Today, MidAmeriCon II announced the nominees for the 2016 Hugo Awards, chosen by the attendees and supporters of the 74th WorldCon for the best works in science fiction, fantasy, and fandom produced in 2015. My military fantasy adventure story, “The Commuter” was one of the five nominees in the short story category.
I must regretfully decline the nomination.
I’ve known for some time that “The Commuter” had made the short list, having been emailed about it by Professor Adams, “The Voice of the Hugos,” on April 10th. I provided copies of my story for the Hugo Voter’s Packet and accepted the nomination in the forlorn hope I would find my story among a mixed and diverse selection of other stories, stories which came out of fandom as a whole (a whole which includes Puppies . . . ) rather than from any single group’s agenda or manipulation of process. I knew that it was unlikely, given that my little-known story was only up for the award due to its inclusion on Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies slate, but I had hope.
To be clear, Vox Day and I have worked together before, but I did not request or engineer my appearance on his slate. I’m very proud of my story “Within This Horizon”, that I contributed to the first Riding the Red Horseanthology, which allowed me to be in the same volume as friends and acquaintances Chris Kennedy, Christopher Nuttall, Ken Burnside, and one of my literary heroes, Jerry Pournelle. I have been interviewed for Castalia House. However, Vox and I disagree on many political and social points and I am neither a Rabid Puppy nor a member of his Dread Ilk. My stories have no real ideological bent right or left. And while I cannot dispute the experiences of others which brought the Sad and Rabid Puppy movements into existence, I did not approve of the straight-slate bloc voting that so damaged fandom last year. I was very encouraged when Sad Puppies 4 answered the criticisms that had been levied against SP3.
I tried to convince myself that perhaps the Rabids would also ameliorate the “burn it all” stance they ended with last year, after the strings of “No Awards” handed out at 2015’s ceremony. I hoped they would treat this year’s 5-item-per-category slate as only a recommendation, and that perhaps my story might be the only slate pick among a strong selection of non-slate tales. I hoped it would compete on its own with honor, winning or losing without a nod to anyone’s particular political intent. However, as the list is straight slate in the short story category, I cannot take advantage of a flaw in the current nomination process.
This is not a repudiation of anyone’s politics, nor is it an endorsement of anyone else’s ideology. This is not a statement on the quality of the nominated works that either appear or don’t appear on anyone’s slate. This is a rejection of a gamed system, as well as a stand for returning the Hugos to what they’re supposed to be rather than what some have tried to make them. I’ve spent the last 21 years in a career dedicated to the support and defense of the US Constitution and the principles upon which it is founded. Every slate, every recommendation list, and every vote is the expression of another individual’s right to free speech. I had no right to tell Vox to remove my story from the Rabid Puppies list, nor did I think asking him would do much good. I had no right to tell any Rabid Puppy how to vote, nor, truthfully, was I much inclined. I did not ask to be part of any list, but I hoped at the very least that it might bring other eyes to “The Commuter”, readers that might appreciate it for what it was and perhaps honor me with an uncontroversial nomination (or at least a few Kindle purchases). But, now that all hopes for a clean nomination are dashed, it is my turn to speak:
Rather than eat a shit sandwich, I choose to get up from the table.
Thank you to all the people who actually read my story, enjoyed it, and nominated it for the Hugo. I will forever be in your debt. However, if you voted for my story and others only because someone told/recommended you should — for whatever reason — Why? What windmill are you tilting against? What do you hope to achieve other than the dissolution of something which may need to be saved from its failings, not destroyed outright. If I have wasted your sincere vote, I am sorry, but I cannot participate when I know shenanigans may have occurred. Winning a Hugo is less about the award itself than what the award means: that you have created something appreciated, worthy of memory, and have garnered the respect of your peers — something last year’s string of “No Awards” indicated the bloc voting failed to achieve.
I would ask the voters who read this one thing: please give the works a chance, slated or not. Please don’t “No Award” entire categories out of spite against Vox Day. Please give the slated short stories an equal chance with whatever story replaces mine. The authors deserve your attention, free of any political bias. Works should stand on their own.
If you would like to read “The Commuter”, I’d love to hear your thoughts on its nomination and would be happy to provide it gratis to any WorldCon voter. Thank you for your attention and your understanding.
Grab your champagne flute and somebody to smooch, y’all, because the year is done and done well. It’s time to reflect and celebrate! Stick with me as we reminisce about 2014 and look forward to what next year holds:
Instead of going chronologically, I’m going to start with the little things, especially those you might have missed, and move up to the biggest things that impacted my year.
