Players of the Game Character Spotlight: Nunaker

Nunaker finds sentient bipeds fascinating.  So much so that she usually takes the form of a woman in formfitting armor.

She has no true shape.  She is a Lokna.  A being of silvery liquid.  Capable of forming all manner of weapons upon her body.  Simple ones, like blades.

Or more… elaborate instruments of harm, such as her dual, barb-covered tentacle whips that can rip through flesh with uncanny ease.

She partners with Ashe Stelfire’s team of fortune hunters for the thrill of the raid.  It exhilarates her.

As does the love of another partner, Jashir Iniv.  Her romance with the Sokenti assassin is vibrant and intense.

And woe to any who might take away the happiness it brings her.

James McGowan Reader Group- Pinteresting… Very Pinteresting

Hey there!

I’ve decided to dip my toe in other social media pools for my author interests.

And I figured Pinterest was an intriguing avenue since I like sharing artwork of my characters and covers.  I wasn’t aware of this, but it’s more of a image search engine than a conversation/argument venue like X-Twitter.

So here’s a pin image I made for Repenter.
Clicking on the image will take you to my Pinterest page.  I’ll be adding images on a bi-weekly or monthly cadence, so feel free to check it out as time goes on.
Players of the Game Works in Progress
I continue to plug away at The Game War’s second draft in Scrivener.  This month yielded 19 revised chapters.  Some needed to be completely rewritten.  Others needed only some polishing. 

I still don’t quite know how to measure productivity on this phase, but I’m getting words tappity-tapped, so I’ll claim victory on that basis alone.

Players of the Game Out of Context Quote of the Month:

Benefactor: “I’ve spent millennia with Corsis’s foot on my throat. If I get toppled from power, I’m quite close to the ground.”
Recommendation Corner
The Killer

I watched this latest David Fincher movie in the theater before it goes exclusively to Netflix.

Michael Fassbender stars as the multi-alias Killer, a sociopathic assassin who goes to great lengths to kill his targets.

And even greater lengths to protect himself when things go wrong.

It’s a tight movie that keeps you engaged throughout.  I didn’t like it as much as Gone Girl, Fight Club, and the Game, but it is definitely worth checking out on Netflix before it’s buried under other content.

Shardpunk Verminfall

Surprise.  It’s another tactics indie game that I’m enjoying.  I have my vices.  And turn-based pixelated combat is one of them.

This one takes place on an earth-like world where swarms of intelligent mutant rats have overrun the capital city, and your group of fighters have to make your way through the ruins with a little spherical robot that might be able to turn the tables on the rats.

It’s a little bit Darkest Dungeon with fear damage and camping between missions, and a whole lot X-Com with the cover and overwatch mechanics.

But the rats will never stop.  And you must ultimately flee or they will overrun you.

I hate rats.  Rats make me crazy.

But that’s okay, because this game lets me kill so very many of them.

They have to pay.
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That’s all for this time.

Stay smart.  Stay safe.


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Players of the Game Character Spotlight: Ricardo Alterv

Ricardo Alterv can’t take the stress anymore.

He’s been a member of Ashe Stelfire’s partnership for years.  The money has been good.  The team respects his talents with guns.  His family heirloom, the Alterv Gun, fires burning bullets that can penetrate the advanced armor and the hard flesh of Demons.  The revolver never runs out of ammo.

The same cannot be said of Ricardo’s nerve.  With each horror he faces on the partnership’s fortune hunting raids, the more his nerve frays.

The latest incursion into an ancient and sentient forest portends nothing good.  Especially the bipedal Lizard lurking within it.

Ricardo needs to retire.  But he fears to consider a big question.

Will Ashe let him?

James McGowan Reader Group- Ultimate!


A few months back, I chronicled the glory of my bar trivia team, Beerpaw.  This is not the only group that I’ve rejoined with the worst of the pandemic behind us.  My pickup Ultimate Frisbee group again resumed its casual night.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Ultimate Frisbee, it’s kind of a mix of basketball where each defender covers someone, or plays zone defense against small passes of the offense, and American football where you can also throw the frisbee way down the field like a quarterback to a receiver in a rectangular end zone.  You also do a “kick off” after each point where you either yell “Ulitimate!” and/or the score and throw it to the other team.

Or you just say 2-2, no matter what the score is.  That’s an ongoing joke with one of my good friends.  (Hi, Dave!)

I usually tell people it’s like playing frisbee with a dog and you’re the dog.  I’m always drenched in sweat after I play, which is exactly what I want.  It’s fantastic exercise.

