Being a Better Writer: “Alien” Aliens and the Conflict of Drive

Hello again readers from across the datanet! Well, some parts of it. Today I woke up to the frantic news announcements that Facebook and all its associated services, from Instagram to WhatsApp, are down. Completely and totally. Very likely not permanently, but as of writing this, it’s gone from the web. You can’t even access it.

You know I’m just going to say it: It’s a good break for people. I usually log on each morning to see if I have any notifications from my family, but I don’t miss not having it this morning. If it were gone for good, well that’d be a different story since I keep a bunch of photos on there and I do use it to keep up with family members since I can’t get any of them to use Discord.

But that’s all I’ll say on it. It’s down, so you’re probably not going to be linking here from there today unless things come back up. No ads on Facebook today! Which almost made me switch topics, I’ll admit, but I’ve wanted to talk about today’s Being a Better Writer topic for some time now. And having Facebook and some of the primary social media sites be down for the other topic would be slightly less than ideal, despite making me thing about it. So that post will have to wait.

So then, what about today’s post? Most of you have read the title, so where is this coming from? Why this topic? Well, hit the jump, and let’s get talking.

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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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Being a Better Writer: Worldbuilding from Maslow’s Hierarchy

Hello readers and welcome back! I hope you all had a spectacular weekend full of fun things. If you were a Patreon Supporter of the site, I did do a bit to help with that (Chapter 10 of Sunset: Stranded went up for supporters, so check that out if you’ve been following that story). If not, well, I hope you had a pretty good weekend anyway.

Now, before I dive into today’s Being a Better Writer post, there is a bit of news I want to point out. This post is the last topic from Topic List #16. That’s right, once this post is done, the final item on the checklist can be crossed off, and the list itself crumpled up and moved to the cylindrical tube of removal beside my desk.

Now, this is a decently big occasion. I only go through a few of these lists a year (each one has about twenty or so topics on it). Each one is a milestone of how many Being a Better Writer posts have passed since I started keeping track of the lists (which was a few years ago).

But they are also significant for another reason: Because you get to contribute to them. If you swung by the site over the weekend, you might have noticed the Topic Call for Being a Better Writer post. Well, if there’s ever been a writing topic you’d like to see covered on this site that hasn’t sprung up yet (or it’s been so long we’re due to strike again) now is the time to make your request heard!

There have already been some awesome topic requests from readers to add to Topic List #17. This next list we’re going to see posts on “rule breaking,” geography, and executing slow tension among others. But there’s still plenty of room on the list to see your area of interest appear! So go ahead and jump on over to the comments section of the topic call and leave your request!

All right, that’s all I want to talk about news-wise, so with that said (and you left a topic request, right?) let’s get down to the meat and potatoes of today’s post.

This one is not a request. In fact, it’s actually fully inspired by a panel I was on during this year’s Life, The Universe, and Everything convention. Before the panel, actually, while doing some background reading for it in preparation, I jotted this topic down as one to talk about with Being a Better Writer. And since the panel didn’t actually spend too much time on what I’m going to talk about today, it should still be fresh for those of you who attended LTUE. Double win, in that case.

Anyway, enough background. Let’s dive into today’s post. Hit the jump!

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Axtara – Banking and Finance is OUT!

Happy day to all! For it is on this day, December the 22nd, 2020, that one of the standout moments of what many would agree has been a year, has occurred.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Axtara – Banking and Finance is out!

For those of you who’ve missed it (entirely possible, I’ll admit) Axtara – Banking and Finance is a Young Adult Fantasy novel telling the tale of the titular Axtara, a young dragoness leaving the nest and setting out for the edge of the known civilized world with a single goal: to found and operate her own bank.

Naturally, it’s not going to be easy. The small kingdom she’s headed to has never had a bank before.

Of course, it’s never had a dragon either …

Axtara is available as an ebook, and is also on Kindle Unlimited. A print edition is planned for January, but let’s be honest, right now is the season to curl up with a book and read a fun fantasy. So click the cover there and give it a look!

