Weekly Update: It’s Full of Stars and Lovecraftian Monsters – Happy Thanksgiving!

Hey readers! I’ve decided that, at least of the foreseeable future, this Wednesday night update will be a regular feature. A progress report, and a little bit of news!

So, first up, let’s talk Axtara – Banking and Finance. I appears I’ve found a cover artist at last! Good news, I know. With that finally happening, that means I can aim at December release! Ebook first, paperback ASAP (but hopefully before Christmas, for all you book-givers out there).

Excited! I am. Axtara was an absolute joy to write, and I can’t wait for all of you to meet her at long last. Keep watch on things, because there’s going to be more news coming!


Now onto Starforge. As of today, the first draft is sitting at 177,000 words. And I’d say I’m about halfway through the second quarter, so … 37.5% or so. Roughly.

This is the “stars and lovecraftian horrors” of the title by the way. Though the All are easily a more tangible “eat your face off” sort of horror as well. They’re just kind of lovecraftian in their scope.

This book is shaping up to be awesome though, It just keeps picking up speed.

All right, that’s the update. There is some news from the book industry I want to mention, but I’ll put it after the jump. Hit it if you’re curious, otherwise, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Being a Better Writer: Holidays

Hey there readers! How were your weekends? Healthy, I hope. I spent all of mine inside working on Starforge, Axtara, or recuperating. My Covid-19 test came back negative, but that just meant whatever I did have likely wasn’t Covid. It was still something, so I skipped church on Sunday (doing the smart thing) and gradually felt better as the weekend moved on.

Either way, due to that, I really don’t have much in the way of news to report or talk about from this weekend, so there’s not much for me to do here but dive into this week’s topic. Which, as you might have noticed, is a little … seasonal.

Yeah, I’ll admit this wasn’t on the list. Rather I thought of it over the weekend and once the bug was in my head, couldn’t shake the idea because it was, I felt, a good one that deserved talking about. Not a game changer, probably, but one of those “little details” that can take a story from a nine to a ten.

Yes, we’re still talking about writing. When I say “Holidays” I do so in the sense of a recognized celebration date, not a vacation from things. Those of you waiting for that kind of post are looking at the wrong job.

I kid. Mostly. A writer is almost never truly on a vacation. Our work tends to be … consuming.

Anyway, with that clarification out of the way, let’s talk about holidays.

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Weekly Update

Short and sweet here guys. I’m still pretty tired. And was tested for Covid-19 last night so … yeah. 72 hours until the results come back. Only symptoms fatigue (a lot of it) and the occasional light headache.

But enough of that. Book updates!

Starforge is now at 163,500 words. I’m running a little slow right now, just doing 2,000 a day instead of 3,000-4,000 and I’m tired through it, but I can’t stop. This story is too important.

Axtara updates: I am still trying to find someone to do a cover. Most artists I’ve tried to contact are either busy or not doing art right now because of what I’m guessing are Covid-19 related issues. If any of you readers know of anyone who can do art like this and is looking for commission work, let me know.

That’s it for today. Tired now. Going to rest for a bit.

Being a Better Writer: Doing Good Research

Hello again readers! I hope you’re well and healthy. Me? A little funky. Really tired. No other symptoms that—to my knowledge—line up with Covid-19, but I’m considering if I feel funky tomorrow calling and scheduling a test anyway, just to be on the save side. And if it isn’t going to bankrupt my bank account.

Anyway, I hope none of you feel funky, but are staying in feeling healthy and hale. Watch that pandemic people! Do your part to fight the menace and stay home.


And with that, I’m going to dive right into today’s topic. Which, if you’re a long-time reader of Being a Better Writer, is one of the more common recurring topics. It wouldn’t be, except that time and time again so many authors, editors, and publishers get it wrong, or don’t even bother to try getting it right.

Note: This may be short. I feel funky.

For example, some of you may recall a hilarious error earlier this year when a historical novel released to the world from a major publisher … only for readers to quickly notice that a segment on dying cloth had some very interesting ingredients listed. Such as “keese’s wing” or “Lizalfos tail.”

If you’re not familiar with those odd-sounding items, it’s because they’re not real, and certainly didn’t exist back in ancient Greece or Persia or whatever either. They’re ingredients from the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild video game, which had just come out when the author was writing the book. So when they Googled “Making X color dye” one of the most popular results at the moment was a guide for making the dye in Breath of the Wild using these fantasy ingredients.