I’ve been playing with this group since 2007.  Originally, we played one night a week.  However, it eventually proved popular enough to expand to a second night that gradually became for the people with kids and older/slower people sub-group.

I am firmly and proudly in the latter group.

And it contracted to just one night per week with the higher octane group for a few years during the worst of the pandemic.  Until this past spring.

And how did I do after a 3 season gap?

Not terrible!  Which is a win as far as I’m concerned.  Minimal soreness and stiffness mixed with maximum fun.

I LOVE that we’ve been able to get back at the disc flinging.

I not only go for the cardio, but it’s also a great excuse to see a bunch of friends I wouldn’t get to see as often otherwise.

We stop on or around when we lose daylight saving time, so the season’s coming to an end.

But I have faith that the casual pickup Ultimate Frisbee group will return with all things green next spring.
Players of the Game Works in Progress
This past month had a longer than expected session of pasting the Game War’s first draft from Word into Scrivener.  And something interesting took up a good deal of my time.

I discovered I needed to summarize the chapters in each chapter folder, which became a second, far more defined outline.

With that done, I’ve edited the first three chapters, and am working on a brand new fourth.  Some of the formatting in Scrivener is hinky compared to Word, especially with tabs.  Scrivener’s value is the ability to shuffle sections around, so my anticipation is that I’ll mainly use it for second and possibly third drafts.

As far as productivity tracking goes with the second draft, I’m going to try going with the total chapters edited or written.  It’s a little more qualitative than quantitative, but I think it might work.

So 3.5 chapters for this month.

PLUS: I’ve started working with a third artist with the handle of Moonarc.  They did the illustration of Ricardo Alterv, and I’ll be rotating their art on future newsletters.  Check out their stuff on Deviantart.  It’s nifty.

Players of the Game Out of Context Quote of the Month:

Hekati gestured to the circular opening. “Cheaters first.”

Corsis winked at her. “Don’t mind if I do.”
Recommendation Corner
The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North

Of the three Claire North sci-fi fantasy books I’ve read thus far, this one is the most melancholic and tragic.

The main character, Hope, has a condition that makes everyone she encounters to forget her after she departs from sight and sound.  Kind of an inverse Memento where everyone is like Guy Pierce when they interact with her.

This includes her parents when she was a teenager.  The scenes depicting this were both subtle and heartbreaking.

Hope becomes a thief because much of any legitimate career requires other people to remember her.  To build trust.  In the absence of trust, she’s able to steal valuables with impunity.

Jewels in particular.

And following a theft royal jewelry at a posh party, this brings her into the crosshairs of the host organization, a company behind a dystopian app called Perfection that encourages people to become more “perfect”.  A company that will go to great lengths to silence those who don’t agree with their shallow definition of the term.

Including a thief no one can remember.

Compelling stuff.

Arcadian Atlas

I do love me a good tactics video game.

And this one pushes many of my buttons.

It’s a pretty standard JRPG style game where there’s political intrigue that soon gets side tracked by magical forces that are unleashed by short-sighted warring factions. The main characters get caught up in the middle of it, and find that no side can be trusted.

I’ll admit that the user interface could have used a few more layers of paint.  The inability to rotate the screen to click on a character that’s clumped up with a bunch of other characters is vexing.

However, the Final Fantasy Tactics vibe with the character designs, the strangely chill jazz music, and Poncho the racoon make it fun for me.

All media is improved by the inclusion of a racoon.  It is immutable fact.

And I also enjoy this game despite its UI flaws.
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That’s all for this time.

Stay smart.  Stay safe.


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Players of the Game Nation Spotlight: Yintu in the Shallow Sea

A hidden body of water lurks 20 trecs below the surface of eastern Jeea.

The Shallow Sea is only a thousand feet deep within its sparkling, luminescent cavern.  The immense pressure of the deep tributaries is negated by the cataclyze crystals that were created millennia earlier. 

So much so, that air fills the topmost portion of the subterranean sea’s cavern.  The enclosed water and air maintain oxygenation due to the ambient etherea generated by the crystals.

The nation of Yintu thrives within its depths, peopled by the bipedal, dolphin-like Cetari.  They are masters of submersible technology with vessels that can stand the crushing straits that connect the Shallow Seas to the oceans of the surface.

The Yintunese are reclusive. Distrustful.  And with good reason.  Their above-ground neighbors, the Holy Alliance, would invade them without hesitation if that dark empire ever learned of Yintu’s existence.

Still, this hidden nation has ambitions.

