Where Stranded Went Wrong … and Right

Well, I figured I’d better do something to have more content this week than Being a Better Writer, and I wasn’t feeling another OP-ED today since I’d rather finish another writing project, so how about we talk about that other writing project for a moment?

I mentioned Stranded earlier this week and mentioned that it was a bit of a flop. This is true: It doesn’t seem to be resonating with Alpha Readers the way my other works have. More to the point, a number of them find it either A) boring or B) not to their liking.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to finish it. Experimental as it is (and it’s an experiment that seems to have bombed), I’m only a few thousand words from the end as of today. And even though it appears to not be what my audience is interested in, there’s still chance that it’ll find a home with a different audience, though I consider that a low chance at this time.

But I’m not disappointed with it. The whole point of an experimental piece is to learn, and I’ve definitely had some moment of that with this one. I took on Stranded with the goal of stretching my writing capabilities to some new areas, and I hold that I managed to do that, despite that it didn’t quite aim for my audience.

So … what did go wrong, and what went right? Even though the story isn’t finished, and all I’ve got is some Alpha Reader feedback, so maybe it’s a little early to say for certain, well … I’ve still been thinking on it as I wrap the story up.

Continue reading

Nanowrimo, Reviews, and More – A News Post

Hello once again, folks! I’m back with a news post, and most of you know the drill. So … what’s happening lately?

Well, let’s start with the writing news. Stranded is almost finished up (draft-wise) which … is good. Stranded is one of those experimental projects I do to try out new things, and this one ballooned on me. I’ll be glad to finish it. While I wouldn’t call it a dud, I think both its experimental nature and its lack of full pre-planning before I just dove in did hurt it somewhat.

Does that mean it’s worthless? Of course not! I am glad of the experiments I was able to delve into with it, all of which I’m going to be able to put forth in an upcoming writing project I’ve been excitedly planning for a few years now (and which I’ve only mentioned a few times). Said writing project is still a ways off (don’t worry, we’ve got another Jacob Rocke book and of course Axtara – Magic and Mayhem to be worked on and written before I start this one) but it is one I’ve had in mind for a few years now, much like the UNSEC Space trilogy and Shadow of an Empire.

And you know, like Shadow of an Empire had the Ripper short in Unusual Events, I’m thinking that when I tidy up Stranded, one of the last shorts I’ll do before I get down to business on the Starforge draft might be a short story set in this new setting I’ve been envisioning. Like Ripper as a test-bed for the setting and some of the worldbuilding, to see if I’ve worked out some elements to my satisfaction or not.

Unlike with Ripper, however, hopefully this short story won’t creep so many people out it’s a de-facto dead end for most people’s reading of whatever collection it was in (if you’re not familiar with Ripper, it was so dark owing to its PoV character that many readers of Unusual Events stopped partway through it and never finished the collection, a lesson in “location” I learned the hard way. It’s a fantastic story, but for many it was a little too good considering the darkness of its subject matter).


Anyway, that’s what I’ve been working on. Tied in with that, it’s worth noting that this month is November, AKA Nanowrimo month! Nanowrimo, for those of you not familiar with it, is a yearly writing challenge given to aspiring novelists to sit down and write a short novel in a month, a total of 50,000 words across November’s 30 days.

Nanowrimo has gotten quite popular over the years, even among some authors that struggle to output more than a few thousand words a month using it as a catalyst to finally finish a book project.

This year? Nanowrimo has kicked off again. Now, I don’t participate in Nanowrimo. I’m a successful author who churns out books, and have a daily wordcount of 3000-4000 words. It’d be both redundant and, I feel, a little pretentious (and perhaps demoralizing) to those entering Nanowrimo who do find it a struggle to hit the given quotas to see someone whose literal job it is to put words on a page shattering a goal they themselves may struggle with because they’re trying to interspace it between whatever jobs they’re bouncing between.

Maybe I’m wrong? I don’t know, but it feels a bit fair because at it’s core, Nanowrimo is for (at least according to what I can see online) young writers trying to finish their first book.

I’m not saying I don’t support it. I do—and in fact, I want to know how many of you, readers, are participating and how it’s going so far? Comment below!—but rather that I don’t enter under the exact same logic that Kramer uses in Seinfield to join a junior karate class. Just … you know … not the same aim?

Now, if you’ve never entered Nanowrimo before but have always wanted to push yourself to finish up, or even start, a novel, then maybe this should be the year? We’re only a few days into November, so there’s still time to catch up! 50,000 works written by November 30th! You can do it!

And if you’ve decided to give it a shot, let us all know in the comments below!

Now, onto other news! We’ve got the holidays coming up!

Continue reading

Updates and Reminders for the Weekend!

Hey folks! You know, I debated on doing a more traditional post for the weekend, like an OP-ED or the like, but honestly? Instead I sat down and finished reading the Shadow of an Empire proof. Sands and Storms is that a ripping tale!

In addition, the proof was almost perfect. I’ve got a few minor changes to make this weekend or Monday, but all in all it’s largely ready to go. Just need to make a few minor adjustments, and it’ll be ready for launch.

