Stop! I Collaborated now Listen!

Alright Bookbrainers, (yeah you heard me), I have something special for you this week! Some of you may have noticed me post about this VERY briefly on the blog’s Facebook page, but I recently went on my friend’s podcast called Rawcast: A.D. (Here: https://soundcloud.com/rawcastad/017-bookbrain ) and got to promote the blog to his listeners. I HIGHLY recommend that you go over when you get the chance to give it a listen. Doug (the host of Rawcast: A.D.) and I talk about the blog quite a bit…

I'm Awesome

(Pictured Here)

…as well as talk about movies and books worth reading. Doug and I go waaaaay back to our college days at UW-Stevens Point. There is also a podcast we did talking about that if you’re for some reason interested in me…can’t imagine why you would be though…(*cough* look at above picture *cough*).

Anyway! Doug’s podcast has been on hiatus for a while, but he’d bringing it back better than ever going forward! Doug talks about everything from politics, to books and movies, to just random fun things that he feels like brining up. So if you’re interested in him or if you just want to hear me jabber like a moron for an hour about writing give it a listen!

Now to celebrate this awesome crossover how about a…FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE!!! On next week’s blog I’ll post the new challenge for YOU (yes you) to vote on and me to pick the wining suggestion and write on. So all you Bookbrainers…

Bring me

I want all of you to get involved in this next challenge and have your friends (all those Nobrainers who don’t read the blog) vote too! Also when I ask you to, “Bring me everyone,” what I mean is…

Everyone

Have a great week!

Creative Inspiration: Dungeons and Dragons

Alright you beautiful readers! This week I’m taking the time to dig into one of my favorite creative inspirations, so grab your dice and let’s talk Dungeons and Dragons!

Dice

(May the odds be ever in you favor!)

I’m fairly sure I was born with a love for all things fantasy. If you were to take a sample of my DNA and look at it under a microscope you’d see a tiny film strip of a wizard fighting a dragon. So it’s no wonder that this game appeals to me, what with it having a picture of both wizards and dragons on many of its covers. The only strange thing is that I didn’t get introduced to the game until I was in high school. (So many wasted years!) The game is even loved by people such as Vin Diesel.

(Disclaimer: I actually stopped playing official D&D years ago. I play a game called Pathfinder, which is essentially the same game but by a different developer. I just called it D&D when talking to other people because it’s easier and they don’t really care about the difference.)

For those of you reading not too familiar with the game, Dungeons and Dragons (much like myself), comes to you from the great state of beer and cheese, Wisconsin. The game was introduced to the world by Gary Gygax in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin in January of 1974. Since then the game has seen many years of ups and downs, with the high of its popularity being in the 80’s (think Stranger Things from Netflix), though it has been growing in popularity in the last few years again now that all things geek and nerdy are mainstream popular.

Each player in the game creates a character from the rules offered in the books ranging from your standard Wizard…

Wizard

To the Rouge…

Rouge

To the basic Fighter…

Fighter

(It’s super effective!)

Once you as a play pick your class, race, and buy gear from what gold you have, you’re ready to play! One player though has to act as the narrator for the story and control the monsters you fight, they’re called the Dungeon Master (though to be fair the newer books acknowledge that this name has a LOT of geeky connotation with it have has started to call them the, “Game Master,” instead to try and sound cooler…it’s not working).

It’s the job of the Dungeon Master (DM) that I want to focus on though. For many of the games I’ve played my job was to be the game’s DM. There are pre-made games that I could run in this role, but the fun and challenge of creating my own worlds using the game’s rules and putting my friends into stories that I create (often without much preparation since that’s a lot of work and I’m busy *cough* lazy *cough*), has challenged me to become a better story teller over the years and helped inspire me to think about fantasy stories in many different ways. As well one of the challenges of running a game is that it only works when the players are having fun. Playing has challenged me in a way where I have to balance each player’s own enjoyment of the game, my enjoyment of running it, and keeping the game fair and running smoothly. It’s the kind of challenge that any writer interested in fantasy should consider since keeping readers happy functions much the same way and provides very similar challenges.

