Some of my Favorite Quotes about Writers

A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.
– Richard Bach

A hack is on the constant hunt for ‘ideas’ for his plots or ‘new angles.’ The real writer is haunted by a plot which he must write out of inner necessity. He is impervious to suggestions.
– Edmund Bergler

However great a man’s natural talent may be, the art of writing cannot be learned all at once.
– Jean Jacques Rousseau

Everyone who works in the domain of fiction is a bit crazy. The problem is to render this craziness interesting.
– Francois Truffaut

Any writer overwhelmingly honest about pleasing himself is almost sure to please others.
– Marianne Moore

How can you write if you can’t cry?
-Ring Lardner

Ten Weird Writing Prompts

1. The fishbowl felt surprisingly heavy as I placed it over my head.

2. In all my years as an arborist, I never had a tree hug me back. Until today.

3. “Of course I can babysit your walrus,” I said with a forced smile.

4. It’s hard when anyone’s ex comes back for a visit. Mine came back as a zombie.

5. I doubt anyone will believe the fantastic adventure I had last summer, so I’ll tell you about the weekend I spent binge-watching Netflix instead.

6. I went to Australia to find myself. Unfortunately, it turned out I wasn’t there.

7. It wasn’t until my first concert that I found out I’d been blowing into the wrong end of my saxophone.

8. You don’t know me, and that probably won’t change by the time you’re done with this story.

9. It goes without saying that I also got a flat tire on the day that my house blew up.

10. The mongoose said this would happen.

A New Milestone at Brass Screw 2017

Last weekend I attended to the Brass Screw Confederacy steampunk festival in Port Townsend to give fun presentations and sell my Keltin Moore series of fantasy adventures along with the rest of my books. While this was the third year for me at the Screw, there was one very big difference with this year’s event for me.

This was the first time I paid for a vendor table all for myself at an event. Previously, I had only ever participated in vendor halls at Cons and festivals by partnering up with other authors to share the table fees and reduce the risk of losing money at an event. Unfortunately, there are downsides that come with sharing selling space with other people, so I decided to take a risk and see how I would fare on my own.

There were a couple of reasons why I felt like this year’s Brass Screw was the right time and place to test my ability to manage a table on my own. For one, the Brass Screw has traditionally been a good event for me. Last year I sold out of The Beast Hunter at a shared table in the vendor hall, and during the year previous I had respectable sales despite only selling my books after a reading. Another reason why I thought this was a good time to try having my own table was that with the publication of Into the North, I now have four books of my own, not to mention artwork from one of my cover artists that I can sell.

So how did it go? Well, a lot of vendors I’ve spoken with will say that an event is not a failure as long as they make their table fee back, and in the three days of the event, I more than tripled that amount. Of course, I also need to consider all of the other costs that came with the trip, like gas, food, and the cost of printing the books, but I think that this trip has proved that under the right set of circumstances, I should be able to fly solo at certain events now.

That being said, I’m going to take a little break from genre-themed events for a while. My teaching schedule is going to be pretty heavy for the summer and fall, and I need to continue to be careful about how I choose to spend my time and money as I develop my writing career. But this last weekend was definitely a good sign as I continue to find a balance between being an artist and a businessman.

Tips for Handling Writer Blindness

Have you become blind to the mistakes in your manuscript? Are you in that limbo of eternal editing without really getting anything done? Here are a few tips to break you out of that ongoing cycle.

Change Your Font, Color, and Text Size

Oftentimes, we become blind to the errors in our stories because we’ve seen this vast collections of sentences so many times that we mentally fill-in what a section should say, rather than actually looking at the words in front of you. One way to deal with this is to make your story harder to read. Changing things like the color of the page or the font will force your brain to focus on the words in front of you and snap you out of that editing reverie.

Listen to Mildly Distracting Music

This can be tricky, as you run the risk of becoming so distracted that you can’t work. But if you can find the right combination of volume level and genre, you can achieve the same kind of results as the previous tip without additional eye strain.

