Category Archives: Guest post

Guest Post: Why Writing Poetry Makes for Good Storytelling by Liam Cross

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A big thank you to Liam Cross for this article extoling the virtues about writing poetry (and other genres), which first appeared on A Writer’s Path.

My Unwritten Rules For Writing

Me, personally, I’ve always been a huge believer of two key things when it comes to writing, and those things are: writing every single day in some way, shape or form, and also, branching out in your writing and walking into any unexplored avenue you uncover.

My Philosophy behind it is simple, the idea behind writing every single day is because I like to think of our creativity levels and imaginations as another skill that has to be perfected. Like how a football player must train his feet, us writers must train our imaginations and keep those creative juices flowing, or else the flow will fizzle out.

The same simplicity is applied to my theory of branching out in your writing. The more genres and styles we write in, the more we try out and learn about, the more developed we become as writers.

And sticking with this theory, I believe there’s a very distinct benefit to be had from writing poetry, in terms of your capacity to construct a beautiful and gripping novel-length piece of writing.

 

Poetry and its Secrets

I find poetry to be one of the most expressive forms of writing out there. There are no set rules, no set boundaries; no set regulations, it’s just you, the paper and your pen. And what could be more beautiful than the thought of a blank page coming to life with nothing more than the trapped ingenious thoughts of a writer and a few shabby scrawls of black ink?

To continue reading this article, click here.

Guest Post: How To Become A Better Poet – 7 Ideas To Try Right Now, by Writer’s Relief

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

FYI

Writing great poetry is very different from writing a great short story or novel. As a poet, you use language in a unique way. Whether you’ve been writing poetry for a while or you’re considering giving it a try for the first time, Writer’s Relief has tips and advice to help you hone your skills and become a better poet. Here are the best ideas for mastering the craft of poetry.

7 Ways To Become A Better Poet

Read other poets. Take a little time every day to read the work of poets you admire—and poets who are new to you. You’ll become familiar with styles and forms and more aware of the current trends. Check out some of the great poetry collections available from your local library. And while you’re reading Shakespeare, Dickinson, and Angelou, be sure to check out the Instapoets too!

Keep a journal. You can jot down notes throughout the day and keep your journal by your bedside to record any inspiration from dreams as soon as you awaken. When you revisit your musings, you might find ideas for your next poem. If you’re worried about what you can fill your journal with, here are some ideas.

Experiment with poetry forms. Trying new poetic forms and meters can improve your skill set and add depth to your poetry. If you normally write in spondaic meter, try iambic, or dactylic for a change. If you typically write sonnets, try your hand at free verse. And even if you never intend to write rhyming poetry, give it a shot and shake up your status quo! You may find the basis for your next poem within those rhyming verses.

Develop a writing schedule. How can you put your free-spirited muse on a schedule? By making writing a habit! Establish a writing routine and let your muse know your new office hours so she can visit more regularly. If you’re not feeling particularly inspired on a given day, try some freewriting to spark your creativity.

Try a new literary device. When used correctly, figurative language such as similes and metaphors can enrich your writing and poetry. Simile compares unlike things that have similarities and uses the words “like” and “as,” while the metaphor is a more direct comparison. Making comparisons can shine a new light on your subject. Alliteration and synecdoche are two other techniques that can enhance your poetry. Here are nine rhetorical devices you might want to try.

Explore other types of writing. Flex your writing muscles by trying another genre. Challenge yourself by writing a short story or a piece of flash fiction. You may discover the beginnings of a prose poem! Experimenting with a new genre will keep your poetry fresh and engaging.

Connect with other poets. Whether in person or online using conferencing platforms, you can join a local poetry writing group, participate in an open mic night, and attend reading events. You can also follow your favorite poets on social media. By interacting with other poets, you’ll learn how they approach writing and pick up new inspiration for your own poetry. Being a member of a poetry writing group will also nudge you to create work on a more consistent schedule.

Try a few (or all!) of these seven ways to boost your creativity—they’re sure to have a positive impact on your poetry writing skills and help you to become a better poet.

