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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Computer Update

Hey readers! Max here with a quick update on things!

So, this is being written from my computer. And it may be that the source of the problem has been found. Perhaps. Two problems, really.

One was that my thermal paste on the CPU, that critical component responsible for transferring heat to the fans, was dry as a bone. Which means part of the problem may have been that the CPU was overheating. Now that it’s been cleaned and new paste applied, a system check of everything swears it’s all okay. Mem-check went fine too.

Save in one place. My D drive. Yes, it would appear that the D drive, about 15 years old, is failing me. To the point that Windows cannot even repair it and advised when I tried that due to the inability to do so, system instability could result.

So yeah … that seems to be the other culprit. As a result, I’ve moved all valued items off of it to another drive (F), including my music collection (and have set my player to find the library there. I’ve cleared programs using the drive, and already ordered a replacement. Now I just need to wait.

Oh, and during my attempt to copy some stuff off of the drive, the computer crashed again. Which seems … telling, if I do say so myself.

I’ll try and do some work tomorrow, and with luck, there won’t be any issues. If there are well … sands, I don’t know. This should be it. I’ll tiptoe around that drive until the replacement arrives, at which point I’ll open the case up and swap them out. In the end it cost me about $116, but the new replacement is the same size and an SSD (the other option was half the price for the same thing, or the price I paid for 2 TB but old-school SSD. I went for a future-proof.

With luck, this will stop the issue, and things will return to normal. I’ll keep you posted. Being a Better Writer Monday if all goes well.

Emergency Status Update

This post has nothing to do with politics.

Just heading this appropriately, before anyone panics for the wrong reasons.

So what’s up? Yesterday, as I was working on the print copy of Axtara – Banking and Finance, my computer stuttered, froze, and died. Then powered back on … only to shut off a moment later, without even a BIOS POST beep.

For those not technically minded, this is really bad.

Some work later with a voltmeter concluded that the first suspect, the power supply, was fine and functioning within optional boundaries, delivering the power it was supposed to. Which, assuming it’s not failing under load (unlikely), puts the culprit elsewhere.

As of right now, the next suspect, which I shall test in the morning, is the CPU fan. If it fails to start, that would be one reason the system isn’t even passing POST. If it does start, then the problem is either the CPU … Or the motherboard.

Neither are good, because both are costly to fix.

Unfortunately, I’m writing this on my phone. If Monday sees a Being a Better Writer post, it’ll be either because I was able to get the computer online without much difficulty, or because I wrote a short, quick one on my phone.

Given that all my books are on the computer and it’s currently unaccessible, no writing is being carried out.

I’ll update you readers as I know more, but this is not exactly a great development. I’ve got my smartphone, and that’s it.

I’ll keep you posted. Max out.

2020 in Review: A Look Back

Hello readers, and welcome to 2021! That’s right, the calendar has flipped, the months have passed, and we are in a new year once more. Which means, as I tail out of my vacation, that it’s time to take a look back at the last year and take stock. Also, to apologize for the lateness of this post; my staycation has caught up with me. In fact, I feel as though my leaving my warm bed in the afternoon should have been narrated by Attenborough, saying something like “Forced to leave his warm burrow by a dying battery, the creature finally emerges from his hiding place in search of power.”

Anyway, in lieu of a classic Being a Better Writer post today, I thought I’d use today as the perfect time to take a look back at the site and my writing over this last year and see what 2020 ended up as. What came out of 2020. What did I accomplish? What did I achieve? Did I release anything? How did the site perform? How were sales?

You get the picture. So, today, I deliver to you readers a summary of the year past. Writing done, books published, site stats … all of it. Hit the jump, and we’ll get started. It’s time to look at some good from 2020.

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One Week of Axtara!

Hello readers! Max here with a news post about … Well, what else? Axtara – Banking and Finance of course! It’s been one week since Axtara‘s release … so I thought I’d hop on and share with all of you how the book has been doing! As well as drop some other news and then the Axtara background images (yes, at last)!

