Today Was A Good Day to Kick Ass

First of all, I need help picking the winning cover for REMO from all the outstanding final entries.  So click on the picture below, VOTE, and then come back here, because you ain’t gonna want to miss this.

REMO Winner

Don’t you just LOVE proportional voting?  Now, to task!

Today was a pretty awesome day.  It started off with an e-mail at the crack of dawn, from the editors of Daily Science Fiction, who told me that they’re buying my flash (under 1000 words) soft-SF short story “The Rememberists.”  It’s a weird little tale, but thought provoking, and they’re buying first serial rights to it!  While the money off a 1000 word tale isn’t life-changing, even at professional rates, it does mark my third sale to a paying, professional science fiction market.  That — technically — makes me a pro-science fiction author, at least according to the Science Fiction Writers’ Association, the SFWA, our professional guild.  Folks have a lot of mixed feelings about the SFWA, which is currently undergoing an ideological purge of sorts, but I like writers on both sides of the divide.  Will I join?  I dunno.  But its still damn nice to be able to.

Matter two, which was why I had been thinking about the SFWA and professionalism, is the fact that I now have sold over 10,000 copies of A Sword Into Darkness (and at a royalty rate that does NOT suck).  Though it is self/indie published, selling 10,000 copies allows you to classify yourself as a pro, and as a new pro, begins your two-year countdown clock for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in Science Fiction.  It would be AMAZING to get a Campbell nod, like one of my favorites, Larry Correia.  Of course, there’s a few hiccups to getting that nomination and attending the Hugo Awards:  namely, the Best New Writers get nominated by the attendees of the past and current WorldCon, where the awards are handed out.  Thing is, I don’t know any WorldCon attendees, and i really doubt they just happened to be browsing Amazon, saw my cover, and said THAT is my next read!  And then there’s the matter that I may be ineligible.  “Dreams for Sale — Two Bits!” was published in Jim Baen’s Universe, a pro-level magazine, in 2009.  Since you have only two years in which to be eligible, I could sell 1,000,000 sales, and not be eligible as the Best New Writer (though I think I could handle the pain).  JBU is now defunct, and I’m not sure if the records will support there being sufficient subscribers to hit the size necessary to start my two-year clock.  Am I eligible?  I dunno.  But I’d really like to be afforded the opportunity to turn down the nomination.

And finally, after working in the yard all day, putting in a stone firepit and landscaping, I got another e-mail.  This one was from the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, or ABNA 2014, announcing that A Sword Into Darkness had made it through the second round and is now a quarter-finalist.  In the first two rounds, they start off reading a 300 word pitch, choosing 2000 out of 10,000 entries on that alone.  Then in the third round, 2000 are whittled down to 500, 100 of which are Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, by reading a 3000 word excerpt from the beginning.  In the fourth round, the editors of Publisher’s Weekly write an actual reveiw of your entire manuscript, and then pick 25 books out of 500 to go to the semi-finals, and so on.  Why?  Well, in the offering is a $ 50,000 publishing contract through Amazon Publishing, and five $10,000 contracts, putting real books in real physical bookstores.  What are my chances of winning?  About 1 in 500 against, but as contests go, it’s one of the best out there.  I’m amazed to still be in competition!

So, very, very cool.  And to close out the day in an appropriately badass way, we christened the fire pit by burning our Christmas tree, which has been drying outside since January, and is thus — essentially — explosive.  And semi explode it did! I stacked paper and bone-dry, needle-filled branches high (too high). When I lit it, people inside the house could actually hear it as it sucked in all the available oxygen and shot up with 30 foot flames. My neighbors were un-pleased. Thank goodness I hadn’t just lit the entire tree at once like the Pyro within me wanted to. I then ripped off my clothes and danced around my fire spirit while I fed in the rest of the tree (it made for some very awkward smores with the kids afterward). Now the stones of my firepit are fused together and I truly understand why natural trees end up burning down homes.

Goooooooodnight, loyal readers! . . .

The Art World vs. Tom Mays – PART DEUX

It turns out I am not the graphic artist bad-ass I thought I were.  Talent, it is out there, and READILY available for the low, low price of $299.  Now I have TONS of designs coming in (my original has been relegated to my false cover page) and I need YOUR HELP choosing one before the contest ends.

Go here, at 99Designs, and vote NOW for your favorite cover.  I’m judging primarily on the front cover, but have asked for a book spine and back cover as well.


The Art World vs. Tom Mays

Damn you, Jeff Edwards, you insidious voice of reason, you.

So, if you’ve been following, you know I’m launching an ebook anthology with a bunch of my military AI short stories, called REMO.  And since the last cover I did was 96-ish % successful, I started off doing my own for this one as well.  And I’ve got a cover I like, but Jeff reasoned that hey, it turns out you are NOT a graphic designer, so you MIGHT just wanna get some options rather than commit to something developed on the fly, with a kind of art you’re unfamiliar with, and which is not necessarily evocative of a military SF anthology.

Damn correct bastard . . . .

