New Fiction! (And My RavenCon Report)

Ready for something NEW to read from moi, The Improbable Author, as well as his Amazing Friends?  (use of the phrase “Amazing Friends” does not necessarily imply I’m Spider-Man, but, yeah . . . I am)

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“THE COMMUTER”:  A new, absurd short fantasy by the author of A Sword Into Darkness and REMO! Jack is a regular sort of fellow — a father, a husband, an office drone, and a daily commuter — living in a fantastical, changed world. Jack lives in the Fractured Lands, our Earth intermixed with the realm of Faerie after the Great Stumbling of 1888. But Jack lives his life as non-fantastically as he can, sticking to the human areas and Never Getting Off The Damned Train. However, when Faerie intrudes upon his life and endangers his daughter, everyone is going to find out that he stayed away from the Fae for THEIR benefit, not his own. Because Jack is not just a dad and an office drone. Jack is a former Marine, trained to fight the Fae, and fight them he will . . . .

It’s already garnered three awesome 5-star reviews and ranks #45 on Amazon’s short story SF&F list, but it needs more and it needs to go higher!  If you are a reviewer and would like a complimentary review copy, just message me at any of my links.  If you’d like to patron me and check it out for yourself (THANK YOU), it’s only 99¢ for your Kindle or Kindle app.  If you are a Prime member with a Kindle device or a member of Kindle Unlimited, you can even read it for free!!!  And, please, if you can, post a review on Amazon or the site of your choice.

Also from the Stealth Books authors this weekend:

Postcards From The Moon

“POSTCARDS FROM THE MOON”:  An offbeat short story by award-winning author Jeff Edwards

Once upon a time, mankind dreamed of the stars. Somewhere along the way, that glorious vision got lost…

Hank Rollins is old, tired, and thoroughly regretting the missed opportunities of his youth. More than a half century ago, he passed up the chance to do something wonderfully foolish, and utterly impossible. A chance to reach for a different kind of future.

But the door may not be completely closed, because Hank is getting postcards from a boy who no longer exists, and a world that never came to pass.

I’ve read Jeff’s short (and will be posting my review later today on Amazon — I’ve already rated it a VERY deserved five stars), and it is AMAZING.  It is a literal love letter to a lost future, full of finely wrought nostalgia and such a sense of wonder that it may well buoy your spirit for the rest of the day.  The images and possibilities within are going to populate many a delightful dream.  I can’t wait for the movie Tomorrowland, but I hardly need to — this short story offers all that I could expect out of that film and more.  The ONLY thing wrong with the story is that it did not come with a forwarding address to where I could write Papa Hank back.  Because I would send that letter and go TODAY if I could!  Like mine, it is for sale on Amazon for a mere 99¢, and that is a steal for what I got back from it.

Also this weekend, I got to go to RavenCon up in Richmond, VA.  This was a GREAT con, as it was last year.  Hopefully, I can guest at it next year when they move to Williamsburg.  I was worried about Pro/Anti-Sad Puppy divisiveness, but while it was mentioned and referred to, there was no controversy that I saw.  The folks there who were nominated for Hugos — whether on a slate or not — were all treated like the honored elites of the industry they were.  That gives me hope that fandom will find a happy middle-ground and move on from this teapot tempest.

Allen Steele was guest of honor, along with Frank Wu as artist/scientist, and a whole passel of people that I met last year.  Allen Steele told a number of great stories about coming up in the industry and breaking rules you REALLY should not break.  I also sat in and participated in a number of Indie Publishing panels with the prolifically awesome Chris Kennedy.  I hung out in Baen’s Barfly Central and chatted with Jim Minz, Steve White, Jim Beall, Warren Lapine, and Lou Antonelli (forgive me if I left out your name, honored luminary, there were just so many fantastic folks).  I also ran into John C. Wright, Lawrence M. Schoen, Michael Z. Williamson, David Walton, Bud Sparhawk, Jennifer R. Povey, Christopher FREAKIN’ Nuttall, Karen McCullough, Gail Z. Martin, Stuart Jaffe, Chris A. Jackson, and Danielle Ackley-Mcphail.

