Author-itative

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Oh, you poor, poor fools that have the misfortune of living outside driving range of the Hampton Roads area of Virginia and North Carolina. Why do I pity you? Well, for so many reasons, honestly, but mostly because you will be missing out on a GREAT event this Saturday.

Pshaw, you say! I have a lot of things going for me outside the Norfolk / Chesapeake / Virginia Beach area. Why, I have the life of the European bon vivant, you say. I’ve got the excitement of the Big Apple — I’ve got the coolness of the West Coast — I’ve got the great vistas of the Rocky Mountains!

Pitiful, pitiful, pitiful, pitiful. Your protestations are but the last desperate gasp of the uninformed. You cry foul, but I know better, because I know about Authorfest.

Hampton Roads Authorfest, a kick-ass collection of 25 local-area authors with well over 100 books between them, books that excite, books that inform, books that stir the soul and the imagination. Books by authors who have both succeeded in the traditional publishing industry, and books by those who have struck out on their own and gone indie. Books of every genre from my own favorite (SCIENCE FICTION and all its varied sub-genres), to horror, thrillers, romance, mysteries, fantasy, young adult, crime, true crime, memoirs, humor, children’s books, travel books, and philosophy, etc. Books by such local luminaries as Chris Kennedy, Vanessa Barger, Lara Nance, Nancy Naigle, Tracy March, Malcom Massey, Dave Poyer, and Lynn Yvonne Moon. Books by authors you’ve loved for years, and books by authors you have yet to discover.

And what an event it’ll be! There’s the authors, of course, whom you’ll be able to stroll around, talk to, and connect with from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM. And there will be books to browse, books to buy (for yourself or as a gift for the holidays), and prizes to win. And there will be seminars throughout the day, full of priceless guidance if you’d like to one day be a selling author yourself. They’ll cover the Children’s Book biz, Small Press Publishing, Indie Publishing, Book Trailers and Advertising, Writing for Young Adults, Steampunk Basics, and The Game of Love in Romance Writing. I myself don’t know if I’ll be able to resist the seminars, even though I’ll be sitting a table and trying to sell my own humble pair of books.

Should you happen to have the fortune of residing within the greater Hampton Roads area (and by this I mean if you left RIGHT NOW, you could legally and safely hit the Authorfest from a range of 4000 miles), you can totally attend the event — AND YOU ABSOLUTELY SHOULD. We’ll be kicking things off at the Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library in Virginia Beach, at the 4100 block of Virginia Beach Boulevard, from 10 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon. It’ll be a blast and you owe yourself the opportunity to meet these authors and try out their wares.

Plus, BONUS!!!, I will be there in all my humble glory.

Honestly, how could you NOT show up now?

Ten Minutes of Truly Terrific Tangents

Or an hour and a half (provided you have sufficient stamina, time, and joy in your heart).

As last post indicated, I got to participate in The Writer’s Arena a few weeks ago, dropping the ghostly insanity of “The Gaslight Consultant” on them against the Arena’s own Albert Berg.  Al delivered a terrific epistolary/excerpt-style tale in “Excerpt of Classified Data Recovered in the Aftermath of Project Lethe” and I really recommend you give both tales a read, a little mid-work-week present to yourself.  In the end, the judges gave us a split decision, but the readers awarded me the win.  Yeah, ME! 

But it was an absolute pleasure to compete, I can’t wait to do it again, and had I lost to Al, it would have been a well-deserved loss, as the Project Lethe team is second to no one (with the possible exception of Smythe and Shade).  And, that — I thought — is that.  Done deal.  I won’t be hearing from those guys ever again.  Eh, not so hasty there, Tom.

First, there was Doc Occupant, a devoté of the Arena and an all-around fine fellow who decided to give A Sword Into Darkness a try since he enjoyed my short story.  And, it turns out, he enjoyed ASID enough to give me a very good write-up on his blog.  Which then earned a hearty thank you from me on Twitter.  Which then alerted Tony Southcotte of Writer’s Arena to check it out and quip a bit on the blog comments, which had me quipping as well.

Thus, my work was on Tony’s mind when he produced last week’s outstanding episode of The Human Echoes podcast, where he riffs on pop culture with my former nemesis, Albert Berg.  Was I a planned topic of their podcast?  Nope, but you never know where the rabbit hole will lead once you start meandering down that path.  As such, last week’s edition:  Candy Corn and Railguns (awesome title by the way) contains a very interesting section of tangents which somehow tie Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece INTERSTELLAR with Billy Bob Thornton’s The Astronaut Farmer, and Tony Todd from Candyman with my own research into railguns at the Naval Postgraduate School.  It’s like that old show “Connections” on PBS.  It’s odd and wonderful and zany, and I can’t wait to do an interview or just to chat with them.

The “me” part of the show is from about 28:30 to 39:00, but you really should check out the whole podcast.  I know I’m hooked and have been binge-listening to their archives.  Thank you Tony and Al!

Now, back to my dismal participation in NANOWRIMO.

 

ASID & REMO: Kindle Countdown Deal, 8-13 September!

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You want some AMAYSING AMAZING science fiction for cheap?  You like operating under pressure of a deadline, right up against the wire?  How about both?

