Read the First Four Chapters of Shadow of an Empire Absolutely Free!

We understand: Shadow of an Empire can be a daunting prospect for a reader. A nine-hundred-plus page book? In paperback? Is it even worth the money? The reviews say yes, but folks don’t always trust reviews. They’d like to experience what’s between the pages themselves.

Which is why as we’ve done with our other books, we’ve made the first four chapters of Shadow of an Empire free to read for all. Right through your device and broswer. No catches, no subscription needed, no personal information required. Go ahead, open it in an incognito tab if you so desire! We don’t mind! Four chapters of Wild-West Fantasy adventure, right here at your fingertips.

It’s as easy as clicking the cover below. Hit that gorgeous sunny scene, and if your time in the deserts of Indrim leaves its impression, you can pick up a personal copy from our books page (or your local bookstore can order it for you). Enjoy!

News and the Usual Updates: Starforge, New Projects, Etc

Hey readers.

I acknowledge that there’s a bit of a pallor cast over the day for most people. Russia’s long-hinted at invasion of Ukraine is … Well, there’s no way to sugar-coat it. Unwelcome feels like too polite a word for things. Over there. I actually do have friends in Ukraine who’ve been watching things shift and slide, and so this latest development … All I can say is that I hope they’re okay.

As far as what Putin hopes to achieve with this naked aggression, I can only say that those who aspire to power will constantly crave it in any form they can find, and when that power starts to erode, desperate, foolish grabs become more and more appealing. Foolish grabs like starting a new war in Europe.

Anyway, I’m not deeply read-in on a lot of what’s currently going on over there, and furthermore with all the misinformation around the invasion it’s currently difficult to say what’s happening in the moment (side note: to all those uploading fake videos on youtube, twitter, and other sources to try and score internet karma off this war, you people are sick sick sick and I hope real karma catches you for it), it’s definitely clear that Russian armored forces and paratroopers are in the country and seizing territory.

Either way, I pray things conclude quickly and in the manner that’s best for the Ukrainian people and government (which, if you’re not clear, would mean Russia pulling out, just so there’s no misconception here).


With all this going on, it seems almost strange to suddenly kick back to “what I’m working on right now” but at the same time, I’m reminded of something Howard Tayler said while working on Schlock Mercenary after 9/11, which I’m definitely pulling from memory here, but was something along the lines of not letting the mire overwhelm and giving people something that could make them smile and laugh.

While don’t do comedy (at least, not nearly to the masterful level of Howard), I think there is wisdom in that idea. So yeah, update time. The world can’t stop, and all of us probably need something to take our minds off of what’s happening in eastern Europe.

So what’s the first big update? Starforge! A number of Alpha Readers are almost a quarter of the way through, and with that progress made, I plan to start making edits and changes to the material they’ve covered starting next Monday. Or possibly Tuesday, depending on how the short I’m working on now looks. I may do both for a few days, just so I don’t catch up to the Alphas that quickly.

Why wait? Why not immediately respond? Well first, I can edit faster than they can read. Second, I wanted to gain a larger consensus on a few things in the early chapters (and there’s still one Alpha Reader whose feedback I’m waiting for). And third, I didn’t want to be making daily changes in the moment until I’d had some time to think on what needs to change.

Because there are changes that need to be made. There are signs that I was pretty stressed when I wrote this. Already I can think of a very specific chapter that needs to be sanded, smoothed, and in general improved. A few minor inconsistencies—usually with characters repeating info—have been noted. In general there are just some minor issues that need to be fixed, but it’s sometimes helpful to mull on those fixes so that the solution is something refined, and not just immediately move to shore something up.

Anyway, Starforge Alpha edits for the first Alpha will start next week, so Alpha Readers, you have until then to get as much of a lead on me as possible. It’s likely I’ll go through the end of Part One, which most of you are close to anyway (and those who are not, now you know what to aim for).

Now, this isn’t all, so hit the jump, and we’ll talk about a few more bits, bobs, and updaves.

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2021 in Review: Another Year Passes By

Welcome back readers! I have returned from my staycation!

Actually, I did travel a little this Christmas, though nothing that involved any sort of flight (or it probably wouldn’t have happened). I’ve got a new nephew, and he is adorable. Point being, it wasn’t entirely a staycation. But hey, close enough. Sands, I even got a 12-hour multiplayer game of Stellaris in at one point. That was an experience!

So, I’ll bet a lot of you were hoping for a new Being a Better Writer post to drop today, but I have a confession to make: We’re going to be waiting one more week. Yes, my staycation is over today, and I’m going to be getting back to work as soon as this post is over, but I’m going to hold off on a new BaBW post in favor of this post: A look back at the year prior! What happened? What did I get done? How did the site perform? What were the new releases, if any? How were book sales?

