News, Progress, & SWEET, SWEET FREE SHIT!

Howdy, fans and random stoppers-by!  Welcome!

Tom here, writer of all that stuff over there to the right (or below, if thou art a visitor from the mobileverse), here with a progress report.  I’m very glad you stopped by — make it a regular thing!

Mutineers Daughter Print Cover

  1. The Mutineer’s Daughter is doing well, with solid, consistent sales and page reads.  I don’t have the numbers and tracking I did with A Sword Into Darkness, since I’m just one of the writers on this one vs the (self/indie) publisher.  The great Chris Kennedy has been tracking the day to day sales and page reads there, and he’s satisfied, if not blown away by it.  We’re not doing the numbers that ASID did when it exploded in sales and reviews, surprising me right out of the gate, but it has not yet flashed out of the pan.  As I can’t track sales and Kindle Edition Normalized Page (KENP) read data (which is how Amazon monetizes reader interest for the Kindle Unlimited patrons), I can and do track the book’s sales ranking and my author ranking.  As you can see below, I did see an immediate rise, and it has stayed fairly steady since then.

TMD Sales Rank

Mays Author Rank 2014 to Present

However, it has not drawn the massive numbers of eyes either ASID or the Fourth Horsemen Universe novels have.  A couple of 4HU novels have been released since TMD, and they are all outselling it.  Now me, I’m very proud of TMD.  Its writing, characterization, and complexity are much better than ASID’s, and Chris seems very happy with what we did as well.  So why isn’t it boosting through the roof?  I dunno. The cover?  I love it, but it does look much different from the other covers in its sub-genre.  The fact that Chris’s fans weren’t expecting my hard sci-fi space stuff, and my fans weren’t expecting his gritty ground-level teen rebel angst?  Now me, I think of it like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  “You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!  You got your peanut butter in my chocolate!”  They’re two great tastes that go great together, but for fans that aren’t expecting the other, does it look like a Frankenstein’s Monster amalgamation?  I dunno.  I think the main issue is that we need to get eyes on it and reviews in it.  So far it’s received 29 positive 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon, and only got one negative-ish one rating on Goodreads.  The fellow involved tweeted with me and he regretted the fact that he just bounced off some of the plot choices in the last few chapters.  That’s gonna happen, so I’m not bent out of shape.  Me?  I’d love to hear what y’all think?  If you’ve given TMD a read, please consider messaging me and/or giving it a review.  If we can get the numbers up, the Amazon algorithm will start to work for us, and bring more eyes on.  I also have sent out a number of review copies that I hope will begin to bear fruit soon.  (and if you are a reviewer, I’m happy to send you a paper or e-copy with my compliments)  We are not sitting idly by awaiting an audience, however.  Chris and I have already met up and semi-plotted out the next two books in the In Revolution Born series, and each is more epic than the last!  Now is the time to get on board.

2.  Speaking of A Sword Into Darkness, followers on Twitter will know that I’ve finished the first “half” of the sequel Lancers Into The Light.  I put “half” in quotes because it finished about 40% over my targeted word count.  The first half is practically a novella in and of itself at 70K words vs the planned 50K words.  I’m mighty tempted to just publish it stand-alone, but it really should have the second (smaller) half to balance it out.  I still plan to finish the second half by summer and have the book out before fall, so stay tuned.  In the meantime, if you would like to be a beta-reader for the first half, so I can fix whatever doesn’t work while I’m building off of that in the second, please drop me a line.  You will need to have read ASID first, but the numbers say there’s about 40,000 of you that have done that, so just let me know.  It’s been a long, arduous, frustrating 4 years of work on the sequel, and my profound apologies to those who gave up on seeing it, but life intervened and I lost the will and wherewithal to work on it for the longest time.  With the patient support of fellow writers and my lovely girlfriend Kristin, however, I’M BACK, BABY!  Stay tuned!

