Final Bit of Pre-Vacation News!

Hey readers! I know a Saturday news post is a bit unusual, but hey, I’m going to be on vacation next week, so it is what it is, right? Plus, I do have news!


First, let’s talk about Starforge. No, the draft isn’t done. I’m currently at work on the fourth and final portion of the story, and actually kind of glad I’m going on a vacation because I’ve hit a … shall we say swing point? I know where I’m at, and I know where things are going, but I have two different ways to reach that point and I’m trying to figure out which one works best for the characters.

Again, this is the most stressful writing project I’ve ever had because well, Starforge has to live up to Colony and Jungle, and that is a tall order, especially when it has to finish off both of their respective stories.

The current draft has cracked 400,000 words, by the way. Probably about another 45,000-50,000 to go. Yes. It’s close. Then I’ll probably put it down for a month or so, do some short stories or something for other books or works to let my mind disengage, and then … come back and start editing. Hard. Maybe we can get a November release, but I make no promises.

Of course, if you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking “Sounds like you need that vacation.” Everyone keeps telling me that. Anyway, I’ll have a week off to think about how to swing this last bit of the finale, and there will very likely be some rewrites for the current chapter I’m working on (at the moment I feel it’s a little inconsistent with the tone) once I’m back, but … Other than that, I’ll I’ve got is “it’s still coming, it’s still the most stressful thing I’ve ever written, and I really hope I’m keeping it up to the standard of the first two.”


But I’ve got other news! Really good news, in fact. As of last night, I have officially reached 200 reviews and ratings on Goodreads!

How’s that for a milestone? Combined with my Amazon reviews, that brings me to 359 reviews total. And the average of all those reviews?

4.5 out of 5. If we double that to find the “US grade scale” that puts me at a 90%. Actually, a 91% since there’s some rounding with the last few digits.

Yeah, for all the stress I’m experiencing over Starforge, that review average feels pretty good. And I’m only 41 reviews from hitting that big old 400 I’ve been hunting for.

Curious what pushed me to the new milestone? It was Axtara. Another five-star review from a thrilled reader was the last tick I needed to go from 199 to 200. At the current pace Axtara is racking up reviews, it’ll be competing with Colony before long!


Now let me see. Other news. There will be a Being a Better Writer post while I’m gone, and I’ll be setting up a few classic throwbacks while I’m out so the site won’t be totally dead. I’m going to try and spend this next week somewhat relaxed so my brain can punch through the last few finale bits of Starforge without shredding itself, so I won’t be doing new posts while I’m gone. But again, stuff is set up, so keep an eye on things here. Nothing groundbreaking, but still fun.


Oh, and while we’re discussing news, eagle-eyed Patreon Supporters may have already noticed that the fourth and final portion of A Trial for a Dragon went live this morning! So those of you that have been following the misadventures of Axtara’s older brother Ryax have the conclusion to his struggle with the Rietillian Council of Wizards at last! Thanks for supporting!

And with this, I’m going to sign off, get a few final scheduled posts ready to go … and check out. Enjoy next week everyone, and wish me luck!

OP-ED: Let’s Not Throw Away What We’ve Gained – A Thought on 2020

Hello readers! Just a quick thought post here to finish off the month. A sort of combination “look back” along with some thoughts on things.

Look, there’s no denying that 2020 was a brutal year for just about everyone. A global pandemic, the first of its kind in a century, swept over the Earth, and things went nuts as a result. Borders closed, the economy went into a complete tailspin, jobs died by the truckload, millions became homeless, over three million people (and still counting upward) died … 2020 was, without a doubt, one of the nastiest years on record for many (I mean, I broke four ribs—TWICE).

But it wasn’t all bad. And I’m not trying to excuse the year, mind. That’s not the point of this at all. Nor am I saying “Hey, ignore all that awful stuff because of this one good thing.” Conditions out there are still awful for many, covid-19 hasn’t quite eased its grip on us yet, and there’s still plenty of fallout from the disaster of last year that needs to be dealt with. Sands, in the US we’re still on the cusp of about ten percent of the population becoming homeless. That’s a major problem that needs to be dealt with.

But I do want to take a moment to reiterate something I said last year about when this all does end: That we not let things go back to “normal.”

I bring this up again because I’ve seen it being pushed lately, with the vaccine rollout in the US being what it is, that we can “finally” return to “normal.” People are excited and ready to “go back to the way things were.”

