Being a Better Writer: What Makes a Fantasy?

Hello writers!

You know, if I’m honest it feels like it’s been more than a week since the last Being a Better Writer. That’s probably because I had numerous days last week where I was up well past midnight on account of editing Starforge. One week kind of stretched into two.

But, the good news, as many of you saw Saturday, is that Starforge will be going into Copy-Edit this week. Which also means that yes, pre-orders will be opening at last.

This also means that the long-promised pricing adjustment for the rest of my books is on its way, so if you’re looking to grab anything before the prices go up to reflect the last ten years, do so now. Though again, the whole point of this pricing adjustment is to bring the prices in line with inflation-adjusted prices based on paperback prices from 1994. There’s gonna have to be a new post about this to update the old The Price We Pay article.

Anyway, lots to come in the next few weeks. You know, including Starforge itself at long last. You’re all finally going to be able to get it! So keep watching this space.

But right now? Let’s talk about today’s Being a Better Writer topic.

Tackling discussion of a whole genre has always been a dicey proposition, not that we haven’t done it before. BaBW has discussed Science-Fiction, Westerns, and Mystery in posts prior, and each of those is a pretty broad genre all said and done. Especially Science-Fiction, which is both broad and controversial these days (some of the arguments I’ve seen over what is or isn’t Sci-Fi online …).

Fantasy is just as broad a genre, really, though many don’t think of it as such. Which is in part why we’re going to be talking about it today.

So hit the jump, and let’s talk about what makes something a Fantasy. I’ll give you a hint: It isn’t magic.

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Starforge News Post!

First of all folks, I’m sorry there’s not a Starforge preview post today. They’ve been quite popular, and I know you guys are really excited to see the book finally drop. But sadly, I don’t have a teaser today.

I know. This will be the last one I miss. I promise. I didn’t hit it today because, well, I went over 50,000+ plus words today, a full tenth of Starforge, polishing stuff. Seeing as it’s now 3:30 AM … yeah. Sort of behind on getting that post written. And I didn’t just want to drop random chapter excerpts on you. I’ve only got one more of those kind of previews planned, and I need to be—to put it bluntly—a bit more cognizant than I feel right now.

So why make this post? Surely there’s a point here? Well, there is. After spending the last week going over more than a 100,000 words worth of Starforge (and that’s just this week) with a fine-toothed comb, I’m making the call.

Starforge is going into Copy-Edit.

What does this mean? It means that the pre-order, will, at last, go up next week.

That’s right. It’s finally here. I’m going to punch Starforge onto my reader and start doing formatting checks, on the introduction, the author page, table of contents, all that good stuff. Plus, you know, make sure all the “page breaks” are in the right place, and that everything is ready to go.

But while that’s happening? The pre-order can go live. Ladies and gentlemen, this is about to happen. The final piece and part of the UNSEC Space trilogy is going to be in your hands at last. One final ride for our trio. Jake … Anna … Sweets …

It’s all about to end.

And believe me. You won’t want to miss it.

I am exhausted and need sleep. See you folks Monday.

Three Years Ago … Jungle’s Pre-Order Went Live

Today I got an interesting reminder. Jungle, the second book in the UNSEC Space trilogy, had its pre-order page go live today, three years ago.

Now, this is relevant because I’m currently hard at work on getting Starforge, the third and final book in that same trilogy, into the same state.

As you might have guessed from the lack of a pre-order, I’m a little behind. Jungle released November 19th, three years ago, and right now that day is just two weeks a few days away. I’m not certain Starforge will be able to match its release date. At this point, shooting for the 29th seems more likely.

Why post about this? Well, two reasons. The first is that I want to reassure you folks that I am doing everything I can short of burning out to get this book out, and in as polished a state as I can get it. Right now the changes are all small. In fact, I’ll bet if it were to release in the current state, many of you wouldn’t even notice what typos I haven’t caught yet. Yesterday I went through almost 30,000 words and made something like four changes, most of which were “eh, that comma doesn’t need to be there.”

But I want this book to be as polished as a work of 500,000 words can be before I get it out, so the work continues.

The second reason I bring this up is because well, it is kind of a notable moment that three years ago today Jungle‘s pre-order went live. Since Jungle there have been several other projects, Axtara – Banking and Finance the most notable, but also Fireteam Freelance and a couple of other large projects atop Starforge.

Things have been busy. Getting Starforge out, combined with all those other projects (Axtara, Freelance, Stranded, etc) is no small feat. Combined that’s well over a million words of writing. And that’s just the fiction, and what’s been released. Or about to release.

My point being, I know the wait may seem long. But three years is a pretty speedy pace, all things considered. I know that hearing that the Starforge pre-order page isn’t live yet might be a bit grating to some of you, because you’ve been on this journey for six years now, starting with Colony, and you just have got to know how it ends.

