Nanowrimo, Reviews, and More – A News Post

Hello once again, folks! I’m back with a news post, and most of you know the drill. So … what’s happening lately?

Well, let’s start with the writing news. Stranded is almost finished up (draft-wise) which … is good. Stranded is one of those experimental projects I do to try out new things, and this one ballooned on me. I’ll be glad to finish it. While I wouldn’t call it a dud, I think both its experimental nature and its lack of full pre-planning before I just dove in did hurt it somewhat.

Does that mean it’s worthless? Of course not! I am glad of the experiments I was able to delve into with it, all of which I’m going to be able to put forth in an upcoming writing project I’ve been excitedly planning for a few years now (and which I’ve only mentioned a few times). Said writing project is still a ways off (don’t worry, we’ve got another Jacob Rocke book and of course Axtara – Magic and Mayhem to be worked on and written before I start this one) but it is one I’ve had in mind for a few years now, much like the UNSEC Space trilogy and Shadow of an Empire.

And you know, like Shadow of an Empire had the Ripper short in Unusual Events, I’m thinking that when I tidy up Stranded, one of the last shorts I’ll do before I get down to business on the Starforge draft might be a short story set in this new setting I’ve been envisioning. Like Ripper as a test-bed for the setting and some of the worldbuilding, to see if I’ve worked out some elements to my satisfaction or not.

Unlike with Ripper, however, hopefully this short story won’t creep so many people out it’s a de-facto dead end for most people’s reading of whatever collection it was in (if you’re not familiar with Ripper, it was so dark owing to its PoV character that many readers of Unusual Events stopped partway through it and never finished the collection, a lesson in “location” I learned the hard way. It’s a fantastic story, but for many it was a little too good considering the darkness of its subject matter).


Anyway, that’s what I’ve been working on. Tied in with that, it’s worth noting that this month is November, AKA Nanowrimo month! Nanowrimo, for those of you not familiar with it, is a yearly writing challenge given to aspiring novelists to sit down and write a short novel in a month, a total of 50,000 words across November’s 30 days.

Nanowrimo has gotten quite popular over the years, even among some authors that struggle to output more than a few thousand words a month using it as a catalyst to finally finish a book project.

This year? Nanowrimo has kicked off again. Now, I don’t participate in Nanowrimo. I’m a successful author who churns out books, and have a daily wordcount of 3000-4000 words. It’d be both redundant and, I feel, a little pretentious (and perhaps demoralizing) to those entering Nanowrimo who do find it a struggle to hit the given quotas to see someone whose literal job it is to put words on a page shattering a goal they themselves may struggle with because they’re trying to interspace it between whatever jobs they’re bouncing between.

Maybe I’m wrong? I don’t know, but it feels a bit fair because at it’s core, Nanowrimo is for (at least according to what I can see online) young writers trying to finish their first book.

I’m not saying I don’t support it. I do—and in fact, I want to know how many of you, readers, are participating and how it’s going so far? Comment below!—but rather that I don’t enter under the exact same logic that Kramer uses in Seinfield to join a junior karate class. Just … you know … not the same aim?

Now, if you’ve never entered Nanowrimo before but have always wanted to push yourself to finish up, or even start, a novel, then maybe this should be the year? We’re only a few days into November, so there’s still time to catch up! 50,000 works written by November 30th! You can do it!

And if you’ve decided to give it a shot, let us all know in the comments below!

Now, onto other news! We’ve got the holidays coming up!

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Shadow of an Empire Now Available in Paperback

Fantastic news, everyone! Shadow of an Empire is now available in paperback!

That’s right! The epic wild-west fantasy adventure is now available in dead tree. Weighing in at two-point-three pounds, this titanic tome of magic, gunplay, and steam is now suitable for adorning your shelf or coffee table at home. Or functioning as a dedicated thrown deterrent, though no guarantees are made for the durability of the book if used in this manner.

But what more do you really need to know? Shadow of an Empire, the desert-spanning fantasy adventure, is now in a format you can’t fall asleep while holding. Because it’ll land in your face or on your foot and it’s two pounds, people. That, and those of you that have read this one know you’re not going to be sleeping during its journey anyway. Block off your calendars, readers. You finish these 618 pages (that’s pure story, mind) in as few sittings as possible.

New to Shadow of an Empire (or indeed, the site itself)? You can read a free preview of the first few chapters right here, right now, in your browser. Just hit this link!

