Showing posts with label books I read. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books I read. Show all posts

Accomplished this year; expect to accomplish next year

My head has been deep in Torment for so long that I feel like I haven't done anything else this year. Turns out I have!
  • The public got to see part of that game I'm working on.
  • I got two new short stories published: "The Patch Man" and "Curiosity."
  • I officially met the requirements to be an active member of SFWA (not that I've joined yet, but I can!).
  • I read 11 books. (That's not a good reading year for me, but a couple of those books were part of James Clavell's enormous Asian Saga, and I also critiqued a couple of novels).
  • I went to PAX, had breakfast with Pat Rothfuss, and even spoke to people.
  • I wrote a novella.
  • I have a new novel on sub.
  • And in my personal life: our blind daughter started school, we finally made progress in getting our paperless child an ID card, I fell in love with Star Wars again, and the teen-formerly-known-as-Sullen is no longer sullen -- she even laughs at my jokes again!
What's coming in 2016?
  • The public will get to see the rest of the game I'm working on, and we'll find out whether the last three years were worth it. (Hahaha! I'm just kidding. I haven't had to worry about income for three whole years! What do I care if you like the game or not?)
  • (Still kidding. Please like the game.)
  • You'll probably get to read that novella I wrote.
  • I may finally discover a way to consistently write novels as well as design computer games for a living. Either that or time travel. We'll see!
Also, for your edification, here are a couple of things I loved in 2015 that I want you to love to. I'm deliberately trying to focus on things you might not have heard of.


House of Ivy and Sorrow. A young adult fantasy from Natalie Whipple about witches. I have always loved Natalie's worldbuilding, and I love unique takes on witches. House of Ivy and Sorrow delivers both.




Primordia. A graphic adventure in the classic style of the Sierra *Quest games, with a heavy dose of influence from Planescape: Torment. It's an insanely cool world in which humans are gone and only intelligent -- and surprisingly sympathetic -- robots remain. Written and designed by Tides of Numenera's own Mark Yohalem. If you liked Planescape or Space Quest, you should definitely check this out.


Frostborn. A middle-grade, Norse-influenced fantasy novel from Lou Anders. If Banner Saga were a book about a boy and a half-giantess, this is what it would feel like. My boys loved it. I loved it. I need to get my hands on the sequel for them.




Shovel Knight. A crowd-funded side-scroller in which you play a knight whose primary weapon is his shovel. It's way more fun than that sounds. Shovel Knight is Mega Man and Ducktales and every platformer I've ever loved.


Tales of Monkey Island. If you know Monkey Island, then odds are you've heard of this one, but I only just played it this year. I love it almost as much as the Curse of Monkey Island (being my favorite of the series). My only real problem with it is that there will probably never be a sequel.





What did you love in 2015?


"Do you credit a Most High God?"

John Scalzi recently described himself as "an agnostic of the 'I'm almost certain God does not exist, but intellectual honesty requires me to admit I just don’t know' stripe." That's a belief I have a lot of respect for.

I'm both similar and opposite (yes, I can be both). I'm certain God exists and cares for us, but intellectual honesty requires me to admit I could be wrong.

I said I have a lot of respect for beliefs like Scalzi's, and that's because there isn't proof of a God -- not in the way we want there to be. If there were, the internet would have a lot less to argue about. And so of course I struggle with my own belief.

I'm certain God exists; I wouldn't be out here, doing what I'm doing, if I thought He didn't -- I'm just not that good. But why am I so certain? That's harder to quantify, and certainly I can't do it in a way that would irrefutably convince an atheist I am right.

But I don't believe blindly. As I said, I struggle constantly. I question why I believe what I do, and why others believe what they do. I question every word I teach my kids, refusing to teach the Sunday School lessons I was given unless I believe them myself. I frequently answer their questions with, "I don't know." I teach them what other people believe. Most importantly, I teach them that I won't ever make them follow God, that they have to make that choice for themselves.

To the point of this post, sci-fi/fantasy is usually so unabashedly atheistic, that I am always surprised -- quite pleasantly -- when it speaks directly to my own heart struggles. The passage below is from SFWA Grand Master Gene Wolfe's The Wizard. Sir Able, the narrator, is a knight more noble than any I have ever read about, who wrestles daily with what it means to be good and honorable. The sister of the king meets him in secret on an unrelated matter, but during the conversation, she asks him if he believes in God.

I'm sure it won't hit you the way it hit me, but I have to share it anyway, because I see a lot of truth in Sir Able's answer:

"Do you credit a Most High God?"

The question caught me by surprise. I said, "Why of course," stammering like the boy I pretended not to be.

"I do and don't." She smiled, and the smile became her laugh. It was music, but I never ached to hear it again as I did Disiri's. Even then, I thought her less than human, and that laugh was at the root of my opinion.

"I don't and I do." She cocked her head like a bird.

I bowed again. "Just so, My Lady. We can think only of creatures, of things He's made. Creatures are all we know, and can be all we know until we know Him. When we think of Him like that, we find we can't believe. He can't be like a creature any more than a carpenter is like a table."

Dead Boys, Invisible Girls, and Teens That Can't Read Minds

I apologize for the blog silence. I'm deep in the drafting tunnels of a certain science fantasy novella and/or role-playing game. I'll resurface once I get this novella worked out. Until then, please see the last part of the official blog schedule.

But I'm sending this missive via miner's canary* because there are three very important books I need to tell you about. All of them are cool, written by exceedingly cool people, and I think I'm in the acknowledgements of two of them (which ones? You'll just have to read them to find out!).

* Please send the canary back, by the way. The air in these tunnels is starting to smell funny.


Jack of Hearts by Ricardo Bare
Jack lost someone, causing a deep pain he could no longer endure. Most boys would take their own life. Jack gave his heart to the Lady of Twilight and has become her heartless assassin. Now he feels nothing, even as he does the Lady's bidding in hunting a thieving wizard.

But when he meets a beautiful girl trapped in a mirror, something stirs inside of him. A shadow of what he used to be. He wonders if he made the right decision after all, but getting his heart back from the witch will prove more difficult than any mission he's been on.

Jack of Hearts, is Ricardo's debut novel that came out just a couple weeks ago. He is one of my most awesome critique partners, and also happens to be the lead designer of the critically acclaimed stealth action/adventure game Dishonored, released last year. Check this book out, folks.


Transparent by Natalie Whipple
Touted as X-Men meets Godfather. Fiona McClean was born invisible, which makes her the perfect daughter for Vegas's biggest crime lord. But when her father pushes her too far, she goes on the run and tries to live a normal life in a small town far from her father's reach. Far, but not far enough. When her father tracks her down, she has to decide how far she'll go to protect the people she loves.

Transparent is Natalie's debut (that doesn't actually come out until next week, but you can pre-order it now). She's a good friend of mine, and it's been both heartbreaking and exhilarating to watch her journey to publication these last few years. She is (as I've said) hugely imaginative, and it shows in her ideas. She is also part of our writing team for Torment, which makes her and Torment extra awesome. 

Open Minds by Susan Kaye Quinn
Kiera is a zero, a non-reader in a world where everybody can read minds. Until the day she accidentally control's her best friend's mind and discovers she's an entirely different kind of freak: a mindjacker. It turns out she's not the only one, and she's soon drawn into an underworld that she never suspected existed.

As it happens, this was Susan's debut as well. Yes, okay, this book came out two years ago, AND I've already talked about it. But I'm bringing it to your attention now because Open Minds is, now and forever, free to download.

So what are you waiting for?

On Covers and Curse Workers

I just finished reading RED GLOVE, the second book in Holly Black's Curse Workers trilogy.

And GAH! This trilogy!

Understand: I LOVE the stories. Love the characters, love the cons (oh my GOSH, the cons), love the powers, love the world. I think I liked WHITE CAT better than this one (the big con felt . . . connier in the first book), but RED GLOVE was still very good.

When I read WHITE CAT, my only problems with it were a minor plot issue and the cover.

Guess what my problems are now.

So, the minor plot issue is really minor. More of a world-building nitpick than anything: If everyone wears gloves all the time -- and the murderer was wearing gloves when she was caught on camera -- why would Cassel need to wipe prints off the gun? (And do police even use fingerprinting if everyone wears gloves all the time?).