But before you close this tab, I do want to mention one other little thing: In celebration of the season, and of the new book, there’s also a big sale going on the rest of my library. Been eyeing Jungle or Shadow of an Empire for a time and waiting to pick a copy up? Now’s your chance! Head on over to my author page and take a look! If you’re looking for stocking stuffers for a reader out there, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for! Go go go!

And have a Merry Christmas filled with dragons, wild west shootouts, and spaceships!

Final Axtara – Banking and Finance Preview! Preorder is Live!

I did say that there would likely be one more preview before Axtara – Banking and Finance launches on Tuesday, didn’t I? Well, here it is. One last sneak peak at the world of Axtara before copies start flying into readers’ hands on December 22nd! Axtara is currently up for preorder, and last night hit the Amazon top 50 in YA Fantasy for Women and Girls! You can jump right to the US Amazon page and secure your own copy by clicking the cover below (as well as keeping Axtara in that top spot) or you can search for it and find it in the Amazon Kindle store of your home country!

But until the 22nd arrives, the preview after the jump will hopefully be enough to tide you over.

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Axtara – Banking and Finance Special Preview #2

Hello again readers! As we move into this Christmas season, the release of Axtara – Banking and Finance draws ever closer! The ebook will, to my delight, be out before Christmas! I’ll have an official date and open pre-orders as soon as I have the final cover! Oh, and once again, we hope you laughed at the pre-sketch mockup if you found this via Twitter or Facebook and saw that MS Paint image (it’s been replaced, so if you missed it, tough)!

So, to help prepare you readers for this awesome day, here’s another preview of what’s coming, a companion to the first special look at Axtara from a week age. Save where that preview was an excerpt from Chapter 1 about Axtara leaving her home, this preview is from chapter 2 and finds our young dragoness arriving at her new home in the remote kingdom of Elnacier … the place where she’ll be opening her new bank.

Axtara – Banking and Finance will be releasing soon! In the meantime, hit the jump for your second look!

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Axtara – Banking and Finance Special Preview

Readers! I’ve got a real treat for you today! As you may have heard, Axtara – Banking and Finance is getting a cover at last. And no, it is not the featured image for this post. That was an amusing mock-up which, to some of you, will explain a post title from earlier this week. UPDATE: The real cover is now the featured image. If you find yourself wondering about the old one, well … you missed it. But you’ll see it again before long!

Anyway, with Axtara at long last nearing for many of you, well, there couldn’t be a better time to start hyping things up! So, for your enjoyment and delight to kick off this weekend, here’s a little snippet from chapter one!

Hit the jump, and get ready to meet Axtara at last! And once you’ve done that, get ready, because the whole of Axtara – Banking and Finance will be dropping soon!

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Axtara – Banking and Finance Beta Call Going Out!

All right! It’s here! And not a moment too late, either! Axtara – Banking and Finance is ready for Beta 1!

I hope none of you forgot about this project with everything else that’s been going on (both on this site and off) because it’s an absolutely heart-warming little adventure. For those not in the know, Axtara is a Young Adult Fantasy following the titular Axtara: A dragoness who is at long last fulfilling a lifelong dream of opening and running her own bank. Of course, it may not be as easy nor as simple as she’d hoped. But then what is when one strikes out on their own?

Set in the same setting as A Game of Stakes, Axtara is a delightful little adventure that, in its current state weighs in at 122,800 words. So not a massive tome by any sense of scale (though probably a bit long for most YA novels, but then again it’s me, so what did anyone expect?), but certainly a good little weekend read.

Anyway, if you’ve been a prior Beta Reader in the past, expect an e-mail in your inbox shortly. If you are on the Beta Reader list but were also an Alpha Reader, then I’ll be dropping you a different e-mail saying that you are also welcome to participate, but I’d like to stagger it a little toward a Beta 2, since you were just reading it. So sort of a second wave.

