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?

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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!

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading