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Brooke Shaffer

Author, Ski Patroller, and Pasta-Eater Extraordinaire

What's New

Announcement of Impending Changes

I don't get on Facebook normally.  I don't get on my personal account, and I pretty much only get on my Author page when I have something to announce.  So I totally understand when people don't know what's going on with me, and I understand that I probably miss a lot of things going on with other people.  I get it.  I do.

However, I do have a problem with Facebook algorithms deciding what it thinks you want to see, from whom, and when.  Whether it's personal, political, whatever, it's annoying.

First thing I want to make clear is that I'm not getting rid of my Facebook Author page (at this time) because it is still a large platform.  All important announcements, dates, releases, and so on will still come through so you can stay up to date on important things.

The second thing is that all of my usual chatter is going to be centralized here on my website.  I'm not going to have a blog here and a blog there and this and that and so on.  This is my Author website, and this is where everything related will be.  Social media is for communication with the audience, advertising, and so on, but the meat will remain on the website.  It's my own little sanctuary on the Internet and I will not abandon it.

That being said, I am exploring other social media options, alternatives to Big Tech, their monopolies and algorithms and everything else that makes them difficult and frustrating to use.  If you're interested in migrating away from Facebook, Twitter, and other Big Tech, I'll let you know how it goes.

You can now find me on Minds (alternative to Facebook) and Gab (alternative to Twitter).  If you go there right now at this moment, they'll look pretty bare because I haven't done much of anything with them beyond setup.  However, going forward, anything posted to Facebook will also be posted to these sites.

We'll see what the future of Big Tech holds.

Also, there's some kind of to-do on Minds about tokens and premium subscriptions.  Know that I will never charge you to read my posts or see my stuff.  The only stuff I will charge you for will be my books and other exciting things that you would expect.  I'm not going to charge you five dollars for me to tell you that my next book is out in a week or that there's new merch in the store or whatever.

Cheers

Christmas Contest

Looking for a simple, easy, free gift for yourself this season?  Need something to listen to while you're driving, flying, or otherwise stuck in with a group of people you don't want to be with?  Well, one simple entry is all you'll need to get started.

The Backstory

So, if you've been to the Timekeeper Chronicles website, you know about the Time Agent Database.  Well, quite frankly, I'm a lazy person, and it's a lot of work to fill that stuff in.  Furthermore, if I do it all, then the people start sounding the same, and the stories tend to be more and more fantastical (and unbelievable).

So, with the release of Of Saints and Sinners in audiobook form, the distributor is kind enough to give me some giveaway codes which I will now pass along to you!  But it's not going to be easy.

The Basic Contest

I need names for the database!  You get to tell me the stories behind them!

Basic Rules

  1. You can make up as much or as little as you want, but you must include:
    1. Name
    2. Registration Date (when they became a Time Agent)
    3. Title and Rank
    4. Home Location (refer to the Interactive Map)
    5. Entries lacking one or more of these fields will not qualify
  2. If you want, you can include a little backstory of how they got to become a Time Agent

Example Entry Form

Dearbhfhine, MacEoghan

Registered Name: Dearbhfhine, MacEoghan
Registration Date (adjusted for local time): 1940
Title: Timekeeper
Rank: Lieutenant

Probationary Master:
Length of Training:

Apprentice Master:
Length of Training:

Journeyman Master:
Length of Training:

Master Trainer:
Length of Training:

Lieutenant Trainer:
Length of Training:

Other Training: None
Status: Active, in Good Standing
Registered Home Location:
1-11-17-14-92-6-1
Current Location: 4-4
Time in Location: 11 Years
Current Occupation: Self-Employed
Notes:

Email me or use the Contact form to submit.  You can also send a message to the Facebook Author page.  Please do not post or comment your entry.

