For Steam And Country Discussion At Lorehaven Books

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Lorehaven is a Christian book club highlighting sci-fi and fantasy books by Christian authors. I wrote an article for their speculative faith a couple of weeks ago, and a brief summary of what steampunk is that led on their site this morning, including a little bit about what I wanted out of the genre that’s missing.

It’s meant to kick off a discussion of my award winning novel, For Steam And Country, which they’re going to be running on their facebook group. Join up with the group as I’ll be discussing the book a little bit in depth over there, talking about different scenes and what I enjoyed about writing the book. If anyone’s got any questions it would be great to help spur discussion.

Book 2: The Blood of Giants is complete, cover’s done, just getting some proofreading done so we’ll have a sequel soon. It’s a great time to get on board and read For Steam And Country along with me and some other folk. Pick it up here if you haven’t already.

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Speculative Faith Article: Let’s Talk About Sex

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Speculative Faith, a Christian magazine dedicated to SF/F writing for Christian authors had me write an article. As sex is such a crucial plot component to The Stars Entwined, I decided to write about what I’ve seen in the Christian genres, and gave my thoughts on the place of sex in fiction.

Sex is a difficult topic in the Christian book community. A lot of readers demand pure, PG or even G rated content, and understandably so. But does sex have no place in Christian-authored work?

Often, Christian readers come out with pitchforks when the topic of sex is remotely broached in fiction.

Read more here.

If you’re intrigued, do check out The Stars Entwined. You’ll be… satisfied.

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Friend Friday: V.R. Konner On Overrepresentation of Minorities In Fiction

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Today we have a wonderful guest, V.R. Konner, who is an author and graphic designer responsible for the maps which will be in future installments of the Baron Von Monocle universe books. He stops by the blog today to talk about his experience in writing, and how he avoids the trope of overrepresentation which is used just to signal politics by so many authors.

I have noticed a creeping disease in Speculative Fiction. Ranging from simple over representation of specific demographics (that are only 2% of the actual population), to outright propaganda.

For example, socialism will never work because there’s always going to be that one job no one wants to do, and you expect us to believe someone’s doing it without pay? That it’s for the betterment of society? That he’ll grow as a human by scrubbing toilets?

Or how there’s a lack of male role models on these shows. If there’s a white straight male, he’s the bad guy, or at least of dubious morals. Westworld Season 2, for example; the only main white guy is the capitalistic black hat who is out to kill everyone for his own selfish reasons. The other white guy is a supporting character for the white woman who is on a mission of RIGHTOUS VENGENGE. The other female lead is out to save her daughter. And no surprise, she’s being helped by a pair of white guys in tow. The only good guy who has a main role is the poor confused African American robot caught in the middle, trying to hide his identity, least he is executed for who he is.

Another example is Star Trek: Discovery, aptly initialed STD, with the evil white Lorca, who has studied war, WAR, WAR! He’ll stop at nothing to get his way! Everyone is expendable! Then there’s the ditsy airhead white girl. But the gay guy is like SUPER SMART and sassy and he’s one of the heroes and they work together to save the poor mistreated tardigrade that is being abused by the Federation. Which, did you also notice the Federation is a little more gray in its morality? Of course, the heroine is a woman, colored, full on Mary Sue, and is oppressed by everyone. Even the vegan alien oppresses her. The most evil character of all, The Empress, is redeemed. An evil Klingon turned into a straight human kills the gay doctor, but even he gets his redemption, by following the Heroine of Color. And that’s not even touching on the obvious racist overtones of the Klingons, with their “Remain Klingon” chant. Remember, the directors flat out admitted they were representing conservatives.

Then there’s the Walking Dead quoting from the Quran. Awww, how adorbs. Quran quotes inspired the lead character to turn away from his evil sadistic vengeful ways, and forgive his enemy. They even had the white boy die to save a Muslim. Symbolic? Probably more so than some curtains being blue.

And don’t even get me started with the disaster of Disney’s Star Wars.

What we consistently see is the demonization of certain “identities” that hasn’t been done since the 50’s. A blatant and racist forced characterization that white straight men are evil, greedy, and care for nobody but themselves. Imperialistic and war mongering. GONE are the days of The Original Star Trek where people worked together in spite of their differences. Now, everyone’s differences are at the forefront, in the audience’s collective faces, and its only by following the hierarchy of modern day victimhood can the not quite so good guys succeed. Why do I say not quite so good? Because they aren’t. Everyone is now morally gray. The bad guys aren’t REALLY bad, they are just misunderstood. The good guys aren’t GOOD, they just have a different point of view. We need to compromise with our enemies.

