Adventures in silliness

If you have been paying attention, you know I own 6 acres of mostly trees, out in the wilderness of western Washington. About an acres and a half, maybe two, has been cleared enough for a house, a barn, a pumphouse, and the new Knotted Road Press corporate offices bungalow that Fabulous Publisher Babe™ is working on in the front yard. Today, she is staining and sealing hardwood flooring, two inch strips of old maple, that will be the walls upstairs in the loft.

In a few minutes, I’m going to go out and walk the near tree line, looking for the right spot to dig (and kill a ton of ants, but they had it coming). This morning, as we headed into town to run errands, I packed the gardening shears and a plastic bag. On the road is a long stretch of what we call feral roses. The wild kind with a single ring of petals and a lot of scent, as opposed to the poor cousins that people breed. The ones that are pretty, scentless, and die in any sort of weather. I wanted hearty stuff.

Stopped in a nearby park and hiked along the trail. The darker red the rose hips are, the better. The bigger, as well. Cut probably twenty or so, looking at the bag sitting next to my computer. White, Pink, and Fuchsia. Going to go plant those with good morning sun, afternoon shade, reasonable water, and let them take over. My money is on them rather than the blackberry.

And it will delight my wife to have the smell and color of roses out her window. Plus, I figure the deer have enough to eat, so they won’t necessarily concentrate on the roses. Maybe. They are kinda tame.

Got home last night from a wonderful evening at a friend’s house and parked at the top of the long driveway. Fabulous Publisher Babe has seen an owl the other night, so we wanted to look. It was just dark enough, but saw no bird.

Did realize that I was standing in the middle of my driveway with the little girl deer on my left, about thirty feet away in the septic drain field, and her brother on the right, in the back yard, about thirty feet away that way. Those two are yearlings. They have a little brother that was hanging out with big brother, contentedly munching as I waved and said hello.

Terribly frightened of me, I could tell. I went indoors and they meandered off to chew on blackberry bramble.

I’m editing today. Just finished wrapping up my second to last pass on the two Science Officer books, The Hammerfield Gambit and The Hammerfield Payoff before sending them off to first readers. #7 and #8. Those of you keeping score at home will have hopefully gotten a chance to pull down your copy of #5, The Doomsday Vault.

My apologies in advance if you haven’t read it, but I did warn you. #5: The Doomsday Vault, ends on kind of a cliffhanger. So does #6: The Last Flagship. And #7: The Hammerfield Gambit. Only #8: The Hammerfield Payoff ends properly, wrapping up Season One and setting the plate for what I will do with the gang when I get back to it.

Hopefully you find them as entertaining to read as I do to write. Next month (September), a whole bunch of superhero stories are coming out. Then The Last Flagship in October. Because I like you, both Hammerfield books come out together in December, or you can wait for Omnibus #2, containing 5-8, in January.

Today is relaxed. This pleases me, because the summer has been kinda nuts and I needed a little down time. And to commit some guerilla gardening. Fall is coming, and I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully you are as well. Remember to take care of yourself and your friends.

b

Postscript: and a woodpecker, banging happily away in a tree just down from the where to roses will go, beyond the new tea trees. Life is good.

The Doomsday Vault

So I haven’t really mentioned it all that much this summer, mostly because things have been completely crazy between that nasty summer cold, an already-aggressive publishing schedule, and being invited to participate in more bundles than I ever expected. However, today (already for a few of you who read clear to the bottom of newsletters and such), the fifth Science Officer book comes out.

The Doomsday Vault is now available and pre-orders should have been delivered to your machines.

It seemed like a legitimate heist when someone hired Storm Gauntlet and her crew to go hijack some cargo. Pirate ships did that sort of thing.

However, whoever hired them didn’t count on the Science Officer’s sneakiness. Paranoia. Whatever.

The situation didn’t make sense. No one would deliver cargo to a dead planet. It had to be a trap. Someone had set them up.

But who? And why?

The Doomsday Vault follows the adventures of Javier Aritza, Suvi, and the rest of the crew of Storm Gauntlet in a story with unexpected twists, as well as surprising consequences.

This is also the beginning of a four volume arc that I call the “War of the Pirate Clans,” which will be the end of Season One.

I write these books like episodes of a British television show. (BBC, if you are listening, feel free to contact me about developing these characters for real. I have copious notes about Season Two already worked up. I just won’t get to them until Jessica is done.)

