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)

TheCommuterCover

“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:

20150426_124209

20150425_100402

20150426_101659

20150425_140358

20150425_193540

20150425_193420

20150425_193427

Scratch the Hugos — Let’s Get Behind the Erics!

I highly recommend the following blog post from master SF author and editor Eric Flint (he’s bought two of my five pro-stories, so you KNOW he’s a sharp fella), who takes a COMPLETELY different approach to this pro and anti Sad/Rabid Puppy debacle.  Essentially, it’s not politics separating the Hugo voting crowd from what is really selling, it’s a vast, vast field which no one can know the entirety of, so a self-selected crowd focuses on works that challenge them, works which by their novelty are not what popular authors are selling in droves.  In addition, the categories are completely wrong for today’s markets and what is actually being produced.  (He tells it much better and explains it all at length HERE.)

Mr. Flint’s updated categories would be as such:  Short Novel (40K-80K words or what used to be a novel when the Hugos started), Stand-Alone Full-Length Novel (80-120K words, or what publishers are actually seeking and buying), Mega-Novel or Trilogy (works like LOTR told as one story, but broken up into volumes, think ASOIAF/GOT), Ongoing Series (uses the same characters, but with a new central conflict each book, like the Dresden Files, Honor Harrington, Monster Hunter Int’l, Old Man’s War, etc).

Now, me, I’d add/continue Short Fiction categories as well, but update them to the modern era:  Flash Fiction (1K words and under), Short Story (1K-20K), and Novella (20K-40K), with those definitions to be defined by committee.

To be clear, Eric Flint is not advocating these awards.  Those are just categories which would be more representative of the field than the awards currently recognize.  His main thrust is that the awards are too constrictive as a whole.  Rather than being handed out annually, they should be given out on a periodic basis to authors based upon a body of work.  That would be more valuable in terms of recognition and as a selling point.

When (okay, if) I’m made High Potentate of All Sci-Fi-Fant-Fandom and decree the Erics to be awarded, I’d probably take a mix of the old and new:

Best Flash Fiction of the Year

Best Short Story of the Year

Best Novella of the Year

Best Short Novel of the Year

Best Stand-Alone Novel of the Year

Best Mega-Novel (can include multiple years)

Best Series (can include multiple years)

Best New Writer (based upon at least 5 works over 3 years)

Best Writer

I imagine Mr. Flint would be horrified at being attached to such a thing, but I’d be generally excited about it.  And just to prevent tribalism or bloc voting by a clique, open the ballot to ALL fans, attach it to a mega-con like DragonCon, and use proportional voting or Single Transferable Vote, etc.

Hmmmm, awards that honor the best work and the best author, without bias or insularity, and reflective of the current market.  Eric Flint is not a genius.  He’s a SUPER-GENIUS.

😉

And My Hugo Nominees Are . . . .

 

In case you were wondering.  This list is based off of what I read that was published last year.  I had to do a lot of last-minute revision since apparently I’m a late reader — more than half the things I was intending to nominate were published prior to 2014, even though I yanked ’em out of the New Arrivals section.  Sorry, Lexicon (but I’m still nominating The Martian because it OUGHT to be eligible).  I also referred to a bunch of best-of lists, as well as the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies slates (they were handy and I agree with many of the listings, even if I don’t fully agree with the particular windmills they’re tilting against), but I only put down things I had a personal knowledge of — so, sorry about that, Novella and Novelette categories, I don’t apparently read many examples of you.  I’ve also tried to recognize some below-the-radar and self/indie publishing hopefuls that should receive recognition.  I realize, just like with putting my own name in the ring, these little guys are unlikely to get enough votes for a spot on the final ballot, but I do what I can.  If you haven’t heard of one of my noms, by all means CHECK THEM OUT.

I don’t have my nominee slots completely full either, so you have until midnight Pacific Daylight Time to convince me to add more!