Hopefully in the future you think of D&D less like this…

Geeks

And more like this…

Awesome Geeks

Now that you’re more familiar with this amazing game and its possible influence, my challenge to you is this…go and enjoy your weekend!

Recent Reads: Book Review!

Happy weekend readers! I hope you’re all doing well and enjoying summer! So for this week I wanted to talk briefly about some recent books I’ve read. (I feel like a kid with a summer reading list from the library!) All the authors out there giving advice on writing all say the same thing, read. Now for anyone who knows me you know that’s not a difficult request! So I thought I’d share the most recent books I’ve read. I just finished reading The Rook and its sequel Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley.

RookStiletto

Without giving away too much these books are about a secret British government organization of people with supernatural powers who fight to keep supernatural things secret and to protect the public from them. Basically think House of Cards meets Men in Black meets The X-Men. The first book is told from the perspective of Myfanwy Thomas, who is one of the controlling members of this organization…who has had all her memories removed and wakes up surrounded by dead people. It’s ok though, since the original Myfanwy knew that someone was going to wipe her mind so she left instructions for her to pretend to be her.

These books are funny and will grip you from the beginning with both political supernatural intrigue and an incredibly interesting and extremely fleshed out world that these books take place in. I can’t recommend them enough!

So while you wait for my first book to hit shelves in like five years, give these a try and enjoy!

Giving Credit: Writing Tips

It’s the weekend! I hope all of you fine readers are doing well. I want to give a BIG thanks to everyone for all the kind words about my flash fiction story from last week! It meant a lot to me that you took the time to read something a little longer than my normal blog posts and that you actually liked it!

Love me

So because everyone seemed to enjoy it, I’m going to make flash fiction challenges like that a regular thing on here! But since it takes time away from me working on my book, I won’t be doing them more than once a month or so. Now, it has occurred to me that I never really spoke on how I came up with the challenge. Short answer: I didn’t.

eh

Long answer: So a few years ago I was walking through Barns and Nobel with my fiancé and I found the section of books that deal with tips for writing. I spent over half an hour looking through the various titles and scanning chapters. Now I have a degree in English and a minor in creative writing and I’ve spent a lot of my adult life thinking about and studying the craft of writing…yet I can’t seem to ever have enough books on the subject. Not all books on writing are good, and some aren’t really meant for people like me, but there are always some that I find have great tips and ideas about how to write that I gravitate to.

During this trip I found one that has since become my favorite. It was titled, The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience by Chuck Wendig. (You can see why the title grabbed me.) This book was filled with great ideas about writing put in such a way that it doesn’t feel like a text book and doesn’t sound like something a guy named Brad would say while wearing an ascot and admiring his own flatulence.

Brad

(Fact: Fred’s real name is Brad)

I can’t say enough how much I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in writing! So while reading it I became interested in the author Chuck Wendig and looked him up. He has a blog. It’s right here: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/blog/ I started reading his blog and on it every Friday he features a post called (you guessed it you super smarty pants reader!) Flash Fiction Challenge. Now for his blog he’s challenging his readers to do the writing and he just comes up with the prompts (somehow). In the future I may take more challenges from his blog to use or I may come up with my own, either way I’m very excited to keep writing both this blog and flash fiction, and seeing what ideas I can juice from my brain for you!

(I’m going to leave you with that fun mental image)

Have a great weekend everyone!

And the Winner is…

Alright readers! Today’s the big day! The day you find out what reader suggestion I follow for my flash fiction challenge! But before I reveal my choice (que annoyed grumbles), I want to talk about the progress I’ve been making with my book.

If you can think way back to my second blog post on May 1st (I know it feels like forever ago!), I talked about how at the time I was 1/8th of the way through my projected book length of 350 pages. As of this week I finally reached 1/4th the length I’m shooting for!

beer-932943_960_720

(Hell yeah!)