But you know what? I think that’s a mistake. Yeah, there were plenty of bad things about last year. A titanic number, in fact.

But there was a lot of good too. And I think casting that aside to “go back” would be a mistake.

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Starforge is One Massive Step Closer to Completion (And Other News)

Readers, I have good news: Yesterday, I finished Part Three (out of four total) of Starforge. Finishing out a colossal 56,000 words across three chapters, I laid down the final words of that portion of the draft, and started the section heading for “Interlude 3.”

Which means … Okay, will it actually means a bunch of things. First of all, it means that Starforge‘s draft progress on the “Current Projects” tab is now at 80%, and the total wordcount at 377,000. Now 50k more than Colony, but still almost 79k less than Jungle (which was an absolute unit of a story, and yet at the same time flew by for many).

Second, it means that I need a small break. Today I’ll work on Interlude 3 a little bit, but since I’ve almost hit my monthly quota (I’m just a few hundred words away) I don’t feel the need to stress out about it.

Which is good. The last few months have been very stressful, and Starforge is part of that. Though in fairness, I started working on it officially last July off-and-on between editing on Axtara, and then fully in October. which mean much of its 377,000 word current length has been written in just seven-months. On par for the same speed with Colony, I might note (which was written in six, but was also 50k shorter).

The end is coming, readers. All that’s left is that last 20%. And with that, let’s talk about some other news since we’re all here anyway!

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Being a Better Writer: Building a World From Scratch – Part 3

Welcome back readers! It’s Monday, and that means it’s time for another installment of Being a Better Writer! This week, as with last week, we’re still following in the path set before, and we’re talking about worldbuilding. More specifically, we’re going to be talking about the next step in crafting a world from scratch.

Now, if you’ve not been following BaBW up to this point, it is recommended that you have read parts one and two of this series already, since with part three today we’re following a the path set by those two pieces to its natural conclusion. So if you’re a newcomer, or just discovered this series for the first time, I would recommend reading those over before diving in. In other words, while this post is going to still be helpful for worldbuilding alone, I’d recommend reading the other two to gather the whole picture if you haven’t.

So, if you have read the two prior parts (or just like to live dangerously, and who am I to judge?), then let’s go ahead and dive in. In week one, we talked about finding our central ideas and figuring out how to “frame” the world around them. In part two we talked about taking the pieces that surrounded that world and shaping them to fit our central concepts—as well as the surrounding pieces—so that everything fits together to create a living, breathing world.

So what will we be talking about this week? Well, now that you’ve got a complete, living picture built around your central concepts, it’s time for the final step: Letting that world come to life.

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Riding Out the Storm

Life has been … chaotic lately. That’s why there haven’t been as many posts on other topics outside of Being a Better Writer.

For one, Starforge is kind of a big deal at the moment. Right now I’m in the middle of a massively important chapter that the series has been building toward since the very beginning, so writing other things (aside from Being a Better Writer) is a bit … distracting. Starforge is at the 75% mark, by the way. Next up is the calm before the big finale. So yeah, like I said, it’s tricky to even think about other writing projects.

Granted, I do have to think about other things, and there’s been a lot of distracting elements going on in my life lately. Like, for example, my landlord selling the place I’ve lived in for the last few years, and the general lack of any respect by the company handling it for things like “renter’s rights” or “those darn laws you’re not supposed to know about.” People showing up expecting to walk through the house with zero warning, many of the buyers being flippers who just immediately want to evict us (or think that upon buying the house, any and all contracts such as a year-long rental agreement are null and void so we have to leave that way) … The last few weeks have had that specter looming overhead, which hasn’t been fun. Especially when at any hour of the day we can randomly be given a phone call from our landlord saying “Hey, someone’s going to see the house in a few hours, so you need to be there.” That whole 24-hour notice thing required by law? The realtor actually seems to have convinced our landlord that the contract he signed with them allows them to ignore it.

Then again, that seems par for the course with this realtor. The few times people have asked after their name, I’ve gotten scowls and nothing but “Oh they’re the worst” stories, even from people who own homes.

Fun, right? America: Where laws are only for little people. The US featured in Colony and Fireteam Freelance was supposed to be a warning … and yet I feel like for too many people it’s becoming a guide.

The on top of that, book sales are whiplashing hard right now. Some days I’ll sell a bunch of copies, then other days just one … and then I’ll have a whole string of days without a sale at all. There seems to be little rhyme or reason to it as well; at least that I can find. So then there’s that hanging over things. Plus … well, I’m not going to drop all of my trials here, but these are three of the vastly escalating pile slamming over things.

