StoryHack

Bryce A Beattie's website blog thing

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Ramblings on Christian Fiction and Movies.

These thoughts were all sparked by a post on my buddy Dane’s blog called The Christian Fiction Tightrope. I would have left it as a comment, but it just seemed far too long and rambling. I may throw some text from Dane’s original post in blockquotes. Here’s one now:

I’m a Christian, and I’m not shy about that, or ashamed of that in any way.

Like Dane, it’s no secret I’m Christian. Heck, I have a whole podcast filled with topics for Christian men. And yet no fiction I’ve ever written has action taking place in a church or deals with coming to God. I doubt there is anybody out there that would shelve my novels under “Christian fiction.”

…they don’t want a book with an altar call at the climax…

I wonder what people actually consider to be requirements for Christian fiction. Does it have to have an overtly Christian message? Does is just need Christian characters? Does it only need to have some kind of message supporting Christian values? As Dane sort of suggested, just done by a Christian author?

This is one thing Christian books – and movies, I suppose – do that ensures they stay locked into the subculture of believers only, and sit on the shelves of Christian bookstores without finding a wider audience: they preach to the choir.

As long as a story shies away from a ridiculous Deus Ex Machina ending (Deus Ex Caelum?) where God just solves the protagonist’s problems, I’m usually fine with a little preaching. I just wish the makers of Christian movies would be a little less heavy handed about it (See Kevin Sorbo’s deathbed repentance scene in God’s Not Dead) A little subtlety could be much more powerful. But I am grateful somebody is out there trying to make art with overt Christian themes.

And besides, I put up with all sorts of consequence-less immorality in the other media that I watch. And that’s basically just preaching for the other team. I can be “open minded” enough to enjoy fiction that has a strong political (either right or left) slant. I can even enjoy a show with a strong atheist character (Captain Malcolm Reynolds…) or two. I’d think others could still enjoy a comedy wherein Trace Adkins in biker’s leathers says, “It’s beautiful to watch one of God’s creations just doing what it was made to do.”

That’s not to say I think all Christian authors/creators should make art that always has a religious message.

That’s why I don’t write Christian fiction. If I get the theology right, the book probably will lose something fictionally. If I don’t get the theology right, I’m not going to want it to see the light of day.

For some reason when I read this, I thought of The Shack. That book played fast and loose with biblical doctrine, yet still sold like crazy. Not that I really think somebody should purposefully write false doctrine just to stir up controversy and sales. I don’t remember what my point here was.

I may post again on this if I have more thoughts.

Building a (Programming) Computer Lab with Edubuntu

I’ll be teaching a programming class at a local school again this year, and for *reasons* I had to rebuild their computer lab. The school had a bunch of donated equipment, but no really nice computers. Last year I set up the lab with an edubuntu server and a bunch of thin clients. When there […]

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar

It is no secret that I love audio theater. One of my favorite programs of all time is Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. My favorite part of the overall series are the five part serials on weekdays. Most of the run of the show was put up on archive.org by a group called the Old Time Radio […]

DIY Yeti Balaclava, Version 1

I often play with sound recording equipment. I wish I would actually spend more time recording stuff, but I don’t. A while back I found out about a deliciously cool product call the Kaotica Eyeball. It’s a sound isolation shield that fits directly on a microphone. If you visit the site, please ignore the tragically […]

Yeah, I’d ghostwrite…

I came across an interesting (at least to me) article about the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series of books. Specifically, it talks about the business of writing those books. They are all written by ghostwriters under a house name. Authors are given a flat fee, and no royalties.

The thing that jumped out at me was the parts where it talks about the money. Yes, I love the idea of royalties, but I think it’s still perfectly fair for a company to work out for-hire flat fees to authors. I don’t know what would make creative work fundamentally different from other kinds of work. No construction worker complains if he doesn’t get a slice of a building’s revenue. I’d totally jump at the chance to write a YA novel or two in an established series. I’d run laughing to the bank with my flat fee, and I’d frame copies of the books.

I’m not sure why this thought deserves a post, but I’m trying to write something, be it fiction or not, every day.

Some of my Favorite Procedural Tropes

I don’t know why I like these shows so much. I just do.

Max E Stone Stops by for a Chat

Tell me three things about yourself that you think everyone should know. I’m not perfect. I’m learning my craft as I go in this wonderful world of writing and publishing. My first stories at 9 years old were anything but child’s play. I impressed and also concerned and even scared many of the adults around […]

The Last Hero, I had to write it (Guest Post by Nathaniel Danes)

This is a guest post from Nathaniel Danes. He can be found at: Facebook, Twitter, Blogspot, and his official website. I never thought I’d write a book. Heck, for most of my life, getting beyond page three of any school writing project felt like a Herculean task. I think the difference between now and then, […]

A Quick Publishing Story

Publishing a hardcover of a CC-licenced ebook.

