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Rebel Characters – Response

Hello Friends!

Recently, an excerpt from the article Outlaw Kings and Rebellion Chic came across my tumblr dashboard, and I thought I would pen a quick response. Two hours and 2000+ words later, I realised I had had quite a lot more to say on the subject than I realised. The response is posted on my tumblr blog, but I thought I would share it here as well:


Hmm.

This really doesn’t make sense to me.

No 1. We have the American Revolutionary War, which dragged out for a couple (6) years past the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, which pretty clearly lays out the goals of the revolutionaries. When we learn about them in history (despite other flaws that we can detail at another time) we root for the men and women who dedicated themselves to the cause, and the system they set in place still holds up fairly well hundreds of years later.

So that’s an example from history that contradicts that point, I think.

No. 2 Luke (Really Leia, since she was the princess and had political power) was fighting for a restoration (but reformed so they didn’t repeat the mistakes of the past) of the Old Republic. As we’ve seen from the prequel trilogy (“so this is how liberty dies”) this republic did not function in a communistic way, so it is a fallacy to even bring this up as an argument, because the greater context of the movies CLEARLY lays out what kind of government (both locally and galactically) the rebels were seeking to establish.

The author does go deeper into Star Wars in the article, arguing that “Rebellion in Star Wars, rather than a means to an end, is a camouflage that conceals a total void of ideology.” But even though the Old Republic that we saw was corrupt (and ultimately led to the rise of the Empire), it still functioned, had functioned for 25 thousand years. The Empire’s public domination (though the takeover started a few decades sooner) was a tiny blip (23 years specifically) in comparison. Of course the rebels wanted to get back to a government, a very clearly stated republic (searching the Star Wars wiki will give you more detail than you ever wanted about how it is practically run) that had governed decades, if not centuries (given the longevity of some Star Wars species) of their lives.

To sum up, unless you are stating specific policies (and, as mentioned, greater canon would actually give you these goals in detail) it’s no more a “void of ideology” to have Luke advocating for communism vs the return of the Old Republic.

(And all of that is without considering how the Empire was run.)

No 3. Daenerys Targaryen.

This article was written before the finale, where Dany was very clearly portrayed as a villain gone made with power. I strongly believe her ending in the books (whenever they are finished) will be much more tragic and nuanced. Still, her character arc DOES NOT paint her as a rebel. She (and her brother) always believed that they were the rightful rulers of Westeros, and therefore, were not rebelling by definition. They were simply reclaiming their stolen crown.

Now, had Jon Snow (SPOILERS FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO AREN’T CAUGHT UP) been raised with the knowledge of his true heritage—that before Robert Baratheon’s rebellion and takeover he was the true heir to the throne—and had then reclaimed that throne, and then Dany had challenged him, THAT would have constituted rebellion.

But without this knowledge, Dany’s actions (while not always morally justifiable) certainly make logical, narratively supported sense. And she CERTAINLY was violent in her dealings.

To address the “series of peasants’ councils” point, sure, why not? If that’s what Dany had stated clearly and explicitly that she was going to do, I could get behind that. That’s not the great point the author presumably thinks it is.

No 4. “smash the Ministry of Magic and overturn wizard supremacy”

Hermione Granger by Constantin Vilsmeier

From the Harry Potter Wiki: “[Hermione Granger] later found employment with the Ministry of Magic, furthering the cause for the better treatment of house-elves. Afterward, she was promoted to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, where she dedicated herself to eradicating old laws that were biased in favour of pure-bloods.”

To get a bit deeper, Harry was just trying to survive. He had a terrible home life, and school, the only place where he felt safe, was also inextricably linked to the man trying to kill him (and all his minions). But Hermione, all throughout the books (a medium which it doesn’t appear that the author paid much attention to) is EXTREMELY dedicated to fighting for justice. Is it a failing of the movies not to bring this to the forefront? Of course, but there are limitations to consider when adapting a story to screen, and unfortunately, things get left on the cutting room floor.

Further Points

To address some further points in the article, the author states that “the heroic rebel is non-ideological and motivated by personal injury more than anything,” which must be countered.

Harry was rebellious, but not a rebel. In the context of the story, Voldemort was the rebel. Voldemort had very explicit ideology.

Luke joined the Rebellion, which had already been going on for some time. Leia, and the other generals, had a clear goal of restoring the Old Republic (and EVERYTHING that went along with that, messy or no).

