Pre-Weekend News and Updates

Hello readers! Max here with a news post. Just keeping you abreast of everything that’s going on.

First, let’s talk about Starforge and how the Alpha 1 is going. The foremost of the current readers is nearing the 75% mark, with the other Alpha Readers behind that in varying locations. In fairness, I did point out what a large book this is.

Now, I have a second bit of news that ties into this. It appears that sometime in May—likely early, but that’s still up in the air—I will be heading back to my hometown of Alaska for a few weeks. This means that I’m going to queue up a bunch of posts for the site, yes, but it also means that for those in the current Alpha Read for Starforge, you will have several weeks to gain a substantial lead on me, or even finish the book.

Alternatively, you can take a weekend or two now and blow through it before May is upon us, and I might be able to make enough edits to start the second Alpha before I go.

Either way, those in the current Alpha are about to be able to get a good lead on me.

So yes, both those bits of news overlap. I’d like to finish the first Alpha before heading out and set up the second, because that would allow the second pass Alpha team to get a lot of reading in before I started making changes, but we’ll see what happens. It kind of comes down to how soon I can start the second editing pass from the first Alpha.

Again entwined with this, there will being Being a Better Writer posts while I’m gone. I’ll queue them up here as I do when I’m out, and write them in advance, as well as the occasional thinking piece on one thing or another.

Furthermore related, don’t forget that if there’s a writing topic you want to know about, you should be letting it be known in the post calling for topics. I’m going to be putting Topic List #20 together next week, so comment now!


Now, in other news, Patreon Supporters may note that I also uploaded another reward sneak-peek earlier this week. A Power in Ink is another short (though I’m giving the definition of “short” a real workout) for the Troubadours and Space Princesses anthology submissions, and while I do need to chop about 800 words from it, it turned out pretty good. If you’re a Patreon Supporter (or on the Discord), give it a look and leave a comment!

Which leads me to another quick note: I’ll likely be compiling another book of short stories sometime this summer while editing Starforge, because I have enough shorts now to certainly do so. Maybe. Shorts are usually something I play with as side projects, experiments, or goofy little ideas, but I do have a decent pile of them now, some of which you supporters have seen.

Either way, we’re looking at a More Unusual Events collection sometime in the next year.


Other than that … that’s the news! Have a great weekend everyone, and do some reading!

We’re Picking Up a Weak Signal …

Hey folks! Sorry for my effective absence this week. That frog in my throat I mentioned Monday has been determined to avoid eviction, and has tenaciously clung to my vocal cords in the way a politician clings to money. I have almost all my pitches back, and in truth yesterday felt like I did when this whole mess started last Friday. Now it’s Friday again, and outside of some gunk and my voice sounding a little off I still have that frog clinging to me.

It’s worse at night though. Laying down seems to shift where everything goes, and then I cough, and … well, I’ve had a few rough nights this week.

Long way of saying that I’m sorry there hasn’t been any other content this week other than Being a Better Writer and this little news post here. I’ve just been either fighting this frog or working on Starforge.

Yes, despite being sick, I went back to working on Starforge as soon as I felt up to it. And I’m making good progress. I’m just about done with edits on the first quarter, though I’ll likely make a second pass even before going into Alpha 2.

But hey, progress is good! Starforge draws closer with each chapter scoured!

But speaking of Alphas, there’s actually one other project that’s ready for an Alpha. The Minstrel and the Marshal, my entry for this year’s LTUE Anthology collection, is ready for Alpha Reading! It’s a short, only 17,000 words, and set in a new setting none of you have seen. If you’ve got some time this weekend and would like to take a look, let me know here on on the Discord channel, because I would like to get some other eyes on it before it’s submission deadline at the end of the month.

And uh … Yeah, that’s it. Sorry folks, it’s just been one of those slow weeks (thanks, frog). Monday I’ll have another Being a Better Writer post for you all, and maybe we’ll look at doing another live Q&A in the coming weeks as well, just to shake things up.

I’m going to get back to editing now and another notice of eviction for this dumb frog. Have a great weekend all!

Being a Better Writer: Using Shorts to Explore Character or Setting

Welcome back readers! It’s Monday once again! How’d that happen? The weekend seemed to flash by, but it’s probably partially as a result of me spending a good chunk of my Saturday working on The Minstrel and the Marshall. Which has been edited, trimmed, and revised in a few places … but I think I want to make one more change before I upload it today. A small one tweak before I let others get a look at it.

