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Michelle's corner

Michelle Knight. Writer, photographer, programmer, truck driver and general, all round nut case. Life is a journey and that's what this blog will probably end up being. Let's see where we go, eh? ;-)

Currently reading

Your Beauty Mark. All You Need to Get the Hair, Makeup, Glow, and Glam.
Dita von Teese
Progress: 208/256 pages

Review - The Game Believes In You - 5 out of 5 stars

The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter - Greg Toppo

Where do I begin? This book took me some time to read because.. well... life. But I'm a gamer, and I was determined to make it through this one, and I'm glad that I did. You don't have to be a computer gamer to be able to read this book. It's very accessible and covers non-computer gaming as well, because it discusses the whole learning and creative process.


In many respects there are a number of conflicting elements. One is that people learn better when at a machine (and machines were being used to teach before computers as we know them) because a machine goes at the pace of the student; whereas learning in a class everyone goes at the same pace (some get bored while others drop behind) but the class teaching is social whereas the game teaching is not social.... except in the cases where it is.... and in game world there isn't the restriction of who's wearing the latest branded trainers... but in the real world, talking with a child about what they're seeing on screen can deepen learning and having real consequences to actions can make things more thrilling and engaging...


You see... this can be sliced and diced so many ways, and I've read a good chunk of wisdom about learning... or more appropriately HOW we learn... in this book.


If you're interested in children and learning then I believe that this book is well worth reading, even if you're not a gamer. As well as discussing the learning and exploratory process, it has a section that deals with the long argued issue of violence and games as well as the topic of addiction, and it offers some sensible viewpoints that I believe are very much worth considering.


For parents, there is definitely a strong message to get involved with your child's game play and discuss it.


What most adults fail to realise, he said, is that as safe as they are, kids today are dealing with anxieties that previous generations didn't. 'We're exposed to things going on all over the world,' Schleifer said, 'A hundred years ago, children were only exposed to what was on the block, what was around the corner. Maybe something bad would happen in the neighbourhood, but if it wasn't in the neighbourhood, then nothing happened.' Now, he said, they've got access to news of the world, to bad things happening everywhere. 'How does a child get their head around something like a tsunami? How would you deal with that? For adults there's no way to deal with it.'


There's no getting away from the fact that playing games affects the mind and can actually be more effective than medications.


"So for the past few years, a small group of psychiatrists, researchers, educators and game designers have run a quiet but intense footrace to become the first to earn FDA approval for a medically sound, prescription-strength video game for ADHD. That's not a metaphor. They are seeking approval for a game that a doctor can actually prescribe.
The problem with drugs like Ritalin or Adderall , researchers say, isn't just that they have side effects. It's that they're almost entirely hit or miss. They activate 'your entire brain, in a very blunt way,' said Dr. Adam Gazzaley, a psychiatrist and founding director of the Neuroscience Imaging Centre and the University of California, San Francisco."
"Gazzaley began wondering if he could develop a game to enhance this switching in older adults. At the time, a few of his friends were working for the game developer LucasArts, so he asked if they'd be interested in helping him out. They said they'd be delighted. 'Their perspective was that they'd been teaching teenagers how to kill aliens for fifteen years now - most of their professional life - and they were looking forward to the opportunity to work on games that might have a different kind of impact.' "


I learned so much from this book, that it gave me some new perspectives on learning and game processes. Some might find that this book needs to be read in multiple sittings, but in my humble opinion, it is well worth it.



Audio book is coming along

I've been told by the person doing the editing, that he has just finished Chapter 7. He's still got a way to go, but I know he's under pressure. I've told him to do it only when he actually gets something out of doing it. Art is best when it's done at a time when its loved. I know that sounds totally moronic, but it's the best way I can describe my feelings about it.


So, the audio book of Check Mate is going to be a while... but it'll get there. Things are starting to settle down here. I'm hoping to start working on the Companion re-write towards the end of June. Things are just too nuts right now for me to feel like I can concentrate fully.

"My Dad Wrote A Porno"

I'm not sure what to say about this one. I won't be tuning in myself, because I'm not really in to the porn side of things; I'm an, "emotional ride," sort of person... but this came on the radar and intrigued me to the point I thought I'd share...


Jamie's father had sent him the first few chapters of the racy novel he'd been secretly writing. "I naively assumed it would be some story of swashbuckling pirates or a spy thriller. It was only when I started reading it that I discovered he'd been penning porn," says Jamie, 29. Bodice-ripping sentences he stumbled over included "the job interviewer had just asked her to remove her jacket and silk blouse" and "her black brassiere was working overtime". Following the initial shock, Jamie decided to read his dad's adult literature to some friends down the pub. They immediately collapsed with laughter and piled in with their comments and critiques.