Remember, “If we kill our enemies, they win.”

It is with all this in mind that I set out to write a book that showed the follies of socialism, the benefits of capitalism, the dangers of unbridled mass migration from a culture that is diametrically opposed to ours, and how a wide range group of people can work together without a care over the personal specifics of their “identity.” Yeah, the hero in my story may be a bit of an anti-hero, he might do things that are distasteful, but there is no doubt he is the GOOD GUY. The bad guys are THE BAD GUYS. I wrote the book I wanted to read. Our society needs an end to identity politics, and the idea that certain groups of people are automatically virtuous or despicable based on some minor characteristic.

Oryan’s Pact is the fruit of 2 years of my life dedicated to this idea. That capitalism can lift the poor, that working together for a common goal in spite of our minor differences is the only way we as a species can succeed.

Support our friends! You can buy Oryan’s Pact here. 

Three centuries after the Third World War, conflict has erupted once more. The forces of Earth are not respecting the rules of engagement, and the leaders of Mars are too cowardly to bring their superior firepower to bear. 

When Commander Jack Oryan and his Mars Orbital Defense crew are convicted of war crimes against Earth, they’re given a choice: redeem themselves by taking on a poorly planned mission for their bloated government, or rot in a reeducation facility. With tempers on edge and wavering loyalties, can Oryan find a way to complete their suicidal task?

 

 

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Should Authors Work In Multiple Genres?

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Like anything, it depends on your goals. Working as an author is a balance between art and commercial appeal, and so one has to keep both in mind while creating.

Over my one year span of releasing in the business, I’ve released works in three different subgenres of science fiction: Space Opera / Mil SF, Harder Sci-Fi, and Steampunk.  While those aren’t completely different genres like a mystery, sci-fi, and romance would be, the Amazon market is such that it splits into very specific readers. Even between the subgenres I write, readers rarely cross over.  And I see this is in my own reading habits. When coming up with awards nominations for the Dragon Awards, I find I rarely read fantasy or horror, even though those are considered by the wider audience to be within the same genre.

The Quick Answer Financially

So is it a good idea to even switch subgenres as I have? Financially, no. Amazon rewards you based on having books that look the same categorically, so they can sell it to a subset of customers. If you hop around, you’re both starting from scratch and Amazon isn’t helping cross promote your own books. It’s really best to just work within one series, keep them coming out, and having people keep finding those. It’s a simple, but very disciplined path, also one hard for an artist.

Amazon readers like to binge read, just like most people want to binge watch, binge drink, or binge whatever else they do. The truth is, staying in the same subgenre/series is very important to cultivating readership.

But There Are Other Reasons

There are other reasons to do so, beyond just strict sales ranking comparisons, and this is what an author has to weigh when writing, especially in early stages.

1. One never knows which subgenre will get hot over the next couple years. If you’re writing a hunger games clone now, you’re probably a little late to the game. That was hot a few years ago, but isn’t so much now. Maybe you have a book you didn’t sell when you were trying to approach big publishing, but you’re looking to put it up now, and that’s fine, but you may not want to spend your time pushing a series of that. It makes sense.

2. It’s easy to stagnate as an artist. You want to keep your books fresh. I have fun writing my steampunk books, but I have a LOT of other ideas too. So I like to get those out periodically and work on those in between working on my other books. Doing so makes it easier to come back to the steampunk world and not burn out in the process. However, it is best to stay focused when doing this so you have your main project and then your others. Your financial viability can be very tricky here.

3. Sometimes an idea is just too good not to pursue. This happened to me last year when I came up with my Deus Vult in Space concept. I just had to write it, and put everything else aside for the time. Are these rewarding? Time will tell. The idea has to connect with an audience for it to be worthy.

Timing Is Everything

Amazon rewards a writer for being fast these days. Ideally, you should be coming out with at least a trilogy in the same series/subgenre so that you establish yourself before drifting off. I didn’t have that luxury with the way my career began. I was working on someone else’s property with my first Military Sci-Fi book, the Dragon Award nominated Star Realms: Rescue Run. It meant it was up to the game company as to whether that would continue with sequels or not. While it was a great experience, it hampered my brand as an author to some extent when I was forced to hop around.

I caught up to my first work in sales on my award winning For Steam And Country, but it took some time establishing myself again as a Steampunk author. In my case, I had to come out with something quick because my brand was building rather quickly, and i needed another effort out there. Since the main series people were finding me for wasn’t an option, my next best work that was ready was what was important at the time. And it worked — over time, now I’m more known for being a Steampunk author. But my next problem was I didn’t expect this to become so popular, so I was working on more Space Opera / Mil SF over the summer. And now I’m in a multi-genre position.