Interestingly, I have also set this story up as part of a much larger arc that I will write someday, involving Doyle Iwakuma, and thus, tying Alexandria Station more firmly into one grand whole.

I had a lot of fun with this story, and this arc. Unlike some authors I have read, I believe that all well-developed characters will evolve and grow over the course of a long series of books. That includes the villains as well as the heroes.

One of the key conflicts in the Javier Aritza books is with Djamila Sykora. The Dragoon is a hard woman, a warrior-monk in a male-dominated culture who will not take a gram of shit from people. I got to explore that here. I won’t spoil the rest of the series, but things will take several unexpected turns with that woman.

I also got to fill in more history of the universe. Javier’s time is rich with current events, but it is also the earliest set of stories that I have written in the Alexandria Station universe, so far. But The Doomsday Vault also takes place in the year 7550CE. Or, a little over five and a half millennia from now.  Five and a half millennia ago, Uruk was still a thing, in Sumeria, and the Egyptians were just starting down the road that would eventually lead to the pyramids.

And mind you, I have a spreadsheet entitled “The Future” where the first three line items are the birth of Yuri Gagarin, Chicago Pile 1, and Vostok 1, so you can imagine the sorts of notes I have about our future in that world. And I promise to get there, eventually.

But that takes time. Get Season One in your hands. Finish off Jessica’s story. Write other things. Circle back to Season Two and the long eras of the times until Javier is born in 7510CE.

I think you will enjoy this story. My readers to date have. And it sets up the sixth book, The Last Flagship, which I just sent to Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) this week. It comes out in October.

At the same time, I am just about ready to send volumes 7 & 8 to the first readers shortly.

The Hammerfield Gambit

The Hammerfield Payoff

Those are most likely going to both come out together in December, because I intentionally did a cliff-hanger in 7. (Don’t all tv shows cliff-hangers season enders?)

I look forward to your thoughts and comments. Characters will evolve. Worlds will be upended. Things will go a direction you never saw coming. But it will be fun.

shade and sweet water

bd

West of the Mountains, WA

Why This Story? (Time and Effort versus Money)

One of the interesting questions that a writer must ask themselves when they sit down to a blank screen is “Why This Story?” You can tell any story. All stories. But you have committed to this story.

Why?

But first, a note from our sponsors, with this short-term offer that’s going away in only a few days.

 

First: The Bundle Bundle Bundle with our selected Charity being AbleGamers. You’ve heard me talk about if for a few weeks. The bundle ends in three days and then you are back to spending way more money for the entertainment.

Second: the big Science Fiction giveaway. Your chance to win an ereader filled with books. Your chance to win just the books. For us, a chance for readers interested in space opera novels to find you.  And you to find us. I won’t spam you, except to say thanks and add you to the quarterly newsletter in hopes you stay with me for the long term. I have a lot of books to write.

 

Getting back to your effort.

Why are you telling this story?

And this is a question that the reader is going to ask you. Why did you decide to write this story and not one of the other ones you have been threatening them with for the last however long. What makes this story compelling? For the character, what was it about these events that made this the most important thing you could tell?

I tend to write serial. I grew up on comic books, so it was always natural to me to tell small chunks of a longer narrative as “chapters” in an epic, as it were. Other writers will want to tell you the entire massive epic trilogy in one long go, but you run the risk of bogging down (at least I do). You need to tell all those little bits that slowly move the story from where you are to where you need it to be to confront the boss monster.

One of the complaints many readers level at Tolkien is the amount of walking that goes on. I can’t really read JRR these days, because I find the story itself such a slog, with slow pacing mixed in with utterly irrelevant asides that wander off for several pages and never advance the story one bit.  LOTR is an effort to read, and I’m not willing to commit the interminable time necessary.

That’s me as the reader. So I have to face that as me the writer. How do I balance moving a longer arc forward with filling in all those little world-building details that make your place so rich with depth and voice?

As readers, we are misers. Nobody is going to necessarily commit to wade through a thousand pages of walking to get to the good bits. Not in this day and age.

Long ago, when Tolkien was publishing, there were far fewer options for the time of entertainment. In the US, three networks of television, plus radio ongoing. Movies. Live stage performance and vaudeville. Plus the few other books in any given genre.

Of those, books were the only one that gave the person consuming control. All the rest (in those humble days) could not be time-shifted to when it was convenient for the reader.

Now, they can binge on their favorite television show. All of the movies ever made are available somewhere on demand, either across the interwebs or in your personal video collection (for those of you old enough to have a stack of dvds on a shelf somewhere, because you haven’t backed them all up to digital files yet). Radio for teledrama is no longer really a thing, and people have hundreds of hours of audio files available.

