Tag Archives: non-fiction

My guidebook DOING DISNEY! has been published by Theme Park Press!

Hi, all, In 2013, I published a Disney World guidebook.  The editor of Theme Park Press contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in seeing it published by his small press. It's finally out! Doing Disney TPPLinks for purchase follow for Amazon: For the paperback at Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Doing-Disney-Spend-Week-World/dp/1683900359/ For the Kindle Edition at Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Doing-Disney-Spend-Week-World-ebook/dp/B01MTXTFBL/ Take a look at it if it interests you! *****

Recent Reading

I haven't been posting much here, but I couldn't get through the entire month of March without at least one entry, so here it is. I recently read a couple of non-fiction books.  First was The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis.  Yeah, it's the same guy who wrote The Big Short and Moneyball.  I can't say I liked this one as much as I liked some of his other works.  It just didn't seem as focused.  In the end, I wasn't sure if it was supposed to be about the people he was talking about or about the ideas they came up with, or about the impact of those ideas on our everyday lives.  Maybe it was about all of those, but in the past he's focused more on one recognizable goal and used the other parts to illuminate that goal.  It was an interesting read, but just not as good as some of his others. The other non-fiction book I finished was Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  Now this one made me think.  It's about success and the role that chance plays in that success.  It doesn't say that success can come without hard work and a willingness to correct things that might be causing you to veer away from a successful outcome, but it does say that there is a lot of "right place at the right time" involved in peoples' success.  For example, did you know that an inordinate amount of professional hockey players (at least in Canada) have birthdays in January, February and March?  Why would that be?  It can't be just a random thing.  It turns out that many of the youth hockey programs have age-cutoff dates of January 1st.  So because of that, kids born in those months are simply older and bigger than other athletes at a period of time in their young lives when a few months can make a large difference physically.  So these are the kids who are a little bit more physically developed and they stand out, so they get selected for all-star teams and traveling teams and such, and get better coaching and more practice time.  And it keeps going until they actually ARE the best players. I found that take to ring true, even in writing.  Sure, there are things you can control.  You can control the quality of your own writing and storytelling.  You can work to get better.  You can edit and proofread and take advice and criticism from your "team."  You can work on your covers and on your blurbs.  You can market your works in such a way to increase their visibility, and when something doesn't work, you can try something else that might work better. But you can't write what you can't write.  If you write in a relatively unpopular genre, like I do (horror), you might just be stuck.  Conversely, if you write in a genre that tends to have voracious readers who stay in that genre, like romance, you might do a lot better.  Or psychological thrillers, or erotica.  Apparently those sell better in e-books.  If you're just getting started today, you may find yourself with more of an uphill climb than if you had started right after the Kindle came out and e-books really became a thing.  Or if your stories just don't strike a chord with readers, you are not positioned to take advantage of the market trends that are out there. Luck might just be described as being in the right place at the right time.  It might be that you published your book on a day that, for whatever reason, it became more visible and grabbed the attention of more people so that it became ranked highly and thus became more visible.  It might be described as already being positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. Even Joe Konrath admits that "luck" played a part in his own phenomenal success as an indie author.  Here's just one post of many he has dealing with the subject.  (The comments are great, being from respected authors like Blake Crouch, Jude Hardin and Mark Terry, to name a few.) Anyway, I got a bit sidetracked. I'm currently reading Creativity, Inc.:  Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand In the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, with Amy Wallace. I'm also reading some fiction, but I think I'll make another post (with links to what I've read) soon.  Before the end of March, for sure! *****

