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)


“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:








The Duel


Ready to read?  Ready to come down from your legal (I’m sure) celebration of 4-20 with a pair of intriguing, enrapturing, fascinating, chilling, and/or compelling short stories?  Ready to weigh their merits and choose the better of two rapidly-created masterpieces?

Ready to participate in The Duel?

Then get your butts over to The Writer’s Arena battle thread and ENSURE YOUR CHOICE IS HEARD!  Are you a Sad Puppy?  Are you an Anti Puppy?  Do you not care or have no idea what I’m talking about?  Either way:  GO – READ – ENJOY – ASSESS – COMMENT – and VOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTE!!!!!!!!!

“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!


Riding The Red Horse

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When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” Then another horse went out, a fiery red one, and its horseman was empowered to take peace from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another. And a large sword was given to him.

Revelation 6:3-4 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Oooooh, golly.  That’s a creepy way to begin a post.  Here, how about something a leetle bit mo’ fun and funky:

Oh, war, huh, good god, y’all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again!

“War”, 1970, by Edwin Starr

Okay, that’s a bit better, but I still think ol’ Edwin is missing out on the . . . ummm . . . positive aspects of war? Not that war is a really positive enterprise!  No, real war sucks big time.  Death of the innocents, crimes against humanity, the achievement of political goals through maximum destruction and the scarring of a nation’s collective psyche.  Yep, all bad things.

But, war stories?  Those can be one hell of a lotta fun!

War fiction, military fiction, and my favorite:  military science fiction scratches the itch with a lot of readers in a way nothing else can quite match.  We LOVE US some combat sci-fi, whether it be on the screen with Star Wars, Star Trek, Aliens, Edge of Tomorrow, Starship Troopers, Battlestar Galactica, or Space: Above and Beyond; or if it’s on the printed page with many of the franchises above as well as Battletech/Mechwarrior, Legacy of the Aldenata, the Lensman series, Honor Harrington, pretty much anything by David Drake, or my own A Sword Into Darkness and REMO.  We thrill to tales of soldiers, starship officers, and space marines battling the bad guys, whether they be bug-eyed monsters, the implacable other, or just the poor schmuck on the opposing front.  Give our boys (and ladies, ladies) some powered armor, a gravitic railgun, and their trusty laser pistol, slap ’em in an orbital drop-ship, and point ’em at the ravening hordes of robo-zombies and you’ve got yourself a story!

Yeah, yeah, you can indulge in a little philosophy, and I GUESS you can devote a line or two to show your characters are deep, tortured souls, but by-gum something better blow the fuck up in a satisfying manner or you might as well keep walkin’, mister.

Does that sound like your cup-o-tea?  Well, if so, hot DAMN do I have something for you.  Finnish sci-fi publisher Castalia House is dropping the Mother of All Bombs of military sci-fi on you this month.  And I’ve been invited to the party, so I’m inviting you along as well!  Riding the Red Horse, the new annual anthology of military science fiction and fact will be coming out with its inaugural volume on December 15th.  This kick-ass collection features my story “Within This Horizon” (which is worth the price of admission alone), but the rest?  WOW!

I’m just honored to be even considered on the same list as these authors, not that my stories are a patch on theirs.  You’ve got Tom Kratman and Brad Torgerson, Christopher Nuttall and Chris Kennedy, Ken Burnside and Eric S. Raymond, William S. Lind and Vox Day, James Dunnigan and Rolf Nelson, Steve Rzasa and Henry Kitchener, Giuseppe Filotto and Benjamin Cheah, and James Perry, John Carr, and Ted Roberts.  You’re going to find essays and fiction on the future of combat, on the land, at sea, and in space.  You’re going to be amazed, but BONUS, you’re also going to find a story/essay by one of the grand masters himself:  Dr. Jerry Pournelle.

Yep.  Jerry freakin’ Pournelle.

If you aren’t headed to Castalia House or over to Amazon (beginning December 15th) to pre-order or buy it direct, then I have no idea how your head works.  Go!  Go, buy, read, review, then drop me a line here to tell me what you thought of “Within This Horizon.”

Sooooooooo cool!

RedHorse_promo (1)

Bows Grow Taut, Battle Approaches . . . .

