I’ve Never Watched Game of Thrones!

You read that headline correctly. I’ve never watched Game of Thrones. Of course, I was living in Japan when it started, so I was very far behind by the time I moved to Canada. But also, I’ve only read the first three books. I explained why I haven’t watched the TV series in this video:

So, what do you think? Should I watch it? Let me know in the comments section below.

Social Media Book Tag

Time to get caught up on the blog posts for VEDA! Uh, that’s about 20 videos to catch up on.

For this one, I did something called the Social Media Book Tag. I had to relate different books to different social media platforms, based on the nature of those platforms. It was an interesting exercise. Find out what I said:

Which books would you relate to the social media platforms? Here’s a list of the questions:

Twitter- Your favorite shortest book.
Facebook- A book everybody pressured you into reading.
Tumblr- A book you read before it was cool.
Myspace- A book you don’t remember whether you liked or not.
Instagram- A book that was so beautiful you had to Instagram it.
Youtube- A book you wish would be turned into a movie.
Goodreads- A book you recommend to everyone.
Skype- A book with characters that you wish you could talk to instead of just reading about.

Let me know how you would answer these.

Authors Answer 145 – Tropes and Cliches

What’s the difference between a trope and a cliche? In literature, a trope is the use of figures of speech, basically. But it can also refer to common themes to various genres (for example, dark lords and the chosen one type of hero in fantasy). But that sounds like a cliche, doesn’t it? However, a cliche is something that is overused so that it loses its original meaning. This week, we’re talking about that, and the question comes from Gregory S. Close.

Question 145 – Do you avoid tropes and/or cliche in your writing? Why or why not?

Cyrus Keith

Tropes and cliches are WAY too much fun to totally leave behind. Overuse can make a story boring and pat. But if your can combine tropes into something totally new, you can do magic with it. Just learn that fine line on which to balance.

D. T. Nova

I avoid specific tropes that I don’t like.

But there are others that I consciously use, and almost certainly some that slipped in unnoticed.

It’s not possible to avoid all popular tropes, and not productive to try.

I avoid cliches like the plague. Wait a minute.

Paul B. Spence

I’m glad you make a distinction here. A trope is part of what defines a genre. A cliché is a tired, over-used idea that probably needs to go away, at least most of the time. I write science fiction. Tropes of this genre that I use include starships, intelligent machines, aliens, and ancient technologies. The trick to keeping a trope from becoming a cliché is to try to think of new and interesting ways to describe your tropes and don’t get lazy. I try to avoid clichés, although I should point out that I said “probably should go away.” Using a good cliché in a new way makes it interesting.

Jean Davis

It really depends on the story. There are times when relying on tropes can make introducing ideas, characters, or world elements easier for both the reader and writer, allowing them to put more focus on making the original parts of the story shine. Relying too much on clichés and tropes may be seen as lazy writing. However, if you’re writing satire or humor, there is certainly a time and place for both of those things.

Gregory S. Close

A trope is a shortcut. Anytime you use a shortcut, it lets you get where you need to go quickly, but often at the expense of admiring the scenery along the way. Using the shortcut isn’t bad in and of itself, sometimes we really don’t have time to tell every bit of every journey for every character, and a little bit of shorthand can go a long way to keep the story moving. I try to be careful about tropes and cliches, using them to paint broad strokes while taking the time to surprise a little with the fine, detailed, brushes.

Eric Wood

I try to avoid cliches like the plague. I don’t think they add any sustenance to the meat of the story. I lose interest when I read other writers using it. However, a good metaphor will last longer than the leftovers growing in the back of the fridge.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I think I probably avoid a fair number of tropes and cliches, just because I want my stories to be different, you know? For instance, with my zombie novel, Nowhere to Hide, I avoided a lot of the common explanations for the apocalypse, like military testing, nuclear waste, and so on, because I wanted people to get something a bit unusual out of my story instead. That said, I also embraced several common zombie cliches in the writing of the story because sometimes the cliches are what make something fun. I think the key is to look at the tropes and try to decide which are ones that people will be disappointed to not see, and which will make them roll their eyes and groan. It’s not always easy, because peoples’ moods can change like the wind, but if you’re a great lover of the genre you’re writing in, it shouldn’t be too difficult to put yourself in the place of the reader and figure out which cliches they’d like or not like.

