Quarantine Chat: Finances, a MacMillan Backpedal, and April Apocalypse

Hey folks! This is a bit overdue, but quite honestly my plate has been full of other things, like getting episode three of Fireteam Freelance ready for this Saturday, which will then be followed by Alpha editing A Trial for a Dragon and the Beta. Plus the whole pandemic thing which …


Well, I’ll lead with finances. As most of you might expect, I’m one of the many people that’s been adversely affected by the Covid-19 Pandemic. So things right now financially aren’t the best.

I’m not losing my housing, thankfully. Not in the next week, anyway. But … things for the next few months are definitely going to be difficult. My part-time job furloughed myself and everyone else there until August at the earliest, and while we might get unemployment, that’s a maybe. Sands, my being an author may disqualify me from it entirely, despite the pandemic and the fact that it isn’t enough to be entirely a sole income yet (as for the why there, it’s because America hasn’t really been a good place for the small business for a few decades, slaved instead by “go big or go home” mentality).

Basically, things are looking rough for the next few months. The roughest they’ve ever been. The smooth waters of February vanished quickly with this latest storm.

That said, there are ways you can help, ways that don’t involve simply sending money via Patreon (I mean, you can do that, but I understand many are in a similar situation to my own). Quite simply: Talk about my stuff. Share.

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Being a Better Reader: Stocking for Covid-19

Hello readers! Welcome back! Though you may notice something a little different in the title today.

There have been a few times in the past when I’ve done Being a Better Writer posts that are jokingly titled Being a Better Reader, though not without reason, as each of them was about exactly that. Today, with everything that’s going on in the world, I figured it was time for another one of those.

If you’re confused at all about this post, than I’d urge you to open a new tab and look up news on Covid-19, AKA the Coronavirus. We’re officially in a global pandemic, with cases spreading and multiplying fast enough that whole countries are shutting down. Economies too, with most jobs either having their people work from home or shutting down entirely. My own part-time was among the latter, as were a lot of other jobs worked by people I know. Borders are closing, countries going into lockdown …

Thankfully, these places are doing this to slow the spread, and it is showing signs of helping. I’m not a WHO-speaker or a CDC doctor, though, so I’ll say no more on that front save the standard rallying cries during this pandemic of—

Stop shaking people’s hands. Wash your hands! Don’t touch your face.

Seriously people. Stop doing all three. Fight the spread.

While we’re at it, fight misinformation. Stop, think, and source before spreading something like “Salt water kills the infection!” It doesn’t, and 41 people in South Korea got infected because they believed the salt water thing and shared the same water among themselves.

Okay, so with all this going on, what does it have to do with today’s post? Simple: There are a lot of people around the world who are under quarantine right now, for one reason or another. Either they’re under a full quarantine, where they may have been exposed and are stuck inside a room for two weeks, or they’re under another quarantine where their country has entirely shut down and they’re unable to leave their house. Or they’re under a loose quarantine (my words, not anyone else’s) like the US where their job has shut down and any gathering of more than 50 people has been requested to not happen by the CDC.

In other words, a decently large-sized chunk of the world right now has a lot of free time on their hands. They’re out of work, Earth is closed, and they’re just sitting at home wondering what to do.

At home entertainment, in other words, is spiking. Streaming services and gaming portals like Steam are already setting records for usage. Everyone’s got time on their hands. People are looking for things to do that allow them to stave off cabin fever while stuck at home for the foreseeable future.

Have they considered books?

This brings us to the point of today’s post: Books and series to read during the Covid-19 pandemic. A massive collection of reading material to keep one occupied during the outbreaks. Pages and pages and pages to turn. My own works will be on the list, as well as the works of many other authors I’ve read and enjoyed. We’ll start with books, but then I’ll jump into webcomics that are perfect for an archive binge as well.

Now, a few things to note. 1) These stories will not be about disease. I’ve seen way too many lists of “Best books to read for the Coronavirus” or “Greatest books to read stuck inside during Covid-19” that are just every famous disease and plague book out there, like The Stand.

No. Not doing that. We’re living a pandemic right now. We don’t need escapism that’s just more of that, and worse. Sands, I’m not even going to be linking one of my favorite webcomics on this list, specifically because it’s about a world-ending plague. So no, no stories about disease.

2) Most of these stories will be Science-Fiction and Fantasy. Not too surprising, but I write Sci-Fi and Fantasy, so a lot of what I read tends to be Sci-Fi and Fantasy as well. What I link here is going to be stuff I’ve personally enjoyed.

