Whups!

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.

The Day After

How about that game last night, huh?  I pretty much think the only things preventing riots in Colorado were A) abject depression at your NFL AFC champions playing like an office flag football team, and B) the clouds of sweet, sweet, fully legal ganja you could use to damp your disappointment.  Also, it’s quite cold there.  You just don’t burn the world down when you’re chilly, bummed, and baked.

Let’s say, however, that your preferred methods of misery masking do not or cannot include toke-able diversions.  Perhaps you have an unspecified job within the military-industrial complex, or you’re not a huge Taco Bell fan.  Whatever.  Might I suggest you distract yourself with the fun little world of A Sword Into Darknessavailable for sale NOW in trade paperback and Kindle.  A couple of chapters in and — I promise — Manning’s depth perception will be the last thing on your mind.

How are things looking the day after Launch Weekend?  Pretty good, I’d say.  Sales have been steady, considering I have a very limited reach thus far, and the comments and reviews that have been posted have been (for the most part) very satisfying.  Now, I’m new at this, so as one reviewer noted/warned, I probably do look at reviews.  I admit it.  I do.  I’ve put out a product that I’m proud of, and that I’ve been told by third parties is a damn fine adventure, but I still want to know if folks are happy with it.  So, yes, I do look at reviews, but less because of vanity than as a matter of conscience.

Have all the reviews been great?  No.  One guy was kind of “meh” about the whole thing, and another guy ABSOLUTELY LOATHED it.  There’s an immediate reflex response to disregard them, to say that the second guy might be trolling, or that his extreme, dismissive dislike was because of personal hangups rather than my writing, but that’s an unworthy attitude.  Their opinion is just as valid as the majority opinions of the folks who loved it, and I just have to accept that not everyone is going to be a fan.

To that pair of less-than-satisfied customers, I’m sorry my book wasn’t what you wanted it to be.  As a consolation — and as a treat for all the rest of you who either loved my book or haven’t read it yet — I’ve got a bunch of free goodies right here on the blog!  Check over in the Pages section and you can read two rip-roaring rocketpunk/steampunk/aetherpunk tales, The Improbable Adventures of Dylan Darby (where this blog gets its name) Episode I:  “Gambler’s Cruise” and Episode II:  “Waking the Rock”.  Those stories are just the beginning of a long planned series, a series which has goals far beyond just a collection or episodic novel.  My friend Nathaniel has already made a fantastic radio play out of “Gambler’s Cruise”, available here, but we’d love it if we could sell Dylan Darby as a TV series.  And there’s more!  You can read my two pro-published short stories:  “Strategic Deployment”, a much-different military sci-fi tale (which actually has a spec-script version for production), and “Dreams For Sale — Two Bits!”, a soft sci-fi tale about infinite possibilities and the baggage you carry with you.

And what can you expect from The Improbable Author as we move past launch?  I’ll continue to cover news about ASID, concerning deals and sales, the up-coming audiobook launch and expansion of the e-book to Nook, Kobo, Sony, and iPad/iPhone, as well as the planned app and table-top game.  I’ll also begin tackling Echomancer again, continue working on short stories, and also launch something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.  What is it?  🙂  You’ll just have to click one of those Follow buttons to check back and see!  🙂

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.

20140123_140527

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!

Broadside!!!

First, a little of the old ultra-violence to make up for yesterday’s serenity:

Trenton Broadside1

Broadside!!!

That is, of course, the USS Trenton (CA-1) with railguns and laser emplacements slewed out to the side, performing a full broadside of all batteries as a power and weapons’ integration test.  In my imagination, the cruiser’s fire control logics would have to automatically compensate for the impulse of the railgun shots by briefly firing attitude thrusters to offset the resulting spin.  It is once more a Cinema 4D shot.  I like this one, because it is a) cool and b) let me play a lot with hard shadows and point light sources.  The Earth below is my own construct, using conformal cloud maps, satellite composites, and semi-transparent shells for the atmosphere.  

Speaking of broadsides and publishing, my IRL / FB friend and mentor Mark Ellis fired off his own broadside concerning the “traditional” publishing industry and how his own attitudes as a very successful mid-list author have changed concerning self-publishing.  If you can get to Facebook, the post itself is very illuminating, but it expands to genius in the comments.  