Same also goes, by the way, for those of you who have never Beta Read before but would like to volunteer to be on the list. Contact me for details (and be sure you know that it is a commitment) if the idea of reading through and looking for typos and misplaces words is something you’d enjoy!

And uh … that’s it! Progress continues on Starforge, but that’s really for another post. This one is all about Axtara!

So prior Beta Readers, check your inbox! The invite should be there soon!

Axtara – Banking and Finance Alpha 2 Call!

Woooo! It’s time!

So, readers, as some of you may have noticed, the Alpha 1 for Axtara – Banking and Finance is complete! Boo-yah! Changes have been made, chapters have been tucked, etc etc. But now, as you may have guessed from the title, it’s time for a second Alpha.

This one will go a lot quicker than the first. The goal here is just to see the results of the changes made on a new test audience, one that hasn’t read the story before.

That’s it, really. The prior group was pretty thorough. But the changes that were made have to be tested by readers that are blind to the overall story. I’m not even going to tell them what those changes were or where they are. I’m just going to drop the story on them and wait it out.

So then, this is an invite call. Feel like reading a YA Fantasy novel? One that’s not a titanic epic (Axtara is only 122,000 words long, or about the average length of a novel). One that has a dragon as the protagonist, with a plot about opening a bank?

Yes, it’s very fresh and original. You know me.

Anyway, this is an open call for Alpha 2 readers. It’s going to be fast, and it’s going to be furious. If you’d like to give it a go, leave a comment.

Also, if you’re an artist named Chromamancer and feeling like you’ve changed your mind, you’re still my first pick!

Fireteam Freelance feedback post tomorrow!

EDIT: Oh, and if you are a Patreon Supporter, you should go check the Patreon page! There’s a little reward waiting for you …

Being a Better Writer: Religion and Faith

Hello and welcome back readers! I hope your weekends treated you well?

Well, if not, then I’ve got a bit of lighthearted humor to share with you before we get down to today’s post. As long-time readers will know, I’ve forever been a proponent of always do the research, and have noted before cases where authors have done a Google search and rather than click the results simply skimmed the page of results and drawn entirely incorrect conclusions for their work.

Well, this weekend someone made international news with an exceptionally impressive flub (which you can read about in more detail here if you feel like granting The Guardian your clicks) that proves once again that skimming Google results is not enough research. Especially for a historical novel.

What happened? John Boyne (a name some of you might recognize) listed a number of ingredients used to make red dye in his latest novel, The Traveler at the Gates of Wisdom (which, given what you’re about to read …). Such as keese wing, leaves of the Silent Princess flower, octorok eyeballs, lizalfos tails, and of course, Hylian mushrooms.

Some of you are wondering “huh?” while others in this audience have already started to giggle. Because you’ve recognized those items for what they are: fantasy ingredients and species from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Yes, it would seem that this book was in the process of being written around the time Breath of the Wild released, and as such when Boyne Googled “red dye ingredients” the current most popular result was … how to make red dye in Breath of the Wild, using ingredients from the fantastical fantasy realm of Hyrule.

Whoops.

According to the story, prints of the book will be amended to offer an acknowledgement and credit to The Legend of Zelda. But for the rest of the writers and authors out there, let this be a lesson to you.

And let’s have one more giggle that, as a title from a well-known and respected author, this gaff made it past who knows how many editors over at Penguin Random House. Oops.

All right, that’s the last giggle. It’s time to talk about today’s Being a Better Writer topic! Which is both a reader request, and as many of you have likely thought upon seeing the title, a bit of a hefty subject. But don’t fret, and don’t panic (that’s right, the old hitchhiking logic). This isn’t nearly as painful a topic as it sounds. Well, unless you’re reading a book that handles this topic badly, which, well, I doubt any of us want said about our works.

So let’s knuckle down and talk about religion and faith in fiction.

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