3) Most entries on this list will be longer, multi-book series. Something you can really dig your teeth into. There will be some smaller, one-shot entries, but I’ll try and keep most of these recommendations in the realm of “This will take you some time.” Because most of the world has it right now.

4) I don’t get any financial compensation here save on my own books. All the books I’ll be linking that I didn’t write? I won’t get any compensation for you clicking the link and picking up a copy. If you buy one over the other and I didn’t pen it, it doesn’t matter to me … but it does matter to the author who wrote it (or their foundation if they’re no longer with us). I’m promoting them because they’re good reading material, not because I’m getting any sort of compensation (again, exception if you purchase one of my books from this list).

5) Click the cover to head to an Amazon ebook page. I don’t get any compensation for that, first off. But if you’re interested in the book, then click the cover to go right to Amazon. By default the page will be for the ebook (no delivery, just download it!) but if you’re looking for a paperback to be delivered to your door, that’s probably an option for most of these as well.

6) I do recommend sharing this list! Especially if you liked what it had on display. Sharing helps more eyeballs discover it, which helps more people find new options for what to read, and in turn stave off boredom and cabin fever during this pandemic. So feel free to share away, on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or wherever else you hang out!

That settles it, so hit the jump and let’s get to the list! We’re going to start with some smaller, one-shot books. Why? Maybe you’re new to reading or want to start small. That’s fine. We’ve gotcha covered. Hit the jump, and let’s see what’s out there!

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Life, The Universe, and Everything Starts Tomorrow at Nine AM! Plus LTUE Sale and Fireteam Freelance News!

It’s here, folks! Starting tomorrow at nine AM, Life, The Universe, and Everything begins!

I don’t know how much more there is I can say on this (but clearly a lot, judging from the size of this post). I mean, I’ve just about covered it backwards to forwards pretty clearly. Life, The Universe, and Everything is the Fantasy/Sci-Fi writing convention all about creating Fantasy and Science-Fiction. With hundreds of panels staffed by authors from all across the industry, LTUE is absolutely the best place to be if you want to learn about the art of writing a well-crafted story.

Seriously, take a look at the schedule (PDF warning for those on mobile) and all the different topics that’ll be on display as soon as LTUE opens its doors tomorrow, and marvel at the awesome contained therein. There are panels on various scientific methods for building cities on and under the ocean (surprisingly, I didn’t end up on this one). There’s a panel on building a brand. There’s a panel on using weather in fiction (I’m on that one!).

All of these are in the first hour. LTUE is awesome. Every year I inevitably find two or three panels I wish to attend that are all at the same time, and lacking the ability as of yet to be in multiple places at once, must choose which panel to attend.

Some are laugh-out-loud funny. Others are fascinating explorations of technology or writing techniques I’ve not explored. Some are just (for myself) a nice refresher.

But there are so many to chose from! Even just glancing at the schedule, I can see panels I’d love to attend. The Cold War and Science-Fiction? Or Folk, City, and Farm Magic?

Well, I’m on the latter, so I think my choice has been made for me. This is another “two places at once” situation. Anyone got a time-turner or a delorean I can borrow?

70081760_568294170598543_7425837595373862912_oOh, and let’s not forget that the launch of A Dragon and Her Girl also happens tomorrow at LTUE. Those of you that have pre-ordered your copies, start checking your accounts then! I’m excited to get my hands on it as well, since while I’ve read my story in it, there are still nineteen other stories about dragons and heroines in there I want to pore over!

If you’re not going to make it to the launch party but will still be at LTUE, you can also track me down during the con or during the signing event on Friday night and get your copy signed by yours truly! Yes, I will be at the book signing/sale fair. Curious how that’s going to work out as my books are all digital? Well, they are … but that doesn’t mean I can’t have a presence, sign copies of A Dragon and Her Girl, and a few surprises in store for those that swing by my table.

Semi-Pro Kinda LifeSeriously, LTUE is going to be awesome. Those of you attending, if you spot me walking the halls (see my mug there to the left) feel free to say hello! If I’m running to a panel I’ll let you know, but if not, you’ve got a very good chance of snaring me in a conversation! Many a time at LTUE an entire hour has vanished in conversations between folks in the halls, sometimes digging deeper into the topics of a panel, other times books, and even sometimes obscure but fascinating topics like the restoration of Santa Fe 2926 (a conversation which I look forward to engaging in once again this year and hearing how the last year’s progress has gone).

Also, before we hit the jump, which will head to my LTUE schedule so those of you attending can know where I’ll be, some other bits of news you’ll want to be notified of.