Question: Who is your favorite poet?

Guest Post: 10 Ways To Help Your Literary Agent Help You Get Published, by Writer’s Relief

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

FYI

Every book author dreams of landing a literary agent and getting a publishing contract. Of course, the first step to accomplishing this is to write a really good book! But at Writer’s Relief, we know there’s something more you can do to make your manuscript even more appealing when you’re trying to get a literary agent: Make the agent’s job easier. Help your literary agent by making it easy to pitch your book to publishing houses! When you take steps to help your literary agent help you get published, you boost your odds of a literary agent—and a publishing house—saying YES to your book.

What You Can Do To Help Your Literary Agent Sell Your Book

Write a strong manuscript. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s the most important part of selling your book! Make sure your book has strong writing, characters, and plot. If your agent suggests any revisions, be sure to give them thorough consideration and make any edits that improve your manuscript.

Proofread diligently. You want your manuscript to be as clean as possible to make a good first impression! Double- (even triple-) check your spelling and grammar, and format your manuscript to publishing industry standards. If you can, hire a professional proofreader. Writer’s Relief can help—our proofreaders are top-notch!

Hit the right word count. Each book genre has its own recommended word count. Though there are notable exceptions to these rules, never assume that’s the case for you. And remember, it can be especially tough to break word count norms as a first-time author.

Curate a solid social media presence. For editors, deciding whether or not to take on a book isn’t just about great writing; it’s also a game of numbers—potential sales numbers. You’ll look much more attractive to publishers if you already have a strong fan base via social media. Agents and publishing editors will see your loyal fans as a ready-and-waiting audience eager to buy your books.

Have a strong author bio. Are you uniquely qualified to write the book your agent will be sending to editors? Are you an expert on your subject matter? For example, if your murderer is a baker and you went to culinary school, knowing your way around a mixing bowl will benefit your manuscript. Having publishing credits will also go a long way in supporting your book. A strong author bio is a good selling point for fiction and nonfiction alike, and can help tip the odds in your favor when your book is shopped to publishers.

Know your audience—and the market. It’s your agent’s job to know the literary market, but you should also do your research. You want to make sure your project is potentially marketable and suits the tropes of your genre. Knowing classics in your genre as well as what’s currently popular is imperative.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. The best agent-author relationships are partnerships that have openness and honesty. Your agent can’t help you unless he or she knows what you want! How often do you expect your agent to give you updates on how the process is going? Do you want to know exactly what editors say when they pass on your book? Communication with your agent is key to your success!

Avoid being a pest. While it’s good to have an open line of communication between you and your literary agent, you don’t want to become annoying. That’s not how to work with your agent if you want to have a good relationship! Remember, they have other clients and are also busy trying to sell your books to editors. If it’s been a few weeks and you haven’t heard back from your agent with answers to your questions, you can follow up (nicely!). But don’t call, text, and e-mail just because you haven’t received a reply within an hour.

If you’re still at the querying stage trying to land an agent, definitely do not pester the agents to whom you’ve sent submissions. Making a pest of yourself now will only show literary agents that you’ll be needy and difficult to work with—traits agents and publishers don’t want to deal with.

Make yourself available. Many writers are procrastinators by nature, but it’s important not to procrastinate with your agent. If you’ve promised your agent a new draft by a certain deadline, be sure to send in the work on time, or explain why you need an extension. And if an editor asks for more materials, or wants you to do some revisions, or wants to talk to you directly, be sure to respond quickly! Build a reputation in the publishing industry as a reliable writer.

Be patient. Sometimes waiting while your literary agent submits your book to publishing editors can take even longer than your own process of submitting to agents. Though it can be nerve-racking to wait while editors review your book, remember  your agent can’t make editors respond any faster. 

By following these tips, you’ll make your query much more attractive to literary agents because it will be easier to sell your book to publishing houses. You can boost your odds of getting published by helping your agent help you!

QUESTION

How are you prepared to help a literary agent sell your book to publishers?

Guest Post: How to Feel Like Writing Again, by Ryan Lanz

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Thank you to Ryan Lanz and to A Writer’s Path for this excellent article on reviving your motivation.

