Failure: what drives the beta hero

Lately, I’ve found myself writing a lot about characters who are failures.

At this stage of my life, I’m now older than a whole lot of people. I have the leisure to look around at peoples’ lives, particularly the “failure” kinds. You know, the people who get on social media and weep that their book only sold four copies, so it’s a failure and they’re taking it down. And then they leave the group when people tell them to try harder.

Failure is such a nebulous thing. In school, you get a big fat F and have to repeat a class or rewrite a paper. That sucks. It’s like being slapped in the face. But all it means is that you didn’t meet a certain standard set by the teacher or the school. Kids don’t have this perspective. Failure is the END OF EVERYTHING OMG.

But once you become an adult, what is failure, really? When you go bankrupt? You’re still alive–you can start over. When your project doesn’t sell? When people say nasty things about you? What is the failure point? Those are all setbacks, not the END. The END is when you’re dead.

Success can feel like failure when it eats you alive and rockets you to an all new tax bracket. Talk to lottery winners about this.

So, in my pondering failures and what it means to fail, I sat down and wrote a superhero trilogy with a beta hero.

Beta males are fascinating to me, especially in a team dynamic. It’s the sidekick, the guy who is content to let somebody else lead. He usually has his own interests and ideas, but he keeps them to himself. He’s easy-going, and plays off the driven personality of the alpha male.

But what happens when the beta hero is forced to become the leader?

You guessed it: failure. Lots and lots of failure as he has to learn to make decisions. Sometimes he makes bad decisions because he’s not good at this leadership thing. This creates friction with his friends, and especially the previous alpha male, who can see the outcome of all these mistakes miles away and is gnashing his teeth at his friend’s perceived stupidity.

This is fun to play with in a superhero setting, because everyone on the team has some kind of power. They could all be leaders, and they all have ever-present stakes as they fight the resident supervillain. In a setting like this, forcing the beta male into an alpha role is even more devastating. He could get all his friends killed with one bad choice … and he carries this knowledge as a terrible burden.

So, I present to you Guardian’s Awakening, first book in the After Atlantis trilogy.

guardians-awakening-cover-f

Tane is the beta in his team of superheroes–the muscle who lets his team do the thinking. He and his friends defend their small town on the Atlantean Isles from the experimental robots of a neighboring mad scientist, earning enough bounty to live on.

When Tane discovers a mysterious gem that threatens to take over his mind, he accidentally drags his friends into becoming the crew of the mysterious Mercury Island. In addition, the island accepts Tane as its Guardian, making him the leader of the group. This sparks a cascade of conflicts between himself and the previous leader, Sebastian, who doubts and questions Tane at every turn. To make matters worse, they discover that a girl lies in stasis deep within the island–and she is the most powerful super of all.

Now Tane is in deeper and deeper trouble as the girl’s powers awaken, attracting the attention of supervillains and monsters alike. But she is the key to making Mercury Island fly again.

Tane has only begun to grow into his Guardian role, but his enemies–and allies–may kill him first.

Available here on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited


This book is a little heavier on the “Fantasy” end of superhero fantasy, but don’t worry. The next book will be heavier on the “superhero” end.

Advertisements

Book review: The Lake House by Kate Morton

Goodness, I’ve been an emotional mess lately. I blame the hormones. Anyway, I’ve been between books and kind of tired of everything in my to-read pile. Then my mom said, “Hey, get The Lake House by Kate Morton, it’s really good.” So, deciding that general fiction might be a nice change of pace, I grabbed it at the library.

Here’s what it’s about:

Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories.

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. He is never found, and the family is torn apart, the house abandoned.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as a novelist. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old Edevane estate—now crumbling and covered with vines. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone…yet more present than ever.

A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies from a masterful storyteller, The Lake House is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.


 

I checked the categories for this book on Amazon, and was really confused, because it’s classified as historical fiction under “Australia and Oceana” … even though this is set in England. Sure, there’s a lot of World War 1 and 2 stuff, but mostly, this book is a mystery. Actually, it’s three mysteries, all intertwined.

