The May Patreon Reward is Up!

Heads up! For those awesome individuals out there who are supporting me via my Patreon page, the May Supporter Reward is now live! As a thank you for your support this month, you’re getting another preview look at the upcoming Sci-Fi Space Opera Epic Colony—in particular a tense scene wherein Anna must … well, that’d be spoiling the surprise.

If you’re a Patreon supporter head on over to my Patreon page and check it out! And if you’re not a supporter but would like to be, now is always a good time to start!

Thanks for reading!


Happy Memorial Day!

Hey everyone. It’s Memorial Day, so there won’t be a Being a Better Writer post today. I’d like to say it’ll be tomorrow … but I also work tomorrow and Wednesday, so the best I can say is “It will be up when I can get it up.”

Also, for you Patreon supporters, this month’s reward will go up tomorrow. Another advance look at a sequence from the Colony Alpha.

Anyhow, just a quick update. Enjoy your memorial day if you’re from the US (and don’t forget what it’s in memorial for), and for those of you not in the US, enjoy the start of your week!


Well, this last weekend was interesting. My post questioning when ethnicity and sex became the most important thing out there was met with a lot of responses, views, and even some shares. It was interesting watching the ticker rise and seeing the comments and replies pile in from various corners of the globe.

And there were replies, both here and elsewhere, both good and questionable. Quite a few responded with resounding agreement, some even nothing their own negative experiences with this growing behavior, while others simply agreed that there was no place for it in the writing world. To those who chimed in backing my decision to pull out of SPFBO 2016 or to voice similar disagreement to the growing trend of downplaying or penalizing a book based on the sex/ethnicity of the characters or author, thank you. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who’s noticed this behavior, nor finds it distinctly unappealing.

To those who disagreed with me but saw fit to do so in polite, even terms, I also thank you. We may not agree or see eye to eye on the issue, but a polite exchange of the reasoning behind various positions, even if it ends in a respectful “agree to disagree” conclusion, is still fruitful and beneficial. Especially on such a topic so ripe for more *ahem* juvenile forms of “debate,” honest back-and-forth with a bit of respect between the parties is still good. So, thanks for keeping cool heads and for being reasonable and keeping a level head.

And then there are those other replies. The ones that, despite the rage behind the keyboard, mostly had me shaking my head. To those who attempted to “debate” my points by misquoting or selectively omitting parts of my post, I hope you understand that such a tactic only works in two places: Politics and the schoolyard. Nowhere in the real world does a lawyer get to ask a judge to dismiss evidence on the grounds that it is “highly relevant and makes my client look extremely guilty” and get away with it. On The Simpsons, maybe, but not in the real world.

But I must say, my absolute favorite negative reply, the one so outlandish I had to share it with those around me (and will now share with you), which read to a full round of laughs, several discussions, and more laughs, was the accusation by one individual (and echoed by a few others) that I pulled Unusual Events out and made the post I did because I “felt threatened” because I was a white male who could ‘only write white, male characters.’

I wish I’d taken a screenshot of it before it got wiped/edited, because it later vanished. But of all the negative feedback I got, that was the one that made me laugh out loud. Not only did they completely miss the point of the article (likely because they simply posted without reading it) but the also made a hilarious and wildly inaccurate claim about my writing. Only white, male characters? Sands, I wrote a 300K word fantasy novel starring a female griffon (pretty far from both male, and for that matter, the human species). I’ve written stories about characters from just about every continent on Earth. Characters with backgrounds and lineages stretching all over, because those are what the stories ask. Of all the comments I got, this one was the most hilariously ludicrous and misinformed. It also was good for quite a few laughs, so of all the negative comments, I thank this one, because wow, did that bring some unintended levity into my day!

All in all, however, I don’t regret my decision to pull Unusual Events. I still stand by my comments: Rating any book above or below another strictly on the ethnicity and/or sex of the main characters and author is wrong. It is bigotry, I disagree with it, and I will not support any site that stands for otherwise, arguing that one’s skin color makes one better than another. That is wrong, and I will not back down on that.

I’m also glad I’m not the only one out there that feels that way.

