News, Progress, & SWEET, SWEET FREE SHIT!

Howdy, fans and random stoppers-by!  Welcome!

Tom here, writer of all that stuff over there to the right (or below, if thou art a visitor from the mobileverse), here with a progress report.  I’m very glad you stopped by — make it a regular thing!

Mutineers Daughter Print Cover

  1. The Mutineer’s Daughter is doing well, with solid, consistent sales and page reads.  I don’t have the numbers and tracking I did with A Sword Into Darkness, since I’m just one of the writers on this one vs the (self/indie) publisher.  The great Chris Kennedy has been tracking the day to day sales and page reads there, and he’s satisfied, if not blown away by it.  We’re not doing the numbers that ASID did when it exploded in sales and reviews, surprising me right out of the gate, but it has not yet flashed out of the pan.  As I can’t track sales and Kindle Edition Normalized Page (KENP) read data (which is how Amazon monetizes reader interest for the Kindle Unlimited patrons), I can and do track the book’s sales ranking and my author ranking.  As you can see below, I did see an immediate rise, and it has stayed fairly steady since then.

TMD Sales Rank

Mays Author Rank 2014 to Present

However, it has not drawn the massive numbers of eyes either ASID or the Fourth Horsemen Universe novels have.  A couple of 4HU novels have been released since TMD, and they are all outselling it.  Now me, I’m very proud of TMD.  Its writing, characterization, and complexity are much better than ASID’s, and Chris seems very happy with what we did as well.  So why isn’t it boosting through the roof?  I dunno. The cover?  I love it, but it does look much different from the other covers in its sub-genre.  The fact that Chris’s fans weren’t expecting my hard sci-fi space stuff, and my fans weren’t expecting his gritty ground-level teen rebel angst?  Now me, I think of it like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  “You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!  You got your peanut butter in my chocolate!”  They’re two great tastes that go great together, but for fans that aren’t expecting the other, does it look like a Frankenstein’s Monster amalgamation?  I dunno.  I think the main issue is that we need to get eyes on it and reviews in it.  So far it’s received 29 positive 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon, and only got one negative-ish one rating on Goodreads.  The fellow involved tweeted with me and he regretted the fact that he just bounced off some of the plot choices in the last few chapters.  That’s gonna happen, so I’m not bent out of shape.  Me?  I’d love to hear what y’all think?  If you’ve given TMD a read, please consider messaging me and/or giving it a review.  If we can get the numbers up, the Amazon algorithm will start to work for us, and bring more eyes on.  I also have sent out a number of review copies that I hope will begin to bear fruit soon.  (and if you are a reviewer, I’m happy to send you a paper or e-copy with my compliments)  We are not sitting idly by awaiting an audience, however.  Chris and I have already met up and semi-plotted out the next two books in the In Revolution Born series, and each is more epic than the last!  Now is the time to get on board.

2.  Speaking of A Sword Into Darkness, followers on Twitter will know that I’ve finished the first “half” of the sequel Lancers Into The Light.  I put “half” in quotes because it finished about 40% over my targeted word count.  The first half is practically a novella in and of itself at 70K words vs the planned 50K words.  I’m mighty tempted to just publish it stand-alone, but it really should have the second (smaller) half to balance it out.  I still plan to finish the second half by summer and have the book out before fall, so stay tuned.  In the meantime, if you would like to be a beta-reader for the first half, so I can fix whatever doesn’t work while I’m building off of that in the second, please drop me a line.  You will need to have read ASID first, but the numbers say there’s about 40,000 of you that have done that, so just let me know.  It’s been a long, arduous, frustrating 4 years of work on the sequel, and my profound apologies to those who gave up on seeing it, but life intervened and I lost the will and wherewithal to work on it for the longest time.  With the patient support of fellow writers and my lovely girlfriend Kristin, however, I’M BACK, BABY!  Stay tuned!

ASID Full Cover 3c

3.  And for those who DON’T know what I’m yammering about, and who would like a preview of what my writing is like before you try on The Mutineer’s Daughter or put Lancers Into The Light on your pre-sale list, there’s NEVER been a better time to try out A Sword Into Darkness.  On April 20th and running through the 27th, ASID will be ONLY 99¢!  And if you are a Kindle Unlimited member, it’s free like always!  ASID is a good bet, with around 420 reviews at Amazon to help convince you.  So, try it yourself, push it onto your friends and family, proselytize it to your co-workers until security carts you out of the building.  DON’T MISS OUT!

Stay tuned for more SOON!  Take care, y’all.

 

Achievements Unlocked for THE MUTINEER’S DAUGHTER!