The first page, an unnamed character is burying something in a large box out in the woods. So you know that something untoward is going on. You have to go almost the whole book to find out who buried it and why.

It’s also a shame that Eleanor isn’t mentioned in the summary. She’s Alice’s mother, and is arguably the most important character in the book, as well as the most fascinating. The whole central mystery hinges on her actions.

Meanwhile, Sadie is satisfyingly tenacious, driven to solve this cold case of the missing toddler by her own botched case involving an abandoned little girl. There’s a whole theme of missing and abandoned children throughout the book, which is awful, yet satisfying, as each plot thread is resolved.

There’s also another theme of poetic justice. Eleanor firmly believes that everything happens for a reason, and good is rewarded and evil is punished, even when it certainly doesn’t look like it. And throughout the whole book, you see people having justice dealt to them in surprising and satisfying ways. And by the end, you see that grace is actually better than justice. The sheer grace of the ending had me crying through the last chapter. And it’s not sad–it’s a lovely, happy ending. But oh, in my hormonal state, it really got to me. Kind of like crying at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life.

The book is almost 500 pages, but it didn’t seem that long. Kind of like binge-watching a TV series in one shot, you just keep turning pages to find out what new twist will transpire. There were three big ones that looked like they had solved it … then I checked and went, “Nope, this isn’t it, because there’s too much book left.”

So, if you’d like a good read that’s part historical fiction, part mystery, part good ol’ general fiction, this is a great summer read. Heck, it’s a great winter read … or any time read.

Short dragon story

Here’s a short story about a dragon who is supposed to have a rider … and for some reason, years have gone by, and he’s never found them. This story kind of wants to be a book someday, so let me know if you think it ought to be expanded.

dragon-friend
Found on pinterest under the name “Dragon Friend”, if you know the artist, tell me so I can credit them

The dragon’s bond

by K.M. Carroll


“Haven’t you found your bond rider yet?” a dragon sneered.

The gray dragon tightened his wings against his sides and lowered his head in shame. “No … no, I haven’t.”

The other dragons laughed. A crowd of them waited as the humans poured a savory stew into huge bowls for each of them. Every dragon was a brilliant, sparkly red, or yellow, or green, or blue. They all had bond riders and proper names.

The gray had no rider, no name, and no color. All of them had begun as grays, when they had been sent out from the Shield, created by its power. But all of them had found the human the Shield had created them to bond with … except him.

Continue reading “Short dragon story”

The tired trope of Strong Women

Every so often I get fed up with Strong Women and I have to blog about it. In fact, I’ve blogged about it several other times.

What filled up my meter this time were comments on a couple of writers groups that I frequent. First off, a writer was asking for help writing a character. This character is the kickass girl who features in much of Urban Fantasy. In fact, the author had made her SO kickass that they couldn’t relate to her at all. They simply could not write this character. She was shallow as a puddle. The thread was full of helpful advice, including “don’t write her, write the people around her”. So … kind of a Rand al’Thor kind of situation.

httyd3_by_natsuakai-dcd3udb
A New Friend by Natsuakai

The other one was a poll about “which would you rather read about: shieldmaidens or sorceresses?”

I yawned at both categories. They’re both Strong Women who would be equally interesting as men. There’s nothing to them.

In an earlier blog post, I said:


In books, I enjoy a strong woman as much as anyone. David Balducci seems to write about tough women with handguns who still manage to be vulnerable. And women are tough. Speaking from experience, you have to be tough to raise kids. When the five-year-old stands there and screams, “NO!” you have to have the willpower to punish him and not let him have his way.

And yet women have this streak of Damsel in Distress, and men instinctively find it attractive. It’s the feminine mystique. Men love to care for their women by doing things for them–putting gas in her car, buying her a coveted item, working long hours to keep her clothed and fed.

Sometimes it’s hard for a woman to let her man do these things. Feminism whispers constantly that she should be out winning those things for herself, and not depend on any mere man.

But as soon as a woman swings a sword, she’s just another man. She’s lost the mystique. (And technically, women don’t have the upper-body strength for swords anyway.)

