Okay… I know this is meant to be a blog post series about how my reading over the years got me into writing, but I’m going to HAVE to take a little detour into a whole different world of story-telling.

So, stay with me on this one.

Because as I hit my 30s, something specific happened which had a significant impact on my life in regards to my writing.

So, my reading was pootling along just fine.

By this point, I was reading a mixture of Harry Turtledove, Anne Mccaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, Judith Tarr, and had started to read the ‘Lincoln Rhyme’ series of books by Jeffrey Deaver. I was still collecting every Star Trek book I could lay my hands on and was now an avid follower of the likes of Vonda N.McIntyre and Peter David. I’d also branched out into Star Wars and was reading that stuff, too.

I was immensely disappointed in the latest Star Wars trilogy (The Force Awakens, et al) simply because I REALLY wanted to see Timothy Zahn’sThrawn’ trilogy brought to life. (I’d trade a thousand Reys and BB8s for Mara Jade in a heartbeat!)

But, here’s where we take a sudden diversion…

RECORD SCRATCH!

I’ve always been a Gamer.

Previously, my gaming had been contained to console games (Sonic, Mario, Metal Gear Solid, that kind of thing…) and Real Time Strategy (RTS) games on the PC (Command & Conquer, etc). Around 2003, though, a game drew my attention that changed things:

It was my first venture into the world of MMORPGs.

Back then it was a fascinating game. You entered a living, breathing online world with thousands of other players and plied whatever trade you liked. For example, I decided to be a Bounty Hunter…

(Quick aside: my first mission was to hunt these little rabbit-type creatures. It did not go well and my first hour in the game was spent running away from vicious rodents! Not an auspicious start.)

…And to pursue my profession, I needed things like: a house, a landspeeder, a droid, a gun, etc. All these things were crafted in game by other players and you could purchase them with the money you made from hunts. And if you got hurt, you could head to a Cantina to get food, or hear music, or get a dance from another player (not that kind of dance!) that would re-invigorate you. It was an amazing little internal economy and I was fascinated by how it worked.

Plus, it gave us this video by MC Chris

From there I dabbled a little in World of Warcraft when that was released, but fantasy like that was never truly my thing.

But then came the game-changer.

In 2005, I started to play a game called…

I’d seen the game advertised in the American comic books I was picking up and I’d been intrigued. So, the moment it was released in Europe, I was all over it. This was because it was a superhero-based MMORPG, which played directly into my wheelhouse. I’d been reading comic books for a good 20 odd years by this point. I knew I wasn’t great at drawing, so I’d pushed aside dreams of being a comic book artist…but comic book writer?  THAT’s where my dreams lay.

I wanted to be Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Gail Simone, Chris Claremont, and so many more. I loved the idea of letting my imagination cut loose while playing in the sandbox that was Marvel or DC. Hell, I even dreamt of writing for 2000AD! Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, Slaine, Rogue Trooper…there were so many icons I wanted to play with.

City of Heroes’ provided me with a sandbox of my own. To create my own characters to play with, and that was so exciting. Each character you created, you got to choose their size, their look, their costume, their backstory, their powersets…

The flexibility of creation was – no word of a lie – groundbreaking!

Not only that…this game had become a source of great friendships for me. I met my wife through this game. I met dozens of friends, many of which came to our wedding in 2015. Our friend Diana Garman captured the gathering by painting us a special ‘selfie’ picture of them all in their CoH characters.

The CoH wedding guests as painted by Diana Garman

The game closed down (officially) in 2012. It was an emotional day and… there were tears. 🙁

The event was captured in this video by Samuraiko, and it still chokes me up to this day to watch it.

Don’t be too worried… the game has recently resurfaced in a series of public servers and now lives on! YAY! You can NEVER keep a true hero down!

So far, so sandboxy!

So, now we get back to the reading

Because while the character creation aspect was amazing, I also fell in love with the lore of the game. It’s HUGE! Dozens of different factions, both heroic and villainous. Dozens of different ‘zones’ with their own stories. And each mission arc tells a story, too. I’d never really experienced anything like it. Don’t get me wrong, games like World of Warcraft, etc have deep stories too, but this was the first time I’d really EXPLORED one. I avidly dove in and read as much as I possibly could of the in-game text.

And that made me want to write something within this universe.

So I did.

You can find the results of that here on this website, with a more detailed explanation of the backstory, by going to the ‘Femme Fatales’ section of this website.

Suffice to say, that this is where the writing bug hit me…and hit me HARD!