Monday morning, both A Sword Into Darkness (316 reviews and 4.4 stars) and REMO (33 reviews and 4.3 stars) go on sale for the low, low price of 99 cents at Amazon.com.  That’s both e-books for your Kindle device or app for less than two bucks!  But maybe you’re not sure, so you decide to think it over for a day or two.  TOO LATE, SHIPMATE!!  On Wednesday, the price jumps to a still low, but not as insanely low $1.99.  That’s okay, you think.  It’s still in cheeseburger territory.  I can wait.  WRONG MOVE, MISSY!!  It’s a countdown deal!  The time is counting down and the price is counting up!  Now, Friday, REMO’s back to $2.99 and ASID joined it, still a dollar off the usual price but the sale is almost through.  Will you allow yourself to miss it?  Will you allow your fun and sci-fi loving friends and family to miss it?! 

I think not!

And if that wasn’t enough, I’m offering a discount code for trade paperback version of A Sword Into Darkness during that same period.  Use Discount Code 5TF4MWZN at Createspace this week, and you’ll get $4.00 off the regular list price of $15.99.  That’s just $11.99 for physical ASID you can hold in your hot little hands, this week ONLY.

Plus (I CANNOT BELIEVE THERE IS A PLUS) you can still get the ASID audiobook for FREE at Audible.com with your free 30-day trial membership.

Honestly, it’s like Chistmas in September.  I am far too good to you people, but that’s me.  Selfless.  In love with the world and always trying to give back.  If I wasn’t just the humblest person on the planet, I might put myself in for saint-hood.

😉

The Last Ship, Season One – Review and Contest

So, have you felt it yet?  Do you feel it right now?  The sense that something is missing from your weekly routine, a little bit of awesome, apocalyptic, well-acted, largely accurate and respectful naval porn?

Well, I’ve been feeling it.  After a season that was either exactly as long as it needed to be (without all the fluff or pointless episodes that British series avoid with their shorter seasons, but which are endemic to American 22-24 episode seasons) or way, way too short (c’mon, you know you wanted more, as long as its the right kind of more), The Last Ship has left us.  How was the inaugural season?  Where did it soar and where did it fail?  And what’s in it for you if you care either way?

Read on!

Characters:  The Goods:  I gotta hand it to the two primary stars, Eric Dane and Rhona Mitra.  Cap’n Crunches and our Doctor Va-va-va-voom-virology were very well played, carrying considerable gravitas as well as being very easy on the eyes.  I was totally unfamiliar with Eric Dane prior to this (not a big Gray’s Anatomy watcher), but I had seen Ms. Mitra in a number of films prior to this, and was already a fan.  I think she rather classed up the whole affair.  Eric Dane played Captain Chandler as a man I’d want to follow, making him decisive, strong, and still caring for his crew.  Between the writers and his performance, we got ourselves a high quality CO.  And he did righteous anger very well. That being said, the Tom Chandler role could have been slightly more nuanced.  We did have scenes of vulnerability and doubt, but he seemed a little too good to be true sometimes, all lantern-jawed hero and never the bereft father and husband, or the CO far out of his depth having a moment of frustrated weakness where he explodes on a subordinate that simply didn’t deserve it.  But that’s a minor point.  As for Rhona, she played Dr. Rachel Scott as strong, fierce, intelligent, (a little haughty perhaps), and with both a sense of pride warring with frustration at having been doubted by her community.  I really, really appreciated that she never struck me as Denise Richards playing Dr. Christmas Jones in that excreble James Bond flick.  I believed and appreciated Rhona Mitra in her role (and she can still be my Doc anytime).

In regards to highpoints among our supporting cast, both in terms of writing and performance, my favorite was Tex (John Pyper-Ferguson), followed closely by everyone’s favorite XO, CDR Mike Slattery (Adam Baldwin).  Tex was just a joy to watch, providing some much needed comic relief while also being a badass.  Plus he had some moments of depth, vulnerability, and sorrow, especially as he began to realize his love would remain unrequited.  As for Jayne/Casey/XO Slattery, the great Adam Baldwin, I love that dude.  He played this role with much less humor and a great deal more doubt and uncertainty than I’m used to seeing from him in roles, but that was definitely the right tone to take here.  In fact, I could have done well with a lot more conflict and friction between him and Chandler.  There were moments, but they were always fleeting.  I also wish, like with Chandler, that they would have seemed more affected by the apocalypse going on around them.  Still, whether he was shooting terrorists with a 5 inch gun, or overriding his CO and continuing to look for him against orders, you knew that Slattery (the ex Chicago detective????) was the guy you wanted in your corner.

Lastly, I have to give props to our villains, Alfre Woodard, Ravil Isyanov, and Jose Zuniga.  They were all played well, with the only unfortunate point being that there was no over-arching villain as a Big Bad for the season, and they never had enough screen time.

The Less Goods:  First of all, there were no bad performances here.  That’s why this is “Less Good” than “Bad”.  But there were some roles that — whether due to their writing or the way they were played — they just bugged me and did not contribute as much as I might hope in a perfect show.  First of these is the CMC, Master Chief Jeter, played by the very good Charles Parnell.  The CMC just seemed to be too much of a saint, but instead of Jesus, he put his faith in Tom Chandler.  That’s just a bit over the top, and unlike any CMC I’ve ever met.  It got a little old, and frankly I thought it was building to a good death for him during the episode where he volunteered to have the vaccine tested upon him.  Then there is Quincy (Sam Spruell), who was just a whiney, badly manipulative, weak weasel.  As a villain he was lame.  As a protagonist, he was creepy.  Maybe that’s exactly what they wanted from him, but I just didn’t see Rachel Scott putting her faith in him.  And then we have our main points of ire:  our Two Sexy Lieutenants Being All Sexy Together.  Danny Green (Travis Van Winkle) and Kara Foster (Marissa Neitling) got better as the series went on, mostly because they were separated from one another, but every “relationship” moment was like nails on a chalkboard.  Were these characters designed to mark off some screenwriting checklist block requiring a romance?  When they were doing their jobs, they were perfectly acceptable.  When they interacted or fought or made-up, though, it was full of suck.  Sorry, guys.