*Sigh* Yet Another Attempted Scam

So I’ve given up on implementing a couple of projects. Not ones that I’ve mentioned here. Other stuff. I got domains for them a long time ago. Now, I can either let the domains expire, or I can try to sell the domains. I figure, “What the heck? Why not try to sell them?” So […]

What I’ve been up to.

Okay, so I just launched yet another piece of software. It’s for Markdown nerds like myself. It is a previewer / exporter. I wrote it because the preview screens in most markdown editors suck. It’s commercial this time unlike the many freebies I’ve put out. That’s mostly because I’m still paying off the 9 week […]

Yesterday, a SMS Conversation With My Wife

Wife: Wait till you see the mess I just found.

Wife:

mess

Me: Yikes. Is that diaper creme?

Wife: Xander is in so much trouble when I find him.

Me: What makes you think it was Xander?

5 minutes pass.

Wife: Found him.

Wife:

xander

Me: Whoa.

Wife: He just told me that he is Santa Claus.

Stone Patrick

What are three things about you that you want everybody to know? 1. My interest in writing a novel started late in life, when I was in my 40’s, as I resisted putting words to paper for the longest time. Only when I realized that I enjoyed telling stories did I think about creating a […]

Interview with Daniel Danser

Today I have an interview with Daniel Danser, Author of “The God Particle.” What are three things about yourself you think everybody should know? The inspiration for The God Particle came after a business trip to Geneva, Switzerland. I was winding down after a hard days work in the hotel bar when I overheard two […]

Meet William M. Brandon III

Today I’m pleased to introduce William M Brandon III. He just released a new novel called SILENCE and was kind enough to spend some time trading emails with me. What are three things you think everybody should know about you? I’m a Los Angeles ex-pat, having escaped to the simpler life in NE Georgia. My […]

Idea for a Book I Will Never Write #2

I wrote this as an entry to Bruce Schneier’s Seventh Movie-Plot Threat Contest. I guess that makes it a movie I will never write, then. But you never know, as I already have a bunch of outlines for a political thriller / hacker series. If that ever happens, this may get worked into something.

A plucky young hacker is hired by a freshman senator after he receives an encrypted blackmail message signed by his contact at a major campaign-contributing corporation. She doesn’t care about the politics, only her fee. He is being blackmailed for information that he thought was stored securely on his computer. He says she needs to be careful, and she shows him the stun gun in her purse.

She buys him a brand new laptop, and within hours she notices it sending out packets of information. The computer must have spyware that no vendor is catching. That night a scary man breaks into the senator’s office, steals something valuable and implants a tiny hardware device in the new laptop. She follows him out, but loses him outside near an NSA office.

She social engineers her way into the contact’s office at the corporation. While she is there, his computer receives an encrypted message from the senator with the subject “For the right price…” On her way out of the office she glimpses the scary man in a crowd.

Back with the senator, she learns not only that he didn’t send the email she saw, but that he received another threat email from the computer she was using- while she was using it.

Upon further research, she finds a lot of network traffic heading to and from the senator’s machine to the NSA office she saw before. Using a packet capturing device, she is able to discover that the NSA office is transferring huge amounts of data with the big NSA facility in Utah, but the data is all encrypted.

She breaks into the NSA office, and figures out what is going on. The NSA is using the senator as a honeypot against the corporation, and the corporation as a blackmailer against the senator. This is done automatically, and without human interaction. It knows what will work best, and it knows how to mimic everybody’s communication patterns, due to the ubiquitous data harvesting. It knows everyone’s encryption keys and sensitive data due to trojan spyware and hardware devices. It is not just the senator and the corporation being manipulated either. It is thousands of people, maybe millions – anyone with power or money. Before she collects hard evidence or installs a backdoor, the scary man shows up and almost kills her.

She reports to the senator, who is obviously conflicted over something. He fires her and pleads with her to stay away. She argues with him, having decided the money isn’t important after all. As she leaves the senator’s office the scary man attacks her. She manages to stun him, then grab the gun he drops. She shoots him as he charges. She steals his NSA ID and uses it to enter the NSA office, where she uses mad hacking skills to destroy the automatic people-controlling system.

Two weeks later, she is approached by another politician saying he’s received an encrypted blackmail message signed by his contact at a major labor union.

How to Combine wav/mp3 Files (Using free tools)

I know that this is random, but I came upon this problem for a project at work. Googling it led me to a bunch of commercial solutions and non-useful resources. I wanted at least one useful article to have a chance in the search engines. Here was my Problem I have many directories of wav […]

What I’ve Been Up To…

If you are wondering where I’ve gone this time, I just posted a little update on my other blog. Happy Holidays +1

Happy Holidays +1

That’s right, the baby was 9 weeks early.

Idea for a Book I Will Never Write #1

Okay, so have you heard about the crazy ant problem in Texas? It makes me itch all over just to think about them. Go read that article. I’ll wait here.

