For Steam And Country – Now on Kindle Unlimited

I had a great conversation with my publisher today and with the exciting news about the Dragon Award nomination for Star Realms: Rescue Run, we agreed it’d be a great thing to run a promotion for my other novel, For Steam And Country. If you haven’t checked it out, go do so! It’s extremely well reviewed and free!

YA vs. “Real” Sci-Fi and Fantasy: It’s about Mindset

I’ve been watching the trends in the publishing industry for the last several years, and it’s interesting to watch the way that readers and fellow authors respond to different works and the like. The divide between YA and “adult” fiction (I use the ironic quotes because YA really doesn’t mean less adult content or themes in terms of reading) actually comes down to a little bit of a mindset element like I was talking about between new indies and old guard publishing a couple weeks ago.

Now the YA community environment is heating up politically to some extent, with sensitivity readers and reviewers labeling books as problematic, which has caused quite a stir there, but for the most part, unlike adult fiction, the readership itself hasn’t been drawn into this jaded war of ideology. I don’t see regular readers shaking fists at messages, demanding more messages, or the like in YA. Some of the editors may be going off on “cultural appropriation” but I see it as the adult fiction trying to get its greedy fingers into the pie and corrupt the genre with their jadedness more than the genre itself lending itself to that. Most the YA readers I find want to sit down, have a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and read for fun. And that mindset is actually pretty refreshing.

When I released For Steam And Country, I was able to see this divide firsthand in authors/readers who checked out the book. I’ll start by saying I’m not intending on criticizing my readers or saying anyone’s wrong, but there is a mindset differential in the way that people responded based on their reading preferences. YA readers ate up the book, almost zero complaints about it, and it was incredibly well received. The more “hard” science fiction readers who came over to me from my last book for the most part enjoyed it as well, but usually there was a caveat or two with that enjoyment where I found a lot of nitpicking and criticisms of different elements of the book (sometimes people reaching totally opposite critical conclusions about the exact same things!).

A good author friend of mine, for example, said he didn’t buy into the book because the whole concept of a farmer girl going and being given command of some aerial weapon of war without any experience didn’t ring true to him.

I may have lifted that concept from somewhere. 🙂  It was an interesting complaint to receive. I don’t think he’s wrong, by the way, but the height of great fiction to me has always been ordinary people doing the extraordinary. But that level of critique when compared with something like Star Wars, again fiction meant for a YA-ish audience if we drill into it, would probably receive similar heavy criticism from a sci-fi literary audience if it were released now under a different name.

It actually is a change from the way Sci-fi used to be from prior to the 80s to now. In the old days,fun adventure, exciting characters and their circumstances used to be what was dominant in the field, and was subsequently replaced by extreme vetting of what “could really happen” that began with jaded industry insiders, and trickled into the ever diminishing SF/F reading public. This is the exact reason why science fiction has been bleeding readers for years — as most people who do want to read do so for escape, and for fun, they don’t want to be bogged down in perceived real world problems extrapolated into space and made into dark, gritty, angry messages that revolve around heavy scientific concepts that may or may not be feasible anyway.

YA allows the adventure to flow. At the start of reading Sarah Maas’s Throne of Glass, it’s easy to see that she has a few qualities: 1. She’s set up a character you get attached to 2. the pacing is near-frantic and completely unrealistic, but fun 3. it’s got compelling action both in the fighting sense and in the romance sense. It leads to something that someone wants to devour. If I scrutinized every single aspect of every element of the culture and world, I’d find something wrong that I could pick apart as “unrealistic”, but because it’s YA, we get a pass where we don’t have to do that. I’d posit that this story is as good or better than anything in the “real” SF/F field even so. And by the number of readers she has vs. the number of readers the more jaded SF people have, the public agrees.

The focus on character and driving plot is essential. YA does this with a big goal in mind: evoking an emotional response in the reader. The authors, by the way they write, appear almost care about nothing else. They’re not so wrapped up in their world building exercises that they bog a story down, they don’t focus so hard on metaphors and social engineering to try to create faux-literary nonsense which doesn’t stand the test of time anyway. They’re not caught up in the politics of the moment, but they’re out to create something enjoyable that they can relate to and so can their readers.

