Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Learning From Everything

By now you've all heard about Divesity and Comics.  He watches the train wrecks so you don't have to, but he does it in a way that really helps readers understand WHY current Marvel sucks worse than [insert Razoerfist analogy here].  Now, the man talks about individual comics for the most part, and the teachable moments are spread all over his channel, but after a few videos you start to notice a few trends about Marvel's bad writing, specifically when it comes to writing women.  Those trends are worth looking for, because his laments about what was lost when the Pigs took over the Marvel Farm provide solid advice for ways to make your female characters more well-rounded, more diverse (in the classical and not SJW sense), and more believable.

Basically, don't make them all mannish women, and don't make them all walk, talk, think, and act like immature Manhattan millennial women who think the world is out to get them.

For a more concise commentary on writing female characters, look no further than this video by Mr. Plinkett.  For all his faults, the creepy serial killer knows his story structure, comedic timing, and characterization.



That video right there is a clinic on how to write better characters, how to write better pacing, and how to deliver a punch line  Take his commentary to heart, don't be Paul Feig, allow your characters a little vulnerability - especially your female characters - and you'll be writing at a level well above that of your average milkshake drinking millennial.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Not Sure How The Military Guys Do It

Today I took down the Christmas shower curtain and replaced it with the off-season shower curtain.  Dad being gone for seven months will do that to a household. No matter how much the little woman steps up her game, there will always be a long list of things around the house that need doing.  This is no slight on the part time single Moms, it's just a fact of life that two people halve the work load.  And so, after two weeks of non-stop action bringing things back up to code, things might just settled down around the Chateau enough to get some writing done.

One of the changes to my schedule has been the determination to find a way to relax when the ankle-biters and bride are hovering about, eager to pull me away for a quick favor here, or a quick opinion there.  Writing - my normal relaxation - cannot be done under those conditions.  Writing requires full concentration to get into that three-tier thinking zone where you can consider the words in this sentence, the tactic decisions of the current chapter, and how those affect the strategic vision of the entire novel.    For relaxing while on call, my go to past time has been painting in preparation for miniature wargames.

Rather than clutter up this blog with my infrequent wargame material, I've opted to revive War In A Box.

 
The deep thoughts and inciteful commentary you've come to expect can still be found over at the House.  The thoughts on writing and odd political musing, you'll still find here.  War In A Box is my dumping ground for quick hits and idle thoughts that don't rise to the level of a Castalia House Blog Post, and will be kept light, fun, and entirely apolitical.

Well...mostly apolitical, as you can see from my latest miniatures:

The SDL and a VFM

Friday, August 11, 2017

Dragon Awards - The Allied Vote

It's award time for fans of fantasy and science fiction, and that can mean only one thing - DragonCon ballots are up and ready for completion.  The red fiery trophy is the new hotness that all the cool kids want to win, and my on-line social circle has a heavy presence on the ballot.  Fortunately, Kai Wai Cheah already put together a handy primer and list of this year's best of the best, so I don't have to. Go read his blog post for a complete breakdown. 

Best Science Fiction Novel: The Secret Kings by Brian Niemeier
Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal): A Sea of Skulls by Vox Day
Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel: Swan Knight’s Son by John C Wright
Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel: Rescue Run by Jon Del Arroz
Best Alternate History Novel: No Gods, Only Daimons by Kai Wai Cheah
Best Apocalyptic Novel: Codename: Unsub by Declan Finn and Allan Yoskowitz
Best Horror Novel: Live and Let Bite by Declan Finn

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

One Down

How do people ever have time to feel poignant?

My oldest ventures out tomorrow into the cold, harsh, and uncaring world of higher education, and the non-stop barrage of things that Must Be Done before he flies from the nest has left me no time to pause and ponder this important step on life's journey blah blah blah.  Between shoving him from the nest, getting the younger ones shoved into the first semester of the charter school/home school hybrid we use, catching up on six months of Honey-Do List Items, who has time to stop and get misty about the past and worry about the future?

I've had eighteen years to get him ready for this - there isn't much more I can do in these last few days other than race to send him off with as much of the tedium of a cross country move already completed.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Backing A Book You Can't Read

My cover artist, Rapha Pinheiro, launched his crowd funding project for his next comicbook:
Salto is a Fantasy Steampunk, written and drawn in France when I was living in Angoulême to study comics. The book tells the story of Nu, an inhabitant of an underground city where everyone is made of fire. They live in this city for fear of the rain that plagues the outside world and rely on an oxygen factory to keep their flames burning.
After witnessing something he should not, Nu is bound to leave civilization and venture into the cave where he discovers a secret that can change the life of the entire city.

