Where The Heck Is Jon?

Hello there loyal readers. I am quite sorry that this is the first time in… well, since you probably started reading that I haven’t had at least a blog a day up during weekdays, and that I’ve left you hanging for two straight days.  That’s not very nice of me!

I mentioned my LibertyCon schedule a couple of days ago — and I decided to fly out to Tennessee a couple days early and be a tourist. Last night I went to the Grand Ole Opry, the wonderful radio show that’s been going on for 80+ years. Saw some great acts, including and not limited to The Charlie Daniels Band. They were phenomenal, and Charlie is one heck of a performer.

He played this song last night, and it was legit:

 

I also really enjoyed one of the opening acts, Lindi Ortega, for a totally different mood:

 

Today I’m off to Graceland, and I’m going to see a bluegrass show at the ORIGINAL building for the Grand Ole Opry, at a nice little theatre built a hundred and fifty years ago.  Then LibertyCon tomorrow.

So that’s where I went. I’m having fun. But I’m writing a lot too 🙂 . See you soon!

LibertyCon Schedule – June 30th, Chattanooga TN!

I’ll be going to libertycon this weekend, and I’ll be in Nashville a couple of days before that to go see the Charlie Daniels Band and watch the Nashville Sounds play baseball. I actually have a pretty packed schedule but I’ll do my best to make time for everyone.

At libertycon:

 

Day Time Name of Event
Fri 03:00PM Author’s Alley (Arroz, Bragg/Daniel Butler, Gibbons, Grant, Mays)
Fri 05:00PM Opening Ceremonies
Fri 07:00PM Star Realms Tournament
Sat 10:00AM Autograph Session (Arroz. Mandragora, Ringo)
Sat 12:00PM What’s New in the World of Steampunk
Sat 04:00PM Retro-Futurist Alternate History Reprise
Sat 08:00PM Reading: Jonathan Del Arroz & Mark Fults
Sat 09:00PM AESC & Thorn Publishing Party / “For a Fistful of Credits” Book Launch Party and Mass Autograph Session
Sat 10:00PM Author’s Alley (K. Bogen, Del Arroz, Gilliam, McKeown, Wacks)
Sun 10:00AM Kaffeeklatsch  

 

As I mentioned, a pretty packed schedule. What a great way to cap off #SteampunkMonth with a “What’s New In the World of Steampunk” and “Retro-Futurist” panel! Should be a lot of fun and I’m very excited to talk with great authors like Gail Martin and Lou Antonelli on the topic.

The big deal is actually going to be the Saturday night party for the For A Fistful Of Credits book launch. I have a 10,000 word story in this anthology — and it’s some of the best work I’ve written. Highly recommend heading to this as it’s going to be most of the authors in this anthology getting together for the first and perhaps only time. I’ll have amazon details on the book when it’s available.

LibertyCon is sold out, so if you were on the fence… I’m sorry! There may be a handful of people who can’t go so contact the organizers. Hope to see you all there!

Social Media Strategy: Crowd Source Fun Things!

Something I do that’s different that I don’t see a lot of other authors do is crowd sourcing. “How do you crowd source books?” one might ask.

I actually do it fairly regularly. I give my readers voices in what blogs they want to see and what I’ll write about if I have multiple ideas, usually taking the most votes for what I write on that day. I also give a little bit of say in my fiction.

When I was finishing up For Steam And Country, I actually had several names I liked for the book. The original title was simply The Adventures of Baron Von Monocle, which I later determined to be better as a series title. I also used Zaira’s Airship, but I didn’t want to deail with people having to try to spell “Zaira” and “Del Arroz” at the same time Amazon. Trust me, no one would have ever found my book!

So I had a few good titles, For Steam And Country in my opinion was the strongest of that, but really at the end of the day a title, it’s most important what the readers like. So I put up a poll. I threw down a few other names I thought of, and it was actually a pretty tight vote, but For Steam And Country won out, and now you have that as the title of the book!

Today, I’m doing it for my space opera. I’ve got a character and I was interested in what name sounded best for an alient supporting character female. It’s a little thing, but my readers actually have a small say in what happens in my book.

Now does this do much? I don’t know. People seem to like it. Every time I run one of these I get more people voting than the last.  Which is engagement on social media, which means at the very least, people are paying attention and remember. That’s not a bad thing. At the most, someone got to help shape my book and that means they’re going to be more passionate about the final product.

It lets me interact with folk as well, which is fun. And fun is what counts.

There’s all these social media marketing books out there, and i’m sure most of them would be telling me I’m doing it wrong, but it keeps seeming to work. Try it, let me know what you think of the engagement!