The mindset of these YA authors I’ve met and talked to is very similar to the #PulpRevolution crowd. They’re excited for fiction, in love with the work. They gush about other authors in the field and it’s really nice to see rather than the constant in-fighting of the science fiction community who seem to have this fear that there’s only so many slots for “real writers” and therefore tear each other down. These attitudes come across in the fiction as much as they do in the internet world.

I think that writers have a lot they can learn from YA, and should check out some of these authors for the sake of using elements to incorporate into their own fiction. It’s imperative if they want to survive in this ever competitive world, where YA fiction. because of its fun-factor. takes up an increasingly large slice of the pie. A few recommendations:

Laurie Forest – Wandfasted

Sarah J. Maas – Throne of Glass

Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games  (the series that really got this genre going!)

Brandon Sanderson – Steelheart 

All of these books incorporate fun, have action + romance, and really make you feel for their main characters. The worlds if you break them down all the way might not be “realistic” but as a backdrop for the story, which is all worlds are meant to be, they are intriguing and help propel it along.


When They Make The Point Better Than You Can

Doctor Who. I don’t need to say more. You’re already triggered. So we’ll move on from there.

I made a post on social media, a cheeky one out of amusement, that posited that Donald Glover should play Wonder Woman, and if anyone disagreed, they were by default racist and sexist. Nothing about the above BBC public television program, just this.

I’d say you’ll never believe what happened next, but exactly what I expected to happen happened next: everyone in the SocJus crowd who still bothers to associate with me came out of the woodwork to flip out about the matter. I not only affronted their new cause-of-the-moment — which is, seriously just the changing of a long time kids program television character — but I affronted another sacred cow, the Woman Of Wonder. It was doubly funny because Donald Glover caused a bit of a hooballoo about wanting to play Spider-Man years back, and caused this fake panic among SocJus types with that as well. A twofer.

I’ll note that there is no real racism or sexism or ism-ism involved on either side here, but just silly stupid reactions to something that doesn’t matter. The point holds though: if this woman can play a traditionally male character Doctor Who, a black man should certainly be just as capable of playing Wonder Woman. This is where the SocJus crowd should surprise you, but it won’t: they are absolutely horrifically opposed to the concept.

Because Wonder Woman is supposed to be a woman, which is the very thing they’re smugly proclaiming that anyone who doesn’t like this recent casting is saying in reverse about Doctor Who, while in the same breath calling them all sorts of names. The best part of this all is they default to a lower level aspect of this, the fantasy content specifics: that this is an alien time lord so that there’s nothing that says he’s supposed to be a man. They have this as a fallback to say it’s not political, their very public virtue signalling about this casting, because of it, even though they only reason they’re doing so is a gloating political purpose. And of course, the only reason the show is doing it is for a political virtue signal so that you and I talk about it on the internet.

But what’s great about this, these both being fictional heroes with superpowers, is that the core of the argument is that Wonder Woman cannot change her sex because it would undermine the character to change that, because she is not an alien being. Of course, the answer to it, is just, rewrite her as an alien being who can change her sex.

Imagine if someone did that, the outcry that they’d have about how wrong this is. These folk forget the history, that Doctor Who wrote this very alien regeneration into the storyline later to justify the changing of actors for the role (most these viewers don’t actually watch the old show so they may not know this). Therefore, what’s good for the goose, is good for the gander. And both don’t matter, because any writer can write any change at any time with legacy characters. It’s just when it’s political nonsense as a motivation, attempting to get a few short-term watches, clicks, sales, whatever, it annoys people.

Most people don’t like big changes to iconic, generations spanning characters, not because of a racist sexist ist-ist motivation, but because there is a certain amount of change that makes a character into a different character. These problems are always solved by just making your own thing, instead of trying to take a classic and morph it into something else that it’s not.

I have a great analysis of how Marvel Comics used this trick for years to try to get rubberneckers to tune in, and it ended with steadily declining long terms sales. You can read it here.

Now watch as the “nuh uh!” hate comments come in about how I’m just absolutely terrible for even suggesting to change such a sacred icon, and that they in NO WAY have political feelings about Doctor Who, but love to champion the sex change of the character anyway.

And if you’re really interested in great female characters. I am told I wrote a couple without having to make any political thing out of it, that appeals to left and right readers alike because it’s just about a fun story. Most of my readers would likely rank it better than the upcoming season of Doctor Who.

