A Weekly News Post

Hey, they can’t all be clever titles.

So, a few updates since last week. First and foremost, work on the new Jacob Rocke book trundles on. It’s about a third or so of the way done. This one will be longer than his first outing, but still not as long as Dead Silver, I think. It’s a smaller story, really. However, that means it gets written quicker, and editing (later this year, lets not get too far ahead of ourselves) will be quicker as well.

Anyway, progress continues there. Am I willing to drop any hints at this juncture? Well, let’s just say that a lot of my online advertisements lately have been all about colleges. While you all puzzle on that, let’s move to the next bit of news to talk about which is—


A sale! But not on any of my books. No, not yet (February is coming, more on that below). No, this sale is for a game. A few long-time readers of this site may recall my post of admiration for one Subnautica a few years back. Well, it’s only become a better game since then as the developers have continued to polish it and work to bring it to feature parity with its stand-alone expansion, Below Zero.

Oh, and it’s on sale right now. Along with that stand-alone expansion right now. Through January 30th.

Yeah, I know. I’m supposed to be encouraging you people to spend money on my books. But Subnautica is just fantastic. Besides, I’ll be doing plenty of encouragement for purchasing my stuff at LTUE.


Which is coming soon people! We’re not in February yet, but I myself am in the prep stages. Yesterday I placed my order for a new array of paperback books to be sold at the LTUE vendor hall. A larger number than last year, since everything last year sold out so fast. I’m not joking about that by the way: Every copy of Shadow of an Empire was gone before noon on the first day. I’ve increased the number of books that’ll be on hand this year, but given last year’s sales … that might just mean they sell out by day two.

I’ve still got some other prep work to do in order to be ready for LTUE, however. I need new standees for the signing since Starforge is out, and this year I’m planning on doing some nice prints of a few book covers to raffle off. I’m thinking “one entry for coming by the booth, five for showing proof of purchase of said book.” Which naturally would include brandishing said book.

So yeah, if you’d like a nice matte printing of the covers to Axtara or Shadow of an Empire, maybe even Starforge, be sure to come by the signing booth at this year’s LTUE!


And well … that’s pretty much it. Almost. Sales keep on trucking toward that 10,000 number, but I think the make-or-break moment really will be this year’s LTUE. At the current rate, sales won’t quite reach 10,000 by February’s end if they stay consistent … but they always shoot up during LTUE. So … it’s down to the wire, really.

On a related note, I should figure something out to celebrate the tenth anniversary of both becoming a published author and One Drink‘s publication. One more thing to add to the pile, I suppose.

Anyway, that’s the news. I’m going to get back to work on Rocke’s next adventure! Max, signing off!

Being a Better Writer: Different Types of Fantasy

Happy Monday writers! How was everyone’s weekend?

Mine was pretty good. Spent quite a bit of time working on the tabletop campaign I’m running this year, since it’s a revision of the tabletop system I used for my Gears of War campaign a few years ago, bur refined and improved in multiple areas. Of course, building a tabletop system from scratch—or even rebuilding one—is a ton of work, so it’s not unexpected that my time this weekend was taken up in a good portion by it. I foresee this being the case for the next few months, easily.

But that’s not all that’s coming up, either! We’re nearly through January, and that means that we’re day by day coming closer to LTUE 2023! Look for a post about that on its own soon, but the gist of it for now if you’re out of the loop is that LTUE (or Life, The Universe, and Everything) is a writing convention given by those who do write and create Sci-Fi and Fantasy for those who want to do so. That means panels on aspects of writing are given by authors who have written those topics. You can check out the guest list of just a few of the guests of honor here, but that should give you an idea of the kind of folks that show up at LTUE each year.

February 2023, three days, this year the 16th through the 18th. Be there! And while you’re at it, swing by a few of the panels I’ll be on.

That said, if you’re unable to make it this year, at least you’ll always have Being a Better Writer to fall back on. So, without any further ado, let’s just jump into today’s topic. Which … is a bit of a departure from our usual writing topics.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. It still very much relates to writing. But what we’re going to talk about today is more of a foundational element, while at the same time not being set in stone at all.