Woo-Hoo!  First of all, THANK YOU to all of you that hopped to and helped Chris Kennedy and I have such a GREAT book launch weekend, no Foolin’ (get it?  Because it was April Fool’s Day aaaaaand Easter . . . .  I’ll shut up now).

Eggcellent . . . .

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I won’t bore you with the whole play-by-play but, briefly, when The Mutineer’s Daughter launched on Amazon on Friday, it had an insurmountable, back-of-the-pack sales rank in the 600,000’s — which basically meant around 600,000 books were ACTIVELY selling better than it.  Pitiful, but it was pre-official launch.  After the early readers, early reviewers, my Facebook and Twitter friends, Chris’s minions from his mailing list, etc. got done pushing it, it rose to the lofty sales rank of 11,600.

Now, that may not sound really impressive to you . . . but it kinda is.  For a self/indie/small-press publication, opening weekend, with just word of mouth and a bit of intra-Amazon advertising, THAT’S AMAZING.  Yes.  11,000 books were selling better.  But that’s 11,000 out of ALL the books Amazon sells.  Which is a lot?  I’ll have to ask Chris what the actual sales were, but I’m pleased.

Along with garnering 19 4-and-5-star reviews, getting an aggregate of 4.7 – 4.8 stars, and reaching the lofty rank of 11,600 before falling into a more reasonable 16,000 range, I thought it couldn’t get any better.

Then I googled myself.

(don’t look at me that way . . . it’s not a sin . . . .)

And that’s when I saw that the great Nyrath (Winchell Chung of Atomic Rockets — the best dang science resource for space sci-fi authors and game designers on the internet) had not just given TMD a glowing review, he had also awarded our book the prestigious Atomic Rockets Seal of Approval!  Aaaaand the Radiator Award!

 

The first goes to books or games that are suitably “hard” with their science and space physics.  Things have inertia.  Acceleration takes time and velocity builds, which then has to be decelerated against.  Nothing is 100% efficient.  Energy and reaction mass has to come from somewhere and they impose limitations which then have to be accounted for.  There’s (for the most part) no stealth in space.  There’s no sound and distances are VAST.  You can’t zip around or bank your space fighters.  You, in fact, realize space fighters don’t really work that well, even if it means your inner X-Wing or Viper pilot dies a little inside.

That doesn’t mean you can’t cheat a little for the sake of telling an exciting story.  If you didn’t cheat a bit, every realistic space story would be slow and methodical and locked in our solar system using drones and probes.  You can have great stories like that, but too much reality can limit the imagination.  However, you don’t have to go full space fantasy like Doctor Who or Star Wars either — not that those aren’t fun in their own way.  Too often, though, they require the use of oo much secret handwavium or macguffinite to resolve the story in favor of the protagonists.  That’s like writing (and reading) on easy mode.  Deus ex machinas everywhere.  The Doctor’s sonic screwdriver and Star Trek’s transporter basically do WHATEVER the stories require, and after a while that just gets lame.

Writing/reading “hard” science fiction is a joyful challenge, sort of like solving a puzzle, or really getting into a game of chess.  Everyone knows how the pieces work.  The enemy can see your every move, and you can see every one of theirs, and you still have to pull out a victory or achieve tactical surprise!  There are no 11th-hour saves from out of nowhere.  Instead, whatever cheats you MUST use in order to keep your adventure moving briskly at the speed of plot have to have limitations.  They need to have well-defined rules and costs that prevent them from being some sort of deus ex machina, and — once established — YOU CAN’T BREAK THEM, even if they involve physics that don’t exist (yet) in our reality.  That’s how you can have faster-than-light travel (even if it breaks causality in our physics) or super-duper-efficient fusion drives, like in the suitably-hard The Expanse series and novels.

So, yeah.  The Mutineer’s Daughter does that, as A Sword Into Darkness did before it.

The second award is — in its words — For Excellence In Realizing Heat Needs To Go Places ‘N Shit . . . .

The ships in TMD have fragile, easily crippled radiators to expend all that pesky waste heat into the vacuum of space.  They are both a hassle and a constraint to be exploited.  Remember, on a fusion-powered ship, the worry isn’t that you’ll freeze in the cold vacuum of space if your systems fail.  The worry is that you’ll be roasted for years as your whole hull reaches thermal equilibrium with the reactor and you SLOWLY cool off via inefficient infrared emission.

Not enough people appreciate convection through the atmosphere.

So, THANK YOU, Atomic Rockets!