Here is the link:  Hudsucker Proxy

And here is the meat of the post if the link does not work (used with Mark’s permission):

I don’t talk much about the publishing industry here for a couple of reasons…mainly because unless you’re in it, the whole field and process is misunderstood to the point of it being arcane.

But here’s how *I* feel…it’s my opinion based on my experiences…and it’s my FB page…so…

Publishing underwent a vast change several years ago, known as “Black Wednesday”…the economic upheaval which affected so many other industries seriously damaged what is known as “tradtional” publishing…except, unlike the auto and banking industries, there were no government bail-outs or breathless updates every five minutes on CNN and MSNBC.

One of the major changes that I experienced (other than advances being slashed) is how the final decision of what would be published now rested primarily with the sales departments…not editors or editorial committees but salespeople.

In the wake of these changes, self-publishing became a viable alternative to hitherto traditionally published writers like me. Yeah, at first I considered it the same as vanity presses, but after being dealt with unethically by a publisher who first enthusiastically accepted Cryptozoica and then reneged on the agreement, I went in that direction.

It was a decision I’ve never regretted.

As for so-called “traditional” publishing…it’s never recovered from Black Wednesday and it’s feeling the bite of independent and self-publishing. Spokesmen for the industry have lately been working hard to disparage the whole thing, due in the main to outright fear. A couple of years ago, self-publishing was beneath their notice…but now–

One of the implications I perceive in these messages is this: 

Solidly selling midlist writers like myself who spent years building a readership should just go ahead and DIE ALREADY and stop taking readers away from the writers traditional publishers want them to read.

Doesn’t matter that we write what our fans want to read and buy–it’s more important we have the good grace to accept our careers are over because a handful of corporate flunkies decided they are.

It’s sorta like the Sidney J. Mussberger mantra from THE HUDSUCKER PROXY when he tries to convince Norville Barnes he’s washed up and should kill himself: “When you’re dead…you stay dead.” 

Uh-uh.

Here’s my counter-solution: Accept reality, fix what you f**ed up, treat writers ethically and honestly, keep your word and maybe you won’t be so scared all the time…and you just might be able to save your own jobs.

Mark is a prolific author of over 40 adventure novels and thrillers, including many of the “James Axler” novels, Deathlands and Outlanders series, as well as his latest Cryptozoica.

 

Blueprint 2.0

The eye candy continues as we close in on Launch Day (31JAN2014):

TRENTON blueprints 1a

USS Trenton (CA-1) Blueprint Shot

Similar to yesterday’s pic of the USS Sword of Liberty, this astrodynamic cruiser and her sister ship are also featured in A Sword Into Darkness as the flagships to CRUDESGRU ONE and TWO (CRUDESGRU = Cruiser – Destroyer Group as opposed to a DESRON or Destroyer Squadron).  The Trenton, built as a follow-on to the original destroyer and addressing the limitations revealed in the novel’s first big battle, features much greater redundancy, deeper magazines, and increased survivability.  Similar to our Ticonderoga class wet-navy cruisers today, the Trenton is named after a famous US battle at the state capitol of New Jersey, and there have in fact been four USS Trenton‘s in the US Navy, one of which is to be commissioned this year.

As for the pic itself, this was also made in Cinema 4D, and I so liked the missile hatch design on this one, I went and retrofitted the SOL with the same configuration and magically gave myself another 30 missiles (requiring me to do a quick re-write of the manuscript).  This missile module configuration is based upon the MK-41 Vertical Launch System used on our current destroyers and cruisers.  The retrofitted SOL is the one that graces the book’s cover, and the clever reader will note that the Trenton here is the subject of the line drawing gracing the banner of this very site.  The CAD model is not static, either.  Each of the missile hatches, the railgun turrets, and the laser blisters are all built with control axes so they can be rotated, elevated, opened, and fired, which you will see some of in future pics.

As for news, I’ve now got an ISBN for the Kindle version and CreateSpace has approved my latest iteration, from which I’ve ordered three proofs:  one for me, one for my publishing partner, and ONE FOR YOU, details for the giveaway to follow.