Let me explain: The past few weeks we’ve had a post or two where we’ve talked quite a bit about audience and knowing what sort of audience you’re writing for. Today we’re going to talk about something that a lot of audiences use as a guide for finding material that they like and enjoy.

Yes, today we’re talking about genre. But specifically one type of genre and it’s subgenres. Today, we’re going to talk about different types of common Fantasy and what goes into them.

Now, I’m going to stress something before we start. None of these subgenres is a cut-and-dry. It’s possible for stories to blend them, or start in one subgenre and transition to another. Often, when we say “This book belongs in this subgenre” what we really mean is that the primary attributes of the story that caught our attention were most identifiable with that specific subgenre, though it may have had heavy elements from others.

In other words, what we’re talking about today can run the gauntlet from very straightforward to incredibly nebulous and may be so precariously balanced that it might be hard to tell what subgenre a book is.

But that’s not why we’re talking about it. We’re not talking about the subgenres of Fantasy so that you can try and lock in other Fantasy books you’ve read. No. That’s not the goal here.

The goal here is so that when you think “Hey, I want to write a Fantasy story” but are unsure of what type of Fantasy story that should be, you can look at the various subgenres and what elements identify them, in order to help narrow down what sort of story you want to tell by the elements you may want or not want to include.

In other words, what we’re looking at here today should be considered a set of guidelines, not rules, that can be helpful to you to set a tone or basic feel for what you want to write.

Note really quick that we’re not discussing all the various subgenres out there. The more precise one gets, the more these can multiply, but the less there is different between them. We’re just going to discuss the big ones.

A second note (I know) in that not everyone is going to agree with these definitions. Sands, in pulling up a list of common Fantasy subgenres, I opened two pages that almost completely disagreed about what made a common subgenre. So yeah, while some are agreed upon, some are not. You can still use them

You ready? Then hit that jump, and let’s talk about different types of Fantasy.

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Clues Under a Couch – A Weekly News Update

Hey folks! Max here with a weekly update post. There’s not going to be anything Earth-shattering or lifechanging in this post (at least I don’t think so), but if you’re wondering what I’ve been up to and what’s going on, this is the post to check out.

So, with absolutely zero ado, here’s what’s going on.


First up, how’s progress on the new Jacob Rocke book going?

Well. It’s going well. The current draft is sitting at about 22,000 words, and the mystery has taken shape. At a guess I’d hazard this winding up around 60,000-80,000 words long, which isn’t bad. It’s about the size and shape I’d want from a new Jacob Rocke adventure.

So what’s this one about? Well, Rocke’s back on the East Coast of the US this time, having just dealt with another haunted hospital room, when he gets a call from the NSAU. It seems a college student at a nearby university was reporting missing that morning, but the local police force balked the moment they were told she was an unusual, and has claimed the case is out of their jurisdiction. Being the closest agent, Rocke is assigned to the case, and while elements of actual unusual involvement are dubious at best, he’s going to do his job and see if he can’t track the missing student down, especially as the days pass and she remains missing.

So yeah, I’ll probably have that polished off by sometime next month. Which leads me to February, which is a natural segue into—

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Being a Better Writer: Realism, Storytelling, and Suspension of Disbelief

Welcome back writers! It’s another Monday, and that means it’s time for another Being a Better Writer post! There’s not much news to discuss, or really any since everything immediately relevant was discussed in last Thursday’s post about what occurred last year and what’s coming down the pipeline right now, so rather than spend any text on that, today we’ll just dive right in! With a brief aside to say that if you are curious about what’s happened and what’s on the way, check out that post.

Anyway, today’s topic is, fittingly enough for the new year, a Reader Request! The last one on Topic List #21. Which I will add is getting a bit empty these days. We’ll be looking at #22 soon enough!

But anyway, today’s topic was requested with what I see as darn good reason, because it’s actually part of an almost endless debate that circles online communities and critics alike. In fact, it’s such a common debate that to start us off today, I’m actually going to request that you read this Schlock Mercenary strip, which will open in a new tab. Don’t worry, it’s digestible without context.