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And as if THAT wasn’t enough, Chris Kennedy sent out a shout this morning that the fun of the weekend WAS NOT OVER.  Because this morning, Amazon ranked TMD as the #1 New Release in Children’s Science Fiction Ebooks regarding Aliens, which jumped our numbers up all over again.  From 16,000 back to 11,000, then 10,000, 9000, 8000, 7000 . . . finally peaking at a sales rank of 6920!  Again, big number, but MUCH SMALLER than many.  That made us rank not only on the New Release list but also on the regular list.  At this point we are at #2 of all Children’s Sci-Fi Ebooks – Aliens, ABOVE in the list A Wrinkle In Time at #4.  That’s not to say we’re better than Madeline L’Engle’s classic, just that it’s nice to be in such company – especially as that book has a movie out now.

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Now, would I think of TMD as a Children’s Ebook?  Heck no!  It’s young-adult at most and is written to appeal to teens and adults alike.  Sailors are in there.  Sailors curse.  I’m just waiting for the first angry parent to dress me down because the antagonist in chapter One says “Fuck”.

But until then, I’m enjoying these lofty ranks, these 23 stellar 4 & 5-star reviews, and looking forward to where this might go.  Thank you all!

We Who Are About To Die Salute You (middle fingers only)

It’s a bittersweet thing, putting the finishing touches on a novel.

Sweet, in that you’ve achieved a significant, hard-won victory over your own procrastinations, distractions, and the inertia of life. Sweet, in that you can look back and remember fondly crafting the intricate puzzles of your plot, the subtle painting of your scenes, and the gentle creation of your characters, watching over them like a benevolent parent.

Bitter, in that you are rapidly running out of opportunities to ruin those little bastards’ lives and murder them in interesting ways.

Mine and Chris Kennedy’s new book (and first installment of a new potential series?) is getting wrapped up. I’m putting the finishing touches on the ultimate chapter / epilog / teaser (for installment numero dos). Then we go into heavy editing, beta-reading, cover design, layout, packaging, printing, & publishing, followed by marketing, pre-selling, early reviews, and eventual actual sales.

Very soon, The Mutineer’s Daughter will be out, and you’ll have the opportunity and privilege to gladly fork over your beer money. You can let it thrill you, surprise you, and intrigue you far better than your latest Hollywood factory offering (except maybe John Wick, that shit RULES).

All your fun lies in the future. All mine very nearly lies in the past. No more fictional death and dismemberment*. No more eye-popping destruction (literally) as you get sucked into space and roasted by your own exhaust plume. No more thermonuclear explosion-derived, radiation-pumped x-ray laser beam warhead driven immolation. No more being flayed by thousands of tungsten BB’s. No more falling to your deaths down alien mineshafts. No more getting stabbed through the heart with jagged hull metal. No more decapitation via relativistic railgun rounds. No more demises by excessive ragdolling.

(Note: THIS ALL HAPPENS IN THE BOOK.)

There’s also a ton of folks that get shot.

Some folks get shot from orbit.

Aaaaahhhhh. Fun stuff.

But, the important point here is that technically I’m still writing. And editing. And more than capable of doing a global search and replace to put your name in place of Hapless Casualty #3 … to “redshirt” you in other words, to make you forever immortalized as Dead Crewperson Number 7 in The Mutineer’s Daughter.

If you would like to suffer such a(n) (ig)noble fate, comment below, or tweet, or Facebook myself or Chris. I’ve already gotten a bunch of names, but I do kill a whole lotta folks in this, so don’t be shy.

Chris and I are happy to have our baby kill you. (Nope. No way that sentence sounds bad out of context….)

And, I’m interested: what’s the best/worst death you’ve ever encountered in fiction, movies, books, or otherwise?

See? I’ll go first. For me it’s a toss-up between the Nazi face-melting scene in Raiders and the snow-cutter scene in Larry Corriea’s Monster Hunter Alpha (so many undead sliced and diced….).

What’s yours?! Whether you’re in as a redshirt or not, I want to see your comments!

Have fun!

* (until the sequel)

Un-Amateur, Un-Professional

Hi there.

It’s been a while.  For those of you who don’t know me (or have — quite reasonably — forgotten about me), I’m Thomas A. Mays, intermittent sci-fi author.  Welcome!  For those that do know me, hello again, sorry for the significant delay.

When last I wrote, back during the innocent days of November 2016I would have called myself a semi-pro author (self-published category).  I had written a book over the course of a number of years, published it in 2014, was lucky enough to find an audience for it, and very much enjoyed the spoils of said publication.  This included short story sales to magazines, invitations to anthologies, getting featured as a guest at local cons, hobnobbing with other authors, and regular interaction with fans of my work — all with the understanding that I was working toward the next piece, whether that be a sequel or an entirely new, next big thing.

