Monthly Archives: June 2017

Sea of Skulls – BOOK REVIEW

A few weeks ago, when I included A Sea of Skulls by Vox Day in my Dragon Award nomination list, I promised to have a review out. Events on the ground caused things to shift around, but today I can finally share that review with you.

Before delving into the book review itself, I should point out a few things. First of all, this is not quite a complete book. The author released it in its current form, promising to follow up with a finalized version when it’s actually done. It’s an interesting experiment in the digital world, and I’m curious to see how that works out for him in the long run. Second, unlike many books that I review, I did not receive a free copy from the author. I paid full price for my copy.

This series is, to me, one of the most interesting things happening in the current science fiction and fantasy landscape. Book one kind of blew my mind. Book two continues in that tradition.

The author has stated that he intended this series as a deliberate shot across the bow at George R.R. Martin for a) his inability to finish his epic master series and b) the fact that Martin has clearly lost the plot in later books. As a reader, my belief is not only that Mr. Day has succeeded, but that he’s also created a substantially better series than Mr. Martin’s.

The series share much in common. The books are long. The story is epic in scope – very epic – spanning a huge fictional world. The world feels lived in, with a great deal of history, and included many diverse cultures. Massive battles and dirty politics are the order of the day.

But the Arts of Dark and Light series has two things dreadfully lost in A Song of Ice and Fire: hope and humanity.

When Martin killed Ned Stark at the end of his first book, it produced a shocking effect. It roped me in – and many others like me. But at the current point of A Song of Ice and Fire, there’s nobody left to really root for. All of the honorable characters are long dead. Even the semi-honorable characters have now met their demise. Only the disgusting remain. Westeros has become a bleak and desolate place. The current state of the story leaves us wondering if it can be saved – but that’s normal storytelling. It also leaves us wondering if it should be saved, and that’s where it’s losing me.

Mr. Day, on the other hand, has kept a ray of humanity in his characters even as they face a world of darkness around them. Some characters succomb to the evil. But others do not, and we still have champions worth rooting for.

One interesting thing about this series is the way Mr. Day has developed a world based so heavily on the Roman era. This is an unusal setting for contemporary fantasy writers, and that helps it stand out. More interesting, however, is the way he weaves religion into the story. Unlike most fantasy worlds that present a “psuedo” Catholic church – ie, Catholic in all of its trappings but none of its actual theology – Mr. Day presents what basically is the Catholic church. The beliefs are more or less complete.

To me, this provides a level of verisimilitude that other fantasy worlds can’t compete with. Most authors seem to assume that the trappings of the Catholic church are inherent in organized religion in general. They’re not. They’re distinctly Christian in character, which is why you basically only see them in the real world in the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Mr. Day recognizes that these features didn’t evolve in a vacuum. In his world, they belong. And one can’t help but think, given the story’s hints, that the church will come back to play a major role.

This book doesn’t feel like an incomplete book. You won’t miss what’s not there. However, if you get it now, you’ll also get the updates when they come. I, for one, look forward to that.

I do have three specific complaints about the book, however.

First, I really wish we’d seen more of the church again in this installment. I’m hoping for more of that in the update.

Second, the author (who has a natural gift for languages himself, and speaks several) has clearly developed rather involved languages for his elves, dwarves, and orcs. Unfortunately, he uses them just a bit too much in this installment. This makes some sections of the book hard to follow. I’m a long time fantasy fan and used to unfamiliar fantasy words. But I also don’t have Mr. Day’s natural gift for language – and this extensive use of them draws me out of the story as I struggle to understand what’s actually going on.

Third, and finally, this installment focuses a bit too much for my taste on a particular female elf. Her storyline is interesting, but the author spends time on it that I would rather have spent reading about the other characters. This isn’t as bad as it might sound, though. Had her chapters been broken up a bit more, it would’ve been fine. I hope that the updated, final version of the book will address this.

Even with these flaws, this is still a five star book. If you’re into epic fantasy, I can’t recommend Arts of Dark and Light highly enough. Give it a shot.

Writing a Page Turner – Part 4

Most of the early readers of Post Traumatic Stress have called it a real page turner. Page turners are good. They’re fun to read. It’s a great complement from your readers.

But most of all, page turners sell.

People enjoy books that they don’t want to put down. And – here’s the real magic – page turners make them want to buy the sequel, too. This is how binge readers are born, and binge readers are where the money is.

One thing to keep in mind is that no one of these techniques is essential. You can write page turning novels by breaking any (and maybe even all) of these “rules.” This is just one approach, but it’s an approach that works pretty well.

Believe it or not, the “page turner” aspect of Post Traumatic Stress is mostly intentional. It’s technique that you can learn, and today I want to teach some of that to you.

I’ve already mentioned that chapters are a key element of page turners, and shown two different techniques that you can use to make your chapters more captivating. I’ve also talked about story structure and how it relates to page turners. Today I want to share my final – and best – secret.

Secret #4 – Learn the Art of Verbal Storytelling

You became a writer because you’re an introvert, I get it. Get over it. If you really want to learn how to get people hanging on what you write, learn the old fashioned kind of storytelling: the verbal kind.

Verbal storytelling is a different beast than writing. It’s baser and more primal. Your average person is not a reader (the average American reads less than one book per year). Most people don’t have the patience for it. When you’re telling stories verbally, you’re fighting non-readers and their attention span. Readers are far more forgiving.

On the other hand, you have a lot of tools at your disposal that you don’t have when writing. Body language, tone of voice, cadence, pitch, and rhythm all play into verbal storytelling. If you fail on those scores, you’ll lose your listeners just as surely as if you fail to tell a good story. But those things don’t translate into writing.

Or do they?

I argue that they do, if imperfectly, and here’s one example.

If you’re telling a suspenseful story, verbally, you want to keep building the tension. How do you keep building the tension? You withhold as much information as possible while still keeping the story moving. Great – this is a standard storytelling technique, right? Except verbal storytellers quickly learn that this technique applies at the micro level, not just the macro level. You learn to slow down sentences when you want to build tension, then to speed them back up when you want the release. You learn the value of a well timed pause. You learn the value of subtle emphasis on one particular word. You learn to end a sentence on one word instead of another – and then to let that word hang out there.

