Author Archives: Darrick Dean

Not Going at it Alone

Why are so many stories about people banding together in small, close-knit groups (or ones that become that way)? Even the brooding loners eventually join a team — Logan joins the X-Men, Ironman goes with the Avengers. This theme permeates writing, film and history, as John Eldredge writes in Waking the Dead:

When Neo is set free from the Matrix, he joins the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar…[and] the small fellowship [is] called to set the captives free…a family bound together in a single fate. Together, they train for battle. Together, they plan their path…each has a role, a gifting, a glory…You see this sort of thing at the center of every great story. Dorothy takes her journey with the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Lion, and of course, Toto. When he left Rivendell, Frodo didn’t head out with a thousand Elves. He had eight companions. When Captain John Miller is sent deep behind enemy lines to save Private Ryan, he goes in with a squad of eight rangers…[even] Jesus had the Twelve.

It is in our nature, our very design, to not go at it alone. This is why our art, our writings, and our history, so often remind us of this. Eldredge concludes:

Though we are part of a great company, we are meant to live in little platoons. The little companies we form must be small enough for each of the members to know one another as friends and allies. Is it possible for five thousand people who gather…to really and truly know one another? …how about five hundred? One hundred and eight? It can’t be done…It can be inspiring and encouraging to celebrate with a big ol’ crowd of people, but who will fight for your heart?

Our stories are reflections of who we are and remind us not to forsake our nature.

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Know your First Lines? Then win a copy of AtS!

Ready to choose your side in the War Among the Shadows? Answer who wrote the following first lines, and in what book or poem they are found, and you’ll win Among the Shadows for your Kindle!

1. April is the cruelest month.
2. Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary…
3. Call me Ishmael.
4. It was a pleasure to burn.

Use the Contact form to send the answers, and I’ll be sending up to three winners their own Kindle copy of Among the Shadows. Good luck!

Update: Congrats to Julie D. for winning! Here are the answers:

1. April is the cruelest month.The Waste Land, T.S. Elliot
2. Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary…The Raven, Edgar Allen Poe
3. Call me Ishmael.Moby Dick, Herman Melville
4. It was a pleasure to burn.Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

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Are Slow Writers Doomed?

The answer is no.

The mantra to pump out stories as fast as you can is doomed to fail. Readers will tire of repetition and lack of originality (and quality). Anne R. Allen goes into more detail in Are Slow Writers Doomed to Fail in the Digital Age?.

Write your story, your best story, and not someone else’s.

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100 Books Every Man Should Read

The Art of Manliness has created a list of 100 Books Every Man Should Read. Not that these books were written particularly for men — most were not — even though the majority were written by men about male characters. The point of such lists are to remind people of important and classic books and the impact they have had.

Many books are written, many more forgotten, and only a select few are remembered.

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From Bios to Goodreads and a little #WIP

Around the web this week for writers:

In Anne R. Allen’s “Your Author Bio: Does it help your Book Sales or Stop Them Dead?,” writers are reminded their books aren’t the only place to improve their craft. They should periodically review their book blurbs, copy, taglines and author bios wherever they may appear. Test what works and improve.

Jessica Strawser writes on the importance of the writer community in “5 Reasons Fellow Writers Are Essential to Your Writing Life.” No one understands the process authors go through better than other writers.

“What Goodreads’ Explosive Growth Means for Writers and the Broader Economy” in Forbes details how Goodreads can be a powerful tool for authors in connecting with readers and other writers.

If you want to promote and talk about your Work in Progress, join Bethany Jennings‘ latest #WIPjoy and, while you’re at it, check out her excellent new short story Threadbare.

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Why Does Every Story Have a Villain?

In Waking the Dead, John Eldredge writes:

Little Red Riding Hood is attacked by a wolf. Dorothy must face and bring down the Wicked Witch of the est…Frodo is hunted by the Black Riders…Beowulf kills the monster Grendel…Saint George kills the Dragon. The children who stumbled into Narnia are called upon by Aslan to battle the White Witch and her armies…

So why does every story have a villain?

“…Because yours does.”

What are the villains in your life, your Story? Addictions, vices, work, bad habits, crazy people… As Eldredge writes, we are “born into a world at war.” He is coming from the perspective of Evil that was long ago unleashed in the world and seeks to undermine all that is good.

Our stories have villains because our stories are inspired by life. Fiction is only fact in different clothes.

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Have you Abandoned your Story?

Every wonder why stories speak to people as they do? Is it, as Brent Curtis and John Eldredge write in The Sacred Romance, that it is written into our very beings?

