Straight Troping

Hello readers! I hope things are well with you in these turbulent times. Me? I’ve already voted. Now I’m just waiting for the madness of the election to be over so that book sales actually accomplish something once more. And, you know, actually exist.

I still don’t understand why elections and politics of all things hurt book sales the way they do … but they definitely do. I remember being skeptical of it myself when I was first told by a few other authors … but lo and behold, year after year whenever there’s a major political event going on … sales drop.

Weird. And slightly concerning, I think. Why is it that when two aged children shout “shut up” at one another on stage, book sales fall?

Though that said, if that money was instead going to bunkers and supporting the political party of “anyone but this” I’d understand.

Anyway … the imminent doom of the United States as an even faintly respectable country aside, let’s shift gears and talk about something else.

A black hole. Well, actually, TV Tropes. Same thing, really. If you’ve ever been sucked into the endless dissection of the tropes that make up your favorite show, game, book, or whatever, you know how much time you can lose reading up on these things (and if you’re unfamiliar with tropes, check this post for a primer).

But there’s another use for TV Tropes, and that’s to find material that you might enjoy. Got a trope or concept that you really enjoy? TV Tropes can be a handy reference for finding other entertainment or even non-fiction (and real-life) uses of a trope, concept, etc.

I’ve actually done this myself. Look up a trope for a concept I really enjoy, and then see what items are listed as showing those tropes off and add them to my “list of things to check out.”

So, where am I going with this (outside of giving some you ideas for where to find new material to enjoy)? Well, simply put the other day someone asked me about my books, and then when I mentioned Colony, asked: Does it have a TV Tropes page I could check out?”

To which I replied “I don’t actually know.” Which was truthful. It had been a long time since I’d looked, and there was a chance one had popped up. But after a quick look I had to tell them “No, not for Colony.” Dead Silver and One Drink yes, but Colony? No.

Worse, I can’t actually do anything about this. I have no idea if I made or lost a sale based off of that, but as I understand it, creators themselves are not supposed to submit TV Tropes pages or edits on things they themselves created. A rule which I understand and respect. But it does mean that a TV Tropes page will and can only exist if there are fans who are “tropers” (or people who do work on the TV Tropes pages).

So, the point of this post is to ask: Are any of you tropers? And if so, did you enjoy Colony, Jungle, or Shadow of an Empire enough to feel like putting them on TV Tropes for those looking for them?

That’s all. Just asking. Like I said, as far as I understand it, that’s about the limit of a creator’s involvement. But a TV Tropes page for Colony and Jungle would be really nice … hint hint.

Again, it’s just a thought. I hope you’re all getting ready for a fantastic Halloween weekend. Stay healthy and safe!

It’s Official: Starforge is the Most Stressful Thing I’ve Ever Written

All right, readers. It’s time to come clean. Last night, as I lay trying to sleep at around 4 AM, my mind whirling with questions and maybes and possibilities concerning Starforge, I realized something.

Starforge is officially the most stress-inducing project I’ve worked on in a long time.

Perhaps being kept up until hours like 5 AM thinking “Maybe I need to start over. Redo the entire opening like this?” should be taken as a massive clue.

For the record I’ve not restarted the entire opening. Though … yeah, even at 100,000 words in, I’ve considered completely redoing it from another angle. More than once. Technically I’ve already done it too; earlier in the project I cut 20,000 words and started the opening in a completely different way.

This project is stressing me out.

Why? Well, it’s pretty simple. Starforge is the finale of a trilogy. There are two books before it, both really well received and loved by a lot of people. Further still, those who have read the sequel have ranked it better than the first book, even as it drove things forward toward a finale. So the trend is now I have to deliver a finale that’s the apex of all three, tie everything up, keep everything from almost a million words of prior content straight, reference it, use it …

Yeah … starting to see how I might be a little stressed out? And of course, stress like that makes it harder to work (lack of sleep, etc) which has made me more concerned that the final product could be below the bar, which leads to more stress, which …

Yup. It’s self-enforcing at this point. The worst part is, I’m not quite sure what to do outside of trust my instincts (I had lighter versions of this for previous works and they turned out all right) and keep working forward.

