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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Flash Fiction – Firstborn

Hey folks!

So last night I was browsing the web before (planning) to go to sleep when I spotted a writing prompt on Reddit, and well … the creative brain took over. Next thing I knew it was past 1 AM, and I’d written a fun little story about man who makes a deal with a witch for his firstborn child, but has already, unbeknownst to her, cheated.

You can see the Reddit Writing Prompt that spawned it here, but for a short bit of flash fiction I was quite happy with how it turned out, and figured it deserved to be on the site. So here you are, folks. Firstborn.

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Being a Better Reader: Stocking for Covid-19

Hello readers! Welcome back! Though you may notice something a little different in the title today.

There have been a few times in the past when I’ve done Being a Better Writer posts that are jokingly titled Being a Better Reader, though not without reason, as each of them was about exactly that. Today, with everything that’s going on in the world, I figured it was time for another one of those.

If you’re confused at all about this post, than I’d urge you to open a new tab and look up news on Covid-19, AKA the Coronavirus. We’re officially in a global pandemic, with cases spreading and multiplying fast enough that whole countries are shutting down. Economies too, with most jobs either having their people work from home or shutting down entirely. My own part-time was among the latter, as were a lot of other jobs worked by people I know. Borders are closing, countries going into lockdown …

Thankfully, these places are doing this to slow the spread, and it is showing signs of helping. I’m not a WHO-speaker or a CDC doctor, though, so I’ll say no more on that front save the standard rallying cries during this pandemic of—

Stop shaking people’s hands. Wash your hands! Don’t touch your face.

Seriously people. Stop doing all three. Fight the spread.

While we’re at it, fight misinformation. Stop, think, and source before spreading something like “Salt water kills the infection!” It doesn’t, and 41 people in South Korea got infected because they believed the salt water thing and shared the same water among themselves.

Okay, so with all this going on, what does it have to do with today’s post? Simple: There are a lot of people around the world who are under quarantine right now, for one reason or another. Either they’re under a full quarantine, where they may have been exposed and are stuck inside a room for two weeks, or they’re under another quarantine where their country has entirely shut down and they’re unable to leave their house. Or they’re under a loose quarantine (my words, not anyone else’s) like the US where their job has shut down and any gathering of more than 50 people has been requested to not happen by the CDC.

In other words, a decently large-sized chunk of the world right now has a lot of free time on their hands. They’re out of work, Earth is closed, and they’re just sitting at home wondering what to do.

At home entertainment, in other words, is spiking. Streaming services and gaming portals like Steam are already setting records for usage. Everyone’s got time on their hands. People are looking for things to do that allow them to stave off cabin fever while stuck at home for the foreseeable future.

Have they considered books?

This brings us to the point of today’s post: Books and series to read during the Covid-19 pandemic. A massive collection of reading material to keep one occupied during the outbreaks. Pages and pages and pages to turn. My own works will be on the list, as well as the works of many other authors I’ve read and enjoyed. We’ll start with books, but then I’ll jump into webcomics that are perfect for an archive binge as well.

Now, a few things to note. 1) These stories will not be about disease. I’ve seen way too many lists of “Best books to read for the Coronavirus” or “Greatest books to read stuck inside during Covid-19” that are just every famous disease and plague book out there, like The Stand.

No. Not doing that. We’re living a pandemic right now. We don’t need escapism that’s just more of that, and worse. Sands, I’m not even going to be linking one of my favorite webcomics on this list, specifically because it’s about a world-ending plague. So no, no stories about disease.

2) Most of these stories will be Science-Fiction and Fantasy. Not too surprising, but I write Sci-Fi and Fantasy, so a lot of what I read tends to be Sci-Fi and Fantasy as well. What I link here is going to be stuff I’ve personally enjoyed.

3) Most entries on this list will be longer, multi-book series. Something you can really dig your teeth into. There will be some smaller, one-shot entries, but I’ll try and keep most of these recommendations in the realm of “This will take you some time.” Because most of the world has it right now.

4) I don’t get any financial compensation here save on my own books. All the books I’ll be linking that I didn’t write? I won’t get any compensation for you clicking the link and picking up a copy. If you buy one over the other and I didn’t pen it, it doesn’t matter to me … but it does matter to the author who wrote it (or their foundation if they’re no longer with us). I’m promoting them because they’re good reading material, not because I’m getting any sort of compensation (again, exception if you purchase one of my books from this list).

