If you haven’t yet read my debut novel A Sword Into Darkness and all the awesome hard science fiction, military sci-fi, space opera kickassery inside, IT’S ONLY A BUCK ON KINDLE THIS WEEK.
And, SECRET, it’s totally, frickin’, no lie, gosh-darned FREE every day, all day if you have Kindle Unlimited!
If you have read it, now’s your best chance to gift it, or to move on to my next novel, The Mutineer’s Daughter, done with the great Chris Kennedy, and also full of awesome hard SF, military sci-fi, space opera, but ALSO including my growth as a writer, his deft wordplay and gritty ground-combat action, and a great coming-of-age story wrapped up in the classic tale of a father going to great lengths for his daughter, along with nuanced moral conundrums! Honestly, how can you NOT?
Tom here, writer of all that stuff over there to the right (or below, if thou art a visitor from the mobileverse), here with a progress report. I’m very glad you stopped by — make it a regular thing!
The Mutineer’s Daughter is doing well, with solid, consistent sales and page reads. I don’t have the numbers and tracking I did with A Sword Into Darkness, since I’m just one of the writers on this one vs the (self/indie) publisher. The great Chris Kennedy has been tracking the day to day sales and page reads there, and he’s satisfied, if not blown away by it. We’re not doing the numbers that ASID did when it exploded in sales and reviews, surprising me right out of the gate, but it has not yet flashed out of the pan. As I can’t track sales and Kindle Edition Normalized Page (KENP) read data (which is how Amazon monetizes reader interest for the Kindle Unlimited patrons), I can and do track the book’s sales ranking and my author ranking. As you can see below, I did see an immediate rise, and it has stayed fairly steady since then.
However, it has not drawn the massive numbers of eyes either ASID or the Fourth Horsemen Universe novels have. A couple of 4HU novels have been released since TMD, and they are all outselling it. Now me, I’m very proud of TMD. Its writing, characterization, and complexity are much better than ASID’s, and Chris seems very happy with what we did as well. So why isn’t it boosting through the roof? I dunno. The cover? I love it, but it does look much different from the other covers in its sub-genre. The fact that Chris’s fans weren’t expecting my hard sci-fi space stuff, and my fans weren’t expecting his gritty ground-level teen rebel angst? Now me, I think of it like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. “You got your chocolate in my peanut butter! You got your peanut butter in my chocolate!” They’re two great tastes that go great together, but for fans that aren’t expecting the other, does it look like a Frankenstein’s Monster amalgamation? I dunno. I think the main issue is that we need to get eyes on it and reviews in it. So far it’s received 29 positive 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon, and only got one negative-ish one rating on Goodreads. The fellow involved tweeted with me and he regretted the fact that he just bounced off some of the plot choices in the last few chapters. That’s gonna happen, so I’m not bent out of shape. Me? I’d love to hear what y’all think? If you’ve given TMD a read, please consider messaging me and/or giving it a review. If we can get the numbers up, the Amazon algorithm will start to work for us, and bring more eyes on. I also have sent out a number of review copies that I hope will begin to bear fruit soon. (and if you are a reviewer, I’m happy to send you a paper or e-copy with my compliments) We are not sitting idly by awaiting an audience, however. Chris and I have already met up and semi-plotted out the next two books in the In Revolution Born series, and each is more epic than the last! Now is the time to get on board.
2. Speaking of A Sword Into Darkness, followers on Twitter will know that I’ve finished the first “half” of the sequel Lancers Into The Light. I put “half” in quotes because it finished about 40% over my targeted word count. The first half is practically a novella in and of itself at 70K words vs the planned 50K words. I’m mighty tempted to just publish it stand-alone, but it really should have the second (smaller) half to balance it out. I still plan to finish the second half by summer and have the book out before fall, so stay tuned. In the meantime, if you would like to be a beta-reader for the first half, so I can fix whatever doesn’t work while I’m building off of that in the second, please drop me a line. You will need to have read ASID first, but the numbers say there’s about 40,000 of you that have done that, so just let me know. It’s been a long, arduous, frustrating 4 years of work on the sequel, and my profound apologies to those who gave up on seeing it, but life intervened and I lost the will and wherewithal to work on it for the longest time. With the patient support of fellow writers and my lovely girlfriend Kristin, however, I’M BACK, BABY! Stay tuned!
3. And for those who DON’T know what I’m yammering about, and who would like a preview of what my writing is like before you try on The Mutineer’s Daughter or put Lancers Into The Light on your pre-sale list, there’s NEVER been a better time to try out A Sword Into Darkness. On April 20th and running through the 27th, ASID will be ONLY 99¢! And if you are a Kindle Unlimited member, it’s free like always! ASID is a good bet, with around 420 reviews at Amazon to help convince you. So, try it yourself, push it onto your friends and family, proselytize it to your co-workers until security carts you out of the building. DON’T MISS OUT!
