STORE CLOSED – Moved to new location!

As you can see from the date of my previous post, Raven’s Nest doesn’t get a lot of action. This is partly because writing is not nearly as action-packed as one might suspect, but it’s also because is where the bulk of my blogging takes place these days.

So, I’m consolidating. Effective immediately, my writing blog and my adventure blog will be one and the same.

I’ll hope you’ll follow along and I really hope you enjoy reading my books.


Four Ways To Avoid The Trope Of The ‘Strong Female Character’

As someone whose lead is a female character, who I find rather strong, I’m always on the lookout for tropes to avoid–or subvert.

Excellent post. Read it!

The Z-Axis

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the role of women in literature and film from an article called “We’re Losing All Our Strong Female Characters To Trinity Syndrome”. Published last week by Tasha Robinson, the article primarily argues that screenwriters are providing cop-out “strong female characters” who appear at first glance to be empowered leading (or at least secondary) ladies, but who ultimately turn out to be mostly helpless, passive characters without much to do but offer the occasional word of advice as the protagonist (male) achieves his goals (and wins the girl).

“Strong Female Character” is just as often used derisively as descriptively, because it’s such a simplistic, low bar to vault, and it’s more a marketing term than a meaningful goal.

As Robinson very effectively argues, the trope of the Strong Female Character has become more an avoidance tactic than anything else. It’s a clever way to…

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Killing and Storytelling

This post is not about telling stories about how this dude ended up dead in your walk-in freezer. Leave me out of that. You going to jail, so just accept it.

No, this post is about when killing feels necessary, when it isn’t, and what separates the two.

To illustrate this, I’m going to invite my good friend Adam Jensen. He’s an ex-SWAT commander-turned-private security dude from Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a superb game from Ubisoft. After a terrible worker’s comp claim, Adam returns to work as a cybernetically enhanced dude. He can be stealthy, hackery, sweet talking, or plain ol’ shootery.

But not subtle. Adam doesn't really do subtle.

But not subtle. Adam doesn’t really do subtle.

One of the things I really liked about the game was it offered you different ways to play. You really didn’t have to gun your way through the game. In fact, there was a trophy for not killing anyone…except for the boss fights the game originally mandated you do. Had to kill them, so they didn’t count.

Most of the time, I alternate. Adam isn’t necessarily a great guy. You can play him as a Terminator if you want, or you can be totally nonlethal. It’s up to you, but I find I don’t want Adam to kill pointlessly.

Come out to the coast. We'll get together, have a few laughs.

Come out to the coast. We’ll get together, have a few laughs. Also, my cyberoptic assumes I’m a moron who will not recognize a vent cover.

Deus Ex also lets you recreate great moments from Die Hard by letting you crawl through kilometers of air ducts. This is how you bypass gauntlets of armed soldiers/gang members/people handing out fliers.

Playing Solitaire? AGAIN? You're gonna pay for that.

Playing Solitaire? AGAIN? You’re gonna pay for that.

Here’s the thing, though. Most of the time, I didn’t engage in willful slaughter, even though the game doesn’t penalize you for it. I’m telling myself Adam’s story and I don’t want him to be capping civilians in the alley because they just won’t MOVE. Even the multitude of guards survive my comings and goings.

Except for Jack...because he mocked the Detroit Tigers.

Except for Jack…because he mocked the Detroit Tigers.

There were moments, though, where my Adam does not do the benevolent thing. Like the first time he encounters the guys who gave him his worker’s comp event. Adam goes into “I am the Angel of Death. The time of purification is at hand.” mode and quietly takes out everyone and disables all the alarms. Why? Because these guys killed dozens of people and ground Adam into hamburger all in the name of greed.

Adam's world is populated by mostly innocent people, just like our stories.

Adam’s world is populated by mostly innocent people, just like our stories.

In the Stormcaller series, Isaura goes from being homeless for a year to becoming a witch in a very different world, a harsh place where nearly every adept has had to kill. For Isaura though, I’ve tried to ensure that she doesn’t kill because it’s fun or expedient. She’s killed in self defense, or in defense of others. She had a dark moment where she very much killed in anger.

All of those moments advanced the story and represented change or conflict for her as a character. If they didn’t, it wouldn’t amount to anything other than pandering to the audience.

When a group of cybernetic killers come in and slaughter an apartment complex just to reach you, it's okay to kill them right back.