The More Official Rules

  1. Characters must be original creations.  Any characters found to be duplicates or plagiarized will be disqualified and reported as necessary.  Contest participants do not assume ownership of the creations, though contest credit will be given.  All rights of ownership remain with the Author/Publisher.
  2. Author/Publisher reserves the right to modify and use the creations in any way they see fit.  Creations may be used in any capacity in Timekeeper Chronicles novels, short stories, or other expressions.
  3. Participants are not limited in the number of entries they may submit.
  4. Participants will only be awarded one giveaway code, regardless of the number of entries.
  5. Ten giveaway codes are up for grabs.
  6. Contest ends at 11:59:59pm on December 21, 2019.  Entries received after this time will not be considered.
  7. The Author/Publisher is responsible for notifying the winners and distributing prizes in a timely manner.
  8. All decisions are final.

Winners will be notified in the manner that they entered (email or Facebook) on December 24, 2019.

Questions?

Email me, use the contact form, post on Facebook.

Writing Historical Fiction: What

In this installment, we're going to discuss the what of historical fiction.

By this time, you have decided who your main character or characters are, their sphere of influence and other people they are likely to encounter.  You have decided the when and where, and you should have done some research on the years leading into and out of your intended time frame.

Now it's time to figure out what your character is going to do.  While the details are yours to decide, this is where all the elements come together.

Let's pretend you're writing a World War II story.  World War II was a big war, a long war.  Your main character can't be everywhere in every battle.  It is physically not possible.  So it's time to figure out the sequence of events that you want to hit.  Maybe you need to take your character out of the war due to injury or calamity at home.

Take a look at this list of battles in World War II.

If your main character is in Europe, you can immediately eliminate all of the Pacific Theater battles.

If your main character does not enlist until 1942, you can toss out all prior battles.

If your main character is destined to die in 1943, well, we know how that goes.

If your main character is destined only to be injured and discharged in 1943, you don't need to worry about battles afterwards.

If your main character is infantry, he is going to have a different experience than someone in the cavalry or a medic or a pencil pusher.

Special Note on Battles and Intense Action Sequences

Battles are chaotic endeavors with literally thousands of moving pieces.  Movies are the best at capturing the action because it happens so fast and you can see the pieces moving.  You can see it, hear it.  For some, you can feel it and remember it.  Books are a little different because it is slower processing the words and it slows the progression of events.  A bullet travels over a thousand feet per second, but it takes longer to read a sentence about bullets flying.  Now, you could mention in a single sentence that "bullets whizzed through the air" but the general atmosphere of the battle is done in only a few seconds.  You could also mention individual bullets that fly by your main character, pinging off of metal objects or burying themselves in stone or brick.  You could describe a volley of gunfire, but once again it takes several sentences to describe two seconds of action.

Intense Action Sequences (IAS) can be difficult to manage, in terms of getting the action and intensity across without dragging it out too long or making it too short.  So here are a few suggestions:

Describe the battle from multiple points of view.  My personal favorite, especially when done with characters in various functions (infantry, cavalry, medic, etc.).  You could also describe the battle from the opposing sides.  Personal thoughts are fantastic, especially when considering different cultures, different cultural values.  Empathy is fantastic.

Describe the battle from a crow's point of view.  Maybe a literal crow, or the God point of view.  This is good for lesser battles.  Especially in fantasy and other battle, when you don't want to get too amped up over every battle, this can be a good way to have a battle without automatically going to a black out.  If you plan to revisit a site for a battle, going for the crow the first time around can really help set up the geography of the situation, allowing for more freedom in the second battle.

Describe the battle in retrospect, as from a diary entry or letter home.  This can help ease the expectation of extreme action, as in the movies, and while the same information is conveyed, it may be more appropriate, depending on the focus of your story.

Back to Our Original Programming

And on that note, your what is going to change depending on how your story is told.  OSaS is written as a reflective narrative, rather than a present story.  Therefore, detail is on a need-to-know basis.  Later on, when it turns into a present story, it is still more about Owain's thoughts and his struggles in life.

In the next installment, we're going to cover what no one wants to find in a historical fiction, especially their own novels: mistakes.

New Addition to the Family!

The family of publishing and book formats, that is.

