Play A Game, Feed A Family

We’ve all had “empty” time, either at the office or at home, which we waste away by either surfing or playing that fave of receptionists everywhere, solitaire. But what if all that time and effort could be put to something that actually had some benefit, both to you and to others?

Enter Freerice.com.

Freerice.com is a simple game with a bold goal. The game shoots you an endless string of multiple choice questions, and for every correct answer, the website donates 10 grains of rice to charity. No money leaves your hands, and no credit card info is collected. Instead, Freerice.com is owned and supported by the United Nations World Food Programme, so you know they’re legit. To date, Freerice.com has donated over 96 billion grains of rice.

The game itself is pretty engaging also. It’s played more for self-improvement than for fun (though there is fun to be had), and the question subjects reflect this pretty well. You’ve got languages (Italian, English, Spanish, etc), the sciences (Chemistry, Anatomy), and even SAT questions thrown in. Every question has a difficulty level, and you can only get to the higher difficulties by getting an unbroken string of correct answers. One wrong answer, and you’re sent back to the start (don’t worry, the rice you’ve won still gets donated). But that’s the only penalty you get. Play it enough, and you’ll be able to learn and memorize the answers through trial and error and consistently get higher scores.

I started playing this game years ago, and I’m pleased to see that they added a social media element to it and added friend listings, groups, and leaderboards. If you don’t want all that jazz, you can just go ahead and play without signing up. Your clicks still count for the same amount of rice.

rice bowl

100 right answers will get you this rice bowl.
Photo courtesy of flickrcc.net

If you’re looking to do some extra curricular studying while playing games and ending world hunger, then I think Freerice.com is a pretty damn good place to do it.

Did I mention that it’s their fifth birthday today?

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A Red Thing by Joe Zieja

My friend Joe over at Loose Threads has taken the plunge (well, more like dipped his foot) into the world of self-publishing by putting his dark fantasy short story, “A Red Thing”, up for sale on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords.

I’m seriously excited for him. Not just because he’s attempting to self-publish, but because his work deserves to be noticed. Joe recently won an Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future (though not for this story), which is kind of a big deal. I’ve read “A Red Thing” before, and it is one of my favorite short stories, not just from him, but in talking about short fiction in general.

Here’s the posted synopsis for those too lazy to jump the link:

A red evil has fallen upon the world. The Maji Benkara, demons who crave sensation and pleasure not accessible to them in their ethereal forms, must possess humans to achieve a vicarious life. They rule with magic, with fear, and with cruelty – but they need a willing host to do it.

“A Red Thing” follows one man’s journey through the dissolution of his humanity as a Maji Benkara takes control of him and uses his body to wreak havoc. The lines become blurred between a conscience lost and a power gained, and he must fight every moment to retain some shred of the man he once was.

So give his ebook a try. It’ll cost you only a buck, and in return you’ll get a great tale that you can share with your friends.

Update 7/10/12: The ebook just hit #45 on the Kindle’s bestseller chart for fantasy anthologies (which is wierd, because it’s only one short story, but there you go.)

The War Against Factoids

I was listening to a radio show this morning and the host said something along the lines of: “Did you know Jon Bon Jovi’s first band was named “Raze”? I thought I’d share that interesting factoid with you.”

I’ve heard many people, both on TV/radio and in person, using the word in that context to mean a novel or insignificant fact, much like trivia. And every time they do, it drives me nuts, because they’re using it wrong.

The original definition of the word “factoid” is

Dictionary

Still the most misunderstood book in the world.

…something fictitious or unsubstantiated that is presented as fact, ┬ádevised especially to gain publicity and accepted because of constant repetition.

Now, I’m not normally a grammar nazi. If you want to misuse a word, fine. But what irks me is that some people use this as a way of sounding smart when they’re actually exposing their own ignorance (and it’s not the only word they get wrong, either).

What they’re actually doing is stating a fact and then unwittingly defining it as a falsehood by using the word factoid. Even Wikipedia has taken note of the misuse, and apparently it’s been used so often that the other, wrong definition has become common usage! So the factoid is, itself, a factoid. Very paradoxical (yes, I just did that to sound smart).

Anyway. Old man rant done. I’m putting my cane away and you kids can go ahead and play on the lawn again.

My To-Read List as of June 13, 2012

My dream basement!

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’d know that I barely have time to brush my teeth, let alone read any books. But I always find a way, because a) reading books is fun, and b) reading books is essential to my professional and creative development if I am to succeed in both business writing and genre fiction writing stop looking at me like that this is not a justification it’s a totally reasonable argument so there put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Cool? Cool.

So here’s the list. Usually it’s single-volumes. But if there’s any particular series I’d like to read, I just list down the author’s name, instead. Allow me to apologize in advance for how short this list will be.

In no particular order:

1) Hostage Nation: Colombia’s Guerrilla Army – Victoria Bruce, Karin Hayes & Jorge Enrique Botero (Non-Fiction)
2) Across the nightingale floor – Lian Hearn (Historical Fiction)
3) Soon I Will Be Invincible – Austin Grossman (SF)
4) Lois McMaster Bujold (SF)
5) Feed – M.T. Anderson (SF)
6) The Dwarves – Markus Heitz (Fantasy)
7) Saga of Seven Suns – Kevin J Anderson (SF)
8) Black Hearts: One Platoon’s Descent Into Madness in Iraq’s Triangle of Death – Jim Frederick (Non-Fiction)
9) Julie Czerneda (SF/F)
10) Ten Percent of Nothing: The Literary Agent from Hell – Jim Fisher (Non-Fiction)
11) David Foster Wallace – Literary
12) Sonny’s Blues – James Baldwin (Short Story)
13) The New Writer’s Handbook (Vol 2) – Ted Kooser, Philip Martin (Non-Fiction)
14) Mortification: Writers’ stories of their public shame – Robin Robertson (Non-Fiction)
15) The Secret History of Fantasy – Peter S. Beagle (Non-Fiction)
16) Wild Seed – Octavia Butler (Fantasy)
17) The Women Who Lived for Danger: The Agents of the Special Operations Executive – Marcus Binney (Non-Fiction)
18) Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 – Christopher Andrew (Non-Fiction)
19) Redshirts – John Scalzi (SF)
20) The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman (Fantasy)
21) The Most Expensive Game In Town – Mark Hyman (Non-Fiction)

So what’s on your reading list?

Job Postings from Hell: The Fantasist

As a freelancer, I’ve come across my fair share of horribly written job ads. Wrong grammar, unrealistic terms, and horrendously low pay. But I recently stumbled across one that takes the cake, if only because it involves something close to my heart: fantasy fiction.

Here are some of the choicer bits:

I’m not going to lie my book does need some serious work.
How bad is it?
I don’t know I’m not an editor. but the previous editor told me it took her 45min to an hour per page.

45 minutes per page? Writing something from scratch would be faster! I’ve often had to struggle with horrible writing, but come on!

the book is about 70 pages.
the Word count is 30,500

A 30,000 word fantasy novel? That’s shorter than a single chapter from Game of Thrones.

the book is an action adventure book with mythical creatures, magic and sword fighting, hilarious moments, and hints of romance.

This better not be going in your query letter, buddy, because you just described nearly every fantasy novel in existence.

Condensation to be discussed, and agreed upon during the project.

I think I’d rather discuss my pay, and not my house’s moisture level.

I’ve got a news flash for you, pal.

Ouch.

Trust me on this.