 
But the cover. It's better this time -- it's not whitewashed, for example. Actually, it's a pretty cool design, but . . . I dunno. See, I think boys would love this book. Crime bosses, con artists, murders, brothers. What's not to love? But the cover's PINK, man. Even I was embarrassed to read it in public.

(Okay, so I'm very easily embarrassed. But still, it'd be nice if the cover could be more...neutral.)

Books I Read: Neuromancer

Title: Neuromancer
Author: William Gibson
Genre: Science Fiction, Cyberpunk
Published: 1984
My Content Rating: R for sex, language, and violence
Cliffhanger Ending: No

Case is a washed-up computer hacker; a toxic enzyme from some folks he double-crossed ensures he can never jack into the matrix again. He spends his nights trying to get himself killed in the seamier side of Japan when he's approached by a mysterious man named Armitage and his muscle: a woman with mirrors for eyes and blades in her fingers. Armitage says he can give Case his life back, but he needs him for a job tougher than any hacker has ever faced.

Case is so totally in.

This novel is what cyberpunk is, guys. You have no idea how much science-fiction is influenced by this story, from Shadowrun to The Matrix. I once put this on a list of 10 sci-fi books every SF fan should know, and it has earned that spot.

And it's totally fun on top of it. The only thing that bugged me at all were the descriptions of cyberspace, which were a lot more amorphous that I would have liked. But it's surprising how well Gibson's imagined tech almost 30 years ago holds up to what we have today.

Stormdancer Sketch

A scene from Jay Kristoff's STORMDANCER, based on the excerpt you can read at Tor.com.

This is one of my sell-out sketches, drawn trying to win an ARC of the book. I didn't get the ARC, but I did get a copy of THE LITTLE STORMDANCER, which is easily the next best thing. My kids love this little book.


If you haven't heard of STORMDANCER, here is everything you need to know about it: Japanese steampunk with griffins.

Yeah, that's how I felt about it too.

Books I Read: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Title: The Lightning Thief
Author: Rick Riordan
Genre: MG Fantasy
Published: 2005
My Content Rating: PG for action scenes
Cliffhanger Ending: No

Summer after 6th grade, Percy Jackson learns that the Greek gods are real, alive, and one of them is his father. Oh, and half the Greek pantheon is trying to kill him because they think he stole Zeus's master lightning bolt. So, not the best summer of his life.

What I loved about this book (in list form, cuz I'm feeling lazy today):
  • It's funny.
  • Exciting action.
  • The plot is nice and twisty, even after seeing the movie.
  • Speaking of which, it is much better than the movie.*
  • The world-building is pretty clever.**
The only thing I didn't like so much was the scenes at Camp Half-Blood felt too much like Harry Potter to me (it didn't help that the brave, muggle-raised protagonist befriended the school's camp's smartest girl). But once they got on their quest, that didn't bother me so much.

I'm not a "Greek mythology! Love it!" kind of guy (I prefer Eastern mythology, which I'm less familiar with). But if you are gonna revisit the Greek stories, Rick Riordan figured out a really great way to do it.

Have you read this book? What did you think?


* Seriously, it was like Hollywood used all the boring, irrelevant parts and cut all the interesting stuff that made sense.

** The only problem I had with the world-building was how demigods were all dyslexic because they're "genetically predisposed" to read ancient Greek. It's the language geek in me. Sorry, Rick.

Books I Read: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Title: The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Dystopian
Published: 2009
My Content Rating: PG-13 for violence
Cliffhanger Ending: YES

Thomas wakes up in a dark elevator with no memories of who he is or what he's doing there. He emerges in the middle of a giant maze, surrounded by boys who have likewise been stripped of his memories. They've spent the last two years trying to escape, while struggling against the creatures that live in the maze. But Thomas is different. Things feel familiar to him, though he doesn't know why. He has to figure it out fast, though, because his arrival -- and the surprise arrival of the first girl the next day -- is about to change everything.

I completely fell in love with the world-building of this book. I mean, shoot, a giant maze with moving walls? What's not to love! And then when you start catching pieces of the mystery behind it all: HOOKED.

The characters made me happy too. They were smart (mostly; see below), brave, and stubborn (in a good way). I wouldn't mind being stuck in a maze with most of these guys.

