The Problems with the Arguments Against “The Great Wall”

So, you may have heard of a movie that’s trailer dropped this weekend called The Great Wall. If you haven’t, you should go give the trailer a watch. The film, as you can probably guess, is about the famous landmark of China, and asks the question “What was it built to keep out?”

It turns out, the answer is dragons. Yes, this is a fantasy flick from the director of Hero and House of Flying Daggers (movies that are a bit more known over here, so far from his home). The great wall is built to keep out dragons. I am completely sold.

Unfortunately, not everyone is so impressed. In fact, some people are angry at the film. Why?

Because one of the stars is Matt Damon. Who is, as the detractors have pointed out, white. Which in their eyes makes the film racist. No joke. You can read some of the fire about it here (and I recommend this article over the USA Daily one because this article at least did some research and points out the glaring flaws in the stance, while USA Daily, in what I feel is likely their usual sense of journalistic integrity, couldn’t be bothered to fact check anything).

Now I’m not going to get into the factual inaccuracies of the mud being slung at Hollywood for this, except to point out the obvious: This is a film made in China by film production companies based in China. Not Hollywood. They have little to do with this outside of distributing the film in the US. So the blame for them is pointless.

No, what I want to point out is the delicious hypocrisy of the backlash against this movie, which is, alongside the everyday usual racist commentary, declaring that movies should be more diverse in their casting and look outside their box.

Completely missing that this is what the film is doing.

Let’s look at this for a minute. We have a film made in China by a talented Chinese director. The movie stars a number of major film stars in China, who are all—wait for it—surprisingly (yes, that is sarcasm) Chinese. And alongside those individuals, for diversity (oh, that beloved buzzword), Zhang has also cast someone who isn’t a major Chinese actor: Matt Damon. Along with three other actors from around the world such as Pedro Pascal and Numan Acar.

So we have a movie set in China, filled with actors from China, and one “white man” (Wu’s words, not mine). Plus the three other actors from around the world. Which … oddly enough, would be diversifying the cast a little.

So, surprise surprise, the backlash against this film doesn’t pass the flip test. Yet again.

As for me? I look forward to seeing the flick. Dragons versus The Great Wall. I’m sold on the concept, and I’ve quite enjoyed some of Zhang’s other movies, so I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy this one.

Whether or not you want to see the film, just … do yourself a favor and ignore the made-up, hypocritical “controversy” that really boils down to an American Social Justice movement attempting to exert control via it’s values over a foreign film studio (Oh hey, that sounds a lot like western imperialism …). It’s hypocrisy, it’s pointless, and it’s really not worth much of our time.

Unusual Events Giveaway! (Now Closed — Winners Forthcoming)

Unusual EventsHey there! You! Yes you! Would you like to win a free copy of the short story collection Unusual Events? Of course you would! If not, but you still love the excitement of entering things, well … you could always hand it over to someone else who would!

So, why would I ask? Because I’ve got a copy to give away! And someone is going to get it! Pretty straightforward, pretty simple. Name in a hat sort of stuff.

Okay, maybe not quite so simple. After all, for me to pull a name from a hat, there need to be names in the hat for me to blindly grasp for, and that’s where you, reader, come in. See, in order to give a copy of Unusual Events away, I need two things: An entry to draw from said hat (note: blind drawing may not actually be from a hat), and an e-mail address (to giveaway the book to).

So, here’s what we’re going to do. If you wish to enter the giveaway, then simply leave a comment below (which will require you put in an e-mail address  I can see) saying something to the effect of “I want to enter the giveaway!” That will give you one name in the metaphorical hat.

Would you like to receive a second entry? Then share this giveaway post via one of the share buttons at the bottom on Facebook, Twitter, or the like (and make sure you mention that you shared it in your comment, because this I can’t see outside of the total number of shares, so honor system). That’ll give you a second entry.

How about a third? Yes, I’m allowing you to get up to three entries for this one! All you have to do is in your comment, answer this question in its entirety: If you could share a one-hour lunch with any character (and yes, I mean any) I’ve ever written, who would it be, where would you eat, what would you talk about, and why? Tell us all about it! That’ll get you a third entry! (Oh, and, as always, keep the event civil. Nothing innapropriate. That’ll get your post deleted. Sorry)

And if you’ve never read anything of mine, you can always head over either my sample page, Amazon page, or elsewhere with my writing (try links) to get some samples).

Get your entries in now, because once Midnight PST hits, this contest is closed forever! Then, all the entrants names will be put in a hat, the winner drawn, and a lucky winner will get a copy of Unusual Events all for themselves (and if I get enough entrants, I may just go ahead and add a few more prizes, so the more the merrier!)

So … clock’s ticking! Enter below!