All of those skills translate directly into writing.

Bonus tip: One other nice thing about verbal storytelling is that you get immediate feedback from your audience. If something is working, you know it right away. Likewise if something doesn’t work. It’s excellent because it lets you fine tune things far faster than writing does.

Post Traumatic Stress – Prologue

My new novel, Post Traumatic Stress, will be available on August 1, 2017. You can pre-order it now directly from Silver Empire, or wait until July 25th to pre-order it from Either way, today you can enjoy a sample chapter. The prologue is below.

It is through suffering that the soul is purified.

Every soldier brings demons home from war. But when Sergeant Michael Alexander came home to Athens, Georgia from Afghanistan, his war demons started kidnapping local college girls. Things got crazy when Michael tried to stop him.

Then the dragon arrived.

Post Traumatic Stress is a roller coaster thrill ride. It hooks you, clicks up to the peak, then sends you screaming all the way down. Masterfully done.

Daniel Humphreys
Author of the bestselling A Place Outside the Wild

Sample Chapters:

  1. Prologue
  2. Chapter One



The conspiracy nuts would have a field day with this one. The Major already knew that the truth would never, ever see the light of day. He could already imagine some of the crazy theories they’d spin. But whatever they came up with would never match what had actually happened over the last few days. That thought almost made him laugh out loud. Almost.

He surveyed the strangers around him, still trying to wrap his head around everything. The Monk knelt off to the side, praying in Latin. The Major didn’t understand a word of it. But there was strength in that prayer – strength and power. It rang forth with the clear voice of a true believer. Its energy drew in everyone around him. For a moment, they all believed.

The Old Man calmly directed suppressive fire toward the cave entrance. He set careful fire zones to ensure a clear path to safety for the last handful of fleeing soldiers. He knew his work well. Clearly he’d had military experience in the past.

His team was the best. Today, that hadn’t been enough. Bodies littered the ground around the cave entrance. Plenty more remained hidden underground. But the official report wouldn’t show that. The casualties would show up on another report from another operation on another day. Families would be told their loved ones had died in battles they’d never fought; some of them in places the soldiers had never visited.

Officially, those men had never been here.

The Commander had commandeered his radio after those REMFs back at headquarters had denied him permission for an airstrike. The Major and his team called in air strikes all the time – and they’d called in plenty earlier that day. He didn’t understand why he lacked the authority for this one.

Whoever he was, the Commander didn’t have that problem. He barked a few strange phrases into the radio, obviously code words. A brief moment later, the authorization came back.

His soldiers held their positions, maintaining fire despite their frazzled nerves. Under the circumstances it seemed like a miracle. Yet despite their lack of preparation for the day’s horrors, they really were the best of the best. Now that they’d escaped that death trap, he knew that they would hold. He brimmed with pride at their performance today. Even by their own superhuman standards, every man among them had gone above and beyond.

The buzzing of an incoming aircraft caught his attention. He snapped his head to the sky, and found it quickly. The propeller driven C-130 Hercules flew low for this one – right around six thousand feet. The unguided “dumb” ordinance didn’t have much precision. To be fair, a bomb that size didn’t need much precision. But it did need some, and that meant flying low. And then he saw it – the parachute popping out the rear of the plane, followed by the gleaming silver oblong blob. It even looked like one of the largest bombs ever built.

The BLU-82 packs almost thirteen thousand pounds of GSX explosive into one package. The five thousand foot blast radius and resulting mushroom cloud often confuse observers into believing that they’ve witnessed a nuclear explosion. Developed during the Vietnam War, its ability to flatten even the flowers quickly led to its nickname. They called it the “Daisy Cutter.”

The Major watched the device fall downward toward the mouth of the cave, noting thankfully that his men had all cleared the blast zone. This one would be loud. And jarring. The parachute took almost three minutes to deliver its payload. Those three minutes felt like an eternity.

A shout rose up among the men as a shadow emerged from the cave. All went quiet for a moment, as they recognized the shape that had terrorized them in the darkness. Then the Knight emerged, injured and weary. Despite his obvious fatigue, he launched straight into a ferocious assault on the dark form. The men cheered.

His team didn’t need orders. Every man among them knew they owed their own lives to the Knight. He’d been the one to engage that thing, buying them all time to escape. They shifted their aim and unloaded everything they had into it. Hundreds of rounds of ammunition pounded it, to minimal effect. Still, they fired away – anything to help the Knight, but most of all, anything to keep that nightmare inside the target zone.

The Knight glanced to the sky. He clearly knew what came his way, yet he never wavered. He never even tried to escape. He knew what everyone else knew. If he let that shadowy terror escape, it would all be for nothing. So he attacked with everything he had, keeping his opponent pinned down just inside the cave mouth.

The show ended with an explosive finale. The bombardiers knew their work. The combatants, barely out of the blast radius, found themselves blinded and deafened. If anything, the quiet that followed disturbed them even more. Nothing moved within the blast zone. His men ceased fire. What would be the point? Anything that could survive that would laugh off their remaining weapons.

Hours later, after the blast zone had cooled, the strangers led a hunt through the rubble. The blast had vaporized everything. Not a trace remained of the shadow, nor could they find any remains of the Knight. The Major had thought nothing else could surprise him that day. He learned he was wrong when they found it. It gleamed bright after they wiped the ash off. He couldn’t find even a tiny scratch on it.

The strangers brought it out of the blast zone and lay it in a clearing. Kneeling before it, the Monk led a prayer for their fallen comrade. The Major knelt and joined in. His men followed – every one of them, men of all faiths, even atheists. Not necessarily for God or for the Christ that the Monk prayed to, but for this man, this Knight, who had given his life for them. Soldiers, one and all, saluted a fallen comrade. Afterward, the Commander wrapped the artifact carefully and packed it up.

Night would fall soon. The Afghanis wouldn’t support an assault in the dark, even after the bombing. After what he’d seen in the cave, the Major didn’t blame them. They’d send a team down in daylight to sift through the rubble and see if they could identify the bodies.

The strangers joined them silently on the trek back to their base camp. But they slipped away in the night, bypassing even his watch. The Monk, the Old Man, the Commander and the Knight. He didn’t know their names or where they came from or where they went. But he knew what he’d seen in that cave, and it altered his life forever.