When a group of cybernetic killers come in and slaughter an apartment complex just to reach you, it’s okay to kill them right back.

At what point though, does the character recognize how much they’ve changed? People who have killed on more than one occasion often become detached from what happens. Sociopaths feel nothing for their victims, while soldiers and such are trained to think of enemies as “rendered combat ineffective” rather than dead.

During one phase of the game, thousands of innocents are turned into mindless killers by the bad guys. I can't bring Adam to kill them. It's just not right.

During one phase of the game, thousands of innocents are turned into mindless killers by the bad guys. I can’t kill them. It’s just not right. Even after mowing down a barracks full of mercenaries, there’s a line I can’t cross.

If your main character deals with death and destruction on a chapterly basis, it might do well to have another character check on them.

Sidekick: “What’s wrong?!”
MC: “Um, nothing. Why?”
Sidekick: “Well, you ARE covered in blood.”
MC: “Oh, right. I had to get some eggs.”
Sidekick: “Did you reach INTO the chickens for  them?”
MC: “No! I ran into some assassins.”
Sidekick: “And…?”
MC: “I got the eggs.”
Sidekick: “You need therapy.”

Most main characters shouldn’t be that nonchalant about killing, especially if their job description isn’t “Death Incarnate” or “Assassin.” Sidekicks and secondary characters really shouldn’t take it well. It’s important to mine this sort of thing and flesh it out. If their arc takes them into that kind of dark place, show what it costs them. This sort of thing carries a price. It should cost them a relationship (“Hi, honey! I just shot up a busload of killers!”) and probably carry some legal consequences.

By the end of Assassins, Isaura is definitely getting the hang of killing people, but her world is also starting to come apart. Love interest? Gone. Law enforcement interest? Omnipresent. Enemies? Multiplying. Allies? Thinning out a bit.

Killing, even in fiction, should have an impact on something beyond the carpeting. It should reflect your character’s determination and goals, as well as carry a price they should fear, if nothing else.

It may be easier to destroy than to create, but it’s also more costly.

Writer Survey Results

Reaching readers is crucial to our business success (creative success might be another story). These results confirm most of my suspicions about marketing, though I would love to know what the sample size was.

Read on, writers. This is worth your time.

Linda Bloodworth

A little while back I asked a bunch of questions and I finally compiled everything. I really enjoyed learning more about what people want and how they want to be catered to. Rather insightful and interesting.


Chart How can a writer get your attention?

What old ways of marketing do you think have been pushed aside that could be revisited?

Do you really read author interviews?

How often do read reviews of books you're thinking of buying?

How to get to readers who are not online?

Must use social media

Overused Marketing Methods

Readers, what online sites do you go to for book info?

Readers, where do you buy most of your books from?

What marketing turns you off?

Do you pay attention to good reviews or to the negative reviews when book buying?

How affective are online book groups?

What is the most effective way of marketing that has worked for you?

How can an author stand out?

As a reader do you follow book tours?

Do you prefer to follow writers that have more than one book out?

What is your experience with book trailers?

Feel free to follow me on my links:
Facebook Author Page
Booktropolous Social


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Making Progress

Some messages don't need translating.

Some messages don’t need translating.

I find myself with less than two months in Japan, which means I’m working on Apotheosis in much of my spare time. I’m not wholly sold on my initial starting point, but since it’s very difficult to edit a blank page, I forged ahead and threw some words down.

Then it hit me! And I got angry and hit it back. We had words. It ended up all right, though. We hugged it out over some orange Jell-O.

Seriously, though, it’s okay to hit a roadblock, but don’t let that deter you from your journey. My current solution is what I call The Merlin Approach. I write backwards, from the ending (not like backwards words–that would just be weird). The only strange part is that I pretty much had to make up my mind about the body count since the last chapter is The End.

I’m curious about this method. If I like it, I hope it will solve one of the problems I have with my novels having weak middles. They start off okay and they usually end well, but what lies between often reminds me of tapioca.

And I hate tapioca.

At some point, my gears will shift and I’ll tunnel through from the beginning of the story. More than any other story I’ve worked on, however, Apotheosis has been the toughest to write. I know my mind is already looking ahead to the Mars trilogy, but my Muse had better suck it up and stay focused.

Let’s get through the Stormcaller cycle before we blast off into outer space.

