Friday News Post!

Wow, it’s been silent this week, hasn’t it? There was Monday’s excellent—in my opinion, anyway—Being a Better Writer post and then just … silence. Nothing on Tuesday, which is normal. But then nothing on Wednesday or Thursday either.

Well, it’s not because I wasn’t busy. Alpha Readers from the Second Alpha for Starforge have continued onward, with I believe two in the final quarter of the book, the rest of the Alpha Readers coming up behind them. I’ve been getting steady, consistent feedback, but it has been largely positive thus far with only a few minor things rearing their head. A majority of which seemed centered around the chapter that saw the most rewrites, all concerning smoothing rather than major changes so … Yeah! Things are looking good! As the Alpha team gets further and further, my confidence grows that there will not be an Alpha 3, but a graduation into BETA!

Which does imply that those of you that have been Beta Readers in the past should feel the anticipation growing. Starforge is inching closer to being in your hands! The Beta Read’s time nears!

But there’s another meaning with that as well. Because usually in the industry, once a book is in Beta, that’s when preview copies start going out. And this time? I am looking at sending out digital copies once the Alpha is over and done with to interested reviewers who wouldn’t mind taking a look at the grand finale and seeing how everything shakes out … As well as, of course, maybe dropping some early reviews for the book before it hits.


All awesome, right? But that’s both what others have been doing and what’s coming. What have I been up to the last few days?

Well, I haven’t been writing, save Being a Better Writer and, well, now this post. Though I do have another short story for More Unusual Events bubbling in the back of my head involving a mermaid that’s found a new hobby in bird-watching … But that’s for tomorrow’s writing (the day, incidentally, that you’ll see this post). What have I spent my entire Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday on?

Something very Starforge related. See, with the Alpha 2 reading moving along at a good clip, before I started going over the chapters every Alpha Reader has made it through … I’ve been sitting at my desk with a copy of GIMP open, clicking away and balancing colors.

That’s right, people, the Starforge cover reveal is coming.

Not today. Not in this post. I want to let what I’ve got sit for a bit and see how I feel about it. Previously I’ve withheld from having cover quotes on the cover of my book (after all, I like the art to stand out), but I’m waffling a bit here with this cover.

But it looks good. Those of you who are in the Discord have seen some previews already. As have those of you who are Patreon Supporters. It took me a few days (because I’m not a graphic designer, though I’m certainly learning a lot of the same skills), but I’m pretty happy with what’s resulted right now.

Does it look cool? Yes it does. Very cool. Very striking. Very prime.

And this one? I think I will do a 4K background for it. You’ll see why when the image itself finally arrives.

More news on that next week.

With that, I’m out of news! Enjoy your weekend, people!

Starforge is coming.

Being a Better Writer: Worldbuilding – What To Share and What To Keep

Hello readers and writers! Welcome back after yet another weekend! Who’s geared up and ready to write! There’s a whole new week ahead of us, and who knows what stories might flow from our fingertips as we enter a new week and a new month!

I’m right there with you. Last Friday I wrapped up the last changes and edits to the Alpha 1 edition of Starforge, which means the Alpha 2 crew now has access to the entire length of the second Alpha. And they’re making good time too! At the current pace, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of them finished it this weekend!

This has several meanings. For starters, it means that I’m currently bereft of editing for a brief moment, so I can work on other projects, such as the Starforge cover (ooooh yeah), short story writing, or getting more prep work done on the next Jacob Rocke book—perhaps even a few chapters written.

But it also means that Starforge is edging closer to the Beta reading, as based on the feedback from this Alpha, we’re close if not there. Maybe I’m wrong—I’ll wait until the second Alpha Reader crew has passed final judgement before making that call, but right now it does look positive. If things maintain their current course, though, the first Beta read could arrive this month!

Which would have other implications as well. See, once Starforge is officially out of Alpha, and there aren’t any additional structural changes in the pipeline, I can start dropping some real preview chapters on everyone. Previews, sneak peaks of characters and new tools at the trio’s fingertips. Sands, I could even start sending out early previews of the novel to select readers to start building hype.

Get ready folks, because Starforge is coming! The grand finale of the UNSEC Space trilogy is almost here!

All right, with that said, let’s step away from the news and over to the subject of today’s post, which is once again worldbuilding!

Not without reason. If I recall correctly from our last topic call, today’s subject is indeed one of the reader requested topics we were asked to cover. Which … I get it. Worldbuilding remains a tough sea to navigate for many writers young and even experienced. We’ve spoken before of the challenges and even pitfalls of worldbuilding on the site, from starting guides to more involved deep dives.