If you were paying attention to the Facebook page, then you may have seen the poll asking for your opinion on sound effects in audiobooks.  In a stunning landslide, 5:2, you voted for sound effects.  To be fair, seven is hardly a fair sample number.

So, this is how things are going to go down.

Of Saints and Sinners is the first release in audiobook format.  It is set to be released December 1, just in time for Christmas (yay!).  For the moment, it will be digital download only, but that's not the point.

OSaS will not have sound effects.  Because of the nature of the story as a reflective narrative, rather than a present storytelling, sound effects would be random, clunky, awkward, and more distracting than enhancing.  Therefore, no sound effects.

However, if this goes over well and I deem it worth my time and money, I would very much like to go back through The Chivalrous Welshman and get all of those recorded, too, bringing those up to speed and maybe (unlikely) getting an audiobook out with the release of Free Time next summer.  But audiobooks take a considerable investment, and where OSaS is fairly consistent in tone and action, TCW can be highly variable.  Plus there is extra time and cost associated with all the necessary accents.

That being said, only OSaS will be available for you this Christmas.

Now then, what about those darn sound effects?  Some people like them, some people don't, and the time and effort spent in finding the correct effects and synchronizing them with the story is all a bit laborious.  To that end, knowing that sans effects is basically the standard, or so I understand, there will be, without a doubt, an audiobook without effects.  I am debating whether I want to make a plus effects version available separately, or perhaps an effects track that can be added later.

It's all in the research and development phase at this point.  Just know that the audiobook without the effects will be the one you will find on the mass market, whether you go to Audible or wherever you get your audiobooks from.  Any sound effects, whether a full book or an additional track, will most likely be website exclusive.

Anyway, Of Saints and Sinners in audiobook form is projected out on December 2 this year, just in time for Christmas!

-Brooke Shaffer

Writing Historical Fiction: Who

In this installment of WHF, we're going to discuss people, characters and historical figures.

Your first instinct might be to include as many famous historical figures as possible.  Civil War?  Not without Honest Abe.  World War II?  Need me some Churchill and Eisenhower, right?  Not necessarily.

First off, you need to figure out your main character.  Who is the plot centered around?  Where is the character going to go, and how is he or she going to develop?

Let's say you're writing about the Civil War.  Your whole plot is basically a story from the front lines, both sides. Your first main character is a young man, twenty years old, who goes to fight for the Union.  The second main character is a comparable character in the Confederate Army.  Maybe they both have girls they're trying to impress back home.

It is immediately clear that you're probably not going to be talking to Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis in the first couple chapters, if at all.  Your main characters' sphere of influence is going to be restricted to family and immediate superiors, the other grunts in his unit.  Maybe you use the girlfriends as home field points of view, but they're not going be talking to generals or presidents either.

Now then, maybe your main characters are phenomenal soldiers and rise through the ranks, perform admirably, and carry on past the Civil War.  Then you can start bringing in higher brass, more famous names.  Maybe your characters become politicians and speak to the president.

Don't add in famous people randomly just to say that they're in the story.  Now then, that isn't to say that you have to cut out all things famous.  Maybe your soldiers attend the Gettysburg Address.  If it is a natural progression of the plot, then it is entirely appropriate, even demanded.  Your characters probably aren't going to sit down and have afternoon tea with Lincoln afterwards, but it is an appropriate use of character.

If you're all bummed about not being able to use Lincoln or Lee or Grant, don't despair.  Look up old actual Civil War rosters.  Find the units, find the commanders.  There is a wealth of information out there about history and ancestry.  Maybe you only get bare minimum information, a name and birth date and some scattering of other tidbits, or maybe you find a whole treasure trove.  So maybe your Union soldier gets bumped from infantry to cavalry because you can find out more about his commander.  Maybe your Confederate soldier goes from infantry to the medic tent.  That's the beauty of historical fiction is that sometimes the truth is more fun.

So, when considering who to include in your historical fiction, look at the perspective of the main character, his initial sphere of influence, and where and how that sphere changes and expands.  Consider which events your character is likely to encounter, which we'll cover more in a future installment.