Geekchats: All Things Steampunk with Beth Cato!

Tomorrow, Tuesday June 11th at 12 PM PST, I have a very special guest on for Geekchats, author Beth Cato, famous for her Clockwork Dagger and Blood of Earth series, some of the best steampunk and alt-history around. We’re going to chat all things steampunk from tropes to alt-history to final fantasy and back again. Full disclaimer: I have never received any cookies or other baked goods from Ms. Cato.

Watch below:


Beth Cato:

And note that her novel, Breath of Earth is my recommendation for the Dragon Award for Best Alternate History. Vote Beth here!

Jon Del Arroz:

And my Star Realms: Rescue Run is making great traction toward best military science fiction or fantasy for the dragons as well. Only a couple weeks left to nominate!

Drown The Cat – The Writer’s Guide For The #PulpRevolution


Doing a post on writing advice this morning reminded me of a new release this week, something that flies in the face of conventional “how to write” guides, focusing on dialing in the passion of a writer. Drown The Cat quite intentionally parodies the title of Save The Cat, the writing guide that so many authors use–a book that in a lot of ways has produced monotone, boring fiction from a good portion of the industry.

I’ve read Drown The Cat, and it hits the points that every new writer should learn in their journey, most importantly encouraging writers to be themselves. It’s very easy to read, and well organized and formatted. There are some standard writing points in there, but this encourages you to stretch your mind more than follow everyone else in the field. Though he’s not as keen on wall-to-wall action as many of us, this IS the writing guide for the Pulp Revolution.

If you don’t know who Dario is, it’s a shame. He is one of the best editors in science fiction and fantasy, and very few have heard of him. If you can hire him, do it, you won’t regret it. He’s edited Doug Sharp’s Channel Zilch, which is one of the most unique and innovative science fiction works of our time, as well as Bonnie Randall’s Divinity and the Python, of which is a great work of horror/romance fiction every writer could and should read as a study in how to write characters readers connect with. He’s got his own fiction as well, of which I equally hail. Bottom line is, if you want to improve your fiction fast as a new writer, you should listen to his writing advice.

Check out the book here:

On Writing: Character, Character, Character

I used to worry heavily about concepts, about extreme details about setting, worldbuilding, plot, and pacing. All of those things are nice, and when they come together, they can make for a fine book, but what differentiates a book most readers find good or even great, is having a relatable protagonist that people can care about. What you do with your viewpoint character is everything in terms of how someone connects with or doesn’t connect with a book.

I’ve done a couple different genres, though they’re both within the fantastic, readers don’t usually cross over between science fiction and a YA steampunk fantasy, but in my case, they did. And actually, though I receive many comments “I don’t usually like YA or steampunk” the vast majority of readers tell me they liked my book anyway. It’s because of the attention to character.

I’m in beta reads for a novella that is actually completely different than anything else I’ve ever done. It’s frightening. The style is almost contrary to what I write. What I’ve found is that despite my fears, every one of my readers has loved it so far and recommends I release it with only minor editing. Why? I spent a good amount of time ensuring that the character feels as real as possible

There’s a couple of things I discovered of how to do that:

  1. Keep the viewpoint tight. Close your eyes. Pretend you are the viewpoint character. Experience what they experience and how they do it. Make sure that you don’t drift around in that, it should be focused in a character’s world at all times. What are they feeling? What’s around them? What’s it smell like? These things are important.
  2. Add in a couple of things a character is passionate about. I have one story where it’s baseball, another where it’s gardening. Even though a lot of my readers probably don’t care about either of those things, they understand the feeling of caring that intensely—and that’s what’s important. It doesn’t have to directly reflect in the plot, though if one does it’s helpful.
  3. Relations are important. Does the protagonist have family? An amazing friend? A pet ferret they love? Those are things we all think about, and if your character is thinking about them, people will connect to that sensation.
  4. Details are everything. When your character’s stomach is grumbling, what is he thinking about eating? You don’t need to overwhelm your work but if you have 2-3 of these, just like passions, the character will come across as more real.
  5. Purge words that take you out of that “He knew” “He saw that” “He understood”. Those things are obvious to a sentence from in a perspective.