And yet, there’s still more to cover. Worldbuilding, it would seem, is a topic almost as deep and varied as the resultant subject can be.

Which brings us, more directly, to today’s specific request. Which asked us to discuss how to know what should be shared and what should be held while writing a novel. Because not everything that a writer comes up with during worldbuilding has a place showing up in the narrative. In fact, for many worldbuilders, a majority of what you write out for worldbuilding won’t show up directly in the novel proper—though note that I use the term “directly” there, as figuring out the backstory of how the Magistrate of Evans in your story committed grand fraud, which is why everyone in your story now is suspicious of public officers is going to cast a shadow of influence over the whole work. We just likely won’t get the history-style writeup on it that you set aside in your worldbuilding.

Okay, enough preamble. Hit the jump, and let’s talk about what to hold back and what to show.

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The Lessons Hollywood Won’t Learn From the Halo TV Show

Well, we’ve reached that point, now. The Halo TV show has run its course of a full season, the last episodes being in May, the public has had time to digest and deliberate, and now we see the trickle-down effect of how people refer to it in casual conversation.

Oh, my mistake. Did I say “refer to it?” I meant shred it without an ounce of remorse.

Yes, the consensus of the real world is in, and it is cruel. Past the paid critics, past the hopefuls who insisted that the absolutely awful first two episodes were just the show finding its feet, we now have the reaction of ordinary people online, gamers and non-gamers both, who have sort of settled into a common pattern for how the show is remembered.

To give another example of what I’m talking about, let’s look at another show with real cultural zeitgeist: Community. Community is very well-favored, as people will often quote the show, talk about it fondly, share jokes from the show, and harp on Netflix’s idiotic decision to censor the DnD episodes.

Zeitgeist reactions to things when they come up in casual conversation can be a pretty solid indicator of a bit of entertainment’s real value, impact, or staying power. Especially in a situation like the one around the Halo TV show, where the production clearly spent a vast amount of its budget on “selecting” reviewers for maximum praise as well as a solid amount on a legal department that would go after anyone saying anything negative (one reviewer repeatedly found their reviews taken down and hit with copyright strikes for using promotional footage Paramount had sent out, all because they rightfully criticized a frankly awful show).

So, in a situation where the creator has abused legal powers to make it as difficult as possible to determine if something is actually good or not, what’s been the public impact of the long-awaited Halo TV show?

Well, from those who’ve watched it … it’s another steaming pile of junk television that once again serves to checkbox Hollywood’s biggest flaws.

That may seem harsh, but have you seen this show? Even those with no familiarity with the source material online have constantly noted that it did nothing to feel exemplary, the story, characters, and plot were trite and inconsistent, even the most positive defenders giving it responses of ‘At best, it’s poor Sci-Fi television’ or ‘It’s a decent time-waster, but lacks any redeeming qualities.’

That’s at best. Many reactions seem fit to compare it to the utterly iconic 1993 “so bad it’s kind of good” adaptation Super Mario Brothers: The Movie. With some of those comparisons arguing which movie was more accurate or had the better similarity to the original product (which, if you know anything about that 1993 blunder, is not an act of praise). A lot of comparisons are also touted that at least Super Mario Bros: The Movie can be watched in a fun capacity, what with the actors being infamously drunk during shooting and the movie being worthy of a watch if you’re looking to laugh at how bad it is, while most seem to agree that the Halo show does not earn this distinction. There’s no “It’s so bad it’s good” moment for the Halo show, according to the internet. It’s just … bad. Even if the viewers happen to be drunk.

Sands, the watch group I initially saw the first two episodes with even fell apart for this reason. The majority of them were not players of the Halo games and knew little about the series, but when confronted with the TV show, none of them felt that watching something so poor even for the “fun” of mocking it was worth the time.

Okay, you get it. Halo, the TV show, is a pile of steaming streaming garbage. The consuming public has spoken, and reacted with a nigh-universal retching.

How? How did one of the most successful video-game properties of the last twenty years, one that has grown into successful books, comics, and other forms of entertainment, covering a sprawling universe that sees constant audience engagement, something that should have been a cinch to create a well-regarded TV show for … create this steaming pile of drek that’s now so thorough lambasted that users on social media feel the need to note that the regular Halo universe and story is fine, just the show is a pile of poo?

Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about today. But in a slightly different manner. We’re going to look at this from a learning perspective. What are all the common mistakes that the Halo TV show made that the show’s creators will refuse to learn from?

See, there’s the catch. Halo’s mistakes aren’t new in the slightest. In fact, they’re the same mistakes that plagued Super Mario Brothers: The Movie, almost thirty years ago. Once again, this is a case of Hollywood refusing to grow up, of making the same mistakes over and over again, which sure as the sun will rise once again on another day, they’ll make again because they refuse to believe they’re wrong.

