X-Mas (and a new Improbable Author post) Comes But Once A Year

2d531a6bda05cd52215ddc6e11378911

Merry Christmas, all!  As well as Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, and an excellent Ramadan, Boxing Day, Yule, Saturnalia, Festivus, Officially Sanctioned Non-Religious Winter-esque Holiday, or whatever else brings you indoors this season and causes you to get nostalgic with family and friends, drink, eat, and exchange gifts and good will.

I don’t wanna judge.  Me, I’m celebrating Christmas with me and mine.  As such, posts may well be infrequent (much drinking and writing to do), but as posts have already been infrequent, I thought it prudent to say something about why I haven’t written in three months.

I’m well.  Nobody is dying.  Family is good.  Work is looking up.  I’m in a generally up-beat mood most of the time.  But not everything is coming up roses.

Change has come to my life.  My wife and I have split up (sort of, it’s complicated).  This has somewhat adversely affected my progress upon the new novel, the sequel, my scripts, short stories, and marketing for the stuff I’ve already put out.  It’s not the only reason I haven’t written.  There is a lot of my own laziness, procrastination, writer’s block, and lack of a truly professional writer’s work ethic in there as well, but our separation and eventual divorce (as well as the associated issues with selling a house and moving) does color most of that.  I am not blaming her.  My lack of progress is upon me, but as many of you have been faithful fans, and as I have not held up my end of that bargain, I apologize.

As for the whys and what happeneds, that is a private matter between she and I.  The whole story (or a version of it) requires the purchase and pouring of multiple drinks in person.  My ex, my professional life, and most especially my kids deserve the grace of discretion.  What’s important is that we are both dedicated to our children, we get along, and we hope to one day be past this enough to be friends and take joy in each other’s futures, loves, and accomplishments.

What does this mean for you?  Pretty much nothing.  It’s just an apology and explanation.  But here is what I will give you:  an update and a gift!

Update first.  I am on the last chapter of Book One in Lancers Into The Light, the sequel to A Sword Into Darkness.  I anticipate Book Two going faster (I hope, anyway) and its a bit shorter.  I originally wanted to be done and launch around year’s end, but that’s not gonna happen.  I still would like to launch in the next quarter, and possibly do a launch party at RavenCon.  To facilitate that, I will be looking to getting feedback from Beta Readers of the first half while I’m finishing the second.  If’n you’d like to participate and give me some constructive feedback, drop me a line and some contact info here, by e-mail, Twitter, Google +, or Facebook.

I’m also working on a short for the Jim Baen Memorial Writing contest, but mum’s the word on that for now.

As for a present, last year I won the Liberty Island Holiday Writing contest with a little story about war, robots, Christmas, and French Meat Pies.  I’ll share that with all of you here later today or tomorrow, and I hope you all enjoy it.

Happy Holidays!

300 Reviews and Audiobook Awesomeness!

Greetings, faithful readers!  If you are here because of my “The Last Ship” reviews, welcome, but this ain’t gonna be about that.

Nope.  It’s gonna be BETTER.

Last night, my independently-published military sci-fi space opera novel A Sword Into Darkness (a button for which you will find to the right or below) hit 300 reviews with my bestselling retailer, Amazon.com.  Upon hitting this somewhat arbitrary milestone, I thought I’d tell you all how the book was doing, and let you know about some BIG news as well.

First, the BIG news: the audiobook for A Sword Into Darkness (ASID) is now available for sale at Audible.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes (soonish).  Read magnificently by Mr. Liam Owen of SciFi-Publishing.com, this is a TOTALLY different and exciting way to experience ASID.  If you’ve read and enjoyed ASID, you owe it to yourself to re-experience it with Liam Owen’s amazing narration.  He has this gentle, yet authoritative voice that really delivers when it comes to military scenes and science fiction exposition, and his characterizations and voices for all my different characters just have to be heard.  Honestly, like me, I think you’ll fall in love with the story all over again.

If you have yet to read ASID, this is a great way to encounter it for the first time.  This unabridged edition can be listened to in just under 12 hours, and I think you’ll have a lot of fun with it (4.4 stars in 300 reviews level of fun).  Have a commute?  Do you work out or clean your house?  Do you commute to and from your work-out before cleaning your house?  If so, and you never have the time to read, YOU HAVE GOT THE TIME to try out ASID as an audiobook.