The one thing that bothered me through most of the book was how slow they were to pick up on things. I didn't like that they seemed to be withholding information from each other, and I didn't like that it sometimes took Thomas a few tries before he remembered/believed something somebody did tell him.

The fact that I'm telling you about the book, however, should tell you just how much more I love the secrets and the world-building. I should be mad, but I'm not (though I do hope they're quicker to pick things up in the sequel), and I'm pretty sure I have to finish this series.

Leviathan Fan Art

This is probably my favorite thing I've ever drawn for Anthdrawlogy, and not just because Scott Westerfeld posted it on his blog.

Okay, yeah, maybe it is because of that.


What's your favorite mythological monster? I think mine's the kraken, but I bet one of you can name one I like even more.

Books I Read: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Title: The Knife of Never Letting Go
Author: Patrick Ness
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Dystopian
Published: 2008
My Content Rating: R for violence and effing language (except he doesn't say effing)

Todd has grown up his whole life being able to hear everyone else's thoughts, and having everyone else hear his. A germ that hit before Todd was born killed all the women, and the men who survived couldn't keep their thoughts to themselves. But it turns out you can keep secrets even if you know everyone's thoughts, and the men of Todd's town have been keeping a lot of secrets. Todd's first hint of this is when he finds a spot of complete, impossible silence in a world filled with Noise.

If you feel like there's a lot I'm not telling you in that summary, then you understand the one thing I didn't like about this book. To me, the withholding of information felt artificial at times, and was put off for so long that I'd basically guessed all the answers already.

But don't take that the wrong way, because I LOVED this book. The world, the narrator's voice, the frigging dog . . . it was all pretty amazing. And it says a lot that, even though I felt almost cheated by the secrets, I didn't care. I was willing to let the story drag me along anywhere it wanted.

Fair warning though: the story is dark and leaves it wide open for the next book (gah, I hate book-ending cliffhangers). Still a good story, though, if this sounds like your thing.

Books I Read: Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain

(For those of you wondering how our daughter is doing, here is the latest update. Now back to our regularly scheduled blog post.)

Title: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Con't Stop Talking
Author: Susan Cain
Genre: Non-Fiction
Published: 2012
My Content Rating: G

If you are an introvert who grew up in America, you very likely felt like there was something wrong with you. Like you should speak up more in class, make more friends, be more popular, assert yourself to get what you want.

I know this is how I've always felt. What I love about this book is that it points out that introverts are not wrong -- with a ridiculous amount of psychological studies to back it up -- but we feel that way because American culture subscribes to the idea that extroverts are where it's at.

The thing is (according to the book, though I found very little in the book that I disagreed with) extroverts and introverts have different strengths, and different weaknesses. Studies show that, in general,* extroverts are better under pressure and better at motivating the unmotivated (for example), but they're not always good at sticking with problems or treating warning signs with caution.

Introverts, on the other hand, are pretty terrible under pressure, but excel when given the chance to observe and contemplate. They have a tendency to focus on things they're passionate about, stubbornly following it through to the end (sound familiar?).

This book did an amazing thing for me. On the one hand, it helped me realize that I'm not stuck being who I am. Introverts can be every bit as friendly, social, and even extroverted about subjects they're passionate about, especially when given the chance to observe and prepare (and provided they carve out spaces to recharge themselves).

At the same time, it helped me realize that, hey, this is who I am. There's nothing wrong with introversion. It's just a different style. And it comes with its own strengths (focus, preparedness, higher immunity to groupthink) to make up for our weaknesses (small talk, public speaking, overstimulation).

The numerous statistics and psychological studies might be too much for some (though I loved them). But I'd recommend this book to almost everybody: introverts for sure, but also the extroverts who love them, and especially the extroverts who think we need to be fixed.

Where do you fall on the spectrum? I'm a ridiculous introvert (if you haven't figured that out), though it didn't stop me from being a worship pastor for two years. I'm still trying to find that strength in me again.

* This "in general" is very important. Everybody's different, and introversion/extroversion is a spectrum, rather than two sides of a coin. Susan repeatedly points this out in the book.

Books I Read: Closed Hearts by Susan Kaye Quinn

You may recall I talked about Open Minds last year, about a world where everyone can read minds, except for this one girl who discovers she can actually control them. Susan Quinn (crit partner, Author's Echo regular, and giver of the BEST gifts) is releasing the sequel today.

