News Post!

Heyo folks! Who’s ready for some news! A good chunk of it! You? Good! Because that’s what this post is! We’ve got a couple of topics to cover today, from news about Axtara and Fireteam Freelance to Patreon.

Okay, so first up, let’s talk about the Patreon. And … there went half of you. Wait come back! It’s not what you think!

Okay so first up, I want to let those of you that are Patreon Supporters know that another chapter of Sunset: Stranded is up on Patreon for your perusal. If you’re familiar with it, you know the deal. If not (and you’re not a supporter) it’s a fanfic project, and I throw chapters of it up on Patreon as they are completed. Those of you who have been enjoying that adventure though, rejoice! There’s a new chapter at last. You can head on over to the posts page to find it, supporters.

But that’s not all. As I mentioned at the beginning of the year, one of my goals with in starting 2020 is the revitalization of my Patreon Page, and that starts tomorrow. Tiers are going to be simplified. Goals are going to be reined in. The front page is going to be cleaned up. Nothing at the core will change: The Patreon is still going to be about keeping this site ad-free and in support of more Being a Better Writer articles (and as a bonus to help an author stay afloat). But the page itself will reflect that a lot more than it currently does, in more concise language.

Additionally (and you may have noticed this last week), but each Being a Better Writer article will now have a special thank you section, thanking each Patreon supporter by name. Well, with one exception, that being names that appear to be a person’s real name. In that case, I have chosen to use one part of their real name, rather than the whole name, in the interest of privacy.

But now, current supporters will have their names attached to each BaBW as it is written as a public acknowledgement of their support. In hindsight, I can’t believe it took me this long to get around to it, but … Well, you know what they say about hindsight.

So anyway, that’s the plan with Patreon. Now. onwards to talk about Axtara – Banking and Finance!

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Life, The Universe, and Everything 2020!

I’ve been waiting to make this post for months now, readers! But with the new year upon us, it’s finally time. Life, The Universe, and Everything 2020 is almost upon us, with a little over a month to go!

Some of you readers are cheering quietly (or perhaps loudly) while mentally double-checking your hotel reservation for next month, but some of you, I’m sure, I are looking at this post and thinking “Isn’t that a Douglas Adams book?” while wondering what I mean about next month. So before we go any further, let me clear that up.

First, yes, it is the title of one of Douglas Adams’ books. Life, the Universe, and Everything was the third book in his Hitchhiker series and released in 1982. So you’re not wrong there. However, that is the LtUE with a lowercase “t” on the “the.” The uppercase variant?

Why, it’s Life, The Universe, and Everything, the premier Fantasy and Science Fiction Writing Convention! With an uppercase “T.” But yes, it is a reference.

“All right,” some of you might say. “So it’s another Sci-Fi/Fantasy con. So?” To which I’d reply “No, not exactly.”

See, LTUE is a Sci-Fi/Fantasy writing con. While other conventions are about getting together just to have fun dressing up and meeting authors and creators, LTUE is different. LTUE is about creation. Where other Sci-Fi/Fantasy cons will have panels where you can meet your favorite author and ask questions about your favorite series or listen to them talk about their favorite moments from the book, LTUE has panels where you come to hear your favorite authors talk about the art of writing.

That’s right. Hundreds of authors on hundreds of panels, talking about writing. How to write. Pitfalls. Elements you may not have considered. Topics for days.

That’s right, LTUE is a convention for writers who want to learn more about writing. With panels given by some of the biggest names in the industry. While also having signings, art shows, game rooms, and all the fun stuff you’d expect from a regular con.

In other words, if you’re a writer of any level interested in Sci-Fi and Fantasy, LTUE is the con to go to. For learning, for networking, for even just having fun chatting with favorite authors or new ones! It’s the con.

Okay, so that’s what LTUE is. Oh, and if you’re a student (college or k-12), tickets are … around $5. For three days of con awesome.

In other words, what are you waiting for? The website is here, reserve your ticket! And while you’re at it, take a look at their guestlist and schedule to start planning what panels you’d like to attend!

While you’re at it, you may notice a familiar name on the Guestlist and attached to a number of panels! Which brings me to the second reason for today’s post: Letting you all know that yes, I will be at LTUE this year, paneling once more! And signing, and doing a reading …

It’s going to be a big year for me this LTUE. A very big year. I’m pumped.

But it means that, in addition to letting you all know that LTUE is approaching (February 13th-15th), I also get to have the wonderful pleasure this year of putting up my LTUE panel schedule, letting you all know where you can find me over the course of the con! So, without further ado, a list of all the LTUE appearances I’ll be making this year! I’ll repost this as we get closer to the date of the actual con, but for now: Get ready and excited! It’s coming!

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Being a Better Writer: Gestures, Paralinguistics, and Dialogue

Welcome, readers, to the year 2020, and a new series of Being a Better Writer! We’re back at last, ready to tackle all new topics of writing every Monday. So kick back and get ready to talk writing!

If you’re new, well you’ve probably figured it out by now, but Being a Better Writer is a weekly series here on Unusual Things, several years running now, that’s all about writing in its various aspects. We’ve discussed everything from romance subplots to character motivations to common writing cliches.

So, what topic have I chosen to kick off the new year? One I’d imagine many people haven’t thought a lot on. I myself, actually, hadn’t consciously given it much thought until an incident about a month ago got me pondering on it. See, a little over a month ago now, as the holiday season was really winding up, I got talking with someone that had just finished one of my books, and they’d offered their thoughts and opinions. One thing that they pointed out was that the exposition offered by the characters felt, for lack of a better word, thicker than other books. It would cover plot, yes, and needed elements, but would do so in a way that was longer than other books by other authors.

But at the same time, while this threw them off, it wasn’t bad, and they couldn’t say why. For that matter, neither could I, and I puzzled over it for almost a week. Because they weren’t the first reader to note this. More than once it’s been pointed out to me that many readers feel my characters’ moments of dialogue and exposition are larger than other comparable books … but don’t feel drawn out. In other words, they make take twice as many words to say what another book would do in half the amount … but it doesn’t feel like it unless one sits back and looks at the whole.

This puzzled me, as it wasn’t the first time an observation in this vein has been made about my work. I say puzzling because for the majority of readers it wasn’t bad. No one felt that there were “extra” or even unnecessary words or phrases in there, despite the overall length being larger by comparison. Put before a critical editor, they’d hem and haw … but in the end conclude that they didn’t want to cut anything.

See? Puzzling. And so I spent a good week during the holidays pondering on this odd occurrence. What was I doing differently with my writing that made my dialogue and exposition longer … but not filler?

Then, I watched a Youtube video from content creator Tom Scott, and it clicked. I knew what it was that I was doing differently, and why people would note that the exposition was “thicker” but wouldn’t want to cut anything.

It had to do with my characters. Or rather, how I developed and made them come alive to the audience through use of paralinguistics.

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Unusual Things’ Best of 2019

Hello readers, and welcome to 2020! Life here is getting into gear as the New Year (and decade; yes I’m one of those people) starts off, and there’s plenty to do, starting with the final chapter of Axtara – Banking and Finance, which should be done today. At which point work will begin in earnest on Fireteam Freelance. Another chapter of Stranded is almost complete as well, for those of you supporting on Patreon.

Speaking of which, I’ve decided to revamp the Patreon page with the new year, so look for that upcoming project in the next week or so. My goal here is to trim it down and make it a lot more straightforward and clear. As is the page intro is from several years ago and entirely behind the times.

Also, Being a Better Writer will resume this coming Monday, with a whole new slew of topics and writing concepts to discuss. The break is over, and BaBW is back! And some of these upcoming topics well … they’re interesting!

But as I prepare to move forward, I thought some of you may like a look back at 2019. Specifically, some of the biggest events of 2019, articles and otherwise, to have hit Unusual Things. Now with meta-commentary!


 

Jungle

Jungle Cover

Obviously, the elephant in the room, the single biggest, defining moment of 2019 was the release of Jungle. Yes, I’m sure some of you are tired of hearing about it by now because you come here for writing advice, not to hear about the writing from the guy who generates the advice, but tough nougats. My site, my rules, and one of the biggest impacts of 2019 was the release of Jungle.

Jungle was a titan of a project, involving thousands of hours worth of work over several thousand pages. A 457,000 word juggernaut of fiction, Jungle was the sequel to 2016’s smash-hit Colony, and hit with about the same amount of force.

Jungle hasn’t even been out two months yet, but the early response from fans and readers has been clear: This is a worthy successor to what Colony built, and they can’t wait for the next installment.

There was a lot else that happened in 2019, but the release of Jungle was the crowning peak. If you’re one of the few unfortunates that haven’t had a chance to see yet why this was such a big deal, well … You can grab a copy of Jungle here and be reading on your phone in seconds. Or if you’re really out on a limb and haven’t even read its predecessor, Colony, yet, then you can grab that here. Though at this point if you haven’t done either … I mean, really? It’s akin to hanging out at the movie theater but not ever watching anything.

Anyway, Jungle was the biggest event of 2019, but there were other moments that left their impact. Hit the jump and we’ll take a look at a few more.

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The First Seven Years: 2013-2019 in Review, and the Journey Ahead

Hello readers! No, there’s no Being a Better Writer article today, since I’m still on break. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t any content to be had! No, as we’re about to head into a new decade, 2020 now just two days away (less, depending  on when you read this), it’s the perfect time for a look back. Two looks back, actually! For one, we’ve got 2019 to look at, to see how it stacks up against 2018, but we’ve also got the decade as a whole. Well, minus seven years, as my first book—One Drink for those that have joined us since then—was only published in 2013. But as we look back today, I’d be remiss not to look over the decade as a whole and see where it’s taken both myself and you readers. To see the growth of this grand adventure as it continues to build!