 
Since I don't speak Portuguese, I'll never be able to read this comic book.  It doesn't matter, because I'll still be able to enjoy the pretty pictures.  If you live outside of Brazil, you can't get the hard copy, but the digital copy will only set you back R$20, which is about six bucks.  As I type this, I'm one of 38 backers who have brought the project to 1/8th funding in five days, so Rapha has made good progress on funding already.
 
So if you like steampunk, and you like weird, alien vistas populated by creatures of living flame, give it a shot.  I backed it just because I like the art, and Rapha has been such an easy artist to work with. 
 
 
Just wait until you see what he worked up for my forthcoming space princess story - this space princess is a lot more helpless than Karenina, but you'll have to wait to find out why.
 
[EDIT:  Found out the comic itself is actually in English - it's just the Not-KickStarter that's in Portuguese.  So my headline is fake news.  Oops.  We regret the error.]




Friday, August 4, 2017

On Romance

“Wait.  So you like romance, Dad?”

My teen daughter asked this perfectly legitimate question in the middle of house cleaning, interrupting one of my typical soliloquies on the problems of modern storytelling.  (If you think the PulpRev-o-Sphere is bad, trying living with one of us.  This isn’t an act, it is a part of our DNA.)  In this case, her father was in the process of lamenting that after four hours of screen time, the best Starlord has been able to wrest from Gamorrah is a pinky-grip and a head on the shoulder.  And that even after some stellar (heh) dread game with the Evil Space Angel Queen to start Volume 2.
As a gal in her mid-teens, she her mind has been programmed to think of the books with shaven chested men on the cover in the dry goods aisle of the local grocery store.  Or perhaps some sort of anime sub-sub-genre I’m too old to have heard of let alone understand.  We are going to have to watch a few John Wayne movies to help her understand how universal the concept of romance can be, when done right. 
Until then, it was left to me to explain that no man can ask for a greater reward than the love of a good woman.  Compared to that, all the riches in the universe are but a pale shadow.  Thankfully, the old films linger in our home, so she has a few points of reference.  In the penultimate shot of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy walks off screen arm-in-arm with the pretty young brunette.  Think how much less satisfying that ending would be if Marion play-punched Indy in the shoulder.  I pointed out there isn’t a man alive that thinks the ending of The Princess Bride would be improved without that last kiss – even ten year old Fred Savage understands the power of a kiss sealing a better future for the hero.  My daughter loves the film “Secondhand Lions”, and the epic subplot of Uncle Hub’s one true love provides a glimpse of the possibilities. 
So yes, I explained.  Men do love romance, but the open expression of a committed love and the promise of a woman’s love as reward for heroic striving against all odds.  Not the drama heavy romance of prime-time television or the relationship drama of daytime soap operas or the pointless hoop-jumping of A Knight’s Tale.  (Prove you deserve me by becoming the biggest loser in the realm?  Really?)
Then it was time to turn the tables on her.  Did she want a man to struggle and rage against the world in an effort to reach her?  Did she want to be seen as a prize worth fighting for?  Or did she want men to think of her as “one of the guys”, just another pal to hang around with who can take care of her own problems without him?
It really gave her something to think about.  She disappeared into her room, I assumed to spend some time in deep thought considering this new way of looking at movies.
Of course, it was only the next day that I realized the change in direction of the conversation was a clever ruse on her part to distract me long enough to allow her to escape from the house cleaning.  She escaped my clutches by getting me to monologue.  I’ll get you next time, daughter mine!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Gaming Dry Spell Status: Over

It's been far too long since I've been able to sit down at a table and enjoy a little light conversation while pouring over a board covered with little plastic pieces.  Over the weekend, thanks to my daughter's generosity with her time, I managed to break the dry spell with a pair of tense games...of Candyland.  Hey!  Baby steps, man.  I've got some miniatures to paint up, and then we'll see if we can't convince a few friends to dare the hazards of 3d6 in order and drop into the dangerous confines of either Skull Mountain or Castle Meatgrinder.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Adventure Constant

For those of you who pre-ordered my latest written book, my eternal thanks.  For those of you who have yet to order, today is the day you can one-click the digital version and start reading within moments.  Here, let me help you with that: