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!

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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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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Merry Christmas Everyone!

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

Once again we reach that time of year, readers. A celebration that comes once every twelve months, as the Earth spins around the sun. A time of year when many feel a yearning, a driving need to reach out, to take hold of those hands around them and pull them up.

Recently I’ve been watching a new show on streaming. Don’t worry, this isn’t a non-sequitur. It connects. Anyway, this is a Christmas-themed show, as you might guess, that means that it delves into what Christmas means. It even went as far as to say that Christmas is the season of hope, that brings hope to mankind. And … then they sort of froze for a moment, without saying why it brought hope, and just sort of had to leave it hanging, even though they were diving into what Christmas was and why it was so important.

Why the freeze? Well, I’d hazard a guess that it’s because its a show produced for a global streaming service, and either the show or the producers weren’t keen on outright digging into the cause of that hope, the reason the whole holiday exists in the first place, when a large portion of their audience might not hold to that.

In a way, it was almost amusing, because the hole left there as the characters moved on definitely did hang a lampshade on things.

Why Christmas. Why hope? What makes this season, above all others around the calendar year the “season of perpetual hope?”

Because of what it represents. Two-thousand-odd years ago, a birth unlike any other took place. In manger, a most unassuming location, and yet heralded by choirs of angels and a new star in the sky.

But why hope? What about this birth was cause for such revelry? What was so significant about this child that now, thousands of years later, billions still celebrate this Christmas Eve and Christmas Day—though we know it was not the actual date of the birth, its representative—to honor that solemn occasion? What about that birth brings us hope?

Because of who that child was. Jesus the Christ, the Savior of Mankind. A long-prophesied Messiah who would take upon Himself the sins and pains of all mankind, paying the due of justice so that He, in turn, could serve as the Advocate for each and every member of the human race. A divine being who through which would give every single person the chance not just to improve, but to live again.

That’s why Christmas is the season of perpetual hope. Because of the hope that being brought to all mankind. Even for those who aren’t believers in Christ, the hope of something better, something eternal, something divine, that we can improve toward, wrapped aside the concept that a divine being cares so much about them, individually, that they would give them that chance … Well, that means something.

And yeah, some of you coming here, to this site, on Christmas … you may not believe. I still hope that for you, this season is still touching, still finds a way to bring you peace, bring to your mind what you yearn and hope for, just as it did for those shepherds thousands of years ago.

Me? I do. I stand firm in my knowledge that this being, that Savior, Jesus Christ, was born long ago, fulfilling prophecy that had been taught since the world began. While His birth was not the crux of His mission, it was the start of it, and tonight, tomorrow, and through this season, the hope that He brought and continues to bring? That is the hope of the Christmas season we celebrate.

Merry Christmas to all of us. May we all feel the spirit of the season, the hope that it stands for, and the triumph of the ages that it signifies.

Merry Christmas, readers. Peace on Earth, and good will toward men, not just tonight, today, or tomorrow, but for as long and often as we can spread it.

Fancy Some Christmas Music?

Hey folks! I’m on my Christmas Vacation, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some content! So today I’m linking back to a fun post we did last year where I encouraged everyone to share Christmas tunes in the comments after sharing a few of my own favorites! And once again, like a Bernie advertisement, I’m asking for you to chip in! Save that I’m pointing you folks to the comments to share youtube links to your favorite Christmas carols, songs, etc! Let’s give everyone the gift of some more holiday music to enjoy! Here are a few of mine—fresh, not from last year’s—to get you all started!

Christmas Everyday by Gia Farrell

In Wonderment of Winter by Gareth Coker

Across the Frozen Expanse by Abadoss
Last Christmas by Jimmy Eat World

Let It Snow by Chris Isaak

That’s some of what’s in my Christmas playlist? How about you? Merry Christmas, readers!

My Christmas Break is About to Begin

Hey folks! Max here with a heads-up. I’m about to start my Christmas Vacation. Or Christmas Break. I like to think of it as a break because I take a break from writing and running the site for a while. Usually I try to pick one game from my backlog and power through it, but this year I’ve spent the last two or so months working my way through BattleTech and I’m still not done yet (and still having fun) so that might be this year’s contender.

Granted, I’ll also be spending about a week or so of my Christmas Break to visit family, chiefly one of my nephews. So that’s definitely going to be a good chunk of my holiday time.

And who knows? With the ability to just do whatever I feel like for each and every day, I might actually break the bad sleep habits I got into this year working on Starforge!

Speaking of Starforge, some of you have to be nearing the end by now. Those of you that are quick readers, at least, and may have made a few “sacrifices” of time to be able to power through all 1,900 or so pages in the two weeks it’s been out.

What’s the reaction so far? Are the reveals everything you’d hoped? Or are they even more? Have you found yourself caught off-guard or by surprise by a sudden revelation yet? How is it to see both the All and our mysterious drones from the first book now showing off all their capabilities?

Soo, once the new year starts, I will be writing up a full “It’s finally done” sort of post to talk about the trilogy. Now that the ending is out in the open, and everything that the last—for me—eight years have worked toward is complete, and I definitely do want to close out this fantastic journey that you’ve all been part of with some final thoughts.