Starforge has to be the best thing I’ve written to date. Full stop. If that means rewriting almost 100,000 words of it, then so be it. That’s only two months worth of work. This is the big finale. The end. Everything the prior two books led up to comes to a head here. This is it.

I can’t stop. One way or another Starforge is going to release. And it will be the next book I release after Axtara. But it has to be the best thing I’ve written. Every bit of character I’ve built up so far, every nuance, every bit of development. All of it needs to peak here.

I’m just praying I can pull this off.

Anyway, I’m about to dive back into it. Wish me luck, folks. This is the mountain of mountains thus far in my career, and that peak has got a lot of obstacles on it.

Now if I could just get some sleep …

Last Chance for the Sale!

Whoa! Hold up there! This is your last alert! Today is the last day to get everything I’ve published on a 50% or better sale for the Big 300 Sale (a sale made in honor of reaching 300 ratings and reviews while still keeping a 4.6 out of 5 average—no mean feat)! Which means you’ve got the following books available on steep discount!


Colony and Jungle

$1.99

A corporate investigator who doesn’t trust his employer. A mercenary gun-for-hire with a talent for violence and a willingness to shoot first. And a white-hat hacker who doesn’t know when to quit.

Three independent contractors brought together for one unusual job. Five years ago, master programmer Carlos Rodriguez retired. Now his old employer wants him back.

Quietly.

It’d be a lot easier if he hadn’t left Earth.

Read a free sample by clicking this link!


$3.99

Jake, Anna, and Sweets are back in the long-awaited sequel to Colony!

Fresh off their mission to Pisces, the trio is looking forward to a well-deserved rest, and better yet, a fat paycheck after everything that occurred on the alien world. But all that comes to a crashing halt when they’re waylaid above Earth by their employer and find themselves with an extended contract, sending them right back out into space.

Worse yet, their trio has been split to best handle their new assignments. Jake and Anna find themselves attached to a scientific expedition, tasked as security escorts keeping the expedition safe as they investigate a new potential colony world thriving with a vast, vibrant jungle. Meanwhile, Sweets has been assigned aboard an UNSEC military vessel, tracking down the source of a pervasive cyberattack against their hardware.

But as both teams get to work, it’s clear that there may be more to their respective missions than they were led to believe. The cyberattacks are brazen and powerful, but simplistic and utterly untraceable. The alien world’s ecology defies logic and sense, puzzling the expedition team.

And above it all, the ripples of events on Pisces continue to spread through the galaxy …

Read a free preview by clicking here!

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Updates and News!

Hey folks! How’ve you been?

I know, I know, I’ve been quiet this week. There’s a good reason for that, actually. and it has to do with out first bit of news here. Basically, I’ve been away from my keyboard and desktop a lot this week. At least, during my working hours.

Sounds odd, right? After all, shouldn’t I be at the keyboard? Normally, yes (and don’t worry, the lack of writing bugs me too). But there’s a good reason: Starforge is coming. And so I’ve been reading through Colony and Jungle all week, getting myself  caught up on every little detail and nuance before I start work on the big finale. I’ve finished Colony already, and I’m blistering my way through Jungle at the moment.

By the way, I’ve been doing this with a new ereader (the absolutely awfully named, but otherwise fine, “Boox Poke2) which means I’ve been using the Kindle App rather than my old Kindle (both are still e-ink, however). Anyway, this newer reader has a feature for Kindle that’s quite nice: Estimated reading time. When you start a book, it shows you the average reader time to completion, and then adjusts it to match whatever pace you set.

Jungle? The average was something like 29-35 hours. The thing is a titan of words.