Love it, but short on cash? Fear not! Shadow of an Empire‘s ebook version (updated with this launch to V1.1) is still $3.99. But if you still desire to hold the weight of the paperback in your hands, Shadow of an Empire is available for expanded distribution! Want to support your local bookstore? They can order you a copy! Or better yet, you can request that your local library add it to their shelves, allowing not just you but a whole plethora of readers to discover the world of the Indrim Empire for the first time.

Basically, there are a lot of great options for getting your hands on Shadow of an Empire with this release. Or a multitude of hands.

So tell you friends, your library, your book club, your bookstore, even your pets. And enjoy your stay in Indrim.

Welcome to Shadow of an Empire.

Updates and Reminders for the Weekend!

Hey folks! You know, I debated on doing a more traditional post for the weekend, like an OP-ED or the like, but honestly? Instead I sat down and finished reading the Shadow of an Empire proof. Sands and Storms is that a ripping tale!

In addition, the proof was almost perfect. I’ve got a few minor changes to make this weekend or Monday, but all in all it’s largely ready to go. Just need to make a few minor adjustments, and it’ll be ready for launch.

You know what that means, don’t you? That’s right: Shadow of an Empire will be available in paperback form next week! And yes, this means that it most certainly will be a topic for Monday’s live Being a Better Writer Q&A. If you wanted to ask questions about getting a book ready for paperback print and what that entails, this Monday would be the proper time.

Which brings me to the next topic, a reminder that this coming Monday will not feature the standard Being a Better Writer article posting (outside of a link to a classic article), but instead be a live Q&A session with you readers using Discord to post questions which will be answered live via an audio stream. We’ve done a couple of these so far over on The Makalay Camp, the site’s official Discord server and they’ve been pretty successful. If a little light sometimes on viewers, since finding the right time for everyone is tricky. This coming week we’ll be holding it at a later hour: 5 PM MST. That’s Mountain Standard Time, so if you live east or west of that and want to participate, use Google or some other method (math?) to find out what time that would be for you, and then use your computer or your phone to join the site’s official Discord server! Come with questions!

As to how to get on the Discord server, there will be a link provided Monday morning in lieu of the usual BaBW post that will allow admission to the server for those who’ve not joined it before. Bring writing questions! After the Q&A is over, you can leave the server or stay part of it in order to chat or just gain occasional glimmers of news that seep through its channels.

With that, I believe I’m out of news! Have a good weekend everyone, and get ready for both the Q&A and the chance to hold your own paperback copy of Shadow of an Empire in your hands!

Weekend News (A Quick Post to See You Through)

Hello readers! Max here with a quick update/news post. First and foremost, if you’d like a preview of my weekend …

That’s right, the paperback proof for Shadow of an Empire arrived this week! And it’s a hefty chonk! With no remorse I placed it on a kitchen scale to bring you the exact weight: two pounds, one ounce!

That is a big novel. And that’s about a hundred pages less than Colony would be. Jungle would, by the same scale, be almost four pounds. Assuming it could even be bound.

Anyway, I’ll be spending the next little bit working on getting that finalized and ready for shipping! Just in time for … Halloween, I guess? Who doesn’t love a good Western in the fall?

Hit the jump for a few other updates on things, including Starforge news!

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A Trip to Alaska with Pictures and Video!

Hello readers, and welcome! Welcome to a visual tour of some of the highlights of my trip to Alaska! I know that a lot of you have been waiting for this, and I promise once I’m done I’ll get back to work on Shadow of an Empire, Stranded, and all my other projects, but let’s be honest … This is going to be a cool post.

A little background, for those of you that are new or unfamiliar with my personal history (and haven’t glanced at the About tab or read my author blurb at the end of my books): I grew up in Southeast Alaska. Also known as “The Panhandle,” it’s that little bit of Alaska that sticks down by Canada on the East side, where the capital of the state is. It’s also largely made up of islands, with the terrain severe enough that even cities that are technically on the mainland, like Juneau and Ketchikan, and only accessible via boat or plane. There’s no road to get to any of these places, the terrain is just too extreme unless you want to put a lot of money into it and go through Canada.

It’s a different place. Here’s a shot of my hometown taken on my flight out, from the air. No, you can’t see my house in that picture (it’s a ways south from the town itself), but you might notice the water all around it. Yup, it’s an island.