It’s not ideal, but I’ve seen a lot of the industry over the process and have a firm handle on how it works now. Focus on your subgenre is definitely extremely important for financial success. It won’t kill you to vary a little as I have, my readers are very loyal and wonderful. But an author needs to be very careful nonetheless. If I ran out with a historical fiction novel for my next release, I think people would start to be making fists and demands at me (I’m not doing this!). Remember when you write a new genre, you are starting from scratch except with your readers who have bought into you personally. Most people want to read in their comfort areas, and those areas are small in variance. Know that the choices you make in releases will either have carry over for most readers, or they will not. And if you’re making informed decisions based on your own goals artistically and financially, you won’t go wrong.

This summer I’ll be going hard in my Steampunk universe. I’ll be coming out with books 2 and 3 of my award winning Adventures of Baron Von Monocle series, plus a novella featuring the main male lead from the series, which all started with For Steam And Country last year. Check it out here and get ready for the airship ride of your life.

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Flash Fiction Friday – “Fired Up In The Desert”

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I don’t usually write much random fiction in the middle of projects, but this popped into my head today. It’s extremely short, but I’ve been meaning to do a little more weird west and don’t have time for much so this hopefully will quench my thirst for awhile. Free to read, fresh off the word doc:

People associate the desert with heat, but at night, it gets so cold it can chill you to your bones.  It took a strong will to be able to survive. Cameron had been prospecting in the Arizona desert for weeks, but tonight, he couldn’t stop himself from shivering.  Twigs rested in a pile—the fruits of hours of labor in trying to assemble something flammable to quell the evening chill.

Cameron grabbed two stones and struck them together. They warmed in his hands, but he couldn’t get them to spark. The third time he tried, he smashed his fingertips between the stones. “Arg!” he shouted to the heavens. The sound of his voice died in the wind. No one would hear him. His fingers throbbed, and yet he had no fire. 

Angry, Cameron threw his stone to the ground. He needed a fire, or he wouldn’t survive the night. His fingertips pulsed with heat as the pain grew. He held his hand out over his piled sticks. If only he could will fire into existence, force the heat from his throbbing fingers into the wood.

He screamed again, and the twigs burst into flames. 

 

By the way, I’ve been putting out short stories every month on my Patreon, including a novella sequel to my award winning book, For Steam And Country this month. If you like my writing, you’ll love what comes through the pipeline here. Great science fiction and fantasy you can look forward to every month. At the very least, support my work for the sake of it! You can sign up here and get short stories for as low as $3/mo, which is less expensive than most authors. 

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CLFA Book Of The Year Award – Last Day To Vote!

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First off, for the 220+ people who have voted for For Steam And Country already, thank you so much! Super humbled, and energized to work hard to get you books 2-3 out this summer, and the James Gentry novella “Knight Training” which will be available to patreon subscribers tomorrow. 

But there’s just a few hours left to vote! It’s very close. Every book on this list is frankly wonderful, and well deserving. I’ve read almost all of them personally, and the ones I Haven’t I’m intending on reading before this year is through. The authors are top notch too, so I’m extremely honored that we’ve gotten this far.

https://conservativelibertarianfictionalliance.com/2018/04/02/time-to-vote-for-clfa-book-of-the-year-2018/

Is the link, it closes tonight. This would be another huge milestone for For Steam And Country and for me as an author, and would be a great signal boost for the series as always.

And if you haven’t checked out the book yet, what are you waiting for? It’s on Amazon and even on Audible as an audiobook with a killer reading done by voice actress Katie Wright. Thanks again and we’ll check back tomorrow to see who won.

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Why Disney Can’t Make A Good Star Wars Film To Save Their Soul

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Disney just can’t do Star Wars. They don’t understand it. And there’s a big reason why—they’re a soulless monolithic corporation trying to recapture nostalgia in a property that is really about intense spirituality. You can’t create spirituality if you have none.

Star Wars really fell off my radar after The Last Jedi, which I found not only to be a bad movie, but an insult to everything that Star Wars was. On the spirituality front, the whole message was a slap in the face to the religious, the spiritual. No matter what you do, evil will rise anyway, it’s pointless. You will fail. Nothing you do matters. Nihilism.  Those were everything we got not just from the movie universe all around, but from Luke Skywalker, who as a character in prior films, was all about being wide-eyed and child-like in his thirst for enlightenment and the spiritual. It’s a big 180 to the point where it doesn’t’ make sense from a character perspective, and that’s a big reason why the film comes across as such garbage. I know they technically explain it in the interactions with Kylo Ren in the past, but it’s thin, and Luke’s not shown as being very heroic in the past example either—he pretty much lies about the encounter. It’s all very messy, and anti-spiritual.