The competition is fierce for the little time the reader is willing to commit, because the options have exploded in the last decade.

You need to keep up. Your story has to be compelling. It has to suck them right down to the bottom of the lake with the first paragraph and never ever let them surface until they finish. If they want mystery, they need to stay up all night trying to get to the end of the book. If they want space opera epics, you need to be destroying planets every other page to keep them interested.

Etc.

So why do you choose this story? What is it about the character, the setting, the world, and the problem that will make them decide to spend an evening with you instead of someone else?

Similarly, you can’t slog. I know you want to show all that world-building you have done, but you can’t go too far afield or you’ll lose them. The solution there is what they call micro-setting.  A single sentence, sometimes just a phrase, that communicates something to the reader’s subconscious mind. They probably won’t even notice, unless they are paying close attention, but it will be there.

I’ll give you a close example. The first two stories in “Agent Kiesler’s Secret War.”

#1: The Rescue. We start off by introducing the two main characters, Eva and Nik, and do it in such a way that you immediately understand the setting. Eva’s shooting a Nazi in the middle of a firefight, while rescuing Nik and hoping she doesn’t have to kill him to keep the Nazis from recapturing the man. That story never really lets go, even as we slow down a bit to frame the backstory, before the big car chase at the end.

Then a gap. Time unknown to the reader, because that was the paperwork part of being a secret agent.

#2: The Machine. Nik comes to the fore to help disable and destroy some mad science Nazi inventions that threaten to win the war. Mad Science!! Nazis!! Firefights!! Plus we meet the rest of the team and watch them work.

#3: Rocketman (unpublished). British Intelligence intercepts a message that an American scientist is at risk. Race into the night and darkness to get halfway across the country to stop them.

Again, time passed in between each story. Simple things, like eating, sleeping, and doing paperwork. Even in a war, you generally have two months or more of utter boredom, followed by five minutes of complete panic and risk, and then back to boredom.

Pay attention to your next novel you read. How does the author get you over those bits where nothing really happened? Was there a single sentence of paragraph that spanned long journeys with some hand-waving, or do we walk to Mordor, experiencing every day and rain drop? (That’s what it always feels like to me, at least.)

More importantly, do you, as the reader in control of everything, prefer that? Or would you like short stories bound up together as an arc?

Those of you old enough might remember the twelve volume series of Conan the Barbarian, published in the late seventies and early eighties. Robert Howard wrote a bunch of short stories, not novels. Later editors stacked them up in chronological timeframe order, rather than written order, and wrote what we call interstitials to describe, in a paragraph, the months of travel that saw our illustrious barbarian jump from here to there, possibly mentioning things that Howard discussed, but never wrote (at least that anyone ever found).

Howard stuck with the important bits, because he was writing short fiction for the pulps and making some miserable amount of money, but not enough. Had he lived longer, he might have written long things, because only “novelists” were respected in those days.

Today, the novel is frequently losing out, because readers on the bus commuting have less time to dedicate to some magnum opus. They will consume the shorter work, assuming it is well written, because that is a quick investment of time and attention, when money is really no longer the deciding element. (I have a friend whose coffee order is frequently more expensive than my novels in e-book format.)

Who is your reader? How do you find them? But, more importantly, how do you keep them entertained enough to keep them coming back for more? YMMV, seriously. For me, short and punchy is frequently, but not always, the answer. But even my novels never tend to lag. And if they do, it is because I have to get the story set up in a believable manner for most of my readers, and not just the ones that want one starship battle after another. (Occasional complaints about fashion porn notwithstanding. Heh.)

You can’t slog, either in the telling, or in the choosing.

Why this story? I think it tells the story I need to tell, as part of a longer arc, in the most compelling and entertaining way possible. I want you to come back for more, and bring all your friends with you.

Simple as that.

So what’s your excuse?

 

shade and sweet water

bd

West of the Mountains, WA

A Whole New Thing (The Post-Apocalyptic Cozy)

So it started at the Bellevue Writers Lunch (which is no longer held in Bellevue, but work with me here). There is a meme going around the interwebs that we can sum up in our verbal shorthand as “bi-sexual death commandos of the apocalypse.” (I’ll explain in a later post, or you can search social media for the term and giggle).

