Monthly Archives: March 2014

Writing Tip: Set a time and stick to it

I am inherently lazy, which explains why I program for a living (at least until this writing thing takes off). Anything that can be described by a mathematical algorithm can be done by a computer, and there are few things in this world that cannot be described by an algorithm. Creative writing is one of them, so I have a difficult path ahead of me. Steven Pressfield would classify laziness as a manifestation of Resistance – the thing that, by whatever means possible, prevents you from creating. Fortunately there are ways around it.

The reason I was able to publish The Dragonslayers v1 this year was because I followed the advice of a writer at the Virginia Festival of the Book in 2011. There was a Publishing Day seminar on something or other (I forget the topic, but that’s not the point), and afterwards I asked one of the panelists what time of day he thought was the most productive. I wish I could remember his name so I could honor him properly for his wisdom. He answered astutely, saying he wrote best at night (as in two in the godforsaken morning) but that it was different for everyone and that if I was having trouble making time for writing (my Resistance at the time) try different times of day.

Like an idiot, I sat on the advice for a couple years. Finally, after several years of looking at the manuscript for DS1 and wondering if it was going to get done on its own, I realized it wouldn’t unless I followed the panelist’s advice. I set my alarm and went to bed early enough to force myself out of bed the next morning at 5:30. When the phone went off, the only thing that saved it from a sudden death were (1) it was an almost-new phone, and (2) I had set up the coffee machine to be ready at the right time. I sat down with the coffee in front of the computer and channeled my rage at being awoken into my writing. “Kill your darlings,” says the writer’s adage, and the slaughter began. The clever phrase was snipped and replaced with actual wit, ‘that’ was removed wherever it appeared, and plot chunks were deleted in their entirety. I stopped a couple hours later when I needed to get out the door for work, but was able to renew it the next morning. And the morning after that. And so on.

Like the panelist said, the time that worked for him might not work for you, as it certainly wouldn’t work for me. But experiment, try different times, and be consistent. We are creatures of habit, and repeated tasks become easier the more they are repeated. Before you know it, the manuscript (or the editing job) will be done.

No Longer Free, 24-28 Mar 2014

No Longer Free

Fighting Back

  • This one warms my heart. You may remember the case a few months ago where a minor was assaulted here in Charlottesville by “law” enforcement when she was departing a local grocery store with a pack of sparkling water on suspicion of underage purchase of alcohol. Well, oops: UVa Student Seeks $40M in Lawsuit against Virginia, ABC. Malicious prosecution, False arrest, six counts of Assault and battery, etc. etc. Me, I would have settled for $1 million from each of the assaulting officers, as long as they were personally liable for the sum, exemplum aliorum and all that.

Desire Liberty. Seek Freedom. Make Independence.

End The Un-Christian War on Drugs

Most Christians today would reflexively say that illegal drugs are sinful, but have no problem taking an Advil or a prescription medicine. Fewer would have a problem with a glass of wine or a beer, as long as they didn’t get drunk. But to suggest that there is only a difference of degree between a line of coke, a marijuana joint, a glass of wine, and a pair of painkillers is to somehow say that two plus two equals duck.

Well, if it looks like one and quacks like one …

Any Christian who questions the war on drugs must start somewhere in the Bible. For me, it comes down to a few key texts:

Let’s take each of those in turn.
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Book Review: Matthew Bracken’s Enemies Trilogy

One of the big hits in the libertarian/gun owner world, aside from Rawles’ Patriots series, is Matthew Bracken’s Enemies trilogy – Enemies Foreign And Domestic, Domestic Enemies: The Reconquista, and Foreign Enemies And Traitors. Bracken was one of the first in the gun community to have widespread success as a libertarian fiction author; the books are published under his own imprint and he distributes them mostly through gun show sellers and online (lesson for me: know your target audience). They’re long (500+ pages) and deal with the same classic topics found in others of the genre: overreaching government that infringes on the liberties of individuals.

He takes a unique approach that is only hinted at in the beginnings of the first book – each book deals with a separate character and how they approach the problem of infringed liberties. Brad Fallon is the star of the first book, Ranya Bardiwell occupies the second, and Phil Carson is center stage in the third. Like all good authors he puts them through hell, crushing their plans, seizing their children, and making it impossible to achieve their goals without unusual sacrifice. But they (mostly) come through in the end, or (spoiler alert) at least their offspring do.

The government is always the antagonist, and except for a handful of characters (an FBI Agent in the second book and a set of Army officers in the third) is always up to no good. The books are set in a world of decreasing economic opportunity, and the standard playbook (a.k.a. History) calls for the government to become more oppressive as the opportunities disappear. Bracken writes that part well, but the reader must suspend disbelief and accept that the forces in play are larger than individuals can overcome; that is, the depression that unfolds over the course of the trilogy is too big for the country to withstand intact. I’m not sure I believe the next Depression will be (or currently is*) that large, but I also believe that it could be if we don’t return to a rely-on-yourself mentality in this country. The one thing that could turn a Depression into a country-dividing collapse would be if some regions adopt that mentality to get out of a Depression while others don’t.

