One Week of Starforge!

Well, it’s been a week. How are you folks finding Starforge?

This is, I think, the challenge with writing books of a truly staggering size. The book might release on a certain day, but when it contains nearly four-times the adventure of what would already be considered a fairly large book, one has to account for the fact that no matter how gripping it winds up being, it’s still going to take even the quickest, most efficient reader four times as long to get through it. It’s a basic function of the math. If a three-hundred page book takes a reader a week to get through, than something that weighs in at six times that is going to take, well, six times as long. There’s just an upper limit on how quickly someone can process words, and adding more words means it’s going to take more time.

That said, if we go off of sales alone, Starforge looks like it’s a colossal success, already having blown past first-month sales for most of my books in just a week and continuing to sell. And drawn in quite a few new readers as well, with sales of the entire trilogy topping my sales charts for the last week.

But with all that going on, now that we’re a week in … how are most of you finding it? Where’s everyone at? Have you made it to the end of part two? Part three? Are some of you already closing in on the final chapters? Who’s been your favorite viewpoint character this time around?

I hope it’s been everything you were waiting for.

Oh, and if you haven’t given the finale of the UNSEC Space Trilogy a look yet, you can find it by clicking the massive image above, get a free preview over at the books tab, or check out the whole trilogy at once at this link.

As for me? I’ve got some … unusual … writing to do. I’ll see you Friday!

Being a Better Writer: Crafting a Better Sequel by Using Portal 2 as a Guide

Welcome back, writers! And readers!

I know, I know. I all but vanished after Starforge launched last week. Which, by the way, if you missed it, is finally here, and it is glorious. But after a Reddit AMA and the launch of the book itself, I pretty much disappeared, which was kind of weird, right?

Well, the answer to the why is “I got sick.” Somewhere between working all the extra hours I did to get Starforge out on time and the array of colds and coughs going around right now, I got whammied with a particularly vengeful cold that knocked me out for the entirety of last week. But at least it gave me a chance to catch up on the sleep debt I’d built up during the lead-in to the Starforge launch.

Speaking of which, however, how’s Starforge doing? Well, while it’s still too early to roll out any definitive numbers, just the performance of the first few days suggests that Starforge is very likely my strongest book launch of all time.

Better yet, it’s not slowing down. Sales have continued to roll in over the last week. Constant sales of Starforge and the rest of the trilogy, as well as Kindle Unlimited reads. So much so that a single day over this last weekend accrued more sales than two whole weeks would have earlier this year.

It’s also already pulling in the Five-Star reader responses, which is telling in two ways. First, that it does indeed serve as a fitting and colossal finale to the trilogy as a whole, but also that someone was sucked in hard enough that they finished its entire half a million word length in just a few days from the launch.

Sands and Storms, guys. It was a lot of work, but it looks like it’s paid off. Starforge is the finale you were all waiting for.

If you haven’t checked out the trilogy yet, I highly advise doing so. If you’re a fan of big, grand, colossal-concept Science-Fiction, you owe it to yourself to check the UNSEC Space Trilogy out.


Now then, other quick bits of news before we move into today’s Being a Better Writer. First up: The upcoming price point adjustment. This was slated to happen around Starforge‘s launch, and it still is. But I figured being sick gave everyone a bit of an extra breather. Long story short, I haven’t adjusted the price points of my books in almost ten years (February 2013 to be exact). So one of my projects this upcoming week is a full price adjustment for most of the books in my library.

I will note that I’m still going to be basing my books on the same 1994-inspired values that my prices—with adjustment for inflation—reflected prior to this point, as explained in the original The Price We Pay post on book prices. There will be an updated “Price we Pay” post coming in conjunction with the adjustment, as well as an addendum link to the original post guiding curious readers toward the new price comparison chart.

If you’d rather grab stuff before the adjustment, then this week is your week to do so. I’m aiming to get the new prices out Thursday or Friday, so consider that your cutoff line. Though Starforge will remain the same price, since it’s brand new and already reflects the new price point.