And if you’ve never tried out audiobooks before, this is a great opportunity:  enroll with Audible.com free for 30 days, and your first audiobook (like ASID, hint, hint, hint) is completely and totally FREE!  Even if you don’t keep the audible membership, the audiobook for ASID remains yours forever!

 

Concerning reviews, and specifically my Amazon reviews which have the biggest base to draw from, folks really like A Sword Into Darkness.  How much?  Well, as of this writing, I have 174 5-star reviews and 93 4-star reviews.  Of those who just “liked” it rather than “loved” it, I have 27 more critical 3-star reviews.  I think a 90% success rate for connecting with your readers is a pretty darned good return on your investment.

The math whizzes among you might note that 174 + 93 + 27 does not equal 300.  As the aphorism goes, you can’t please everyone.  I also have 4 2-star reviews from folks which gave me points for writing the book, but didn’t like it, and two 1-star reviews, one from a guy who prefers Christopher Nuttall’s books (which I have no problem with, Chris is prolific and a damn good writer), and one guy who hated on my book so hard, I think I actually made his day.  His 1-star dismissal was, in fact, the second review I received, and that made for a bad day, but the days have gotten notably better since then.

The buyers who have written reviews (and it works out to about 1 reviewer for every 100 buyers/readers) have also shared some damn-fine write-ups.  Praising, critical, questioning, or whatever, each thing they tell me and other potential buyers are gold.  My writing on ASID has been favorably compared to Tom Clancy, Dr. Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, Robert Heinlein, David Weber, and John Ringo.  I don’t know about all that, but each of those luminaries of genre literature are my heroes and favored writers, so if my book at all recalls them, I’m beyond honored.

What can you do?  Well, If you have not read (or listened) to ASID, today’s the day to give it a shot.  If you have read it (and/or listened to Liam’s narration), consider leaving your own review.  Either way, if you are in the market or are already a fan, I welcome you to peruse the reviews on Amazon and check whether you thought it was helpful or not.  The more upchecks the 4 and 5 star reviews get, the more favorably the Amazon algorithms consider ASID, which lets me do things like justify the time spent on working on its sequel, Lancers Into the Light.

And that’ll make everybody happy.  🙂

Wearing my New Hats: Beret and Fedora

Howdy, all!  Just coming off a great weekend, great for sales (orbiting in and out of the Top 500 Kindles on Amazon), garnering great reviews (and one who was NOT a fan (sorry, dude)), and gathering some truly great numbers here on the blog (my highest number of hits EVAR).  I really should hold contests and make dictates about sci-fi-coolness more often.

And now I’m about to sit down to an Irish/New England Boiled Dinner, with corned beef, kielbasa, linguica, potatoes, onions, cabbage, carrots, and my third Guinness of the night.  St. Paddy’s Day tis a wonderful thing!

Being that things are rosy in writerly circles, I decided to doff my writer’s hat (it’s a dunce cap) and try on a couple of my other hats in order to challenge myself.  I left the Real Job’s hat in the closet, because who wants to think about the real world on a day like today.  Instead, I whipped out my artiste’s beret, and decided to focus on myself as a visual arts fella’.

As those of you who follow know, I did my own art for the book, and from that art, I created my own cover.  Now, I think I did a good job, and I don’t believe the amateur nature of my cover has done my sales any harm.  But, not all books can say that, and it is generally advised that any writer who hires himself to do the cover art for his own book has a fool for a client (that saying may have originated elsewhere, I don’t recall).  To determine whether or not the aphorism applied to me, I decided to put myself even further out there.  First, I offered up my cover to the new site CoverCritics.com for the inaugural week.  Nathan Shumate also runs LousyBookCovers.com, but this new site is all about CONSTRUCTIVE criticism rather than schadenfreude.  I encourage all of you aspiring cover artist/writers to check out BOTH sites before you attempt to do it yourself.  As for how I did, the consensus seems to be that the art is good, it sells the book and clearly lays out the genre, but my title fonts don’t really fit the SF tone, and I tried to be too clever by putting in a metallic texture.  I can’t fault the criticism, and when I eventually do put up a revised edition, I’ll see about applying them.  Another guy criticized my lens flare, but if it’s good enough for J. J. Abrams, it’s good enough for me!