My favorite Con moment was participating in Allen Wold’s Short Story Writer’s Workshop.  In it you had to write the 100 word “hook” that should open every selling short story.  It had to include character, action, setting, set up questions, and indeed HOOK the editor/reader.  I made a couple of new buddies in Isaac and Gene, and got to here some great openings and even more valuable advice.  Here’s the second-draft of my 100 words:

Bill Garner leaned forward in the darkness as the safe’s door popped open at last.  Electronic dance music thumped up at him from the floor below, but not loudly enough to drown out the unexpected squelch of something within.

Bill jumped back.  He felt certain that cash and jewels were fairly silent in most circumstances.  Something else lay concealed in the safe’s shadowed interior.

He looked around him.  He was still alone, still undiscovered.  Deciding to risk it, Bill flipped on his flashlight and shone it inside.

A glistening, mottled tentacle curled tighter about a golden urn within the safe.

The panel agreed that I’d appropriately barbed my hook.  🙂  I’m intrigued enough that I may extend it into a full story.  The best advice from the panel was from the GREAT Jack McDevitt:  “Don’t try to tell a story . . . instead, craft an experience for the reader.”  It’s one of those seemingly simplistic bits of advice that looks not-very-noteworthy in the first analysis, but once you think about it more, it is pretty damn important.  It really does change the way I look at stories.

Anyway, a great time and a great Con.  Here’s the obligatory picture gallery.  Let me know if I captured any of your souls inadvertently:

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Con-tinuous Updates

Ha, ha.  I wonder how many of these I can make before even am sick of them.  Looks like Con-Carolinas is on board, though they have accepted me as a Military/Science guest vice as an author.  I’ll take it!

  1. MystiCon, Roanoke, VA – February 27-March 1; No response
  2. ROFCon, Virginia Beach, VA – February 27-March 1; No response, but I’ll probably go to this one due to proximity.  Or I’ll sleep in.  I dunno.
  3. MadiCon, Harrisonburg, VA – March 13-15; Accepted as a guest!  Super small college con.  Still thinking on it.
  4. RavenCon, Richmond, VA – April 24-26; No response (Damn it)
  5. 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.
  6. ConCarolinas, Concord, North Carolina – May 29-31; Accepted as a guest!
  7. LibertyCon, Chattanooga, Tennessee – June 26-28; Accepted as a guest!  Long drive, I may look at car-pooling.  Very excited!
  8. Con-Gregate, High Point – North Carolina, July 10-12; Accepted as a guest!
  9. DragonCon, Atlanta, Georgia – September 4-7 (Yeah, right, this is like San Diego Comicon East); Application under review
  10. Capclave, Washington DC – October 9-11; Application under review
  11. HonorCon, Raleigh, North Carolina – TBD – October 31-November 2; No response
  12. AtomaCon, Charleston, South Carolina – November 13-15; No response

So, my travel sked is shaping up.  Stay local in February, travel to Harrisonburg March 13-15, Richmond April 24-26, Baltimore (if acceptance comes through) May 22-25, Concord the very next week May 29-31, chill for a month, then LibertyCon in Chattanooga June 25-29, High Point July 10-12, and then FREEDOM!

As for writing, almost finished with the short for the Weird Wild West project, and honestly it is turning out awesome. I’m channeling my inner Laura Ingalls Wilder, as interpreted by Sergio Leone and George Lucas.  It is not steampunk, though.  It is more . . . clock-punk?  It involves a young girl on the frontier and a Babbage horse.  That’s all I can say right now.

As for novel manuscript, it’s . . . going well?  Yeah, it is definitely a thing on which some measure of progress is being made.  Honestly, my failing here is entirely David Weber’s fault.  I met my local idol briefly at a one-day stop in to MarsCon in Williamsburg, so I’ve been reading Weber again (my signed copy) and playing waaaayyy too much of the actually very good mobile game Tales of Honor:  The Secret Fleet.