I recently saw another debate that was splitting hairs about misogyny in movies, and they were complaining about how many times Buffy got rescued by her man-friends verses doing the rescuing. It sounded about 50/50 to me, but man, these women were throwing a FIT.

And yet, I’ll bet you these women read romance novels by the cartload. What happens in romance novels? The heroine is charmed off her feet and into bed by a handsome manporn hero. MISOGYNY!

Source


 

In this blog post, I listed four characteristics of a strong (female) character. They are Strong Moral Foundation, Gentleness, Listening, and Service. For example, this is what Listening means:


The strong character must be a good listener, empathetic to others. Women are exceptional at empathy, but often this is overlooked in exchange for her leet katana skillz. We want our urban fantasy heroine to dice up demons! We don’t want a Doctor Who character who first seeks to understand the monster. Pff, nobody watches that Doctor Who show anymore, anyway!


(And now with Femme Doctor on the way, I wonder how much of his/her character will be inverted in favor of the Strong Woman trope.)

Elizabeth Elliot talked on her radio show about meeting Betty Greene, one of the founders of Missionary Aviation Fellowship. (You can read more about Betty’s astonishing accomplishments in World War I as a WASP, and how she was the first woman to fly over the Andes, here.) Elizabeth Elliot remarked about how she expected a really rough character, but Betty was soft-spoken and very feminine. She asked Betty how she held on to her femininity in the middle of such a male-dominated field as aviation.

Betty replied that she looked around at all the men she would be working with, and she resolved that she would be as feminine as possible. And she said that the men always treated her respectfully.

So, was Betty Greene a Strong Woman? You bet she was. But she wasn’t a feminist, because the goal of feminism is to become the same as a man. She was, instead, a woman. There’s a reason I’m not writing feminist books.

I want to read more heroines who embrace their femininity. If I want to read about someone acting masculine, I’ll read about men. Heck, most male characters have more vulnerabilities than Strong Woman characters. I complain about that here. (Loki, heyo!)

New dragon cozy–all the new things

I’ve been super busy the last week or so. Let me show you the list:

I’ve got the paperback of Malicious formatted and almost ready to go. Just waiting on my proof copy to show up. Not quite ready for sale yet, alas!

The whole Puzzle Box trilogy, Malevolent, Malcontent, and Malicious, are available in a single omnibus now. I’m debating turning it into a paperback, because it’s kind of a tome. For sale now on the platform of your choice! Except Smashwords. Smashwords is a pain.

I also got off my tush and finished the edits on the second dragon cozy mystery I’ve been working on. Here it is!


cozy-mystery2-cover

A fad diet has swept Carefree, Arizona. Tianna, drake shifter, has her hands full trying to invent a type of ice cream that meets the diet’s rigorous standards before the celebrity creator arrives. But when the diet creator turns up dead, Tianna must call upon her drake skills to sniff out the culprit.

A whirlwind of intrigue sweeps her in, from shifty cameramen to secretive publicists, as well as an abandoned chihuahua who knows more than she lets on. Helped (and hindered) by her friends Katie and Bruce, Tianna must find the killer hidden among the tour team before they leave town, letting the killer escape and strike again … or before Tianna gets too close and winds up on ice.

Available now on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited!


 

There you have it, folks. Where I’ve been when I’m not shmoozing around social media … working! Next project is launching this superhero trilogy. Still working through edits on that, as well as building covers for it. Trying to make it look as epic as the story inside truly is. 😀

Book tour: The Electronic Menagerie

Today I’m participating in a blog hop for a fantastic new book called the Electric Menagerie by Mollie E. Reeder.

About the Book

The Electrical Menagerie, one-of-a-kind robotic roadshow, is bankrupt.

Sylvester Carthage, illusionist and engineer, has the eccentric imagination the Menagerie needs to succeed creatively — but none of the people skills. Fast-talking Arbrook Huxley, meanwhile, has all the savvy the Menagerie needs to succeed commercially — but none of the scruples.