The conspiracy theorists would have a field day, yes. But their wild theories didn’t have anything on the truth.

Pre-order it now directly from Silver Empire, or wait until July 25th to pre-order it from

Writing a Page Turner – Part 3

Most of the early readers of Post Traumatic Stress have called it a real page turner. Page turners are good. They’re fun to read. It’s a great complement from your readers.

But most of all, page turners sell.

People enjoy books that they don’t want to put down. And – here’s the real magic – page turners make them want to buy the sequel, too. This is how binge readers are born, and binge readers are where the money is.

One thing to keep in mind is that no one of these techniques is essential. You can write page turning novels by breaking any (and maybe even all) of these “rules.” This is just one approach, but it’s an approach that works pretty well.

Believe it or not, the “page turner” aspect of Post Traumatic Stress is mostly intentional. It’s technique that you can learn, and today I want to teach some of that to you.

I’ve already mentioned that chapters are a key element of page turners, and shown two different techniques that you can use to make your chapters more captivating. Today I’d like to take a step back from the trees and look at the forest as a whole.

Secret #3 – Plot Structure

Your plot structure will have a huge influence on how well your story reads. Good plot structure is intentional, not accidental. Throwing a mishmash of a plot together will usually yield very poor results.

Now, I’m not one to get hung up on rules. However, I do believe very strongly in a few things.

  1. Before you break the rules, you should understand what the rules are and why they work.
  2. The rules describe what your target audience is used to. If you break them, you need a good reason.

If you read this blog, I assume that you write for western audiences, as I do. At the very highest level, there are really only two story structures that western audiences will accept.

  1. A single act. You can really only get away with this in short fiction. For anything longer than about 10,000 words, your audience will expect more than this. Even above 6,000 words, you’re pushing it. And frankly, even most short fiction does better if you stick with one of the other structures.
  2. The classic three-act structure. This is by far the most common structure in western fiction. You have a beginning, or introductory period. You have the second act, where all the fun stuff happens. And then act three presents the climax, resolution, and wraps everything up. This is, generally, what your audience will expect.

This is basically it. You’ll see people out there describing two-act structures, but they’re not common. And you’ll see a few variations, such as four-act structures (which are usually just the three-act structure with act two split in half). Shakespeare, of course, is famous for his five-act plays. From a modern standpoint, however, these can largely be viewed as a three-act structure with act two broken into three.

Don’t get me wrong – there are big benefits to breaking act two apart. Most writers find act two to be the big stumbling block. In a traditional breakdown, it’s half or more of the story, all in one act. Breaking it down into smaller pieces is an excellent tool for getting you through it.

If you want to write a page turner, though, I highly recommend looking at two plot “formulas” that will help you keep things going.

First, I recommend a somewhat famous book on screenwriting called Save the Cat. It presents a finer grade plot structure with 15 plot “beats” for breaking down a story. Now, I will put a few caveats on this:

  • The book focuses on screenplays, not novels. You’ll have to adjust a bit to fit the formula to something of novel length.
  • The author is a bit anal, bordering on autistic, about putting the plot beats in exact places. He even puts exact page numbers on them. I think this is slightly too strict.

With that said, I find this to be a very useful framework to hang the skeleton of an outline on. I’ve also used it as a tool to drastically improve pacing issues, both on my own works and on those of authors I’ve published.

The last thing I would add on this book is that the “beat sheet” is useful, and the chapter on the ten basic story archetypes is useful, but the rest of the book is basically boilerplate.

Second, I also recommend looking at Lester Dent’s Master Formula. Dent is most famous for his Doc Savage stories, but he wrote extremely prolifically in the pulp era. His “master formula” is explicitly written for 6,000 word short stories. However, it’s easy to translate the concepts of the formula into longer works. The formula also dovetails nicely with the Save the Cat beat sheet. You don’t have to choose between them.

Bonus tip: The items above lay out “the rules.” But as I noted above, you should also know when to break them. To that end, I’m definitely looking forward to Drown the Cat by Dario Cirello, due out (amusingly enough) this Independence Day. I have not yet read it myself, but my friend Jon Del Arroz recommends it highly.

Cliques and Outgrouping

Jared continues his screeds in my comment sections. Feel free to read the whole thing. I will only be responding to pieces of it.

First this:

“If he still wants to fight the hugo fight, by all means, the rabid puppies are that away. Have fun.

No, seriously, I mean it. Go forth and conquer, bask in the lamentations of their femme presenting folk, whatever you want.

Jared proceeds from a false assumption – a false assumption that several others who have jumped into the fray have made. I have also been accused of “concern trolling.” What Jared and these others completely miss is that I don’t give a shit about the Hugos, or about Sad Puppies. My original post wasn’t intended to be a “here’s how to improve the puppies” guide. I don’t care. Sad Puppies is a dead brand.

The post serves, instead, two specific purposes. First, it’s a post mortem discussion of why Sad Puppies died (TL;DR – Regina George killed it). For those like Jared who refuse to learn the lessons from it, that’s his problem, not mine. Second, I’m using Sad Puppies as a club to beat Regina George with because she picked a fight with one of mine. Granted, she made it a particularly easy club to beat her with (thanks for that, BTW).

Which brings me to the next point of Jared’s that’s worth discussion today.

You say this is all about an attack on your author. I find that odd for a publisher to intervene in this manner at all, but especially that you demand she drop it while simultaneously being incensed that she didn’t name him in the post.

I am not a traditional publisher, and I don’t behave like one. Get over it.

But the last part of that quote is, indeed the heart of the issue. This suggests to me that unlike others, Jared is naive and not malicious. I’m willing to cut him the benefit of the doubt. I will assume that he honestly doesn’t understand the human behavior he’s witnessed. That’s OK. The gambit Ms. George pulled is a particularly passive aggressive gambit that specifically relies on good, decent people not understanding the intense cruelty that she’s exhibiting.

Once upon a time, I, too, was oblivious to this kind of social manipulation. And once upon a time, I, too, played victim to it. In middle school and high school I lacked the social understanding to comprehend what had happened. Since then, I’ve learned better.