So, how is Axtara – Banking and Finance performing right now? What’s the reception by the general public? Well … it’s great! Axtara beat Jungle for pre-orders and actually ended up matching Shadow of an Empire, and since release has enjoyed strong sales that have continued to accrue. Before launch, it even made it into the top fifty on Amazon in YA Fantasy for Women! And it’s actually stayed fairly high in that category too!

Of course, this has likely been aided by the strong reaction to the book from the general public. In just seven days Axtara picked up six reviews and ratings from the reading public … all of them Five-Star.

That is an excellent start, if I do say so myself. It would seem that many of you love Axtara as much as I’d hoped you would! If you’ve already grabbed your copy, I hope to see your reaction on Goodreads or Amazon, and if you haven’t yet well … think about it! And maybe click that book cover on the right!

Now, I did say I had a little bit of news. It’s related to Axtara and it’s a bit of an “oops” on my part. Some of you may notice that the prices for Jungle and Shadow of an Empire haven’t dropped yet as promised. And well … that’s because I goofed. I went ahead and put everything on the Christmas Sale to coincide with the Axtara release … and I’m not supposed to alter prices for 14 days after a sale has ended. Whoops. So for now, Jungle and Shadow of an Empire will stay at their current price … but only until that period has elapsed, at which point they’ll drop down to their tail prices. Shadow to its final price point, Jungle to the first step.

Now, about those backgrounds I promised? I’m going to put it past the jump, but yes, here you are. Each of these images will take you to a 4K, full image of the cover for Axtara – Banking and Finance, one with text, the other without, perfect for gracing the background of your desktop or laptop machine. Enjoy, and then don’t forget to pick up a copy of the book!

Images after the jump, and will also now be linked on the Books page.

Have a happy New Year everyone! And a big thank you to all of you that have picked up and enjoyed Axtara!

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Classic Being a Better Writer: Character Development and Character Growth

Hello readers! I’m still on break here, so here’s a classic Being a Better Writer post for all of you to sink your teeth into! And an old-school one too! But first, some news!

First of all, today is the last day for the Christmas Sale! That’s right, the savings on my lexicon of books expire at midnight tonight! So hop on over to my full bookshelf before then and grab what you can! You can get both Colony and Jungle right now for the combined total of $5. Yeah. Five bucks for over 3000 pages of Five-Star Science Fiction.

Speaking of Five-Star fiction, reviews and ratings are starting to roll in for my latest release, Axtara – Banking and Finance! Unsurprisingly, it’s sitting pretty with six Five-Star reviews. That’s one for every day it’s been out! If you haven’t yet grabbed a copy of this cozy, heartwarming YA Fantasy adventure, then I recommend doing so at this link!

All right, you got all that? Links clicked? Sales taken advantage of? Excellent! Well then, let’s talk about characters and how they develop and grow. This post is an oldie (six years old, to be exact) but it’s a good one. So let’s dive right in!

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Merry Christmas!

MERRY CHRISTMAS READERS!

Yeah, there’s not much else to say here. This isn’t going to be a long post. Short and sweet, because all of us have things we want to do for our Christmas Eve! Myself included! And really quick: Axtara – Banking and Finance is out, and there’s a Christmas Sale on! Anyway …

I love the Christmas season. I love being able to wish everyone a Merry Christmas as I’m out and about. I love seeing everyone’s homes all decorated with bright, cheery lights. And I love being able to drag out all the Christmas songs of good cheer, love, and peace on Earth. Christmas is, even in 2020, that one time of the year when people seem to feel a bit more dedicated to seeing and spreading good will.

Which has been great, because if there ever was a year where some peace on Earth and good will toward mankind was needed, 2020 is definitely a standout in recent memory.

So what’s the point of this post? Well, to maybe help that out a little. To wish you all a Merry Christmas with friends, family, associates … whoever. And to talk a little bit about Christmas itself.