How this came about: We’re discussing oddball mashups of genre that go well beyond simple slipstream and wander down into really strange. There are already a bunch of them: Paranormal romance; Sci-fi/Westerns; “whatever the hell urban fantasy has turned into in the last 10-15 years”; etc.

What else can we come up with? (For example: I’m writing post-apocalyptic, dystopian, cowboy stories.)

One of the lunatics at the table, Sabrina Chase, threw out some very cool and utterly bizarre ideas, most of which probably won’t work.

And then, inspiration bit her.

Her suggestion was the “Post-apocalyptic cozy mystery.” For those of you not in the know, cozy mysteries are the ones with no violence, no sex, no adult language, etc. As G-rated as you can get, while solving a crime. Many crime-solving grandmothers fall into this category, and it is huge with readers. Light, airy, intellectual, and usually fun reads.

Pair that with post-apocalyptic, which USUALLY suggests very gritty, dark, frequently violent and messy. Think Road Warrior et al, for a good vision of the sorts of things the genre originally grew up out of.

There were other ideas. Many silly. Many strange. Possibly even a few that are doable. It was a fun lunch.

The next month, she announced that not only does it work, but that her sister Juliet is working on writing one, as we speak. Yes, post-apocalyptic cozy mystery.

Last night, we got the word. The book is live and ready for you to order. I haven’t read yet, because I barely have enough time as is, but at $0.99US, you should absolutely go buy a copy, just so you can say that you were there at the very beginning. I have.

Toxic to Touch: A Post-Apocalyptic Cozy Mystery

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you that you have entered the future.

There are no more rules. There is no publisher sitting in his corner office, dictating what your career is going to look like, or where to find your books.

Mental exercise, just to prove that you are on rails with books: Walk into your favorite bookstore, even just in your mind. What section do you walk to immediately? What (if any) other sections of the bookstore do you stop to look in? Ever?

What happens to you if some exotic new book gets filed on the “wrong” shelf because there is no shelf for it? Do you find paranormal romance in the Romance section or the fantasy? Do you miss the Sci-Fi/Western because they put it with the cowboy books?

Juliet could write something totally out of left field, because she can file it under both Amateur Sleuths/Cozy, AND Post-Apocalyptic. Any reader wandering along has the chance to see it from either direction they come, simply because they can look on both shelves, and not just one.

THAT is the promise of the modern revolution in publishing. You can find strange books, just by starting out in your normal places, and then letting your attention wander.

You might even find something cool you never imagined you would need to buy and read, ya know?

 

shade and sweet water

bd

West of the Mountains, WA

 

Stick Figures In White Rooms

Stick Figures In White Rooms.

Such a charming image, no? I recently picked up a book that had been one of my favorites when I was a kid in the very long ago. Reread it for ideas, inspiration, and some general research, but one thing struck me as amazingly interesting.

At no point, could I tell you what any of the main characters look like. Height, weight, build, hair color, mannerisms. Nothing at all. The author had simply blasted past all that.

The scenery was the same way. Compelling dialogue, but at no point could I tell you what the walls were made of, or what color, or how the character felt, traversing them.

What we had were stick figures in white rooms, having conversations, fights, etc.

The thing this story lacked is called “Setting.” The seven point plot structure attributed to Dent is that you start with a character, in a setting, who has a problem.

Character is easy enough. So is problem.

What is setting?

It’s the descriptive part of your narrative. What do your characters look like? What does the room look like? What color are the walls?

But more importantly, it is how the character feels about what they see. One of my favorite exercises in setting goes like this: Describe the exact same room from three points of view. Someone who likes what they see; someone who hates what they see; and someone who doesn’t really care.

Done right, that evokes an emotional response. The child walking through the forest having a grand adventure by pretending to be in the Hundred-Acres-Wood is radically different from the teen fleeing a monster in a horror story, and yet they are the same trees. Walking into a magic store to buy new ribbons is going to feel different from buying materials to summon a demon, even if you are the same wizard and she is the same shopkeeper.

Setting, I am reliably informed, is one of those things that separates the new writer (or the not-that-good-writer) from the competent writer, which is what I aspire to be every time I put words on paper. (There are also those people like Stephen King who mind control you with their words, which is why they are so successful. I’m not that good, but I’m working on it.)

For me, one of the ways I convey setting is with fashion. I tend to write a lot of military science fiction. One of the keys to that genre is that everyone is wearing uniforms. Those uniforms will vary, and in the variance you have value: rank, assignment, MOS, etc. And the other side will also be uniformed.

