Con-stitutional Liberties

First, “me” business:  I finished the second half of Chapter 4 on Demi-God / Dattoo, which was a tough one because it’s a lot of technobabble justification for what comes before and after.  I may end up re-vamping or cutting most of it, but it’s on paper/pixels at least.

Finishing up the files for my launch of “The Commuter” — COMING SOOOOON!

I have finally started writing Chapter 1 of Lancers Into the Light, the sequel to A Sword Into Darkness!  If you would like to be Tuckerized/Red-Shirted/Die in a gloriously fictional manner, hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, or in the comments below!  And you guys are gonna love Huli.

And, I hit on a couple of very nice posts about my writing!  First, there’s a nice mention for my story “Within This Horizon” from Riding the Red Horse over on Takimag.  And, pleasantly surprising, Mark Ciocco of the Kaedrin Weblog has put me among his nominees for this year’s Best Novel Hugo Award!  Thank you, Mark!  And you would all be wise to go check out his excellent blog over there.

Now, convention stuff.  Here are the updates!

  1. MystiCon, Roanoke, VA – February 27-March 1; Rejected, all full up.
  2. RavenCon, Richmond, VA – April 24-26; Rejected, but on the waiting list.  I’m probably still going.  Oughta be fun.
  3. DragonCon, Atlanta, Georgia – September 4-7 (Yeah, right, this is like San Diego Comicon East); Rejected! Their form rejection email even had .midi file of a donkey laughing at me.
  4. Capclave, Washington DC – October 9-11; Application still under review
  5. HonorCon, Raleigh, North Carolina – TBD – October 31-November 2; No response
  6. AtomaCon, Charleston, South Carolina – November 13-15; Accepted as a guest!  Waiting on a response from me as to what panels I wanna be on.  This is a long drive, but, hey, that’s what meth is for.

So, the latest travel plan/list is:

  1. ROFCon, Virginia Beach, VA – February 27-March 1; Attending just to see all the costuming and cuz it’s local.
  2. MadiCon, Harrisonburg, VA – March 13-15; Guesting!  Super small college con.  Still still thinking on it.
  3. RavenCon, Richmond, VA – April 24-26; Attending cuz it was fun last year.
  4. BaltiCon, Baltimore, MD – May 22-25; Acceptance pending, but they urged me to enter for the Compton Crook Award.  And I did! No confirmation of award eligibility yet.
  5. ConCarolinas, Concord, North Carolina – May 29-31; Guesting!
  6. LibertyCon, Chattanooga, Tennessee – June 26-28; Guesting!  I’ll be taking trucker meth to reach this one too.
  7. Con-Gregate, High Point – North Carolina, July 10-12; Guesting!
  8. Capclave, Washington DC – October 9-11; Application under review
  9. HonorCon, Raleigh, North Carolina – TBD – October 31-November 2; No response
  10. AtomaCon, Charleston, South Carolina – November 13-15; Guesting!  At this point in the year, I’ll be a full-blown trucker meth-head.

Plus / PS:  I now have a supporting membership to this year’s Worldcon, so I am free to nominate stuff for the Hugo this year.  What should I be nominating?  Make your Best Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Related Work, Graphic Story, Dramatic Presentation (Long Form/Movie), Dramatic Presentation (Short Form/TV ep or short film), Editor (Long Form), Editor (Short Form), Pro Artist, Semi-Prozine, Fanzine, Fancast, or Fan Writer.  I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!!  So, hit me up, y’all.

Toodles!

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.

 

All I Gots Time For Is Bullets . . . .

– Hi!

– There’s whole bunches of stuff to catch you up on, so I’m turning down the effervescent charm and wit, turning up the maximum information flow (while still remaining effervescently witty and charming.  Handsome too.  It’s a curse).

A Sword Into Darkness has now topped over 200 reviews on Amazon and sits at 4.5 stars overall with 123 5-stars and 58 4-stars, alongside a whole buncha real nice write-ups between ’em.  If you needed an excuse to get yourself a copy, that’s a pretty good one.  I’m still continually surpised about the folks that are reluctant to give it a try because of its indie-published beginnings.  It’s good, folks.  Trust the hoi polloi.

– Speaking of good, I just listened to the first half of the A Sword Into Darkness audiobook from ACX and Will Perez of Sci-Fi Publishing, and it’s like experiencing a brand new story.  It really comes alive, and even though I wrote the damned thing, it’s like I’m just discovering it.  If you’ve read it, but haven’t heard it, you gotta!  And if you haven’t read it or lent it to your friends, ummm, see the bullet above.

REMO continues to chug right along, though it has not had the explosion of popularity that ASID had.  Is it because it’s short stories?  A relatively short collection?  Not as much advertising as ASID had from third parties?  I dunno.  It has gotten great reviews (4.8 stars in 6 reviews) on Amazon, but it has not made it above 7000 in sales ranking yet.  It has more than paid for the investment in its cover from 99Designs, so I’m happy about that, but I would love for it to do ASID numbers.  If you haven’t tried it out, I urge you to give it a shot, or to recommend it to your friends.  And I’m also producing an audiobook on ACX for it as well, with the talented Heidi Mattson of VO Hollywood reading.  It would make your perfect commute companion!

REMO remains Amazon Kindle exclusive, but ASID has turned out to be a dirty little book that gets around to all the e-book sites.  Shameful.  But apparently the elder book has been a bad influence on the innocent story collection, and they will soon both cheapen themselves for all the world to see in an internet wide sale!  I am shocked and you should be too.  In fact, you should tell all of your friends about it and urge everyone to get their own copies during the sale so you can tell them youself how dissapointed you are that such good books would just put themselves on the streets for a mere 99¢.  More details to follow.

– In other news (and these are the reasons I’ve been so busy), I’m waiting on the approval draft of “The Rememberists” for Daily Science Fiction, I’ve gotten a commitment from Baen on “Bumped” if I make some revisions, and I’ve completed the first draft of “The Commuter” for the Baen Fantasy Adventure Short Story competition.  For Stealth Books, I’ve also reviewed and blurbed Graham Brown’s latest SF masterpiece, and I’m working through John Monteith’s latest Rogue sub-thriller.  On top of that, I’m still working on the ASID tabletop game and app with Nathaniel Torson of Jabberwocky Media.  Then there’s life (Don’t Talk To Me About LIFE . . . .) where my brave, strong, and beautiful wife keeps kickin’ cancer’s ass and staying busy, and my three kids are ALL in baseball and softball, each of which have both simultaneous and consecutive games in different locations.  Plus work at my unspecified Day Job, which eats about 14-16 hours a day.

– What this means is, I have not yet made progress on Lancers Into the Light or on Co-Pilot, but I pledge to!  Soon(ish)!!

– Congrats to Ancillary Justice for winning the Nebula!  I gotta read that one to see what all the hubbub is about.  Best of luck to it and all the upcoming Hugo nominees, though I’m pulling for a Larry Correia and a Brad Torgerson win.

– Final note about goings on, I got to spend an afternoon with Chris Kennedy, author of Janissaries and When the Gods Aren’t Gods,  at the Virginia Beach Central Public Library’s AMAZING event devoted to their new Local Author collection.  It was a pleasure to donate books both for the collection and to circulate, as well as to meet so many great local authors and small press publishers.  A good time was had by all and I really look forward to doing it again next year.  If you live in the Hampton Roads area, I urge you to go and check out ALL the books!

– And that’s about it.  I obviously don’t understand the concept behind brief, bulletized statements.  I have a problem.  Pity me!

– Toodles!