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Like a Dragon

Hello readers! I’m back!

“Was I ever gone?” some of you might be wondering. Well … Remember how I got that Covid-19 vaccination on Monday? I noted as such in Being a Better Writer that day, then after I finished my post went right to work and chugged along. Well …

Let’s just say I got walloped. By late that night, I was shivering with fever so bad I was almost dropping things, and I ended up swiping every blanket in my apartment and piling them high on my bed to stay warm that night. And then, of course, in the tradition of fevers, having wild dreams and waking up way too hot … and then being way too cold once more. The fever broke by morning, but the fatigue and stiffness stuck, and the next night I slept until 2 PM the following day …

Yeah, no writing was had in the last two days. My brain was not in a place where writing—good writing, anyway—could happen. Just looking at the errors I made and had to correct posting online was proof enough.

This all said, do not take this as a recommendation against the vaccine. No, instead it’s the opposite. Get the vaccine, but plan ahead. This will probably knock you on your butt for a while. Plan accordingly, and don’t let your boss tell you that you can’t take time off to recover from the vaccine (in fact, if they tell you that, your boss is sadly a deadbeat skag-licker, and should be acknowledged accordingly).

But seriously: Do your part. Get vaccinated. Better a few days of discomfort than a week, or a month, or worst of all, transmitting the virus to someone who won’t survive it.


Now, other news! I would like to point out to all you readers that the Dragon Award Nominations are open again once more, this time for the period of 7/1/2020 to 6/30/2021. You can nominate here, but before you click that link and get to it nominating your favorite works from the above time period, I would like to note that Axtara – Banking and Finance is eligable for nomination in the “Best Young Adult/Middle Grade Novel” category. Am I going to recommend that for a nomination?

Well duh, yeah. I’d be a fool not to. Especially after seeing so many other posts from authors promoting their own book for spots.

Now I’ll be real, despite Axtara breaking into the global market (by the way, hello Italy!), I I know I don’t have much chance of winning a nomination. It’d be fantastic, but it’s unlikely.

But even so, I’d still ask you readers who have loved it to consider giving her the nomination for Best YA.


And with that … I’ve got two days of sick to catch up from when it comes to working on Starforge. Not that my time was totally lost. I watched The Adventures of Tintin once more (currently free on YouTube) and played Into the Breach, a title I literally bought several years ago just to get my hands on its soundtrack (a good chunk of Starforge has actually been written listening to it) and found it to be just as good as people claimed. And blisteringly hard. Oh, and grim. It is, however, one of the more clever Sci-Fi uses of time-travel as a mechanic. There’s little to spoil here, but basically it takes the idea that the moment you go into the past you create an alternate timeline and runs with it. The result is that in a war of desperation where mankind is being wiped out, every time they lose, these time-travelers jump to another timeline. Oh, and every time they win. They just keep going to alternate worlds where things are a little different, but always the Vek are there, wiping out mankind. And so they fight until they die … or lose or win, jump to another timeline to start all over.

Simple, and sweet, but still a clever premise.

And with that, I’ve got Sci-Fi of my own to write!

Bits and Pieces of News

Hello hello people! Yes, I know we had a post Wednesday and yesterday, but there are still a few things to say heading into this weekend. So, diving right in …


Those of you who are Patreon Supporters and fans of Axtara – Banking and Finance will want to keep an eye on the Patreon this weekend. Why? Because the first bit of a unreleased story set in the same universe will be dropping there this weekend. That’s right, it’s a supporter-only look at A Trial for a Dragon, a short story starring Axtara’s older brother Ryax. In … Rietillia? What is he doing there? Well, if you’re a supporter, you’ll have to tune in tomorrow on Patreon to get your first look.

But not the whole of it. It’s a short story but most of you know that doesn’t mean much where I’m concerned. So to keep Patreon from breaking under the size of the post, it’ll be in pieces.

And if you’re not a Patreon supporter, well … it is slated for a future release at some point in a collection. Patience will bring it to you in the end!


Speaking of Axtara, after 22 reviews, it finally got its first non-five-star the other day. A reader gave Axtara … four stars. For its 23rd review.

That’s not bad at all. The banking dragon continues to soar, and it’s a lot of fun to hear back from readers and fans how much they fell in love with Axtara and her adventures in Elnacier!


