Op-Ed: Rebooting America’s Education System

This post has been a long time in coming. It’s one I’ve wanted to make for months, almost a year, really, but just kept putting off because of everything else that was going on. But at last, the time is here, and I’ve got a bit to talk about it.

I’m going to start out with a few obvious disclaimers: I don’t work in education. I came through the US education system, but I don’t work in it. I’ve taught, but on panels and in places like Sunday School classrooms, where attendance is pretty voluntary, and that’s a pretty different experience.

Second, I don’t wish for this post to be taken as “How dare you attack our teachers!” at all. Because it’s not. Most of the best teachers I’ve known have been hard-working individuals who cared a lot more about the job than the paltry paycheck they got in return would have indicated (much of which went right back to paying for things their school couldn’t).

This isn’t to say that there aren’t awful teachers out there, but they’re a symptom of the problems with the US’s education system and only a partial cause rather than the full cause.

I’m also not trying to say that the US’s education system has been flawed from the beginning. It wasn’t. Not initially. But … Well, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start where this whole thing for me started: With the biggest missed opportunity in decades.

The quarantine.

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A Big Post – News and News

I know I’ve been pretty quiet this week. I’ve been focused.

But before I say anything else. Before I talk about book news or any of the other tidbits I want to touch on today, I want to say one thing.

Thank you to everyone who left a supportive comment last week. They may not have seemed like much to you, but they gave me some piece of mind. I still don’t know if the current opening chapters of Starforge will stay the way they are by the end, but I know a lot of you were just happy to hear that I’m working my best on it and wanted to remind me of that.

So thank you. Your words of support helped ease my mind quite a bit, and I appreciated them greatly.

Tying into that, many of you will be glad to hear that I continued to press foward, and Starforge‘s first draft now sits at 123,156 words! Part one is complete, the interlude is written, and today I get to start on part two! Where things will blow up, characters will die, and … Well, I’ve already said too much. But I’m glad for all your support, and I’m working hard to make this the biggest, baddest, most jaw-dropping finale you could ask for.

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Reminder: LTUE Online Event Tonight!

Heads up people! Don’t forget that there’s an LTUE online mini-event starting tonight at 6 PM Mountain Standard Time! There are three different panels running at each hour until nine under a variety of topics, so check it out!

In fact, I’ve got a handy sheet of the topics available, provided by the event! So here’s what’s coming!

To join, just head on over to https://ltue.net/october2020 and be sure to have Discord at the ready (which can be run through your browser, so no worries there about needing to install something). Find a panel you like, and hope to see you there!

OP-ED: Opinion and Reality

Fair warning from the start: This post is going to address that beast, politics, and talk about it a little. Probably not in the way most of you expect, but it is going to address it. So fair warning, this might be messy. But I’m pulling no punches and diving right in.

The last few months have reminded me of an experience I once had a little over a decade ago. I collect cool background images for my PC, and from a variety of sources. Photographs of national parks, neat images from video-games I’ve played, whatever. That mix and combination, however, lead to a very interesting exchange.

I had a visitor over who, through one means or another had noticed my rotating backgrounds, and commented on them and how nice they looked. At the moment, the background in question had been showing a very artistic photograph of Hamburg, Germany. I nodded, agreeing, and then noted that it almost made me want to visit and see the city someday.

At which point, this individual did something very unexpected and unusual. They shook their head sadly and said “Oh sure, that’d be nice, but it’s not a real place.”

Stunned and slightly perplexed, I replied that it was indeed very real. Hamburg, Germany was a city on a map.

At this point things took a swift turn sideways. This individual, who up until this point I had assumed was a rational, thinking human being, shook their head and with a sad, patronizing tone said ‘Oh no, it’s not hun. You just think it is because of all those video games you play. You’ve lost touch with reality. You think these imaginary places are real.’

After a moment’s pure shocked disbelief, I replied that I knew very well the difference between fantasy and reality, and replied that Hamburg, Germany was a very real place.

Their response? They shook their head, told me how sad it was that playing video games had messed with my head so much, and hoped that one day I would realize the difference between fantasy and reality.

To this day I wonder if that individual ever realized exactly how crazy they sounded.

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Being a Better Writer Topic Call Ongoing!

Surprise!

Yeah, I’m taking this Monday off. From Being a Better Writer. For three reasons.

One, it’s been a while, and a break sounds kind of nice. I churn these out almost every Monday without fail, year round save the occasional holiday, so yeah, a break actually sounds kind of nice. If you’re still itching to read something BaBW today, I’d say hit that search bar on the side and find one of the hundreds already up!

Or, you can participate in the second reason there’s a break today and suggest a topic in the comments! See, I keep an actual physical list sitting on my desk, checking topics off one by one, and right now, Topic List #15 is done for and #16 is being populated. Not just with topics I’ve come up with, but with suggestions from you!

So you can hit up the comments and leave suggestions about a topic or topics that you’d like to read about! Let’s populate the list!

Third reason? Because that leaves me more time to work on the Copy-Edit for Axtara – Banking and Finance, which I would like to get a lot done on today. The sooner it’s done, the closer it is to being published, so … I’ve got a lot of reading to do today!

All right, that’s it! So, one, taking a break. Two, your topic suggestions for Being a Better Writer are requested! And third, Copy-Edits on Axtara!

