Unstoppable Leaders

When you  hear “history book,”  do you turn and run? Are these books the last on your reading list? Is your perception of learning history colored by memorization and repetition often utilized in schools? What if reading history could be every bit as exciting as fiction?

It can be.

There are some masters of narrative history out there writing the true stories that will compel you to turn every page. One of these authors is Candice Millard. Her books on two of the most influential and compelling leaders of the 20th Century — Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt — are gripping reads.

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Cult of PC

Adherents to the cult of political correctness continues to plague writers and filmmakers. Often, before a film or book even is released, trolls come out of the dark recesses of the internet to create fake outrage over films they often haven’t seen, or books they haven’t read.

When trailers were shown for The Great Wall, self-appointed diversity police immediately complained that the “white” star in a Chinese film, must have been indicative of a “white savior” story. In other words, the white man was going to save the poor Asian masses.

These claims were fishy from the start: This was a Chinese film, filmed in China, by a Chinese director, with a cast made up of nearly all Chinese actors. Additionally, the open-minded Chinese government is very picky on what is shown in its theaters. Perhaps, most importantly, is that it was clearly a fantasy film and didn’t pretend to be otherwise. Continue reading

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What if You Trip up Your Reader?

​What if a reader gets tripped up by some small part of your book?  Perhaps a sentence or a few words don’t make sense to them. Maybe one of your creative flourishes isn’t sitting well. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with what you wrote, and there may only be one reader or two that have commented. What do you do?

Do you just brush it off and say, “I’m an artist and people should accept all my amazing choices” or do you see it as an opportunity to possibly improve? If you are serious about your craft, I suggest the second choice. You may not end up changing the issue in question, and it could have been brought to your attention by only one soul, but you should seriously evaluate it.

You can’t hope to make everyone happy with your writing decisions, voice and style — nor should you attempt to. Telling your own story is paramount, but fine-tuning your ability to tell that story is not far behind.

I changed three or four sentences in Among the Shadows based on reader feedback. Ultimately, these things had little impact on the overall story, but I could see why some might not like how I worded them. The revisions do read better. Part of being a writer is deciding which creative choices to keep and which to modify.

 

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When Fiction Becomes Fact

In Among the Shadows, many of the characters have learned to use the energy that burns inside them — for good and evil. There are those that can see into the minds of others, cross the barriers raised by time or manipulate matter. Fiction right?

Or is it?

Annie Jacobsen‘s latest book in her fascinating series on Cold War black projects, Phenomena, will make all but the most hardened skeptics think twice.

For decades, the U.S. Government spent millions in researching the practicality of using people who could remote view distant places or influence people with their mind. Note that I didn’t write that they were just determining if these things could be done — they employed people who proved they had unique abilities.

This isn’t a new revelation, but Jacobsen has interviewed dozens of those involved and uncovered newly declassified documentation. Thousands of papers still remain off-limits, so she’s probably only scratched the surface here. However, as with her previous books — Area 51, Operation Paperclip, and The Pentagon’s Brain — Jacobsen has weaved together another masterful narrative history of black box projects. These topics are often the favorite target of conspiratorial and fringe researchers, but this is the real deal.

Or, as a skeptic might ask, is this some elaborate psyop perpetuated by the government against its enemies? If it is, this is the most convincing one ever and the skeptics haven’t shown they are correct.

It’s easy to wave one’s hands and say, “It’s all a fraud!” Annie Jacobsen has laid out the detailed case of why this is all something very different from fakery. She isn’t taking sides, but is surprised at what she finds, and writes, “There is no question that man is extraordinary, each of us a phenomenon.”

Indeed, fact may very well trump fiction.

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Show vs. Tell: Draw Your Reader into Your Story

Silver Fern Creative Services

In my career as a full-time fiction book editor, I’m sometimes asked the most common problems plaguing manuscripts. And I always know exactly what to tell writers.

Show versus tell.

No matter how interesting the characters or unique the concept, telling instead of showing in your prose will kill your story everysingletime.

Most authors know showing is better than telling. They’ve read it in craft books and heard it discussed at conferences. But few people seem to know exactly what it is and how to fix the problem.

Don’t worry. I’m here to help.

How do I identify show vs. tell problems?

One way is to look for key words and phrases that can indicate the prose is telling the reader what is happening, instead of immersing the reader in the action. When I edit a manuscript, I always look for “telling” phrases like, “The woman had…

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What is Important to You?

After watching Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, I was reminded of one of the most memorable lines in The Lord of the Rings:

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

Each generation in the modern era has faced the specters of busyness, materialism and deciding what is truly important. Arguably, at no other time in history, have societal forces have been so powerful in telling us how to live and what to become. It’s as if we’ve given up in finding out what we are truly meant to be. We’ve abandoned our intellectual ability to make our own decisions. Then one day, we wake up, wonder where it has gone, and wish we’d set out and found our own story, not someone else’s.

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Are You Ready to Choose a Side?

The War Among the Shadows has begun. Are you ready to enter the fray? Will you stand with the Watchers against the Darkness? Six will face the creatures lost to myth and legend. Will you join them? Among the Shadows Kindle edition is now $2.99 for a limited time. Step through the veil before it’s too late!

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Find Life Before it’s Lost Forever

This extended excerpt from Among the Shadows is from a chapter that serves as an interlude in the story. In the midst of the dire situation Milena found herself in, this was an opportunity to see more into her mind and her husband’s, and explore deeper themes relevant to all of us. Enjoy…

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When Fiction Warns Us

A human darkness with a vast appetite for chaos and violence.

That is what simmers in the background, waiting to be released, which is exactly what unfolds in Steven Konkoly‘s The Perseid Collapse and William R. Forstchen‘s One Second After.

Unfortunately, what they write about in fiction is all too real a threat.

A Dangerous Situation

An aged power grid is becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks or natural or man-made EMPs. This really isn’t a secret to the powers that be. In fact, if they truly cared about people, they would have taken measures to shore up the grid years ago. They’re too busy figuring out how to buy votes and bail out their buddies. If this is all new to you, check out the latest threats to the grid here. A decade or so ago, the United States finally began deploying a missile defense system to protect us from human causes. Again, politics continues to threaten expansion and upgrades.

National Geographic aired the docudrama American Blackout which showed what could happen with the grid down for a few days. What would happen if this lasted weeks or months? Many people think (or hope) disasters like these won’t or cannot happen. Ask people who have lived through hurricanes and tornadoes or earthquakes. Fiction can remind us what is really important in life. It tells us action is better than hoping for the best.

Should protecting the country from nuclear holocaust or complete collapse really be a political issue? I’m thinking most would rather not be vaporized or watch their cities self-destruct. Sooner or later, disasters will come, whether natural or man-made.

Ignoring this is beneath human intelligence. Let’s do something about it.

EMP Missile Defense

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Share Your Story, Be Authentic

The internet is a wild and woolly place and this can make it hard to truly connect with other people. Are there ways to make this easier so you can truly “friend” those who would like to hear or read what you have to say?

Melyssa Griffin explains 17 Things for optimizing your blog posts so people take notice of them.  What about your newsworthy Facebook posts? Here are tips on using those hashtags to put those posts in front of more readers.

But wait, there’s more…

Making connections, networking, “building your tribe,” or whatever you want to call it, all mean the same thing, but this is only half of the equation. Sure, you want people to read what you write, or buy what you have to sell — maybe you even want to make a living at it — but you have to show that you’re more than just the next guy or gal peddling this or that.

Show them why what you have to say is important to you, and them. Prove why your story is important to theirs. Creating a team, a tribe, or a movement, requires authenticity. Be a human, not a faceless voice.

 

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