Writing Historical Fiction: When and Where

In this first developmental installment of WHF, I'm going to cover the when and where aspect of writing historical fiction.  In elementary school, you probably learned that this was the "setting" of the story.  In the real world, there is so much more to it.

When considering historical fiction, sometimes you already have an idea of what time period you are going to use, and it's usually pretty vague.  The Middle Ages.  The Industrial Revolution.  The Civil War.  Ancient Egypt.  Things like that.  They give the reader a general idea of what to expect, but a good historical author needs to get a little more in depth, especially as you get more and more recent and records are more readily available.

You need to decide when you need to start and stop, the span of your story.  For example, Of Saints and Sinners covers roughly from 1815 to 2006, with a gap from 1855 to 1923.  That's important to know.  It really is.  Why?  Because then you have points of reference for what you can and cannot include in your story.  OSaS might make reference to an impending war, but the Civil War hadn't happened yet.  Similarly, social media in the early 00's was extremely limited and nowhere near as prevalent as it is today.

You also need to decide how much you intend to cover in that span of time, what your focus is going to be.  If your book spans only a few months, maybe detailing a particular part of a war, you are going to need ten times the information for that time period than another author who is simply passing through on their way from one year to the next.  Maybe one book needs all the movements of the French Resistance after the Nazis conquered France in World War II.  Maybe you only have to mention that World War II happened on your way from the 1930's to the 1950's.

As another example, the first book in The Hands of Time spans from about 1710 to 1963.  I highly doubt you want to read a four thousand page novel, so in that instance, there is a little picking and choosing of events, how and why and where and when the characters pop up in history.

That being said, equally as important as when your story is, is where it is.  Borders are not idle things.  They tend to change, most often with war and the rise and fall of various kingdoms.  Did your country of choice exist in the same way it does today?  Did it exist at all at that time?  Did it become annexed by another country and so it actually doesn't exist today?  Where were its boundaries?  Who were their neighbors?

All right, so you've got your when and your where.  You've got the span of time you intend to cover, and you know the borders of your lands.  It's always easier to write about a history you know.  It's easier for an American to write about American history, because we understand the points of reference given, and even if we don't remember the exact sequence of battles in the Civil War, we are vaguely familiar with them.  Similarly, it's easier for a Frenchman to write about French history, and he probably has more knowledge of Napoleon's exploits.  And a Japanese man to write Japanese history, a Polynesian to write Polynesian history, and so on.

If you intend to write about or include in a major way history that you are largely or completely unfamiliar with, don't let yourself get caught in a pile of fudge.  Don't get all the way to a major battle, then chicken out and go to black out action because you don't know what you're doing.  Don't overtly rely on generic titles like "the commander" or "the king" or whomever.  Don't rely heavily on generic geography either.

Here's a technique to help avoid "fake foreign history fudge." Add a minimum of fifty years to your intended span, both before and after.  Maybe go for a hundred, depending on what and how much you want to cover.  So if you intend to cover Slovenian history from 1830 to 1900, start reading about Slovenian history starting in 1780 to 1950.  Wars don't just happen out of thin air, and the political web is an intricate thing, built up over many years.  The more you understand about how things got to where they start in your story, the better you are able to take those threads and manipulate them.  And maybe you'll discover things you never knew before and decide to include.  As a neat little example, a little exciting tidbit to reveal about In the Hands of the Enemy, I did not fully understand the role Madagascar played in World War II.  In my history class, it was all about Europe.  But it's not called World War II for nothing, and I had to go digging.  It was a gold mine, and I'm excited for you to read about it and experience it.

Reading about what happened afterwards is just as important because it tells you where and how your characters are supposed to land.  Were the people happy and rejoicing at the war's end?  Or were they afraid of what retribution may come down upon the commoners?  Was the new leader a calm, level-headed, intelligent man of good character and integrity?  Or was he a sly snake who would shake your fist with one hand and stab you in the back with the other?  Understanding "what happened after" is just as essential to the story as the story itself.