(Read in the voice of a stereotypical New York Jewish grandmother) “Oi, Morty!  Whateva happened to that nice Tommy Mays boy?  Ya know, the writer fella, with all o’ dem science fictional stories and books and what not?  Ya neva heah from him no more.”

“Who?” (Hard of hearing stereotypical New York Jewish granddad)

“Tommy Mays, autha of A Sword Inta Dahkness, RAYMO, Da Rememberists, Strategic Deploymen, Dreams f’Sale (Oh my, a sale!), an’ otha fine works of science fiction and wonda!”


“He was woikin’ on a sequel, and a new book o’ Christian science fiction (oh, dem gentiles, gettin’ to their shenanigans), and a couple o’ short stories?  Tommy Mays!?”

“Who!?  Where’s my sandwich?”

Aaaaaaand, SCENE!  Hi, y’all.  Just wanted to drop a line before making a pre-emptive donation to the Anti-Defamation League.  I’ve been off the blog for a while, but wanted to let you know of some things going on.

First, I AM WRITING, but I’m probably not writing on the things you want me to write on.  No progress on the sequel to ASID and only marginal growth on either Echomancer, or Demigod, my two young-adult urban fantasy projects.  I’ve had a lot of short story stuff (as well as a lot of life) interfere.

First, of course, I didn’t make it with the Baen Fantasy Award and my story “The Commuter”, but it is working its way through the magazine rejection files now, as is “Bumped”.  Should they not make it, I might do a final polish and offer them through Amazon Singles (which is not a dating site.  I stand corrected).

My first new short story product is a definite WIN and I’m VERY excited about it.  This is a quasi-sequel to an anthology of science fact and fiction regarding future warfare produced back in the 70’s and 80’s.  I forget the title of that one, but Castalia House is publishing an unofficial follow-up called Riding the Red Horse, an obvious allusion to the Red Horse of War.  Headed by Tom Kratman and edited by Vox Day, the new anthology will include essays on the future of warfare, science articles, and a BUNCH of great new short stories by some of my favorite authors, including Tom Kratman and Vox Day, Chris Kennedy, Christopher Nuttall, and little old me.  My story, “Within This Horizon” is under editing now, but I can’t wait for the book to launch and for you all to see it.

The second bit of news requires YOUR PARTICIPATION!  I have just submitted a story for The Writer’s Arena, sort of a short story Thunderdome (Two Stories Enter!  Only ONE STORY LEAVES!!).  They hold weekly fiction contests where each writer has a week to submit a story about the same particular topic.  That topic may be AI gone awry, a carnival from Hell, or ghosts – madness or reality?  Once both writers have submitted their tales, both stories get posted on the website and readers vote on the winner.  These are short tales, usually under 4000 words each, and they are a lot of fun.  This week the topic is AI gone awry, so do please go check it out and vote.  Next week is my week, which deals with “fake” hauntings:  either you have to describe someone who is a victim of a made-up haunting, or you have to describe a real haunting that won’t allow itself to be disproved.  My story, “The Gaslight Consultant” will be appearing there in mid-October.  I absolutely need your help and your judgment, with your vote going to the best of the two stories.  And if you like it, consider supporting the site with a small donation, like what you would pay for a show or an issue of a magazine.

So, that’s where I’ve been, Jewish Grandma.  Now excuse me while I go prepare for next week’s battle!


The Last Ship, Episode 7 – “SOS” Review (and other stuff)

You ever had a day just sorta get away from you?  (Note, if you’re only here for the Episode 7 review, feel free to skip a bit, brother, down to the bold.)  I had all sortsa responsible intentions the night this aired, but dang it if “The Strain” didn’t come on right after and get me distracted.  So, fine, I’ll post in the morning.  But then the kids had to be driven to 4H day-camp, and after that, well, you gotta get the lawn mowed.  But that’s all routine, stuff that SHALL NOT STAND in the way of those clambering for my words.

But then this happened.  I was e-mailed out of the blue by a fan of my Daily Science Fiction short story, “The Rememberists” which appeared recently.  And this fan had an unusual request.  They wanted me to write a super short story as part of this grand online scavenger hunt.  Specifically, they needed a published SF author to write an original short story of no more than 140 words that contained the Supernatural actor Misha Collins, the Queen of England, and an elopus (which, naturally, is a hybrid elephant-octopus . . . how do you not know these things?).