ASID Full Cover 3c

3.  And for those who DON’T know what I’m yammering about, and who would like a preview of what my writing is like before you try on The Mutineer’s Daughter or put Lancers Into The Light on your pre-sale list, there’s NEVER been a better time to try out A Sword Into Darkness.  On April 20th and running through the 27th, ASID will be ONLY 99¢!  And if you are a Kindle Unlimited member, it’s free like always!  ASID is a good bet, with around 420 reviews at Amazon to help convince you.  So, try it yourself, push it onto your friends and family, proselytize it to your co-workers until security carts you out of the building.  DON’T MISS OUT!

Stay tuned for more SOON!  Take care, y’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

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!

Another Salvo in the Amazon – Hachette Debate

Behold, a call to arms of sorts.  Thoughts?

Dear KDP Author,

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read).  A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures.  And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch: Michael.Pietsch@hbgusa.com

Copy us at: readers-united@amazon.com

Please consider including these points:

– We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
– Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.
– Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.
– Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.

Thanks for your support.

The Amazon Books Team

P.S. You can also find this letter at www.readersunited.com

What say you, dear reader?

 

Doubling Down with the Devil

For those of you who have followed along for my journey through independent publishing, you know that the publishing strategy has been very important to me.  Who to sell through, who to advertise with, what price point, degree and duration of sales, etc.

I think I originally made a wise decision by publishing the e-book version of ASID exclusively with Kindle through their KDP Select program. It allowed me to get out there among a more active readership, with a bookseller who treated indies JUST LIKE SOMEONE FROM THE BIG 5.  I made a lot of sales, got a lot of reviews, took advantage of their countdown deals, and was even picked up as a Kindle Daily Deal once (HUGE SALES that day).  And all of that laid the groundwork for me to EXPLODE as soon as the e-book launch went wide on Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, and iBooks.

‘Cept that didn’t happen.  I made more sales, sure, and got out in front of people that don’t shop Amazon, but I primarily only sell well on those other sites when I held an advertised sale, and even then those sales are but 10-15% of what I continue to sell on Amazon, and now I don’t get the benefits of KDP Select.  But that’s fine, I felt more legitimate and better protected selling the book wide, since Amazon has recently been the subject of some . . . negative press.  And that’s fine too.  John Scalzi wisely points out that Amazon is not the indie-publisher’s friend, no matter what your bank account tells you.  They are in business for themselves, and if their sales model temporarily aligns best for those indies who publish through them directly, that is no guarantee of future alignment. 

But, for the moment, they do align, and are in fact becoming even more aligned.  If you look at my book sales page for ASID, you’ll find that I’ve removed my links for B&N Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, and iBooks.  That is because I have stopped ASID’s sale there and am once again exclusively Amazon Kindle for the next three months. I have re-enrolled in KDP Select because of some new features offered.  I’ll see how they work out over the next three months and let you all know what it’s all about at the end.  Stay Tuned!

PS: New news about the AUDIOBOOK — it’s approved!  You should see it go on sale SOON!

ASID Review Round-Up

Hey, all!  Just a quick note before The Last Ship comes on (followed promptly by a review of this week’s episode against the Russkies), but ASID has gotten several fairly glowing pro reviews over the last few weeks, and I’ve been remiss about sharing them with you.  Partly that’s because of the Day Job, and partly it’s because I’ve been working on new material (Demigod mostly, but a little bit on the A Sword Into Darkness game).  Mostly it’s because I’m a huge scatter-brain.

First, if you haven’t seen it yet, you should check out Carol Kean’s exhaustive review over at Perihelion SF (Warning! Contains Explicit Science!).  She’s a treat on Twitter and really delved into the story, even though it is not her favorite kind of tale.

Then, semi-out-of-the-blue, the great Eric S. Raymond asked for a review copy and really turned out a fantastic review of A Sword Into Darkness.  This guy KNOWS hard SF and military SF, and he really seemed to have enjoyed himself with it.  Even better, he has name-dropped ASID (in a positive way) in several of his subsequent reviews.  That really pleases me and inspires me to do even better with the eventual sequel.  Check ’em out, and the comments are especially lively as well!