Not naming him in the post *was* her trying to drop it. The event was materially linked to the post at hand, namely explaining what has happened with Sad Puppies and what will happen in the future, and as such needed to be mentioned for the sake of clarity, but dragging the individuals name into it wasn’t necessary, as that would bring up the fight anew, so she didn’t name him specifically. Those who already knew would know, but it wouldn’t change their impressions of it anyway, and those that didn’t, well, for them it wouldn’t matter. Sure, the other comments can be discussed, but that isn’t my place to argue. Of course you naming him for her makes the effort moot now.

Here, Jared couldn’t be more wrong. This is what Scott Adams would call, in persuasion land, the “fake because.” It’s a pretense that’s just plausible enough for good natured people to believe it. This is the smokescreen that hides the actual goal.

The real goal is to ostracize an individual and cast him out of the group. The entire purpose of bringing him up in this discussion is to signal to the “in group” that he’s no longer one of them. His name is left out deliberately in order to achieve this goal.

The reason this works is because everybody in the “in” group already knows who she’s talking about. Now, we can divide up the folks in the “in” group in several ways. First, we have those who consciously understand the social cue, those who understand it subconsciously and still react accordingly, and those who just miss it. Among those who understand it, we can further subdivide into four groups. There are those who understand it and will gleefully savage the cast out individual because they are cruel. There are those who understand it and will pile on because they fear being the next victim. Some will understand what is happening but stay silent, also because they fear being next. And finally there are those who will understand it and actually speak up. The last group is always small, for reasons we’ll get into later.

The net result is that those in the group pick up the signal, pile on the chosen victim, and cast him out of the group.

What about those not part of the “in” group? They fall into several groups as well. Some of them want to be part of the in group. They also pile on the ostracized individual, hoping to score points. Some will recognize what’s happening, if they happen to have enough domain knowledge. Most won’t know what’s going on and will just ignore it – it’s noise to them.

In this case, a very large number of the “out” group know exactly what’s going on because everything has happened publicly. Specifically, the Vile 770 crew already knows exactly who Ms. George is talking about. So in addition to cutting him out of the group, she’s signaling to a specific set of the “out” group that he’s been cast out and is ripe for being attacked.

I’ve been accused multiple times now of believing Declan Finn’s lies. He has been accused of “leaking” information to me. I have no idea what you people are smoking. I’ve based everything I’ve written off of what both Declan and Ms. Regina George have written publicly on their blogs. Jared and his friends can believe that or not believe it. Obviously, there’s no possible way I could ever prove that, as I can’t produce records of communications that never happened. On the other hand, I also don’t care what paranoid delusions these people harbor. Not my monkey.

There’s a reason I chose “Regina George” and the Mean Girls photos for all of these posts. This tactic is a classic right out of exactly the same kind of clique behavior that the movie depicts. I’ve seen it worked hundreds of times, maybe even thousands. You can watch it happen daily at any high school in America.

Don’t take my word for it, though. There’s an entire book that describes this exact behavior. Queen Bees and Wannabees is aimed at your daughters – and for good reason. This particular behavior is overwhelmingly female. That’s probably why it went straight over Jared’s head. Most women understand what’s happening here immediately and instinctively. They’ve dealt with it since they were little girls. A great many men miss it entirely.

Indeed, this entire recipe relies on men like Jared missing it entirely. It’s a classic passive-aggressive behavior. Ms. George provides enough detail to ensure that the people in the group get the right social message. But she leaves out enough – deliberately – to ensure that she can pretend she’s not doing anything of the sort. Then she relies on decent people, people who don’t want a fight, or maybe people who even feel the need to protect her, to refrain from calling her out on it. And when some of us do call her out on it, she falls back to the “fake because.”

I detest passive aggression with the fiery passion of a thousand dying sons. Thankfully, I also learned a very long time ago the morally correct and highly effective way to deal with passive aggression: aggressive aggression.

Ms. George has decided to play Mean Girls with a man who literally doesn’t grasp the social situation well enough to properly defend himself. I’ve dealt with Declan Finn for nearly eight months now, editing his upcoming book (which is great, by the way, especially with the editing we’ve put it through). The one and true crime that we can absolutely lay at his feet is having zero social skills – maybe even negative social skills. Frankly, I’d lay money that he has more than a touch of Asperger’s. And when people say to me, “Oh, don’t believe his lies!” (as they have in this matter), I only have two responses:

  1. What lies? He literally hasn’t told me a damned thing.
  2. Trust me. My wife and I had to explain to him why certain scenes in the earlier drafts of his books didn’t work… and he just wasn’t getting it. He really and truly doesn’t understand this stuff.

Of course, that second reason is also why Ms. George is picking on him in the first place. Because you see, this kind of attack is always targeted at the weak.

What I’ve also learned over the years is never, ever to give anyone the benefit of the doubt when they behave this way. As I noted earlier, I’ve seen this play out hundreds, if not thousands, of times throughout my life. I’ve never once seen it done unintentionally. The perpetrator always knows what she’s doing.

Had she left this matter completely private, where it belongs, I never would’ve gotten involved. But she didn’t. She took it public on purpose and deliberately. She should’ve written her sad, sorry excuse-filled poor me post without mentioning him at all. But she can’t do that, because she needs a scapegoat for her own pathetic incompetence.

So I stand by my comments. Ms. Regina George is a cowardly bully who has picked a fight on a man unable to defend himself. And there is only one appropriate response to bullies.

You stand up and punch them in the nose.

Thankfully, Ms. George has given me plenty of ammunition. And I’ll continue to use it until she and her cronies back off.

Mean Girls Pick Fights With The Weak

My post about leadership failures has touched a nerve with the failed leadership. First, Ms. Regina George’s sycophants decided to respond to my post by getting angry at other people on Facebook. But one of them, Jared, has finally found his balls and come over here to play with me directly. For that, at least, I give him credit. For the rest, not so much.

Before we begin, let’s remember the three laws of SJWs:

  1. SJWs Always Lie
  2. SJWs Always Double Down
  3. SJWs Always Project

Now, let’s get into it.

Well, now that I am home and can actually write more than a line or two, I will respond. That I am “picking a fight with a girl” is your first falsehood, in attributing to me motives you cannot possibly discern, but it won’t be the last I point out.

No, Jared. I called you names to make you angry. This accomplished two goals. It turned your attention away from those you’d focused your attack on, directing it toward me (who can take it, easily). It also made you stupid, as we’ll see from the rest of the post.