Ambitions that might ensnare the Breakers if they don’t take care in navigating the Shallow Sea’s waters.

James McGowan Reader Group: Unorthodox Cartography

Hey, hey!

During my summer of revising and rephrasing, I’ve realized two things.

One: The preceding sentence had far too many “re” words.

And two: I needed to make a few new maps for novels and novellas that are in the hopper, like The Breakers, Jagged Pieces, and The Game War.  I also need maps for plotting and outlining purposes as I figure out the story beats of the next swath of novels.  The Players of the Game saga will expand beyond Trojis and Sufrinzon.

I’ll detail the process of making one map that will be showing up in the fourth main novel.  I fully admit the method I used was on the ridiculous side.

I magnified and printed a section of the existing map of Jeea, the main super continent of Trojis. I laid it on top of a glass coffee table, placed a blank sheet of paper over it, the shined a maglite underneath it, and traced the land masses, seas, and rivers with a pencil. Then I scanned it and added all the proper noun names in Photoshop.

My wife found the flashlight part most amusing.

It reminded me of my childhood days of watching teachers present things on overhead projectors.

The other maps were way easier, as I just needed to make them up from scratch. However, all of them will need a whole lot digital beautifying by my graphic designer brother. (Hey, Tony!)

It shows an atypical, non-text component of my creative process.

And it’s a sneak peak into things to come in Book 4: The Breakers.
Players of the Game Works in Progress
The great ProWritingAid edit-o-rama has reached its end.  Penciled maps are made.

The next big thing begins.

The second draft of The Game War is in progress.

To start, I’m pasting the chapters from Word into Scrivener with summary descriptions.  Once that’s finished, I’ll start the revising the prose, cutting out parts, adding others, and rearranging their order.

I’ll need to determine a better way to track productivity stats than the word/page count I used on the first draft.  Maybe how many chapters I revise.  Maybe something else.

The nose is back on the grindstone.

Players of the Game Rephrase Quote of the Month

“Hey, lounge lasagnas,” Fernallus said. “Keeping saucy?”
Recommendation Corner
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

This book has an interesting premise. A small minority of people actually live their lives over and over in cycles.  They die and are born again in the same year and their memories of the past lives emerge around age 3 or 4.

Jonathan Hickman did something similar with Moria MacTaggert in X-Men when he retconned her into a secret mutant a few years back.

In this book, Harry August continues to be born again and again in 1918 and usually lives to the 1990s or so.  But not always. 

There is peril. 

A way exists to kill these immortals.  Other time-looping immortals can kill their parents before they’re born.

And someone starts doing just that as the course of history starts to change.  Advanced tech starts coming decades too early, and the accompanying environmental problems come with it.

Harry determines that it’s another time-looping immortal, and he must do something to stop it. In this life or the next.

Very well written and Peter Kenny did a great job narrating it.


This is one of my new favorite Christopher Nolan movies.  I put it up there with Memento, Dark Knight, and Inception.

Chronology is again played with, but I think it works well with the three focal points of the Strauss Senate hearing in the late 50s, Oppenheimer’s infamous security clearance meeting in the mid-50s, and the buildup to Los Alamos and Trinity in the 30s and 40s.

Cillian Murphy shows Oppenheimer as a flawed man who’s a genius, but also a reckless womanizer.  Everyone does a fantastic job.  I didn’t even realize Robert Downey Jr. was Strauss until the credits rolled.

Really heavy stuff with the implications of theory colliding with reality at the advent of the atomic age.  Highly recommended.

(And I did get my Barbenheimer bingo card checked a week later when I saw Barbie.

It was a fun and silly movie, but a bit preachy at times. 
Still, America Ferrera’s monologue in the third act was good fodder for discussion with my wife.  Yes, women do feel everything she described.

And that’s valuable to know.)
Promo Corner
Get a Bunch of Fantasy Books on the House
Get a Bunch MORE Fantasy Books on the House
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That’s all for this time. Stay smart.  Stay safe. Jim

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James McGowan Reader Group- Into the Great Wide Open

Hey, hey!

I’m wide open. And almost certainly a rebel without a clue, but never mind that.

The Players of the Game saga is now wide on Ebook format, not just on Kindle. So if you prefer to read on Nook, Kobo, Apple, Smashwords, or Scribd, I have you covered.

I’ll be expanding paperbacks to wide distribution in the coming months as well.

In the meantime, if you didn’t want to use “the smile” in favor of alternative eBook marketplaces, please check out the books below. 