That’s right! In two months I’ve managed to double the length of my book. And you know what? I personally think it’s all because of you guys. In the past eleven weeks all of you have been very supportive and have helped keep me motived to continue writing even when I’m having days I just don’t feel like it. So if you’re reading this, then you’re the real MVP!

Now for the big show! After reading through your suggestions and thinking very hard about which one I like the best and can write about, the winner is…

slow-motion-shot-drum-roll-footage-072786854_iconm

(Drum roll please!)

Time Travel and Mermaids!

So for next week’s blog I’ll be posting a short story that’s 1-2 thousand words long about time travel and mermaids. This will be an original story and one I hope you’ll all enjoy. This will be the first actual fiction I post on here so if this is something you guys like or want to see more of let me know and we can make it happen’ captain!

Making a Villain: Doing Bad Good

Welcome back readers! Today I have something very special for you. Today I want to talk about villains! I had a discussion recently with someone reading my book as I write it to give me ideas and our discussion turned towards the character who will be the main villain of the book.

Disney

(Behold the face of true evil)

After our discussion I thought a lot about the character and how I’ll present them in the book and show the reader that they’re evil. Now I could go the traditional way and just show them choking people out for no reason, kicking puppies, and wearing all black.

Darth

(So close Darth! Just remember that 2 out of 3 ain’t bad!)

But this feels like a kind of over-done stereotypical way to show evil that I just don’t want. Be honest, how many of you watch movies or read books and look at the villain and think, “Ok, yeah, they’re clearly the bad guy and evil…but they’re not really cool.” If you want an endless list of physical traits to show someone is evil, the best place to look is Bond movies. The villains in those movies run the gauntlet of “evil looks,” from being bald, scars, dead eyes, metal teeth, being not English, to even just being short (though to be fair that actor did actually turn out to be evil as hell and is currently in prison so they may have had something there).

All this still feels superficial to me though. I want my villains to not just be one dimensional physical representations of evil, I want the reader to need to get their blood pressure checked after reading my book they hate the villain so much! To do this I’ve come up with three basic things I think all villains should have using the case study of this evil bastard:

tywin-lannister-1920

This is Tywin Lannister from the show Game of Thrones in the event that you’ve been handing under a rock for several years. He is not the person I hated most on the show (BURN IN HELL JOFFERY!!!), but he was one of the best villains not only on that show, but anywhere. So what are the three things that Tywin had that made him an amazing villain?

One: Personality. This is what I mean when I said earlier having a villain be more than just black clothes and scars, I want them to have depth. All the best villains have a personality that comes out through dialogue and action and gives the feeling like a real person and not just some cardboard cut-out with the word, “Evil,” written on it. Tywin through the course of the show displays ranges of emotions from rage and disappointment to smugness and joy. Tywin is more than just your standard angry and brooding villain, he has a range of emotions that bring a 3D sense of his character. This coupled with his backstory that’s revealed through bits and pieces lets you know who he is as a person. Because of this that leads to the second thing that makes a great villain.

Two: Relatable. Tywin at his core is a man rooted in family. If you look past the horrible things he does, you see a father trying to keep his family protected and together. He is a father looking to make a better world for the kingdom by making it better for his family. Any good villain, the kind of villain who sticks with you, has something in them that the audience can relate to. A parent can relate to the base ideas of Tywin, enough that they won’t condone his actions, but they understand him. Which brings us to the third requirement.

Three: Motivated. Tywin is nothing if not motivated. His grand plans and desires drive him without failure through the story. This is key for a good villain. No one fears, hates, or worries about a villain who never gets out of bed and has plans to do evil deeds, but never gets around to doing it. This is where if a villain has a personality and is relatable, they will have motivation.