Being a Better Writer: Playing Out Your Puzzle Pieces

Welcome back, readers, to a Monday post that’s actually on a Monday! BaBW is back to its proper day once more! So, to commemorate the occasion, what’s today’s writing topic?

Puzzle pieces.

I can see the curious, questioning looks even from here in the past, so let me explain a little further.

One of the questions I get asked from readers—especially those who are about to make the transition to new writers—is how I’m able to fill my books with such complicated plots and keep everything moving at a steady pace at the same time.

This is a legitimate question. I want to stress that up front. As a new writer, nothing is more daunting than looking at someone else’s book with all it’s intersecting plot threads and carefully doled out clues and thinking “How on earth do I do that?” To a new writer, it seems like an almost insurmountable task: There are all these different parts of the story, and all of it seems to be fitting together just so the guide to reader to figure things out or move along with the story at the same pace as the characters … And once you stand back and look at it, that’s quite a bit of work!

And, to be fair, the average English class that many are going to have gone through in their high-school years has very low odds of touching on this, which only compounds the problem. For new writers, it just seems like something that writers do, but no one is explaining how. Again, this is why I encourage taking creative writing classes if they’re available to you—they’ll teach this kind of stuff and more.

But, that aside, point is, most young writers see a full, complex story and wonder how on earth an author was ever able to keep everything straight. Crud, some don’t. Read through a Sci-Fi book the other day (giving an author I’d read before another shot because the premise of the book was very unique, even if I’d been disappointed in an earlier work of theirs) where the author didn’t dole out their complex story well—at all. Here’s how it ending up playing out: You got the opening chapters, introducing the characters, and giving you roughly 80% of the information you needed to know for the conclusion of the story. Then, following that was most of the book, roughly two dozen chapters of the characters just making their way to the conclusion while talking but never really doing much for the story other than “We go from here to the their, this ending is stressful.” Near the end of that bit, which was most of the book and pretty dull, we got another 10%, and then the conclusion happened almost immediately, bringing with it the last 10%.

Do you see the problem? The book had a great premise and an interesting idea, but the author didn’t know how to dole the information out. The result was a massive dump of exposition at the beginning, and a small one at the end with the final bits the reader needed … and then everything in-between was just sort of  … there. It could have been summed up in two or three chapters rather than twenty.

Or the story could have doled out its puzzle pieces better, distributed them evenly across those intervening  chapters, and given them some purpose to the overall plot (as opposed to the “And we’re traveling … and we’re traveling … and we’re traveling …” that the story became). Something that would have given them impact on the story, rather than just being happenstance.

Right, so that’s the second time (not counting the title) that I’ve used that term, so it’s high time I explained what I mean when I write it.

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Unusual Events Has Been Removed From SPFBO 2016

All right, guys, it’s official. I just heard back from Mark Lawrence, the head of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, and now that the competition has begun, my book could not be moved to another reviewer, so instead, I’ve elected to withdraw my entry from the competition (for the reasons for doing so, see this post here). It’s sad that it had to be done, but I feel my reasons were sound.

It is somewhat of a disappointment, however, in more ways than one. First, it’s a shame that it had to come to a removal. I was really interested to see what reviews would have cropped up from the SPFBO, as well as what sort of extended audience I could gather. But in light of their review practices … no gain would have been worth throwing my support behind it. Secondly, it is a shame that such review practices are even a small part of the SPFBO. Perhaps that will change, I would put my voice out as saying I strongly encourage them to do so, but I’m not holding my breath.

So, that’s the bad news. Sort of. I can’t help but feel it’s a good thing, in the long run. There are some things one just shouldn’t associate with, and reviewing and rating books with the focusing lens of “Is the character/writer X race or not?” is one of them.

In other news, the book in question can still be read and enjoyed by those of you who won’t care so much what Samantha’s, Alma’s, Jacob Rocke’s, or Mathoni’s gender or ethnic heritage happen to be over getting a great story. You can find the book here.

Thanks for the advice, guys, and thanks for standing with me on this one. I’m glad I’m not the only one who considers this important.