So if you liked Open Minds, go and get Closed Hearts. And if you haven't read the first one, you might as well go do that first. The world building alone is worth it (and I think there's some kissing or something, if you're into that).

Title: Closed Hearts
Author: Susan Kaye Quinn
Genre: YA Sci-Fi
Published: 2012
My Content Rating: PG-13 for make-outs and tense situations

After Kira outed the presence of mindjackers on national TV, things got difficult. Paranoia about what jackers can do is sweeping the mindreading population, complete with anti-jacker politicians and laws. As the most famous jacker in the world, Kira has to stay hidden from readers and angry jackers who liked things better when they were hidden. She thought she was doing okay, until an escaped jacker criminal kidnaps her and forces her to face the thing she fears most: the FBI's experimental torture chamber for jackers.

I love where this trilogy (yeah, there's one more) is headed. There's no easy answers for anybody, which is just how it should be.

And I love how Susan is still exploring this world (without going everywhere). Turns out things might not be as black and white as readers vs. jackers. There are other things too . . .



Because Closed Hearts comes out today, Susan also has a virtual party going on at her site and a giveaway. Use the form below to win some cool stuff!

Rafflecopter giveaway
Other books by Susan Kaye Quinn:


Mind GamesOpen MindsClosed HeartsIn His EyesLife, Liberty, and PursuitFull Speed Ahead

Books I Read: The Alloy of Law

Title: The Alloy of Law
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Steampunk Fantasy
Published: 2011
Content Rating: R for action violence

Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, the world has been reborn and is in the midst of an industrial revolution, with trains and guns, skyscrapers and electricity -- and outlaws and the lawmen who bring them to justice.

Wax Ladrian is one such lawman, retired after his last job ended in the death of the girl he loved. He's just getting used to the noble life he had abandoned long ago, when his fiancee is kidnapped by a notorious band of criminals, led by a man whose Allomantic powers render him nigh immortal. As Wax gets more involved in the investigation, he learns that the city can be even more dangerous than the outskirts he used to protect.

You may recall I loved the original trilogy, and I love this. It's not as epic; Sanderson admits that he wrote it for fun, basically, and it totally is. It's a classic Western story wrapped up in a world where the kind of metal you wear (or eat) determines whether you launch yourself into the air, heal yourself, or stop time.

I have to admit the occasional character or plot event felt too . . . straightforward to me. But I love the mystery and detective work. I love the way Allomancy (and Feruchemy, which we didn't see as much of in the trilogy) interact with this new industrialized world. And I LOVED the banter between Wax and his deputy Wayne (who reminded me an awful lot of a certain pilot of a Firefly-class vessel).

Wax and Wayne. Heh, I just got that.

A Lesson on Color

Okay, I know I said we weren't supposed to hate on the haters about the whole Rue and racism thing. And I don't intend to hate, but there was one tweet in particular that, two months later, still nags at me:


So I guess "dark brown skin" is not the same as "all the way black." I'm not entirely certain what color palette they were using, but in the interest of teaching instead of hating, I'm going to give a color lesson.*

Presented here are people with varying skin color. For each image, I have taken both a light and dark average of their skin and placed it next to the colors implied by traditional skin color terms.


This is white:
These are the color averages of this girl's skin:


This is yellow:
These are the color averages of this guy's skin:


This is red:
These are the color averages of this guy's skin:


This is black:
These are the color averages of this girl's skin:

I know I'm not the first person to point out that "black" does not, cannot, literally mean black (shoot, even Drizzt is basically gray). But let's go back to the comment in question.

Rue's description in Hunger Games was "dark brown skin," which a number of people interpreted as meaning "brown but not black," and so were upset when Rue appeared in the movie as "black." Let's compare:


This is dark brown:
These are the color averages of Rue's skin:

So . . . Hollywood actually lightened Rue from her description in the book. Weird.

* If the person who tweeted that actually reads this, I do apologize for the semi-snarky way this is presented. Feel free to chew me out for hypocrisy.

Who's Your Favorite Villain?

I am a huge fan of sympathetic and redemptive villains. So my favorite villain of all time is . . .

FIRE PRINCE ZUKO

Honestly, he had me at Agni-Kai.

