Axtara – Banking and Finance Open Beta Call!

Those of you who know what this title means, you’re already ready. You know what to do. Those who do not know, read on!

So, Axtara – Banking and Finance is in Beta! For those not in the know, here you go: Beta Reading is the period of editing in which we’re looking for typos, misspellings, misplaced words, etc. Commas instead of periods. Grammatical errors. That kind of thing. Major, overarching issues like plot holes and the like were tidied up during the Alpha. Beta is for catching out of place words, a quotation mark that’s oriented the wrong way, etc etc.

Okay, so that’s what Beta is. Now, what’s the call?

Simple. I’m extending an open call to all those who would like to join in on the Beta. I’ve heard back from a few of my regular Beta Readers, some of which were too busy currently (and I don’t quite blame them with the whole quarantine going on), and some ready (those I didn’t hear back from at all, I hope things are OK and you’re just very busy).

But I would like to get more eyes on this run of Axtara. For a couple of reasons. First, the more eyes are on it, the more errors we’ll catch, leading to a cleaner final release. Second, more eyes make for swift work, and I’m already starting to get people who’ve not even read Axtara or any of my other works inquiring as to when it will be available. On the one hand, good, on the other hand, this means I need to hurry up and get it out. It seems I always underestimate editing time, so I’m already running up hard against my original goal (end of summer).

So, if you’ve ever Beta Read before, or you just really enjoy spotting typos and the like, let me know. Comment. Volunteer for Beta Reading. You’ll get your name in the book (if you want it), a complimentary digital copy (again, if you want it), and plus you’ll get to read Axtara early. And this book is awesome amounts of fun.

Again, let me know. We’ll get you lined up with a few trial chapters to check out (to see what you think about it) and then from there, the whole thing.

Again, overall, it’s pretty simple. Read book, note all typos or misspelled/misused/misplaced words as you enjoy reading Axtara‘s adventure. But as things ramp up to getting it out there, the Beta Read is a step that cannot be missed.

So like I said, if you’re interested, leave me note below.

Being a Better Writer: Using Food

A quick reminder to start keeping a list of your ideas for future Being a Better Writer articles! Topic List #15 is almost out of topics, which means there will soon be a topic call and a chance to make your requests for ideas and topics heard!

Got it? Good! Because today we’re diving right into our topic, which was inspired by a writing chat I hang out on. You ready? Today we’re talking about food.

Ah food. That subject that everyone has an opinion on. Food is as basic a part of the human lifestyle—or really any living lifestyle—that it’s ubiquitous to existence.

With that in mind, to kick this post off, I want you readers to try a little thought experiment for me. I want you to think of a memory of a favorite holiday. Got one in mind? Now analyze it: was food in that memory somewhere?

There’s a fairly high chance that it was. What kind of food may have varied, but some of you may have even been able to almost taste it as you imagined that holiday.

All right, now let’s try a second little experiment. Just read the following things and see what sort of thoughts pop up at the prompt. Ready? Go!

  • County Fair
  • Wedding
  • Shopping
  • Exercise
  • Business meeting
  • Birthday
  • Break

All right, made it through the list? Now, this may have been tempered a bit by the topic, but how many of you thought of foods associated with those events, activities, etc?

Sure, it might be something simple, like donuts at a business meeting (the 90s standard) or snacking on a break. It might be wedding cake or onion blooms at a county fair. But all of these activities, in one way or another, can, and most likely will, involve food!

However … if you were to look at those events in a book of some kind … how many might skip over the food altogether? More than a few, actually. And those books?

They’re missing out.

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Axtara – Banking and Finance Beta Call Going Out!

All right! It’s here! And not a moment too late, either! Axtara – Banking and Finance is ready for Beta 1!

I hope none of you forgot about this project with everything else that’s been going on (both on this site and off) because it’s an absolutely heart-warming little adventure. For those not in the know, Axtara is a Young Adult Fantasy following the titular Axtara: A dragoness who is at long last fulfilling a lifelong dream of opening and running her own bank. Of course, it may not be as easy nor as simple as she’d hoped. But then what is when one strikes out on their own?

Set in the same setting as A Game of Stakes, Axtara is a delightful little adventure that, in its current state weighs in at 122,800 words. So not a massive tome by any sense of scale (though probably a bit long for most YA novels, but then again it’s me, so what did anyone expect?), but certainly a good little weekend read.

Anyway, if you’ve been a prior Beta Reader in the past, expect an e-mail in your inbox shortly. If you are on the Beta Reader list but were also an Alpha Reader, then I’ll be dropping you a different e-mail saying that you are also welcome to participate, but I’d like to stagger it a little toward a Beta 2, since you were just reading it. So sort of a second wave.

Same also goes, by the way, for those of you who have never Beta Read before but would like to volunteer to be on the list. Contact me for details (and be sure you know that it is a commitment) if the idea of reading through and looking for typos and misplaces words is something you’d enjoy!

And uh … that’s it! Progress continues on Starforge, but that’s really for another post. This one is all about Axtara!

So prior Beta Readers, check your inbox! The invite should be there soon!

OP-ED: Xbox Live is Now a Legitimate Reason Not to Purchase an Xbox

I don’t talk about my gaming hobby on here too much (recommendations for titles like Subnautica notwithstanding) but from time to time it comes up. And from time to time, I do have something to say about it. Today, what I have to say is … weird. A pointed observation, but one that I want to put out there.

Xbox Live is now a legitimate reason not to own an Xbox.

This might seem strange (or if you’re unfamiliar with the names here, confusing). So let me offer a bit of background.

The Xbox is Microsoft’s gaming console. The first one launched in 2001, made a name for itself with titles like Halo, and has since become one of the three mainstream consoles most people think of when they think of games. A console, by the way, being a set-top box, like a Blu-Ray player, that plays games. Think of a small, specialized computer that’s built to do one thing: game.

Now, Xbox made a name for itself in several ways. But one of the areas where Miscrosoft lead the pack was in bringing online play to consoles as a mainstream feature rather than a peculiar oddity.

Online play is the ability for players to connect with others over the internet, engaging in cooperative or competitive play. To most of you, this isn’t new knowledge. Xbox was the first to bring this ability to a console by default with “Xbox Live,” a service that you had to pay for but let you play Halo with your friends across the country.

For a while, this was understandable: Consoles weren’t PCs. The games were only there. Pay a little extra to play online? Weird from the perspective of a PC player (where this ability has been around for forever) but for a console. Okay, sure.

Except in the last two years … this “pay to play” mentality has become a bit of a sticking point against the platform, rather than for it.

Why? Well, Microsoft has made major pushes to “unify” their gaming platform. All their first-party titles now come to PC, with the company putting an emphasis on making it as easy as possible for game-makers to release their titles on both platforms. They’ve even worked to make cross-play possible, so players on one can play with people on the other ecosystem.

Oh, and then they took it one step further and started making purchases cross over. Buy a game like Forza Horizon 4 from a participating digital store, for example, and play it on both your Xbox or your PC, wherever you want.

Buy once, play where you want. Sounds pretty good, right? Except this is where the problem arises.

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Have a Happy (and Safe) Labor Day Holiday!

Whoa! It’s that time of year already! Yeah, a Monday holiday has rolled around: Labor Day!

Which, as per the usual, means there will be no Being a Better Writer post today. I’ll be taking the day off. As I hope many of you are. Recharge! Relax! Heal up!

Of course, if you’re still looking for writing advice, we’ve got a couple options for you. There is still an archive of several hundred writing articles here on the site. You could simply search for a classic on the sidebar (The Art of Misdirection is always a good one, or you could pick a topic of your choice) and go for it!

Alternatively, if you’ve got a writing topic you’d like to hear more about, post it in a comment below! Topic List #15 has, at this time, two topics left. Two more weeks worth of articles, but after that? New topics will be needed! So if you’re looking for something in particular, post a comment so it can be added to Topic List #16!

And with that, I’m going to go enjoy my Labor Day. Have a happy and safe one out there wherever you are! Ride a bike, read a book, whatever! But enjoy, and stay healthy.

Fireteam Freelance: A Creator’s Look Back

All right guys, I’ll level with you right from the start.

I wasn’t actually that impressed by Fireteam Freelance.

Don’t get me wrong, there was definitely some gold buried in there. There are some scenes that were absolutely awesome, some great fights, and some good moments of character. But there were also a lot of issues. Oh man were there some ruthlessly brutal issues and constraints. A lot of which I expect most readers noticed. And the further along the series got, the more I tried to break free of those constraints, which helped a little but at the same time … made things a bit messy.

If you’re thinking by now that perhaps Fireteam Freelance isn’t my strongest showing, you’re right. It’s not. It was an experiment. And in light of the entire series being done, while I don’t consider it a failure (after all, it was an experiment, failure is part of that) I definitely see it as one of the weaker things I’ve written.

And a lot of that, I feel, grew out of one rule that I couldn’t escape, by the design and nature of the experiment itself: Freelance being an episodic series. That was the core point of the experiment. To test the idea out and see how it worked. Now, I don’t feel I’ve wasted my time with Freelance, nor do I believe that there aren’t worthwhile moments in it (there definitely are) … But I do believe that the weaknesses of the format really hurt it.

So. you’ve given me your thoughts (and if you haven’t, well it’s too late now). Now it’s my turn to offer you mine. Hit the jump and let’s get started.

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Being a Better Writer: Outlines and Outlining

Welcome back readers! Ready for a lightning-fast news moment? My thoughts on Fireteam Freelance have been written and will automatically go up on Wednesday. If you’ve not left your thoughts on Fireteam Freelance now that the series is complete, you can do so here.

That’s it! Lightning news moment over! Let’s talk Being a Better Writer!

So today’s post has a bit of a slightly embarrassing story behind it. I hang out in a few writing spheres online, sometimes lurking, sometimes posting, and the other day a discussion got started about how to outline. Now, usually when a post like this starts and someone is digging for some detailed info I’ll mosey on over to the search bar here on the sight, type in the subject, and drop anywhere from one to three posts on the subject. Want detail? Here you go!

Except when I did that for outlines … I came back empty.

Yeah. There are posts discussing outlines here on the site, but they’re always an angle, like “don’t get bogged down doing outlines” or “Outline or pantsing?”

Nothing. At all. On just a basic outline.

Sands and storms, talk about an oversight. Because almost every writer uses an outline at some point. Hence the question that led to the discover in the first place. So today we’re going to talk about one of the most basic concepts of writing a story of any kind. We’re going to discuss the humble outline. And guess what?

It’s easier than you think.

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Delaying My Fireteam Freelance Thoughts + Other Updates

Just a quick update, but I’ve pushed my post on Fireteam Freelance back a few days. It’ll come out next week. Why?

So that there’s more time for readers to post their thoughts to the reader feedback post. A day (less, really) isn’t enough time for most people to respond, and most people react when they hear that a newer, larger post is coming by just ignoring it.

Which isn’t great for a feedback post. I’m still going to write my look back on it today, but it won’t go up for a bit yet.

Meanwhile, the Alpha 2 Reader Call is still open. Axtara could use a few more eyes to give it a quick read. 120,000 words, so a few days worth of decent reading. Nothing big. Head on over to the Alpha 2 call page and comment if you’d be interested. It’d be fast and quick, something you could blitz through on a weekend.

Patreon Supporters, meanwhile, have a first-chapter preview over on Patreon. It won’t be the last either! So if you’re a supporter wondering what the hubbub is about, head on over and get your first look!

Tomorrow I’ll once again start trawling for a cover artist. Plus start looking at timetables for Beta 1 …

Starforge‘s first draft is sitting at 56,470 words. This one’s going to easily be just as titanic as Colony and Jungle, but there’s a lot going on in these chapters.

Anyway, I’m going to get to work now. Hit the links, have a good weekend!

Fireteam Freelance: The Feedback Post

Well readers, it was a several month journey getting here.

Work first started on Fireteam Freelance at the end of February. At the time, I had no idea how it would turn out. An episodic series? Posted for free, as it was written, with no editing, directly to the site? This was one of those experimental things that sounded interesting, but there were a lot of question about how it would turn out. Now, six months later and with the last entry in the series complete, uploaded, and posted, and with an audience that’s been following every episode of the journey, it’s time for me to ask: what did you guys think?

I have my own thoughts on Freelance, but I’ll be posting those tomorrow. With this post I want to hear from you readers. Those that read it, those that bounced off of it … the gamut. Freelance was experimental, embracing a lot of things that made it different from my more usual, published stuff. It was episodic, which meant that the content of each episode always had to feature the same elements, unlike a book chapter which could count on a reader having read prior chapters.

Basically, there was a lot different about Freelance, and while I’ve got my own thoughts on its performance, what worked, and what definitely didn’t, I’d like to hear from you readers that spent the last six months following it. I want to hear what you liked about it, but also what you didn’t like about it, what you felt worked or didn’t, and/or even what left you feeling cold.

Because again, Freelance was experimental. An exercise in stretching out and trying something new to see how it worked, to see what I could do with it and what readers would think.

Rather than sell something so volatile and unpredictable (after all, it could fail utterly as a fun product), I decided to make it free and see what would happen.

So anyway, this is your big chance to tell me what you thought. And I’m looking forward to hearing it. As I said, I have my own thoughts on it that I’ll post tomorrow, but for now? I’m interested in hearing what you guys thought and think of the adventure now that it’s over.

Hit this link to start commenting!

Axtara – Banking and Finance Alpha 2 Call!

Woooo! It’s time!

So, readers, as some of you may have noticed, the Alpha 1 for Axtara – Banking and Finance is complete! Boo-yah! Changes have been made, chapters have been tucked, etc etc. But now, as you may have guessed from the title, it’s time for a second Alpha.

This one will go a lot quicker than the first. The goal here is just to see the results of the changes made on a new test audience, one that hasn’t read the story before.

That’s it, really. The prior group was pretty thorough. But the changes that were made have to be tested by readers that are blind to the overall story. I’m not even going to tell them what those changes were or where they are. I’m just going to drop the story on them and wait it out.

So then, this is an invite call. Feel like reading a YA Fantasy novel? One that’s not a titanic epic (Axtara is only 122,000 words long, or about the average length of a novel). One that has a dragon as the protagonist, with a plot about opening a bank?

Yes, it’s very fresh and original. You know me.

Anyway, this is an open call for Alpha 2 readers. It’s going to be fast, and it’s going to be furious. If you’d like to give it a go, leave a comment.

Also, if you’re an artist named Chromamancer and feeling like you’ve changed your mind, you’re still my first pick!

Fireteam Freelance feedback post tomorrow!

EDIT: Oh, and if you are a Patreon Supporter, you should go check the Patreon page! There’s a little reward waiting for you …