As always, there’s a reason for this kind of summation. First is to take in how my work really performed and gauge that against what it could be or what I might want to make it. Second is to see what new goals I need to set. All, of course, while keeping you readers informed. So, let’s talk about 2021.

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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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Shadow of an Empire: The Paperback Price Poll

Hello readers! I come to you today with news! And also, with a question.

The news, first. But those of you tempted to skip it, don’t. The question is tied deeply into it, and I would prefer feedback from you, the readers.

So the news: Shadow of an Empire is almost available in print. The proof has been ordered! That’s right. At long last, those of you who loved your sun-soaked journey across the desert Outlands of Indrim will be able to order a paperback copy to sit on your nightstand or coffee table!

Now, this is a chonky boy of a book. At the same trade size as Axtara – Banking and Finance, Shadow of an Empire has smaller text and is still twice as thick. It’s gonna be a hefty volume (and this isn’t even my longest work by far). But as you might expect, this comes with a catch.

See, the print cost is more than double what Axtara‘s is as a result. And when combined with expanded distribution that allows it to show up in bookstores, libraries, etc, that means that the price point for Shadow of an Empire‘s paperback is … significant.

How significant, you might ask? Well, for it to be available in bookstores, libraries, etc, the prices needs to be … $21.99.

Yeah. For a paperback. A good quality one, if Axtara‘s paperback quality is anything to go by, but … yeah, still high. Granted, it’s not too much higher than most similarly sized paperback books of similar quality. Dune is what, 500 pages and that’s retailing at $17.99 or so right now.

But here’s the thing. If I don’t allow for expanded distribution, IE, no libraries, bookstores, etc … then that cut doesn’t exist, and the price could be $15.99 … a full six dollars less.

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Getting Back in the Swing of Things

Hey folks! It’s time for a news update!

So, what’s new? Well, after spending all of last week save a day sick (seriously, gnarly cold), this week has been more of a return to form. Writing, working, and all the usual once more.

So what’s there to talk about? Well, for starters, this week saw Axtara – Banking and Finance grab a few new 5-star reviews, both of which were full of praise. Take a look!

The second one kind of makes me laugh a little because it reminds me of my favorite C.S. Lewis quote, but hey, they loved it anyway and still gave it 5-stars! Axtara really is a great success. The titular dragon herself would be proud, I think. And a little mortified that everyone’s reading about her life, but that’s most fiction.

Speaking of Axtara, I once again want to float the idea of Axtara t-shirts out there. Right now I’m thinking something with a slogan on it. Sort of like “Banking shouldn’t be a drag …” on the front, and “… so I do my banking with a dragon. Axtara – Banking and Finance!” You know, something goofy like that, as if Axtara herself were actually handing out promotional t-shirts at a job fair somewhere in hopes of drumming up business (she probably would).

I’ve never done t-shirts before, but especially if they’re just text on a color, they couldn’t be that tricky, difficult or (hopefully) expensive, right? Anyway, right now I’m just trying to gauge interest, so as before leave comments in the affirmative if you’d be interested in an Axtara t-shirt!

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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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Quick Weekend Update

Hey folks! I know, I know, you haven’t heard much from me lately. This week saw a Being a Better Writer post on Saturday, and that was it until now. But … I’ve had good reason.

Starforge is in the last five percent. Yes. It’s that close. So I’ve been just a little occupied. There’s a chance that maybe even next week it might be done. I’d be pumping out a lot of words a day, but there’s still a chance.

Speaking of words, the draft is now over 450,000. Definitely Jungle size. Again, this is pre-polish before editing, so there’s a chance things might shift and change, but right now it’s a bit of a titan. A titan that’s kind of consuming my every waking thought because, well, ending!

However, it’s not the only thing I’ve got a bit of news on. Weekends I usually don’t write on primary projects, working on smaller things or side jobs (plus taking a bit of time to myself for things like laundry, house cleaning, etc). This weekend? Finishing off formatting for the paperback edition of Shadow of an Empire!

Yup! It’s done following several hours of work today. Well, save the cover, which is the next step. Cover’s made, you all know (and glorious, as those of you with the 4K wallpaper can attest) but needs to be positioned, have the spine and back text put together, etc. All stuff I did for Axtara, so at least it won’t be quite such a trial and error step by step this time. In fact, I put together a good start at it already, and so the project is in motion.

Get that done next Saturday, and I can order the proof. After which … Well, sales can go live. So yeah, looking at end of this month, or maybe August perhaps? Rest assured, you’ll know as soon as it’s up for pre-order/sale. And that day is close!

I’ll share some more details as things develop. For now, have a good weekend all!