OP-ED: A Matter of No Consequence

WARNING: This is not a happy post.

Wow. It’s been weeks since we’ve seen a post like this one on the site, hasn’t it? But hey, Starforge‘s draft is now complete, so we can see stuff like this again. My mind feels free.

So, what are we talking about today? Well, to start with, I bounced between quite a few titles when I was thinking on this one. “America: Land of No Free.” “Freedom from Responsibility.” “Land of Freedom from Accountability.”

Among others. I think you get the picture. And a few of you are probably wondering what this is going to be about. Well … if you’re making guesses, there’s a good chance you’re on the right track. So I’ll dive in.

When I was young and being raised, one of the things that was constantly taught and reinforced, everywhere from my parents to (some of) my education was the concept that “actions have consequences.” It’s a basic principle of life: You’re free to choose (or should be) but you cannot choose the consequences. This leads to a sense of accountability and responsibility, a sort of social construct along the longs of “for every action, there will be an equal and opposite reaction.” For example, if you work a job, working harder at said job—producing better quality work, spending more time at it, more effort—should come with the reaction of greater reward for the additional work. One plus one equals two, so one plus two should equal three.

Here’s the problem: Should. Because as those of us that have worked in the United States can attest, rare is the job where working harder sees any sort of reward for your efforts. More often than not, what happens instead is punishment via cutting. “Oh, you were able to do that job in three hours when it takes everyone else five? We’ve assigned you additional work to fill out that five hours. No, we’re still paying you the same as everyone else. Whine about it and you’ll lose your job.”

It’s a problem of consequence. Do your job well, and you’ll receive no reward for doing such. In fact, you’ll be punished. Do your job poorly, but not poorly enough to be punished? You’ll trundle along. Why risk working hard or even well when you’ll only suffer for it?

But this is just an appendage, a symptom really, of the greater problem at the root, of something that affects the entire United States. I would contend it’s the cause of the current sexual assaults problems in so many video-game companies (Activison-Blizzard is facing a lawsuit right now over, among other things, management sexually harassing and employee so badly she committed suicide, all of which was covered up), complete lack of ethics shown by food companies (Tyson Meats is currently appealing a lawsuit over their management forcing employees to work during Covid-19 lockdowns and then management making bets on how many employees would die in each department), and the source of the cruelty evidenced by shipping companies (such as one shipping warehouse forcing employees to work around the body of an employee who had suffered a heart-attack from heat exhaustion).

All of these? There’s a common root cause among them. It’s the same cause that allows CEOs, Board Members, and managers to be pulling down incomes that let them buy a new house a year while the employees right under them work 70 hours a week and yet have to be on state welfare because they’re paid so little. It’s the same cause that allows for forty employees to have twenty managers, most of which just sit in an empty office and talk with the “good old boys club” while two of those employees do all their work on top of their own because said manager doesn’t actually know how … he’s just good friends with the manager above him and that’s why he has the job. It’s the same cause that allows for a manager to run a division into the ground through manglement, ruining a company and destroying hundreds of jobs … only for that same manager to receive a bonus for their “hard work” and go on to do the same thing at another company.

No. Consequences. No accountability. No responsibility.

Why? Because these people have convinced others that they deserve to be above consequences, dangling in front of them the carrot of “If you let me do it, one day you might be able to do it too.”

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Next Week

Hey folks. Do you know what happens next week?

After months of work, I get to close the draft for Starforge. Because today? Today I was working on the epilogue. That’s right. The last chapter is over and done. The final battle, from start to finish (and I count start as the moment it engages, not the prelude) weighed in at 68,000 words. The draft right now is sitting at about 493,000 words.

And it’s almost done. Which … is good. I’ve barely done anything but write, exercise, and then relax these last few weeks. Starforge has taken over almost everything. Including the usual posts on the site, save Being a Better Writer.

But it’s been worth it. Monday, maybe Tuesday … Starforge will be done. I’m writing the closing moments. The characters are taking their bows. The last few bits and pieces are being wrapped up in an ending that, hopefully, feels earned.

And I am tired. My brain feels worn out. This draft is almost half a million words, and I wrote it in less time than it took to write Jungle. I’m really looking forward to taking a break for a few days and then writing an non-UNSEC story for a bit.

But it’s basically there. Sands, I might just finish it tomorrow and sacrifice the weekend just to be done.