Psalm 40

Many of you probably don’t know it, but it’s been a rather hard week for me. I don’t say much about things like that, because I am a firm believer that mindset, energy, pushing toward goals are the way to overcome things. There’s also trusting in God.

Instead of reading the news every morning, I’ve been reading a Psalm of David, the first great King of Isreal way back in the day. He collected and wrote several praises and songs meant to inspire us, and see us through tough times. God is always there, and will help us in our time of need. That is exciting in and of itself!

I’m low on time today, so here’s David’s words from Psalm 40 which I read this morning:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

Blessed is the one
    who trusts in the Lord,
who does not look to the proud,
    to those who turn aside to false gods.[b]
Many, Lord my God,
    are the wonders you have done,
    the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
    were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
    they would be too many to declare.

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
    but my ears you have opened[c]
    burnt offerings and sin offerings[d] you did not require.
Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
    it is written about me in the scroll.[e]
I desire to do your will, my God;
    your law is within my heart.”

I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
    I do not seal my lips, Lord,
    as you know.
10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
    I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
    from the great assembly.

11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord;
    may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
12 For troubles without number surround me;
    my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
    and my heart fails within me.
13 Be pleased to save me, Lord;
    come quickly, Lord, to help me.

14 May all who want to take my life
    be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
    be turned back in disgrace.
15 May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!”
    be appalled at their own shame.
16 But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
    “The Lord is great!”

17 But as for me, I am poor and needy;
    may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
    you are my God, do not delay.

#SteampunkMonth Review: The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis

The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis is a Steampunk war story about a woman who, by luck and her willingness to fight, becomes an airship captain. She is set up by the general, with his nephew Bernat being sent aboard to report on her and provide evidence she’s incompetent.

After the opening battle, the first third or so of the book progresses naturally along these lines with Josette trying to establish her command, and Bernat attempting to foil that, until it gets into the thick of the book where a great battle is promised and then delivered upon.

The plot is pretty straightforward so it’s a bit hard to talk about that without spoiling it, but those who want an epic steampunk war piece will not be disappointed. The amazon listing states this is in the tradition of Honor Harrington, and I think that despite the setting change from space to airships, this book delivers on that about perfectly. Fans of David Weber should absolutely love this.

For my personal tastes, the Weber-esque aspects were the weakest parts of the book. It goes into hefty detail on the workings of the airship, the procedures of the crew, etc. Now this isn’t bad writing by any means, it was all very competently done, but those stretches of pages don’t appeal to me, and they occupy large portions of the book’s real estate in hefty detail. That said, it will likely appeal to every other science fiction reader out there big time, so it’s understandable why it was written that way.

Where Bennis actually does quite well that goes beyond what Weber’s done in my opinion is provide a very excellent dichotomy of characters. Josette is rough, rugged and a hard worker to root for. Bernat at first may drive you crazy, and you’ll find yourself agreeing with Josette’s internal and external assessments of him, but he grows on you as his intelligence and wit are revealed. The side characters like Bernat’s lordly uncle and Jutes are well done and memorable also.

The best part of the book, however, is the tone. It’s so masterfully done and multi-dimensional. While it’s a very dark story, really highlighting the horrors of war and making a very gritty environment, the sense of humor and sarcasm from the characters makes a wonderful balance to that. I laughed out loud at several points during the book, which is very difficult to make me do. And at the same time I felt horrible for the characters for what they were thrust into. Being able to achieve both of those moods simultaneously is an incredible feat in writing. This adds a layer to the characters where they don’t just feel like military grunts.

It’s paced very well, and the developments are very nice in terms of the war. I wish we’d see a little bit more of the personal side of the characters, as things are hinted at but the focus stays very much on the war. That’s natural given the crazed state they’re in, but there are points where we could have seen just a little bit more of a push in that direction.

On the war itself, I do appreciate the author’s subtle anti-war messaging to it, the way that Bernat as a lordling really can’t explain what the war’s about and why it matters, nor can the military in Josette. They try, but the reasons are thin. They just have to destroy the enemy because. And sometimes our real wars feel like that in earnest, especially in the last few decades.  Josette’s sense of duty despite this is both admirable in points, and makes you want to scream at her to do something else – but it does always come off well developed and natural. This message didn’t come across as preachy at all either, which is a bonus.

On the flip side, I didn’t feel much sense of progress from Josette or Bernat internally. The latter gave up on his mission to destroy her, but didn’t really change or develop in much of a sense. Josette by the same token had her command firmed up, but the same in terms of lack of much internal development. And I didn’t get a great sense of resolution of the war – now this is consistent with the worldbuilding as the war is talked about as a multi-generational thing that never seems to end, but I would have liked a clearer resolution in that regard where I at least felt some progress was made one way or another.