But that’ll be after the New Year and my break is over. In the meantime, that gives those of you that are journeying through Starforge a few more weeks to finish it off without worrying about any spoilers that will be in that wrap-up post … Because inevitably, there are going to be serious spoilers.

It’s an Epic Sci-Fi Trilogy of 1.3 million words. It’s hard to discuss it without bringing up spoilers.

But that’s for after New Years. Between then and now, I do plan to drop a few more posts just so the site isn’t content-starved for the next two weeks. Monday, for example, I’ll have a pre-schedule post going up. It won’t be a new Being a Better Writer, but one of those “classic” compilations featuring prior posts. There won’t be a Being a Better Writer the week after, but then that’s going to be the day after Christmas, so if you’re looking for site content you’ll just have wait for a little bit. Though I’ll applaud you for looking for content so thoroughly.

After that it’ll be the New Year, and things will move back into their schedule.

For now though, I’ll be sure to drop an official post when my Christmas Break does begin, just to wish everyone a big ol’ Merry Christmas, but for now I’ll say it here and get this stuff setup for the next few weeks, as well as do a little more work on that next book.

Merry Christmas everyone. May it be full of peace and joy.

The Price We Pay – Ten Year Edition!

You know, now that I’ve reached this point I almost don’t know what to say.

Technically I’m not at my ten year anniversary of publication just yet. But I’m long past it in writing. Even if one only counts my career as “starting” when I first wrote One Drink all those years ago, I’d be past the point of a ten-year anniversary there, and I was writing long before One Drink came along.

But … we’re close. February 20th, 2023, to be exact, will mark the ten-year anniversary of the publication of my first book, and my foray into making a living as an author.

It’s been a long road. But I’m not hear to talk about that today. Instead I’m here to talk about something else, actually. My pricing. See, here’s the thing … I sort of haven’t updated most of my prices since I started ten years ago.

Axtara reflects a more modern price point. As does Starforge. But the rest of my library? Well, if you remember the classic (and still quite popular) post on book prices, The Price We Pay – Are Book Prices Too Much? from a few years back, I broke down the pricing points of my books and showed how they were chosen to reflect a price point below that of a 1994 paperback book.

It’s a pretty popular post for a reason, since it not only discusses my prices, but also those of the book industry in general, showing how people’s memories of prices—especially with regards to how inflation and the changing value of the dollar fluctuate over time and impact the price of goods.

But here’s the thing: That post? It’s out of date. Especially in the wake of the last several years, which has seen the US economy—and the value of the dollar—fluctuate wildly as the economy did its best to represent a Six Flags roller coaster. Combined with the fact that I’d not bothered to modify my price points since One Drink came out ten years ago, plus the drop in price as the “long tail” goes into effect … and my books have been rapidly dropping below market value.

Which brings us to today. Starforge has just released, at a newer price point, and the time has finally come. Starting today, as of this post going up, I will be updating book prices for (hopefully) the next ten years alongside updating the usual manuscript updates and whatnot to the latest editions. The prices will then go live over the next day or so.

I’ve been talking about it for weeks, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to any of you. And if it is … well, I really can’t be blamed for that.

The big gist of it is that book prices are being updated today. But … if you want a more detailed breakdown of what the new prices are, what the values look like compared to their prior price, and how that is modeled compared to the prices from 1994 … then hit the jump.

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Reddit AMA Today – Starforge Launches Tomorrow!

Welcome back writers and readers both! If you’re wondering where today’s Being a Better Writer post is, well, there isn’t one. That’s because with Starforge releasing tomorrow and as previously announced, today I’ll be doing a Reddit AMA! Which, if you’re not familiar with the acronym, stands for “Ask Me Anything.”

It’s a public Q&A session. Folks on the site ask questions, I type back responses. Generally about the particular focal point of the individual hosting the AMA, though the name does remain “Ask me anything.”

Why do an AMA? Because Starforge comes out tomorrow! It’s finally almost here! Less than twelve hours to go! And I’ve done an AMA for each release with Colony and Jungle. So the last book in the trilogy should definitely get an AMA of its own.

So, proof. Yes Reddit mods, this is me, Max Florschutz. This is my site, and I am indeed doing a Reddit AMA today. I’m not including a picture because unfortunately I’ve come down with a cold, and I don’t exactly look picturesque at the moment—though some may argue when do I ever.

But this is indeed me.

So, hit up the AMA and get asking questions! I’ll be hanging out there until about 5 PM MST, which is a little shorter than my last AMA, but as noted I’m fighting a cold, so I’m going to take it a little easier today.

Enjoy folks, and I’ll see you at the AMA!

OH! And don’t forget! Today is the last day to get the entire UNSEC Space Trilogy on sale!

OP-ED: The Great Wheel of Greed Grinds on With No Backsies

Hey folks. Max here taking a time-out from the Starforge editing (which is coming along pretty nicely and will soon have some updates) with a small OP-ED post.

Also, Dead Silver is on sale! Grab this fun and spooky Halloween-appropriate adventure mystery for under a buck!

