Tim Frankovich

Writer's Blog & Home of Warpsteel Press

“Boys Don’t Read”

Teenage boys most of all.

Or at least, that’s what our American culture has been saying for a while now. Unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more true. One question then arises: are boys not reading because they don’t like it, or because all the books are written for girls?

Consider the major young adult novel success stories of the past two decades. Aside from the outlier of Harry Potter, virtually every one of them feature a female protagonist (and are mostly written by female authors). Think about The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, and so on.

Does this mean boys will never read a story about a girl? No, of course not. BUT… they are much less likely to do so. This has been clearly established in numerous polls. Girls are much more willing to read a story with a boy as the main character than boys are willing to read a story with a girl as the main character. These are just facts, whether good or bad.

There are plenty of older books written for boys, but they don’t see those unless their parents seek them out, for the most part.

We can’t fully blame publishers for this phenomenon. After all, they’re trying to make money, and right now, the money is in female readers.

By doing so, they create a vicious circle: boys don’t read, so we won’t publish books for boys, but then boys can’t find books they like, so they don’t read.

But there’s another reason. A big one.

I’ve worked with teenage boys for over twenty years now. Every year, I ask new ones about whether they like to read. Most say no. And when I probe a little further, one big reason pops up.

School. “I hate reading, because school makes me read stupid stuff.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a variation of that statement.

Again, we can’t fully blame schools. If boys are taught to read things they like before the schools step in, maybe the problem wouldn’t be so bad. But they’re not.

What can be done? As far as I can tell, it’s going to have to start with parents, and it needs to start when they’re young. Get them exciting books. Books with action and adventure. Books that take them into new worlds and new places.

For those who haven’t been taught, it’s also not too late. It’s almost never too late to awaken a love of reading. I’ve heard stories of boys who hated reading until a teacher or someone handed them a copy of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, or something like that. The right books can still work wonders.

This is why I’m writing the Dragontek Lore series. It’s aimed straight at young teenage boys. It’s fast-paced, full of crazy action and adventure (and dragons). Will this help some guys start to read? I can only hope.

Looking back at 2021… and forward to 2022

For 2021, I placed one huge writing goal on myself: 500,000 words. For a regular year, that would average 1370 words per day. Except I didn’t make the goal until I was a couple of days into the year, and January turned out to have a lot of difficulties for some reason I’ve long-since forgotten. So by the end of the first month, I was only at an average of 980 words per day. It took until mid-October before I was able to pull that daily average up to where it needed to be. August-November were the best months, in which I was extremely consistent and usually well above what I needed. This let me taper off during December and relax a little. Also, partway into the last month, I discovered an error in my spreadsheet and found out I was much further along than I’d thought all year!

The end result is that I crossed the 500,000 word mark on December 29th. The goal was reached. I wrote half a million words in one year.

Here’s a summary, as best as I can remember it:

During January and the first part of February, I finished up Until All The Gods Return, the third book in the Heart of Fire series. This one was published in May.

February-March, I wrote Incarnadine, the second book of the Dragontek Lore series. I also wrote a short story in that world, for the newsletter subscribers. This was published in July.

April-July, I wrote Until All The Stars Fall, the fourth and final book of the Heart of Fire series. In case you missed it, this one came out this month!

July-August, I wrote Auric, the third book in the Dragontek Lore series. I’m planning on releasing it in February.

September-October, I wrote the fourth book in the Dragontek Lore series.

October-December, I wrote the fifth book in the Dragontek Lore series, and then started on the sixth.

For 2022, I’m planning a smaller writing goal – probably 350,000 words. Why? Because as you can see from the list above, I’m way behind in revising and editing! I have three books written that aren’t ready for publication yet. 

I also need more time to plan ahead for the next big epic fantasy. I’ve written a few scenes, and just gotten started on the world building. I need to do a lot more preparation on this one before I can really dive into it.

So where does 350,000 words get me? Well, first of all, I have about 60K words left to write in Dragontek Lore book six. I should go ahead and write book seven (the last one) as well, so that’s another 75-80K (all numbers are wild estimates). 

By then, I should be able to start the next big fantasy, and assuming it’s around 120,000 words, that leaves… another 90,000 words toward the end of the year. What will I write then? If things go well, I may launch into the second book of the epic fantasy. But that may take more work. I might have to write something different for a while. It’s not clear yet.

I am extremely happy to have finished the Heart of Fire series. It was a huge project, but it all came together in the end, and so far, readers seem to be happy with the finale.

It’s very hard to say goodbye to Marshal, Seri, and their friends. And maybe we’ll see them again. One possible later project is a return to the world of Antises. There is plenty of room for more stories set in that environment, and with some of those characters. At the same time, I’m reluctant to rush back into it just yet. I need time to ponder it. If I do write more, it has to be for a good reason, a good story. Maybe it’s waiting to pop out sometime soon. We’ll see.

In the meantime, thank you so much for reading my stories. None of this happens without you. If the books don’t sell, I don’t have money to make more. So tell your friends. Tell your enemies. Post a review on Amazon, or Goodreads, or B&N, or a blog post. Spread the word.

Let’s explore more amazing worlds and characters… and dive deeper into life!

The Series is Complete!

Until All The Stars Fall, the fourth and final book of the Heart of Fire series, is now available! Buy it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or wherever you love to purchase books!

Sometime soon, I’ll write a longer post about what this all means to me personally, but for now: read the books! Enjoy! Celebrate!

Five Days until Launch! Read Chapter Three now!

In only five days, Until All The Stars Fall will be available, bringing to a close the Heart of Fire series.

While you’re waiting, you can read chapter three right now.

Chapter Two of Until All The Stars Fall – Now Available

Chapter Two is now posted here for your preview! What is Marshal planning? And what does he have in mind for Talinir?