Woo-Hoo! First of all, THANK YOU to all of you that hopped to and helped Chris Kennedy and I have such a GREAT book launch weekend, no Foolin’ (get it? Because it was April Fool’s Day aaaaaand Easter . . . . I’ll shut up now).
Eggcellent . . . .
I won’t bore you with the whole play-by-play but, briefly, when The Mutineer’s Daughter launched on Amazon on Friday, it had an insurmountable, back-of-the-pack sales rank in the 600,000’s — which basically meant around 600,000 books were ACTIVELY selling better than it. Pitiful, but it was pre-official launch. After the early readers, early reviewers, my Facebook and Twitter friends, Chris’s minions from his mailing list, etc. got done pushing it, it rose to the lofty sales rank of 11,600.
Now, that may not sound really impressive to you . . . but it kinda is. For a self/indie/small-press publication, opening weekend, with just word of mouth and a bit of intra-Amazon advertising, THAT’S AMAZING. Yes. 11,000 books were selling better. But that’s 11,000 out of ALL the books Amazon sells. Which is a lot? I’ll have to ask Chris what the actual sales were, but I’m pleased.
Along with garnering 19 4-and-5-star reviews, getting an aggregate of 4.7 – 4.8 stars, and reaching the lofty rank of 11,600 before falling into a more reasonable 16,000 range, I thought it couldn’t get any better.
Then I googled myself.
(don’t look at me that way . . . it’s not a sin . . . .)
And that’s when I saw that the great Nyrath (Winchell Chung of Atomic Rockets — the best dang science resource for space sci-fi authors and game designers on the internet) had not just given TMD a glowing review, he had also awarded our book the prestigious Atomic Rockets Seal of Approval! Aaaaand the Radiator Award!
The first goes to books or games that are suitably “hard” with their science and space physics. Things have inertia. Acceleration takes time and velocity builds, which then has to be decelerated against. Nothing is 100% efficient. Energy and reaction mass has to come from somewhere and they impose limitations which then have to be accounted for. There’s (for the most part) no stealth in space. There’s no sound and distances are VAST. You can’t zip around or bank your space fighters. You, in fact, realize space fighters don’t really work that well, even if it means your inner X-Wing or Viper pilot dies a little inside.
That doesn’t mean you can’t cheat a little for the sake of telling an exciting story. If you didn’t cheat a bit, every realistic space story would be slow and methodical and locked in our solar system using drones and probes. You can have great stories like that, but too much reality can limit the imagination. However, you don’t have to go full space fantasy like Doctor Who or Star Wars either — not that those aren’t fun in their own way. Too often, though, they require the use of oo much secret handwavium or macguffinite to resolve the story in favor of the protagonists. That’s like writing (and reading) on easy mode. Deus ex machinas everywhere. The Doctor’s sonic screwdriver and Star Trek’s transporter basically do WHATEVER the stories require, and after a while that just gets lame.
Writing/reading “hard” science fiction is a joyful challenge, sort of like solving a puzzle, or really getting into a game of chess. Everyone knows how the pieces work. The enemy can see your every move, and you can see every one of theirs, and you still have to pull out a victory or achieve tactical surprise! There are no 11th-hour saves from out of nowhere. Instead, whatever cheats you MUST use in order to keep your adventure moving briskly at the speed of plot have to have limitations. They need to have well-defined rules and costs that prevent them from being some sort of deus ex machina, and — once established — YOU CAN’T BREAK THEM, even if they involve physics that don’t exist (yet) in our reality. That’s how you can have faster-than-light travel (even if it breaks causality in our physics) or super-duper-efficient fusion drives, like in the suitably-hard The Expanse series and novels.
The second award is — in its words — For Excellence In Realizing Heat Needs To Go Places ‘N Shit . . . .
The ships in TMD have fragile, easily crippled radiators to expend all that pesky waste heat into the vacuum of space. They are both a hassle and a constraint to be exploited. Remember, on a fusion-powered ship, the worry isn’t that you’ll freeze in the cold vacuum of space if your systems fail. The worry is that you’ll be roasted for years as your whole hull reaches thermal equilibrium with the reactor and you SLOWLY cool off via inefficient infrared emission.
Not enough people appreciate convection through the atmosphere.
So, THANK YOU, Atomic Rockets!
And as if THAT wasn’t enough, Chris Kennedy sent out a shout this morning that the fun of the weekend WAS NOT OVER. Because this morning, Amazon ranked TMD as the #1 New Release in Children’s Science Fiction Ebooks regarding Aliens, which jumped our numbers up all over again. From 16,000 back to 11,000, then 10,000, 9000, 8000, 7000 . . . finally peaking at a sales rank of 6920! Again, big number, but MUCH SMALLER than many. That made us rank not only on the New Release list but also on the regular list. At this point we are at #2 of all Children’s Sci-Fi Ebooks – Aliens, ABOVE in the list A Wrinkle In Time at #4. That’s not to say we’re better than Madeline L’Engle’s classic, just that it’s nice to be in such company – especially as that book has a movie out now.