Being a Better Writer: Giving Characters a Leitmotif

Okay, first of all, I need to apologize for this post coming so late in the day. I know that yesterday I said I would have it up this morning, but as some of you likely noticed … that didn’t happen. What did happen was that last night, as I sat down to put together what would have been this morning’s post, it … Well, it wouldn’t go together. I was nursing a headache, tired, and after a frustrating time spent slapping together a less-than-subpar BaBW post, I canned the whole thing and decided to do it today after work (and after I’d gotten a little more sleep).

So far, this seems to have worked. With the one problem being that I missed the scheduled posting this morning and for that, I apologize. I should be more regular in getting these posts up (especially with the sudden surge in Monday work shifts at my second job).

Right, so with that done and said, what are we talking about today? After all, I’m sure a few of you who have had more than a few music classes or shared a passing interest in music may know what a leitmotif is, and with that knowledge, you’re surely wondering how that applies to writing. After all, despite experimentation to the contrary, a majority of books do not release with a soundtrack, nor any form of ambient accompaniment (and there’s a small subset of people who want to keep it that way, no less). So then, what might I mean by giving characters a leitmotif?

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Working Today, Post Tomorrow

The title says it all, really. I’ve got work today, so I’ll be putting together this week’s Being a Better Writer post tonight and letting it go up tomorrow morning. Then I’ll be getting back to work on Colony, digging into the alpha 2 feedback and making changes to move Colony from Alpha 2 to either Alpha 3 or Beta 1 status, depending on the feedback.

In the meantime I’m looking at doing two other things this week. I’ve got a poll in mind for a sale period, something to sort of fight the mid-summer everyday, and some other ideas I’m kicking around as well for possible giveaways and the like.

I’m keeping busy, never fear.

Anyway, see you all tomorrow.

Shadow of an Empire News!

So … just minutes ago, I typed out the final line of Shadow of an Empire.

That’s right. It’s done. After 14 straight hours of writing (one hour of which was finishing this week’s BaBW) and 13,000 words, Shadow of an Empire is officially a complete Alpha 1 draft.

Tomorrow, I will celebrate. Sands, I’ll do that right now! But it’s finally DONE!

So, some final numbers for those curious.

Final Wordcount: 254,272 words. 1,392,081 characters. 17,176 lines of text, with 6,348 paragraphs. Calculated out, that gives a rough page estimate of somewhere between 769 pages (using Amazon’s rough estimate) to 1,016 (using a different publisher’s estimate).

Timecount: I started midway into March, so … five months. Which is a little slower than average for me (but still above and beyond most writers; I may just be a little proud of this), but considering I’ve had a second, part-time job for three of those months, this is still pretty good. That’s an average of 14,100 words per week (again, with a second job; boo-yah!). I have no idea how many hours were spent at this. I almost don’t want to know.

Release window: And now the kicker. Here’s the goal: This year, before Thankgiving.

Tough? Sands, yes. But as of right now, I’m not starting any new writing projects (which would be Jungle, for those curious) until I get first Colony and then Shadow of an Empire released. Which means starting Thursday (tomorrow I celebrate), I plan hit Colony like a truck and go until it’s done. Alpha 2? Done. Beta 1? Done. Beta 2? Done … and publish!


Anyway, my hands hurt, so I’ll give you more updates as they come!

Being a Better Writer: So You Want to Be a Wizard, Eh?

Picture this, if you will, for a moment. Imagine a young man, an author. Well, a writer who has just recently become an author, having successfully published his first book. He’s just been invited to a big convention, where to his excitement, he will be on a panel alongside some of fantasy’s greats in writing (if I’m being sparse on details here, forgive me as I don’t remember all of them).

Anyway, our young writer sits down, understandably a little nervous considering the plethora of talent stretching down the table—many of whom he has read and enjoyed. The panel begins, and the spokesman fields the first question from the audience: A question about writing magic and how they start. And, for whatever reason, perhaps fairness, youth, or simply his place at the end of the table, the spokesman looks at this young writer and calls on him first.

Nervousness is probably a little higher now, but understandably so. Nevertheless, determined to make a good showing at his first panel, answers with what seems to be a reasonable response: ‘Well, to start, magic needs rules.’

Cue explosive “What!?” from the other members of the panel, all of whom immediately disagree in various manners and are ready to tell this young upstart where he’s gone wrong.

Now, this story? This actually happened, though not exactly as presented here, as I am retelling it, having only heard the story from that then new author’s point of view.

But that new author who gave what seemed to be a such an innocuous answer? A then little-known fantasy writer by the name of Brandon Sanderson.

Yes, you may have heard of him.

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Being a Better Writer Is Looking For Feedback! + Topic Call!

Hey guys!

Well, after last week’s glorious writing sprint (25,000 words written on Shadow of an Empire), this week finds me starting out with a shift at my other job. A Monday morning shift, which means …

Yup, the usual Being a Better Writer post has been delayed ’till tomorrow morning. A profound sadness resonates across the land, I know.

But, rather than just give you all bad news with nothing else to go on, I’ve decided to ask for feedback instead.