Now, last but not least, what else is coming? Before we launch into today’s Being a Better Writer topic, what’s on the horizon now that Starforge, juggernaut of juggernauts, is out?

Well, I plan to start work on two new novels today, actually. Okay, I’m already working on a new one. It is, at long last, a new Jacob Rocke book. That’s right, a new Unusuals novel! Now, I definitely won’t be able to get it out by the tenth anniversary of the first Jacob Rocke book (as well as my first book overall), but I will likely be able to get it out fairly quickly. No name yet, but if you were one of those readers who loved One Drink and Dead Silver and wanted to see more of the Unusuals setting and Rocke’s adventures, that’s the next book I’ll be working on. I’m still hammering out some of the basic details, but the gist of the story is already starting to take shape.

After that draft gets hammered out, I’ll let it rest while sitting down to work on—and for some of you this will come with an “AT LAST!” proclamation—the next Axtara book, tentatively titled Magic and Mayhem. We’re far from done with either the setting or the titular banking dragoness herself, so look forward to more of that in the future. Speaking of the setting, there was also that short novel I pumped out around September-October set in the same universe about a young fisherman and mermaid that also could be polished up and rewritten …

So yes, suffice it to say that in the wake of Starforge—and as big a book as it was, the wake is pretty colossal—I’ve got plenty to tide me over and work on leading into 2023. Oh, there’s also all those short stories I wrote up over the last year, plus there’s LTUE in 2023, which I just got my schedule for …

Suffice it to say, the future looks bright. Starforge and the rest of the trilogy are tearing up my charts, Axtara just continues to sore and pop up in more bookstores with every passing week, and I’ve got plenty of book projects slated for the coming year. Starforge may be out … but we’re far from done. There’s a lot of adventure coming folks. So though we may be saying farewell to Jake, Anna, and Sweets, there are plenty of friends new and old on their way.


And with that, let’s finally get down to today’s Being a Better Writer topic and start talking about sequels. I know a number of you are likely a little perplexed upon seeing today’s title. After all, Portal 2 is a video game (and if you didn’t know that and are now joining the ranks of the perplexed, bear with me). What could a video game have to offer writers teaching about story?

Well, you’d be surprised. A lot of video games have been no slouch in the storytelling department for decades now, and both Portal titles are no exception. While the story may be presented in a manner that’s different from a book owing to the audio-visual nature of the medium, that doesn’t change the fact that it can be a great story.

But we’re not just talking about Portal 2 today because of how many awards it won (and rightfully so, I’ll add). We’re talking about Portal 2 because despite being in a different medium, it does lay down a very identifiable pattern to follow if you want to create a sequel that exceeds the first in every way.

We’ve talked about the problem with sequels before on this site. Numerous times, in fact, sometimes as the focus of a whole post, other times as a discussion point. But each time it’s been a point of note that what a lot of sequels get wrong about crafting a sequel is “Just do the first story again, maybe with more.” What “more” is varies quite a bit. For movies it usually means more guest celebrity appearances, or explosions. With games it can often mean the same but with new levels slapped in it (usually from the cutting floor of the first title). With books it often means getting the gang back together for another go, sometimes even relearning the exact same lessons as last time.

These are all weak sequels, but they persist because of a common issue, that being that the original concept, be it game, movie, or book, was never written with a follow-up in mind. So when the market says “give us more” the usual response is for the creators to repackage what they already saw success with and shove it out again.

Enter “Round 2: The Sequel.” This is why you’ll read sequel books where characters learn the same lessons again, or regress from their accomplishments and growth in the first book. Or find that the big bad they fought so hard against was—Surprise!—secretly the minion of an ever bigger bad who’s really similar to the last one …

You get the idea. Sequels tend to be really difficult territory for a lot of creators. Writers among them. Time and time again I’ve seen a young writer create a story that is a bit of a hit for them, and react by immediately making a follow-up that is just really the same story as the first, but again.