Best Novel:
Trial By Fire, Charles E. Gannon, Baen Books
Skin Game, Jim Butcher, ROC
Robogenesis, Daniel H. Wilson, Doubleday
The Martian, Andy Weir, Crown

Best Novelette:
Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium, Gray Rinehart, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show

Best Short Story:
“Words On The Wind”, Lu Whitley, The Writer’s Arena
“Turncoat”, Steve Rzasa, Castalia House
“Tuesdays with Molakesh the Destroyer”, Megan Grey, Fireside Fiction

Best Related Work:
“The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF”, Ken Burnside, Castalia House
“Why Science is Never Settled”, Tedd Roberts, Baen
Wisdom From My Internet, Michael Z. Williamson, Michael Z. Williamson
Atomic Rockets website, Winchell Chung, Winchell Chung
Mathematical Fiction website, Alex Kasman, Alex Kasman

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form):
Interstellar, Christopher Nolan, Paramount Pictures
Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn, Marvel Studios
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Russo Brothers, Marvel Studios
Automata, Gabe Ibanez, Green Moon
Edge of Tomorrow, Doug Liman, Warner Brothers

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form):
Pilot (The Flash), Greg Berlanti, DC Entertainment/The Flash
Unbound (Almost Human), J H Wyman, Fox Television/Almost Human
Night Zero (The Strain), Guillermo Del Toro, FX/The Strain
The Grove (The Walking Dead), Michael E. Satrazemis, AMC/The Walking Dead
The Mountain and the Viper (Game of Thrones), Alex Graves, HBO/Game of Thrones

Best Professional Editor (Short Form):
Edmund R. Schubert
Mike Reznick
Eric Flint
Jonathan Laden
Trevor Quachri

Best Professional Editor (Long Form):
Toni Weisskopf
Jim Minz
Anne Sowards

Best Professional Artist:
Alan Pollack

Best Semiprozine:
Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Edmund R. Schubert

Best Fanzine:
The Writer’s Arena, Tony Southcotte, Joseph Devon, Albert Berg

Best Fancast:
The Human Echoes Podcast, Tony Southcotte, Albert Berg
Emergency Awesome, Charlie Schneider
PT Hylton Reads, PT Hylton
Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing

Best Fan Writer:
Cedar Sanderson
Amanda Green

The John W. Campbell Award (not a Hugo):
Rolf Nelson, The Stars Came Back
Chris Kennedy, Janissaries
Jason Cordova, Kaiju Apocalypse

The Partly Informed Voter

Hey, all.  I’ve been off the computer as of late (well, off everything that isn’t Parks and Rec or Justified binge watching), so I apologize for the lack of recent posts, updating my writer’s group, or making progress on my projects.  I can’t say why I’ve been off.  It’s been more of a general “blah” feeling than anything else.  Maybe it’s the winter.

But with the advent of March, I am renewed unto the approach of Spring, groundhog be damned.  I’m feeling UP and ready to tackle the blog-o-sphere and my own writing career yet again!  Read closely — there is much to catch up on:

– First and foremost, I am a contributing member to SASQUAN, this year’s World Science Fiction Convention, and as such I have a terrible and awesome thing:  a vote!  Yes, it is now within my capability to vote for the (lately) controversial Hugo award for the best works in Science Fiction.  Nominations close March 10th, so this is YOUR last chance to make suggestions to me for what should receive a nod.  I have no delusions that my own novel or stories will make the cut, proud of them though I am.  Nominees don’t need many votes to make the ballot — on the order of 160 or so.  I have more than enough 5-star reviews of ASID to think that I have 160 people who would back me, but I doubt the Venn diagram of my readers and SASQUAN voters would intersect to that degree.  Back when I had dim hopes that I might make the Sad Puppy slate (one side of the Hugo controversy), I might have had a slot, but it was not to be.  Many of the Sad Puppies devotees have read and liked ASID, but there are better books out there and they justifiably got on the slate.  The same goes for my short stories — my audience and the average SASQUAN voting pool are not the same group of people, so no joy.  That being said, who SHOULD I vote for?  I have a few that I’ll be backing, but there is room on my card for others to tag along.  Should I fill in my gaps with Sad or Angry Puppies?  Should I strike out for balance and vote for books touted by the other, “non-controversial”, “I don’t see anything wrong with the awards”, “there’s no inherent bias among WorldCon voters” side?  Check out my existing slate tomorrow and let me know what I should add!

