Steve’s Book Roundup

I write a lot and have quite a few books.  So now and then I’m going to post a roundup of them for interested parties!

The Way With Worlds Series

This is what I do a lot of – writing on worldbuilding!.  You can find all of my books at www.WayWithWorlds.com!

The core books of the series will help you get going:

  • Way With Worlds Book 1 – Discusses my philosophy of worldbuilding and world creation essentials.
  • Way With Worlds Book 2 – Looks at common subjects of worldbuilding like conflicts in your setting, skills for being a good worldbuilder, and more!

When you need to focus on specifics of worldbuilding, I have an ever-growing series of deep dive minibooks.  Each provides fifty questions with additional exercises and ideas to help you focus on one subject important to you!

The current subjects are:

Fiction

Take a typical fantasy world – and then let it evolve into the information age.  Welcome to the solar system of Avenoth, where gods use email, demons were banished to a distant planet, and science and sorcery fling people across worlds . . .

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet – Two future teachers of Techno-Magical safety find trying to earn their credentials hunting odd artifacts backfires when you’re hired to put some back . . . on a planet where gods go to die!

Creativity

I’m the kind of person that studies how creativity works, and I’ve distilled my findings and advice into some helpful books!

  • The Power Of Creative Paths – Explores my theories of the Five Types of Creativity, how you can find yours, and how to expand your creative skills to use more Types of Creativity.
  • Agile Creativity – I take the Agile Manifesto, a guide to adaptable project development, and show how it can help creatives improve their work – and stay organized without being overwhelmed.
  • The Art of The Brainstorm Book – A quick guide to using a simple notebook to improve brainstorming, reduce the stress around having new ideas, and prioritize your latest inspirations.
  • Chance’s Muse – I take everything I learned at Seventh Sanctum and my love of random tables and charts and detail how randomness can produce inspiration!

Careers

Being a “Professional Geek” is what I do – I turned my interests into a career and have been doing my best to turn that into advice.  The following books are my ways of helping out!

  • Fan To Pro – My “flagship” book on using hobbies and interests in your career – and not always in ways you’d think!
  • Skill Portability – A quick guide to how to move skills from one job to another, or even from hobbies into your job.  Try out my “DARE” system and asses your abilities!
  • Resume Plus – A guide to jazzing up a resume, sometimes to extreme measures.
  • Epic Resume Go! – Make a resume a creative act so it’s both better and more enjoyable to make!
  • Quest For Employment – Where I distill down my job search experiences and ways to take the search further.
  • Cosplay, Costuming, and Careers – An interview-driven book about ways to leverage cosplay interests to help your career!
  • Fanart, Fanartists, and Careers – My second interview-driven book about ways to leverage fanart to help your career!
  • Convention Career Connection – A system for coming up with good career panels for conventions!

Culture

  • Her Eternal Moonlight – My co-author Bonnie and I analyze the impact Sailor Moon had on women’s lives when it first came to North America.  Based on a series of interviews, there’s a lot to analyze here, and surprisingly consistent themes . . .

My Sites

Why I Wrote It: Skill Portability

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Skill Portability is an book that comes out of a weird phase of my career writing. It’s a lovely little book, but one I didn’t intend to write until I thought about it.

Many years ago I had an obvious insight on my writing – a good writer keeps writing books. It improves skills, it shares knowledge, and it gets your name out there. As I wrote about careers as well as creativity, I asked myself “what more should I write.”

That’s when I realized that a major part of career advice is transferring skills between one job and another. This is important in general, but moreso for my audiences of fans and geeks – people who want to move their interesting skillset elsewhere. That’d be a great book . . .

. . . because I’d already written it.

Many, many years ago I had written a series of columns on transferring skills between jobs, careers, and even hobbies. I had thought of it as done, but really, sitting on my blog they weren’t doing much (and they’d aged a bit).

But reviving these columns? Expanding them and rewriting them? That had potential for a new book and for helping people even more.

But were they good enough? Well, yes – because I’d already had a system.

The columns themselves outlined a system to analyze how useful skills were – called DARE. It stood for Direct, Advantageous, Representative, or Enhancing – four categories of skills people have. A pile of columns is one thing that may or may not be “bookworkthy” – but one with a system? Something with structure can be built on.

An organized way of thinking about anything, from recipies to job skills, is something that people appreciate. A system allows people to easily understand and employ whatever you’re teaching them. A system also helps one structure something for communicating – like, say a book.

It didn’t take much to turn the columns into a more comprehensive book, and one that’s a nicely useful and light guide.