Indie Bound

Well, common sense said it had to exist. In the UK we have Hive which is a collection of independent bookstores. Sometimes the books I buy are cheaper on that, than Amazon. Plus other stuff comes up that just isn't available in mainstream. And I know I'm supporting local. Maybe not local to me, but at least local to someone !!!


The US have Indie Bound - http://www.indiebound.org/ - not that I can review them as I'm the other side of the planet... but it's another thing which I thought was worth mentioning.


From their web site...


Why shop Indie?

When you shop at an independently owned business, your entire community benefits:

The Economy

  • Spend $100 at a local-owned business and $68 of that stays in your community. Spend the same $100 at a national chain, and your community only sees $43.
  • Local businesses create higher-paying jobs for our neighbors.
  • More of your taxes are reinvested in your community--where they belong.

The Environment

  • Buying local means less packaging, less transportation, and a smaller carbon footprint.
  • Shopping in a local business district means less infrastructure, less maintenance, and more money to beautify your community.

The Community

  • Local retailers are your friends and neighbors—support them and they’ll support you.
  • Local businesses donate to charities at more than twice the rate of national chains.
  • More independents means more choice, more diversity, and a truly unique community.

The Bronx - No Bookstore

Apparently, the Bronx has spent the last year without a book store. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-us-canada-39979281/the-place-with-a-million-people-and-no-bookstore


There are a number of issues raised in that video segment including the book store that Noelle Santos plans to open in a few months.


One of those thing is that the reading group she's running plans to focus on authors of colour and female authors, as well as local authors. The immediate thing that crossed my mind is how are they going to tell this? Unless I research an author, the name is such an unreliable mechanism these days. Family names are now so diverse for a start, and then you have the large issue of female authors who deliberately write under male pen names.


There is also an issue which is relatively unresearched; the issue of men who write under traditionally female names, as well as names which are unisex. The gaming community currently believes that in World of Warcraft, if you come across a female character, there's a 50/50 chance that the player behind it is male... (reading Greg Toppo's book, "The Game Believes In You") and from that, I infer nothing sinister (in the majority of cases) but there's nothing wrong in my eyes, with a person exploring aspects of themselves that are usually reserved socially for the other gender... but that the individuals still possess... after all, we're all emotionally whole humans. Men do cry, and women do want to bash the living crap out of something now and then. - by the way, if yu're one of the 5,461,554 WoW fans that haven't seen Abbot and Costello's classic, "Who's on First" then you might find this entertaining - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ekLO8BwxwE


I do find myself wondering how they are going to achieve this, and how they select the works to discuss at the club. The obvious question is whether they have had disappointments and if so, how have they handled them.


Now... where'd I put my male dwarf character... I feel like hitting something with an overly large mallet.

Race and writing

I came across this on the BBC News web site this morning - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39988992


Author Anthony Horowitz says he was "warned off" including a black character in his new book because it was "inappropriate" for a white writer.

The creator of the Alex Rider teenage spy novels says an editor told him it could be considered "patronising".

Horowitz wanted a white and black protagonist in his new children's books but says he is now reconsidering.

"I will have to think about whether this character can be black or white," he told the Mail on Sunday.

Horowitz, who has written 10 novels featuring teenage spy Alex Rider, said there was a "chain of thought" in America that it was "inappropriate" for white writers to try to create black characters.

He said it was considered "artificial and possibly patronising" to do so because "it is actually not our experience".

"Therefore I was warned off doing it. Which was, I thought, disturbing and upsetting."

Horowitz, who has written a new James Bond book, went on: "Taking it to the extreme, all my characters will from now be 62-year-old white Jewish men living in London."


There is a little bit extra in there, because a few years earlier he had commented that actor Idris Elba was "too street" to be the next Bond, and had apologised to him later. But this whole thing does show how writing for a race other than your own, brings out the political police.


Look at Stephen Moffat. A 55 year old white guy from Scotland, he's currently writing Dr Who episodes and the current companion is Bill Potts, a teen/early twenties black woman who I think is from London, and she's homosexual.


One of the questions I would like to hear Moffat answer, is how he does this and avoids criticism... or if he does get it, how he handles it. Even if he does rely on the actors being able to add their own interpretations, I don't believe that Mackie (who plays Bill) is homosexual... or even if she was, no one seems to be getting on anyone's case about it.


It's not what you do... it's how you do it. That is the only conclusion I can take away from this.

RAW audio done

So, it's done. The audio for Check Mate has been recorded. Not exactly a stellar performance, because I'm not an actor by any stretch of the imagination... (unless you count my mother's recollections of when I, "acted up," as a child.) ... but at least it is done.


A friend has offered to help out, so I'm giving him the opportunity... *ahem*... awful task of editing the WAV files together, and edit out all my mistakes and extra takes, in order to make a cohesive whole.


This is not a straightforward job, and will take probably twice as long as it took me simply to read the book... and that was two days already.

Only for the devoted...

...and those who have half an hour on their hands.