H. Anthe Davis

This is a tricky question. First off, not all tropes are bad; they’re just noticeable patterns in the character arcs and stories of several thousand years’ worth of human literature. The idea of a Hero’s Journey isn’t devalued because it’s a recognizable pattern; what may devalue it is in how the trope-y aspects of said Journey are handled. Do you play it straight, in an obvious and hackneyed way? Do you change things up, or start something that seems like a Hero’s Journey but turns into a very different kind of tale? Humans are pattern-makers, and we often enjoy recognizing the bones of a story — no matter if the meat grown on those bones is familiar or strange. I personally can identify certain tropes in my writing and characters, but I make damn sure that the tropes aren’t ALL that defines them — that the characters are people in their own right, breaking out of their constraints wherever they can, and that the story goes in an organic direction defined by those characters. Whether this follows, or twists, or averts other tropes doesn’t matter to me, as long as it feels right.

C E Aylett

Depends on the trope or cliché’s purpose. If it has no purpose and is used out of casual habit, then I would look to eliminate it in edits, but if it has deliberate intention, then yes, I would use it.

Jay Dee Archer

It really depends. I mostly avoid using cliches. If it has a place in something I’m writing, I’ll use it. But mostly, no. As for tropes, I do use them, but I don’t want to use them in the typical way. In some genres, especially fantasy, tropes are extremely common. Quite often, they’re expected. A lot of readers want to see some tropes. I’d rather give them a twist on the tropes, something fresh. But I wouldn’t abandon them. Used correctly, they can work very well.

How about you?

Do you like to see cliches or tropes in the novels you read? If you’re an author, do you use them or avoid them? Let us know in the comments section below.

Did You See the Eclipse? I Did!

This is the second solar eclipse I’ve seen in six years. The last one was in Japan, and it was a total eclipse. This time, we had a partial eclipse here in Edmonton. I made a solar eclipse viewer with a cereal box, and it performed wonderfully. Curious to see the results? Well, check it out!

The things that I observed with the viewer that I found interesting were:

  • I could see clouds when they passed over the sun.
  • While the image was sharp, the camera found it to be difficult to focus on it, mainly because of the contrast between the dark box and bright light of the eclipse.

Outside the box, when it was at maximum eclipse, I noticed the following:

  • It got darker. It was still sunny, but it was a very odd sunny. It was like we had a 70% less bright sun. Things that I normally would have squinted at, like the white garage door, was no longer very bright.
  • It became cooler. It was a significant drop in temperature, and I wanted to wear a jacket. It was a 25 C day. That’s warm. But with 70% of the sun covered, the heat was less, and it felt cool.

I would have loved to have experienced the total eclipse. When I was in Japan, it was cloudy. I didn’t notice much of a cooling and while it did become significantly darker, it was still cloudy, and it wasn’t as impressive. I could still see the eclipse through the clouds, though. And yes, I did look at it without protecting my eyes with glasses. I couldn’t see it with the glasses, actually! The clouds were just the right thickness to be able to see the eclipse. But don’t worry, I only glanced at it quickly. And then when there was a break in the clouds, I used the glasses and took pictures through them.

Did you see the eclipse? Let me know!

Authors Answer 144 – The Writer’s Ego

Everyone has an ego, right? The ego is an interesting thing. Some people have a big ego and think very highly of themselves. Others are the opposite, and don’t have much of an ego. They still have an ego, though. It has to do with self-esteem as well as self-importance. But we usually hear about the self-importance part. So, how does it affect authors? This week’s question is from Eric Wood.

Question 144 – Does having a big ego help or hinder a writer?

C E Aylett

I’m sure there have been cases of both — the genius who knows it to be so and is uncompromising in taking advice from others ‘beneath’ him/her and wins out in producing a masterpiece and the humble author who listens openly to suggestions and takes on board what fits with what s/he’s trying to accomplish.

However, in most acknowledgements in most novels, credit is given to those who gave sound advice to the authors during the creation of the book.

If you mean ego = confidence, I don’t think there’s any harm in having confidence in what you do, because nobody else is going to do that for you until you’ve been published and proved yourself to the wider world. Also, if you don’t have some confidence – or ego – in yourself, you’d be too scared to put any of your work out into the world and push for your goals. But ego that takes on arrogance is only going to end up making you look silly if you fall on your face, no one else. I’m thinking of those self-pubbed stories that completely lack a sense of self-awareness because of the author’s ego telling them they’ve written the best story ever without first finding out if that is the case in accordance with the rest of the world.

A writer’s ego is a fragile and conflicted creature, too scared to be brazen yet needing to be so in order to realise its own ambitions. Sweep it too far under the carpet and it will never resurface into the light, but buff and polish it to be too shiny and people will naturally turn away from its garish nature.