To save their show, Carthage & Huxley risk everything in a royal talent competition, vying for the chance to perform for the Future Celestial Queen. In this stardust-and-spark-powered empire of floating islands and flying trains, a shot at fame and fortune means weathering the glamorous and cutthroat world of critics, high society, and rival magicians —but with real conspiracy lurking beneath tabloid controversy, there’s more at stake in this contest than the prize.

Behind the glittery haze of flash paper and mirrors, every competitor has something to hide… and it’s the lies Carthage & Huxley tell each other that may cost them everything.

Dazzles from start to finish. In Carthage & Huxley, Sherlock & Watson fans will find another dynamic duo whose ready wit and sizzling banter (and inevitable personality clashes) never fail to delight. You’ll be calling for an encore performance.” Gillian Bronte Adams, author of The Songkeeper Chronicles

“The stuff that fandoms are built on.” Kyle Robert Shultz, author of Beaumont & Beasley

Purchase on Amazon

About the Author

Mollie’s first job was with a major theme park, where she operated a roller coaster, fixed parade floats, and helped Scooby-Doo put on his head. Now, Mollie is a movie producer and the author of character-driven science fiction/fantasy novels for adults who never outgrew imagination. Her favorite things include Jesus, dinosaurs, and telling cinematic stories that blend glitter and grit.

Website — Twitter — Instagram


My review:

I’ve gotten to be kind of world-weary when it comes to reading fantasy. Between epic fantasy that wants to be Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones (or both), or urban fantasy that is one more Dresden send-up with wizard detectives … I’ve been kind of tired of the whole genre. So when the author mentioned the concept of this book, I perked up. Two guys with a train full of steampunky robots giving performances and trying to solve a mystery? Sign me up!
I got behind and haven’t finished the book as of this writing, but I’m hugely enjoying it. For one thing, if you didn’t know better, you’d think you picked up a Historical Fantasy. I adore historical fantasy. This one is set toward the end of the 1800s, I’d say. Top hats, ladies in fancy dresses and parasols, everybody travels by train.
But the worldbuilding is fascinating. In this world, it’s all islands floating in the sky above the ether sea. The trains travel between them on invisible sky rails. The Stars move and occasionally fall and create new islands. There’s some kind of warring political factions I haven’t gotten into yet.
Not to mention the conflicts between Huxley and Carthage, their opposing worldviews and motivations, and the way their backstories are creeping up to bite them. And all the other weird performers in this competition, all doing weird things. Oh yeah, and the Lipizzaner horses actually fly.
So yeah, I think by the time I’m done, this will be a five -star read. It’s different enough to feel fresh, yet it’s a conspiracy plot to murder the performers in this contests, which we’re comfortingly familiar with. Put them together, and you’ve got a smashing good read.

Giveaway Time!

Explore the world of The Electrical Menagerie by entering to win this Celestial Isles prize pack, which includes: “High Victorian” playing cards by luxury playing card company Theory11, handmade galaxy mug by DeVita Designs, Science & Engineering Themed Pocket Notebook Set by CognitiveSurplus, and a tin of Electrical Menagerie themed tea (over a $50 value)! (US only.)

>>>Entry-Form<<<

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, June 4th   

Tuesday, June 5th  

 Wednesday, June 6th 

Thursday, June 7th 

 Friday, June 8th 

 Saturday, June 9th

Monday, June 11th 

The misery of E. Coli

I’ve just come out of two solid weeks of toddlers with E. Coli infections. Misery barely beings to describe it.

disease-plush
Cute plush diseases from ThinkGeek

On Memorial Day, there was a huge party down at our apartment pool. We avoided it. The next day, I thought we were safe, so we went traipsing down to the pool. Turns out there was a more informal party going on with almost as many people.

Against my better judgment, I let the kids swim anyway. We were already there and ready to go, and I hate going back on a promise I’ve made. So they swam in the pool where a lot of other people had been. The kiddy pool, in particular, smelled funny.

A few days later, E. Coli hit.

It nailed my two-year-old first. Fever, going at both ends, stomach cramps, the works. I thought it was a normal stomach bug, which usually only lasts 24 hours. Boy, was I wrong.