Read it Out Loud

This is an old tip, but it works. Reading your story out loud can help with the flow of the narrative and the believability of the dialogue, among other things. Be careful of reading the story too fast however, as you can run the risk of seeing one thing but saying something else out loud.

Read it Backwards

This method is best for when you’re trying to proofread your own work. If you read the story from back to front, it’s impossible to fall into the natural rhythm of the narrative, keeping you focused only on the words in front of you. I recommend taking it in paragraph-sized chunks, as anything smaller gets really tricky when going backwards.

Get Help

Whether it’s an editor, a beta reader, or just a friend looking over the manuscript, a second set of eyes may be your best way of dealing with your writer blindness. Just don’t rely solely on someone else to find and fix all your mistakes. This is your story, after all, and you should have the final stamp of approval on every line of it.

 

These tips come from part four of my writing course “A Novel in Four Drafts”. If you’re interested in taking this class, registration is currently open to the public through the continuing education program at South Puget Sound Community College. The course begins June 22, so be sure to register soon.

Click here to learn more

Storyline Review for Marvel: Ultimate Alliance

Marvel: Ultimate AllianceI wasn’t going to do this review. I told myself that I shouldn’t do a video game storyline review for the first real article of my new blog home. But eventually I realized that this is a great way to introduce new fans to the sort of content that interests me. Honestly, when it comes to my own entertainment I’m more of a gamer than a reader, and I enjoy analyzing the storylines that I encounter while gaming. Besides, I like to think that I’m covering some ground that most other video game reviewers miss by focusing on the storyline rather than the mechanics in a game. That being said, let’s take a look at one of my favorite action RPGs, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance.

Premise

Dr. Doom has gathered some of the world’s most powerful super-villains in an attempt to (what else?) rule the world. To combat these Masters of Evil, Nick Fury and SHIELD have assembled earth’s mightiest heroes to help. The battle rages across a variety of locations, including the SHIELD helicarrier, Mephisto’s realm, Atlantis, Asgard, and the Skrull home-world. Will the heroes win, or will Doom succeed in his nefarious quest?

Review

The first thing you need to know about this game is that it doesn’t take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The game was released in 2006, just two years before Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man changed the face of superhero movies. As a result, the characters in this game are perhaps some of the last iterations that are faithful adaptations of the comics with no influences from the movies. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Tony Stark is bland. Captain America is a humorless hard-nose. Loki is a prancing  doofus. Only Deadpool has any character at all, and even he is going to seem very mild to people expecting to see something closer to Ryan Reynolds’ signature style. Even worse, most of the dialogue in the game is written from a generic POV. Aside from a few comical mini-scenes and Easter eggs, nearly all of the dialogue is either droning exposition or hokey melodrama regardless of who is talking.

The plot isn’t much better. Dr. Doom’s plan is a convoluted mess, forcing your characters to go on a massive scavenger hunt from one random location to another. While this allows for some interesting set pieces, mostly it just feels like a lame excuse to showcase every marvel character that isn’t in the X-men or Spider-man franchises.

Those of you who remember my reactions to the storyline in Diablo 3 may think that I’m being too harsh on Ultimate Alliance. After all, this is an action RPG. The story doesn’t really matter, does it? Actually, it does. The reason why Diablo 3 worked was because it dropped the player into the midst of a vibrant, deadly world with little explanation beyond “Demons are killing people. Go do something about it!” The mistake Ultimate Alliance makes it over-explaining everything. Every hero (and there are around 20 of them) get multiple dialogues describing their origins, powers, and their bland reactions to the plot. Every villain gives a monologue about why they are superior to you before you battle them, and there are a lot of minor villains to go through. In short, the story in an action RPG is effective when it’s minimal, while Ultimate Alliance has ten-minute stretches of tedious dialogue every half-hour.

All of that being said, I would still recommend this game to superhero fans, especially those of you who are feeling nostalgic for Marvel before the MCU took over movie theaters around the world. Despite a few too many quick-time event boss fights, the game mechanics are overall very good and reflect the unique powers of each character well. But unless you’ve somehow never heard of Spider-man or Wolverine, don’t bother listening to their dialogue, as they have nothing interesting to say.