A Weekly News Post

Hey, they can’t all be clever titles.

So, a few updates since last week. First and foremost, work on the new Jacob Rocke book trundles on. It’s about a third or so of the way done. This one will be longer than his first outing, but still not as long as Dead Silver, I think. It’s a smaller story, really. However, that means it gets written quicker, and editing (later this year, lets not get too far ahead of ourselves) will be quicker as well.

Anyway, progress continues there. Am I willing to drop any hints at this juncture? Well, let’s just say that a lot of my online advertisements lately have been all about colleges. While you all puzzle on that, let’s move to the next bit of news to talk about which is—


A sale! But not on any of my books. No, not yet (February is coming, more on that below). No, this sale is for a game. A few long-time readers of this site may recall my post of admiration for one Subnautica a few years back. Well, it’s only become a better game since then as the developers have continued to polish it and work to bring it to feature parity with its stand-alone expansion, Below Zero.

Oh, and it’s on sale right now. Along with that stand-alone expansion right now. Through January 30th.

Yeah, I know. I’m supposed to be encouraging you people to spend money on my books. But Subnautica is just fantastic. Besides, I’ll be doing plenty of encouragement for purchasing my stuff at LTUE.


Which is coming soon people! We’re not in February yet, but I myself am in the prep stages. Yesterday I placed my order for a new array of paperback books to be sold at the LTUE vendor hall. A larger number than last year, since everything last year sold out so fast. I’m not joking about that by the way: Every copy of Shadow of an Empire was gone before noon on the first day. I’ve increased the number of books that’ll be on hand this year, but given last year’s sales … that might just mean they sell out by day two.

I’ve still got some other prep work to do in order to be ready for LTUE, however. I need new standees for the signing since Starforge is out, and this year I’m planning on doing some nice prints of a few book covers to raffle off. I’m thinking “one entry for coming by the booth, five for showing proof of purchase of said book.” Which naturally would include brandishing said book.

So yeah, if you’d like a nice matte printing of the covers to Axtara or Shadow of an Empire, maybe even Starforge, be sure to come by the signing booth at this year’s LTUE!


And well … that’s pretty much it. Almost. Sales keep on trucking toward that 10,000 number, but I think the make-or-break moment really will be this year’s LTUE. At the current rate, sales won’t quite reach 10,000 by February’s end if they stay consistent … but they always shoot up during LTUE. So … it’s down to the wire, really.

On a related note, I should figure something out to celebrate the tenth anniversary of both becoming a published author and One Drink‘s publication. One more thing to add to the pile, I suppose.

Anyway, that’s the news. I’m going to get back to work on Rocke’s next adventure! Max, signing off!

Being a Better Writer: Different Types of Fantasy

Happy Monday writers! How was everyone’s weekend?

Mine was pretty good. Spent quite a bit of time working on the tabletop campaign I’m running this year, since it’s a revision of the tabletop system I used for my Gears of War campaign a few years ago, bur refined and improved in multiple areas. Of course, building a tabletop system from scratch—or even rebuilding one—is a ton of work, so it’s not unexpected that my time this weekend was taken up in a good portion by it. I foresee this being the case for the next few months, easily.

But that’s not all that’s coming up, either! We’re nearly through January, and that means that we’re day by day coming closer to LTUE 2023! Look for a post about that on its own soon, but the gist of it for now if you’re out of the loop is that LTUE (or Life, The Universe, and Everything) is a writing convention given by those who do write and create Sci-Fi and Fantasy for those who want to do so. That means panels on aspects of writing are given by authors who have written those topics. You can check out the guest list of just a few of the guests of honor here, but that should give you an idea of the kind of folks that show up at LTUE each year.

February 2023, three days, this year the 16th through the 18th. Be there! And while you’re at it, swing by a few of the panels I’ll be on.

That said, if you’re unable to make it this year, at least you’ll always have Being a Better Writer to fall back on. So, without any further ado, let’s just jump into today’s topic. Which … is a bit of a departure from our usual writing topics.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. It still very much relates to writing. But what we’re going to talk about today is more of a foundational element, while at the same time not being set in stone at all.