So then, let’s dive right in and talk about the year! How’d 2019 stack up?

Jungle CoverObviously, the big elephant in the room is Jungle. The titan (literally, check out that word count) of a Colony sequel that landed in November. Jungle was 2019’s only book release but … what a release!

Jungle was a titanic effort, taking months upon months of work from myself and dedicated Alpha and Beta Readers to polish and prepare. But in the end?

Jungle has been a titanic success. Though only out for the last two months of 2019, it’d be impossible to talk about the state of things without it. While not quite reaching the pre-order and high-burst numbers  Colony did at its release, Jungle has instead remained a steady seller, even as it garners reviews with greater speed than Colony ever did. Reviews which have so far entirely been positive. As of today, Jungle is still sitting with a perfect Five-Star score across Amazon and Goodreads, with a lot of praise lauded on it in its reviews for how it moves the story forward while taking it in surprising new directions!

Of course, this means good things for sales as well. Jungle catching eyes has only brought a renewed resurgence of interest in Colony as well, which has seen a nice sales increase as a result of Jungle catching reader’s eyes and then going on to read both.

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Merry Christmas

Hello readers.

Nope, this isn’t a plug or an ad. None of that today. Or tomorrow. Instead, I’m just going to wish you all a merry Christmas.

Once a year, a good chunk of the world gathers together to celebrate. Many do it because of a single birth several thousand years ago, a birth that resonated throughout human history and still does today. And some do it because they like the message that birth brought, even if they may not believe in it.

But either way, the world gathers to celebrate. With a little kindness, with a little faith, with a little beauty. As a family. Or as friends. We gather and we celebrate and we enjoy Christmas traditions of varying scope and breadth.

Two thousand or so years ago, a birth changed the world. This week, we exchange gifts, we play rounds of Halo, we nervously glance at mistletoe. we make snow angels, we exchange books, we eat meat … or any number of other Christmas traditions.

We all come together, as best we can, and celebrate in togetherness, kindness, and charity. All from a single, pivotal birth two-thousand years ago.

Merry Christmas everyone. Make the most of it, and may it be, as the songs put it, merry and bright.

Being a Better Writer: Doing Good to Others

Hello readers. First of all, I want to say “Thank you for being patient.” This, the last Being a Better Writer post of the year, was supposed to arrive last Monday. But, as most of you know (only newcomers being exempt), my younger sister was involved in a car accident Sunday night that was extremely blessed not to be more serious. Modern car safety is a wonderful thing. She survived a head-on collision with another car (they ran a red light) with only a broken collarbone. I spent a few days away from home helping her out as she dealt with the worst of it. You can get a bit more detail here.

But thank you for waiting. This has definitely thrown my usual Christmas schedule topsy-turvy.


Now, before we get to the post directly, a bit of obligatory Christmas plugging. Normally its own post but … topsy-turvy. So …

If you’re looking for any last minute, low-cost Christmas gifts or digital stocking stuffers, have you considered the virtues of handing someone a book for Christmas? A multi-page doorway into adventure, fortune, peril, and wonder, all from the comfort of someone’s favorite cozy chair or nook?

If you haven’t, than I’d heartily recommend it. Not only are books a great gift, they’re a great value for the buck too! A single, $6 book can take days of excitement to get through. Compare that to the stocking stuffer DVD that’s only an hour and a half for the same price.

Now, if you’re unsure about what books to grab people, never fear! I’ve got answers there too! Do they like fantasy? Lord of the Rings? Or westerns? Shadow of an Empire is $6, and a perfect gift for those that love horseback chases, shootouts, magic, and peril.

Or maybe they like science fiction? Epic adventures to alien worlds with starships, lasers, and AIs? Colony is only $4, while its sequel Jungle is $8. You can grab both for someone’s Christmas for just $12!

Maybe they like a little bit of everything? Or prefer shorter stories that they can get through in a few short glances? Unusual Events: A “Short” Story Collection is only $4 and has exactly what they’ll desire: A little bit of everything in one nice package! Perfect for a stocking.

Or maybe they like more dedicate mysteries? Perhaps with a bit of paranormal in the mix? You can give them the gift of both Unusuals novels to date, One Drink and Dead Silver, for a total of $4.

Sands, you could drop the entire set into their stocking, a combined reading length of 5,700 pages (or about 115 hours worth of reading for the average American), for a cost of $26. That’s a pretty epic value.

Curious? Take a look.

Now, with the Christmas plug over, let’s talk about the final Being a Better Writer post of the year. It’s going to be a little different, I expect, but in tune with the spirit of the Christmas season. I want to talk about Doing Good to Others. Yes. as a writer.

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