Achievements Unlocked for THE MUTINEER’S DAUGHTER!

Woo-Hoo!  First of all, THANK YOU to all of you that hopped to and helped Chris Kennedy and I have such a GREAT book launch weekend, no Foolin’ (get it?  Because it was April Fool’s Day aaaaaand Easter . . . .  I’ll shut up now).

Eggcellent . . . .

Scary-Terrifying-Easter-Bunny-11

I won’t bore you with the whole play-by-play but, briefly, when The Mutineer’s Daughter launched on Amazon on Friday, it had an insurmountable, back-of-the-pack sales rank in the 600,000’s — which basically meant around 600,000 books were ACTIVELY selling better than it.  Pitiful, but it was pre-official launch.  After the early readers, early reviewers, my Facebook and Twitter friends, Chris’s minions from his mailing list, etc. got done pushing it, it rose to the lofty sales rank of 11,600.

Now, that may not sound really impressive to you . . . but it kinda is.  For a self/indie/small-press publication, opening weekend, with just word of mouth and a bit of intra-Amazon advertising, THAT’S AMAZING.  Yes.  11,000 books were selling better.  But that’s 11,000 out of ALL the books Amazon sells.  Which is a lot?  I’ll have to ask Chris what the actual sales were, but I’m pleased.

Along with garnering 19 4-and-5-star reviews, getting an aggregate of 4.7 – 4.8 stars, and reaching the lofty rank of 11,600 before falling into a more reasonable 16,000 range, I thought it couldn’t get any better.

Then I googled myself.

(don’t look at me that way . . . it’s not a sin . . . .)

And that’s when I saw that the great Nyrath (Winchell Chung of Atomic Rockets — the best dang science resource for space sci-fi authors and game designers on the internet) had not just given TMD a glowing review, he had also awarded our book the prestigious Atomic Rockets Seal of Approval!  Aaaaand the Radiator Award!

 

The first goes to books or games that are suitably “hard” with their science and space physics.  Things have inertia.  Acceleration takes time and velocity builds, which then has to be decelerated against.  Nothing is 100% efficient.  Energy and reaction mass has to come from somewhere and they impose limitations which then have to be accounted for.  There’s (for the most part) no stealth in space.  There’s no sound and distances are VAST.  You can’t zip around or bank your space fighters.  You, in fact, realize space fighters don’t really work that well, even if it means your inner X-Wing or Viper pilot dies a little inside.

That doesn’t mean you can’t cheat a little for the sake of telling an exciting story.  If you didn’t cheat a bit, every realistic space story would be slow and methodical and locked in our solar system using drones and probes.  You can have great stories like that, but too much reality can limit the imagination.  However, you don’t have to go full space fantasy like Doctor Who or Star Wars either — not that those aren’t fun in their own way.  Too often, though, they require the use of oo much secret handwavium or macguffinite to resolve the story in favor of the protagonists.  That’s like writing (and reading) on easy mode.  Deus ex machinas everywhere.  The Doctor’s sonic screwdriver and Star Trek’s transporter basically do WHATEVER the stories require, and after a while that just gets lame.

Writing/reading “hard” science fiction is a joyful challenge, sort of like solving a puzzle, or really getting into a game of chess.  Everyone knows how the pieces work.  The enemy can see your every move, and you can see every one of theirs, and you still have to pull out a victory or achieve tactical surprise!  There are no 11th-hour saves from out of nowhere.  Instead, whatever cheats you MUST use in order to keep your adventure moving briskly at the speed of plot have to have limitations.  They need to have well-defined rules and costs that prevent them from being some sort of deus ex machina, and — once established — YOU CAN’T BREAK THEM, even if they involve physics that don’t exist (yet) in our reality.  That’s how you can have faster-than-light travel (even if it breaks causality in our physics) or super-duper-efficient fusion drives, like in the suitably-hard The Expanse series and novels.

So, yeah.  The Mutineer’s Daughter does that, as A Sword Into Darkness did before it.

The second award is — in its words — For Excellence In Realizing Heat Needs To Go Places ‘N Shit . . . .

