All I Gots Time For Is Bullets . . . .

– Hi!

– There’s whole bunches of stuff to catch you up on, so I’m turning down the effervescent charm and wit, turning up the maximum information flow (while still remaining effervescently witty and charming.  Handsome too.  It’s a curse).

A Sword Into Darkness has now topped over 200 reviews on Amazon and sits at 4.5 stars overall with 123 5-stars and 58 4-stars, alongside a whole buncha real nice write-ups between ’em.  If you needed an excuse to get yourself a copy, that’s a pretty good one.  I’m still continually surpised about the folks that are reluctant to give it a try because of its indie-published beginnings.  It’s good, folks.  Trust the hoi polloi.

– Speaking of good, I just listened to the first half of the A Sword Into Darkness audiobook from ACX and Will Perez of Sci-Fi Publishing, and it’s like experiencing a brand new story.  It really comes alive, and even though I wrote the damned thing, it’s like I’m just discovering it.  If you’ve read it, but haven’t heard it, you gotta!  And if you haven’t read it or lent it to your friends, ummm, see the bullet above.

REMO continues to chug right along, though it has not had the explosion of popularity that ASID had.  Is it because it’s short stories?  A relatively short collection?  Not as much advertising as ASID had from third parties?  I dunno.  It has gotten great reviews (4.8 stars in 6 reviews) on Amazon, but it has not made it above 7000 in sales ranking yet.  It has more than paid for the investment in its cover from 99Designs, so I’m happy about that, but I would love for it to do ASID numbers.  If you haven’t tried it out, I urge you to give it a shot, or to recommend it to your friends.  And I’m also producing an audiobook on ACX for it as well, with the talented Heidi Mattson of VO Hollywood reading.  It would make your perfect commute companion!

REMO remains Amazon Kindle exclusive, but ASID has turned out to be a dirty little book that gets around to all the e-book sites.  Shameful.  But apparently the elder book has been a bad influence on the innocent story collection, and they will soon both cheapen themselves for all the world to see in an internet wide sale!  I am shocked and you should be too.  In fact, you should tell all of your friends about it and urge everyone to get their own copies during the sale so you can tell them youself how dissapointed you are that such good books would just put themselves on the streets for a mere 99¢.  More details to follow.

– In other news (and these are the reasons I’ve been so busy), I’m waiting on the approval draft of “The Rememberists” for Daily Science Fiction, I’ve gotten a commitment from Baen on “Bumped” if I make some revisions, and I’ve completed the first draft of “The Commuter” for the Baen Fantasy Adventure Short Story competition.  For Stealth Books, I’ve also reviewed and blurbed Graham Brown’s latest SF masterpiece, and I’m working through John Monteith’s latest Rogue sub-thriller.  On top of that, I’m still working on the ASID tabletop game and app with Nathaniel Torson of Jabberwocky Media.  Then there’s life (Don’t Talk To Me About LIFE . . . .) where my brave, strong, and beautiful wife keeps kickin’ cancer’s ass and staying busy, and my three kids are ALL in baseball and softball, each of which have both simultaneous and consecutive games in different locations.  Plus work at my unspecified Day Job, which eats about 14-16 hours a day.

– What this means is, I have not yet made progress on Lancers Into the Light or on Co-Pilot, but I pledge to!  Soon(ish)!!

– Congrats to Ancillary Justice for winning the Nebula!  I gotta read that one to see what all the hubbub is about.  Best of luck to it and all the upcoming Hugo nominees, though I’m pulling for a Larry Correia and a Brad Torgerson win.

– Final note about goings on, I got to spend an afternoon with Chris Kennedy, author of Janissaries and When the Gods Aren’t Gods,  at the Virginia Beach Central Public Library’s AMAZING event devoted to their new Local Author collection.  It was a pleasure to donate books both for the collection and to circulate, as well as to meet so many great local authors and small press publishers.  A good time was had by all and I really look forward to doing it again next year.  If you live in the Hampton Roads area, I urge you to go and check out ALL the books!

– And that’s about it.  I obviously don’t understand the concept behind brief, bulletized statements.  I have a problem.  Pity me!