Daenerys is not a rebel as set up by the story’s narrative. She hardly even rebels against situations that might harm her. Had her brother and husband not died, she would not have been the one leading the army to reclaim King’s Landing, but narratively that event still would have happened. Both siblings were motivated by duty, not personal injury, in their quest to reclaim their crown, and it’s usually not considered rebellious to recover something that was stolen from you.

I will allow that it is unclear what “break the wheel” meant on the tv show, but one unclear goal does not negate Dany’s very clearly stated wish to rule her kingdom as an all powerful queen.

“And if dispute over the political system is enough to justify force, then that implies violence against the modern Western state, even its violent overthrow, could be justifiable. This is understandably concerning for many writers, who tend to come from backgrounds closer to the Lannisters than the ‘smallfolk’.”

Wow. So this part strays into real world politics (of which I already gave an example from history) but, to be brief, violent revolution is NOT preferred. There is a reason the French revolution dragged out for so long. If people could simply state what they wanted and the opposing party said “okay, sure” then conflict could be avoided. It is when the ruling party ignores or outright censures (by force or whatever else) the people who have stated their firm desires, when there isn’t even a system in place that allows for these demands to be met, that is when violence must be resorted to.

And in fiction, this can be done, and done WELL. To imply that this never happens is utterly disingenuous.

The author need only watch Babylon 5 to find an excellent example of a small group of rebels (note, they didn’t start that way) with a clearly defined goal (to maintain a neutral space where all races could meet) using violence to achieve that goal. Babylon 5 has many more such examples from varying groups within the series, so it is well worth watching for that and many other reasons.

The second part of the author’s statement “many writers, who tend to come from backgrounds closer to the Lannisters” is wrong on so many levels.

1. The Lannisters (despite eventually running out of money) were UNBELIEVABLY rich and powerful. To put this in more modern terms, you could think of them like the Trump or British Royal Family. To say that many writers are closer to them in terms of wealth, power, and influence (and I’m extrapolating here, as the author doesn’t actually define it that clearly) is very easy to disprove. A few *might* be, but many? Most writers ARE the small folk. Now if we’re talking about studio execs etc. that might be a different story, but most writers, even well established screenwriters, are closer to you and me than the two families mentioned above.

2. The author is implying that because—in their opinion—movie/tv screen writers somehow are unbelievably rich and powerful, that when they write revolutions, they do so from the perspective of rich and powerful folks who only want clean, sanitised revolutions. Problems with this idea are as follows: 1. Even taking wealthy screenwriters at face value, most didn’t start off that way. It wasn’t until Star Wars’ successful release that George Lucas became a household name. 2. Adaptions to screen often come from books, which are often written by regular folk just like you and me. Even if an author gets a million dollar book deal, that book was (likely) still written while they were poor and struggling, i.e. not influenced by a wealthy background (case in point, J.K. Rowling with book 1), and if any clear, ideological goals are lost from book to screen, that is not the fault of the original writers.

So to place blame on writers for creating “a popular culture in which rebellion is vague enough to be meaningless” is at best, a misunderstanding, and at worst, a lie.

What the greater extent of this article fails to recognise is that the hero is often operating in situations that already have moving parts and players, ready to step in and do the necessary work that the hero might not be able to (being one person and all). Going back to the Declaration of Independence—George Washington led the army, and did indeed become the first president, but many men affixed their names to that document, and many more actually formed the subsequently established government.

Furthermore, why IS it that the hero is often static until things affect them personally? Because a hero taking up arms and fighting for a cause they have no interest doesn’t make for a narratively compelling story. (On the flipside, we can excuse the protagonist doing a LOT of selfish and awful things for personal reasons—Deadpool, John Wick etc.) That doesn’t mean the hero doesn’t have a definite ideology, just that they are often not compelled to act upon it until it means something to them on a deeper level.

The author also points out that many terrible governments in fiction draw from real-world systems, which, while absolutely true, doesn’t necessarily mean that all these systems are cruel, oppressive, or so broken they must be overthrown, and that pushing back against this idea is wrong. Fiction often takes an existing idea and runs with it to its most extreme conclusion, good or bad. To break into real-world politics for a moment, arguing that because “the structural violence and supremacist ideology [Voldemort] represents [echoes] all the ways empire has warped the very roots of the British state” means that the current day British government is horrible, no good, is like saying, well look at Venezuela! Their government went badly wrong, so all systems of government that are like this one (socialism) must necessarily go badly wrong too.