So, let’s talk about some of the lessons we should learn—but won’t—from the utterly awful Halo TV show. Hit the jump.

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Being a Better Writer: How Do We Get Our Readers to Care?

Hello and welcome back readers! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! Mine was jam-packed with events, but pretty solid as a result (though packed). And there were some real booms on the Starforge Alpha 2 as well, with one reader clearing nearly a quarter of the book in a single sitting! Related to that, it’s a good thing I’m almost done with the final chapters for this Alpha, or I’d have people catching up to me!

Ultimately what this means for most of you is that Starforge continues to inch closer with each mighty step of its heavy tread. And yes, it’s still pretty heavy despite the trimming and the cuts. This will definitely be the biggest book I’ve released once it’s published. And it’ll probably stay the biggest for a long time. I don’t see myself outdoing this one anytime soon.

But enough about Starforge, let’s talk about today’s writing topic. This is going to be a familiar one to some, as it is a bit of a recurring theme across writing. In fact, I’m pretty sure (but not going to do a search for it) that we’ve devoted a post to this very topic at least once or twice, and definitely spoken about it dozens of times in other topics.

But it still remains a hot topic among authors and writers of all ages. And with good reason, as getting readers and audiences to care about characters can be quite difficult. Empathy is an acquired skill, and asking a reader to exercise that empathy with a character bound between a few pages? Well, that’s an art. A carefully developed, practiced art, and one that many would-be writers dive headfirst into without any understanding of perspective, leading to a creation that doesn’t hit the way they’d hoped it would.

So, let’s spend today talking about getting our readers to care when we present our characters, their setting, and the events that they will go through. Let’s talk about how we can avoid melodrama (and maybe what that is) and instead give our readers real, actual empathy for the characters we’ve built.

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OP-ED: In Defense of the “Fiction” in “Science-Fiction”

“I can state flatly that heavier than air flying machines are impossible.”

—Lord Kelvin, not long before the flight at Kitty Hawk.

So for starters, I’m not sure how long this post is going to be. Additionally, it was sort of unplanned and very spontaneous (definitely a clear target for the “Disorganized Thoughts” tag).

But … I wanted to say it anyway. Some of you might be curious as to where this post is coming from, and so I’ll start there. In what I’m sure is a surprise to almost no one, I do tend to frequent or at least dwell occasionally in online Sci-Fi hangouts. I’ve talked about r/PrintSF before here on the site (at least, I’m fairly certain I’ve mentioned it at least once, but I know it’s been brought up in the Discord), and it’s not the only location I’ve spent time on online that discusses Sci-Fi in all its various forms.

As I said, I’m sure none of you are surprised by this. But in my spending time in these locations, discussing books, films, games, and other Sci-Fi, I have run across a number of opinions. Most of these are the fairly classic fare, such as “Kirk VS Picard” and “Peaceful aliens VS hostile aliens VS unknowable aliens.”

But there’s one particular crowd, a very vocal and outspoken crowd, that always irks me a little. In fairness, I think some of you will agree. But this group is … Well, they remind me of flat-earthers or climate-change deniers. Not, I stress, because they believe in a flat-earth, but because they display a parallel sort of thought process.

Maybe the best name for this group would be the “anti-fiction crowd.” Anti-science works too, as could anti-progression. The mindset behind it probably fits “anti-science” a bit better, but since we’re talking about Science-Fiction, we’ll stick with “anti-fiction.”

This crowd operates under two principles:

  1. No Science-Fiction book should writen about anything that is not 100% provable or capable by today.
  2. Science is absolute, and cannot be considered incomplete.

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Being a Better Writer: Ancient Jobs and Ancient Life

Welcome back readers.

Things feel a little subdued this morning. That’s because the writing world lost a legend this weekend. Eric Flint passed away on Sunday.

If you aren’t familiar with Eric Flint, he’s been around since … Well, from my perspective, forever. I was seeing books with his name on them when I was a child at the grocery story paperback section. He wrote a phenomenal amount of alternative history, to the point that at least in the circles I’ve hung out in, he was one of the two names that came up whenever anyone spoke about alternate history.

The writing community has grown a little smaller with this news. There is a GoFundMe raising funds for a memorial service.

What scattered new I have is practically unremarkable by comparison, so that’s all I think needs to be said for today’s news segment.

However, today’s topic? It was chosen as a sort of tribute to Eric Flint and his contributions to the literary world. A deviation from what was planned, but I think there’d be no better topic for today than to look at the genre that Flint loved to write and talk about it for a bit.