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by Ryan Lanz

We’ve all felt it at one time or another. The story loses its shine and you’re left with a half-completed story. Why does this happen, and how do you continue?

For a lot of writers, this is the mid-point of the story, but truly, it can happen at any point. I want to focus on something entirely different from “writer’s block”; this topic regards when you know what to write next, but you just don’t feel like doing so.

“Of course, motivation is not permanent. But then, neither is bathing; but it is something you should do on a regular basis.” – Zig Ziglar

The cursor blinks at you, nudging you to continue typing, but the combination of your eyes drooping and the itch to do something else feels overwhelming. You’ve already procrastinated enough today. Your bedroom can only be cleaned so many times, and you’ve already checked Facebook, Twitter, and your email twice in the past half-hour.

“Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.”

You’re a writer. You know how to get the job done; it’s the motivation that’s lagging. Let’s look at some different factors.

Your story no longer excites you
For me, this usually happens just on the other side of the midpoint, roughly 55% into the book. About then, I usually start envying short story writers. It’s when the thrill of the beginning and even the spike of the midpoint event wears off, and I have to begin laying the ground work for the finale, but it’s not yet to the exciting build-up for the ending climax.

Wherever it normally happens for you (and it could change from story to story), it can be a trial. Why does it happen? Here are a few possibilities:

  • You’ve already thought of the next story, and you’re more interested in starting the new one than finishing the current one
  • You hit a plot snag and aren’t looking forward to unraveling it
  • You realize that your story idea might not be as interesting as you thought it was
  • Self-doubt creeps in
  • Life got in the way of writing, and you’re not as emotionally connected
  • Something as simple as: it’s just not new and shiny anymore

The first one gets me every time.

To continue reading this article, click here

Guest Post: Not Inspired To Write Right Now? Here’s How To Get Unstuck, by Writer’s Relief

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

FYI

When life gets complicated, it can be hard to maintain your normal writing routine. You’re worried or distracted (or both!), your muse seems distant, and you’re just not feeling inspired. And if you do try to write, the end result seems merely so-so. Don’t get discouraged! If you’re not feeling inspired to write, Writer’s Relief has simple tips that can help you get unstuck and back on speaking terms with your muse.

How To Get Unstuck And Inspired To Write Again

Read Something New

If you’re a writer, you’re probably also a voracious reader. But if you want to counteract the burnout you’re currently feeling, mix it up and get out of your comfort zone! Read an author or genre that’s new to you. If you usually read science fiction, try a Western or a cozy mystery. If your favorite author is David Baldacci, pick up a book by Brandon Sanderson. Or, if most of your reading is fiction, switch to nonfiction and see where that leads you. Many writers regularly scan the newspapers (remember those?) for ideas and inspiration.

Listen To Music

Music is a wonderful source of inspiration, and author playlists continue to gain popularity. Writers have created inspirational playlists on many popular music streaming platforms, and you can listen in too! You can also create your own motivational playlist to get your muse humming along. You might consider going old school and playing vinyl records, which have resurfaced in a big way. Whether it’s classical music or classic rock ‘n’ roll, try listening to music you normally don’t tune in to—it’s a great way to shake it up, twist and shout, and work it on out!

Start A Collection

Author Ransom Riggs began collecting peculiar vintage photographs, but what he discovered is that the photos spoke to him. They each had their own story to tell, which Riggs wove together for his first novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Ignite your creative spark by starting a collection of something that interests you. A coin collection may lead to ideas about what the money was used to buy or the foreign country it came from. Estate jewelry may inspire stories or poems about the person who might have worn a ruby brooch or silver airplane cuff links.

Take A Mini Road Trip

Countless novels were and are inspired by road trips, one of the most acclaimed being On the Road by Jack Kerouac. But you don’t have to drive across the country to find inspiration for your poem, short story, novel, or blog. Instead, take a drive (or a walk) around town using streets you don’t normally travel. Who lives in the old house on the dead-end street? Why are there so many pink flamingos on that corner lawn? Is that a chicken crossing the road, and where did it come from? You’ll be surprised to discover how much inspiration you can find right in your own neighborhood.

