Life, The Universe, and Everything Starts Tomorrow!

I mean, after a headline like that, what else is there to say?

I kid. There’s plenty! LTUE 2021, or Life, The Universe, and Everything, the writing convention for writers of Science-Fiction and Fantasy, starts tomorrow and runs through the weekend! Attendees will be able to choose from the hundreds of panels available on a wide variety of topics, covered by experts and experienced authors from those fields. Hours upon hours of content, all day, through the weekend, on just about every topic you can think of associated with writing.

But wait, there’s more! See, due to Covid-19, LTUE this year is not happening in person. It’s all being streamed. Online. Over the internet. And while this does come with some sad drawbacks (no signings, or fun crowds in the halls geeking out over various things) it does have some advantages of its own. Being all online, the geeking out can occur in Discord channels, but with a wider audience than ever before! Where just one year ago your only option if you couldn’t afford a plane ticket to the con itself was to sadly watch the weekend pass by with no writing con experience whatoever, this year thanks to the magic of the internet anyone can watch!

Well, anyone who’s become a member of the convention. These things still are a huge amount of work. But you can register right now at this link if you haven’t yet. And hurry, because the convention starts tomorrow!

As for me? I’ll be there. In fact, I’m presenting on several panels as you can see from this bit from their guestbook:

Now as always, I’d love to hear that you enjoyed one of my panels, but if there’s one at the same time you also really want to go to, I understand. My convention schedule often has two or sometimes even three panels at the same time that I’d like to attend, forcing me to choose, so I get it. There’s always a tough choice to be made. Or sometimes not so tough.

Point being, LTUE is full of amazing panels on all sorts of topics. I will be watching as many as I can with great glee, and hope that with LTUE being online this year, more of you get a chance to attend than ever before.

It’s full of expert advice, insights on the industry, goofy fun (the Fantasy-Romance panel still stands out as one of the funniest panels I’ve ever attended), and lots of chances to geek out over Sci-Fi and Fantasy in all forms.

Hope you can make it.

Today’s Being a Better Writer Will Be Tonight … and a Live Q&A! TEST CLOSED!

EDIT: Thank you to everyone who showed up, asked questions, and helped me test the stream! We went for an hour and a half, and it worked great!

All right people, pay attention to this post! We’ve got a special event happening tonight!

So, as most of you should know, this week LTUE 2021 is happening, or Life, The Universe, and Everything. It is the writing convention for Science-Fiction and Fantasy writers, and in a unique twist that makes sense as long as you haven’t been living under a rock, is online!

Yes, that’s right. Due to the coronavirus there will be no physical meet-up this year. Instead the entire conference will be held in digital space, with streams of the panelists up to watch for those that have registered for the conference.

So what does this have to do with today’s lack of a Being a Better Writer post? Simple. I’m one of the panelists. Which means I’ll be streaming my panel thoughts, comments, and knowledge out over the internet this Thursday-Saturday. However, I don’t want to do so without testing my system first.

To be more accurate, without stress-testing my system. I want to make certain that the camera, mic, headset, and everything else I’ll be using will be functioning properly when this Thursday arrives, both in the short term and over the course of an hour or so. I want to make sure that the tone is clear, that there’s no disruption or distortion from overlying cables … You know, the works!

How am I going to do this, you might ask? Simple! Tonight, at 6 PM, this post will gain a discord link after the jump. It will take those who click it to a discord server set up just for this occasion, where I’ll be using Discord’s streaming capabilities to stream myself and answer any questions people have about writing, my books, whatever! It’s going to be a bit of a free-for-all, and I’ll try to keep things running smoothly (bearing in mind that my goal is to test my mic and camera setup, as LTUE’s staff are handling their own server and streaming for LTUE.

So yeah, that 6 PM Mountain time. I know it’s short notice, and an odd time, but I just want to see how well my rig runs things and if there are problems. Note that if there are problems (like say, a BSOD), I’ve got multiple backups that should enable me to keep streaming. Same with LTUE. But the point of this stress-test is to make certain my system is up for this long term in advance. So we’ll go for an hour. 6-7.

So, come back at a little before 6 PM Mountain time tonight and look after the jump for a link to the temporary server. The rest of this post (also after the jump) will be some news for all of you to enjoy. But mark your calendars (or leave a note on your phone or whatever) so you don’t forget!

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News and Updates!

Hey readers! Guess what? There’s only ONE WEEK left until the Life, The Universe, and Everything writing convention!

