Thursday, October 6, 2011

BOOFest!…What a Nightmare!

First a little background information, for those of you who don’t know. I used to be pretty involved in the virtual world called Second Life, which is basically like the real world, but online. You interact with other people via avatars, (my avatar’s name is Lilia Quinnell), and you can do pretty much anything you can in the real world, but so much more. One thing I really got into, which became a great love and passion of mine was storytelling.

I was a storyteller at a library in Second Life called the West of Ireland Library. Storytellers there would read stories in voice, and real people would come and listen to us. One of the best parts is that people would donate real money to us, which we in turn donated to a charity called Project Children, which was a charity that helped children in Ireland learn how to live together in peace despite differences.

Anyway, because of some problems I was having with some people in Second Life, as well as some personal problems I was having IRL (In Real Life), I decided to take a hiatus from Second Life. So I took a break for about a year and a half. During that time, the one thing I missed the most other than my friends in SL was storytelling. So about a month ago, I decided I was going to go back to Second Life, and try to become a storyteller once again.

Now my first go-round as a storyteller was wrought with problems. Some of them were my own fault, some of them were just life getting in the way. This time, I was determined, was going to be different. So I got back in touch with the storytellers from the West of Ireland Library, which had now become the Seanchai Library. Also different was that instead of benefitting just one charity, the Seanchai Library benefits a new charity every month (so awesome!).

The people in charge of the Library were understandably hesitant at letting me come back as a storyteller, because of all the problems that had occurred the first time around. I could hardly blame them. But I assured them, and myself, that this time would be different. And though this time around, there would be problems, how I handled them would be very different.

They scheduled me to take part in a group reading of scary stories to start out October, an event called BOOFest! I was very excited, as horror has always been one of my favorite genres, especially to tell aloud. So I started prepping.

I spent hour upon hour, pouring over books of short stories, trying to find just the right one for my audience. I finally decided on “The Mournful Cry of Owls” by Christopher Golden, which I had read last year in the book “Many Bloody Returns” which is edited by Charlaine Harris, writer of the famous Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) vampire novels. Once I had my story, I started practicing reading it. I read it to myself out loud, and I even recorded it on my computer to make sure that it sounded good. I knew that I was going to be great this time!

When I had the story down perfect, I started on the other aspects of the reading. I found the perfect costume for my avatar, Lilia, to wear. A dark outfit, of course, to fit the mood. A black-lace corseted top, outlined in jewels, with matching fishnet and lace thigh-high stockings, which were held up with a black-jeweled garter belt. On her feet were knee-high black leather high-heeled boots. Tied around Lilia’s waist to form a skirt were old rags of damask-patterned dark velvet in shades of black. Arm-length gloves in fishnet and lace to match the stockings were held in place with more velvet rags. Black feathers were tucked in around the waist and arm bands. Around her neck, a black ribbon choker from which hung a single black feather to lie upon her décolleté. Lilia looked perfect!

When I had my avatar looking great, I moved onto the scenery. It had been a while since I had built anything in Second Life, so it took me a lot longer than it used to, to create the scenery I was building. I spent hours searching through my inventory, finding just the right props to go with what I had created. When I was finished I had created a floor and background that looked like a “haunted” forest. I found a few spooky looking trees in my inventory, so I put them out. Then I found a great bench to place beneath the trees, for my avatar to sit on while telling the stories. Then, for my pièce de résistance, I created a cute, yet slightly spooky owl, to perch in the trees above Lilia’s head. It took a while to make, but in the end, it looked great, and really fit the scene.

There were other odds and ends I had to finish up. Caledonia, the storyteller that was running BOOFest, had asked for a few things. One of the things that I took a while was a headshot photograph. Caledonia asked for a headshot of Lilia to post on the Library’s blog, as all the photos she (and I) had of Lilia were old. So I had to find a photography place in SL, and then me being the perfectionist I am, it took me a while to get the perfect photo. Once that was done, I got it, as well as all the information Caledonia had asked for sent off, and I was good to go, with plenty of time to spare.

Caledonia scheduled me for 3PM on Sunday, October 2, 2011. Unfortunately, this interfered with my church schedule, and I informed Caledonia of such. I didn’t hear back from her though, so I figured I’d just have to leave church early. (It wasn’t until later that I realized that it was General conference weekend, so I’d just have to miss a bit of the Sunday afternoon session.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

In the meantime, my friend Andrew from Washington was staying with my family and I, and so of course I had to attend to him as well. Unfortunately Andrew has really bad allergies, and when he got to Utah, they hit him hard. It seems that he’s deathly allergic to something we have here, and it didn’t help that during the week he was here that the pollen counts were off the charts. As it turned out, he must have been carrying some sort of dormant virus or bacteria, and with his immune system being weakened from his allergies, the illness (we now refer to it as the “black death”) attacked.

It started out with a sore throat, and then attacked his sinuses. I’ve never seen so much sinus discharge (sorry to be gross, but yes, it was disgusting). Then it was in his lungs, and turned into a cough. At one point he couldn’t hear out of one of his ears. The poor guy was in misery.