Let me explain: The past few weeks we’ve had a post or two where we’ve talked quite a bit about audience and knowing what sort of audience you’re writing for. Today we’re going to talk about something that a lot of audiences use as a guide for finding material that they like and enjoy.

Yes, today we’re talking about genre. But specifically one type of genre and it’s subgenres. Today, we’re going to talk about different types of common Fantasy and what goes into them.

Now, I’m going to stress something before we start. None of these subgenres is a cut-and-dry. It’s possible for stories to blend them, or start in one subgenre and transition to another. Often, when we say “This book belongs in this subgenre” what we really mean is that the primary attributes of the story that caught our attention were most identifiable with that specific subgenre, though it may have had heavy elements from others.

In other words, what we’re talking about today can run the gauntlet from very straightforward to incredibly nebulous and may be so precariously balanced that it might be hard to tell what subgenre a book is.

But that’s not why we’re talking about it. We’re not talking about the subgenres of Fantasy so that you can try and lock in other Fantasy books you’ve read. No. That’s not the goal here.

The goal here is so that when you think “Hey, I want to write a Fantasy story” but are unsure of what type of Fantasy story that should be, you can look at the various subgenres and what elements identify them, in order to help narrow down what sort of story you want to tell by the elements you may want or not want to include.

In other words, what we’re looking at here today should be considered a set of guidelines, not rules, that can be helpful to you to set a tone or basic feel for what you want to write.

Note really quick that we’re not discussing all the various subgenres out there. The more precise one gets, the more these can multiply, but the less there is different between them. We’re just going to discuss the big ones.

A second note (I know) in that not everyone is going to agree with these definitions. Sands, in pulling up a list of common Fantasy subgenres, I opened two pages that almost completely disagreed about what made a common subgenre. So yeah, while some are agreed upon, some are not. You can still use them

You ready? Then hit that jump, and let’s talk about different types of Fantasy.

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Clues Under a Couch – A Weekly News Update

Hey folks! Max here with a weekly update post. There’s not going to be anything Earth-shattering or lifechanging in this post (at least I don’t think so), but if you’re wondering what I’ve been up to and what’s going on, this is the post to check out.

So, with absolutely zero ado, here’s what’s going on.


First up, how’s progress on the new Jacob Rocke book going?

Well. It’s going well. The current draft is sitting at about 22,000 words, and the mystery has taken shape. At a guess I’d hazard this winding up around 60,000-80,000 words long, which isn’t bad. It’s about the size and shape I’d want from a new Jacob Rocke adventure.

So what’s this one about? Well, Rocke’s back on the East Coast of the US this time, having just dealt with another haunted hospital room, when he gets a call from the NSAU. It seems a college student at a nearby university was reporting missing that morning, but the local police force balked the moment they were told she was an unusual, and has claimed the case is out of their jurisdiction. Being the closest agent, Rocke is assigned to the case, and while elements of actual unusual involvement are dubious at best, he’s going to do his job and see if he can’t track the missing student down, especially as the days pass and she remains missing.

So yeah, I’ll probably have that polished off by sometime next month. Which leads me to February, which is a natural segue into—

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Being a Better Writer: Realism, Storytelling, and Suspension of Disbelief

Welcome back writers! It’s another Monday, and that means it’s time for another Being a Better Writer post! There’s not much news to discuss, or really any since everything immediately relevant was discussed in last Thursday’s post about what occurred last year and what’s coming down the pipeline right now, so rather than spend any text on that, today we’ll just dive right in! With a brief aside to say that if you are curious about what’s happened and what’s on the way, check out that post.

Anyway, today’s topic is, fittingly enough for the new year, a Reader Request! The last one on Topic List #21. Which I will add is getting a bit empty these days. We’ll be looking at #22 soon enough!

But anyway, today’s topic was requested with what I see as darn good reason, because it’s actually part of an almost endless debate that circles online communities and critics alike. In fact, it’s such a common debate that to start us off today, I’m actually going to request that you read this Schlock Mercenary strip, which will open in a new tab. Don’t worry, it’s digestible without context.

Once you’ve done that, don’t get sucked into the archive (at least, not right now), but come back, hit the jump, and let’s talk about it.

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Forward and Back – A Look Ahead at 2023, and at the Accomplishments of 2022

Wow. 2022 was a year.

