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Write, but don’t expect to learn it from others

writeOther people can’t teach you to write. Even the greatest writers of all time can’t teach you to write. Shakespeare? No. Stephen King? No. Hemingway? Not a chance.

They can offer advice. They can let you know what works for them. But the truth is, what works for them might not work for you or for your readers or potential readers.

For example, more than a decade back, I broke through a struggle with writer’s block by studying screenwriting. Basically, the formatting of screenwriting helped me to formulate story plots in my mind, which helped me get over fears of writing and publishing, etc. This won’t work for everyone. To other people, screenwriting might look like more trouble than it’s worth, or it just might not appeal to them for other reasons. For me, it was a huge aid.

There are plenty of how-to and self-help books out there about writing, many of them quite excellent. But the truth of the matter is, you can only become a good writer by writing. And reading, that helps, too.

Yes, it all falls on your own shoulders. Each writer is different, works in different ways and has different mindsets. Some writers can pump out 10,000 words a day and have a novel finished in a week or two. Other writers can only creep along at a hundred or so words a day, taking a year or five to finish a book. Writers are just different, despite some similarities in how we might work or write or think.

This doesn’t have to mean you’re completely on your own. Talking with other writers, or even joining a critique group, can help to improve your writing by giving you others’ opinions about your work. Just remember that it’s your writing. You’re the one in charge. Advice from others can be helpful, but don’t let it overrule your own visions. But don’t be stubborn, either. If something doesn’t work and a hundred others tell you it doesn’t work, you need to seriously consider approaching the matter from a different perspective. At least if you’re hoping for publication.

Keep in mind, you can read a thousand books about writing, but you’ll never improve your skills (and your marketability) until you actually do some writing. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll be able to tell when your skills are improving. Just don’t be in such a hurry. It takes time, longer for some than others.

A good teacher or three can help you with the basics, such as punctuation and grammar, etc., but those are just the bones of structure. You have to be the one to build the muscles, the organs, the rest of the body.

Good luck out there.

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Once upon a time, book stores were like treasure maps

book storesIn today’s world, readers can find just about any book they want. If a particular book, fiction or non-fiction, is not available at one of your local book stores, you can always head online. The most obvious place online to find a book is Amazon, but there are plenty of other sites as well.

Then, of course, there are modern devices for reading e-books, one of the most popular being the Kindle. With these e-readers you can browse many online sites, then purchase and download books straight to your device for ease of reading, all without having to travel to a store and without having to purchase an actual, physical book. And lots of e-books are free, especially many of the older classics of literature and quite often new books by independent writers and/or publishers.

There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s all great. It’s perfect for the book-reading consumer.

But sometimes I have to wonder if something has been lost along the way.

Perusing stores for a book you really want is fun. And what’s just as fun is poring through boxes and over shelves to discover a gem you hadn’t expected, maybe even learning about an interesting book you hadn’t even known existed. It’s one of the reasons I still love to go to used book stores, and sometimes to a Barnes and Noble or Joseph-Beth.

Hunting for a book, and discovering unknown books, is like going on an adventure. It’s like journeying back a few hundred years and you are a pirate out there searching for lost treasures and secret gems. I’m exaggerating, of course, but it’s still a lot of fun.

Plunging your way through book store shelves and digging into stacks of books is often as fun as reading a good book. A book isn’t just another thing you purchase; it can be something you put some physical investment into, something you put some time into, and some thought.

Then, after you pay for your book, you take it home and open its pages to other worlds. Or you place it on a stack (or truckload) of other books you haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

bookI remember back in the 1970s when I was a kid that book stores weren’t always so easy to find. Sure, there were plenty of book stores in cities, but the big chain stores hadn’t come along yet and most book stores weren’t gigantic. Still, you could spend hours glancing over and digging into the shelves in these smaller stores. You might not find what you want. Often you didn’t. And if there was something you really, really wanted, you would have to ask a clerk to order it for you, which would usually include some extra charges and the book might not be available any time soon.

Sounds scary, right? No. It was actually a lot of fun. Back then a book store was like opening a wrapped present, a gift from a stranger and a gift of which you had no idea what was inside. Most times there would be something grand. Nearly always would there be something surprising. And yes, every once in a while you would walk away disappointed. But the possibilities, for good and ill, were part of the fun.