Calling me a coward is also a falsehood, since, again, you have absolutely zero evidence to back up such a claim. You don’t know me from Adam, as I do not know you from Adam. However, given that you rush to defend someone who does not in fact need it does give me decent evidence to suggest that what you are displaying here is not manhood, but chauvinism.

Since Jared has, in fact, shown the courage to arrive here, I will retract the claim. Note, however, an important point: Jared’s entire argument is that I am lying. Yet right away he proves he doesn’t even understand the definition of the word. Lying is knowing something to be false yet saying it anyway. In this case, it is clearly not a lie. Jared acted like a coward, so I called him on it. Now that he has exhibited different behavior, I have corrected the record.

He is correct: someone is assuming intentions he can’t possibly know. What Jared doesn’t say in his response is that his very first comment was to accuse me of lying. So straight up, he assumed intentions he couldn’t possibly prove, and then accused me of the same thing.

Right here, we have all three rules on display. Jared is lying about my motives, he’s doubling down on already bad behavior from Ms. Regina George, and he’s projecting that lying and bad behavior onto me. But it gets better, as we will see all three rules on display throughout this screed.

That your first inclination to being disagreed with is to childishly attempt to make fun of my name also suggests chauvinism rather than manliness.

Here, Jared is following rule #3 and projecting. His first response to something he disagreed with was to go pick a fight with a girl and to simply call me a liar, rather than to actually engage with anything I said. I responded in kind, hard. But of course, he has to project his own feelings onto me. Note that now that there’s actually something to engage with, I engage.

As for your suggestion to step into the dojo, for any of us, the answer must needs be no. You don’t get to start a fight in the realm of words and then move the venue to somewhere you think you have the advantage would actually be evidence of cowardice.

Again, Jared projects. You see, I didn’t  start any fights. I responded to an attack on one of my authors. Note that Ms. George made a similar attack nine months ago. I responded. Once. And then I let it go. Until she made the attack again. He did, however, finally find the courage to call me a liar to my face. So once more, I will give him the small amount of respect he deserves for that. Small.

That you alternate between white knighting for one woman and attempting to degrade another in this way is fascinating. It does reinforce my chauvinism theory, in that the words and tactics you use seem to indicate that you view woman as weaker and good for only a few specific things. In the end it is more degrading to you than anything else, so that is all I will say about that. (The crime is its punishment, as it were.)

Note here the next behavior, which is really Jared’s ultimate aim all along: it isn’t to actually debate anything. He merely wishes to disqualify. The problem with this tactic is that I was never part of his group to begin with, and I don’t have any desire to be. You can’t outgroup a sigma. It doesn’t work.

“I run two small businesses. I *HAVE* put my money where my mouth is…” That is not logically sound. Having your own business in one realm does not translate to anything in another realm entirely.

Jared hasn’t done his homework, which is clear from the beginning. One of my businesses is a publishing company. It is the same realm. Entirely the same realm. But he doesn’t actually care, because his goal is to disqualify, disqualify, disqualify. Also, SJWs always lie.

Given that you are now (as I type this) accusing those you disagree with as being SJW’s

I call things as they are. Jared acts like an SJW, I name him as such.

“This tale has everything, incompetence, insanity…” A calumny already, and not even a paragraph in. Charges of insanity would be below the belt for any real man, but I suppose it does count as evidence for my chauvinism theory.

When I see a grown woman going off the rails publicly insulting someone in a completely uncalled for way for no reason that makes any logical sense, I call it insanity. Note again, however, that he doesn’t actually argue the point. He merely tries to disqualify, disqualify, disqualify… because that’s what SJWs do.

“SPV failed in literally every conceivable way,” hyperbole *and* still false, as you are abrogating to yourself the power to determine for others what their goals were. There is a lot of that in this post.

Again, there is no attempt to actually argue the point – simply an accusation of lying. He shows no evidence to the contrary. He does not claim, at any point, what the Sad Puppies V goals actually were – only that my interpretation isn’t correct. Because he has no interested in argument, only disqualification.

“To be fair, Sad Puppies IV dropped the ball pretty badly and started the descent. The Hugo Awards allow five nominees per category… They nominated ten works per category, completely diffusing all of their voting power. As a result, they completely failed to get anything nominated for a Hugo that wasn’t also on Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies list.”

Again, you are assigning to them motives and goals they did not have. The point was not to swamp the Hugos, but to show that, even when they ostensibly did what the other side was saying we should do to be ‘respected’ it wouldn’t actually change the response. Rabid Puppies goals were not the same as SP. Last year it would seem that *both* met their goals, they simply diverged as to what those goals were.

At last we have an actual argument. Here he does claim SPIV has different goals than my interpretation. Yet still, he only backs up my first point that their goals were pointless. Everybody involved already knew this, which is why SP participation dropped dramatically. Nobody cared.

“Think that’s bad? SPV got even stupider. Rather than promoting a confined ballot of books that could focus their firepower, they diffused it further. What is SPV? “Oh, we’ll just create a list of indefinite size of recommended books. For any award, not just the Hugos.”
Epic. Fail.”

That is a fail only by *your* metrics. You are not in charge of Sad Puppies and do not get to decide what their goals are. Personally I think continuing to give money needlessly to people who hate us would be a much bigger failing. You are of course welcome to your opinion, but just stating it here doesn’t make it truth, so while not strictly a lie it is a falsehood as you are attempting to dictate to others without any right to do so.

Sure, it’s failure by my metrics. Give me other metrics. Regina George provided no metrics by which to judge Sad Puppies V, so I use mine. If you have other metrics, fine. You know what? That’s still a leadership failure, because leadership provided no metrics.

“Hugo Award nominations were due on January 31st.” Yes, they were. Given that SPV is explicitly no longer worried about the Hugos that matters not one whit. If you want a list for the Hugos, Vox Popoli is over yonder. Have fun storming the castle and paying for comped meals for the attendees. Seriously, all the best in your endeavors. I wish you luck. That said, you don’t get to forcibly conscript others or their groups for that effort.