Portal 2, however, didn’t make that mistake. Instead Portal 2 is widely regarded as one of the greatest sequels of all time. How? Why? And what lessons can we take from it that will make our own sequels stand out against the originals instead of just being a token “Here we go again?” journey?

Hit the jump, and let’s talk about it.

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Starforge Is Here!

What more is there to say? The finale of the UNSEC Space Trilogy has arrived at last. Those of you who pre-ordered should be getting your copies as midnight ticks over, and those of you who didn’t pre-order … you can just go purchase it now! Click the cover below and experience the end of the journey! You can also click here to read the first five chapters for free before you make up your mind!

The end arrives in this epic conclusion to the UNSEC Space Trilogy!

Mankind stands on the edge of a precipice. The All sweep across colony worlds, consuming everything in their path. Earth has recalled her fleets to Sol, abandoning its charges. Pisces, her independence won, now stands alone as a foe unlike any other threatens from the dark. It is not a question of if the All will attack, but when.

Reunited at last, Jake, Anna, and Sweets again find their skills called upon, this time by the new leadership of Pisces. A desperate plan has been conceived, an all-or-nothing long shot out into the darkness of unexplored space to find a means of reactivating the artificial world beneath their feet. If Pisces’ weapons can be brought online there remains a chance that the relentless force of the All can be stopped before it extinguishes the light of mankind forever.

If. Threats move against them from all sides. The All has set its own plans in motion, determined to finish the work it began so long ago. UNSEC and Earth plot from the shadows, uncompromising under Eidre’s vision of a unified empire with Sol at the center, and willing to do anything to bring Pisces back into the fold—even burn it to ashes.

The Trio’s final journey has begun … and it’s an adventure unlike anything you’ve ever read before.

Reddit AMA Today – Starforge Launches Tomorrow!

Welcome back writers and readers both! If you’re wondering where today’s Being a Better Writer post is, well, there isn’t one. That’s because with Starforge releasing tomorrow and as previously announced, today I’ll be doing a Reddit AMA! Which, if you’re not familiar with the acronym, stands for “Ask Me Anything.”

It’s a public Q&A session. Folks on the site ask questions, I type back responses. Generally about the particular focal point of the individual hosting the AMA, though the name does remain “Ask me anything.”

Why do an AMA? Because Starforge comes out tomorrow! It’s finally almost here! Less than twelve hours to go! And I’ve done an AMA for each release with Colony and Jungle. So the last book in the trilogy should definitely get an AMA of its own.

So, proof. Yes Reddit mods, this is me, Max Florschutz. This is my site, and I am indeed doing a Reddit AMA today. I’m not including a picture because unfortunately I’ve come down with a cold, and I don’t exactly look picturesque at the moment—though some may argue when do I ever.

But this is indeed me.

So, hit up the AMA and get asking questions! I’ll be hanging out there until about 5 PM MST, which is a little shorter than my last AMA, but as noted I’m fighting a cold, so I’m going to take it a little easier today.

Enjoy folks, and I’ll see you at the AMA!

OH! And don’t forget! Today is the last day to get the entire UNSEC Space Trilogy on sale!

Thanksgiving Sale!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you’ve got great plans and make the most of it!

As for me? Well, I just clicked the button to upload the final manuscript for Starforge. Which, in case you weren’t aware, comes out next Tuesday. The 29th of November. We made that release window after all.

Of course, some of you have been waiting for the series to be complete, and for those of you who have—or are just discovering this epic Sci-Fi series for the first time—I’ve got good news! The first two books in the trilogy are on a steep discount this weekend to celebrate the conclusion of the trilogy! You can pick up all three books—over a million words of Sci-Fi adventure—for only $14.97. Click those covers and grab the whole series now.