And the problem is you have an entire Hollywood who doesn’t understand spirituality. Nor do they understand religion. They act like the imperial officers who mock Lord Vader in the first film, calling it superstition, a hokey religion, etc. Vader just responds through action. Look at the power of faith. He says by choking them with nothing other than the force.

While Disney doesn’t understand faith from a business-side, the directors and their nihilism come at it from an even worse vantage, as mentioned before. The combination is a complete train wreck when it’s dealing with mythology. The Force Awakens sucked the soul out of the series, and The Last Jedi took that soul out back and beat it in an alley and left it for dead.  It’s frankly a worse mishandling of the properties than the prequels ever were.

But that perspective doesn’t understand Star Wars at all.

What brought this to my attention was a tweet by author, Scott Lynch, who is a very solid writer, but definitely comes from the dark-fantasy nihilism perspective, one that very much isn’t Star Wars. Someone mentioned “If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine” being an iconic line, but didn’t pay off—a person who doesn’t understand spiritualism. Lynch’s analysis is this (source, twitter):

I think it did, but you have to bear with me for a moment here. When Obi-Wan says this (IMHO), he’s not talking about anything he’s going to do himself. He’s not even talking about becoming a Force ghost and an afterlife tour guide/apologist. He’s talking about Luke, and he’s maneuvering himself quite specifically so that Luke will have a clear view of everything when Obi-Wan lowers his guard, closes his eyes, and gets cut down by Vader. Note the meaningful sideways glance before he gives in.

Let’s dissect this. One, he is talking about becoming a Force ghost, though putting it in accurate humanistic terms like that is missing the point of what he’s really becoming there. He is attaining pure enlightenment, becoming one with the force, or one with God as you will.  His concerns are not about Luke beating up Vader in a human sense. Those things are below enlightenment, below anything Obi-Wan or any Jedi is trying to accomplish. It’s off the mark because it ignores spirituality and religion as important to the movie’s messaging and subtext, which is because those aspects of life are not understood by Mr. Lynch.

It’s very similar to how Rian Johnson approaches these subjects, and it misses the point so far that it creates films that just feel completely wrong in the context of the originals.  Obi-Wan is not concerned about being an afterlife tour guide/apologist, this is true. He is becoming more powerful than ever because he’s removing his temporary earthly shell. If one can’t understand that basic premise of religion, of ascending, of complete transformation and glorification, one can’t understand the soul of what makes stories like the original Star Wars so great and resonate with so many.

The Guardian put out an article today saying there’s red flags on the new Han Solo movie. I could have told you that from the minute one was announced, because though Han plays the skeptic in the film, he deep down understands truth and righteousness, and comes to admit that to himself over the course of the trilogy – through the help of Luke and Leia guiding him and forcing him to reconcile that with himself. It’s a beautiful arc, but a new movie making him devoid of that spirituality is going to only end in disappointment, unless the people producing the film have a very real come to Jesus moment themselves.

If you like my perspective on character and story, you’ll probably like my books. Check out The Stars Entwined, a space opera that has characters who will grip you throughout the story.

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Space Opera Talk With David V. Stewart

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I went on author David V. Stewart’s youtube this weekend which did really great, over 1000 views.  We delved deep into writing and genre, and I think it was one of the more interesting streams I’ve recorded.

Now we’re about one week into The Stars Entwined‘s launch, which has gone really fantastic. Though I didn’t have as many guest blogs and the like as I did with For Steam And Country, the release was on par with it — and for Steam itself went crazy over the weekend, up to #2 in Steampunk, which is the highest it ever has been. So thank you everyone for checking out my books. Reviews have been stellar (pun intended) on The Stars Entwined also, which is really exciting. This universe really is my baby.

A lot more work ahead both with marketing and books, but the SF Elites out there are fast finding they can’t stop the signal because I produce too good of work for them to shut it down. And my readers are the best!

Here’s our chat if you missed it:

 

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For Steam And Country Is Award Nominated!

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Just a few days before the release of my next book, The Stars Entwined, I’m very honored to receive my first award nomination for For Steam And Country yesterday for the CLFA Book Of The Year Award. This Award is among 1700+ members and there was fierce competition as there were so many good books that came out in 2017.  This award really means a lot.

The audiobook just came out a couple weeks ago, and this book has just steadily sold well since last June to stellar reader reviews (almost to 100!). I think it’s a testament to the writing that there’s not one one or two star review — even with the amount of angry haters who harass me on a daily basis. It’s all been positive.