EDIT: Whoa. This blew up. This was just supposed to be news for my regular readers. So let me make something very, very clear, just in case. This was a news post keeping my readers up to date. I voiced a concern about one of the sites in the larger picture, and when SPFBO couldn’t bump me to a different review site, decided to withdraw. That’s what it is, please don’t make a mountain out of a molehill or put undeserved antagonism on the wrong party, and keep a level head.

When Did Ethnicity and Sex Become the Most Important Thing?

Bear with me for a moment, and take a look at these few excerpts from a book review I read this morning, posted on a fantasy review blog (which you can find here, though I’m loathe to give them a link after perusing the site since it’s a little messed up). I’d been poking around the place since they are a participating member of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, a contest between 300 different self-published fantasy books, and Unusual Events is one of those titles. This site is the one that will be handling Unusual Events review.

I’m not sure how I feel about that now. In fact, I may request to have it passed to another site, since I’m pretty sure I can already see how its going to go. Because I’ve been reading their other reviews, and I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Let’s look at some quotes:

Otherbound is that last sort of book.

I’m fairly certain I discovered it on Tumblr, recommended by one of those blogs which include lists of books that are commendable for their diversity.

Okay, that’s … interesting. A little background on the title. I guess that’s important? Let’s see what happens if we go further.

… fantasy novels are written by and about (and quite possibly for) white men who like running around with swords saving the world.

Uh-oh. Okay. Sensing a theme here, but—

As I said, it’s an incredible story, and honestly, I’d probably have loved the book even if both of the leads were white and straight.

Wait, what?

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Being a Better Writer: Micro-Blast #3

Yep! Another Tuesday BaBW post. While this has been the standard for the last three weeks, I don’t think I work this next Monday, so hopefully I’ll be able to break this chain and get back to posting these on their usual time. Granted, I could write them ahead of time … but the other blog I post these on doesn’t allow for scheduling, so it’d just end up fragmenting my reading base more than it already is, and since I’ve been working on the days I would normally write these in advance …

Anyway, I’m doing what I can. I’ve also noted, however, that my blog postings have really slowed lately. Especially since starting my job. The frequency of my postings has dropped about 50%. Which isn’t great. I’ll see if I can get some more posting done to keep everyone more up to date, even as I work on finishing the first draft of Shadow of an Empire and move Colony towards Beta.

Right, now, on to today’s posting! Today I’m clearing out some of the more short, easy answers from my topic list, which means it’s time for another micro-blast! Number 3 (1 and 2 can be found at those links, respectively). Micro-blasts are when I have a selection of topics up that are good questions … but aren’t necessarily worth long, drawn-out answers. It’s not that the questions are bad, but that the topic is usually precise enough that the answer can be a paragraph or two rather than a longer, in-depth explanation. So rather than give a shorter BaBW post, I collect several of these shorter, simpler questions together in one post and tackle them altogether.

Right, now that the explanation’s out of the way, let’s get to answering!

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Shadow of an Empire Progress Report + Other Reports

Hey everyone! Just dropping you a quick update on how progress on the first draft of Shadow of an Empire is going, as well as work on getting Colony into Beta, so you all know what’s going on.

First, work has been slower these last few weeks, as you might have noticed or guessed. I’m putting in a lot of shifts at my other job to try and pull myself into some semblance of financial stability (and it’s working, thankfully, though it’ll be months before I can do more than make a $5 luxury purchase). Unfortunately, this means less time to write and edit, so my monthly production has been halved, from 80,000 words to a little over 40,000. Which would probably be less impactful if I was writing piddly little 50,000 word books like a lot of self-pubs rather than 150,000 plus juggernauts.

Anyway … that progress report, right!?

So, Shadow of an Empire has hit 145,000 words as of this last week. At the current pace, and looking at where I’m at in the story, I’ve got about another 80,000-100,000 words to go, which means that Shadow is two-thirds done!

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Being a Better Writer: Author Morals and Character Morals

Welcome back, everyone! I’m sure many of you wondered where I was yesterday, since BaBW is primarily a Monday -specific post. Rest assured, all is well. I just had a shift at my other job yesterday that was all day. Didn’t seem worth posting once more that I wasn’t going to be able to post due to that since I’d already given enough warning that such was going to happen, so I figured most would be okay enough if I left things for today.