Yeah, that’s headline number-one today. As of today, we’ve only got a week left! Are you ready? I’ve been letting my brain boil over my panel topics, as well as making sure I’ve got a working setup to stream myself live. In fact, I’m considering doing a test run over Discord to see how my mic holds up, maybe a sort of live Q&A in place of next week’s Being a Better Writer, just to see how it goes. I’ve got a decent mic and headset, but I could also borrow a better one if needed. And I should have a decent webcam, but again, I could perhaps get a better one working. We’ll see. Look here for further updates. Point is, LTUE is coming and I’m excited! Are you?

Next up, let’s talk about Axtara! So the ebook has been out for over a month now, and the paperback a little over a week. How has everyone been finding it so far?

Spectacular. Okay, that’s my own reaction to the public’s reaction, but I’ve got those too. Reviews have started to roll in from a wide range of sources, and so far they have all loved meeting Axtara and getting to know her and her world. For example, we’ve got this bit from a review from a reader on Goodreads—

… Florschutz hit it out of the park with “Axtara–Banking and Finance.” … Regardless of whether you have a mathematical mind, I would highly recommend “Axtara–Banking and Finance”, and if the author is considering making a sequel, I would definitely look forward to picking it up. 

—or from this review on Amazon—

I’ll admit I was drawn to this book by the cover and the tittle, I mean a dragon banker, how could I not check this out? And this book delivers with laughter and intrigue … everything you could ask from such a book. 10/10.

—or this one—

… I loved it … it does leave it open for a sequel too, and I hope that there is one – or more – eventually!

—or this one—

I’ll give a try on kindle unlimited to most any book with a dragon as the protagonist, but I quite liked this one enough to leave a good review. I was particularly interested in the entrepreneurial elements as Axtara works to establish her bank. Axtara’s focus on reaching break-even point shows the author did their research here, and the business side seems well grounded and interesting. The fantasy setting was a lot of fun seeing how business would work there, and had some interesting hints as to other things yet to be discovered in the world (I’d definitely read a sequel …)

—that all seem pretty certain that they love Axtara and can’t wait to see more! And yes, there will be a sequel. I already knew the basics of the plot before Axtara was even halfway finished, and it’ll come along in due time. There also will be, and has been, more in the same setting (A Game of Stakes, my short in A Dragon and Her Girl, takes place in the same setting but a few decades earlier, while the as-yet-unpublished Trial for a Dragon stars Axtara’s older sibling Ryax).

But that isn’t the only feedback I’ve had from people regarding Axtara either. I’ve got two others I’ll share with you guys, though not in direct quotes. I’ve been told via Facebook by several people that their teenaged (or near it) daughters have been reading Axtara.

The ultimate test, as that is the intended audience. And …?

Well, in the words of one parent, and I quote, “She loves it!” Which has been the response from the other parents that have told me about their kid’s experience. Axtara, it would seem, is indeed a winner!

Oh, but that’s not all. Behold the following picture! It’s beyond the jump, since this post was getting long.

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Being a Better Writer: Gripping Conflict

Hello there readers! Welcome to February!

First of all, I apologize for the lateness of this post. I had family stop by and catch up, and well, it had been a while so we chatted for a time. So this post got a little delayed (though lately there have been some late posts, something I should fix, and am apologizing for now).

Second, a reminder that LTUE is next weekend! That’s right, it’s almost upon us! I wrote a bit more on this on Saturday, but LTUE 2021 is online this year and will be taking place February 11th-13th! You can find more information at LTUE’s website, or by going over my post from Saturday, but as LTUE this year is online that means it’s a lot easier for many of you to “attend” so I hope to see you there!

Lastly, just a general reminder that paperback copies of Axtara – Banking and Finance are now available! You can order your own dead-tree version of Axtara from (or .UK or whichever you use), or even hop down to your local bookstore and ask them to order a copy for you! Sands, you can even request your local library order a copy and read it that way!

Okay, that’s all the news, so let’s get talking on today’s topic: writing gripping conflict.

I’ll admit this is pretty straightforward and simple topic for a Being a Better Writer article, so I’ll say up front that I don’t expect this to take too long. But the topic was inspired by, if I’m remembering things correctly, a discussion chain on a writing chat about keeping conflict gripping that was … Well, let’s just say they were missing the mark a little bit. That’s not to say that they were wrong, but that they were only halfway there.

So let’s dive in, talk about the half that this chat got right … But then talk about the half that they were missing. Let’s talk about what makes a conflict grip the reader and pull them in. Hit the jump.

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A Smorgasbord of News!

Hello readers! How has you week been?

Mine has been busy. And it’s not going to let up anytime soon. There’s a lot going on for me in the next few weeks, and there already was a lot going on to begin with! Of course, one of the largest projects questing after my time was the Axtara – Banking and Paperback release, but if you’ve been following the site, you know that … that was this week!

