A Smorgasbord of News!

Hello readers! How has you week been?

Mine has been busy. And it’s not going to let up anytime soon. There’s a lot going on for me in the next few weeks, and there already was a lot going on to begin with! Of course, one of the largest projects questing after my time was the Axtara – Banking and Paperback release, but if you’ve been following the site, you know that … that was this week!

That’s right! That’s the first bit of news I’m going to crow about. Because yes, the day finally arrived: You can now purchase one of my books in trade paperback. Sands, you can even order it from your local bookstore thanks to expanded distribution! Or ask your local library to acquire a copy (I still get paid either way, so enjoy your read)!

Of course, you can also just order it right now at this link. The one I just repeated twice for good measure! Or you can click the cover there over on the side. Come on … you know you want to … And plus, as those who have already read it can tell you (check the reviews) it’s a fantastically fun story. And suitable for a good range of ages too!

All right, so that’s Axtara talked about and plugged. So now I need to talk about the next big thing that’s happening and keeping me busy.

Life, The Universe, and Everything 2021!

Yes, that’s right, readers! It’s still happening this year, despite the quarantine. Just … not in the same manner. This year (and only this year, as again Covid-19) LTUE will be online! And yes, I will once again be both attending and presenting this year.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. For the newcomers, what is LTUE, and why should they care? Well, Life, The Universe, and Everything is a Writing Convention for Science-Fiction and Fantasy writers (primarily) that has, over the years, branched into a number of related topics such as art, gaming, and other associated venues while still being primarily arrayed around on thing: Writing.

This means that it has panels on topics such as worldbuilding, writing action scenes, or even writing non-human characters, chaired by authors that have written successful books on those topics. Panels where said authors will talk about the experience, common mistakes, ways to succeed, and take questions from the audience.

To be blunt, if you are at all interested in learning writing advice on hundreds of topics from experts in the business, this is the con to go to.

Oh, and did I mention it’s $5 for students? It’s an educational conference, after all.

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Axtara – Banking and Finance Now Available in Paperback!

It’s here!

Dragons. Princesses. Banking. Now in dead-tree format!

Ladies and gentlemen, guests and readers of all species … The time has finally come. You can now order your own paperback copy of Axtara – Banking and Finance! That’s right, the day has finally arrived! Axtara is here in print-bound, dead tree form that you can order and hold for yourself in your own two hands! Or three, or four, or whatever appendages you may use for such a purpose.

But that’s beside the point. The point is that you can now purchase your own copy of Axtara – Banking and Finance in a lovely paperback edition to grace your bookshelf! Or display on your living room table. Or get signed by the author at a con (you know, once this whole Covid-19 thing is over). Or … well, whatever you want to do with it! It’s yours!

So where can you acquire this wonderful title? Simple! You can just click any of the numerous links to Axtara across the site (there’s one currently to your right, or just use the books tab) and then, once on Amazon, select the paperback option! Axtara is available in a wide array of countries too, so if you’re not in the US, don’t fret!

What if you don’t use Amazon? Well … you’re not actually out of luck. Axtara is available for expanded distribution. While I don’t know how long it takes for things to wend their way to the right place, this means that your local bookstore should be able to order a copy … or even your local library! Strapped for cash but still want to get your hands on a copy? Go make a request for it at your local library and share it with everyone who uses it!

So hit up a link, phone your bookstore or your local librarian, whatever you need to do. But then sit back, wait for that package to arrive … and curl up with a tale of dragons, princesses, and most of all, banking and finance.

Enjoy, everyone. Enjoy!

Axtara Paperback Not Yet Available Due to Amazon Issues

Hey readers! Max here with a quick update. I know I anticipated the paperback for Axtara – Banking and Finance being available today, but alas, it is not. Why? Well … therein lies a bit of a story. Mostly because once again, Amazon went cheap, and that’s created problems.

See, Amazon has a bunch of tools you need to satisfy in order to print a book. Straightforward enough … save that one of them is, well … a little broken. To be specific, their cover program.

See, Amazon provides a template for you to build a cover to. You make it a layer, stick everything within the lines of “everything past here will be cut” and call it good.

Except you don’t. Their program is a little … buggy. Because while it asks for stuff to extend past that trim edge of that template, actually doing so will often result in the program you upload the final cover to resizing your image if it has. Which then means that the cover image may be well inside the trim lines and you have a problem.

Basically? The first time I got the cover past Amazon’s program, I “cheated” and tricked it by doing some manual transforms combined with expanded background layers as a border. The result was the cover I got on the print proof, which looked fantastic.