Now, would I think of TMD as a Children’s Ebook? Heck no! It’s young-adult at most and is written to appeal to teens and adults alike. Sailors are in there. Sailors curse. I’m just waiting for the first angry parent to dress me down because the antagonist in chapter One says “Fuck”.
But until then, I’m enjoying these lofty ranks, these 23 stellar 4 & 5-star reviews, and looking forward to where this might go. Thank you all!
Merry Christmas, all! As well as Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, and an excellent Ramadan, Boxing Day, Yule, Saturnalia, Festivus, Officially Sanctioned Non-Religious Winter-esque Holiday, or whatever else brings you indoors this season and causes you to get nostalgic with family and friends, drink, eat, and exchange gifts and good will.
I don’t wanna judge. Me, I’m celebrating Christmas with me and mine. As such, posts may well be infrequent (much drinking and writing to do), but as posts have already been infrequent, I thought it prudent to say something about why I haven’t written in three months.
I’m well. Nobody is dying. Family is good. Work is looking up. I’m in a generally up-beat mood most of the time. But not everything is coming up roses.
Change has come to my life. My wife and I have split up (sort of, it’s complicated). This has somewhat adversely affected my progress upon the new novel, the sequel, my scripts, short stories, and marketing for the stuff I’ve already put out. It’s not the only reason I haven’t written. There is a lot of my own laziness, procrastination, writer’s block, and lack of a truly professional writer’s work ethic in there as well, but our separation and eventual divorce (as well as the associated issues with selling a house and moving) does color most of that. I am not blaming her. My lack of progress is upon me, but as many of you have been faithful fans, and as I have not held up my end of that bargain, I apologize.
As for the whys and what happeneds, that is a private matter between she and I. The whole story (or a version of it) requires the purchase and pouring of multiple drinks in person. My ex, my professional life, and most especially my kids deserve the grace of discretion. What’s important is that we are both dedicated to our children, we get along, and we hope to one day be past this enough to be friends and take joy in each other’s futures, loves, and accomplishments.
What does this mean for you? Pretty much nothing. It’s just an apology and explanation. But here is what I will give you: an update and a gift!
Update first. I am on the last chapter of Book One in Lancers Into The Light, the sequel to A Sword Into Darkness. I anticipate Book Two going faster (I hope, anyway) and its a bit shorter. I originally wanted to be done and launch around year’s end, but that’s not gonna happen. I still would like to launch in the next quarter, and possibly do a launch party at RavenCon. To facilitate that, I will be looking to getting feedback from Beta Readers of the first half while I’m finishing the second. If’n you’d like to participate and give me some constructive feedback, drop me a line and some contact info here, by e-mail, Twitter, Google +, or Facebook.
I’m also working on a short for the Jim Baen Memorial Writing contest, but mum’s the word on that for now.
As for a present, last year I won the Liberty Island Holiday Writing contest with a little story about war, robots, Christmas, and French Meat Pies. I’ll share that with all of you here later today or tomorrow, and I hope you all enjoy it.
Hey, all. I’ve been off the computer as of late (well, off everything that isn’t Parks and Rec or Justified binge watching), so I apologize for the lack of recent posts, updating my writer’s group, or making progress on my projects. I can’t say why I’ve been off. It’s been more of a general “blah” feeling than anything else. Maybe it’s the winter.
But with the advent of March, I am renewed unto the approach of Spring, groundhog be damned. I’m feeling UP and ready to tackle the blog-o-sphere and my own writing career yet again! Read closely — there is much to catch up on:
– First and foremost, I am a contributing member to SASQUAN, this year’s World Science Fiction Convention, and as such I have a terrible and awesome thing: a vote! Yes, it is now within my capability to vote for the (lately) controversial Hugo award for the best works in Science Fiction. Nominations close March 10th, so this is YOUR last chance to make suggestions to me for what should receive a nod. I have no delusions that my own novel or stories will make the cut, proud of them though I am. Nominees don’t need many votes to make the ballot — on the order of 160 or so. I have more than enough 5-star reviews of ASID to think that I have 160 people who would back me, but I doubt the Venn diagram of my readers and SASQUAN voters would intersect to that degree. Back when I had dim hopes that I might make the Sad Puppy slate (one side of the Hugo controversy), I might have had a slot, but it was not to be. Many of the Sad Puppies devotees have read and liked ASID, but there are better books out there and they justifiably got on the slate. The same goes for my short stories — my audience and the average SASQUAN voting pool are not the same group of people, so no joy. That being said, who SHOULD I vote for? I have a few that I’ll be backing, but there is room on my card for others to tag along. Should I fill in my gaps with Sad or Angry Puppies? Should I strike out for balance and vote for books touted by the other, “non-controversial”, “I don’t see anything wrong with the awards”, “there’s no inherent bias among WorldCon voters” side? Check out my existing slate tomorrow and let me know what I should add!