There is one other message of the whole women are oppressed and held down and everyone’s sexist which is not subtle at all, and while at certain points of the book it can get a bit burdensome, I don’t find it as overwhelming as I have in some books. Still at this point, there are far too many books with that monolithic message where it rings propagandic from publishers in our society rather than ringing true, and it’s not fun to read in the least. For the majority of the book though, it doesn’t have much of an impact or cause too much of a problem.

The prose is about perfect. I mentioned the wit and humor at points, but the descriptions of all the airship components and the workings are really marvelous. You feel very immersed in the world as a reader, it’s incredible. This is a great steampunk fantasy world that’s sensible in every regard.

I’ve put a lot of criticism in here but the real reason for that is I was so immersed that I care about the book, settings, and characters. It’s very few and far between that a book makes me care to that level of detail or that I can envision so much of it so vividly.  I found all of it memorable, and extremely well done. I’ll go so far to say that this is the best book of 2017 to this point about halfway through the year. Highly recommended.

9/10

 

Speaking Out Against The Disavow and Disassociate Game

I’ve dealt with this game for a long time on a personal level, and see it going on elsewhere on a regular basis. Back in 2015, I wasn’t all that well known in the science fiction community. I had my group of friends locally, and was on the periphary of Anne McCaffrey’s sorta crew (who are the most wonderful people in the whole world I might add), but not to where I had much of a name for myself, despite having a couple of decent entertainment industry successes with my Flying Sparks comic, working for the Doomtown: Reloaded card game, and of course my big claim to fame, having sold a song I wrote/recorded to MTV’s Real World: New Orleans.

None of that mattered. I was still on the fan side of fandom at the time. And from a different perspective. I was warned over and over that I wouldn’t want to associate with Brad Torgersen, that he is single-handedly ruining fandom, that he was an awful person, that he makes people cry. It was was scary at the time. I was an aspiring novelist, trying to get published, i certainly didn’t want to be seen as someone who’s torching the science fiction community, did I?

I’ve never liked the gossip game. I didn’t then, and I don’t now. When someone talks that bad about someone, I try to see what the other side of the story is, I don’t take that as word. The only difference to me is when someone very personally hurts a friend of mine, loyalty exists there. But from what I saw, Mr. Torgersen never personally hurt anyone. So I went and talked to him.

And this is what I recommend doing: when you see this sorta thing going on, look at what the person who’s getting the “disavow and disassociate” treatment’s saying, be open, talk to the person. There is a human there, and it’s easy to see what they’re about. In multiple conversations with Mr. Torgersen, reading his writing, etc. I found that he is a stand up guy, cares passionately about what he believes in, and isn’t out to hurt a fly. It was the direct opposite of the narrative. He’s a wonderful individual and I’m quite happy to have picked up his books to support him. Since then, he’s become probably one of my top 3 if not favortie short fiction writer. Great writing skills and ideas on top of being a great person. He’s got my support for life.

That’s the kind of thing you’ll find if you take a step back from the rumor and pay attention to reality. The rumor mill, the passive aggressive attacks, the whispers behind peoples backs are not good for anyone. And it’s quite easy to put a stop to that.

What I’m getting at is the whole disavow game is ugly. There’s no point to it. It’s gossip. it’s Mean Giirls extrapolated into adulthood — where it shouldn’t exist at all. When I see it, I’m not going to play it, and you shouldn’t either. It keeps going, and now on this side of the fence where I’ve got a readership and a fanbase, I get even more people “concerned”about who I choose to associate with, as if it matters who my friends are.

It doesn’t. I’m sorry to say to the concerned people out there that “associating” hasn’t hurt me a single iota. My friends are my friends because I support them, and they support me. I am loyal to them, and someone spreading gossip and rumor to me is not going to change that. I’m not going to engage in that, and I’m never going to attack my friends.

I call on everyone to step up to this sort of thing. Especially those of us on the periphary of publishing, in independent entertainment. It’s hard enough with the entire establishment barking at us to tear us down without us eating our own. There’s no reason to do that, there’s no leadership or power strucutres that need to be maintained here. It’s the wild west of entertainment, and we either have each other’s backs or we don’t. I’d much prefer a gorup that has my back, even if it’s a smaller one, and you should too. That’s what will make us all stronger in the end.

#Steampunk Month Retro Anime Review: Steamboy

The first comment my wife made for this movie was during the opening crawl, where she said “why is it that all these take place in Manchester, 1866.” Too true. Then again, she watches primarily BBC historical dramas, which all seem to take place in such a setting. This took a different take.