I miss that.

Oh, it can still be found, but that sense isn’t as strong as it used to be. Maybe I’m just enjoying reminiscing about “the good ole days.” Still, I often find that magical feeling whenever I hit a library, and I’m glad of it.

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Are fewer people reading today?

Print is dead, right? Maybe, maybe not, but either way, that doesn’t mean reading has died.

Is reading dying or dead? It would seem so. Every few months there’s an article online or in the newspapers or magazines about how people don’t read nearly as much as they used to, or that fewer and fewer people pick up a book. But I’d argue otherwise. I think more people are reading than ever before. Continue reading Are fewer people reading today?

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Blast from the Past: The Book of Swords Series

The man behind the books

Fred Saberhagen
Author Fred Saberhagen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Author Fred Saberhagen (1930-2007) must have been a busy person. Not only was he the creator of the Berserker series of science fiction tales, the Dracula sequence of novels, the Books of the Gods series, and a number of video games, but he was also the man responsible for The Book of Swords series which consisted of 11 novels. He even wrote another trilogy, collectively known as Empire of the East, which was vaguely related to The Book of Swords due to the events happening in the same world as The Book of Swords but thousands of years earlier. Continue reading Blast from the Past: The Book of Swords Series

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Fantasy writers deserve not to be pigeonholed

The Pillars of the Earth writers
The Pillars of the Earth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Writers of history

A while back I was in an online forum filled with fellow writers. The majority of writers and authors on the site were thriller and romance writers … the “acceptable” genres.

While there I noticed a posting about historical fiction, asking what are some favorite historical novels and short stories. I started salivating because I could think of tons of historical fiction books and tales I love. Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove comes to mind, as does Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series. James Clavell’s Shogun is also a favorite, as are Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind and Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth. I also thought of Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire novel and Louis L’Amour’s The Walking Drum. Just about anything written by Alexandre Dumas springs to my mind as a favorite. Continue reading Fantasy writers deserve not to be pigeonholed

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High fantasy vs. Sword & Sorcery: Basics of fantasy literature

J.R.R. Tolkien

A brief look at fantasy

During the last century, numerous authors and editors and fantasy fiction fans have pondered the different sub-genres of fantasy literature. Today the numerous sub-genres come in many shades, but there was a time not so long ago when the majority of fantasy literature was less diverse. Continue reading High fantasy vs. Sword & Sorcery: Basics of fantasy literature

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So you know fantasy literature? Prove it with this quiz

Have you read plenty of fantasy literature over the years? Do you think you know your stuff? If so, take the quiz below to find out just how much you really know or don’t know. And don’t worry, as you can find the quiz answers here. Continue reading So you know fantasy literature? Prove it with this quiz

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Fantasy Literature Quiz Answers

For the original quiz, check out this link.

  1. A ring
  2. The Gray Mouser
  3. 1923
  4. The Sword of Shannara
  5. Author Ursula K. Le Guin
  6. Seven
  7. Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger
  8. Cimmeria
  9. A butterfly
  10. The Knights of Solamnia, or The Solomnic Knights
  11. A giant turtle named Great A’Tuin
  12. Kahlan Amnell
  13. Florida
  14. Technically seven, though there are more lands than the Seven Kingdoms within Westeros
  15. The Creator
  16. Dark elf Drizzt Do’Urden
  17. Wednesday’s glass eye
  18. Azoth, eventually known as Kylar Stern
  19. The Golden Compass
  20. Twelve
  21. Assassin
  22. The Oath of Peace
  23. Tad Williams
  24. Magician
  25. Garion
  26. Stormbringer
  27. Fuchsia Groan
  28. Lirazel, the King of Elfland’s daughter
  29. Urban fantasy
  30. Mercury

Continue reading Fantasy Literature Quiz Answers

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Can’t find a local D&D game? Check your library

D&D books

Dungeons & DragonsIf you’re struggling to find a game of Dungeons & Dragons in your area, you might try your local library. For some time a number of libraries have been offering room and time for D&D, sometimes even providing Dungeon Masters for those who want to play.

librariesFor the last three years, the Durham County Library in North Carolina has held D&D games on Saturday afternoons. The program has become so popular that recently the library added another gaming session once a month on Tuesday nights. If that should prove successful, maybe those Tuesday nights will become regular weekly sessions, or maybe the program will expand with other nights.