I know that BaBW sees a number of regular hits, being the primary source of regular views on the site. There’s also a clear peak each Monday when I upload a new installment. With that in mind, what are those of you who are reading it thinking? Is it helpful? Is it not? Is it not specific enough? Is it too specific? Does it cover topics you’re interested in or consider useful? Would it be better with a bunch of pictures?

Basically, what feedback do you have concerning BaBW for me, the author?

And, of course, while we’re at it, what topics or areas (keep them distinct for my sake, please) would you like to see discussed here? What things haven’t been spoken about so far that you’d really like to hear about? Have you heard too much of something? Has there been a glaring omission?  Tell me about it!

I’ll be checking your feedback over the course of the day, and look forward to seeing what you guys are looking for and what topics you’d like me to hit. Until tomorrow!

So Close …

So, I was up until 2:31 AM last night.

Actually, let me clarify. I was writing until 2:31 AM last night. Ended the day with 7120 words written.

Why? Because I’m deep into the climax of Shadow of an Empire, and there was no way I was walking away from my keyboard until I reached a good stopping point. The same thing will probably happen today, seeing as I’ve still got a solid chapter’s worth of action to write through in addition to the chapter I’m already on, plus the resolution and wind-down. I’m still not quite sure how accurately I’ve captured the western feel with the way the final battle’s playing out (there might be a few who think it’s a little too much “wild” and not enough “west,” but given that magic’s involved since it is fantasy …) but all the same I’m pretty pleased with what I do have. There are definitely some pretty good moments of pure awesome during these last few chapters, with both the protagonists and the antagonists going to the absolute limit in the pursuit of their goals.

Anyway, the short of it is that Shadow of an Empire is almost done. If I can get another few solid days worth of writing in, it will be done. At this point, I’m guessing that the Alpha draft will weigh in at around 240,000 words, or between 700 and 900 pages, depending on your publisher.

The funny thing is that’s not even close to the longest thing I’ve written. Colony takes that title, at 325,000 words.

Length aside, so far everything feels pretty solid. I’ll leave it up to the initial Alpha readers to pass judgement, but right now it feels like a pretty solid story.

Speaking of which, I’d best get back to finishing it! I’ve still got a few fights to wrap up! Catch you all later!

Being a Better Writer: Body Language

How do you show that a character is angry? Or nervous? How do you show that two characters are not on the best of terms with one another while they are on decent standing with another member of their group? Or that one of them is nervous? Jumpy?

Now, note my usage of show in the questions above. I didn’t ask how a writer could tell a reader of any of those things. No, I asked how they could show them. Once more, we come back to the old show versus tell discussion, except this time, I don’t want to focus as much on the mechanics of showing versus tell as I do on one small, simple question: How do you show a character being angry, nervous, or upset without simply telling the reader? How do you get those emotions across without simply pointing out to the reader that “Samantha was angry” or using the dreaded “ly” adverb? Especially if we’re writing from a perspective that isn’t the focal point of the emotion we want to get across?

Which is why today, we’re going to talk about body language in our writing. This might test our observational skills a little (after all, how often do you just watch conversation?), as well as our understanding of social graces and signals. And we’re going to look at what goes into a silent conversation.

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Shadow of an Empire Alpha Nearly Done

Just a quick update, since I’ve been so quiet this week. The reason is simple: Shadow of an Empire is in its final three chapters. Which is a fancy way of saying I’ve got two more chapters to write after I finish the current one, plus maybe a final bit of closure, and then the alpha 1 of Shadow will be done!

Which means … next week, hopefully. Barring any surprises. Final stats right now? It looks like it will weigh in at 230,000 or so words. Though given that I’m about to write a bunch of finale scenes, it might push itself to 240,000. Maybe. I’d guess that 230,000 words is a much closer bet for this draft. Sadly this took me, counting July, five months to write. The perils of having a second job, I suppose.

Anyway, the first alpha draft is nearly done. And once it is … I step away for a second, and while I let my brain disengage from it before I begin editing, I’m throwing myself into finishing up Colony. That truly massive Sci-Fi title I finished the first of draft over a year ago.

Yeah, that’s right. Currently, it’s in Alpha 2. Once Shadow of an Empire is in Alpha 1 status, all my writing work is going towards moving Colony from Alpha 2 to Beta 1. Then Beta 2. Then Beta 3. And after that … publication.

Yes, you heard that right. Colony is at last coming out. That’s the next big project. Colony publication. The 1300 page tome is finally coming, guys!

Oh, and one last bit of news. City of Doors posted reviews for all three of my published books—One DrinkDead Silver, and Unusual Events—finding all of them well worth the time reading. They had quite a bit of praise to deliver all three as a whole, but my favorite quip had to be concerning Unusual Events, which they declared “… a damn good collection of stories that is certainly worth both the price and the time it takes to read through it.”

Good praise any author would like to hear.