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.

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.

Continue reading

Merry Christmas!

MERRY CHRISTMAS READERS!

Yeah, there’s not much else to say here. This isn’t going to be a long post. Short and sweet, because all of us have things we want to do for our Christmas Eve! Myself included! And really quick: Axtara – Banking and Finance is out, and there’s a Christmas Sale on! Anyway …

I love the Christmas season. I love being able to wish everyone a Merry Christmas as I’m out and about. I love seeing everyone’s homes all decorated with bright, cheery lights. And I love being able to drag out all the Christmas songs of good cheer, love, and peace on Earth. Christmas is, even in 2020, that one time of the year when people seem to feel a bit more dedicated to seeing and spreading good will.

Which has been great, because if there ever was a year where some peace on Earth and good will toward mankind was needed, 2020 is definitely a standout in recent memory.

So what’s the point of this post? Well, to maybe help that out a little. To wish you all a Merry Christmas with friends, family, associates … whoever. And to talk a little bit about Christmas itself.

Christmas is a special time of year. A season set apart from the rest of the chaos of day to day life to celebrate a birth some 2000-odd years ago. I think it says a lot about the spirit and meaning behind that birth that even those who don’t hold it in special regard still enjoy and respect the season itself that it’s in celebration of. It’s a special season, and I hope that all of you readers out there have found a place, a reason, or a gift to celebrate, contemplate, and rejoice in.

Merry Christmas. To all of you.

Now, before you go, I have one last thing to share. One thing I love about Christmas is the music. From classic carols to modern classics like Mariah Carey (yes, I like that song). And as I puzzled over how this year to make this post a bit more meaningful, I hit on it! I’m going to share one rendition of one of my favorite Christmas songs, Carol of the Bells. No particular rendition (there are a lot of them out there). But that’s not all. I’m going to link it, but then I’d urge all of you to find and share some of your own favorite Christmas songs in the comments for everyone to listen to.

Merry Christmas readers. May you have peace, love, and joy this holiday season.

Classic Being a Better Writer: The Ellipses and the Em-dash, Odd Forms of Punctuation

Hello readers! Welcome to this week’s Being a Better Writer! If this post looks a little familiar to you, well that’s likely because you’ve seen it before! That’s right, I’m on vacation for Christmas (barring that there’s no way I’ll be taking a break tomorrow when Axtara – Banking and Finance releases) so for the next few weeks we’ll be seeing some older, classic Being a Better Writer posts showing up some of you may have missed. This week? Well, this post on ellipses and the em-dash isn’t too old (about a year and a half) … but it was a fun post that came with a neat follow-up and some odd tidbits of knowledge.

Now, before we dive into it, I do want to remind you all that Axtara – Banking and Finance releases tomorrow, and is available for pre-order now. In fact, you can order it (if you’re in the US) just by clicking the cover to the left there, or by searching for “Axtara Banking and Finance” on whatever Amazon you use if international. Axtara is a charming Young Adult Fantasy novel about a young dragon setting out to open her own bank and … Well, I won’t spoil anything past that, but come on. That premise is solid enough as is.

As I said, it comes out tomorrow, and it’s $4.99. Pre-orders and day one sales help it earn momentum and find new eyeballs, so grab it when it you can. It also, I would note, is a fantastic Christmas gift if you’re looking for a stocking stuffer for the reader in your life. Especially if they at all enjoy YA Fantasy or female protagonists.

So, go ahead and order that! Then come back here and get ready to read about the ellipses. That form of punctuation that you see used a lot, but many teachers never discuss. They’ll talk all about a period, or a comma, or a question mark …

Continue Reading …

Merry Christmas, readers!

Merry Christmas

Hello readers.

Nope, this isn’t a plug or an ad. None of that today. Or tomorrow. Instead, I’m just going to wish you all a merry Christmas.

Once a year, a good chunk of the world gathers together to celebrate. Many do it because of a single birth several thousand years ago, a birth that resonated throughout human history and still does today. And some do it because they like the message that birth brought, even if they may not believe in it.

But either way, the world gathers to celebrate. With a little kindness, with a little faith, with a little beauty. As a family. Or as friends. We gather and we celebrate and we enjoy Christmas traditions of varying scope and breadth.

Two thousand or so years ago, a birth changed the world. This week, we exchange gifts, we play rounds of Halo, we nervously glance at mistletoe. we make snow angels, we exchange books, we eat meat … or any number of other Christmas traditions.

We all come together, as best we can, and celebrate in togetherness, kindness, and charity. All from a single, pivotal birth two-thousand years ago.

Merry Christmas everyone. Make the most of it, and may it be, as the songs put it, merry and bright.

Being a Better Writer: Doing Good to Others

Hello readers. First of all, I want to say “Thank you for being patient.” This, the last Being a Better Writer post of the year, was supposed to arrive last Monday. But, as most of you know (only newcomers being exempt), my younger sister was involved in a car accident Sunday night that was extremely blessed not to be more serious. Modern car safety is a wonderful thing. She survived a head-on collision with another car (they ran a red light) with only a broken collarbone. I spent a few days away from home helping her out as she dealt with the worst of it. You can get a bit more detail here.

But thank you for waiting. This has definitely thrown my usual Christmas schedule topsy-turvy.


Now, before we get to the post directly, a bit of obligatory Christmas plugging. Normally its own post but … topsy-turvy. So …

If you’re looking for any last minute, low-cost Christmas gifts or digital stocking stuffers, have you considered the virtues of handing someone a book for Christmas? A multi-page doorway into adventure, fortune, peril, and wonder, all from the comfort of someone’s favorite cozy chair or nook?