So, totally not my fault.  🙂

Con-Sequential

(Warning:  I fully intend to keep making conference puns in these titles.  Run now if you can’t handle that.)

Well, THAT certainly escalated quickly.  So, as briefed yesterday, I sent off e-mails to about a dozen regional science fiction and literary conventions, trying to garner more industry contacts since the day-job insisted on kicking me in the ass.  And unlike I imagined, they responded!  Already!  In a positive direction!

Here’s my current schedule, with status updates:

  1. MystiCon, Roanoke, VA – February 27-March 1; No response
  2. ROFCon, Virginia Beach, VA – February 27-March 1; No response, but I’ll probably go to this one due to proximity.  Or I’ll sleep in.  I dunno.
  3. MadiCon, Harrisonburg, VA – March 13-15; Accepted as a guest!  Super small college con.  I’ll have to think on it.
  4. RavenCon, Richmond, VA – April 24-26; No response
  5. BaltiCon, Baltimore, MD – May 22-25; Acceptance pending, but they urged me to enter for the Compton Crook Award.  And I did!
  6. ConCarolinas, Concord, North Carolina – May 29-31; Application under review
  7. LibertyCon, Chattanooga, Tennessee – June 26-28; Accepted as a guest!  Long drive, I may look at car-pooling.  Very excited!
  8. Con-Gregate, High Point – North Carolina, July 10-12; Accepted as a guest!
  9. DragonCon, Atlanta, Georgia – September 4-7 (Yeah, right, this is like San Diego Comicon East); Application under review
  10. Capclave, Washington DC – October 9-11; Application under review
  11. HonorCon, Raleigh, North Carolina – TBD – October 31-November 2; No response
  12. AtomaCon, Charleston, South Carolina – November 13-15; No response

Sooo, Madicon, Balticon, Libertycon, and Con-gregate all look solid.  Along with Ravencon, that gives me travel plans for March, April, May, June, and July.  Better start saving my pennies now.  If I was a smart man, I’d have a finished manuscript to bring with me . . . .

Well, back to writing!

Con-ventional Warfare

Sometimes life just kicks you in the balls.

The guys reading this know what I’m talking about, and I’m fairly certain that most of the ladies will know what I’m talking about with a fair degree of empathy, even if I don’t know what the female equivalent would be.

I don’t talk about my day job much here (and I will stick to the usual doing-something-for-the-Navy-somewhere-on-the-East-coast) but I will expand on it a bit to let you know that I’ve essentially been biding my time at one job, awaiting the opening of another one:  the DREAM job for one in my line of work, the gold-or-silver ring you wait for your whole career to bring you to.  Well, after doing everything the job asks for the last two years, and getting ready to go to the DREAM job . . . it was, of course, snatched all away.  Now I have essentially a year more to wait, hoping it will come through this time, and being promised a variety of things to assuage me.  I hold no animosity for my current job or the folks that had to give me the bad news, but DAMN IT.  Just damn it.

So, I was feeling pretty low.  I made vague plans to hit the water in my new kayak, stymied only somewhat by the fact that it was due to be rainy and freezing all weekend.  Whatever.  It fit my mood.  But theeeennnnnnn . . . .

Super-Indie Author Chris Kennedy sent me a note saying “Forget all that reality stuff!  Come and kick back with me at IllogiCon in Raleigh, NC!”  And wouldn’t you know it, I did and it was awesome!