– My active SFWA membership has not come through yet. I’m qualified six ways from Sunday, but no joy yet. Must investigate. I am happy that my friend Joelle Presby got her membership, however. That’s a future SFWA board member there, folks. Me? I couldn’t be bothered.
– I’ve completed about 1/4th of DEMI-GOD and it is going well (except for my operational writing pause throughout much of February). I’m eager to finish, but worry about how the story grabs you. I expect the editing phase to be arduous. This is not a spiffy sci-fi military adventure like my last one. This is much more social science fiction and much more character driven, so I worry about my past readers losing interest. Once I get further on, I will be requesting beta-readers, so let me know if you want to participate.
– I’m spending today re-writing my sci-fi western for the Weird Wild West anthology. Gotta get that in before the window closes. Just need to punch up the beginning.
– I also need to post my new short story for sale as a Kindle Single. Let the 99 cent experiment begin!
– Movies you should check out: Jupiter Ascending (a visual masterpiece that should only be watched completely drunk), Kingsman (an AWESOME flick which is both a deconstruction of Bond and the best of what makes Bond), and The Lazarus Effect (which is being unfairly maligned as either a Lucy redux or a Flatliners copy. It is neither. It is a good low-budget horror flick, though I did think the villain had some issues with her motivation to go FULL-EVIL at the end.) I’m thinking about adding a feature here called the BLUF review for Bottom Line Up Front where I lead with my final judgment and then go into detail.
– Should I get in to You Tube? I have a face for radio and a voice for books, but there is a whole media out there that I’m missing out on. Recommendations?
– And, lastly, for a special treat, go check out The Human Echoes Podcast, where you can hear yours truly debate and riff off of Albert Berg and Tony Southcotte of The Writer’s Arena about the movie Armageddon, space science, the end of the world, and 50 Shades of Grey (which may or may not be related). It was my first podcast, but I had tons of fun, and you should absolutely check it out.
About damned time, I say. Found this post, just as I was filling out my membership based upon my 2014 banner year, in which I made both my third and fourth qualifying short fiction sale. And now it looks like, as of March 1st, indie-published SF/F authors and those from small, non-qualifying presses may now qualify as pros as long as they published a minimum of 10,000 words at 6 cents a word, or received at least $3000 in royalties+advance. Man, I got that 20-fold in the last year alone! Like I said, good year. For the official announcement from SFWA President Steven Gould, go here.
Now, a lot of my compatriots (conservative-ish / libertarian-ish / military sci-fi / red-state-leaning-but-largely-apolitical / indie-hybrid apostates) are largely dismissive or downright hostile toward the SFWA because of the organization’s perceived ideological bent of late (and not without reason), but I find myself leaning toward optimism and traditionalism. I want to be part of things like the SFWA, the Hugo, the Nebula, and the SF-writers’ community because of what those things are supposed to be, even if the reality of what they are currently rubs a lot of folks raw. I’m not a controversy type of guy. I’ve yearned to join the club for so long, that I’m gonna join it, even as others are abandoning it as unwelcome or irrelevant. Who knows? Next year, I might agree with them. But this year? This year, maybe I can do something to right the ship (should it prove to indeed need righting).
And congrats to all of those on the Sad Puppies 3 and Rabid Puppies slate for their inclusion in the alt-protest list of books and works that often get seemingly excluded from consideration for the Hugo Awards. There are some seriously good pieces on that list and they absolutely should be considered for a Hugo, ironic inclusion or not. I imagine that my own nominations will include a lot of those. There was an outside chance that A Sword Into Darkness or one of my three short stories published in 2014 might have gotten included on the slate, but alas, it was not to be. Could I still get a Hugo nom even without Sad Puppy backing? Sure. Pigs can also fly with a sufficient amount of explosives applied.
The guys reading this know what I’m talking about, and I’m fairly certain that most of the ladies will know what I’m talking about with a fair degree of empathy, even if I don’t know what the female equivalent would be.
I don’t talk about my day job much here (and I will stick to the usual doing-something-for-the-Navy-somewhere-on-the-East-coast) but I will expand on it a bit to let you know that I’ve essentially been biding my time at one job, awaiting the opening of another one: the DREAM job for one in my line of work, the gold-or-silver ring you wait for your whole career to bring you to. Well, after doing everything the job asks for the last two years, and getting ready to go to the DREAM job . . . it was, of course, snatched all away. Now I have essentially a year more to wait, hoping it will come through this time, and being promised a variety of things to assuage me. I hold no animosity for my current job or the folks that had to give me the bad news, but DAMN IT. Just damn it.
