Independence Day Sale!

Hello readers! This weekend, those of us in America will be celebrating the United States’ Independence Day. A commemoration of the Continental Congress’ passage of the Declaration of Independence. An event which would shake a whole lot of baskets across the Atlantic, and lead to … Well, today.

Every nation has an independence day (even if they don’t celebrate them?) and the United States loves the one it has. July 5th will be a holiday for many of us, and many are spending the weekend grilling and lighting off fireworks (where appropriate, mind).

But it got me thinking. With Starforge on the way, why not add a little extra “oomph” to some weekends, and have an Independence Day sale. Well, not just a sale because, well you see …

Colony is free to grab, no strings attached, July 3rd and 4th.

Yeah, that’s right. Free. I figured a story about a planet of people fighting for independence whose own leader has seen fit to model their goals and aims after George Washington and the American Revolution … Well, it deserved that nod.

So yes, Colony is free this weekend. If you grab it on the 3rd or 4th, you’ll be able to kick back and relax with the book in your hands on the 5th! Or whenever you’ve got free time. This is a limited offer, so grab it while you can!

Of course, once you have one book in the UNSEC trilogy, you might want to grab the second. Especially if you’re one of the many that finish Colony in a single sitting.

But even if you aren’t, and plan on taking your time, why not pick up the second book in the series while you’re at it? Because after all, it’s on sale as well. That’s right. You can grab the first book in the trilogy free of charge, find out exactly why it’s rated so highly … then come off of that rollercoaster ride to grab the second at a discount.

Sadly, the third and final volume is still in development, so you can’t purchase it yet … But with Colony and Jungle in your posession, you’ll be ready for the third and final installment when it launches!


Naturally now, why stop there? If one book is free, and another on sale … well … why not put even more on sale? If you rummage around my books page, you’ll find that more that just Colony and Jungle are up for grabs. Shadow of an Empire, the wild west fantasy adventure and another fitting candidate for an Independence Day celebration, has been discounted. And One Drink and Dead Silver, my first two books, are also free.

Or will be, rather. So mark your calendars! That’s three books for free, and two at a discount! At which point grabbing the whole rest of my library wouldn’t really set you back much!


So, if you’re in the US, enjoy your Independence Day. But if not, or in the meantime … grab a book, and celebrate some freedom.

Being a Better Writer Topic Call!

THE TIME HAS COME! And yes, I almost linked that bit from Dipper’s Guide to the Unexplained #82 there. It was … tempting.

Anyway, those of you that have been around for a while will know exactly what this post is for. It’s time … to submit reader-request topics for Being a Better Writer!

See, Being a Better Writer works off of a list. An actual, physical list, made on a notepad on my desk. I fill a page, and those are the topics for the next few months. Once that list nears its end … well, it’s time for more topics, isn’t it?

Which is where you come in. See, I’m fine generating new topics. I’ve even got a couple on the next list already. But I also want you to be able to ask after topics. What sort of topics do you want—or need—BaBW to cover? What do you want to hear about? What aspect of writing, of story, of character, etc, do you want to see delved into?

Got more than one? That’s fine too! Ask for two, or even three?

Point is, BaBW is helpful to a lot of readers, yes, but it’s even more helpful if it’s tackling some of the questions readers want to know. So if there’s a particular topic you’re curious about that hasn’t been touched on recently, go ahead and post it in the comments! Let me know so that it can make it to the list!

That’s all there is to it! So, got writing questions? Put them in the comments below!

Being a Better Writer: Live Q&A Event!

UPDATE: The event is now over, but you can still join the official discord for the next few hours!

Hello readers! And welcome back to something different! Not completely different, since A) we’re not doing that bit and B) we’ve done this before … But this will be only the second time.

To commemorate the end of yet another Being a Better Writer topic list (number 17), today at 3 PM mountain time I will be hosting a live BaBW question and answer session via the Unusual Things official discord channel The Makalay Camp. Which means that all of you can ask questions in real time and hear my melodious (?) voice give the answers!

Now, we’ve done one of these before and it’s generally a pretty relaxed and chill experience. As of right now, The Makalay Camp has two channels, Fireside Chat, and the Being a Better Writer Q&A voice channel. Participating in the Q&A will be pretty simple. You show up (we’ll talk about that in a moment if you’ve never used Discord before), join the Fireside Chat channel, and then join the Being a Better Writer Q&A voice channel by clicking on it. You may notice that you will not be able to speak in the voice channel. That’s by design. Otherwise there’d be a million voices competing. No, you join the voice channel to listen. That’s what I’ll be using to answer questions. Questions which will be typed in the Fireside Chat channel.

Now, if you’re familiar with Discord or already a member of the server, you know what’s up. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Discord or aren’t members of the server, hit the jump, and let’s get you set up with the link.

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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?

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Being a Better Writer: Tension and Slow Pacing

Hello readers! Welcome back!