Now, you’d think that someone would have noticed the video game screenshots, or maybe the address of the webpage, maybe checked the credentials of the site offering this information, but no. None of that was done. Instead this “historical” novel passed by a pack of Trad pub editors and readers with not a single person questioning “Keese’s wing” or any of the other ingredients as appearing in a dye, nor the very simple, video-game methods by which said dye was prepared (combine in pot, apply).

End result? A lot of embarrassment for the publisher and the author when they had to admit that they hadn’t checked things as closely as they should have. And the rest of the “historical novel” was suddenly under suspicion, because if the author couldn’t be bothered to check if the dying process wasn’t from a video game, what else in the novel hadn’t been properly researched? Were bandits going to set upon travelers with the warcry “Never should have come here?”

Thing is, this isn’t an isolated incident. This kind of thing happens all the time. It would seem that most Trad pubs are interested in getting a book out as quickly as possible over doing, say, actual editing and checking things for accuracy, even in Sci-Fi and Fantasy.

“Accuracy?” you might say. “In Sci-Fi and Fantasy?” Yes, actually, Sci-Fi and Fantasy, while being fantastic, still subscribe to certain rules. If you’re writing Sci-Fi, for example, you’ll want to run the numbers on your science, and make certain that they actually make sense.

For example, a recent Sci-Fi release from a major publisher featured an astonishingly glaring oversight when it came time for the author to describe the muzzle velocity of their new weapons. They described—get ready for this one—a railgun autocannon on an atmospheric fighter that fired rounds at .1c. That is, for those of you who don’t use “c” often enough, ten percent the speed of light (“c” being the speed of light).

In atmosphere.

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Op-Ed: Rebooting America’s Education System

This post has been a long time in coming. It’s one I’ve wanted to make for months, almost a year, really, but just kept putting off because of everything else that was going on. But at last, the time is here, and I’ve got a bit to talk about it.

I’m going to start out with a few obvious disclaimers: I don’t work in education. I came through the US education system, but I don’t work in it. I’ve taught, but on panels and in places like Sunday School classrooms, where attendance is pretty voluntary, and that’s a pretty different experience.

Second, I don’t wish for this post to be taken as “How dare you attack our teachers!” at all. Because it’s not. Most of the best teachers I’ve known have been hard-working individuals who cared a lot more about the job than the paltry paycheck they got in return would have indicated (much of which went right back to paying for things their school couldn’t).

This isn’t to say that there aren’t awful teachers out there, but they’re a symptom of the problems with the US’s education system and only a partial cause rather than the full cause.

I’m also not trying to say that the US’s education system has been flawed from the beginning. It wasn’t. Not initially. But … Well, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start where this whole thing for me started: With the biggest missed opportunity in decades.

The quarantine.

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Being a Better Writer: The Art of Scene Transitions

Or: Yet Another Way to Manage Pacing.

Welcome back readers! How are things going with you? Well and healthy I hope? Washing your hands? Using a mask? Doing your part?

I hope so. Globally, it’s still a pandemic, and we shouldn’t forget that.

Anyway, I’ve got no other news, so let’s just jump into today’s topic, which is another reader request, and talk about scene transitions.

Now, I’m going to kind of do a two-fer here, because I might as well. I’m going to talk about both in-chapter transitions, the kind of thing where you get that little asterisk or line divider like so—

* * *


—and then jump into the new action elsewhere, as well as ending chapter transitions today. Because, well, both are kind of similar.

But we’ll start with in-chapter transitions, just as soon as we hit a transition of our own …

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Just a News Update. Nothing Spectacular.

So … the title says it all. This is an update on things. Nothing big. Mostly Starforge. And why I’ve been quiet this week.

Honestly? I’ve got a little list of non-writing topics I want to throw out some paragraphs on here on the site, but … This week had enough going on, I think.

How bad is it? Well, let me put it this way: Facebook refused to let me run boosts for this week’s Being a Better Writer, because it asked people to go vote.

That’s it. Didn’t say who to vote for. Just to study and vote. And Facebook tagged that as ‘attempting to influence the election’ and refused to let me boost the post.

Yeah … so I figure “Why risk it?” and just didn’t do any more articles this week. I spent my time on Starforge instead.

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Being a Better Writer: Why Stories Need Conflict

Hello readers! Before we dive into today’s (somewhat delayed) Being a Better Writer post, I have an urgent PSA for all of you residing in the United States.