Granville Public Library of Granville, Ohio, is now offering instruction in how to play Dungeons & Dragons on three Tuesday nights each month. Geared toward teens and younger people, this could be a great way for them to learn the game. Obviously this could turn into a regular gaming session if enough people attend regularly.

For those living in California, the San Bernardino County Library has a teen gamers lounge every Friday afternoon. Any kind of gaming is possible, from video games to D&D and more, so it could be worth checking out if you are in the area.

The Keene Public Library in New Hampshire is so interested in D&D that it has published a pamphlet titled “A Parent’s Introduction to Dungeons & Dragons.” Not only is this publication great for parents who want to learn about the game and role playing, but it even offers advice to parents on how to explain the game to their children.

D & DAlso, don’t think for a second that D&D in libraries is limited to the United States. A growing number of libraries throughout the world have provided tables and times for gaming, including the Guildford Library in the UK, and the Waverley Council Library in New South Wales, Australia.

Many school libraries also have times for D&D or other tabletop games, so if you’re in school or live near one, it would not hurt to look there.

Even if your library doesn’t host a regular time for tabletop gaming, perhaps there is a monthly or annual event that focuses upon games, possibly even D&D specifically. If not, maybe you should suggest it to the head librarian. Who knows? Perhaps you could even be in charge of such an event, or help guide its creation.

As always, remember to Stay Nerdy!

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Free fiction from Ty Johnston

As some of you might know, after 20 years as a newspaper journalist, nowadays I make my living as a fiction writer, mostly in fantasy and horror though I occasionally dip into other genres. Over the last decade or so some of my short stories have become available to read on one website or another, and a number of my shorter e-books are currently free to read. For those who might be interested, I thought I would provide a brief guide along with links to the stories or e-books.

Concerning the e-books, where available I will provide a link to the Amazon page for those of you with a Kindle or who use a Kindle app, but I will also provide a link to a site called Smashwords where you can download the free e-book in whatever format you desire.

Let’s get going.

Free e-books from Ty Johnston

Mage Hunter: Episode 1: Blooded Snow

Mage HunterA hunt for raiding barbarians turns upon the hunters. But far worse is to come for the sleepy villages of northern Ursia and the soldiers who protect the villagers. The Dartague barbarians have had enough of the Ursians encroaching upon their mountainous borders, and the raids are but a feint to draw out soldiers while a much larger attack is in the works. His squad mates slain, Sergeant Guthrie Hackett finds himself alone in the winter wilderness on the border between his homeland and the nation of barbarians. He discovers the Dartague have a new leader, a wyrd woman who is behind the border assault. Worse yet for the sergeant, he has fallen under the attention of an ice witch, an inhuman creature with secret goals of her own. Seeking to survive, Hackett tries to make it back to his own countrymen, only to find there is relatively little safety for him anywhere in the northern regions.

This e-book is serial fiction, the first in a five-part series that tells the tale of Guthrie Hackett and how he comes to learn a few things about himself while trying to survive an approaching war with outlanders. Continue reading Free fiction from Ty Johnston

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A Guide to the fantasy writings of Ty Johnston

As someone who writes fantasy fiction for a living, one of the questions I most often get asked is, “Where should I start reading your stuff?” In other words, which book should they read first?

This is not such an easy question to answer. It doesn’t help that all my fantasy novels and stories take place within the same world, Ursia, though often in different time periods, sometimes decades or even thousands of years apart.

The Kobalos Trilogy

city of rogues

Generally I suggest readers start with my novel, City of Rogues. It is not only the first book of this trilogy, but it is the first book featuring my Kron Darkbow character. Kron and his time period are sort of the center of my Ursian Chronicles, the books and stories that take place in my fantasy world, and to some extent all my other fantasy writings are related to Kron’s adventures.

Think you might be interested in City of Rogues? Here is the description for the novel:

“Kron Darkbow seeks vengeance, and he plans to have it no matter the costs. Returning to the city of his birth after 15 years, he hunts down the wizard responsible for the deaths of those he loved only to find out another was responsible for the murders. That other is Belgad the Liar, a former barbarian chieftain who is now boss of the city’s underworld.