Illogicon is a fun, fan-run science fiction convention about half to a third the size of my only other experience at RavenCon last year.  But since it was smallish, the rules weren’t quite so rigid, and they graciously allowed me to participate as a panelist.  I sat in on “Using the Military in Fantasy,” “Independent Publishing 101,” “Indie Publishing Finances,” and “Worldbuilding,” and I managed not to embarrass myself during a single one.  In fact, it almost appeared that I knew what I was talking about.  I also attended but did not participate in “SF/F for the Younger Generation,” “Using Religion and Spirituality in Science Fiction,” among others.  I talked up A Sword Into Darkness, REMO, and Riding The Red Horse, gave away a few copies and a bunch of postcards and business cards, and made and renewed contacts galore.  Not only did I touch base with Chris, I also met fellow indie superstar Ian J. Malone, Baen Slushmaster Gray Rinehart, Intergalactic Medicine Show Editor Edmund R. Schubert, Baen Editor/Publisher Toni Weisskopf, and authors Clay and Susan Griffith, Gail Z. Martin, Jacqueline Cary, Christopher Garcia, and Misty Massey.  It was a great time, not least of all because my little Gabster came with and impressed everybody with her involvement and her last-minute cosplay.

It was tons of fun and inspired me to hit the keyboard hard so I can finish Demigod, write Lancers Into The Light (ASID 2), and put out even more shorts in 2015 than I did in 2014.  They also inspired me to get my name out there more.  So, even though I’m probably a day late and a dollar short, I’ve sent in queries to guest or panel at a bunch of area conventions this year.  I have no idea how many (if any) will say yes, but here’s what a 100% attendance schedule would look like:

  1. MystiCon, Roanoke, VA – February 27-March 1
  2. ROFCon, Virginia Beach, VA – February 27-March 1
  3. MadiCon, Harrisonburg, VA – March 13-15
  4. RavenCon, Richmond, VA – April 24-26
  5. BaltiCon, Baltimore, MD – May 22-25
  6. ConCarolinas, Concord, North Carolina – May 29-31
  7. LibertyCon, Chattanooga, Tennessee – June 26-28
  8. Con-Gregate, High Point – North Carolina, July 10-12
  9. DragonCon, Atlanta, Georgia – September 4-7 (Yeah, right, this is like San Diego Comicon East)
  10. Capclave, Washington DC – October 9-11
  11. HonorCon, Raleigh, North Carolina – TBD – October 31-November 2
  12. AtomaCon, Charleston, South Carolina – November 13-15

I don’t know if any of these might say yes, but I may attend some of the closer ones regardless.  I’ll definitely be attending RavenCon.  It was just too much fun last year.

All in all, a pretty good weekend after all.  Thanks, Chris!

Prose and Cons

Whew!  Sorry for the delay in posting my RavenCon report here, but I was so blasted with ideas and advice, I had to get some of it out as actual writing before it vanished like the play-by-play of a dream.  Now, however, with a thoroughly re-written and re-submitted short story complete, and plans upon plans for more SciFi-ish goodness to come, I can now relax and tell you about my first science fiction convention.

Two things stand out.

First, these are awesome people and I’ve been missing out.  It is FANTASTIC that the nerds and geeks among us have the opportunities to gather together to achieve a critical mass (not a fat pun) and then explode outward into a multifaceted mushroom cloud of fandom without reservations.

Second, I’m afraid I’m not awesome enough of a fan to cast aside all inhibitions and revel in it to the n-th degree.  In a place where introverts are encouraged to REALLY extrovert without judgement, I still found myself holding back.  There would be no costuming for me.  When exhorted to get up and dance like a monkey for a good cause, I still found myself only dancing like a nervous cro-magnon.  It was no fault of the Con that I could not release an uninhibited über-nerd upon the Richmond DoubleTree Hotel.  The fault lies with me.  I still find myself on the outside looking in, trying to find the right niche between aspiring author, published author, veteran, sailor, officer, and nerd/geek/neek/gerd.