And as always, you can get the Repenter and the Hidden Chapters on the house through my Book Funnel links.
Check Out the Players of the Game Series on eBook and Paperback
Get Repenter on the House! Get The Hidden Chapters on the House
Players of the Game Works in Progress
I’m still engaged in the great ProWritingAid edit-o-rama. 

I have finished my way through The Breakers and will move on to the Jagged Pieces novella next. Then I shall leverage Scrivener to re-arrange all the rough draft components of The Game War and get on with the second draft.

The editing machete is sharpened, and it shall be time to cut and edit all kinds of affronts to man and Vurg.

Players of the Game Rephrase Quote of the Month:

Frulgrath and Xax:

Frulgrath’s shoulders tightened. Xax sensed something. He sensed the trap.

“Well, that’s just–” Xax whirled around and punched the hidden Shulinkarv in his beaked face with a fierce crack. “Ducky!”
Promo Corner
Get 50 Fantasy Books on the House
Get ANOTHER 50 Fantastic Fantasy Books on the House
Recommendation Corner

Secret Invasion on Disney+

It started off a bit slow, but I love the paranoia this series emulated from the comic series.

It’s much more of a spy thriller than a behind-the-eight-ball fight against aliens, but it’s well done. Samuel L. Jackson’s Fury is great and weather worn. I won’t spoil any twist here, but I’m pleasantly surprised on this one.
Give it a try.

The Forged by Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann

I generally don’t like magazine-sized comics, but this one just hit all my buttons.

It’s a little bit Warhammer 40k and a little bit Inhumanoids (a lesser known Sunbow cartoon and toy series from the 80’s).

It focuses on a squad of super tough women soldiers in power armor who have to deal with clones of their empress and an agenda that involves Cthulhu-esque aliens that really, really want all of humanity to expire.

Great military sci-fi if that’s your bag.
That’s all for this time.

Stay smart.  Stay safe.


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Players of the Game Character Spotlight: Dell Marrs

Admiral Dell Marrs commands the Crush.  The flagship of the Union Cities.

He is a Red Chromatic, a Post Human species that emerged following the Eruption centuries earlier.

Marrs is never far from coffee, which he prefers burnt and borderline non-potable.

While not completely aligned with the Grells and the Chan’la, he is a reliable ally within Lan Thedin, the largest megalopolis of the urban confederacy.

Decades ago, Marrs worked with the Forever Guard during the War of No Hope.  And many of the Forever Guard consider him a friend.  Een, in particular, finds his gruff good humor most endearing.

More often than not, the Grells call him Stick Man, due to his lanky frame.  He uses a multitude of nicknames for them.  Eeny Meany being his favorite for Een.

His city soon finds itself in need of his old allies when Hekati’s horrors emerge from its lower reaches.

Stick Man has nicknames for those as well.  None of them pleasant.

James McGowan Reader Group- Beer Paw Prevails

Hey, hey!

I have at last gotten back- BOOM!

Ahem, excuse the fireworks.  They are quite prolific in the US during the Fourth of July, at least in my neck of the woods.

As I was saying, I have once again returned to doing bar trivia with my friends on our team, Beer Paw. 

How did that gloriously silly name come to be?  Well, as legend has it, there was a sock monkey with a hand dipped in an empty cup atop a friend of a friend’s desk at their shared workplace.  And… yeah.  That’s it.

We’re named for the team’s mascot: A sock monkey that I’ve never seen.

We comprise meteorologists, an IRS specialist, and a financial risk manager.  Our knowledge is trivially expansive.  Which is exactly what you need to excel in bar trivia.

Though we are generally pretty weak with any biology or physiology questions.  But we more than make up for it with any sports, geography, or geek culture topics.

Three times a year, we test our mettle in city championships.  And do mental battle against other teams with names like “Suck it, Trebek!”, “Cats, Cats, Cats”, and the “Blockheads”.

We even win on occasion.

And what do we do with our winnings? Buy more beer and bar food for the team.  It’s an awe-inspiring cycle.

Beer Paw Prevai- BOOM!

Players of the Game Works in Progress
My ProWritingAid re-edit-o-rama is going much faster than I thought it might go.  Many typo fixes, minor plot corrections, and rephrasing updates abound.

I’m already through Repenter, Hidden Chapters, The Brigands, The Favor, and the New Players.  I also have them reformatted in Atticus.

I’ll be looking at releasing hardcover “ultimate” editions and eBook omnibuses for Books 1, 1.5, 2, and 2.5 in the coming couple of months.  With The Breakers, Book 4, to come soon after that.