So, I was feeling pretty low. I made vague plans to hit the water in my new kayak, stymied only somewhat by the fact that it was due to be rainy and freezing all weekend. Whatever. It fit my mood. But theeeennnnnnn . . . .
Super-Indie Author Chris Kennedy sent me a note saying “Forget all that reality stuff! Come and kick back with me at IllogiCon in Raleigh, NC!” And wouldn’t you know it, I did and it was awesome!
Illogicon is a fun, fan-run science fiction convention about half to a third the size of my only other experience at RavenCon last year. But since it was smallish, the rules weren’t quite so rigid, and they graciously allowed me to participate as a panelist. I sat in on “Using the Military in Fantasy,” “Independent Publishing 101,” “Indie Publishing Finances,” and “Worldbuilding,” and I managed not to embarrass myself during a single one. In fact, it almost appeared that I knew what I was talking about. I also attended but did not participate in “SF/F for the Younger Generation,” “Using Religion and Spirituality in Science Fiction,” among others. I talked up A Sword Into Darkness, REMO, and Riding The Red Horse, gave away a few copies and a bunch of postcards and business cards, and made and renewed contacts galore. Not only did I touch base with Chris, I also met fellow indie superstar Ian J. Malone, Baen Slushmaster Gray Rinehart, Intergalactic Medicine Show Editor Edmund R. Schubert, Baen Editor/Publisher Toni Weisskopf, and authors Clay and Susan Griffith, Gail Z. Martin, Jacqueline Cary, Christopher Garcia, and Misty Massey. It was a great time, not least of all because my little Gabster came with and impressed everybody with her involvement and her last-minute cosplay.
It was tons of fun and inspired me to hit the keyboard hard so I can finish Demigod, write Lancers Into The Light (ASID 2), and put out even more shorts in 2015 than I did in 2014. They also inspired me to get my name out there more. So, even though I’m probably a day late and a dollar short, I’ve sent in queries to guest or panel at a bunch of area conventions this year. I have no idea how many (if any) will say yes, but here’s what a 100% attendance schedule would look like:
MystiCon, Roanoke, VA – February 27-March 1
ROFCon, Virginia Beach, VA – February 27-March 1
MadiCon, Harrisonburg, VA – March 13-15
RavenCon, Richmond, VA – April 24-26
BaltiCon, Baltimore, MD – May 22-25
ConCarolinas, Concord, North Carolina – May 29-31
LibertyCon, Chattanooga, Tennessee – June 26-28
Con-Gregate, High Point – North Carolina, July 10-12
DragonCon, Atlanta, Georgia – September 4-7 (Yeah, right, this is like San Diego Comicon East)
Capclave, Washington DC – October 9-11
HonorCon, Raleigh, North Carolina – TBD – October 31-November 2
AtomaCon, Charleston, South Carolina – November 13-15
I don’t know if any of these might say yes, but I may attend some of the closer ones regardless. I’ll definitely be attending RavenCon. It was just too much fun last year.
All in all, a pretty good weekend after all. Thanks, Chris!
Hello and welcome, science fiction award board members, voters, and fans! Please enjoy the canapes and wine being passed around. The envelopes with your individual bribes will be under your chair in the main dining room after the presentation. AFTER the presentation, sir. Please wait until the end. Let’s try to maintain some decorum, shall we?
There are a HOST of science fiction awards. There’s the ones most folks know about, like the Hugo,the Nebula, and the twodifferent Campbell awards. There are also about 76 other awards given out on an annual basis. The problem is, as a newbie and an ostensibly indie one at that, I don’t know awards people or awards voters. But I am quite proud of my success in 2014, and I’d like to think I might be able to play in the big leagues with those who know and participate in award circles like it’s second nature. It may be childish, but unlike some who eschew awards or believe sales alone are the only reward one needs, I do want that validation from the community (and I believe that recognition can’t necessarily hurt sales either). Is my stuff award worthy? I dunno. I’d like to think so. They’ve garnered rankings, reviews, and comments equivalent to those received by nominees and winners in the past. But my worry is that my pro-sale stories were never seen (there is a LOT of stuff published in magazines every year), and my indie stuff carries the stigma of being indie/self published crap (there’s even MORE indie stuff published every year, both masterful and . . . less so). So, rather than campaigning, I just wanted to get a reminder out there that I do have eligible works for consideration. And if YOU have eligible works you’d like to see get more recognition, by all means plug-away in the comments below!
Eligible Short Stories – Pro-Market Published:
1. “The Rememberists” – Daily Science Fiction, July 15, 2014 – What do you do if you cannot escape your past, if things did not go they way they should have? Hire a rememberist!
2. “Bumped” – The Grantville Gazette Universe Annex, December 2014 – An in-love mad scientist and a tough dame share a first date, only to be interrupted by three noir-ish baddies on a heist. Collisions ensue.
Eligible Short Stories – Semi-Pro, Small Press, and Amateur Published:
1. “Within This Horizon” – Riding the Red Horse anthology from Castalia House, December 2014 – A damaged space navy officer contends with becoming “orbital debris,” relegated to the backwards, useless, bluewater navy, and must deal with both his own dashed expectations and the bitterness of a CO in the same situation. (for a free review copy of my story or the anthology, e-mail me, private message me, or comment below)
2. “The 1011000-100110110000011010011 Truce” – Liberty Island Magazine, Alternative Holiday Short Story Contest Grand Prize Winner, December 2014 – The shift to automated warfare may or may not save lives in the end, but you’d never see a situation like the 1914 Christmas Truce of WW-I again. Or could you?
3. “The Gaslight Consultant” – The Writer’s Arena, Reality Bites competition, October 2014 – Who better to drive someone crazy, or make them believe they are seeing ghosts than a team that may actually be crazy (or who sees ghosts)? NOTE: This was not my best story of 2014, but there are absolutely some stories on The Writer’s Arena that should be considered, especially the best of the year I saw there: “Words on the Wind” by Lu Whitley, a great soft-fantasy/magic piece.
Eligible Short Stories – Independently Published:
1. “Dogcatcher Blues” – REMO collection by Thomas A. Mays, April 2014 – A disgraced soldier is ordered to carry out a terrible punishment duty, rounding up man’s worst friend on a pacified rebel planet. But picking up this cybernetic Hellhound is more problematic than others. Rather than fetch a simple unintelligent feral, this dog is a deserter who will do ANYTHING to avoid going back. I could simply name any story in the REMO collection as eligible (other than the previously published “Strategic Deployment”, but this story is my favorite and I kick myself for not submitting it for pro-publication before putting it in my collection. (for a free review copy of my story or the whole collection, e-mail me, private message me, or comment below)
Eligible Novel – Independently Published:
1. A Sword Into Darkness – Stealth Books, January 2014 – 30,000 copies sold in 2014, 349 reviews on Amazon with a 4.4 star average, 3.88 stars on Goodreads with 33 reviews and 531 ratings, and great independent reviews on a number of sites (check out the book link on the right or down below if you are on mobile). This was my pride and joy and a financial boon in 2014. Is it literary or award-worthy? Like I said, I don’t know. I do know that if you appreciate a classic style and theme, if you like smart military sci-fi space opera with respectable physics, if you love pull-em-up-by-your-bootstraps, libertarian-leaning tales of space navies or overcoming alien invasion, and if your favorites include Niven, Pournelle, Heinlein, Clancy, or Ringo, then this is a book for you to vote for. (Again, for a free review copy, e-mail me, private message me, or leave a comment below.)
So, we’ll see. Chances are I won’t be remembered around awards season. There’s just too much good stuff out there, but if you haven’t checked out mine, I think you might like it.
Plus, friends and followers of The Improbable Author, if you would like to plug your own work for award consideration, by all means let us know about it in the comments below. I know that indie/self published shorts and novels have gotten nominations before (if rarely), and I would love to see one win, and if not mine, then another worthy indie.
Grab your champagne flute and somebody to smooch, y’all, because the year is done and done well. It’s time to reflect and celebrate! Stick with me as we reminisce about 2014 and look forward to what next year holds:
Instead of going chronologically, I’m going to start with the little things, especially those you might have missed, and move up to the biggest things that impacted my year.
First, that which had the least major impact was my on-going and new projects. I’ve learned that it is a tough thing to balance being a professional officer, a husband/caregiver, a father, and an independent publisher, and the thing that got the least attention in that mix was ongoing long-form work. Short stories I was able to knock out with relative ease, with four published this year alone and another on hold with Baen’s Grantville Gazette for a possible buy. Long-form, novel-length works proved to be my Achilles heel. I have three projects in the hopper: first, the sequel to A Sword Into Darkness, titled Lancers into the light, because EVERYBODY has been asking about it and I’d be a fool not to do one. That one is still in the outlining phase, primarily since I needed a break from ASID, and also because I have two other projects to finish. One of those is my long-suffering urban fantasy Echomancer, which is about 1/3rd complete and suffers from a lot of time/will/desire based writer’s block. Basically, I hit a snag and never went back to it once I moved to other projects. One of those projects is my last long-form unfinished work, which is going between the titles of Demigod and Dattoo, a Christian near-future hard-science young-adult philosophical thriller. Is it a total genre mash-up? Yes. Is it going slowly? Yes. Is it my most exciting project and my best second bid for traditional publication? YES. So, the short answer is that I am working on the next book(s), but the going was slow in 2014, and I hope for more positive news in this next year.
