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Catching up on publishing tasks

Spent this afternoon getting caught up on publishing tasks.

I started by updating my books page. Several stories needed to be added. It filled out pretty nicely.

Here’s what it looks like now—everything I’ve published so far in one place! Pretty amazing to see how I’ve accomplished in a few years by focusing on one project at at time.

I also updated the book pages for each of my novels. They’re using a better layout now. Check them out here and let me know what you think…

Next, I recently pulled a few of my stories out of Kindle Unlimited (Amazon only), so I got to publish The End of the World, Magick Mirror, and The Door Below on the rest of the ebook retailers—Nook, Kobo, iBooks, and a few other smaller retailers that I can reach using Draft2Digital (an ebook distributor). I put those tasks off for too long, so it’s nice to have them done.

Last, I worked on revising and improving the blurbs for my novels. I still find writing short, punchy descriptions of my books very challenging, but they’re not going to revise themselves, so I gritted my teeth and worked it for a while. I’ve got more to do there, but I did manage to make some progress today.

All of this on top of writing 1400 words on Translocator 3 this morning, and I still feel like I only made a minor dent in my “to do” list!

Still so much to do! I’m going to take it easy tonight, so I attack the list again with fresh eyes tomorrow morning.

Tactical writing advice if you’re stuck in the middle of a novel

There’s a lot of theoretical advice for writers out there, but not nearly enough written on practical matters.

The actual how-to of writing fiction.

When I was invited to write a piece for Natasha Lane’s blog, I decided to focus on the practical and wrote about 5 Tactics Novelists Can Use to Rescue Themselves from the Soggy Middle—which is where I often find myself mired down most often.

These are 5 tactics I rely on when I get bored, lost, or stuck in the middle of a book. They’re each useful at at different times and in different situations, but these tactics made the list because I return to them time after time.

Perhaps you have already felt bored, stuck, lost, or at a complete dead-end when you’re working on your book.

This is a signal that you’ve reached the soggy middle.

Read the rest of the article »

Centurion: A Post-Apocalyptic Story

I’ve got a new story out today! Originally part of a science fiction anthology, Centurion is now available as a standalone ebook (for a mere 99 cents—I’d charge less but they don’t let me.)

Here’s a little bit about the story…

Centurion

Centurion ebook cover

New planet, new problems

Josu and his father trade up for a second chance at life by emigrating from a dead Earth to the Alpha Centauri system.

But their new role as planetary pioneers presents its own challenges.

One of which is that on this wild, waterlogged world, they always have to watch each other’s backs.

How dangerous can a little fishing trip be? Josu is about to find out.

Buy on Amazon Buy on Kobo, iBooks, Nook


Hope you enjoy it.

This story will also be included as part of an post-apocalyptic short story collection I’m putting together to release in December called Boys and Their Monsters. It will collect all the post-apoc stories I’ve written in the last year and a half into a single volume.

It will also mark my twelfth consecutive publication. My goal this year was to publish a new book or story every month and I’ve nearly done it. The finish line is in sight. Just in time to set bigger, badder, better goals for 2018.

Break for an Elsagram

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you a very important announcement.

This is an Elsagram.

Here is Elsa with her tennis ball.

Her ball is the best ball.

What’s that noise?

Save Net Neutrality!

Photo taken outside of the Mexicarte Museum. (Aug. 2017, Austin, TX)

Todos son bienvenidos. All are welcome.

Or all should be.

The news coming from Trump’s FCC puppet proposing to end Net Neutrality are not unexpected, but they are still infuriating.

The internet is a great leveler, an innovation machine, an infinite resource, a tool, and a way to stay connected.

It has changed my life, and I firmly believe that it belongs to everyone.

We must demand that open internet access be maintained.

What Ajit Pai is proposing we do by revoking Title II is put the power to control access to the internet in the hands of the government and giant corporations who don’t have your best interests at heart. If Ajit Pai has his way, ISPs will be able to throttle or block content and services as they choose. They’ll be able to jack up your rates, too.

“The FCC has confirmed that they will vote on 12/14 to abolish the regulations that prevent internet service providers from blocking access to certain sites, throttling internet speeds, and otherwise controlling what websites and online services are available to their customers.” Source: 5calls.org

We can’t let it happen. Don’t let them end Net Neutrality.

There has not been a single greater threat to free speech this year.

If our voices are cut off by giving control of internet access over to the hands of the few, that will mark the beginning of a long dark road.

Speak up. Call your representatives using 5calls.org. I know I will be.

Guest book review of Hyperion, the sci-fi epic

I’ve been on a mission.

A mission read a hundred science fiction classics.

Most recently, I read Hyperionan Hugo Award-winning 1989 science fiction novel by Dan Simmons. I enjoyed it so much that I also wrote a book review of Hyperion as a guest appearance on the blog of JR Handley, a military science fiction I recently met through a sci-fi fan group.

Here’s a snippet from the beginning of the review. Visit JR’s blog to read the full piece.

Guest Book Review: Hyperion

I’ll say this about Hyperion: it doesn’t pull any punches.

This epic science fiction fantasy novel follows a priest, a warrior, a poet, a detective, and the rest of their group on a tragic and often violent pilgrimage to the planet of Hyperion.

Their quest leads them not only to the Time Tombs of the Shrike, but down the battered, bloody, and often sexual fringes of their lives and memories.