– My active SFWA membership has not come through yet.  I’m qualified six ways from Sunday, but no joy yet.  Must investigate.  I am happy that my friend Joelle Presby got her membership, however.  That’s a future SFWA board member there, folks.  Me?  I couldn’t be bothered.

– I’ve completed about 1/4th of DEMI-GOD and it is going well (except for my operational writing pause throughout much of February).  I’m eager to finish, but worry about how the story grabs you.  I expect the editing phase to be arduous.  This is not a spiffy sci-fi military adventure like my last one.  This is much more social science fiction and much more character driven, so I worry about my past readers losing interest.  Once I get further on, I will be requesting beta-readers, so let me know if you want to participate.

– I’m spending today re-writing my sci-fi western for the Weird Wild West anthology.  Gotta get that in before the window closes.  Just need to punch up the beginning.

– I also need to post my new short story for sale as a Kindle Single.  Let the 99 cent experiment begin!

– Movies you should check out:  Jupiter Ascending (a visual masterpiece that should only be watched completely drunk), Kingsman (an AWESOME flick which is both a deconstruction of Bond and the best of what makes Bond), and The Lazarus Effect (which is being unfairly maligned as either a Lucy redux or a Flatliners copy.  It is neither.  It is a good low-budget horror flick, though I did think the villain had some issues with her motivation to go FULL-EVIL at the end.)  I’m thinking about adding a feature here called the BLUF review for Bottom Line Up Front where I lead with my final judgment and then go into detail.

– Should I get in to You Tube?  I have a face for radio and a voice for books, but there is a whole media out there that I’m missing out on.  Recommendations?

– And, lastly, for a special treat, go check out The Human Echoes Podcast, where you can hear yours truly debate and riff off of Albert Berg and Tony Southcotte of The Writer’s Arena about the movie Armageddon, space science, the end of the world, and 50 Shades of Grey (which may or may not be related).  It was my first podcast, but I had tons of fun, and you should absolutely check it out.

Later!

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!

For Your Consideration . . . .

Hello and welcome, science fiction award board members, voters, and fans!  Please enjoy the canapes and wine being passed around.  The envelopes with your individual bribes will be under your chair in the main dining room after the presentation.  AFTER the presentation, sir.  Please wait until the end.  Let’s try to maintain some decorum, shall we?

There are a HOST of science fiction awards.  There’s the ones most folks know about, like the Hugo,the Nebula, and the two different Campbell awards.  There are also about 76 other awards given out on an annual basis.  The problem is, as a newbie and an ostensibly indie one at that, I don’t know awards people or awards voters.  But I am quite proud of my success in 2014, and I’d like to think I might be able to play in the big leagues with those who know and participate in award circles like it’s second nature.  It may be childish, but unlike some who eschew awards or believe sales alone are the only reward one needs, I do want that validation from the community (and I believe that recognition can’t necessarily hurt sales either).  Is my stuff award worthy?  I dunno.  I’d like to think so.  They’ve garnered rankings, reviews, and comments equivalent to those received by nominees and winners in the past.  But my worry is that my pro-sale stories were never seen (there is a LOT of stuff published in magazines every year), and my indie stuff carries the stigma of being indie/self published crap (there’s even MORE indie stuff published every year, both masterful and . . . less so).  So, rather than campaigning, I just wanted to get a reminder out there that I do have eligible works for consideration.  And if YOU have eligible works you’d like to see get more recognition, by all means plug-away in the comments below!