No, not in the way 2020 was. In fact, I mean that in the best possible sense. 2022 was, by almost every metric available to me, a standout year. Sales were up overall despite a few slump months, with books such as Axtara – Banking and Finance finding success in almost double the number of markets as any of my other closest books, and then Starforge smashing its way to victory in the final months of the year. Site hits were up—in fact, the site saw more traffic, interaction, and the like in 2022 than it ever has. That’s including two prior years in which a single post in each year went a bit viral and accounted for a good majority of all traffic.

Yes, that’s right. Without having a post go “viral” and score thousands upon thousands of hits, Unusual Things still saw more visitors, readers, and regular reads than in any prior year in 2022. And, while it’s still only week two of 2023, the current level of site traffic isn’t just holding steady … It’s growing. December of 2022 had more hits than November of 2022, which had more hits than … well, you get the idea.

And this introduction has already gotten away from me. Welcome, readers and writers, to a post-2022 news post, and a look ahead at what’s to come in 2023. We’re going to talk about what went on in 2022, what the impact was of the lone book release (but it was a big one), and then we’re going to discuss what’s in the pipe for this year.

And folks, I’ve got a good feeling about what’s to come. Hit the jump!

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Being a Better Writer: Common Stumbles of New Projects

Welcome back writers! It’s a new year! Welcome to 2023!

You know, it feels good to be back. Though at the same time I’ll definitely say that I needed that vacation. My mind was wound tighter than a clockwork spring after having spent the last year working on Starforge, and a break of a few weeks to let everything decompress really feels as though it made a difference.

But now we’re back, and we’re ushering in the new year with the return of Being a Better Writer and all the site content you guys love. But before we get started on today’s topic, let’s take a quick moment to discuss some news. Specifically the big question that’s been on the mind of a lot of readers: How’s Starforge doing so far? Well, with the book having dropped a little over a month and a half ago, I can finally deliver the answer.

Starforge is the biggest launch I’ve had to date. By far.

Without going into exact numbers, Starforge has, even in preliminary sales data, more than doubled the power of any launch I’ve seen so far.

That’s right. The Starforge launch was bigger than any I’ve ever seen.

Not only that, but the momentum of that launch … Starforge‘s release attracted hundreds of new readers who picked up copies of Colony (though it being a SPSF quarterfinalist may have helped some with that decision, I feel) and then proceeded to blast through it, then Jungle, and at last Starforge. I’m not exaggerating when I sale that sales of copies of Colony and Jungle in December were 100% equal. That is that for every copy of Colony sold, someone bought a copy of Jungle.

Starforge outsold both by a large margin, but it was a launch month and there were a lot of people who’d already read the first two books in the trilogy waiting for it to drop, so that does make sense.

But what a launch. And again, that momentum has stayed strong right into the new Yyear. Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the new ratings and reviews that were coming with it. Some people have been busily going through my entire library atop finishing the UNSEC Space Trilogy, while others have been content to see the adventure with Jake, Anna, and Sweets through to its end, but the ratings and reviews they’re leaving are making it pretty clear.

This trilogy is a fantastic piece of Sci-Fi.

One other note on this, if I may be allowed. Last night I had the thrill of being a comment recipient on a social media site where someone was gushing at me about how fantastic the trilogy was and how much they’d loved the latest book (Starforge). The catch? They didn’t realize who I was, and were recommending my own books at me as a sort of ‘Oh man, I loved this guy! Have you read his latest book yet?’ moment.

Another one off of the bucket list!

But anyway, it feels good, and it’s a great way to start off the new year. And with the current momentum, my goal of hitting 10,000 lifetime book sales by the end of February 2023—which marks the tenth anniversary of my first published work—is within reach!

Okay. I get it. You’re here to read about writing, and this news segment is getting a little long in the tooth. But as much work and effort went into Starforge, and as many of you who were waiting for it all these years, I think we can excuse things a little. Later this week I’ll do a full news post to talk about everything else that’s already in the pipeline for this year, which includes LTUE, several new books (writing, at least), and other news and projects. But for now? Let’s start the new year for Being a Better Writer officially and kick things off with a nice topical subject.

Hit the jump, and let’s talk writing people!

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