The ships in TMD have fragile, easily crippled radiators to expend all that pesky waste heat into the vacuum of space.  They are both a hassle and a constraint to be exploited.  Remember, on a fusion-powered ship, the worry isn’t that you’ll freeze in the cold vacuum of space if your systems fail.  The worry is that you’ll be roasted for years as your whole hull reaches thermal equilibrium with the reactor and you SLOWLY cool off via inefficient infrared emission.

Not enough people appreciate convection through the atmosphere.

So, THANK YOU, Atomic Rockets!

Screenshot_20180402-103457

And as if THAT wasn’t enough, Chris Kennedy sent out a shout this morning that the fun of the weekend WAS NOT OVER.  Because this morning, Amazon ranked TMD as the #1 New Release in Children’s Science Fiction Ebooks regarding Aliens, which jumped our numbers up all over again.  From 16,000 back to 11,000, then 10,000, 9000, 8000, 7000 . . . finally peaking at a sales rank of 6920!  Again, big number, but MUCH SMALLER than many.  That made us rank not only on the New Release list but also on the regular list.  At this point we are at #2 of all Children’s Sci-Fi Ebooks – Aliens, ABOVE in the list A Wrinkle In Time at #4.  That’s not to say we’re better than Madeline L’Engle’s classic, just that it’s nice to be in such company – especially as that book has a movie out now.

Picture1

Now, would I think of TMD as a Children’s Ebook?  Heck no!  It’s young-adult at most and is written to appeal to teens and adults alike.  Sailors are in there.  Sailors curse.  I’m just waiting for the first angry parent to dress me down because the antagonist in chapter One says “Fuck”.

But until then, I’m enjoying these lofty ranks, these 23 stellar 4 & 5-star reviews, and looking forward to where this might go.  Thank you all!

Book Launch Alert – THE MUTINEER’S DAUGHTER

What would it take for you to discard everything you believed in and give up your sacred honor?

What would it take to make you rise up and fight when all the odds are against you?

Mutineers Daughter Ebook Cover

Think about those questions.  Really, THINK.  I have.  I’ve given it a lot of consideration.  Many meat-space processor cycles have been devoted to that, and the literal truth is that I have no idea.  I’d like to think I know the answer.  I’d like to believe that I’d John McClane the shit out of it if I was ever challenged in such a way, but that is merely supposition.  I’ve prepped for it, but have never faced the Great Test.  Others have.  Many of my friends have, people that I respect.  And sometimes they stood and did not fall back.  And sometimes they failed.

Absent putting myself into a life or death struggle, or engineering things so that I face a moral quandary where I might have to sacrifice my honor — honor I highly prize — in order to prevent an even worse fate, we can all turn to our histories, both personal and shared histories.

And we can also turn to fiction (and — best of all — science fiction).

In this case, I present to you two characters, Mio Sanchez and Benjamin “Benno” Sanchez.  One is a 14-year-old girl (which I am not) and the other is a Naval Chief Warrant Officer in a future space navy (which I am also not, but I’m closer to being that than a teen girl).  In mine and Chris Kennedy’s new book The Mutineer’s Daughter, they each face BOTH of those questions. They each make hard choices in which there may not be a 100% right answer.  In fact, the feedback I’ve gotten from several of our advance readers is that they can understand what Benno and Mio choose, but they don’t necessarily agree with their choices.  The split is about 50/50 on those who would do those same things and those who might choose the safer, less morally ambiguous route.

And in the meantime, between and because of their tough moral choices, we also get a lot of kick-ass sci-fi action.  Railguns, point defense cannons, missiles, x-ray laser (xaser) warheads, multi-g acceleration, faster than light drives, stabbings, shootings, ground combat, etc.  This one has it all!  The Mutineer’s Daughter is a cross-genre book, trying to find the sweet spot straddling character-driven drama, hard science fiction (where the physics is as accurate as possible), military science fiction (where we focus on both close-quarters Space Marine style ground combat AND big ship-to-ship fleet engagements), space opera (sci-fi stories with an epic scope, involving big questions and clashes between empires and political ideologies), and young-adult sci-fi (which should be accessible for teens and still exciting for adults, like The Hunger Games (there’s some limited cursing — they are sailors after all — but I would never mind my own teenage girls reading this one)).

