Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Thank you to our men & women in uniform and the families who support them.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Book Review: 20 Master Plots (and how to build them)

King Solomon once lamented:  "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun"  (Ecclesiastes 1:9-14 NIV).

If this is true, then today's writers face a daunting task in getting published, especially if their stories are viewed as mere regurgitations of older tales.  However, the reason why such tried & true narratives remain popular is because they've resonated with people since the beginning of recorded history--and probably long before cuneiform was scratched on to clay tablets.

Ronald Tobias, author of 20 Master Plots (and how to build them) settled on 20 "best selling" plots to help writers strike the right chord with potential readers.  The first 6 chapters of 20 Master Plots... deals with the dynamics that make a compelling story, such as the 3-act play, increasing the level of conflict in each act and establishing relationship triangles, (or quadrilaterals, or whatever), just to name a few.

The remaining chapters, minus the last "Parting Shots" chapter, go into detail of each plot type.  So this book doesn't have to be read cover-to-cover if you already know, or at least have a good idea where your story fits in.  Each of these plot chapters run from 3-13 pages and discusses key elements of the protagonist, the antagonist and the structure of each act, along a short checklist at the end.

So where does your story fit?  It could be:  Quest, Adventure, Pursuit, Rescue, Revenge, The Riddle, Rivalry, Underdog, Temptation, Metamorphosis, Transformation, Maturation, Love, Forbidden Love, Sacrifice, Discovery, Wretched Excess, Ascenscion and Descension. 

I found 20 Master be an enjoyable and informative, although I thought the actual plot chapters more interesting to read.  I give this book a solid 4-stars and makes an excellent reference book for plot structure.  Ten other reviewers on also rated Tobias' work with 4-stars, while 18 others liked the book better than we did and awarded 20 Master Plots...with 5-stars.  However, not everyone is happy with Tobias's work.  Two reviewers give the book 3-stars, while 4 give it 2-stars and another 4 bestow a mere single star each. 

These detractors feel the book is an incomplete guide, that's poorly written in an arrogant tone and that better "how to" books on writing are available.  One reviewer even has an issue with what he calls "pronoun equality," that is using "he" and "she" interchangibly.

I stand by my rating.  I expected 20 Master Plots... to be a general guide on story structure and Mr. Tobias didn't dissappoint me.'s page on 20 Master Plots...:

The book is available in paperback through F+W Publications:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wretched Hives of Scum and Villainy Completed

Based on suggestions from my friends Adrian and Dean, I redid my sci-fi pre-fab buildings using textured paint.  The buildings in the above image were painted with ColorTex's "Quarry," for a gray, city-like environment.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, these structures were made from two models of Sterilite trays:

#1605 (6 1/4" x 5" x 2 1/8"
#1606 (9 5/8" x 6 1/4" x  2 1/8")

I wanted to diversify the color-scheme a bit, so for a desert or frontier environment, I chose two colors.  The first was "Desert Bisque" by Rustoleum:

And the second frontier color was "Santa Fe Sand" by Volspar:

For all the buildings, I used black construction paper for the windows.  I chose black for versatility, so the windows can be considered darkened, tinted or completely blown-out.

I downloaded images of blast doors from a gaming/miniature website.  At this time I'm afraid I can't remember, or find, what that site is.  When I do, I'll be sure to post it to give the creator(s) proper credit.

I may add some more details to these buildings, like access hatches to the roofs, or antenna arrays, etc.  But these are wargaming "chrome" and I can use these buildings now as they are.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Book Review: Who Dares Wins, The Green Beret Way to Conquer Fear and Succeed

This is a self-help book for guys!

Bob Mayer is a former member of the US Army Special Forces, who used what he learned while in the "Green Berets" to become a successful author. The core premise of this book is that people are inhibited to succeed by their own fear. That only by overcoming fear can one be truly successful, in writing, or in any endeavor.

To drive this point home, the author uses examples of brave men in combat in the face of overwhelming odds. Unfortunately, not every battle fought by our special operations forces resulted in victory. Often, it is through failure, the author points out, that we learn our most valuable lessons.

The book also contains numerous self-analysis exercises to determine your character, what forms of stress you're most sensitive to and what goal(s) you should establish in order for you to overcome your own fear.

Only two people provided ratings for this book on, but both of them gave it 5-stars.  Despite some typos, especially towards the end and some syntax errors, I added a 3rd 5-star to the book's Amazon rating.  This book is not your typical business-model plan for success in the corporate world.  Instead, Who Dares Wins opens the world of unforgiving battlefields to the readers in order to give them the character-building tools they need to succeed in their own lives.

In December 2009, Bob Mayer launched his Who Dares Wins Publishing company, specialising in military fiction, military non-fiction and military science-fiction: