Wednesday, April 27, 2016

5 Fantasy Story Cliches to Avoid

As a writer, one of my biggest challenges is to avoid cliches. Fiction has been around for literally thousands of years, and hundreds of new stories are written every single day. The fantasy genre, in particular, is absolutely overflowing with nearly identical tellings of nearly identical stories. How can a new writer say something original in such an overwhelmed industry? At the very least, avoid these cliche fantasy story plots.

1. Vampire Romance

If your story is a romance that involves a vampire– especially in a teenage heterosexual love triangle– stop writing before you start. Unless you’ve got a radically new spin on this fantasy story cliche, this plot has no future. It has been written, re-written, re-interpreted, revised and refreshed ad nauseum. Do yourself (and your editor) a favor; toss this story idea or come up with an absolutely off-the-wall spin on the cliche.

2. Elves and Dwarves

If your fantasy story was inspired by Lord of the Rings, World of Warcraft or Dungeons and Dragons, hold it. I can offer a 99.9% guarantee that some version of your story has been told before. This is particularly true if the plot line also involves an orc, a half-elf, a wizard, and a mini-person. Tolkienesque fantasy has been written so many times that it is nearly impossible to offer anything refreshing to the genre.

3. The Rabbit-Hole

Whether it’s a rabbit-hole, a wardrobe or a magical gate, it’s not likely that you can put a new spin on this age-old theme. If your fantasy story involves a child or teenager disappearing into a magical land, only to return to the real world with some new lesson, it’s been done. In fact, it’s been done to death. Write it if you must, but please don’t expect anyone to publish it.

4. The Magic Native

This fantasy story isn’t just cliche; it’s also a bit offensive. Does your story involve a machine-loving “civilized” person falling in love with a nature-bound savage? Whether that savage is an elf, a ranger, a gnome, a fairy, a barbarian, or some bastardized idea of an Indian, don’t write this story. “Dances with Wolves,” “Fern Gully,” “Avatar” and about a hundred other story-lines have tackled this one. Don’t bother.

5. The Noble Monster

A boy (or girl) tames a magical animal. Maybe it’s a unicorn, a dragon, or your own creation. In any case, there are few good ways to re-tell this story without it plagiarizing someone else. Although there’s no harm in including a few tamed beasts in your story, it won’t do much good to make boy-tames-beast the central plot element. Get back to the drawing board.

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5 Features to Look for when Buying an LCD Computer Monitor

Buying a new LCD computer monitor isn’t exactly rocket science, but it does require a certain amount of “know-it-all” to pull off buying the right one for your personal computer setup. Be sure to check out these key features when shopping for a new LCD monitor.


When it comes to computer monitors, size definitely matters. I’m not advocating that you go out and buy the largest screen available, but you absolutely should shop for the best screen to fit your personal needs. Key factors that will determine the best size for your needs will include the space available in your computer setup, what you’ll be using your computer for [e.g. gaming, graphic design, browsing the web, etc.], and whether or not your computer monitor will serve other functions outside of regular computing. The average size for a modern day LCD is around 18.5 ‘” 27 inches ‘” and the LCD of your choice will strongly depend on your personal needs.


Size is important, but native resolution can be of equal importance. Resolution describes the number of pixels or actual working space of a computer monitor, and while one can have a large screen, a low resolution will still result in a pixelated or bulky appearance. It’s best to stick with a resolution between 1440X900 and 1920X1200.


For an LCD monitor to work it needs to be able to connect with your computer and to do that, both your computer and your monitor will need to have the same ports or inputs. Common inputs to check out for are composite, component, VGA, DVI, and HDMI ports. While VGA is the most common input for computer monitors, DVI and HDMI offer the best display quality.

Response Time

Contrary to popular belief, not all LCD monitors operate at the same speed and a monitor’s response time determines just how quickly it’ll run. Unlike many other rates of measuring speed, the lower the response time, the faster the LCD monitor will operate [e.g. 5ms is slower than 3ms]. A 5 millisecond response time will suit the needs of most computer users.

Contrast Ratio

In addition to the other key features mentioned in this list, a monitor’s contrast ratio is of utmost importance when selecting a new LCD for your computer ‘” and is used to determine how vivid the screen color will be. It’s best to have a contrast ratio higher than 500:1.

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5 Fighter Games You Have Never Played but Should

With the success of Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter in the 90’s everyone wanted to make fighting games. With so many fighting games there is no way you could have played them all. While many of those fighters were no good there were some fighters that were actually good. This list includes games that were actually good and you should have played, but it also includes games that were not good but were good ideas or have some other quality that makes them worth playing.