H. Anthe Davis

A certain amount of confidence is essential to being able to wade through the pain and suffering of endless edits, rewrites, concrits and reviews. Believing oneself to be the be-all and end-all of writership, though… Well, I guess it works for some people, but personally I believe it eventually turns one’s work into a parody of itself, and keeps one from growing as a writer. It’s important to be able to consider criticisms as well as shrug them off — and big egos can’t do that. If you’ve ever had a favorite writer whose quality of work seems to have gone way downhill the longer they’ve written, ego-issues could be at fault; like a celebrity, a writer can reach a point where they’re only surrounded by yes-men, and lose the ability to edit out their bad ideas.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I think it can be a little bit of both, to be honest. On the one hand, having a big ego can mean that you’re unwilling to accept criticism, even when it’s absolutely warranted. I’ve met fellow writers who were so full of themselves that you couldn’t give them even the tiniest bit of advice, which is a terrible way to be if you actually want to grow as a writer. On the other hand, having no ego at all can also be a bad thing because you’re inevitably going to take a mental and emotional battering as a writer. If you can’t read unnecessarily mean reviews, for instance, without being able to turn around, put on a smile, and know that the reviewer is just an ass who wants to put you down, you’re never going to be able to survive actually becoming popular in any sense. Remember, with views/followers/readers/etc automatically comes trolls.

Eric Wood

I don’t know. That’s why I was asking. I would assume since most writers are introverts, a writer’s ego is usually moderately sized, like a grapefruit. Unlike an athlete with an ego the size of a pumpkin. I guess it just depends on what kind of characters you create. A big egoed writer could more easily write characters who are more boisterous, full of themselves.

Gregory S. Close

Having a big ego will not make or break a writer. Talent will. Ego expressed as self-confidence may help in pursuit of agents or publishers without the pesky interference of self-doubt. Ego expressed as arrogance could alienate an author from fans and hurt sales. In the end, it’s just one trait, and that one trait probably won’t determine much all by itself.

Jean Davis

It would seem that having an ego is necessary to being a writer. If you don’t believe your work is good, you’re not going to submit or publish it. Yet, if your ego gets too big, you may not be open to criticism or advice which can hurt the quality of your writing. There’s a happy medium, somewhere between having your soul crushed and being on top of the world.

Paul B. Spence

I’m guessing a little of both. If you mean an ego about writing… I think it would hurt. A writer has to be able to self-critique and take advice from an editor. On the other hand… you need to have enough ego to put yourself out there and say, “I wrote this. Buy my book, you’ll like it!” You have to believe in yourself and not give up. I think that is at least twenty-five percent of writing.

D. T. Nova

Depending on the situation it could do either one, but I’d say it hinders more than it helps. Especially for anyone who doesn’t already have a big name to go with it.

Cyrus Keith

Depends on how big the ego is. A big ego dreams big, and doesn’t know the meaning of “You can’t do that.” A REALLY big ego has no concept of constructive criticism, because everything they do is “perfect, how dare you question my genius!” In my opinion, a writer has to have a big enough ego to fearlessly push the edge of the envelope without being so self-superior that he/she cannot receive correction.

Jay Dee Archer

It really depends on what you mean by big ego. But I’ll guess that it means someone who has a very high opinion of themselves, extremely self-important. So confident that they’re better than everyone else that they appear arrogant. That kind of person can be an incredible pain, but they also have a lot of confidence in what they’re doing. That can definitely help them. But the drawback could be that they can’t take any kind of criticism. I know there are actors like this. The directors and other actors hate working with them. An author with an ego like this could be difficult to deal with from the point of view of publishers, agents, and editors. That can hurt them.

An ego can be good in terms of confidence. But it can be a hindrance if it means they can’t take criticism.

How about you?

How do you feel about an author having a big ego? Is it an advantage or a hindrance? Let us know in the comments section below.

How to Make a Solar Eclipse Viewer

Most of you are from North America, and I’m sure you know about the solar eclipse next Monday, right? The path of totality will cross the United States, but all of North America will get to see it to varying degrees of partiality. For me, it’ll be around 75% partial.

Do you have your solar eclipse glasses? They’re hard to find now. If you don’t have some, don’t worry! You can still observe the eclipse! Actually, I made one today with my daughter. Here it is:

An easy to make solar eclipse viewer made with a cereal box.

That’s right, it’s a cereal box. Curious how to make it? It’s actually very easy. I made a video showing how I made it, so if you want to try this out, then definitely watch the video!

Are you going to make it? Any kind of cereal box will do. You can use pretty much any kind of box, actually. Just make sure no light is getting in except through the pinhole. Let me know if you’re going to make it!

Countries I Want to Visit

How many of you like to travel? I would love to visit every country in the world. Yes, even the dangerous ones, as long as they’re not dangerous in the future. But there are some that I absolutely want to go to within the next ten years.

Below is a video where I describe the countries I want to visit. You’re welcome to read the list below the video, but you won’t get the reasons or why some of these countries are special to me. So, watch the video!

