Steve’s Book Roundup for June

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!

My sites:

Fiction

I’ve been returning to fiction with a techno-fantasy setting of several planets orbiting a star called Avenoth.  Take a typical fantasy world of magic and gods, and let it evolve into the space age and internet age . . .

  • 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!

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:

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 . . .

The Importance Of Not Doing

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

Do you have a schedule and plans? Daily plans? Weekly plans? Do you do them – them decide “well, I’ve got a bit more time” and go farther? Do you then realize . . . maybe you’re overdoing it?

Then do you try to not overdo it and still fail, going beyond your plans to do even more and burning out?

I had a realization about this recently as I was trying to keep up my daily schedule. I use schedules to keep myself focused during the Pandemic, and they’ve helped me “anchor” myself in these strange times. But I noticed on a day I was getting everything done, I asked what more could I do.

Then I caught myself. Why did I want to do more? Why couldn’t I stop?

Then I realized something. Schedules are not just ways to ensure things get done – they’re ways of setting limits so you don’t burn out. Part of the reason you have a schedule is to tell you what not to do or when to stop.

And of course, this ties into two parts of the Agile Manifesto. If you didn’t think I was going to tie this to Agile, you must be new here. Welcome aboard.

Anyway, in the Agile Manifesto, the tenth Agile Principle states “Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.” I always liked this as it was a good reminder to avoid unneeded tasks and technology. But recently I realized this applies to your schedules and plans – there’s a time to stop and not do things.

This also ties into the eighth Agile Principle: “Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

Good, sustainable work is at a pace you can keep up. This means not just being sustainable, but asking if you need to do something, removing things from your plans or not putting them in. Make a schedule that works for you, and remember that there is a time to not do something. Sure you may do it later, but you don’t have to do it now.

In fact, celebrate the fact you set limits! That should be one of your goals. Being able to not do something effectively is a success – you have time to rest, recuperate, and come up with the next neat thing to do . . .

Steven Savage

A Timeline Must Be Valuable

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

As I work on the sequel to A Bridge to the Quiet Planet, keeping up my schedule is challenging. You’ve probably read enough of my blog analysis on this, and you’re probably gonna keep hearing about it. My latest insight is that we misuse timelines by having them for the wrong reasons.

What’s the value of a timeline?

This question can be shocking. We’re often taught to regard them as valuable, almost sacred. Timelines are important, right? We should all get as much done as possible, right?

Too often, sticking to a Timeline is regarded as a virtue. The Timeline we’ve set (doubtlessly under different circumstances) is regarded as sacrosanct. To challenge it is unacceptable in many people’s minds. In short, we make following the Timeline something we must do over anything else.

And that’s wrong because a Timeline is just a tool. A Timeline is something we should use because it brings value. A Timeline isn’t sacred, and more than the Ivy Lee method or flowcharts or whatever.

You use a Timeline and create one because there’s value in it. If there’s no value then don’t create one.

For instance, with myself I found my novel was best approached with a sort-of Timeline as it kept me focused. Other things like blogging work on tight Timelines. Some of my coding practice is better handled with vague goals. In some ways I juggle multiple kinds of Timelines, and allowing myself to do that is comforting.

But Timeline for Timeline’s sake? Why?

Timeline? Good, I’m all for them – when they’re useful.

Steven Savage

Why I Play Video Games

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

My Friend Serdar and I were discussing video games and why people enjoyed them recently. It was interesting because I know plenty of gamers, and plenty of people not into them.

So what do they do for me? That was fun – and interesting – to analyze.

First, gaming is something that lets me express myself without some kind of commitment or burden. I’m an organizer, a manager, and a guy that likes to explore things. Gaming lets me do that, from figuring out platforms to managing spaceships. When I game I am me.

Recently, with the stressful Pandemic, I was feeling down, so started playing Slime Rancher, and after that Star Traders: Frontiers. Both were games with planning and management, and playing them helped me, be, well, me. It was refreshing – and it was fun.

Secondly, gaming is a unique art. In games, multiple things that were previously separate arts come together. Visuals, music, rules, more. A game is a way to experience deep experiences, often experiences that would have been separate or less impressive.

This unique art allows for deep experiences such as simulations, but also unique ones. I can walk across impossible landscapes made out of math. I can experience a musical soundtrack while being in a story I control. Gaming is a unique art – and a fusion of arts.

Third, gaming has a social aspect. I’m not just talking multiplayer games (rarely my fave) but the way you can connect over an art. There’s plenty of social tools and sites, I love Early Access games where I give feedback. There’s so many ways to connect, if you’re selective, you can find really fulfilling involvement on a level fine for you, deep to shallow.

I share experiences with video games and friends, I give feedback. I really connect and in some cases, you can give feedback that improves games.

So yeah, that’s why I game. it helps me be me. It’s a unique fusion art form. And I can connect with others when I want to.

What about you?

Steven Savage

Fun And Yourself

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

We’re in a crisis as I write this. We’ve got a worldwide Pandemic, and not every country is managing it very well (or at all). It’s possible you’re escaping with fun, but you may also feel guilty, or unable to enjoy yourself, worrying you’re wasting time.

You’re not.

Yes, fun is relaxing, yes, fun distracts. But fun also is a great way to get back to who you are and find out who you are.

When we have fun, we express parts of ourselves in safe ways. Perhaps we love the camaraderie of sports, and thus enjoy them because of shared identity. Maybe we love managing things and ticking boxes, playing strategy games and using that organized sides of ourselves. We may crave adventure, our hands holding a controller as we fire our guns in an action-adventure game. Fun lets us get back to who we are.

Knowing who we are is vital for navigating crises. It centers us, but in a safe way, and gives us the hope to become more of who we are. It’s an expression, and a reminder.

But also, fun lets you find new parts of ourselves. When we see we’ve played the same kind of video game three times in a row, that says something about us. When we avoid this kind of movie but indulge in others, that says something about us. When we have fun, things we don’t know of emerge.

Knowing who we can be is vital for navigating crises. It helps us grow and learn and understand, and experience the joy of being.

Finally, fun lets us find things we hide. We may find a dark side that comes out in our musical tastes. We may discover we work through issues with certain kinds of movies. Even finding we dodge stress with our recreations tells us what we’re dodging.

Knowing who we are lets us overcome our problems, turn vices into virtues, and accept ourselves. Fun does that.

So sure, you’re relaxing and exscaping with fun. That’s great. But you’re also becoming, exploring, and discovering. That’s great to.

Have fun. Become yourself.

Steven Savage

Why I Wrote It: Food, Culture, and Worldbuilding

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

The third of my “Worldbooks,” my 50 question coaching guides for worldbuilding, was on food. So why did I do this? Oh, I had reasons because I cook, and cooking is a gateway to the rest of the human experience.

Food is far more than food.

Food fuels humanity. It’s vitally important to us, obviously, but because it is so important, we miss how important it is to us. We need food to be fueled, to be healthy, and if you’re aware of how people have battled over diets and how famines affected history, you realize how much food matters. Food must be in your worldbuilding.

Food is about experience. We have sensations we associate with food, we have meanings we attribute to it, we have food that has meaning to us. Food is personal. It is part of your characters and culture.

Food is about history. Humans have been seeking food and how to get more of it for the extent of our existence on earth. We have fought wars to survive, tilled land, found what is edible, and tried new things we thought would kill us. Every meal you have bears the impact of ages. Food is the result of your entire setting’s history.

Food ties into many other things – health, religious symbolism, traditions, and more. Every holiday meal, every religious law about food you follow, is just a sign of how deep food connects to our lives. Food is one of the places in culture where everything very visibly comes together – which is so obvious we miss.

It shocked me there wasn’t more worldbuilding books on food because of these items, but I think it’s because food is an intimate part of our lives, and thus we miss it. We’re too close to it, and thus we miss it.

So I wrote one. I won’t lie, I was looking forward to it because of all those above issues, and because I thought it’d get people to think.

If anything, I could have probably gotten a much larger book out of it. But on reflection, had I made a larger book, it would only appeal to serious foodie writers. Better it be left some coaching questions to let people find their own paths.

A lesson here is that just because something is common doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about it – the commonality is why a deeper analysis is warranted. You may have a book in mind that seems as if it’s “just common sense,” then it probably needs to be written, if only as a reminder.

Steven Savage

Schedules, Order, and The Zone

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

With the coronavirus lockdown, it was challenging to keep up with my writing, especially my novel “A School Of Many Futures.” My life had been disrupted, my girlfriend’s life had been disrupted, my co-workers were dealing with changes, and there was the omnipresent specter of death. Not the best time to feel creative.

But I wanted to write, despite not having much of the right mood. There was something there that wanted to, writing is part of me, and I didn’t want to give up.

So here’s what I did – and something I found that surprised me.

What I started doing was scheduling writing time and/or goals. Each day more or less I tried to write, my Worldbook having a goal of writing 2 questions a day, and for my novel usually an hour on it (or an hour replotting). I admit for a stretch of weeks I was at best meeting 80% of my goals, but it was better than zero, and I was still writing.

It was a slog for awhile. You can kind of guess the reasons for it as you’re probably experiencing them or have experienced them. Still, work got done, and it was pretty good work.

Then I noticed something. I was getting more ideas, especially for my novel. I began noticing techniques that fired my imagination. I was getting inspired despite the slog, following the schedule . . .

. . . except I wasn’t. I was inspired because of the schedule.

I realized in time that because of the coronavirus crisis I’d lost touch with my inspirations. If I had just written because I was “in the mood” I’d never have written. But following a schedule meant I was always in touch with my writing even if I didn’t want to be or care.

And in time, that awareness led to inspiration and ideas and being viscerally aware of my work. Instead of writing when in the mood, the schedule kept me writing and let me more easily find the writing mood where inspiration flowed.

If you’re having trouble being creative in something, try this. Don’t wait for the mood, just make plans and do your best. Keep at it, but don’t beat yourself up if it’s not perfect. See what happens when you spend time on it.

It worked for me in time, but first you have to put in the work.

Steven Savage

Why I Wrote It: The Art Of The Brainstorm Book

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

This book has a pretty simple origin – I wanted to write about my Brainstorm Book technique.

In short, for awhile I’d been keeping what I called a Brainstorm Book. I used this notebook to write down ideas, think them over, save them, or action them. It’s pretty simple stuff, but I’d built a system around it, and that system worked. I had found a way to keep my inspirations going, analyze them, and bring them to life effectively.

(I still fondly recall a gentleman who brought his kids to a con I spoke at, and then heard me, and used my idea not for writing, but for security reviews).

I’d done some blog posts about my Brainstorm Book system, but had updated it over time, and figured it was best as a book. That’s what I’d like to talk about.

Here’s why I figured my Brainstorm Book techniques fit, well, a book.

THE BOOK STRUCTURE FIT: The way a book is organized just fit the system I had. Sometimes things are just best as a book (print or otherwise, for sale or otherwise).

IT FORCED ME TO ORGANIZE MY THOUGHTS: This was a side effect. I figured the structure of a book fit, then I realized how I had to organize my thoughts better.

A BOOK WAS ACCESSIBLE: I had enough information and ideas to share, and these were concepts that people would want to review over and over. A book encourages review and re-review, and I didn’t want people to have to come back to my blog.

IT FIT MY OTHER WRITING: I had been writing about creativity, so this book was perfect for the series. Plus it encouraged people who looked at my other works to check out this system and get ideas.

I’m pretty happy with the book. People can get access to my ideas in a useful form, and apply things that helped me. Sure, it’s not my bestseller, but that’s not the point.

If you have something in another form – blogs, videos, etc. consider what other forms it could be in. Sometimes a good idea is best realized in something other than its original media. In this case, the Brainstorm Book was a good example of that.

Steven Savage

Not Back To Normal: Health

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

Awhile ago I posted how even applying the good lessons from the coronavirus will change life and the economy – in this case, work from home. Sure we learned a lot of good things, but applying them would involve massive changes to our lives. So now I’d like to talk health.

It may seem that we’ve sort of learned the obvious lessons about the coronavirus – social distancing, masks, and all that. But let me be blunt.

Avoiding people when sick, washing your hands, masks during periods of disease would have been REALLY GREAT IDEAS TO DO ALL ALONG. I say this as a person who over the years has found his co-workers dragging in diseases and infecting entire teams.

Now imagine in a future where we’ve got the coronavirus vaccine but also we apply our lessons about health. A dose of hypochondria from the coronavirus may motivate us for many years, but we’ve also learned some damned good behaviors for, say, cold and flu season.

But what would those involve?

WORKING FROM HOME MORE: I’ve covered this, but bluntly, during periods of disease more people should stay home, work from home, etc. That of course means all the things I’ve mentioned before – but also “seasons” of sudden shifts in how people work. That’s going to be disruptive, leading to things like changing office arrangements, hours, or even part-time use of buildings.

USE OF MASKS: Handy things, really. Despite the bizarre politicization of basic health behaviors, I think masks are here to stay. I’m already seeing fashionable masks. So I expect more mask wearing – and more politicization, sadly.

BETTER HYGIENE: Well there’s little downside to this, but more hand-washing, house-cleaning, etc. is a good idea. That means more products for such in demand, with potential runs or shortages or over-purchases. I suppose the biggest impact is dermatitis.

RULES FOR BUSINESSES: We’ve learned the benefits of social distancing, but imagine these coming back in every cold and flu season. Or “senior hours” being maintained at stores simply for the health benefits. This means some businesses may restrict themselves seasonally.

BUSINESS CHANGES: I can’t even begin to predict all the impacts, so simple to say the coronavirus has led businesses to consider other models, such as many restaurants acting as grocery stores. Some of these changes have permanent health benefits, and may stay around or become seasonal.

CHANGES TO GATHERINGS: Imagine big conventions, sporting events, etc. and how they’ll change now that we’re more health conscious. Temperature checks. Moving events to avoid disease seasons. Mask requirements. Some things may not make sense anymore to even keep.

PERSONAL HABITS: I can’t see myself returning to a gym for months if not a year – and now that I’ve changed my workouts do I want to? I’m not sure I need to, so how many other personal habits will I change? Will others change? What businesses does that affect?

PERSONAL EVENTS: When’s the next time you want to host a 20 person get together? I think people may shift to more health-conscious events, smaller gatherings but also more virtual gatherings. I suppose its a good time to work at Zoom or Discord.

MORE ATTENTION: Coronavirus is a damned scary thing and its got people paying attention to medical issues. That’s good. It also means more hypochondria and more attention to conspiracy theories and more doctors rolling their eyes.

A NEED FOR MORE MEDICAL PEOPLE: Alone a lot of doctors and nurses and first responders are burnt out and tired. We’re going to need more people to help them, replace those we lost or who are retiring, and to deal with increased demand from a wounded and concerned public. There’s career options here, but also for sad reasons.

A DESIRE TO RETURN TO NORMAL: Which won’t happen. The US coronavirus response was dismal, and revealed our health system and general health habits were the same. Some people will want to go back to normal, and next cold and flu season, even with a coronavirus vaccine it won’t go well.

So I’m glad we’re probably more aware of health. I’m really hopeful to see a coronavirus vaccine in the next 18 months if not sooner, and perhaps protective measures before that. But I’m also aware applying the lessons learned will be a shake up.

We’re not going back to the way we were. That way doesn’t apply, but also kinda wasn’t so hot.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Update 5/10/2020

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Let’s catch up on all my latest efforts!

  • Way With Worlds: The Conspiracy is off to the editor!  I hope to get it back in a week or two, so still hopeful for end of May!  Look out for it, we got another hot one for you worldbuilders to read!
  • A School Of Many Futures: The new Chapter 4 is written, and I gave chapters 1-3 another edit.  The book is much more solid, and I think you’ll be really pleased.
  • Seventh Sanctum:  Still working on training myself in Python.  My initial attempt to learn Python as I rewrote the site was too hard, so I’m training “upward” and am doing much better.  Now I’m back to figuring data structures, and after that . . .
  • General: I’ve resumed gathering my old writing columns together.  I might get a few books out of them, because I’ve written a lot.  A few re-edits and some new content and you might get some new books!

What’s next?

  • Way With Worlds: A break while my editor works on the book, and hopefully I can get it early so I can work on getting it out!
  • A School Of Many Futures: Heavy edit of the new Chapter 4, then blaze through the rest of the book.  I may need some pre-readers in June . . .
  • Seventh Sanctum:  Practicing away. but also I might just do a new generator after thinking of certain fictional terms for characters . . .

Steven Savage