New Short Story!! “Bumped” Live for the next two weeks! – UPDATED


Thank you, again, to all the folks who contributed to “ILYAMY”.  My hope is to fix it up and get it started on the magazine rejection cycle as soon as possible.  I’ll keep you, dear reader, updated as things unfold.

And now for something completely different.  Where “ILYAMY” was straight-up SF drama and somewhat dark-ish, this new tale is a bit of frothy fun (at least my definition of it).  “Bumped” is an old-school adventure yarn.  Were I forced to pigeon-hole it, I’d classify it as a mad-scientist romance / gadget caper.  If that’s your thing (and how could it NOT be?), I think you’ll get a kick out of it.  It had a little-seen previous version on Baen’s Bar, but I excised about 2000 words and punched it up quite a bit.  It’s now a good bit funner.

As with the last short story in progress, this’ll be up for a couple of weeks and then it will vanish from the internets in order to find its way to a paying market.

Let me know what you think!  Happy Reading!!

All “Tor”n Up

The Wife has now experienced the momentary confusion of the thin, self-addressed, stamped envelope.

A new SASE arrived yesterday with the anticipated-but-not-desired rejection form letter, this time from TOR/FORGE, Tom Doherty Associates, LLC. She apologized when she handed me the thin envelope, already torn open. She had no idea why I’d be mailing myself a letter and had ripped it open without remembering the submissions, much like I had last time with the rejection from DAW. It was fine though. Like last time, I figured publishing contracts would probably take up more than a page.

That brings the current rejection/acceptance tally to 2 against (TOR/FORGE and DAW (or is that 3 against?)), and 0 for, with Baen Books/Simon & Schuster (on hold for well over a year), Ace/Penguin, and Pyr/Prometheus still yet to report out of the “Big Six” publishers I submitted to. I don’t recall if I mentioned it before, but Random House (Bantam, Del Rey, Ballantine, and Spectra), Harper Collins (Eos/Prism, Voyager), and Hachette (Orbit) don’t accept unsolicited submissions without a literary agent — and a literary agent is pretty much just as hard to get without a contract in hand as a book publisher.

Ah well. At least I won’t be getting any more thin SASEs. All my remaining submissions were electronic. The time is ticking for the obligatory rejection form e-mails, however.

Sorry. I hate to be a downer. If any of the remaining three say “yes”, it’ll be amazing, but if all say no, it won’t stop A Sword Into Darkness. Assuming that happens, I’ll either re-submit to smaller publishers, finally get a pickup from a literary agent, or I’ll just publish it myself on Amazon/Apple/Barnes&Noble and hope it picks up on its own. And separate from all that, I still have a number of projects in the works.

As Dory said, just keep swimming!

Well, “DAW”n It. :(

After a great weekend working on la casa, having a patio and porch put in, and then painting and decorating my office/writer’s sanctuary (a future post with pics, to be sure), I both returned to The Job and snuck in a little writing.

Things are progressing well at The Job, in that I am learning the ropes and becoming more of a solver than one whom relies upon others for solutions, but so much of the work there consists of us being a clearinghouse for negativity. And in other locales which report to us at The Job, there was a great deal to feel negative about. This weekend, people were uniformly awful to one another, with many a heinous crime committed upon one another, and we get all the dirty (both literally and figuratively dirty) details.

So, needing a pick-me-up, I turned to fiction, specifically creating my own. I was able to chop quite a few more pages into the re-write of “ILYAMY” and I finally broke ground on the new “Strategic Deployment” script. I’m buoyed by both projects and hope to be able to show something here soon.

Refreshed and optimistic once more, I got home and checked the snail-mail out front.

Yep. Mistake.

I saw my own handwriting on a letter, the self-addressed, stamped envelopes from one of my ASID submissions. That’s never good. I’m pretty sure publishing contracts don’t come in slender business envelopes. Dreading the obvious, I opened it to reveal a lovely form rejection letter from Peter Stampfel of DAW books.

He thanked me for the contribution, it’s very hard for a new writer to get picked up and be successful these days, we don’t feel your manuscript would be a commercial success at the present, but we’ve rejected gold before, so don’t stop trying and remember us when it comes time to submit your next un-sell-able manuscript.

On the good side, that’s a pretty quick turnaround. I submitted the full manuscript to DAW by the regular post on May 1st. Give it a week for mail routing, a ten days to languish in a slushpile, 15 seconds to hate everything about all 116,000 words (or as far into the first page they’re willing to give it), a day to process the rejection letter, and then two to three days for it to show up in my box, then you can obviously see they gave it their full consideration.