Another good thing about the ESR review was that it led to the this here Eric Wilner review on his blog.  Eric Wilner is one of those lively commenters on ESR’s site, and he gave a really good accounting of his own thoughts regarding ASID.  And if you check back to the posts prior to his review, you’ll find several blog posts inspired by the book where he examines some of the elements of the plot completely separate from where I went.  Very interesting.

And lastly, I may have mentioned Castalia House before, but they are a Finnish publisher breaking some very exciting ground in e-publishing and the European market.  Their SF editor is Vox Day, who has been and can be a provocative and perhaps devisive figure in science fiction circles.  I dunno about all that.  It all happened before I became active.  I can tell you that he was always very reasonable, pleasant, and clever in his conversations with me, so I’ll say nothing about the controversies of the past.  I can tell you that Castalia House has big plans and has some very strong authors launching from beneath their banner like John C. Wright and Tom Kratman.  I was almost wooed over there as well, but have decided to remain with Stealth Books and stay independent for now (not that their offer and opportunity was not enticing and more than fair — it was).  Quite separate from all of that, however, one of Castalia House’s reviewers picked ASID up out of the blue, unaware they had been interested in publishing me, and their blogger produced another balanced, and highly positive review here!

So, if you want to check out what others thought of ASID (aside from the 250 customer reviews and 4.5 stars on Amazon) either before reading it, or after trying it out yourself, I urge you to check out these pro-reviews.  And then check back here for more thoughts on The Last Ship!

Good Things Come In Threes

Don’t have a whole lotta time to post, but wanted to get this out while interest was high:

First GOOD thing, got a GREAT review from Carol Kean over at the fantastic sci-fi web-zine Perihelion Science Fiction. She’s been chatting with me on Twitter for months (and is part of the oppressive Hashtagocracy, along with me), introducing me to fabulous new indie authors and Twitterati.  Plus she expressed an intense interest in ASID.  That finally culminated with this month’s issue of Perihelion, and, I gotta say, I owe her one.  It is a really good review, critical yet effusive, and even though she admits that military sci-fi is not her thing (she tends to skim the hard science and tactics passages), she is definitely in the fan column.  I’ll take a 4 out of 5 stars from Carol any day!  So check it out, and also their new fiction and the other reviews of Edge of Tomorrow and Will McIntosh’s latest book from Orbit.

Second GOOD thing, Will Perez and kick-ass narrator Liam from Sci-Fi Publishing have completed the audiofiles for the ASID audiobook!  Just a few things to put away and tidy up and then you can LISTEN to awesome hard science, military sci-fi, space opera, technothriller goodness at home, during your workout, or on the commute to and from work!  On sale soon, but here’s a little taste:

Tee-hee!!!

Third GOOD thing, I have been eliminated from the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2014!  Hmmm.  Why is that good news, you ask?  Well, it is and it isn’t.  I would have LOVED to have been a semi-finalist, and — of course — I’d have loved to have won one of the $15,000 advances or the $50,000 grand prize, but I never really expected too.  ASID is, at best, a good pulp adventure.  When people take off marks for its limited character development, I gotta shrug and say, “Well, yeah.”  It is not an introspective tale.  There is very little deep catharsis.  Besides Nathan getting past the sinking incident and learning to lead again, and besides Kris’s strained relationship with the father that abandoned her, my characters are pretty middle of the road.  They evolve and express themselves in relation to the plot.  No one is going to make a Lifetime movie out of ASID, but it would make the best SyFy Channel movie EVER, not to mention a pretty damn good blockbuster at the multiplex.  The Fault In Our Stars, it ain’t.  So, I’m out, but I’m still proud of my book, and now I can move on to other opportunities.  Besides, all the REALLY cool people I’ve met in relation to ABNA 2014 got kicked out too, so I’m among friends.