Done? Good.

Here’s the second bit of ant-related bizarreness: Zombie ants.

Here’s the story idea that I will never have time to write. You’re welcome to it, although I suspect that you as a writer already have too many of your own ideas as it is.

The idea for the story’s milieu is the intersection of those two news items. Crazy ants invade and spread so much that whole town are being abandoned. The human population shifts itself ever northward. Traditionally exterminating the ants becomes a problem: the colonies are just too strong and they spread too quick. So some genius comes up with the right strategy. She thinks, “You know what we need? We need a pesticide that spreads itself.” She sets herself to making the zombie ant fungus capable of targeting the crazy ants. Problem solved, right? It would be, except that in her zest to make the fungus more potent or capable of spread, now the fungus can infect humans.

Queue the creepy music.

As a side note, scientists seem to think that both of these oddities have their origin in Brazil. So here’s an eco-bonus addendum to the idea: Maybe it’s the rain forest fighting back…

Also, if you’re a scientist, you should totally get on creating pesticides that spread themselves. Bacterias, viruses (virii?), or fungi, it doesn’t matter. Some may call this field of study biological warfare, but I say it’s just pest control. Once you nail this, you’ll be Soros-Gates-Koch-Walton rich. What could possibly go wrong?

Paperback Writer

I reformatted and updated the paperback version of Oasis so that the paperback cover now matches the (much better) ebook cover. It’s available on Amazon now. I also got things set up for The Journey of St. Laurent, but as I looked over my proof copy, I noticed a typo on the back cover. Oops. […]

Self Publishing is Easy; Writing Still Hard

josl_title

Over the weekend I published the ebook version of The Journey of St. Laurent. I started the whole process Saturday night with a plain text manuscript. About an hour later, I was done. As in done submitting the proper files to three different stores. Each website took whatever time it needed verifying my submission (all had done so by Sunday night, with one half exception) The novel is currently available here:

Gee, Bryce,  how did you do it so fast?

I did not have to sign up for new accounts at any of the three places, so that did save me an extra hour of waiting for confirmation emails and  looking up banking information. Also, I pre-wrote the book description and other info that I was going to need when filling out publishing forms.

The secret, then, to self publishing quickly is automation.

As I’ve discussed before, I primarily use plain text editors and I format the text as I write using markdown. For fiction, this mostly means putting a “#” before chapter titles and then wrapping words/phrases that I want italicized with asterisks. So it’s not like it’s a lot of extra work or anything.

But since my novel was in markdown, and I’ve had a cover ready for almost a year now, there was very little to do.

First, I used SPAB to produce the epub for Barnes and Noble. (Yes, SPAB produces a bunch of other files that can be used, but I wanted to be extra picky about formatting.)

Second, I used Amazon’s Kindle Previewer to convert both the epub mentioned above and the zipped html (produced by SPAB) to mobi, then I picked the one that looked the best to me. That mobi went to Amazon.

Third, I used pandoc along with templates I made for the old version of SPAB to make a LibreOffice odt file. I opened LibreOffice and saved it as a word doc. The word doc got uploaded to Smashwords.

In all fairness, I probably could have just used SPAB and been done with it. However, the file that SPAB produces for Smashwords is an epub. Smashwords will take an epub, but it won’t convert that epub to the ten or so other formats it likes to sell. The book was for sale at Smashwords itself very quickly, but is still pending review to be distributed everywhere Smashwords distributes. That’s the half exception.

Still, the files I needed were ready to go within 15 minutes. Then it was a matter of uploading and filling in forms.

But writing is still hard

Publishing the book was a snap. And even if you don’t use the same method or tools I do, it is still pretty easy. But do you know what wasn’t easy? Writing the thing. Also: editing it.

I’m confident this is a much stronger novel than the last one, but the more I write, the more I recognize my writing weaknesses.

Anyway, the tools to self publish will continue to get better and easier. That only means we writers should spend the extra time bettering our craft.

All Done

Okay, I’ve done several “last” editing passes on the Journey of St. Laurent. I’m pretty happy with the end result. Also, if I don’t quit now, I’ll never finish editing it. Over the next couple of days I’m going to password protect the posts that make up the final 2/3 of the first draft. Within […]

Another Editing Update

I finished going over Dane’s suggested edits a little while ago. He helped me out tremendously. Go buy his books. I cut a ton of fat from the story. Like 20,000 words worth. The book just came back from yet another editor, who was searching for typos and major inconsistencies. It should only take a […]

Five Ways to Plan a Story

NaNoWriMo is upon us again. I don’t think I’ll be trying to hammer out a novel, but maybe I’ll finish up that kid’s book I’ve been sitting on. As I’ve been planning my next project, I’ve been thinking (again) about the various storytelling frameworks that I’ve come across. Many of these contain similar concepts, but […]