Lastly, I’ll repeat a plea I made several times before:  Where are all the goddamn enlisted roles.  The USS NATHAN JAMES is an officer-fest, and that’s not good.  They make up only about 10% of the crew, but they make up 99% of your speaking roles.  There are stories to be told there, stories that will echo with your audience, and not just the one or two shoehorned in weak roles you did have for them.  I fully expected to have a strong antagonist among the crew for Captain Chandler, someone who realizes with the demise of the US and the Navy, they didn’t have to follow Chandler’s orders any more.  Is a mutiny story aboard a ship a trite cliche?  It can be, but it was still a chance to bring conflict and realism and more enlisted participation into the story.  We had weak officer counseling!  So where were the 10% of the crew that end up taking up 90% of your time?  Where were the fistfights and/or suicides among a crew under the stress of the end of the world?  Why was there never a fragging incident or a CO’s Mast that busted down an undisciplined crewman?  And not to be negative entirely, where were the scenes of a crewman showing up an officer, of an enlisted person being selfless, or inventive, amazing Chandler and earning his respect and gratitude?  Because that stuff, good and bad, is what happens aboard ship every single day.  But all we got was a chess-playing cook and a gunner’s mate that wanted to time out of service during an emergency.  Kinda weak sauce, writers. 

Wow, looking back at a lot of that last paragraph, there’s also a lot of points which apply equally to plot so . . . .

Plot:  The Goods and Less Goods:  The Last Ship deviates significantly from the novel of the same name, and that is to its benefit, as that source novel is quite dated and involved the hopeless situation of a nuclear war vice the threat of a viral apocalypse which allows for the crew to positively affect things.  We have all the big stakes here:  global apocalypse, a small crew on one ship against the world, pandemic, lost loved ones, a last desperate chance at a hopeful conclusion, external attacks, action, explosions, and conflict, conflict, conflict!  If the story had ever paused, or had an episode to spare, I’d suggest they could have added a decompression episode, a Sunday at sea or a Crossing the Line ceremony to show the crew letting loose a little and having some nice character moments, but maybe next season.  Like I said before, the episodes and the season were very tightly written with no extraneous eps (except for one . . . ).  The setup in the pilot was PERFECT, the conclusion was DAMN GOOD, and they kept the tension well-ratcheted for the most part, resulting in some middle-of-the-season eps that were equally amazing.  I had my favorites, as I’m sure you do, which is the gist of the contest I mentioned earlier, and more on that later. 

Were there things I would have changed?  Of course!  Continuing with what I mentioned in Character above, the show could have benefitted from a Big Bad to carry through the season instead of episodes where sometimes the only antagonist was bad fortune and there situation.  Now, many of these episodes were necessary, but if we could have had a hint of an overarching Antagonist as well, I’d have done it.  Maybe introduce Alfre Woodard earlier, make her their cheerleader at home, so when she turns out to be L’il Miss Hitler, it’s even more jarring.  Maybe give Roskov a scene or two in more episodes, even if the Russians were nowhere near the main action.  I’d also have had more incidents of desperation or interactions with other vessels, where the crew as a whole was forced to confront the deadly realities of the disease, though the episodes where that did occur were much appreciated.

Only one episode actively pissed me off, and I think you’ll know it if you’ve been reading these.  That one ep exemplified all my fears of a Navy TV show, mostly because that was the one time the writers and consultants truly failed in terms of Naval Realism.

Naval Realism:  The Goods:  They actually filmed about 85% of the series on actual US Navy destroyers, and that setting shined through.  The tech jargon was spot on for the most part.  All the pieces and parts were there and they were properly used, properly manned, and properly referred to.  This was a very respectfully crafted show, and almost reaches the high point of Naval Porn (which I consider a term of endearment).  This show (I hope) will be a good recruiting tool for the Surface Navy (which is my Navy).  I usually had a happy smile on my face while watching this show. so Thank You for almost getting everything right.

The Less Goods:  A lot of the plot tropes they used had Captain Chandler (and the XO and CMC) in the center of the action, which is ludicrous.  The Skipper doesn’t get to go on many, if any tactical away missions.  They also gave the NATHAN JAMES superpowers, allowing her to shrug off missiles, rockets, and bullets without damage, to operate over the span of entire oceans without fueling or provisioning, to hack into satellites and facilities with impunity, and to stash her helicopter in a third hangar that simply doesn’t exist.  But all of that is allowable when compared to the season’s only true stinker episode, Episode 4:  “We’ll Get There” (But you’ll probably give yourself a lobotomy before you do, so you can stand all the STUPID).  I won’t rehash it here, but I AM TOTALLY FINE IF THEY COMPLETELY RETCON HOW THE SHIP WORKS during the next engineering-centric episode, or, alternatively, if THEY NEVER AGAIN HAVE AN ENGINEERING-CENTRIC EPISODE.

A reminder, cast, crew, producers, and writers:  I’m available as a consultant, and I work CHEAP.