Runner-up villains include:
  • Darth Vader
  • The Operative
  • Lord Ruler 
  • And climbing the charts for me is Jaime Lannister, but it remains to be seen how sympathetic he will become (before George Martin kills him).

So who's your favorite villain?

Why Book-to-Movie Adaptations Are So Freaking Hard

  1. Because you're squishing a whole novel -- which, if adapted scene-for-scene would be about 4-8 hours -- into a tiny, tiny 2-hour box.
  2. Because you're turning words that can describe anything into pure sight and sound. If the characters don't say it or do it on-screen, it never happened.
  3. Because you're taking the individual interpretations of thousands of readers and saying, "No, actually, this is what it was like."
All of which guarantees somebody will be unhappy. Honestly, I'm shocked whenever an adaptation is actually good.

Although admittedly, sometimes even a really bad adaptation can get me to read the book.

What's your favorite book-to-movie adaptation? What's your least favorite?

Other than Lord of the Rings (which was nigh-PERFECT), I thought they did a good job with Watchmen. Yeah, they took away Adrian's self-doubt at the end, but I liked how Adrian framed Manhattan instead of a random alien. It was the first time I thought an adaptation actually improved on the source.

Books I Read: Nowhere Girl

Title: Nowhere Girl
Author: A.J. Paquette
Genre: Middle Grade
Published: 2011
My Content Rating: G

Luchi Ann is an American girl born in an obscure Thai prison. Her mother was an inmate, but when she passes away, Luchi has to go out into the world for the first time. Her fair skin and blond hair mark her as a foreigner, though Thailand is the only home she's ever known. It takes a long journey through Thailand and overseas to discover who she is and what secrets her mother was keeping.

I love this book. I'm not usually one to care about prose, but this is beautifully written. I love the way Ammi-Joan (yes, that Ammi-Joan) uses comparisons everywhere that don't just describe a thing, but also reveal what Luchi is feeling, and also also connect everything to frigging everything.

And as a foreigner living in Thailand, I felt she got the people spot on: the caring grandmother, the kind relatives who still worry about saving face, the well-meaning (but sometimes deceitful) cousin, the girl who is perfectly nice to your face -- and means it -- but is also ripping you off because you're a farang.

I loved all these characters, I feel like I know them (or, in some cases, am related to them by marriage). Shoot, Ammi-Joan even made me want to visit Bangkok again, which is not a feeling I normally have.

If any of that sounds even vaguely interesting to you, go read this book.

The Thing about Rue and Racism

So, a little background. The Hunger Games movie came out. In it, Rue was black. Some people were shocked, confused, and even upset.

Others, understandably so, were shocked and upset at the people who didn't realize Rue was black. It says so on pp. 45 and 98 of the hardcover edition:
[p. 45] ...a twelve-year-old girl from District 11. She has dark brown skin and eyes, but other than that, she's very like Prim in size and demeanor.
[p. 98] ...the twelve-year-old, the one who reminded me so of Prim in stature. ...She has bright, dark eyes, and satiny brown skin...
So, clearly, the first group was wrong. Rue is black in the book, and rightly so in the movie. To be upset about it (or to say it "ruined the movie," as at least one tweeter said) is not only ridiculous, but wholly and completely racist.

I have a confession, though: When I read the books, I thought Rue was white too.

Is that racist? It's certainly indicative of the white, privileged way I was brought up. People tend to visualize characters as like themselves, and none more than the privileged classes.*

Maybe I'm a bad reader. I do tend to skim descriptions a lot, especially if they aren't critical to the plot (e.g. Rue's skin color never affects plots events or Katniss' feelings for her, as opposed to say White Cat, in which the MC's skin color is part of a minor con toward the end).

But racist or not, when I saw that Rue was black, I didn't go, "What? That's ridiculous!" Instead, I thought, "Oh. How did I miss that in the book?"

This is part of how racism is solved, I think. I went back to the book and discovered I had skimmed over the "brown skin" part in favor of the part where Rue was "like Prim," thus making her like Prim in my head. Whether that was racist or not, I know to pay more attention in the future.

I learned.

And here's the thing, all those people who tweeted their racist anger can learn too. Even though I understand how they missed the cue, I was pissed at the horrible things they said. But getting pissed doesn't solve anything.