First, that which had the least major impact was my on-going and new projects. I’ve learned that it is a tough thing to balance being a professional officer, a husband/caregiver, a father, and an independent publisher, and the thing that got the least attention in that mix was ongoing long-form work. Short stories I was able to knock out with relative ease, with four published this year alone and another on hold with Baen’s Grantville Gazette for a possible buy. Long-form, novel-length works proved to be my Achilles heel. I have three projects in the hopper: first, the sequel to A Sword Into Darkness, titled Lancers into the light, because EVERYBODY has been asking about it and I’d be a fool not to do one. That one is still in the outlining phase, primarily since I needed a break from ASID, and also because I have two other projects to finish. One of those is my long-suffering urban fantasy Echomancer, which is about 1/3rd complete and suffers from a lot of time/will/desire based writer’s block. Basically, I hit a snag and never went back to it once I moved to other projects. One of those projects is my last long-form unfinished work, which is going between the titles of Demigod and Dattoo, a Christian near-future hard-science young-adult philosophical thriller. Is it a total genre mash-up? Yes. Is it going slowly? Yes. Is it my most exciting project and my best second bid for traditional publication? YES. So, the short answer is that I am working on the next book(s), but the going was slow in 2014, and I hope for more positive news in this next year.
Next in the highlight hit-parade is TNT’s “The Last Ship,” a great little show that premiered this year. If you haven’t had the chance to check it out, you absolutely should on Blu-ray, DVD, or your streaming service of choice. Eric Dane, Rhona Mitra, and Adam Baldwin star in a loose adaptation of William Brinkley’s 1988 post-apocalyptic novel. It’s all about the last US warship, the destroyer USS NATHAN JAMES, which has escaped infection from a worldwide lethal pandemic, and which has the bead on a cure. It is cheesy, fun, well-acted, well-plotted, and surprisingly accurate and respectful of how the actual US surface Navy works. As a lark, I blogged about it all from a USN officer perspective and it did wonders for me. It consistently brought the most traffic to the blog, and brought me a number of new fans as well, who took a chance on my reviews and tried out my books as well. So, overall, a great success.
This next is not such a success story, at least in the relative sense. Following good advice from my friend and mentor Jeff Edwards of Stealth Books that I needed to have something else out on the market to serve the audience that ASID was growing, I published five of my military and artificial intelligence short stories as a collection on Amazon Kindle. REMO has been well-reviewed (39 Amazon reviews with 4.2 stars) and has sold all right, but it never has done the numbers that ASID did. I may have been spoiled by how my first foray into independent publishing did, and I realize that collections don’t tend to sell as well long-form works, but I would have liked for it to have done better, for more people to have tried it out. As of this post, REMO has sold 1937 copies on Kindle, with an additional 362 provided through Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library (which I still get paid for). That’s around 2300 more people that have enjoyed my stories than would have if they had stayed on my computer. Good, but not as good as magazine circulation. One story in particular, “Dogcatcher Blues,” is my favorite and — I think — is almost Hugo-worthy (though Baen did not originally buy it and I failed to shop it anywhere else), but I doubt any Hugo voters will ever see it. I guess I have no room to complain, but relative to the rest of the year, REMO is my regrettable disappointment.
For this next paragraph, I have absolutely no complaint. Short stories have been my sort of thing for a while now. I started writing them years ago, to hone my skills and get my foot in the door of the traditional publishing industry, but success had eluded me. I had two stories bought in years past, both by Baen publications (my favorite publishing house), but nothing to anyone else. This year, in large part due to synergy with ASID’s success, I have published four stories in pro and semi-pro/amateur markets, with a fifth on tap for the new year. I kicked ass in 2014 when it comes to short stories. First was my sale of “The Rememberists” to Daily Science Fiction. That story was HUGE for me, though it was my first flash-length story and literally VERY short. I’ve had tons of tweets, facebook posts and fan e-mails from that one, along with two short-film producer/directors who intend to turn it into a film project. Next, I came into contact with the crew over at The Writer’s Arena, who allowed me to participate in one of their short story contests. Basically, you and another writer get a general topic and you each have to complete a short story in a few days, which the audience and two judges then vote on. And my story, “The Gaslight Consultant” won! That led them to checking out ASID (as well as my old Masters thesis online) and mentioning me a couple of times on The Human Echoes Podcast. The first mention was all zany fun, and the second mention garnered me a very good, well-balanced review for ASID. My next pro sale was as part of the Riding The Red Horse anthology from Castalia House. I got an invitation to participate in their inaugural volume, and after a prompt from the editor Vox Day that they were looking for a literal sea story, I turned in “Within This Horizon,” which is now featured alongside stories and essays from Dr. Jerry Pournelle, Tom Kratman, Ken Burnside, Steve Rzasa, Christopher Nuttall, Chris Kennedy, and many others. The association with Castalia House and RTRH has been all positive, leading to potential new projects and hopefully a chance to participate again next year. And lastly, a little bit of victory fun. For the holiday season, I participated in Liberty Island Magazine’s Alternative Holiday Fiction Contest, looking for genre-alternative Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus stories. I turned in a cute little redux of the Christmas Truce of 1914, but this time between our AI robots and the combat drones of our bitter enemy Canada. And it won the grand prize!