A word for my readers and for those who have been waiting PATIENTLY for the sequel to A Sword Into Darkness:  this is not that sequelbut it is of a kind with ASID.  The ships and ship-to-ship combat will feel very similar to you if you loved Sword.  In fact, this book got me off butt and got me back on the horse and actively writing that sequel Lancers Into The Light.  I hope to continue apace and have it out this year as well!  I am indeed looking for beta readers for its first half, so hit me up if you want to join in.  For you fans of Nyrath’s/Winchell Chung’s resource site Atomic Rockets, he REALLY enjoyed The Mutineer’s Daughter, and I hope you see some words to that effect on his site really soon!

As for my writing partner/publisher Chris Kennedy, man, you could not ask to know a better dude.  A retired US Navy Commander, an aviator, an educator, a great dad, and a great husband, he continues his string of greats by being an awesome publisher and a fantastic writer.  He’s easily the most prolific author I’ve ever met, and the train of pure kick-assery shows no real signs of stopping.  He is the author or co-author/contributor of like 17 books and the publisher of almost 39 more, and that’s just in the last four years.  He has his own Theogony series of military sci-fi (8 volumes), his Can’t Look Back fantasy novel, and OF COURSE, the AMAZING Four Horsemen Universe of merc-based military sci-fi that he and Mark Wandrey co-created (now up to 12-15 volumes, and which I contributed a story to in their second anthology For a Few Credits More.

I first met Chris four years ago at my first science fiction convention, RavenCon in Richmond, VA.  He was just starting out as a writer then, too, and already helping to write the book (literally) on succeeding with self-publishing.  We were both Navy, both dads, so we hit it off pretty well.  Our writing styles were very different, but that just goes to show how AMAZING this genre is (and its readers) that we could both find success.  We saw each other at multiple conventions, traveled to a few together, and he was a great friend when my marriage fell apart and I was going through the divorce (with all the unintended consequences to my writing throughput).  Then, at LibertyCon in 2016, I had a sit-down with the great Bill Fawcett, sci-fi writer and publisher elder statesman.  I lamented my lack of progress on finishing Lancers Into The Light, wondered how I could knock ’em out like my bud Chris Kennedy, and Mr. Fawcett suggested why don’t I just collaborate with Chris and have him finish it?

I balked.  Sword and Lancers were my babies, but the basic idea was not a bad one.  I met with Chris and we talked it over, and both agreed that we should do something together.  At that time, he was also working out the particulars with Mark Wandrey for their Four Horsemen series, but that was a shared universe.  This would be an actual co-written novel, between two very different writing approaches and with vastly different production rates.  And, remember, I was the one who was having difficulty balancing life, work, and writing.  Still, it had great potential.

A few months later, wanting to maximize our individual strengths, and to explore both a more character/moral based story than just our usual action-pop or physics-porn, as well as tap into the potentially lucrative young-adult market, I sat down and hashed out the story idea and first outline.  We met up, discussed changes, planned out a writing schedule and routine, and said “Go!”  The plan was that we would trade off chapters and characters.  He would stay planet-side with Mio and the resistance.  I would be up in space, on the ships with Benno as he went from loyal officer to desperate mutineer (spoiler!).  I wrote the first chapter that November, gave it to Chris so he could make his chapter, then sat back to wait for him to deliver it and I’d write my next one.

Remember the prolific thing?  Yeah, Chris gave me his next 10 chapters.  His whole half of the book.  Like a month after I gave him my ONE chapter.

I panicked.  I admit it.  I hadn’t even STARTED chapter 3, and here he was, FINISHED.  I apologized for my misunderstanding on what the work routine was supposed to be, then knuckled down and started writing.  But, as alluded to and discussed in previous posts, I was still working out exactly how to do that work-life-writing balance.  My day job is HIGHLY time-and-focus-intensive, and when the day is done, you sometimes just don’t want to write.  Weekends, well, I was juggling time with my kids mid-divorce, time dating and eventually “going steady” with my wonderful, understanding girlfriend Kristin (yes!  Like Kris in ASID!).  So, I made progress, but, shamefully, I kept missing my own self-imposed deadlines, kept breaking my throughput promises to Chris.  For his part, he was VERY understanding and supportive, plus he had all that sweet 4HU action to keep him distracted, but I did owe him big.

