Merry Christmas, Readers

Well, it’s been a year, hasn’t it? I mean more in the sense of a weight than a unit of time.

Perhaps that’s why I felt more of a need for Christmas this year. A want, really. A desire for the holiday season to arrive. There’s been so much shameless greed and Scroogian heartlessness this year that by before Halloween I was looking at my Christmas playlist with a note of longing for “peace on Earth, good will toward men.”

This year it’s the latter part of that phrase that’s really stuck with me. “Good will toward men.” There’s been a lot going on that shows many have discarded the phrase. We’re seeing naked, unabashed greed in ways we never have before. A dearth of sympathy. A desert of what once was understanding and mankind reaching across differences to extend one another a helping hand.

People make the decisions they make, and we can’t change that. However, we don’t have to contribute. We don’t have to make our own lives a desert. We can be an oasis, a small, vibrant green lake of kindness, understanding, and love. We can live up to that Christmas spirit, and bring “peace on Earth, good will toward men” in our own space.

“Good will toward men.” It’s not easy, certainly. It involves a willingness to look outside one’s own limited, immediate needs and concerns. It often means giving up one’s own immediate security or comfort to give aide to another. And yet, there’s something gratifying about the very act of doing good, something that heals the soul and soothes the spirit more than simply holding on to what we had ever would have done.

Perhaps then, this is why those who do not practice “good will toward men” are ever increasingly desperate to hold to what they have. They say the peace and understanding that good will grants others, the serenity even in difficult times, and rationalize that they too can achieve that if only they tighten their hold a little harder or gain just a little more. But really, all it does is further dry the desert, making those who have made their lives an oasis of kindness all the more vibrant and green by comparison.

Peace on Earth. Good will toward men. It’s not an exact, direct quote of what is recorded in the book of Luke (that would be “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men”) but it’s certainly a more modern phrasing that many recognize. Words delivered by angelic heralds to shepherds near Bethlehem on the night of the Savior’s birth. An event that would leave its mark on the world for centuries to come, and that had been looked forward to and prophesied for centuries before. Millenia, really, though that doesn’t quite flow off the tongue as well.

Peace on Earth. Good will toward men. Both a proclamation and, in a way, a calling. A request. A duty for those who followed the footsteps of Him whose birth the angels sang. A path that, as He himself often noted, wouldn’t always be easy … but would bring with it great joy and personal peace.

So this Christmas season, as billions gather around the globe to celebrate and commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, Savior of mankind … Even if you yourself may not happen to be one of them, let those words spoken at the occasion of His birth be with all of us, and carried into the new year.

Peace on Earth, good will toward men.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Peace and good will be with you.

Merry Christmas, So Have Some Christmas Cutting Room Floor Peeks!

Merry Christmas folks! Yes, I know I’m on vacation, but this post is a good idea. See, last week a reader posted saying that since they’re not getting a new Axtara book this Christmas (Christmas is magic, but not that magic) they’d love to see some of the cut content that doesn’t make it into final books or stories from across my library.

Personally, I thought that it was a pretty good idea! I do have a pretty solid collection of cut scraps, partial stories that never went anywhere, material that got cut, chopped, completely rebuilt, etc. And that sort of thing is pretty popular these days. You can watch blooper reels or cut scenes from films, look at sketches of scenes for animation or graphic novels that were cut and never made it, and I do have a decent amount of that stuff!

So today I’m going to share it with you. Those of you that have read the final products, you’re definitely going to see some serious differences on show here, and not because of editing—though in that regard, yes be aware that some of this stuff is old as well as unedited and raw. Which could be one reason it was cut.

Anyway, let’s dive through the cutting room floor of writing and take a look at some snippets from original drafts, cut content, and stories that didn’t make it! Merry Christmas, and enjoy!

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Let’s Share Some Christmas Music!

Hey folks! Max here!

So I’m not quite on my break yet, though as of posting, that might be a different story (got my COVID booster today and it’s expected to knock me back a bit). But it is the Christmas season, and I was thinking about that this week, and well … Though I can’t deliver an Axtara sequel out of thin air (sorry folks, but not even the magic of Christmas is as strong as the realities of writing), I can do some fun stuff.