The real lesson here is that if you think of taking previous writing and expanding it, it helps if it has some organized format to begin with. A system like the above leads to a book. A short story with good structure can be the center of a novel. Structure is a sign you might want to take something farther.

Conversely, if you are writing something or creating something you might think of expanding, consider how it’s organized. Build a system to organize your writing. Put parts of a speech into a clear mnemonic. Something to give it form – because that form can be more easily built on.

Also I’m glad to write up this blog post – because it helps me see the value of the forms I build so automatically. This nice little book wouldn’t have existed without my habitual organization.

Hmmm, maybe another lesson on writing is write on why you write . . .

Steven Savage

Creative Conspiracy: A Malicious Misuse Of Power

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

As I stated previously, the border between a conspiracist and a creative is very, very thin. 

This may seem blasphemous coming from someone like myself who writes on imagination and the like. But we have to accept there is no moral value to creativity – the liar creates as sure as the novelist does. I like to stay positive, but for this essay series, I’m not going to. Let’s get to it:

Conspiracists are engaged in creative acts for unhealthy reasons.

We have to confront this – people can use creativity pathologically, and conspiracists do. Indeed, there is precedence for human creativity having unhealthy manifestations. Indulge me in some quick asides.

Lost In Story

I always was fascinated by cases of people who constructed elaborate fantasy worlds. In my psychology and history readings, I would find stories of people living in detailed imagined realms. These cases intrigued me because some quite functional people lived in fantasies as elaborate as the worlds of Tolkein. They just took them as real.

We can dream whole worlds and live them in response to trauma or other hardships. That’s not much different than the conspiracy theorist, who uses more of reality – just a matter of degree.

Apophenia

As conspiracy theories raged across the internet, many of us heard the once-obscure term apophenia. This is the human tendency to find or perceive patterns that aren’t there, indeed a trait of conspiratorial thought. I oft saw the term thrown around as a pathology, but really, finding connections is what humans do.

We are pattern-seeking creatures. We use our imaginations to figure things out and make sense of the world. We’re almost certainly unaware of how much we do it and how wrong we are. The fact we have a term for it, and it’s popularized, tells us we know we have this tendency.

A Creative Misuse

Between the extreme cases and the human tendency to create connections lie the conspiracy theories. The Conspiracist spins elaborate fantasies, trapping themselves in a world that is partially real, yet not. They then act on this real world, oft with disastrous consequences.

This leads me to the question What is creatively unique about conspiracy theories?   My conclusion is that there is an element of malice in them.

Conspiracy theories seek enemies, and they place blame. Their elaborate fantasies always have someone responsible, and that someone usually needs to be fought or punished. As we are all too aware, these targets are all too often vulnerable populations and individuals.

From witch-hunts to fascism, there’s always a target, and people are falling into elaborate justifications.

History also shows there are usually ringleaders. From politicians to preachers, podcasters to writers, there are plenty of people ready to exploit conspiratorial thought. They may use existing conspiracies, create their own, or exploit what their followers dream up.

Even if there is no one to exploit them, conspiracists may use each other. They trade conspiracy theories, build on each other, vying for attention or hoping to find truths. Anyone following internet conspiracies has seen how much creative ferment happens on anonymous message boards. In time, there is usually someone to exploit it.

We know the results. Attacks on the US capitol. Gas chambers. Would-be heroes murdering innocents they think are evil aliens.

Understanding conspiracy thinking as a pathological creative act helps us identify it. Next, let’s look at how we can use a tool I made to understand creativity to identify conspiracy theories.

Steven Savage

Creative Conspiracy: Deadly Fiction

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

On January 6th, 2021 I watched people storm the American Capitol. It was a disgusting display of people motivated by lies and anger. It was a pathetic display as the fools streamed themselves and photographed themselves, meaning the world could find them. It was a foolish display as it awoke law enforcement and the public to their horrific activities.

I watched people threaten my Congress, following the debunked lies of “President Trump” and his enablers, and turn it into a show. It came close to being a snuff film.

Experts and amateurs alike will analyze what happened for years and ask, “how did we get here?” This column series is my small contribution to that effort because I’ve come to realize a painful truth.

Conspiracy theories are creative acts, and we must understand them as such. We must understand them as those caught up in them do not, and those exploiting them often do know they’re making things up.

On the surface, Conspiracy theories may seem as ridiculous as they are sinister. How can someone believe such nonsense? How can someone draw connections between such unrelated people and events? What leaps of imagination are people making to have faith in such elaborate foolishness?

Now, consider that we may enjoyably believe nonsense. We will happily embrace fictional worlds of ninjas and starships, sorcerors and superspies, and so on. We will take out our dice and our manuals and play a role-playing game, forcing new characters out of numbers and checklists. We use our imaginations all the time, exercising, stretching them, growing as people – and having fun.