But apparently, in trying to get that approved for publication, someone over at Amazon noticed that their program was being tricked and rejected it. Hence why it didn’t go up this morning, even though, as I’ll point out again, it worked and the print proof looked great (in fact, a quick Google showed a number of other authors use the same “border trick” to beat Amazon’s cover program, so this is a common thing).

I resubmitted it (and lodged a stern complaint with KDP via e-mail about the shoddiness of their cover program and its resizing issues. With luck, it’ll go through, Axtara will be in flight, if not by the end of the day, then sometime tomorrow.

Being a Better Writer: Clarke’s Three Laws

Hello readers! Yes, I know I must apologize for the lateness of this post in coming online. But I had a really good reason, one that I think many of you will sympathize with: I was up extremely late last night reading a book. Which I then finished this afternoon as soon as I could.

Relatable, yes, but there’s a catch to this one. It wasn’t just any old book. In fact, it was quite new. So new that what I was reading these past two days was the print proof.

That’s right, readers, I stayed up late last night reading the first official paperback copy of Axtara – Banking and Finance and loving every minute of it. It really is a fantastic story with some very lively characters, and I almost can’t wait to start work on a sequel.

But I can. Because Starforge. Which … well, that’s for another news post. Back on topic, my having finished the print proof of Axtara is fantastic news because that means it’s readable. And as soon as this post is done? I’ll be making the final few tweaks to the master file … and the paperback will go live (EDIT: And it’s ticking. Amazon is reviewing it).

You read that correctly. Axtara – Banking and Finance will be available in paperback very soon. Look for a post tomorrow and be ready to start watching that shipping tracker!

All right! That’s it for news at the moment (I’ll save the other stuff for the now bi-weekly news post), so let’s get talking about today’s Being a Better Writer topic: Clarke’s Three Laws.

To be honest, I’m kind of shocked at myself that I didn’t get to this topic years ago. After all, my break-down of Brandon Sanderson’s Three Laws of Magic has been one of the most perused posts on the site (and if I may toot my own horn a bit, is also the source of Wikipedia’s summary as well as Google’s), so discussing three laws that have been influencing Science-Fiction for decades should have been as straightforwardly obvious as “Science-Fiction has science.”

But for whatever reason, I didn’t make that connection. Not until a month or two ago when I was discussing one of the laws with someone on a writing chat and realized, to my shock and embarrassment, that I’d never actually written about them.

It went on the list right then and there. Because it’s just wrong to have talked about one author’s rules for Fantasy Magic system but completely passed on Arthur C. Clarke’s rules for writing about the future. So no more! Today, we talk about Clarke’s Laws! So hit that jump, and let’s get started!

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NEWS! Both the Axtara Paperback and Life, The Universe, and Everything 2021 are Almost Here!

Hey readers! Max here with a quick news update for all of you! One that’s about to deliver some truth to the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Are you ready? Here you go!

Eh? Eh? Take a look at that! That’s right, the print proof for Axtara – Banking and Finance has arrived! And it looks even better in person than it does in these blurry photos (I’m an author, not a photographer as you can plainly tell).

So, what’s next? Well, I’ve already spotted a few minor tweaks I’m going to make before letting it go live. The inner margin feels a little cramped, so I’m going to widen that up, and there’s a page near the back that’s on the wrong side of the paper. All easy fixes. I’ll be going through it this weekend, make the changes Monday and … well, yeah, unless I find a major problem, Monday paperback orders for Axtara – Banking and Finance will go live!

Something to look forward to, no? Now, in other important news … did you guys realize that Life, The Universe, and Everything 2021 is only three weeks away?

Yes, you read that correctly! It’s in February … and we’re almost done with January. Time flies, doesn’t it? But in case you were wondering, yes LTUE is still happening this year, and yes you can register for it now. However, this year it will be all online, in light of Covid-19. No travel. Just you and an internet connection.

Anyway, I’ll be posting more about LTUE 2021 as it nears. For now, I just wanted to alert you readers that it is coming, and quickly!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a paperback to read.

Microsoft Just Shot the Series X in the Back EDIT: Someone got to a medic in time

UPDATE: As of a short time ago, and due to massive public outcry, Xbox has announce that the Xbox Live Gold price hike is no more. In addition, they’re going to be opening the platform’s online play up more to those who don’t want Gold, including announcing that all F2P games will no longer require Gold. It’s a start! Thank you to everyone who made their unhappiness known!