If you haven’t, than I’d heartily recommend it. Not only are books a great gift, they’re a great value for the buck too! A single, $6 book can take days of excitement to get through. Compare that to the stocking stuffer DVD that’s only an hour and a half for the same price.

Now, if you’re unsure about what books to grab people, never fear! I’ve got answers there too! Do they like fantasy? Lord of the Rings? Or westerns? Shadow of an Empire is $6, and a perfect gift for those that love horseback chases, shootouts, magic, and peril.

Or maybe they like science fiction? Epic adventures to alien worlds with starships, lasers, and AIs? Colony is only $4, while its sequel Jungle is $8. You can grab both for someone’s Christmas for just $12!

Maybe they like a little bit of everything? Or prefer shorter stories that they can get through in a few short glances? Unusual Events: A “Short” Story Collection is only $4 and has exactly what they’ll desire: A little bit of everything in one nice package! Perfect for a stocking.

Or maybe they like more dedicate mysteries? Perhaps with a bit of paranormal in the mix? You can give them the gift of both Unusuals novels to date, One Drink and Dead Silver, for a total of $4.

Sands, you could drop the entire set into their stocking, a combined reading length of 5,700 pages (or about 115 hours worth of reading for the average American), for a cost of $26. That’s a pretty epic value.

Curious? Take a look.

Now, with the Christmas plug over, let’s talk about the final Being a Better Writer post of the year. It’s going to be a little different, I expect, but in tune with the spirit of the Christmas season. I want to talk about Doing Good to Others. Yes. as a writer.

Continue reading

The Last Call of Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas readers! It’s Christmas Eve here, which is the traditional time in my family to start opening gifts from friends and family. So, as some of you already know, I thought this year I’d give you all a gift in the form of a Christmas story.

A Jacob Rocke Christmas story. That’s right: set in the Unusuals Universe.

Is it weird? Of course it is. And it’s also a bit rough about the edges (it hasn’t seen any formal editing yet, but give me a break, I only finished it Friday). But hey, it’s a free Jacob Rocke story, and that’s a pretty sweet.

Later this’ll make it to More Unusual Events, but for now? Merry Christmas, guys. Enjoy.

Continue reading

“The Last Call of Christmas Eve” on Patreon!

Heads up, readers! Quick question: Are you a supporter of the site on Patreon? If so, rejoice, for the Jacob Rocke Christmas tale The Last Call of Christmas Eve has just gone up for you to read!

It’s odd. It’s strange (plus pre-Alpha, so you’ll probably find some typos). And it’s a Christmas story. I won’t spoil it for you, but you can find it over on Patreon if you’re a supporter of $1 or more a month!

Those of you who are not Patreon supporters will just have to wait until Christmas Eve. Or for the eventual release of More Unusual Events. Which is going to happen, but not anytime soon (there are several books in front of it in the queue).

Oh, and we’re at eight to go in nine days on Goodreads! So close!

Merry Christmas folks! I hope you’re having a good one!

Ten for Nine

Hey readers! I did say I’d be posting things here during my break, though not quite as often. So, a few things to note.

First, if you’re looking for a last-minute gift (we are getting down to the wire here) or just something fun to read over the break, consider heading on over to my Books page and picking a title or two up. Not only do they make great gifts, buying one helps me out too.


All right, enough shilling, though if you enjoy my works, you’re going to like this next bit of news. Right now, there’s a word document open on my desktop. The title? The Last Call of Christmas Eve. I got a little bit of work done on it this week, and now I’m finishing it today.

It’s a Jacob Rocke Christmas story, readers. And it’ll be up to read for Patreon Supporters tomorrow. And here on my site in time for Christmas Eve.

That’s right: Merry Christmas. You’re getting a new Jacob Rocke short. What’s it about? Hah! No telling. You’ll have to make your guesses based on the title.

Now, this short will show up in print later (It’ll end up in More Unusual Events), and since I am getting this ready last minute, don’t expect too much in the way of editing. But hey, my drafts tend to be pretty clean, so it’ll be readable regardless. Also, free Christmas story involving one of my first characters.


One more bit of news, then I’m off to keep working on it: I am nine ratings away from my end-year goal of 100 on Goodreads. NINE (EDIT: It’s now eight, but I’m not updating the title). So. Close. And with ten days to the New Year, that’s the cause for the title of this post. If you have a Goodreads account and have not yet, please head over and leave your rating on my books! More Goodreads ratings (as well as higher numbers of reviews on Amazon) mean more new readers willing to take a fresh look, and that’s always good!

Anyway, I get to go write about Jacob Rocke and … well, I can’t tell you that. But I get to go do that right now. Merry Christmas to all, and I’ll see you (figuratively) real soon!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas readers!

Sands and Storms, it really has been a whole year, hasn’t it? It almost doesn’t feel like it, but another one has passed. Somewhere between the hours poking away at a keyboard, it all added up, and once more we’ve arrived at the finale of the year.

Christmas.

Okay, some might count New Years, but dang it, that’s next year. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. The last holiday of the year, the one that matters most to me, is Christmas.

A lot of reflection goes into this season. Which it should, don’t get me wrong. This is a holiday dedicated to remembering the birth of the Savior and all that comes with it. Ideally, self-reflection should be involved. It’s a holiday where we can sit back and think about things for a little while. Look at where our lives have been. And where they’re headed.

This, by the way, isn’t at all what I expected to post when I started writing this, but then again that’s sometimes how these things go. I’m just rolling with it.

Continue reading