By that same token, I also entered my cover in Joel Friedlander’s E-book Cover Design Awards for the month of February and the results came back today.  Well, he liked it and thought it was “effective” and he really liked the picture itself, but I didn’t win the grand prize or get a gold star.  The competition was fierce, but Mr. Friedlander also likely saw the not-quite-right part of the titles that the others saw as well.

That’s things on the artist front, but I promised TWO hats in the title.  Thusly, I doff the beret and slide on a Mad Men – esque fedora, straight from central casting.  Wearing this hat, I’m focused on things of business and networking.  Namely, I need to get out there more into the publishing industry, to meet authors, publishers, agents, and fans that might not have come across my Amazon postings or tweets.  So, I’m going to take the ultimate SF nerd plunge and attend my first sci-fi convention.

The next con in my region is RavenCon, up in Richmond April 25-27.  I’ve got the hotel room, the registration, made contacts with the Baen Barflies (the only people I know in attendance, and then only by forum postings), and I’m ordering fresh copies of the book to pass out and have commissioned an ad for the con program (below).  I think it’ll be a lot of fun (my kind of fun — I couldn’t get the wife to even consider going).  Hopefully, I can make some contacts, help the book and its eventual sequel, make some friends, and build some memories.  A lot of the sniping, scandals, and arguing amongst fandom concerning “true” fandom, acceptable thought/attitudes/speech, and thin skins vs. true harassment that have been destroying the internet lately have me a little nervous, but I largely cannot help whatever has come before or where things stand now.  I hope RavenCon doesn’t get too issue-oriented or political, but my general plan — as it is in all things — is to just be friendly, fun, and fascinating, and trust that my humble awesomeness will shine through to sunder all barriers.

I’ve got this in the bag!

(famous last words before Tom Mays was ripped to shreds by an angry mob of sci-fi fans from across the political landscape)

RavenConASID1

“A” is for Anxiety, “B” is for Bitterness, “C” is for . . . .

Cancer.

As Tweeters, Facebookers, Tumbl’rers, bloggers, and writers the internet over tackle the challenge of summing up 2013 and looking forward to 2014, my post turns out to be a hell of a lot different from the one I thought I’d be writing when The Improbable Author began last year.  This was the year I was to be published, whether by a big house or as an indie.  ’13 was to have been the year I put on my big boy pants and tried to make my own way through the marketplace.

Instead, the last two months of this year — during which I had grand plans for a book launch — were instead waylaid by something a lot more terrifying and important than whether or not my pulpy space opera would do well or not.  Just after Halloween, my wife Jen received news that scared us a more than any monster possibly could:  she had tested positive for breast cancer.  The moment I received that first teary call from Jen relaying the doctor’s diagnosis, all plans I’d had fell by the wayside.  Whether I had the time or not to devote to writing or book-marketing, I couldn’t even gather the thoughts needed to work out the details.  I was numb, and angry, and dismayed, my emotions and thoughts contradicting themselves as fear and hope, pragmatism and delusion swirled around my brain.  And I think I’ve remained in that state ever since.

Everything after the diagnosis seemed to proceed at a fast-forward pace.  My day job’s insurance is (thankfully) very, very good, so doctors, specialists, and hospital staff jumped on Jen’s diagnosis with the enthusiasm of a hungry stray.  We leapt from diagnosis (invasive ductile carcinoma), to planning the surgery, to informing our family and friends, to the surgery itself in almost no time. Less than a month after finding out about the lump in her right breast — the week after Thanksgiving — she went under the knife.  Jen’s family has a long, sad history of cancer, so she made the brave and terrifying choice to not merely have a lumpectomy, but instead opted for a double mastectomy with reconstruction, with the full concurrence of the medical team.  Once there, however, as our luck goes, it became more complicated. The cancer had spread to the lymph nodes on that side, such that they all had to be removed as well.

