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
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Get a Bunch MORE Fantasy Books on the House
Check Out the Players of the Game Series on eBook and Paperback
That’s all for this time. Stay smart.  Stay safe. Jim

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
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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.


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.


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James McGowan Reader Group- So Why Am I Doing This?


Confession time.  I am reasonably sure I will continue to write my novels without making enough income to transition to doing it full time.  As often happens with artistic pursuits with a day job, as you become more successful with the day job, as that day job becomes *gasp* a career, and if you’re lucky enough to have a career that you enjoy, the viability of just ditching that job to slug it out as a full-time artiste regresses like a mirage on the horizon.

So why am I doing this?

Because I love doing it.

Because writing this science fantasy magnum opus scratches an itch that nothing else can scratch.

Because indie publishing and these reader-group newsletters are vastly more fulfilling than pitching to overworked and probably underpaid agents, only to get rejected.  Even if I were to get traditionally published, I’d still have to do all the promotion and settle for some boring samey cover instead of one that looks cool.

And the AI tidal wave of prompt-press a button to write a story-publish books?  As I said a few months back, come on in. 

I’m still going to write this using some tools like ProWritingAid and Chat GPT “give me ten different ways to say this” prompts, but the great majority will be the mental elbow grease of coming up with ideas and clickity-clacking them on the laptop.

It’s fulfilling.  It’s fun.

Great reasons to do anything.
Players of the Game Works in Progress
I’m inching closer to the end of The Game War’s first draft.  I’m at the end of the climax, and it’s turning out well.  Just need to keep on pace and I’ll be done with it in the summer.  Woot!

This month’s stats land at 754 pages with 214,100 words.  Last month clocked in with 716 pages with 202,900 words.  A bit less with the productivity, but progress is progress.

I can see the end.  I can taste it on the air.

Work in Progress Out of Context Quote of the Month:

Ashe glanced over to Celsis who looked at him with lustful amazement, her red hair still ruffling in the rippling after effect of the vented etherea. “Ready?”

The horned goddess’s crimson, jagged-edged curved sword rematerialized in her free hand. Her green eyes gleamed with anticipation. “For about sixteen centuries.”
Recommendation Corner
The Air War by Adrian Tchaikovsky

This is Book 8 in the Shadows of the Apt series.  I’ve recommended a few of the early entries in the series, and the middle entries have all been more-or-less pretty good, but I didn’t feel like they merited specific call outs.

This one does. 

A bombing campaign from the Wasps besets the Beetles’ home city.  And a steampunk Battle of Britain ensues above the city while the lands of the peninsula leading to their urban center endures a blitzkrieg of multi-legged sentinels (tank analogues).

Tchaikovsky does a good job of humanizing some of the POV characters on the Wasps side, though like their insect counterparts, they are largely @$$holes.

The need for good counter intelligence finally dawns on Stenwold, one of the main POV characters.  It only took him about 30 years and 8 novels to figure it out.

Joking aside, it’s a fraught read with lots of high stakes aerial combat and ground combat scenes that are fraught and compelling.

Good stuff.

Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

This was a thoroughly fun flick.  It accurately shows just how useful a bard actually is in a fight (which is not at all), but Chris Pine plays him with buckets of charisma.  Michelle Rodriguez’s barbarian character was a great partner for him.  Her subtle fetish for halflings was also most amusing.

Hugh Grant’s conman was also a stand out perfomance, especially with a hilarious exchange with his long-suffering and sinister ally involving overly hot tea.

I loved that it also took place in the Forgotten Realms setting, so the Harpers and the Red Wizards played large rolls in the plot.  As did a trip into the Underdark, though regrettably no Drow Elves showed up.  But a pudgy dragon did, so that was something.

Plus it had Displacer Beasts.

And Gelatinous Blobs.

And some background characters dressed up like the kids from the old 80’s Dungeons and Dragons cartoon.

It is awesome.  Give it a watch.
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- The Cost of Magic

Hey there!