Wrangell island (and town) from the air, courtesy me.

That’s mainland behind it, leading into a lot of mountains and then Canada. But yeah, that’s my hometown. That’s where I grew up. Not very big. Tiny, in fact, unless you’re from anywhere that’s tinier (and there are, in fact, small places, like Elfin Cove and its population of probably a hundred people). But hey, it’s home.

Anyway, since I grew up there, I do occasionally tend to go back to visit and take part in consumption of fresh seafood. Growing up in a fishing/tourism town (also once logging, but that era is gone for the time being), I started working on fishing boats in my family when I was about 12 or 13, and well, that’s how I made it through college without any student loans. That and dividend savings (a whole ‘nother topic).

In any case, that’s why stuff on the site was extremely light these last few weeks: I was back in Alaska! Partaking in crab, shrimp, halibut … You know, all the good stuff. Oh, and pitching in on a fishing trip as well (because fish!). While taking plenty of pictures to show off the experience on the return! So hit that jump, and let’s get looking at some cool pictures and videos of Southeast Alaska.

Because WOW did I get some good ones. Before we do hit that jump I’ll say this up front: I grew up fishing on boats and working in Alaska, and yet this trip turned out to be one of the most spectacular I’ve ever seen. And now you’ll get to see it as well, through the lens of my phone. So yeah, hit that jump.

And if you want to go to Alaska and experience this kind of thing yourself, there’s probably not been a better time. After the Covid year, the state is desperate for tourists, and I’ve seen a lot of deals on flights, travel, and hotels. Get your shot and get going! It probably won’t be this cheap again!

Oh, quick warning, you guys are going to see a little fish blood and guts in a few of these shots. Be wary if you’re sensitive to blood. You’ll see it.

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Guess Who’s Back?

Hello readers! Guess who’s returned?

Yeah, I know. It’s not much of a guess. And I’m not quite 100% back yet. Physically, I’m back at my home at long last (after nearly four weeks of being away), so that’s not a worry. But as to the other kind of physically, I’m still pretty sore and tired. My fingers feel like they’ve been through the wringer, as do my hands and wrists. But hey, I can make a fist when I first wake up now so that’s progress! During the trip, at one point they were sore and swollen enough I could only just get my fingers to touch my palms when I woke up.

So I’m going to take another day or two. Oh, and this Monday there will not be a Being a Better Writer post. Why? Because when setting up the posts in advance, I completely missed that the last Monday I prepped for was Labor Day, a holiday I normally take off. Oops. So next Monday (this coming week) there won’t be a traditional post.

Which isn’t to say that there won’t be a post. No, far from it! Monday instead will see a compilation post of the last few weeks. Why? Because quite frankly a lot of people depend on ads and feeds to keep up with Being a Better Writer each week, and a number of those are manual. So quite a few people were just waiting for the notification to pop up rather than spend the time going to the site itself.

I get it. I’m not ragging on them. So this post will deliver to them all the content they may have been missing for the last four weeks.

After that? Well, I do have a large post coming. See, I took a lot of pictures this time. And video! Of some seriously awesome stuff that happened while I was in Alaska. Seriously, this trip made memories. I’ve never been as close to a killer whale (orca) pod as I came this trip. And when I say close, I mean they were close enough I could have hopped over the side of the boat and landed on one.

That close. And I got video. And pictures.

So yes, there will be a big post coming next week. But not Monday. And … I’m not actually sure when during the week either.

Why? Well, because something else happened while I was in Alaska. Something big. Something awesome.

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Big News!

Attention readers! It’s time for news, and I’ve got a doozy of a post for you in that regard.

So those of you that are long-time followers of the site may recall that back before I injured my knee, at least once a year I would head up to Alaska to work on a fishing boat and make some cash. Then I injured my knee, the injury was permanent, and that pretty much put and end to that.

Well, last week I got a call. A deckhand had quit short notice, and my old employer wanted to know if I wanted to try the job again. After some back and forth and agreement that we’ll have to play a lot of the job by ear due to my knee, but also that it’ll be a bit more relaxed than the “Witness me!” levels of commercial fishing’s usual dedication.

So I agreed to it. So near the end of next week, I’ll leave for Alaska on what will probably be close to three weeks of work. Though there is some variance with that. Two weeks is just the average, but there’s also the work getting the boat ready to go, getting the gear on it, etc.