I watched the dubbed version becuase I couldn’t resist Patrick Stewart, which I found to be good. It was weird hearing an english accent iwth translated dialogue and lips that didn’t move quite right, but I’ll forgive that as a necessity of the movie.

This is the story about a boy who gets a mysterious package of some steam tech that his father/grandfather were developing. People are chasing after it because it can be used as war weapons, and he goes on an adventure to a world’s fair kind of set up that it escalates further into people tyring to steal tech, automotons attacking, and a giant steam castle that moves through the air and causes all sorts of havoc.

I found it interesting how all the charactesr talked about science as relgiion, almost creepily so. They kept saying science shouldn’t fall into the wrong hands, science would be gbest for humanity, this is the age of science! The mantra feels a lot like certain groups today, and it leads to the hubris and ultimate destruction wrought in the film.

The main character boy was cool. I liked everything about him, his initiative, his smarts, his willingness to defend himself. The O’Hara girl got kinda annoying at points, and the father and grandfather were downright stubborn. I’m still not sure what to conclude of it as the story while it follows a very linear path that’s predictable with the machinery, doesn’t really resolve the elements of the familial aspects that are inteesting at the beginning. They all kind of work together later, but the ultimate resolution is unsatisfying.

Overall, the pacing is pretty good, I liked the main character to watch all the way through, art was pretty decent, and I loved the steam tech all over the place–those concepts were awesome, but it was missing something that made it something to connect to in a big way like I had with Akira, one of Otomo’s other films. I know he took a long time to work on this, but the story could have been better honed. It’s worth a watch once, but probably not multiple times.

7/10

Chirs Kennedy’s Asbaran Solutions on Audio!

Really not posting this for any other reason other than I’m excited to listen to this. I loved Book 1 in this universe, written by Mark Wandrey, and since I did that on audio, I like to follow the stories in the same format. This just came out, and I’m super pumped to listen. My audiobook queue is getting as long as my reading queue now! Check it out here. Folk who like my stuff will probably love this:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071GD4MLM

Writing Blog – On Character Voice and Perspective

I know I said I wasn’t going to write a blog today, but I just got the best compliment probably I’ve ever received. I was told by a reader that For Steam And Country in terms of prose, writing, tone looked NOTHING like Star Realms: Rescue Run. The reader couldn’t believe it was written by the same person.

How is that a compliment, you ask?

Here’s why, and here’s what’s important for writers:

I’ll note it wasn’t about the quality of the work, as the reader said they are enjoying both. It’s all about drilling into a perspective for a character. I actually spend a lot of time and work thinking about the character ahead of time, planning things out, coming up with details of their lives — especially with perspective characters. This gets repeated at a lot by folk in writing classes, but you really should know the little things like “what will this character say if they bump their knee on a coffee table when they get up in the middle of the night?”  Those little things, and being consistent with them, make for a good character that feels more real to a reader, allowing them to connect.

If you look at my lead female characters in Star Realms vs. For Steam And Country, there’s some similarities but major differences:

  • Joan is ex-military, therefore she’s had a very rigid and formalized training structure, where Zaira has grown up all on her own on a farm.
  • Zaira grows her own food, has a pet animal, and is also a LOT younger (16) so still has a little “bright eyes toward the future” element about her.
  • Joan relies on an AI for a lot of her work, being from a futuristic society, not as much in with the manual labor elements of a fantasy society.
  • Zaira’s got a best friend pal she’s grown up with and is dealing with hormonal changes in how she views that relationship.
  • Joan is more educated than Zaira is.

These all seem like very easy to make observations that won’t impact much, bjut it will inform the way they talk, act, and think. Zaira uses shorter sentences with less of a vocabulary — and that includes outside of the dialogue as the book is writtien her perspective. She’s also more excitable and more prone to emotionally react in the way she narrates.

I start with these differences in the draft, and i go back and do a special editing pass just for word choices, sentence structures, the way they talk to make them feel like a unique person, thinking about the curses they use (or don’t), phrases and sayings that they utter, it’s all very important and it shapes their stories.

Hope this was helpful to someone out there! Right now I’m in the middle of wirting about a man who grew up in a religious institution who has a body filled with nanites that create weapons and armor to his will. I bet you he’ll feel even more different than these two gals do 🙂

Great Book Launch!

Thanks again to everyone who bought For Steam And Country. Please remember to review on Amazon and Goodreads — it’s most important to have reviews when people are looking at it, like now. Write to what you know, edit it later. It’s a promotional tool, that’s all reviews are for, don’t have to overthink it.

I’m way too tired after working about 24 hours on marketing to post much substantive today. We’ll resume #SteampunkMonth posting on Monday with some cool topics 🙂