Actually, that’s only one of the amusing things I learned reading through Colony and Jungle this week. The other was … Well, for those of you who don’t read ebooks often, Kindle has a neat feature where readers can highlight passages from books, and if enough people highlight the same passage, a small dotted, light-grey line will show up in everyone else’s copy (if the feature is turned on) to show that people have marked the passage. Originally this was created with the intent of helping folks perusing non-fiction texts find relevant sections (like students searching for a date) but has since become a staple for a lot of fiction readers for favorite quotes, insightful lines, etc.

Anyway, I was both surprised and elated to find Colony now bearing such markers! A milestone I didn’t even realize was there until it arrived, but it did make me feel a nice inner glow to see a number of people marking moments in my work as insightful and worth referencing. Time to see how many I find (if any yet) in Jungle!

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First to Fifty

I’ve been pretty quiet this week, as many of you may have noticed. No posts after Being a Better Writer save this one (a few days later), etc. But … I’ve had good reason.

For starters, I’ve been in the middle of the finale for Fireteam Freelance all week. Yeah, the big ultimate showdown. So as you can imagine, if I’ve been writing at all, it’s been on that rather than anything else.

But that’s come with some other complications as well. See, Monday night I started developing a sore throat.

Sands and storms, right? By Tuesday it was especially pronounced, and well … with Covid-19 going around and a sore throat being one of the symptoms, I went into deeper self-isolation (read, I didn’t leave my place) these last few days waiting to see if any other symptoms would appear.

Thankfully, none have, and as of today, the sore throat has almost completely vanished outside of a faint occasional itch showing where it once was. Bullet. Dodged.

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Happy Memorial Day!

Unsurprisingly, when I posted last Friday, I absolutely forgot that today was Memorial Day! It had registered at some point in the back of my mind, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I connected things far enough to realize “Hold on a moment, I don’t do Being a Better Writer on Memorial Day. It’s a holiday.”

So there won’t be a Being a Better Writer post today. Instead, go out and celebrate Memorial Day! Or honor it, if that’s open to you.

colony-finalAnd if you’re looking for something to do, well, why not grab a copy of Colony and get caught up for your Fireteam Freelance binge?

Either way, enjoy your Memorial Day, all of you, and I’ll see you another day! And if you’re really bummed there isn’t a new Being a Better Writer post today, hit that search bar on the side and browse some old ones! Even I forget how many there are these days!

News: New Fireteam Freelance Episode, Quarantine Chat, Trial for a Dragon, and more!

Hey readers! It’s time for a dose of site news! And while there was an order to things in the title above, the first thing I’m going to do is toss that aside, because the very first thing I have to talk about, that I want to talk about is that there’s a new episode of Fireteam Freelance tomorrow!


That’s right, tomorrow morning Underground Orbit drops on the site, as the team picks up a new mission that requires them to take on a very different approach while … naked? Who’s paying for this, and why are these missions getting so strange anyway?

No matter what, though, it’s sure to be not what you expect! So tomorrow morning be at the ready! Episode three of Fireteam Freelance is here at last!


Naturally, this does mean that the time has come for me to start going over responses from Alpha Readers for A Trial for a Dragon. The submission date draws ever closer, and there are definitely changes to make in these next few days, so that’ll be my next move, starting today. At this point a good number of Alpha Readers have finished it, so the draft is full of feedback comments which I’ll start working on today. Once Trial is shifted, depending on how much rewriting was done for the feedback, there may be a fast and aggressive Alpha 2 before darting to Beta. We’ll see how confident everyone is in the changes I make.

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Quarantine Chat: Colony – The Film (Or Show?)

colony-finalHello readers! As we settle into the second (or for some, third or fourth) week of pandemic quarantine, I figured it’d be nice to help ease the stress of things to talk about something amusing and entertaining, even if, at this time, only hypothetical:

What if … a studio bought the rights to make Colony a feature of some kind?

It’s a fun hypothetical because there’s a lot of different ways you could do it. Film. Series. Animated. Live action.

Which one would you want to see? Or better yet …


Who would be the actors? Who would you want to see playing Jake, Anna, and Sweets? Who do you think could fill the shoes of the trio?

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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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