I’m doing what I can. Starforge‘s pre-order isn’t live today, but it’s going to be soon. We’re close. And with luck, every book in the trilogy will have come out in November.

Now, back to work with me!

Oh, and I should probably do a Jungle retrospective if I haven’t already in the coming weeks. It feels apropos.

Being a Better Writer: Planning and Executing Heavy Worldbuilding

Welcome back, writers! It’s Monday, and it’s also Halloween! Not usually a vacation holiday, so I don’t plan on taking one. You know, as evidenced by the fact that you’re looking at this post right now.

But before we get talking about writing for this week and wrap up October, I do have one little tidbit to remind you all of: Dead Silver is on sale for 99 cents until midnight tonight! This spooky little (it’s a full novel, but by my standard) tale is perfect for Halloween and hey, it was my second published book, so it’s got a soft place in my heart. Following Hawke Decroux as he heads out to the sleepy New Mexican mining town of Silver Dreams to help Jacob Rocke catch a chupacabra, things soon take a turn for the worse, Silver Dreams seemingly caught in events more out of a nightmare than a dream.

Like I said, 99 cents until Halloween is over. You can click the link above or click the cover on the right. Either way, I hope you have a spooky and thrilling—in a good way—Halloween!

Now, with that all said, this is still a post about writing, so how about we get down to it? Today we’re going back to a classic topic that’s on a lot of minds. So much so, in fact, that the tag for it on the site is … substantial, to put it lightly.

But it’s a commonly discussed topic for a multitude of reasons, one being that it’s such a vast topic, but second to that because a lot of writers find it to be both a major source of inspiration and a major stumbling block in equal measure. Thus, it will not be a surprise to many of you to learn that today’s topic is a reader request from our last topic call!

So, let’s get down to it. Let’s talk about heavy worldbuilding. The in-depth, up-to-your-elbows-in-it sort of stuff. But with one gigantic context: making it useful, and then executing on that vision to craft a story, not just a bunch of excess files cluttering up a hard drive somewhere.

Hit that jump. Let’s talk worldbuilding.

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Starforge Preview: Chapter 3 Excerpts

Well, we’ve reached this moment. We’ve seen Jake. We’ve seen Anna. That just means that there’s one member of the trio left to get our early look at.

That’s right, it’s Ray Candy! Though to his friends he’s just Sweets. Or Dystopian_Snowman if you’re one of his hacking buddies.

Jungle was a huge shift for Sweets. While Jake and Anna were marooned down on the surface of [REDACTED], Sweets was shuttled off on his own aboard the military cruiser Casimir, where things were absolutely not what they seemed. Alone and with limited resources, Sweets had to push ahead, ultimately saving the lives of not only Jake and Anna but several others as well in a daring dropship rescue … which since it involved flying, was a pretty bold move for Sweets. And honestly not the first time, either, if you recall the end of Colony.

But what’s happened in the meantime? With the threats now facing Pisces, what’s the last member of our group been up to, and how might he play a part in the what’s to come?

Well, to find out in full, you’ll have to snag a copy of Starforge when it releases this holiday season. But you can get a taste of what’s to come—as well as what Sweets has been up to—by hitting the jump.

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OP-ED: The Great Wheel of Greed Grinds on With No Backsies

Hey folks. Max here taking a time-out from the Starforge editing (which is coming along pretty nicely and will soon have some updates) with a small OP-ED post.

Also, Dead Silver is on sale! Grab this fun and spooky Halloween-appropriate adventure mystery for under a buck!

Last night, after repeatedly closing a new pop-up on the site’s stats page, I noticed a new button next to every single one of the posts listed there. A little megaphone. What was this little megaphone? Why, it was a “Promote this post with WordPress Advertising” button! It appeared to be a very straightforward process: I click the button, I check that the advertisement appearance meets my approval, I fill out payment information, and then the post gets advertised … somewhere. I couldn’t actually see that bit without putting in all the other details such as payment information. So I sdon’t know exactly where it would have been, though I assume from the wording it would have been on other’s WordPress-based posts.

Or perhaps they would have been elsewhere on the web? Again, I couldn’t see that information without confirming the ad and the payment information, so I can’t say for certain. I’m just extrapolating based on the most likely targets.

Point being, WordPress is the latest in what seems to be every web service ever trying to squeeze more money out of its userbase by stripping away a purpose of the service only to sell it back to the highest bidder.

Amazon was the first for me that I noticed engaging in this behavior. Sure, you could sell their products on their store. But then someone got the idea of charging for “premier shelf space” and Amazon Advertising was born. It wasn’t enough that they were carrying your product and making money each time a copy sold. They realized that they could double dip and get the creator to pay for each product sold as well by setting up a “bidding” advertising system. Sure, you could just have your product “on the shelves,” but if you paid Amazon for each eyeball that looked at your product, you could make sure that by default most eyeballs saw your stuff first. As long as you either had a lot of disposable income (advertising may be tax deductible, but it’s still money out of your pocket) or could make sure that a certain number of eyeballs could buy your product, that advertising would take your product from “the mass” to “everyone sees it.”