Additionally, I have been teaching myself to sew (middle-aged, middle-class, white male, dork, never learned to operate sewing machines when I was a kid, just how to fix buttons and such with needle and thread) so I have an appreciation for fabric: how it flows, how it shimmers, how it feels on your skin, what message you are trying to convey to the people around you.

Clothing is all about attitude. What a goth girl wears her first day of high school is going to send a very different message than the band geek.

Mental game: What are you wearing, right this second? And why did you choose that particular outfit when you got dresses? And, most importantly, what does THAT say about you as a person?

Me: old tan shorts, basic purple t-shirt. It is not a day I have to face anyone, and am not really planning to leave the house except for the occasional walk around the block.

For work: Nice jeans and a golf shirt. Black tennis shoes. Cleaned up around the beard. That’s me going into an office with a bunch of other nerds to commit software, but not to have to deal with customers or clients.

I’m conveying quiet competence without committing to stupidly-uncomfortable fashion shows for nobody but me. That includes days I wear a kilt (summer and warm, for the most part).

I always chuckle at the assumptions that people bring to my books. Readers will rave about the the action sequences, but bitch about “pages and pages of clothing. Where is the action?” because they read science fiction for explosions.

Based on my sales, those few dozen people represent a significant minority, if however vocal, of my overall readership. They don’t mind stick figures in white rooms, because that’s all they ever read, until they run into Jessica and Moirrey. And boy, does that get sideways in a hurry.

I work really hard not to write women as bimbos, unlike some of the old guard, sexist, dinosaur writers  in the process of finally dying off. Where I work, three of the four immediate bosses in the section are female, and we are a software development organization in Seattle. (We might be the only one so female-heavy in the city, but that’s one of the reasons I like working there. I get to see strong-willed, competent women on a daily basis. I haven’t used any of them as characters yet, but that’s because this generation is barely a year with the company at most, and they are just getting settled. Three years ago, four of the top eight execs with the company were female.)

The purpose of that aside is to remind you that there are a LOT of female fans of science fiction these days. They run down a whole different path than many of the male readers. They won’t settle for just getting straight to the explosions and space battles. They actually might want to know who the characters are, what motivates them, where do they want to go?

Shocking, I know. Girls reading science fiction? Yesterday, at the month writers lunch, towards the end, we got onto the topic of how girls can’t write science fiction. Mind you, this was according to the distilled wisdom of a bunch of jackknob assholes, that same generation of writers and publishers who are also happily dying off as we speak.

I was the only male at the table at that point, the other one having departed for the long drive home. So me, Fabulous Publisher Babe (TM), and four other women, three of whom write science fiction. I’m pretty sure Judith Tarr sat bolt upright, down on her ranch in the Southwest, and said “Hey, fuck you,” to the air in her barn, possibly frightening a horse, for no apparent reason she could name. (There have been a lot of people who told her that she WASN’T ALLOWED to write SF over the decades. Happily, she stopped listening.)

So there is an element of rampant sexism in Science Fiction. I won’t overcome it by myself, but I also won’t stand for it. You can ask my friends about getting thumped for saying something out of line.

Modern readers, including a large contingent of females who have graduated from just reading fantasy (because that tends to have way more setting built in, when done right), they demand better writing.

Setting. Opinion. Texture. Color. Place. Hair color. Eye color. Build. Stance. Sneer.

You who are readers are nodding your heads right now, perhaps suddenly realizing why some book you read left you so cold, when it was supposed to be the greatest thing, including sliced bread.

Can any of you tell me how tall that main character was?

So if I hammer on those things repeatedly, there is a reason. Jessica is 5’3. Javier is 5’10. Vo is 6’5. Two of them are confronting hair going gray as they settle into their forties and become middle-aged adults.

Little things. Details. Color.

We call it setting.

Are your favorite authors giving you enough of it?

The Mega-bundle (the bundle bundle bundle)

We’ll get you through the summer with this one. Yes, even you.

Most times, a bundle represents about a dozen books. Maybe novels. Maybe shorter stuff. But you get stuff to read at a really good price.

They went a little crazy with this one: https://storybundle.com/bundle

If my math is correct (I was told there would be no maths), you are looking at ten titles rather than books, representing something like 19 novels and over 100 short stories, once you open them all up.

Let’s round that up to an imperial shit-ton of stuff. Enough to keep you happy, lounging by the pool (or, better yet, inside where the air conditioning is on, while the other silly folks are out sweating).