We live in a world of magic. 

Planes that can get us across a continent in a few hours.  The personal round-edged rectangles that we all carry around that let us communicate, find info, and put on cat ear filters in limitless permutations.  The laptop that I’m using right now that can do even more.  Unless you’re involved in the technologies that comprise all this wonder, it may as well be magic.

But what is its cost?

There are certainly a lot of macro answers to that.  Waste, carbon emissions, mass social isolation, and on and on.

But what about you as an individual?

Maybe your attention span.  Maybe your ability to empathize with others.  Almost certainly not some physical harm as long as a random fluke or disaster isn’t involved.  And definitely not forgetting how to do a task immediately after performing it, Curse of the Magi AD&D 2nd edition style.

That brings me to my philosophy on magic in my Players of the Game series.

Magic in my story line does indeed have a cost.  It’s the same as any other science-based application.  It requires knowledge, physical conditioning or devices, and the energy to do it.  The same principles that apply to a plasma rifle also apply to a Burning Beam hex.

That’s why I don’t call it magic.  I call it mancy.   Yes, I know mancy is technically another root word for magic.  Yet, uncommon enough that a spell checker thinks it’s not a real word.  

It’s as much a science as physics or chemistry in this fictional universe.

And its cost is the investment in time to master it.  Aligning the practitioner’s body’s connection to etherea, the non-electromagnetic energy source behind all the mancy hexes.  And the caster’s capacity to hold etherea within their own body or an external artifact or device.

It gets mentioned when there’s a story or character-based need to call attention to it.  Otherwise, it’s humming in the background, working reliably and predictably.

Just like any other proven science.
Players of the Game Works in Progress
I have passed two significant and possibly ludicrous milestones with the Game War this month.

I am now on page 716 with 202,900 words.  Last month’s stats had me at page 670 with 189,600 words.

I’ve broken both the 700 page and 200k word thresholds in the same month.  That’s.  A lot.

And I’m still not finished with the first draft. I’m going to cut a bunch of stuff out of the subsequent drafts, but I’ll also be adding other scenes to flesh out the story.  I’m not yet sure if I’ll spit it up into two parts, or just make it an epic tome.

We’ll just have to see what looks best in the end.

Work in Progress Out of Context Quote of the Month:

The horned goddess nodded and then looked over at them through the display, wearing a resolute visage.

Vurg regarded Celsis with a hard-eyed expression, carrying both bemusement and optimism. “It’s odd having her on our side again.”

Vick smirked. “First time for me.”
Recommendation Corner
John Wick Chapter 4

This movie is gloriously ridiculous.  It has all the usual John Wick tropes.

Magic kevlar that requires emptying half a clip pointblank to take down basically anyone.  Zero police presence.  Anywhere.  Ever.  No one recording the spree killing on their smart phones.  Falls from great heights that only knock the wind out of Keenu’s character.  And a really cool subtitle font.

These are features, not bugs.  The stunt work and the direction are fantastic.  Some of the best action scenes I’ve seen in a good long while.  Epic gun-fu that is just a lovely delight.

Watch it in the theater.


This game has been out for a while, but I finally got around to it.

Many of my mental video game buttons are pushed with this frantic masterpiece.  Tactical combat.  Strategic resource management.  A doomsday clock that’s constantly ticking in the background until you get enough of a toehold to postpone it.

I love these kinds of games where outmaneuvering the opponent is more important than twitch skill.  And I fully admit to “save scumming”, saving check points throughout a mission and reloading if something goes awry.  I gotta keep my cool lady sniper alive, after all.

I’ve beaten the Vanilla version, and now I’m working on the War of the Chosen DLC that basically makes it a whole new game, with so many things going on at once that it is blisteringly chaotic, but also strangely freeing.

To paraphrase the words of a certain Jim Carrey character: I-like-it-a-lot.
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- 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.
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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.
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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.


Click here to view the original format.