Back in Business

You know, it’s funny, but I always find that it takes me a few lines worth of errors to readjust to using my big, awesome keyboard again. Just like it takes me a little while to adjust to using someone’s laptop keyboard when I’m traveling and going to make a post. The fingers go to the expected locations, and … Whoops! See? Well, you can’t, because I fixed it, but just there, with the “whoops,” I did it again.

Anyway, I suppose this is a long way of saying “Guess who’s back!” Or returned. Or whatever. For me it’s a return to work, for others a sad “awww …” as I left once more.

Enough semantics. I’m back! Arrived late last night.

And … no, I haven’t written anything today. Still unpacking, etc, etc. Jet lagging a little, oddly enough. Which doesn’t make sense because west to east … Oh well. Whatever. Anyhow, this post needs a point! I mean aside from going “Hey hey, I’m back!”

Okay, I actually do have some news for you guys. A couple snippets of it, in fact.

The first bit? There’s a new Patreon supporter post going up today! As soon as I’m done here, I’m bouncing over there (I’ve already got the tab open) and I’m putting it together. For those who are Patreon supporters, this time you’re getting a fun treat: A sneak peek at some of the new characters that are being introduced in Jungle (that Colony sequel you should be really excited for). Nothing that spoils anything—so nor worries there. I’ll cut anything that drops too much info. But you’ll get not only the character sheets themselves that I wrote up, but also some of the side stuff that’s been developed since then. Thoughts, impressions, changes to the characters as they came to life, etc. So if you’re a Patreon supporter, pop on over and take a look! And if you’re not, a dollar a month is all it takes!

Now, the second bit of news, this one concerning my books and the month of April, which starts tomorrow. What could those two have in common, you might ask? Well, there’s one thing in particular about April that’s quite special, at least to me. Those of you who’ve been regulars here for a while might know this already, but …

April 19th is my birthday.

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Being a Better Writer: Empathy for Your Characters

Greetings from Alaska, readers! Yes, that’s right, I’m home visiting my parents for a few days. And old friends. It’s fantastic. I flew in Sunday morning, after a nice long layover in Seattle which was most of my Saturday. As usual, the trip to my hometown was roughly a full day’s journey. That was okay, however, as I’d brought my WiiU with me.

Yes, I own a WiiU. I also own The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. So when I had my fifteen hour layover, well … I had plenty to keep me occupied. No spoilers, but man is that game fun. Complete, go anywhere freedom.

Again, no spoilers, so I won’t say much about my journey thus far. But it has been an excellent one. You ever played Fallout? Well, imagine that kind of freedom and setting applied to the land of Hyrule and Zelda series, and that’s Breath of the Wild. The scale is titanic, the world ambitious beyond almost anything I’ve ever played, and the tools and toys you can play with offer a kind of freedom few games can match.

Of course, we’re here to talk about books, not games, so maybe I should change my topic. Bring things back to the site’s primary focus. Being a Better Writer, right?

So, what is the topic of choice today? Well, if you’ll check the topic bar for the day, it’s actually having Empathy for your characters. This topic is one that actually hadn’t made it to my list, if only because it came in via message from one of the readers here (So … Hello Feather Note, this is your ship coming in), and as I was traveling, I figured “Well, why not? That’s a good topic worth discussing, and I can pull it off from a borrowed Chromebook.”

So, empathy for your characters. There are a couple of angles I can come at this with, so I’m going to talk about the most obvious one first, or the one that, I think, most readers will jump to first: getting the reader to have empathy for your characters.

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Traveling Tales

Well, this is a first. I’m actually writing this post from my phone, in the Salt Lake City airport!

Yup, that’s right. I’m headed home to visit family for a few days. Nothing long–less than a week, actually. But it’s a visit all the same.

Still not very fond of the TSA experience. Security theater is simply pointless, but anyway …

Monday’s Being a Better Writer post should still be up, just possibly a little later than normal due to the time zone change. Don’t worry on that count. I’ll get it up.

So, what else is new? Work on Jungle passed another milestone this week: 100k!

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Being a Better Writer: Unbelievable Reality

Ever heard of a film called To Hell and Back? No?

I’m not surprised. The film came out a long time ago. 1955, to be exact. It’s a World-War II movie chronicling the exploits of one Audie Murphy.

Do you recognize that name? Some of you are likely shaking your heads, while a few others are nodding vigorously. You see, Audie Murphy was one of the most decorated soldiers of World War II and remains one of the most decorated soldiers of all time. Exploit after exploit was attached to his name. Naturally, the kind of man you’d want to make a Hollywood blockbuster about, right? That was To Hell and Back.

Well, here’s the interesting thing about this movie they made. You would likely expect that a story about a war hero (or anyone, really) coming out of Hollywood would be heavily edited and dramatized, right? Hence the “based on a true story” nonsense that usually means that there was probably a person somewhere who did something similar to this, but its so disconnected you might as well be watching pure fiction.