Visit Museums Online

Most museums have online virtual tours available. And you don’t have to limit yourself to art museums! Science, natural history, war, and archeology museums are all great places to find inspiration. So sit back, grab a cup of cocoa, and visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Louvre, or The Museum of Natural History—all while wearing your jammies!

Try Crafting Or A Hobby

Another way to beat writer’s block is to engage in a creative, non-writing activity to help your mind reset so you can be more receptive to inspiration. Crafting is a great way to do this! If you need some new material, why not plug in that sewing machine you got for your birthday three years ago? There are lots of easy sewing patterns on the Internet to try. Knitting and crocheting are also very popular right now. When you’re finished, you’ll enjoy a sense of accomplishment and perhaps be inspired—and you’ll have a new scarf, hat, or blanket as well!

A new hobby can also help you discover new routes to inspiration for your book, short story, poetry, or blog. How about genealogy? (What? Uncle Milt was a fighter pilot and part-time spy?) Astronomy, jigsaw puzzles, or bird-watching, anyone? To get started, check out the hobbies of these famous authors.

Send Snail Mail

Social media and e-mails have taken the place of mailing a letter via the postal service, but the art of letter writing has not disappeared entirely. Some authors believe it is actually easier to process thoughts with handwritten words. Joyce Carol Oates, Neil Gaiman, and Tom Wolfe all prefer writing their novels in longhand. So, if you’re seeking inspiration, pick up a pen and paper instead of sitting down with the laptop.

Mail everyone you know a card with a handwritten note inside, and the experience may reveal some insights or call to mind an event involving that person. You’ll be inspired, and they’ll love getting something from you in the mail!

Want more ways to get inspired and kick-start your creativity? We have a few articles that will help:

Post These Quotes: Workspace Inspiration To Keep You Motivated

Inspiration For Poets: 15 Ways To Breathe New Life Into Your Poetry

Starved For Inspiration? 12 Ideas To Get Your New Story Started

7 Ways To Find Writing Inspiration In Your Memories

Question: How do you get unstuck when you hit a writing slump?

Guest Post: Loving Your Hateful Antagonist by Ellen Buikema

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Thank you to Ellen Buikema and Writers in the Storm for this article on doing justice to your antagonist.

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The antagonist is a character that many readers love and many writers hate. In fact, one of my author friends told me that writing her antagonist was a painful experience. “It was a really hard book to write. I had nightmares when I was writing about this character. It was one of the best feelings in the world when I finished writing this.”

In writing my current book, The Hobo Code, I learned what she meant. The book’s main antagonist is a psychopath. To capture the essence of the character, I picked the brain of a retired forensic psychologist and her suggestions surprised me. For example, she recommended I not write chapters from that antagonist’s perspective. “You don’t want to go there,” she said vehemently. “It will give you nightmares.”

I wonder how many forensic psychologists have PTSD by the time they retire.

The Delicate Balance Between Hero and Antagonist

As in all life, there must be balance. Your protagonist needs someone or something, to push against, overcome, or to come to terms with. Some examples:

  • Nature:  Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm
  • An institution: Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games
  • Disease: Stephen King’s The Stand
  • The supernatural: Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight

Note: Twilight is an interesting case as Bella’s humanity might be considered one of the story’s antagonists. Her humanity conflicts with her desire to become a vampire.

Observation and various discussions have led me to the conclusion that most people feel they are the heroes of their own life story. People in power who we believe are in the wrong likely feel that their reasons are good and just—merely not understood by the average person. Antagonists feel the same.

To read more of this article, click here.

Guest Post: Let Your Readers Think For Themselves, by Ryan Lanz

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Thank you to Ryan Lanz and to A Writer’s Path for this excellent article about how to cue your readers into what your character is thinking.

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by Ryan Lanz

Not long ago, I did a post on showing vs. telling. I’d like to continue along that same vein by talking about ways to allow the reader to think for themselves without being spoon-fed.