With that, I will say that once you go digging, especially if you're truly enthusiastic about your project, it can be hard to figure out what not to include.  Sometimes you might feel guilty about not including more.  What about this incident or that person or this or that or this or that?  That's the point when you need to go back to your outline, your time span, and reevaluate your story, your plot, the whole trajectory of your project.  What needs to change?  What would make a more believable story?  What is a more natural sequence or flow of events?  If there truly isn't anything you can cut and still make a believable, flowing story, is it time to consider breaking it up into multiple books?

***SPOILER ALERT FOR OF SAINTS AND SINNERS***

That was something I ran into with Of Saints and Sinners.  I could have easily made Owain's story into three books.  First book, his life in Wales and England, culminating in his escape from prison.  Second book, his voyage across the Atlantic and life in America, looking for his brother, culminating in his entrance into the cave.  Third book, emerging into 1923, adjusting to the shock and change, and his life as a Timekeeper, finally coming to a close with his adoption of Tommen.

As I mentioned before, I didn't do this because it was unnecessary and I felt it detracted from the story at large.  While it would eventually tie in to the rest of The Timekeeper Chronicles, the amount of information to get there would be unproductive.  It wasn't about a history of Wales or England.  It wasn't about the history of the United States leading up to the Civil War.  It was about Owain.  Keeping the focus on Owain for three full novels meant a lot of mischief and crime, a lot of going to jail, a lot of dull banking and business.  In a nutshell, it would be boring, repetitive, and serve no functional or narrative purpose.  We know he was a selfish, arrogant, drunk murderer.  We know he made a fortune and then lost it all when he killed six men and was sentenced to hang.  We don't need each detail to be its own chapter.

***END SPOILER***

So you may find yourself having to make some tough decisions.  It's not fun or easy, and this is just considering the time span and geographical boundaries you need to cover.  Next time we'll cover the people.  Won't that be fun?

Writing Historical Fiction: Decisions, Decisions

So I'm going to start a new blog series on historical fiction.  Why? you ask.  Because although The Chivalrous Welshman is contemporary, the rest of the series are not.  Owain's novel, Of Saints and Sinners is 99.999% historical.  The Hands of Time series will be majority historical.  Other future series and novels will be majority or entirely historical.  So I thought it important to impart some tidbits of knowledge and form on writing HF.

This installment is simply about preliminary decisions.  You've already made your first decision; you want to write historical fiction.  Chances are, this did not happen in a vacuum.  Maybe you saw a movie or a documentary, maybe read a book, but something inspired you to write historical fiction.  If this novel idea did spark in a vacuum, however, well, you have a lot more decisions to make.  Let's go through them.

When and where?

In school, this was called the "setting" of a story.  When and where is your story going to take place?  For historical fiction, we should add another interrogative and ask "how long?"  What time span is your story going to cover?

Of Saints and Sinners covers from about 1820 to 2006-ish, with a significant jump in between, from 1855 to 1923.  The Hands of Time is going to range far more significantly, from about 1715 to 2013, again with a significant jump from 1970-ish to 2013.  Those jumps are significant, and they are a huge factor in the story.  Maybe yours won't have magic Time Portals, but you should consider the span of your timeline.

Typically, HF falls into two categories for timelines: a character's lifespan, or a significant event.  We'll cover those in the next installment.

Who?

Once you figure out when and where your story takes place, you need to populate your world with people.  Chances are, unless you're writing historical NON-fiction, your main character is going to be a fictional person, a skin that readers can slip into and experience the things going on around them.  Probably they have a fictional family, too.

But they are not the only people in the whole world, right?  You need neighbors, friends, townspeople, and a governing body of some form.  It's a safe bet that common people, especially the further back you go, don't have a lot of information to their name.  They might appear only on a census record, a marriage certificate, a tax record, even a jail record.  So while these people may have existed, they can still be used fictionally.

The higher up the food chain you go, the more information is available.  Governors, presidents, kings and queens, these people may have one or more biographies written about them.  It would do you well to read some of these if they play any decent part in your story, or even if they don't.  We'll go over this in greater detail in a future installment.