Finally, once the divorce was final and the kids moved away, once my job ceased to be a 24-7 crisis and I gained more confidence in charge, and once my beautiful, evil, task-master of a lady-love reminded my regularly to sit down and WRITE, I finished (only a year late!).  Chris jumped to at the beginning of this year, kicking complete ass as publisher in getting the edits done, the cover finished, and the launch strategized.  And now, here you have it:  The Mutineer’s Daughter, on sale as ebook and paperback, Book One of In Revolution Born.  I think it is an absolute improvement over ASID and has indeed got me going gangbusters on finishing LITL.  I think you’re going to LOVE this one, but only YOU can determine that.  So don’t wait!  Go!  Buy!  Read!  Review!

I gots writin’ to do!  First Lancers, then Book Two of In Revolution Born, following The Mutineer’s Daughter.

Mutineers Daughter Print Cover

We Who Are About To Die Salute You (middle fingers only)

It’s a bittersweet thing, putting the finishing touches on a novel.

Sweet, in that you’ve achieved a significant, hard-won victory over your own procrastinations, distractions, and the inertia of life. Sweet, in that you can look back and remember fondly crafting the intricate puzzles of your plot, the subtle painting of your scenes, and the gentle creation of your characters, watching over them like a benevolent parent.

Bitter, in that you are rapidly running out of opportunities to ruin those little bastards’ lives and murder them in interesting ways.

Mine and Chris Kennedy’s new book (and first installment of a new potential series?) is getting wrapped up. I’m putting the finishing touches on the ultimate chapter / epilog / teaser (for installment numero dos). Then we go into heavy editing, beta-reading, cover design, layout, packaging, printing, & publishing, followed by marketing, pre-selling, early reviews, and eventual actual sales.

Very soon, The Mutineer’s Daughter will be out, and you’ll have the opportunity and privilege to gladly fork over your beer money. You can let it thrill you, surprise you, and intrigue you far better than your latest Hollywood factory offering (except maybe John Wick, that shit RULES).

All your fun lies in the future. All mine very nearly lies in the past. No more fictional death and dismemberment*. No more eye-popping destruction (literally) as you get sucked into space and roasted by your own exhaust plume. No more thermonuclear explosion-derived, radiation-pumped x-ray laser beam warhead driven immolation. No more being flayed by thousands of tungsten BB’s. No more falling to your deaths down alien mineshafts. No more getting stabbed through the heart with jagged hull metal. No more decapitation via relativistic railgun rounds. No more demises by excessive ragdolling.

(Note: THIS ALL HAPPENS IN THE BOOK.)

There’s also a ton of folks that get shot.

Some folks get shot from orbit.

Aaaaahhhhh. Fun stuff.

But, the important point here is that technically I’m still writing. And editing. And more than capable of doing a global search and replace to put your name in place of Hapless Casualty #3 … to “redshirt” you in other words, to make you forever immortalized as Dead Crewperson Number 7 in The Mutineer’s Daughter.

If you would like to suffer such a(n) (ig)noble fate, comment below, or tweet, or Facebook myself or Chris. I’ve already gotten a bunch of names, but I do kill a whole lotta folks in this, so don’t be shy.

Chris and I are happy to have our baby kill you. (Nope. No way that sentence sounds bad out of context….)

And, I’m interested: what’s the best/worst death you’ve ever encountered in fiction, movies, books, or otherwise?

See? I’ll go first. For me it’s a toss-up between the Nazi face-melting scene in Raiders and the snow-cutter scene in Larry Corriea’s Monster Hunter Alpha (so many undead sliced and diced….).

What’s yours?! Whether you’re in as a redshirt or not, I want to see your comments!

Have fun!

* (until the sequel)

Un-Amateur, Un-Professional

Hi there.

It’s been a while.  For those of you who don’t know me (or have — quite reasonably — forgotten about me), I’m Thomas A. Mays, intermittent sci-fi author.  Welcome!  For those that do know me, hello again, sorry for the significant delay.