There is only one difference between those spinning foolish conspiracy theories and the lofty heights of epic fanfic and Role-Playing Campaign. That difference is the former doesn’t always know – or admit – they’re making things up. Ask yourself how often, as of late, believers in conspiracy theories are sneered at as LARPers – but how close it truly is.

Your last Round Robin Writing Exercise is very close to what your average Conspiracist does.

Conspiracists are misusing their creativity to trap themselves in a fantasy world. It’s every warning about Dungeons and Dragons from thirty years ago; only the real danger was people believing tales of fraudulent elections and Satanic cults.

Worse still are those lying to them to sell books, T-shirts, and whatever. The conspiracy field is filled with grifters – it always has been if one is historically aware. In modern times they have more platforms to spew their fictions from, though thank gods there’s less over time as of late.

Conspiracy theories – and the violence that follows them – result from a series of malicious and ignorant creative acts.

In understanding this, I hope we can find new ways to battle falsehood – and help people find healthy creativity. But to do that, we must admit something simple.

The border between a conspiracist and a creative is very, very thin.

Steven Savage

No Real Heroes

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Americans say they love heroes. It’s obvious that’s a lie for too many Americans – we hate heroes and want false ones.

Real heroes are messy people because they’re real humans with flaws and problems. We idolize them but can’t tear our eyes away from the feet of clay every idol has.

Real heroes are creatures of time, of a particular era. As we’ll all too aware, those we admire become less admirable in time. Real heroes are ones we too oft grow out of as persons and as a culture.

Real heroes are a challenge to us because of their reality. Their very existence is a reminder we can do better and be different- while being flawed. If someone with flaws can do great things, why haven’t we?

Real heroes have real results, but also messy results. The extraordinary actions of heroes challenge us to do better. The mistakes and flaws of their choices require us to confront uncertainty about people. Heroic efforts aren’t clear-cut and morally simple, and they force us to think.

Real heroes don’t have the signs of success we want. They may not be rich or good looking, or charming. Doing the right thing doesn’t always pay well, and people who get their hands dirty don’t look clean.

Real heroes don’t fit our template. Real heroes aren’t always the gender we want, the age we want, and or the ethnicity we want. Real heroes remind us that heroism isn’t confined to people like us.

There are many admirable people with us and passed on, but their lives challenge us. To sort the good from the bad in a person is an effort, and when we do so, we confront ourselves. Our simple images of a hero don’t survive contact with history, nor do the images of ourselves.

We hate real heroes, so we often seek false heroes. We find some person who has the right pose, the right words, and follow them instead. We worship the fakers, the actors, the deceivers, and the grifters.

Fake heroes are clean. They present the way we want, act the way we want, say the things we want. There’s no moral ambiguity – unless you look at their actions.

Fake heroes often have money and fame, and the right looks. They have all the worldly things we want, and we decide that’s heroism. The image is there – as long as you don’t ask how they got there.

Fake heroes don’t have any apparent ambiguity because they lie about it or cover it up. Fake heroes are an act, and we don’t have to deal with moral complications because we buy into it. Fake heroes are so much easier.

Fake heroes fit all we expect. They’re the right age, right sexual preference, right skin tone, etc. Fake heroes are a confidence game that looks just enough like us that we’re confident in believing in them.

We so prefer fake heroes in America. They’re so much easier, and the internet and media will help us find them or turn them out for us.

This presents a challenge in a troubled time. But we need to rise to it or drown in false heroes and false faith. We need to know who to trust.

The hero might even be us, flawed as we are, temporary as we are.

Steven Savage

Why I Wrote It: Fashion And Worldbuilding

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Clothes are something people need to think about. I fell down a well-dressed rabbit hole, and I had to share it with people, so I wrote a book about it.

So “Fashion and Worldbuilding” is today’s subject, my book on the role of fashion in setting development. I didn’t mean high fashion, but more clothes and ornamentation and uniforms, all the things we’re used to. Well, used to until you design a new setting – like I did.

When I was working on A Bridge To The Quiet Planet, my techno-fantasy adventure, fashion quickly came into play. Thinking over a space-age world rooted in what is basically a JRPG/mid-level fantasy setting requires you to think about clothes in fantasy worlds. Uniforms and holy outfits, flowing robes and enchanted armors, all require you to ask why do people dress this way? Then you have to ask how did this translate to a modern world?

I had a lot about fashion and clothes.