Once you’ve done that, don’t get sucked into the archive (at least, not right now), but come back, hit the jump, and let’s talk about it.

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Forward and Back – A Look Ahead at 2023, and at the Accomplishments of 2022

Wow. 2022 was a year.

No, not in the way 2020 was. In fact, I mean that in the best possible sense. 2022 was, by almost every metric available to me, a standout year. Sales were up overall despite a few slump months, with books such as Axtara – Banking and Finance finding success in almost double the number of markets as any of my other closest books, and then Starforge smashing its way to victory in the final months of the year. Site hits were up—in fact, the site saw more traffic, interaction, and the like in 2022 than it ever has. That’s including two prior years in which a single post in each year went a bit viral and accounted for a good majority of all traffic.

Yes, that’s right. Without having a post go “viral” and score thousands upon thousands of hits, Unusual Things still saw more visitors, readers, and regular reads than in any prior year in 2022. And, while it’s still only week two of 2023, the current level of site traffic isn’t just holding steady … It’s growing. December of 2022 had more hits than November of 2022, which had more hits than … well, you get the idea.

And this introduction has already gotten away from me. Welcome, readers and writers, to a post-2022 news post, and a look ahead at what’s to come in 2023. We’re going to talk about what went on in 2022, what the impact was of the lone book release (but it was a big one), and then we’re going to discuss what’s in the pipe for this year.

And folks, I’ve got a good feeling about what’s to come. Hit the jump!

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Being a Better Writer: Common Stumbles of New Projects

Welcome back writers! It’s a new year! Welcome to 2023!

You know, it feels good to be back. Though at the same time I’ll definitely say that I needed that vacation. My mind was wound tighter than a clockwork spring after having spent the last year working on Starforge, and a break of a few weeks to let everything decompress really feels as though it made a difference.

But now we’re back, and we’re ushering in the new year with the return of Being a Better Writer and all the site content you guys love. But before we get started on today’s topic, let’s take a quick moment to discuss some news. Specifically the big question that’s been on the mind of a lot of readers: How’s Starforge doing so far? Well, with the book having dropped a little over a month and a half ago, I can finally deliver the answer.

Starforge is the biggest launch I’ve had to date. By far.

Without going into exact numbers, Starforge has, even in preliminary sales data, more than doubled the power of any launch I’ve seen so far.

That’s right. The Starforge launch was bigger than any I’ve ever seen.

Not only that, but the momentum of that launch … Starforge‘s release attracted hundreds of new readers who picked up copies of Colony (though it being a SPSF quarterfinalist may have helped some with that decision, I feel) and then proceeded to blast through it, then Jungle, and at last Starforge. I’m not exaggerating when I sale that sales of copies of Colony and Jungle in December were 100% equal. That is that for every copy of Colony sold, someone bought a copy of Jungle.

Starforge outsold both by a large margin, but it was a launch month and there were a lot of people who’d already read the first two books in the trilogy waiting for it to drop, so that does make sense.

But what a launch. And again, that momentum has stayed strong right into the new Yyear. Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the new ratings and reviews that were coming with it. Some people have been busily going through my entire library atop finishing the UNSEC Space Trilogy, while others have been content to see the adventure with Jake, Anna, and Sweets through to its end, but the ratings and reviews they’re leaving are making it pretty clear.

This trilogy is a fantastic piece of Sci-Fi.

One other note on this, if I may be allowed. Last night I had the thrill of being a comment recipient on a social media site where someone was gushing at me about how fantastic the trilogy was and how much they’d loved the latest book (Starforge). The catch? They didn’t realize who I was, and were recommending my own books at me as a sort of ‘Oh man, I loved this guy! Have you read his latest book yet?’ moment.

Another one off of the bucket list!

But anyway, it feels good, and it’s a great way to start off the new year. And with the current momentum, my goal of hitting 10,000 lifetime book sales by the end of February 2023—which marks the tenth anniversary of my first published work—is within reach!