5. Kasumi Ninja

Kasumi Ninja is a game that was not good. The only reason that Kasumi Ninja makes this list is because it has a Scottish charachter Angus who wears a kilt and has a move of shooting a fireball from under his kilt. Kasumi Ninja may have been better known if it had not been on the Jaguar. The game might have been an alright fighter game if you did not have to use the Jaguar control.

4. Star Wars Masters of Teras Kasi

Star Wars Masters of Teras Kasi is another game that was not really good. The reason it is on the list is because it was a great idea. Lucasarts rarely misses with games but this was one of those rare few misses. Having made the mistake of this game they should be able to learn what went wrong and fix it. This game is still worth playing if you can get a used copy. The biggest problem with the game was it was not very advanced. It would have done better as game for the SNES or Sega but done at the top level of what those consoles could do then been at the bottom of what the Playsation could do. Maybe someday we can get the chance to fight as Chewbaca or Bobba Fett.

3. Justice League Task Force

The one thing that kept Justice League Task Force from having any popularity was that it was not violent enough. I actually prefer a fighter that does not have to rely on blood, guts, and gore for the game to be good. Justice League Task Force was developed by Blizzard and published by Acclaim so you would expect better. This may not have fit in with the Sega but being more kid friendly it certainly fit in with the SNES. The one thing this game had going for it was that you got to play as your favorite Super Heroes. Later this idea would be used with games like Marvel Vs Capcom but not until Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe would we get to play as DC characters. But Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe was a bad mix, it was a Mortal Kombat game rated T and Mortal Kombat fans dont want to play a game rated T. DC vs Street Fighter is a much better idea.

2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters was one of the few games to be made for the NES, SNES, and Sega. The NES version was a late NES release and not like or as good as the other versions. The SNES and Sega versions were similar but my preference having played both is for the Sega version. All three games were actually different enough to be their own game though the Sega game could have easily been a sequel to the SNES version. Everyone loves the Turtles and lots of people love fighting games so putting the two together made a lot of sense. Fortunately this game did have the Ninja Turtles behind it otherwise it is likely no one would have played it. Realistically it was not a bad fighter for its time and is still playable.

1. World Heroes

World Heroes was pretty close to being a copy of Street Fighter. Many of the characters had the same moves which were done with the same buttons as Street Fighter characters. There was an Inspector Gadget/Dhalsim like character from Germany with extending arms, extending hands, and of course fire from his mouth. There was a Zangief like Rasputin though he did have some of his own special moves.

The game was more then just a rip off of Street Fighter though. Many of the characters had attacks that Street Fighter did not even when they were an obvious Street Fighter cloned character. Some of the characters had some int resting moves such as Brockens bombs, and the Joan of Arc like Janne having a sword. There was an actual story which many fighter games did not have.

World Heroes was good enough to get a sequel and even made it into an anthology just a few years ago. World Heroes was made by SNK which has a good reputation of making great fighters. Oddly my favorite part of World Heroes was the fighting monkeys in the background of one stage. To this day my brother and I occasionally mention tail whacking. The game is easy and quick especially if you know your Street Fighter moves so would be worth playing through sometime if you get the chance.

Some of these games were more popular then others. Some of these games you may have played but some you may never have heard of. Not all of these games are really good but they are at least playing once at least for the novelty of shooting crotch fireballs.

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5 Flattering Maternity Swimsuits

Although many pregnant women feel oversized and like they wouldn’t look good in a swimsuit, there are many swimsuits specially made to accentuate a pregnant woman’s figure. Besides, according to Dr. David C. Billue, obstetrician and gynecologist in north and central Alabama, swimming is one of the more ideal exercises to perform during pregnancy, provided your doctor gives you the go ahead. If you are pregnant and wish to go swimming, there are many swimsuits available that will help you feel as comfortable as possible, but the following five have been rated extremely high by other pregnant women.

Plus Size Stretch Fabric Maternity Tankini Swimsuit

For the plus-size mother-to-be, this swimsuit is a very attractive and comfortable choice. It comes in sizes 1X, 2X, and 3X and is black with white designs and a red strip around the waist. The nylon and spandex swimsuit is $39.95 and can be purchased from

Belabumbum Maternity Ring Halter & Bikini

If you feel comfortable wearing a bikini while pregnant, this high end swimsuit will make you feel especially pampered and sexy. The swimsuit is made of spandex and nylon and has a rope tie neck, center ring at bust and was made in Brazil. The swimsuit is $79 at and comes in sizes small, medium and large. Available colors are mocha, green/white, leopard and navy.

Sultaness Maternity Swimsuit

This luxurious and fashionable swimsuit will have you feeling gorgeous and confident. Made of 90% nylon and 10% lycra, this swimsuit is among the most popular at maternity stores. Available sizes are XS, S, M, L and XL. The design is beautiful and includes a combination of red, grey, black and white. sells this swimsuit for $138, and after you see how gorgeous it is, you will realize that it’s worth every cent.