At the end of the article, it mentions that most of those people have shut down their Twitter accounts or made them private. I assume I wasn't the only one pissed at them. I do hope they can see past the hate they received and learn from it, but I fear they won't.

Because people don't listen to words spat in hate. They just don't. If we want to fix racism, we do need to point these things out, but we need to keep our anger in check. If we don't, then we're as much a part of the problem as they are.

Racism isn't killing us. Hate is.

What do you think? How does this make you feel, and what can we do about it?

* For the record, I think the fact I missed Rue's skin color is racist in the subtle, subconscious sense. While I hope we solve that level of racism someday, I'm more interested in solving the part where people turn into seething rageballs of hate.

Things I Always Forget When I'm Plotting

I seem to always get stuck in the same places when I'm plotting. I'm good at figuring out my world and my set pieces, who fights whom, and who wins. But I often get stuck on the why. Why does any of this matter?

At the recommendation of Susan Quinn and others, I've been reading this book by Peter Dunne called Emotional Structure. And while Dunne exudes some arrogance, and crushes my geekery like so much broken glass,* he did remind me of some very important things to cover when plotting.

* He knocked down The Terminator because Arny's character never worried about the families of all the people he killed (Hi, um... Arny's a ROBOT . His amorality is kind of the point). He also said Superman lived in Gotham City, at which point I nearly threw the book away.

Yes, I know how childish that is. Shut up.



What does the protagonist WANT?
Without a goal, the novel is just a bunch of random stuff that happens, and nobody wants that.

What is the protagonist AFRAID OF?
Not like "spiders" or "heights" or "face-huggers." I mean, what is their deep secret that must not be exposed?

Of course, once you know these two, it's easy to play them against each other. Hiccup wants to learn the truth about dragons, but he's afraid his father will be ashamed of him. Po wants to learn kung fu, but he's afraid he doesn't have what it takes. Flint wants the town to like him, but he's afraid he's a failure as an inventor.

Those are simplifications, but you get the idea.

What does the character HAVE TO LEARN ABOUT THEMSELVES in order to overcome their fears and get what they want?
And this is the key, the one I always forget. Dunne makes an important distinction between plot (what happens) and story (the emotional context behind what happens). This is the MC's character arc.

When we talk about formulas like the hero's journey, we talk about the obstacles the protagonist fails against. But these aren't obstacles like 4 random skeletons. I mean, they could be, but only if those skeletons expose the MC's greatest fear at the same time.

See, when the MC fails, it's not because they lose a fight or get captured. It's because their weakness -- the thing they are most afraid of having exposed -- is what caused them to lose. Hiccup fails to tell his father the truth about his dragon. Po fails at every training exercise his master puts him through. Flint fails to turn his invention off before it destroys the town.

Until finally these failures lead to the climax, where things are as bad as they can get because of the MC's fears. And now the MC has to overcome their fear to make things right again.

Not that every story has this same formula, but it's one that works really well for me. How about you? What do you think?

Books I Read: Dance With Dragons (Basically Spoiler Free)

Title: Dance with Dragons (Book #5 of the Song of Ice and Fire saga)
Author: George R. R. Martin
Genre: (Very) Epic Fantasy
Published: 2011
My Content Rating: (Very) R for sex, language, violence, and whatever else you got

As I do with sequels, I won't summarize this for fear of spoilers. If you've read the first four, you're probably going to read this one. If you haven't, know that Game of Thrones (being book #1) starts a massive fantasy epic that includes a couple of continents, hundreds of knights, a number of kings, some assassins, wights, dragons, a deadly winter that lasts for decades, and direwolves (among other things).

To sum it up in one very, very simple sentence: Song of Ice and Fire is about what happens when kings die and nobody can agree on who's next.

(In two sentences: Nobody can agree on a king and there's some kind of creepy evil threatening to come down on them all while they're fighting about it.)

The only reason I don't immediately recommend these books to everyone I know is the content rating. It's pretty severe. If you can get past that, though, you should read this series. It's epic in every sense, and I'm glad I've read it. Even though the series has yet to be finished and George Martin consistently and sadistically gets me to care about people doomed to die.

Oops, was that a spoiler? Sorry.

Let's talk in the comments. I'll label my spoilers much better in there.