Friday, December 31, 2010

The Happy New Year Philosophy

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Every now and then, I come across something really cool to share. It was attributed to Charles Schulz, but you know how these things are on the internet: chances are it didn't really come from him. So I'm calling it the Happy New Year Philosophy. Here it is:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In my Quest to Offend You

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I can't very well let the year end without offending as many people as possible, so here you go: Merry Christmas!

Apparently it's offensive to wish someone the best. Silly me, I thought only people in southern California were allergic to well-wishing (unless they can make a buck off it), but it's beginning to look a lot like even Santa is going to get censored everywhere he goes. Why? We all know what Santa's two favorite words are, and one of them will soon be struck from our Newspeak lexicon.

Personally, I don't get why we're suddenly on this anti-Christian crusade. (Or is "jihad" the proper term here?) America is an inclusive place. We accept pretty much everybody here. Our Founding Fathers were largely Christian. Our government is built upon Christian values. Each of our states' Constitutions mentions God and thanks Him for existence. Why are so many people trying so hard to hide these facts?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Everlasting Trains

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It's now been 12 years since it was unleashed on the world, and it's still popular enough that there are still a handful of internet places you can go and get your computer-railroading urges satisfied. I'm talking about the best of the railroading games, Railroad Tycoon II.

Not only do I continue to make updates to my own strategy guide now and then, but there are others who keep the flame alive in their own special way.

You may not think 12 years is an especially long time, but computers age even more rapidly than dogs, and computer games age more rapidly still. In computer game years, Railroad Tycoon II is nearing 150 and still kicking, which is quite remarkable when you consider the incredibly high infant mortality rate; few computer games are on the shelves longer than two or three months, and even fewer survive their first calendar year, but Railroad Tycoon 2 is still selling just fine, despite being superceded at least twice. Off the top of my head, the only other game I can think of which has equivalent staying power is Diablo 2, which I'll talk about some other time.

Allow me to introduce you to some of the resources still at your disposal:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Writing Exercises

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You guys know I'm part of a couple writer's groups, and one of the things such groups like to do is writing exercises. The one I go to at the Daytona Beach library has been doing one where they pick 10 words at random from the dictionary and you have 15 minutes to write a short story out of them. I posted my first such exercise nearly a year ago, and now I'm posting my last one because they've changed the rules.

The words given last month were these: flamboyant, acrid, morale, usher, stonewall, country, ale, discount, reservoir, bile. I'll post what I wrote in the comments section as I did last time.

The exercise we did today was to write a sympathetic character. Writing characters is something everyone tells me I'm good at, and is one of the few compliments I receive which I have no difficulty believing I deserve. Creating believable characters is something I strive for. I know a lot more about the Human condition than most people do and enjoy making my characters real.

This one came to me slowly but surely. Here's what I wrote (keep in mind I didn't get to do any editing):

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Problem of Emotional Investment

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Have you ever loved something so much, you couldn't let it go? Perhaps a favorite toy, or a favorite scarf, or even a car. Whatever it was, you held onto it a lot longer than most of your other stuff. Perhaps it's old and needs to be thrown out. Perhaps it doesn't do anything for you any more. Perhaps your significant other wants desperately for you to give it away. You know you should get rid of it, but you can't bring yourself to do it.

Why should we have this problem? Why do we hold on to junk we don't need?

It's called emotional investment, and it affects a lot more than our closet space.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Expose Yourself #3 - Evil Can't Hide from Jim

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In this series of articles, I talk to people who have been successful at taking control of their lives, making a name for themselves, and helping others to do the same. I’m very fortunate to have met them, and very thankful they have agreed to spend a few minutes talking with me to share part of their stories. We’re going to delve into what it took to propel these people from ordinary lives into extraordinary lives. We’ll find out where they’ve been, where they are, and where they’re going as each guest is asked to “Expose Yourself”.

You may recall that I was stationed aboard the USS Bataan, affectionately known as a Gator Freighter because we hauled Marines and their gear around the globe. Today’s guest was never one of the guys who crowded me out of the chow line, but he probably did it to someone else a few years back when he was a Marine.

Nowadays, though, he writes books. He’s already written two: Hidden Evil and Mysterious Lady, and is finishing up the 2009 RPLA award winning Rusty Steele, and he spends his time helping other writers perfect their craft as he heads the Port Orange Scribes. As if that wasn’t keeping him busy enough, he’s also webmaster for two chapters of the FWA, regularly volunteers for Hospice in Daytona Beach, is president and CEO of JollyOne Enterprises, and still finds time to be an avid scuba diver. Let’s give a great big OORAH to J. W. Thompson!

JC: Hey Jim, thanks for stopping by. Glad you’re not wearing your tree disguise; it would’ve brought back too many bad memories of walking through the forest on the ship.*

Genre Sales Trends

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Starting last Tuesday (Nov 30) and running through to (probably) this Friday, Eric over at Pimp My Novel has tallied a list of eight different genres and how their sales numbers are doing. If you're writing a book, you might want to take a quick peek at his series of articles. This is his first one. As some of you know, Eric is in the sales department of a major publishing house, so he's got a finger on the pulse of publishing that few of the agent blogs I follow have.

Good luck on your book, and stay tuned, I've got something else to say today too!

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Watch your Words

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In my writer's meeting yesterday, one of my friends asked me, "How many different meanings can you ascribe to the phrase, 'He eats shoots and leaves'?"

I wondered for a moment where he was going with this, and then he continued, "You could say, 'The hunter eats, shoots, and leaves,' to say that he ate something, shot something, and left. Or you could say, 'The panda eats shoots and leaves,' which describes the panda's diet of shoots and leaves. It all depends on where you put the commas."

At which point, I said, "How about, 'He eats shoots, and leaves,' to say that he ate some shoots, and then departed?"

"Ah, but are we talking about the hunter or the panda?"

Friday, December 3, 2010

Loud TV commercials to be CALMed

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Fresh from the excitement of having reached 100 articles, I discovered that Congress has finally decided to give us Americans something we've been asking for for decades: normal volume commercials!

Dubbed the CALM Act, for Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation, it finally answers about 60 years of complaints to the FCC about commercials blaring into the silence of a regular TV program. And who says government doesn't work?

Of course, in the year in which the advertisers finally have to get their act together, I can't help wondering: is it even relavant?

You're Wondering what this Place is all About

Ever have one of those days? Ever felt like mouthing off to the world? What would it be like if Andy Rooney, Dennis Miller, and an angry teenager shared a brain? Let's find out. We're the scissors you shouldn't run with, the matches you shouldn't play with, and the dog you shouldn't tease.

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