And so the day finally arrives. Feel the stilling in the air? The whispers on the breeze, like the hushed breath of the world before a thunderstorm breaks? The anticipation of a mighty titan again come upon the earth?
Starforge‘s second Alpha Read begins today. And this … This is the call.
But I do have two more newsworthy items for all of you readers before we dive into today’s topic. One a question which I hope to receive responses to. A two-parter. How happy are you with Patreon being available, and would any of you relish having a Ko-Fi available to donate to instead?
I ask because it has been brought to my attention that some people prefer Ko-Fi donations rather than Patreon’s monthly service, and it’s been one of those things that occasionally I’ve been asked to think about. So now I am. What I’m asking in turn is do any of you wish to use it? There’s little point in me having a Ko-Fi to donate to if no one wishes to donate to it.
Last, but not least, the Starforge Alpha 2 Call will go up Wednesday. That’s right, the time has come! It is expected that this draft will be shorter than the Alpha 1, so under 500,000 words rather than over. If you’ve been excitedly waiting for the Alpha 2, then hit up the post on Wednesday, because it’s about to arrive!
And that’s it. Please leave responses about Ko-Fi (or any comments on the Patreon) in the comments below. With that, let’s talk about today’s topic.
As I said above, this topic can be a bit of a contentious one, and that’s something that in my time I’ve noticed seems largely dependent on audience. Some audiences do not like having lingering, unanswered questions left in any narrative. Some readers are fine not getting every puzzle or every single thing answered concretely, or are willing to extrapolate (in the positive).
So let’s talk about this topic for a bit and how it might change what you decide to write. Hit the jump.
Hey folks! Max here with a big announcement. One that I spoke about a few days ago, now here with its own post.
Or rather … a cancelation of that announcement.
Look, it’s no secret that prices and inflation and all the jazz I spoke both in this week’s news post and also in The Price We Payabout have happened in the last ten years. I was all set to announce that July 1st would be the day I switched up my digital pricing, readying for the next ten years.
But you know … it’s technically only been nine since I started. And a half. And a “ten year” price adjustment just feels … better, you know?
I realize I’m jumping ahead here. After sitting down and thinking about it, and weighing the numbers … Yes, I am making about 20% less on every book I sell now than when I set my prices nine years ago, due to inflation. But … changing prices on July 1st? Well … that didn’t sit well with me. Because as I said above, it’s only been nine years. My first book (and all the pricing I worked out for the books after) only came to be nine years ago.
So rather than change the prices now to reflect shifting values and inflation, I thought why not do it on January 1st, 2023? Why not truly give it ten years, and update everything then?
Maybe it’s just because most of us like round, solid numbers like ten. Or maybe I just felt blindsiding everyone with something that was a week out was a little too short notice, though I’d been running the numbers for a while.
So the big announcement is that starting July 1st … Nothing will happen. January 1st, 2023 however, the ten year mark? That is when I’ll adjust everything for inflation once more.
No joke, I was sitting down and running the numbers and prepping tables to show the various values and suddenly thought “Why now? Sure, I need to make the adjustment, but right now? Is that 20% really going to kill me?”
Okay, maybe? 20% is kind of a substantial number (and I’m the guy that counts pennies). But … Who likes being blindsided by that?
So, here’s what’s going to happen July 1st. Nothing. At least for my prices. No changes. Boom. Bam. None. If something happens to you in your personal life, well, that’s on you. But I probably had nothing to do with it. Unless you buy a book of mine and love it.
But I’m holding off changing the digital price for a few months. Until the new year. When 2023 hits? Well … all the revised pricing I’ve worked out will drop. And then there will be a month’s-plus worth of notice and warning.
So … I guess I gave your eyeballs a big dose of nothing, huh? Well … I’ll make up for it. The Starforge Alpha 2 is almost upon us. So why not offer a teeny-tiny teaser of what some of you are going to get an early look at?
Heyo readers! How are things going on your side of the screen?
