Reality Is Broken – A Book Review

Originally posted at Goodreads

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the WorldReality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I find all the negative reviews that are listed for this book to be relatively amusing. It seems glaringly obvious from those who are providing these reviews that they are not part of the 176 million gamers currently residing in the western world.
I also find their conclusions and reasons for disliking this book bizarre and without any definitive specifics for why they disagree with the premise this book is based on. Resorting to calling the author names like “anarchist,”crazy,” and “poor writer.” That last bit seems redundant since if it was that poorly written why are you on Goodreads writing a review about it?

That aside, I may not believe that it is possible for Games to make reality better, but I DO agree that games are good for lifting yourself out of depression, changing your point of view and improving your mindset should it be mildly depressive. I game and I found her statistics enlightening and mildly over-whelming. Anyone who doesn’t take the “mass exodus” of more and more people choosing gaming over social interactions seriously are missing the point of what Ms. McGonigal is trying to communicate.

It isn’t just a book about games, gamers or how games can “fix” everything. It’s a wake-up call to society in general that current and future generations are spending more and more time playing games which will ultimately damage our communities. It is a book about happiness and that gaming provides happiness to those who need it most while reducing their dependence on consumerist thinking that tells them more “stuff” will make them happy.

I feel that many who reviewed this book and gave it such negative comments and/or ratings, missed the point the author was making in each chapter – independent of the title.

It is possible to read a book without making judgements about the author prior to finishing said book. I also don’t think it necessary to name-call any author. Besides, I find anyone who criticizes first-time authors beyond ridiculous if you aren’t also a published author. SOMEONE thought this was a good book otherwise it would never have been published in the first place.

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Don’t Get Any Ideas

English: Walk of Ideas sculpture Modern Book P...

English: Walk of Ideas sculpture Modern Book Printing Deutsch: Der moderne Buchdruck, Sculptur des Walk of Ideas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most famous and most asked question that any artist, writer, crafter, architect or other creative worker has heard, is always, “Where do you get your ideas from?”

I think it is the most over-used, blatantly boring, redundant and pointless question ever asked. It’s as though people who read, admire, live in or otherwise experience another person’s work has never had an original thought in their lives. Which by the way, is ridiculous. Where does anyone get ideas? From the same place anyone else does. Just because you’re a writer or artist or designer or whatever doesn’t grant you some magical lifeline into the mysteries of the universe where a well of ideas spring forth ripe for you to pick them out at your leisure. In a word, I think the idea of ideas is rather nuts. Everyone has ideas and the only thing that separates a creative individual from anyone else, is that the creative person holds within them the drive to DO something with their ideas and practice, practice, practice their craft.

Speaking of practice I was perusing a few blogs this afternoon and over the years I’ve seen numerous authors struggle with the dreaded phrase “writer’s block.” Personally I don’t believe writer’s block or any other ‘block’ to your creativity exist. I do believe however, that any block that you may or may not encounter only exists as a way for you, the writer, to avoid writing whatever piece you have in front of you. It isn’t that you’re lazy or that you would much prefer to do something else (all jobs have this element btw, it’s not exclusive to writers). Nor is your topic, writing or knowledge lacking in skill, interest or relevance, although there may be a bit of all of these but not in the way you may expect.

By this, I mean that there may be a part of you that really doesn’t like what you’re writing about. Maybe you started off writing about your grandpa’s antique car collection but you would rather write about grandma’s cooking recipes. Or maybe you’re writing something you feel obligated to write because you have specifically designed your blog, novel or article to be about a pre-determined topic and feel you have to “stick with your plan.” Honestly, unless you’ve received an advance or signed a contract promising this piece of writing to another party, you DO NOT have to keep writing it. If you aren’t passionate about your current writing endeavor, why are you writing it? You and your writing flourishes when you write passionately about something that moves you while also helping you grow as a writer and as an individual.

Now there is the other kind of so-called “writer’s block” when you’re sitting in front of that always dreaded and oh so intimidating, glaringly bright white computer screen and all you can think of is getting another cup of coffee and reading a book. Which is not such a bad idea. Ever heard the saying that when you’re looking for something, the harder you look the less likely you are to find it? And that if you really want to find something that you should engage in any other activity that allows your thoughts to think of something else? No? Well it really does work and it also works for writing.

However, if you have a deadline and all you can hear is the ticking of the wall clock, the growling of your empty stomach or the crunching of food by a family member or co-worker and you just HAVE to write something today, I have an exercise you can try to get those writing muscles in gear.