Read and find out! And remember: release date December 13!

Read Chapter One of Until All The Stars Fall

The beginning of the end! The first chapter of Until All The Stars Fall is now available for your reading pleasure. Check it out now!

COVER REVEAL: Until All The Stars Fall

At last! The Heart of Fire series reaches its epic conclusion with Until All The Stars Fall.

Pre-orders are now available!

Cover Reveal Coming!

The cover for Until All The Stars Fall will be revealed next week! Newsletter subscribers will see it first! Might be a good time to subscribe.

Why I’m Not Doing NaNoWriMo This Year

I’ve enjoyed participating in National Novel Writing Month for the past three years. Writing 50,000 words in a single month is a big deal, and a great motivation! But I’m not doing it this year.

Instead, I started out 2021 operating on a similar pattern to NaNoWriMo for the entire year!

My goal for this year is 500,000 words written. As of the start of November, I’m over 409,000. I have a little less than 92,000 words to go.

So I might actually write 50,000 words in November, or I might not. I don’t have to, and it would add another layer of goals/stress on top of what I’m already doing.

Does that make 2021 NaNoWriYe? No, because I’ve written more than one novel, I guess.

Anyway, I’m writing every day, and you get to read it when it’s all done. That’s what matters, right?

Car Wars: A Retrospective Review (with Heroscape!)

In the 1980s, while I was in school (what do you mean by “old”? That was only 20 years ago!), my friends and I became interested in tabletop games. I think it all kind of started with Milton Bradley’s Axis & Allies. That led, over time, to more and more complex and involving games, from Squad Leader to Battletech to Star Fleet Battles. And then one day, one friend brought a little box called “Car Wars.” Sure, that sounded fun. So we tried it out.

In virtually no time, we were searching out everything related to Car Wars we could find – expansions to the base game, role-playing supplements, even a video game (Autoduel). We spent hours and hours making car designs and… what? Oh. The game itself.

Put simply, Car Wars is exactly what you would expect from the name. Players have cars, with weapons and armor strapped on them, and have wars. Simple concept, borrowing from things like Mad Max and other post apocalyptic and sci-fi concepts. Cars could range from something as simple as a subcompact with a little bit of armor and a machine gun on the front to fully decked-out 18-wheelers with multiple turreted lasers, advanced electronics, concealed mine droppers, and so much more. Each game depended on what you wanted to play: a chase through the streets of a small town? A freeway encounter with a sinister biker gang? Or, the most common, an arena duel to gain fame and money? Lots of dice were thrown, lots of charts were consulted, and hours and hours ticked by…

We grew older. Tabletop gaming changed. We changed. The days of checking various charts for everything became… old hat. Newer games, inspired by designers from that other continent across the ocean there, became big hits. We wanted games that played faster, with more streamlined and elegant rules.

In 2004, I ran across an odd game at Toys R Us. It caught my attention, because, at the time, TRU never had any interesting games (Monopoly Variants R Us!). The game was called Heroscape, and promised all sorts of mayhem with dozens of different units and… lots of dice. I decided to give it a try… and got sucked in. It swiftly became (and still is) one of my all-time favorite games. It satisfied a desire from my Car Wars days: “designing” something (in this case, selecting various unit cards to combine together) and then moving about on a map and rolling dice for combat.

Both games, Car Wars and Heroscape, also offered huge arenas for my writer’s imagination to play within. I wrote stories set in both universes at different times in my life. With Car Wars, we even role-played, to some extent, developing our drivers over a succession of duels, etc.

And now… now we have a new edition of Car Wars. The original makers, Steve Jackson Games, have spent many, many years trying to take the best of 1980s Car Wars and bring it to today’s tabletop gamers, who demand something much different in a game. The result is a new edition (technically the 6th, because of how things get counted. No, I don’t get it, either.) with sculpted miniatures, streamlined rules, and… lots of dice.

Car Wars 6th Edition takes virtually everything I loved about the 1980s game and puts it all together in an attractive and exciting package. Forget the charts. Forget the pencil-and-paper checklists. Everything here is spelled out simply on cards. How much damage does that machine gun do? Check the chart!—No! It’s written right there on the card. You roll these particular dice to find out. Can I make a 90-degree turn so my front-facing flamethrower can hit that other guy’s car? Sure, you can try, by using this turning key (a great concept from the old game brought into the new). How do I know if I succeeded without losing control? Check the chart on page—No! You roll dice, which are designated right there on the turning key itself. Simple. Fast. Fun.

In the old days, we would design cars by calculating how much weight the chassis could bear, what kind of suspension the car needed, how much money we had to spend, and then balance out what we wanted in armor, weapons, and accessories. This required a lot of math, and a lot of scribbling on paper. Today, we can agree on “build points” like, say, 12, and then choose cards that add up to that number. It still allows for tons of variation (if you combine all of the cards from all of the expansions right now, I think the total is 330), but is so much simpler.

And yet it preserves what we all loved about Car Wars. The “feel” is there, for lack of a better word. But more than that, it feels like Heroscape! In both games, we choose cards adding up to a certain point value. We “build” the map we want to use. And then we move our playing pieces, roll attack dice, and roll defense dice. (Plus a myriad of special abilities!)

Many Euro gamers will probably still sneer at a “dice chucker.” But you know what? Some will try it out and discover… it’s fun! And regardless of what some people will say, that’s the most important factor for a game (to me, anyway). It is fun. Lots and lots of fun.

In short, Car Wars 6th Edition takes my most beloved game from the 1980s and combines it with my most beloved game from the early 2000s… to create what may very well become my most beloved game from the 2020s. Only time and the dice will tell.

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