Contest:  So, that’s it.  I LOVED the first season of The Last Ship and can’t wait to see how the plot develops and the characters grow next season.  I can only hope they keep with the show’s central conceipt and STAY ON THE DAMN SHIP, instead of becoming a knock-off of Jericho or The Walking Dead, fighting the apocalypse upon land, with only passing references to the NATHAN JAMES.  And I want to thank you all for sticking it out and reading my reviews.  I’ve never enjoyed such high traffic on my blog before.

As a way of thanking you, since I don’t have any Last Ship  swag, I do have some sci-fi navy fun to offer.  Here’s how it goes:  Out of the season’s ten episodes, which were the best?  Give me your top 5, in order, on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, in the comments below, or via e-mail.  The first person(s) to match my list (or get closest) will win a free copy of my military sci-fi novel A Sword Into Darkness, in either e-book, trade paperbook, or audiobook (your choice)!

So, what are your top 5 episodes and why!?  Enter early and play often!  And THANK YOU ALL AGAIN.

Audible ASID – For FREE!!!

I may have mentioned it before, but I really, really, REALLY love the story I told in A Sword Into Darkness.  I get it, I’m biased, but I really did try to write the best story I could, mixing all the elements of science fiction I love together, while also offering up an homage to my favorites of the genre.  What resulted is a story that is both classic, fun, and makes you think, presenting some new twists on an old idea, a melange that is more than the sum of its parts (that’s not just me saying that, by the way).

And while I do love my book, I never experienced it fresh as a new reader until I heard Liam Owen’s narration of it, produced by Sci-Fi Publishing.  The audiobook of ASID simply MUST BE EXPERIENCED.  I adore this amazing thing, this amalgamation of my thoughts and another’s voice.  As I said in a previous post, whether you are new to the story or you enjoyed it in print already, you will love the audiobook of it all over again.  And it was so effortless enjoying it that way, I’ve been turned on to audiobooks from a number of authors and producers, enjoying them while I work, work out, or commute.

Here’s the offer, though:  Audible gave me 25 free copies of the A Sword Into Darkness audiobook, and I’m not sure who to give them out to.  I’ll be offering some up as prizes in a contest soon, but if you are a reviewer and you’d like to experience (or re-experience) ASID, drop me a line in the comments, on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or via e-mail.  All I’d like in return is a listen and a fair shake on your review which you would then share with others.

And if you are not a reviewer, but you’d still like some audible ASID-y goodness for free, you can always start your 30-day free trial of Audible.com and get that puppy for gratis, nothing, nada, zip, ∞ times the value of what you paid. 

Links to my new ASID Gallery page can also be found at the toolbar to the right, or here.  Take care, all.

300 Reviews and Audiobook Awesomeness!

Greetings, faithful readers!  If you are here because of my “The Last Ship” reviews, welcome, but this ain’t gonna be about that.

Nope.  It’s gonna be BETTER.

Last night, my independently-published military sci-fi space opera novel A Sword Into Darkness (a button for which you will find to the right or below) hit 300 reviews with my bestselling retailer, Amazon.com.  Upon hitting this somewhat arbitrary milestone, I thought I’d tell you all how the book was doing, and let you know about some BIG news as well.

First, the BIG news: the audiobook for A Sword Into Darkness (ASID) is now available for sale at Audible.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes (soonish).  Read magnificently by Mr. Liam Owen of SciFi-Publishing.com, this is a TOTALLY different and exciting way to experience ASID.  If you’ve read and enjoyed ASID, you owe it to yourself to re-experience it with Liam Owen’s amazing narration.  He has this gentle, yet authoritative voice that really delivers when it comes to military scenes and science fiction exposition, and his characterizations and voices for all my different characters just have to be heard.  Honestly, like me, I think you’ll fall in love with the story all over again.

If you have yet to read ASID, this is a great way to encounter it for the first time.  This unabridged edition can be listened to in just under 12 hours, and I think you’ll have a lot of fun with it (4.4 stars in 300 reviews level of fun).  Have a commute?  Do you work out or clean your house?  Do you commute to and from your work-out before cleaning your house?  If so, and you never have the time to read, YOU HAVE GOT THE TIME to try out ASID as an audiobook.

And if you’ve never tried out audiobooks before, this is a great opportunity:  enroll with Audible.com free for 30 days, and your first audiobook (like ASID, hint, hint, hint) is completely and totally FREE!  Even if you don’t keep the audible membership, the audiobook for ASID remains yours forever!

 

Concerning reviews, and specifically my Amazon reviews which have the biggest base to draw from, folks really like A Sword Into Darkness.  How much?  Well, as of this writing, I have 174 5-star reviews and 93 4-star reviews.  Of those who just “liked” it rather than “loved” it, I have 27 more critical 3-star reviews.  I think a 90% success rate for connecting with your readers is a pretty darned good return on your investment.

The math whizzes among you might note that 174 + 93 + 27 does not equal 300.  As the aphorism goes, you can’t please everyone.  I also have 4 2-star reviews from folks which gave me points for writing the book, but didn’t like it, and two 1-star reviews, one from a guy who prefers Christopher Nuttall’s books (which I have no problem with, Chris is prolific and a damn good writer), and one guy who hated on my book so hard, I think I actually made his day.  His 1-star dismissal was, in fact, the second review I received, and that made for a bad day, but the days have gotten notably better since then.

The buyers who have written reviews (and it works out to about 1 reviewer for every 100 buyers/readers) have also shared some damn-fine write-ups.  Praising, critical, questioning, or whatever, each thing they tell me and other potential buyers are gold.  My writing on ASID has been favorably compared to Tom Clancy, Dr. Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, Robert Heinlein, David Weber, and John Ringo.  I don’t know about all that, but each of those luminaries of genre literature are my heroes and favored writers, so if my book at all recalls them, I’m beyond honored.

What can you do?  Well, If you have not read (or listened) to ASID, today’s the day to give it a shot.  If you have read it (and/or listened to Liam’s narration), consider leaving your own review.  Either way, if you are in the market or are already a fan, I welcome you to peruse the reviews on Amazon and check whether you thought it was helpful or not.  The more upchecks the 4 and 5 star reviews get, the more favorably the Amazon algorithms consider ASID, which lets me do things like justify the time spent on working on its sequel, Lancers Into the Light.

And that’ll make everybody happy.  🙂

The Last Ship, Episode 9 – “Trials” Review

Here it is — the penultimate episode of the inaugural season of television’s best semi-post-apocalyptic near-future naval science fiction!  How does it measure up with the rest of the season?  How well does it set up the season finale?  Does it commit egregious sins of engineering?  Does it kick ass!?!?

Ha, ha, hee, hee — READ ON, DEAR READER!

Plot Summary:  We start off with the latest episode of The Walking Dead, ummm, sorry (I get confused).  We actually start off in the woods with Tom Chandler’s pop, dragging a freshly shot buck toward a mobile home.  He’s bein’ a good neighbor, trying to share his bounty with the folks down the road, but they inform him that they have the “Red Flu”.  He leaves the deer in order to give them at least a shot and returns home to his cabin with Tom’s wife and girls.  She’s been out foraging, which he warns her to be careful with.  It ain’t Disneyland out there anymore.

Aboard the USS NATHAN JAMES, it is a time of reflection and change.  Physician-of-my-dreams Dr. Rachel Scott is converting her lab over to a testing ward for human trials of her vaccine, of which there has been one positive subject, her Central American monkey.  Meanwhile, we say goodbye to our young sailor killed last episode.  Post funeral, the Skipper vows not to lose another one (proving you shouldn’t give orders you know won’t be obeyed or make promises you know you can’t keep), therefore he intends to volunteer as one of the six subjects of the vaccine trial.  The XO (Adam Baldwin RULES!) shuts him down FAST and HARD, reminding him that they just saved his sorry ass.  But someone from Command needs to go into the trial, so the CMC informs them both that he’s already approved to go.

Hmmmm, one black guy in a medical horror episode, and who already has a demeanor of Christian martyrdom?  I wonder who’s going to be our first sacrificial pathos-building death today?

The six volunteers are the CMC, the CHENG, Kara (Sexy LT 2), Petty Officer Miller (our ginger wallflower from the tactical teams), Petty Officer Maya Gibson (the chick pining for her boyfriend during the candlelight vigil in episode 2), and TEX!  Tex keeps the jokes coming and they all nervously laugh their way through receiving the vaccine (which consists of two parts: a decoy to protect the body from infection, and another component that builds antibodies), and then the virulent virus itself.  At first everything is hunky-dory, and we get a bunch of nice character growth moments for all these characters about to die.

Ashore, Tom’s wife is raiding a Radio Shack for supplies and shortwave radio parts.  But she hears an encounter outside between an infectee and a ruthless survival type, which ends abruptly and messily for the infectee.  Tom’s wife skeedaddles, not noticing that she was hiding out right next to a recently dead infectee.

In the trial, the Skipper and XO can only look on in impotent horror as things begin to go bad.  Fevers, rashes, delirium, hemorrhages, convulsions, etc.  All bad, but also not symptoms associated with the Red Flu, and nothing the monkey ever experienced.  Kara almost dies convulsing from fever and an important detail is revealed that has a huge impact on Danny (Sexy LT 1).  Tex reveals the raw emotion he feels for Dr. Scott, free of any joking.  And Maya dies, breaking Miller’s delirious heart.  Chandler has Slattery invite all the crew down to say their goodbyes, since none of these poor bastards are gonna make it.  He says his goodbyes to the CMC.  Meanwhile, Rachel and Quincy are throwing everything against the wall, to see what might stick.  They practically drain poor Patrice of her blood plasma, hoping it will stabilize things, but no joy.  Then Rachel has a medical techno-babble epiphany.  The symptoms are not of infection, but of an auto-immune response!  The human gene our Typhoid Marty added to the original virus means this foreign human DNA is spreading through-out their bodies, and they are thus rejecting their own flesh.  The vaccine has indeed suppressed the virus, but the piggyback DNA was doing itwn level-best to kill them anyway.  Rachel mixes the primordial strain in with the vaccine, and BANG/ZOOM, it works!  Everyone immediately improves, withe the Sexy LTs bein’ all sexy together appearing to be an item again, Tex telling more jokes, the CMC (almost) dying for our sins (wait just a minute there, Tommy Boy), and the CHENG proving to be a workaholic.  Rachel and Tom Chandler hug (giving more material for the slash fan fiction written after last week’s kiss) and she announces that this is both a vaccine for the uninfected and a cure for the infected!

Ashore, Tom’s wife fixes her family a meal with her own two hands, then begins to feel the effects of the virus.

Dun, dunn, dunnnnnnnnnnnnn!  Dramatic cliff-hanging ending, y’all!

The Goods:  This episode belongs to Rhona Mitra and our character-and-cast “B” team.  It took 9 episodes, but I finally didn’t want to tear my eyes out while spending time with our happy, Sexy LTs.  I reserve the right to hate on Danny and Kara later, but this time they owned their roles and felt like necessary characters.  Burial at Sea!  Yeah, it’s awful, but it’s also a fascinating, exciting, and (thankfully) rare event.  We got off the ship and foreshadowed the events to come (Walking Dead meets The Last Ship), and we see a glimpse of some post-apocalyptic action.  I’m predicting next season will be all about either their efforts ashore, or them ferrying the vaccine worldwide.  No engineering sins today, which I worried about last week, since we spend so much time with the CHENG.  Tex is great, as always, and Quincy and Chandler have a necessary scene about moving forward.  The XO appears to be a Rachel-convert, which is great growth for that character.  I appreciate that my expectations were upset, in that the CMC did not perish!  And I love that they really do have a vaccine and treatment for the virus.  This show makes progress, and we aren’t treading water through the same episode and situation over and over again.

The Less Goods:  Cap’n Crunches and our WARFIGHTER XO largely get sidelined here.  I get it, but i miss those magnificent bastards.  Nothing exploded (which is always lame).  Not enough detail about the goings-on in the outside world.  I need more than a tease, please, but maybe next week.  Too much virology techno-babble, and I have no way of judging if it was nonsensical or not.  Why are dead bodies so uber-infectious?  They aren’t breathing any more in order to spread the virus, so what is it about them that kicks the virus into high gear?  Maya should have worn a red shirt, the poor gal.  She pretty much only had time to remind us of her dead boyfriend, and we knew she was doomed.  Everyone keeps talking about the distance to the CDC, but they also keep forgetting they have a whole helo in one of the hangars, which could, I dunno, maybe  FLY THEM TO THE BEST LAB in the nation.

Soooo, a well-accomplished, necessary story-line. without all the usual fun explosions and stand-offs, but totally enjoyable nonetheless, and congrats to Rhona Mitra for giving me my favorite episode of yours yet.  And I believe this set up next week with perfection.

Vaccines! Cures! Battles ashore!  Family reconciliations!  All this can be yours next week in the season’s ULTIMATE conclusion.  Catch up with you then!!

The Last Ship, Episode 8 – “Two Sailors Walk Into A Bar . . . .” Review

First of all, just to get it out there, that joke was terrible.  But the episode was damn fun!

This one was firing on all cylinders, implausible but fun.  We got answers, we got XO Slattery as a tactical god, we got confrontations and gunfights, ‘splosions galore, and the tidying up of a number of plot points.  Good job, Last Ship, good job.

Plot Summary:  Carried over from last week, CAPT Chandler and Tex are brought aboard the Russian cruiser.  Tex gets batted around and Tom protests, whereupon he is told that he doesn’t give orders there.  Chandler gets taken to Admiral Ruskov’s dining room, where he meets Quincy’s wife and kid.  He’s cool with the kid, reassuring her that her daddy loves her, and then playing stone-faced to Ruskov’s threats, sticking to name, rank, and serial number despite a final offer by Ruskov to go into business together, selling the vaccine to the highest bidder.  Chandler gets thrown into the brig in the same cell as a beaten Tex, under the watchful eye of one guard armed only with broken english.

Aboard the NATHAN JAMES, XO Slattery answers the HF radio when Ruskov calls.  He seems almost shocked into inaction, trying to answer whether or not he will trade Dr. Scott and her research for the Captain and Tex.  But he is deep planner nonetheless, using the extended time on the radio to better pinpoint the bearing to the Russian cruiser.  Down below, Dr. Scott has made a breakthrough and developed a working vaccine with Patrice’s DNA.  While the XO and the tactical staff try to come up with some way of getting the skipper and Tex back, Rachel busts into CIC with the offer of giving herself up.  They have the vaccine now, so Quincy and Rios can carry it the rest of the way, while Ruskov will get what he’s asking for and they get their people back.  Everyone wins (except one Rachel Scott). XO Slattery is a never say die sort, however (Adam Baldwin RULES!).  Rachel is to be a decoy and distraction while they sneak aboard to stage an escape.

She gets boated, and then helo’d onto the cruiser, where they frisk her and remove her life jacket, unaware it has a hidden beacon aboard to guide in the US tactical team.  She is taken before Ruskov and she demands to see the Skipper and Tex.  As soon as she sees Chandler, she rushes up and gives him a big, open-mouthed kiss, all to Tex’s dismay.  Ruskov chuckles and sends the boys back down below, while she takes Rachel to see Typhoid Marty and test the vaccine.  She quickly realizes that Marty is an immune carrier and the source of the human gene mod to the virus.  He gets weaselly and demands that she share the vaccine’s credit with him.  That pisses her off and she brings down Ruskov, who arrives angry at Marty for leading him on so long.  Then Ruskov goes full bad-guy and has Rachel vaccinate one of his own men, then exposes him to Marty.

In their cell, Tex is having an existential crisis due to Rachel’s kiss with Chandler, but Tom reveals that she passed an exacto razor blade and a note telling them the assault would begin at 0400.  At the designated time, Chandler calls the guard over to let him go to the head, whereupon he and Tex grab the guy, slit his throat, and escape.  They go through the ship, knocking off sleepy Russians and gathering weapons.  The tactical team has also snuck aboard, and they’ve killed a bunch of engineers and have rigged the non-nuclear half of the steam plant to blow.  They hook up with Chandler and Tex, who proceed to go find Rachel.  She’s still in the cruiser’s makeshift virology lab, waiting for either her patient to live or die.  But the Russians have realized that Chandler and Tex have escaped, so they go for her.  She pulls a .45 she had secreted away and kills the officer sent to fetch her, just before the tactical team comes in and rescue her. We finish with a running gun battle, triggered explosions going off all over the ship.  Chandler makes it a point to rescue Quincy’s family and they all get off before the Russian missiles explode within their tubes.  During the firefight, the ostracized enlisted man from last week proves himself, but gets shot and dies.  They all make it back to the ship, fade to black.

