James McGowan Reader Group- Discovery Plotting

Hey, folks. I often come across a lot of commentary in writer-oriented media that speaks of plotting vs. “pantsing”. 

Plotters outline their story beats in advance.  Pantsers, as the name implies, write by the seat of their pants and just start the story to see where it goes.
Another term I’ve heard used for this latter mindset is discovery writing.  It makes it  more of an intentional description, rather than something that’s chaotic.

I have intimate experience with both.  Years ago, I wrote earlier versions of the Players of the Game series, two books at once.  One with Repenter and one with the Burnhelts called Gifts and Curses, which I finished first.  I had plotted both of them out.

However, as I continued with Repenter and then Brigands, I came to the less than optimal realization, that the Gifts and Curses book no longer fit, and it had to be completely disassembled.

I believe my single word at the time was, “Ugh.”

Even plotting is not without its peril.

I chose to look at this creative spillage with its glass half full.  I had a far better idea of where the story needed to go.  And I needed to write it linearly, not in simultaneous parts. 

Plus, I did ultimately incorporate elements of defunct Gifts and Curses into The New Players, The Breakers, and The Game War.  The story beats work better now.

Following this era of hard knocks, I’ve determined like using a mix of the two mindsets. 

Discovery plotting if you will.

I plot out the story in advance, but I treat it more as a loose itinerary rather than a metaphorical GPS map of the story.

I know that I want to visit the Grand Canyon, but I won’t necessarily take the interstate or the airport. I might just hike there by way of the Sandhills of Nebraska and the foothills of the Rockies.

I often discover cool and compelling character and plot points that only emerge as I actually do the writing of the story after the planning stage. It’s a ton of work. 

But it’s fun and it makes my stories better.
Players of the Game Works in Progress
My productivity stats are staying pretty strong through February.  I’m at page 670 with 189,600 words.  Last month had me at page 622 with 175,800 words.

The end is in sight.  And this immense, slobbering mess of a first draft will then be completed.  I’ll put it aside to “marinate” for a little while I make to editing and formatting improvements on some earlier books.

That will likely take several months, which is good.  I need a little added perspective that only the distance of time can give me.

I will almost certainly have to break down and buy Scrivener when I get the the story editing and line editing phase.  I need to reorder a bunch of scenes and chapters on top of the usual refinement, and that will be much easier with Scrivener than Word.

I’ll be interested to see if I like writing in the chapter by chapter format, or I’ll still prefer the endless expanse of Word pages.

Time will tell.

Work in Progress Out of Context Quote of the Month:

“Tradeoffs, hated Rogue. Tradeoffs.”

That was new. Apparently, they shared the other Dragons’ revulsion to an apostate in opposition to Starm’s religion.

Fernallus kissed the air in the Fethelither’s direction.

She hissed back at him.

Leave it to Fernallus to immediately piss off a Demon.
Recommendation Corner
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

I possess many non-popularly held opinions.  Chocolate is always my third choice behind strawberry and vanilla.  I hate Kale and love Spinach.  And I loved this movie.

Yes, I know MODOK was stupid.  But he’s just as stupid in the comics. 

He’s a giant head with tiny arms and legs. 

That’s a ridiculous character that deserves to serve as comic relief. Especially with Cassie’s simplistic advice for him.  It worked for me.

I thought Jonathan Majors was great as Kang, and Michelle Pfeiffer was fantastic with Jan’s haunted recollections.

I had fun.  Recommended.  Just like strawberry.

Brian and Charles

This goofy and sweet movie is a gem.  Brian is an eccentric inventor and handyman who lives in a rural Welsh village.  He’s very introverted and shuns people. Yet, he is so very lonely.

So, of course, he builds a robot.

Charles is made out of a washing machine and other parts like a manikin head with glasses and a grey male-pattern-baldness wig.  The lo-tech effect is the actor playing him wearing a cardboard box with a giant dress shirt over it.  His voice sounds like a British Speak and Spell.

And Charles’s chosen last name of Prechescu is brain breakingly hilarious.