Hmm, I suppose there’s a fourth here. If you’re a Patreon Supporter, there will be a supporter update today. If you’ve been following the last few, you can probably guess what it is! Head on over to Patreon to check it out!

Now fill the comments with topics!

Being a Better Writer Topic Call!

In my defense, I didn’t say when this post would be up today. But readers! Do you have your list ready!? Topics you want to hear about? The get commenting below!

For those of you who need a bit more context, I’ll assume that you are familiar with this site’s weekly feature, Being a Better Writer, all about—What else?—how to improve one’s writing. Pretty much the most popular bit of this site, and referenced in a lot of places.

But here’s the thing: The topics that BaBW discusses? They come from a list. An actual, physical list written in pen that sits on my desk. A list that is populated in part by readers like you!

Which is why I occasionally do these calls for topics. Right now Topic List #16 is empty. It has nothing but the title.

So now, I open the gates to you, readers. What sort of writing topics would you like to hear more about? Is there something specific you’d like to see a post on? An aspect of writing you’d like to see explored?

Leave a comment so that it can go on the list! Right now! That’s the whole point of this post: So that readers can contribute and put in their two cents about what they want to learn about.

So comment below!

Have a Happy (and Safe) Labor Day Holiday!

Whoa! It’s that time of year already! Yeah, a Monday holiday has rolled around: Labor Day!

Which, as per the usual, means there will be no Being a Better Writer post today. I’ll be taking the day off. As I hope many of you are. Recharge! Relax! Heal up!

Of course, if you’re still looking for writing advice, we’ve got a couple options for you. There is still an archive of several hundred writing articles here on the site. You could simply search for a classic on the sidebar (The Art of Misdirection is always a good one, or you could pick a topic of your choice) and go for it!

Alternatively, if you’ve got a writing topic you’d like to hear more about, post it in a comment below! Topic List #15 has, at this time, two topics left. Two more weeks worth of articles, but after that? New topics will be needed! So if you’re looking for something in particular, post a comment so it can be added to Topic List #16!

And with that, I’m going to go enjoy my Labor Day. Have a happy and safe one out there wherever you are! Ride a bike, read a book, whatever! But enjoy, and stay healthy.

Delaying My Fireteam Freelance Thoughts + Other Updates

Just a quick update, but I’ve pushed my post on Fireteam Freelance back a few days. It’ll come out next week. Why?

So that there’s more time for readers to post their thoughts to the reader feedback post. A day (less, really) isn’t enough time for most people to respond, and most people react when they hear that a newer, larger post is coming by just ignoring it.

Which isn’t great for a feedback post. I’m still going to write my look back on it today, but it won’t go up for a bit yet.

Meanwhile, the Alpha 2 Reader Call is still open. Axtara could use a few more eyes to give it a quick read. 120,000 words, so a few days worth of decent reading. Nothing big. Head on over to the Alpha 2 call page and comment if you’d be interested. It’d be fast and quick, something you could blitz through on a weekend.

Patreon Supporters, meanwhile, have a first-chapter preview over on Patreon. It won’t be the last either! So if you’re a supporter wondering what the hubbub is about, head on over and get your first look!

Tomorrow I’ll once again start trawling for a cover artist. Plus start looking at timetables for Beta 1 …

Starforge‘s first draft is sitting at 56,470 words. This one’s going to easily be just as titanic as Colony and Jungle, but there’s a lot going on in these chapters.

Anyway, I’m going to get to work now. Hit the links, have a good weekend!

News, Updates, and Musings

Hey readers! Been sort of a quiet week from me, hasn’t it?

Well, I’ll have you know that’s because I’ve been hard at work on both Axtara – Banking and Finance and Starforge. Even better, work on both is coming along nicely.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any other news worth reporting, or that you’re about to have Axtara in your claws (or hands, whichever). Right now Alpha 1 is about 76% complete, and I think after it’s finished up, I’m going to do a second Alpha, just to make sure some of the changes and alterations fly true under new eyes. This will delay any release a little bit, but shouldn’t by too much. You’ll still get the book fairly soon.

Plus, I still need to sit down and spend some time finding a cover artist since the one I’d really hoped for wasn’t interested. Which is tricky, as finding artists that can do spectacular portraits of dragons while still giving them very recognizable expression is … tricky.

Still, there’s good news coming out of the Alpha: Axtara is awesome. The readers have enjoyed it quite a bit, and I think it’s going to make quite a splash when it arrives.

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Schlock Mercenary Has Come to an End

Surely the author won’t mind me using the logo of his comic to promote it, right? Right?

If you’ve perused my website a little, specifically the links page, you may have noticed that one of the links I’ve had around since the very beginning leads to the most-excellent webcomic Schlock Mercenary, by Howard Tayler. Schlock Mercenary has been a long-time favorite of mine since checking it out in … 2005, I think (?), after I saw Howard present at a few panels at a convention and speak on two topics, one of which would go on to play a vital part of my future career. The first was about how comedy writing was really hard, which I noted. But the other, the big one, was how to take something independent, like a webcomic, and make a living at it.

‘If you can get 5000 people to be fans who will buy and watch your stuff,’ Howard said. ‘You’ll make it. That’s what you need.’

And he knew what he was talking about. See, Howard had left his middle-management job to pursue being a writer (and artist) in the webcomic sphere full time, selling books, prints, and as he once noted with “dark scatological undertones” … maybe even Schlock-in-a-cup.

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