And one thing that I undoubtedly like about the holiday season is its music. I love Christmas music, both the goofy fun stuff and the more solemn, thoughtful pieces. I’ve been listening to my Christmas-channel on Pandora for weeks now, enjoying every minute of it.

So hey, why not share a few of my favorite Christmas songs here? And ask all of you what yours are? At the worst, we get a few minutes of joyous Christmas music to listen to, right?

No beating around the bush here. Let’s dive right in!


Now, I don’t know if it’s just because I loved the movie as a kid or if because it captures—to me, at least—the feeling of Christmas night, but I love the song Carol of the Bells. For me, this is the song I built my Christmas Pandora playlist around. I love it. It’s a bit mysterious, but also joyous, with various versions over the years focusing on different aspects of it, but all of them good.

Compare these two versions, for example. Both are fantastic. Both great. Both the same song, but also their own takes.

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Recombobulating Reticulation

Hey readers! I live! And not in excruciating pain!

So, let’s offer a little update, shall we? I am at last getting back on track, though even today only counts as a partial step in that direction. I got my back snapped back into place Monday, but after four days of it being in a very wrong position, the muscles were complaining for quite some time. I’m using a spare chair as I write this, my old chair firmly retired, and should have a new one by Christmas (it’s already been ordered). And I’m still catching up on lost sleep from those four days of pure pain.

What does this all mean? Well … the back being thrown out put me a week behind schedule (I didn’t turn my PC on for almost 5 days). I’m just now starting to get my brain back in the game fully, without an undercurrent of pain taxing everything I do. Which means everything that I had planned for Christmas on the site is now a bit scattered and disorganized … and with only ten days until Christmas!

What plans did I have? Well, I’m still reorganizing those, but without the back injury I would have been almost done if not done with the edit pass for Stranded, and I could just be uploading it as a sort of Christmas gift for readers of my experimental stuff. That can still happen, but it is going to be delayed.

Plus, I was kind of hoping to do a small Christmas story right after I did that for the Patreon Supporters. But again, now I’m behind and facing a much closer ticking clock.

That, and I do still want to do the usual Merry Christmas post I put up as the day itself approaches. Plus another post plugging my books as holiday gifts one last time before Christmas arrives …

So then, with all that said, I turn to you, readers. I’m poring over Stranded and getting that ready. That’s happening one way or another so that I can get to Starforge at long last.

But what would you like to see on the site before Christmas? I’ve got some ideas, such as discussion pieces. But do you want to see a Patreon Supporter short? A vote for a holiday story of some kind? What would you like to see?

Granted if the answer is “A new Axtara book” (this is a common request I get these days) then you might have to be patient for a bit longer (books take a bit of work). But on the site? Anything you were hoping for? I’m going to try and fit everything I can in while still getting a vacation, but I’ll do my best to get both done.

So leave a comment. As I reschedule and reorganize, please bear with me, and did any of those posts sound particularly interesting to you?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello readers!

This post is going to be pretty short and to the point: Happy Thanksgiving! At least, if you’re in the US. If you’re in Canada, I believe you’ve already had your Thanksgiving, and if you’re in other countries, clearly you won’t be celebrating a US holiday, but the same sentiment applies: I wish you all a wonderful weekend, and hope that you’re able to find time to spend with friends and family, as well as with yourself.

Me? Well I’ll be finishing up my Stranded project, eating food, and enjoying some rare luxurious free time. I actually hit my monthly work quota on Monday, so I’m ahead of the curve by a substantial margin, leaving me plenty of time to kick back and enjoy some of these holiday days coming up.

Now, the big question is “Will there be a Being a Better Writer post on Monday after the holiday weekend?” The answer is “Yes.” Along with a quick reminder that there’s still time to request topics for upcoming posts over at the last Topic Call.

As far as other news goes, well … I’ll save that for Monday. Today is the day before Thanksgiving. If you’re preparing a Thanksgiving feast, best of luck to you, and are you making anything neat or special this year? Myself, I bought a ham. Because I really like ham, and I’m not the one making the turkey (which I almost bought anyway). Plus rolls, gotta mention the family roll recipe. With luck, I can spread the leftovers and whatnot out through next week!