So, on advice, I’m opening up the cover design for REMO to some actual graphic artists via the 99Designs website.  I’ve offered up a $200 bounty to the designer that can beat what I already have:

REMO Cover 1

We’re looking for a cover that is more immediately recognizable as military SF, and which looks more compelling as a thumbnail image.  All the subtle sci-fi-isms of my design seem to vanish at that size.

If you’re a graphic artist and want to compete for the bounty, go HERE.  You’ve got four days to present a proposal, so no dawdling!

Win a Free Military Sci-Fi Trade Paperback!

Which military sci-fi trade paperback?  Why, the bestselling A Sword Into Darkness, of course!  I’m closing in on 5000 sales since launch (I’ll probably hit it by this evening, and I’m feeling magnanimous).  So I’ll make it easy since I have laundry and writing to do:

The astrodynamic destroyer USS Sword of Liberty (DA-1) and her sister-ships are pretty dang cool, but I’m prepared to allow that they may not be the coolest ships to ever sail the spaceways.  So, in 140 characters or less (approximately), what is the coolest spaceship to ever grace science fiction and why? 

Post your answer on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or here on the blog by Monday, and I will send the winning answer and maybe a runner-up or two a signed trade paperback copy of A Sword Into Darkness anywhere here on planet Earth, so long as you have an address.  Postage is on me.

So, what’s gonna win?  The Millennium Falcon?  The Enterprise, and which variant?  Serenity?  Or some bad-ass mama-jama I ain’t never heard of before?  Well, they’re all in the running!  Don’t forget to justify your answers!

ASID Front Cover 2


Apparently, every day being some sort of “BLANK” Day is a thing. Today, the 11th of February, is Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day, and no, I am not making this up.  Therefore, I am not going to cry over spilled milk, in that I am going to rally and soldier on after one of my plans failed to work out completely.

What plan failed?  A problem with the book launch perhaps?  Nope, that’s going swimmingly.  Reviews and sales are both rosy and I’m pleased as could be.  In fact, A Sword Into Darkness is CURRENTLY IN THE TOP 10 ON KINDLE FOR EACH OF MY SUB-GENRES:  Military Sci-Fi/Space Fleet, Alien Invasion, and First Contact!  I’m quite proud to be in the same Top 20 as one of my favorite books, Old Man’s War by John Scalzi, as well as a number of other worthies, all deserving a read (but me first).

No, the plan which (partially) failed was the distribution of my extra Advanced Reader Copies for the winners of the Zinger! contest.  Two Proofs and an ARC were indeed mailed out, and I’ve heard that the recipients are quite pleased with them, but the other two winners never sent me their mailing addresses.  So, here I am, with ARCs on hand and no one to give them to.  I KNOW:  LET’S HAVE ANOTHER CONTEST!

Nathan Kelley, Kris Muñoz, and Gordon Lee, the main characters from A Sword Into Darkness are intimately familiar with failure.  I won’t give away the specifics, but fate (otherwise known as me) kicks them in the ass on a regular basis.  They screw up, but then they always say, “Fuck it,” and soldier on.  So you tell me:

What was your biggest/funniest/craziest screw-up and how did you shrug it off to come out on top?

Answers can be anything from twitter length epics of perseverance or extended tales of incredulous/incredible whoa/woe followed by magnificent victory.  Drop me your answer here in the comments, Tweet me at @improbablauthor, or drop me a line in the Facebook or Google+ comments.  You have from 0000R (midnight Eastern) to 2359R on Feb. 11th, Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day.  I’ll pick my favorite two entries and you’ll each win an ARC of my kick-ass military sci-fi novel.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some milk to mop up.

Devious Bastards — Who Won A FREE BOOK?


First of all, THANK YOU to all the folks that participated in our little contest here. Whether for the eagerness to acquire a copy of A Sword Into Darkness, or the joy of entering a contest, or an actual need to show any potential invaders just how nutty and tenacious a bunch of murderers these largely hairless primates can be, I got dozens of entries, which — on a personal level — is very very satisfying (especially as launch day approaches).

Secondly . . . WOW, you guys are some DEVIOUS BASTARDS.  If I were an invading race, I’d be quakin’ in my space boots right about now.  Out of these dozens of answers for how YOU would stop an alien invasion, not a single one was exactly the same.  That’s some ingenuity right there.  They can, however, be grouped together in a few broad categories. 

Category A:  Hard(ish) Military Science — a few, but fewer than I originally imagined, went the realistic route.  Rather than delve into silliness, these armchair Ulysses Grants / bathtub Alfred Thayer Mahans took it as a serious challenge.  From using infiltration and subterfuge to lull the enemy in close before decisively striking, to making use of scouting raids and offensive probes, you all were methodical and calculating.  Shall we seed the high orbits with so much fast-moving debris (a la the film Gravity) or tungsten penetrators so it becomes suicide to approach?  Or should we stick to nukes and biological warfare and play the attrition game (playing NASTY, y’all)?

