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: http://www.bethcato.com/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Beth-Cato/e/B006S84MNO

And note that her novel, Breath of Earth is my recommendation for the Dragon Award for Best Alternate History. Vote Beth here! http://application.dragoncon.org/dc_fan_awards_nominations.php

Jon Del Arroz: http://www.delarroz.com
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Jon-Del-Arroz/e/B01NBOZVCP

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! http://application.dragoncon.org/dc_fan_awards_nominations.php

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:  https://www.amazon.com/Drown-Cat-Authors-Writing-Beyond-ebook/dp/B071GDVVS9

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: http://bit.ly/forsteamandcountry 

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:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35378932-for-steam-and-country

Again thanks everyone so much especially folk in Realm Makers, CLFA, Gab.ai, 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:

http://www.uprisingreview.com/battle-cry-liliana/  (Most important! read this with the book!)

Guest Posts:

http://www.castaliahouse.com/steampunkmonth-recovering-a-genre-that-never-existed-by-jon-del-arroz/

http://maryrobinettekowal.com/journal/favorite-bit-jon-del-arroz-talks-steam-country/

http://jimbossffreviews.blogspot.com/2017/06/writing-from-different-perspective.html

 

The Awesome Music Video:

https://benzwycky.com/tag/for-steam-and-country/

 

Sample Of Audio :

http://www.superversivesf.com/2017/05/25/one-page-podcast-steam-country-jon-del-arroz/

 

Interviews:

https://brefaucheux.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/congrats-to-jon-del-arroz/

https://www.oddnugget.com/steam-powered-prose-jon-del-arroz-writer-interviews-1/

http://www.uprisingreview.com/author-interview-jon-del-arroz/

https://daniel-humphreys.net/2017/06/15/new-release-day-for-steam-and-country/

Reviews:

https://thecatholicgeeks.com/2017/06/15/review-of-jon-del-arrozs-for-steam-and-country/

http://www.steampunkchronicle.com/ArticleView/tabid/238/ArticleId/637/A-Maiden-Voyage.aspx

http://injusticegamer.blogspot.com/2017/06/injustice-quick-reviews-28.html

 

Mentions:

http://injusticegamer.blogspot.com/2017/06/injustice-quick-reviews-28.html

http://www.ljagilamplighter.com/2017/06/15/signal-boost-for-steam-and-country/

http://www.scifiwright.com/2017/06/for-steam-and-country-by-jon-del-arroz/

https://pjmedia.com/instapundit/267264/

http://www.bookhorde.org/2017/06/new-release-with-excerpt-for-steam-and.html

http://www.museled.com/2017/05/announcing-for-steam-and-country-by-jon.html

http://jimfear138.blogspot.com/2017/06/for-steam-and-country-is-available.html

 

 

#Steampunk Month Guest Post: Author J.M. Anjewierden

This marks the first time I’ve ever had a guest post on my blog. Not sure how often I’ll do it but I saw that J.M. here had a really awesome Steampunk novel released this week, and invited him to come talk about his release a little bit. The book is Penny Dreadful and the Clockwork Copper, and it is available now on Amazon here.

 

Here’s what J.M. Anjewierden has to say about Steampunk and Penny Dreadful:

Steampunk Month. What a time to be alive! While I’m mostly here to talk about my own new Steampunk novel I’m going to cover some other ground as well, so strap in.

First, who am I?

Well, glad you asked. I am J. M. Anjewierden, author extraordinaire, librarian defender of truly free speech, and possessor of the magnificent beard of mystery.

I have two books out this year, the first of which is ‘The Long Black,’ a Space Opera/Blue Collar story about a starship mechanic, but that’s not why we’re here today. Oh no. You want to hear about the other one, the newly released ‘Penny Dreadful and the Clockwork Copper.’

(Blurb) Viva-3 was built to discover secrets. But they made her too well. She’s the perfect spy: the lethality and persistence of the police clockworks in a body that can pass as human. What the Empire’s police don’t know is that she doesn’t have to obey their orders or her programming. She can think and decide for herself. And she’s doomed if they find out.

Viva is sent undercover with orders to unmask the city’s vigilante hero, Penny Dreadful. She is supposed to stop his one-man war against the criminals of Monte-Ostrum. It will be dangerous, but just maybe Dreadful will be more useful as an ally rather than an enemy… (End Blurb)

 

Penny Dreadful is, of course, a familiar term to any long-time fan of Steampunk, and literature in general. Most recently attached to a horror TV show, it originally was a term for the cheap mass produced stories sold for – of course – a penny.

So that is reason number one for referencing that in my work: The Penny Dreadfuls were the Pulps of their day, and I am firmly in the camp that the Pulps were the Golden Age of SF/F, and further that ebooks represent a chance to recapture the best parts of the Pulp Era. Especially since digital publishing frees the author from the limited publishing schedule of the major houses, often only one book per year. As with anything else, practice makes perfect, and an author who can put out five, six, or more books a year will generally be able to improve their product faster than someone limited to one new release each year.

As for the other reason, well, that requires I bring in my lovely editor, Miss CJ, whose day job is writing for the Chicks on the Right website. (Yep. I married my editor. Very much a time saver, assuming she doesn’t start to go soft on the parts I write none too good. I think we’ll be fine though, I married her first: Most authors who run into trouble with editors no longer editing harshly enough married them second.)

Miss CJ: Penny Dreadful came about – believe it or not – based on a character from a tabletop RPG we tried out with our gaming group. We spent several sessions playing “Airship Pirates,” an indie published steampunk RPG set in the world of the band Abney Park.

I came up with a character who was part of the nobility, but who tired of the tediousness of noble life and wanted to do something more than simply “be a noble.” Also – the character needed skills to serve on a crew of airship pirates. This character spun out into the vigilante, Penny Dreadful. It’s always sounded like a name to do something fun with (and if you read the book, you might also notice there’s also some clever pun work at play. Spoilers, sweeties). Also, it was hilarious during the course of our RPG campaign to have Penny Dreadful run into “fans” who’d read about Penny Dreadful’s adventures in penny dreadful novels.

  1. M.: Yep, Penny Dreadful started out as an RPG character. Honestly, I imagine there quite a few characters and series kicking around that started the same way.

There is an interesting thing to point out with RPG conversions, though. I’m sure you all know that video game movies are just about always rubbish, right?

Have you ever wondered why that is? True, part of it is simply that the producers and directors (and screenplay writers) often have no idea what makes the property tick, but it also goes back to what the medium does well, and does not do well. Video Games (like RPGs) derive a lot of their impact for the audience because of choices, and potential choices. Do I play a wizard, or a fighter? Do I sneak into the building, or go in guns blazing? Those choices give the narrative more impact, because the player will always wonder, what would have happened if…

With a film or TV series that element of choice is lost. Without it the power of the narrative starts to weaken, and that is dangerous because that strong narrative is often all that sustains the property through long bouts of (gloriously) gratuitous fight scenes.

That’s why, in my not so humble opinion, I find that the best adaptations of RPG characters and worlds pointedly focus on things other than the actual game campaign. They might be prequels, or sequels, or origin stories. They might also just take the setting and run with it in new and interesting ways.

In my case I adapted the origin story rather than the campaign arc. Yeah, at the beginning of the game the characters are on an airship working as Sky Pirates, (it is in the name after all) but that isn’t where they started. That is the story of Penny Dreadful and the Clockwork Copper.

Also, I stress to add, I adapted the backstory because I have no desire to steal the creations of Abney Park. They are one of my favorite bands, and their Steampunk is freaking awesome. Aside from having airships and pirates in said airships there is not much in common between the setting they present in their fun RPG and in my book.

In fact, while I already have a rough outline for the next book in the series, it has nothing to do with the campaign we played last year. That story will probably never appear in the sequels. Funnily enough, as a writer I have all those same choices and more as I do when playing a game, and those what ifs have siren calls…

One other thing I wanted to touch on, and I promise this is the last one, since if I indulge in any more tangents you’ll be here all day. (Or more likely not. Better I don’t wear out my welcome.)

Clockwork Copper, why call them that? Part of it is obvious, Cop(per) has been a nickname for the police for quite a long time, and applying it to an artificial policeman actually made out of metal was too good to pass up.

Of course, as the blurb notes, Viva-3 is a copper, but not a metal one. The first instinct would be to name them something else, but stop and think about it. Words persist long after the reasons for their original meaning is no longer relevant.

Heck, just look at the save icon in pretty much any program you use. When was the last time you actually had to put in a 3.5” floppy disk to save? Yet the icon persists.

So, yeah, referring to flesh and bone constructs as clockworks is silly, but no more silly than talking about Xeroxes, or using a floppy disk as the save icon.

As the joke goes, ‘Fiction is harder to write than reality. Fiction has to make sense.” That’s true in a lot of ways, but I find that adding a bit of that real life weirdness into books helps them feel a bit more real to the readers, and of course that helps you enjoy them more.

And after all, it’s my job to entertain you.

And this monkey intends to keep on dancing.