One day turned into two, then three, then four. I had a hard time just getting fluids into her, let alone keeping food down. But slowly she pulled out of it, and the stomach cramps subsided.

Then it hit my four-year-old. I found out later that she had actually drank the nasty pool water.

She got hugely, massively sick. Five days of fever and vomiting. Debilitating stomach cramps that left her crying.

By this time I had tumbled to the fact that this was probably E. Coli. I frantically researched what you do for it.

Turns out, there’s nothing you can do. Zero. Zilch. Because of the way it attaches to the intestinal wall, taking antibiotics only kills the good bacterial keeping it from spreading. Which makes the E. Coli spread faster, injecting more toxins and finally shutting down your kidneys. It’s a nasty beast. Mayoclinic’s website advises rest and fluids. That’s it.

But reading about the way E. Coli attaches to the intestinal wall reminded me of things I’d read about probiotics. When they have E. Coli outbreaks in restaurants or from produce, not everybody gets sick. The reason is because in some people, because of diet and other care, the good bacteria in their gut occupies every square millimeter of space. There’s no place for the E. Coli to attach.

So I started researching probiotics as a treatment for E. Coli. Turns out, a few years ago, there was a huge outbreak in Europe. The doctors there desperately researched probiotics, to the point of engineering a certain strain specifically targeted at blocking E. Coli.

There was no way my four-year-old could choke down a probiotic tablet. But she could drink a little kombucha.

Kombucha is a type of fermented tea. The yeasts and bacteria in it are the good kind that your gut needs to digest food. Our grocery store carries a high quality brand. The kind I’ve found most effective in healing a damaged gut is the kind with blue-green algae in it. It looks horrifying, but it tastes pretty good.

So I got two bottles and spent a whole day giving her sips through a straw. She would drink until the cramps started, then she would go to sleep. When she’d wake up, she’d drink a little more and sleep again. Her vomiting slowed down, but the cramps were so bad that if she moved around, they forced her to vomit again.

It was awful. I was exhausted. But the morning after the kombucha day, she woke up with no cramps, asking for food.

So now we’re all recovering, myself included. This has been such a beating. E. Coli is miserable, miserable stuff. But man, probiotics are a miracle. I hope our awful experience is helpful to other sufferers out there.

Overthinking Frozen

When Disney’s Frozen came out, at first people loved it. But as the popularity, ahem, snowballed, the next reaction was to nitpick at it and find reasons to dislike it.

This annoyed me, but I didn’t bother to argue with anybody because that would mean reiterating the same argument every day over and over.

Anyway, I’ve had sick kids all week. That means renting piles of videos off Amazon and watching them as many times as possible. The sick ones alternate between Frozen and Cars. So it’s kind of a split between Pixar and Disney.

frozen_princess_by_artgerm-d7517b4
Frozen princess by Artgerm

I’ve had time to think about all those old complaints about Frozen’s plot. And since I’m sitting here just waiting for somebody else to start puking, I figured I might as well rant about it on the ol’ blog.

Since everybody and their dog has seen Frozen by now, I’m going to assume that the following isn’t spoilers. But if you haven’t seen it, spoilers ahead.

The main complaint people make about Frozen is the plot twist with Prince Hans turning evil. “It wasn’t foreshadowed,” they whine. “There was no reason for him to turn evil. It was an arbitrary plot decision.”

Sure, it was a heck of a twist, especially since Hans had appeared to be doing the right thing until then. But I’d like to argue that Hans’s betrayal was foreshadowed. It’s mentioned early on that he has about 13 older brothers. Applying a single brain cell shows that he won’t be king. He’ll be lucky to be a lesser duke or something.

Hans doesn’t even decide to take over until it’s clear that Elsa can’t be stopped and Anna can’t be saved. Then he coldly stages a very quiet coup. Why not? The monarchy of this kingdom is doomed, and his tiny relationship with Anna is enough to give him the political standing he needs to be accepted by the local nobles and be crowned king.

It’s a shock in the movie, but then, it’s also a Pixar standard twist. Watching it, I actually laughed when Hans did his heel-turn.