The stakes are mostly comedic misadventures with local bullies and Brian’s romantic interest.  Charles’s quick descent into teenage rebellion when Brian forbids him from traveling to Hawaii is also pure gold.

Give it a watch.
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That’s all for this time.

Stay smart.  Stay safe.


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Yes, It’s Another Opinion About Generative AI Art and Text

Greetings, all.

Like lots of folks, I’ve been kicking the tires on various generative Artificial Intelligence tools.  Not just Chat GPT, but also this writing-centric one called LAIKA and another for AI Art generation called Mid Journey.

Do I fear what these could do to society if we don’t implement reasonable safeguards? 


Folks with knowledge jobs like ad writers and paralegals might need to switch careers, and that will be disruptive, possibly destabilizing.

Rudimentary safeguards already appear to be on Chat GPT and Mid Journey with porn and viscera.  And try asking Chat GPT if it WANTS to answer all of these prompts, or if it will tell us if it doesn’t WANT to give an answer. 

I’ll spoil it.  “Dude, I’m just a fancy calculator.”  Ok, it doesn’t say that, but it’s along those lines.

Do I think AI generative tools should be banned? 


AI is out there already with search engines and social media.  I even use it with Pro Writing Aid’s copy editing properties.  It’s not going away.  And if it’s not developed in the open, it will be developed behind closed doors to humanity’s detriment.

Do I fear that AI will replace writers, artists, musicians, and other creators? 

Not really. 

There’s already a glut of human competition out there for human eyeballs.  AI will just add to that embarrassment of riches.  The best, most soulful creations will always rise to the top. 

And some of those might involve AI.

I’ve heard a few people present an analogy with which I agree.  It’s best to consider these AI generative tools as not a single super intelligent person, but rather more like an unlimited bullpen of stupid people, like the old chestnut concept of thousands of monkeys eventually creating a great novel because of minute percentages.  This analogy will almost certainly change as AI tools improve.

For my part right now, I’ve found Chat GPT and Mid Journey to be great brainstorming tools.  

I’ve used Mid Journey a few times to provide a cover artist with a mock up of how I want a cover to look, on which he VASTLY improves on that computer-derived rough idea.  However, I can see why some artists who’ve spent decades honing their craft are apprehensive about prompt-based commercial art putting them in a bad spot.

I’ve used Chat GPT mostly as a sentence and idea thesaurus thus far.  I use prompts like “Please give me a list of 10 sentences giving me facial expressions of someone who’s taking in mixed news.”  I have yet to use any of its full sentences, but I often find phrases or words that I integrate into my writing.

Whether we want it or not, the robits are here, so let’s work together with them. 

Yes, that Zoidbergian misspelling was intentional.
Players of the Game Works in Progress
My output in January got 2023 off to a pretty good start.  The Game War is now at page 622 with 175,800 words.  Last month’s stats came had me at page 565 with 159,900 words.  I’m happy with that pace, but I’ll always strive to do better.

I’m toward the climax of first draft.  Once I’m finished, I’ll let it set for a while and then take another swipe at it.  Like any first draft, it is a slobbering mess in dire need of considerable revision.

All part of the process.

Work in Progress Out of Context Quote of the Month:

Ed’s face hardened. “Hang tight, Crys. This will be bumpy, but fast.”

Crystala winked at him, and immediately regretted doing it. Then words tumbled out that she both did and did not want to say. “Make it faster.”
Recommendation Corner
The Glass Onion

“It’s a dangerous thing to mistake speaking without thought for speaking the truth.”  

Yes.  Like everyone else, I loved that quote from Benoit Blanc.  I really wish Netflix would have given this a real theatrical release, rather than just having it out for a week or so.  I would have loved seeing this on the big screen.  The cast was great, and the flashback twist was also well done.

I immensely enjoyed one character’s brute force method of solving the intricate puzzle that the other characters worked through together.  I also dug how the 2020 Covid lock down was also a big element of the plot and the reason for the character’s voyage to the film’s remote setting.

