Vampire-ruled Avenesse holds many dangers for a mortal like Ashia besides blood-hungry renegade vampires. Lurking in its dark corners are the mindless dead, corpse eaters, clouds of sentient life-devouring energy, moldering creatures that can walk through walls, and all the horrors the Deathlands can unleash.

Will Ashia survive the bloody battle required to destroy Dualo’s vampiric nest and will she and the cat changeling Tama kill each other or become friends?

Midnight Sky concept

Midnight-Sky-Temp

As I’m working on the final for Dancing Bones, I have a lot of other things on my plate as well. I’m also working on a revised draft of book two, Mistress of the Midnight Sky. I have a very rough book cover concept for that above.

Status update on books:
1. Mistress of the Dancing Bones: 114k word final draft. Editing completed soon ™
2. Mistress of the Midnight Sky: 87k rough draft
3. Mistress of the Dragon’s Blood: 12,637 word rough

 

Dancing Bones Excerpt

Ashia-Blowup

Ashia noticed Old Tasa’s gaze lingering in the distance and followed it to a group of horses with a single rider clomping through the hills far from any particular road. Both she and the old woman  had been so engrossed in their Working they hadn’t noticed. The rider was about twenty meters away and obviously nephilim, as he was wrapped in heavy black robes and a thick cloth cowl with layers of black gauze covering his face. They could keep out even a hint of the deadly sun. The robes glinted with silver embroidery done in magical patterns and lettering.  Two pistols were kept at his waist and they gleamed as if their handles had been freshly polished, even though their wooden bodies were well worn. Small metal rings were set into both pistols’ barrels and from these rings hung odd talismans, tiny prayer scrolls inscribed with tiny mystical writing, and other curious charms.

Ornate weapons hung within easy reach, including two rifles. One was a short Chevalier Model 377 Rifle stamped with the familiar Judicci family seal. That seal meant it had to come from the Judicci gunsmiths of Lhazandu, the distant capital of Rataan province. Almost all of Father’s soldiers at Kuturi used Chevalier 377’s. The stranger’s looked too clean to have been used more than a few times.

The other rifle was unfamiliar to Ashia. It approached two meters in length and was both well-worn and well cared for, with the battered beauty that only rifles that had seen many battles could acquire. Ashia recalled seeing something like it as a child in her grandfather Maxime’s collection in the Boucher estates in Limou so far to the west. Her grandfather’s rifle had been polished, decorated with silver and gold, and had obviously never been fired. Besides the guns, attached to the saddles were an assortment of blades, swords, knives and more esoteric weaponry.

The figure’s horse was huge and powerfully built, like a horse from the northlands, whose back was higher than a man. Its hooves gave off dark sparks and smoke as it clomped forward, and its mane was in constant motion and ended in smoky wisps. A lithe and slender black cat sat in the figure’s lap against the saddle curled up as if it had not a care in the world. The pretty thing had not one but two tails that swished around behind it, and when they touched, dark energy crackled between them. It was a strange figure indeed. Two horses, these more mundane ponies, were tied off to the first horse.

A foul burnt smell carried with the figure and horses, and at first Ashia assumed it was the horse, as if it was some demon from the depths. She glanced at Old Tasa questioningly but she motioned behind the horses. A rope trailed from the final horse down to a figure, black as midnight and impossibly thin, being dragged through the dust behind them. The black body smelled of burning flesh and still moved and still weakly cried out.

A disfigured burnt hand, so emaciated as to be almost skeletal, reached up and weakly gripped the rope. Once the figures approached more closely, Ashia could make out the word “Mercy…” whispered from the burnt man’s blackened lips. He spoke Gwanjo, a language of distant Anara to the south, long ago lost to the Death Lords. Now the only living souls who spoke that language were refugees pushed northward for generations. The robed figure paid no heed to the man’s cries and clomped on towards the two of them. Perhaps he didn’t speak Gwanjo. Few outside of the refugee camps did, besides Ashia herself.

“Whoever he is,” Ashia said, and she was sure the robed figure was a he, “he knows how to impress without speaking a word.”

Old Tasa shushed Ashia into silence and rolled up her rug with practiced speed, then tossed both to the side of the tree in the bushes and fanned the air to dissipate the lingering smoke from her concoction. Tasa stood very firmly between Ashia and the figure and set her walking stick solidly on the ground before her. Ashia peeked out from behind the old woman and watched the approaching figures closely. Old Tasa’s firm stance almost frightened Ashia as much as the figure. She was rarely so direct and forceful, preferring to blend into the background and be dismissed as a quaint old woman of no importance. In spite of her trepidation, Ashia was curious. There were so few travelers out this far other than father’s soldiers and Rataan tradesmen, and never one as intriguing as this.

The figure stopped at the edge of their clearing near where Old Tasa stood. He nudged the cat and it reluctantly yawned, stretched out lazily and then hopped to the ground. It bore a thick collar made from an unfamiliar animal hide  with a leash of interwoven black hide strips connecting to something hidden under the voluminous layers of the robed figure’s arm. The cat, with its tail swishing behind it, sniffed the air near them. Ashia could feel a pressure, a light brushing across her life-force which sent nervous vibrations through the bright white strands of her life-paths. Ashia could tell from Old Tasa’s shudder she felt it too.

The cat’s body turned to inky blackness and stretched and pulled in all directions. Though it took but a moment it shook Ashia seeing it transform in such a messy fashion. When the inky mass was roughly the size of a small pony, it congealed into a black jaguar, which let out a curious growl. Then the panther lost its fur and shifted in turn into an unnaturally slender and  pale skinned woman with long black hair that hung nearly to her waist.  She was nude and retained vestigial feline traits like black furred feline ears, green slitted eyes and two ebon cat tails as long as she was tall that swished enthusiastically behind her.  Even without the extra parts, her slender physique and otherworldly features would mark her as something other than human. Was this creature one of the fey? She’d never heard of one so far east, those that remained lived in the distant west.

“A Dharaki witch and a half breed,” the cat girl said in a pleasant and musical voice that betrayed a mocking tone, “possibly her apprentice.”

Old Tasa hissed and reached back to touch Ashia’s arm. “Go back to house,” she said in a voice like cold steel. Ashia looked back. Suddenly their distance from the Steward, Monsieur Grignon, was not a positive.