Okay. I get it. You’re here to read about writing, and this news segment is getting a little long in the tooth. But as much work and effort went into Starforge, and as many of you who were waiting for it all these years, I think we can excuse things a little. Later this week I’ll do a full news post to talk about everything else that’s already in the pipeline for this year, which includes LTUE, several new books (writing, at least), and other news and projects. But for now? Let’s start the new year for Being a Better Writer officially and kick things off with a nice topical subject.

Hit the jump, and let’s talk writing people!

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Merry Christmas Everyone!

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

Once again we reach that time of year, readers. A celebration that comes once every twelve months, as the Earth spins around the sun. A time of year when many feel a yearning, a driving need to reach out, to take hold of those hands around them and pull them up.

Recently I’ve been watching a new show on streaming. Don’t worry, this isn’t a non-sequitur. It connects. Anyway, this is a Christmas-themed show, as you might guess, that means that it delves into what Christmas means. It even went as far as to say that Christmas is the season of hope, that brings hope to mankind. And … then they sort of froze for a moment, without saying why it brought hope, and just sort of had to leave it hanging, even though they were diving into what Christmas was and why it was so important.

Why the freeze? Well, I’d hazard a guess that it’s because its a show produced for a global streaming service, and either the show or the producers weren’t keen on outright digging into the cause of that hope, the reason the whole holiday exists in the first place, when a large portion of their audience might not hold to that.

In a way, it was almost amusing, because the hole left there as the characters moved on definitely did hang a lampshade on things.

Why Christmas. Why hope? What makes this season, above all others around the calendar year the “season of perpetual hope?”

Because of what it represents. Two-thousand-odd years ago, a birth unlike any other took place. In manger, a most unassuming location, and yet heralded by choirs of angels and a new star in the sky.

But why hope? What about this birth was cause for such revelry? What was so significant about this child that now, thousands of years later, billions still celebrate this Christmas Eve and Christmas Day—though we know it was not the actual date of the birth, its representative—to honor that solemn occasion? What about that birth brings us hope?

Because of who that child was. Jesus the Christ, the Savior of Mankind. A long-prophesied Messiah who would take upon Himself the sins and pains of all mankind, paying the due of justice so that He, in turn, could serve as the Advocate for each and every member of the human race. A divine being who through which would give every single person the chance not just to improve, but to live again.

That’s why Christmas is the season of perpetual hope. Because of the hope that being brought to all mankind. Even for those who aren’t believers in Christ, the hope of something better, something eternal, something divine, that we can improve toward, wrapped aside the concept that a divine being cares so much about them, individually, that they would give them that chance … Well, that means something.

And yeah, some of you coming here, to this site, on Christmas … you may not believe. I still hope that for you, this season is still touching, still finds a way to bring you peace, bring to your mind what you yearn and hope for, just as it did for those shepherds thousands of years ago.

Me? I do. I stand firm in my knowledge that this being, that Savior, Jesus Christ, was born long ago, fulfilling prophecy that had been taught since the world began. While His birth was not the crux of His mission, it was the start of it, and tonight, tomorrow, and through this season, the hope that He brought and continues to bring? That is the hope of the Christmas season we celebrate.

Merry Christmas to all of us. May we all feel the spirit of the season, the hope that it stands for, and the triumph of the ages that it signifies.

Merry Christmas, readers. Peace on Earth, and good will toward men, not just tonight, today, or tomorrow, but for as long and often as we can spread it.

Fancy Some Christmas Music?

Hey folks! I’m on my Christmas Vacation, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some content! So today I’m linking back to a fun post we did last year where I encouraged everyone to share Christmas tunes in the comments after sharing a few of my own favorites! And once again, like a Bernie advertisement, I’m asking for you to chip in! Save that I’m pointing you folks to the comments to share youtube links to your favorite Christmas carols, songs, etc! Let’s give everyone the gift of some more holiday music to enjoy! Here are a few of mine—fresh, not from last year’s—to get you all started!