What?

This question asks what the focus of your story is.  This is not necessarily about your character, but it is the guiding principle of your plot.  Is your story a historical romance (very popular in war novels)?  Is it about a political struggle, certain people trying to keep power amid troubled times, or other people trying to gain power by overthrowing the regime?  Is your story about exploration of the human condition via a series of events?  Is it about exploration and survival, Lewis and Clark perhaps, or some poor soul exiled to Siberia?

Many times, there will be several plots intermingling--a king trying to keep his power while trying to woo his frustrated wife and worried about his son who is fighting in the war--but the focus should be the one to tie them all together.

While some of these things should be decided before you start writing (such as the when and where), others will typically unfold in the process of writing and editing.  This is not an excuse not to do some planning, but being too rigid can be just as detrimental as too open and unprepared.

World and Current Events

While your story may not have anything to really do with war or politics, they are still very present in everyday conversation.  Having a general idea of what is going on in the world can bring some livelihood to your conversations.  Plus everyone always has an opinion on current events, which can actually help in character development, as long as it's real conversation or arguing, and not manufactured tension.

Essential Elements

For any story, you need to consider small elements.  These are things like clothes, housing, and inventions.  While you can sometimes be forgiven for slip-ups (bringing in inventions a year or two early, etc.), sometimes the inclusion of these details can make a story feel more real, more alive.

***

Each of these things, and other elements as I think of them, will be covered in more detail in future posts.

-Brooke Shaffer

How Am I Supposed To Read These Things?!

You may have noticed it a little at some point in the past couple weeks, but now the big announcement that the next exciting installment of The Timekeeper Chronicles is set for release late next year (think November/December).  That is, The Hands of Time. The new trilogy will focus primarily on Rifun and Cassius, how they got to where they are, how they met, where Isthim comes into play, and it gives more details on the events surrounding the Dispersal of 1963.  I'm not going to give any more than that at this time.

This does not mean that The Chivalrous Welshman is ending.  In fact, it's only just getting started, and Free Time is still on schedule for a Summer 2020 release.

That's great, you say, but then how am I supposed to read all of this? One side novel is one thing, but a whole new series?

Yes, I answer.  And that's not all.  In fact, there are several more series in the works in the TKC universe.

Oh, wonderful, you say, another media universe.

Well, if you haven't read my take on media universes, I will put it simply, in the context of TKC: The Chivalrous Welshman is the solid backbone of the series.  It is the core, the center, the hub of all the information you will ever need to know.  Unlike some universes (*coMarvelugh*), it is not utterly imperative that you read every itty bitty side adventure to follow the main narrative.  There will be enough information, enough back story, enough filler, in TCW books, to propel you to the end.  In the same way that Of Saints and Sinners was not mandatory to understanding Windup or Stopwatch or any future books, so the upcoming side series will be.  They will provide greater context, depth of character and motivation, and may drop a few nuggets of information and trivia about your favorite characters.

On that same token, each series is designed to be standalone so that any new reader can start with any series and not be completely lost in the shuffle of characters and events.  The series feed into the backbone rather than branch off of it.  It is also completely self-contained so you can finish the last book and not feel as though something is missing.  Again, more fun to read them all, but not mandatory.  That said, for those of you already familiar with the characters and how Time works, etc., the new series may serve as a nice refresher of the basics of Time and the Time industry, or it may simply provide a new perspective on things through various cultural and historical lenses.

But, Brooke, you say, that doesn't answer the question. How am I supposed to read these new series in conjunction with all the other books?

Excellent question, says I.

There are a few different ways you can read through them.  I might include graphics later as more books and series are released.

Method One: By Release Date

The books are released in an intentional order.  Of Saints and Sinners came after Windup in order to elaborate on Walter's speech.  Releasing it between Tick Tock and Windup might have worked to some degree, but it fits better after Windup.

Similarly, although The Hands of Time will cover a time period mostly separate from The Chivalrous Welshman, its direct connection to the events of the first four TCW books makes it so that it is best read after Stopwatch, when that arc is more or less resolved and segues into another, greater arc.