I told you I'd record a video when I started the audio book ... so far my conclusion is that if anyone tells you that comedy is easy... they're making a funny.




Indie Book Discovery

For your book discoverers that have a particular taste for exploring outside the mainstream, there is another resource for your armoury; a site called Indie Book Discovery.




Yes, I'm on there, but this is the front page link, and not to my page... so happy exploring :-)

Antitrust, Amazon and the EU...

"The European Commission has adopted a decision that renders legally binding the commitments offered by Amazon. The commitments address the Commission's preliminary competition concerns relating to a number of clauses in Amazon's distribution agreements with e-book publishers in Europe." - http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-1223_en.htm I can't work out whether this is going to be good or bad for authors in the short or long run. Lower prices seem inevitable in order to win market share back from Amazon. Will they succeed? Who knows. Amazon have that, "one click," advantage and are now for many people, the first and only place they shop for many things. This whole thing is a journey in to the unknown and untested waters.

Preparing for the audio recording next week.

Tired. It's been a busy few weeks including a long weekend helping a friend move house. However, I'm gearing up to record Check Mate as an audio book. I've got the microphone base down, the leave from work is booked, I know which tick-tocky clocks to remove the batteries from... in short all ducks are lined up in a row and are ready to quack. My appeals for information have brought back little, but what I have heard means I won't be introducing sound effects or music. It'll just be me. I'll record a video of the set up and starting the recording, which will also contain some of the decisions I've made. Acting is actually quite difficult. I recall trying to make my first funny videos ten years ago, and it was surprising how hard it was to deliver content. Eight years of V-blogging on YouTube, however, has seen me gain confidence. Also, I spent some years working in telephony. When wee needed announcements recorded, other people who were scared of their voices didn't want to volunteer but I was quite happy to do so. The net result is that while I don't think my voice is particularly good, I do have confidence in myself. That, I think, carries a lot. It will actually be an interesting adventure for me, as a creator. I'll get to put my own intonation and pacing on the words that I've written. The first chapter of Check Mate is particularly dry and will, perhaps, be the hardest to record but I hope will reap the most reward on a persona level, if I manage to achieve a good recording. It will certainly be a shot in the dark. I know nothing about how these recordings are supposed to be formatted and presented to listeners. Wish me luck... I'm going to need it.

Request for audio book help...

In a few weeks, I'll have some days off. That's when I'm going to target the audio book for Check Mate. I've been in touch with my publisher to scope out the regs for doing audio books, I might have to publish it myself. In the mean time, if anyone has any knowledge on audio books, like whether to include background music, sound effects, or anything that I need to know... I'd be very grateful, as I'm going in to this blind.

Family time

I've been quiet for a while. Things have been emotional here. Many transsexuals end up being ostracised by their families, never to speak or see them again until their passing. I am fortunate. I was invited back, "home," for a family wedding.


Long story short, it went well. It was positive. Still a fair distance between us, so progress will be slow and I was a terrible kid. Although we now know why I did some of the things I did... it doesn't excuse them. I hurt a lot of people, and that kind of crap isn't just wiped off the board.


So... next weekend I have to help a friend move home. After that, I've got to try and get some time off to start recording the audio book of Check Mate. Will have to do some wheeling and dealing to get some time off. And I promise you a video of the set up, some of the decisions I've made, and the first few paragraphs, if not the first chapter.


...just give me a few weeks.

The Things Libraries Are Lending Now...

I came across this article and thought I'd share it...


"When the writer Deborah Fallows toured smaller and midsize communities in the United States in 2016, she made sure to make the same stop in every city and town: the local public library. Libraries were never just plain old book-lenders, she learned, and they certainly aren’t now."




A little downer

Seeing the quarterly book earnings come in and barely reach double figures, is depressing.


Intellectually, I know how things are right now in the real world. I have made various decisions, including not to sell my soul in order to gain the lifeblood of publicity. I came to the conclusion that I'm never going to be a famous author, winning awards and making a living at this. Writing has been relegated to a hobby which enables me to express myself and make contact with people.


While that is a worthwhile goal... being an occasional creator rather than a constant consumer... it is a bit of a blow to see figures that bad !!! But I know I'll get over it in a few days... it's just one of the downs in the ever rising and falling fluctuation of fate.


That and lack of feedback, however, does mean that writing falls further down the list of priorities. Setting time scales and deadlines now become worthless. Things will now happen... when they happen. And that's just how life rocks !

Stories we might never have heard...

I think it is another sign that the publishing industry needs to change. The role of publishers and reviewers as the gatekeepers can, fortunately, be overcome by social media.


After trying to tell the stories in a book ("It was rejected by over 50 publishers", he laughs), Chris began to film interviews with his students and post them on social media.

Now he has more than one million followers and travels the world interviewing people of all ages inviting them to tell the world what is special about them.