Starforge News, LTUE News, Updates, and Reminders, Plus an Anthology Submission Call!

All right folks, gather round for the quick mid-week update on all things Unusual and extraneous! Starting off with some Starforge updates!

Last night I polished off the Pre-Alpha reading/editing of the final chapter of part three of Starforge. Weighing in at just 26,600 words, it was quite the ride. But the Pre-Alpha is now through part three!

“That’s it, right?” some of you may be asking. “Colony had three parts. Jungle had three parts. When is this finale hitting the Alpha Readers? Are you making an Alpha call yet?”

We’re close, but not there yet. Because you see, readers, Starforge has four parts. Surprise! Though some of you might have guessed that based on the length of the finale when the draft was completed last year.

Yeah, this is a big one. After all, it’s got everything from Colony and Jungle to wrap up, and as readers of those novels know, this is not a small universe. It’s a big one with some very terrifying threats.

However, with a few days left in January, will the Starforge pre-Alpha be completed by February? My official answer is “I don’t know. Maybe.” There’s still a quarter of the book to go. But I am making good progress.

Either way, however, it means that the first Alpha is very likely to start in February. Which means … Well, prior Alpha Readers, you know what this means.

Prospective Alpha Readers, those who would like to try being a part of the editing experience: Take notice and keep your eyes open. We’re close.

Oh, and Patreon Supporters, also keep an eye out. Once the Pre-Alpha is done, a few chapters and teasers are going to sneak up onto Patreon as rewards.

Side note: If you’ve been waiting for the trilogy to be complete, and are a slow reader, now is probably the time to start looking at Colony. Give Starforge say … another six months or so to come out, and that’s six months or so to read Colony, Jungle, and if you’ve got extra time, Fireteam Freelance and be ready.


So, that’s it for Starforge news. Now let’s talk about LTUE! I do still have a few updates to offer.

For example, I have asked the LTUE staff about it, and been informed that this year they will not be offering an online component as they did last year. The Discord will remain open, but there will not be an online streaming of panels.

I’ve learned they will also be filming/recording fewer panels this year. As I understand it, a few of their usual dedicated video crew are unable to attend this year (and let’s be honest, look at the last few years, and with a nod note “Yeah, that makes sense”) so while the staff will record what panels they can (for one, I would venture anything that Brandon Sanderson appears on), both they and the later uploads will be limited.

Basically this boils down to “Unless you can attend in person, you won’t be able to attend.” Which sucks for some of you, I know, especially after so many were able to attend online last year. But I’d ask you to bear with things. These are, well to put it bluntly, the “interesting times” of that old curse. There’s only so much manpower to go around, and hosting a conference both online and off can be a surprisingly in-depth undertaking.

However, if you are able to attend in person (and I hope you are), I would note that the final “early bird registration” offers are closing soon, at which point the price of a three-day pass to the con will rise. So if you are going to make it, grab your registration soon!

We’re only a few weeks out! February 17-19th!

Now, there’s one more thing to discuss, but you’ll need to hit the jump. This post has become too large for the front page.

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Being a Better Writer: Tabletop Conversations

Hello readers, and welcome back once again! If you’re here on this Monday afternoon by some prior plan, then you know what’s up. If not, then welcome to the site and our weekly Monday post of Being a Better Writer! This week we’re going with a bit of a more classic topic, though not without a bit of wordplay within the title.

But first, we’ve got news to talk about. Con news, to be specific! Life, The Univere, and Everything is coming February 17-19, 2022!

Those of you that know what LTUE is can rejoice now. Those who do not, or haven’t been on this site before and heard about the con, LTUE is a writing con. That means that the panelists are all authors and experts on specific topics, there to talk about writing in all its various aspects and forms. I’ve attended it for almost two decades now, first as a young student, now as a panelist, and it remains the best con I’ve been to for being all about writing. With hundreds of authors and panels talking about all sorts of writing topics, from the basic to the specific (there’s always a panel on how to write action scenes, for example, chaired by some of the better action writers in the business, but there are also panels like ‘garbage dumps through the ages’ taught by historians and authors who’d need to know that stuff) LTUE is a smorgasbord of expert writing advice.

It’s also cheap. Students, be they K-12 or collegiate, get in for $5. For the whole three days. That’s right. Five bucks. Non-students pay a bit more (usually around $75 for all three days), but that’s still an incredibly low price for three whole days of writing content. The panelists are all volunteer as well. This isn’t one of those “writing camps” taught by a few people with one book to their name who make the majority of their living telling others how they wrote that one book by being at that camp. These panelists are people taking time away from their normal day job of writing, editing, or being an expert on something in order to talk about the craft because they love it and want to help others.