A Pea in the Pod Collection: Lilly Pulitzer Halter Maternity Tankini Swimsuit

This swimsuit is especially pretty with a swirl of white, green and pink colors, twirled into a design. It has ties on either side of the hips for a custom fit. Sizes come in S, M and L and the cost is $155 from

Maternal America Jenni Tankini

This lovely orange print swimsuit will have you feeling as pretty as a princess. Super trendy and very popular, the Maternal America Jenni Tankini features a padded bra and an adjustable bikini that can be worn under the belly for added comfort. The swimsuit costs $98.00 and can be purchased from Available sizes are XS through XL.

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5 Foods Anxious People Shouldn't Eat

If you suffer from anxiety or panic attacks, certain foods may make your symptoms worse. Learn about five foods anxious people shouldn’t eat.


Caffeine is a stimulant, and if you have panic attacks, you should avoid anything with caffeine in it. This includes coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate. If you regularly drink caffeine now, don’t just stop cold turkey. The side effects of withdrawal can increase your anxiety. Instead, check out this article on how to ease the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal.

As far as chocolate goes, dark chocolate with at least 75 percent cacao with no preservatives can actually decrease your anxiety. It releases feel-good endorphins into your system that can help keep you calm. Just don’t overdo it.


A glass of wine may calm your nerves temporarily but it can make you anxious in the long run. Alcohol causes hyperactivity in the nervous system, which can make you feel jittery and over-anxious. It can also lead to dependency and alcoholism if you use it to self-medicate.


Sugar is another food anxious people shouldn’t eat. Nobody can expect you to completely give up cookies and cakes, but it’s important to cut down. Sugar causes hyperactivity, which can lead to anxiety. Also, when it mixes with other starches, it turns to alcohol in your system. As you read above, alcohol contributes to panic.

Food Dyes

Do you read the labels on the food you eat? Food dyes such as Red #40 and Yellow #5 has been linked to behavioral problems in children and ADHD in both children and adults. Yellow #5 can also contribute to insomnia, which can increase the chance of panic attacks.


Gluten intolerance affects 1 in every 100 people. Your anxiety attacks may be related to undiagnosed gluten intolerance. Other symptoms of gluten intolerance are:

  • Chronic Diarrhea
  • Chronic Flatulence (Gas)
  • Abdominal Cramping
  • Brain Fog

Removing gluten from your diet for a month is a great way to test if gluten is causing your anxiety, even if you have no other symptoms.

If you’re struggling with panic attacks and anxiety, avoiding these foods can help ease your symptoms.


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5 Free Fun Things to Do in California

Like most people these days you are probably watching your money closely and wondering what you can find do to in your state that is not only fun but either low cost or free. The state of California offers so many things to do for free that you can almost always find one near you. In this state of movie stars and natural wonders there are museums, historic places, and national parks to see. California is the land of the gold rush, endless sunshine and great beaches, so here are a list of some the places you can go and enjoy for free.

Located on 28 acres; Old Sacramento offers a look at the way the California was back in its heyday. A registered National Historic Landmark, this area is full of stores, museums, and historical attractions. Some of these attractions include museums dedicated to the pioneers that made California. There are landmarks and museums covering the railroads, pony express, and the state military history. Something can be found here for the whole family to see, along with lots of shopping and a collection of restaurants offering everything from American to Mediterranean cuisine. More information can be found at

Have a sweet tooth? Then this is the free place for you, located north east of Oakland you will find the Jelly Belly factory. This is one sweet free deal; you will get to tour the factory where some of the world’s best tasting jelly beans are made. Here you will not only get to see how they are made, but get to taste sample along the way and get a sample bag at the end of the tour. In the final part of the tour you will get to see images of people like Martin Luther King Jr., Johnny Carson and of course the most well known Jelly Belly lover of all, Ronald Reagan captured in jelly beans. For more fun information on tours and hours go to their website at

Some of the world’s tallest trees grow in California and can be found in the Redwood National Forest. Bring your family for drives or hike amongst the redwoods. Found along California’s Redwood Coast this area offers places to hike, bike, camp and generally enjoy the great outdoors. Redwoods can live to be 2000 years old and reach a height of 360 feet and most of the old growth can be found in the 37 miles of unspoiled national forest lands. You can find trails throughout the park for horseback riding or simply walking, just don’t forget your camera. To find out more about the Redwood national Forest and the surrounding areas visit

For those of you who are in the Fairfield area, stop by the Anheuser-Busch brewery. You will go on guided tour of the facility and learn all about the art of making beer, from choosing the ingredients, to tasting the final product. Once you have completed the tour you will get to sample the beer in the Hospitality room (for those over 21). You can order your favorite or try any of a number of new brews that are being tested. Snacks and soft drinks are also available. Don’t forget to go outside and see the world famous Clydesdales, these huge beauties are known for their size, and precision and have been a Budweiser icon since 1933. Tour information can be found at for all their breweries.