That’s right. Less than fifteen bucks. This is a fantastic deal. Plus, it’s over the perfect weekend to curl up with a book.

And yes, this is now a complete trilogy. No hidden “fourth book.” No “surprise, we’re going to have another ending.” This. Is. It.

So happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Enjoy, and I’ll see you all Monday for the Reddit AMA.

Being a Better Writer: Fast and Slow Character Dialogue

Welcome back writers to another Monday installment of Being a Better Writer, your source for writing advice, guides, and tips.

Well that sounded weirdly canned, didn’t it? Either way, we’re here, it’s Monday, and that must mean it’s time to talk writing.

Almost. We’ve got some news to tackle first. Starting with the elephant in the room: Starforge releases next week. Yeah, that’s right. It’s almost here. November 29th people! The countdown clock is nearing zero!

By the way, one more teaser dropped over this last weekend; a fun nod to trailers of film and game, but in literary form. You can take a look at it here, and don’t worry. I didn’t include any spoilers in my trailer. Just enough clips of the insane amount of action in Starforge to tease.

Speaking of teasing, some of you long-timers may recall that the finale in Colony (the first book of the trilogy) was a staggering 90,000 or so words (roughly 300 pages) worth of action. Well, Starforge‘s is something like—depending on where you decide the finale of the “finale” begins (there’s a lot of action in this final book, since it’s wrapping it all up) is around 171,000 words, almost 600 pages worth of chaos.

Don’t worry. As with Colony there’s spots in there to catch your breath and take a minute. And that’s far from the only action in the story, either. Death, destruction, peril, loss … it’s all in these pages.

You get the picture. Now to other related news before we move into today’s BaBW: Next Monday there will not be an installment of Being a Better Writer. Instead, I will be doing a Reddit AMA due to Starforge launching the following day. So, similar to Being a Better Writer, but instead I’ll be taking live questions from Reddit. There will be a link here on the site to the AMA when it goes live, so just poke your head in here around 12 noon MST (more notes on time as the day approaches) and bring some questions about Colony, Starforge, Axtara, writing … whatever!


All right, and with that, and a reminder that if you’re in the US, this weekend is Thanksgiving (so I hope you all have a great one) let’s get down to business. Today’s BaBW is a bit on the shorter side, since I’m itching to get right back to copy-editing on Starforge. But it’s one that I’ve wanted to have a small discussion about for a while, especially as I ran into someone a few months back that was arguing against it without realizing how terrible an idea it was.

What we’re talking about today is character dialogue and its relationship to grammar. Specifically with regards to situation, but also with regards to characters themselves and how they act and speak.

So to start, right below the jump I’m going to post two sentences. I’m not going to ask much except that you read them and have them both in your mind. Got it? Alright, hit the jump and let’s start!

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Starforge: A Literary Trailer


With a sudden bang the weakened airlock door burst outward, slamming into the cutter and knocking the tech over on the tarmac. Someone screamed as something large and armored shot out of the opening, slamming into the other exosuit and driving it into the ground, claws digging deep through the metal.


“You think we’ll make it?”


“Break course!” Anna shouted, her hand snapping to the side of her helmet. “Now!”


“All of us?”


Jake pushed himself back an instant before another tendril slammed point-first into the metal in front of him, the spike at its end punching cleanly through whatever the path was made of.


“I don’t know.”


Anna crashed into the water behind the creatures, spinning and lashing out with her hard-light blades to cut two of them in half. The remaining two, caught between them, died moments later, just before Ngata slammed into the water, tumbling before righting herself and shooting along after them.


“We’ve lost six colony worlds.”


Tentacles, so large that even at a distance Sweets could see them slamming down atop the pathway and wrapping it, utterly annihilating the Sha’o drones.


“Any ideas?”


Micro-missiles swarmed out of the thinning haze, close enough that Jake could make out the individual fins on a few of them as they shot just past and detonated further back. Sand and gravel sprayed over him, sliding down his visor.


Towering walls of water rose miles into the air. Free-floating orbs of ocean the size of mountains, their surfaces sculpted into geometric shapes and lines, linked to the seas below sometimes by thin passageways of water, sometimes not at all.


The marine pounded on ahead, throwing himself into a slide that shrieked of metal-on-metal to pass under the small opening in the door. He kicked himself back up with a single movement, rising to his feet—

And something slammed into the marine from the side, bowling him over and out of sight with a yell.


“Contacts! All vessels!” Comms said, a tone of panic in their voice. “Appear to be fighting unknowns. Total count over one thousand!”


The sky was alight with flames now, some of them, Anna noted, almost uncomfortably near the team’s position. Some of the earlier flames had burned out, leaving long trails of smoke instead that made the horizon look like a painter had slapped a brush covered in charcoal across it.


The tail was whipping back, the razor-edged scythes at the end sweeping through the air. Roen ducked beneath the attack, as did Ngata—only she fired a shot straight up with her phoenix cannon as she did so, the shot slamming into the tail and almost severing it.


“We end this.”


A sickening, metallic squeal rent the air, new alarms flashing across his controls, vying for Sweets’ attention as the Sparrowhawk shot past overhead.


The force of the explosion hit Jake like a wall, blasting him from his feet even as he felt sharp twinges of pain erupt across his front.


Something bit into Anna’s back, slicing through muscle and for a moment feeling as though it touched bone.


“And those who refuse?”

Syrah Eidre stared down at Earth, the planet twisting in the black.

“They made their choice, and will suffer the consequences.”

THE END ARRIVES

NOVEMBER 29TH

PRE-ORDER NOW

Two Weeks …

Starforge releases in two weeks, people. Fourteen days. At this point you could put a countdown app on your phone to when Starforge will be available to read in your country if you wanted to. And I wouldn’t blame you one bit.

If you haven’t pre-ordered yet for some reason, then click that cover there. Do it! Do it now! The finale of the UNSEC Space Trilogy is only a few clicks away from being delivered to your device on November 29th.

Maybe you’re waiting for the reviews. Maybe you’re hesitant that Starforge can deliver what it’s promised, to both tie up all the lose ends from Colony and Jungle while still being an epic, satisfying ending.

I get that. But you’re in luck. One reviewer has already received their copy and posted their thoughts on it, which you can read at this link. It’s got some small spoilers, but the biggest of all I’ll drop in your laps is the rating. 5 out of 5.

And the word “stellar” is used, which is quite appropriate given the subject matter.

We’re fourteen days away from this six-year journey (for the readers, anyway) concluding at last. I hope you’re pumped for it. Because you should be!


All right, what about other news? This is technically a news post, so yes, there is a little more to talk about. Yes, Starforge comes out in two weeks. Yes, that is grand. Oh, and yes, it has now passed its predecessor, Jungle, for pre-order numbers and is tied for third place. Yes, it has several preview chapters you can read and cool lore bits filling in some details of the setting at this tag. But surely there’s other news, isn’t there?

Well yes, there is. For starters, I’m looking forward to being able to work on other projects again. Like a new Jacob Rocke book. Or that Axtara sequel that everyone’s really excited for. I’m excited for it too. It’s going to be great fun to both write her once more.

Speaking of Axtara, did you know that on Amazon she’s almost eclipsed Colony for reviews? It’s true. As of writing this, she’s only two reviews away. She remains a bit further behind on Goodreads, but she’s still the sitting with the third-highest number of reviews there. And over 80% of them are 5-Star. Everyone just loves Axtara.

Colony and Jungle continue to get some attention as well, but I think right now there are just a few readers who are catching up, while most are waiting for the big finale to drop.


Let me see … Other news. Oh yes! November 29th is the release date for Starforge, so November 28th, which is a Monday and would normally be a Being a Better Writer post will instead be a Reddit AMA! That’s right! The last time I did an AMA on reddit was for Jungle, and so it’s only fitting that the finale to the trilogy comes with one more AMA.