If you’re somewhat versed in Fantasy and Sci-Fi you’ll recognize a few of these names too. This year’s Writing Guest of Honor is non other than Jody Lynne Nye, and if you check the “featured guests” page over on LTUE’s website, you’ll see quite a few other names you’ve likely heard of (or read). Checking the full schedule page will let you search all the attending panelists, and you may see a few more names on there you recognize!

Now, I’m going to link that schedule page once more, because that’s also how you can look at a full list of upcoming panels, and it’s time to start figuring out what panels you’d like to hit.

Even if you can’t come in person. Last year the entire LTUE experience was uploaded to Youtube as well as available to attend online. I’m not sure of the exact details around online attendance this year myself, since I’m going in person, but there are whole archives on YouTube of prior years’ panels. They usually end up online about six months later, but that’s better than nothing if you can’t make it.

UPDATE: I have been informed that there will not be as many recorded sessions this year due to some of the principle recording staff being unable to attend. The staff hope to record and post some sessions, but they will likely be few in number and take more time than usual if they’re uploaded.


Now, one more item of news before we dive into today’s topic. As in prior years, I will once again be attending LTUE this year as a panelist (most of you probably guessed that). It’s an absolute delight, and once again I’ve got a bevvy of fun panels to look forward to, including—

  • A Space Opera Starter Kit
  • Fanfiction: Having Fun
  • My Genre Wishlist
  • Science Fiction Faux Pas
  • No Mirrors: Character Description in First Person

I’d love to see you there! In addition, I’ll also be at the big book signing and moving around the con conversing and attending other panels.

But there’s one more little tidbit that I want to share that definitely belongs in the news section. Not only will I be at the book signing, but the LTUE book vendors will be carrying copies of Axtara – Banking and Finance and Shadow of an Empire!

That’s right! In prior years this hasn’t been a thing, because I’ve been solely a digital purveyor of products (despite attending the book signing anyway). But with a few of my titles now available in dead tree format, you’ll now be able to purchase them at the LTUE bookstore. I’ll be bringing a few extra copies as well to have on hand, but if you’ve been thinking of snagging a paperback for either of those two titles at last, LTUE will be your chance not only to do so, but to get it signed while you’re at it!

You know, unless they run out. They’ll have a decent stock of both, but the way they sell …

All right, that’s it for this Monday’s news. I know that was a lot, but hey, LTUE is a big deal, and only happens once a year. We’ll talk about it more in the future, but for now, let’s talk about “Tabletop Conversations.”

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OP-ED: Labor and Ownership

Hello there readers! I’m taking a bit of a momentary break from Starforge editing to write this post and give myself a bit of time to decompress (though don’t worry, I’ll be back at Starforge shortly). This is a topic that’s been on my mind, coalescing, for several months now as shortages, particularly of the “worker” variety, have continued to make the news day after day.

Today’s particular musing comes from an actual—if short—conversation I had the other day with an individual who was very angry about the “worker shortage.”

A little bit of background for you; basically what they offered to me: This individual owned a local small coffee shop/kiosk, and was very angry about their current inability to have someone staff/work it. Apparently it was small enough that it could be run by just one worker, but they currently couldn’t find that worker. No one wanted to work for them.

Wait, it gets better. See, their little rant volunteered the information that they considered the job “minimum wage.” After all, they explained, it’s ‘just a coffee shop. No one should be making a lot of money from that. But now,’ they continued, ‘thanks to the laziness of entitled workers who think they should earn more, I’m not making my money from the coffee shop!’

As this was a group discussion, several people quickly asked questions which led to more information being offered—though based on the reactions that occurred, I believe this individual thought things were going to go very differently. Among this information we were given the following:

  • The owner made quite a bit more per hour just owning the shop than the lone worker did. In fact, they seemed to consider it a large portion—based on their wording, I’d guess at least half—of their yearly income, which was again, from their words, at least six digits.
  • Despite this, they refused to work in the shop itself, to the point that they would rather have the shop closed and be losing all that income than go work the position themselves because ‘it’s a low-tier position, I can’t be expected to degrade myself with that.’ It was also suggested among their words that they didn’t know how to do the job either: They’d just bought the setup and expected someone else to do it.
  • The owner themselves had no interaction with the shop other than paying the bills, the paycheck, and collecting the majority of the money.
  • They used the phrase ‘unAmerican’ to describe the concept of having to work at their own shop, and used the specific phrase of ‘it’s my right‘ to describe their relationship with employees and not being required to labor with the business.

