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On writing
Just played all three Mass Effect games on my new gaming machine. The expansion ending that Bioware is providing, free of change, is awesome. With the extra explanations and highlights of what the results are of your decisions, it is *now* the ending I wanted for this saga. I chose the synergy option and felt really good about it. It's what my Commander Shepard would have chosen. Now her sacrifice makes sense and feels right. Thanks Bioware and Good Job!

Current Mood: satisfied satisfied

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I just completed my first play-through of Dragon Age 2. I loved Dragon Age: Origins and DA: Awakenings. I keep going back because the story and characters grabbed me. I thought, “Ah, ha! Games are becoming true interactive stories!” Unfortunately, DA2 does not live up to that promise.  In good story-telling, the protagonist has to want something deeply. Otherwise, why bother with all the trials and tribulations the author is going to put her through? The writers of DA2 missed this almost entirely. Making this even more frustrating was the clear indications that there was a through-story possible, even perhaps a couple. It is true that the story becomes more focused in Act 3, but there the writers garbled things so badly that the story once again became lost. My character kept getting accused of supporting one faction when I’d consistently made choices to support the other. And, of course, this caused me to have to keep killing people I wanted to support. How frustrating and irritating. And how easily fixed with good writing.


The characters were also lacking, particularly in the ability to interact. I had no problem with creating my character, even though I was restricted to only a human. Other players have complained about this and for an RPG, I can understand the frustration.  More frustrating for me was having to jump to various locations to visit the other characters, rather than having the “camp” used in DA:O. And when I did visit, more times than not, there were no meaningful interactions available. Other players have complained that the party members lack definition and character. I disagree, at least at one level. But with the restriction of interaction, it did feel like the characters were nowhere near as developed as in DA:O. And again, there was so much potential the writers missed.


Now for the other aspects of the game.


Graphics: I did like the more intense pallet used, but initially wasn’t impressed. After I downloaded the high-res texture pack for the PC, the graphics looked a lot better, but there was still something lacking in the textures used, particularly for facial features and clothing.  Another let-down was the reuse of only a few maps, over and over and over again.


Sound/Music: Another disappointment. The music from DA:O is haunting. The song Lelianna sings in camp sends shivers down my spine. I’ve even downloaded a copy of the song it’s so beautiful. There was nothing memorable in DA2. Sound effects were good, though.


Gameplay: Boring. Repetitious and boring. Yes, it’s faster, but all the tactical demands of DA:O have been eliminated.  Enemies spawn out of nowhere and just keep coming and coming. Hack and slash to your heart’s content and beyond until finally Anders asks, “Is everyone alive?” No positioning, setting traps (I don’t think there are any traps to set). Perhaps on “Nightmare” setting it gets more tactical, I don’t know. I do know that if I switch to another character, my original one runs off somewhere else.  Also, you cannot equip characters with both ranged and melee weapons, One choice, that’s all. Warriors get a choice between greatsword or longsword. No dual weapons such as I came to love in DA:O.


You also cannot give your companions armor/robes. Only your own character gets  that ability.  Crafting has been eliminated in favor of “ordering” potions…though not health, mana or stamina potions. Those you still have to find a vendor to sell.




This game felt dumbed down, probably in an effort to grab the young (read teen) male crowd who seem to prefer action games rather than speculative fiction games. The butt-swaying of my character when she walked/ran likely is an indication of the marketing focus (as was Isabella who gratefully left the party when I didn’t go along with her thievery).  Too bad the developers forgot there are other people who buy/play games.



Current Mood: disappointed disappointed

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I’m reading Beyond Fundamentalism – Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization by Reza Aslan. He’s posing some interesting perspectives on Jihadism and the Global War on Terrorism. For a long time, I’ve wondered just what the terrorists hope to accomplish by their bombings. I found it hard to accept that they would expect us to acquiesce to their demands or to convert is Islam as a result of these acts. But that’s not the goal of the Jihadists at all. Their goal is to destroy evil…and those who do not believe as they do are, by definition, evil.