Not only was I worried about Andrew, but I was worried about my family and I as well. I didn’t want any of us to get sick. I tried to take precautions, but in the end, it was all for not. Whatever this illness was, it was highly contagious. First my brother got it. Then the next day, despite all my precautions, I came down with the “black death”. I was horrified. Here I was, less than 3 days before my grand return to storytelling, and I was sick in bed. I felt absolutely awful. The Black Death hit me HARD. I could barely crawl out of bed to get food, or use the restroom. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to read a story out loud, when every time I tried to talk I would go into a fit of coughing. I think it hit me a bit harder because of my asthma, which acts up when I’m sick. Ugh. I was in trouble. But I was determined not to bail out of storytelling like I had in the past. So I stayed in bed, rested, and tried to get better.

In the meantime, Andrew went home (though his eardrums almost burst on the plane, causing him horrible amounts of pain, and causing him to throw up a couple of times, poor guy), and then my mom got sick as well.

Now BOOFest! was supposed to last two days, Saturday, October 1, through Sunday, October 2, 2011. I was scheduled to read at 3PM on Sunday the 2nd. When Saturday rolled around, I was still half-dead, but half awake and watching LDS General Conference (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) on TV. It was about 2:50PM, and suddenly I got the feeling that I should go check on things for tomorrows reading. So I turned on my computer, and went to the website that had our story times listed (, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was my avatars name, but instead of having my story time as being listed for Sunday at 3PM, it was listed for SATURDAY at 3PM, which was in exactly 3 minutes.
I sat there for a moment, dumbfounded. Why was this happening to me? Why did these things ALWAYS happen to ME? So I logged into Second Life as fast as I could. Then I realized that I still had my headset hooked up to my computer, the headset that had been having issues. I had planned on borrowing my brothers headset for the storytelling, and would have had it ready beforehand, but didn’t now. So I hurried and IM’d Caledonia, informed her that I was having sound issues and asked her to cover for me for 5 minutes. She said, “Okay, we’ll cover for you for 5 minutes, but then we’re going to move on. I wish you would have logged in earlier and worked this out.” Boy how I wanted to say, “no, duh!” But instead I ran to my brothers room, unplugged his headset, ran upstairs to grab a drink and a new box of tissues, because I knew I wouldn’t make it through the hour without them, then ran back to my room and my waiting computer. At this point I was completely out of breath, shaking violently, and almost in tears from what was going on.

Meanwhile, while writing this blog…my room, and the room next to mine flooded. I’ll post another blog entry about that. Ugh…one nightmare after another…will my bad luck never end? But to continue with my BOOFest! Nightmare…

My avatar was still dressed in normal clothing, so I tried to quickly change her into her costume as I was teleporting to the storytelling venue. (I wouldn’t know until after the reading that I would screw that up royally.) I knew I wouldn’t have time to set up the set I had planned for the reading, so I quickly scrapped that idea.

As my avatar arrived at the venue, I could hear someone talking, but I figured I should see if my headset worked. I turned my voice on, and asked if anyone could hear me. At first, no one answered. Finally, I realized I was disrupting a story that someone was telling to cover my butt, and just as I shut up, Derry, the head librarian came on over voice and said that I could be heard, but asked the current storyteller to continue. I apologized for the interruption, and also asked the current storyteller (I don’t even know who it was, that’s how out of it I was), to please continue, and that I was sorry for the interruption. In the meantime, I tried to catch my breath, and prayed that the current storyteller would be long-winded. He wasn’t. Before I knew it, he was finished, and the stage was mine.

My heartbeat tripled, the violent shaking increased ten-fold, and what I thought of as not being able to catch my breath before was breathing easy compared to what I felt now. I started to mumble some sort of introduction about my story, introducing it from the book edited by Charlaine Harris, and muttering something about her, and the True Blood series. I really don’t know what all I said. Then I shakily opened my book and started to read from “The Mournful Cry of Owls” by Christopher Golden.

I gasped out about 3 paragraphs, noticing as I did so that I was getting an ear and window full of IM’s, and knowing that as I did so exactly what they would say (telling me to relax, asking what was wrong with me, etc.). As I struggled on, a kind voice came on over my headset, calling me by my avatar’s name, “Lilia, Lilia, relax, relax…you’re a good storyteller…take a minute, breathe, catch your breath.” My savior, Derry, the head librarian at the Seanchai Library. “Thank you, Derry,” I sputtered, “I just need a minute to catch my breath…I’m sick, and I didn’t know that my reading time was today, and I just found out.” I tried to explain what was going on, and she just kindly encouraged me to take a deep breath, and take a minute to recover, which I did.

I turned off my microphone, closed my eyes, and just breathed. In chat people were typing kind words of encouragement to me, which really helped. They were all saying that they all needed a break after a long day of storytelling anyway, so they all too a few minutes break as well.

After a few minutes recovery time, my heartbeat slowed, as did my breathing, and my thought process. I knew I could do this. I just needed to relax, and focus. I turned my microphone back on, apologized for the delays, and thanked everyone for waiting.

I opened my book once again and took my listeners with me on a journey along with Danika Ristani, a newly turned 16 year old girl who would find out that she was something more, something darker than she thought she was.

In the end , though my voice sounded stuffy, and I had to take moments to blow my nose, I think that my reading went pretty well considering all the problems at the beginning. I didn’t get to display the scenery that I created, nor the pretty costumery that I had found (I realized afterwards that I had left a t-shirt on my avatar that said Woot! across the front of it, and that it looked completely stupid with the rest of the costume), but in the end I was proud of myself for enduring through to the end, for not giving up, or just not showing up (as I probably previously would have), but in toughing it out, and doing the best that I could. Now if I can tough out this whole flood business, I’ll be set…