After volunteering this information, they were both shocked and a little offended when few took their side. Instead of pity—though a few like minds did offer that—they instead found themselves challenged. My own voice was one of them calling out to the contrary to their claims, and I made a very pointed statement: Was it not entitled to own a store that they believed should only pay minimum level wage, that they themselves refused to work at, yet demand more than a minimum level wage for in essence, doing nothing other than throwing money at the place to start existing? I compared this to the concept of “The world owes me a living,” as this business owner believed it “beneath them” to be the one working the store, and yet wanted the majority of the reward for someone else doing that work.

I never got a response. The owner just left, apparently realizing that the particular audience they’d found was not sympathetic to his desire to be, in effect, the lazy grasshopper from The Ant and the Grasshopper.

But something they’d declared did stay with me. Not because I think it’s correct, but because I think it does serve as a source of so many of the problems facing the United Stated (and, by cultural extension, a lot of other countries). This concept that simply having “ownership” of a thing means that one is “owed” everything that comes from it … even if they’re not at all willing to put in any of the work or requisite knowledge.

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Being a Better Writer: The Oxford Comma and Commas in General

Hello readers, and welcome back to another Monday installment of Being a Better Writer! Though today just isn’t any old Monday. Today is also Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so named in the honor of the individual whose name it bears.

Don’t know who that is? You should! If his name is unfamiliar to you past the holiday bearing it, I’d suggest a quick Google. Maybe read a speech of his. Or two. See why so much of what he said is still held in such high regard all these years later.

Now, before we dive into today’s post, I do have one little bit of news that went up as I was writing this: LTUE has announced their COVID-19 requirements. You can find the full thing on the Facebook post here, but I don’t doubt it will be up on their site shortly if it isn’t already. To whit, these are the requirements given:

  • You must have either proof of vaccination or a current, negative Covid test (within 72 hours) at check-in to attend.
  • Mask wearing, mouth and nose, enforced. Exceptions for eating and drinking, but neither will be allowed in certain areas. Panelists will be able to remove masks while paneling for accessibility purposes.
  • Seating will be spaced wider to aid with distancing.

As of right now, there is no plan to cancel and be online only. I hope it stays that way!

So then with that news out of the way, and with the day growing late already, let’s dive into today’s topic: The Oxford comma! Plus some general comma useage and advice.

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Weekly Update – Starforge and LTUE

Hello readers! Max here with a quick update on what’s going on! Which is … a lot actually!

So, there’s really only one big question on the mind of most swinging by the site right now: “When is Starforge coming out?”

Well, it’s still going to be a bit. I work hard and fast, but getting Starforge out in anything under a few months would take a literal miracle. There are only so many hours in a day, after all!

But the news is good. I’m currently partway through part two of the book on the Pre-Alpha, making changes, tweaks, and little fixes. Once again, I’m glad I let myself have a break between writing and editing this thing, as some of the chapters I was most worried about I find I’m not nearly so critical of on the reread now that I’ve had a bit of time to “disconnect.”

That isn’t to say that there aren’t issues I’ve been finding and fixing, nor that there aren’t a few chapters that I won’t be paying close attention to the Alpha Reader response when the Alpha happens. There are a few I’ve written down where I want to see what the audience response is before I make a final call, and they may indeed see heavy or maybe even complete rewrites.

Good news is, though, that the Pre-Alpha is progressing at speed. Currently I’m pressing through about 30,000-40,000 words a day in the editing process (that’s about 100-130 pages in print, roughly, at standard sizes).

Those of you that are new are probably thinking “Oh nice, so this’ll be done in a few days, maybe a week at that rate, right?”

Ah, no. Not quite. Starforge is … large. Larger than Jungle by a decent margin. Granted, if you’ve read Colony and Jungle, you know why. There’s a lot of ground to cover in this one. And it does so!

Anyway, enough about Starforge. It’s getting closer, work is being done, and hey, you might even see a teaser soon.

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Being a Better Writer: Where to Start with Building Worlds

Welcome BACK readers! Sands and storms it has been a while, hasn’t it? But once again, Being a Better Writer is back and returning to its regular schedule.

Just in time too. The break was nice, but it was starting to be strange not to have these coming out every Monday. Legitimately weird. So I’m glad to be back at it at last. That, and I’m pretty sure a number of you were really starting to miss them as well.

But, convention must be adhered to. So before we dive in to today’s topic, let’s talk about some news.