We often have characters discovering things. It’s a lot of fun to experience them learning new things on their own and being in new environments.

The habit authors often get wrapped up in is to announce all of the character’s thoughts. Not all of this is bad. I would be a bear with a sore tooth if I suddenly couldn’t share the character’s thoughts (often directly) with the reader.

However, like in many aspects of writing, there are times when the author takes the easy route, often without even realizing it. I will be the first to say that I catch myself being guilty of this, and this post is as much of a reminder to myself as it is to everyone reading.

Using “thought” verbs is certainly an easy route. They include words like suspects, remembers, believes, understands, thinks, imagines, wants, realizes, knows, etc. It’s so easy to say Colton thought that Tiffany liked him. It’s quick and to the point. Which is good, right? Sometimes. But most often, there is a much better way to go.

Instead of spoon feeding your readers that conclusion, instead I encourage you to paint the canvas in a way that shows the reader the situation clearly enough to where the reader discovers that conclusion on their own. In a weird way, using “thought” verbs is kind of like rewriting a classic mystery novel to put the who-did-it person in the first paragraph. That would steal all the joy of discovery for the reader. A good mystery writer doesn’t come right out and say who did it but presents all the clues for that final “aha” moment where the readers discover it for themselves (or at least have the opportunity to).

Let’s continue with the mystery analogy and ask ourselves how instead of spoon feeding the reader, we can present clues to allow the reader to discover things on their own. For that, I have a few examples.

Instead of “Colton thought that Tiffany liked him”:
Colton felt something brush his hand. He looked up and saw Tiffany leaning against his desk. She wore a tiny half-smile, as if she held a secret that nobody knew. She ruined her introduction with a small giggle that she hid behind her hand. Spots of red blossomed on her cheeks. Colton leaned back in his chair and shared her smile.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Guest Post: In Defense of Editing as You Go, by Julie Glover

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We’re often told to “turn off the inner editor” and just get the whole story down before going back and editing. To some of us, that advice seems counterintuitive and anxiety-provoking. Thank you to Julie Glover and to Writers in the Storm for this balanced article about self-editing.

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Writing process is a topic of ongoing conversation among writers, whether just starting or multi-published. Plenty of books and articles have been written and workshops and webinars held to suggest this writing process or that one, claiming it’s The Way It’s Done.

While savvy writers out there reject the one-size-fits-all message, we still have certain presumptions that we mostly swallow. One of these can be summarized as…

Write First, Edit Later

There’s no end to the advice to simply turn off your inner editor and vomit words onto the page. Just get the story down!

Consider these quotes from some truly great authors:

“Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down.” ~ John Steinbeck

“Don’t cross out. (That is editing as you write. Even if you write something you didn’t mean to write, leave it.) Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar. (Don’t even care about staying within the margins and lines on the page.) Lose control. Don’t think. Don’t get logical. Go for the jugular.” ~ Natalie Goldberg

“Simply refuse to look at anything you have written until the last page is done. Period.” ~ James Frey

“Don’t get it right, just get it written.” ~ James Thurber

“Write the first draft as if you’re out for a spontaneous night with a devastatingly handsome man you met abroad. Run wild, take chances, and don’t even consider the possibility that you’re making the wrong choice. Just go for it.” ~ Christine J. Schmidt

Obviously, this works for many, or even most, writers. Too often, we don’t know enough about our plot and characters, and the first draft is our opportunity to discover, explore, learn, and hone our story.

If that process works for you, embrace it.

But Is It True for Everyone?

W. Somerset Maugham presumably said, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

We don’t all write the same, and a process that turns out one writer’s best work could be the death of another’s work. Let’s look at four reasons why editing as you go is a terrific idea for some authors.

1. Get the Foundation Solid

You may be writing along and reach a point in the novel where you feel unmotivated, stuck, or that something’s just off. Perhaps you can’t put your finger on it, but something isn’t working the way it should.