Recovery from surgery was another ordeal entirely.  She had a horrible time managing her pain, with complications arriving at every turn.  Where many can leave a day or two after surgery, she was not able to check out for four days.  And then she was in and out of the emergency room and re-admitted a few days later when another complication arose with her medication along with a surprise fungal infection out of left field.  Finally, she came home to stay home, but things did not necessarily get easy from there.  The drains leaked and pulled and awkwardly, painfully obstructed everything from laying down to going to the bathroom. Stiches, tissue expanders, her entire chest, EVERYTHING hurt, almost all the time, interrupting her sleep and keeping her loopy on meds when she could stay awake.  She could only gingerly hold her beloved children and my every move seemed to be the bumbling, jerking motions of a golem targeted upon annoying and hurting her despite my intentions.  I grew frustrated, angry, confused, fearful, petulant, and lonely — and then guilty for wasting thoughts on my lot when nothing I felt could possibly compare to the fear and anger of my wife who ACTUALLY had a reason for her feelings beyond mere selfishness.

I thank God for her mother and her sister, who were there to help her in a much more soothing manner than I could manage.  I’m also appreciative of the help our neighbors have offered, for Facebook’s numerous contacts that have enabled strangers and distant friends both to stay in touch, provide advice, and buoy her spirits.  And I’m completely in the debt to the wonderful doctors, nurses, and staff of the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center.

2013 ended on a very sour note, but there were good things about the year’s end as well.  Jen is on the mend, off the meds, and getting better every day.  Christmas wasn’t the holiday she looked forward to before the diagnosis, but it was a good Christmas nonetheless.  And though my book launching plans completely hit a wall (with apologies to all of those to whom I made promises and owed things which went totally unfulfilled), my partners in crime have kept working, garnering praise for this thing I created and then left untended.

2014 offers challenges, fears, hopes, and surprises as well, of course. First and foremost, my wife’s reconstruction and treatment continue.  Chemotherapy is supposed to be a different kind of hell to experience, with the only good thing about it being that it has a fair track record at killing cancer and keeping it from coming back.  I fear for the nausea, pain, and muddled thinking it carries with it and wish a child’s wish that I could face it instead of her.  When it and the radiation are done, though, and when the reconstruction is complete and all the hair has come back, my more realistic hope for 2014 is that my wife can be not just a proud cancer survivor, but a genuinely happy, hopeful, and strong woman, fully aware that she excites me now just as much as she did when we were dating.

And I also hope to get a book out. 🙂

Plug Your Book on The Improbable Author!

Well, my previous post unfortunately dropped into the internets without much of a splash and barely a ripple.  That’s what I get for announcing a new feature on Labor Day weekend while WorldCon was going on.  Everyone had better places to be.

But now you’re all back at work and hating life, so you’ll be searching desperately for diversions.  And what a diversion I’m proposing to you!

PLUG YOUR BOOK HERE.

Indie and self-published SF / Fantasy / Horror / and Adventure authors, I’m about to join your ranks, so I’m proposing a quid-pro-quo arrangement for the benefit of all.  Sort of like John Scalzi’s Big Idea guest columns, I’m proposing you dear authors without marketing teams behind you include The Improbable Author in your marketing plan.  I get more viewership for my impending launch, and you get more sales out there as well.

If you’d like to guest-post 5-10 paragraphs about your book, yourself, and the your journey from concept to execution, just leave your contact info in the comments below, use the contact form, or email me at amaysingstories@gmail.com and we’ll work out the details.  Posting schedule depends on inputs, but there should be little to no delay once we get in contact.

So, authors and readers, let’s get the word out there about the amazing books now populating the indie realm!

I look forward to hearing from you.

Let’s All Do The Limbo!

How loooow can you goooo? Or, in this case, how long can you go?

So, I heard back from the Baen Books Slushmaster. He’s finishing up a very good manuscript (not mine) and he’s farmed out the other three manuscripts ahead of mine, so mine is the next in the hopper after he returns from DragonCon in Atlanta next Tuesday. Then he’ll reread ASID and get back with either a final rejection or a push to the bosses upstairs. As he is a copious note-taker, he expects it’ll take him a few weeks to finish the book.

So, as I figure it, I’m looking at either good news about a traditional publisher in late September / early October, or I’m looking at an Octoberish launch of ASID under the Stealth Books imprint with my buddy Jeff. Either way, I consider thus to be all-around good news.

Just gotta stay in limbo a bit longer.