And we’re talking serious writers here: Kristine Katheryn Rusch, Mindy KlaskyThomas K. Carpenter, Anthea Sharp, and Dean Wesley Smith. Plus other nifty things like the Uncollected Anthology and Fiction River has one in there as well.

Why are you still here? Get our your credit card and go nuts. I’ll wait.

Back? Good.

A note on my contribution. I’ve only mentioned it briefly up until now, but not splashed it everywhere yet, because I knew that this project was coming.

I love Javier Aritza and all his crazy friends: Suvi, Djamila Sykora, Zakhar Sokolov, Afia Burakgazi, Del Smith, etc. As we approach the second half of 2017, I am going to publish four more Science Officer volumes (5-8, with The Doomsday Vault already available for pre-order). Coming soon are The Last Flagship, The Hammerfield Gambit, and The Hammerfield Payoff.

To celebrate, and make it easier for some folks to get sucked into the excitement, you can now get the first four Science Officer books (The Science Officer, The Mind Field, The Gilded Cage, and The Pleasure Dome) as a single title: The Science Officer Omnibus One. (There will be a #2 eventually, but don’t wait.)

For not much more than the price of the single Omnibus, you can add enough reading material to the TBR to get even you to Labor Day. And some of you to Christmas. Maybe.

This won’t be the last time you hear me mention this bundle, but you only have a limited time to strike, because these things only last a very short time and then they are gone forever.

BONUS:

The charity that you will be benefiting with your purchase of the mega-bundle is AbleGamers.

Description: AbleGamers is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that enables people with disabilities to enjoy the amazing world of video games. In America alone, over 33 million gamers with disabilities need specialized, custom controllers and assistive technology in order to enter the same virtual worlds as everyone else. Since 2006 AbleGamers has enabled thousands of individuals with disabilities to have a greater quality of life by providing these expensive pieces of assistive technology to children, adults and veterans with disabilities who need help overcoming the social isolation being disabled can bring. AbleGamers has helped tens of thousands of people with disabilities through one-on-one consultation and building a customized solution for each individual, tailored to their specific needs.

So you know what? You’re also making the world a better place for a lot of people.

Get yours today.

Summer News (I hate colds)

The last three weeks are a vague blur, mostly because I caught that damned zombie cold that was making its rounds in Seattle, with a tremendously bad batch of allergies on top. Blogging has fallen by the wayside, which is bad, because I try to put something up three weeks in four, mostly to give myself somebody to talk to.

Plus, I lose track of time, when we talk publishing.

From the point when I finish writing something, time passes. It goes to one or more first readers for review, usually at least Fabulous Publisher Babe™ and stays there a while. Then I fix all the mistakes she caught. After that, the big pieces go on to a proper copyedit by a fantastic expert.

Couple months have passed by the time I get it back from her, and then incorporate all the things she caught. From there, we produce a final edition that goes into the publishing schedule.

Those of you who have been paying attention at home should have added a reminder on your calendar that I will have something come out on the 10th of every month (not counting me screwing up her schedule). You can also go to my Amazon author page, sign in as you, and CLICK ON THE “follow me” button, middle left side, under my picture. When you do that, Amazon will send you helpful reminder emails when I put something up for pre-order, as well as when things go live. Usually on Saturdays.

You’ll get one shortly. Hint hint.

So it is the beginning of July.

I wrote the fourth Science Officer, The Pleasure Dome, in January, and she published it in May. The fifth Jessica Keller novel, Flight of the Blackbird, I actually wrote last fall, but the novels have a LOT of lead time built in. Fabulous Publisher Babe just put the fifth Science Officer book, The Doomsday Vault, up for preorder in all the usual places. It comes out in August.

The sixth Science Officer, The Last Flagship, is due back from the copy editor shortly, and is scheduled to come out in October. The seventh Science Officer, The Hammerfield Gamble, is in the can right now. I’m very close to finishing the eighth Science Officer, The Hammerfield Payoff, as we speak.

Those last two will most likely come out together, probably in the December timeslot. I write these things like television episodes, and that one is the cliff-hanging, season-ending, double-header. 5-8 are also a mini-series called The War of the Pirate Clans.

Meanwhile, the first four (The Science Officer, The Mind Field, The Gilded Cage, and The Pleasure Dome) are set to come out together as an omnibus edition soonish.  Available in both print and ebook. That will be a good thing for you to buy for those friends you want to hook on the stuff. The next four will be Omnibus 2: War of the Pirate Clans.

