Tag Archive: G. K. Chesterton


This weekend marks a particular event which pilgrims from all over the world have been waiting for. It’s a highly-anticipated event every year, and tomorrow evening, as darkness gathers, groups of the faithful shall come together, united by one desire.

I speak, of course, of the Hugo Awards nominee announcement. Easter’s the next day. Also, Easter involves less shouting, though admittedly it’s associated with at least one dead body.

The Hugo controversy is a hot topic every single year, and it’s only gotten louder in the last several cycles thanks to the campaign known as Sad Puppies. In case you missed my explanation from earlier this week, here’s a shiny and well-crafted link. That post details what the Hugo Awards are, why they matter, and how the controversy started. Or rather, the current controversy. As I said in that previous post, I was voting in the Hugos years ago, before I ever heard of this Larry Correia guy. Disputes happened a lot. That’s okay; I’d actually get worried if everyone was happy about the nominees.

The current dispute over the Hugo Awards boils down to this: books should be judged on their own merits, and good writing rather than ideology should win out. Any push for a book based on its politics, or the politics of its author, is to be treated with suspicion or even outright rejection.

The most interesting thing about this dispute is that both sides are saying the same thing. Continue reading

Some years back, I implemented a new system for submissions. I never look at unsolicited manuscripts anymore; I simply get too many, even though no one (okay, few people) would confuse me for a publisher. I had to put in some form of winnowing process. Many freelancers and small presses require a nominal fee, since even a simple five-dollar payment encourages people to make certain their manuscript is in good order before “wasting” their money.

I wanted a different process, one where no one had to send me money if I wasn’t going to definitely give them value in return. I also wanted to encourage writers to clean up certain common mistakes that I kept seeing over and over. (And over, and over . . .) They all had to do with structure.  Continue reading

As I said in my review of Shanna Swendson’s Enchanted series, I wound up with a lot more to say that was really appropriate for a review. Like many of my posts, it’s a long one, clocking in at over three thousand words, but it’s aimed more at writers than all readers. And, I promise: spoiler free! (Well, except for the romance angle.)

So, without further ado, here’s my analysis of this new favorite series.  Continue reading

A Light in the Darkness

It’s Christmas.228283_564760040220120_6873465_n

I stay away from politics and religion on this blog. I don’t do that because I don’t have any or don’t want to discuss them; on the contrary, as my conversations and posts on other sites bear out, I do indeed have them, and I do indeed discuss them. In fact, I stand firmly behind my literary hero G. K. Chesterton in this regard, who (when he was instructed he could write about anything other than these two subjects) said “There is nothing else worth writing about.”

Rather, I stay away from discussing them (aside from the occasional review) because I don’t want to argue about them. Not, at least, here on this blog, which I have always intended as a source of information about stories, whether written or being written. These two subjects are divisive, despite being — by definition — unitive at the same time.

But I am going to talk for a moment about “the reason for the season.” Not a Jesus lecture, not some sermon about how getting together with a bunch of strangers to read from a 1,700-year-old book of 1,900-plus-year-old words on a cold day is the most important thing you can do on an arbitrary day of the last month of the equally-arbitrary year. It’s not even something Christian, really — or rather, not exclusively Christian. And that’s fine. We celebrate a lot of holidays without having a direct connection to the origin of those celebrations.

I look around, in fact, and see a lot of people celebrating a holiday that belongs to a religion I profess, yet they themselves don’t profess the same beliefs. Sometimes they differ a lot. Other times, just enough to really notice. And as I look around for a common denominator, asking myself why Christmas matters to so many non-Christians, I find myself settling on two ideas: hope and family.  Continue reading

Fooling the Audience

Normally I ignore April Fools’ Day, but it occurred to me that it would be thematically appropriate to talk about a valuable writing skill: hiding things from your audience.

“Wait, what? Hiding things? That doesn’t sound like a good idea! The whole point of writing is to tell them things!”

Exactly! But you don’t just tell them the end first, do you? You build up to it, with clues that set up the twists, but then hide those clues so that it’s still a surprise to all but the most eagle-eyed.

I feel I should issue a warning, though. Learning these concepts can lead some people to feel that all stories are ruined forever. If you’re just here for the reviews, don’t read any further. Personally, I find it enjoyable to spot the tricks, especially with a skilled author; it doesn’t ruin it any more than knowing how to spot individual brush strokes will ruin a masterful painting. Still, I’ve seen people become disappointed, and so I give you fair notice.  Continue reading

Readers of the blog know I like Lego. It’s a great toy, arguably the best single toy investment you can make for a child. Unlike a video game, its operating system doesn’t go obsolete in three years; every Lego brick you buy today is compatible with the same company’s products going back decades — and they’re not going to change that in the future. It rewards creativity, teaches spacial and structural awareness, and can be combined in so many different ways that you can never say you’ve beat the game.

And then, as an adult, you can stick with it and turn it into a genuine art form. Years of experience, an adult’s funding and patience, and that little kid inside of you that still shouts “THIS IS SO COOL!” — all joining together to show kids that art can be fun, and their fun can be true art.