Saga by Brian K Vaughn and Fiona Staples

This science fantasy epic comic book series is just fantastic.  The series had been on hiatus for a few years following the death of one of the major characters in the first half. 

The story follows Hazel as she grows up in a galactic war and flees from factions of her both her parents’ planets.  She is a hybrid of two humanesque alien species, possessing her father’s horns and and her mother’s wings.  And her mere existence is seen as an abomination, and all manner of agents of both warring societies relentlessly hunt her and any who travel with her.

The art in this story is renowned of its surreal portrayal of various aliens and technology.  I especially love the Robots with their TV heads.  It’s so weird and goofy that it goes around the dial to awesome.

Give it a read.
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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A Season of Mindful Consumption

Happy New Year, everyone!

The year has ticked forward, and like all of them, it had uppy ups and downy downs.  I regrettably already lost a friend who’d been in hospice for about a year.

Her name is Lisa Kovanda, and she was a writer friend of mine, and former president of the Nebraska Writers Guild.  She was a class act and I’ll dearly miss her.

Facing mortality for loved ones and friends is not an easy thing.  Among the many conflicting feelings and thoughts, there also lies introspection for oneself, and the life you’ve led thus far, and the life you will lead. 

An opportunity to consider the upcoming year.  Not necessarily with a resolution with a specific goal of doing X things by Y date, but instead as a season with a theme of something you wish to do either more or less in the coming season, maybe a few months, maybe the whole year. 

And so, to again take inspiration from the Cortex podcast, I’m choosing a theme for the season, however long that may be.

Mindful consumption.

Definitely not the nineteenth century synonym for tuberculous.  No, this pertains to being more aware of the things I put into my body and into my mind. 

This not only applies to coming back to reality after a holiday season of eating delicious, but not-so-healthy food, but also media I consume.  I waste a good deal of time with very passive media, often educational Youtube videos, which are arguably not as bad as other time sinks, but I’d like to be more active in the media I consume, rather than passively watching.

Admittedly, this is variation on a prior theme from a few years ago that I deemed “a season of better inputs”, but it’s something I wish to attempt to revisit improving in myself.

And that’s what I’ll aim to do this season.
Players of the Game Works in Progress
I was able to get a bit more writing in over the holidays during my week off, so I reached page 565 with 159,900 words.  Last month’s stats came in at page 520 with about 146,800 words. 

I’m happy with that output. 

As with all things worth doing, showing up and doing the work is the biggest hurdle to surpass.  I started 2022 on page 6 of this novel, so that’s basically 559 pages for this year.

That’s not nothing by any stretch.

I’m getting closer to the end of the book, but there’s still a ways to go. 

And go I shall.

Work in Progress Out of Context Quote of the Month:

Tamona: I’m going to stab Balpors in the testicles.  And blow a kiss at him when I do it.
Recommendation Corner
Guardians of the Galaxy Christmas Special on Disney+

A night before watching this fantastic, goofy special, my wife and I made the mistake of watching the Star Wars Holiday Special on Youtube.  Ugh.  Ten minutes of Wookie grunts without subtitles before anyone starts talking. A VR soft-core 1-900 number with Grandpa Wookie watching Diahann Carroll.  5 minutes with an unfunny 4-armed Julia Childs parody.  And Bea Arthur singing.  For reasons.

Like I said.  Mistakes were made.

Anyway, the Guardians Special had a very low bar to pass after that.  It started with the Old 97’s playing a Christmas rock song in Knowhere based on aliens’ perceptions of the strange human winter solstice traditions.

Much of it focuses on Mantis and Drax as they attempt to cheer up Peter Quill.  They venture to earth to get him the thing they think will help get him out of his funk.  I won’t spoil what that is, save to say it was very well done and hilarious.

Hijinks ensue from there.  And it actually has a heartwarming ending too.

Give it a watch.

The Fabelmans

This is a bit more niche, but I really liked it.  Steven Spielberg created a mostly autobiographical movie about his childhood and what drove him to become a director.

Making movies kind of sneaked up on his stand-in character, Sammy Fabelman, when he saw a train crash in a movie with his parents, and he wanted to recreate it.

The movie then details Sammy’s interactions with his parents as he makes war movies with his friends, uncovers truths hidden in plain sight, and then his struggles with making art, especially as it collides with his life at home and at school.

Judd Hirsch and David Lynch both have limited but very funny supporting roles as well.

If watching a movie about how someone falls into making movies is up your alley, give this one a try.
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- Everyone Has a Plan…

…until they get a paper cut on their thumb.  Yes, not as memorable as Mike Tyson’s “punched in the face” quote, but a paper cut is probably more apt for a writer.  Less painful too.

I recently bought the Atticus formatting software, which I’ll be using to revise the formats in my ebooks and print books in the coming months after I’ve finished The Game War’s first draft.

My ultimate plan is to leverage this to offer both ebook bundles with 4-8 main novels and .5 bonus content novellas.  While I’m at it, I intend to offer Repenter: The Hidden Chapters and Brigands: The Favor as a combined paperback.  These two bonus stories are too thin to make their own paperback.

Plus I’m also thinking about doing hardback collections through Ingram Spark.

For example, I’d offer both Repenter and the Hidden Chapters in one hardcover collection.  Then offer Brigands and the Favor as another hardcover collection.  You get the idea.

My thinking on that is that if someone is going to pony up the money to pay for the premium version, they should also get some extra content. That’s the plan.

But what do you think?  Does this plan for hardbacks make sense to you as I expand into other formats?  Or do you think I should try a different approach?

If you’re so inclined, you can vote and provide feedback in the poll below. 

As a reward, you will get a special message from Homer and Bart on the Frinkiac about this month’s character spotlight. Or you can even email me with the Contact tab above if you have other thoughts on the matter.
What do you think?

Vote on the Players of the Game Future Hardback Formats Plan and get a bonus message from Homer and Bart on the Frinkiac

Players of the Game Works in Progress
Sickness within the household has thankfully given way to better health.  So productivity has returned to its prior steady pace.  I reached page 520 with about 146,800 words in The Game War.  Last month’s stats were at page 479 with 135,300 words.  And this month had a few less days from last month’s productivity check.

Making it past page 500 is another milestone, and I hope to have the rough draft finish out between 600-700 pages.  Then I will let it set for a while and perform a lot of editing and reformatting of my back list.  Ever onward!

Work in Progress Out of Context Quote of the Month:

Ramansa (to Vick): I’ll say this, darling. Your toys have me slightly envious.
Recommendation Corner
The Peripheral on Amazon Prime

I saw the trailer for this show and thought it looked intriguing, especially since it’s based on a William Gibson story.  Without giving away the twists, it focuses on a sister and brother in the near future in a small rural  community in the American South.  They are VR gaming whizzes and they get an offer to test a new immersive game that looks and feels like real life.  The stakes for this supposed game quickly escalate, and they discover that the game’s world is not what it seemed.  Chloe Grace Moretz does a great job as an intelligent resourceful lead.  And Jack Reynor as her war veteran brother has some heavy Bill Paxton vibes, which I enjoyed immensely.  Give it a watch.

Fairy Tale by Stephen King

Yes, I like most of Stephen King’s catalog and I think he is one of the best storytellers in history.  Even if you disagree with that statement, you can’t deny the man’s sheer output. 

OK, stepping off the soapbox.  This story focus on a teenager named Charlie who finds himself taking care of a grouchy old neighbor named Howard Bowditch and his equally old German Sheppard, Radar.  It focuses much on promises, guilt, and obligation.  The first part of the book spends a good chunk of time in our world in order to get the reader invested in Charlie, Howard, and Radar’s relationships.  Of course, the weird, horrible, and fantastical ultimately make an appearance, and Charlie must plunge into it.  I’m listening to it on Audible and Stephen King even makes a brief vocal appearance in reading a section that makes sense from a story standpoint.  Good stuff.
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That’s all for this time.

Stay smart.  Stay safe.