First and foremost: Starforge is in Pre-Alpha. That’s right! The finale to the UNSEC Space trilogy is going through the early editing phase before Alpha readers get to see it. I’ve got a notepad with notes I’m jotting down, changes are being made, and I’m having a good time reading through and experiencing a story that to date I’d only seen during the writing process.

Does that mean Alpha Readers should be sitting up and getting ready? Well … no. Not yet. After a week I’m only about a fifth of the way through this enormous titan of a tome. So it’s going to be a few more weeks yet, plus I don’t know how much of it I might end up rewriting prior to the Alpha.

That said, the Alpha could drop as early as February, and with this book’s big status (the biggest, and most anticipated, release I will have to date) I’m determined to make sure that at launch it’s as polished as I can make it. This means if you want to Alpha Read, I want you to Alpha Read. If you want to Beta Read, I want you to Beta Read. Sands, I am even going to be looking for people that haven’t read the first two books to at least read the opening chapters of Starforge to see if they can follow along and put together what’s both happening and has happened enough to be able to keep up with the book (at least, until they decide to go back and read the first two, hopefully).

But yes, Starforge is coming. Line by line, page by page, it is coming. And this book is a ride. If a trilogy is a three-act structure, this is the climax where everything rarely stops blowing up.

So get ready. But not just for that. Because in just over a month, Life, The Universe, and Everything happens! That’s right, it’s time for LTUE once again! And once again, I will be there and paneling and signing books.

If you’ve never been to an LTUE before, it’s a fantastic experience. LTUE is a convention, but an unusual one in that it’s entirely about the act and art of writing. The panelists are authors, editors, publishers, and other book-related creative folks, all there to talk about Sci-Fi/Fantasy writing. How to do it, what works, what will benefit it, everything! It’s an absolute blast, and if you’re at all interested in the art of writing (or just in meeting a bunch of your favorite authors), this is the con to go to.

So far, the plan is for LTUE 2022 to be live and in person (though the venue does have health and safety requirements). If lockdowns emerge, then it will be online like during 2021, but we’re all hoping that we’re able to meet in person once more. Regardless, as I understand it there are plans to stream this year’s LTUE online using a similar setup to 2021, so those of you that are a vast distance away can still participate!

So, Starforge is coming, as is LTUE 2022! Got it? Good! Now, let’s hit the jump and dive into today’s topic, which is a bit of an interesting one: where do we start when we’re setting out to worldbuild?

Hit the jump, and let’s get building!

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Halo Infinite: A Home Run, a Bunt, and a Strike All at Once

Yep, it’s a gaming piece.

I don’t feel too bad about this because I don’t often talk about my other hobbies on this site, so I figure breaking the mold every once in a while is fine. Maybe some of you aren’t interested, but that’s fine.

Plus, this post is a little late. Halo Infinite has been out for over two months now (between the campaign and the “free” multiplayer). Granted, the post didn’t come up before now because by the time I’d gathered these thoughts, I was on vacation, and I was not breaking that to post my musings on Halo Infinite.

But hey, the vacation is over now, and while this post might be a bit late rather than near launch, at the same time there’s a single advantage to that. See, the first few weeks after Infinite came out it was hard to find anything negative being said about it that wasn’t immediately dogpiled by ravenous fans who were just happy to have a Halo game again. But now that the honeymoon is over, more and more leeway is being to express discontent with some of the frankly baffling decisions from the newest Halo title.

Of which there are many. Personally, I find Halo Infinite to be almost exasperating in its competent, yet insane execution. I say insane because there’s almost no other word for it. It’s hard to otherwise articulate the amount of failure packed inside this package alongside spot-on success, bundled together with elements that have been fully omitted in favor of a “We’ll get to that later, we promise” note from the devs that frankly, no is certain we’ll ever get.

Comparatively then, Halo Infinite is akin to a car from a manufacturer like Lamborghini, only upon receipt of the car we find that while the engine is a work of art, the transmission is from an old 1940s Chevy, the tires are from Wal-mart, and half the instrument panel doesn’t work, but we’ve got an IOU from the manufacturer that promises it will be along before long and maybe even for a low price!

It’s a home run, a bunt, and strike, all at the same time. Let’s talk about it.

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2021 in Review: Another Year Passes By

Welcome back readers! I have returned from my staycation!

Actually, I did travel a little this Christmas, though nothing that involved any sort of flight (or it probably wouldn’t have happened). I’ve got a new nephew, and he is adorable. Point being, it wasn’t entirely a staycation. But hey, close enough. Sands, I even got a 12-hour multiplayer game of Stellaris in at one point. That was an experience!

