April Patreon Supporter Reward Now Live!

Patreon supporters take note: April’s supporter reward is now live. If you’ve donated the minimum amount of a dollar during the month of April, you can now take a look at this month’s nifty, behind the scenes look at one of the creatures from the in progress Shadow of an Empire: the pack hunter creatures known as chort.

Here’s an excerpt from the reward:

This one does tie into last month’s. Last month, you guys got a look at a chase from one of my current projects, a Fantasy-Western named Shadow of an Empire. Basically, a quick recap for those who didn’t get to look at it, it was a sequence in which the two primary characters of the novel, Sali and Meelo, ran afoul of a dangerous pack of predators in the deserts of the outlands known as chort.

While the scene was a pretty fun one, for some it probably did run into the issue that chort had already been discussed and explained in the story, so the sequence most of you looked at, while cool, didn’t tell much about what they were—aside from angry, smart, and really dangerous predators.

So this  month, I’m going to give you guys a rundown on one of the most common predators across the empire of Indrim: the chort.

Chort

Chort is the name given to a pack predator/scavenger creature found all across Indrim. Like wolves or similar predators we find today, chort fill a similar ecological role in their environment, hunting prey from rabbits to bovals—or even people—and working as a pack to bring them down.

Each chort is fairly large. Though size varies based upon subspecies and location, even the smallest of chort (the desert variety) usually averages 4-5 feet in length and weighs in excess of 125 pounds. A large part of this weight comes from their muscle and bone density—though chort may appear fairly limber and lithe, they’re quite strong and built to take an surprising amount of punishment, likely owing to both the dangers of their ideal prey (bovals) and their tendency to infight.

You can read the rest of it by visiting my Patreon page.

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The 2016 Hugo Finalists

Well, the 2016 Hugo Award finalists have been announced. And … I can’t say the list is surprising. Good? I also can’t say that. At this point, the only topic of the entire set that seems to have any relevancy at all to the real world is the category for film, which looks to be a four-way battle between Fury Road, The MartianThe Force Awakens, and Age of Ultron.

And … that’s pretty much the only category worth caring about right now. The rest? Well, in case you’ve missed one of the other nominees, here’s one of the standout examples of what’s being voted on: Space Raptor Butt Invasion.

Yes. Dinosaur erotica. Cheap, written-in-a-day-or-two, dinosaur erotica.

Why?

Well, you may recall there’s been some controversy over the Hugo Awards the last few years. The Hugo Awards had become increasingly isolated and standoffish from their purported goals, turning into more of a personal award handed out between friends that pretended to represent “all fans of Science Fiction and Fantasy” than actually being that (we’re talking votes of a hundred total determining things like the “best” novel of the year). Which resulted, unsurprisingly, in the Hugo Awards going into a downward spiral of quality (hence why my local librarians both mocked it and stopped picking up books that were Hugo winners).

People got tired of it, noticed what was going on, and tried to do something about it. And the elitist group that had been using it as their own personal promotion platform dug in their heels. A game of tug-of-war ensued. And name calling. And accusations of sexism, racism … really, whatever this group of insulars could come up with. And once one party goes that far, well, it’s not hard for the other party to decide “The gloves are coming off.”

Enter a group calling themselves “The Rabid Puppies.” Long story short, after the insular group decided to pour liquid nitrogen over the whole mess by voting in lockstep to ensure that any category that didn’t have one of their chosen nominations on it was given “No award” and then twisting the knife by handing out literal butthole awards called Assterisks to those they didn’t want at the event, the Rabid group decided that enough was enough.

And now there’s a finalist list with Space Raptor Butt Invasion on it, the Hugos are facing a proposed rule change that only lets “Real fans” vote (Gotta represent all of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and the best way to do that is by mimicking Manor Farm, right?) … and, well, you have pretty much what happens when both sides act petty and dig in their heels. Everyone nearby shakes their head and walks away, disgusted. The mask has come off of the Hugos and … there’s not much to look at but a bunch of blatant elitists trying to keep their hands on everything.

So yeah, the Hugo Award is busily making itself as irrelevant as possible.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for an award that actually is attempting to live up to that “all of Sci-Fi and Fantasy” bit, you’re still in luck. Dragon Con has announced The Dragon Awards. Which, as a side, is a much better name for a Sci-Fi/Fantasy award. Who wouldn’t want to say “I won a dragon?

Anyway, after shouting for years “If you don’t like it, go make your own award,” it looks like a lot of those disgusted with the behavior of the Hugos over the last decade have finally done just that. No judges. No “real” fans. No social commentary. Just fans—any fans, no requirement to prove anything—voting on what they liked best from the year.

Yeah, you can sign up here.

So, 2016 Hugos? With the Dragons announced, I don’t really care anymore. After last years abysmal showing of narcissism, elitism, and more than a little racism, pretty much any other award couldn’t be worse, and … Oh hey, here’s a new one promising to not do all the things the Hugo has become infamous for.

Now, is there a chance that those same insulars will try and swarm the Dragon Awards en masse and kill it? Sure. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised. Assterisks, remember?

But given that it’s an award that for the moment is firmly out of their control, I’d bet they’ll have a much harder time of it.

So yeah. 2016 Hugos? Congratulations, you got what you wanted. You’re irrelevant now. You’ve convinced me. Posts from your most ardent insulars have convinced me. I, as GRRM so eloquently pointed out, and not a “real” Science Fiction and Fantasy fan. I don’t have enough money, and I don’t have the “right” ideals.

So … congratulations insulars. As far as I’m concerned, you’ve got your sinking ship. Keep it. I’ve left. The Hugo Award is a fading memory.

I’ll vote for the Dragons. Where I, and everyone else who calls themselves a fan for one reason or another, can vote for the things they love.