Well, there’s a movie out this weekend that’s based on the toy. I got to see the press screening last weekend with Wamalug (the Washington Metropolitan Area LEGO Users Group), so I’m here to give you my review. Continue reading

Submission Stress

One of my authors just submitted a book. Well, I say she’s one of mine, but so far we haven’t engaged in actual financial business. She’s an old friend that I give advice to and help craft things. I haven’t had time to go over her book, but I’ve seen her writing and I hand-picked her for an upcoming series I’m managing next year (so she will be one of my authors, officially, in about six months). I’ve also helped her craft her cover letter, pitch, and so on.

She just bit the bullet on a submission she’s been putting off for literally years now. Now she has to wait for up to a year to get a response. It can be an intimidating thing. In fact, it can be a stressful thing — for good reason, though not a “good enough” reason. Continue reading

Short Update

If you’ve been following the Novel Ninja Facebook page, you know I’ve been at Balticon this weekend. If you haven’t, but you’re one of the people I met there . . . well, obviously you know. If you only read this blog, you know now. So everyone’s updated! Continue reading

Worth Doing Badly

I’m sitting here contemplating my pyrographic habit. (No, no, no, pyrography. I know it looks like another word, but . . . oh, just click here to find out what it is, or here to see way better art than I can do, and here if you want to try it for yourself.) I’m not a very good artist, but wood is a wonderful medium and I enjoy it. In fact, it’s my second-favorite art hobby, and gets less eyebrow-raising than plastic bricks (even if it means I get invited to display at the National Air & Space Museum multiple times; yes, that’s me making a cameo in that article). [EDIT: the article on the other side of that last link no longer quotes me or talks about Lego, but still shows my space shuttle display in the picture.)

Hmm. I might have gone overbudget on links there.

Anyway, I tend to stress about what I work on sometimes. It doesn’t come out perfectly. I don’t have the steadiest hands, or the best skill. I get frustrated when comparing myself to other pyrographers, or even my friends who (while working in more traditional mediums) still outshine me effortlessly. I woke up today feeling discouraged about my talents.

And then, I managed to drag myself out of it.  Continue reading

ACDClogoOver the past weekend, I attended AwesomeConDC, the first genre/comic convention in the Nation’s Capitol. It was an interesting mix of both small and large; it’s the first year for this particular location, but it’s part of a regional franchise . . . which meant that while it was small, it still thought big. This one’s definitely going to grow.

I got involved in the con because the organizer, Ben Penrod, was looking for someone to do a panel on Harry Potter. I’m a (casual and kind of infrequently-attending) member of a local Harry Potter fan club, the DADA (or “Defense Against Dumb A’s”), and when he posted on our message board I mentioned I had experience with public speaking, speaking at cons, and moderating panels to boot. I also have a passing familiarity with the given topic. (Read: I did my thesis on Harry Potter.) 

Ben invited me to give a presentation on writing, and was originally going to have me moderate a novelists’ panel. The wound up getting cancelled, and the second was given to someone else; and when I showed up to moderate the panel on Harry Potter, no one actually showed up for the other seats.

A bit of a mess, yeah. Not really the con’s fault, though; in addition to the craziness that happens with organizing any convention, they wound up with more programing than expected and had to cut something; and the other panel actually already had a moderator, but Ben just didn’t know at the time. And even though a panel on Harry Potter turned into just me babbling on the subject and taking audience questions for fifty minutes, the audience was very kind and didn’t throw a single tomato. And it was a much larger crowd than I’d expected, considering I was competing with Futurama actors next door.

The original topic was going to be (quoting from the program): “Why is the world of Harry Potter so engaging? Is it just the story we read, or is there something more to it, something more enduring that sparks the imagination?” We discussed the purpose of fantasy in the larger culture, what benefit we get from it, why some stories are so engaging, why reboots are common right now, and so on. I got questions on Harry Potter, fantasy languages, Percy Jackson, dropping clues for attentive readers, and a bunch more on writing and editing in general. And for the first time in my public speaking experience, I was unable to get off the stage before people were already asking post-event questions.

Oh, and one young lady wanted to be certain of the exact spelling of G. K. Chesterton’s name. I’d call that one a win.

Ben sent me an email during the talk: “You are awesome. I am so sorry this didn’t go as planned. We will do something great next year. Anything you want, and we will plan WAYYY ahead.” I must say, I’ve never been booked a year in advance, and I’ve never been given carte blanche. I’m all giddy. 😉

So in other words, while I was stressing about not having enough people for a full panel and then discovered that no one else showed up, it turned out pretty well. I had fun, and I’m very glad that AwesomeCon wants me back.

The convention itself is very much centered around comics, and the only reason it didn’t have an Artists’ Alley was because it was kind of hard to tell where to stash it — about a third of the dealers’ room was comprised of artists of various kinds, and they were doing a pretty brisk business. This seems to be an excellent low-overhead con for small-name artists who are dipping their toes in the convention scene. As I said, this convention is definitely going to grow; the space they had was full to bursting, and I suspect they’ll double that next year.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures this year; actually, I didn’t expect to see so many good costumes around at a first-time convention. I did take two, though — my favorites not because they were so “authentic,” but rather because I’ve never seen either a Static nor an X-Men: Evolution cosplay before. In fact, the young lady cosplaying as Evo Rogue was delighted that I even recognized the source material. Static unfortunately turned out blurry, but that was probably his electricity powers interfering with my camera.

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Note: the Wolverine and Emma Frost pictured here are from Wolverine and the X-Men; Storm and Rogue are from X-Men: Evolution.

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