But I’ll get there with a little help from a BUNCH of amazing new friends.  First, I finally made contact with the Baen Books crowd!  I met Gray Rinehart, their slushmaster who took so much great time helping shepherd along ASID, Tedd Roberts (Speaker to Lab Animals), Michael Z. Williamson, Sarah Hoyt, Patrick Vanner, Jim Minz, and soooo many Baen Barflies (like the Royal Manticoran Navy crew, Peggy, and Julius — who is certain global warming is directly responsible for the rise in superhero movies).  Drinking and woo-hooing were accomplished in style at two great parties on two great nights.  Sailor Jerry, we hardly knew ye.  A special shout-out goes to Joelle Presby and CDR Andy Presby, two great writers and mega-brains living in nearby Norfolk who work with the great David Weber, helping to flesh out the Honor Harrington universe.

I met and got to speak at length with the Guest of Honor, Hugo/Nebula/Campbell award winning author Elizabeth Bear.  Bear gave me a lot of great advice and encouragement and was surprisingly gracious and down to earth for such an accomplished author.  I really hope to be able to attend the Viable Paradise workshop, as she recommended (as long as I can a. Wow them and b. Afford the time and expense).  I’d love to spend a week working with writers and people of her caliber.

Writers, editors, and fans everywhere, and not a single one made me feel unwelcome or unworthy in where I am and where I aspire to be.  My favorite new contact/bud is Chris Kennedy, one of the Con guests who is in very much the same position as myself.  He’s a retired Navy CDR and former kick-ass aviator (he kicks ass in other ways now) who just released his fourth self-published book, the second book of his planned space opera trilogy, the Theogony.  Okay — no lie — go get Janissaries and When the Gods Aren’t Gods today for some great military science fiction, written by someone who DEFINITELY has the bona fides, along with a smattering of myth and fantasy.  I hope to guest at future Cons, like Chris did here.  And he did his panels in the ultimate Navy fashion:  with PowerPoint!  Best part, he also lives nearby in Virginia Beach, so I see some beers in our future.

And, of course, there were the panels and the Masquerade.  I had a lot of fun, learned a lot, and got told the best thing a writer can here:  You, sir, have an ugly baby.  (Yep, that’s a good thing.)  I read the opening of “Bumped” and they INSTANTLY knew what was wrong with it, lifting blinders I didn’t even know I wore.  That was the story I re-wrote on Sunday and Monday.  It’s shorter, smarter, and a lot more professional now.  Hopefully editors will agree.

And that’s about it for RavenCon.  Con virgin no more!  Pics or it didn’t happen?  Well, here’s some pics!20140426_122836 20140426_113456 20140426_202934 20140426_224750 20140425_224736 20140426_202955 20140426_202640 20140426_203825 20140426_131630 20140426_203032 20140426_202926 20140426_201814 20140426_121834 20140426_203001 20140426_202602

 

Quoth the RavenCon, Ever More, Ever More . . . .

Whelp, this outta be good for some kicks.

I have arrived to the lovely Hilton Double Tree hotel in Richmond, VA, just a couple hours north of my usual stomping grounds, ready to attend my first science fiction convention, RavenCon (named in honor of Edgar Allan Poe, who grew up here).  I’ve got a box of books under my arm (give-away, signed promotional copies of A Sword Into Darkness) and a stack of postcards advertising ASID and REMO.  I’m ready to put my name out there and try to drum up more contacts and more business.

But what I’m really here to do is to get my geek on and my nerd out (or is it the other way around?).  This Con is not huge, but it’s got at lot of great writers attending that I’ve really wanted to meet.  The great Elizabeth Bear is guest of honor, but they also have Rob Balder (love his comic), Gray Rinehart (the Baen slushmaster whom I’ve wanted to meet), James Minz, and big names (for me) Sarah Hoyt and Michael Z. Williamson.  That’s a whole lotta Baen, of course, but Baen is my favorite publishing house, so what would you expect?  They’ve published two of my shorts, almost published the novel and workshopped all of the stories that have gone into REMO.  I’m just a Barfly who’s never been to the bar.

There’s a lot of other stuff too like Dealer’s Rooms, panels, movies, and of course the Masquerade.  There’s lot to oogle and goggle about, but I promise pictures after.

And if you happen to be at the Con or in Richmond and want to meet up, just shoot me a comment down below!

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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)

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