So, I’ll bet a lot of you were hoping for a new Being a Better Writer post to drop today, but I have a confession to make: We’re going to be waiting one more week. Yes, my staycation is over today, and I’m going to be getting back to work as soon as this post is over, but I’m going to hold off on a new BaBW post in favor of this post: A look back at the year prior! What happened? What did I get done? How did the site perform? What were the new releases, if any? How were book sales?

As always, there’s a reason for this kind of summation. First is to take in how my work really performed and gauge that against what it could be or what I might want to make it. Second is to see what new goals I need to set. All, of course, while keeping you readers informed. So, let’s talk about 2021.

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Merry Christmas, Readers

Well, it’s been a year, hasn’t it? I mean more in the sense of a weight than a unit of time.

Perhaps that’s why I felt more of a need for Christmas this year. A want, really. A desire for the holiday season to arrive. There’s been so much shameless greed and Scroogian heartlessness this year that by before Halloween I was looking at my Christmas playlist with a note of longing for “peace on Earth, good will toward men.”

This year it’s the latter part of that phrase that’s really stuck with me. “Good will toward men.” There’s been a lot going on that shows many have discarded the phrase. We’re seeing naked, unabashed greed in ways we never have before. A dearth of sympathy. A desert of what once was understanding and mankind reaching across differences to extend one another a helping hand.

People make the decisions they make, and we can’t change that. However, we don’t have to contribute. We don’t have to make our own lives a desert. We can be an oasis, a small, vibrant green lake of kindness, understanding, and love. We can live up to that Christmas spirit, and bring “peace on Earth, good will toward men” in our own space.

“Good will toward men.” It’s not easy, certainly. It involves a willingness to look outside one’s own limited, immediate needs and concerns. It often means giving up one’s own immediate security or comfort to give aide to another. And yet, there’s something gratifying about the very act of doing good, something that heals the soul and soothes the spirit more than simply holding on to what we had ever would have done.

Perhaps then, this is why those who do not practice “good will toward men” are ever increasingly desperate to hold to what they have. They say the peace and understanding that good will grants others, the serenity even in difficult times, and rationalize that they too can achieve that if only they tighten their hold a little harder or gain just a little more. But really, all it does is further dry the desert, making those who have made their lives an oasis of kindness all the more vibrant and green by comparison.

Peace on Earth. Good will toward men. It’s not an exact, direct quote of what is recorded in the book of Luke (that would be “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men”) but it’s certainly a more modern phrasing that many recognize. Words delivered by angelic heralds to shepherds near Bethlehem on the night of the Savior’s birth. An event that would leave its mark on the world for centuries to come, and that had been looked forward to and prophesied for centuries before. Millenia, really, though that doesn’t quite flow off the tongue as well.

Peace on Earth. Good will toward men. Both a proclamation and, in a way, a calling. A request. A duty for those who followed the footsteps of Him whose birth the angels sang. A path that, as He himself often noted, wouldn’t always be easy … but would bring with it great joy and personal peace.

So this Christmas season, as billions gather around the globe to celebrate and commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, Savior of mankind … Even if you yourself may not happen to be one of them, let those words spoken at the occasion of His birth be with all of us, and carried into the new year.

Peace on Earth, good will toward men.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Peace and good will be with you.

Merry Christmas, So Have Some Christmas Cutting Room Floor Peeks!

Merry Christmas folks! Yes, I know I’m on vacation, but this post is a good idea. See, last week a reader posted saying that since they’re not getting a new Axtara book this Christmas (Christmas is magic, but not that magic) they’d love to see some of the cut content that doesn’t make it into final books or stories from across my library.

Personally, I thought that it was a pretty good idea! I do have a pretty solid collection of cut scraps, partial stories that never went anywhere, material that got cut, chopped, completely rebuilt, etc. And that sort of thing is pretty popular these days. You can watch blooper reels or cut scenes from films, look at sketches of scenes for animation or graphic novels that were cut and never made it, and I do have a decent amount of that stuff!

So today I’m going to share it with you. Those of you that have read the final products, you’re definitely going to see some serious differences on show here, and not because of editing—though in that regard, yes be aware that some of this stuff is old as well as unedited and raw. Which could be one reason it was cut.

Anyway, let’s dive through the cutting room floor of writing and take a look at some snippets from original drafts, cut content, and stories that didn’t make it! Merry Christmas, and enjoy!

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