Go VOTE. Election day is November 3rd, 2020—which should be a national holiday, and the fact that it isn’t tells us a lot about what the government thinks about our involvement in matters. Look up all your candidates. Study them. Learn about them. Don’t just watch their ads and a three second clip of the “News” and decide you’re good. Do some digging. Read about tbe results of their policies and approached. If you’re religious, pray for some guidance. Whatever means available to you, make use of them to learn about the candidates running for all the various positions you’ll be voting on, and then go out and vote.

Yes, I know this year has made it a mess. Voter suppression has been pretty flagrant and open, as has complete ignorance of the current pandemic sweeping the nation. Keep that in mind when you vote too, or rather when you’re looking at candidates. If you’re in one of those counties where for “safety reasons” five polling places were reduced to one, consider who made that decision, how safe it really is, and whether or not you want someone with the governmental mindset of UNSEC in office again.

All right. PSA over. But it was an important one. And it’s probably going to be scrutinized by the ad-checkers, or even demonized by a few people who take issue with it.

Whatever. Go. Vote. Don’t let anyone stop you. Unless, you know, you’re not registered, in which case you should regretfully acknowledge that you didn’t prep for this one. But on the bright side, you’ll most likely have four years to correct that mistake.

Now, with that PSA said, let’s move onto today’s BaBW post! Which is an interesting one! Today’s topic was posed by a reader after they encountered a post on a writing forum where the OP (original poster, for those of you not familiar with internet parlance) argued that stories did not need conflict to be stories, and in fact (IIRC) that whole genres such as ‘slice of life’ shouldn’t have them. The reader posted here asking if that was or wasn’t possible (suspecting, again if I recall correctly, that it wasn’t) and asking me to do a bit on it.

Well, reader, here you are! And let me clear this up immediately, and with a declarative statement:

A story without a conflict is not a story, but merely a series of words laying out a disconnected summary, lacking events.

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Straight Troping

Hello readers! I hope things are well with you in these turbulent times. Me? I’ve already voted. Now I’m just waiting for the madness of the election to be over so that book sales actually accomplish something once more. And, you know, actually exist.

I still don’t understand why elections and politics of all things hurt book sales the way they do … but they definitely do. I remember being skeptical of it myself when I was first told by a few other authors … but lo and behold, year after year whenever there’s a major political event going on … sales drop.

Weird. And slightly concerning, I think. Why is it that when two aged children shout “shut up” at one another on stage, book sales fall?

Though that said, if that money was instead going to bunkers and supporting the political party of “anyone but this” I’d understand.

Anyway … the imminent doom of the United States as an even faintly respectable country aside, let’s shift gears and talk about something else.

A black hole. Well, actually, TV Tropes. Same thing, really. If you’ve ever been sucked into the endless dissection of the tropes that make up your favorite show, game, book, or whatever, you know how much time you can lose reading up on these things (and if you’re unfamiliar with tropes, check this post for a primer).

But there’s another use for TV Tropes, and that’s to find material that you might enjoy. Got a trope or concept that you really enjoy? TV Tropes can be a handy reference for finding other entertainment or even non-fiction (and real-life) uses of a trope, concept, etc.

I’ve actually done this myself. Look up a trope for a concept I really enjoy, and then see what items are listed as showing those tropes off and add them to my “list of things to check out.”

So, where am I going with this (outside of giving some you ideas for where to find new material to enjoy)? Well, simply put the other day someone asked me about my books, and then when I mentioned Colony, asked: Does it have a TV Tropes page I could check out?”

To which I replied “I don’t actually know.” Which was truthful. It had been a long time since I’d looked, and there was a chance one had popped up. But after a quick look I had to tell them “No, not for Colony.” Dead Silver and One Drink yes, but Colony? No.

Worse, I can’t actually do anything about this. I have no idea if I made or lost a sale based off of that, but as I understand it, creators themselves are not supposed to submit TV Tropes pages or edits on things they themselves created. A rule which I understand and respect. But it does mean that a TV Tropes page will and can only exist if there are fans who are “tropers” (or people who do work on the TV Tropes pages).

So, the point of this post is to ask: Are any of you tropers? And if so, did you enjoy Colony, Jungle, or Shadow of an Empire enough to feel like putting them on TV Tropes for those looking for them?

That’s all. Just asking. Like I said, as far as I understand it, that’s about the limit of a creator’s involvement. But a TV Tropes page for Colony and Jungle would be really nice … hint hint.

Again, it’s just a thought. I hope you’re all getting ready for a fantastic Halloween weekend. Stay healthy and safe!