Stay tuned!

Launch Copy Poll!!!!

We are now T – (something imminent, gimme a break — I do this in my spare time between working, caring for kids, wife, home, sleeping, etc) for the Stealth Books launch of A Sword Into Darkness, and I need your help!

Which version of back cover / website copy below would make you more likely to spend your hard-earned beer money (or wine and cheese money, we ain’t snobby around here) on my rousing tale of near future, space-faring daring-do?

Version 1:

Humanity is not alone in the universe, and we are not ready for what’s coming.

Something is out there . . . . That’s all Gordon Elliot Lee knows.  His scans of the Delta Pavonis region have uncovered a massive energy source moving toward Earth.  Something is definitely coming our way, but no one will believe him, despite the clout he’s built within NASA and the military.  Not one to be stymied by the doubts of others, Gordon lays the groundwork to meet a threat that’s still a generation in the future.  He is determined that the Earth will be ready, even if the preparations cost him everything.

Nathan Kelley is a bloodied naval warrior, scarred by his own actions in the waters off North Korea.  Kris Munoz is an avant garde scientific genius with more ideas than sense.  Nathan and Kris are the only two people Gordon can count on as they sour the very edges of fringe science and engineering to develop Earth’s first space navy in time to oppose the Deltan invasion.

They will have to face ridicule, government obstruction, industrial espionage, and their own demons to get this insanely ambitious project off the ground.  But the challenges on Earth are nothing compared to what awaits them in space.  Against an unknown alien enemy with vastly superior technology, a handful of human scientists and warriors must become the sword that holds the darkness at bay.

The human race is about to make its stand . . . .

Or Version 2:

AN UNKNOWABLE THREAT APPROACHES EARTH

WE ARE UNPREPARED FOR WHAT’S COMING

Gordon Lee – an industrialist with the vision and the means.  Nathan Kelley – a haunted naval warrior with the skillset to see that vision accomplished.  Kris Munoz – an unpredictable genius with more ideas than sense.  These three alone will take up the task to create Earth’s first space navy.  Beset by ridicule, government obstruction, corporate espionage, and their own personal demons, it will take a miracle just to get off the ground.

And, should they reach their alien quarry, they will have to become the sword that holds the darkness at bay.

MISSILES WILL FLASH

RAILGUNS WILL RUMBLE

LASERS WILL BURN

AND DEFENDERS WILL DIE

IF THEY FAIL, OUR END IS AT HAND

Ooooor, some complex mix of the two.  If so, leave your thoughts down in the comments and we can pick and choose from the best elements of each.  The first is more informative – you know what you’re gonna get.  The second seems punchier – you know the kind of story you’re going to get.

What say you, internet?  The clock, it is TICKING!

One Door Closes . . . .

So, in news that may or may not be surprising to you, I finally received an answer from Baen Books about A Sword Into Darkness.

And that answer was “No.”

After a number of e-mails back and forth with Gray Rinehart, Baen’s resident Slushmaster, keeping each other updated on his review and recommendation schedule, he finally was able to power through my manuscript again.  All in all, he thought it was inventive and fresh and well-written, but in discussions with the editor-in-chief Toni Weisskopf, there were some things that they’d prefer changed or fixed in a final buy, but they had to make the decision based on what they had in front of them.  Now, it’s not up to me to determine whether they work with me on a re-write to alter the manuscript into exactly what they wanted, but I understand their rationale that they have like a 100 manuscripts a day coming in, a certain percentage of which will meet all their wickets and won’t need to have re-writes requested.  Unless they have a sure bet for a good return on their investment, they can’t devote time working on one slush novel when another slush novel is more ready to go.

I fully understand their position, and while I fervently wish they had decided differently, I cannot hold it against them.  They’re good, professional people, and I feel blessed for the amount of time they already gave me.  I thanked Gray for the consideration he and Toni gave ASID, wished him well, and promised to come back at him soon with a new tale that might hit the wickets that proved insurmountable for my first novel.  I still love Baen Books and hope to be partnered with them in future, but ASID’s journey down that road has now ended.

One door closes, but that’s not the only way out the airlock for Nathan Kelley and the crew of the USS Sword of Liberty.