Things over here are … busy, to put it lightly. Last week I edited 168,000 words, and I’ve already put a solid effort in this week on another 60,000. Haven’t even started today yet (because sadly I cannot edit and write this news post at the same time, though if I could …).
But one of the things that I need to be busy with is this news post! Because I’ve been AFK for five weeks (not counting last week), and the news continued to pile up during that time. So I’ve got some stuff to drop for everyone. Including, yes, you read that title correctly, Axtara fan-art that I received while I was in Alaska.
But we’re going to talk about that in a bit. First, let’s talk about the Alaska trip. Now, unlike last year I’m not going to dedicate a whole post to this. Last year was a special occasion, and in addition had much more eventful happenings (like the killer whale pod that checked us out). This trip was more sedate by comparison. With a few exceptions.
Which isn’t to mean I didn’t get some pictures. A friend of mine asked me to snap some pictures for them, and I obliged, sending them a decent-sized dump when I was back on the grid. Though, just in fairness, these are all quick snaps, unlike some of the pictures I took last year. They’re still solid pictures, but they’re not professional in any sense, and I say that with even more emphasis than last year.
I didn’t even have any pictures of wildlife this time. What exposures we had were brief and over far too quickly to get a picture. With one exception, which was when we were pulling a set that was following a beach, while further out from some whales that were playing or feeding at the beach.
There are no pictures or video of this. We had our hands full. And there wasn’t much to see outside of occasional spouts as both took a breath and went back to whatever it was they were up to. But it was a neat counterpart to our work for a good half-hour, since we were keeping time up the beach.
Okay, with that disappointment of no footage for all of you, here are the pictures I took. Consolation prize, right?
Yes, that is a barge in the last picture. Hauling trains. Well, train cars anyway. Portions of a train? Trainlets? Carriages?
You get the idea. The rest is just scenery, which is usually what I was able to find time to capture pictures of.
So, here’s a quick question for you (which some of you might have wondered about): Why did this trip take me five weeks? I’d of course warned it might take that long, but why did it?
Well … the correct answer is equipment failure. There’s a lot of equipment you need for fishing, and one of those is a very vital piece of machinery that I’ve always called a “depth finder” though I’ve also heard it referred to as a “depth sounder” or in a term that dates the user, “color machine.”
Basically, this neat little device bounces signals off of the seafloor and displays the result on a screen, telling you both how much water you have between the bottom of your boat and the seafloor (more than zero is ideal) and, if you know what you’re looking at, the condition/material of that floor.
When you’re fishing on the bottom, this information is vital. Which is why it’s really bad if you’re about to set out from the harbor and the depth finder will not function.
Long story short, the boat needed a new one, which meant finding a new one, ordering a new one, waiting for it to arrive, and then installing it. All of which royally wrecked the schedule. On the plus side, I had a sudden abundance of days with which I got to just read and catch up on the fat stack of books I’d been holding onto.
But yes, as to why it took five weeks instead of three? That’s why. Thankfully, I’d guessed that something like it might, and prepped the site accordingly.
Now, this wasn’t the only disaster that occurred on this trip. There was a brief but very exciting incident with one of our holds losing, shall we say, containment, and dumping hundreds of gallons of water into a particular place that water should not have been, resulting in very bad things happening aboard the boat until we figured it out. That story, however, does deserve its own telling, and so I won’t post it here.
Besides, we’ve got more news to get to, including some Axtara fanart to see. So hit that jump, and let’s talk about what else is coming down the pipeline.
Seriously, in the last week, I have biked every single day, several miles at minimum. It’s been ninety degrees out most of the time, which has been absolutely glorious to feel. I have access to the internet once again, have caught up on Obi Wan Kenobi (which I’ve enjoyed, especially the most recent episode), and have been hard at work editing on Starforge.
A bit more on that last one. In this last week I’ve edited over 160,000 words worth of work. Once this pass is through, I’ll start a second, quicker pass that will tie in with a few rewrites of sections that need work, and those chapters will be put up on the Alpha 2 Master Chapter List.
