OP-ED: I Have a Confession to Make – I Can’t Stand Dragon-Rider Books

So the other day I was on Amazon, doing the usual bit of browsing, when I spotted one of those little advertisement bars that Amazon uses to get eyeballs on products by advertising things “like” what you’ve purchased or are interested in. To what should be no one’s surprise, Amazon has figured out that I like the book Axtara – Banking and Finance. Which isn’t exactly true, since I love that little book and its characters. Like isn’t a strong enough word.

Anyway, naturally I browsed this little recommended section because hey, I love Axtara, and Amazon thought these books were similar. It’s not always right, but I’m always down for a good dragon book, so I gave it a look. Even clicked on one that from the title, looked a little promising. Lots of reviews, high rating, all about dragons—

Oh wait. Scratch that. It wasn’t about dragons, but about dragon riders. That’s right, yet another book where dragons, intelligent or not, are reduced to glorified flying horses for a surely-not-just-like-every-other-fantasy-protagonist human.

To borrow from River City Ransom: BARF!!!

Look, I’ve always enjoyed dragons, ever since I was a kid. But I never enjoyed books about dragon riders (with one exception) because, well, honestly they never go past the trope. Again, with that one exception. The dragons are just mounts. Spiny, scaled, flying mounts that may or may not breathe fire. Worse, often they’re intelligent, as in fully sapient, but just fine living in a stable, being treated like a beast of burden, and generally only talking so that the protagonist has someone to talk to to reassure them that they’re “doing the right thing” or whatever.

Does it not bother anyone that a massive swath of dragon books involve treating a sentient being like a piece of property? If the dragon were human, we’d call it “slavery” and YA Twitter would descend with torches and pitchforks to burn that author’s career to the ground … even if the book were about how wrong it was and how the cast overcame it or fought against it.

But hey, if they’re not human, that makes it “okay” I guess. Sure, buy and sell the sapient species. They’re made to be mounts anyway! It’s what the universe intended!

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A Trip to Alaska with Pictures and Video!

Hello readers, and welcome! Welcome to a visual tour of some of the highlights of my trip to Alaska! I know that a lot of you have been waiting for this, and I promise once I’m done I’ll get back to work on Shadow of an Empire, Stranded, and all my other projects, but let’s be honest … This is going to be a cool post.

A little background, for those of you that are new or unfamiliar with my personal history (and haven’t glanced at the About tab or read my author blurb at the end of my books): I grew up in Southeast Alaska. Also known as “The Panhandle,” it’s that little bit of Alaska that sticks down by Canada on the East side, where the capital of the state is. It’s also largely made up of islands, with the terrain severe enough that even cities that are technically on the mainland, like Juneau and Ketchikan, and only accessible via boat or plane. There’s no road to get to any of these places, the terrain is just too extreme unless you want to put a lot of money into it and go through Canada.

It’s a different place. Here’s a shot of my hometown taken on my flight out, from the air. No, you can’t see my house in that picture (it’s a ways south from the town itself), but you might notice the water all around it. Yup, it’s an island.

Wrangell island (and town) from the air, courtesy me.

That’s mainland behind it, leading into a lot of mountains and then Canada. But yeah, that’s my hometown. That’s where I grew up. Not very big. Tiny, in fact, unless you’re from anywhere that’s tinier (and there are, in fact, small places, like Elfin Cove and its population of probably a hundred people). But hey, it’s home.

Anyway, since I grew up there, I do occasionally tend to go back to visit and take part in consumption of fresh seafood. Growing up in a fishing/tourism town (also once logging, but that era is gone for the time being), I started working on fishing boats in my family when I was about 12 or 13, and well, that’s how I made it through college without any student loans. That and dividend savings (a whole ‘nother topic).

In any case, that’s why stuff on the site was extremely light these last few weeks: I was back in Alaska! Partaking in crab, shrimp, halibut … You know, all the good stuff. Oh, and pitching in on a fishing trip as well (because fish!). While taking plenty of pictures to show off the experience on the return! So hit that jump, and let’s get looking at some cool pictures and videos of Southeast Alaska.

Because WOW did I get some good ones. Before we do hit that jump I’ll say this up front: I grew up fishing on boats and working in Alaska, and yet this trip turned out to be one of the most spectacular I’ve ever seen. And now you’ll get to see it as well, through the lens of my phone. So yeah, hit that jump.

And if you want to go to Alaska and experience this kind of thing yourself, there’s probably not been a better time. After the Covid year, the state is desperate for tourists, and I’ve seen a lot of deals on flights, travel, and hotels. Get your shot and get going! It probably won’t be this cheap again!

Oh, quick warning, you guys are going to see a little fish blood and guts in a few of these shots. Be wary if you’re sensitive to blood. You’ll see it.

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Being a Better Writer: The Post Labor Day Grab Bag

Welcome back readers! To both of us, actually! I am back at my desk again this Monday, returned from Alaska (which you might have noticed if you saw this post).