And the last bit of professional writing news had the second biggest impact on my life: the independent publication of A Sword Into Darknessthrough Stealth Books. I cannot thank enough my publishing partner Jeff Edwards and all the readers who gave me a shot. You guys made my year. As of this posting and not counting an unknown number of pirated copies (I’ve truly arrived . . . people are stealing my shit), I’ve sold just under 30,000 copies of my little military sci-fi / hard-science space opera. Here’s how the percentages break out:
I don’t know how others do on their debuts because I’m too new at this, but I’m very very very happy and blessed with how ASID has done. And I’m very hopeful about the doors it may open up for me. I got a whole lotta nothing from agents and publishers for the last three years, but over the last year I’ve proven that I can at least sell a well-regarded book as a solid mid-list author. They say you should not use self-published titles on your query letters to publishers, but if I can tell them that on my own, with no resources other than help from friends and a few judicious ads and sales, I sold 30,000 copies of my debut. maybe then they’ll give me a closer look. Oooor, I’ll just stick to the indie crowd and continue taking in 70% royalties instead of settling for 10-15%.
And last but certainly not least, the thing that had the biggest impact on my year. It was not the job, though that did have biggish news and a may appear here next year. It was not my kids, though I am very proud of them and the improvements in their grades and schooling. It was not my personal health journey as that mostly involved me getting fatter and slower despite my half-hearted efforts. No, the biggest thing for me this year was standing by my beautiful wife, Jen, as she kicked breast cancer’s ass. She is an inspiration to me, and I don’t think she adequately realizes how proud I am of her, how humbled I am that she continues to put up with my crap and allows me to walk beside her in life. This woman faced down a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, reconstruction, complications to her own gastric bypass from years ago, and all the ravages to the body, psyche, and soul that all of that can wreak upon someone, and she refused to let it break her. In fact, she used it to inspire others to get tested and to persevere, no matter the diagnosis or prognosis. She endured shaving her head (my son and I joined her in this), losing her hair, dealing with the pain of neuropathy, the fatigue, the burns, and the fear that it would all be for naught. She had low days indeed. Who wouldn’t? But she always came out on top. And now she is on the mend and headed to being certifiably cancer free. Her mother and I served as her caregivers, but that never stopped Jen from providing care to her family and a wider circle of friends than I will ever know. Jen Mays, I love you and my hopes and prayers are for a great 2015 for us both. We deserve it, and especially you.
Greetings, faithful readers! If you are here because of my “The Last Ship” reviews, welcome, but this ain’t gonna be about that.
Nope. It’s gonna be BETTER.
Last night, my independently-published military sci-fi space opera novel A Sword Into Darkness (a button for which you will find to the right or below) hit 300 reviews with my bestselling retailer, Amazon.com. Upon hitting this somewhat arbitrary milestone, I thought I’d tell you all how the book was doing, and let you know about some BIG news as well.
First, the BIG news: the audiobook for A Sword Into Darkness (ASID) is now available for sale at Audible.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes (soonish). Read magnificently by Mr. Liam Owen of SciFi-Publishing.com, this is a TOTALLY different and exciting way to experience ASID. If you’ve read and enjoyed ASID, you owe it to yourself to re-experience it with Liam Owen’s amazing narration. He has this gentle, yet authoritative voice that really delivers when it comes to military scenes and science fiction exposition, and his characterizations and voices for all my different characters just have to be heard. Honestly, like me, I think you’ll fall in love with the story all over again.