Category B:  Socio-Political Barbs — what’s the best way to answer a zinger?  Why, with a zinger of one’s own!  While these methods might not stop a fo-realsy alien invasion, they surely do put a hurtin’ on those humans that array themselves on the opposite side of a cultural divide.  Climate change?  Check!  High taxation?  Check!  Reality TV and the Internet as the cultural nadir of mankind?  Double Check! 

Category C:  Artistic Callbacks — let’s play “Spot the Reference!”  These folks firmly believe in not re-inventing the wheel.  Our greatest SF writers and directors have already produced soooo much material, destroying alien invasions in every way imaginable, WHY NOT utilize that resource?  These homages were both filmic and literary (plus radio show if you’re including original Hitchhiker’s Guide), and they indeed put a smile on my face.  H. G. Wells, Douglas Adams, H. P. Lovecraft, James Cameron, Russell T. Davies (Doctor Who and Torchwood), Galaxy Quest, Independence Day, and others all get referenced, and they all get a salute from me.

Category D:  Sheer Insanity — uuuuuummmmmm, right.  These were the most inventive . . . sometimes the most outright fun . . . but you might wanna make sure the NSA doesn’t know where you live.  🙂  We got your zombie clones of Dennis Rodman, interplanetary “Burning Man” festivals, Aerosmith attacks, sharknado-style laser rodeos, etc.  Magnificently warped, and I mean that in the best way possible!

Sub-Category F-U-Tom:  Some folks just don’t like a little shameless self-promotion.  I get it, I’m new to the Twitter-sphere and the art of selling yourself on Facebook.  Did I overstep by directly tweeting writers and self-identified sci-fi fans?  Perhaps.  Did I inadvertantly turn myself into a spam-bot?  Eh, I don’t think so, but then again, I don’t get all the unsolicited crap that many of my more experienced betters receive.  I was just trying to innocently get the word out and have a little fun with folks.  So, yes, I got called a spammer.  I got un-followed and blocked by some.  I was even accused of being an account hijacker and an untrustworthy person.  Ouch.  So, if my contest and the way I promoted it upset you, I apologize.  My only defense is being naive and inexperienced.  My only saving grace is that for every person I lost, I gained 4-5 more.  I can take that math.

Brass tacks time:  WHO WON?!?!?  Well, there were many worthy entries, so don’t take it badly if you didn’t get picked, but I only have so many copies of ASID to go around.  Therefore, in my expert-and-only-somewhat-random opinion, the Grand Prize winner of one proof copy is:  Michael Nicholas!  Michael was a bit of a triple-whammy in that he gave a great Dr. Evil-esque / SyFy Channel answer with his astronauts on flying sharks with frickin’ laser beams on their heads, covering categories C and D, then gave a completely separate answer about “scorched orbit” policies in Category A, seeding clouds of tungsten ball bearings through the approaches to Earth.  Michael, congrats!

But wait, there’s more!  Runner-up with the most tantalizingly nostalgic literary reference was T. Gene Davis, who made me go back and re-read my half-forgotten copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (series) in order to get the reference about the alien fleet being swallowed by a small, yawning dog.  You get my other available proof copy!

Advanced Reader Copies (which are 98.7% identical to the final publication/proof version) also go to Cara Brookins for Most Re-Tweeted Answer, Adam Vickery for Most Bi-Polar Answer, and Donna Kallas for the Sheer Volume/No Hard Feelings slot.

I hope you all enjoy the books and I encourage your honest (and hopefully favorable) review on Amazon and/or the book vendor of your choice when you get done.  As for the rest of you lot, I hope you are intrigued enough to go pick up your own copies on Friday!  And, if you’d like to read all the best entries, you may find them compiled HERE:  Zinger Contest Entries

Happy Reading!!


The Zinger Contest — Win a FREE Book!

The Trade Paperback and Kindle editions are ready to go, and they will do just that next Friday, January 31st.  But you can get your very own kick-ass copy of A Sword Into Darkness RIGHT NOW.


Dylan has your space-opera-crack . . . and HE KNOWS IT.

To enter, you have to provide your own answer to the question posed in Chapter 3.  Nathan thinks the question is just a “zinger,” an interview exercise designed to show your prospective boss how you think.  Little does he realize that tech magnate Gordon Lee is completely serious when he asks, “How would you stop an alien invasion?”

So, that’s the question posed to you, dear reader:  How would YOU stop an alien invasion?

Provide your best Twitter-esque answer either here in the comments, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Tumblr, or via e-mail.  The only limit is the 140 characters (or so) of a standard tweet.  Otherwise, shoot for the moon (perhaps literally).  You can enter as many times as you want between now and Monday at 2359 eastern time.  Your answer can be based on the hardest of sciences, rely on supernatural forces (Cthulu smash!), Star Trek level handwavium / Doctor Who-ish macguffins, or be completely fun, insane, or off the wall.

On Tuesday, my panel of experts and I will quantifiably determine the absolute best answer and that worthy soul will receive a free proof copy of A Sword into Darkness via US mail before the big launch day.  I also have a few extra Advanced Reader Copies lying around which are just begging to get mailed out.

Enter soon and enter often and may the best invasion-stopper win!