Happy Halloween, people!
And if you’re trick-or-treating, may you have all the luck when it comes to candy.
It only took me about a year, but the next instalment in Scarlett and Rose’s adventures is finally here!
The Lonely Wood is now available on Amazon! You can get it here. It’s the fourth book in The Last Huntress Series. It comes after The Last Huntress, The Lord of Dark Waters, and The Fire Upon The Mountain. It weighs in at a hefty 49,000 or so words making it the longest story in the series so far. It goes for $1.99.
Here’s the blurb:
Scarlett is the last of her line – a huntress sworn to kill all monsters.
Rose is a girl searching for the power to take back her homeland.
Scarlett’s uncle has called for her aid. But the journey to his lands in the north forces the huntress to confront the shadows of her past. She was not always a huntress. But the naïve, little girl that her uncle helped raise – the girl he loved like a daughter – is long dead. All that remains is the huntress, a warrior born of blood and steel.
But there are far worse things than the past waiting for Scarlett and Rose in the ancient woods of the north. The elves once ruled there, unmatched in their glory and splendour. But an age ago, they fled, binding the forest with a powerful enchantment. Now, their magic is failing, and the evil they imprisoned has awakened once again – an evil that knows Scarlett’s line all too well.
The forest was there when the first huntress was born. Will it witness the fall of the last huntress, or will Scarlett and Rose find a way to conquer the darkness that awaits them?
Interested? Read on for a longer preview: Read more…
Let me be brutally honest. There have been times when I’ve looked back at everything – everything – that I’ve ever written and wondered if it was all a big, damn waste.
I stare down at the computer screen and every flaw, every imperfection stares back at me with cold, dead eyes. Every little mistake becomes a thousand times bigger until I can’t see anything good in what I’ve written.
It makes me wonder if I’m a fraud, if it was all just a fluke. Or maybe I’m just no good at all and somehow people haven’t noticed it yet. Insecure? Definitely, but insecurity can be a good thing, sometimes.
A writer needs, I think, a certain combination of arrogance and insecurity. Arrogance because they have to be able to push on through criticism and pursue plots, characters, and ideas when others would give up. And insecurity because they need to be willing to listen to criticism, to accept they might be wrong, and to constantly, constantly improve.
A writer who thinks they are invincible has very little incentive to improve. A write who worries about how good they really are has every incentive to do better.
The trick, I think, is learning to control those dark thoughts, to make them work for you. There has always been – and probably always will be – a little voice in the back of my head whispering about all the mistakes and imperfections in my writing. But that same voice is also the one that whispers improvements, that forces me to study and practice until I get better.
That voice isn’t alone, of course. I’m an easygoing person, for the most part, but there’s a part of me that relishes competition. It’s the part of me that looks at someone else’s writing and urges me to do better – to show that I’m better. A writer needs to have pride, in their writing and themselves, but that pride should never give way to true arrogance. As loud as that competitive voice can be, there’s another one there to match it. It’s the voice telling me how far I still have to go, how much work I still need to do. And even if I can match one writer, there is always someone better, always another person I need to catch up to.
Every writer has that one story inside them, the one they’ve been waiting their whole lives to tell. They’re arrogant about it – they think it’s the best story they’ll ever write, the one that everyone will remember. But they’re insecure about it too – they don’t know if they’re good enough to write it, and they don’t know if they’ll ever be good enough.
I have a story like that. I’ve carried it in my head for more than ten years. It’s been building and building and building. Hell, the entire world that story is set in exists inside my head along with all the associated history and other details. I still haven’t written it. I’m afraid to, because once i do, I’ll have to face it. I’ll have to face all the insecurity and the arrogance. I’ll know, one way or another, if everything I’ve done to improve is actually enough.
The problem with chasing an ideal is that you rarely ever catch it. Or once you do, you find out it wasn’t as perfect as you thought it was. Or worse still, you find out it really is perfect – but it wasn’t meant for you.
But that’s also the most enjoyable thing about writing. It’s an expression of who you are, from your dreams to your nightmares, from your failures to your successes. Everything that you are shapes your writing, and your writing in turn shapes who you are.
Research papers are one of the primary means of communicating the results of research. They form the foundations upon which theories in a range of different disciplines are built. If you have to engage in academic warfare or simply critique a theory, then knowing how to “kill” a research paper is an important skill.
So, how do you kill a research paper?
Although the exact structure of a research paper varies from discipline to discipline, most will follow the same basic structure:
Attack One Section At A Time
The underlying reasoning of a research paper is fairly simple:
Any attack on a research paper should look to demonstrate that there has been a breakdown somewhere in this chain of reasoning. Here is a section-by-section breakdown of how this could be done.