So then, what’s today’s Being a Better Writer about? Well … It’s a collection, actually. Long story short, this is my first Monday back, and last Monday, which had a post, shouldn’t have. Yeah, it was Labor Day, one of the few holidays I’ve regularly taken on the site. Except that this time I didn’t, as I was absent, and I hadn’t checked ahead with my scheduler to note that it was a holiday.

Now, normally I’d take today completely off to compensate, but I’m not doing that either, because while I was gone and had a bunch of BaBW posts going up via scheduling, they didn’t get nearly as many eyeballs as they normally would have.

Why? Well because I couldn’t schedule the promotions that take place on a lot of other sites for these posts. So those of you that relied on the site feed to see each new post saw it. Those of you that relied on other site feeds to see each new one, well … You didn’t. I can see the numbers, so I know that.

Thing is, all those posts are still there. And now that I’m back, I can put each of them out in those other places for you to peruse.

Which is what we’re going to do today. While I catch up with a few things and get stuff on my end running smoothly once more for next week, this week I’m going to be delivering a summary of everything that went up on remote last week, so that those using other feeds finally get their due.

So enjoy, and hit the jump to see what posts you might have missed!

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Guess Who’s Back?

Hello readers! Guess who’s returned?

Yeah, I know. It’s not much of a guess. And I’m not quite 100% back yet. Physically, I’m back at my home at long last (after nearly four weeks of being away), so that’s not a worry. But as to the other kind of physically, I’m still pretty sore and tired. My fingers feel like they’ve been through the wringer, as do my hands and wrists. But hey, I can make a fist when I first wake up now so that’s progress! During the trip, at one point they were sore and swollen enough I could only just get my fingers to touch my palms when I woke up.

So I’m going to take another day or two. Oh, and this Monday there will not be a Being a Better Writer post. Why? Because when setting up the posts in advance, I completely missed that the last Monday I prepped for was Labor Day, a holiday I normally take off. Oops. So next Monday (this coming week) there won’t be a traditional post.

Which isn’t to say that there won’t be a post. No, far from it! Monday instead will see a compilation post of the last few weeks. Why? Because quite frankly a lot of people depend on ads and feeds to keep up with Being a Better Writer each week, and a number of those are manual. So quite a few people were just waiting for the notification to pop up rather than spend the time going to the site itself.

I get it. I’m not ragging on them. So this post will deliver to them all the content they may have been missing for the last four weeks.

After that? Well, I do have a large post coming. See, I took a lot of pictures this time. And video! Of some seriously awesome stuff that happened while I was in Alaska. Seriously, this trip made memories. I’ve never been as close to a killer whale (orca) pod as I came this trip. And when I say close, I mean they were close enough I could have hopped over the side of the boat and landed on one.

That close. And I got video. And pictures.

So yes, there will be a big post coming next week. But not Monday. And … I’m not actually sure when during the week either.

Why? Well, because something else happened while I was in Alaska. Something big. Something awesome.

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Being a Better Writer: How to Be a Good Editor

Hello readers! Welcome back to the last of the pre-scheduled posts! Huzzah! Yeah, I’m probably back by now, but just in case, I wrote this in advance anyway. And this one? It’s a reader request! Yeah, we had a reader out there that wanted to know how they could go about being a good editor.

You know what? It’s a really good question. One more people should ask, personally. Because here’s the thing: There are a lot of ways to be a good editor. And an equal amount of ways to be a bad one.

Now, there is something I’m going to lead this post with: If you want to be a professional editor, and I mean have that on your door, working either freelance or for a publication somewhere, that is an entire college track. It’s a career. This post? If you want to be a professional, make your living at it editor, then this post’s advice is to go to an education course for that. Pick a school, use legal means to acquire enough wealth to purchase a house so that you can afford a semester or two without incurring crippling debt, and become an editor that way. I realize that’s perhaps not the advice you wanted, but the truth is that if you want to be a professional editor there’s a lot to learn, from various literature standards held across different forms of print to when and how certain rules get broken and why.

Being an editor is not something someone decides they are because they are really anal about grammar and got an A in their high-school English class that one time, or used to subscribe to a magazine about literature. Sorry internet trolls, but the actual requirements for being a professional editor are a bit stricter than “tell everyone else how wrong they are.” Most of us that spend a decent amount of time online inevitably run into these folks, and none of them make for good editors.

So, if you want to be a professional editor and work at a publisher somewhere, or a magazine, or a paper (though both of those last two are getting unfortunately rare as both papers and magazines make cost-cutting measures), there’s a whole degree you can acquire in that, and I would urge you to do so, because there’s a lot of knowledge to gain.

But what if you’re not looking to be a professional editor. What if (as I somewhat suspect this reader was asking) you’re looking to be a helpful volunteer “editor” for a friend’s work? Or on a fanfiction site? What about then? Not professional, but at as hobby element?