Just because we often use fiction to imagine and explore the worst conceivable end result of a particular ruling ideology doesn’t mean that it is wrong at its core tenets. And so to say that rebellions are sanitised in fiction because we don’t want to look too closely at our own government is untrue. Often, fiction can be a wakeup call—I can’t count how many times I’ve heard “1984” thrown around by people of all political affiliations since 2016—a way to get us to look closer at, not away from, real world situations.

Literature, and pop culture by extension, is ABSOLUTELY capable of asking the hard questions about revolution/rebel characters. These are questions we DO want to ask, or else films like Cloud Atlas, or the Matrix, or the Hunger Games, or Rogue One, or Captain America: Winter Soldier, (and many more) wouldn’t exist.

Perhaps the author was distracted by the spectacle of the screen, and missed the underlying themes, but good stories don’t fill in every single gap. Good stories leave us wanting more, asking questions, and allow us to more fully explore the implications of what we see on screen, which the author appears not to have done here, instead taking the media mentioned in the article at face value and failing to look any deeper.

When is political violence appropriate, for whose benefit, and for what purposes? There’s often not a clear answer to these questions, particularly because what is justifiable to one person might be abhorrent to another, but what is clear is that fiction gets us thinking deeply about these things, and the author needs to stop disregarding the context of each piece of media highlighted in the article to try and prove some sort of real world political point.

TL;DR

In summation—context is king, and a “happy” ending doesn’t negate the underlying implications presented in pieces of media featuring rebel characters. If we are not asking ourselves hard questions when presented with the aforementioned genre, when the hard questions are very much present, then perhaps that is a personal failure—and not a fault of the film/tv show/literature—to understand what we are consuming.


Thanks for reading!

~ETJ

The Best-Kept Book Secret (Little Free Libraries)

Hello Friends!

Have y’all heard of Little Free Libraries?

They’re basically a take-a-book leave-a-book system dedicated to getting more books into the hands of readers. They’re also a FANTASTIC place to donate books you don’t want anymore. I was introduced to the idea in 2019 by @littlefreelibraryreads on Instagram, and since then have made it a mission to hunt down all the Little Free Libraries I can, leaving my novels, and bookmarks too!

A lot of public libraries were unable to open their doors for a substantial amount of time during the summer, which is a KEY time for children to develop their reading skills. Thankfully, given the outdoor positioning, and limited interaction nature of Little Free Libraries, many families were still able to obtain books for summer reading.

A lot of Little Free Library custodians were also amazing during this time, providing ample amounts of hand sanitizer and wipes, and making sure the libraries were stocked with fresh books.

If you want to find a Little Free Library in your area, simply plug your location into this map, and get ready to go on an adventure!

https://littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap

 

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Top 5 Must-Buys for Indie Authors

Hello Friends!

Today we’re talking about the top five things you as an indie author absolutely MUST invest in if you want your book to have the best shot at success during and after publication.

Of course, you can do everything yourself and not spend any money, but chances are your final product will be rather poor quality both inside and out and therefore off-putting to potential readers. Not to mention, you might wind up giving away the rights to your book if you’re not careful.

So without further ado, here are the top five Must-Buys I recommend serious indie authors put money towards.


1. Book Cover

Unless you’re insanely talented, it’s a really good idea to outsource this part of the publishing process to someone else. Your cover is the first thing a reader sees, whether on a bookshelf or online (especially given that our world is very visual these days, a move that is increasingly more driven by social media) and getting it right is KEY if you want your book to sell.

You’ll want your cover to fit within your book’s chosen genre – for example, many scifi books have planets or tech on them, letting you know instantly what kind of book it is – and also fit current trends without being too locked into whatever is popular, given that tastes change very quickly in the publishing world.

You can work closely with an artist/cover designer to execute your vision or you can purchase pre-made covers. Either way, expect to spend anywhere from $100-$500 (possibly more) depending on what on level of quality and customization you are looking for, and on how many revisions are needed.

Don’t forget to credit your cover artist on your copyright page!

2. Editing

There are lots of different types of editing – developmental, line, copy, and proofreading, for example – and each stage is critically important for your manuscript to be the best version of itself. A traditional publishing company will have all these editors in-house, sometimes in multiple departments, often in just one or two people. However, as an indie, you’ll have to pay for each stage of editing yourself, which can end up being quite costly. The most consistent advice I’ve seen is to stick to beta readers and critique partners for the first few stages, and hire out to professionals once you are closer to the end.