Still, it’s under the word requirement for Troubadours and Space Princesses now. Which, I remind all of you, only has open submissions for another twenty-four days! If you’d like to submit a story for the collection, check out the requirements and relevant information here!

All right, let’s cover some other relevant news. Starforge editing is hitting hard this week, so I’ll be blitzing through the opening quarter of the book and making changes. I’ll also once again be looking over and possibly retooling my Amazon advertising: For reasons unknown to me, views cratered after March 1st, and I’ve as yet been unable to figure out why, but it’s impacting my bottom line, so figuring it out is a bit vital.

Other than that … there’s not much worth sharing at the moment. Well, maybe one thing. Did you know this site has a Discord channel? It’s true. A channel with various rooms and even people! Now, the link isn’t public, because usually the only time it’s been open to invite people is for live Being a Better Writer Q&A sessions. Basically, like a forum, I’ve rolled it out slowly so that things are overwhelmed with spam or bots (there’s enough of that going on already on the site, hence requirements like emails on comments).

But there is a Discord, and there you can talk about books you’re reading (mine or others), writing, games you’re playing. You know, the usual forum/chatter stuff.

And today? I’m feeling like it’s time to crack the doors open a little. The link will be past the jump, just to put a slight block in the way of spam-bots, but if you’d like to join in, the link will be live for one week! It’s a larger crack than we’ve given the door before, and we’ll see how it goes.

I think that’s about it for news. With all that said, maybe we should talk some writing? Go ahead and hit that jump to find both the aforementioned link to the friendly little Discord, and to get looking at today’s topic.

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Milestones and Other News

Well, this week has been full of interesting. Interesting in a way that brings to mind that common curse (thought as I understand it, it is neither ancient, nor Chinese) “may you live in interesting times.”

I’m not just speaking of my own experiences here. The war in Ukraine continues to be a constant source of “interesting” as the world rightfully dogpiles on Russia for invading its neighbor in a naked power grab. The longer things go on, the more insane Russia looks, from their claims to their actions. Last night they shelled a nuclear power plant, briefly setting it on fire.

These are not the actions of sane people. You don’t shell a nuclear power plant in an area you’re trying to conquer. That’s supervillain 101. Russia is proving more inept than comic book villains right now, but with very real consequences to their nation’s actions.

Here’s hoping Kyiv is the stone their entire military trips over and can’t recover from.

Yeah, sorry to start off with such a dour topic, but that’s sort of the state of things these days on the international stage.


Thankfully, not everything making the news is terrible these days. Have you heard about Sanderson’s Kickstarter success?

Well, I have. Repeatedly. Constantly. So yes, I have heard about it, you can stop messaging me everywhere about it. It is cool, but I heard about it the first day.

Now, those of you that haven’t might be wondering what’s going on. Well, what’s going on is that today (literally), Brandon Sanderson has made publishing history. But you probably wanted a little more background than that.

So earlier this week, Brandon released a video saying that he’d “lied” to all his fans. A lie of omission as it turns out, but during 2020, when the world was in lockdown, Brandon found that all of his public appearances at cons and whatnot were now canceled and he had a lot more time to write. Based off his graph of time spent, I’d guess it was “like the old days” before he was a megastar. But the “lie” was that he kept quiet about this and pretended to be writing books at his “star level” pace.

At least, until this big unveiling that with that extra time no longer spent traveling (roughly a third of his workdays a year, IIRC) now spent writing, he’d written four books that no one knew about. And he was going to be publishing them through his own imprint (Dragonsteel Books) with a kickstarter campaign to finance the publication and gauge interest.

As I said above, we are now two days into this kickstarter, and it is the most successful kickstarter of all time.

Now on the one hand a lot of this isn’t surprising. Megastar author announces kickstarter, gets money. But there’s a bit more to it than that. Because this is Sanderson’s imprint. This isn’t like when when a major studio or publisher hops on Kickstarter just because they can.

This is Sanderson’s own imprint. In other words … this is indie.

That’s right. Four indie books, from one of the biggest authors in the world, who would have publishers promising their first and second-born children for a chance to publish his stuff, and they broke the all-time kickstarter record in less than two days.