Bear in mind, this is for something that Amazon already makes money selling. If a supermarket operated off of this principle—and maybe they do, I don’t know—suppliers and distributors would pay not just for placement on shelves, but a fee for each person that picked up an item and looked at it … even if they didn’t buy it. All those items at the front of the supermarket or by the checkout, where the most eyes look at them? Those positions would cost $X per-item to be there and make the supermarket money anytime someone looked at them. Someone handled that Snickers bar but set it back down? Mars owes the supermarket 7 cents.

We’ll get into how this quickly becomes—to me, anyway—insane and unbalanced in a moment, but first let’s move on.

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Being a Better Writer: Reading VS Hearing

Welcome back writers! It’s Monday, and you know what that means. That, or this is your first time stumbling across this corner of the web and are just in awe or suspicion of what you’ve found. Maybe both.

Well, if you’re a writer or looking to do some writing, let me reassure you. This is Being a Better Writer, and you are in the right place.

Now, a quick aside before we dive into today’s promised topic, which is a … contentious one, to say the least. If you’ve not been on the site over the weekend, then you might have missed out on Saturday’s Starforge preview, which gave everyone their first look at what’s become of Annalyne Neres since the end of Jungle, plus her first steps in the finale of the UNSEC Space Trilogy. Action-packed steps, of course.

In related news, Starforge is getting closer to release with each passing day, but also now closer to a pre-order date. The Copy-Edit is nearing, and once the novel is in that phase, the pre-orders can go live. I’ll keep you all up to date on that as things progress.

Now, one more bit of spooky news before we head into today’s topic. Because it is the Halloween season, Dead Silver will be on sale starting tonight at midnight, and will remain on sale through October 31st. You can click that link there or find the book via the Books tab, but keep that in mind if you’ve not read it. It’s a perfect little spooky mystery for the Halloween weekend, so if you’re reading this after midnight, October 24th, do yourself a favor and snag a copy! It’s spooky good fun, and an enjoyable read.

All right, that’s all the news and whatnot taken care of. Now lets get down to business and talk about todays—as I warned—contentious topic.

This one I think is going to puzzle some, while being a revelation others. It’s one of those aspects of writing and publishing books that you really have to be immersed in some part of the production or output of to be aware of, but again as previously stated it’s also something that brings with it no small amount of controversy, especially among certain circles and with regards to both writing and editing a book.

You ready? Then hit the jump. Let’s talk about reading versus hearing.

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Starforge Preview: Chapter 2 Excerpts

I know many of you have been waiting for this moment to arrive. Last week, the writing was on the wall when you all got your first look at some bits of chapter 1 of Starforge, at long last giving you a peek a what our famed corporate investigator has been up to since the end of Jungle. And, of course, there was the sense of omnipresent dread that the prologue chapter (revealed a few months ago) delivered. But I know for a number of you, the big question was “What about Annalyne Neres?”

Well today, readers, you get to find out. Today we’re taking a look at some scenes from chapter 2 of Starforge! Today you get your first taste of what Anna’s bringing to the party when Starforge drops this holiday season.

Are you ready? 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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Being a Better Writer: The “Perfect” Book Is an Awful Read

Hello again writers! Welcome back, and welcome to Topic List #21! That’s right, we’re on a new list, with new concepts and ideas to explore! Writers, there is still time to make a request for additional topics to add to it over at the topic call post, but only for a few days more!

Anyway, how was your weekend, writers? Feeling recharged and reinvigorated? I am, and it was desperately needed. Not only was I able to get some relaxation and decompression in, but I also woke up today to some fantastic news: Axtara – Banking and Finance has cracked 50 reviews on Amazon.

Like I’ve said, she keeps sailing. I don’t doubt that before long Axtara will be neck-and-neck with Colony. Though the leader of the UNSEC Space Trilogy isn’t taking it lying down, especially as over the weekend we saw our first tease from Chapter 1 of Starforge. To applause, no less. It was clear to me from the number of hits that a lot of you were interested in that.

Banking dragon versus a Sci-Fi tale of empires old and new. Will Axtara tighten the race? Or will Colony pull ahead? I don’t know, but I’m thrilled either way as both take strong strides in bringing me toward that 10,000 copies sold milestone.

Anyway, that’s the news, writers. Keeping it short and sweet today so that I can dive into the first topic on our new list. Which is … a contentious one, to be sure. I already am aware that by the title alone there will be many who will be lighting their torches and gathering their pitchforks, ready to defend an incorrect philosophy that they themselves will likely never test.

Today, we’re going to talk about the “perfect” book. And why you’d never want to read it.

Hit the jump, folks. Let’s talk about writing.

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