Eligible Short Stories – Pro-Market Published:

1. “The Rememberists” – Daily Science Fiction, July 15, 2014 – What do you do if you cannot escape your past, if things did not go they way they should have?  Hire a rememberist!

2. “Bumped” – The Grantville Gazette Universe Annex, December 2014 – An in-love mad scientist and a tough dame share a first date, only to be interrupted by three noir-ish baddies on a heist.  Collisions ensue.

Eligible Short Stories – Semi-Pro, Small Press, and Amateur Published:

1. “Within This Horizon” – Riding the Red Horse anthology from Castalia House, December 2014 – A damaged space navy officer contends with becoming “orbital debris,” relegated to the backwards, useless, bluewater navy, and must deal with both his own dashed expectations and the bitterness of a CO in the same situation.  (for a free review copy of my story or the anthology, e-mail me, private message me, or comment below)

2. “The 1011000-100110110000011010011 Truce” – Liberty Island Magazine, Alternative Holiday Short Story Contest Grand Prize Winner, December 2014 – The shift to automated warfare may or may not save lives in the end, but you’d never see a situation like the 1914 Christmas Truce of WW-I again.  Or could you?

3. “The Gaslight Consultant” – The Writer’s Arena, Reality Bites competition, October 2014 – Who better to drive someone crazy, or make them believe they are seeing ghosts than a team that may actually be crazy (or who sees ghosts)?  NOTE:  This was not my best story of 2014, but there are absolutely some stories on The Writer’s Arena that should be considered, especially the best of the year I saw there: “Words on the Wind” by Lu Whitley, a great soft-fantasy/magic piece.

Eligible Short Stories – Independently Published:

1. “Dogcatcher Blues” – REMO collection by Thomas A. Mays, April 2014 – A disgraced soldier is ordered to carry out a terrible punishment duty, rounding up man’s worst friend on a pacified rebel planet.  But picking up this cybernetic Hellhound is more problematic than others.  Rather than fetch a simple unintelligent feral, this dog is a deserter who will do ANYTHING to avoid going back.  I could simply name any story in the REMO collection as eligible (other than the previously published “Strategic Deployment”, but this story is my favorite and I kick myself for not submitting it for pro-publication before putting it in my collection.  (for a free review copy of my story or the whole collection, e-mail me, private message me, or comment below)

Eligible Novel – Independently Published:

1. A Sword Into Darkness – Stealth Books, January 2014 – 30,000 copies sold in 2014, 349 reviews on Amazon with a 4.4 star average, 3.88 stars on Goodreads with 33 reviews and 531 ratings, and great independent reviews on a number of sites (check out the book link on the right or down below if you are on mobile).  This was my pride and joy and a financial boon in 2014.  Is it literary or award-worthy?  Like I said, I don’t know.  I do know that if you appreciate a classic style and theme, if you like smart military sci-fi space opera with respectable physics, if you love pull-em-up-by-your-bootstraps, libertarian-leaning tales of space navies or overcoming alien invasion, and if your favorites include Niven, Pournelle, Heinlein, Clancy, or Ringo, then this is a book for you to vote for.  (Again, for a free review copy, e-mail me, private message me, or leave a comment below.)

So, we’ll see.  Chances are I won’t be remembered around awards season.  There’s just too much good stuff out there, but if you haven’t checked out mine, I think you might like it.

Plus, friends and followers of The Improbable Author, if you would like to plug your own work for award consideration, by all means let us know about it in the comments below.  I know that indie/self published shorts and novels have gotten nominations before (if rarely), and I would love to see one win, and if not mine, then another worthy indie.

Thanks!

“Bumped” – Now Available at Grantville Gazette

Need some romance in your mad science gadget capers?  How about tough dames, aliased noir baddies, and elastic collisions?  Well check this out:  Bumped.

Check out my latest pro-published short of 2014!  Read it for FREE at the great Universe Annex of the Grantville Gazette by Baen Books’ Eric Flint.  Thank you, Sam Hidaka and Paula Goodlett!

Bump-Mini-Cover