Last night, after repeatedly closing a new pop-up on the site’s stats page, I noticed a new button next to every single one of the posts listed there. A little megaphone. What was this little megaphone? Why, it was a “Promote this post with WordPress Advertising” button! It appeared to be a very straightforward process: I click the button, I check that the advertisement appearance meets my approval, I fill out payment information, and then the post gets advertised … somewhere. I couldn’t actually see that bit without putting in all the other details such as payment information. So I sdon’t know exactly where it would have been, though I assume from the wording it would have been on other’s WordPress-based posts.

Or perhaps they would have been elsewhere on the web? Again, I couldn’t see that information without confirming the ad and the payment information, so I can’t say for certain. I’m just extrapolating based on the most likely targets.

Point being, WordPress is the latest in what seems to be every web service ever trying to squeeze more money out of its userbase by stripping away a purpose of the service only to sell it back to the highest bidder.

Amazon was the first for me that I noticed engaging in this behavior. Sure, you could sell their products on their store. But then someone got the idea of charging for “premier shelf space” and Amazon Advertising was born. It wasn’t enough that they were carrying your product and making money each time a copy sold. They realized that they could double dip and get the creator to pay for each product sold as well by setting up a “bidding” advertising system. Sure, you could just have your product “on the shelves,” but if you paid Amazon for each eyeball that looked at your product, you could make sure that by default most eyeballs saw your stuff first. As long as you either had a lot of disposable income (advertising may be tax deductible, but it’s still money out of your pocket) or could make sure that a certain number of eyeballs could buy your product, that advertising would take your product from “the mass” to “everyone sees it.”

Bear in mind, this is for something that Amazon already makes money selling. If a supermarket operated off of this principle—and maybe they do, I don’t know—suppliers and distributors would pay not just for placement on shelves, but a fee for each person that picked up an item and looked at it … even if they didn’t buy it. All those items at the front of the supermarket or by the checkout, where the most eyes look at them? Those positions would cost $X per-item to be there and make the supermarket money anytime someone looked at them. Someone handled that Snickers bar but set it back down? Mars owes the supermarket 7 cents.

We’ll get into how this quickly becomes—to me, anyway—insane and unbalanced in a moment, but first let’s move on.

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Weekly Update: Starforge and Other Things

I feel like for this announcement I should be climbing up on a mountain outcropping and shouting “BEHOLD!”

Yesterday, after thirty days of grueling work, I finished the first Beta Pass for Starforge. And grueling almost doesn’t describe it. I have now read through Starforge … five times, I think? I’m starting to lose track. And that’s just start to finish, in-depth reads, over the last few months. There’s still the “Oh, check this chapter again” reads, the rereading of a paragraph, several times, to check changes, aloud and silent …

Point being I’ve read it a lot lately. And there’s still at least one more full read-through to go. So … what is the status right now?

Well, today I’m taking a day off. I’ve been regularly up editing till past 1 AM several nights a week for the last few weeks, and I am exhausted. So I’m taking today to just rest and not be editing for a little while. Just for one day. As much as my mind is whirling and whizzing on “Okay, gotta check that” and “Ooh, make sure too …” I need a day off. Thirty days of grueling double-checking of every comma, period, and apostrophe, word by word, across a 500,000 word draft is … a lot. Thinking back to the Being a Better Writer post on Mental Health, I need to let some pressure out of my pressure cooker before my brain overloads.

This isn’t bad news, mind. I’m not trying to paint it as such either. This is good news. I’m still on track to get Starforge out in November thanks to all this work. It might be late November, but then to be fair so it was with Colony and Jungle.

So what’s next, then? Well, tomorrow (not today, despite my itch to jump right in) I’m going to go over the Beta Reader feedback, taking each of those catches and doing a master comparison against the whole manuscript. Plus there are a few checks of my own I want to make as well, things I caught but want to make certain I didn’t miss any instances of (for example, yesterday I caught a single instance of “steeping” instead of “stepping” and found on a search one other instance of it in the book). I want to recheck a few of the larger chapters, or those that saw heavier edits and may still have “shrapnel” (my term for when a paragraph or section gets cut up or rewritten but old stuff gets missed, put in the wrong place, etc). Anything I might have missed when I was up until 1 AM editing, or because I was enjoying an action sequence a little too much to be paying attention, etc etc. You get the idea.

That’ll probably take a few days. Once that’s done however, and I’m satisfied with how clean the draft is … It’ll be time for the copy edit. Yes, that means putting in a Table-of-Contents, an introduction, all the copyright stuff, etc etc. It also means that I will be sending out an e-mail to all Alpha and Beta Readers who participated, both for acknowledgement in the book itself and for figuring out where to send their complimentary copies once the release hits.

But … it also means that once I’m officially going over the Copy-Edit, something else can happen. The pre-order can go up, because I’ll be able to set a release date.

That might happen—I’m not setting anything in stone yet—next week. While it may not, I can say this: We’re getting very close.

Which is going to be a relief to me. Starforge has been a major stressor for me. I’m ready to finish this project and do some smaller, lighter things for a while. Like another Jacob Rocke novella. And the next Axtara book.

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