All real people have these three things and characters, whether an evil sorcerer king, a suburban drug dealer, or an intergalactic mobster slug, have a personality and relatable desires to make them highly motivated and engaging villains that you’ll love to hate!

I know there are lots of other good things that go into making a good villain, too many to list here. Go ahead and comment here or on the blog’s Facebook page to let me know what you think makes a great villain!

Creative Inspiration – My Favorite Author

Alright folks it’s time again to talk about sources of inspiration! This time I’m going to take things in a little bit different direction.

one-direction-up-all-night-album-artwork-billboard-1548

(not that direction)

Instead of looking at my favorite movie I’m going to turn to books and talk about my favorite author. There are many authors I love which I’m sure I’ll talk about later, but there is one far above the rest. This is a man who has everything a good writer should have including the optional but ever amazing EPIC BEARD!!!

Patrick-rothfuss-2014-kyle-cassidy

(BASK IN ITS GLORY!!!)

This is Patrick Rothfuss. If you’ve never heard of this magnificent bastard sit your ass down and listen! Rothfuss is the author of two novels so far in a trilogy with a third on the way. The first book, The Name of the Wind, and the second, Wise Man’s Fear, are absolutely outstanding works of fantasy. These fantasy books center around a man named Kvothe as he tells the story of how he learned magic and worked to hunt down a group of malevolent figures from legends that murdered his family.

Rothfuss’ writing is something I’ll never tire of reading and will continue to recommend to anyone who will give me a minute of their time (kind of like the crazy guy who smells like pee in a subway station). Beyond the fact that he does a fantastic job of world building and developing a magic system that works, his writing brings an air of authenticity that hits you with hurricane strength winds. What I mean by this is that these are not just a books about a man who learns magic and fights with a sword, these are books about a man struggling with grief and loss of his family, burning desire for vengeance, and a woman who causes a love in him so profound that Rothfuss’ take on the feeling rival any writings that are taught in literary courses today. If you can’t find a way to connect with the emotions and people in these books, then you either have led a horrible life or hang out with this guy on the weekends.

psycho

(just make sure you don’t have better business cards)

One of my personal goals as a writer is to someday match Rothfuss’ level of skill with the craft of writing, but until then I’ll settle with pointing people his way. So if you’re interested in reading his books you’re in luck! This year actually marks the 10th anniversary of the first book’s release and RIGHT NOW there is a fundraiser going on where you can pre-order a SIGNED copy of the upcoming anniversary edition of, The Name of the Wind, and have the money go to charity!

See, Patrick Rothfuss not only is a great writer, but he has set up a charity called Worldbuilders which does two annual fundraisers to get money for an organization called Heifer International. This organization uses donated money to give reusable and sustainable change to people in need along with the tools and education to keep the good will going, (you know, the whole teach-a-man-to-fish kind of thing). An example of this is the organization giving a goat to a family in a developing nation and then teach and give them the tools to not only care for it, but how to get milk and cheese from the goat and how to care for it when its pregnant and what to do with the kid. They can even sell the extra to make more money to improve their lives. Patrick loves this kind of charity work that helps people build permanent change in their lives and not just feed them for a day.

960

(that goat is SO star struck right now)

So right now one of these charity events is going on called Geeks Doing Good and the money goes directly to Heifer International. You can get there from this link https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/geeks-doing-good-2017-books#/ . Go on there and pre-order a copy of a book that changed my life. Or buy some of the other really cool stuff for sale right now. OR just donate to help a family in need somewhere in the world never need charity again. I donate what I can twice a year to these charities, even during the years money has been a bit tight.

If you’re thinking to yourself right now, “Hey! When the hell did this blog post about Spencer’s favorite author turn into a pitch for me to donate money to charity?” The answer is this, you don’t have to! I just think this is something cool to hear about and a way to pick up a signed copy of a special edition of an amazing book written by an amazing author who I hope you’ll at least risk the late fee by borrowing his books from the library.

Now go forth and be awesome and inspired!