For two grueling years (yes, I'm a glutton for punishment), there will even be three books released in a year, one Spring, one Summer, one Fall/Winter, one book from three different series.  My God, you say, why would you do such a thing?  And how am I supposed to read those?  The best answer would be, in the order that they are released.

Method Two: By Branch via Release

Basically, this is like going on a total side quest.  So, the first book of The Hands of Time is releasing after Free Time.  This method would basically mean breaking off of TCW after Free Time, going to read The Hands of Time in its entirety, then coming back for book six of TCW.  Or, breaking off after Free Time, reading THoT, going to read Totally Mysterious and Unknown New Series, then returning to TCW.

Method Three: By Series

Maybe you're a purist and want to finish each series by itself before moving on to another series.  That's fine.  I would recommend reading TCW first.

At the risk of giving away too much information way too soon (as in, years in advance), you will be safe in this method up to Book Ten of TCW.  By the time we get around to this, I'll probably have detailed graphics and stuff, or you can check the Timeline on The Timekeeper Chronicles website.

TCW was originally scheduled to have fifteen books (sixteen, but then I axed the last one).  If you know my writing methods, I bull through the series and, quite frankly, I'm almost done with the complete TCW series (woot!).  After some deliberation, I elected to break up the series into two parts with a dividing line between Book Ten and what would have been Book Eleven.  I'll elaborate more as we get closer, but mostly it was logistics and pacing and other things.

But with that breakup, everything after Book Ten is a cluster and everything before Book Ten is a cluster, and there are two side series after Book Ten.  You could feasibly read those side series first, but you would be hella confused to try and start any "Before" series after that if you weren't already following at least TCW.

Maybe I'm making things too complicated with stuff that hasn't happened yet and is years down the road.  As I said, I might make some cool graphics to help out with this as more series begin to emerge, especially in those two hellish years with three books coming out (why do I do this to myself?).

One more question, you say.  How am I supposed to afford all of these books?

Fair question, says I.  Ebooks are nice, or you can go to your local library and see if they would be interested in purchasing said books.

-Brooke Shaffer

Why Star Trek's No Drama Policy Wasn't As Bad As You Think

So the other day, Adam and I were watching Star Trek on TV (Deep Space Nine and Voyager) and I remembered something about the earlier Star Trek shows that few are probably consciously aware of.

From the beginning, Gene Roddenberry decreed that ST was not allowed to have conflict between characters onboard the Enterprise or in Starfleet in general.  Not that they had to sing kum-bah-yah, but there was not allowed to be drama and major conflict between them.  This changed with Deep Space Nine and all subsequent series/movies because GR kicked the bucket and the writers were given more leeway.

Now, regardless of the preaching early episodes spouted, the overall concept of the no-drama policy actually wasn't too bad.  GR wanted to illustrate a future in which humanity had finally come together and put aside differences.  As a storytelling technique, I think it's fabulous.  Let me illustrate.

Turn on any TV show today and there is inevitably drama between characters.  Soap operas are all about the drama.  But any decent show inevitably succumbs to the temptation of manufactured conflict.  Chicago Fire is a good example.  House is another example.  The original premise of the show is pushed aside for personal problems that eventually take over the whole thing.  And I'm not saying that it's bad to change things up now and again to keep things fresh and interesting, but the answer is not always drama.

My favorite ST series is The Next Generation.  Hate me, shun me, it's true.  I grew up on Captain Picard.  Captain Janeway and Voyager is a close second, but I'm going to go with TNG for this piece.

TNG was a little preachy in the beginning, and some of the episodes are rather ridiculous.  But in not having extensive personal conflict between characters, it allowed for more focus on the plot.  How do we stop the Romulans from taking over this sector of space?  How do we keep the peaceful inhabitants of this planet safe from an asteroid heading straight for them?  How do we deal with this omnipotent Q continuum?  How do we gather the information we need without tainting the thoughts and imaginations of a primitive society?