Following this is ABNA:  Full Disclosure, with my two Amazon Vine reviews of my excerpt, and the Publisher’s Weekly Review of the whole book.  I gots nothing to hide!

And, REMEMBER, only a couple of days left on the ASID and REMO 99¢ sales!

Toodles!

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

Generally, the excerpt is well-structured and flows well. The writing is characterized by some excellent descriptions: “You’re an idle-rich tech wizard with an over-funded amateur astronomy bug, so some eccentricity has to be expected, I guess. In the dusking skies of evening above USS Rivero , the sharp boundary of the eastern horizon had already merged with the night, while to the west a wash of orange and red still set the water afire. These descriptions are not only well-written, they enable the reader to visualize the scene or setting more clearly. Another strength of the excerpt is the pacing. The story flows well and smoothly at a steady pace. I expect the story to be action-packed based on these preliminary chapters, which should make for an engaging read.

What aspect needs the most work?

More careful editing is needed. Avoid cliched descriptions, for example: Everyone heard the familiar dissonance of screeching brakes, squealing tires, blaring horns, and one final movement of crunching metal. The first two chapters appear to be cluttered with technical descriptions. Some of these descriptions are obviously integral to the plot and in driving the narrative forward, but at times, the technical aspects engulf and overwhelm the story, making me feel like I was reading some sort of technical manual and losing sight of the story itself. This might be an area you wish to focus on and improve. I’d like to see the main characters developed more over the course of the narrative. Characterization should not be sacrificed at the narrative’s expense, and I’d like to see how both Gordon Lee and Nathan Kelley are developed.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

For the most part, the excerpt is well-organized and flows well. The protagonist Gordon Lee appears to be a rather eccentric character but one chapter alone does not make for compelling characterization. I would hope that the main characters get developed as the narrative moves forward, including the Navy man, Nathan Kelley. The premise sounds interesting and although sci-fi thrillers are not my cup of tea, I admit my curiosity has been piqued by this engaging excerpt.

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The science of this fiction was well done even though some of the terms I read I had no idea if they were real or not. The frustration of Gordon was well written as well as his interaction with Lydia. How it ties in to chapter 2 would keep me reading into chapter 3, although chapter 2 was a bit weaker than the first.

What aspect needs the most work?

Chapter two on the boat gave no reference on why we were firing into North Korea, maybe explained later. The banter for firing nukes was unrealistic as I would think anyone given instructions for firing a weapon that could kill hundreds of thousands could be so cavalier makes no sense, however based on the pitch and the submarine the smugness is probably short lived.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

I thought the pitch of the book was interesting and the author writing does lend an authoritative tone to what I read which is important in a sci-fi book. Would def read on because of the premise and what I have read so far. Send me a copy!

ABNA Publishers Weekly Reviewer

Visionary Gordon Lee sees something that no one else, not even NASA, sees, or at least is willing to see. What initially appears as a rogue comet turns out to be something much more. It’s an alien craft of some sort, on a long haul to Earth from a star twenty light years away. With no way to ascertain the aliens’ motives, Lee resolves to prepare for a worst case scenario: hostile invasion. To that end, he recruits ex-Navy sailor Nathan Kelley, and turns the full force of his fortune and private tech company, Windward Technologies, to developing means to combat the presumed threat. With few allies in government, Lee and Kelley are left to prepare as best they can, recruiting a motley crew, including the brilliant and erratic engineer Kristene Munoz, to lead the civilian defense of Earth. Fortunately, the laws of physics ensure that the ship will take several years to arrive. This manuscript is fairly standard military science fiction. The strongest area is the conceptual technology, which starts out very firmly rooted in present day scientific reality. Unfortunately, this, combined with the drive toward confronting the alien force, leaves little room for character development. The action is well paced, and the reasoning behind both the aliens and their motivations is very well thought out, making this a solid read.