The Goods:  Ruskov calls Chandler out on his egotastic propensity to go on tactical missions when he should have his men lead.  XO Slattery being all crafty and planning out the perfect op to take out the superior Russian cruiser from within (Adam Baldwin RULES!).  The kiss, and Tex’s reaction to it, both at the time and later.  Ruskov (I hope he survived . . . .).  Guns!  Explosions!  USA, USA!!  Quincy getting reunited with his family and the surely awkward conversation that followed immediately after when his ass was placed back in custody.  Rachel Scott kickin’ ass, and shooting first, silencer or no silencer.  And the bittersweet ending, with our ostracized crewmember proving himself in the end, then getting killed.  The lack of any hint of engineering detail (except CONAS) and the COMPLETE lack of any sexy LT 1 & 2 nonsense.  This episode was not emotionally deep like episode 6, but it kicked the most ass since episode 2.

The Less Goods:  Having a WW-II battleship stand in for a modern Russian battlecruiser.  Guys, I get that you need a ship to film on, but did you have to include a tracking shot that CLEARLY includes turrets of triple 16″ guns.  Were you aware there is an ACTUAL Russian frigate up in the Fall River, MA naval museum?  I realize it is smallish, but you can’t get more accurate than the real thing!  Having everyone escape from said battleship while it is CLEARLY still moored to something.  The mechanics of the vaccine test, in that I’m pretty sure you can’t be exposed to both the vaccine AND the deadly virus near simultaneously and have a reasonable expectation of immunity.  And while I appreciate XO Slattery being more decisive this week than last, I wish he’d been MORE deadly and take-charge.  Adam Baldwing HAS the acting chops.  Release the BADASS!  I don’t hold it against him.  It’s the way the character is written and he is portrayed fine, but he could be SO MUCH MORE!  Moving on, the Russians have no waterside security, no radar, no lookouts, and can’t shoot worth a damn.  How did they get to be a super-power, again?  The gunbattle is  fun, but WAY too un-realistic.  Not enough character interaction in this ep, but that’s okay.  This sort of thing is all about the spectacle, and of that, this one has LOADS.

Now, with so many things wrapped up, I’m thinking the last two eps this season have GOT to turn everything topsy-turvy . . . AND I CAN’T WAIT!

 

Doubling Down with the Devil

For those of you who have followed along for my journey through independent publishing, you know that the publishing strategy has been very important to me.  Who to sell through, who to advertise with, what price point, degree and duration of sales, etc.

I think I originally made a wise decision by publishing the e-book version of ASID exclusively with Kindle through their KDP Select program. It allowed me to get out there among a more active readership, with a bookseller who treated indies JUST LIKE SOMEONE FROM THE BIG 5.  I made a lot of sales, got a lot of reviews, took advantage of their countdown deals, and was even picked up as a Kindle Daily Deal once (HUGE SALES that day).  And all of that laid the groundwork for me to EXPLODE as soon as the e-book launch went wide on Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, and iBooks.

‘Cept that didn’t happen.  I made more sales, sure, and got out in front of people that don’t shop Amazon, but I primarily only sell well on those other sites when I held an advertised sale, and even then those sales are but 10-15% of what I continue to sell on Amazon, and now I don’t get the benefits of KDP Select.  But that’s fine, I felt more legitimate and better protected selling the book wide, since Amazon has recently been the subject of some . . . negative press.  And that’s fine too.  John Scalzi wisely points out that Amazon is not the indie-publisher’s friend, no matter what your bank account tells you.  They are in business for themselves, and if their sales model temporarily aligns best for those indies who publish through them directly, that is no guarantee of future alignment. 

But, for the moment, they do align, and are in fact becoming even more aligned.  If you look at my book sales page for ASID, you’ll find that I’ve removed my links for B&N Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, and iBooks.  That is because I have stopped ASID’s sale there and am once again exclusively Amazon Kindle for the next three months. I have re-enrolled in KDP Select because of some new features offered.  I’ll see how they work out over the next three months and let you all know what it’s all about at the end.  Stay Tuned!

PS: New news about the AUDIOBOOK — it’s approved!  You should see it go on sale SOON!

The Last Ship, Episode 4 – “We’ll Get There” Review

Note:  Sorry this review is a day late, but when the day/night job calls, you answer (or you end up feeding your family garbage ramen, cuz that’s all yo’ po’ ass can afford).  SORRY!

So!  Episode 4:  Enter the Stupid.  Ugh.  I think this show has done an OUTSTANDING job of balancing respect for the US Navy, a dedication to fairly honest naval realism, post apocalyptic military sci-fi drama, and fun-but-hackneyed soap-esque melodrama.  The chatter is good, the characters are cool, the plot is awesome, the settings are true to the service, but one thing has stood out as a detriment in every episode thus far:

THEY CAN’T ENGINEER WORTH A DAMN.

In the pilot, Cap’n Crunches holds a generator fuse in place with his bare hand in order to recover from an electromagnetic pulse.  In episode 2, they deal with shitty fuel and gummed up fuel nozzles through the power of “It’s no longer convenient to discuss.”  In episode 3, they do egregious crimes with the physics of radar systems, though the actual engineers remain behind the scenes for the most part.

In episode 4, we have an engineering-centric, ship-stranded-at-sea, “bottle” episode, and suddenly all I see are flaws.  The worst part is, they are largely unnecessary flaws.  The Last Ship obviously has experienced naval consultants.  They get so much background right that I’m willing to forgive the little bit wrong they do for the plot’s sake.  In this ep, however, you can tell that either NONE of the consultants are engineers or the writers just disregarded them.  And that’s what pisses me off.  There were ways to do this episode that would have made engineering sense, but they chose not to, either as a sin of ignorance or willful disregard.

(The alternative also occurs to me, that the Navy told them to get it all wrong in order to avoid giving away engineering operational secrets, but they could have looked at a DDG-51 engineering diagram out of Jane’s Defense Weekly and still gotten it more right.)

Okay, on with the review.  First, the plot summary:  It starts off with a sweet flashback to better days, with CO Chandler’s family sharing their private goodbyes right before the NATHAN JAMES departs on deployment.  Then we switch to the present, with Tom Chandler torturing himself by listening to distress calls down in Radio.  The XO checks in on him and we see some nice character moments for ol’ Slattery (Adam Baldwin RULES!).  Then we have Hot Virologist Rachel Scott make a breakthrough on the vaccine, but she needs Quincy to finish the prototype.  The Cap’n allows Rachel to try convincing our old traitor, but no joy.  Meanwhile, Sexy LT 1 is showing Tex around the ship, where they run into Sexy LT 2, all tense with each other since 1 dumped 2 for the stupidest reasoning on the planet.  So, of course Tex wants to make a play (I love that character).

Then the power fails, threatening progress on the vaccine and stranding them in the middle of the ocean without enough water.  And here is where we enter the land of Obscene Nonsensical Engineering (ONE).  It seems that a fire near the Low Pressure Air Compressors were caused by a lack of seawater cooling to the engines / generators, since escaping from the Russkies through that canal somehow ripped off all their filters (??????).  A loss of power and propulsion makes the situation desperate, but they do manage to restore juice to the lab and conjure up an hour of propulsion each day so they can limp toward an island that might have water.  Oh, and the XO threatens Quincy with keelhauling unless he helps out Rachel (Adam Baldwin RULES!).

And then the casualties get even more dire.  All power and propulsion goes kaput, such that they are going to both die of thirst and die never knowing if the vaccine would have worked.  They eventually cool the bio-samples by putting them in an armored case and dangling them below the cold thermocline in the ocean.  And what do our intrepid Engineer/Writers do?  Why, they rig three parachutes as kites, launch them with line-casting rifles, and SAIL a 9000 ton warship to Gilligan’s Isle!  And — SOMEHOW — this is fast enough to turn the propeller shaft, which — SOMEHOW — generates electricity to keep the vaccine cool (but not enough juice to make water).

Long episode shorter, it works, they reach the island, Rachel Scott is appreciative, the Captain honors the MPA, the CHENG just lays around, Quincy is humanized, the crew parties on the beach, and Sexy LT 1 regrets dumping Sexy LT 2.

The Goods:  There are good elements here still.  I like the character moments for Chandler and Slattery, I like that they finally gave a real nod to the problems of maintaining a destroyer at sea without a logistics chain, even if EVERY SINGLE DETAIL WAS FUBAR.  I like using the thermocline as a cooling water blanket, even if it was impractical.  I like the XO’s threat, though I have no idea how a homicide detective in Chicago would ever have developed the time-in-rank and experience to make it as a CDR in the surface navy and as XO on a destroyer.  I liked the stargazing.  I even liked the plot.  If I had no idea how a destroyer worked, I might even have thought it was clever.

The Less Goods:  Unfortunately, I’m a former Chief Engineer / Engineer Officer on a DDG-51 Flight II-A.  Writers, if you wanna get this stuff anywhere in the ballpark next time, DROP ME A LINE, I WORK FOR CHEAP.  This episode didn’t even make an attempt to hit naval realism.  Is the NATHAN JAMES supposed to be an electric drive ship?  That’s the only way it even starts to approach common sense.  Turning the shafts does not generate power.  Losing all power only makes you lose propulsion because you can’t run the electric lube oil pumps and seawater coolers any more.  The electric plant and the propulsion plant are totally different animals, by design.  Three parachutes won’t move a 9000 ton warship unless Neptune himself is blowing on them.  You can’t rip the seawater filters off by running aground (they’re inside the ship, though you can wreck the cowling over the seachest).  And here’s one most won’t notice, but the MPA or Main Propulsion Assistant is always a Chief Warrant Officer or an Engineering Limited Duty Officer, kind of like a senior technical rank even above the Chief Petty Officer levels.  The Chief Engineer is usually a 1st (or 2nd) tour Department Head and a Line Officer, trained in Engineering basics, but experienced as a manager and a tactical officer.  The CHENG relies on the MPA for technical know-how, not the other way around, as it was here.  Again, The Last Ship tends to be an officer-fest.  We need more enlisted-ranks appreciation. And, lastly, Sexy LT’s 1 & 2:  I still couldn’t care less about you.  In your twosome, only Tex as a third party is interesting.

So, this is a mis-step, but I remain faithful and hopeful.  As the title suggests, I think the Goods usually outweigh the Less Goods and I think — together — that “We’ll Get There.”