And here are the countries:

  • Norway
  • Germany
  • The UK
  • Ireland
  • Russia
  • Iceland
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • Costa Rica
  • Italy

So, which countries do you want to visit, and why? Let me know in the comments section below.

My Summer Reading

I got a bit behind on my VEDA blog posts! So, time to catch up. First up is my summer reading list. I admit I’ve been pretty bad at reading lately, and I keep telling myself I’ll take half an hour or an hour every night to read. But that hasn’t happened. I need to!

But here is my summer reading plan:

Here’s the list, in case you missed it:

  • Theft of Swords, by Michael J. Sullivan
  • Consider Phlebas, by Iain M. Banks
  • Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson

If you didn’t watch the video, you’re missing out on a lot.

Have you read any of these books? Let me know what you thought of them. Also, what are you reading the rest of this summer?

Authors Answer 143 – The First Book Advance

Writing books is a job. Most authors do it with the hope that they can become a full time author, and be able to support themselves on the income they receive. But that first advance is a big milestone in any author’s career. This week’s question comes from our very own C E Aylett.

I would also like to take a moment and thank Beth Aman for her contributions in the past year. She’s going to college, and will be concentrating on that. Good luck, Beth!

Question 143 – What would you/did you spend your first book advance on?

Linda G. Hill

I would spend my advance getting myself out of debt. …wait, how much are we talking? More than $30,000? I’ll probably go out for coffee.

Cyrus Keith

Probably a car. I’ve never had a car that I didn’t have to spend dark, cold evenings in my driveway effecting repairs to get to work the next morning. Even my best cars needed the Desperation Treatment at least once. At least I’m a halfway decent backyard mechanic.

D. T. Nova

I’m not sure what, but I’m sure that whatever special thing I spent part of it on right away wouldn’t cost a very large portion of it.

Paul B. Spence

Cookies? What does anyone spend any money on? Bills? Food? Books? Whatever? I’m not sure that I see an advance as anything other than a paycheck.

Jean Davis

I splurged on a comfortable writing chair. Not that my advance covered the whole purchase, but it did go towards it. I figured if I was finally going to be serious about this writing thing, I should have a chair that I wanted to sit in, one that felt like a reward for years of toiling over words and would motivate me to continue to do so.

Gregory S. Close

Any book advance I receive, if I ever am so fortunate, would go in the bank to pay the bills like any other income. If we’re talking a ridiculous sort of advance, where the money spilleth over… well, then I’d like to do something nice for the family – maybe a remodel of the house, or something really exciting like saving for my daughter’s college.

Eric Wood

I would spend it on a vacation. Naturally, while on vacation I would be looking for more writing inspiration – new characters, new settings, new plot twists, etc. It’s always fun to people watch and it provides ample opportunity to find people to put in a book.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

It really depends on the size of the advance – the average of which I am woefully uneducated in – but after some thought on the topic, I think I’d go with a couple of new gadgets, specifically a new phone and laptop. My current laptop is huge, heavy, and bulky, and is getting old enough that it’s starting to act up in some really annoying ways, which makes things like writing, for example, rather annoying. My phone is way too old, gets way too hot, and I actually recently dropped it and shattered the screen, so…yeah. It’d be nice to have a new one of those right now!

H. Anthe Davis

I’m a saving kinda person, so I’m sure I would deposit any large check immediately and bask in the increase of my overall savings account. Money is fodder for more projects, though, so I imagine I’d at least mentally dedicate part of it to cover art payments and other acts of brand upkeep. Oh, and maybe get some sushi.

C E Aylett

Depends how big it is. If a small advance probably clear the household bills! If anything was left over, take the kids to Disney in Paris.

If it was a big advance, I’d invest in some sort of property and rent it out so I would always have an income to support my writing, no matter what twists and turns came up in my career. I’d still take the kids to Disney, though.

Jay Dee Archer

I have a feeling this will be a common answer. I’ll pay bills. I think for any kind of income, a lot of it will go toward anything that is obligatory. Bills. If it’s a large advance, bills would be paid for quickly, but I’d probably save most of the money. And if it were a ridiculously large advance, I’d go on a trip and buy a car. Or buy a car and go on a trip. Not at the same time, of course! A road trip would be nice, but my wife and I want to travel overseas.

How about you?

If you’re an author, what would or did you use your first advance on? Let us know in the comments section below.

Authors Answer, a Great Source for Authortube

Authortube is a small part of Booktube, which is also a small part of YouTube. I take part in all three, of course. Authors Answer, which I’ve been hosting since 2014, has been a great source for video ideas for my YouTube channel. If you are an author and a YouTuber, then why not join in? Today’s VEDA video is all about that. Check it out.

So, if you are interested in joining in, then let me know! Keep in mind this is for YouTube, not on this blog.