Well, that’s just ludicrous.  There’s no way I was gonna play in that sandbox.  I had reviews to write and lawns to mow.

Heh.  So, of course, by the time the lawn was done I had the whole story in my head.  I fat-fingered it into the computer, spent twice as long editing it down to 140 words, then sent it off to accolades and hurrahs galore.  But by the time it was done, I had to leave to host my area writing seminar and there-ya-go, day lost.  Soooo, many apologies for the lateness of this review, and if you wanna see my Misha Collins / Queen Elizabeth / Elopus short story, check back here next week when I’m allowed to post it!


Whew!  Lemme get my breath here.  Building off the acting chops and dramagery of the last “Last Ship” episode, “SOS” had me calling for help at the end.  That was some goooooooood naval fiction, y’all, probably the best “thriller” episode yet.  This one had it all: high stakes, background info, redemption, sacrifice, combat systems scenarios, and a cliffhanger ending.  Lemme tell all-o-youse abouts it.

Plot Summary:  We begin with a flashback to our Russian Typhoid Marty, warning a colleague about the incipient epidemic, but saying he has a radical theory about how to treat it.  His buddy scoffs, until Marty insists he knows it will work because he has already tested it upon himself.  Buddy recoils in horror and flees, whereupon Marty’s wife arrives, coughing cutely, foreshadowing that the virus was not weaponized, but Marty turned himself into an immune patient zero for the altered virus.  And now he is aboard the Russian nuclear cruiser, commanded by Admiral Roznakov/Ruskov (I’ve seen it spelled both ways), which is fully repaired and on the hunt for the NATHAN JAMES

Back in the apocalyptic present, in Radio, our young COMMO freaks out about one particular distress call among the dozens they have been monitoring.  Seems that this girl had been aboard a fishing boat off Puerto Rico, first with 50 people, then 15, and now she is the sole survivor, out of supplies, but not sick even after being surrounded by the infected.  Dr. Hot (sorry) Scott is telling ACTING GOD ERIC DANE / CAPT Tom Chandler that she’s almost outta monkeys.  The virus’ tricky human gene mod has proven resistant to all her attempts at vaccination.  News of a possibly immune girl gives her hope, however.  The Skipper decides he has to risk it, so he calls out as an American fishing boat captain, asking the girl to provide her GPS coordinates.

Of course the Russians hear him and immediately see through the ruse.  They set a matching course and the race is on.

NATHAN JAMES and the Russians both remain over the horizon from one another and the girl’s fishing boat, which puts them about 35 to 70 miles from one another.  NATHAN JAMES takes two RHIBs over, with two tactical teams containing (of COURSE) the CO, Tex, one of our disgraced Petty Officers who tried to jump ship last episode, and the GUNNO.  After an in-depth search, they locate Patrice hiding in a cabin.  Patrice is freaked, but they convince her to go with them, just in time for the Zodiacs from the Russian cruiser to make their appearance.  The CO and Tex take the Russians on, guns blazing, while the other RHIB zig-zags back to NATHAN JAMES with Patrice.  Chandler and Tex take out one Zodiac, while the other makes a break for the fishing boat to see if they can recover anything.  The CO’s RHIB starts heading back to the destroyer, but their boat has been shot up pretty damn well and it sinks rapidly, leaving the pair of them in the ocean all alone.  Tex asks Chandler to call for help or beacon their position, but the Skipper purposely left their personal beacons behind.  As for the radio, he makes one call, telling the DDG to cease all rescue efforts, abandon them at sea, and stick to the mission.

The story splits into three parts, one with the CO and Tex sharing some nice character moments as they futilely swim toward a distant reef, aboard the NATHAN JAMES as XO Slattery (Adam Baldwin RULES!) considers whether to follow the Skipper’s final directive or to disregard it since he is now in command, and finally aboard the Russian cruiser, where Ruskov continues to act like a creepy megalomaniac, threatening Quincy’s wife and kid, as well as his own men.  Everyone is soon enough searching over the horizon for the Skipper and Tex.  NATHAN JAMES uses their helo, the Russians use a UAV (which the Amerikanskis promptly shoot down, comrade), and Dr. Scott discovers that Patrice has a natural immunity to all strains of the virus.

Soon enough, Chandler and Tex get fished out of the ocean, but this is a cliffhanger rather than a happy ending, as he finds himself hoisted aboard Ruskov’s helo, held under gunpoint!  Dun, dun, dunnnnnnnnnn!  What’s gonna happen next week!?