We talk about story structure because we understand that a novel needs a decent foundation to hold up well. That includes a plot without holes, a strong character arc, a compelling antagonist, and much more. But whether you plotted or pantsed this far, you might have a kink in your structure and continuing to write scenes would be like adding more stories onto a tilted house.

Going back and fixing the problem, or editing as you go, could keep your story from needing a total renovation later.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Guest Post: Guns in Fiction With Larry Correia, by Ryan Lanz

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Thank you to Ryan Lanz and to A Writer’s Path for this excellent article about accurately writing firearms into your fiction.

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Today, I’m pleased to introduce New York Times bestseller Larry Correia as a guest. Although he has a busy schedule, he accepted the invitation to share with us some of his knowledge on firearms in fiction.

Larry also has an interesting background in publishing. He started out as a successful, self-published author, and a few years later, he accepted a publishing offer from Baen Books. He is an author who knows how to be successful in both arenas of publishing.

Along with having been on the NYT bestseller list, Larry has also been on the Entertainment Weekly bestseller list, was a finalist in the John W. Campbell award, and was nominated for a Hugo award for best novel in 2014. He has been a full-time writer for several years.

His books are noted by many publications for his detailed accuracy of firearms usage, which makes sense considering that he has experience as a firearms instructor.

No matter what your views on guns are, you’re likely to eventually come across the subject in your writing, so I thought it would be prudent to bring on a guest to discuss how best to go about it.

I’m sure you’ve all seen wild west movies where someone gets shot and then flies backwards several feet. Or in modern movies someone shoots the bottom of a car, then it explodes easily on the first shot. With the dramatics that Hollywood adds to gun use, it’s not surprising that it eventually affects how authors write about them.

Interview:

Ryan: What are the common pitfalls in fiction where it’s clear that the author has never held or fired a modern firearm?

Larry: It isn’t just guns, but any topic where the reader is an expert and the author is clueless. The problem is that when you write something that the reader knows is terribly wrong, it kicks them right out of the story and ruins the experience for them. Guns are especially hard because they are super common in fiction, and there are tons of readers who know about them.

Most of these really glaring errors can be taken care of with a little bit of cursory research. Technical things can be taken care of by a few minutes on the manufacturer’s webpage, which will keep your characters from dramatically flipping off the safety on a gun that doesn’t have one.

Beyond that, however, is the actual use of the gun. The character using it should have a realistic amount of knowledge based on their skill, knowledge, ability, and training. If you are gong to be writing about a character who is a professional gunslinger, then you need to do some research to make sure that person does what a professional gunslinger would do.

Ryan: If an author does not have access to a firearm or gun range, what are the best methods to brush up on them?

Larry: Actually shooting is best, but if you can’t, find friends who know guns and pick their brains. The problem here is like I mentioned, realistic amounts of knowledge for a particular character and your friends are going to vary just as much in real life. Just because somebody on the internet told you something doesn’t make it true.

Most online firearms forums are pretty cool about authors coming on and asking questions. Just don’t be a jerk about it.

Be careful because there are a lot of urban legends out there about guns.  5.56 doesn’t tumble through the air. A near miss of a .50 BMG won’t tear your limbs off. That is nonsense. So, the best thing to do is ask a group of people, and in short order you should be able to tell who actually has a clue and then disregard the crazy.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Guest Post: War and Conflict in Paintings, by Joy of Museums

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Thank you to Joy of Museums for putting together this compendium of the Art of War.

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The Massacre at Chios by Eugène Delacroix

A Virtual Tour of War and Conflict in Art

“The Art of War” in this context, is the artistic representation of the conflict between groups or between just two people and can range from extreme violence to non-physical aggression.

Art Galleries are full of Art representing and commenting on War. War is generally characterized by extreme violence, aggression, destruction, and mortality. Total war is warfare that is not restricted to purely legitimate military targets and can result in massive civilian or other non-combatant suffering and casualties.

While some scholars see war as a universal and ancestral aspect of human nature, others argue it is a result of specific socio-cultural, economic, or ecological circumstances. Below we examine how Art through the ages has interpreted War between states and individuals.

To continue with A Virtual Tour of War in Paintings, click here