If you have yet to read ASID, this is a great way to encounter it for the first time. This unabridged edition can be listened to in just under 12 hours, and I think you’ll have a lot of fun with it (4.4 stars in 300 reviews level of fun). Have a commute? Do you work out or clean your house? Do you commute to and from your work-out before cleaning your house? If so, and you never have the time to read, YOU HAVE GOT THE TIME to try out ASID as an audiobook.
And if you’ve never tried out audiobooks before, this is a great opportunity: enroll with Audible.com free for 30 days, and your first audiobook (like ASID, hint, hint, hint) is completely and totally FREE! Even if you don’t keep the audible membership, the audiobook for ASID remains yours forever!
Concerning reviews, and specifically my Amazon reviews which have the biggest base to draw from, folks really like A Sword Into Darkness. How much? Well, as of this writing, I have 174 5-star reviews and 93 4-star reviews. Of those who just “liked” it rather than “loved” it, I have 27 more critical 3-star reviews. I think a 90% success rate for connecting with your readers is a pretty darned good return on your investment.
The math whizzes among you might note that 174 + 93 + 27 does not equal 300. As the aphorism goes, you can’t please everyone. I also have 4 2-star reviews from folks which gave me points for writing the book, but didn’t like it, and two 1-star reviews, one from a guy who prefers Christopher Nuttall’s books (which I have no problem with, Chris is prolific and a damn good writer), and one guy who hated on my book so hard, I think I actually made his day. His 1-star dismissal was, in fact, the second review I received, and that made for a bad day, but the days have gotten notably better since then.
The buyers who have written reviews (and it works out to about 1 reviewer for every 100 buyers/readers) have also shared some damn-fine write-ups. Praising, critical, questioning, or whatever, each thing they tell me and other potential buyers are gold. My writing on ASID has been favorably compared to Tom Clancy, Dr. Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, Robert Heinlein, David Weber, and John Ringo. I don’t know about all that, but each of those luminaries of genre literature are my heroes and favored writers, so if my book at all recalls them, I’m beyond honored.
What can you do? Well, If you have not read (or listened) to ASID, today’s the day to give it a shot. If you have read it (and/or listened to Liam’s narration), consider leaving your own review. Either way, if you are in the market or are already a fan, I welcome you to peruse the reviews on Amazon and check whether you thought it was helpful or not. The more upchecks the 4 and 5 star reviews get, the more favorably the Amazon algorithms consider ASID, which lets me do things like justify the time spent on working on its sequel, Lancers Into the Light.
For those of you who have followed along for my journey through independent publishing, you know that the publishing strategy has been very important to me. Who to sell through, who to advertise with, what price point, degree and duration of sales, etc.
I think I originally made a wise decision by publishing the e-book version of ASID exclusively with Kindle through their KDP Select program. It allowed me to get out there among a more active readership, with a bookseller who treated indies JUST LIKE SOMEONE FROM THE BIG 5. I made a lot of sales, got a lot of reviews, took advantage of their countdown deals, and was even picked up as a Kindle Daily Deal once (HUGE SALES that day). And all of that laid the groundwork for me to EXPLODE as soon as the e-book launch went wide on Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, and iBooks.
‘Cept that didn’t happen. I made more sales, sure, and got out in front of people that don’t shop Amazon, but I primarily only sell well on those other sites when I held an advertised sale, and even then those sales are but 10-15% of what I continue to sell on Amazon, and now I don’t get the benefits of KDP Select. But that’s fine, I felt more legitimate and better protected selling the book wide, since Amazon has recently been the subject of some . . . negative press. And that’s fine too. John Scalzi wisely points out that Amazon is not the indie-publisher’s friend, no matter what your bank account tells you. They are in business for themselves, and if their sales model temporarily aligns best for those indies who publish through them directly, that is no guarantee of future alignment.
But, for the moment, they do align, and are in fact becoming even more aligned. If you look at my book sales page for ASID, you’ll find that I’ve removed my links for B&N Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, and iBooks. That is because I have stopped ASID’s sale there and am once again exclusively Amazon Kindle for the next three months. I have re-enrolled in KDP Select because of some new features offered. I’ll see how they work out over the next three months and let you all know what it’s all about at the end. Stay Tuned!
PS: New news about the AUDIOBOOK — it’s approved! You should see it go on sale SOON!
