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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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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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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The Weekly Update

Well, there really isn’t much to say today. This week was, well … editing. So much editing. Like the week before it.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t news there. Just that it’s close to the same. As of today, there are three chapters left for me to Beta. Then I need to go back and start going through the Beta Reader catches, checking the errors that they find against the master document as a whole …

There is a ray of sunshine here. We’re halfway through October, and I’m making a lot of progress. It is conceivable that before the end of the month, we could see a pre-order page.

We’re certainly getting close to that point. It’s such a juggernaut of a project though, I don’t want to make any promises yet. But again, I can confirm that this has been one of the cleanest drafts to leave my keyboard yet. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been plenty of edits, but thankfully they’ve been less “plentiful” than before.

Case in point, a methodical search of the entire manuscript found only twenty-seven instances or so of an apostrophe being used in place of a quotation mark. There were about ten in Axtara before Beta, if memory serves, so I’ve gotten better at preventing those, seeing as Axtara was a fifth this book’s size.

Oh, and for some amusing reason, over half of those typos were all in association with the letter “W.” Yeah. That was a weird little discovery.

Anyway, I’ve got three chapters left to go, so I’m going to get back to it. Patreon Supporters, you’ve got a live preview today, while those of you who aren’t supporting will get to see it tomorrow.

Until Monday, where we will start Topic List #21 (oh, and don’t forget the topic call), I’m off!

News and News

Well, this is a news post. Though there isn’t too much to say, really. And I’m going to try and keep it short anyway because I want to blast through at least the first half of Starforge‘s Beta today (I’m only a few chapters from the halfway mark, so it’s a good goal).

Speaking of the Beta Read, I will be sending out another email to those on the Beta Reader list today as many didn’t reply to the last one. I’m not sure if the email tripped up spam filters because of its content, or if a number of prior Beta Readers have since dumped those addresses, but usually they reply fairly quickly with a positive or negative. If you were a prior Beta Reader and wondering where your invitation went, I promise you it was sent, but I’ll be sending another one for good measure just in case.

Other than that, Beta Reading proceeds as normal, though I do have a small, fun factoid for you. One common error in many books is accidentally swapping a quote mark at the start or close of a sentence with an apostrophe, usually because the finger slipped off the shift key or was mistimed. This is also a booger to spot, but thankfully CTRL+F makes it a bit easier to track down these days.

Anyway, as part of the Beta edit, I was dutifully checking the entire 500,000+ word length of Starforge for this error, one apostrophe+a letter at the time. And I found an interesting statistic to share with all of you. Of the roughly 27 or so occurrences of a quote marker being accidentally replaced by an apostrophe, over half of them were at the front of a sentence and when the starting letter of the sentence was a W.

Well, I found it interesting. I suppose it’s something to do with the rhythm of my fingers when I need both that quote mark and a capital W combined with the shift key.

In any case, all instances of it across the story are fixed now. But it still amused me.

Again, the most positive thing I have to report is that Starforge is quite a bit cleaner in comparison to Jungle or even Axtara, though Axtara was pretty clean. I’ll chalk that one up to improving fingers.


In other news, this weekend is General Conference for my faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and so I’m going to forgo a Starforge teaser post for tomorrow. Never fear, they’ll be back next weekend, and we might even start getting glimpses of the text itself.

I hope all of you have a fantastic weekend, and now for me back to editing!

The Friday News and Such

Hey there everyone! It’s time for a news post, keeping you all up to date on what’s going on and all. But this week we’re going to start off with an odder bit of news that’s less to do with writing and more just to do with the personal goal of me getting healthier.

Back in the end of June I picked up a Fitbit. I did this with the goal of measuring my workouts and tuning them to be more effective. To that end, I will say I was shocked with some of the results. Some of the routes I was following that I assumed would have been decent workouts were, in fact, not that great, and some of the routes that “common sense” would have said weren’t that great were actually my best in terms of caloric burn and cardio.

The power of a little data, right?

Anyway, there was a little bump in the middle where I got sick and lost a week of workouts while eating … not so great food … but the result is that currently I am, since June, down about thirteen pounds, and still heading further down.

Now that’s nice to have lost, isn’t it. It’s not a shock diet, or a carb fast, or anything like that. It’s just having metrics and a willingness. Well, and the bike. The holiday pounds are on their way out!

I know it’s not super impactful when it comes to the site, unless that lost weight will somehow help me write faster (I doubt it, personally), but it is something that I’m very happy to be able to see progression on, day after day.

With that said, I’ve got more news for people, and more tangential to the focus of the site, so hit that jump!

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News and Updates

All right everyone, let’s discuss the big news item first: Where is Starforge currently?

Well, the good news is it’s coming along well. I have, however, delayed the move into Beta by a few days while I do some more polishing and tweaking on the Alpha 2. I know, there’s a schedule with a ticking deadline that’s drawing closer and closer, but I want this story to land for as many readers as possible, so I’m making some final tweaks that aren’t, for the most part, large, but are in evidence through the whole of the book, just to get some narrative beats to land just right.

So yes, today is the last of these tweaks, at which point I’ll start dropping chapters into the Beta Master List, send out invites to those respondents to the Beta Call Email (if you previously have been a Beta Reader, check your inbox for the call), and will start sending emails out to those of you that commented on the Beta Call post.

I believe that’s everything for today. I mean, that’s what I have to do today for Starforge. Outside of writing work … Well, you’re not here for that news. You’re here for writing news. So: Beta delayed slightly due to some Alpha polish. Those who have Beta Read before please check your email inbox if you haven’t seen the Beta Call email, and those who left comments, emails coming.


Now, onto other news: The site remodel. Yes, you may have noticed some stark changes around here. Pleasant green swapped for a harsher red. The lack of a smiling dragon banker in the top banner, replaced by an almost blood-red planet floating in space.

Yes, it’s the change of the site’s look for the newest book release. I guess we’re fortunate that red fits both Halloween and Christmas as a color, because we’re going to be with this one for a little while. Granted, it fits the spooky Halloween theme a bit better than Axtara’s cheer. But if you’re missing Axtara, I’m certain she’ll be back. After, a new Axtara title is slated as the second book I’ll be working to release after Starforge is done, and those are lot less work than a juggernaut like Starforge, which means they’ll be coming quicker and sooner.

But hey, for now, let’s just bask in the stark, dark void that is the dread of Starforge, shall we? Two last bits of news, but they’re going below the jump.

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