As for me, I actually passed on buying a Series X during this whole deal (in my cart and everything). So yeah, up front, it cost them a Series X sale. Now that it’s been resolved, well … I’ll start looking again.

Thank you, Xbox folks, for realizing how bad an idea this was, for listening, and for responding,

Original post below:

Well, I didn’t expect to be posting this today. But in fairness, Microsoft has blindsided everyone with this move, from fans to prospective buyers. And in the process, during the launch period of their own console they’ve basically shot it in the back.

Let me explain. Microsoft is one of the juggernauts in the game console space right now, alongside Sony and Nintendo. In December/November of 2020, both Microsoft and Sony launched their newest hardware iterations. Both are vast improvements over the underpowered hardware that the prior generation delivered, and both were high on people’s shopping lists. In fact, until this morning, the Series X was high on mine. Now? I’m not so sure.

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The Axtara Print Proof is on its way!

Readers! I have fantastic news! The print proof for Axtara – Banking and Finance will be in my hands this weekend!

Yup! It’s ordered and on its way! Which means that I can finally give you guys some solid details! Like, for example, when it might go up for sale.

Yes, I said “might” there. There’s a catch. I’m getting the proof. IE the copy that I have to go through checking for any print mistakes or problems. So hey, I get to read through my book again! This time on paper! If there are errors, like the cover not being trimmer properly or the text being cut off, missing pages, etc etc etc, then I need to track down the source of the issue and fix it, which will mean another proof order.

However, if all is well and I’ve done my job properly, all I have to do is click a button … and Axtara as a trade paperback will be live!

Yes, there will be a post announcing such the moment it happens. But yes, this means that come Monday (or Tuesday), you’ll very likely be able to order a your own hard copy paperback of Axtara – Banking and Finance! As will bookstores, so it’ll be interesting to me to see what happens there. This means that if you don’t have access to Amazon, or want to support your local indie bookstore, they’ll be able to order a copy of Axtara for you and yes, I will still get paid.

For that matter, you’ll also be able to ask your local library to pick up copies of Axtara as well, and they’ll be able to do the same. So if you have no money but a library card, ask your library to grab a copy once it goes live! They’ll be able to!

Now, that’s pretty much it! Oh! Pricing. Yeah, so the final price is $11.99. The final page tally? A little over 300. The cover? Glossy (I can’t wait to see it). I’ll post some pictures for you all to see when it arrives.

So get hyped! We’re only a few days away!

Being a Better Writer: Clothing and Fashion

Welcome back readers! It’s Monday, and that mean’s it’s time for another installment of Being a Better Writer!

Of course, it’s not just an ordinary Monday. Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday in the US honoring the life and accomplishments of, well, Martin Luther King Jr (Surprise! This one is names correctly!).

If you don’t know who Martin Luther King Jr. is, then today is a good day to perhaps carry out a Google and learn a little bit about him! In the meantime, however, and before I get to this week’s news and then the post itself, I’ll share this quote from him, one that feels especially relevant after the last few weeks:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

If you’ve never read that quote before, nor anything else Martin Luther King Jr. said during his life, then I’d say today would be a good day to do a quick Google and some reading! Enjoy!

And now, the news! With the most relevant question on many readers’ minds being “What’s the status of Axtara – Banking and Finance?” Well, I’ve got good news, and I’ve got good news!

Good news #1 is that Axtara is doing pretty well. Even almost a month after release, it’s still sitting in the top 25 on the new release tracker for its category on Amazon. It’s also picked up a number of reviews and ratings, all of them in the positive. From what’s come in so far, the meaning is clear: You guys love Axtara! Let’s take a look at some excerpts from the reader reviews so far:

I just finished reading the the book a bit ago and I loved it. The story is enjoyable and wraps up well (it does leave it open for a sequel too, and I hope that there is one – or more – eventually). The characters are also likeable, and the story being from the perspective of a dragon – Axtera – is interesting … I enjoyed it quite a bit and if you think the description looks interesting then you should definitely give it a shot as I think it delivers well on the premise.

An enjoyable read! I’ll give a try on kindle unlimited to most any book with a dragon as the protagonist, but I quite liked this one enough to leave a good review. I was particularly interested in the entrepreneurial elements as Axtara works to establish her bank. Axtara’s focus on reaching break-even point shows the author did their research here, and the business side seems well grounded and interesting.

 I came away fully satisfied from having read a story so well-crafted, and I hope to see more!

A lovely and enjoyable story that I will be buying as a hard copy as soon as it’s available!

So yeah, the verdict is in: Axtara is a hit! I hope those of you that are still reading it are finding it every bit as enjoyable as you’d hoped, and that your reviews will find their way to the world soon!

Now, what about something that even the last review quote touches on: The hard copy. Is it still coming? I know I haven’t offered an update in a week or so (again, blame the computer failure I suffered). Well, I’ve got good news people!

It’s almost done. The manuscript has been uploaded, and the hard copy cover is almost done. All that’s left is for someone who knows more about GIMP than I to do some smoothing on the image, and for me to acquire and zip through a proof! And once that’s done … Axtara – Banking and Finance will be available in paperback!

Okay, so what are we looking at, detail-wise? Well, the price is likely going to be, as of right now, $11.99, and weigh in at a little over three hundred pages. If that price seems high, well … that is literally as low as I can go before the print costs are such that I’d lose money on every copy sold, at which point the Print services just say “no, you can’t do that.” Not a great deal for me, either. So yeah, it’s very likely going to be $11.99 for the time being. But hey, at least there’s digital for those of you saving pennies.

However, I can say this: Axtara will almost certainly be available in print before the end of the month! I’ll be sure to let you all know!

Now, I do have one other bit of news before we hop to today’s Being a Better Writer topic: Price drops! That’s right, the promised price drops in the wake of a new release have finally come for Shadow of an Empire and Jungle! Shadow of an Empire has now reached its final tail-price of $3.99, while Jungle has seen its first price-drop to $5.99. So if you’re a tail reader, your day has come for Shadow of an Empire! Click that books tab at the top and go for it!

All right! That’s the news, said and done. So let’s talk about today’s writing topic, which is a bit of an odd one. Clothing and fashion, after all, is something a lot of young writers barely consider, save occasionally from the lens of “how cool can I make them look” (a process which for some reason for many seems to involve robbing an outlet store for a few hundred belts and zippers)? So why devote a BaBW post to the topic?

Well, it’s because as I’ve said before, a lot of bringing a world to life is in the fine details. And clothing, and what we wear, is definitely one of those details. Let’s take a look.

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OP-ED: My Thoughts on the Capitol Riots

This post is bound to make someone somewhere unhappy. Fair warning, this is an opinion piece, and it is going to be political. I’m even going to bring some religion into it. There’s no way around it.

What it’s not going to be is a news source. I’m not going to deliver a blow-by-blow of what went down in the District of Columbia capitol of the United States last week. I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you’ve got the gist of it. No, this post is to talk about my response to the event. I’m going to bring in some religion thoughts on the matter as well. So, what did I think about the capitol riots?

Probably one of the most shameful things, in a presidency of shameful things, to happen during the Trump administration.

I’m not very secretive of my dislike for President Trump and his policies. Or for his attitudes, behavior, and leanings. Personally, I find Trump to be the poster child for the most dangerous type of adult mentality warned about in books like The Pinch. He’s incapable of losing or admitting fault, and is willing to say anything, and I do mean anything, to get what he wants. It’s how he’s leaving office with the lowest amount of campaign promises even attempted to be fulfilled (by which I mean actually took any steps to follow them at all), with around half. Much of what he did accomplish was the equivalent of a child running water over a toothbrush and making noises to cover up that they don’t want to brush their teeth. To the parent watching TV and barely paying attention, it certainly appeared to be an actual effort, but anyone who took a closer look knew that there was tomfoolery going on.

Now, I want to point out that this does not mean I preferred Biden. Or Hillary from 2016. Rather I found the whole trio all sorts of unpalatable as far as my political stance went. But as President Trump did win the election, that puts him and his policies in a direct hot seat for analysis, upon which I can very thoroughly say I dislike much of what he’s accomplished during his time in office. For example, for all Trump’s talk about “small business,” data released by his own administration for the 2016-2019 period (so without the absolutely colossal mishandling of Covid-19) shows that his practices and policies have been horrible for small businesses, which are fewer in number, paying higher taxes, hiring less people, and in general dropping across the board. And that was before Covid-19. Turns out all that talk about small business was just that: talk.

So yeah, I’m not fond of a President who seems far more concerned with talking very loudly about how well they’re brushing their teeth and how impressed their dentist will be while loudly running water over the brush and grinning at themselves in the mirror. So when President Trump became Calvin from Bill Watterson’s famous Calvin & Hobbes even before the election was over, stating that he had obviously won, why wouldn’t he win, and clearly any other result was simply cheating, well … Let’s just say a President of the US parroting an argument put forth by a six year old in a newspaper comic strip, but unironically didn’t fill me with much hope.*

*It’s worth pointing out, if I’m recalling the creator’s commentary correctly, that Watterson noted that Calvin’s character was supposed to be representative of his generation’s behaviors as children, and a worry that many of them never grew out of it.