Who’s next on the rejection train? Ace? Baen? Pyr? C’mon, I’m ready for it!

Let’s All Drop Some ASID!

A Sword Into Darkness Cover Variant

A Sword Into Darkness Cover Variant

Hey. Hey! Put down your blotter papers and your sugar cubes, ya dang hippie. That’s not what the title’s referring to.

(Drugs are BAD. Mmmm-kay?)

This is about how A Sword Into Darkness — or as I usually abbreviate it: ASID (aaa-sed, with a long “a”) — came to be. ASID is actually my third completed book, but it’s only the first one worth a damn. The first book, a novella/novelette called Under the Veil of Night (GREAT title, huh?), is dear to me, though not actually any good. It was written just after college, right after I had enlisted in the Navy. It proved to me that I could finish a longer-form story, but I still had a lot to learn about characterization, plotting, dialog, line-level writing, etc. After that experience, I switched focus to shorter works.

My short stories lead to meeting and getting to know Jeff Edwards. We were shipmates aboard USS STETHEM (DDG 63), but hardly knew one another until we got to talking during an official command party at this fabulous house in the cliffs above Cabo San Lucas. We discovered we were both writers, we read each other’s stuff, and he later introduced me to his literary agent / book doctor / friend Don Gerrard. At Don’s lovely home north of San Diego, they both helped me draw out the half-formed ideas I’d never articulated before for a sort of primer on space combat. That lead to my second book, The Falling Sky, another tale which has not yet seen the light of day, but which may be getting new legs soon (that’ll be another post).

It took me a couple of years to finish TFS, during which The Job and life both intervened.  I moved a couple of times, met the girl of my dreams and married her, then moved a couple more times.  When I finally finished TFS, I was kind of done with it, and put off the much-needed re-write indefinitely.  Instead, I returned to focusing on short stories, but this time with the intent to finally, actually get published by a professional outfit.  The few things I’d had published online before that were in non-pro free webzines, and looking back on it, that’s where they deserved to be.  Having finished two books and a number of shorts, I had a broad base of experience, but I was forced to admit that I had not really grown as a writer most of that time.  I was pretty good at the writing thing, but I was dreadful at editing myself or fixing the problems that plagued all of my work.  I had skill, but no craft.

That’s when I heard that one of my favorite publishers, Baen Books, was putting out a for-pay, pro-level, SFWA-qualifying, online magazine — Jim Baen’s Universe — and that they would be dedicating “Introducing” slots in each issue to never-before-published writers.  Not only that, but they were allowing the submissions to be workshopped through their online forum, Baen’s Bar.  I joined that day and started churning out new stories.  And I was promptly devoured, chewed up, and spit back out.  Baen’s Bar is not the touchy-feely, gentle critique of your local writer’s group.  The Barflies are raw, direct, cutting, occasionally short, and without much concern for your tender sensibilities.  They are also, by and large, absolutely correct.  Through critiquing, getting critiqued, re-writing, and then re-submitting to be chewed upon again, I began to recognize unplanned POV shifts, sloppy writing, passive voice, said-isms, when I buried the hook, and when I got too expository or techno-gasmed.  Eventually, with the help of Edith Maor, Sam Hidaka, Gary Cuba, Nancy Fulda, and countless other Barflies, I produced at least two stories (and probably more — they only bought two, though) that made it past the Bar and to pro-publication with Baen.

During the later part of my online education, once I recognized the growth I knew I needed, my mind turned toward a cloud of half-finished, discarded ideas that were too extensive for a short story, but did not have the depth needed for a longer tale.  I saw that by linking them together and making a few adjustments, they were all parts of the same whole.  Key scenes and elements began to appear in my head:  the nature of the enemy, a man throwing his research away during a tantrum in the streets, a generation-long journey to build a response to an approaching threat, a caper to steal a warship, a pixie-ish genius partnered with a haunted vet, secret Congressional hearings and supersecret meetings between power-brokers, master spies getting their comeuppance and overzealous agents being rebuffed, a sword-like ship breaking up under the onslaught of silvered beams . . . .  ASID was born.

Now, at the tail end of a long journey, after receiving the assistance of everyone mentioned above, as well as the gentler, invaluable critiques of Melissa and Mark Ellis, the Newport Roundtable Writers’ Group, Nathaniel, the Kevins, Charles Lakey, Maria Edwards, and many many more Barflies and First Readers, I finally have a work which I am proud of without reservation.  If you have not read it, please try out the three chapters posted here.  If you want to see more, just drop me a line.  It’s free (for now).

And, to anyone in the publishing industry:  get it while it’s hot!

Foolish Game

Full disclosure here, but you’ll want to know this now before you get too invested:

I’m an idiot.

Not your standard “drooling on yourself,” “American Idol voter” idiot. No, I’m a traditionalist idiot.

I say this because that’s the only explanation I have when people ask me why the book I wrote isn’t on Kindle. That’s the way of things today, right? Amanda Hocking? Write a novel, post it to Amazon’s and Barnes and Noble’s sites, hit the market with the right idea at the right time, gather in a few million sales, then get picked up for dead-tree-book distribution and book tours from the major publishing houses. Everyone knows that’s the way the market is heading now, so why have I resisted jumping on the bandwagon to the future? Why have I resisted at least giving myself a shot at building some sales and a reputation?

Well, like I said, I’m an idiot. Big name writers whom I respect still warn against the New Model of publishing, pointing out correctly that for every Amanda Hocking, there are 100,000 also-rans who never sell to anyone other than their close friends and family. Go the self-publishing e-book route and you remove your book from consideration by major publishers and agents UNLESS you happen to strike it big on your own. Start out with the traditional publisher’s and agents’ slushpiles, push the convention networking angle, bide your time and grit your teeth for rejection, well, you’re at least up for consideration. And if it doesn’t work that way, you can still try out Amazon on your own afterward. Just not the other way around.

So, if I finished my book in 2011 and insisted on the traditional route, why am I still in it? It’s been two years! Surely I should be working up a Kindle or Nook edition now! Well, no. Again, because I’m an idiot. The publishing houses want exclusivity while they are waiting to reject your book, on the off chance that if they want it, another publisher hasn’t swooped in and bought it out from under them, thus wasting all the time they put in on it. So, none of what they refer to as “simultaneous submissions.”

And that’s where I’ve been for the last two years. A Sword Into Darkness has been languishing in the Baen Books slushpile for two years, not even looked at by an editor to be formally rejected, much less chosen. I’m not angry at Baen for that. They can’t help the size of their slushpile or the staff they have to go throught it. It would still make me ecstatic to be picked up by them. It’s just the nature of the game as they have set it up.

Well, I’m an idiot, but I’m not a damned fool.

Just prior to publishing this blog — and one of the reasons for its existence — is that I received an invitation to formally go with the New Model under the direction of some writers/mentors that have received significant rewards and sales by that route. I’m still weighing whether or not to totally go with that plan immediately, but I have decided to no longer play totally by the rules. So, last week, I made formal submissions to all the main publishing houses that are open to submissions without an agent (excluding Baen, who already has a copy in their pile). Between paper copies of the whole manuscript, submissions with just the first three chapters you see here, and electronic copies, four of the Big Six publishers have my book, along with an additional mid-list publisher. Five submissions which I will give about six months to respond. If they all reject it or just keep me waiting with no answer, I’ll go the New Model route. And, in between that time, I’ll work on getting an agent, publishing more shorts, writing Echomancer, as well as some other SECRET PROJECTS.

So, wish me luck, and don’t be surprised if you see my book for sale — in some format at least — by the end of the year.

Attention On Deck!

At ease, at ease. Everyone please sit down.

Welcome to the Improbable Author, my own blog about writing, life, entertainment, books, movies, and family. If you know me, it’s good to see you again — visit often and tell all your friends. If you are new, then please stay a while, read the short stories and chapters I’ve posted here, try out the Radio Play, browse the posts — and then visit often and tell all your friends.

I know writing blogs are a dime a dozen, but I hope you find something special in mine that brings you back. When I’m not working my day-and-night career in the Navy (henceforth known as The Job) or doing whatever She Who Must Be Obeyed tells me (I love you, sweetie!), then I try to be writing.

I’ve had some success with my short stories, chiefly due to the mentoring found on the Baen’s Bar forum. My main focus now is on novel publication, for either my completed military science fiction manuscript A Sword Into Darkness or my in-progress young adult urban fantasy Echomancer. I’ll have more about all of them in future posts.

So, browse around, follow the blog, and most of all — Happy Reading!!