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James McGowan Reader Group: Every Month is NaNoWriMo

Hey hey!

It’s been a long stretch past Halloween this week after the icky un-fun that is Covid payed an unwelcome visit to our house.  Boo!  But we kicked it to the curb with the help of the omicron booster jabbed a few weeks back for one of us and anti-viral meds for the other.  Yay!

That regrettably hit my writing productivity this time around, just in time for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which occurs every November. 

In chatting with a friend about it just a day or two ago, he said he uses it as a motivator to get words on a page for various projects, irrespective of their status as a novel or something else.  And I absolutely commend him for it.

I tried NaNoWriMo several years ago, wanting to get as much words as possible, while knowing that I wouldn’t actually finish the novel.  I flamed out after about a week and it took many more sessions to get back into a writing rhythm. 

I learned that I’m much more of a distance runner than a sprinter when it comes to writing.  My productivity may not win races, but I pride myself on getting across the finish line.

For me, every month is NaNoWriMo.  It’s one part of the larger marathon.  Still, it would be nice to beat last month’s so-so results.

And I shall endeavor to do just that.

One word at a time.
Players of the Game Works in Progress
As indicated above, the week of Covid did no favors to much in my life, including my writing productivity.  I reached page 479 with about 135,300 words.  Last months stats had me at page 440 with about 124,300.  There’s a few extra days on this round since this reader group email is coming a bit further into the month.

So.  Yeah.  Not great.  But better than nothing. Keep at it.  And keep writing.  I hear this month is nationally dedicated to it or something.

Work in Progress Out of Context Quote of the Month:

Hekati: You deserve this. You killed the airborne kliost. You murdered a new world before it was born. Everything that will happen. Know that you have it coming.
Recommendation Corner
The Witcher: Season of Storms- Andrzej Sapkowski, translated by David French

To use a term from Joanna Penn’s podcast, this is an “inbetweenisode” for the Witcher series.  The ever-grouchy and horny Geralt finds himself embroiled in the twisted politics of a kingdom with a looming succession crisis, the nightmarish creatures created by mad sorcerers, and a few supernatural canines. 

Geralt just wants to get his stolen swords back and get out.  Circumstances conspire to prevent him from doing just that. 

It’s nice to see a new novel adventure of the Witcher.  Sapkowski imbues the characters with compelling dialogue and motivations.  And the monsters are extra grotesque.

Special credit must also go to the translator David French.  I’m reasonably sure that the prose pops all the more in English thanks to his efforts.

Andor on Disney+

This show is dissimilar to any other Star Wars movies or series of the Disney era.  It’s not focused at all on the Jedi.  It’s a slow burn that shows the Empire’s gradual strangling of the last vestiges of the Old Republic’s freedoms.
Cassian Andor is not the rebel spy we meet at the beginning of Rogue One.  He’s a thief with utter contempt for the Empire’s arrogance.  He gets pulled into the rebellion starting with his lethal encounter with corporate security.

Mon Mothma is also a stand out in this show with her scenes on the Coruscant in the Senate and her loveless household.  She stands on a knife’s edge.  It will be interesting to see the path that takes her fully into the rebellion.  I’d love to see more shows with her after this two season run reaches its end.
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- On Vexillology

Hi there!

To the surprise of perhaps no one, I must confess I have a fascination with flag design and their usage.  There’s even a word for the study, symbolism, and usage of flags.


Many of my friends and family must suffer through my diatribes on how the University of Nebraska flag with its red field and big white “N” is actually more of a state flag than the thoroughly unremarkable state seal on a dark blue field. 

So unremarkable that no one noticed that it was flying upside down at the state capital for several days. 

True story. 

And many other states share the 19th century-era state seal on a blue or turquoise field design.  They all look terrible.

To me the proof of a good flag design is whether the people under it will show it to people who aren’t under it.  In particular at airports.  I can personally attest that the University of Nebraska “N” is on proud display on shot glass, T-shirts and more in Omaha’s airport. 

The seal-on-blue state flag?  If it was on display, I must have missed it.