– Toodles!

Happy Monday

Morning, all!

I’ve made 3 kids’ lunches, baked fresh cinnamon rolls, approved the A Sword Into Darkness epubs for Kobo and Smashwords, and had a nice fresh cup of coffee.

What the heck have you done, lazy?

🙂

Still on the agenda for today: track the sales for last week, set up a new business account, finish some Honey-Do list yard work, kiss my beautiful wife, pay bills, edit and send out “Bumped” to a new market, write “The Commuter” for the Baen contest, and work out.

Bets on how much of that I’ll actually get done begin . . . now!

 

MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY!! *

Emergency, Loyal Readers!  A Sword Into Darkness has escaped the confines of the Amazon Kindle and has been seen getting some Nook-ie over at Barnes and Noble, but no one over there knows ASID like you or I do.  To them, ASID is just this mysterious stranger, perhaps there to increase the quality of their catalog, perhaps there to punch out the literary fiction bestseller, have its way with the romance blockbuster, and steal the children’s books’ lunch money.  They just don’t know how awesome and deserving a time ASID is, and I need your help to tell them!

So, if you’ve been waiting to get A Sword Into Darkness when it became available on epub, or you’re a die-hard Barnes and Noble supporter, or you love the Nook devices or apps, NOW is the time to buy and read and enjoy some hard SF, military sci-fi, space opera, technothriller adventure goodness!  (And then leave a review to let all the more timid readers know.)

Or if you’ve already read ASID when it was exclusive to Kindle (there’s about 15,000 of you, tee-hee!), and you want to share your experience with the purveyors of that Other Big Book-seller, then by all means, log into Barnes and Noble and leave a new review, Or, for those 171 reviewers who have given me an average 4.5 stars on Amazon, if you are an uber-fan, you can re-review me all over again for the competition (a forlorn hope, I realize).  Honest reviews are appreciated, effusive praise is adored.

ASID is also available on Smashwords now as well, but the file transfer and formatting over there is just NASTY.  I don’t recommend that one yet.  The use a file converter they call the Meatgrinder to turn your manuscript into an ebook, and it is notoriously un-user friendly.  I would pull it completely, but they offer dire warnings against doing that.  I’m trying to get the file fixed and replaced, but work/life has intervened, so I’ll get to it when able.  Soon, though.  I promise.

In other news, REMO has enjoyed modest sales over on Amazon Kindle Direct.  It’s been up for about a week, sold about a 100 copies, and until late last night, had not gotten any reviews.  Mr. Tom Walsh so loved “Dogcatcher Blues” that he left a little 5-star care package for me on that story alone!  Thank you, sir.  I’m so glad you enjoyed it.  But I do need more reviews there.  It is harder, I think, to sell people on an unknown author’s short story collection or anthology than it is to just sell ’em a full novel.  So:  buy REMO, read REMO, review REMO.  Purty please.

Aaaand, lastly, Baen Books has announced a new Fantasy Adventure Short Story contest to coincide with GENCON, so I’m a-gonna enter!  This will be my first try at fantasy in YEARS, but I think I have a good and unique story idea.  We’ll see if they agree!

Until later, Happy Reading, y’all.

* Yes, I am fully aware that this is posting on May 2, and not on May Day as originally intended.  Life — in the form of a 16 hour work day and a signing appointment at the car dealership THAT WOULD NOT END — conspired to upset my plans.  I am, however, committed to the bit, so please, just roll with it.

Today Was A Good Day to Kick Ass

First of all, I need help picking the winning cover for REMO from all the outstanding final entries.  So click on the picture below, VOTE, and then come back here, because you ain’t gonna want to miss this.

REMO Winner

Don’t you just LOVE proportional voting?  Now, to task!