In other words, expect an Alpha call for the second Alpha Read next week. That’s right. It’s here. I’ve gotten comments and e-mails from a few of you expressing how interested you are in the second Alpha Read. Well, now’s the time to sharpen your … reading glasses? Okay, that fell apart on me, but you get the idea. Prepare. Alpha 2 is about to begin, and the call will go out next week.
The aim is still to get Starforge out before Christmas. Ideally, a November release date like Colony and Jungle both had would work, but if things call for delays, well … To paraphrase Miyamoto, a delayed book is eventually a good book, but a bad book is a bad book forever.
That said, I’m still pushing hard to get it out by November. Somewhere between the Alpha 2 and the Beta 1, I also plan on cranking out the cover. I’m going to have to learn some new tricks in the software I use, but I’ve got most of it figured out. Either way, that means we’ll likely see a cover preview as early as … August? September? I’ll keep that window wide just in case.
Man, editing 500,000 word titans is a lot of work. After this it’ll be a relief to work on some shorter projects once more.
In any case, that’s the news, so with all that said, let’s get talking about this week’s topic. This is going to be a bit of a contentious one, I think, at least at first. Largely based off of the title. And I won’t pull a punch here: I’m going to be criticizing the Bechdel Test. I hope that if you’re one of those ardent defenders of the Bechdel Test, you’ll stick around and hear me out. As anyone who’s read one of my books will attest, I’m not some crazy misogynist that hates female characters. In fact, you could very easily note that my books easily pass the Bechdel Test.
But there’s a word there that’s part of the problem: Easily. This is where a lot of the criticism of the Bechdel Test comes from, and why we’re talking about it today. And my criticism and breakdown of it is not going to be, I would guess, what some of the ardent defenders of it expect.
But for all that, we’re going to need to hit the jump. So click that, and let’s get talking about the Bechdel Test.
Yes. This is a summation post from someone who reviews cozy, whimsical, slice of life Fantasy books, noting all their recent and favorite reads and, unsurprisingly, on the hunt for more (because who isn’t always on the hunt for more books.
Do you notice what’s missing from that list? I do.
Yeah, there’s no Axtara on there. It’s not even listed or recommended.
Now, I can’t go on there and post about it. This particular sub has very precise rules about self-promotion (with, last I checked, a select exceptions). And they do, to their credit, do a halfway decent job of connecting Reddit accounts to actual authors.
But that list is missing a vital entry. This reader/reviewer clearly has never heard of Axtara – Banking and Finance or it’s many charms.
So, I’m calling on all of you who have a Reddit account (because that is allowed). Someone please go tell this reader what they’re missing out on. Especially when they’ve got Dealing with Dragons: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles on that list, and another story about a young dragon who leaves home to make their way in the world (but sadly, both for the plot and the drive, becomes a human ASAP).
Rare is there a list begging for Axtara to show up in such force. Someone please, for the love of literature, post and let them know that?
Welcome back readers! And, with a little hope, welcome back me!
Yeah, that’s right, this is still a post written well in advance (over a month, now) due to the uncertain nature of the length of my trip. Odds are it’s been done for some time by now, but just in case, I’m writing this post and adding it to the queue as a precaution. I’m probably back, but like I noted in last week’s post, such things are uncertain.I am indeed back! I’m certainly not a fortuneteller prognosticating the future here.
Anyway, as always, today is another Monday installment of Being a Better Writer, and today we’re going to tackle a reader requested topic from our last Topic Call. A reader wanted to know how they could make their fights and battles feel organic rather than scripted. And well … let me tell you, my brain immediately went two directions with this one. See, I’ve done posts on fights before, from the small-scale to the large, so in one respect I’ve probably touched on a lot of this topic before. But from another angle … not so much. Though I’m not certain that the request aimed toward that second angle, it was what immediately seized my focus and attention.
Naturally, we’re going to talk about both. We’ll tackle the second angle first, because it’s a more foundational element that needs to come first. And then we’ll move from there to a discussion of the more common advice for writing a fight scene.
So hit that jump, and let’s talk about what makes a fight scene organic.