Sometimes when discussing history, people talk about turning points. In the world of book publishing, this, I think, will be one of them. The Martian scoring a movie deal and becoming an international sensation despite not having major trad-pub backing was one. The meteoric success of Brandon’s kickstarter? I think this will count as another. Years from now, when moldy historians are discussing the moments when “indie” books finally became accepted the way indie games, music, and movies are, they’re going to point to this moment as one of those moments.

And there’s still a whole month to go.

If you want to check the kickstarter out (and maybe be a part of publishing history) you can check it out here.

But either way, this is a major success, both for Brandon as an author and for publishing as a whole.

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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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Parliament of Wizards Submission Call!

Readers! I have news! For you! Which I mentioned in Monday’s Being a Better Writer post but is finally getting its own post here. Submission calls are open for LTUE’s fourth Benefit Anthology, Parliament of Wizards!

If you’re stumbling across this post with no prior knowledge of what any of those things mean, let me catch you up. LTUE is Life, The Universe, and Everything, one of the best (if not the best) writing conventions out there, attended by hundreds of experienced authors and industry professionals all for one epic goal: To talk about writing in all its forms. This is a conference you come to in order to meet your favorite authors and then listen to them talk about the ins and outs of writing.

Better yet, since the goal of the conference is to help writers learn how to write, it’s also open to students and charges $5 for student attendees. LTUE is about giving resources and knowledge to writers of the world, and students are part of that.

Trace the StarsSo, in order to help keep that student cost low even as the con has grown again and again, the LTUE Benefit Anthologies were set up. These are collections of short stories written by a wide variety of authors, some new, some long-time industry vets that are household names, each around a themed topic, and sold entirely in support of the convention.

That’s right, the authors and editors don’t see a penny. All the proceeds from each sale go toward keeping LTUE running and making sure that the price for students stays at $5, so that the young would-be writers of today can get the education to help them become the writers of tomorrow.

To date, there have been two LTUE anthologies published. Trace the Stars, a collection of Science-Fiction stories, was the first and published in 2019. The second collection was published this year, just in February, and titled A Dragon and Her Girl (and I’m in that one!). The third collection, Twilight Tales, will be released next year (2021).

70081760_568294170598543_7425837595373862912_oWhich means that submissions have just opened for the next and fourth collection, Parliament of Wizards, 2022’s release! Stories about wizards. Submissions are open from now until April 30th, and not only is it a good place to submit a story too as they’re open to authors of all experience but again, it’s to help one of the best writing cons out there keep their costs down.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in submitting to, hit the jump for some more details and link to Hemelein Publications’ submissions page!

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Being a Better Writer: Keeping a Short Story Short

Hello readers! Welcome back after a spectacular Life, The Universe, and Everything writing convention! I hope you were able to attend, or if not, that you’ll be checking their youtube channel to see what’s posted as they upload panel recordings! The experience was incredible!

It was not without risks, however. Such as the dreaded “con crud” (aka you’ve just been exposed to around a dozen different colds and you’re low on sleep), so today’s post is going to be a little shorter than normal. No news, possibly some flat-brained typos, but I’m getting it done! So then, let’s talk about keeping your short story short.

This was a topic that actually came up in one of the LTUE panels I was on, in a roundabout way. An audience member asked about keeping short stories short stories, and said that they’d been told the best way to do it was to think of a short story as either the first or final chapter of a story. In other words, they explained, it either set up a beginning, or tied off an ending.

That’s actually a pretty good way to think of it, provided you’re thinking of a story where everything that can come before is capable of getting squeezed into that one chapter (though yes, that’s more important for a story that’s the “end” of something than the beginning, as one sets up and the other ties together).

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Being a Better Writer: Getting by on as Little Detail as Possible

Hello there readers! Welcome back to Being a Better Writer! I hope you’ve all had a great weekend, got some fun reading done. I certainly did. I made a jaunt to my local library, picked up, and have already read through one of the books I knew I needed to bring up at one of my panels at LTUE. Which is a good segue into some quick news reminders about LTUE. It’s almost upon us, people! In fact, it’s just over a week away! So you’re pretty much at the last chance grab your registration in advance! If you don’t now, you’d best be prepared to pay your way in at the door!