Goodbye, Manor Farm.

Being a Better Writer: Mysteries

I think it was inevitable that this post was going to happen sooner or later.

I’ve not written too much about genre thus far on BaBW. It just … hasn’t happened. I’ve written about other, closely critical elements of story, such as pacingstingers, hard and soft openings, or what drives a story forward, but to date I’ve not actually talked much about genre-specific writing. Not so directly, anyway,

Maybe that needs to change. Perhaps starting with today’s post. Which would be a fitting one to begin with, considering that of my earliest five major works, three of them were direct mysteries while the other two contained trace elements of it. So, when it comes to writing mysteries, I have more than a passing bit of experience with what goes into them.

So, with that in mind: what is a mystery?

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Monday Will Be Tuesday

Bet that title got your attention. Ahem. Allow me to elucidate:

Monday’s Being a Better Writer post will instead be Tuesday.

Why? Because I’m working a ten-hour shift Monday, and that means I won’t be able to put the post together. So it’ll be going up come Tuesday.

Oh, and we’ll be discussing, by request, writing mysteries.

This is going to be fun.

Epics and the Details – A Short Post

Extra Credits is a great Youtube series. In fact, at one point, they were even featured on my Links page. I tend to rotate things there from time to time, and maybe I should be giving them another go.

Anyway, I wanted to draw your attention, please, to what I find to be my particular favorite sets of their videos. A good chunk of Extra Credits is talking about game design and development. Mostly video games, which if you have little interest in, doesn’t make them that appealing.

But then there is the other set of videos they do, which I absolutely, positively recommend: Extra History. A series which sets out to talk about (and discuss) history you may not know, understand, or recognize.

And these are great, especially because they often focus on small details that most history books don’t. A generic history book may tell you that X ancient ruler went to war with their neighboring country. Extra History, on the other hand, will delve into the reasons why, bringing up things such as “this adviser to the ruler knew that their neighboring country had access to a trade route that could make them all very wealthy, and therefore pushed for the war for economic reasons.”

Why am I bringing this up? Mostly for the writers of epics (or would-be writers of epics) among us. One of the requirements for an epic is capturing the full scope of a conflict, rather than just a small, tiny facet of it. An action-adventure fantasy war novel will simply be about the protagonists awesome, butt-kicking actions in a couple of battles, probably presented in a way so that they are responsible for the final blow that ends the war. An epic action-adventure war novel, on the other hand, will delve into the details of the war as a whole in some manner: the political ramifications of a battle, the decisions that lead to each deployment of force, the reason locations are held and kept, etc.

And before you can write about such things, you need to understand them. You need to understand the complex myriad of decisions that can and will go into a world-spanning conflict so you can put that to work in your story.

And where can you start to get a taste for such things? Why, Extra Credits‘ Extra History videos, of course! They go into all sorts of interesting details that, for most, happen “behind the scenes.” Why did X country go for this location and not another during a war? What sort of political diplomacy had an effect on what decisions? It’s a series that is great for broadening the mind and opening up the kind of critical thought that’s necessary for writing a true epic, and not just a really long action story.

Looking for a good place to start? I’d recommend the first of their three video series on how WWII was “The Resource War,” which talks about how much of that war’s strategic and tactical decisions were shaped by needs for basic things, such as access to aluminum, cobalt, oil, and food. It’s a great primer for looking at what sort of details you can put into your epic to make it a real epic.

If you’re still hungry for more (and not just about war), then I’d recommend watching second their series on both the Punic Wars (which shaped the world in impressive ways) and the South Sea Bubble, followed by the rest of their material. It really will help you look at history in a new way, seeing the complexity that goes into each and every step of decision.

And once you’re looking through that lens, you’ll be able to turn it to your writing as well.

Enjoy!

Another Year’s Gone By …

… So Happy Birthday to me!

Yup, it’s that time of year again! So, naturally, I’m taking the day off. No working on Shadow of an Empire, or Colony. Just relaxation, and celebration of another decade of life completed. I only get one birthday a year, so it’s time to take advantage of that!

And … if you feel like doing a bit more than leaving birthday wishes, but aren’t sure what to do, Dead Silver and Unusual Events could always use more reviews …

Time to get this day underway!

Being a Better Writer: On Writing About Race

Oh boy.

Yep, this post had to come at some point or another. Given the charged climate of “PC” these days (that’s “political correctness,” not “Personal Computer,” sadly) days, this topic is one that’s come up again and again in writing. Online, offline … just about everywhere.

It’s also charged enough that simply based on the title of the post alone, I can already expect that there are angry comments being written to tell me how “wrong” I am … despite the title being the only thing those commentators will read.

Yeah, there’s a reason I’ve been okay with putting off this post for so long. It’s a charged topic, one that incites a lot of anger and rage from a lot of people.

That in mind though … it’s something that needs to be talked about if you’re going to write. In part because we can’t ignore it. That old adage about there being some readers who will never be happy? The concept of race is one area where there are definitely going to be people who are going to live up to that creed. No matter what you do, you’re going to do something wrong. Well, not really (though there are things you can do wrong). More like, … some readers are going to choose to see something wrong no matter what you do. They’re not interested in logic and reason. And they’re out there. They will make what you write “wrong” no matter what you do, because they can.

So what can you do in that case? Sure, you can’t please them … but you can make sure that what you’ve written is well-written enough that others will look at those complaints with a little bit of logic and go “No, I don’t see it.”

Right. So it’s a bit like writing anything else then. There are always going to be people that are unhappy. You can’t control that. What you can do,  however, is make sure that for the readers left, you’ve written something good. And now … we’re going to talk about that in the context of one of the most (in America) politically charged topics there is: race in stories and writing.

Here we go.

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