Readers! I have grand news! I am back from the north!
That’s right, I have returned from my expedition to the north! And well … let’s just say I think it was a good thing I queued up so many posts in advance, because wouldn’t you know it, things went wrong.
Nothing major. At least, not for this post. I arrived, we got geared up, everything was ready to go … but when the time came for the ship to depart … The depth reader wasn’t working.
This is, for a boat, a pretty vital piece of machinery. Especially when it not only tells you how far away the bottom is, but what kind of bottom it is (something critical for the type of fishing we were about to do). The machine, twenty-plus years old, had finally croaked. It was far beyond support from the original manufacturer, who had already been folded into another company, so that avenue was out of the question. And because these units aren’t exactly modular … Well … we were out of luck.
The result? Money had to be dropped on a new depth reader. Entirely. Which was not cheap, and in an added bit of “of course the universe works like that” took some time to arrive. Combine that with some other stuff, and bingo boom, I’ve been up there for two weeks and we still haven’t made it out on the water.
Once we did, things went largely according to plan. But these delays meant that yes, once again the trip took longer than was initially quoted at me. Hence, my preparation in adding several extra weeks of posts to the original estimate.
Point being, I’m back and I’m glad I prepped in advance? So … what now?
Well, with all of May pretty much a write off (I made my goal a much more realistic quarter of my normal goal and due to the extended trip couldn’t even make that), moving into June there’s one big project on my mind: Starforge.
As of right now, the goal with Starforge is still to work for a November release. Alpha 1 has shown some really rough spots and dissatisfaction with a few elements, so the next few weeks for me are going to be focused on pulling together things and making changes and fixes to try and ready the draft up for Alpha 2.
And this will need Alpha 2 readers. All hands on deck for this one, because there’s a large number of fixes in the wings, but also because I will need feedback on those fixes and what’s already there. So expect to hear more about Starforge in the coming weeks, because my immediate aim—well, once I stop feeling so sore and battered; fishing work really takes it out of you—is to hit Starforge and hit it hard.
Of course, this isn’t all I need to do, but I don’t want to make a first page titan, so for the rest of the upcoming summer, hit that jump.
Greetings readers! Welcome to another Monday in which I am not present. I’m writing to you from the past, using perhaps the best-known means of time-travel, so that you can have this post on a day when I am very likely still busy and away in Alaska.
Maybe not. We’re reaching the part of the scheduling now where I may in fact have returned, but also may not have. I’ve become quantum!
Those of you that know how awful and interpretation that is may begin plotting my death now.
Anyway, regardless of my current limbo, let’s talk about writing. There’s no news I can talk about, since I’m in the past, so we’re just going to dive write in and talk about today’s topic: the mundane made awesome.
The idea for this post came to me on a rewatch of the new Dune movie (which is utterly fantastic). There’s a moment in the flick (minor spoilers) where the Duke and his entourage go out on a flight to actually watch a spice-harvesting operation take place (and if you don’t know what this is, definitely consider reading the book, seeing the film, or both). But here’s what struck me about this scene: it could very realistically be a documentary of some kind.
In fact, it almost is. The characters circle the spice harvester while a character explains to both them and the audience how the process works, what the job is like, what the crew is doing or watching out for, etc.
In other words, it’s very much the picture of exposition, and fairly mundane exposition at that. In our world, it would very closely be the equivalent of explaining how a dump truck works on a construction site. Which is about the most mundane thing ever, right?
Save that on this rewatch, I realized how invested everyone in the room was in this scene. I sat back, looked at the crowd, and all of them were hanging on every word coming out of the exposition character’s mouth.
There’s a reason for that. Despite this being the equivalent, at least taken flatly, of watching a documentary explain how a dump truck works, there is a reason no one in the room was bored, but instead fascinated by this explanation of, in-universe, something that was largely ordinary.
The story had made the mundane engaging. Taken something everyday and bland, and presented it in a way that was fascinating to learn about.
So let’s talk about how they did it. And then, of course, how you can do the same in your own writing.