Players of the Game Rephrase Quote of the Month:

Thebes and Ashe from The Brigands:

“Gimme another few minutes.” The Imp pressed more virtual buttons on the array of holograms in front of him. “These clouds are adhesive, trying to pull us in. It wasn’t as hard last time.”

Ashe’s stomach tightened. “Why?”

“What am I, a weather guy? I got nothing.”
Recommendation Corner
Across the Spiderverse

This is my favorite movie of the summer so far.

Miles deals with both his relationship to his parents and juggling his double life as his universe’s Spider-Man. And Gwen, who’s very much the co-lead of this movie, has to deal with a far more adversarial relationship with her father, also a police captain.

Then there’s the Spot. A seeming joke character who steadily gets more and more dangerous in the background.

The foreground deals with a whole lot of Spider people trying to keep their dimensions from collapsing.

This movie has so many different art styles from punk, to washed out impressionist, to overly muscular 90’s comic art. It looks like nothing out there and is just thrilling to behold.

Highest possible recommendation.

Seal of the Worm by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Wasps have won. But their empress knows she wrecked the world to do it. And she’ll wreck it worse to “fix” it.

The Beetles in exile and their Ant allies must martial their forces under the command of the Ants brilliant and cruel Tactician.

And under their feet, the horrid evil of the Worm and its many humanoid “segments” rises. And Cheerwell and her banished friends must fight them with their aptitude and magic negated.

The over world’s chances of beating back the Worm’s advance is fleeting.

I’m not going to spoil a horrid plot element in this. But let’s just say that I will be shocked if it’s kept “as is” in any adaptions to other media. Really, really unsettling.

But also a satisfying conclusion to the Shadows of the Apt series.
Check Out the Players of the Game Series on Kindle and Paperback
That’s all for this time.

Stay smart.  Stay safe.


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James McGowan Reader Group- There are Worse Ways to Spend a Year and a Half

It’s done!

The first draft of the Game War, Players of the Game Book 5, is done.  It clocked in at 816 pages with 231,840 words.  It is in dire need of extensive revision and editing. 

Dire.  Need.

But not right away. It needs to set for a bit.  Air out.  I’ve been working on the thing since the last week of December 2021.  I have been holding off on a lot of other initiatives with my primary focus being on getting the bones of this epic constructed.  Another bunch of revisions will flesh it out into something grand.

So, what’s next?  Revisions, re-releases, and collections. 

I’m currently working on new ProWritingAid revisions of my earlier books using the cool new “rephrase” tool that identifies clunky sentences in need of reinterpreting. From there, I’ll re-release the single volumes with better formatting using another tool called Atticus.  And I’ll also try my hand at releasing hardcover collections through Ingram Spark and an ebook collection bundle of Repenter, Hidden Chapters, Brigands, and the Favor.  And if time permits, take a hard look at Book 4, the Breakers, to see if it’s ready for prime time.


Then I’ll suck it up and get to slicing and dicing on the Game War’s next draft.

Trust the process.


Finish Line Thumbs Up
Instead of the usual character profile and works in progress update, this month gets the photo I shared with my wife and some close friends and family members.

Some pictures are worth 1000 words.  This one is worth 231,840. 

If it were not for my hand covering its word count.
Recommendation Corner
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3

Oh, man. 

This is a really good movie, but dear goodness, it was rough in spots.  If someone would have told me ten years ago that Rocket Raccoon had a more hardcore origin than the Punisher, I would have had a hard time believing them.

Really great send off for this iteration of the team.  The High Evolutionary was a great villain.  Really intense and flawed in all the good ways. 

Adam Warlock was the only demerit for it.  Flawed in the bad ways.  He was basically pointless aside from his role in the inciting incident.  Warlock is supposed to be this cosmic David Bowie-type of character.  He lacked gravitas.

That minor quibble aside, I liked it as much as Quantumania, which I enjoyed far more than others.  This time, everyone else agrees with me.

I’m not always a contrarian.

War Master’s Gate by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The meat grinder keeps grinding in the penultimate entry in the Shadows of the Apt series.  The Beetles now control the sky, but the Wasps have so many resources and horrible secret weapons that they lay to bare.

And that’s not even considering that Cheerwell’s seeming side quest into a haunted forest is anything but.  There’s more than one War Master (not counting Trevor Ebon in my series), and more than one gate.

It’s all about to go sideways for the protagonists and antagonists alike.

Really compelling stuff.
Check Out the Players of the Game Series on Kindle and Paperback
That’s all for this time.

Stay smart. 

Stay safe.


Click here to view the original format.