Unfortunately, there are many in this country who indulge in the same sort of thinking, most notably former President Bush and other Christian fundamentalists. They too see this as a struggle between good and evil. While it is true that prior leaders have used the same rhetoric in previous wars and conflicts. Former President Reagan referred to the Soviet Union as “the Evil Empire.” Aslan would have us believe that this also was a reference to what he calls “cosmic war” rather than to Star Wars, as I took it. Though, I must admit, Star Wars was a depiction of a battle between the forces of good versus the forces of evil as are most fantasy and space opera stories.

There does seem to be a shift recently, however, in the way each side sees their opponents. Neither side has clear, practical goals. The battle against Reagan’s Evil Empire essentially ended with the fall of the Soviet Union. The “evil” personified by the Nazi’s was eliminated by the fall of the Third Reich. We did have a Victory in Europe day, the day the Nazi’s surrendered, shortly following Hitler’s death. But with the Global War on Terrorism, where is the end point? If the goal is to eradicate evil, how do you know when you’ve won? Can either side win?


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Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

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My friend, Ian, tagged me to come up with seven ways of death from books I've read or written. I will *not*, however, divulge how Ga'Vir plans on taking out the conferees.

Here goes:

1.  From The Two Towers by Tolkein: many orcs are killed by the Fangorn trees. I think I'm glad Tolkein didn't tell us specifically how.

2. From Return of the King by Tolkein: Gollum dies by falling into the Crack of Doom...probably into lava as shown in the movie

3.  From the same:  King Theoden dies when attacked by the Nazgul and his horse falls on him

4.  Barry Eisler's John Rain comes up with a lot of different ways to kill people, but the one that stood out for me what tampering with in implaced defibrilator . In another situation, Rain uses an external defibrilator to kill his target.

Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon usually uses a handgun, a Baretta if I recall correctly.

Off-hand, I can't think of others. Most of the books I read involve mundane killing with swords or guns, though often the guns are futuristic gauss rifles or such. My own clone soldiers typically use hypervelocity rifles to kill the Consociation troops. At one point, Aine kills a Conso by stabbing him in the throat. Morgan also prefers a hypervelocity sniper rifle.

It's funny, it's not so much the method of killing that stands out to me, though I did enjoy seeing/reading how Rain would take out the next bad guy.

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Current Mood: calm calm

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I just realized how long it's been since I posted here. I have been doing a bit of posting on Facebook, but that's no excuse. The bottom line is that I've been struggling with my writing.. or rather, not writing, not much. I don't really know what the problem is. It's probably a combination of things. Work has been demanding most of my attention. And that's not entirely a bad thing. I've actually found a renewed interest in my profession as a psychologist. Then, the end of Jan., I attended a class in San Antonio on domestic violence and child abuse. It was surprisingly well done. It even sparked me to buy a couple books on domestic violence.

One interesting, writing-related, thing is that the government has installed Dragon NaturallySpeaking on my computer in the office. I use it to dictate my chart notes and reports. Makes that go so much faster. And, since I end up bringing work home on occasion (like when I get really far behind), I ordered a simpler version for myself at home. I don't know if it will be helpful in writing fiction.

Anyone out there with any experience dictating fiction? Post comments here!

(No, I didn't dictate this)

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Current Mood: drained drained

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Happy Holidays to Everyone!


Yesterday afternoon, as I sat sending out the final holiday gifts via the Internet, the wind was howling. I glanced up and looked through the back windows to my backyard. No, I didn’t see reindeer and a sleigh, but I did see something that, for me, said they’d be here soon: snow. Snow in Killeen, Tx. It put a silvery haze on the trees and grass, the nearby houses and sky.


The snow didn’t stick, not much. But there was a magic.


So much has changed for me in the past year. Pulling up stakes and moving myself and three of my (previous) five animals to Texas. Working at Fort Hood. Everything seems to revolve around these: a good income, meaningful work, a community.


This community has coped with some very difficult times. Many of the soldiers here have been deployed repeatedly over the past years. And then there were the events of Nov 5. The wounds are there, physical and mental, but these people have persevered. They may complain, but they don’t whine.