I personally like to invest my money in a really good copy edit, but you may choose to put your money toward a different stage, or several, or all of them.

Quick side note here – I see quite a few people in writing groups mention that they paid someone to edit and then threw their books on Amazon without looking at their manuscript, and readers ruthlessly criticized the books for being riddled with errors. When you pay to get your book edited, your editor should mark changes, and upon receipt of your edited copy, you should be the one to accept or reject them.

Always proofread whatever you get back from the editor! As an indie author, it’s ultimately your job to write your book, not the editor’s.

Keep in mind that this is where you will likely spend the majority of your budget on self-publishing. There are very good editors out there who offer incredible discounts for indie authors, and you can have your novel-length book edited for as little $400-500, but for the most part, expect to spend anywhere from $1000-$4000 or so (depending on word count) on a good clean edit of your book.

3. ISBNs

The third thing I highly, highly, encourage you to spend money on are ISBN’s. I can already hear so many of you asking, “But don’t companies like IngramSpark and Amazon allow you to publish with a free ISBN?”

The answer is yes, but also no.

Yes, there are free ISBNs you can obtain from these companies, but they will ONLY work with those companies, and you cannot publish your book – that version of it anyway – on any other platform. That means that the free ISBN you have lacks the full functionality of an ISBN purchased through Bowker’s website.

Additionally, by using a free ISBN, you voluntarily hand over your publishing rights to your book.

Yes, you read that correctly. Not the copyright, but the publishing rights. But only for whatever particular version of the book you are publishing. So if you publish a paperback at a certain trim size with a free ISBN, you CAN publish an audiobook, ebook, or hardcover copy (at a different trim size to be on the safe side) with an ISBN you previously purchased and still retain your rights to that version of your book, which can then be printed/plublished with any platform you desire.

Of course, many people (especially in the ebook space) have published their books with a free ISBN and been fine, but since indie publishing is all about you being the one in control at the end of the day, it’s nice to be able to say you own the publishing rights to your own book. For this reason, I highly recommend purchasing your own ISBNs.

You can buy a single ISBN for $125, but since each given format of a book requires a different ISBN, I recommend you go for a bulk purchase and buy a pack of 10 at $295, which is a 75% discount.

4. Bookmarks

Now onto number four; bookmarks! There are so many websites out there that will let you upload custom designs and print and order sets of 500 to 1000 bookmarks that it’s WELL worth your money to invest in this. Bookmarks are probably the best in-person marketing tool for an indie author, as they are small, light, unobtrusive, useful and very easy to give away.

You can expect to spend anywhere from $60-$200 depending on how many bookmarks you order, what quality you choose, and which service you go with. I recommend ordering a few first to see if you like them before making a larger purchase.

5. Marketing

Lastly, we have advertising! Most indie authors are on a shoestring budget to begin with (and if you paid for a good edit, you might broken the bank already), so you can definitely invest time and effort into social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other social media platform of your choice for free. However, it’s generally worth it to spend a little money on ads to get people outside of those platforms looking at your book.

I recommend AMS ads first and foremost. This is an ad option offered by Amazon if you are publishing through their KDP service. You can advertise both kindle and paperback versions with them, and the results can be highly effective, given that people using Amazon are already browsing the site with the intention of making a purchase and so are much more likely to be favourable to ads.

They can be tricky to get the hang of, but Author Dave Chesson has put together some courses and resources on how to effectively use and get the most out of AMS ads without spending bucket loads of money, which I highly recommend checking out.

Additionally, many indie authors find success with facebook ads, and to varying degrees of success, things like Bookbub deals. The 20Booksto50K Facebook group has a tonne more info on this.

I personally recommend doing a BIG push with ads right around your book launch, maybe a day or two ahead, definitely on the release date, and then for a couple months after – some people keep ads running indefinitely, and if this fits your budget, you can experiment with that as well, through perhaps at a much lower spend point.

If you do your research before jumping into buying ads, it can really help to minimize the amount of money you spend on them. I think it’s best if you keep it comparable to whatever you spend on your book’s cover, and you can probably expect to spend anywhere from $200-10,000 on ads depending on how much revenue they bring in. (I know that second number sounds scary, but there are indie authors making $10K or more a month on their books, and so can afford to turn around and reinvest that money into making sure new readers find them.)