And I haven’t even talked about audio books, yet. Matt Weight just finished the audio for The Pleasure Dome and it should be going up soon. And I think he just started on The Doomsday Vault this week. I’m hoping there exists some extra neat way we can take his first four audio books and also to do an omnibus audible edition. The Science Officer audio books don’t sell that well, but that’s due to length. People don’t want to burn free credits they get for signing up for Audible, on something short.  If there is a novel-length omnibus, they might bite, and the first four combined come in at around 110,000 words.

You can see why I need a score card.

Do you want a scorecard?  I could put together a page on my website that is configured to print easily, with titles, series, pub dates, and a check box for you to mark what you haven’t read yet.

Someone remind me to do that.

So then, Jessica.

I have a tremendous amount of notes about the sixth Jessica Keller novel, The Red Admiral. That’s the next major project, minor ones tucked in along the way. I won’t spoil Flight of the Blackbird by giving anything away, but The Red Admiral will be the first book of an interior trilogy (six, seven, eight) that picks up right at the end of Blackbird, and will set the stage for the ninth and last book.

I love Jessica, but I want to finish her story so I can go on and do other things. Some of them will occur in the Alexandria Station universe, but I also have some wonderfully fun other things I want to write. There is an epic space opera series I plan to go after next, on a scale that makes Alexandria Station look tiny and provincial by comparison.

I might have to write the first three novels back to back to back so I can drop them all at once. People tell me that some readers won’t touch a series until it is done. You can thank GRR Martin and a few others for that.

Moving on.

The first two short stories in Agent Kiesler’s Secret War (The Rescue and The Machine) are coming in July. Number three is just back from first reader and I need to fix it.

There will also be The Rangers: Tales From A Post-Apocalyptic America. It will come out in the fall and have the first five Dale Embry short stories (#1 being The Last Ranger in Alternative Truths Vol 1). I have already planned the next cowboy novel that comes after that in that world.

(If you people make me rich and famous writing cowboy stories, I might never forgive you. Just want you to know that’s on your conscience. Not saying I wouldn’t do it. Got a page of story ideas and themes to hit one of these day. But still.)

I’m also publishing a number of superhero pieces this year to go with White Crane. The Breakfast Dragon came out in “Steam. And Dragons.Kid Lexington came out in Hiding Behind The Cowl. Have several others written and being edited. A sequel of sorts to Kid Lexington (set twenty years later) will be coming out in November as part of a bundlerabbit bundle comprised (I think) of around a dozen, all-new pieces, purpose-written for the bundle.

Busy, busy, busy.

And I’m finally mostly over that damned cold, even if I’ve been popping mentholated cough drops like candy to break up all the crap in my lungs.

So stay tuned. There will be more updates coming, once I dig out from under the mess. And you’ll have lots more things to read.

 

shade and sweet water

bd

West of the Mountains, WA

Discoverability

(or: how you can help)

You’re consuming this right now on one of my social media outlets (website, Amazon, FB, Goodreads, etc.), so I’ll generally be safe assuming you know me, or got here through a connection who does.

Discoverability is the problem for the modern indie writer. In the old days, you submitted your story to a publisher, eventually finding one who said yes. After that, they took care of everything: editing, printing, marketing, etc. Your book ended up in book stores, or at the pharmacy, or the grocery, or on the rack at the airport. People walking by looking for something would pick it up, toss a coin in their head, and buy it.

Bang, they have discovered you as an author. If they like you, they look for more of your books. They tell their family and bridge club about you. Others find you. They buy your books.

Career.

Doesn’t happen like that any more. At least not for indies like me.

I own it all (well, Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) does, and pats me on the head encouragingly on occasion when I say or do something really stupid, but you get the point).

No advertising budget to pay for space on the shelf at B&N. (What? You thought the book store chain selected what to prominently display? No, they rent that space. End caps, islands, etc. $)

Where does that leave us today? This is where you come in.

I’m in a bundle.

Story Bundle wraps up a set of books and makes them available for one low price for a very limited period. (3 weeks, buy it or regret forever.)

To bundle is an exercise in collective advertising. I put a novel into the Moonscapes Bundle along with a group of other folks. I tell all my friends, fans, and followers. They buy it.

In the process of reading, hopefully they find another writer or three they like (us all being on the same general topic: big science fiction in this instance).

So, our sales have been great. Not earth-shattering, but pretty damned good. Time for the next push.

What you can do for me today is send a link to this article to all your reader friends who might be into getting a bunch of SF novels for a low price. And these are some amazing people I got lucky enough to be included with.