Now, I’m going to set aside the question of election fraud, as well as the oddly specific criteria President Trump has approached it with. That’s a question for the courts to decide. I’m going to talk instead about what happened Wednesday.

It was a shameless act of sedition and insurrection, and I hope the courts bury those who took part in it deep in their legal system.

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Being a Better Writer: Handling Stress

Welcome back readers! To the first Being a Better Writer post of 2021! Which … almost didn’t happen today. And not just because of the computer (which I’ll update you all on in a moment). No, because of the other event that happened last Wednesday in the US. You know, the big one where a bunch of rioters stormed the US capital in an attempt to forcefully change the election results.

Yeah. That one. There will be a post about that. But just in case any of you were wondering, I’m firmly among the opposition to what those people did. It was outright rebellion. And I would have said something on it immediately, save that my computer was down, and incapable of making a post of the length this topic deserved. I almost wanted to push Being a Better Writer back a week and use today to talk about it, but … One way you beat individuals like that is by proving that they ended up having less of an impact than they wanted. So I’ll talk about them later this week (assuming my computer holds up), but for today? BaBW is still on!

Now, about that computer. Yes, I’m at my keyboard again. And while it’s not 100%, it’s functional enough for me to finish the print requirements for Axtara – Banking and Finance.

So what happened? Well, it was a two-fold strike. The first hit was that … Well, let me explain the parts first. For those of you not in the know, everything on a computer goes through a central processing unit, or CPU. It’s like the engine of a car, only more so. You can’t push a computer along if a CPU goes out. CPU’s generate a lot of heat in operation, so there is a cooling apparatus set on top of them, and a thermal paste between the two that helps conduct the heat into the cooling system.

Well, problem #1 was that my thermal paste had largely dried out over the last few years of living in a desert. And as a result, it wasn’t transmitting heat evenly or well. So when the computer went under a sudden load, such as with a hefty game … the CPU could trip the warning heat sensors and the computer would shut down out of safety (don’t want a valuable CPU melting, which will happen otherwise). Until the heat cooled, it wouldn’t restart.

So that was problem #1. Cleaning off the old concrete-like dried thermal paste and replacing it with new, fresh stuff fixed that problem. A complete diagnostic scan of the CPU showed that no damage had been done, thankfully (yay safeguards). But then there was issue #2, and the other problem: my secondary hard drive was failing.

Explanation: Computers can have a number of internal drives to store information and move it around. I have three. My primary, and boot drive, only for windows. A secondary that was cannibalized from older builds that held my music and various things, and a third that is much larger I acquired a few years ago.

That second drive? Around 15 years old. Most drives last 5-10. And Windows was using it as a page file (basically spare ram), meaning any time there was a lot of data being moved around, Windows would read and write on the drive. Plus, my listening to music … the drive was wearing out and going bad. And SATA (the tech used to access the drive) panics when it encounters bad sectors.

Basically? The moment a bad sector came along with the computer accessing that drive, down the system went down hard.

So is it fixed? Well … mostly. As I have another drive, I can rip the old one out. However, Windows may have put some vital files on there, so doing so may cause me to need to repair my copy of Windows, which is always dicey. So before that happens, I’m going to get the print copy of Axtara proofed since right now I can do that. In the meantime (and how I’ve avoided the problem), I had Windows do a checkdisk on the bad drive, and it’s identified the currently bad sectors and won’t touch them. Won’t stop new ones from occurring, but I’ve also moved everything that was using that drive off of it and onto the other larger one. For now, this will have to do, and I won’t be letting this computer do any heavy lifting until I get that drive removed and things smoothed out (no gaming on this PC for a while, which is killer).

So, that’s where things stand right now. I’d like to replace the dead drive with an equal sized SSD, but that’s not explicitly needed and budget right now is tight, as one might guess. But the computer is up and running, and I checked to make sure that everything was backed up (and nothing book-related was on the old drive anyway, just so you know).

All right, so that’s the news. Today, once this is done, I’ll be sizing the cover for the print proof of Axtara. Exciting stuff!

Anyway, with that all said … let’s talk about today’s topic, shall we? Which I felt was extremely topical given the last week. I’ll start with a question: any of you want to guess how much sleep I lost last week trying to figure out the source of my computer problems so I could get back to work?

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