In Monsters Inc, we’re set up to think that Randal, the lizard-like chameleon monster, is the bad guy. Heel turn! The kindly old CEO of Monsters Inc is the one funding Randal’s evil deeds.

In Toy Story 2, we’re set up to see Al as the antagonist. Heel-turn! It’s actually the kindly old prospector who is in league with Al.

In Toy Story 3, we’re led to believe that Ken is the villain of a ring of toy thugs. Heel-turn! It’s actually the kindly old teddy bear running the show.

Starting to see the pattern?

PixarVillains
I notice some of the heel-turn villains are missing.

Pixar did this particular plot twist so often that audiences were getting bored, so they had to try different formulas in movies like Brave and Up. (Although in Up, the kindly old man explorer who Carl adores is–heel-turn!–the bad guy.)

I think where Frozen got into trouble was that it was Disney, not Pixar. Despite most of the Pixar talent migrating to Disney, people didn’t expect the standard Pixar plot twist in a Disney movie. And Hans was the handsome love-interest spoof, not a kindly old man. We were set up to expect the Duke of Weaseltown to be the bad guy. Whoops, Pixar standard plot twist happened.

So, when people whine about Frozen’s plot twist with Hans being bad, go watch a bunch of Pixar instead. None of those other heel-turns had much foreshadowing, either, unless you knew exactly what to look for. It gets pretty predictable, really.

Well, I’m off to watch Tangled. At least we know from the start that her witchy stepmom is the villain.

The strangely Christian meta narrative of the Destiny games

Hold on to your hats, folks, I’m going all literary analysis on you today.

So I’ve been getting into the games Destiny and Destiny 2. These are multiplayer online shooters where you shoot aliens and collect loot. Pretty straightforward and pretty fun (and often, just downright pretty.)

destiny2e32017placewaterway
Destiny 2 concept art: Nessus

But the game also hints at a deeper backstory that it doesn’t explain super well, unless you’re willing to spend hours piecing together tidbits scattered throughout the games. So I’ve been watching lore videos on YouTube, where other people take all those tidbits and string them together into a cohesive story.

I’ve been increasingly delighted with the meta-narrative of Destiny.

Like most science fiction, the story operates from a humanist worldview: mankind can become gods if we just put aside our differences and work hard enough. But then the metaplot comes into play, and it’s decidedly not humanist. In fact, it swings decidedly Christian. I wonder if the writers at Bungie realize what they hath wrought and its significance.

The big picture story goes like this. There is this alien-machine god-thing called the Traveler that looks like a small white moon. It’s power is called Light. It shows up in our solar system, grants humans the Light, and terraforms the inner planets and the various moons of the gas giants. Humans go live on these planets. Humans also develop longer lives, better tech, etc, and go into a Golden Age.

destiny-2-concept-art-2
Destiny concept art

This doesn’t last, of course. There’s an evil force called the Darkness that chases the Traveler from place to place. Its weapons are four alien races that serve it, but all who crave the Light–or hate it. They stomp humanity, destroy their colonies, and ruin Earth.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The Traveler actually battles the Darkness one on one. The game is very vague about this point, and the lore videos have multiple theories about what exactly happened. Point is, the Traveler won, but it was wounded and stopped terraforming and things.

Instead, it sent out these tiny robots made of Light called Ghosts. Each Ghost resurrects a single person, basically a zombie (or revenant, since they have their soul) powered by Light. They became known as Guardians. If one of these guardians is killed, they can be resurrected so long as their Ghost is unharmed. If their Ghost dies, no more resurrections for them, it’s lights out.

destiny_warlock_by_tdspiral-d7ydedi
Destiny warlock by TDSpiral

See the metaphor going on, here? It’s super interesting. Almost a Holy Ghost thing.

Now, it’s not a perfect metaphor. In real life, the God is the source of all Light, and He was not only before the Darkness, he already defeated it. The Darkness itself has a name and a face. Once known as the Light Bearer, he has become the Enemy, and his sin was pride. “I will become like the Most High!”