Speaking of reviews and ratings, just going to point out really quick: I am four ratings/reviews shy of 200 on Goodreads! This brings my total review rating count to … 357! And with all those reviews … still sitting at a 4.5 star average.

Now that’s the power of good writing.


Now, let’s talk about Starforge. I am on the second-to-last chapter of part three, so about to be roughly 75% done, and the total wordcount is … 337,000 words. We’re definitely looking at a Jungle-length adventure here folks. Some of that will probably get trimmed in editing—there’s a tricky balance with the action and pacing that needs to be met, and I’m positive the first draft will require some trimming and tucking to make it hit just right—but at the moment the concern is finishing the story off once and for all. Which I need to get back to, so let me drop other news and get on with it!

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LTUE 2021 Panel Recordings Are Up!

Hello readers! This is not an April Fool’s Day prank! I realize that even saying that immediately raises suspicions of such, but it isn’t! And I’ll prove it! Right now!

Yes! You’re seeing that! It is not a Rickroll. It is a genuine panel recording of one of the LTUE panels I was on during this year’s Life, The Universe, and Everything! And it’s official, from the LTUE Youtube channel. Today their channel dropped (as near as I can tell) all the LTUE 2021 panels onto the web for your listening enjoyment! Those of you who couldn’t attend LTUE this year can now check out over a hundred panels on every writing topic imaginable!

What would I recommend? Well, I’ll embed my other three panels below the jump. The one above there was one of my favorites, and we had a blast (and ran long, since we had the time), but that isn’t to say the other panels I was on didn’t also have a lot of fun!

Anyway, I’ll drop the embeds all below, and again, you can check out all of the 2021 LTUE panels at the official LTUE YouTube Channel. While this is a lot to dump all at once, don’t forget that I did a write-up of all three of my days (day 1, day 2, and day 3) noting every panel I attended, so that’s a good place to start for suggestions of panels to search for on the LTUE channel (I recommend just loading all their latest videos and then using a CTRL+F to find the one you’re looking for).

Anyway, hit the jump for the other three panels, then head on over to the LTUE Youtube and check the rest out!

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Just News Things

So basically … kind of a news post. But not. More just a case of “Well, I really should say something, and there have been goings on lately …”

Also, I really wanted to talk about what happened yesterday. So you know how I have a standing thing with Axtara – Banking and Finance of “let me know if you find a copy in the wild?” Send a picture, etc?

Well, I’m sharing not a picture, but definitely a demonstration of how far Axtara has spread her wings. Yesterday a new entry popped up on my royalty notifications. One I’d not gotten before. It was an end-of-month royalty for copies sent to bookstore distribution. Checking up, I found that these are usually a bit after the fact (so this royalty was probably for back when Axtara launched), but there was another detail that I caught.

This order was for Germany. Which means that somewhere out there in Germany is a bookstore with Axtara – Banking and Finance proudly displayed on its shelves.

Or not, if it’s already been bought out, at which point they’ll probably order more. Yes, I definitely hope that.

Is this particularly special? Well, yes and no. It’s not like this is the first time I’ve sold books in Germany, or in other countries around the world. My ebook market is pretty global.

But Axtara is my first paperback, and this order means that someone working at a bookstore in Germany was either familiar enough with my work on their own through my ebooks to place an order based on what they already knew, or read the synopsis and thought “Yes, that sounds good. I want to read this, and I think people will buy it,” then placed it then.

Either way, it makes me happy. My paperback sales are now not just global, but they’re in bookstores outside of the US. That is a freaking accomplishment.

And it makes me dang proud. Axtara’s got wings, and she’s using them to fly around the world. I wonder where she’ll land next?

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Topic Call for Being a Better Writer!

It’s back! The time has come! Topic List #16 lies broken and battered, all but one of its topics spent. While Topic List #17 is fresh and pristine, ready to be decorated with concepts and ideas.

So the time comes once more, readers: What do you want to see Being a Better Writer discuss? What writing topics do you want to know about? What writing concepts do you want to hear more of? What puzzles and questions do you seek answers to?

Are they questions of editing? Of writing point-of-view? Of framing? Tone? Emotion? Depth? What are you looking to learn about? What do you want to know?

Whatever it is, now is the time to hit “comment” and post away! Because this is the Being a Better Writer topic call!

Seriously, hit “comment” and give us all something for the list!