Because it’ll be worth it.

So again, sorry for the lack of other posts this week. But this titan is almost done.

Apologies (Sort of)

So I know content on the site these last few weeks has been light. Usually there’s another decent-sized post on something or other in the publishing industry each week, and for the last few weeks their hasn’t been. And yeah, I’m sorry about that.

But Starforge‘s draft is just so close to being done. We’re talking today I start the final chapter. Then the epilogue after that.

It is close, and as a result … Well, I’ve kind of been letting everything else slide (save my daily exercise). Last night I was writing on Starforge until one-thirty in the morning. Final total for the day was something close to 5000 words.

It’s so close.

So while there is other stuff going on with publishing and whatnot, please bear with me a little longer. Once the draft is done, I can relax, but right not it’s a bit all consuming (as finished the final book of a trilogy this size ought to be).

Now, as I say this, I do have some good news. Earlier this week, and through means I don’t know, I somehow sold a ton of books in Mexico? As in almost a month’s worth of sales happened in a few days. All ebook, all at once. I don’t know which titles they were, as for some reason I’m not getting that information from my KDP client, just the total sales, but …


Hello Mexico! Glad you like my work!

And with that, I need to get back to Starforge! Regular content updates will return soon!

All the News That’s Relevant

Hey there readers! Max here with a news post about, well, everything!

First up, unless otherwise pleaded with, the current plan for next week’s live Being a Better Writer Q&A is to have it at 3 PM Mountain Time. Like last time this will last about an hour, and will be conducted over the Unusual Things discord server, The Makalay Camp.

Yes, of course that’s a reference. Anyway, look forward to that this Monday, and start thinking of questions and topics! Not just for the Q&A, of course, because—


Being a Better Writer is in need of topics! That’s right, we’ve reached the end of list #17, and Topic List #18 now sits atop my desk, ready to slowly fill with topic after topic on the arts of writing for the next installments of Being a Better Writer.

Which means after the live Q&A is over, the time will arrive once more for a BaBW Topic Call post to go up! I’ve got some new topics I’ve already been putting on there (such as one on diction and dialogue) but as always there are an endless number of writing topics to choose from, so if there’s something that’s on your mind that you’d like answered, discussed, or talked about in some manner, jot it down and get ready! If you don’t have one off the top of your head, that’s fine. You’ve got time. Sleep on it, and wait for the post to arrive.


Now, let’s talk about Starforge for a moment. Starforge, the grand finale to the trilogy started with Colony and Jungle, is now in the last 90% of the draft. Yes, I am in the midst of the final battle.

And it is awesome. No spoilers, but it’s the climax of everything that the series has been leading up to. For Pisces, for Jake, Anna, and Sweets … even for Earth and humankind.

So once I’m done here, I’ll go right back to working on that because, you know, finale. It’s living in my head right now and pretty much an epicenter of my focus. It needs to be done.

Which raises an important question: What will I do when it’s done? Will the Alpha Reading call possibly be sent out next month?

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Unexpected Sick Day (and Other News)

So today, my expected plan was to get up, climb out of bed, write a quick news post, and then get back to work on Starforge, which I’ve got awesome news about below. I was all ready to go.

And then last night my throat started to feel off. Which, combined with what I’m pretty sure is a tension headache, led to this morning, or rather, today I noon, when I woke up at 12:30 with my throat saying “Yup, it’s a biological war in there.” I’m tired, and a little achy, and feel like one of my sinuses is having some issues. This might have had something to do with my insistence on biking outside despite the 100+ degree heatwave we’re under pushing me past a healthy edge, but … Anyway.

So … today might be a sick day. I seem to be writing in a somewhat readable form here, so I still may give it a shot, because I need to get this story done, but I’m not quite foolish enough to think that I shouldn’t watch things carefully, and if it’s not looking good, stop for the day and rest.


Which is a shame, because yesterday I did some calculations, and Starforge is only six or seven chapters from THE END. That’s right, the draft is almost done. Now, these are going to be decently lengthy chapters, I expect, as there’s a lot going on, but …

Yeah, rejoice! The end is almost here! I mean, it’ll still be a while yet before the last book of the trilogy is out, but the first draft is almost done!

It’s going to be another titan, too. Right now, the current draft is 424,000 words long. Given that there are still a few lengthy chapters to go, the first draft will likely end up around the same length as Jungle. Editing may change that, but that’s what it’s looking like right now.