You know what that means, don’t you? That’s right: Shadow of an Empire will be available in paperback form next week! And yes, this means that it most certainly will be a topic for Monday’s live Being a Better Writer Q&A. If you wanted to ask questions about getting a book ready for paperback print and what that entails, this Monday would be the proper time.

Which brings me to the next topic, a reminder that this coming Monday will not feature the standard Being a Better Writer article posting (outside of a link to a classic article), but instead be a live Q&A session with you readers using Discord to post questions which will be answered live via an audio stream. We’ve done a couple of these so far over on The Makalay Camp, the site’s official Discord server and they’ve been pretty successful. If a little light sometimes on viewers, since finding the right time for everyone is tricky. This coming week we’ll be holding it at a later hour: 5 PM MST. That’s Mountain Standard Time, so if you live east or west of that and want to participate, use Google or some other method (math?) to find out what time that would be for you, and then use your computer or your phone to join the site’s official Discord server! Come with questions!

As to how to get on the Discord server, there will be a link provided Monday morning in lieu of the usual BaBW post that will allow admission to the server for those who’ve not joined it before. Bring writing questions! After the Q&A is over, you can leave the server or stay part of it in order to chat or just gain occasional glimmers of news that seep through its channels.

With that, I believe I’m out of news! Have a good weekend everyone, and get ready for both the Q&A and the chance to hold your own paperback copy of Shadow of an Empire in your hands!

Weekend News (A Quick Post to See You Through)

Hello readers! Max here with a quick update/news post. First and foremost, if you’d like a preview of my weekend …

That’s right, the paperback proof for Shadow of an Empire arrived this week! And it’s a hefty chonk! With no remorse I placed it on a kitchen scale to bring you the exact weight: two pounds, one ounce!

That is a big novel. And that’s about a hundred pages less than Colony would be. Jungle would, by the same scale, be almost four pounds. Assuming it could even be bound.

Anyway, I’ll be spending the next little bit working on getting that finalized and ready for shipping! Just in time for … Halloween, I guess? Who doesn’t love a good Western in the fall?

Hit the jump for a few other updates on things, including Starforge news!

Continue reading

Shadow of an Empire: The Paperback Price Poll

Hello readers! I come to you today with news! And also, with a question.

The news, first. But those of you tempted to skip it, don’t. The question is tied deeply into it, and I would prefer feedback from you, the readers.

So the news: Shadow of an Empire is almost available in print. The proof has been ordered! That’s right. At long last, those of you who loved your sun-soaked journey across the desert Outlands of Indrim will be able to order a paperback copy to sit on your nightstand or coffee table!

Now, this is a chonky boy of a book. At the same trade size as Axtara – Banking and Finance, Shadow of an Empire has smaller text and is still twice as thick. It’s gonna be a hefty volume (and this isn’t even my longest work by far). But as you might expect, this comes with a catch.

See, the print cost is more than double what Axtara‘s is as a result. And when combined with expanded distribution that allows it to show up in bookstores, libraries, etc, that means that the price point for Shadow of an Empire‘s paperback is … significant.

How significant, you might ask? Well, for it to be available in bookstores, libraries, etc, the prices needs to be … $21.99.

Yeah. For a paperback. A good quality one, if Axtara‘s paperback quality is anything to go by, but … yeah, still high. Granted, it’s not too much higher than most similarly sized paperback books of similar quality. Dune is what, 500 pages and that’s retailing at $17.99 or so right now.

But here’s the thing. If I don’t allow for expanded distribution, IE, no libraries, bookstores, etc … then that cut doesn’t exist, and the price could be $15.99 … a full six dollars less.

Continue reading

Getting Back in the Swing of Things

Hey folks! It’s time for a news update!

So, what’s new? Well, after spending all of last week save a day sick (seriously, gnarly cold), this week has been more of a return to form. Writing, working, and all the usual once more.

So what’s there to talk about? Well, for starters, this week saw Axtara – Banking and Finance grab a few new 5-star reviews, both of which were full of praise. Take a look!

The second one kind of makes me laugh a little because it reminds me of my favorite C.S. Lewis quote, but hey, they loved it anyway and still gave it 5-stars! Axtara really is a great success. The titular dragon herself would be proud, I think. And a little mortified that everyone’s reading about her life, but that’s most fiction.

Speaking of Axtara, I once again want to float the idea of Axtara t-shirts out there. Right now I’m thinking something with a slogan on it. Sort of like “Banking shouldn’t be a drag …” on the front, and “… so I do my banking with a dragon. Axtara – Banking and Finance!” You know, something goofy like that, as if Axtara herself were actually handing out promotional t-shirts at a job fair somewhere in hopes of drumming up business (she probably would).

I’ve never done t-shirts before, but especially if they’re just text on a color, they couldn’t be that tricky, difficult or (hopefully) expensive, right? Anyway, right now I’m just trying to gauge interest, so as before leave comments in the affirmative if you’d be interested in an Axtara t-shirt!