Life is not a list of propositions, it is a series of dramatic scenes. As Eugene Peterson said, “We live in narrative, we live in story. Existence has a story shape to it. We have a beginning and an end, we have a plot, we have characters.” Story is the language of the heart. Our souls speak not in the naked facts of mathematics or the abstract propositions of systematic theology…Contrast your enthusiasm for studying a textbook with…read[ing] a novel, or listen[ing] to the stories of someone else’s life.

Is it any wonder why stories of people finding their purpose, their part of the Story, never go away? A little Hobbit defeats evil and saves Middle Earth…frail Steve Rogers becomes Captain America…Luke Skywalker doesn’t want to stand on the sidelines anymore… Perhaps it is because we too often abandon our story?

Children aren’t a bad place to look when we’re trying to get beyond the cynicism of adulthood…Before skepticism takes over (what we mistakenly call maturity), children intuit the true Story as a fairy tale…the best fairy tales aren’t romantic in the poor sense of the word. They are realistic, only more so. There are ogres and evil sorcerers and wicked stepmothers, to be sure. But they are neither the whole story or the heart of it. There are genuine heroes and heroines and a cause to live for that is worth dying for. There is a quest or a journey strewn with danger and the stakes could never be higher.

Choose to not ignore that you are part of something bigger than your day to day tasks and busyness. Find your place in the Story.

It is not too late.

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Choose Your Own Adventure

Whether print, film or television, fantasy as gone from being a fringe to mainstream genre in recent years. We’ve discussed why it has appeal and how the stories of the masters like Tolkien have such depth and staying power. But what if you could take these worlds that captivate your mind and add another dimension to them? An interactive one where you can enter for a time?

I’m not talking about joining some reenactment group (though some do) or video games (and their lack of face-to-face human interaction). Instead, there have been a number of successful attempts to lay out fantasy worlds right on your table in the form of board games. No, these aren’t the repetitive and soon worn out type of games we are all introduced to as kids.

Take Legends of Andor where you join your fellow players in Andor to stand up to the evil hordes and resolve pressing quests. Yes, I said join; this is a cooperative game. This is a whole different experience for those (nearly all of us) used to the normal competitive party games. Most find they like it, but might find it strange that everyone can lose.

In Runebound you set off on your own into Terrinoth, but instead of just reading about heroes, you can become one and face their trials and triumphs for yourself. Or maybe you want a familiar land? Then enter Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. With essentially just cards, you find yourself in immersive scenarios with your allies. Soon you will want to jump back into the books, or are you already there?

While the stories that unfold cannot be as detailed as a book, they certainly have qualities of unexpectedness, interaction and variability that pull you in like a good book would. These class of games bring gaming out of the kids realm. The learning curve is a bit steeper than say Scattergories or Trivial Pursuit, and but you are rewarded with depth and the joy of engaging your mind (that’s not to mean that they are hard to learn). Apparently there is a golden age of gaming threatening to drag people from their glowing screens and replacing it with human interaction and adventure.

Battling evil, finding the hero within, exploring strange lands…it all seems much more exciting than another television show that is the same as the last twenty.

But as fantasy fans, you already knew that.

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Are You Reading Enough?

Author Nadine Brandes asks the question, and explains why and how you should be.

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Into the Black

Remember 1981? Yes, it’s a bit fuzzy at this point, but that was the year that manned spaceflight became normal. On the 21st of April, the Space Shuttle Columbia rocketed into orbit. Over the next 30 years, 135 launches were made by the fleet. For the generations who grew up or were born during this era, astronauts traveling to and living in space (on board the International Space Station) became commonplace. This normalcy hid the difficulty and danger that were behind the curtain.

Rowland White‘s Into the Black recounts the epic effort to design and launch the shuttle. It took nearly as long and was every bit as difficult as the Apollo program. In some ways it was more so: Apollo components had to work once; the Shuttles had to survive the rigors of launch and space over and over.

White recounts how the shuttle program was the final project of the Apollo veterans. It was also a fusion of a canceled military space program – complete with astronauts and launch sites – that would be combined with the civilian side.  Technologies such as reusable rocket engines and protection from reentry were beyond state of the art. The drama that unfolded was every bit as exciting as what was told in From Earth to the Moon and Apollo 13.

Danger was never eliminated, but the later losses of the Challenger and Columbia were not, ironically, cause by failures of the orbiters. None of the shuttles ever failed, repeatedly surviving launch stresses and harsh environments that those of us earthbound cannot imagine.

While the shuttles never flew as frequently as envisioned, nor brought the costs of launch down, history will look back on them as making possible what comes next. We are already seeing the turnover of spaceflight to private companies. The International Space Station that the shuttles enabled is an orbital spaceport on the verge of becoming the staging point for new ventures. The government and politics often got in their own way in opening the frontier, but as Into the Black details, the astronauts of the Space Shuttles swung that door wide open.

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