Being a Better Writer: Getting Religion Right

Hello readers! Welcome back to another Monday installment of Being a Better Writer! I hope that all of you had an enjoyable weekend!

Mine was a bit of a mixed bag. Loved the new episode of Wandavision, but also spent more time determining some of my PC issues (the power supply is looking more and more like one culprit). I’ve got some replacement hand-me-down parts coming so we’ll see if that introduces some stability.

Oh, and here’s a real mystery for all of you out there. Axtara (fantastic book if you haven’t read it yet), a book about and starring a dragon, does not come up on Amazon’s selection of fantasy books involving dragons. At all. For reasons I’ve yet to find an explanation for.

No joke. I spent some time today looking at Axtara‘s keywords. Yup, dragon is in there. Genre? It’s in the right slot. But for some reason, if you go to Amazon’s selection of fantasy books (kindle and otherwise) involving dragons … Axtara is curiously absent.

The amused author part of me wants to joke that it’s some form of speciesism, that clearly Axtara is “not a dragon book” because the “dragon” in question isn’t being ridden (in either sense of the word, judging by some of those covers) or mauling people to death as a mindless beast, and therefore isn’t eligible.

The less-amused author in me is both annoyed and alarmed, because this means that people looking for books specifically about dragons on Amazon won’t find Axtara in their search or genre results, and that’s definitely negatively impactful to me. I’ve messed with some genre indicators and I hope that this fixes it. Next step will be an e-mail to Amazon directly, because what the what, if there ever was a book that was more suited for the “dragon” category, I haven’t found it.

While I’m on this tangent (and before we get to today’s post), is anyone else overly tired of dragon-rider books? Especially the ones where the mount is sapient and intelligence, but is basically treated like a horse that can talk? That’s one rut I’d rather see fantasy climb out of. Or, for all the talk of avoiding “problem issues” in fantasy, I’m surprised “keeping sapients in stables as mounts” hasn’t drawn more ire from readers. I guess the idea of equal rights only matters if they’re humanoid? At least Temeraire wasn’t afraid to tackle this, but most other generic dragon-rider fiction just kind of ignores it … and I’m getting too off-topic. That’s my mystery from the weekend.

So, let’s talk about today’s hammer of a topic: Getting Religion Right. And I’m pretty certain that already some people are going to have issues simply based on that title alone, because some folks get ready for a fight anytime the words “religion” and “right” are in a sentence together without the word “not” or something similar.

But whatever. We can’t shy away from this topic, and it’s an important one. Which is going to come with a hefty lead-in. So we may as well hit the jump and get started. Get to it.

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OP-ED: My Thoughts on the Capitol Riots

This post is bound to make someone somewhere unhappy. Fair warning, this is an opinion piece, and it is going to be political. I’m even going to bring some religion into it. There’s no way around it.

What it’s not going to be is a news source. I’m not going to deliver a blow-by-blow of what went down in the District of Columbia capitol of the United States last week. I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you’ve got the gist of it. No, this post is to talk about my response to the event. I’m going to bring in some religion thoughts on the matter as well. So, what did I think about the capitol riots?

Probably one of the most shameful things, in a presidency of shameful things, to happen during the Trump administration.

I’m not very secretive of my dislike for President Trump and his policies. Or for his attitudes, behavior, and leanings. Personally, I find Trump to be the poster child for the most dangerous type of adult mentality warned about in books like The Pinch. He’s incapable of losing or admitting fault, and is willing to say anything, and I do mean anything, to get what he wants. It’s how he’s leaving office with the lowest amount of campaign promises even attempted to be fulfilled (by which I mean actually took any steps to follow them at all), with around half. Much of what he did accomplish was the equivalent of a child running water over a toothbrush and making noises to cover up that they don’t want to brush their teeth. To the parent watching TV and barely paying attention, it certainly appeared to be an actual effort, but anyone who took a closer look knew that there was tomfoolery going on.

Now, I want to point out that this does not mean I preferred Biden. Or Hillary from 2016. Rather I found the whole trio all sorts of unpalatable as far as my political stance went. But as President Trump did win the election, that puts him and his policies in a direct hot seat for analysis, upon which I can very thoroughly say I dislike much of what he’s accomplished during his time in office. For example, for all Trump’s talk about “small business,” data released by his own administration for the 2016-2019 period (so without the absolutely colossal mishandling of Covid-19) shows that his practices and policies have been horrible for small businesses, which are fewer in number, paying higher taxes, hiring less people, and in general dropping across the board. And that was before Covid-19. Turns out all that talk about small business was just that: talk.

So yeah, I’m not fond of a President who seems far more concerned with talking very loudly about how well they’re brushing their teeth and how impressed their dentist will be while loudly running water over the brush and grinning at themselves in the mirror. So when President Trump became Calvin from Bill Watterson’s famous Calvin & Hobbes even before the election was over, stating that he had obviously won, why wouldn’t he win, and clearly any other result was simply cheating, well … Let’s just say a President of the US parroting an argument put forth by a six year old in a newspaper comic strip, but unironically didn’t fill me with much hope.*

*It’s worth pointing out, if I’m recalling the creator’s commentary correctly, that Watterson noted that Calvin’s character was supposed to be representative of his generation’s behaviors as children, and a worry that many of them never grew out of it.

Now, I’m going to set aside the question of election fraud, as well as the oddly specific criteria President Trump has approached it with. That’s a question for the courts to decide. I’m going to talk instead about what happened Wednesday.