I’ve been in an airport where the state flag is on all kinds of merch.

Denver, Colorado.

The Colorado blue-and-white striped flag with a red C and a gold circle inside of it is iconic.  It’s on their freeway and highway signs.  It’s everywhere.

To parrot some points made by the 99% Invisible and Hello Internet podcasts, the best flag designs are simple, easily recognizable from a distance, and so easy to draw that a kid can ably reproduce it.  Ideally, they also contain no words, though a single letter or number can work, as evidenced by the Colorado “C” and the University of Nebraska “N”.

Flags have meaning, and that meaning can change over time, for good and bad.  Most importantly, they can provide a sense of commonality among people who might not otherwise consider themselves as part of something larger.

Why am I waxing vexillological about this stuff? 

Well that’s because my Players of the Game series has flags of its own.  All of them could replace the Nebraska state flag as a vast improvement in my opinion.

And from time to time, I shall show you one of them. 

Now is one such time.

So I just went on a rant about a state seal on blue, and now I show you an insignia on blue.  Hypocrisy?  That’s in the eye of the beholder.  For my part, I say no.

The Grellish Claw is an important symbol.  I describe it on multiple occasions throughout all of the Players of the Game series, most notably on ViRauni’s headband and Ed Burnhelt’s chest plate.  It’s something under which they’ve fought wars and defended their homeland.

It was adapted from the flag of Old Grelland before it was lost in the Eruption.  The blue symbolizes the azure flames of the Fire Well.  The white circle is the protected island and the three-pronged claw is the indomitable Grellish people.

New Grelland is a land that has seen and continues to see hard times.  Many are those who will stand in defense of this bastion in the fire.

(Special thanks to my brother, Tony, who helped me bring these flag designs to life with his fantastic graphic design skills.)
Players of the Game Works in Progress
I’ve reached page 440 with about 124,300 words on the Game War’s first draft.  Last month’s stats came in at 400 with about 113,200.  I’m okay with that, but I’ll always strive for more words if I can get them to flow the way i want them.

Work in Progress Out of Context Quote of the Month:

Matt Burnhelt: Diplomacy in a war.  Novel.
Recommendation Corner
Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power on Amazon Prime

I was not really expecting great things out of this series.  I thought they were adapting the Silmilarion, but it turns out that the Bezos crew only got the rights to the thoroughly dry appendices from LOTR.  I’m pleasantly surprised.  They production value is great.  I like the varied characters.  I don’t know the lore well enough aside from general stuff about Galadriel, Elrond, and Gandalf.  It’s sprawling with lots of intersecting plot lines.  I look forward to seeing how it’s tied into the larger mythos.  It’ll be interesting to see a bunch of human kings get corrupted by their own rings at some point too.  Good stuff.

Sandman on Netflix

This is also a really well done show.  I’ve only read the trade paperback of the first Sandman series.  I liked it well enough, but it didn’t quite grab me like it’s grabbed other people.  Morpheus seemed a bit mopey and vindictive for me.  And boy do they keep that going in the streaming version.  He is a compelling, but sometimes unlikable protagonist.  The show does a great job of layering it with a bunch of other interesting characters and locales.  Matthew the raven is a favorite of mine.  The score music is also memorable, and Morpheus has a very memorable recurring theme song.

As a writer, I especially liked the bonus episode focusing on an author’s attempt to break his writer’s block by imprisoning an actual muse.  Thankfully, I’m able to plow through the mental goo associated with that most of the time.  Though I’ll admit that “resistance” ensnares me more than I’d like.
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- Living with the Fear of It

Happy Labor Daybor, all!

I’ve read many lines of dialogue and narration that have stuck with me over the years.  One in particular has rung true for me of late from Logen Nine Fingers in Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series.  He repeated it often and other characters often quoted him as well.

“Once you’ve got a task to do, it’s better to do it than live with the fear of it.”

I’ve had a few vexing conversations in the past month.  Ones that came at me as slow as molasses.  Thankfully, I also prepared myself for them.  I trudged through them and got on the other side.  Anvils of Damocles may lurk in the future, but at least I’m through this part of it.