Once you’re there, though, you’ll have a veritable smorgasbord of writing advice and guidance available to you from hundreds of panels, all of which you can see in a grid here (PDF warning; it’ll likely download on a mobile). By the way, some of those panels? I’m on them! So swing by if you’re at LTUE, as they’re some excellent panels on excellent writing topics!

Now, with the LTUE reminder taken care of, let’s get down to business with today’s post. Today I wanted to talk about getting by on as little detail as possible. Or, from my perspective, one of the core components of a short story.

Okay, I realize that might sound a bit strange to some of you. And others might be nodding. Or wondering about other core components of short stories, which there definitely are a few of (for example, a really core one is a story that fits inside a short … which is another topic for another time).

But getting by on as little detail as possible is key for keeping a short story, well, short. See, it’s one thing in a book to have a character come into a setting and take a quick look around it, noting who is present and who’s speaking to who, or perhaps what the setting itself looks like. After all, with a traditional book you’ve got hundreds of pages waiting to be filled, so spending a hundred words establishing a setting for the next few pages? Not such a big deal. In fact, it’s expected.

For a short story, however, where you’re limited in both space and wordcount, taking those hundred words to describe a setting or a scene? Suddenly they’re a much larger blow against the “budget” of space you have to work with. And if you go ahead and write as though you have all the space available to you as one normally would, upon reaching the end you might find that your “short story,” initially directed to be around a few-thousand words, is now nearing novella size.

Whoops.

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Submission Call for Twilight Tales!

No. Not that Twilight. But rather this one!

Those who’ve been following the site for a while may recall that last year I worked on a short story for the LTUE benefit anthology A Dragon and Her Girl, which will be their 2019 release. LTUE being Life, the Universe, and Everything, an awesome (if not the most awesome) convention for writers, authors, and everything Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and the benefit anthology being a short story collection where the sales go to keeping the costs of the con down for students and other young aspiring writers.

Right right. Well, the call for this year’s submissions to be part of the LTUE benefit anthology are now open, and will be through August 15th! And they’re asking for light horror stories.

Me? I don’t have time right now. I’ve already got way too many projects on my plate on top of life issues to keep track of. But what about you?

Yes, you! That’s right! You! Sitting/standing there reading this!

Look, I know who my fans are. And I’ve seen some of your work. And I know that you guys are talented. I also know that for every fan whose work I’ve seen online or had the fortune to read, there are probably a dozen more who are here following Being a Better Writer, dutifully working on improving their craft and looking for their next challenge or chance to shine.

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Human Resource – A Free Short Story!

All right, guys, a bit of a warning with this one. It’s … dark. Very dark, especially if you stop to think about it. And grim.

Worse still, it’s not entirely untrue.

A bit of background: I wrote this story after my second frustrating workplace injury and experience dealing with Worker’s Comp and my part-time job’s Human Resources department. If you’re interested in hearing the details about that, you can check out this post here, which is all about how I acquired the injury and the recover I underwent. But the short of it is that within days I was already feeling like I had when I’d had my knee injury. In other words, very much like my company just wanted to practice horse medicine and shove everything under the rug.

In my frustrations, I ended up writing this short to blow off a little steam. It’s dark. It’s grim. And, worst of all, it’s actually pretty true, and like most good fiction, that makes it all the more alarming.

The microphone monitoring tech? That’s real. A certain massive mega-conglomerate retailer patented it last year and has already started rolling it out into stores. It monitors all employees at all times. And yes, they do warn that ‘certain problem words’ can trigger an automatic, computer-driven firing. Boop, a text to your phone, go home, you’re done here.

That’s what scariest about this story: It’s really not that far off. The tech involved here is very real, and already being rolled into the workplace much in the same way you see it in this story. It’s just all in one package, and seeing the sudden jump from where we are now to where we may be in five, ten years really does seem jarring, compared to coming in to a new bit or piece every day.

Am I worried we might go as far as this story? Well … in a way, yes. We were once already there, if you know your history of what jobs used to be like before labor laws were put in place.

But I’ll stop waxing on it now. You’re here to read a story. So, without further ado, I present to you Human Resource. Enjoy!

And try not to let it depress you too much. I can tell you it was therapeutic to write.


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