As most of you know, I write science fiction, mostly of the space opera sort. I won’t apologize for that. :D. I hope my writing (as well as my work as a psychologist) will honor the wonderful young men and women in our armed services.

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Current Mood: happy happy

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I've been reading various blogs about the shooting here at Fort Hood and the alleged shooter, Maj. Nidal Hasan. Most of it is baseless speculating at best, ignorant bs at worst.

The US military does not discriminate on the basis of religion. So, yes, there are Muslims in all branches, who serve honorably and faithfully.  Should he have been scrutinized based on his religion? That's a violation of the very Constitution service members are sworn to defend?  Should he have been scrutinized for expressing ideas that are not popular?

Should his colleagues have noticed something? He was new here, on post only about 3 months. How many of you let your employers or colleagues, whom you don't know very well, know about personal difficulties? I've seen some people asking, didn't he have a therapist himself? No. It's not a requirement for mental health professionals to have a therapist either during training or afterwards  Some programs do require counseling, but it's not something required by many programs and certainly not for licensure.

Oh, and when I came to work here 6 months ago, I did have to go through an online training on professional burnout, but those sorts of trainings and questionnaires can be faked.

So, how do we mental health professionals cope with the horrific stories we hear? We turn to each other, our families, our friends, our churches. No, there's nothing formally set up beyond the reminders that we're not immune from stress. Should there be something more? Perhaps. I talked with a group of colleagues on Friday and the consensus was that a support group might be helpful. The logistics are difficult, however.

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Current Location: home
Current Mood: sad sad

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I try to keep this blog focused on writing, but sometimes life does impinge. Yesterday, as most of you probably already know, a psychiatrist shot and killed 12 (perhaps 13) and wounded 30. The post went on lock-down for the next 4-5 hours. The information we received in the Department of Social Work came from the tv and the internet. Apparently, our first responders did a great job and contained the situation quickly. While it was frustrating to be held inside so long, I'm sure it made it that much easier for the emergency vehicles to get the wounded to care and for the post Command to assure there was no further danger to anyone.

I haven't yet really started to feel much. Grief is tugging at the corners of my heart, but there's also anger threatening to choke me. I'm not going to speculate on the motivations of the alleged shooter. Apparently he'd enlisted out of high school and then took advantage of the educational opportunities offered by the US military, eventually earning an MD degree and training as a psychiatrist. He was apparently slated for his first deployment soon. The shooting occurred at a facility where soldiers are processed prior to deployment.

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Current Mood: numb numb

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I've been doing a lot of reading in the "thriller" genre, a love that goes back to my childhood and Ian Fleming and teen years with Alastair McLean. Lately I've been reading Stella Rimington and Daniel Silva. These are stories about covert operatives/spies/assassins. My frustration is that both authors offer so little in the way of characterization. Yes, they have backstories and some relationships, but neither author presents much in the way of personality of their protagonist.

I've noticed that most instruction on constructing characters does focus on things like backstory, likes and dislikes, and the ever-necessary wants and desires. I'm not saying these aren't needed in constructing a character, but what about personality? No, not personality disorder, but personality.

It's personality that informs how a character reacts to a situation, what they think.


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The Muse Online Writers Conference was, once again, a great experience and my workshop (“Bipolars Don’t Twitch: Mental Illness for Writers”) was well-received. Kudos to all you writers who want to get your facts straight and take the time to find out. I will definitely offer the class again next year.


This week, it’s back to “normal”, treating patients at the Department of Social Work on Fort Hood and slogging (at least right now) through the new novel. I think in the future I might want to delay presenting any chapters of a work until at least the first draft is done. Right now, I’m torn between going back and “correcting” stuff from chapter one or just pressing ahead with the story to at least get a draft down. The comments I’ve received have been helpful, so the temptation to start again is strong.


I’m still struggling to find the time to write. I’m getting up earlier, since I usually have more energy in the morning, but often I don’t wake up awake, so I don’t know if it’s really helping or not. It just seems that by the time I get home in the evening, I don’t have much inclination to write. Oh well, I’ll find the routine sooner or later.

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Current Mood: blank blank

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