Right, that said, what are we talking about today? Well, today’s topic is one that once more comes from fan feedback and questions submitted to me by young writers, and one that fortunately I’ve heard discussed by other authors at length, as well as something I had to consider for myself. It’s a topic that will come up with any new writer who is really thinking about what they write and what they’re putting out there.

It’s the question of character morals and beliefs as they relate to the author’s.

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Captain America: Civil War

Spoilers will be below the break. Don’t pass that point if you don’t want them.

So, I literally, just now walked in the door from my showing of Captain America: Civil War. So, as this is above the break, here’s my spoiler-free thoughts.

First, the movie was great. If you liked the last few films from Marvel, and in particular The Winter Soldier (Cap’s last solo outing), you’ll like this one too. Especially if you liked Winter Soldier. That knife’s edge it walked, of tension, humor, lightheartedness and seriousness? Civil War walks it as well. Even better, personally.

Cinematography was great, especially for the fights. Yes, there was a little shaky-cam in the opening that had me a little worried, but it turns out to be a stylistic choice only for that portion of the movie. The rest of the film is clear and concise with its camera work. The music? Also pretty good. It didn’t do a great job sticking in my head the way Winter Soldier‘s theme did, but at the same time there was nothing dead about it either. It complimented the on-screen visuals and emotions pretty well.

The film honestly does a great job with its storytelling—better, in fact, than the last Avengers film (Age of Ultron). Ultron had its moments, and it was grand, but there was a faint sense that things were moving to fast, that parts of the story were whizzing along at a pace that was just a little to much for the rest of the film. Which, to be fair, isn’t hard to understand. Ultron dealt with what, almost a dozen characters and plotlines, bringing them together into one big collision?

Well, Civil War shows that Marvel has taken lessons from what did and didn’t work with Ultron, and the results are excellent. This is actually a complicated story—moreso than the trailers would ever lead you to believe, but I never got the sense that anything was being rushed. Instead, the story flowed from point to point incredibly organically. Maybe it’s just that the movie clicked with my storytelling style, but Marvel did a great job taking a bunch of different plot threads and weaving them together tighter and tighter until you go “Aha! So that’s what’s going on!” And there were several such moments in the film, judging by the noise from the audience. Marvel’s learned from Ultron, and what it did wrong, Civil War does right

But with that … there are a few caveats. First is that for a Captain America film … it’s really Avengers 3. Some might disagree with me, but for a film that’s under the name of Cap himself … a lot of time is spent on all the other members of the team.

Is this a bad thing? Well, no, and like I said, they handle it masterfully. But by about fifteen minutes into the movie, I did find myself wondering “Is this a Captain America movie? Or an Iron Man movie? Oh wait, maybe it’s Avengers.”

You still get a lot of Cap, don’t get me wrong. And like I said, the movie isn’t bad. But don’t expect to just see Cap’s angle of this story. In fact, I’ll be curious to see what the results are when someone breaks down the screentime of each character.

And that plays into my other caveat: Marvel’s films should not be digested standalone, and Civil War is moreso that than any other film so far. Seeing Civil War without watching the rest of the Marvel film mythos at this point would be like watching Return of the Jedi first: you’d be left with a lot of character development and plot threads being tied up that you didn’t even get.

Watching Civil War at this point without having watched the prior films would be similar. You’d be out in the cold on a lot of what’s come before. Sure, you’ll enjoy the fights and the spectacle, but a lot of the interaction between characters would be empty without those prior experiences. If you’re not the type who has watched the rest of the Marvel cinematic universe, either wait until Civil War is out on DVD or go catch up. Otherwise, you’re going to walk out of the movie thinking that it was all action and no real story or character. That, or be that person in the audience who asks everyone around them questions most of the audience already knows because they did see the other films.

Right, that’s my two cents. Awesome, but definitely deeply into the Marvel lore. Now, for spoilers.

Oh, one last note. Despite what the internet claims (at least as of my showing), there is an after-the-credits scene, so stay in your seat, okay? Wait until the very end.

Spoiler thoughts below the break:

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