Hopefully, I make it through without doing any extra damage to my knee, and come back with enough money to live at least the next few months without fear of immediate eviction (do not ask what my bank account looks like at the moment, just don’t).

Now, what does this mean for the site? Well … very little actually. I can schedule posts on Unusual Things, so there won’t be much change here outside of me being unable to approve comments from posters that look a lot like spam. But I’ll be writing next Monday’s Being a Better Writer post today, and then a bunch of them (along with other posts) next week before I leave, so posts here will still go up.

However, other sites that get excerpts of those posts? They don’t have scheduling. So before I leave each will get a notification post, and then person that follows the site through those locations will simply have to exercise their own efforts to come to the main site and see what the content is each week. Sorry, folks. There’s only so much I can do.

Anyway, there will be content while I’m gone (and if things stretch on really long, I’ll try to make some posts from my phone). When I get back, I’ll hit each of the places that don’t have scheduled updates or feeds with a nice summary post.

This does have other effects, of course. Remember Shadow of an Empire’s paperback copy? Well, I’m unlikely to get the proof before I leave (and even if I did, it’d be stuck with me in Alaska where it couldn’t do much good and I couldn’t do much work on it). Which means … release of the paperback will be delayed a bit.

Sorry guys. This was just unexpected. So … September then. Basically, as soon as I get back, I can get the proof ordered, and then once any errors there are cleared up, the book can go live.

Now, onto other news!

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It’s Done: Starforge’s Draft is Complete

I mean … what else do I need to say. Guys, it’s done. Just minutes ago, I jumped to a new page and typed out the final, pivotal words of a Sci-Fi trilogy that I can now accurately say stretches almost 1.3 million words in total. Those words?

THE END

Sands and storms, readers. Sands and storms. I feel drained. But at the same time, I feel like a weight the size of a planet (or maybe a whole universe) has left my shoulders.

It’s done.

I feel like I’m going to go for a nice bike ride while just … melting. That’s a good word for it.

Okay, so let me drop some numbers at you all. The project started (loosely, since the early weeks were spent also getting Axtara out) at the end of October/start of November 2020. The final wordcount? 502,800 and some change. At the end of July. So that’s half a million words written in about nine months, give or take a week.

Not bad at all, if I do say so myself. Bear in mind if you try to do a “daily average” breakdown, I don’t work Sundays, or all but a few Saturdays. Monday-Friday.

Let me see, more data. Thirty-six chapters, plus prologue, epilogue, and some interludes. A whole lot of deaths (fictional). Dozens of life-threatening situations. Trillions of US dollars in spaceships destroyed. Uncountable headaches.

And it’s done.

Now if you’ll all excuse me, I’m going to collapse.

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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Returned From Afar – Happy Memorial Day!

Hello readers! Guess who’s back?

Well, you don’t really have to. After all, this is a new post, not scheduled in any way! So it’s not much of a guess that I am back from my vacation.

And hoo-boy did I need it. I hadn’t realized exactly how stressed and overworked I’d become in the last few years of working with very few breaks. The first few days of my trip, I felt like my mind was one of those crazy metal puzzles with all the rings, but one that had been handed to someone after being passed to an overactive toddler and really bent into an odd shape. Over the last week, it’s gradually relaxed and fallen back into shape, unclenching into something a bit more recognizable.

Basically, five years without a real vacation was a little too much. Even during Christmas and other breaks I spent a lot of days running the site, writing other projects, planning … This vacation was the first time in years were I made a point of not even thinking about writing for the first few days. Complete disconnect.

Sands and storms did I need that.

Now I’m back! Relaxed, rejuvenated, and ready to once again to get back to work. Step one? Finishing Starforge. The last quarter is ready to explode into the finale, and I’m ready to write it.

Now, normally this would be the point were I dive into Being a Better Writer, since this is Monday. However, today is also a big holiday in the United States. Memorial Day, when we honor and remember all the fallen warriors that have given their lives in defense of this country. As in keeping with tradition, there will not be an installment of Being a Better Writer today.

However, as I have just come back from an extended break, I will be posting a shorter one tomorrow. So there’s that to look forward to.

Well, that and this awesome picture I took on my vacation. Are you ready? Check this out:

You see it? Right in the upper left-hand corner of the display? That is Axtara – Banking and Finance, proudly on display in my hometown’s library next to Dave Pilkey and a Wings of Fire book.

And yes, I signed it.

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