Plot moved plot.  It allowed for a cleaner story arc over the course of the season and allowed for some phenomenal character growth.  Picard being assimilated by the Borg was a stunning twist, and with no drama to muck it up, it begged the question of how they were going to rescue him or would they be forced to potentially kill him?  It made that decision so much more important.  Similarly, Worf's divided loyalties between the Federation and the Empire, his war over whether to honor his duty to his uniform or his duty to his family and his honor, it came as a pivotal moment in the series, not just another cheap plot twist designed to move a slow-moving, drama-riddled, sludgy series along.

In the first season, Tasha Yar was killed off.  Behind the scenes, she felt as though she wasn't being respected and her character was underutilized, etc., and she wanted out.  In the show, though, it showed a level of seriousness that the characters might not always be safe.  Tasha's dead.  Would Worf leave and return to the Empire?  Would Picard be lost to the Borg forever?  These are questions about plot.  They're not cheap thrills from personal dramatic conflicts, an annoying Will-they-won't-they, ultimately who cares?  And even in Star Trek: Nemesis, that moment when you are praying that it will be a happy ending to the series once and for all, and Data sacrifices himself, it matters because there isn't a ton of baggage following him.

That's not to say that personal conflict should never happen.  Having no personal conflict at all is unrealistic and can grow very stale after a while.  Similarly, characters still need to have a measure of personality.  Wesley Crusher is an excellent example of how to write a two-dimensional character.  But keeping it to a minimum is not a bad thing.

A good example of getting off the high road and into the mud really comes in Deep Space Nine.  Written after GR's death, when the writing restrictions were loosened, DSN got off Cloud 9 and the idea that humanity now sings kum-bah-yah, and it started tackling some more complex issues.  It managed to stay largely away from the drama, and it focused more on the serious side of things, war rather than exploration, dealing with the Dominion and the Maquis at the same time.

Voyager, I think, came the closest to being overridden with personal drama.  It was well-managed in the sense that it was believable and also moderately suppressed.  One little Federation craft is stuck on the other side of the galaxy in the Delta Quadrant and has to make it home.  None of the present crew are expected to survive; it will be all of their children and grandchildren.  Being stuck in close quarters with so many people under those conditions is going to put some strain on people, and personal conflict is absolutely expected, as well as some ill-advised romantic encounters.  At the same time, they are alone with no allies and no backup, and if they want to make it home at all, they have to get along and make things work.

Basically, what I'm getting at is that you don't need a ton of drama to have a well-rounded story.  Let plot move plot, and let the characters develop in such a way that when things happen, they mean something.  Foreshadowing is good, but continuously adding drama baggage is not.  Would Worf's departure have been as dramatic if he had constantly fought with Picard and made threats to leave and generally not gotten along with anyone?  No.  But building up his character as being the only Klingon in Starfleet, having that divide, siding with Starfleet for so long but now having to make this awful choice, it means something.  It is a monument to be recognized, not another marker on a long trail.

Brooke Shaffer

Cloth Books Retiring

Before you get all bent out of shape, know that it's not as bad as it sounds (except for purists, maybe, but I have no control over this).

So I got an email from my printer today saying that blue and gray cloth is being retired and replaced with digital prints.  What does this mean?  Well, if you're a hardcover lover, take off the dust jacket and you will find a cloth wrap around the actual hard cover.  It makes it pretty and still denotes the title and author in the event something happens to the dust jacket.

All this means is that the actual, physical cloth is going away and things will be printed digitally, sort of like a case wrap (usually found on textbooks, etc.).  It will look like blue or gray cloth, but it will be a print instead.  Similarly, the foil stamping for the title and author will be straight digital.

The reason given for this is both cost and time.  It's cheaper and faster to make a digital print rather than glue and stamp cloth.

Personally, I love the actual cloth and the foil stamping.  I am really sad to see it go.  Unfortunately, I don't have control over it as it is the printer's decision.

The change will take place October 22.  There will be no delays in any orders, no downtime predicted downtime.  But I felt the need to give you guys a heads up.

Brooke Shaffer

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