Most problems I have in fiction is when the work is communicated dryly, and doesn’t have the above points. This happens a lot, especially in short stories, as writers in those works often feel that they have to cut character expressions to keep the story tight. This ruins stories, and is why most short fiction is unreadable these days. Go look at Anne McCaffrey and Spider Robinson’s short stories. They do NOT cut their character points in any of their great short works. The modern minimalist way of communicating a plot for a plot twist is boring and overdone, and is why no one reads short fiction (but that’s another story for another blog…).

Even in action scenes, the way a character thinks, feels, reacts is important. If you just communicate the events as they happen, it will read like a news report, and cause a reader’s eyes to glaze over. You’ll note that even news reports don’t do that anymore, but work on sensationally tugging at your emotions. The way the characters feel during these scenes is very important in the same manner. In action, however, be careful not to have so much thought that it slows things down. It’s a fine balance, but very achievable.

There’s a big difference how you feel when you read:

He hit me in the face. My cheekbone cracked. I raised my fists and jabbed back.

He hit me in the face. I heard my cheekbone crack. Pain erupted through my face as it began to swell. I wouldn’t let this bastard get away with it. I raised my fists and jabbed back.

It can probably use some editing, but the emotional response actually supersedes editing. If you can capture that, the reader will forgive a lot more of your errors than if you don’t have that. It’s about the perspective.

Another common issue I see, especially with independent authors, is making the characters “the bad ass to end all badasses!” Confident characters are great, because it reflects confident writing, but that can only go so far. I actually made mistakes in my early drafts of my first couple books of having the characters be too realistic in how they reacted when they were thrust into situations beyond them. They whined, if only in internal monologue, and failed externally. It’s something to watch out for as well. This created a problem, but most fiction I see actually has the opposite of this.

I’ve read many a fiction where I start to parody the voice in my head. I get a gruff, deep voice and actually mock them with my wife, because they read like cheesy 80s action films. I preface this with “I’m a cop… and I’m a damn good one too.” when I read it. When the characters get so far into this bad assery attitude, some people do like it, but a lot of readers roll their eyes. It comes across as phony, because people have faults, people aren’t on 100% of the time. I’ve never seen someone in person talk about their navy seal background and how they can break the bones of terrorists before they can even blink while hanging out and having coffee. If someone did do that, I’d be frightened that they’re a sociopath. If your characters act like this in order to tell how awesome they are all the time, and then they have low stakes battles where they seem to be unable to lose, you’ll lose your readers in the same way.

Everyone gets scared. Everyone has fear. No one is an expert in everything. Communicate those moments and it will mitigate a lot of the above. Like anything else I mentioned, just a couple instances can change the whole perception of a scene or work.

The final thing I’ll note is the protagonist especially needs something for someone to root for. A reader wants to see that the person is a good person at heart – or just a person at heart depending on how it is. Showing their reaction to family, to pets, to friends, caring about something besides themselves or their direct goal at points adds little touches that help with this. The main character in the work I’ve been beta reading does a lot of charity work, for example. It doesn’t drive the plot so much, but it does drive how he reacts to certain elements of the plot, and that connects with a reader.

Some food for thought! Trust me, focusing on these things will improve the way readers react to your fiction.



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 🙂



For Steam And Country Media Round Up

Release day has gone AMAZING! We’re already up to #1 hot release for Steampunk books, which just floors me. As it stands now it’s hovering around #4,000 on Amazon overall (big!) and #4 in Steampunk overall. Huge thanks to everyone who picked the book up.

The book is here if you haven’t seen it. If you have, please leave a review now! Even if it’s short, write based on what you know. You can edit it later. What it does is shows people who are looking at Amazon that other folk are reading and approve of the book, which is huge for getting random folk to click: 

Also don’t forget to copy your reviews/ratings to goodreads, and add to the shelf there. If you want to spend more time, there’s lists, and if you upvote the book that’s a big help too:

Again thanks everyone so much especially folk in Realm Makers, CLFA,, Pulp Revolution, Superversive, Clockwork Alchemy and any other groups I may have missed.

Below is all the cool media coverage I’ve gotten all over the internet today (at least that I could remember, sorry if I missed your site, add to the comments if I did!)

For Steam And Country Media Round-Up:

Prequel Flash Fiction Story:  (Most important! read this with the book!)

Guest Posts:


The Awesome Music Video:


Sample Of Audio :