Well, one aspect of it, at least. We won’t be talking alternative history specifically, but we will be talking about a narrow slice of it. A slice that’s been sitting on Topic List #20 for some time now, waiting for its moment.

Today, we’re going to talk about ancient jobs and ancient life. Stick around, because it’s not what you think.

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News, Updates, and Musings

I really need to make a new list of “assorting things to talk about” for these off days, but right now I spend so much writing time thinking about Starforge that doesn’t seem to be happening!

But hey, at least that means there are updates there to speak of. So, how is work coming along on Starforge?

Excellently. Yesterday I finished off revisions to Part Two of the book, with those revisions passed on to the Alpha 2 crew. Today work begins (for me) on Part Three, which is good because at least one of the Alpha 2 readers have already gotten through Part One.

Part Two took some work as well, particularly in one specific chapter which was not preferred by the Alpha 1 crew (those of you in that crew know which one I’m talking about). In the end, over half of it was completely rewritten, with the latter half being tweaked and edited along the way to bring it up to speed. Hopefully the Alpha 2 crew finds it much more digestible now.

That’s not the only change made across the second Alpha, but it’s so far been the largest and most sweeping one. Though there is one other change that’s been suggested by the Alpha 1 crew that the Alpha 2 crew now gets to deliberate, regarding where Part One ends. Basically, shuffling of chapters. I won’t say which direction I’m leaning with it, but there is a comment left by me serving as a signpost for the Alpha 2 readers asking their opinion.

Those Alpha 2 readers that haven’t reached that yet, what are you waiting for?


Anyway, work continues with that, but I’ve got some other news as well. See, once I finish this pass, I’ll still have to wait a bit for all the Alpha 2 readers to get some distance in the story before sweeping along behind them. Basically editing at the speed of the slowest Alpha Reader. Now, I’d like to get started on this by the end of the month, but if I finish getting all the Alpha 2 chapters up next week, what will I be doing then?

Why, starting on the cover for Starforge, of course! Yes, I’m going to be starting this one a little early, since I’ll need to learn a little more about my graphical editing (I think) in order to pull off what I have in mind, so it might take longer. Regardless, as most of you will probably guess, it is going to be in line with the other covers in the UNSEC Space trilogy. But … this one’s gonna be a little different. You’ll see … eventually. I’m not sure how long it’ll take, but if I can figure out the tools for what I’m going to try to do, the cover might be previewed as early as August!

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Being a Better Writer: Underpowered and Overpowered Antagonists

Welcome back readers! It’s a new week, and with it come new accomplishments and news (that’s a lot of new, I know)! Alpha Reading on Starforge continues to surge forward, with feedback coming in quick and clear. Right now, things are looking pretty good for the second pass, with the consensus being pretty positive so far. Alpha readers haven’t hit the heavy rewrite chapters yet, so we’ll see what happens when they arrive there, but so far the cleaning, polishing, and structural changes seem to have stuck!

In personal news, I was able to spend my Saturday at a local Scottish festival, which was pretty awesomely fun. My friends and I go every year if we can, and this year we were lucky enough to have lots of time and some cash budgeted away to spend on things. Which is why I’m writing this while listening to the album Marigold by The Fire. I listened to part of one set, bought the album, and then jammed out to their evening performance. Good fun, and another album to listen to while working!

Let’s see … I already spoke about new reviews for Colony, Jungle, and Axtara, so that’s no longer the new-new, and there isn’t really much going on writing-wise save the Starforge Alpha 2 (Alpha Readers, I am loving your feedback thus far; keep at it!) so I suppose all that’s left to do today is dive into our topic.

Which may feel a bit familiar to some of you. If you’ve been a long-time follower of the site, or browsed through the archives, you may recall this post from 2014 (wow) concerning Underpowered and Overpowered Characters.

Well, today’s post is a bit of reflection of that. See, that post (which is still worth a look, mind) was largely if not entirely concerned with protagonists, and on considering overpowered or underpowered protagonist characters. But this post? This is going to be a little different. Because this post is, in keeping with what’s almost become an unofficial “theme” of this year, about villains.

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Starforge Updates and Other Things!

Hey there folks! I know, it’s been a slow week, hasn’t it? Monday was a holiday, and I’ve really not said much since then.

But that’s because things haven’t actually been that slow. In fact, for me they’ve been very busy! And for the Alpha Readers of Starforge‘s Alpha 2!

That’s because as you’ve largely surmised, that’s what I’ve been hard at work at. And things are booming. Currently, I’m rewriting the majority of chapter 15, as it needed a severe cleaning, and about halfway through that chapter. Chapters 1-14 are up for the Alpha crowd, and I’ve been seeing comments crop up … though not that many given the work done on the other passes.

