The Question Has Been Put

So, stupid man that I am, I’ve sent a query to Baen Books regarding the current status of my on-hold manuscript for A Sword Into Darkness.  In the last two years (first submitted it in August 2011) it has gone from submitted to the Baen Slushpile, pulled out of the Baen Slush into a group of 40 books requiring further consideration, then to a group of 15 books, then 9 books, and now who knows.  Baen has a lot of stuff on their plate and I have nothing but respect for them and the situation they are in, working through whether or not to take a gamble on an unknown author or not.

But on a personal level, it’s maddening.  The manuscript is not accepted or rejected — just in Limbo — and like the souls stuck in Limbo, it’s not Heaven nor Hell, it’s just . . . blah.  Kinda there, not sucking, but not great either.  Indeterminate.  Frustrating.  Lame.

The work over the last couple of weeks on the self-publishing / Stealth Books imprint route has been exciting and productive, however.  I’ve got a proof-ready copy of the physical novel ready to ship, with a kick-ass cover and a professionally formatted interior (all thanks to the guidance and ministrations of Jeff Edwards).  It’s been awesome working on it with Jeff, but he fully knows and understands that I would throw a 100% of it aside if Baen or another traditional house only would say “yes.”

I should have an answer or more questions soon.  I’m quite nervous right now.

ASID Full Cover 2 Desktop

Cover Contest!!!!!

Happy Friday and hoping you’re all going in to a wonderful weekend.

That being said, you’ve got some work to do first, so no shirking your responsibilities, Mister/Miss!  I’m proceeding on the depressed assumption that my standing queries with Baen and Ace are not going anywhere fast, so it behooves me to move forward with the Stealth Books e-publishing option.  This is much more of a do-it-yourself affair, so I have done the cover myself, but I can’t decide on exactly which one to choose.  This is where y’all come in!

Please peruse the following covers and pick which one you like best (i.e. which one is most enticing/professional and would instantly make you WANT this book).  I eagerly await the judgement of the internets.

Cover 1, centered title.  This one is standard, but the title might be more difficult to read in a thumbnail on Amazon.

ASID Ebook Cover 1 Desktop

Cover 2, the “Z” layout.  This one makes more effective use of open space and pushes the Sword of Liberty further back.  Oh, and if you noted it’s not as bright as the other pic, that’s easily fixable.  Specifically, which layout is best?

Aegis Ebook Cover 2

Cover 3, the “S” layout.  This one uses the pic from the first post, but maximizes title size for thumbnails.

Aegis Ebook Cover 3

And that’s it.  If none of these appeal, or one appeals particularly, or you think a particular tweak is needed, please leave a comment below.  Otherwise, absolutely please vote in the following poll.  Multiple visits and votes are allowed.  May the best cover win!

A “Pyr”less Effort

Well, the bad news just keeps on rolling.

Got a rejection e-mail, this time from publisher Pyr.  I’m only waiting on a pass from Ace to officially declare I’m batting .000.

Yes, I’m still on hold from Baen, and no, I have not yet submitted to any small indie markets yet, but once this final, delayed rejection comes in, it puts a cork in my fantasy of being pro-published the traditional way right out the gate.  As for the agent hunt, I’ve submitted to 6 major agencies, targeting their newly listed agents who are actively searching for clients.  So far, I’m 0 for 6.

I’m still engaged in writing, working on Echomancer, “Bumped”, and “ILYAMY” intermittently, but I really had high hopes for A Sword Into Darkness.  I even re-read it this last week and sent it off to another reader who had expressed a fascination with the book.  I think it’s good.  What could be the factor turning editors off about it?  What could I tweak or re-write to make it past those initial gate-keepers?

Ah, well.  I’ve pulled down “Bumped” this week and I’m finishing off a re-write now.  It’ll go off into the aether this weekend, along with “ILYAMY”. Maybe I can put my count of pro-published shorts to 3 or 4.

Any advice from the internets?


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!