The First Million Words
Ever wanted to track down your favorite author and beg for writing advice? That's what we do...for you. Listen every week as we cover writing tips from the pros to help reach the first million words, and beyond.


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April 2012
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Ben and Guillermo discuss all the things they've learned this month, and what's in store for next month. And, maybe, get just a little bit off topic. Enjoy. Write! (Oh, and here's the link for the Brandon Sanderson lectures poted on YouTube:

Direct download: 01-05.mp3
Category:Podcast Episodes -- posted at: 1:40am EST

Writing Tip #1: Pants

Posted by Ben

If you want to write professionally, then you should write like a professional.

Never underestimate the power of wearing pants. This simple thing can completely alter your mindset while crafting your great American novel. Because, honestly, when has anything productive ever occurred while sitting in front of a computer with no pants on?

Just a quick tip from me. This one has really improved the quality of my writing and gotten me to be much more productive during my writing sessions (something about feeling "dressed" makes me feel more like I'm actually doing something). Next I'll be studying the effects of wearing a suit jacket, vest, and Bowler hat while writing. I'll keep you posted.

Category:Writing Tips -- posted at: 8:34pm EST

Book Review: Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan

Posted by Ben

Heir of Novron was amazing. So much so that I waited a full month before writing my review just to see if the effect would wear off. It didn't.

If you haven't read the first two (Theft of SwordsRise of Empire), do it now so you can feel that same sense of epic completion at the end of this one that I felt. This series attains something you don't see much in Epic Fantasy: the characters feel very personal while the plot revolves around a changing world. I was actually a little sad at the end. Don't get me wrong: I rushed through the story, hardly putting it down. But, at the end, I just wished there were another three books waiting for me, or something. This is not a bad thing, it's something else the series accomplishes wonderfully: a sense of closure with just a hint at the fact that the story is still being told.

I recommend this for anybody who likes Fantasy, character-driven stories, humorous dialogue, or just a well-developed, yet epic plot. I just about cried at the end, it was so satisfying.

You can really tell that the whole story was thought out (or fully written) before ink went to paper. I love when stories do this (see: Avatar: the Last Airbender), and the world was fleshed out and interesting enough to make me want to visit (I wonder if writing fan fiction would help?). I think Michael J. Sullivan is the master of developing characters I might be scared to meet in person, or would brush me off without a second glance at the beginning, but I would want to hang out with at the end. His characters progress and change so fluidly that you only really notice it when the character themselves think about how much they've changed. I'd also like to point out that the female characters are just simply amazing! It's refreshing that none of them are scantily clad warrior/rogues that, deep down, just need a man to hold them. They're strong and independent, and the male characters are just as vulnerable.

As far as setting and magic: It's mostly basic secondary world fantasy. The big difference being in the races and the politics between them. I love that elves and dwarfs are treated like animals by the humans, only to be nearly destroyed and then saved by a few members of these races. The magic was a bit lacking: no explanation of how it works, it just does (which isn't a bad thing; it keeps it mysterious).

My only complaints: Like I said, how magic works was never explained, and is just a little too powerful, making it almost Deus ex Machina. Also, one of my great joys in reading a book (especially now with a Kindle that let's me simply hi-light) is finding typos. I had to read through three entire books before finding the one typo in the whole series! And all it was was just a little "She noded" instead of "nodded". C'mon!

Overall: 5/5. I'm still kind of new to Fantasy fiction, but I still maintain that this is one of the best new series in the genre. It's a good read whether you're into this sort of thing or not. Do yourself a favor and read it. I could even see my kids reading it when they're older.

(Hear our interviews with Michael all through the month of May, and find his website here:

Category:Book Reviews -- posted at: 8:15pm EST

Posted by Ben

We’ve come a long way from the demons and ghouls of the past.

Whether in Dracula with Béla Lugosi, or George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, it seems that movie audiences have always been attracted to these creatures of the night.  So much so that our current fascination with the undead seems to have come full circle.  Can authors and screen-writers really not think of an original scenario that involves these recently deceased (and…receased?) brain-eaters and blood-suckers?  The fact that we have books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and movies like the Twilight Series might make you think that they can’t.  But, at least, we can get some good cultural studies out of the recent phenomenon of the reanimation of these differing types of monsters in today’s pop-culture world

I, personally, think the most obvious way to view these two separate categories is to look at them through the scope of gender studies.  I’ll be focusing on the zombies on one side and vampires on the other – split into teams: boys vs. girls style.