5) Click the cover to head to an Amazon ebook page. I don’t get any compensation for that, first off. But if you’re interested in the book, then click the cover to go right to Amazon. By default the page will be for the ebook (no delivery, just download it!) but if you’re looking for a paperback to be delivered to your door, that’s probably an option for most of these as well.

6) I do recommend sharing this list! Especially if you liked what it had on display. Sharing helps more eyeballs discover it, which helps more people find new options for what to read, and in turn stave off boredom and cabin fever during this pandemic. So feel free to share away, on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or wherever else you hang out!

That settles it, so hit the jump and let’s get to the list! We’re going to start with some smaller, one-shot books. Why? Maybe you’re new to reading or want to start small. That’s fine. We’ve gotcha covered. Hit the jump, and let’s see what’s out there!

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Parliament of Wizards Submission Call!

Readers! I have news! For you! Which I mentioned in Monday’s Being a Better Writer post but is finally getting its own post here. Submission calls are open for LTUE’s fourth Benefit Anthology, Parliament of Wizards!

If you’re stumbling across this post with no prior knowledge of what any of those things mean, let me catch you up. LTUE is Life, The Universe, and Everything, one of the best (if not the best) writing conventions out there, attended by hundreds of experienced authors and industry professionals all for one epic goal: To talk about writing in all its forms. This is a conference you come to in order to meet your favorite authors and then listen to them talk about the ins and outs of writing.

Better yet, since the goal of the conference is to help writers learn how to write, it’s also open to students and charges $5 for student attendees. LTUE is about giving resources and knowledge to writers of the world, and students are part of that.

Trace the StarsSo, in order to help keep that student cost low even as the con has grown again and again, the LTUE Benefit Anthologies were set up. These are collections of short stories written by a wide variety of authors, some new, some long-time industry vets that are household names, each around a themed topic, and sold entirely in support of the convention.

That’s right, the authors and editors don’t see a penny. All the proceeds from each sale go toward keeping LTUE running and making sure that the price for students stays at $5, so that the young would-be writers of today can get the education to help them become the writers of tomorrow.

To date, there have been two LTUE anthologies published. Trace the Stars, a collection of Science-Fiction stories, was the first and published in 2019. The second collection was published this year, just in February, and titled A Dragon and Her Girl (and I’m in that one!). The third collection, Twilight Tales, will be released next year (2021).

70081760_568294170598543_7425837595373862912_oWhich means that submissions have just opened for the next and fourth collection, Parliament of Wizards, 2022’s release! Stories about wizards. Submissions are open from now until April 30th, and not only is it a good place to submit a story too as they’re open to authors of all experience but again, it’s to help one of the best writing cons out there keep their costs down.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in submitting to, hit the jump for some more details and link to Hemelein Publications’ submissions page!

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Life, The Universe, and Everything 2020!

I’ve been waiting to make this post for months now, readers! But with the new year upon us, it’s finally time. Life, The Universe, and Everything 2020 is almost upon us, with a little over a month to go!

Some of you readers are cheering quietly (or perhaps loudly) while mentally double-checking your hotel reservation for next month, but some of you, I’m sure, I are looking at this post and thinking “Isn’t that a Douglas Adams book?” while wondering what I mean about next month. So before we go any further, let me clear that up.

First, yes, it is the title of one of Douglas Adams’ books. Life, the Universe, and Everything was the third book in his Hitchhiker series and released in 1982. So you’re not wrong there. However, that is the LtUE with a lowercase “t” on the “the.” The uppercase variant?

Why, it’s Life, The Universe, and Everything, the premier Fantasy and Science Fiction Writing Convention! With an uppercase “T.” But yes, it is a reference.

“All right,” some of you might say. “So it’s another Sci-Fi/Fantasy con. So?” To which I’d reply “No, not exactly.”

See, LTUE is a Sci-Fi/Fantasy writing con. While other conventions are about getting together just to have fun dressing up and meeting authors and creators, LTUE is different. LTUE is about creation. Where other Sci-Fi/Fantasy cons will have panels where you can meet your favorite author and ask questions about your favorite series or listen to them talk about their favorite moments from the book, LTUE has panels where you come to hear your favorite authors talk about the art of writing.

That’s right. Hundreds of authors on hundreds of panels, talking about writing. How to write. Pitfalls. Elements you may not have considered. Topics for days.

That’s right, LTUE is a convention for writers who want to learn more about writing. With panels given by some of the biggest names in the industry. While also having signings, art shows, game rooms, and all the fun stuff you’d expect from a regular con.

In other words, if you’re a writer of any level interested in Sci-Fi and Fantasy, LTUE is the con to go to. For learning, for networking, for even just having fun chatting with favorite authors or new ones! It’s the con.