When last I wrote, back during the innocent days of November 2016I would have called myself a semi-pro author (self-published category).  I had written a book over the course of a number of years, published it in 2014, was lucky enough to find an audience for it, and very much enjoyed the spoils of said publication.  This included short story sales to magazines, invitations to anthologies, getting featured as a guest at local cons, hobnobbing with other authors, and regular interaction with fans of my work — all with the understanding that I was working toward the next piece, whether that be a sequel or an entirely new, next big thing.

But that sense of myself included a fair bit of self-delusion.

I have to admit to myself and to you that I am no pro.  I’m more than an amateur.  Amateurs don’t get queries from fans and folks in the business.  Amateurs don’t have to declare their hobby on their taxes.  But, having met real pros, pros who have figured out the work-life-writing balance, I have to recognize that I am not amongst their ranks.

I am proud to call many of them friends.  I am not so arrogant as to call myself their equal.

It’s been going on 4 years since I published A Sword Into Darkness.  Its sequel, Lancers Into The Light, is half-finished.  It’s been half-finished for over a year.  I have the path to finish it, but I have not been able to sit down and actually put the words on the screen.  It is not writer’s block.  I more or less doubt that is a real thing.  But I have allowed almost everything and anything to get in its way, even though it is a story I love and a marked improvement over the original, with better writing, larger stakes, more fantastical science, and more epic battles throughout.

Now, if you look at how long it actually took me to write ASID from conception to completion, I’m not actually doing that poorly.  But that is the timeline of a hobbyist, not a pro writer.  I’ve written other things in that time, but I’m not writing like a pro, no matter how much I might have deluded myself in the heady days of 2015.  I’m not writing daily as much as I should.  I’m not making 1K or 2K or 5K words a day, consistently.  I’ve written a few shorts and made progress on one never-ending project or another, but I haven’t gotten that sequel out, nor have I met my commitments as I should have, much to the consternation of my partners and peers.

I could blame that on a number of things.  There’s been a lot in my life in 2016 and 2017 that I could throw up there to say, “This.  This is why I haven’t produced.”  There’s been divorce and new love, both of which require an investment of time.  There’s been my dedication to being a good father, despite physical distance and lack of time with my kids.  There’s been the day job, which deserves the lion’s share of my time.  That’s because it’s both what I took an oath to do, and it’s your tax dollars at work (no, not saying what it is, if you wanna know, google me).  (It’s also AWESOME.)

navy_assault-craft-unit-two_n14550

But while those are all legitimate time-sucks, they are not reasons.  They are not why.  Every pro out there has very similar obstacles to their progress.  They still make the time.  They still have the dedication and the will and the ability.  That’s what makes them pros.  What is the reason?  I honestly don’t know.  I just know that despite many promises to myself, I often found myself distracted or prioritizing those other things over my writing.  Sometimes, after work, instead of spending an hour writing, I’d lose a day in social media, or drop a day watching the idiot tube, or focusing on those legitimate distractions.  The will and the consistency were not there.

This is not an insurmountable issue, however.  The first step is recognizing the problem, and then having the support and the forcing mechanisms to grow those skills, to develop those habits.  And I’m happy to say that my consistency is improving, through both self-will and a VERY understanding and adorably slave-driving girlfriend.

So, why tell you this now?  Well, one, I feel fans of my work are owed.  And, two, I have something to show you at last.  Along with Lancers, I had another project I’ve been working on.  Actually, there are multiple projects (a lack of imagination has never been my issue), but this is a fascinating one.  How it came about is fodder for a future blog post but, in short, I will have a book coming out this year.  It’s not what I’m working toward.  It’s what I’ve done, along with the great, the prolific, and the very much every bit a professional Chris Kennedy.  He’s the author of (among many things) The Theogony trilogy, Codus Regius, and the co-creator of The Four Horsemen Universe with Mark Wandrey.

This is a full book, in editing now, co-written by Chris and me, from an outline by me.  The working title (it may possibly change), is The Mutineer’s Daughter.  It’s about a dedicated warrant officer in a post-diaspora (x2) space navy, serving to make a better life for his distant young daughter.  He’s then forced to do the unthinkable to save her from rapacious Terran troops.  The book alternates between two perspectives:  the warrant officer’s on a space-faring destroyer; and his daughter, forced to grow up and deal with the occupation of her homeworld.  The story kicks ass, and it has ABSOLUTE series potential.  It’s been in progress since around October 2016 and — if I was a pro — it would have been finished last February.  Took me a year longer than planned, but here it is, and the fact of its existence invigorates me and makes me want to finish more, including Lancers.