Liebster Award

I'm totally famous.

I’m totally famous.

I won! I think.

Simplyme nominated me and tasked me with a number of things, which will culminate in a finger-biting party near Mt. Doom and the end of all things. Annie Lennox will sing. It’s gonna be awesome.

My eleven questions are:

1. What is the number one reason you started your blog?
I wanted to make people laugh so they would love me and/or buy my books. I’m still single and poor so I’m not sure that I succeeded.

2. What is a name you hate based on a bad grade school experience with someone?
Frank. To this day, I assume any Franks not related to a cyborg friend of mine are enemies of humanity.

3. A sentence or two describing a happy memory from your childhood.
Riding in the commander’s position on my dad’s M113 when I was in kindergarten.

School buses? Where we're going we don't NEED school buses...

School buses? Where we’re going we don’t NEED school buses…


4. Three favorite online shopping websites.
Cabela’s, Amazon, iTunes.

5. How old were you before you stopped believing in Santa Claus?

6. Sailboat or cruise ship?
Sailboat. Center cockpit, preferably.

7. It’s your birthday.  What’s for dessert?
A giant chocolate milkshake made with A&W Root Beer instead of milk.

8. Do you have a former favourite outfit that you’re now embarrassed of? What was it, and why does it make you just ask “why??”
I’m a guy. I wear jeans and long-sleeve T-shirts. I never have to be embarrassed.

9. If you won the lottery what would you do first?
A lot of math.

10. Are you a morning person?
Yes. Midnight is in the morning.

11. Do you have any tips for me? Any advice is greatly wanted and needed.
If ambushed, aggressive counterattacking and advancing on the enemy position rather than dropping in place will minimize casualties. Seems counterintuitive, I know, but it’s true.

And now I must nominate people for truth, justice, and the Blogican Way.

The rules for this Liebster Award are:
1. Thank the blogger who gives it to you. (Thank you, Simplyme.)
2. Answer the eleven questions he/she asks.
3. Nominate eleven bloggers with less than 500 followers.
4. Ask these eleven bloggers eleven questions.
5. Let these bloggers know that I have nominated them.

So many rules!

I nominate…

And, finally, my eleven questions…

1. How do you define success?
2. What drink (alcoholic or otherwise) do you really enjoy?
3. Zip, then fasten or fasten, then zip?
4. Best piece of advice you ever received?
5. What gives you courage?
6. Three books you enjoy reading?
7. Favorite dish to eat?
8. Favorite dish to cook?
9. Weirdest bit of trivia you know?
10. You can live anywhere in the world. Money, visas, etc. are no object. Where do you go?
11. You need cheering up. What movie do you watch?


Gender Does Matter

Brace yourselves...lens flares are coming.

Brace yourselves…lens flares are coming.

Most geeks have a place in their heart for Star Wars. It’s a huge universe that has provided thousands of hours of videos, books, and games to enjoy. Most of it was super cool. Some of it was kinda Jar Jar. When the news came that a new trilogy would be produced, many people–myself included–felt, ahem, a new hope.

When the new cast was announced today, one thing jumped out at me right away–there was only one new woman. Okay, there’s one more role to be cast and that’s to be a woman, but nobody can say that will bring balance to the Force.

In 1977, one kickass female character could suffice. Times and expectations were different. I get it, but it’s nearly forty years later. Star Wars boasts a number of awesome women in its no-longer-canon. Ahsoka Tano, Mirax Terrik, Mara Jade, Jaina Solo, Clone Wars Padmé Amidala, Mission Vao, and Tenel Ka–to name but a few.

I wanted to be Han Solo and Luke Skywalker when I was a kid. I wanted to rescue the princess. I wanted to deflect blaster bolts while John Williams’s amazing score played. I was different. We all were.

Now? I want to fight beside the princess. I want to trade quips with the sly smuggler who has her wits and blaster to keep her one step ahead of the law. We live in a world where women can fight as soldiers and Marines, be neurosurgeons, CEOs, and cops. Shouldn’t our modern myths reflect that? The current casting shows me that the visions shaping the new Star Wars films are stuck a long time ago in a galaxy far, far way.

The Expanded Universe is dead. That’s fine (tragic, but fine). Give us new heroines to fight alongside (or even lead!) the lads.

It’s a brave new galaxy, Star Wars. Don’t cling to the old one.