Hey, all! Just a quick note before The Last Ship comes on (followed promptly by a review of this week’s episode against the Russkies), but ASID has gotten several fairly glowing pro reviews over the last few weeks, and I’ve been remiss about sharing them with you. Partly that’s because of the Day Job, and partly it’s because I’ve been working on new material (Demigod mostly, but a little bit on the A Sword Into Darkness game). Mostly it’s because I’m a huge scatter-brain.
Then, semi-out-of-the-blue, the great Eric S. Raymond asked for a review copy and really turned out a fantastic review of A Sword Into Darkness. This guy KNOWS hard SF and military SF, and he really seemed to have enjoyed himself with it. Even better, he has name-dropped ASID (in a positive way) in several of his subsequent reviews. That really pleases me and inspires me to do even better with the eventual sequel. Check ’em out, and the comments are especially lively as well!
Another good thing about the ESR review was that it led to the this here Eric Wilner review on his blog. Eric Wilner is one of those lively commenters on ESR’s site, and he gave a really good accounting of his own thoughts regarding ASID. And if you check back to the posts prior to his review, you’ll find several blog posts inspired by the book where he examines some of the elements of the plot completely separate from where I went. Very interesting.
And lastly, I may have mentioned Castalia House before, but they are a Finnish publisher breaking some very exciting ground in e-publishing and the European market. Their SF editor is Vox Day, who has been and can be a provocative and perhaps devisive figure in science fiction circles. I dunno about all that. It all happened before I became active. I can tell you that he was always very reasonable, pleasant, and clever in his conversations with me, so I’ll say nothing about the controversies of the past. I can tell you that Castalia House has big plans and has some very strong authors launching from beneath their banner like John C. Wright and Tom Kratman. I was almost wooed over there as well, but have decided to remain with Stealth Books and stay independent for now (not that their offer and opportunity was not enticing and more than fair — it was). Quite separate from all of that, however, one of Castalia House’s reviewers picked ASID up out of the blue, unaware they had been interested in publishing me, and their blogger produced another balanced, and highly positive review here!
So, if you want to check out what others thought of ASID (aside from the 250 customer reviews and 4.5 stars on Amazon) either before reading it, or after trying it out yourself, I urge you to check out these pro-reviews. And then check back here for more thoughts on The Last Ship!
Don’t have a whole lotta time to post, but wanted to get this out while interest was high:
First GOOD thing, got a GREAT review from Carol Kean over at the fantastic sci-fi web-zine Perihelion Science Fiction. She’s been chatting with me on Twitter for months (and is part of the oppressive Hashtagocracy, along with me), introducing me to fabulous new indie authors and Twitterati. Plus she expressed an intense interest in ASID. That finally culminated with this month’s issue of Perihelion, and, I gotta say, I owe her one. It is a really good review, critical yet effusive, and even though she admits that military sci-fi is not her thing (she tends to skim the hard science and tactics passages), she is definitely in the fan column. I’ll take a 4 out of 5 stars from Carol any day! So check it out, and also their new fiction and the other reviews of Edge of Tomorrow and Will McIntosh’s latest book from Orbit.
Second GOOD thing, Will Perez and kick-ass narrator Liam from Sci-Fi Publishing have completed the audiofiles for the ASID audiobook! Just a few things to put away and tidy up and then you can LISTEN to awesome hard science, military sci-fi, space opera, technothriller goodness at home, during your workout, or on the commute to and from work! On sale soon, but here’s a little taste:
Third GOOD thing, I have been eliminated from the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2014! Hmmm. Why is that good news, you ask? Well, it is and it isn’t. I would have LOVED to have been a semi-finalist, and — of course — I’d have loved to have won one of the $15,000 advances or the $50,000 grand prize, but I never really expected too. ASID is, at best, a good pulp adventure. When people take off marks for its limited character development, I gotta shrug and say, “Well, yeah.” It is not an introspective tale. There is very little deep catharsis. Besides Nathan getting past the sinking incident and learning to lead again, and besides Kris’s strained relationship with the father that abandoned her, my characters are pretty middle of the road. They evolve and express themselves in relation to the plot. No one is going to make a Lifetime movie out of ASID, but it would make the best SyFy Channel movie EVER, not to mention a pretty damn good blockbuster at the multiplex. The Fault In Our Stars, it ain’t. So, I’m out, but I’m still proud of my book, and now I can move on to other opportunities. Besides, all the REALLY cool people I’ve met in relation to ABNA 2014 got kicked out too, so I’m among friends.