Okay, so that’s what LTUE is. Oh, and if you’re a student (college or k-12), tickets are … around $5. For three days of con awesome.

In other words, what are you waiting for? The website is here, reserve your ticket! And while you’re at it, take a look at their guestlist and schedule to start planning what panels you’d like to attend!

While you’re at it, you may notice a familiar name on the Guestlist and attached to a number of panels! Which brings me to the second reason for today’s post: Letting you all know that yes, I will be at LTUE this year, paneling once more! And signing, and doing a reading …

It’s going to be a big year for me this LTUE. A very big year. I’m pumped.

But it means that, in addition to letting you all know that LTUE is approaching (February 13th-15th), I also get to have the wonderful pleasure this year of putting up my LTUE panel schedule, letting you all know where you can find me over the course of the con! So, without further ado, a list of all the LTUE appearances I’ll be making this year! I’ll repost this as we get closer to the date of the actual con, but for now: Get ready and excited! It’s coming!

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Genre VS Literary and the Cult of Twitter

Hey readers! Got an interesting one for you today. Sort of a call-back, almost, to last week’s post on “pulp” not being a stand-in for “fun.” Once again, brought up by an online discussion I saw in a reading sphere.

Oh, and the cover image there will make sense. Just bear with me for a bit.

This is a discussion that I suspect many of you have heard repeatedly if you’ve hung out in certain reading spheres, but a poster had dropped in to ask what the difference was between “genre” and “literary” as he’d seen both used often. They also pointed out that genre seemed to be used as a derogatory term, while literary was used as a form of praise, and wanted to know what they could do as a new reader to identify these “literary” books so they could get the best experience.

That poor soul, right? Okay look, I’ll level with all of you readers here: The division between them is largely nothing. Nothing but pretentiousness on the part of the reader or, in some cases, the author. We’ll get more into this here in a little bit, and along with a really neat example that just kind of shows exactly how foolish the whole debate is, but up front, and in reality … “Literary” is 99.9% hindsight. Those books that are written up-front as “literary works” tend to be overblown masses of text because the author went in with the goal of producing some overblown level of “literary prose.”

Wow, listen to those lighters being held up to torches. I call it like it is folks. Also, I know who’s lighting those torches: The same people that get uppity and snooty about “literary” versus “genre.” Because they hold what some of the people in the resultant discussion did, that only “literary” is worth reading, and that it’s “different” from everything else in a way that makes it superior.

How? Well, let’s start with the definition that was offered by these defenders of “literary” virtue. They explained to this poor poster that “genre” was a story that was just focused on cookie-cutter elements. As they put it, it was fiction that was heavily dependent specific narrative devices, had a niche market, and would not be of interest outside that market because of those narrative devices. It was further declared that genre boiled down to driven by plot and formula according to stereotype.

Meanwhile, they explained that “literary” works were those that ascended beyond cliche and genre to tackle interesting topics, explore new things, and be enticing to those readers outside of genre.

Bleh.

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Being a Better Writer: You Can’t Make Up Rules When the Reader Knows What They Are

Welcome back readers! It’s JUNE!

Right, I know. Hunter/Hunted isn’t out yet. But I’d plan on it this month. Editing is … well, it’s a process. Both it and Jungle are inching closer toward release … But that’s all that needs to be said there. Right now?

Right now, we’re going to talk about some small rules of writing. Small but vital, and which fall under that mouthful of a title up above.

Now some of you might have guessed, and correctly, that today’s title falls under a rule I’ve talked about more than once on this site: Always do the research. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing, from hydraulics to genetics, you need to do the research.

But today just isn’t quite about that. It falls under the same umbrella, absolutely, but there’s a bit more to it. While “always do the research,” whenever I’ve said it, has almost always been about the big things … today is more about the small things, and less about the science of something works and more the methodology.

Don’t get me wrong. If you’re going to write about a character studying genetics at a college somewhere in the US, you should work to get the genetic information right. But what about the order in which they study about genetics. What about their classes, or the way their teachers present information? The way their labs are set up?

See, while you may be able to make up material that can fill all those gaps, and get the science right, you can also run into a problem of someone else who’s been through that experience or adjacent to it might be able to look right at it and say ‘Wait a minute, those two things are correct, yes … but they’re also out of order.’

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2018 Dragon Awards Nominations are Open!

It’s that time of year, readers! The nominations for the 2018 Dragon Awards are open! You can click the link and nominate this last year’s (July 2017-End of June 2018) best Science-Fiction and Fantasy novels for the running of … well, the best!