But I digress. The switching of lead characters from book to book would be annoying if it weren’t for the fact that each character gets a satisfying conclusion at the end of each work. In this sense it isn’t really a trilogy per se, where the same character or characters appear in all three books, as it is a set of stories told in the same universe. But the technique works to convey not only that government overreach is bad, but that any given atrocity affects more than just one person, and for more than just one story. The government’s actions ripple (or more accurately, cascade) across the series.

The other thing that works to separate each book from the next is the revelation, early in each work, that about five years have passed from one book to the next. This serves to separate the characters in time and space and allows plot lines to develop without having to explain each and every event (lesson two for me: the audience doesn’t need to know every. effing. detail. They assume the character had breakfast, then took a dump).

All in all, it’s a good series, but there are stretches where it feels like he could use an editor. He mostly avoids preaching on the libertarian hot-button topics (free trade and gun control) by demonstrating the issues in a positive light (open markets governed by currencies in gold and the defensive use of guns). This is contrasted against the fruits of government action – whatever they do results in slavery because everything they do is centered on the control of the individual.

I recommend the series, both as an introduction to libertarian fiction and a study of what can happen (or has happened) when governments feel they need to control everything, right down to the people and what they do every day.

* There are many who believe that the last recession never really ended, and that we’re in the early stages of just such a long-term Depression/collapse. I find it increasingly difficult to argue with this point.

Character Interview: Scott Philipson

DRAGONSLAYERS 1 SPOILERS!!! YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!! Continuity geeks: this happens after the trial, but before that thing that happens. It’s non-canonical.

John Lillard*: Welcome to News in the Spotlight. I’m your host, John Lillard. Tonight’s guest joins us via telephone to talk about his recent acquittal on charges of selling drugs. Please welcome Scott Philipson.
Scott: It’s nice to be here, thanks.
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Writing Techniques: Character Development

One of the things that came to me pretty quickly when I started writing was a technique for developing characters. I saw a quote posted by Lauralee Bliss on her Facebook page – “Plot builds character” – and realized it was quite true. Turmoil in the lives of the characters allows them to act in ways that reveal what’s in their hearts. But how do you organize it?

Act like a reporter. Ask and answer the five Ws and you’ll get ahead in your writing.

Who – Identify the character with something that makes them who they are. The first one is always their name.
What – Plot builds character, so identify a part of the plot line relevant to the character
When – it has to happen sometime in the course of the story. Identify when.
Where – There’s always a setting. Describe it.
Why – There’s always a reason for the What. Describe it here it short detail.

Then repeat. Fill the page with the character’s details, building a plot and a background and a personality all at the same time. This is also useful for breaking up Writer’s Block logjams.

Book Fair 2014!

Today is the 2014 Virginia Festival of the Book’s Annual Book Fair! I will be at the Charlottesville Omni Hotel, signing copies of the book for ten dollars – a 25% savings off Amazon!

If you’ve come to the site from the address on the bookmark, the first chapter is available for free. Click the ‘free excerpt’ link to the right. Enjoy!

We are no longer free

“This is a free country,” goes the popular protest.

Really?

Do you honestly believe we are at least as free as when you were growing up? Bull. Government at all levels takes more liberties with our liberties than they should, and everyone knows it. I believe it has gotten to the point where we cannot call ourselves a free country and remain honest with ourselves, our neighbors, or God. This post, which will be a regular Friday feature, will chronicle that honesty. There will be two sections, one chronicling the long train of abuses and usurpations (No Longer Free) and the other listing the throwing off of such Government and the provision of new Guards for said liberties (Fighting Back).

These are the stories that inform and inspire my take on Liberty Fiction. Keep an eye on this series and you might just see some familiar trends in my future writing.

No Longer Free

Fighting Back

Desire Liberty. Seek Freedom. Make Independence.

Dr. Christina Sanchez on how THC kills cancer cells

In The Dragonslayers Vol. 1, an article from Cancer Research discussing THC and its effects on Pancreatic Cancer is passed back and forth between two of the characters. In that same journal there is another article on the effects of THC on Breast Cancer cells. One of the authors of that article, Dr. Christina Sanchez, discusses the findings in this video.

But remember: <sarcasm>there’s no medical basis for rescheduling marijuana. It’s a dangerous drug that can kill you.</sarcasm>

Upcoming Events – Virginia Festival of the Book 2014

The Virginia Festival of the Book starts today and runs through this Sunday. I will be at the Annual Book Fair this Saturday, March 22nd, from 9 AM to 4 PM at the Omni Hotel on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall. Signed copies of The Dragonslayers, Volume 1 will be available for $10, a 33% discount off of the list price. Come by and get your copy!

I’m also working on putting together a couple discussion groups in Charlottesville that will feature character sketches, readings, and discussions about the War On Drugs and Liberty Fiction in general. Watch this space or join the Mailing List to learn more.