Following this is ABNA: Full Disclosure, with my two Amazon Vine reviews of my excerpt, and the Publisher’s Weekly Review of the whole book. I gots nothing to hide!
And, REMEMBER, only a couple of days left on the ASID and REMO 99¢ sales!
ABNA Expert Reviewer
What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?
Generally, the excerpt is well-structured and flows well. The writing is characterized by some excellent descriptions: “You’re an idle-rich tech wizard with an over-funded amateur astronomy bug, so some eccentricity has to be expected, I guess. In the dusking skies of evening above USS Rivero , the sharp boundary of the eastern horizon had already merged with the night, while to the west a wash of orange and red still set the water afire. These descriptions are not only well-written, they enable the reader to visualize the scene or setting more clearly. Another strength of the excerpt is the pacing. The story flows well and smoothly at a steady pace. I expect the story to be action-packed based on these preliminary chapters, which should make for an engaging read.
What aspect needs the most work?
More careful editing is needed. Avoid cliched descriptions, for example: Everyone heard the familiar dissonance of screeching brakes, squealing tires, blaring horns, and one final movement of crunching metal. The first two chapters appear to be cluttered with technical descriptions. Some of these descriptions are obviously integral to the plot and in driving the narrative forward, but at times, the technical aspects engulf and overwhelm the story, making me feel like I was reading some sort of technical manual and losing sight of the story itself. This might be an area you wish to focus on and improve. I’d like to see the main characters developed more over the course of the narrative. Characterization should not be sacrificed at the narrative’s expense, and I’d like to see how both Gordon Lee and Nathan Kelley are developed.
What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
For the most part, the excerpt is well-organized and flows well. The protagonist Gordon Lee appears to be a rather eccentric character but one chapter alone does not make for compelling characterization. I would hope that the main characters get developed as the narrative moves forward, including the Navy man, Nathan Kelley. The premise sounds interesting and although sci-fi thrillers are not my cup of tea, I admit my curiosity has been piqued by this engaging excerpt.
ABNA Expert Reviewer
What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?
The science of this fiction was well done even though some of the terms I read I had no idea if they were real or not. The frustration of Gordon was well written as well as his interaction with Lydia. How it ties in to chapter 2 would keep me reading into chapter 3, although chapter 2 was a bit weaker than the first.
What aspect needs the most work?
Chapter two on the boat gave no reference on why we were firing into North Korea, maybe explained later. The banter for firing nukes was unrealistic as I would think anyone given instructions for firing a weapon that could kill hundreds of thousands could be so cavalier makes no sense, however based on the pitch and the submarine the smugness is probably short lived.
What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
I thought the pitch of the book was interesting and the author writing does lend an authoritative tone to what I read which is important in a sci-fi book. Would def read on because of the premise and what I have read so far. Send me a copy!
ABNA Publishers Weekly Reviewer
Visionary Gordon Lee sees something that no one else, not even NASA, sees, or at least is willing to see. What initially appears as a rogue comet turns out to be something much more. It’s an alien craft of some sort, on a long haul to Earth from a star twenty light years away. With no way to ascertain the aliens’ motives, Lee resolves to prepare for a worst case scenario: hostile invasion. To that end, he recruits ex-Navy sailor Nathan Kelley, and turns the full force of his fortune and private tech company, Windward Technologies, to developing means to combat the presumed threat. With few allies in government, Lee and Kelley are left to prepare as best they can, recruiting a motley crew, including the brilliant and erratic engineer Kristene Munoz, to lead the civilian defense of Earth. Fortunately, the laws of physics ensure that the ship will take several years to arrive. This manuscript is fairly standard military science fiction. The strongest area is the conceptual technology, which starts out very firmly rooted in present day scientific reality. Unfortunately, this, combined with the drive toward confronting the alien force, leaves little room for character development. The action is well paced, and the reasoning behind both the aliens and their motivations is very well thought out, making this a solid read.
Happy Father’s Day!!! A Sword Into Darkness and REMO e-books are both on sale!!! There’s soooo much sci-fi goodness to be had for both you and Dad, you should tell all your friends and followers about it. Shout it from the rooftops (provided you have the training and appropriate safety gear)! ASID is on sale 11-15 June (on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Apple iBooks, and Smashwords) and REMO is on sale 12-17 June (exclusive on Amazon Kindle). If ever you needed an excuse, you just got one, shipmate. Think of all the Poppas, and just follow the links above!