Feeling like you need to burn off some energy? Well if you happen to be in the Fresno area then the Providence Skate Park is just the place for you. Located on 24,000 square feet, Providence is considered to be one of the three largest skate parks in California. With features for both skateboarders and roller skaters, there is something for everyone. With so much skating area there is room for 50-75 active skaters at a time, with room for hundreds more to watch. There are zones designed for all levels of skaters from beginners to the most experienced and daring. Pack a lunch, grab your skates and be ready to have a great time. Log on to for more information.

Every state has plenty of fun things to do for free all you have to do is look for them. This is just a sample of what is out there, most of the time all you have to do is get there. Remember that most towns have parks to play in and state parks in abundance, so the next time you get bored look around and get out there and have some fun.

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5 Free IPad Apps for Parents

When I’m not downloading games and apps for my daughter, I like to check out new apps that will help me out as a parent. I have found several favorites that help out with things from deciding which movies are appropriate for kids to helping me put my daughter to bed. I’ve also found that quality apps don’t have to come with a hefty price tag, or any price tag at all. Here are some of my favorite free iPad apps for parents.

Sand Timer

I use this app to set a timer for my daughter to clean her room. I like this app because you set a time limit and the digitalized sand pixels will drop down one by one till time is up. Your child has a visual representation of time in front of him, very helpful especially for young children who can’t tell time. This app is great for time outs, setting a timer during which chores need to be completed, or setting time limits for computer use or T.V. watching.


This app has kids in mind in its movie reviews. The movies are scored based on three different categories: sex/nudity, violence/gore, and profanity. Parents can see how the movie rates at a glance in the left sidebar, where you’ll find the movie’s rating and three meters for each category, or you can click on the movie to get more detailed information about the offending scenes.

Sleep Bug

This app is perfect for your baby or child’s nap time or bedtime. I use this sometimes when putting my daughter to bed. It’s also good for soft background music during a before-bed story. It consists of different calm music “scenes” which can be customized by adding or taking away different layers of sound. For example, the Zen song allows you to add on a guitar playing, bamboo sticks, and/or a flute, among other sounds. The free version of the app contains 11 music scenes such as beach, lullaby, music box, and forest.

Moment Garden

Moment garden is a free photo-sharing app where parents can record moments in their child or children’s life through photos. You can write a description of each photo, and voila, you have a “garden” of moments in your child’s life. These photos can be shared with family and friends through email.

More from this writer:

Best Free iPad Apps for Babies and Toddlers
Best Free iPad Apps for Preschoolers
Best Free iPad Apps For Pregnancy

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5 Film Flops by Great Directors

Renowned directors sometimes make movies that stink. While you probably go into Howard the Duck with your eyes open, these 5 film flops from great directors might take you by surprise.

A Perfect Couple Directed by Robert Altman (1979):

This worst film is not suitable for viewing by people still traumatized by memories of 1970s variety shows. Robert Altman acts and directs in what could have been a touching romance. Unfortunately, over half the time is devoted to lengthy performances by a band worse than Tony Orlando and Dawn. You’ll need your mute button for this one.

The Black Dahlia Directed by Brian de Palma (2006):

This jumble of disconnected story lines often ignores the famous 1940s Hollywood murder of its title. One character actually asks if all this has anything to do with that girl’s murder. Guess not. Despite the strong violence typical of this great director, this film flop is still richly atmospheric if only it wasn’t so incoherent.

Days of Wine and Roses Directed by Blake Edwards (1962):

Alcoholism gets a treatment similar to the excesses of Reefer Madness. I love Jack Lemmon, but this worst film often sounds like a heavy-handed afterschool special. Still, Edwards later disclosed that he and Lemmon were troubled by their own drinking at the time, so it may have been true to their experience. Somehow, superficially similar films like Lost Weekend seem much less dated.

Raising Arizona Directed by Joel Coen (1987):

The Coen brothers should be admired for their courage to experiment so the occasional bomb is worth tolerating, but here Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter are too annoying to endure. Even for child kidnappers, they’re so strange that they just sound funny and not in a good way. The Lone Biker of the Apocalypse might have had some potential, but you have to sit through a lot of yelling to get to him.

My Best Friend Directed by Patrice Leconte (2007):

Even the worst film by this brilliant director has many good moments, but it’s disappointing overall. Instead of having a mature conversation about his lack of personal relationships, one business partner plays a prolonged prank on the other to make the point. It’s just not as profound as the better works of this renowned director.

These great directors have made many outstanding films, but these movies stink. Just don’t let these film flops keep you from enjoying all their masterpieces.

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