For the introduction:
For the method:
For the results:
For the discussion:
Killing a research paper requires at least one of the following:
If you can show that even one of these is the case, you can launch a strong attack against a research paper. Likewise, if you want your research papers to be good, ensure that none of those criticisms can be aimed at you.
If you want to read more of my thoughts on writing, you can find those here.
I also write original fiction, mostly fantasy. You can find that here.
In poker, the term ‘buy-in’ refers to the minimum amount of money required to join a particular game of poker. However, the term can also be useful when applied to fiction. Specifically, we can use the term to describe the investment in time and effort that a book or series requires in order to be fully enjoyed.
Consider a typical fantasy trilogy. Each book will have its own plot and character arcs, but there will also be overarching plot and character arcs that run throughout the entire series. Indeed, the plot and characters may not make sense if the books are not read together and in the correct sequence. As a result, the buy-in for the second book is larger than for the first book, and the buy-in for the third book is larger still. Furthermore, the buy-in for a typical trilogy should be smaller than for a seven-book series.
Some fiction maintains strong links to the real world (e.g., political thrillers are often set in the present and take advantage of political, military, and economic realities). In contrast, some fiction maintains only a tenuous link to the real world (e.g., high fantasy or distant-future science fiction). The stronger the links that a story has to the real world, the smaller the buy-in it demands. This is because readers can rely on their knowledge of the real world to help them appreciate the story.
However, even in fantasy stories, there are ways to reduce buy-in. Vampires and werewolves are both highly popular and well-known monsters. A story that follows the traditional rules for these creatures will be less original than one that does not, but it will dramatically reduce the buy-in for readers since readers will already be familiar with the strengths, weaknesses, and behaviour of the vampires and werewolves in the story.
What happens if a story has a very large buy-in? It can be very intimidating. Imagine a story set in a world that is completely different from ours. It involves a society that is radically different, a species that does not share our appearance, psychology, or customs, and technology that bears no resemblance to ours. Although such a story may be very interesting and original, readers may struggle to come to grips with it. Indeed, the mental gymnastics required to keep up with all the new details may actually drive readers away. If, however, the buy-in for a story is very small, it is much easier for readers to just jump in and get involved. For instance, thrillers set in real-world settings (e.g., a story about soldiers in Iraq) should be quite approachable.
High fantasy is an example of fiction with a large buy-in. Take Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Middle Earth is a world with thousands of years of unique history and several races with their own languages and customs, only some of which are shared with the real world. To fully appreciate Middle Earth, it is necessary to not only read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings but also the Silmarillion and a swathe of additional material (e.g., Tolkien’s letters).
Another example of a high fantasy series with a large buy-in is the A Song of Ice and Fire series by G. R. R. Martin. The series is critically acclaimed and very popular. But it can be very daunting for new readers to approach. Each book is quite long, and there are currently seven books. Each of them is filled with details about the characters, plot, cultures, myths, and societies of the story. The series is also known for telling the story through the eyes of multiple characters and via complex, inter-connected plotlines. Missing out on a single book or being unfamiliar with a single character can make the series much more difficult to enjoy.
One way to reduce the buy-in is to offer a summary of the most important events and characters for new readers. It is not a coincidence that the books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series have glossaries at the back to help the readers keep track of things. Another way of reducing the buy-in is by using alternative media (e.g., the Game of Thrones television series does a reasonably good job of acquainting new readers with the series quickly although there are differences between the show and the books).
Having a series or a radically original story is bound to introduce some level of buy-in. However, this buy-in can be reduced by giving readers familiar things to latch onto (e.g., using rules or customs they are familiar with) or by offering recaps, summaries, glossaries, and the like to help readers.
The most important thing is not necessarily to eliminate buy-in. Instead, writers should focus on making sure that the readers feel that the buy-in is worth it.
If you want to read more of my thoughts on writing, you can find those here.
I also write original fiction, which you can find here.
When I was younger, I loved Mario Kart. So did a lot of my friends. Naturally, that meant we played a lot of Mario Kart. Today, I’m going to tell you how to win Mario Kart. You don’t need quick reflexes. You don’t need a lot of experience. You don’t even need to be good at the game. You just need to be evil and follow these five easy steps:
If you have made it this far, then I congratulate you. You are now ready to win Mario Kart.
Next week: Why Every Mario Party Player Should Wear A Helmet
I’ll confess that when I was a student in university, I was not always the most attentive student. There were times when I may even have wavered in and out of consciousness during lectures. I’d like to blame it all on a lack of sleep due to excessive amounts of hard work, but boredom also played a role. I do, however, take a certain pride in having never been caught taking a quick nap. I imagine it must be due to my formidable skill in propping my head up in my hand.