Christmas is a special time of year. A season set apart from the rest of the chaos of day to day life to celebrate a birth some 2000-odd years ago. I think it says a lot about the spirit and meaning behind that birth that even those who don’t hold it in special regard still enjoy and respect the season itself that it’s in celebration of. It’s a special season, and I hope that all of you readers out there have found a place, a reason, or a gift to celebrate, contemplate, and rejoice in.

Merry Christmas. To all of you.

Now, before you go, I have one last thing to share. One thing I love about Christmas is the music. From classic carols to modern classics like Mariah Carey (yes, I like that song). And as I puzzled over how this year to make this post a bit more meaningful, I hit on it! I’m going to share one rendition of one of my favorite Christmas songs, Carol of the Bells. No particular rendition (there are a lot of them out there). But that’s not all. I’m going to link it, but then I’d urge all of you to find and share some of your own favorite Christmas songs in the comments for everyone to listen to.

Merry Christmas readers. May you have peace, love, and joy this holiday season.

Axtara – Banking and Finance is OUT!

Happy day to all! For it is on this day, December the 22nd, 2020, that one of the standout moments of what many would agree has been a year, has occurred.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Axtara – Banking and Finance is out!

For those of you who’ve missed it (entirely possible, I’ll admit) Axtara – Banking and Finance is a Young Adult Fantasy novel telling the tale of the titular Axtara, a young dragoness leaving the nest and setting out for the edge of the known civilized world with a single goal: to found and operate her own bank.

Naturally, it’s not going to be easy. The small kingdom she’s headed to has never had a bank before.

Of course, it’s never had a dragon either …

Axtara is available as an ebook, and is also on Kindle Unlimited. A print edition is planned for January, but let’s be honest, right now is the season to curl up with a book and read a fun fantasy. So click the cover there and give it a look!

But before you close this tab, I do want to mention one other little thing: In celebration of the season, and of the new book, there’s also a big sale going on the rest of my library. Been eyeing Jungle or Shadow of an Empire for a time and waiting to pick a copy up? Now’s your chance! Head on over to my author page and take a look! If you’re looking for stocking stuffers for a reader out there, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for! Go go go!

And have a Merry Christmas filled with dragons, wild west shootouts, and spaceships!

Classic Being a Better Writer: The Ellipses and the Em-dash, Odd Forms of Punctuation

Hello readers! Welcome to this week’s Being a Better Writer! If this post looks a little familiar to you, well that’s likely because you’ve seen it before! That’s right, I’m on vacation for Christmas (barring that there’s no way I’ll be taking a break tomorrow when Axtara – Banking and Finance releases) so for the next few weeks we’ll be seeing some older, classic Being a Better Writer posts showing up some of you may have missed. This week? Well, this post on ellipses and the em-dash isn’t too old (about a year and a half) … but it was a fun post that came with a neat follow-up and some odd tidbits of knowledge.

Now, before we dive into it, I do want to remind you all that Axtara – Banking and Finance releases tomorrow, and is available for pre-order now. In fact, you can order it (if you’re in the US) just by clicking the cover to the left there, or by searching for “Axtara Banking and Finance” on whatever Amazon you use if international. Axtara is a charming Young Adult Fantasy novel about a young dragon setting out to open her own bank and … Well, I won’t spoil anything past that, but come on. That premise is solid enough as is.

As I said, it comes out tomorrow, and it’s $4.99. Pre-orders and day one sales help it earn momentum and find new eyeballs, so grab it when it you can. It also, I would note, is a fantastic Christmas gift if you’re looking for a stocking stuffer for the reader in your life. Especially if they at all enjoy YA Fantasy or female protagonists.

So, go ahead and order that! Then come back here and get ready to read about the ellipses. That form of punctuation that you see used a lot, but many teachers never discuss. They’ll talk all about a period, or a comma, or a question mark …

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Merry Christmas, readers!