Plus today … Oh today was going to be awesome. Fleet engagements, twists that were foreshadowed a whole book ago, chaos and explosions as spaceships blow one another into smoldering, atmo-venting wrecks … Yeah, it was going to be neat.

I hope I can get some of that done today, but … Bleh. Even this is making me feel more off.

On the plus side, I’m only 11,000 words shy of my monthly quota. I have been tearing it up the last few weeks. So having a day off wouldn’t be that bad an impact on my progress.

I was just really looking forward to smashing these fleets together, you know?


All right, so that’s the Starforge news. In other news, I screwed up the Patreon Supporter vote, so there’s still another week to go with that one. Oops. Those supporters who haven’t voted yet, there’s still a chance!

Oh, and both Colony and Axtara were the recipients of a couple of new five-star reviews this last weekend! Glad to see them still garnering awesomely positive attention! Now, if they could get even more of it …

Bleh. I’m going to go write about spaceships hitting other spaceships (maybe literally, maybe not), or at least try to. Wish me luck, leave a review for Colony or Axtara if you haven’t yet, and stay cool and healthy in this shimmering heat-wave we’ve got going!

Why You Won’t Be Seeing My Work on Serial Story Sites

Hey readers! Really quick, before I get started on this post, don’t forget that if you’re a Patreon Supporter, there’s a poll going right now to determine the name of a new arms manufacturer in Starforge! Go vote!

Okay, now that you’ve done that … So yesterday someone upon encountering my work for the first time asked a question that I’ve heard before, which goes a bit like this: “Hey, is any of your work on any of those episodic release writing websites where I can just read a chapter a day/week for free?” For those of you who’ve never looked at or for such a thing, yes, these places exist.

And no. None of my work is on any of them (and if it is, it’s been stolen). Nor do I plan on having my work on any of them.

Now, some of you might be asking “Why?” and that’s a fair question. I had one individual (not a writer, imagine that) suggest that all the “real” writers were on Royalroad because that was “where the money was” and if I was ‘serious” about this writing thing, I should look at going there.

Well, they were correct about one thing. That’s where the money is. Just … not for the creator.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with services like RoyalRoad or the newly-arriving Vella (Amazon’s service which they’ve several times begged me to join) they’re basically a serialized story service. Think of the basic setup a bit like a fanfiction site (though with a lot more money at stake) in terms of delivering readers categorized content, easy to search and find.

But now take it one step further. Rather than one-off stories or completed work, the goal here is to hook readers on serialized content that’s produced as rapidly as possible. So a reader comes to the site and finds, for example, a romance story that updates with a new chapter every day or every week. The goal of the site is to get that reader coming back every day or every week and reading the new chapter, which triggers their ad revenue. Or better yet, said reader can become a premium reader and pay a little bit each day to read ahead, as the story itself is usually a couple chapters ahead. As long as the reader is willing to pay a fee (a buck or two, usually) for that story each week, they can read the next chapter “before” the rest of the world.

And when you look at it like that, it doesn’t seem that bad. Not from the reader’s perspective. They can log in, read their new chapter each day on their phone, confirm that they’re paying for it, and come back again the next day.

But here’s the thing … If I wanted to do that system … I could do it right here on my website. In fact, I did, except that it was free entirely, with no fees or ads, with Fireteam Freelance. Of course, it wasn’t identical. People had to load my webpage rather than an app to check the latest chapters, and there was no way to become a “premium” reader and pay money to look ahead.

Outside of me being able to set up the same process on my website, however, there’s another reason you’ll never see me on sites like RoyalRoad or Vella.

They’re made to bleed money to the siteholders. Not to authors/creators.

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Attention Patreon Supporters – Go Vote!

Hello readers! Today’s quick post is directed at those that are Patreon Supporters, because you’re getting a chance to pick the name of Pisces’ first major arms manufacturer and R&D lab!

That’s right! Without spoiling anything, near the end of Starforge Anna finds herself in possession of a new weapon produced by a Pisces-based startup. As I was wondering what to name this new company, it hit me … Why not let you decide!