Christmas Everyday by Gia Farrell

In Wonderment of Winter by Gareth Coker

Across the Frozen Expanse by Abadoss
Last Christmas by Jimmy Eat World

Let It Snow by Chris Isaak

That’s some of what’s in my Christmas playlist? How about you? Merry Christmas, readers!

Classic Being a Better Writer: Most Popular Edition

Merry Christmas, writers! This week’s Being a Better Writer is not a new installment, but rather a revisit of some old classics. Since, you know, it’s Christmas and I am most definitely on my break. Which after getting Starforge out on time, I’m going to enjoy.

Now, before I dive into things, I do want to stress that Starforge has just come out. If you’re looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for that Sci-Fi loving reader you know, you can grab that first book in the trilogy for a pretty low price. You can get the whole trilogy for that matter, if you just click this link.

Anyway, that’s all the shilling I’ll do today. Promise. The rest of this post is about writing! Though some of you may find it a bit familiar, since it will be a selection of classic posts.

But maybe not. If you’re new, or missed a week, perhaps this will be the first time you’ve ever seen these posts! For this year’s holiday vacation installment of Being a Better Writer, I thought I’d peer back through time and see what the most popular BaBW post of each year was.

That’s right. We’re going to gaze into the past and see what the most read Being a Better Writer post was out of several years across the site’s seven-year history! So sit back, grab yourself a cup of hot chocolate, put on your fuzzy reindeer slippers, and let’s take a look together at some classic blasts from the past! Hit the jump!

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My Christmas Break is About to Begin

Hey folks! Max here with a heads-up. I’m about to start my Christmas Vacation. Or Christmas Break. I like to think of it as a break because I take a break from writing and running the site for a while. Usually I try to pick one game from my backlog and power through it, but this year I’ve spent the last two or so months working my way through BattleTech and I’m still not done yet (and still having fun) so that might be this year’s contender.

Granted, I’ll also be spending about a week or so of my Christmas Break to visit family, chiefly one of my nephews. So that’s definitely going to be a good chunk of my holiday time.

And who knows? With the ability to just do whatever I feel like for each and every day, I might actually break the bad sleep habits I got into this year working on Starforge!

Speaking of Starforge, some of you have to be nearing the end by now. Those of you that are quick readers, at least, and may have made a few “sacrifices” of time to be able to power through all 1,900 or so pages in the two weeks it’s been out.

What’s the reaction so far? Are the reveals everything you’d hoped? Or are they even more? Have you found yourself caught off-guard or by surprise by a sudden revelation yet? How is it to see both the All and our mysterious drones from the first book now showing off all their capabilities?

Soo, once the new year starts, I will be writing up a full “It’s finally done” sort of post to talk about the trilogy. Now that the ending is out in the open, and everything that the last—for me—eight years have worked toward is complete, and I definitely do want to close out this fantastic journey that you’ve all been part of with some final thoughts.

But that’ll be after the New Year and my break is over. In the meantime, that gives those of you that are journeying through Starforge a few more weeks to finish it off without worrying about any spoilers that will be in that wrap-up post … Because inevitably, there are going to be serious spoilers.

It’s an Epic Sci-Fi Trilogy of 1.3 million words. It’s hard to discuss it without bringing up spoilers.

But that’s for after New Years. Between then and now, I do plan to drop a few more posts just so the site isn’t content-starved for the next two weeks. Monday, for example, I’ll have a pre-schedule post going up. It won’t be a new Being a Better Writer, but one of those “classic” compilations featuring prior posts. There won’t be a Being a Better Writer the week after, but then that’s going to be the day after Christmas, so if you’re looking for site content you’ll just have wait for a little bit. Though I’ll applaud you for looking for content so thoroughly.

After that it’ll be the New Year, and things will move back into their schedule.

For now though, I’ll be sure to drop an official post when my Christmas Break does begin, just to wish everyone a big ol’ Merry Christmas, but for now I’ll say it here and get this stuff setup for the next few weeks, as well as do a little more work on that next book.

Merry Christmas everyone. May it be full of peace and joy.