Several years ago I used to be a member of what was called the Writer’s Digest Book Club and it was awesome. Books I never knew existed could be found in this club, never mind bought at any local bookstore and I felt like I’d gone to writing heaven. I bought more than my fair share of writing books but I wasn’t actually doing any writing, as so often happens when you consign your dreams to remaining dreams. But I knew I would want to write “someday” and so I decided to only invest in reference books that would be available to me when I was ready to read them.

Long story short, I have in my possession a book entitled, Fast Fiction: Creating Fiction in Five Minutes by Roberta Allen. It’s a great resource for finding and generating ideas. The concept is simple and once you’ve tried it a few times, you should no longer bemoan your imagined lack of idea generating muscles.Get yourself a simple egg timer, choose one prompt from the sample list below, set your timer for 5 minutes and start writing.

Don’t think! Just write!

Write a story about a lie. Write a story about a wish. Write a story about something that really happened. Write a story about greed. Write a story about a window. Write a story about a doorway. Write a story about water. Write a story about something that hasn’t happened yet. Write a story about a storm. Write a story about a flower, a memory, falling, money, desire, dancing, pain, a secret, air, friendship. (You get the idea…)

If words aren’t cutting it for you, find yourself some black and white photos of anyone or anything you know nothing about. All you should have before you is an image of someone or something. Write about it. Tell a story. Let the words pour forth and don’t worry about editing, grammar or anything else your ego tries to bring to your attention. You’ll have plenty of time to think about that when the timer ends. If you find you have more to say after the timer goes off, set it for another 5 minutes and keep going. Stop after this and review what you’ve written. I can almost guarantee that you will have before you a piece of writing you didn’t even know was in your thoughts. And if you’re really lucky, not only will you have gotten past any ‘block’ you may have had, but you may also have a new plot idea before you. You could also very easily use this technique to write an entire book.

The choice and the words are yours. Begin.

Genres: What’s Your Flavour?

Cover of "Magic Kingdom for Sale--Sold! (...

Cover via Amazon

Do you know what flavour your genre is? In the big, intimidating and more often than not exclusive world of publishing there are just two very basic forms of writing. Fiction and non-fiction in others words, based on real-life events or made up worlds and characters.

For each of these there are an ever-expanding list of sub-categories that never cease to change and evolve, much like the human race itself. On a simplified level non-fiction can include but is not limited to biographies, autobiographies, history, culture, love, relationships and the ever popular self-help.

Fiction has just as many varieties and categories as there are in the non-fiction world but the problem dear readers, is that in order to market your work you must know into which category your written piece falls into. If you can’t figure out what genre you’ve written or what your target audience is you will have a very difficult time marketing your work to the write publisher.

A good example of not knowing your audience or your particular flavour of genre was when several years ago I attended a writer’s group meeting at my local library. The things many of these writers didn’t know was where they fit into the world of books or how to go about discovering whether or not what they had written was had been done before. When they read their short writing samples I was shocked by how little they knew, not only about their target audience or their subject matter, but were completely oblivious to popular works in their category.

For example, an older gentleman read to the group a fight scene between a father and son that had within it a weapon they were using to teach the son discipline while strengthening their relationship as the son “came of age.” The problem was the weapon itself. The author failed to describe the weapon at all. He continued referring to it by the name he’d given it while the rest of us tried and failed to picture what it looked like. I stopped listening after only a few minutes because I could not picture the weapon mentioned, which made it impossible to imagine the scene he described. When we pointed this out to him he was confused that we would need a detail like that just to listen to a sample of his writing when his focus was on the interaction between his characters.

A second author, after reading their particular sample, made knowing your target audience paramount to writing any story regardless of genre. This author presented a story about a young brother and sister team who used their dreams to enter a magical kingdom in the woods at night. While listening, many of the other writers, including myself kept thinking that there was something extremely familiar about this story. When he finished reading, everyone thought his writing was well done, with vivid description and his dialogue wasn’t bad either. But there was just one problem. We pointed out that this story was very much like the popular children’s book Where the Wild Things Are. To which he replied he had never heard of this story. He was also quite adamant that this book was for young adults, but as a group we said that there would be very few, if any young adult readers who would gravitate to a story like this. When questioned, he admitted that he had never read any books for young adults or children which I felt was not only irresponsible but lazy to boot, considering that you will eventually expect other authors in your genre to read your work. Plus without knowing your competition, marketing your work will be very difficult if you don’t know what is currently popular. If you don’t know your audience, how do you expect to be heard?