So there’s a blank spot in the draft for Starforge with [POLL WINNER HERE] written in it, waiting for your decision! I put the full list up in a Supporter poll on Patreon. It’ll be up for a week starting today, and each supporter gets one vote. So make it count! There’s a small list to choose from, which I’ll drop here to help get your minds thinking, but I won’t tell the public at large who won! The answer will only be revealed when Starforge itself comes out later this year when it comes out (I’d like it to release end of this year, but it’s far enough off I won’t commit quite yet).

Anyway here’s the list, Patreon Supporters can hit the jump at the bottom and go vote!

The choices:

  • Poseidon Arms and Ammunition
  • Minerva Munitions
  • Revolt Arms
  • Ōjin Weapons Development
  • Lemuria R&D

Now Go Vote!

Managing Marketing

Hello readers! Max here with a short news post. Nothing big. Mostly just updates, starting with the big one on everyone’s mind: What’s going on with Starforge?

Work, actually! Joking aside, progress on Starforge continues forward. Returning from my vacation, I’ve taken some time to tighten up (read: rewrite) the last quarter that I was working on, and progress over the last few days has been in the high-quota range. If things continue at their current pace, I could see the first draft being done by the end of this month.

About time, too, I know. Speaking of which, I really want to get back to it (things are happening) so this is going to be a short post.


What else is up? Well, I spent a good chunk of today rebuilding and restructuring a lot of my advertising. Advertising for Axtara has done really well, so I spent some additional time working on that and adding a keyword search set to it to see how that performs, as well as going back and building a new advertising campaign for Colony based on its most successful keywords, plus a few new ones.

Hopefully, this will be part of the process that tips me over the knife edge I’ve been balanced on over the twenty and eighty percent. For those who are not in the know, about eighty percent of authors never make enough off of their writing to live, and therefor have a second job. A number which is thankfully up due to indie publishing.

Anyway, I’m on the edge of being able to move from that eighty percent into the twenty percent. Have been for a while, and have just been looking/working for the push that puts me there. Maybe this advertising refinement will do the trick?


Let me see, what other news do I have to drop! Oh, I was interviewed by my hometown radio news station during my vacation (yes, my hometown has a public radio station still, a unique boon that most of the US no longer has, and I can wax on the societal implications/advantages of that for a while), talking about publishing, writing, and where Sci-Fi may go from here, among a few other things. I’ll be sure to let you all know as soon as the story goes live! I myself will be curious to see what gets cut from the 40-odd minutes we talked compared to what airs.


And in other news … I got nothing, actually. There’s some cut content from Starforge that’ll probably be coming to Patreon soon, Axtara got a few more five-star reviews, along with Jungle, and summer’s here, so I’m loving having my biking season back. And being back at work with Starforge‘s draft whizzing along.

Speaking of which, I’m going to get back to that now. These battles aren’t going to write themselves! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Returned From Afar – Happy Memorial Day!

Hello readers! Guess who’s back?

Well, you don’t really have to. After all, this is a new post, not scheduled in any way! So it’s not much of a guess that I am back from my vacation.

And hoo-boy did I need it. I hadn’t realized exactly how stressed and overworked I’d become in the last few years of working with very few breaks. The first few days of my trip, I felt like my mind was one of those crazy metal puzzles with all the rings, but one that had been handed to someone after being passed to an overactive toddler and really bent into an odd shape. Over the last week, it’s gradually relaxed and fallen back into shape, unclenching into something a bit more recognizable.

Basically, five years without a real vacation was a little too much. Even during Christmas and other breaks I spent a lot of days running the site, writing other projects, planning … This vacation was the first time in years were I made a point of not even thinking about writing for the first few days. Complete disconnect.

Sands and storms did I need that.

Now I’m back! Relaxed, rejuvenated, and ready to once again to get back to work. Step one? Finishing Starforge. The last quarter is ready to explode into the finale, and I’m ready to write it.

Now, normally this would be the point were I dive into Being a Better Writer, since this is Monday. However, today is also a big holiday in the United States. Memorial Day, when we honor and remember all the fallen warriors that have given their lives in defense of this country. As in keeping with tradition, there will not be an installment of Being a Better Writer today.

However, as I have just come back from an extended break, I will be posting a shorter one tomorrow. So there’s that to look forward to.

Well, that and this awesome picture I took on my vacation. Are you ready? Check this out:

You see it? Right in the upper left-hand corner of the display? That is Axtara – Banking and Finance, proudly on display in my hometown’s library next to Dave Pilkey and a Wings of Fire book.

And yes, I signed it.

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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!