Next in the highlight hit-parade is TNT’s “The Last Ship,” a great little show that premiered this year. If you haven’t had the chance to check it out, you absolutely should on Blu-ray, DVD, or your streaming service of choice. Eric Dane, Rhona Mitra, and Adam Baldwin star in a loose adaptation of William Brinkley’s 1988 post-apocalyptic novel. It’s all about the last US warship, the destroyer USS NATHAN JAMES, which has escaped infection from a worldwide lethal pandemic, and which has the bead on a cure. It is cheesy, fun, well-acted, well-plotted, and surprisingly accurate and respectful of how the actual US surface Navy works. As a lark, I blogged about it all from a USN officer perspective and it did wonders for me. It consistently brought the most traffic to the blog, and brought me a number of new fans as well, who took a chance on my reviews and tried out my books as well. So, overall, a great success.
This next is not such a success story, at least in the relative sense. Following good advice from my friend and mentor Jeff Edwards of Stealth Books that I needed to have something else out on the market to serve the audience that ASID was growing, I published five of my military and artificial intelligence short stories as a collection on Amazon Kindle. REMO has been well-reviewed (39 Amazon reviews with 4.2 stars) and has sold all right, but it never has done the numbers that ASID did. I may have been spoiled by how my first foray into independent publishing did, and I realize that collections don’t tend to sell as well long-form works, but I would have liked for it to have done better, for more people to have tried it out. As of this post, REMO has sold 1937 copies on Kindle, with an additional 362 provided through Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library (which I still get paid for). That’s around 2300 more people that have enjoyed my stories than would have if they had stayed on my computer. Good, but not as good as magazine circulation. One story in particular, “Dogcatcher Blues,” is my favorite and — I think — is almost Hugo-worthy (though Baen did not originally buy it and I failed to shop it anywhere else), but I doubt any Hugo voters will ever see it. I guess I have no room to complain, but relative to the rest of the year, REMO is my regrettable disappointment.
For this next paragraph, I have absolutely no complaint. Short stories have been my sort of thing for a while now. I started writing them years ago, to hone my skills and get my foot in the door of the traditional publishing industry, but success had eluded me. I had two stories bought in years past, both by Baen publications (my favorite publishing house), but nothing to anyone else. This year, in large part due to synergy with ASID’s success, I have published four stories in pro and semi-pro/amateur markets, with a fifth on tap for the new year. I kicked ass in 2014 when it comes to short stories. First was my sale of “The Rememberists” to Daily Science Fiction. That story was HUGE for me, though it was my first flash-length story and literally VERY short. I’ve had tons of tweets, facebook posts and fan e-mails from that one, along with two short-film producer/directors who intend to turn it into a film project. Next, I came into contact with the crew over at The Writer’s Arena, who allowed me to participate in one of their short story contests. Basically, you and another writer get a general topic and you each have to complete a short story in a few days, which the audience and two judges then vote on. And my story, “The Gaslight Consultant” won! That led them to checking out ASID (as well as my old Masters thesis online) and mentioning me a couple of times on The Human Echoes Podcast. The first mention was all zany fun, and the second mention garnered me a very good, well-balanced review for ASID. My next pro sale was as part of the Riding The Red Horse anthology from Castalia House. I got an invitation to participate in their inaugural volume, and after a prompt from the editor Vox Day that they were looking for a literal sea story, I turned in “Within This Horizon,” which is now featured alongside stories and essays from Dr. Jerry Pournelle, Tom Kratman, Ken Burnside, Steve Rzasa, Christopher Nuttall, Chris Kennedy, and many others. The association with Castalia House and RTRH has been all positive, leading to potential new projects and hopefully a chance to participate again next year. And lastly, a little bit of victory fun. For the holiday season, I participated in Liberty Island Magazine’s Alternative Holiday Fiction Contest, looking for genre-alternative Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus stories. I turned in a cute little redux of the Christmas Truce of 1914, but this time between our AI robots and the combat drones of our bitter enemy Canada. And it won the grand prize!
And the last bit of professional writing news had the second biggest impact on my life: the independent publication of A Sword Into Darknessthrough Stealth Books. I cannot thank enough my publishing partner Jeff Edwards and all the readers who gave me a shot. You guys made my year. As of this posting and not counting an unknown number of pirated copies (I’ve truly arrived . . . people are stealing my shit), I’ve sold just under 30,000 copies of my little military sci-fi / hard-science space opera. Here’s how the percentages break out:
I don’t know how others do on their debuts because I’m too new at this, but I’m very very very happy and blessed with how ASID has done. And I’m very hopeful about the doors it may open up for me. I got a whole lotta nothing from agents and publishers for the last three years, but over the last year I’ve proven that I can at least sell a well-regarded book as a solid mid-list author. They say you should not use self-published titles on your query letters to publishers, but if I can tell them that on my own, with no resources other than help from friends and a few judicious ads and sales, I sold 30,000 copies of my debut. maybe then they’ll give me a closer look. Oooor, I’ll just stick to the indie crowd and continue taking in 70% royalties instead of settling for 10-15%.