When you first begin your writing endeavors you should always be very clear and honest with yourself about what you want to write about, what you’re passionate about and who you want to write for. Once you’ve determined these points, you really must read what is out there in that genre or age group so that you can get a feel for style, content and what kind of genre you want to write. For example, choosing to write a fantasy novel is all well and good, but what kind of fantasy novel? Will it be loosely based on real-world locations? Are your ideas drawn from a time or place in history? Will it be an epic fantasy world that never once mentions this world? Or will it have a link to our present time that allows readers to connect by imaging themselves crossing over into your fantasy world? If you’ve never heard of a book like that, there are several that should be available at your local library – some popular, some not so much. The ones that come to mind are: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Alice in Wonderland, and Terry Brook’s, Magic Kingdom for Sale – Sold!

There are a multitude of genres out there but I believe the biggest key to unlocking your success is to know your genre as well as you know the back of your hand, and then some. If you’re writing mystery and suspense, you will need to read at least one from each category that you feel your story falls into. For example in mystery, there are hard-boiled detective novels, whodunnit stories, crime novels, cat-solving mysteries (yes even cats solve mysteries), and forensics and/or csi which could then be termed crime/drama.

Below you will find authors that I have read in different genres that I feel show some of the best talent their genre can offer. What you will not find is authors I have never read nor books that I couldn’t get through even though they may have been on someone’s bestseller list or were recommended by this or that celebrity. You also will not find any romance authors here. I have read many romance over the years but that was long ago and even then they had to be historical in nature or I quickly lost interest. Nowadays, I fill my romance needs by reading stories or novels that also have a great, meaty plot and vivid characters much like what you would find in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.

Authors for a variety of genres and/or age groups: Horror authors; Stephen King, Dean Koontz, John Saul, Edgar Allen Poe, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, and Robert McCammon‘s earlier works. Fantasy/Sci Fi; Tracy Hickman & Margaret Weis, Terry Brooks, J.K. Rowling, J.R.R Tolkien, Barbara Hambly, Laurell K. Hamilton, Sara Douglass and Diana Gabaldon. Mystery/Suspense; Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, Dan Brown, Agatha Christie, Kathy Reichs, and Tess Gerritson. Literary Fiction: Maeve Binchy, Jane Austen, George Orwell, Charlotte Bronte, Yan Martel & Margaret Atwood.

I hope that if it was previously missing, you are now able to better understand how to determine what genre your work of fiction may or may not fall under. For a long time, I believed that my greatest passion was to write fantasy fiction. Perhaps that is still one of them, but for now I am content to write as many non-fiction pieces as my muse cares to dictate to me. So long as my momentum doesn’t waver, I am fine with allowing my muse to pave the path I walk upon.

The Passage – A Book Review

The Passage (The Passage, #1)The Passage by Justin Cronin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

*SPOILERS* Ha! There are no spoilers, just lots of reasons not to read this book. đŸ˜‰

I can’t say I really enjoyed this book. The story was OK sort-of, but a great deal of the bulk of this massive tome was long-winded and contained a lot of extraneous information that never once helped to move the story along. I also did not care for the author‘s use of changing character viewpoints every time I started a new chapter. Neither did I enjoy all the “extra” plot “asides” that never reached any kind of resolution or clarity. (Read: boring).

Although I would like to know how the story ends and what all the big secrets are, I’m in no hurry and feel no real urgency to find out what happens by picking up the next in this series. Series? Really? I really don’t think I want to invest any more time discovering (looking for a needle in a haystack), all the promised revelations/resolutions hinted at in this book, never mind slogging through two more of them.

I never enjoy “cliffhanger” endings – never have, especially if it comes from a new author I have never read before and have yet to decide if I like them or not. I strongly believe that these types of books do not benefit from ‘sequels’ until the author is firmly established in the publishing world.

When I picked up this book I did not realize that it was an “end-of-the-world” apocalyptic story or I would never have read it. For one thing what many apocalyptic stories fail to point out is that in reality, no one would survive because everything that requires maintenance and observation in our daily world such as nuclear power plants would eventually fail and destroy the entire planet. Which makes it hard for me to ‘suspend’ my disbelief and enjoy these types of books.

In conclusion… this story HAS no conclusion and even if it does, I highly doubt I will ever seek out the answers to the multitude of unresolved “stuff” laid at my feet in this first installment.

Once I recover from getting past all the wasted hours I just spent reading this nearly 800 page volume and resume becoming part of normal waking reality, I will likely never recall in any significant detail what this book was about other than lots of dead people and weird-ass vampire BS. But you don’t have to take my word for it.

In the words of Dracula from Hotel Transylvania….

“Blah, blah-blah.”

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