So there you go! The top five things you should spend money on as an indie author.

Book Covers, Editing, ISBNs, Bookmarks, and Ads. I can’t give you a concrete number on all these things combined, because there is so much variance that goes into each element, but it’s worth noting that what you put into your work is what you will get out of it.

And that includes confidence! If you think you can put the best version of your book out there without spending any money, go for it! But readers expect quality – especially in such an oversaturated market – and it’s difficult to achieve that without spending at least a little money.

(There are other publishing/marketing things you can choose to invest in such as fanart, merch, book conventions, etc. They aren’t as necessary to sell your book in my opinion, but can be very fun and rewarding, and I do enjoy a good bookfair myself.)

Drop any questions you have in the comment section, and I wish you all the best on your publishing journeys.

Happy indie authoring!

~ETJ

Stock images sourced from unsplash or pexels

Author Interview/Book Review – E.S. Barrison, “The Mist Keeper’s Apprentice”

Hello Friends!

Today I’m so excited to be sharing an exclusive interview with dark fantasy author E.S. Barrison, as well as my review of Barrison’s debut novel The Mist Keeper’s Apprentice.

I first stumbled across Barrison on Tumblr, during an event focused on character backstories, and almost instantly fell in love with Brent, one of her main characters. Since then, I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with this talented fellow author, and I’ve eagerly followed along on her journey to publication, looking excitedly forward to the day when I would be able to read her work in full.

Following is the interview, and then my review of the novel below that. (I will note that, as this is an adult fantasy book, there is rather a bit of language sprinkled throughout, as well as allusions to sensitive topics, so younger readers (teens) are advised to read with caution.)


The Mist Keeper's ApprenticeThe Mist Keeper’s Apprentice by E. S. Barrison
🌟🌟🌟🌟

I definitely enjoyed reading this book. It’s always exciting to follow along on a debut author’s journey, and I’ve eagerly soaked up the excerpts and illustrations Barrison has been generous enough to share as part of her pre-publication process.

Funnily enough, while I initially fell for Brent from the snippets posted on tumblr, when I actually started reading, I found I really connected with Rho. She’s quite intriguing, and has both an inner and outer strength that is perfectly tempered with her gentle and kind character. Rho was really the highlight of this novel for me, and she is a wonderful complement to Brent, who is determined to give up on himself from the very first chapter.

The prose was easy reading, which sucked me right into the world of the book, and I was never bored at any point. The novel moves along at quite a fast clip, allowing some down time here and there, but never lingering in any one place for too long, moving the reader along with the characters through each next adventure (some rather more bizarre than others!)

I did find the worldbuilding to be a bit confusing at first, but the more I read, the more was revealed, until I felt—for a time—that I also lived in Rosada, and understand this strange, and yet oddly familiar, world. There are a lot of characters and places, but the only ones I really struggled to remember were the Council—and I think that’s because of how sinister most of them seemed, blending together as a sort of faceless “bad.”

And speaking of the Council—while the Order were ostensibly the “villains” of the novel, lurking in the background, and pulling the shady strings of Brent and Rho’s lives, I found the Council—with their contradictory and obsfucatory ways—to be just as, if not more, unsettling. I felt terribly for Brent through much of the book, running from one bad situation headlong into another, all the while surrounded by people who professed a desire to help him, and never quite sure who to trust.

Brent’s powers were pretty cool, his abilities regarding stories something I think any storyteller can relate to, and the way the novel ended—wow! I’m highly intrigued about where his path will take him next.

Overall, I had quite the entertaining time reading this novel, and I think other fans of fantasy will have a wonderful lark indeed in this strange little world Barrison has created.


View all my goodreads reviews

So there you have it, my review of “The Mist Keeper’s Apprentice.” But don’t just take my word for it, pick up a copy for yourself, and be swept away by the mists of adventure!

You can find E.S. Barrison here:
headshot

 

And her debut novel can be purchased through Amazon (among other major online book retailers).

Happy Reading,
~ETJ

Plot Holes & Outlining Article

Hello Friends!

In yet more exciting news, an article I authored that gives some tips and techniques for tightening up outlines to help fix and prevent plot holes has gone live at arimeghlen.co.uk!

If you’re struggling with plotting, you might just find some advice that works for you; and do feel free to drop a line in the comments – I am replying to each and every one.

Happy reading!
ETJ


Tedenbarr of Have Lath

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