So updates! I did manage to hit my quota last Friday despite being a little sick. And while I wouldn’t put it past that segment to need a little editing, overall it was a pretty kick-butt segment of [REDACTED] battling [REDACTED].

Am I one-hundred percent yet? Well … no. This sickness wasn’t much though. Just a sore throat and headache, both of which have mostly faded into a phenomenally active nose (thank you for boxed tissues, world) as my system kicks everything out. And I am still kind of tired … But I blame that on being overly rested from the weekend and not being able to fall asleep last night until around 5 AM (either way, please excuse any typos that made it through on this post, I’m working despite a funk).

Regardless of feeling a little ill-rested, this bout of whatever I caught is mostly over. Huzzah!

To further that plus side of things, this weekend saw some good sales. If they stay constant, I just might be on that good side of the knife-edge after all!

Now, some other quick news updates before I get to this week’s Being a Better Writer post. As of right now, next week’s Being a Better Writer is planned to be a Live Q&A over on the Unusual Things Discord (The Makalay Camp). That’s right, I’ll be donning the headset (sans camera this time) and answering questions about writing live from the audience.

As to what time this event will be on Monday, January 28th, leave comments below if you’re hoping for a specific time and I’ll see what I can do. Last time holding it at 6-7 PM Mountain Time worked pretty well, but I know for some people who follow the sight that’s something like 2 AM. Does having it at 12 noon Mountain Time work better?

Also related is that today is the last topic on Topic List #17. Which means there will be a topic call as soon as the Live Q&A is over! So start thinking both about questions you want to ask live, and writing topics you want to see a whole BaBW post devoted to!

As a side note before we get started, it’s staggering to me that I’ve made it through #17 of these lists since I started keeping track of the number, and that Being a Better Writer has been going now for over six years. In fact, it’s closer to something like eight. Being a Better Writer existed before Unusual Things, which is six years old. Every Monday, save holidays, for almost eight years.

Sands and storms, that’s a lot of content.

Anyway, just thinking on it and a little stunned. How about we talk writing and clean the last topic off of Topic List #17 so #18 can start coming together? Hit the jump!

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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!

Being a Better Writer: The Rubber Duck

Now Harry, you must know all about Muggles. Tell me, what exactly is the function of a rubber duck?

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Film

Hello readers, and welcome back! It’s the start of another week, and that means we’ve got more Being a Better Writer to discuss as well as another week full of writing to look forward to! And coming off of a pretty good weekend as well! Good for me because I picked up several new 5-star reviews on both Colony and Axtara … and on a note unrelated to writing because E3 was this weekend and I finally got to see one game that I’m excited for the release of this year: Halo Infinite. I’m not going to geek about the game here, other than to say I’m excited, but I’m also a little relieved that there’s nothing else coming out anytime soon I’m interested. My backlog needs clearing (or I could always play another game of Stellaris … No wonder that backlog doesn’t empty quickly).

Anyway, hopefully those of you who followed E3 found something to be excited about, but for now let’s switch gears and talk writing. You know, that thing a lot of you are here for! So then, let’s begin, and begin by restating the question at the top of this post: what is the function of the rubber duck?

The answer is … well, surprisingly mundane, but it’s one of those mundane answers that can be incredibly useful. In fact, some authors swear by the rubber duck as a writing tool, finding it almost impossible to write well without one.

Which I realize to those of you who are not familiar with this usage, sounds amusing. Some of you may be picturing an author staring at their keyboard, writing away while watched by a well-worn yellow waterfowl, muttering under their breath “I can’t do it without you, Mr. Squeakers.

And well, here’s the fun part. Those of you who may be thinking that aren’t entirely wrong. So, hit the jump, and let’s seek the answer to the question that haunted Arthur Weasley for much of his life. What is the function of a rubber duck?

And what does it have to with writing?

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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.

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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!

Being a Better Writer: Setting a Tone for Your Work

Welcome back readers, to another Monday! You know, I try to make these openings as chipper and cheerful as I can when writing because hey, it’s Monday, and most people need that at the start of another workweek. So hey, I hope this chipper opening tone works for some of you!

Newswise, it was a pretty quiet weekend. quiet to the degree that I’m reasonably certain there’s not much to post here that wasn’t already covered with last Friday’s news summary. Save that it was a scorcher of a weekend here. I don’t know what the weather was like for most of you, but it was in the low-nineties here. It gets hotter than that in the summers here, but it climbing to that temperature so quickly in the summer was both refreshing and scorching.

On the plus side, there was a summer thunderstorm on Friday evening that I got to watch with my sister while eating dinner post a nice bike ride, so that was nice. Always down for watching some summer thunder! Plus, my area needs the rain they bring.

Okay, so enough yapping about my weekend. We’ve got writing to talk about! This week we’re tackling yet another reader question, this time concerning tone. To be specific, how you set a tone for your story, if you even should, and how changing that tone partway through can affect your story/audience.

So, if any of that sounded intriguing to you as a writer, then buckle up and hit the jump!

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