It was a shameless act of sedition and insurrection, and I hope the courts bury those who took part in it deep in their legal system.

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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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Quarantine Chat: Fast Invitation and a Shadow of an Empire – The Film (or Series)

Hey readers! I hope things are going well for you during these interesting times. Hopefully I’ll be able to bring some relief today, as I’ve got two things to talk about, and we’re going to dive right in. Serious topic first … then some fun!

Oh! Reminder to all prior Beta Readers! Check your e-mail, as the Beta invite for A Trial for a Dragon has been sent out!


Fast Invitation

The first thing I’m going to talk about is a fast invitation that’s been extended globally by my faith. As most readers of this site know, I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, who have taken great steps to curb the spread of Covid-19 (globally we put all Sunday meetings on hold before most countries were even thinking about doing anything, and immediately began coordinating relief effort). But one thing our faith is doing this week—and not alone—is a global fast across the Earth.

For some of you, that requires a few explanations. I’ll start with the “fast” bit. A fast is an act of sacrifice before God, most commonly expressed as one forgoing food and water for a period of time—two meals or 24 hours being the period commonly expressed in our faith, if able (the Lord knows if you have additional requirements, and that’s fine)—in order to focus on and request the aid of Heaven. Basically, a form of sacrifice between man and God wherein man shows dedication by forgoing that which gives mortal life in favor of spiritual life. You can find them mentioned all through works of scripture, and as a continuance of Christ’s church on the Earth today, members of my faith participate in them regularly.

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News: New Fireteam Freelance Episode, Quarantine Chat, Trial for a Dragon, and more!

Hey readers! It’s time for a dose of site news! And while there was an order to things in the title above, the first thing I’m going to do is toss that aside, because the very first thing I have to talk about, that I want to talk about is that there’s a new episode of Fireteam Freelance tomorrow!


That’s right, tomorrow morning Underground Orbit drops on the site, as the team picks up a new mission that requires them to take on a very different approach while … naked? Who’s paying for this, and why are these missions getting so strange anyway?

No matter what, though, it’s sure to be not what you expect! So tomorrow morning be at the ready! Episode three of Fireteam Freelance is here at last!


Naturally, this does mean that the time has come for me to start going over responses from Alpha Readers for A Trial for a Dragon. The submission date draws ever closer, and there are definitely changes to make in these next few days, so that’ll be my next move, starting today. At this point a good number of Alpha Readers have finished it, so the draft is full of feedback comments which I’ll start working on today. Once Trial is shifted, depending on how much rewriting was done for the feedback, there may be a fast and aggressive Alpha 2 before darting to Beta. We’ll see how confident everyone is in the changes I make.

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A Quiet Weekend

This weekend is Conference weekend.

For many, that doesn’t mean much. Sands, most of you probably have never heard of it. That’s fine. It’s a religious event.

Ah, see? Some probably ran in a panic right then and there.

Anyway, it’s pretty simple. Conference weekend, known among the members of my religion as General Conference Weekend, is a bi-annual (twice yearly) event in which the entire church comes together in a conference, to hear the religious leaders of the church speak directly to the entirety of the church. Given that this leadership consists of a Prophet of God and twelve Apostles, this is a pretty cool thing.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like they’re not carrying out their duties as special witnesses of Christ and his gospel the rest of the year. They do—they put some serious travel in going around the world and meeting with members of our church all over. But twice a year, they all gather—Apostles, the prophet, seventies (Exodus if you’ve not heard of that), etc—for this General Conference. And then? They teach. And that teaching is broadcast via the internet, radio, television, etc, all across the world, and the members gather and watch it. Five broadcasts, each 2 hours long, over two days.

Ten, awesome, fulfilling hours.

Right, why am I talking about this? Well, for starters, because you don’t have to be a member of our church to enjoy it. This isn’t some cliche “The end is nigh” monologue given by a man with a crazy beard in a robe. So far, in the first session we had today I’ve listened to an Apostle give counsel on how not to take the many gifts of God for granted, and how to learn to see how many truly wondrous gifts we’ve been given. Another spoke on prayer, and how it is an act of humility before God. You don’t have to be a member of our faith to get something out of it. There’s a spirit of holiness and tranquility that surrounds each message, a gentleness you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

And even if you’re not a member of my faith, well, a little bit of peace and tranquility might feel pretty welcome. Which is why I’m mentioning it (well, also and so you guys are kept up-to-date on my movements, since Saturday is normally fanfic day). Maybe you’re wondering what to do with your day. Maybe you’re feeling a little down. Maybe you just want a pick-me-up and have found that the usual isn’t doing it for you.

If so, well, this conference gets streamed live on Youtube. Feel free to listen in. Regardless of where you are in life, there’s something for everyone that gets said at these things. They talk about God. They talk about Christ. They talk about our purpose on Earth, the atonement … a plethora of topics that many people wonder about, even if they don’t put voice to those wonders.

So if you’ve got some time and you want a pick-me-up, feel welcome to check it out.

 

 

NOTE: And if you despise my religion (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) and want to start a big controversy, or are thinking about posting “the truth” in the comments below in some vain attempt to save my “misguided” soul … please don’t bother. I’ve been an open member of my church online for years now; screaming, shouting, ranting, accusing, or even trying to get my books taken down from Amazon as some sort of “revenge” isn’t anything new. It’s been done before, there are better ways to spend your time, so please, go and do something productive elsewhere.