Jungle CoverFirst, everything is on sale for LTUE. Colony is 50% off, Jungle is 25% off, Shadow of an Empire is 50% off, Dead Silver is 67% off, and Unusual Events is 50% off. The only one that’s not discounted is One Drink, because it’s already as low as it can go under the current store rules. It’s 99 cents, folks.

Anyway, the big LTUE sale will run through Monday, February 17th, so if you’re looking to complete your collection, or looking to expand it as a newcomer who just picked up a copy of A Dragon and Her Girl, you’re in luck! You can literally grab everything I’ve published to date for $15. That’s over a million words of adventure, mystery, magic, mayhem, and more.

But only until the 17th. Click the cover to the right to go to the Amazon page and start browsing!

Now, onto the final bit of news before the jump and the schedule: Fireteam Freelance. Episode 0 dropped last week and, within a single day, became the most-read feature on the site that week. Off to a good start, I’d say. Well, for those of you that are fans, I’ve got good news. This weekend you’ll be getting an interlude. Not a whole new episode, but a smaller piece that slots in between “0” and “Kamchatka” while work continues on that next episode.

Patreon supporters, meanwhile, will get that interlude today. Rewards for supporting Being a Better Writer and all that. So if you’re a Patreon supporter, look for that interlude today, if you’re not, then come back this Saturday for a small glimpse leading into Episode 1!

All right, that’s all the news. Hit the jump for my schedule, and I hope to see you at LTUE!

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Being a Better Writer: Learning From Other Authors’ Books

Readers! The time has come! The magnificence is upon us! It. Is. Here!

What am I talking about? Why LTUE of course! Life, The Universe, and Everything! The convention for writing Science-Fiction and Fantasy! It’s this week! February 13th-15th!

Yes, most of you have probably already heard of it since I have been mentioning it fairly frequently for the last month. But as it is this week, this is the last time for reminders. Come to LTUE and feast (metaphorically, we need those brains, plus at this con a zombie outbreak would be met with a shrug) on the knowledge of hundreds of professional authors!

Myself included! Yes, I will be there, speaking on several panels as well as attending the launch of A Dragon and Her Girl! And doing a reading from my short in said collection the next day! In addition, I’ll also be at the general signing, so if you’re grabbing a copy to sell, well …

I’ll also be around the con the whole time I’m not on a panel, having fun or even attending other panels. If you’re on the lookout for me, I’ll be sporting a tan shirt that says “Ask me about my book” (perfect, right). Feel free to speak up, catch my attention and say hello! As long as I’m not running to one of the panels I’m on, I’m always willing to chat for a bit and say hello!

By the way, if you’re attending LTUE and looking over the panels in joyful glee of figuring out where you want to be and when, check out my schedule here if you want to make sure you can make it to the panels I’m on. I hope to see you there!

Now, in the spirit of the week, I thought I’d cover a less common but no less useful topic this time for Being a Better Writer: learning from works written by other authors.

This is something that I’ve written about before, or at least touched on, in various BaBW posts, this concept that reading other authors’ works can be a bit like picking up a textbook on how to write. But since this week is all about learning right from those authors, I figured it was about time to do a post on it. After all, if you can’t make it to LTUE, and can’t watch any of the videos that will go online on their YouTube page, that doesn’t mean you still can’t learn from the massive amount of authors that will be there, albeit indirectly.

So then, how does one learn about writing by reading someone else’s book?

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Fireteam Freelance Patreon Supporter Content!

Heads up, readers! Are you supporting on Patreon? Because if you are, you might want to dart on over there and take a look at the latest supporter only post: an early preview of Fireteam Freelance!

Before you get too excited, it’s not the first chapter. That hasn’t been written yet (and when it is, the alpha will go up on this site, as promised, chapter by chapter).

No, it’s something else. A “supplemental” if you will. Fireteam Freelance is going to be a more “episodic” story, with clear-cut chunks of chapters following the titular fireteam. But I wanted to do something so that there was more to it than just that, and as I was figuring out the cast, I had the idea of “What if someone was interviewing them? Then between “episodes” there could be a short segment of an interview!” Thus, I could write the interview to find each character’s “voice” and develop them a little further before starting the story, and then I could take chunks of those interviews and place them between episodes.

But which chunks? Why obviously I’d need to write the whole thing first! And I have! Or at least, I have for one of the four new protagonists we’ll be following in Fireteam Freelance: Adah Nay! And, if you’re a Patreon Supporter, you can now go read the entire interview, unredacted or edited by Icon News Media, on my Patreon!

So if you’re a supporter, don’t miss out. Head on over and give it a look!

Some Small Updates

Hello Readers! It wasn’t until this last Saturday that I realized this coming Monday was a holiday, Martin Luther King Jr day to be exact. And, well, that’s a holiday I’ve honored here on the site. So there’s no Being a Better Writer post today. If you’re itching for some writing advice anyway, then in the spirit of the holiday I’d suggest hitting up the “character” tag and looking at some posts on building characters. They’re the backbone of any good story, and there’s always more to think and learn about with them.

As for me? Well, I’m going to be working some more on Fireteam Freelance. I’m not a point to start launching chapters just yet, but it’s getting closer.

In other news, I was delighted to watch Colony and Jungle pick up a half-dozen or so new reviews in the last week alone. ALL of them were five-star as well. Hello new readers and welcome to the adventure! And thank you to those readers out there that are talking about my books and sharing my titles with others. In the last few weeks, I’ve seen a uptick in my works being mentioned online on places like Reddit or Facebook, and in turn that’s brought in a lot of new fans who’ve picked up books, left glowing reviews, and in a few cases even messaged me online to tell me what a blast they were having!

Seriously, those readers who are talking about my books? You’re spreading them faster and farther than I ever could, and in turn you’re helping a lot of new readers find the same enjoyment you had at finishing ColonyShadow of an Empire, or any of my other works.

So thank you, and please keep at it. Word of mouth works, and thanks to your sharing or talking about Colony and my other books online, I’ve seen a lot of new readers discover my work in the past few weeks and love them as much as you have.

Anyway, I’ve got work to do on Fireteam Freelance! Have a wonderful Monday, readers!

“A Dragon and Her Girl” Now Available for Pre-Order!

70081760_568294170598543_7425837595373862912_o

Hello readers! Max here! Taking some time out of my day working on Fireteam Freelance (Patreon folks look for some nuggets from that soon!) to deliver some awesome news!

A Dragon and Her Girl, the second LTUE benefit anthology, is now up for pre-order! Contained within its pages? Twenty, yes twenty stories of dragons and heroines from a wide variety of authors old and new. Author’s like Mercedes Lackey. Or me!

That’s right! Recall all that talk about A Game of Stakes? Well, at long last it’s arriving! This is the collection it’s in! You guys can finally read it!

But not only will you get A Game of Stakes, but nineteen other stories of dragons and heroines! Plus, it’s a benefit anthology! Purchases of A Dragon and Her Girl go towards supporting LTUE’s student tickets, allowing students of all ages (K-12 and college) to attend LTUE at a heavily discounted price so they can learn to be the Sci-Fi and Fantasy creators of tomorrow!

So not only are you getting twenty awesome fantasy stories about dragons, you’re supporting students who are actively looking to learn! That’s a pretty good combo right there.

So quick, hop on over to the Amazon page for A Dragon and Her Girl and pre-order your copy! Or, if you’re going to be at LTUE, join us for the official launch party on Thursday, February 13th at 3 PM and pick up a hard-copy right there! Or hit up the signing later and get it autographed!

That’s all for now. Me, I need to get back to Fireteam Freelance. And you, readers? You’ve got a book of dragons to check out!

See you at LTUE!

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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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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The Emergency Update

Initial Emergency post here.

First of all, thank you everyone who posted get-well wishes, sympathy, and support for my sister. It was passed on an appreciated. She’d had a rough week already before everything went sideways at 40+ MPH, making the collision and totaling of her car the cherry on top.

However, she’s doing really well. The first two days were the roughest, as all the muscles across her body were not having a good time after the accident, and so bruised and tensed and whatnot were stiffening, swelling, and pulling her broken collarbone every which way they could. Tuesday morning she was too sore and stiff after sleeping to even get up.

But the swelling has faded, the muscles healing and loosening up, and my sister’s adjusted enough to having one functional arm at the moment that as of last night I am back in my own home.

I slept way in this morning lol. Catching up.

Okay, so there are two things I need to discuss now: how my sister’s doing, and what the status of Christmas updates for the site will be.

First up my sister: She’s well-cared for now. Her collarbone is broken, yes, but it’s a clean break and should heal well. She’s already seeing a sport-doc for it, and insurance, while a tangled, complicated mess, has at least let the wheels roll forward. It appears that she’ll be on leave from work for some time, but it’ll be covered, as well her medical and whatnot. There’s plenty to do going forward, but she’s gotten past the start, which was pretty much all uphill.

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