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Appendix N

Published January 16, 2017 in Fantasy , Science Fiction , Writing - 0 Comments
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Contrary to popular conception, fantasy stories didn’t begin with J.R.R. Tolkien. The fact that much of modern fantasy imitates the master obscures decades of great work that came before him. In perfect honesty, I was somewhat ignorant of this fact myself. Until, that is, I began reading Jeffro Johnson‘s magnificent blog posts on Appendix N.

The somewhat bland title hides a treasure trove of fantastical stories. But to be fair, the title fits perfectly with the subject – and its source. It references the original Appendix N – as written by Gary Gygax in the original Dungeons and Dragons game.

Once more, popular conception assumes that the game is a Tolkien knockoff. Later editions of the game certainly seem to be. Yet Gygax built the original version around far more than just the works of one British linguistics professor. Appendix N of Dungeons and Dragons lists every single work that Gygax considered an influence in the game.

Jeffro’s masterpiece of the same name includes critical reviews of each and every single work in the original Appendix N. Much of his work – some of which I read in the original blog posts – also details how these stories relate to the final product that D&D became. It’s a somewhat nerdy tome, to be sure.

But for the fantasy connoisseur of a younger generation, it’s invaluable. Even in its early stages it pointed me toward a number of authors I had never even known existed. I have not yet delved into this final version, although Jeffro was kind enough to deliver me a free ebook edition of it via e-mail yesterday. But the works in progress were strong enough to earn him a well deserved Hugo Award nomination for “Best Related Work.” I look forward to the final product with great anticipation.

Get your ebook copy at Amazon today. If you prefer killing trees, a print version should be available within a month or so. Either way, I highly recommend it.

Sad Puppies Meet Regina George

Published January 11, 2017 in Fantasy , Science Fiction , Writing - 0 Comments
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Sarah Hoyt and Amanda Green over at the Mad Genius Club have declared to one and all that Silver Empire author Declan Finn is not one of the “cool kids.” Evidently he’s so uncool that they can’t even name him over at their blog, making it difficult for him to even defend himself.  Yet nobody seems to have any doubt who they’re talking about.

On the surface, Mr. Finn stands accused of trying to assume the mantle of “leader of Sad Puppies 5.” The evidence? He wrote a blog post entitled, “Sad Puppies 5 Suggestions.” The post includes such damning gems as:

  • ” I don’t know how SP5 will be laid out” – surely a strong claim of ownership.
  • Not one but two direct links to the blog post detailing who is running SP5, where she lays out what’s going on for SP5. I mean, come on, that is some damning evidence.
  • Mr Finn now includes a giant disclaimer – IN ALL CAPS – at the top of the post that he is NOT in charge of SP5. In a fantastic feat of doublespeak, Ms. Hoyt & crew consider this denial as evidence that he’s trying to claim leadership. I am as baffled as you are.
  • Evidently he also said some things in private – super secret things that we little people are not meant to know. But they’re Horribly No Good Terrible Things. They promise.

I find the case unconvincing.

Sad Puppies 4, in theory, opened the puppies up to everyone. Indeed, they specifically called for others to solicit recommendations:

So, SP4 is all about MOAR! More voters. More votes. More people. We want to make the Hugos bigger and more representative of fandom as a whole, to bring people in rather than give them an asterisk that looks kind of wrong (especially beside the rocket) to try to drive the “interlopers” out. SF is a big tent: we don’t want to kick out anyone, even writers of bad message fiction that makes puppies sad.

To that end, this thread will be the first of several to collect recommendations. There will also be multiple permanent threads (one per category) on the SP4 website where people can make comments. The tireless, wonderful volunteer Puppy Pack will be collating recommendations.

[Emphasis is mine.]

This is exactly what Mr. Finn did in his post. Only they now inform us that he’s violating some sort of unwritten code in doing so. May anyone join in? Or may only those approved by the club gather suggestions now? Evidently some animals are more equal than others. I love the way they keep the spirit of Sad Puppies alive here.

The actual charge, reading between the lines, is of Supporting Sad Puppies Over-Enthusiastically While Being Uncool. Let’s examine the evidence here.

Mr. Finn has indeed enthusiastically supported Sad Puppies for quite some time. His novel Honor at Stake made the SP4 Best Novel list. He’s written more blog posts on the subject than I can count. He even published a satirical take on the whole affair, Sad Puppies Bite Back – first as a series of blog posts and then later in novel form.

I rather like Mr. Finn, and I even signed him to a five book publishing deal. Even so… I must confess that he is, in fact, a bit socially awkward. But then, he’s a science fiction and fantasy author. It kind of comes with the territory.

On this more honest charge, then, I must reluctantly find the defendant guilty.

On the other hand, any reasonable person would settle for a far lesser sentence – even were he actually guilty of the charges as stated. The appropriate response here is to issue a post noting that he is not in fact part of the SP5 leadership. Then, perhaps, drop him a note quietly behind the scenes and ask him if he can be a bit more clear in the future.

Instead, they chose to write no less than 3400 words between them (I counted [OK, I had Word count for me]) insulting Mr. Finn. They felt it necessary to inform the entire world – at length – of exactly how uncool he is. They chose to behave very unprofessionally, punching down to an author quite a bit further down the list than themselves. In a word, they chose to be cruel.

Their behavior is uncalled for. In fact, it’s ridiculously overdramatic. Mr. Finn deserves an apology.