Cool news, I just made the final edits to the ASID Audiobook. And judging by how AMAZING it sounds, even if you’ve read it, you’ll want to experience it a second time on Audible. I hope to have it available before month’s end, and I will absolutely NEED your help to make its launch a rousing success. Ya see, nobody really knows who the hell I am, so if they’re going to shell out $20, they’ll need some good word of mouth. I hope I can count on you all!
Good news, everyone! I’m writing again. Just tossed down half of Chapter 1 for Demigod (formerly CoPilot) and the initial line is a corker: “The end of the world as Demeter Sedaris knew it began with a lie — her own.” Plus, I submitted my fantasy short story to the Baen Fantasy Adventure Short Story contest. The title is a state secret so’s I don’t taint the voting, but cross your fingers. I’ll let you know how it goes. And in other cool news, I’ve got two reviews for ASID coming out this week. One is from Carol Kean of Perihelion Science Fiction and the other will be the Publisher’s Weekly review that will either doom or continue my bid to win the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (Semi-Finals). Wish me luck!
And in mild bad news (more awwww, than OH NO!), “Bumped” was rejected by Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, but they were encouraging in their form rejection, so I will be trying again. I’m not too busted up, because Baen has expressed interest, but I’m not stopping with just them. It’ll get sold somewhere. The story is too fun not to!
How can you cheer me up? Send people to buy the books on sale and boost those sale rankings!!! After all, ASID and REMO are only
– 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 Darknesshas 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.
– REMOcontinues 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!
For those of you out there who are visiting for the first time, Hi, my name is Thomas A. Mays, or just Tom, and I write stuff. You might (but probably haven’t) seen a short story or two of mine out there, or you may have seen or picked up a copy of my book A Sword Into Darkness, which — for an indie — has been selling like hotcakes and garnering a lot of praise from readers just like you. A lot of those Amazon reviewers have been clamoring for more, and while the book is going wide, out on Audible and going to e-pub devices here in the next couple of weeks, the sequel is still several months off.
I do, however, have some actual new material for you! Launched late, late last night, you can now check out and purchase REMOfor Amazon Kindle. This themed collection of short stories is a mix of military sci-fi, AI existentialism, critique of empire, analysis of honor and duty, and examination about consciousness, includes five tales that I hope will thrill you, humor you, and make you think. Three of the stories revolve around REMOs or Remote Operators, essentially the UAV pilots of the future, who find that the remove offered by engaging in combat through a remote AI may not be as “removed” as they thought.
They include the-not-what-it-sounds-like “Tinker Bell Unbound” about a troubled rear-echelon maintainer suddenly thrown onto the front lines without the tools she needs to survive, “Strategic Deployment” (my second pro-published short story) about a retired REMO forced back into action in an impossible and possibly unethical situation, “Dogcatcher Blues” (possibly my favorite story of the whole collection) about a disgraced REMO sent to fetch a wayward Hellhound, “Identity Crash” — a non-military sci-fi story — about an Emulated Intelligence betrayed by his own creators and denied what it is that makes us self-aware sapients, and lastly “ILYAMY”, a difficult tale about long deployments that I wrote when I was cut off from all contact with home during one of my own military deployments.
To check out the permanent product page here on The Improbable Author, click the cover pic below or the pic at the top of the sidebar. To go directly to Amazon and get it for your Kindle device or app, either as a purchase or to download a free sample, click here. Act now, and REMO is free to borrow for Amazon Prime customers with a Kindle device from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library!
So, if you’ve been following, you know I’m launching an ebook anthology with a bunch of my military AI short stories, called REMO. And since the last cover I did was 96-ish % successful, I started off doing my own for this one as well. And I’ve got a cover I like, but Jeff reasoned that hey, it turns out you are NOT a graphic designer, so you MIGHT just wanna get some options rather than commit to something developed on the fly, with a kind of art you’re unfamiliar with, and which is not necessarily evocative of a military SF anthology.
Damn correct bastard . . . .
So, on advice, I’m opening up the cover design for REMO to some actual graphic artists via the 99Designs website. I’ve offered up a $200 bounty to the designer that can beat what I already have:
We’re looking for a cover that is more immediately recognizable as military SF, and which looks more compelling as a thumbnail image. All the subtle sci-fi-isms of my design seem to vanish at that size.
If you’re a graphic artist and want to compete for the bounty, go HERE. You’ve got four days to present a proposal, so no dawdling!