Coming soon, ASID will indeed be published with my friend and mentor Jeff Edwards’ Stealth Books line!  I’m overjoyed to be with Jeff and his other writers, and I have it on good authority, that you’ll be seeing a publishing lineup from them which will have me among some very august company.  It’s an exciting time for indie / small press / e-publishing, and the soon-to-be-made-public news regarding Stealth Books is more exciting than most.

I asked Jeff about the Baen rejection, and his observation was that as much as 10 years ago, the superlatives Baen had for the book vs the issues they identified would have made ASID an instant buy and a quick rewrite before publication.  Now, I can’t say that Gray wasn’t just being kind in his rejection to me, but in Jeff’s mind, the problems they had aren’t really problems at all.  He has also shared out ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) with some authors he corresponds with, and they were on the same page, agreeing that ASID should have been an easy investment for a traditional publishing house. 

I’m doing my due diligence and trying to address Gray’s criticisms regardless, because I respect his opinion a lot.  The additions won’t hurt and aren’t all that extensive.  Along with a refresh on the cover, and the addition of some very nice blurbs Jeff was able to gather for me, I hope to have it for sale by Christmas! 

What a fabulous gift idea for your favorite space opera / military SF / techno-thriller / adventure fan!!!

In other news, I’ve dashed out my first flash-fiction story, under 1000 words, whick I’ll link here presently, and I’ve re-submitted “ILYAMY” and “Bumped” to different markets yet again.  The train keeps a-chuggin’ here at the A-Mays-ing Improbable Author camp.  More info soon!

Y’all take care.

A-F-K

Hey, remember that fascinating blog by that fella who called himself the Improbable Author?

Yeah?  Well, turns out that today I remembered it too.

Sorry for the subscribers and the occasional visitors as well.  I’ve been what those in the MMORPG world term “AFK”, or “Away From Keyboard” (not AFU — that’s something altogether different, but possibly also applicable).  This last month has been one of sound and fury signifying nothing.  I’ve been away doing other things, work, life, family, etc.  As a consequence, I have not blogged nor written hardly a word.

That is not to say that the world of writing has sat still while I did.  In the realms of submissions, I have one bit of news and two bits of non-news.  In news, I got a rejection from Asimov’s magazine for “Bumped”, so that one is now free to re-submit to other markets.  This was a long wait, but unfortunately not unusually long for that market.  In non-news, no word yet on the simultaneous subs for “ILYAMY” and no word on ASID from Baen’s next tier in their approval chain.  The Slushmaster there had my work as the next thing on his plate, but two higher priority manuscripts bumped mine back.  Oh, to have priority . . . but I’ll take what I can get.

Therefore, there is also no new news on the independent/Stealth Books launch of A Sword Into Darkness either.

As far as Echomancer goes, that project has been waylaid by an infuriating bit of writer’s block / malaise.  I’m in a key chapter and I just can’t seem to restore my momentum.  There are . . . other things going on in my life, so I haven’t had the time nor the passion/emotion to devote to that worthy piece of work.  But, it is NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month (November for the uninitiated), and while I’ve never felt compelled to participate, it’s as good an excuse as any to get going again.

In unrelated science fiction news, I went with an outstanding group of enthusiasts for Books-to-Movies and saw the “Ender’s Game” movie.  I thought they did an excellent job translating that masterwork to the screen, though in my ideal version they would have left in a lot of excised content.  Of course, my ideal version would probably end up 2-3 times as long.  As a consequence, I’m re-reading the book and enjoying it again.  Fairly or unfairly, though, Orson Scott Card’s politics have become tied up with his story and the movie, and while my opinion of the story and the esteem I hold the work in were formed well before I ever agreed/disagreed/or was indifferent to his beliefs, I find on rereading it that I am now seeing it through the lens of his current opinions, which somewhat damps my youthful regard for the book.

This is not a political blog, however, so that’s all that I’ll say about my opinions, except for unreservedly recommending the movie to both readers and non-readers.  I don’t think you can or should always divorce the art from the artist, but in this case I think an exception should be made.  The work is that important.

More later (and SOON), I promise.  Take care, all.

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.