That’s right! That’s the first bit of news I’m going to crow about. Because yes, the day finally arrived: You can now purchase one of my books in trade paperback. Sands, you can even order it from your local bookstore thanks to expanded distribution! Or ask your local library to acquire a copy (I still get paid either way, so enjoy your read)!

Of course, you can also just order it right now at this link. The one I just repeated twice for good measure! Or you can click the cover there over on the side. Come on … you know you want to … And plus, as those who have already read it can tell you (check the reviews) it’s a fantastically fun story. And suitable for a good range of ages too!

All right, so that’s Axtara talked about and plugged. So now I need to talk about the next big thing that’s happening and keeping me busy.

Life, The Universe, and Everything 2021!

Yes, that’s right, readers! It’s still happening this year, despite the quarantine. Just … not in the same manner. This year (and only this year, as again Covid-19) LTUE will be online! And yes, I will once again be both attending and presenting this year.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. For the newcomers, what is LTUE, and why should they care? Well, Life, The Universe, and Everything is a Writing Convention for Science-Fiction and Fantasy writers (primarily) that has, over the years, branched into a number of related topics such as art, gaming, and other associated venues while still being primarily arrayed around on thing: Writing.

This means that it has panels on topics such as worldbuilding, writing action scenes, or even writing non-human characters, chaired by authors that have written successful books on those topics. Panels where said authors will talk about the experience, common mistakes, ways to succeed, and take questions from the audience.

To be blunt, if you are at all interested in learning writing advice on hundreds of topics from experts in the business, this is the con to go to.

Oh, and did I mention it’s $5 for students? It’s an educational conference, after all.

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Axtara – Banking and Finance Now Available in Paperback!

It’s here!

Dragons. Princesses. Banking. Now in dead-tree format!

Ladies and gentlemen, guests and readers of all species … The time has finally come. You can now order your own paperback copy of Axtara – Banking and Finance! That’s right, the day has finally arrived! Axtara is here in print-bound, dead tree form that you can order and hold for yourself in your own two hands! Or three, or four, or whatever appendages you may use for such a purpose.

But that’s beside the point. The point is that you can now purchase your own copy of Axtara – Banking and Finance in a lovely paperback edition to grace your bookshelf! Or display on your living room table. Or get signed by the author at a con (you know, once this whole Covid-19 thing is over). Or … well, whatever you want to do with it! It’s yours!

So where can you acquire this wonderful title? Simple! You can just click any of the numerous links to Axtara across the site (there’s one currently to your right, or just use the books tab) and then, once on Amazon, select the paperback option! Axtara is available in a wide array of countries too, so if you’re not in the US, don’t fret!

What if you don’t use Amazon? Well … you’re not actually out of luck. Axtara is available for expanded distribution. While I don’t know how long it takes for things to wend their way to the right place, this means that your local bookstore should be able to order a copy … or even your local library! Strapped for cash but still want to get your hands on a copy? Go make a request for it at your local library and share it with everyone who uses it!

So hit up a link, phone your bookstore or your local librarian, whatever you need to do. But then sit back, wait for that package to arrive … and curl up with a tale of dragons, princesses, and most of all, banking and finance.

Enjoy, everyone. Enjoy!

Axtara Paperback Not Yet Available Due to Amazon Issues

Hey readers! Max here with a quick update. I know I anticipated the paperback for Axtara – Banking and Finance being available today, but alas, it is not. Why? Well … therein lies a bit of a story. Mostly because once again, Amazon went cheap, and that’s created problems.

See, Amazon has a bunch of tools you need to satisfy in order to print a book. Straightforward enough … save that one of them is, well … a little broken. To be specific, their cover program.

See, Amazon provides a template for you to build a cover to. You make it a layer, stick everything within the lines of “everything past here will be cut” and call it good.

Except you don’t. Their program is a little … buggy. Because while it asks for stuff to extend past that trim edge of that template, actually doing so will often result in the program you upload the final cover to resizing your image if it has. Which then means that the cover image may be well inside the trim lines and you have a problem.

Basically? The first time I got the cover past Amazon’s program, I “cheated” and tricked it by doing some manual transforms combined with expanded background layers as a border. The result was the cover I got on the print proof, which looked fantastic.

But apparently, in trying to get that approved for publication, someone over at Amazon noticed that their program was being tricked and rejected it. Hence why it didn’t go up this morning, even though, as I’ll point out again, it worked and the print proof looked great (in fact, a quick Google showed a number of other authors use the same “border trick” to beat Amazon’s cover program, so this is a common thing).

I resubmitted it (and lodged a stern complaint with KDP via e-mail about the shoddiness of their cover program and its resizing issues. With luck, it’ll go through, Axtara will be in flight, if not by the end of the day, then sometime tomorrow.