So anyway, I hope you’re all able to have a wonderful weekend (Thanksgiving or not). We’re headed full speed into the holiday season (of which I’m a fan), and I hope the ride is smooth for all of you.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Oh, and you know what? In the tradition of being thankful for something, I’d like to add a little something to the end of this post that I’m thankful for: You! All of you! Thank you for your support, your encouragement, and your love of my work. It’s an absolute blessing and a joy that I’m able to write books for the world to love and make something at it, and I’m very thankful that I’m able to, and for all of you who have helped make it possible.

If you’ve got something you’re thankful for and wish to share it (or just want to talk about your planned Thanksgiving dinner), feel free to leave a comment below.

See you Monday, folks! And again, have a happy Thanksgiving.

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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Independence Day Sale!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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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The Bi-Weekly Report: Happy St. Patrick’s Day

You know, if you’re looking for one more way to celebrate, Axtara—the titular protagonist of Axtara – Banking and Finance—is green. You can read the first few chapters for free here, or pick up your own copy here! Or even just adorn your device background with her cheerful grin!

Since I’m on the topic of Axtara, she’s reached a grand total of 20 ratings and reviews now. All of them granting her Five Stars. There hasn’t been a disappointed reviewer yet! Or even one that’s just slightly impressed.

And that? It’s pretty pleasing. To paraphrase one review, ‘Axtara knocks it out of the park,’ and that brings me a lot of joy. Which is great, because so far Axtara seems to be bringing a lot of readers old and young a lot of joy as well, like I’d hoped it would. So it’s like one big circle of joy.

Best of all, I’ve been hearing from readers that have passed it on to their teenage girls that they absolutely love it. Success! Here’s to more reviews in the coming weeks, and thousands of new readers as those who fell in love with Axtara share their newfound find with others!


Since we’re on the topic of both reviews and green covers, Colony and its sequel Jungle got some more love this last weekend from reviews. Colony might be over four years old at this point, but it’s still garnering praise from readers of Sci-Fi and picking up new readers. Which is good, because Starforge is inching step by step towards completion and wrapping the whole thing up.

But yeah, if you’re not in the mood for green dragons for Saint Patrick’s Day, well, Jungle is also full of a lot of green. A lot of it. In a most threatening manner. You can check out a free preview here if Sci-Fi is your thing, but you’re still looking to stick to that St. Patrick’s Day tradition.


Speaking of Starforge, the current draft is now at 310,000 words. Continued progression, like clockwork, with each daily quota. It’s still somewhere near the 66-70% done marker, but with a book that has to tie up this much, that’s probably not a surprise to any of you. As to when, roughly, this draft will be finished? I’d rather not make predictions at the moment, but I do write 3000-4000 words a day for my daily quota, so rest assured there is progress.

Speaking of progress, to my utter shock I discovered it had been almost a year since I touched Stranded. Sure, it was a weekend fan project, but … Well, there was 2020. That was a thing. And Stranded appears to have been a casualty. But not a fatal one. I’ve been spending my Saturdays adding to it and getting it moving forward once more,

Of course, that isn’t my only Saturday project. Progress continues on getting the Shadow of an Empire paperback worked out. Granted, two Saturday projects (plus this being tax season) mean that it’s taking a little while, but with then there’s this next bit of news …

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Axtara – Banking and Finance is OUT!

Happy day to all! For it is on this day, December the 22nd, 2020, that one of the standout moments of what many would agree has been a year, has occurred.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Axtara – Banking and Finance is out!

For those of you who’ve missed it (entirely possible, I’ll admit) Axtara – Banking and Finance is a Young Adult Fantasy novel telling the tale of the titular Axtara, a young dragoness leaving the nest and setting out for the edge of the known civilized world with a single goal: to found and operate her own bank.

Naturally, it’s not going to be easy. The small kingdom she’s headed to has never had a bank before.

Of course, it’s never had a dragon either …

Axtara is available as an ebook, and is also on Kindle Unlimited. A print edition is planned for January, but let’s be honest, right now is the season to curl up with a book and read a fun fantasy. So click the cover there and give it a look!

But before you close this tab, I do want to mention one other little thing: In celebration of the season, and of the new book, there’s also a big sale going on the rest of my library. Been eyeing Jungle or Shadow of an Empire for a time and waiting to pick a copy up? Now’s your chance! Head on over to my author page and take a look! If you’re looking for stocking stuffers for a reader out there, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for! Go go go!

And have a Merry Christmas filled with dragons, wild west shootouts, and spaceships!