For someone complaining about ‘shooting at your own team’ you seem to engage in it a lot. You may disagree, but avoiding that is one very good reason not to name a party to a disagreement after said disagreement is worked out. Of course I imagine you disagreeing with this statement will include one or more uses of the word ‘pussy’ so whatever.

Ms. George drew first blood, not me. She launched an unprovoked attack on my author, Declan Finn. As I noted above, she could – and should – have let this matter die in January. But as Mr. Finn’s editor and publisher, I have a relationship at stake. She’s speaking publicly and badly of my author less than a month before we launch his book, and yes, she has a far louder megaphone than I do. Even if he did everything she’s accused him of, there was no reason to bring him up now.

So if she shoots at me and mine, I will shoot back. My megaphone is far smaller than hers, but I’m not afraid of her bullying or her sycophants stepping in for her. Bringing this issue up now, right before his book launch, is a direct financial shot at both Mr. Finn and myself. So yes, I will shoot back.

Anyone who is actively shooting at me and mine is not on my side.

“But do you know what an actual leader does when it becomes clear that she’s too sick to, you know, lead?

She steps down and finds a new leader. She would’ve had plenty of volunteers.”

I would have thought someone so concerned with ‘picking fights with girls’ wouldn’t be one to rush in and declare for a woman that she is too sick to do something. Since she is in fact a grown woman she can make that determination just fine on her own, and since, apparently, they had never intended to worry about the Hugos at all the issue wasn’t pressing anyway.
And yes, she would have volunteers. Just because they would volunteer doesn’t necessarily mean they are right for the job. Turning SP into a copy of RP would be one of those ‘not right for the job’ issues.

I didn’t declare her too sick to do something. She declared that, in her own blog posts, in her own words. And yes, she can make that determination. And like any other grown woman, she can be wrong. Clearly in this case she was.

So Declan is wrong for the job. I might not even disagree with that. There were plenty of other people available who would have done it, and it still doesn’t give her an excuse to be a bitch to him in public.

“Meanwhile, while she’s going about abject failure at every level, she’s projecting all of her own incompetence, greed, and narcissistic attention whoring onto other people.”

Well, here’s one of the bigger falsehoods of the piece. Objection, facts not in evidence would be where I would start, and that if before digging into the amazing amounts of calumny on display.

Jared is clearly done with any actual argument now, and he resorts again to just accusing me of falsehood. Rule 3: SJWs always project. Rule 2: SJWs always double down.

“Meanwhile, of course, the sole reason she’s holding onto “leadership” of SPV, despite running the Titanic straight into the iceberg, is so that she can use it to market her books.”

That’s straight up a lie.

Copy and paste my previous comment. It applies exactly here as it did before.

“Failure #6 – Refusing to let it go”

I assume you are familiar with the third law? I would not dream of calling you an SJW, but the third law does apply to more than just them.
“Here’s a tip, Sarah: lay off my authors and get back to work…”
Funny, my advice to you would be fairly similar.

Very familiar, as I’ve quoted it throughout this essay. Jared again projects. He accuses me of refusing to let it go when, in fact, I did let it go for six months. Ms. George could and should have let it go and chose not to. Fine.

Let’s dance.

This Is What A Complete Leadership Failure Looks Like

Sarah Hoyt’s leadership of the Sad Puppies V campaign is a classic case study in leadership failure. If you ever want the absolute pitch perfect example of what not to do in a leadership position, look no further. This tale has everything: incompetence, insanity, bullying, harassment, technical difficulties, lack of vision, and just plain bitchiness. If I tried to create an example of bad leadership from scratch, I couldn’t make one this complete. If she were trying to destroy the Sad Puppies campaign and help the other side, she couldn’t have done a better job of it.

This, my friends, is a tail of abject, utter fail.

Sad Puppies V (SPV from here out) failed in literally every conceivable way, so this may take a bit. Bear with me.

Failure #1 – Stupid, Pointless Goals

Step one in leadership is setting goals that are actually a) worth achieving and b) achievable. SPVs supposed goals are neither.

To be fair, Sad Puppies IV dropped the ball pretty badly and started the descent. The Hugo Awards allow five nominees per category, and the nature of the old rules meant that an organized campaign around exactly five titles per category could achieve useful results. So what did they do with Sad Puppies IV?

They nominated ten works per category, completely diffusing all of their voting power. As a result, they completely failed to get anything nominated for a Hugo that wasn’t also on Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies list.

GG guys. GG.

Think that’s bad? SPV got even stupider. Rather than promoting a confined ballot of books that could focus their firepower, they diffused it further. What is SPV? “Oh, we’ll just create a list of indefinite size of recommended books. For any award, not just the Hugos.”

Epic. Fail.

Look, guys, this is a core martial arts principal:

If I apply a given amount of force over a small area, I create more pressure than if I apply the same amount of force over a large area.

This is easily expressed in a simple and common law of physics: Pressure = Force / Area (P = F / A).

By diffusing the force of SPV basically infinitely, Hoyt doomed the campaign to epic failure before she even began.

But that’s just the beginning.

Failure #2 – Doing nothing to achieve your stupid, pointless goals

After defining some dumbass goals that she could never possibly achieve, Hoyt went on to… do nothing.

Literally nothing.

Hugo Award nominations were due on January 31st. Hoyt made a Hugo post announcing her leadership stupidity… er, I mean, “plan,” in September. And then posted nothing – literally nothing – on the topic again until January 7, less than four weeks before ballots were due.

Of course, she made noisy, stupid excuses pretended that this was the plan all along, because SPV wasn’t about the Hugos anymore. Because nobody would see through that bullshit. And how they had a web site coming real soon now, guys, really, I just haven’t had time to do it.

Look, I run five separate web sites. All of them use WordPress. You can set up a WordPress site in three minutes. You can make it look acceptable and flesh out some basic content in about ten. I know. I’ve done it a dozen times.

But, of course, she’s behind on her paying writing. Well, of course she is. Because she’s moved on to…

Failure #3 – Shooting at your own team

Did I mention that she wrote a post about SPV on January 7? Did I also mention that the post didn’t do anything to actually advance SPV? Ok, let’s talk about that. Because instead of doing anything useful, Hoyt decided to make a very personal attack on one of my authors.

Of course, she’s used to playing by Mean Girls rules, so she wouldn’t actually name Declan Finn. That and she’s a fucking coward. Call him out by name or STFU, Sarah.