Well, you’d be right. The movie wasn’t exactly like the real story.

It was, actually, less amazing.

That’s right, the movie was toned down. And I don’t mean that they shied away from the violence or the horrors of war, no. It was that they looked at Audie Murphy’s life and said ‘no one will believe this, it’s too fantastic’ and then toned the film down, downplaying some of the man’s heroism and accomplishments. All because they were certain audiences, despite the event’s truths, wouldn’t believe them for the stories they were.

Today, in that vein, we’re talking about knowing your audience, and the challenges associated with the possible.

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Op-Ed – Fixing Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

Sometimes those of you who peruse this site may find it easy to forget that I’m actually quite the gamer.

No no, it’s true. I’ve got a game list longer than my arm (and most other arms for that matter) and a backlog that would give an accountant fits. I like video games. Multiple genres, multiple titles, multiple systems. Right now? I’m playing through The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and loving every minute (yes, it is every bit as fantastic a reinvention of an open-world game as the reviews claim).

Anyhow, being a gamer, I’ve got some favorite series I adore. And one of these is the titular Borderlands series.

Borderlands is an interesting one. Think Mad Max meets Diablo, in an FPS, in a distant Sci-Fi setting, and now throw in a bunch of kooky, dark humor, and you’ve kind of got the gist of it. Borderlands takes place on an abandoned mining world where (initially at least, since there are now four games in the series) crazed bandits (the descendants of prison convicts who were turned loose when a mining operation up and left) roam the desert landscape alongside monstrous alien life forms, as “Vault Hunters” battle both to try and track down a legendary alien cache of tech rumored to be somewhere.

It gets complicated fast, surprisingly. And there’s more to it, but that’s the gist of it. Anyway, the result is a fun universe I happen to enjoy with a lot of kooky humor, memorable characters … and plenty of shooting.

Anyway, what’s that got to do with today’s post? Well … today I want to talk about Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Yes, you read that right. That kooky humor extends to the titles as well.

In any case, I want to talk about TPS—specifically one of the things it got tragically wrong, and how it could have been fixed.

Hey hey, don’t click away yet. This thing that I want to talk about? It’s a writing problem. After all, this is a writing site. That’s most often what I talk about here. So this is writing related. I’m going to discuss what went wrong … and how the developers of TPS could have avoided it.

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Being a Better Writer: What Makes a Protagonist?

All right. So, yesterday’s incarnation of this post, to what is now great irony, started with a worried critique of WordPress’ freshly rolled out posting interface. To be specific, it critiqued the poor interface design, but also noted with a faint hint of worry that something so new was bound to have some surprises of a possibly unpleasant variety.

Oh, did it ever. The posting interface glitched out completely at the conclusion of my article, not only refusing to allow it to be posted, but also not letting me copy-paste it to save it. Worse, the manual “save draft” button had been removed altogether for the standard autosave. It used to have both, but I guess they thought having a manual draft save was too confusing. Either way, the autosave feature had also bugged out after I’d hit return on the first paragraph.

The end result was, well, the loss of the entire post. A post that had worried at the start about such an eventuality possibly happening. What can I say? WordPress has changed several times now, and each time I’ve been less than impressed.

Thankfully, today’s post should not have any problems (crosses fingers). After contacting WordPress via Twitter, one of the cofounders drew my attention to a “Admin” button that allows one to access the old, default posting suite. Which I think I’ll be using from now on, as it’s the more functional of the  two current options. I’d like to use the middle one, as that had some nice Twitter-tie-in functionality, but I’ll take losing that but being able to post over the inverse.

So, with that out of the way, let’s get down to business on this now twice-delayed topic, eh?

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Being a Better Writer Delayed, But Not By Me

So … there was a Being a Better Writer post today. A post in which I, quite ironically, griped about the sudden and bad change to WordPress’ posting format. Without warning, the whole thing has been rebuilt, in a much worse form than before that’s hidden useful features behind submenus, requires multiple clicks where one sufficed, etc.

So, anyway, using this new system, I wrote up a whole 1800-word post on Protagonists. Good stuff. Then I hit submit.

Error. Cannot post. I hit submit again.

Error. Cannot post. No reason given. This isn’t good.

So, like any sensible chap, what do I do? I hit CTRL+A to select everything and then try to copy.

Cannot copy. WHAT!?!?

Yeah, apparently you can no longer “save” your post from wordpress’ clutches by copy pasting. And the save feature was bugged too. So you can guess what happened.

That’s right. WordPress ate the entire post. All 1800 words. I couldn’t save it. I couldn’t even Copy-Paste it.

I am … extremely agitated right now. This was a good post. And I even tried to save it.

So … sorry, guys. I’m not going to rewrite the entire thing. Not today, at least. I’ve got a book to work on.

Please, if you feel inclined, light up WordPresses Twitter account on this. Not being allowed to CTRL+C a post is stupidity. Especially when their own “save” feature is now, apparently, a buggy “autosave” that stopped functioning after I finished writing the first paragraph.