The Goods:  Answers!  The virus was not weaponized.  Instead it was born from the hubris of a benevolent Dr. Frankenstein.  Damn you, Science, and your cautious insistence on following protocols!  Tex is from Reno!  He and Chandler have some great character moments while they float around (kudos to Eric Dane for week number two), and I love the glee the Skipper had as Tex revealed he was all hot for Ms. Rhona Mitra.  I don’t blame you, big guy, I don’t blame you at all.  Ruskov is an unapologetic BAD GUY, and that is campy, but fun.  I like the progression of the plot, even if the situation with Patrice came about was very, very convenient.  Danny (Travis Van Winkle) did a great job this week, and he had a great scene with the XO (Adam Baldwin RULES!).  The aftermath of his relationship with Kara is a hell of a lot more interesting than the relationship itself ever was.  The RHIB on Zodiac battle was some exciting action and a lot of fun, as well as the UAV vs. SM-2 scene.  The challenges of over-the-horizon search and targeting were handled well, even if the details were not quite correct.  I liked that they addressed it as that is how the modern Navy does business.  I appreciated the nod they gave to the challenges of finding someone lost at sea.  And I really like the surprise of the wrong helo picking Chandler and Tex up (though it wasn’t that surprising of a surprise, it was handled well).

The Less Goods:  I asked for more focus on the enlisted side of things.  Pity they could not have found a better story than this one sailor dealing with his rejection after essentially being a selfish, indecisive prick.  Protocols for dealing with infection on this show REALLY need a good reality check.  The CMC and Dr. Scott greet Patrice with absolutely ZERO barriers:  no clean suits, gloves, or masks.  Kiddies, that chick has been living in a virulent disease-ridden environment for a couple of months.  Even if she is immune, she might either be a carrier, or at the very least be contaminated internally and externally with fluids rife with the virus.  That girl needs some extensive decon before she is not a danger to them all.  Then there is the CO’s breaking of EMCON.  He gave a nod to maintaining subterfuge, but he could have done a LOT better.  Mask your voice and accent!  Tell everyone you’re a Panamanian trawler!  Have someone with an accent speak for you!  Next, the XO’s indecisiveness.  I get that he is in charge now, and he has to balance loyalty and honor against the mission, but the character is very wishy-washy about the choice.  This is not a dig on Adam Baldwin, because that guy RULES, but the writing here for the character could be more in keeping with what has been established before.  Helo’s have special maneuvers for providing data to their mothership without giving away where that ship is, so it would have been nice for them to handle that better.  And, though I love having an SM-2 surface to air missile blast away a UAV, energizing the SPY radar is a horrible move if you want to remain unlocated.  It doesn’t matter if it was only up for 30 seconds, that thing is like a beacon and there is no way the Russians could not have counter-targeted them.

So, a GREAT episode with the promise of even more next week.  This is a fine follow-up to the acting high-point of last week and I grow as a fan each episode.  See you next time, and don’t forget to check out “The Rememberists” (it’s only 1000 words).


Stranger than Fiction

If you haven’t read my story, “Dreams For Sale — Two Bits!”, the following link may make even less sense than it already does.  So go check it out on the pages to the right.  I’ll wait.

No, please, I’ll be right here . . . .

All done?  Good!  Now check out this next link in a new tab:[QJ-New]&gclid=CJ2eyLaqmbkCFU1k7AodPzYAQQ#sthash.rZL85Prg.dpbs

Thank you Google Ad-Pairing Engine!  That’s basically a less-techy, New Age version of my unscrupulous protagonist’s flim-flam device.  I wonder if that’s why Google threw that up on my Gmail page.  And what’s even funnier is that my new YA urban fantasy novel Echomancer uses a plot device even closer to our friend’s Quantum Jumping technique.

Now, I’m not one to be the final arbiter of what is reality or is not reality in a metaphysical sense, but it doesn’t bode well for your existential philosophy if a second-tier sci-fi writer is using it for his playground (and I’m not exactly the first to do so).  I mean, just look at all the respect Scientology receives world-wide.

I think I’ll stick to believing in 2000-year-old, all-powerful, resurrecting carpenters who make bread and wine anti-vegan.

But that’s just me.