An Improbable Year

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:

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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 Darkness through 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:

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As you can see, ASID is available in trade paperback, on Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, Kobo, iBooks, and as an audiobook read by Liam Owen from SciFi Publishing.  And it is a well-regarded debut novel, with 4.4 stars on Amazon out of 349 US reviews, 3.88 stars on the tougher crowd at Goodreads through 33 reviews and 525 ratings, plus reviews and accolades from Winchell Chung of Atomic Rockets, PT Hylton, Carol Kean at Perihelion SF, 20four12, PG’s Ramblings, Castalia House, Kaedrin Weblog, the Human Echoes Podcast, and others.  I even got the Christmas treat of making PT Hylton’s favorite 14 books of 2014 in song form:

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.

Have a great year, everybody.  Toodles.

 

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.  🙂

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!

Good Things Come In Threes

Don’t have a whole lotta time to post, but wanted to get this out while interest was high:

First GOOD thing, got a GREAT review from Carol Kean over at the fantastic sci-fi web-zine Perihelion Science Fiction. She’s been chatting with me on Twitter for months (and is part of the oppressive Hashtagocracy, along with me), introducing me to fabulous new indie authors and Twitterati.  Plus she expressed an intense interest in ASID.  That finally culminated with this month’s issue of Perihelion, and, I gotta say, I owe her one.  It is a really good review, critical yet effusive, and even though she admits that military sci-fi is not her thing (she tends to skim the hard science and tactics passages), she is definitely in the fan column.  I’ll take a 4 out of 5 stars from Carol any day!  So check it out, and also their new fiction and the other reviews of Edge of Tomorrow and Will McIntosh’s latest book from Orbit.

Second GOOD thing, Will Perez and kick-ass narrator Liam from Sci-Fi Publishing have completed the audiofiles for the ASID audiobook!  Just a few things to put away and tidy up and then you can LISTEN to awesome hard science, military sci-fi, space opera, technothriller goodness at home, during your workout, or on the commute to and from work!  On sale soon, but here’s a little taste:

Tee-hee!!!

Third GOOD thing, I have been eliminated from the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2014!  Hmmm.  Why is that good news, you ask?  Well, it is and it isn’t.  I would have LOVED to have been a semi-finalist, and — of course — I’d have loved to have won one of the $15,000 advances or the $50,000 grand prize, but I never really expected too.  ASID is, at best, a good pulp adventure.  When people take off marks for its limited character development, I gotta shrug and say, “Well, yeah.”  It is not an introspective tale.  There is very little deep catharsis.  Besides Nathan getting past the sinking incident and learning to lead again, and besides Kris’s strained relationship with the father that abandoned her, my characters are pretty middle of the road.  They evolve and express themselves in relation to the plot.  No one is going to make a Lifetime movie out of ASID, but it would make the best SyFy Channel movie EVER, not to mention a pretty damn good blockbuster at the multiplex.  The Fault In Our Stars, it ain’t.  So, I’m out, but I’m still proud of my book, and now I can move on to other opportunities.  Besides, all the REALLY cool people I’ve met in relation to ABNA 2014 got kicked out too, so I’m among friends.

Following this is ABNA:  Full Disclosure, with my two Amazon Vine reviews of my excerpt, and the Publisher’s Weekly Review of the whole book.  I gots nothing to hide!

And, REMEMBER, only a couple of days left on the ASID and REMO 99¢ sales!

Toodles!

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

Generally, the excerpt is well-structured and flows well. The writing is characterized by some excellent descriptions: “You’re an idle-rich tech wizard with an over-funded amateur astronomy bug, so some eccentricity has to be expected, I guess. In the dusking skies of evening above USS Rivero , the sharp boundary of the eastern horizon had already merged with the night, while to the west a wash of orange and red still set the water afire. These descriptions are not only well-written, they enable the reader to visualize the scene or setting more clearly. Another strength of the excerpt is the pacing. The story flows well and smoothly at a steady pace. I expect the story to be action-packed based on these preliminary chapters, which should make for an engaging read.

What aspect needs the most work?

More careful editing is needed. Avoid cliched descriptions, for example: Everyone heard the familiar dissonance of screeching brakes, squealing tires, blaring horns, and one final movement of crunching metal. The first two chapters appear to be cluttered with technical descriptions. Some of these descriptions are obviously integral to the plot and in driving the narrative forward, but at times, the technical aspects engulf and overwhelm the story, making me feel like I was reading some sort of technical manual and losing sight of the story itself. This might be an area you wish to focus on and improve. I’d like to see the main characters developed more over the course of the narrative. Characterization should not be sacrificed at the narrative’s expense, and I’d like to see how both Gordon Lee and Nathan Kelley are developed.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

For the most part, the excerpt is well-organized and flows well. The protagonist Gordon Lee appears to be a rather eccentric character but one chapter alone does not make for compelling characterization. I would hope that the main characters get developed as the narrative moves forward, including the Navy man, Nathan Kelley. The premise sounds interesting and although sci-fi thrillers are not my cup of tea, I admit my curiosity has been piqued by this engaging excerpt.

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The science of this fiction was well done even though some of the terms I read I had no idea if they were real or not. The frustration of Gordon was well written as well as his interaction with Lydia. How it ties in to chapter 2 would keep me reading into chapter 3, although chapter 2 was a bit weaker than the first.

What aspect needs the most work?

Chapter two on the boat gave no reference on why we were firing into North Korea, maybe explained later. The banter for firing nukes was unrealistic as I would think anyone given instructions for firing a weapon that could kill hundreds of thousands could be so cavalier makes no sense, however based on the pitch and the submarine the smugness is probably short lived.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

I thought the pitch of the book was interesting and the author writing does lend an authoritative tone to what I read which is important in a sci-fi book. Would def read on because of the premise and what I have read so far. Send me a copy!

ABNA Publishers Weekly Reviewer

Visionary Gordon Lee sees something that no one else, not even NASA, sees, or at least is willing to see. What initially appears as a rogue comet turns out to be something much more. It’s an alien craft of some sort, on a long haul to Earth from a star twenty light years away. With no way to ascertain the aliens’ motives, Lee resolves to prepare for a worst case scenario: hostile invasion. To that end, he recruits ex-Navy sailor Nathan Kelley, and turns the full force of his fortune and private tech company, Windward Technologies, to developing means to combat the presumed threat. With few allies in government, Lee and Kelley are left to prepare as best they can, recruiting a motley crew, including the brilliant and erratic engineer Kristene Munoz, to lead the civilian defense of Earth. Fortunately, the laws of physics ensure that the ship will take several years to arrive. This manuscript is fairly standard military science fiction. The strongest area is the conceptual technology, which starts out very firmly rooted in present day scientific reality. Unfortunately, this, combined with the drive toward confronting the alien force, leaves little room for character development. The action is well paced, and the reasoning behind both the aliens and their motivations is very well thought out, making this a solid read.