Live Tweeting POST TRAUMATIC STRESS

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Morgon and the kids are heading out of town this weekend o visit family. For the first time in a very long while, I’m going to have a good chunk of time at home on my own. I intend to spend it writing. I’m currently about 62,000 words into my first novel, Post Traumatic Stress. I’m targeting 110k for the first draft, with the intention of trimming it down to about 80-90,000 words for the final draft. The draft as written is currently on track for that.

The novel comes in bursts. I’ve gone long periods without much time to write. On the other hand, I’ve had some very good days. I’ve seen friends online talk about 2,000 words being a good day. That’s not me. When I get in the zone, I get in the zone. My best day so far has been over 4,000 words – and that was a day where I’d already been at work all day. When I get in the zone I can pretty easily turn out 500 to 1,000 words in an hour.

This weekend I’ll have little in the way of distractions. I’ll also, for once, have rather a lot of time. I plan to get myself in the zone and move, and I’m targeting 20,000 words as my goal from Friday morning through Monday evening. I think I can make that happen.

More fun, I plan to “live tweet” as I write. Don’t expect something every five minutes, but expect regular progress updates and maybe the occasional hint of something that’s just made it into the book. You can follow the fun on my Twitter feed. Writing will begin in earnest after I get home from work on Friday evening. This will either go very well or very poorly, but either way it ought to be entertaining.

Post Traumatic Stress

Everybody faces demons in war. After surviving a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, Sergeant Michael Alexander came face to face with actual demons. When the Army sent him home on a medical discharge, the demons followed. Now they’re going after his friends and terrorizing his home town. Now Michael must face up to the past, with the help of his not-quite-father-in-law, a young friend, a hapless and overly bureaucratic secret military group that gets in the way more than it helps, and an ancient order of knights chartered by the Vatican.

Where I Find Time to Blog

Published June 7, 2016 in Blogging , Business , Writing - 0 Comments
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timeSomebody asked me recently where I find the time to blog. Actually, people ask me quite often where I find the time to do a lot of the things I do. I usually answer with something snarky because most people don’t actually want to hear the real answers. The question isn’t actually a question, it’s an emotional expression – of what I’m not quite sure. But on the off chance that one or two of my readers actually care (occasionally someone does), here are the real answers. To help, each one is preceded by one of the snarky answers that I give.

Sleep is for the weak. I honestly probably don’t sleep enough. I average six to seven hours of sleep a night. But this isn’t because I’m busy – it’s because I can’t sleep. I’ve had trouble with sleep for as long as I can remember. I can definitively recall having trouble getting to sleep as young as seven years old. Before that I can’t remember. But my six year old son has the same kinds of trouble sleeping that I do, and he has for years. I strongly suspect that I’ve had trouble for just as long. I sleep better now than I ever have before. A combination of better eating, exercise, and nightly melatonin supplements has made a world of difference. But I still don’t sleep more than seven hours most night. Exception: occasionally it catches up with me and I sleep for extended periods. Exception 2: about once or twice a year I have bouts of insomnia where I can’t sleep more than two hours a night for three to five days in a row. These have become less frequent since I started taking nightly melatonin.

If I don’t stay busy I get bored. This is actually true as stated and not just snark. My mind does not shut down, ever, except in two circumstances: when I finally manage to fall asleep or when I’m exercising with extreme intensity. Neither of those circumstances guarantees it, either. Those are just the only times it actually happens. I might as well put it to use. But that’s not the real truth. The real truth is that if I don’t stay busy I get depressed. And that’s far worse. Human beings are not meant to be idle. Most depressed people would be better served by six weeks of boot-camp style intensity than by medication. I know you feel tired, but that’s not because of too little rest: it’s because of too much. Get off your butt and do something real.

I don’t watch much TV. This is another one that’s generally true. The average American watches four hours of TV a day. I struggled to figure out where they find time for that; then I remember that 41% of the adult population doesn’t work… and what else are they going to do all day? But I digress. I watch an average of four hours of television a week – and that only during the prime TV season. And that’s actually high for me this year, and it’s all because of the DC TV Universe. More generally: I don’t do a lot of other things that people like to do for fun. I write blog posts and troll Twitter instead.

There are some other answers, too, beyond the snark.

I spend far less time on this than you might think. My average blog post is less than 1000 words. Many are less than 500. I rarely edit them. I never proofread them. I seldom even read them through when I’m finished. Half the time I know what I’m going to write before I start it. The typical post takes me about 10-15 minutes to write – tops. It’s a blog for crying out loud. If it takes you more time than that, you’re doing it wrong. Yes, I have the occasional word vomit – like my series on converting to Catholicism. On the other hand, I wrote that entire series five years ago. Which leads me to my next point.

I recycle content whenever I can. Like this morning’s post, which was literally copied and pasted from my newest book and then reformatted. Or the aforementioned series on Catholicism. Or my series on Orbital Mechanics, which has been submitted to another publisher for possible inclusion in an upcoming anthology (no word back yet; we’ll see). Or submitting “The Fourth Fleet” for re-publication in There Will Be War: Volume X. I like to get the most I possibly can out of everything that I do.

You find the time to do what you prioritize. This is the biggest issue, and it’s the one that people don’t want to hear. We all have the same twenty-four hours a day. The things you do and the things you don’t do with that time are your choice. I’m not criticizing you for it, either. But if you’re not finding time to blog, or run a dojo, or start a publishing company, or edit an anthology, or write a novel, or whatever it is that you haven’t gotten done… at the end of the day it’s because you don’t want it badly enough. That’s fine if it’s your honest choice. We can’t do everything. I’m not going to be a filmmaker or an award winning cake decorator or an artist. I haven’t dedicated the time to those. What are you dedicating your time to?