So, I’ve come to terms.  I’m not really a pro, not yet.  But I want to be, and after a very tumultuous time in my life, I’m working to become one like my friends and mentors.  I look forward to one day calling them peers without being a fraud.

And how do I prove my intentions to you?  I just have to keep producing.  Watch this space!

Huh. Did you know I have a blog?

Because I done completely forgot about it.  Sorry for the extended absence and lack of new content!  Been working on LITL, attending Cons (plural – Con-Carolinas, LibertyCon, and Con-Gregate), working on day job stuff, dealing with . . . issues (the people at the Facility had to get the dimensions of my rubber-room just right), and absorbing a great deal of pop culture for BLUFing (which you shall see presently).

To catch up on all matters and restore the faith of my dwindling readership, a few tweet-worthy summaries:

Con-Carolinas – AWESOME Con, with some of the best cosplay, great panels, & best format of all for putting readers with authors. Mucho books sold.

Liberty-Con – LOOOONG drive, but damn worth it. No cosplay to speak of, but much sci-fi goodness, new writer friends, enthusiastic panels.  Mucho books sold.

Con-Gregate – 2nd year, very earnest and well run, smallish but fun. Facebook friended a ton of folk I’ve met.  Fantastic folks, but few books sold.  😦

Chris Kennedy – THE MOST PROLIFIC AUTHOR IN HAMPTON ROADS LAUNCHES A NEW TRILOGY WITH THE SEARCH FOR GRAM.  Go. Read. It. NOW!

“The Keeper and the Kept” – New short story, begun w/the 100 Word Hook exercise with Alan Wold is finished, ready for submission!

“Clicker” – my weird wild west story canters along, still looking for a home.  😦

Lancers Into The Light – 4 chapters in, 1/4 – 1/5 done, progressing, much editing will be needed.

BLUF – Bottom Line Up Front reviews for “The Last Ship” and various movies will be up soon!

And now, a bunch of recent pics, mostly from Con-Carolinas, but LibertyCon and Con-Gregate too!

20150712_125510(1) 20150711_194715 20150710_225544 20150710_225505 20150710_193509 20150628_223157 20150626_161429 20150531_130223 20150531_124110 20150531_115741 20150530_210859 20150530_171706 20150530_171320 20150530_171054 20150530_155015 20150530_144306 20150530_135925 20150530_135756 20150530_125500 20150530_124844 20150530_124255 20150530_123804 20150530_122323 20150530_115632 20150529_203551 20150529_192033 20150529_190203 20150529_170355 20150529_165027 20150529_164804 20150529_163740

And now you’re all caught up!

New Fiction! (And My RavenCon Report)

Ready for something NEW to read from moi, The Improbable Author, as well as his Amazing Friends?  (use of the phrase “Amazing Friends” does not necessarily imply I’m Spider-Man, but, yeah . . . I am)

TheCommuterCover

“THE COMMUTER”:  A new, absurd short fantasy by the author of A Sword Into Darkness and REMO! Jack is a regular sort of fellow — a father, a husband, an office drone, and a daily commuter — living in a fantastical, changed world. Jack lives in the Fractured Lands, our Earth intermixed with the realm of Faerie after the Great Stumbling of 1888. But Jack lives his life as non-fantastically as he can, sticking to the human areas and Never Getting Off The Damned Train. However, when Faerie intrudes upon his life and endangers his daughter, everyone is going to find out that he stayed away from the Fae for THEIR benefit, not his own. Because Jack is not just a dad and an office drone. Jack is a former Marine, trained to fight the Fae, and fight them he will . . . .

It’s already garnered three awesome 5-star reviews and ranks #45 on Amazon’s short story SF&F list, but it needs more and it needs to go higher!  If you are a reviewer and would like a complimentary review copy, just message me at any of my links.  If you’d like to patron me and check it out for yourself (THANK YOU), it’s only 99¢ for your Kindle or Kindle app.  If you are a Prime member with a Kindle device or a member of Kindle Unlimited, you can even read it for free!!!  And, please, if you can, post a review on Amazon or the site of your choice.