Oh, and one last thing before I wrap this post up. Yes, there is a price increase coming for my library. More on that before it happens. But … if you were hoping to pick up the entire UNSEC Space Trilogy (that’s Colony, Jungle, and Starforge all at once when Starforge drops) now that it’s a complete, finished set, you might just want to wait until, oh, November 23rd or so. Just for … reasons.

Max out! I’ve got more copy-editing to do!

Being a Better Writer: Keeping Characters From Being One-Note

Welcome back writers! It’s Monday already, and that means that we’re once again back with another installment of Being a Better Writer. A little late, and I do apologize for that. But there is a lot going on at the moment. That’s right, before we dive into today’s writing topic, I do have some news to reveal and discuss.

First up, today I can officially reveal that A Power in Ink, one of the shorts I wrote last year, has been accepted for the upcoming LTUE Benefit Anthology Troubadours and Space Princesses! Now, this is the collection for 2024, so you won’t be able to get it for a bit of time yet, but it’s on its way!

Second bit of news, also pertaining to a release, but an even bigger and more urgent one—which I left as the second bit of news because most of you likely already know. But here it is again: Starforge is releasing November 29th. That’s right, the third and final installment in the UNSEC Space Trilogy is arriving at last, six years after Colony made its grand debut. And you won’t want to miss it. You can check out more news about that at this link and get some specific details about Starforge, read some excerpts from the first review, go right to the books tab and pre-order a copy, or find some previews (including the latest) at this tag.

Again, Starforge releases November 29th! So get those pre-orders ready!

Now, third bit of news we need to talk about. Once Starforge releases, most of my books will be going up in price. I’ve spoken about this before, but the short of it is that my prices have not changed in almost ten years and no longer reflect the current value of the dollar.

If you’re alarmed, don’t be. The prices will simply be reaching equilibrium with what price point direction I chose when I started publishing back in 2013. Tail-prices will be maintained. There will be a future post about this in the coming weeks explaining the details, but the gist of it is that everything is still going back to the price of a paperback in 1994. It’s just that that is ten years more than it was when I last set my prices.

There’s a second meaning to this, however: If you’re looking to grab something, now is the time. Prices will see a bit of a bump once Starforge is out. A dollar or so for most titles, but it’s still a bump.

All right. One last bit of news, and then we can dive into today’s—quite late—Being a Better Writing post. And this last bit of news is a bit of a downer, actually. But I’ve been having problems with my right wrist and arm. I think it has to do with all the repetitive work of editing on Starforge causing the muscles in my shoulder to tighten and cause a cascading effect down into my forearm, hand, and wrist—and this is the hand and wrist I nearly lost in that workplace accident a few years back, so it has a pre-existing set of scars to amplify that—but the truth is I don’t know and won’t know until I see a doctor. I’m letting all of you know on the chance that it impacts my writing in the weeks ahead. For now, I’m just doing Copy-Edit work on Starforge before release, which is work done with an ebook reader in my hand and moving around taking notes, so that’s all right, but it’s still something I need to keep an eye on. With luck, it’s just an out of position shoulder and getting it taken care of will result in the rest of the arm feeling fine again, but I’m giving a heads-up anyway just in case things take a turn.

Okay. That’s everything. A lot happened over the last week, didn’t it? But we’re all caught up. So, let’s hit the jump, and let’s talk about keeping characters from being one-note.

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UNSEC Space Lore: A Tour of a Nemesis-Class Destroyer

Hey guys, Max here reminding you that Starforge—the book which you’re about to get a little bit of lore from—is now available for pre-order and can be found at this link! The finale to the UNSEC Space Trilogy releases November 29th, bringing the series to a breathtaking conclusion that should not be missed!

Got it? Good! Now on with the lore!

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