Each of these characters is complex and nuanced, mysterious and determined. I don’t always like all of them… In fact, scratch that—I actively dislike most of them. They’re selfish, egostistical, vain people. But they turn out to be fascinating people too.

Read on: Guest Book Review: Hyperion.

3 great sci-fi mystery novels to read

After a full weekend enjoying the company of family and friends, taking care of some errands, and writing a chapter of Translocator 3, I’m winding down for the night by checking out some science fiction mystery novels I haven’t read yet, and thinking back on the ones I’ve enjoyed.

I’ve always loved sci-fi and speculative mystery, everything from Ghostbusters to the TV show Fringe to the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep to almost everything Isaac Asimov ever wrote. I immediately fell in love with Minority Report when I was a kid, and of course Blade Runner is a classic and Philip K. Dick did SF noir like no one else.

But there are a ton of science fiction mystery books I plain didn’t know about, or that I missed because I was busy doing something else.

You can always count on Goodreads for a good starter list. I’ll be checking out a bunch of these in an effort to get to know the genre better: Science Fiction Detective Novels.

I also want to give a shout out to these three novels from writers I admire. I read two of them recently, and I’m in the middle of the Asimov book, but so confident of its stature as canon in the SF mystery field that I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, too

The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov

This is the classic science fiction detective novel on which most of the fascination with Asimov’s work is based. Set a millennium into the future, Detective Lije Baley is forced to work with a Spacer robot detective…who is practically indistinguishable from a real person. This fascinates and disgusts him, and it gets worse when his orders go beyond work and begin to infringe on his delicate family life.

 

The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

The concept of this book hooked me from the start. Here it is from the book page:

“One day, not long from now, it becomes almost impossible to murder anyone—999 times out of a thousand, anyone who is intentionally killed comes back. How? We don’t know. But it changes everything: war, crime, daily life.”

Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher. When his friend and colleague goes missing, Tony gets involuntarily pulled into a missing person’s investigation.

Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson

While Sanderson is known for writing epic fantasy, this incredible short novel shows he’s got SF detective mystery chops, too.

Police have the ability to take a snapshot of a day, and relive it. They use it to solve crimes. “Anthony Davis and his partner Chaz” relive May 1st in an attempt to solve a crime.

If that sounds surprising, just wait until you read what happens next.

As I was putting this blog post together, I saw at the bottom of the Snapshot page that the film rights have been options for this story. Here’s to hoping that means sequels, because I enjoyed the hell out of this book.

Click on the book covers or titles above to check the books out on Amazon. (Those are affiliate links, which means I get a few pennies if you buy the book. That money goes back into this blog, which means more books by me like the ones you see above. Thanks in advance for your support!)

Some thoughts on James Patterson’s “BookShots”

I bought a thriller novella in the grocery store checkout line today.

Well, I’d call it a novella. James Patterson and his publisher call them “BookShots.”

Now that I’ve finally had a chance to actually read one of these, I have some thoughts.

To start, I was among those chuckling under their breath when Patterson’s BookShots were first released.

I thought, Why is he renaming novellas? This is just a marketing shtick. Call it what it is.

Well, that’s true. I mean, look at the first line of his introduction, which is on the first page after you turn the cover:

Dear Reader,

You’re about to experience a revolution in reading—BookShots.

BookShots are a whole new kind of book — 100 percent story-driven, no fluff, always under $5.

I snorted a little. A revolution? Really?

You see, as an author familiar with book marketing, this is a little transparent to me. He literally just renamed novellas!

Also, a lot of authors are offering “100 percent story-driven, no fluff, always under $5” on the Kindle these days (though rarely in paper, even they have to admit).

None of this stopped me from buying the book, though. (Helped that it was 20% off) Call it professional curiosity. And the back cover copy was interesting.

This book is called Manhunt. The back cover reads…

MICHAEL BENNETT,
BE GRATEFUL YOU’RE ALIVE.

Someone attacked the Thanksgiving Day parade directly in front of Michael Bennett and his family.
The television news called it “holiday terror”; Michael Bennett calls it personal. The hunt is on…

Followed by pull quotes from Lee Child and Michael Connelly (thriller authors of the same type as Patterson, in case you didn’t know).

I finally opened the book, and what I found was a sparse, plot-driven terrorism thriller with good hooks and an emotional punch.

Part of me is still a little irritated that Patterson is coopting short novels and renaming them as this gimmicky “BookShots” bullshit, but the other part is impressed because the story has done its job and drawn me in.

The writing is solid and fast paced, but not without depth. One sentence paragraphs are common. There’s a very clear character voice and setting.

The chapters are short, often no more than two pages. If I had to guess, 500-750 words per chapter.

But the story moves. Hook after hook after hook. It’s very plot driven (what Patterson calls story-driven, I suppose), but as I said the depth is still there. We’re deep inside Michael Bennett’s head, whether he’s worrying about his large brood of adopted children or chasing a terrorist through the street.

I’m halfway through this book so I can’t say whether I was satisfied with the ending. But I’m gonna finish it.

In spite of the transparency of the marketing ploy, I’d happily read another one of these books. At the least, I’d pick it up and read the back cover.

I hate the name “BookShots,” but they seem to be entertaining stories, if you’re into the type of thrillers James Patterson is known for. Look past the silly branding and expect to be entertained.

And, to be clear, it’s not that you couldn’t get more out of an indie book, and probably for less, especially if you buy on Kindle or Kobo.

But I don’t know many authors who can do in 2 pages what Patterson seems capable of. To move a story at the pace he does takes skill.