Finn’s crime, of course, was volunteering to help but not being cool enough to actually be leadership. It’s horrible, I know.

Meanwhile, Finn had actually managed to, you know, actually get a recommendation list up. Which is still more than Hoyt has managed.

Failure #4 – Not stepping down when her failure became clear

Apparently Hoyt has had some serious health issues for a while. For that, I am truly sorry. I don’t wish that on anyone.

But do you know what an actual leader does when it becomes clear that she’s too sick to, you know, lead?

She steps down and finds a new leader. She would’ve had plenty of volunteers.

Failure #5 – Projecting her own failures onto others

Meanwhile, while she’s going about abject failure at every level, she’s projecting all of her own incompetence, greed, and narcissistic attention whoring onto other people. She accused Mr. Finn of volunteering for Sad Puppies just to help market his book, and went on at length about how much it didn’t help and he should let it go.

Meanwhile, of course, the sole reason she’s holding onto “leadership” of SPV, despite running the Titanic straight into the iceberg, is so that she can use it to market her books. The reason it hasn’t helped her isn’t because it’s a bad marketing tool. It’s because she’s totally incompetent at it.

There is no question that earlier Sad Puppies rounds resulted in beneficial publicity for Larry Correia, Brad Torgersen, and Vox Day. None. Larry and Brad kind of rode the wave a little bit. Vox Day masterfully turned the whole thing into a publicity coup d’etat.

Sarah Hoyt crashed the wave into a brick wall. A wet noodle could’ve reaped more benefit from it than she has. But due to her own narcissism, she refuses to let go of it.

Failure #6 – Refusing to let it go

Given all of this, you’d think that somebody who spent months literally doing nothing would have an easy time just… letting it go. But now, that play would require at least some competence, and Hoyt has demonstrated that she has absolutely none. So instead, she’s penning more posts about the subject as recently as yesterday.

But is she actually accomplishing anything? Nope, she’s just out playing Mean Girls again. She’s hitting hard on Mr. Finn (while still lacking any courage and refusing to name him out loud), and also hitting on everyone around him.

In a word, an author of mediocre success is trying to bully a less successful author in order to feel better about her own failure. She’s admitted herself that she’s several books behind, and no wonder. She’s too busy writing several-thousand-word-long insanity-fests.

Here’s a tip, Sarah: lay off my authors and get back to work, before your publishers call and demand their advances back – as they have every legal and moral right to do if you’re that far behind.

Saudi Arabia Inches Closer to Archduke Ferdinand

As I’ve mentioned before, Saudi Arabia trembles on the edge of disaster. Consider what I wrote on the subject less than a year and a half ago:

I’ve also already noted that oil has historically been overpriced. Middle eastern dictatorships have long relied on this for stability – Saudi Arabia most especially. Their entire nation essentially runs on a patronage system that begins at the top with the Saudi King. He buys loyalty from those directly beneath him – literally buys it – with oil money. And they buy loyalty from those beneath them with that same oil money. And so on. The entire system depends on the flow of oil money.

The recent plunges in oil prices have put this system in mortal peril. The money flow has slowed tremendously. In the past, Saudi Kings would have lowered output in order to push the price back up. But right now they can’t. The obvious reason that everyone is talking about these days is all the new oil sources coming into the market, specifically from fracking in the US, but also from other sources. On top of that, OPEC has lacked the discipline it’s had in the past. If they agreed to cut output, nobody would actually stick to the agreement.

But the other reason is the Saudis themselves. King Salman is caught in a huge catch-22 right now. On the one hand, if he doesn’t cut production and force prices back up it will bankrupt his country. On the other hand, if he cuts production he’ll run out of money to pay his cronies with in the short term. As I’ve noted previously, unlike his older brother King Abdullah, he has not yet had time to truly consolidate his power. He’s also eighty years old, and by all reports not in the best of mental health. And, as I noted in the piece last year, the succession path in the kingdom is currently shaky. It’s uncertain that his recently appointed heir would actually become the next king.

The situation has only deteriorated since then. Oil prices haven’t risen – they’ve dropped. The price drop comes despite Saudi Arabia’s cuts to oil productionl. The Saudis’ ability to define oil prices at will hasn’t just been damaged, it’s been utterly and completely destroyed. Increases in oil production, mostly from the United States, have fundamentally changed the market dynamics. The recent output cuts from the kingdom will have only two results: reduced market share and reduced revenue.

As I noted above, the Saudis cannot afford reduced revenue. They’ve already run themselves into a deep financial hole. And their country essentially runs on the royal family buying support from the peasants. When the money dries up, the powder keg explodes.

I’ve also noted the political instability in the country.

My very strong opinion is that whatever his actual intentions, King Salman has just laid the groundwork for a Saudi civil war.

In moves announced on Saudi state television, Salman replaced Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz and named the powerful interior minister, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, as next in line.

bin Nayef, on the other hand, is recently appointed to the position and hence will also not have had much time to consolidate his power. Again, however, he is of the Saudi royal family, so there will be some built in power base there. But he’s also unlikely to have the time to consolidate a power base. King Salman is 79. How many years before he, too passes? His predecessor, King Abdullah, lived to 90. So perhaps another decade? Maybe a few years after that?

Only two years later, I could write nearly the same article today. It turns out that King Salman has, once again, replaced the crown prince.

Saudi Arabia’s king has appointed his son Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince – replacing his nephew, Mohammed bin Nayef, as first in line to the throne.

King Salman’s decree also means Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 31, will become deputy prime minister while continuing as defence minister.

It looks like Prince Mohammed bin Nayef never had even less time to consolidate his power base than I expected. But he did manage to run down the clock, ensuring that Mohammed bin Salman has even less time than bin Nayef might have had he lasted. King Salman is now 81. How many years does he have left? His death is now even more likely to touch off a succession crisis.

Given the instability already inherent in the region and the critical strategic importance of Saudi Arabia’s oil, that crisis will have global implications. Will it be the next Archduke Ferdinand moment?

My money says yes.

Writing a Page Turner – Part 2

Most of the early readers of Post Traumatic Stress have called it a real page turner. Page turners are good. They’re fun to read. It’s a great complement from your readers.