I didn’t have much control over the timing, but I can tell you on no uncertain terms, it is far better to have the hard task acted upon, rather than dreading it.  Far better indeed.

Players of the Game Works in Progress
I reached page 400 with about 113,200 words on the Game War’s initial draft.  Last month’s stats were 351 pages with about 99,200 words.  That’s more or less the same level of production as last month.  I’m calling this one a win due to the above-mentioned life stress stuff.  Plus page 400 is a milestone in of itself, as is blowing past 100,000 words.

PLUS: The New Players: Origins is recently released.  Grab it now with the links below if you haven’t already.

Work in Progress Out of Context Quote of the Month:

Benefactor: “It’s my experience that anyone who truly thinks he is a ‘great man’ is anything but.”
Recommendation Corner
She-Hulk (Both on Disney+ and the Comic Book by Rainbow Rowell and Roge Antonio) She-Hulk has always been among my favorite Marvel characters.  She’s the smart and jolly Hulk.  I also enjoy her 4th wall breaking, which she’s been doing since the 80’s. 

The Disney+ show is lighthearted and just plain fun.  Tatiana Maslany does a great job as Jen Walters in both her short human and tall hulk forms.  And I disagree with the haters, I think the CGI is fine.  It’s very evocative of Dan Slott’s run from the aughts. 

And Rainbow Rowell and Roge Antonio’s current run is also among my current faves.  Humorous, great art, and they brought back Jack of Hearts, one of my favorite D-list characters.
Fun stuff.

Better Call Saul

Oh, man.  What to say about this series now that it has wrapped up?  It is a fantastic character study of the complicated, broken man named Jimmy McGill who made an increasingly horrible series of choices.  His transformation into Saul Goodman very much enabled to Walter White to fully become the even more broken Heisenberg.

All of the characters are fantastic in the final season, especially Nacho, Mike, Kim, and Howard.  Carol Burnett’s guest role in the final few episodes was also really well done. 

If you’ve never watched the Vince Gilligan ABQ-based shows, I envy your new experience.  I recommend starting the series with Breaking Bad, then the El Camino Netflix movie that spotlights Jesse Pinkman, and then finish the binge session with Better Call Saul.  I’ve heard these shows lauded as some the better TV ever made.  I don’t disagree. 

Highly recommended.
Get New Players: Origins and Get New Players
That’s all for this time.

Stay smart.  Stay safe.


Get The New Players: Origins in Ebook or Paperback!

Hey there, everyone!

The New Players: Origins novella is now available on paperback and ebook! It’s a collection of stories that explore into the beginnings of the Burnhelt family, Xax, Harry Mang, and more.

Check it out!
Great powers come at great cost.

A god of technology, a reality-warping entity encased in silver armor, two inheritors of peerless skill, and a hyper-powered duelist. Ed counts himself among these New Players as a nascent champion of his homeland. But he must first contain the dire inferno burning within.

Or it will incinerate him.

He must master the mighty torrent blazing from his very blood as he trains in the art of combat. At the harsh tutelage of his legendary mother. The lessons will be hard.

And lethal.

Learn how Ed and the other New Players master their skills in this anthology of short stories. And what they lose along the way. And the dark nightmares spawned by their good intentions.

You’ll love this collection of prequel material because of its illuminating connections to the main New Players novel and the sacrifices the characters make in order to keep their world bright.

Get it now.
Buy The New Players: Origins

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James McGowan Reader Group- All’s Fair in the Book Fair

Hi, everyone! I’m participating in the August Sci-Fi and Fantasy Book Fair.  Repenter and the Hidden Chapters books are part of the promo along with a bunch of other books.  Over a hundred of them.  All of them on the house.  Check them out and enjoy!

Check Out the August SFF Book Fair (August 2022)
Players of the Game Works in Progress
I’ll be sending out a bonus email later this month with the details on the release of my new bonus content book, Players of the Game: Origins.  It will be available in ebook and paperback formats.  More on that next time.