Also from the Stealth Books authors this weekend:

Postcards From The Moon

“POSTCARDS FROM THE MOON”:  An offbeat short story by award-winning author Jeff Edwards

Once upon a time, mankind dreamed of the stars. Somewhere along the way, that glorious vision got lost…

Hank Rollins is old, tired, and thoroughly regretting the missed opportunities of his youth. More than a half century ago, he passed up the chance to do something wonderfully foolish, and utterly impossible. A chance to reach for a different kind of future.

But the door may not be completely closed, because Hank is getting postcards from a boy who no longer exists, and a world that never came to pass.

I’ve read Jeff’s short (and will be posting my review later today on Amazon — I’ve already rated it a VERY deserved five stars), and it is AMAZING.  It is a literal love letter to a lost future, full of finely wrought nostalgia and such a sense of wonder that it may well buoy your spirit for the rest of the day.  The images and possibilities within are going to populate many a delightful dream.  I can’t wait for the movie Tomorrowland, but I hardly need to — this short story offers all that I could expect out of that film and more.  The ONLY thing wrong with the story is that it did not come with a forwarding address to where I could write Papa Hank back.  Because I would send that letter and go TODAY if I could!  Like mine, it is for sale on Amazon for a mere 99¢, and that is a steal for what I got back from it.

Also this weekend, I got to go to RavenCon up in Richmond, VA.  This was a GREAT con, as it was last year.  Hopefully, I can guest at it next year when they move to Williamsburg.  I was worried about Pro/Anti-Sad Puppy divisiveness, but while it was mentioned and referred to, there was no controversy that I saw.  The folks there who were nominated for Hugos — whether on a slate or not — were all treated like the honored elites of the industry they were.  That gives me hope that fandom will find a happy middle-ground and move on from this teapot tempest.

Allen Steele was guest of honor, along with Frank Wu as artist/scientist, and a whole passel of people that I met last year.  Allen Steele told a number of great stories about coming up in the industry and breaking rules you REALLY should not break.  I also sat in and participated in a number of Indie Publishing panels with the prolifically awesome Chris Kennedy.  I hung out in Baen’s Barfly Central and chatted with Jim Minz, Steve White, Jim Beall, Warren Lapine, and Lou Antonelli (forgive me if I left out your name, honored luminary, there were just so many fantastic folks).  I also ran into John C. Wright, Lawrence M. Schoen, Michael Z. Williamson, David Walton, Bud Sparhawk, Jennifer R. Povey, Christopher FREAKIN’ Nuttall, Karen McCullough, Gail Z. Martin, Stuart Jaffe, Chris A. Jackson, and Danielle Ackley-Mcphail.

My favorite Con moment was participating in Allen Wold’s Short Story Writer’s Workshop.  In it you had to write the 100 word “hook” that should open every selling short story.  It had to include character, action, setting, set up questions, and indeed HOOK the editor/reader.  I made a couple of new buddies in Isaac and Gene, and got to here some great openings and even more valuable advice.  Here’s the second-draft of my 100 words:

Bill Garner leaned forward in the darkness as the safe’s door popped open at last.  Electronic dance music thumped up at him from the floor below, but not loudly enough to drown out the unexpected squelch of something within.

Bill jumped back.  He felt certain that cash and jewels were fairly silent in most circumstances.  Something else lay concealed in the safe’s shadowed interior.

He looked around him.  He was still alone, still undiscovered.  Deciding to risk it, Bill flipped on his flashlight and shone it inside.

A glistening, mottled tentacle curled tighter about a golden urn within the safe.

The panel agreed that I’d appropriately barbed my hook.  🙂  I’m intrigued enough that I may extend it into a full story.  The best advice from the panel was from the GREAT Jack McDevitt:  “Don’t try to tell a story . . . instead, craft an experience for the reader.”  It’s one of those seemingly simplistic bits of advice that looks not-very-noteworthy in the first analysis, but once you think about it more, it is pretty damn important.  It really does change the way I look at stories.