Following his path for blood, Kron comes across the magical healer, Randall Tendbones, and accidentally reveals Randall’s darkest secret to the world. It’s a secret about the past, a Continue reading A Guide to the fantasy writings of Ty Johnston

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How You can Save Money on Audiobooks Without Even Trying

I discovered the solution by accident. It all started about 6 months ago when I had just finished a season by Netflix binge watching without even trying.

I then realized a terrible truth.

The next season wasn’t out yet!

If you have ever watched a show straight through an entire season in one to three sittings at a time because it was that good then you know my pain.

How You can Save Money on Audiobooks Without Even Trying

Did you know there are several stages and side effects after completing a binge watch

1st stage: Confusion

This is where you start questioning your reality. “Did I really just watch the entire season? It all went by so fast. Was I conscious the whole time?”

Next is 2nd Stage: Loss of Motivation

Right after you finish there is nothing else that seems as good as watching more episodes of the show.”What am I going to do for the next 6 months while I wait for the next season? Oh no, it is 4:30 in the morning and I have to go to work. Or should I just call out -cough, cough- sick?”

3rd Stage: Impatience

Waiting until next season feels like less and less of a solution. “How long is it until it will be up online? Who do I have to pay, what favor could I owe someone to make it get here faster?

4th Stage: Concern / Worry

“Wait! There is another season right?”

Which leads swiftly to 5th Stage: Conditional Rage

“I did not just unknowingly watch the series finale? I am going to go berserk if there are no more episodes and that was it, forever.”

Stick typing How You can Save Money on Audiobooks Without Even Trying6th Stage: Fact Finding- ups and downs(aka the roller coaster ride of internet searches)

“Let’s go online and make sure that wasn’t the series finale… Google filled in the 5th season search before I finished typing it- this seems promising. Argh, all of these bloggers are talking about how they can’t wait to see if there is another season.

Ooo, the books are ahead of the show! But I don’t have time to catch up by reading all of the books.

Alright! There are audiobooks. Argh, not alright because they are 40 dollars each. Blast!

Woohoo I found a sweet site to get the audiobooks for free!

The link above is how you can save money on Audiobooks without even trying

The above scenario recently happened to me and I joined the month trial and gained 2 audiobooks for free. It was a quick sign up, there are over 150,000 audiobooks available and you can download them instantly.

I listen to them while running around, sitting at work, as well as when I am in the car.

How You can Save Money on Audiobooks Without Even TryingNow I am fitting audiobooks into my schedule where there was no room for traditional book reading. That is possible because I am listening to them during a time that is already assigned to another task while still getting the task done.

Multitasking the Nerd Way- Listen to audiobooks for free!

The wonderful advantage to audiobooks is that you can consume the books you want to read without them soaking up your evenings, free time, and shelf space.

The advantage to the free trial is getting audiobooks that can cost upwards 0f 40-50 dollars for $0.00!

 How You can Save Money on Audiobooks Without Even Trying

Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments below.

Not only do you get nerdy things free but you also help grow the Nerdarchy. Whenever you sign up for a service or purchase something through a link there is a good chance that you have helped us continue to produce content by patronizing nerdy things and nerdy people that we think are cool.

We produce over 500 videos 250 articles 50 pieces of art and much more each year.

We are able to do it all through the readers’ and subscribers’ support as well as copious amounts of pizza, soda, and sweet teas.

Thanks again! Until next time, Stay Nerdy!

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Inspire your Role-Playing Games With Nerdarchy’s Recommended Reading For Playing RPG’s

Nerdarchy was asked about recommended reading from one of our YouTube subscribers a little while back. If you didn’t know you can find Nerdarchy on YouTube- Here So of course decided to compile a list of some our favorites and shoot a little video on the subject. All Nerdarchy is avid readers and have been playing role-playing games for quite sometime now.

Recommended Reading for RPG’s Video

Amazon List Here

Between the five us I’m sure we have over 100 years of combined RPG’s experience!

Continue reading Inspire your Role-Playing Games With Nerdarchy’s Recommended Reading For Playing RPG’s