Continue reading

Well, This Week Was a Wash

Hey readers. Not much to say here. Just sort of a news update. With very little news.

See, Monday started out strong. Solid Being a Better Writer post, planning and catching back up with the Shadow of an Empire paperback to see what had to be done there so the rest of the week could be spent writing and working on that, plus this faint tickle in the back of the throat that was probably just from lack of sleep or something, right?

Yeah, it was not. Instead, that was the first, very early sign of what I would awake to find Tuesday morning: That I was the latest to catch a cold that had swept through a solid chunk of my family already, one that’s expected to be part of this fall’s more nasty cold and flu season. I guess on the bright side I’m getting it out of the way early (and no, it’s not Covid, took the test, so no worries there). But on the other hand … Well, this week saw nothing done Tuesday through Thursday. And I’m not certain I’m going to do any today, though my mind feels a little sharper than the fog it’s carried the last few days.

Continue reading

Guess Who’s Back?

Hello readers! Guess who’s returned?

Yeah, I know. It’s not much of a guess. And I’m not quite 100% back yet. Physically, I’m back at my home at long last (after nearly four weeks of being away), so that’s not a worry. But as to the other kind of physically, I’m still pretty sore and tired. My fingers feel like they’ve been through the wringer, as do my hands and wrists. But hey, I can make a fist when I first wake up now so that’s progress! During the trip, at one point they were sore and swollen enough I could only just get my fingers to touch my palms when I woke up.

So I’m going to take another day or two. Oh, and this Monday there will not be a Being a Better Writer post. Why? Because when setting up the posts in advance, I completely missed that the last Monday I prepped for was Labor Day, a holiday I normally take off. Oops. So next Monday (this coming week) there won’t be a traditional post.

Which isn’t to say that there won’t be a post. No, far from it! Monday instead will see a compilation post of the last few weeks. Why? Because quite frankly a lot of people depend on ads and feeds to keep up with Being a Better Writer each week, and a number of those are manual. So quite a few people were just waiting for the notification to pop up rather than spend the time going to the site itself.

I get it. I’m not ragging on them. So this post will deliver to them all the content they may have been missing for the last four weeks.

After that? Well, I do have a large post coming. See, I took a lot of pictures this time. And video! Of some seriously awesome stuff that happened while I was in Alaska. Seriously, this trip made memories. I’ve never been as close to a killer whale (orca) pod as I came this trip. And when I say close, I mean they were close enough I could have hopped over the side of the boat and landed on one.

That close. And I got video. And pictures.

So yes, there will be a big post coming next week. But not Monday. And … I’m not actually sure when during the week either.

Why? Well, because something else happened while I was in Alaska. Something big. Something awesome.

Continue reading

Big News!

Attention readers! It’s time for news, and I’ve got a doozy of a post for you in that regard.

So those of you that are long-time followers of the site may recall that back before I injured my knee, at least once a year I would head up to Alaska to work on a fishing boat and make some cash. Then I injured my knee, the injury was permanent, and that pretty much put and end to that.

Well, last week I got a call. A deckhand had quit short notice, and my old employer wanted to know if I wanted to try the job again. After some back and forth and agreement that we’ll have to play a lot of the job by ear due to my knee, but also that it’ll be a bit more relaxed than the “Witness me!” levels of commercial fishing’s usual dedication.

So I agreed to it. So near the end of next week, I’ll leave for Alaska on what will probably be close to three weeks of work. Though there is some variance with that. Two weeks is just the average, but there’s also the work getting the boat ready to go, getting the gear on it, etc.

Hopefully, I make it through without doing any extra damage to my knee, and come back with enough money to live at least the next few months without fear of immediate eviction (do not ask what my bank account looks like at the moment, just don’t).

Now, what does this mean for the site? Well … very little actually. I can schedule posts on Unusual Things, so there won’t be much change here outside of me being unable to approve comments from posters that look a lot like spam. But I’ll be writing next Monday’s Being a Better Writer post today, and then a bunch of them (along with other posts) next week before I leave, so posts here will still go up.

However, other sites that get excerpts of those posts? They don’t have scheduling. So before I leave each will get a notification post, and then person that follows the site through those locations will simply have to exercise their own efforts to come to the main site and see what the content is each week. Sorry, folks. There’s only so much I can do.

Anyway, there will be content while I’m gone (and if things stretch on really long, I’ll try to make some posts from my phone). When I get back, I’ll hit each of the places that don’t have scheduled updates or feeds with a nice summary post.

This does have other effects, of course. Remember Shadow of an Empire’s paperback copy? Well, I’m unlikely to get the proof before I leave (and even if I did, it’d be stuck with me in Alaska where it couldn’t do much good and I couldn’t do much work on it). Which means … release of the paperback will be delayed a bit.

Sorry guys. This was just unexpected. So … September then. Basically, as soon as I get back, I can get the proof ordered, and then once any errors there are cleared up, the book can go live.

Now, onto other news!

Continue reading

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.