Another Reminder to Nominate for the Dragon Awards!

Exactly what the title says. The Dragon Awards are coming, and the window to nominate for your favorites from the last year is closing swiftly, with each tick of the clock! So click the link and get out there and either A) start nominating or B) Start building your list so you can nominate before the time is no longer.

A reminder: You don’t have to nominate in every category. You can nominate just the ones you wish to nominate for and leave the others blank. You don’t have to panic to come up with something for a category you’re not familiar with.

A second reminder: Shadow of an Empire is eligible for nomination. Whether or not you nominate it is up to you, and what you’ve read this year. But it is eligible.

That’s all. I’ve got work to do on Hunter/Hunted!

Op-Ed: Fixing One Small Part of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

And with that title, I already feel the eyes of the internet upon me. Which is kind of the point. I wouldn’t be posting this otherwise.

Plus, it’s my website. I can post what I want. So there (despite a few internet commentators who have actually posted, in pure seriousness, the XKCD strip about “being shown the door” regarding content on my own website, without any trace of irony or acknowledgement of the ridiculousness of their demands).

Enough navel-gazing. This editorial is about The Last Jedi, specifically about what went wrong with one small part of it, and how it could have been fixed.

Because let’s be honest: There was a lot wrong with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It definitely wasn’t Star Wars Holiday Special levels of bad, but at the same time … Well, let’s just say there were a lot of Star Wars fans out there who had thought that they’d never seen anything in the series that could possibly perform worse than the prequels.

Yeah, talking about something that didn’t work in The Last Jedi is easier than shooting fish in a barrel. Suffice it to say, its creators pretty much set the bar about as low as it could possibly be set without reaching Holiday Special levels. I remember seeing Facebook and Twitter posts from people I knew, dedicated fans, talking about how they’d gone back and seen it a second time, hoping they’d missed something critical the first time around.

Yeah, you’ve probably seen some measure of this controversy. Personally? It’s not at all without merit. The Last Jedi kind of came across as a film that didn’t understand what Star Wars was about past the visual element. And sure, we got some great scenes—the battle with Snoke’s Praetorian Guard is a six-minute slug-fest that is absolutely one of the more fantastic Star Wars fights—but we also got some stuff that really dropped hard.

One of these, which I want to talk about today, is Finn’s butchered character arc. Actually, butchered isn’t the proper term. More … grossly mishandled character arc.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Red Herrings

Welcome back readers! It’s Monday again, and you know what that means. But first, some news.

For starters, Shadow of an Empire continues to do well both in sales and in reviews. It’s a Fantasy-Western, so it doesn’t quite appeal to everyone, but those who have picked it up have loved it, and it’s sitting nicely on Amazon with a 4.7 Star rating out of 5. It’s success has also given a bit of a boost to Colony as well, which has matched its sales almost one for one this month. Even better, Shadow of an Empire‘s footprint continues to grow! This is one that I think will end up very fondly remembered.

Second bit of news? Oh, nothing much … just 18,000 words of fiction written between Friday and Saturday! That’s right, the next writing project has begun, and once I put my fingers to the keyboard, it was like a dam had burst inside my head. Writing again, after so many months of editing; how I missed it!

Point being, while this pace probably isn’t sustainable (I still have the part-time because I have to worry about rent or bills that my royalties don’t fully cover yet), it is moving along quite rapidly now that I can finally work on it. A month or two, and I could be done, if that pace keeps up!

And in other news … actually, there isn’t any other news. I’m ready to get to today’s post now. And then onto working on Hunter/Hunted!

Right, so, red herrings. If you’ve missed the two posts prior to this one, on Chekhov’s Guns and Chekhov’s Armory, this post is definitely one that builds off of those two. With those, we discussed … well, Chekhov’s Guns and their usage. The whole idea that if you present the audience with a “gun” that’s hung on the mantle, they expect (and a good author will deliver) that at some point it will come down and be “fired.”

Really quick, this doesn’t have to be a literal “gun.” It’s a metaphor. Read the last two Being a Better Writer posts if you’re out of the loop.

But building off of that, this week I want to talk about the inverse of the Chekhov’s Gun (well, sort of). We’re going to talk about the “Red Herring.”

Continue reading

Settling into the Rhythm

Well, it seems like once again I’m moving into one of the lulls after a big release. Shadow of an Empire is out in the world, which means I’m trending back to relative silence as I sink into typing out the next big project.

It is kind of a weird feeling. There’s this brief moment when launching a book—more of a window, really—were everything is huge and in the open. You’re out in the public mind every day. You’re doing all this promotion and talking about what’s coming, the fans are excited and you’re eagerly watching for reviews …

And then it’s over. The book is out there, and you’re still noting it from time to time, but life resumes its old pace. You hunker down and get back to work. The next project starts. You watch the royalties collect, hoping they’ll arrive before your bank account finally makes that dangerous switch from black to red.

Yeah, that bout of the flu I had about two weeks back did a number on my paycheck. Let’s just say I’m glad I can subsist off of rice. Royalty money is delayed by several months, so while Shadow of an Empire and Colony are both actually doing great right now (between Kindle Unlimited Reads and sales, I’ve got a few copies of both going out every day right now, which is fantastic), I don’t actually get to see the fruits of that for … oh, another two months or so. Going to be a tricky few months ahead, especially with hours at my part-time being reduced.

Straying off topic here. Point being, this “lull” between the excitement of getting a most recent book out and the beginnings of the next project always feels strange.

But … despite my silence, that’s only because I’m working on the next project. I got the opening laid down last night, and today I start rolling through chapters in earnest.

Speaking of which, I’d best get to it. I’ve got a lot to accomplish today, and a chapter or two on the next project is high on the list.

Actually, one second. I do have a question for the readers of this site. Aside from the Monday Being a Better Writer posts, what sort of stuff are you looking for from Unusual Things? Discussion pieces? Places to chat about my books? Weird social commentary? Comment and let me know!

Being a Better Writer: Chekhov’s Armory

Welcome back readers, to another installment of Being a Better Writer! This week, I’m picking up right where I left off from last week’s discussion on Chekhov’s Guns, and moving on to another type of … Well, I guess we could call it a foreshadowing tool? Preparatory Plot Device set-up? Honestly, I’m not certain there’s an official name for this kind of thing past “Chekhov’s Armory,” but foreshadowing tool does work, though in the short term.

But that’s me getting distracted by terms, which few of us are here for. We’re here for Chekhov’s Armory, which I’m going to point out right now, Anton Chekhov did not invent. Rather, it’s simply the name that has become attached to the concept given its growth out of Chekhov’s Gun.

But again, getting sidetracked. So let’s dive right in. What is Chekhov’s Armory?

Well, to answer that question, I’m actually going to show you a youtube video. Hopefully you’re at a location where you can watch it, because this is one of those cases where showing you what something is and then talking about it will be far more effective than simply trying to explain it first. The video in question? The famous “Flying Wing Fight” from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. If you haven’t seen this film, rectify this ASAPRaiders is one of the most famous films in cinema, and it’s not hard to see why once you’ve seen it.

Continue reading

The Tabletop Report: Gears of War Campaign Update

So, I doubt any but a few of you noticed, but there hasn’t been an update on the Gears of War tabletop campaign in a few months.

It’s not because the tabletop game stopped, or the campaign ran out of gas. No, it’s actually been moving along at a good weekly clip, with the players really getting the hang of things and figuring out the system. Which doesn’t mean that there haven’t been a few missteps: There have been a few systems I’ve made small changes to, and the system has turned out to be a little overly complicated in some situations. Some streamlining could be done.

At the same time, however, it’s proven fantastically flexible in adapting itself to a wide array of player choices and actions. Players needing to make multiple successful rolls to pull something off, for example, as opposed to just one make-it-or-break-it roll has led to a lot of interesting moments and tense countdowns among the players. Enemy encounters remain threatening as well, with the players often coming quite close to not making it out alive.

So why did the tabletop reports stop if the campaign has actually been going quite well? Well … pretty much because no one was reading it, so it wasn’t worth the time investment. Writing up these weekly reports about how the campaign was going was fun, but at the same time it was a fairly large time investment once a week on top of how much time I had to spend being ready for each weekly session, plus work and everything else … And when it was only garnering one or two views a week (yes, that few) it was clear that I should just focus on getting each week’s session ready rather than providing updates on the adventures of my gaming group.

That said, for those curious, no one has died yet … though they’ve certainly come close. They’ve also put themselves in some hair-raising scenarios due to underestimating the intelligence of their foes: The week before last they tried to set an ambush, not realizing that their ambush they were trying to pull was inside of someone else’s ambush … Theirs! Which they then escaped by, I kid you not, slamming the boom of a construction crane atop a skyscraper into another nearby skyscraper and running across it. With safety clips so that they wouldn’t fall nine hundred feet to their deaths if they slipped … which several characters did.

Their opponents responded to this by blowing up the base of the crane, which led to the players frantically running down the boom and into the next skyscraper over … and the boom twisting and falling away, leaving the last two swinging out into the abyss, connected only by their safety rope (yay for that!) before being pulled in.

Is it a perfect roleplaying system? No, there are definite flaws to it. It’s a little complicated in places for one; I’d definitely simplify a few things before doing a second run. And there’s a lot of pressure on the DM when it comes to leveling, unlike something like DnD.

But it’s working so far, and the players have been having a good time adventuring through the ruined world of Sera. Don’t expect weekly updates to resume, but know that it has been a fun weekly adventure thus far.