Will this be the last Alpha? Or will I go for a third? Can’t say, honestly. As I’ve stated before, this being the last book of the UNSEC Space trilogy (and yes, I will reaffirm that this is the end of the story started in Colony; no secret “surprise” extra book here) I want it to be as spiffy and shiny as I can make it for you all. So will it get a 3rd Alpha?

Maybe. We’ll have to see. But at the current pace, with my editing speed and the speed of the Alpha Readers (seriously guys, you’re rocketing along!) the Alpha 2 could be done this month.

And that would be awesome.

So yeah, Starforge‘s second Alpha is off to a rolling start, with several readers already racing to catch up to me at my rewrites … Though once chapter 15 is done, my pace will likely increase to what it was before I got slowed rewriting most of a chapter.

Though if any of you Alpha readers want to impatiently knock at my “door” by catching up, you’re welcome to try!


Now, moving onto related news … The rest of the UNSEC trilogy seems to be getting some attention over the last few months. Colony has continued to collect reviews since hitting the big five-zero, with much positive applause. Accordingly Jungle has followed suit, picking up new five-star reviews as well. The world is getting ready for Starforge! And when it hits …

Of course, Colony‘s star status is closer and closer to being challenged, as Axtara – Banking and Finance is currently outselling it. Granted, Colony is quite a bit older and Axtara is new, but the banking dragon is doing her best to unseat the adventures of Jake, Anna, and Sweets at the top spot. Though in fairness, Colony has quite a lead … but Axtara is winging hard to catch up.

I can only imagine once I get a sequel out things will really start to heat up.


Other than that, I’ll go light with the news. New Being a Better Writer Monday, as usual. For now, everyone enjoy your weekend, and get some reading in!

Oh, wait, I do have one last bit of news. Absolutely zero individuals expressed an interest in Ko-Fi support on the site. So unless you’re one who was interested but didn’t speak up, for now I think that’s going to be tabled indefinitely unless you do speak up. Speak now in the comments, or forever hold your peace!

Have a good weekend everybody!

No BaBW This Week; Happy 4th of July!

Hello readers! Those of you in the United States probably aren’t surprised by this, but those of you outside the US may have forgotten that today is one of the US’s largest holidays. As such, I’ll be taking the day off, which means there isn’t a new Being a Better Writer this week.

But that “new” is italicized for a reason. I’ve got another one from the scheduled period while I was away that a lot of you may have missed. Better yet it fits the occasion, so I’ll link it below. But first, a little on the occasion.

The Fourth of July is like any other nation’s celebration of independence, being one of the 50+ holidays around the world celebrating independence from the British (this is funny, but also true). Every nation celebrates their holiday a little differently (we love fireworks and food), but in general they all revolve around celebrating what they’ve gained with their independence.

In the case of the United States, that tends to mean “FREEDOM,” though unsurprisingly many are iffy on what that FREEDOM might actually be. Politics (and who gets what freedom) tends to dominate the sphere of the 4th, with flags and fireworks, but in general the spirit of the holiday is generally applied pretty well to a celebration of what the founding fathers successfully put together.

Now, if you want to dwell a bit more on that today, I do actually have a recommendation. Twice annually, the leaders of my faith gather to speak on topics—almost always spiritual, but sometimes adjacent. Back in April 2021, one of them decided to discuss the Constitution in depth, drawing on more than 60 years of study and experience working with it as a law clerk for the supreme court, a professor of law, and well basically someone who has spent a lot of time learning about the birth, creation, and enforcement or meaning of the Constitution of the United States.

Even if you’re not a member of my particular faith, I think there’s a lot of good knowledge to be gained from this particular presentation on the history, meaning, and importance of the Constitution. Especially given that it does not sway to any political party (a rare thing in this day and age) but instead urges intelligent moderation and adherence to ideals, not to parties or individuals.

Anyway, you can read it here. It’s a perfect bit of reading for this fourth of July, personally.

But wherever you are (near or far?) I hope you have a solid Monday, and a happy 4th of July. Whether or not it’s a holiday for you. Please enjoy, and I’ll see you all in a few days.


But … if you’re determined for some Being a Better Writer today, there is a post you might have missed. During my trip north, I had posts updating on a schedule, but a lot of you missed them since they weren’t being posted anywhere but the primary site.

This is one of those posts. And kind of fitting for today as well. From May 30th, 2022, here is Being a Better Writer: You Want Content? Write It!

Again, happy Fourth of July, everyone, whether you’re celebrating with or in the US or elsewhere.