Booko

Wow, this is pretty cool:

Booko is an Australian site that, for a given book title, lists the price (including postage to Oz) for all online stores that ship to Australia.

Fastest way to find the cheapest total price for a book you want – and the cheapest is often cheap:

Example: Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, a favourite of mine, which I bought for about $22 at Borders in Parramatta:

Booko found a copy going for AUD $8.07, including postage, from Book Depository (US):

Check it out: booko.com.au

Merry Christmas

… everyone.

Steam holiday sale has started

As usual, some incredible deals, and check every day for new ones.

I’m off to buy every Prince of Persia game on steam – from Sands of Time to the deluxe edition of Forgotten Sands (even though I already have the older three on Gamecube) for less than $20 (total!)

P.S. Sands of Time is easily one of the best games of all time. Excellent story and characters (not “excellent story and characters for a video game”) beautiful exotic environments, brilliant acrobatic/parkour/combat gameplay, all extremely polished at every level. Very highly recommended (content warning: rated M, some violence and a very mild “adult” romance scene – nothing actually shown).

Humble Indie Bundle 2

In case you haven’t heard yet, the second ever humble indie bundle is out!

Games in the bundle:

  1. Braid (which I highly recommend)
  2. Machinarium (which I was planning to get anyway)
  3. Cortex Command
  4. Osmos
  5. Revenge of the Titans

Pay whatever you want, and choose how much of it goes to which charity (including the games’ developers, EFF and child’s play)!

www.humblebundle.com/

P.S. For those of us who bought the original Humble Indie Bundle last year, they just released it on steam too, so you can download the games from there, etc.

Writing Fiction: Outliner or Discovery Writer?

Some fiction writers work better by just jumping in and starting writing, no planning. They’re often called discovery writers (good podcast about DW).

Some writers produce better stuff when they plan and outline and world-build a lot. They’re sometimes called outliners.

Everyone is different, but most people can probably improve their writing by using a bit of both. For example, my own fiction writing happens something like this:

My process

  1. My stories start as simple concepts in my imagination. For example,
    • a girl who can see through other people’s eyes, or
    • a ghost trying to save a living friend in peril.

    Some come from dreams.

  2. If one strikes me as interesting, I try to build on the characters and setting around it and come up with a basic story (still all just in my head, so far). For example,
    • Who is the girl? What kind of person is she? What is her situation?
    • How can she see through other people’s eyes – what kind of magic or technology, and how does it work?
    • Why is it important? Who does it hurt/help? What situations does it lead to?
  3. If I create something I like, I decide to start capturing it (on paper or a computer file). I start a written outline consisting of info like:
    • Plot summary (a paragraph)
    • Characters (3-5 bullet points about them)
    • Setting
    • Major scenes (a short paragraph for each)
    • Etc
  4. In this way, I construct the plot, setting and characters until I can see one or two key scenes really coming together in my head.
  5. At that point I make myself stop outlining and actually write some of those key scenes to “flesh them out”
  6. Getting the whole scene written down helps me learn a lot about my plot, and characters. I see some problems and have some good ideas. So I go back and revise my outline.
  7. I do the opposite, too – after writing a few more scenes out, I return to the outline to see if I like the direction I’m going. I fiddle with the outline to improve a few things, then use that to chop and change the written scenes

So I recommend trying both together and seeing what works best for you.

Potential problems

Avoid:

  1. Outlining too much and never getting started with the actual writing (the Writing Excuses guys call this “World-Builder’s disease”)
  2. Jumping in with no planning and writing thousands of words into a story that never goes anywhere or ends abruptly/unsatisfyingly

Braid

As usual, I’m behind on this one, but: if you haven’t yet played Braid, please do.

For one, it’s pretty:

… with a unique art style something like a swirling, living painting.

It also has a mysterious, multi-layered story with genuinely interesting themes.

But the best part is the gameplay. It leads you in a perfect difficulty curve from simple platforming to absolutely mind-bending puzzles. Many of the solutions were so far outside-the-box that I felt like my brain was stretching; like the game was actually teaching me to think more creatively.

You don’t need a new PC with a fancy graphics card – an oldish pc will do; you can get it from steam for less than $10, (or get the free demo first, or wait for it to go even cheaper during a sale – there’ll probably be a steam sale or two around Christmas). It’s also on Mac (through steam), XBOX 360 and PS3.

One warning though: don’t use a walk-through if you get stuck. I did use some non-spoiler hints I found, towards the end when I was really stumped. But use them sparingly, if at all; the satisfaction of solving it yourself is worth it.

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