But, I digress.
I have, at several points in time, served as a lecturer in a number of different subjects (all of them within the same general field), and I’ve noticed several trends:
I’ve had a few questions come in about what I read, so I thought I’d take a few moments to give you guys some idea of what I like to read.
I’ll start off with the obvious. I read fan fiction. In fact, I read a lot of it. There are several reasons for this:
Apart from fan fiction, however, I also read original fiction and non-fiction. Over the years, I’ve experienced a steady shift in the kind of fiction that I read. When I was younger, I read anything I could get my hands on. This included fantasy, horror, science fiction, romance, historical drama, political thriller, military fiction… anything.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become better at identifying the genres that I like and the authors that I like. As a result, I’m no longer quite so scattergun in my approach although I am willing to take a quick flick through almost any book provided it looks even a little interesting. I don’t particularly care about genre so much as I do about the actual writing. That said, I do find that certain genres have dominant styles that I find preferable (e.g., I’ve enjoyed almost every psychological Western I’ve read because the dominant style in that genre is one I like). Here are the genres I can usually be found reading:
When it comes to non-fiction, I tend to focus on areas away from the fields where I am qualified. Part of that is not wanting to get too involved in what I’ve studied, but another part of it is trying to maintain a broad knowledge base. A well-rounded knowledge base can be surprisingly handy to have around. Here are some of my favourite topics:
I know this sounds like a lot, but it’s not like I’m reading all those things at the same time. I can also read fairly quickly, which helps. But, yeah, hopefully this gives you guys some idea of what I like to read.
After years of carefully honing my writing, I have finally devised a universal set of rules that covers the art of storytelling. Following these rules will all but guarantee you success:
If you follow these simple rules, you can rest assured that your story will be awesome. If you’re still not sure that your story is awesome enough, then add a ninja dragon who knows kung fu and is plotting against the magical, amorous, tireless, stubborn dolphin that wants to break up the complex relationship the dragon has with a chair, another dragon, a wyvern, a drake, and a trans-dimensional hummingbird. And did I mention that all of them are actually plotting against each other, and it’s all going to end in blood. Lots and lots of blood. Oh, and fire. That too.
I’ve long been a fan of combat sports. And until my knees decided to quit on me, I used to train quite regularly in them too. In any case, I still enjoy watching combat sports, especially boxing and MMA (my knowledge of striking is somewhat better than my knowledge of grappling), and there’s something I’ve noticed a lot of people in MMA doing that kind of bothers me.
They don’t throw the jab properly.
Okay, let me expand on that a bit more. A punch does not end when the arm reaches it maximum extension. It ends when the hand is brought back to the guard position and the puncher is back in a stable stance. Until then, the puncher is extremely vulnerable to being hit back by their opponent.
The jab is supposed to be one of the safest punches to throw (i.e., one of the most difficult for an opponent to punish). But that assumption relies on several things:
Now, the jab is not the most powerful punch in the world. For most people, the most powerful punch is either the overhand right or the left hook. But the jab can still be thrown (and should be thrown) with enough force behind it to make someone think twice. Good timing has a major role to play here since a jab thrown at someone moving forward can hit with far more force than a jab thrown at someone moving away.
That said, one of the most common mistakes I see in MMA is people who throw the “nothing jab”. This is a jab that basically combines every possible mistake into one hideous monstrosity of a punch. Essentially, it’s a pawing jab that lacks any real speed or force, which is thrown simply out of a need to look productive. This punch is usually performed haphazardly with the person throwing it committing several key mistakes:
These mistakes leave the puncher off balance with their chin and head completely exposed. Furthermore, because the punch is thrown in a predictable, pawing manner, the opponent can simply walk through it without concern. Do you want to know what this leads to?
Watch closely and you’ll see that most of the knockouts via overhand right are preceded by one fighter moving backwards and throwing a nothing jab. The other fighter then does the sensible thing: they wade forward through the jab (which is too weak to do any real damage) and then throw a huge overhand right into the gap in the first fighter’s defence. Caught mid-punch, the first fighter cannot dodge or brace themselves for impact. They are simply knocked senseless.
Now, MMA fighters aren’t the only people who do this (I’ve seen boxers do it too), but it does seem to be more prevalent in MMA than boxing. There are several reasons for why this might be the case:
So what about if you’re the one fighting somebody who likes to throw nothing jabs? Here are some options:
Out of all the things I see in MMA, the nothing jab is probably my least favourite. The only one that comes close is the “nothing leg kick” which is basically the leg kick equivalent (and is usually dealt with in similar fashion).