In the meantime, the Game War’s first draft clocks in at 351 pages with about 99,200 words.  Last month’s stats had me at page 305 with about 86,000 words.  Decent, not great, but decent.  However, I’ll like have 100k cracked in a day or two, which is another milestone.

Work in Progress Out of Context Quote of the Month:

Marcrinus: “Welcome to Crystal Keep. Don’t expect anyone else to thank you for helping.”
Recommendation Corner
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

I got this book in a white elephant gift exchange years ago at my writers’ group’s holiday party.  Far and away the best such bonus gift I’ve ever received.  A big concept of this book that has stuck with me is the concept of Resistance.  It’s defined as anything that either hinders or completely stops you from continuing with your creative endeavor.  It could be stuff in your life getting in the way, both good stuff and bad stuff.  I definitely experienced plenty of both categories this month.  Or it can just be the inner slog as you slowly chip away at your story or any other project.  Yep.  I had plenty of that this month too.  The book’s big strategy is to realize that Resistance is always there and each writing/creative session is a new chance to either overcome Resistance or let it overcome you.  Highly recommended for any creative person who’s looking for some inspiration.

Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+

This one is more of a half recommendation.  I loved Ewan McGregor’s return to the character.  It starts with him in a very dark place and very emotionally broken.  It had some fantastic Force and light saber battles, especially in the final episode.  It was hindered by characters making a lot of nonsensical decisions because the plot demanded it.  So many people did not die because the victor of a battle just walked away or let something like a fire make an artificial end to a conflict.  I was neutral on the Leia subplot.  But again, Obi-Wan is a great character, and James Earl Jones still has the vocal chops for a menacing Vader, so I still call it worth watching.
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- Sun in the Fun

Hey, all!

To all my US-based readers, Happy Fourth of July.  To all my non-US-based readers, also happy fourth of July.

Capitalization word play aside, I have once again been out enjoying the sun on walks through the neighborhood and doing yard work.  I absolutely love this time of the year.  It stays light outside late and everything is green and alive.  And while I don’t necessarily care for excessive heat, I like it far more than the cold of winter.  I’m am very much a summer baby, though my baby days are far in the rear view.

One thing that’s been constant regardless of my age is my sweet tooth.  I’m a big fan of ice cream cones and malts this time of year.  Marshmallow and Raspberry are among my favorite malt flavors.  Blue almond and rainbow sherbet are my go-to ice cream cone varieties.  What kind of summer treats do you enjoy either now, or in six months if you’re in the southern hemisphere?

Players of the Game Works in Progress
This month’s update for the Game War’s first draft clocks in at page 305 with about 86,000 words.  Last month’s stats were page 253 with 71,700 words.  Not too bad.  Plus it’s a milestone to reach page 300 in about six months since I started in late December-ish.  I’m likely around halfway there.  Did I mention that I like to write epics?

Work in Progress Out of Context Quote of the Month: Vermillion: “I don’t tell people what they want to hear, Arms Master.”
Recommendation Corner
Top Gun: Maverick

This movie was a really pleasant surprise.  I wasn’t really expecting much from it.  It’s a really fun popcorn movie.  It’s also a very compelling portrayal of characters dealing with grief.  I’d argue that Goose’s absence is the second main character in the movie, especially with the call back to the Great Balls of Fire scene from the first one.  The mostly practical jet action was awesome with the double Death Star-style trench run.  Plus they played Danger Zone at the beginning again.  As you might have surmised from my email address, I have an affinity for that word.

Symphony of War

This Steam game is something I’ve been wanting for years and years.  An homage to one of my all-time faves: Ogre Battle, the old strategy role playing game from the Super Nintendo days.  The movement of groups of small teams, capturing towns, and outmaneuvering your enemy  is just the bee’s knees.  I wish some of the sprites weren’t so “meeple” looking, but that’s a minor quibble.  Totally fun stuff if you’re into that kind of thing.
Check Out the Players of the Game Series on Kindle and Paperback
That’s all for this time. Stay smart.  Stay safe. Jim

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