If this is you, even just tangentially, then yeah, there are some definite pointers to give out. Hit the jump.

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Being a Better Writer: Including a Range of Culture

Welcome back readers! Potentially to me as well!

Yes, this post was written weeks ago, to make up for the fact that I am in Alaska for a fishing job right now. I might be back, but it’s unlikely. At least from my perspective in the past.

Anyway, with that being said I have no idea what the news will be, and even if I’m back I’ll still be letting these go up as scheduled, so there’s little else to talk about aside from diving into our post today! So let’s get to it!

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Being a Better Writer: How Much Drama is too Much?

Welcome back readers, to another Monday installment of Being a Better Writer! Written via time travel … technically. As I am still in Alaska, this post was written and scheduled in advance, so I won’t see your comments until I return. That said, thanks to the magic of technology I can still deliver Being a Better Writer to you despite being—peers ahead—currently finish off another longline set.

So, with no news, there’s little for me to do but dive right in. So I’ll start by asking the question posed in the very title: how much drama is too much?

The prompt for this question came from a story I was reading a few weeks ago, in which two characters who were getting pretty close suddenly and out of nowhere had a massive moment of shared agonizing over holding one another’s hand. And I don’t mean “It became a big deal.” I mean “It became a big deal,” to the degree that everything else that had been going on in the story stopped dead while these two characters agonized over it.

Now, I’m not saying that someone agonizing over whether or not to reach for someone’s hand is a bad thing. Or an improbable one. Or even one that doesn’t bring the world to a halt for the duo involved. But as storytellers, we not only need to consider all of those things but as well everything around that moment or event. In this case, the story had not to this point had such a moment of drama. In fact, things had been quite the opposite, with the characters being very relaxed and at ease with one another. Again, not to say that there aren’t moments of transition from ease to panic in real-life relationships, but what happened here was less a transition and more a leap off a cliff. Or maybe up it, and the audience was left at the bottom. Not only was it quite sudden and out of the character we’d seen so far, but it also brought the rest of the story to a screeching halt, everything going on hold for a long segment of panic. Pacing? It was dead by the time that sequence was halfway over.

Which got me thinking, and led to me adding this topic to the list. How much drama is too much drama?

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Being a Better Writer: Why Indie Isn’t Evil

Hello readers! I’m actually out of the office today, and this post was written in advance! So while you’re reading this, given the schedule I’m probably pressure-washing the underside of a 48-foot commercial fishing vessel.

Anyway, today’s post is another reader request. Understandably so, too, since the topic of Indie, or independent publishing, has been a hot one across the industry for the last few years. Last decade with some change, really. But the storm surrounding it has continued to swirl and continue to be hotly contested. Hence, why I often get questions about it, and even have talked about it before here on the site.

But this reader wanted it directly addressed as part of Being a Better Writer, not just in an opinion post or as a side piece on the site. So, today we’re going to talk all about independent publishing. More specifically, we’re going to talk about why it isn’t bad, which is what the reader specifically wanted to know.

So settle back, grab a snack, and hit the jump.

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Being a Better Writer: A Little Bit About Copyright

Welcome back readers to another installment of Being a Better Writer! The last edition that will go up live, and not on a schedule, for about four weeks! That’s right, if you missed the big news post on Friday (linked here for your expanded reading pleasure) one of the upcoming things going on with me is a trip to Alaska to do a commercial fishing trip, so for the next few weeks all the posts will be scheduled to go up on their own.

Oh, and if you missed last Friday’s news post, you may have also missed Saturday’s, which featured a fun little news clip from my hometown starring yours truly. Give it a listen!

Oh, and Patreon Supporters got another preview story on Saturday as well. Go check it out!

Anyway, I’ll be spending the next few days getting a nice backlog of posts ready, and then I head out this weekend. The goal is to have 3-4 weeks of content done in advance, even though the trip might only take two weeks. With commercial fishing, you go until you’ve got the quota, so if I am gone for three or four weeks, the content pipeline won’t dry up.

Anyway, that’s the plan. So, with so much other news covered, let’s get right down to business. Now, I warn you, this post is going to probably be a bit shorter than normal. It’s a reader-requested topic, but I gathered from the way the question was phrased that the reader who asked it expected the answer to be much more complicated than it actually is.

Which honestly is to each of our favor, because copyright law and legal matters like that? They’re messy. So this being easier than expected is kind of a boon. So let’s get down to it. You’ve started writing out your story, your world and characters have taken shape.

When do you need to copyright it?

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And More News

And I’m back! Because barely a few hours after I posted yesterday’s massive news post, this popped up in my feed:

Wrangell author Max Florschutz works to finish up his eighth book

Remember a few months ago when I took that destress vacation to my home town? Well, one of the things that happened while I was there was that I was interviewed by the local radio station, and yesterday? The story went live at last!

Anyway, you can click the link above and read the story, or listen if you prefer (as it is radio)! Enjoy!