Asimov’s EXTRATERRESTRIAL CIVILIZATIONS

In his 1979 book, Extraterrestrial Civilizations, Dr. Asimov takes on the question of whether we are alone in the galaxy, and he takes a fairly straightforward and conservative (in his estimation) approach to determining an estimate of how many technological civilizations there are in our Galaxy alone. He comes up with the number 390 million, and further extrapolates that most of them would be more advanced than we are. He makes a lot of assumptions, for example, he assumes (optimistically, he admits) that our civilization will continue to last on Earth as long as Earth is able to support life, which he suggests is about 7.4 billion more years, and then that this is the average duration of a civilization. (Therefore, only 1/1,500,000 of the civilizations in the galaxy are at or below our level of sophistication and advancement.) It's fascinating to "watch" Dr. Asimov manipulate the science to come up with the numbers he comes up with, starting with the total number of stars in the galaxy, which he estimates at 300 billion, and whittling it down based on estimates based on the best scientific data available to him at the time. By the end, you are almost awed by the potential number of civilizations – not just life bearing planets, but ones that develop an advanced civilization. So then, he goes on to ask, why haven't we found any evidence of them? He talks about the physics limiting the reality of interstellar travel, the energy expenditures, the times involved, and the difficulties of finding likely targets for exploration. He talks about the difficulties in detecting the various potential signals that an advanced civilization might send out, and whether we are too 'primitive' to detect such signals, or whether said signals are just not at high enough energy to be detected by our efforts to do so to date. (Remember, this was written in 1979.) In the end, Dr. Asimov suggests that the efforts themselves to expand beyond our world and to detect extraterrestrial civilizations will lead to profit and to helping ourselves. "Let us strive to inherit the Universe that is waiting for us; doing so alone, if we must, or in company with others - if they are there." This is an older book, and one that doesn't have the benefit of the latest (this century's) knowledge about planets and star systems and an even longer history of SETI and probes and the Hubble Telescope.  But it's one that expresses an optimism that I think we need in our society today.  It challenges its readers to look to that next horizon, to the "final frontier," in order to maintain that human spirit through accepting a challenge. We have so many problems here in the United States, and in the world, that at this point in history (2016), any sort of effort like this might be impossible, at least politically. But perhaps having a goal to inspire us and to influence us would be a good thing, and help us to surmount some of these issues that seem so important. (I wrote this in 2008 and just made a few changes prior to publication here...) *****

Fiction and Non-fiction

I finished two books yesterday.  (I didn't start either of them yesterday; the non-fiction title I started a couple months ago, in fact.)  The fiction title was Invasion by Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt.  It is an alien invasion story, and this one starts with a family in New York trying to get to their bunker near Vail, Colorado.  When people learn that some sort of alien spaceships are approaching Earth, society begins to break down and the trip across the country becomes a very dangerous thing indeed. It, like all of the Realm and Sands guys' titles, was a fast, decent read.  I received the book for free for becoming a member of their mailing list/newsletter.  (I have the second to read, also.)  There are important themes tossed into the mix, but I never felt that any of them were handled in more than a superficial manner.  The characters are interesting but we don't really learn that much about them, partly because there are five of them (Meyer, Piper, Trevor, Lila and Lila's boyfriend Raj) traveling from New York, and another (Meyer's ex-wife Heather) coming from Los Angeles.  The point of views shift too often to really get a great feel for any one of them. I will be reading the second (Contact) sometime relatively soon, but it will have to grab me a bit more than this one did for me to continue reading on in the series. The second book was called Rosewater, and it is the book that the Jon Stewart film was based upon.   It was written by Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-born Canadian journalist for Newsweek who was reporting on the second election of Ahmadinijad (I'm sure I mangled the spelling but you know who I mean) when the Iranian young voters felt that the election was stolen from the rightful winner.  Bahari was jailed and this book is the story of his imprisonment and his treatment while in Evin, a well-known political prison in Iran. The book was a depressing read, even though you know that Bahari survived the ordeal.  His despair comes through in the narrative, as does the cruelty and callousness of his jailers and torturers, especially the one that Bahari refers to as Rosewater (because of the scent he wears every day -- that is how Bahari recognizes him at first).  I kept putting it down, because frankly, I didn't need more things depressing me than I already had.  But I'm relieved to have finished it.  It shines a bit of light on the Iranian theocracy and its strong-man tactics to control its populace, and I think it is important that people read it and understand more about the majority of Iranians, and also about Islam as it is believed by the vast majority (in Iran and in other parts of the world as well) and how it is used as a tool for brainwashing and control.  I didn't see the movie, and probably won't, so I can't comment if Stewart's adaptation is faithful to Bahari's narrative or if he goes his own way (politically or dramatically) in the film. So I'm going to tackle one from the TBR pile, and start Jeffrey Deaver's Garden of Beasts today.  If it doesn't depress me too much, I'll plow through it and move on to something else, maybe Kellerman's Killer or King's Revival. *****