But most of all, page turners sell.

People enjoy books that they don’t want to put down. And – here’s the real magic – page turners make them want to buy the sequel, too. This is how binge readers are born, and binge readers are where the money is.

One thing to keep in mind is that no one of these techniques is essential. You can write page turning novels by breaking any (and maybe even all) of these “rules.” This is just one approach, but it’s an approach that works pretty well.

Believe it or not, the “page turner” aspect of Post Traumatic Stress is mostly intentional. It’s technique that you can learn, and today I want to teach some of that to you.

Yesterday I mentioned that chapters are a key element of page turners. This should be pretty obvious. After all, chapters form one of the foundational building blocks of any novel. We’ve already discussed that short chapters can be helpful. Today, we’ll move on to a second chapter-related technique.

Secret #2 – End Each Chapter On A Hook

Having short chapters helps keep someone from deciding not to read the next one. But you also want to hit them on the other side. Give your readers a reason to keep reading.

The best way to do this is with a “hook” at the end of each chapter. A good hook consists of the following elements:

  • A hint of what’s coming next. Think about what’s next for the characters in the chapter you just finished. Provide a taste – but just a taste – of that, right at the end of the chapter.
  • A little bit of mystery. Don’t tell them everything. People like mysteries (indeed, its one of the better selling fiction genres).
  • A touch of danger, scandal, or intrigue. There’s a reason cliffhangers are called cliffhangers. You want to get the adrenaline going a bit here. In an action or horror oriented story, this can be easy. Just provide a bit of a hint about the next opponent your heroes will face. But you can pull this off in a drama just as well. Think more of obstacles rather than opponents, and give a clue about what challenge is coming next.
  • Make sure each challenge is successively harder than the previous one. That’s how you keep ramping up the intensity. Don’t blow all your big guns early. Save them for the climax.

Here are a few examples of final sentences from chapters of Post Traumatic Stress.

  • Then the dream came again. Note that at this point in the book, one nightmare has already been vividly recounted for the reader. That leaves a good impression that the dream coming is bad. This sentence leaves unresolved tension. The reader doesn’t want to end here, because it’s not a good feeling. He wants to keep reading until he can release that tension. Of course, you’re not going to let that happen.
  • “Heya, Mikey!” His nose glowed yellow as he growled, “can I come in and play?” This is an example of moving the first line of the next chapter to be the ending of the current chapter. A “new” opponent arrives. In this case, he’s actually already known to the hero, which increases the tension. The next chapter begins the true altercation.
  • But tonight he’d have to deal with something far worse: politicians, lawyers, and bureaucrats. This ending takes the dramatic route rather than foreshadowing action. Note that the previous paragraph gives a quick recap of life challenges the protagonist has already faced – rather serious challenges. This single sentence accomplishes several things at once. It provides a tantalizing hint of what’s coming next. The reader gets just a taste of scandal thanks to the job descriptions. It provides a character point – our hero clearly doesn’t like dealing with these kinds of people. It’s highly relatable – most of the rest of us don’t like it, either. And it’s a little funny. We all know that those things aren’t actually worse than fighting in a war (one of the challenges listed in the recap; our hero is an ex-soldier).
  • The lights went out. Then all hell broke loose. This one, on the other hand, is very action oriented. The chapter that follows is one of the truly major action set pieces of the book. In this case, it’s also pretty unexpected. The prior scene has built a decent amount of dramatic tension in a very different direction. Now, bam, the reader gets hit from the other side with physical tension. Standing on its own, this line seems moderately interesting. Together with the misdirection, it’s far more effective.

Bonus tip: One easy way to end your chapter on a hook is to take the first sentence of your next chapter and move it to the end of your current chapter.

Writing a Page Turner – Part 1

About a dozen people have now read Post Traumatic Stress and reported back to me. The early reviews fall neatly into three categories:

  1. Sorry, it’s not my genre.
  2. It’s not my genre, but I really liked it anyway.
  3. Man, that was a real page turner!

I’m not losing sleep over the first group. In fact, I use the word group loosely here – that was one person! The second group is great to hear, and that included several people. But most of my beta readers, book blurbers, and editors are genre fans. Their response has been overwhelmingly the last answer.

Page turners are good. They’re fun to read. It’s a great complement from your readers.

But most of all, page turners sell.

People enjoy books that they don’t want to put down. And – here’s the real magic – page turners make them want to buy the sequel, too. This is how binge readers are born, and binge readers are where the money is.

Believe it or not, the “page turner” aspect of Post Traumatic Stress is mostly intentional. It’s technique that you can learn, and today I want to teach some of that to you.

Secret #1 – Keep your chapters short

Chapters are half the secret to a page turner. Since you were probably an avid reader before you became a writer, think about it from your own perspective. How many nights have you lay in bed reading and thought, “I’ll just read one more chapter?” As a writer, this is exactly the thought you want to convey to your reader.

Chapters are the natural “break” point for a book. That’s where your reader will put it down – if you let him. So don’t.

It’s easier for your reader to accept that one last (OK, it’s really for real the absolute last one this time!) chapter… and then to do it again, and again. This is especially true for Kindle readers. You can adjust the display on your e-reader device. Mine is set to tell me how many minutes (at my reading speed, calculated by the device) I have left in the current chapter. When I’m reading at 1AM (which happens rather a lot), it’s easy for me to look at a five minute chapter and say, “OK, I’ll just read that one.” But when I’m reading after midnight and I see a twenty minute chapter? That’s when I put the book down and go to sleep.

Be the page turner. Keep your chapters short. My average chapter length for Post Traumatic Stress is 1450 words. That’s only two manuscript pages, and only about a half dozen book pages.

Bonus tip: Try to keep each chapter to one “scene.” This will help you keep the chapters shorter and more tightly focused. But don’t slave yourself to this rule too tightly. Some scenes won’t be long enough to flesh out even a short chapter. Even so, try to keep them related.

My first draft of Post Traumatic Stress had one scene per chapter. In the second draft, I ended up cutting several chapters in half and merging them together. So now I have about 2-3 chapters that have two scenes rather than one. Still, the scenes tie very closely together, which is why I did it (that, and individually each scene was longer than it needed to be).

Tomorrow: how to ensure your reader desperately wants to start the next chapter.