Jesus battled the Darkness and overcame it, being wounded on our behalf. In Destiny terms, the Last City in the shadow of the Traveler might as well be built at the foot of the Cross, because the symbolism is so similar.

Now, it’s really too bad that Destiny clings to its humanist philosophy. In its lore, the Traveler gives Light without making any demands of humanity. No devotion to righteousness, no forsaking sin and Darkness. In real life, there are two sides, and we have to pick one. If that was the case in Destiny, then the battle between Light and Darkness would go beyond meta-narrative and become the personal struggle of every Guardian. The story of the Warlords–guardians who abused their power–would become even more vile.

destiny-2-concept-art-jeremy-fenske-02

If such a choosing of sides was possible, then redemption would also be possible for the four alien races who serve the Darkness, however unwittingly. It would be possible for them to abandon Darkness and serve the Light, too, thus becoming very interesting allies.

But Destiny keeps things very Tao, with Light and Darkness equally matched and no ultimate victory is possible. Mankind doesn’t have to seek righteousness and abandon sin in order to receive power. (Which, the more you think about it, is so strange. Why aren’t Guardians forced to pick sides? There are in-game stories of Guardians who joined the Darkness, so maybe, in a way, that choice is still there, just buried out of sight.)

So, that’s Destiny’s meta-narrative, a lot of Christian ideas underlying a humanist story. And it’s funny, because if you make the game more humanist (the Light is ours because humanity is awesome), then the battle between Light and Darkness falls apart, with no real difference between them. If you make the game more Christian, with the Light actually having conditions and everyone being forced to pick sides, then the story becomes much more profound.

Maybe that’s one reason the story is intentionally left vague, scattered throughout the game in hints and tidbits. Breadcrumbs for those to see who can. I’m continually shocked at the Christian terminology these lore gamers use to describe these concepts.

I think it’s a good lesson for us Christian writers. Tell a good story and don’t be afraid to pull in delicious metaphor about the struggle between good and evil. It rings true for everyone.

destiny-2-concept-art-edz-traveler-shard
Destiny 2 concept art: shard of the Traveler

 

Products or quality entertainment: what are we creating?

Ah, Dean Wesley Smith, so much food for thought while challenging paradigms.

Anyway, he pointed out in a recent blog post that writers get really fixated on creating a product. We want to crank out books like bottle caps on a conveyor belt. More is better, we’re told. Make it a great product so customers will keep coming back.

Then I read an interesting thread on the Writer’s Cafe on kboards. People were talking about the low quality of these books being cranked out. Particularly the short stories or secret series prologues that are given out as bait for getting people to subscribe to mailing lists. They’re referred to as reader magnets.

One person said:

Most readers don’t want free or cheap books so much as they want entertaining books. Most of these reader magnets are marketing tools that offer little appeal to the reader.

Value is such a nebulous term as to be almost meaningless, but I think the shortest answer is this: the reader magnet should be your absolute best work. What I see, instead, is authors giving readers a blah free story, then wonder why readers don’t come back for more (often accompanied by a proclamation lamenting “freebie hoarders”).

Sturgeon’s law states that 90% of everything is crap (tongue in cheek, of course), but I’d suspect that rate is more like 99% for the reader magnets I see. Your magnet has to be a pro-quality product that you could charge money for, and I don’t see that with most of them. If we are being honest, most of them are written because some person on a forum or book said we needed one, and it was just a little thing to tick off on the massive to do list. This is generally not a recipe for compelling fiction.

Source


Between that little discussion about good quality books, and Dean’s observation about how authors fixate on product over story, it’s given me a lot to think about. Do I want to be an author who cranks out Products? Or do I want to be an author who takes care to craft a really engaging, entertaining story that is a fun, fantastic escape?

babydragons-sandara
Baby dragons, by Sandara. Quality art from a quality artist.

As a reader, I respect the heck out of my own readers. I want to give them a great experience when they crack one of my books. It’s why I took down the Spacetime books. If I couldn’t stand to read them, what reader would? They weren’t a good experience.

So, what do you think? Would you rather read a Product? Or a book that an author had worked very hard to make Quality Entertainment?