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!

New Military Sci-Fi, Now Available From Stealth Books!

Greetings, Readers!

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 Darknesswhich — 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 REMO for 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!

Enjoy!

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The Art World vs. Tom Mays

Damn you, Jeff Edwards, you insidious voice of reason, you.

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:

REMO Cover 1

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!

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

Whups!

Apparently, every day being some sort of “BLANK” Day is a thing. Today, the 11th of February, is Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day, and no, I am not making this up.  Therefore, I am not going to cry over spilled milk, in that I am going to rally and soldier on after one of my plans failed to work out completely.

What plan failed?  A problem with the book launch perhaps?  Nope, that’s going swimmingly.  Reviews and sales are both rosy and I’m pleased as could be.  In fact, A Sword Into Darkness is CURRENTLY IN THE TOP 10 ON KINDLE FOR EACH OF MY SUB-GENRES:  Military Sci-Fi/Space Fleet, Alien Invasion, and First Contact!  I’m quite proud to be in the same Top 20 as one of my favorite books, Old Man’s War by John Scalzi, as well as a number of other worthies, all deserving a read (but me first).

No, the plan which (partially) failed was the distribution of my extra Advanced Reader Copies for the winners of the Zinger! contest.  Two Proofs and an ARC were indeed mailed out, and I’ve heard that the recipients are quite pleased with them, but the other two winners never sent me their mailing addresses.  So, here I am, with ARCs on hand and no one to give them to.  I KNOW:  LET’S HAVE ANOTHER CONTEST!

Nathan Kelley, Kris Muñoz, and Gordon Lee, the main characters from A Sword Into Darkness are intimately familiar with failure.  I won’t give away the specifics, but fate (otherwise known as me) kicks them in the ass on a regular basis.  They screw up, but then they always say, “Fuck it,” and soldier on.  So you tell me:

What was your biggest/funniest/craziest screw-up and how did you shrug it off to come out on top?

Answers can be anything from twitter length epics of perseverance or extended tales of incredulous/incredible whoa/woe followed by magnificent victory.  Drop me your answer here in the comments, Tweet me at @improbablauthor, or drop me a line in the Facebook or Google+ comments.  You have from 0000R (midnight Eastern) to 2359R on Feb. 11th, Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day.  I’ll pick my favorite two entries and you’ll each win an ARC of my kick-ass military sci-fi novel.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some milk to mop up.

LAUNCH DAY!!! “A Sword Into Darkness” Is Here!

After a long lead-up, the BIG DAY has finally arrived!  A Sword Into Darkness, the hard-science, military science fiction / space opera is up for sale, worldwide.  Is it a good read?  Well, I think it’s a damn good read (it certainly was a helluva lotta fun to write).  But don’t just take my word for it — listen to the blurbs and reviews already in:

“Solid adventure, intrigue and speculative space-tech, from a rising star in military science fiction.”— DAVID BRIN, Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of ‘EXISTENCE,’ ‘THE POSTMAN,’ and ‘STARTIDE RISING’

Yes, that’s right . . . David Brin.  His Uplift novels were THE BEST when I was growing up.  I am beyond honored that he’s even read my pulpy science adventure.  Getting a blurb from him was completely unbelievable.

“There are brilliant first contact stories, great space combat stories, and amazing stories of technological discovery. Rarely do you find all three in the same novel. Remember the name Thomas A. Mays. You’re going to be seeing it on the bestseller list.”— JEFF EDWARDS, Award-winning author of ‘SEA OF SHADOWS,’ and ‘THE SEVENTH ANGEL’

Jeff is a buddy, but he’s practically been a bigger believer in this book than I was.  Without Jeff and Stealth Books, I’m not sure I’d ever have made it available through self/indie publishing.  And now?  Soooo glad I did.  He’s the one who got my book to David Brin and this next fine fellow:

“Sharply written, suspenseful and tightly plotted, A SWORD INTO DARKNESS reads like the best Tom Clancy novels, with a science fiction heart provided by Arthur C. Clark. Can’t wait to read more from Thomas Mays!”— GRAHAM BROWN, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of ‘ZERO HOUR,’ ‘BLACK RAIN,’ and ‘THE EDEN PROPHECY’

But, wait!  There’s more!

“A Sword Into Darkness is Thomas Mays’ debut novel, and it is a blockbuster! Kept me on the edge of my seat up til the end. And unlike so many other novels, when it promised a revelation of a dread secret at the end, it actually delivered. Puzzling occurrences make perfect logical sense as the reader learns more.  The action starts when astronomers notice something odd in-line with the star Delta Pavonis. Hilarity rapidly ensues.  But unlike so many other science fiction novels, Mr. Mays actually gets the science correct. This might have something to do with the fact that he has two degrees in physics and is an 18 year veteran of the US Navy, and has assisted with research into ballistic missile defense.  Recommended.” — WINCHELL CHUNG, guru of the Atomic Rockets site and writer’s resource.

Winchell/Nyrath is a great guy, whom (unfortunately) I’ve never met in real life.  We first became acquainted when I was on the SciFi-Meshes 3D art forums, and he critiqued my art from a very hard-science perspective.  I then followed him over to his masterful website Atomic Rockets, which is a FANTASTIC resource for any SF author or filmmaker who wants to move beyond Star Wars and Star Trek and actually get the science part of science fiction RIGHT.  He was gracious enough to read ASID, promote it on his site as a Seal-of-Approval winning story, aaaand gave me my very first Amazon.com review.  I can’t thank you enough, Winchell!

So, if you like techno-thrillers, adventure tales, sci-fi, hard science fiction, military sci-fi, alien invasions, space navies, or space operas, A Sword Into Darkness is the tale for you.  And to get you to buy it TODAY (so you can be cooler than all your buddies), we’ve got a bunch of Launch Day deals:

Buy the trade paperback on CREATESPACE, and use the coupon code AGS4XF9L and you’ll get 20% off the list price!  Valid Launch Day only — coupon expires Saturday, Feb 1st, at 0800 Eastern.

Buy the trade paperback on AMAZON,  and get the KINDLE E-book version for half-price.  Or if you just want the Kindle version, and you’re an Amazon Prime member with a Kindle device, you can borrow ASID for FREE from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

Whatcha waitin’ ’round heah fo’?  Go!

ASID Full Cover 3c