I’ve supported The Dragon Awards every year since they’ve opened, because it’s an open award, decided by the public. Anyone can vote, not just a select few. Anyone can nominate, not just a select few. And the more people vote and nominate, the more representative the award is of what fans consider the year’s Best Science-Fiction and Fantasy.

Speaking of which, unlike last year, this year I’m eligible! That’s right, Shadow of an Empire‘s release date puts it squarely in this year. So if it was your favorite Fantasy novel this year, it’s 100% ready for your nomination! You know, just in case it was (and I’ve already heard from some that yes indeed, Sali and Meelo’s adventure was definitely in that category).

But either way, nominate for the Dragon Awards!

The LTUE 2018 Report

It’s time for another LTUE (Life, The Universe, and Everything) report! And this time, not in place of Monday’s Being a Better Writer post!

Why, you may ask? Okay, and you may be asking “What’s LTUE?” as well. So, in reverse order then.

LTUE is one of the best “secret” cons for writers out there, if not the best. It always has a massive, smashing guest list full of friendly authors, editors, and publishers, hundreds of awesome panels those same people participate in … and then just plenty of fun stuff too. Want to learn how to write romance, or common submission pitfalls? Want to catch the latest scuttlebutt and undercurrents from the industry, or hear embarrassing mistakes from now-famous authors?

Okay, you might not get all of that in one year, simply because you’d probably have to hit multiple panels at the same time, but all of that can be found at LTUE. It’s a convention for writers, about writers, by authors passing on their knowledge. If you like BaBW, LTUE is a con you should go to. February of every year in Provo Utah.

Now, the second question: Why is this report going up early? Oh, and shorter? Well, quite simply because I wasn’t paneling this year and was too broke to go to all three days (much sadness on that point). LTUE is a con, after all. Expect to pay (though students get in for $5 a day).

Anyway, with my knee dragging my finances down, I only was able to afford going to a single day. Naturally, I picked the day I most wanted to go to, which included a relaxed sit-down with Larry Correia (because the guy is fun to talk with), and went then.

So, what’d I pick up from this year’s LTUE? It was a mixed bag. Not at all because the con wasn’t as good this year or something, but because, personally, where I’m at.

Look, I’ll get two things out of the way right away. The first is that LTUE is fun. Like, ridiculously fun. Even if you’re there flying solo, it’s a good time. Everyone is there to talk about writing in some facet or another, from just starting out, to being stuck in a death spiral, to trying to submit their first manuscript. That’s awesome.

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Being a Better Writer: The Value of Fiction

First of all, I apologize for the lateness of this post. I had a shift at work Monday(I’m still playing catch-up on a small pile of debt incurred during my knee injury and trying to be able to make rent this month, so I’m working more shifts than normal) which, as expected, put this post behind the clock. Thankfully, looking at my daily views, it seems that many of you don’t mind—a large number of you have just been checking on Tuesday rather than on Monday, which is sad as far as my ability to get these posts up on Monday is concerned, but otherwise isn’t a bother.

So … today’s topic … This is one that I’ve wanted to do for quite a while. Years, actually. But I wasn’t positive if I wanted it to be a Being a Better Writer post or just a random post until recently. I can’t recall quite what the context of it was, but there was a forum post on a site I was browsing that made me immediately turn to my topic list and write down “Learning by Example – Value of Fiction.”

Now, for some, this post is going to seem somewhat … Well, perhaps obvious is the best way to put it. But the odd thing is, for some it won’t.

See, I once had a fellow student in one of my creative writing classes who could not understand why we were bothering to read stories that ‘hadn’t happened.’ They were incredibly incensed by it (for the record, none of us, including the professor, could determine what they had expected otherwise from a course in creative writing), constantly complained about the books we read, and even, if memory serves, flat-out refused to do the writing assignments because ‘it wasn’t real, therefore it was of no worth.’

The thing is, as I’ve gotten older, wiser, and seen more of the world, I’ve come to find that this student was not alone in sharing this opinion. There are a lot of people out there that do not see the value of reading anything that is a work of fiction and hold it to be of no merit. Why? The answer is, when boiled and distilled down, because a work of fiction isn’t something “real.” Therefore, not being “real,” it has no place in the real world.

Now, obviously I disagree. But, naturally, this disagreement doesn’t start or end with “Well, you’re wrong.” Crud, there’s a reason I put “real” in the last paragraph in quotes. Because fiction isn’t simply something that’s “not real.” In fact, simply thinking of it as such shows a lack of understanding of what fiction is.

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