I started writing prodigiously. Thousands of words over hundreds of pages. It was a joy.

Better yet, I was publishing them as short stories on a website for our Supergroup in-game. Everytime I put up a ‘chapter’, the response was so good I scampered away to write more. Soon players were asking me to write in their characters too. So I did.

Then…it got serious.

I went back and started to kind of edit those early chapters and create a narrative flow. Honestly I had no clue at this point what I was really doing, simply winging it. But it felt good.

Before I knew it, I had two pretty big books worth, a prequel in progress, and another two books planned.

Which is when things changed again…

I hit my 40s…

And shit got real!

But I think that is a story to be continued in Part 3 of this blog.
So, stay tuned for that!

Love & Books

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11 Comments

  1. Jackie

    Reply

    How cool to have met your wife through a game! Do you two still play games together?

    I’ve never done a role-playing game, but I know many of my friends really enjoy them. They allow you to be creative and to explore different ways of being. You can be a villain in a game when you could never be one in reality, for instance. Or, you could be a character with a lot of power in an RPG when you feel insignificant in reality.

    Have you ever written fan fiction? I know a lot of people really get into that, too.

    And finally, I’m curious, what’s your favorite game these days?

  2. Jon Ford

    Reply

    We do still play together. I was lucky enough to find a gamer girl who loves playing as much as I do! Lol

    We tend to play GTA Online together these days. I love to collect the cars!!! We still play CoH from time to time (and it’ll ALWAYS be my favourite game ever! It’s a little dated these days but the community is second-to-none and the scope for customisation is mind boggling!!!)

    We’re also addicted to Mario Karts and Overcooked… both of which cause significant arguments!!! 😂

    As for fan fiction, no. Not really. I once wrote a silly Star Trek /Star Wars crossover Xmas story when I was about 17! It featured myself and my friends. And I played a Star Trek Plat-By-Email RPG a while back (I should write a blog post about that…), but the closest I’ve really gotten is the Femme Fatale CoH stuff I’ve started to put up on this website!

  3. Liam

    Reply

    Wow, Diana Garman is an amazing artist if that image is anything to go by! It sounds like I missed out on a fun game. Have I missed part 3 of your tale?

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      She is amazing! I’ll get a link up on my artists page soon so you can see more of her stuff! But if you check out the Femme Fatales art gallery (use the links above to find it!).
      She does a wide range of styles and mediums, which I’ve always found soooooo impressive!

      And no, I have Part 3 waiting in the wings! You haven’t missed it. 😀

  4. RaeY

    Reply

    I’ve played World of Warcraft but never City of Heroes. I’m not much of a gamer but my husband does play. He plays mostly “shoot’em up games”.
    It’s cool that you met your wife through a game!

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      I was never a huge WoW fan, though I did dabble a little prior to my CoH years.
      I lean way more towards Sci Fi rather than the typical fantasy genre of warlocks and barbarians (though I do play Diablo III on the Xbox:One these days!)
      I have NEVER had the reaction speeds to play shoot’em ups. And First Person games make me ill! LOL

      • RaeY

        Reply

        I’m not a first person shooter game fan either. I can’t even follow along when my husband plays. It moves too fast for me. He usually has a split screen and someone else is playing too. When he plays with a team I get confused. Like how do you know you’re not shooting your own teammates.

  5. PatricS

    Reply

    I played City of Heroes for years! I loved it! It was great making your own character. Like you said, you chose everything about him. I too made a lot of friends playing this one.
    I tried WoW and didn’t care for it as much. I was glad that I tried City of Heroes. I’m glad it was such a great game. I don’t play anymore. I didn’t know it came back.

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      Ahhhh There is not another game I will ever love like I love City of Heroes.
      It was a HUGE piece of my life for such a long time and I met so many friends and my wife in there.

      Keeping these characters alive in the Songbird books is my way of perpetuating them for all time. I rarely play anymore, despite it’s now being back on a public domain, but it’ll always be dear to my heart.

      • PatricS

        Reply

        With that being said, keeping your characters alive in your books, makes me really want to read them. How far along are you? I can’t wait to see the books published! Good luck man!

        • Jon Ford

          Reply

          Well, Book 1 ‘Hunters’ is now in the final line edit.
          Book 2 is about 60% written
          Book 3 is plotted out.
          Things get a little more sketchy after that. LOL But I do have outlines for Books 4, 5, 6 & 7.

          And I’m currently putting up on this website, chapter by unedited chapter, the originaly Femme Fatale books for your reading pleasure (hopefully!) 🙂

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