Anyway, a great time and a great Con.  Here’s the obligatory picture gallery.  Let me know if I captured any of your souls inadvertently:

20150426_124209

20150425_100402

20150426_101659

20150425_140358

20150425_193540

20150425_193420

20150425_193427

Con-ventional Warfare

Sometimes life just kicks you in the balls.

The guys reading this know what I’m talking about, and I’m fairly certain that most of the ladies will know what I’m talking about with a fair degree of empathy, even if I don’t know what the female equivalent would be.

I don’t talk about my day job much here (and I will stick to the usual doing-something-for-the-Navy-somewhere-on-the-East-coast) but I will expand on it a bit to let you know that I’ve essentially been biding my time at one job, awaiting the opening of another one:  the DREAM job for one in my line of work, the gold-or-silver ring you wait for your whole career to bring you to.  Well, after doing everything the job asks for the last two years, and getting ready to go to the DREAM job . . . it was, of course, snatched all away.  Now I have essentially a year more to wait, hoping it will come through this time, and being promised a variety of things to assuage me.  I hold no animosity for my current job or the folks that had to give me the bad news, but DAMN IT.  Just damn it.

So, I was feeling pretty low.  I made vague plans to hit the water in my new kayak, stymied only somewhat by the fact that it was due to be rainy and freezing all weekend.  Whatever.  It fit my mood.  But theeeennnnnnn . . . .

Super-Indie Author Chris Kennedy sent me a note saying “Forget all that reality stuff!  Come and kick back with me at IllogiCon in Raleigh, NC!”  And wouldn’t you know it, I did and it was awesome!

Illogicon is a fun, fan-run science fiction convention about half to a third the size of my only other experience at RavenCon last year.  But since it was smallish, the rules weren’t quite so rigid, and they graciously allowed me to participate as a panelist.  I sat in on “Using the Military in Fantasy,” “Independent Publishing 101,” “Indie Publishing Finances,” and “Worldbuilding,” and I managed not to embarrass myself during a single one.  In fact, it almost appeared that I knew what I was talking about.  I also attended but did not participate in “SF/F for the Younger Generation,” “Using Religion and Spirituality in Science Fiction,” among others.  I talked up A Sword Into Darkness, REMO, and Riding The Red Horse, gave away a few copies and a bunch of postcards and business cards, and made and renewed contacts galore.  Not only did I touch base with Chris, I also met fellow indie superstar Ian J. Malone, Baen Slushmaster Gray Rinehart, Intergalactic Medicine Show Editor Edmund R. Schubert, Baen Editor/Publisher Toni Weisskopf, and authors Clay and Susan Griffith, Gail Z. Martin, Jacqueline Cary, Christopher Garcia, and Misty Massey.  It was a great time, not least of all because my little Gabster came with and impressed everybody with her involvement and her last-minute cosplay.

It was tons of fun and inspired me to hit the keyboard hard so I can finish Demigod, write Lancers Into The Light (ASID 2), and put out even more shorts in 2015 than I did in 2014.  They also inspired me to get my name out there more.  So, even though I’m probably a day late and a dollar short, I’ve sent in queries to guest or panel at a bunch of area conventions this year.  I have no idea how many (if any) will say yes, but here’s what a 100% attendance schedule would look like:

  1. MystiCon, Roanoke, VA – February 27-March 1
  2. ROFCon, Virginia Beach, VA – February 27-March 1
  3. MadiCon, Harrisonburg, VA – March 13-15
  4. RavenCon, Richmond, VA – April 24-26
  5. BaltiCon, Baltimore, MD – May 22-25
  6. ConCarolinas, Concord, North Carolina – May 29-31
  7. LibertyCon, Chattanooga, Tennessee – June 26-28
  8. Con-Gregate, High Point – North Carolina, July 10-12
  9. DragonCon, Atlanta, Georgia – September 4-7 (Yeah, right, this is like San Diego Comicon East)
  10. Capclave, Washington DC – October 9-11
  11. HonorCon, Raleigh, North Carolina – TBD – October 31-November 2
  12. AtomaCon, Charleston, South Carolina – November 13-15

I don’t know if any of these might say yes, but I may attend some of the closer ones regardless.  I’ll definitely be attending RavenCon.  It was just too much fun last year.

All in all, a pretty good weekend after all.  Thanks, Chris!