You’ve got over-organized sorceress Marigold Rel-Domau, a sorceress who is legally required to dress in Guild robes to show she’s a walking weapon. Cleric Beacon Rindle is expected to wear the colors and symbols of his goddess who might send him emails to remind him. A long-suffering team of Military specialists have to dive in and out of “Military Blue” depending on how undercover they’re hoping they’re being. Fashion became important.

So I of course realized it was time to write a book. I’d thought about clothes and fashion in worldbuilding, but not like this. In turn, I then realized how many times fashion had affected my life, my writing, or come up in both fiction and the real world. I’d thought about this alot over the years, from game design to watching Tim Gunn analyze comic book superheroes.

In the end? A book came out of it, turning my own experiences into helpful coaching questions.

A lesson for me here is that you may need a more visceral, hands-on experience to create something. These experiences don’t just inform you or make you aware, they also collect thoughts and experiences to let you write. You might be surprised what you know and what you’ve thought of and what you can do – once you have the right experience.

Steven Savage

After the Coup

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

I write my blog posts a week ahead of time, usually on a Tuesday or Wednesday. On Wednesday January 6th I didn’t write anything because there was a coup in my capitol. You probably saw the whole thing with the screaming, Congress hiding, all egged on by Trump.

It was sad, shameful and very nearly the end of my country. We got close to murder of Congressmembers. Congressmembers encouraging the mess suddenly were melting down in light of what they did. My country was humiliated in media.

I didn’t blog then, obviously.

I spent days trying to track what was going on.

I had flashbacks to 9/11 (there’s a story there: I worked at an insurance company when it happened).

I soldiered on, as did everyone else.

And know what, if you felt you had to push yourself during it? If you felt you had to keep up with everything? You didn’t, and depending on your mental and physical state, you don’t now.

But why are you reading this? Because I love to write. It means something that I write, and I feel better doing this.

Do what you gotta do – and don’t do what you don’t need to.

Regular posting next week, probably.

Steven Savage

Some Writing Experiments And Thoughts

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Going into 2021, I’d like to quickly round up a few writing experiments I did and am planning to do. I hope it inspires everyone to try them, try their own, or tell me I’m full of it.

So let’s get to it:

The 20 Minute Prime

The “20 Minute Prime” is a habit I created to make sure I keep writing and don’t get distracted – while not pressuring myself. It works like this.

  • 20 Minutes a day I sit down and write – but it can be anything from a blog post to a book to a newsletter. As long as it wasn’t “everyday” writing like email, it was good.
  • During this 20 minutes I do nothing else. No chat, email, etc.
  • At the end of the period I can keep writing if I want to. I don’t have to avoid distractions if I don’t want.

When I do this, I rarely write only 20 minutes. Once I’m going I’m in the zone and I get a lot more done. It also seems to be faster.

So far this has been extremely successful. I make time for writing that’s not distractible, but I don’t pressure myself on what, so I don’t beat myself up over not writing the “right” thing. By doing this I get into the visceral rhythm of writing, making space for it, and often I write much more. Finally I develop a good awareness of distraction, avoiding it, and allowing it.

Deep Dives

I have tried writing books “over time” and it’s a mixed bag – it can be a grind, you can loose the big picture, etc. Also it involves timeshifting and changing focus and keeps you from being “in the flow.” Sometimes you need to dive deep for a few hours.

Inspired by someone in one of my writers group who once wrote for 20 hours on a weekend, I’m going to try marathon writing. I call these Deep Dives.

Now I don’t know if I’ll write for 20 hours over a weekend (I just may) but my goal is to set aside time to spend hours working on books. My theory is as follows:

  • I can get into the zone and write faster.
  • This leads to focus and avoids timeshifting, saving time.
  • Doing writing flushes problems out, so the more the better.
  • Whatever I don’t fix will come out in edits.
  • Sometimes finishing is the only way to fix stuff.

My first test will be my next Worldbook, which will probably write in less than a week (and possibly over a weekend). I’ll doubtlessly let people know how that goes.

That’s The Plan – So Far!

I’ll keep sharing other insights. Maybe folks would like a regular update on what I’m trying and if it worked?

Steven Savage

Why I Wrote It: Conspiracies And Worldbuilding

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Conspiracies and Worldbuilding is a book that is more than it seems, both in content and in origin. It would seem simple to write a book on “here’s how to put conspiracies in your fictional” world – and that’s the problem.

Conspiracies aren’t simple to write.

I love a good conspiracy in a book, from political intrigue to a murder mystery (which is just a tiny conspiracy). It’s fun to figure out what’s going on, and who doesn’t love a puzzle? The problem is that most people’s ideas of conspiracies come from Conspiracy Theories, and that’s dangerous.