We can clearly see how one type of undead monster differs from the other: the vampires  seem to appeal more to the female audience (as they have done for over a century), while the zombies have a much stronger following on the male side.  This may come down to the basic differences, which have been engrained into our minds, between the sexes.

First: the zombies’ appeal to the male viewer.

In any given zombie movie or book, the zombies are the clear antagonist.  Why? Because they are very single-minded and goal-oriented: all they want to do is eat your brain (thank you, Jonothan Coulton reference).  They don’t say anything (in most cases); all they do is chase, catch, and eat you.  This appeals to the “protector” nature of the male psyche; the need to protect the women and save the day, making them the hero.  By making the nature of the zombie so easily understandable, it becomes easy, then, to understand our role in relation to them.

On the other side of the undead aisle: vampires can have all sorts of motives.

The idea that they are seductive and charismatic might appeal to the archetypal female viewer’s sense of romance.  And that they depend upon your blood adds a sense of closeness and needing. What’s more romantic than living forever with some hot vampire? Or living, for a time, with some hot vampire that is totally dependent on your “life-force”?

These differences, although seemingly only gender specific, can also be viewed as a psychological study.  Who came up with these gender roles?  Are they really all that accurate?

Getting back to the topic of neo undead-literature: these gender differences are exploited heavily in the Twilight series (both the movie and book franchises) and the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies book[s].  In Twilight the vampire is portrayed as an immortal teenager, appealing to the female audience’s perceived idea of undying romance.  Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is an almost insulting concept as it takes a book that is highly regarded as one of the best examples of women in literature and throws zombies into it as a means to appeal to the male audience (that’s not to say that it isn’t highly entertaining and an all-around fun read).

In the end, it just seems that these undead archetypes themselves are being used to take old concepts (romance, adventure, good vs. evil) and breathe new life into them – to bring them back from the dead.  How this might affect you may or may not stem from your own gender/psychological Persuasion (another good Jane Austen title – please don’t write a book titled Persuasion and Parasites).

Category:Blog Posts -- posted at: 7:59pm EST

It's the end of Bryan Thomas Schmidt month! How bitter-sweet. Bryan and the guys talk about what you should keep in mind when planning out the future (whether you're writing Sci-Fi or Fantasy). And, maybe we get distracted a little bit near the end. Don't blame us. Remember to check out Bryan at all these places:, @BryanThomasS, #sffwrtcht, and Space Battles! Ben and Guillermo chat for a bit afterwards, but we're saving some information for the next episode. You'll have to tune in to find out.


Direct download: 01-04.mp3
Category:Podcast Episodes -- posted at: 4:36pm EST

Bryan Thomas Schmidt stops by for a third time to talk about Discovery Writing (aka pantsing/gardening). And, maybe we get a little side-tracked talking about certain other topics. Visit Bryan on the web ( and on Twitter (@BryanThomasS). Don't forget to check out Space Battles, the new Sci-Fi Anthology edited by Bryan (here). Then the guys catch up and chat about nerdy, writer stuff and announce our upcoming schedule of shows (listen to find out). Follow us (@FMWPodcast), like us (The-First-Million-Words), and...Write!

Direct download: 01-03.mp3
Category:Podcast Episodes -- posted at: 9:35pm EST

Ben and Guillermo discuss inspiration with Bryan Thomas Schmidt (author of The Worker Prince, editor of Space Battles). How do you keep track of your story ideas? Where do they come from? When should you transition from idea to story? Find out in our conversation with Bryan. Then they talk about what they've been doing the past week: not a whole lot, it turns out. Also, check out the Hugo nominations for this year (special congrats to Mur Lafferty, John Scalzi, Neil Gaiman and Sf Signal). Here's a link to Bryan's blog that might help, and here's John Scalzi's short story he did for April 1st, enjoy. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.  Write

Direct download: 01-02.mp3
Category:Podcast Episodes -- posted at: 12:06am EST

Bryan Thomas Schmidt Interview

Our interview with Bryan Thomas Schmidt, author of The Worker Prince. We talk a lot about editing, sticking to a schedule, and getting it done. You can find Bryan at: on Twitter at @BryanThomasS and Wednesday nights at 9ET during #sffwrtcht (@sffwrtcht). Then we talk about our boring projects from the previous week. Guillermo wrote about a Cyber-Wereshark from Hell, and Ben submitted a Sword and Sorcery Noire to a magazine (wish us luck). Follow us on Twitter: @FMWPodcast @Ben_J_L @GVelez80 and like our Facebook page. Write!

Direct download: 01-01.mp3
Category:Podcast Episodes -- posted at: 12:30am EST