Book Two is being edited, and I think blows book 1 away. The couple of folk who have read it for feedback have told me you’ll be extremely satisfied with this outing. I’ve finished a side novella featuring James Gentry through first draft (Which will probably appear on patreon soon/first) and as you see on the side bar here, book 3 is about 25% written, so this will have a nice series to it by the middle of the year. Very much worth checking out now if you haven’t already.

It’s gonna be a great year, and we’re just getting started!

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Writing To Your Audience

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DC posted a strange tweet today regarding one of their comics, seeming to double down on the “we’re going to make comics without action that is just signaling identity politics” that’s spreading through the comic industry like cancer.  It made me think about writing to your audience, and the trouble the comic industry is having with doing just that, which is causing a good portion of their sales woes. As a lot of people here are interested in writing, I figured it’d be best to break down where your duty to your audience begins if you want to maintain/grow them, rather than turn them away.

For years, it was browbeat into me “strong female lead strong female lead strong female lead” to get published. This is true. If you want a contract with the dwindling number of New York publishers over the last 20 years, you have to do that — but as a male writer, it would be an uphill battle because they also then demand more “authentic” voices as if men can’t write females, even when they demand the females in their content act more like men.

As I was working to try to get published in this regard, I wrote my first three novels with, of course, strong female leads. You probably read them in Star Realms: Rescue Run and For Steam And Country. And you’ll see another in The Stars Entwined. Though, since my first books came out, I gained a substantive audience in the thousands, a large amount of my readers have seen how books in the last 20 years told them, as men, that they are overrepresented and they must read strong female leads! Every book has subsequently become such, saturating the market, and becoming stale to people who read science fiction.

While most of my readers (including my female readers) told me I write strong female leads very well, they let me know that they didn’t feel catered to in the content, and I took that in mind. The extremist identity politics folk love to use the phrase “not all stories have to be for YOU”, in an attempt to browbeat readers into reading something they don’t like or find fun, but I find this phrase is useful in another context, for authors.

I love kick ass chicks. It wasn’t hard for me to write them because that’s always what I wanted to visualize. My favorite DC character is Stephanie Brown — Spoiler, my favorite Marvel was the MC2 Spider-Girl. When I played WoW, I played a blood elf female because I wanted to look at that when I was spending hours a day — and not the backside of some dude.  So I was naturally predisposed in my imagination to do similar to my favorites. But my audience demands something different.

In The Stars Entwined I adjusted my original book in edits to boost the resourcefulness of the male lead (there’s 2 leads that co-star) so I could give my audience more of what they wanted. Showing that kind of nod to your audience is a good thing–because it lets them know you care about them, which is the most important part of building a brand. I personally really like having a couple of perspective characters so people can identify a bit better with them for a broader market, so I maintained that in this book without sacrificing what my readers want, and will have similar in the next book I come out with. Since I wrote the next one after I found my audience and I’m aware of them, I made some adjustments to my writing. I made the dude character more of a fighter, and have him be much more predominantly a strong male lead. My audience wants that, I’ll deliver. It’s the sensible thing to do for my business.

And that’s what being a content creator is about. If you want sustained business, you keep your soul certainly, because authenticity is important as well, but push your content so that the readers get what they want. I’ve done similar on my blog — I used to do periodic posts about baseball, my audience didn’t like that, so I stopped doing it. I’m similarly moving comic reviews off this site to Bounding Into Comics because the people who come here often don’t want the comic reviews. It’s sensible business to make sure the content is directed at the people who are supporting me.  These stories don’t all have to be for ME…but they do all have to be for YOU, my reader.

What Marvel/DC and the big publishers miss, is that they don’t just have a variety of stories, they only have one story, which they push out on repeat. The same identity politics garbage where it not only isn’t what the readers want, but it actively puts a middle finger to the readers they have, and tells them they’re not wanted, we want another group to read us. And as they’re finding was they get nichier with what they publish, those readers aren’t out there and can’t sustain them. Instead of trying to refocus their content on what they want, they actually use these instances as gimmicks to try to get people talking about these books that no one would be talking about otherwise, enraging their audience to get temporary sales boosts, which hurts them over the long run.

For newer writers, this is hard. You haven’t identified your audience or your own voice. Definitely experiment from that perspective, but you’ll quickly see what people like and what people don’t as you publish and put more out there. Keep it in mind as you progress, and always be telling your audience you love them. That’s how you keep people around to build your brand and expand it.

If you like how I tailor my stories,  you’ll love The Stars Entwined. It’s got a lot of something for everyone, and it’s the story I’m most proud of having written so far. Check it out, releasing in one week on March 20th! You can pre-order here. 

 

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