Conspiracy Theories are everywhere because humans try to make sense of the world. In turn, they work our way into our popular culture because they are recognizable and often fascinating. A quick perusal of fiction will find multiple Illuminatis, a heavy dose of Lizard People, and a decent sprinkling of alien technology.

But this isn’t just fun. Conspiracy Theories and taking them seriously (in the wrong way) promotes several alarming trends, and this book was to address that in part.

First, many Conspiracy Theories are just window dressing on biases, old or new. When we recycle them into our fiction, we promote those biases and even give voice to promoters who have ulterior motives. A cursory examination of many a conspiratorial belief quickly uncovers racism, sexism, bigotry, and more. I wanted people to avoid spreading these ideas as if they were innocent.

Secondly, many Conspiracy Theories lead to bad story ideas because they’re so unlikely and impossible. Most Conspiracy Theories suppose impossible organizations, dubious motivations, and terrible resource management. I wanted people to write more likely conspiracies – as those are more fun to read or watch!

Third and finally, fiction too often ignores that Conspiracy Theories and Conspiracies go hand in hand. If you have nefarious plans, the easiest way to get away with it is to turn people against someone else. They’re busy attacking phantoms and innocent people so you can get away with your own dark goals. I wanted more fictional conspiracies that were good at evil machinations and wanted to cover this.

In the internet age, I saw more spread of biased conspiracy theories, more foolish leaps of logic, and more muddling of Conspiracy Theory and Conspiracies. So I wanted to do a book on how to handle these subjects in fiction better. From avoiding spreading bigotry to creating more believable (and thus thought-provoking) settings, I figured it was a win-win.

So far, it seems the book has sold pretty well, and I hope I’m reaching people. Let’s make good stories, good conspiracies, and spend less time promoting bigotry and the unlikely. Please give me a conspiracy that chills me as it seems so real and a story that helps me see how prejudices are puppet strings.

Steven Savage

The (Holiday) Fire Next Time: Holidays in 2021

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

We’re not even through the holiday season of 2020, so I’d like to discuss the holiday season of 2021. No, this isn’t me jumping the gun like every store out there to cram Christmas and such into every mental cranny. Instead, I want to confront three facts that haunt us, the three “Ghosts of Christmas WTF” as it were.

  • This holiday season is not “normal.”
  • The next holiday season will not be “normal.”
  • The next holiday season should not be “normal.”

This holiday season is not “normal,” and it’s even less normal than we realize. We know about the obvious abnormal things – the Pandemic, economic collapse, a president in further mental and moral decline. But there are other things we may not notice because of those things.

Think of all the things that have changed because of the above. We’ve been barely seeing our friends, our exercise routines changed, our diets changes, and so forth. Many of us have come close to tragedy or have faced it. We’ve had abnormal after abnormal flung at us over and over so much we might not be able to acknowledge it.

So let’s acknowledge it and give ourselves a break. Don’t beat yourself up – or bother others – for not doing things “right.” It wasn’t going to be “normal.”

Such acknowledgment let us gear up for next year – because the holiday season of 2021 is going to be different too.

Next year isn’t just going to be Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, etc., in 2021. It’s going to be us recovering from the Pandemic and the economic crisis. We’ll be reliving the traumas of this year, on top of whatever holiday stressors we have. Too many of us will have empty seats at the table and fewer holiday cards to send.

The next holiday season won’t be “normal.”  Get that into your head, and you’ll be happier next year. You’ll be able to acknowledge the trauma you and others faced. You’ll know to go easy on yourself and others.

By acknowledging next year’s holidays will be different, that means we can deal with the fact that the next holiday season should not be “normal.”

We will have confronted so many issues about life – the fragility of it, our ignorance of essential workers, grinding poverty, political corruption, and more. We will want to rethink what the holidays mean and what we want to do in light of these unavoidable truths.

We will want to mourn. There will be so much sadness, so much death, and we’ll need to deal with it. During the holidays, sad things often come out – so let us prepare to deal with such things healthily.

We will want to dispense with some traditions.  How many holiday events are horrible mental grinds we never wanted to do anyway – and this Pandemic let us avoid them or ditch them? How many traditions don’t seem meaningful now? What do we need next holiday season – and in the years to come?

We will want to return to or elevate some traditions.  What holiday events now mean more to us than ever? What events should we make the center of our holidays in 2021? I usually did holiday potlucks, and believe me when I say I value them even more.

We will want to make new traditions.  What have we learned this horrible 2020 that can be dealt with by new practices? What deserves to be remembered, or despised, or forgotten? You’ve probably created or taken on other holiday traditions before – what should you make (or just appropriate) for next year?

Steven Savage