Or you share this on your social media page so all your friends who don’t know me from Adam look at it and wonder what this is all about.

This is a Story Bundle called Moonscapes.  And the beginning of the Jessica Keller Chronicles, so they’ll need Queen of the Pirates next.

You can help all of us by doing one tiny thing to advertise. Help me get the word out to more people.

thank you

And now, more Jessica

Yay!

Flight of the Blackbird is now available everywhere. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s the fifth novel in the series (currently planned to be nine when she’s done with me.)

For the next week or so, this is also an opportunity to get your friends hooked on the whole series. Over at Storybundle, Auberon (book one) is part of the Moonscapes bundle.  It’s a good way to share the joy, so tell all your friends for me (I’m tired of the day job and want to just write full time, ya know…)

So, here’s where we’re at:

Jessica Keller (to date)

Sometime later this year, I will start writing book 6 (The Red Admiral), once I  get done with all the Science Officer books (#4: The Pleasure Dome just came out, #5 The Doomsday Vault is coming in July, followed by #6 The Last Flagship in the fall and I’m working on #7 as we speak).

Hope the summer is treating you all well.

Remember to mark your calendars: I plan to put out something new on the 10th of every month going forward and running for several years after I’m dead. (Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) is required to outlive me, and I don’t plan to make that easy, by the way.)

In July (next!!!) are the first two short stories in “Agent Kiesler’s Secret War” and I’ll provide more detail in a little bit.

Not much more to say, other than make sure you are up to date on my books and that you go browbeat all your friends into buying them as well. (And for Amazon readers, there are Special Editions available in print for $9.99, if you needed to buy presents for people. And bring them to Orycon this fall and I’ll sign and personalize them for you.)

much mushiness

blaze

Moonscapes and AbleGamers

Hey, gang.

I’m in a Storybundle that started late last night (had to keep it a secret up until now for all the obvious reasons).

From Dean: “The Moonscapes Bundle, curated by Dean Wesley Smith, was born out of Fiction River: Moonscapes, a volume of his bi-monthly anthology series. He says: “When editing the volume, I got lucky to find eleven great hard-sf stories from eleven top science fiction writers. Over seventy thousand words of fiction. I was and still am very proud of the volume.

“But as the years went on, I wanted to keep the idea of Moonscapes going. Then the chance to do this science fiction bundle came up and working it around Fiction River: Moonscapes just seemed to be a logical idea. Six of the authors in Fiction River: Moonscapes had hard science fiction novels that would fit in this bundle. And three other great sf writers, including Kevin J. Anderson, joined the fun. So nine hard science fiction novels plus the volume of Fiction River: Moonscapes.”

What is a Storybundle?

Ten (10!) sci-fi novels (well 9 and an anthology, but you get the picture) for a single, low price, running for the next three weeks. And then gone forever. Pay what you think is correct ($20 is suggested). and if you pay more than $15, you get all ten. You also get the option to donate a portion of the total price to a charity group Dean picked out, in this case http://www.ablegamers.org/

From their website: We give people with disabilities custom gaming setups including modified controllers and special assistive technology, like devices that let you play with your eyes, so they can have fun with their friends and family. We’re using the power of video games to bring people together, improving quality of life with recreation and rehabilitation.

This is a really special charity, and we get to help them. And I get to be part of a bundle with some amazingly good writers (Dean, Kris, Matt, Kevin J, Ron, Annie, Maggie, and Lisa) and your very own copy of Fiction River: Moonscapes with a bunch more great folks.

My novel is Auberon, book one of the Jessica Keller Chronicles. Originally, we discussed putting in Queen of the Pirates, since so much of the action there takes place on a moon, but wanted to get new folks the opportunity to start fresh, since Jessica is one of my favorite characters.

And here’s the great news: we are less than two weeks from the fifth Jessica book going live.

Flight of the Blackbird drops on June 10th.

What does all this mean?

Memorial Day just passed here in the United States. Traditionally, that is the beginning of summer. Vacation. School break. Camping. Whatever. For one low price you can get a whole bunch of reading material to take with you on your next trip, for those long drives or flights, or for quiet time camped along the side of the river with no internet access for miles.

Wouldn’t some SF be better?

And because this is Storybundle, you can also buy the bundle as a gift for someone as well (Or buy twice and keep one for yourself). Get them hooked on Jessica and the rest of the novels and series available here.

And help a good cause, too.

Thanks for your support and your help. We’re making the world a better place.