And last but certainly not least, the thing that had the biggest impact on my year. It was not the job, though that did have biggish news and a may appear here next year. It was not my kids, though I am very proud of them and the improvements in their grades and schooling. It was not my personal health journey as that mostly involved me getting fatter and slower despite my half-hearted efforts. No, the biggest thing for me this year was standing by my beautiful wife, Jen, as she kicked breast cancer’s ass. She is an inspiration to me, and I don’t think she adequately realizes how proud I am of her, how humbled I am that she continues to put up with my crap and allows me to walk beside her in life. This woman faced down a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, reconstruction, complications to her own gastric bypass from years ago, and all the ravages to the body, psyche, and soul that all of that can wreak upon someone, and she refused to let it break her. In fact, she used it to inspire others to get tested and to persevere, no matter the diagnosis or prognosis. She endured shaving her head (my son and I joined her in this), losing her hair, dealing with the pain of neuropathy, the fatigue, the burns, and the fear that it would all be for naught. She had low days indeed. Who wouldn’t? But she always came out on top. And now she is on the mend and headed to being certifiably cancer free. Her mother and I served as her caregivers, but that never stopped Jen from providing care to her family and a wider circle of friends than I will ever know. Jen Mays, I love you and my hopes and prayers are for a great 2015 for us both. We deserve it, and especially you.
When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” Then another horse went out, a fiery red one, and its horseman was empowered to take peace from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another. And a large sword was given to him.
Revelation 6:3-4 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
Oooooh, golly. That’s a creepy way to begin a post. Here, how about something a leetle bit mo’ fun and funky:
Oh, war, huh, good god, y’all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again!
“War”, 1970, by Edwin Starr
Okay, that’s a bit better, but I still think ol’ Edwin is missing out on the . . . ummm . . . positive aspects of war? Not that war is a really positive enterprise! No, real war sucks big time. Death of the innocents, crimes against humanity, the achievement of political goals through maximum destruction and the scarring of a nation’s collective psyche. Yep, all bad things.
But, war stories? Those can be one hell of a lotta fun!
War fiction, military fiction, and my favorite: military science fiction scratches the itch with a lot of readers in a way nothing else can quite match. We LOVE US some combat sci-fi, whether it be on the screen with Star Wars, Star Trek, Aliens, Edge of Tomorrow, Starship Troopers, Battlestar Galactica, or Space: Above and Beyond; or if it’s on the printed page with many of the franchises above as well as Battletech/Mechwarrior, Legacy of the Aldenata, the Lensman series, Honor Harrington, pretty much anything by David Drake, or my own A Sword Into Darkness and REMO. We thrill to tales of soldiers, starship officers, and space marines battling the bad guys, whether they be bug-eyed monsters, the implacable other, or just the poor schmuck on the opposing front. Give our boys (and ladies, ladies) some powered armor, a gravitic railgun, and their trusty laser pistol, slap ’em in an orbital drop-ship, and point ’em at the ravening hordes of robo-zombies and you’ve got yourself a story!
Yeah, yeah, you can indulge in a little philosophy, and I GUESS you can devote a line or two to show your characters are deep, tortured souls, but by-gum something better blow the fuck up in a satisfying manner or you might as well keep walkin’, mister.
Does that sound like your cup-o-tea? Well, if so, hot DAMN do I have something for you. Finnish sci-fi publisher Castalia House is dropping the Mother of All Bombs of military sci-fi on you this month. And I’ve been invited to the party, so I’m inviting you along as well! Riding the Red Horse, the new annual anthology of military science fiction and fact will be coming out with its inaugural volume on December 15th. This kick-ass collection features my story “Within This Horizon” (which is worth the price of admission alone), but the rest? WOW!
I’m just honored to be even considered on the same list as these authors, not that my stories are a patch on theirs. You’ve got Tom Kratman and Brad Torgerson, Christopher Nuttall and Chris Kennedy, Ken Burnside and Eric S. Raymond, William S. Lind and Vox Day, James Dunnigan and Rolf Nelson, Steve Rzasa and Henry Kitchener, Giuseppe Filotto and Benjamin Cheah, and James Perry, John Carr, and Ted Roberts. You’re going to find essays and fiction on the future of combat, on the land, at sea, and in space. You’re going to be amazed, but BONUS, you’re also going to find a story/essay by one of the grand masters himself: Dr. Jerry Pournelle.
Yep. Jerry freakin’ Pournelle.
If you aren’t headed to Castalia House or over to Amazon (beginning December 15th) to pre-order or buy it direct, then I have no idea how your head works. Go! Go, buy, read, review, then drop me a line here to tell me what you thought of “Within This Horizon.”