Today was a pretty awesome day.  It started off with an e-mail at the crack of dawn, from the editors of Daily Science Fiction, who told me that they’re buying my flash (under 1000 words) soft-SF short story “The Rememberists.”  It’s a weird little tale, but thought provoking, and they’re buying first serial rights to it!  While the money off a 1000 word tale isn’t life-changing, even at professional rates, it does mark my third sale to a paying, professional science fiction market.  That — technically — makes me a pro-science fiction author, at least according to the Science Fiction Writers’ Association, the SFWA, our professional guild.  Folks have a lot of mixed feelings about the SFWA, which is currently undergoing an ideological purge of sorts, but I like writers on both sides of the divide.  Will I join?  I dunno.  But its still damn nice to be able to.

Matter two, which was why I had been thinking about the SFWA and professionalism, is the fact that I now have sold over 10,000 copies of A Sword Into Darkness (and at a royalty rate that does NOT suck).  Though it is self/indie published, selling 10,000 copies allows you to classify yourself as a pro, and as a new pro, begins your two-year countdown clock for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in Science Fiction.  It would be AMAZING to get a Campbell nod, like one of my favorites, Larry Correia.  Of course, there’s a few hiccups to getting that nomination and attending the Hugo Awards:  namely, the Best New Writers get nominated by the attendees of the past and current WorldCon, where the awards are handed out.  Thing is, I don’t know any WorldCon attendees, and i really doubt they just happened to be browsing Amazon, saw my cover, and said THAT is my next read!  And then there’s the matter that I may be ineligible.  “Dreams for Sale — Two Bits!” was published in Jim Baen’s Universe, a pro-level magazine, in 2009.  Since you have only two years in which to be eligible, I could sell 1,000,000 sales, and not be eligible as the Best New Writer (though I think I could handle the pain).  JBU is now defunct, and I’m not sure if the records will support there being sufficient subscribers to hit the size necessary to start my two-year clock.  Am I eligible?  I dunno.  But I’d really like to be afforded the opportunity to turn down the nomination.

And finally, after working in the yard all day, putting in a stone firepit and landscaping, I got another e-mail.  This one was from the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, or ABNA 2014, announcing that A Sword Into Darkness had made it through the second round and is now a quarter-finalist.  In the first two rounds, they start off reading a 300 word pitch, choosing 2000 out of 10,000 entries on that alone.  Then in the third round, 2000 are whittled down to 500, 100 of which are Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, by reading a 3000 word excerpt from the beginning.  In the fourth round, the editors of Publisher’s Weekly write an actual reveiw of your entire manuscript, and then pick 25 books out of 500 to go to the semi-finals, and so on.  Why?  Well, in the offering is a $ 50,000 publishing contract through Amazon Publishing, and five $10,000 contracts, putting real books in real physical bookstores.  What are my chances of winning?  About 1 in 500 against, but as contests go, it’s one of the best out there.  I’m amazed to still be in competition!

So, very, very cool.  And to close out the day in an appropriately badass way, we christened the fire pit by burning our Christmas tree, which has been drying outside since January, and is thus — essentially — explosive.  And semi explode it did! I stacked paper and bone-dry, needle-filled branches high (too high). When I lit it, people inside the house could actually hear it as it sucked in all the available oxygen and shot up with 30 foot flames. My neighbors were un-pleased. Thank goodness I hadn’t just lit the entire tree at once like the Pyro within me wanted to. I then ripped off my clothes and danced around my fire spirit while I fed in the rest of the tree (it made for some very awkward smores with the kids afterward). Now the stones of my firepit are fused together and I truly understand why natural trees end up burning down homes.

Goooooooodnight, loyal readers! . . .

The Art World vs. Tom Mays – PART DEUX

It turns out I am not the graphic artist bad-ass I thought I were.  Talent, it is out there, and READILY available for the low, low price of $299.  Now I have TONS of designs coming in (my original has been relegated to my false cover page) and I need YOUR HELP choosing one before the contest ends.

Go here, at 99Designs, and vote NOW for your favorite cover.  I’m judging primarily on the front cover, but have asked for a book spine and back cover as well.

99Designs

Achievement Unlocked: 100 Customer Reviews for ASID!

To quote the irrepressible Sally Field, “You like me!  You really, really like me!”

Well, at least 90% of y’all anyways.  As of a couple of minutes ago, A Sword Into Darkness logged its 100th customer review, and it did it in the best way possible, with a short and sweet 5-star love note.  THANK YOU, DEAR READERS!  For those of you keeping a tally, the current count is 68 5-star reviews, 22 4-star reviews, 8 3-stars, and one each of the 2-star and 1-star variety.  I’m pleased as punch about the whole thing, not because I’m that concerned about my own vanity (though I do go tee-hee and squee a little every time I get a new 4 or 5-star one in), but because I genuinely want to show folks a good time.  I’ve stolen perfectly good beer money from you.  You deserve to have a few hours or days of kick-ass super-sciencey fun in return.

ASID is not a perfect book.  I acknowledge that, and its admitted flaws are probably what kept the gatekeepers of traditional publishing from allowing me into their club.  But, I think it is a really fun book and one I hope subsequent folks will like just as well as those 90% which have so far.  It’s my first book “worthy” of publication, and as a first novel, I get a by for some of its less-well-put-together elements by a lot of people, but I don’t think kindness is the sole reason I’ve got the track record I do.  There are a lot of things that people think I accomplished pretty damn well. 

Some commonly noted positives:  I got the science right and it’s earned its bona fides as hard science fiction, with SCIENCE actually being necessary to the plot.  Yes, I have a very important, very central, very unexplained macguffin in the story, but its limits are well-charted and used consistently.  And as one reviewer noted, everything else is done so well, they can forgive an element or two of hand-wavium.  Another positive is my true-to-life portrayal of the Navy and the military in general, as well as its interaction with corporate interests and civil government oversight.  I’m glad folks recognized this, because it really was important to me (though some did note I was a bit heavy on the lingo and mil-speak).  In this, I cheated a leeetle bit, in that I have a modicum of experience in those roles due to my unspecified day job.  So I stole shamelessly from years of interaction with superiors, subordinates, and shipmates all. 

Other elements of goodness reviewers have noted:  The characters are interesting and quirky, the action scenes are clear, fast moving, and inventive, the plot is well-balanced, flowing briskly with a realistic timeline, and I had a few real surprises for readers, things they’d never seen before, but I also paid homage to a lot of classic sci-fi that preceded me, namely that of Niven, Heinlein, Weber, and Ringo, while still putting my own spin on well-used tropes.  One of the biggest notes of appreciation most folks had was that the book was well-edited and professionally assembled.  It does not read like a screed cobbled together in someone’s basement print shop.  Apparently there is a lot of self-published work riddled with typos, and copyediting mistakes that should never have been made public.  For that, I have to give credit to my own OCD and to Jeff Edwards, a true professional and a kick-ass author who has the attention to detail to save you from my usual misspelled rabmlings.

And then there’s the not-so-positives:  my ten more-critical reviews.  Some folks think I needed a bit more editing, less for bad copy and more to remove some meandering elements that perhaps should not have made the final cut.  I’m accused of shallow characterization, but some may have had preconceptions in that regard, considering it a common element of the genre.  Now, me . . . I like my characters, but I admit that I did not delve too deeply in their pasts or their internal lives.  They grow, but this book is not about catharsis.  It is a plot-driven vehicle and I think it’s a fun one, but deeper characterization is definitely a goal for the sequel.  Then there’s the accusation of predictability, which I both understand and somewhat disagree with.  It is a book of genre-classics, an intentional homage trying to one-up or become perhaps the definitive version of those tropes.  It is recognized that there are certain expectations in the plot.  As soon as a main character recognizes the potential for an alien visitation, you KNOW there is going to be an encounter, likely of the invasive kind.  That is expected, anticipated, but predictable?  I dunno.  Recognizing that something is likely to occur, that a pleasant, fun novel like this DOESN’T end with all the protagonists dying and the antagonists upsetting the whole apple cart is not necessarily predicatability.  How was the journey to that point?  Was it worth the trip, even if you anticipated what the destination would look like and turned out to be right?

So, check out my reviews, and if you haven’t tried it yet, give the book a spin!  It’s a whole lotta fun for less than a Venti Starbucks coffee (and not nearly as bitter).

5_Star

 

Wearing my New Hats: Beret and Fedora

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve got this in the bag!

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

RavenConASID1