Being a Better Writer: Clarke’s Three Laws

Hello readers! Yes, I know I must apologize for the lateness of this post in coming online. But I had a really good reason, one that I think many of you will sympathize with: I was up extremely late last night reading a book. Which I then finished this afternoon as soon as I could.

Relatable, yes, but there’s a catch to this one. It wasn’t just any old book. In fact, it was quite new. So new that what I was reading these past two days was the print proof.

That’s right, readers, I stayed up late last night reading the first official paperback copy of Axtara – Banking and Finance and loving every minute of it. It really is a fantastic story with some very lively characters, and I almost can’t wait to start work on a sequel.

But I can. Because Starforge. Which … well, that’s for another news post. Back on topic, my having finished the print proof of Axtara is fantastic news because that means it’s readable. And as soon as this post is done? I’ll be making the final few tweaks to the master file … and the paperback will go live (EDIT: And it’s ticking. Amazon is reviewing it).

You read that correctly. Axtara – Banking and Finance will be available in paperback very soon. Look for a post tomorrow and be ready to start watching that shipping tracker!

All right! That’s it for news at the moment (I’ll save the other stuff for the now bi-weekly news post), so let’s get talking about today’s Being a Better Writer topic: Clarke’s Three Laws.

To be honest, I’m kind of shocked at myself that I didn’t get to this topic years ago. After all, my break-down of Brandon Sanderson’s Three Laws of Magic has been one of the most perused posts on the site (and if I may toot my own horn a bit, is also the source of Wikipedia’s summary as well as Google’s), so discussing three laws that have been influencing Science-Fiction for decades should have been as straightforwardly obvious as “Science-Fiction has science.”

But for whatever reason, I didn’t make that connection. Not until a month or two ago when I was discussing one of the laws with someone on a writing chat and realized, to my shock and embarrassment, that I’d never actually written about them.

It went on the list right then and there. Because it’s just wrong to have talked about one author’s rules for Fantasy Magic system but completely passed on Arthur C. Clarke’s rules for writing about the future. So no more! Today, we talk about Clarke’s Laws! So hit that jump, and let’s get started!

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NEWS! Both the Axtara Paperback and Life, The Universe, and Everything 2021 are Almost Here!

Hey readers! Max here with a quick news update for all of you! One that’s about to deliver some truth to the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Are you ready? Here you go!

Eh? Eh? Take a look at that! That’s right, the print proof for Axtara – Banking and Finance has arrived! And it looks even better in person than it does in these blurry photos (I’m an author, not a photographer as you can plainly tell).

So, what’s next? Well, I’ve already spotted a few minor tweaks I’m going to make before letting it go live. The inner margin feels a little cramped, so I’m going to widen that up, and there’s a page near the back that’s on the wrong side of the paper. All easy fixes. I’ll be going through it this weekend, make the changes Monday and … well, yeah, unless I find a major problem, Monday paperback orders for Axtara – Banking and Finance will go live!

Something to look forward to, no? Now, in other important news … did you guys realize that Life, The Universe, and Everything 2021 is only three weeks away?

Yes, you read that correctly! It’s in February … and we’re almost done with January. Time flies, doesn’t it? But in case you were wondering, yes LTUE is still happening this year, and yes you can register for it now. However, this year it will be all online, in light of Covid-19. No travel. Just you and an internet connection.

Anyway, I’ll be posting more about LTUE 2021 as it nears. For now, I just wanted to alert you readers that it is coming, and quickly!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a paperback to read.

Microsoft Just Shot the Series X in the Back EDIT: Someone got to a medic in time

UPDATE: As of a short time ago, and due to massive public outcry, Xbox has announce that the Xbox Live Gold price hike is no more. In addition, they’re going to be opening the platform’s online play up more to those who don’t want Gold, including announcing that all F2P games will no longer require Gold. It’s a start! Thank you to everyone who made their unhappiness known!

As for me, I actually passed on buying a Series X during this whole deal (in my cart and everything). So yeah, up front, it cost them a Series X sale. Now that it’s been resolved, well … I’ll start looking again.

Thank you, Xbox folks, for realizing how bad an idea this was, for listening, and for responding,

Original post below:

Well, I didn’t expect to be posting this today. But in fairness, Microsoft has blindsided everyone with this move, from fans to prospective buyers. And in the process, during the launch period of their own console they’ve basically shot it in the back.

Let me explain. Microsoft is one of the juggernauts in the game console space right now, alongside Sony and Nintendo. In December/November of 2020, both Microsoft and Sony launched their newest hardware iterations. Both are vast improvements over the underpowered hardware that the prior generation delivered, and both were high on people’s shopping lists. In fact, until this morning, the Series X was high on mine. Now? I’m not so sure.

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