But that sense of myself included a fair bit of self-delusion.

I have to admit to myself and to you that I am no pro.  I’m more than an amateur.  Amateurs don’t get queries from fans and folks in the business.  Amateurs don’t have to declare their hobby on their taxes.  But, having met real pros, pros who have figured out the work-life-writing balance, I have to recognize that I am not amongst their ranks.

I am proud to call many of them friends.  I am not so arrogant as to call myself their equal.

It’s been going on 4 years since I published A Sword Into Darkness.  Its sequel, Lancers Into The Light, is half-finished.  It’s been half-finished for over a year.  I have the path to finish it, but I have not been able to sit down and actually put the words on the screen.  It is not writer’s block.  I more or less doubt that is a real thing.  But I have allowed almost everything and anything to get in its way, even though it is a story I love and a marked improvement over the original, with better writing, larger stakes, more fantastical science, and more epic battles throughout.

Now, if you look at how long it actually took me to write ASID from conception to completion, I’m not actually doing that poorly.  But that is the timeline of a hobbyist, not a pro writer.  I’ve written other things in that time, but I’m not writing like a pro, no matter how much I might have deluded myself in the heady days of 2015.  I’m not writing daily as much as I should.  I’m not making 1K or 2K or 5K words a day, consistently.  I’ve written a few shorts and made progress on one never-ending project or another, but I haven’t gotten that sequel out, nor have I met my commitments as I should have, much to the consternation of my partners and peers.

I could blame that on a number of things.  There’s been a lot in my life in 2016 and 2017 that I could throw up there to say, “This.  This is why I haven’t produced.”  There’s been divorce and new love, both of which require an investment of time.  There’s been my dedication to being a good father, despite physical distance and lack of time with my kids.  There’s been the day job, which deserves the lion’s share of my time.  That’s because it’s both what I took an oath to do, and it’s your tax dollars at work (no, not saying what it is, if you wanna know, google me).  (It’s also AWESOME.)

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But while those are all legitimate time-sucks, they are not reasons.  They are not why.  Every pro out there has very similar obstacles to their progress.  They still make the time.  They still have the dedication and the will and the ability.  That’s what makes them pros.  What is the reason?  I honestly don’t know.  I just know that despite many promises to myself, I often found myself distracted or prioritizing those other things over my writing.  Sometimes, after work, instead of spending an hour writing, I’d lose a day in social media, or drop a day watching the idiot tube, or focusing on those legitimate distractions.  The will and the consistency were not there.

This is not an insurmountable issue, however.  The first step is recognizing the problem, and then having the support and the forcing mechanisms to grow those skills, to develop those habits.  And I’m happy to say that my consistency is improving, through both self-will and a VERY understanding and adorably slave-driving girlfriend.

So, why tell you this now?  Well, one, I feel fans of my work are owed.  And, two, I have something to show you at last.  Along with Lancers, I had another project I’ve been working on.  Actually, there are multiple projects (a lack of imagination has never been my issue), but this is a fascinating one.  How it came about is fodder for a future blog post but, in short, I will have a book coming out this year.  It’s not what I’m working toward.  It’s what I’ve done, along with the great, the prolific, and the very much every bit a professional Chris Kennedy.  He’s the author of (among many things) The Theogony trilogy, Codus Regius, and the co-creator of The Four Horsemen Universe with Mark Wandrey.

This is a full book, in editing now, co-written by Chris and me, from an outline by me.  The working title (it may possibly change), is The Mutineer’s Daughter.  It’s about a dedicated warrant officer in a post-diaspora (x2) space navy, serving to make a better life for his distant young daughter.  He’s then forced to do the unthinkable to save her from rapacious Terran troops.  The book alternates between two perspectives:  the warrant officer’s on a space-faring destroyer; and his daughter, forced to grow up and deal with the occupation of her homeworld.  The story kicks ass, and it has ABSOLUTE series potential.  It’s been in progress since around October 2016 and — if I was a pro — it would have been finished last February.  Took me a year longer than planned, but here it is, and the fact of its existence invigorates me and makes me want to finish more, including Lancers.

So, I’ve come to terms.  I’m not really a pro, not yet.  But I want to be, and after a very tumultuous time in my life, I’m working to become one like my friends and mentors.  I look forward to one day calling them peers without being a fraud.

And how do I prove my intentions to you?  I just have to keep producing.  Watch this space!