Tag Archives: Sam Schall

Of pricing and release dates

I don’t know a single indie author who doesn’t wish there was a handbook out there that was constantly kept up-to-date with information about formatting, blurbs, promotion, when to release your books and pricing. The best we can do is watch trends and be ready to adapt not only when necessary but as quickly as possible. It also means making hard decisions sometimes as well as taking the long view. That is especially true when it comes to pricing.

Last night, I finished setting Battle Wounds up on Amazon so it would be live this morning. For those of you not familiar with it, BW is a short story set in the Honor and Duty universe. I started writing the short stories a little more than a year ago when there was a glitch, to put it nicely, in the upload process of Honor from Ashes. Somehow, the wrong text file was attached to the product page and, well, let’s just say the next week was an exercise in frustration to get it corrected. The short stories were my way of thanking my fans for hanging with me as things got straightened out.

When I made the decision to write a series of short stories in the universe, I had several things I needed to consider. The first, of course, was where in the timeline they would fall. Since the books in the series follow very closely on one another, I couldn’t see an easy way to slip short stories in. Besides, I had folks who wanted to know how Ashlyn Shaw became the character first introduced in Vengeance from Ashes. So, that’s where I decided to begin — at the beginning.  With three shorts stories now out, I am closing in on the events that directly led to the events that kick off the series.

Anyway. . . .

Last night I uploaded the files and checked to make sure they converted properly — and, yes, were the correct file with the correct cover — and then continued on through the publication process. Part of that is choosing when to release the story. If you ask a dozen indie authors, you’ll probably get a dozen answers about when they think the best times are to time your releases. I’ve tried any number of different times and days. I’ve studied what other indies and small presses, as well as trad publishers, do. It seems there is a growing trend to release new titles on the first and third Tuesday of the month.

I’ll admit to pondering and wavering on deciding to follow this trend. After all, if I followed it, I would be one of who knew how many authors releasing a new title at the same time. But, let’s face it, that’s something we have to deal with no matter what day we choose to release our titles on. That’s the downside. The upside on releasing on either the first or third Tuesday is that there are a large number of readers who check for new titles on those days because they have learned to expect new releases then.

Hmmm.

So, guess what. I chose to try a third Tuesday release. It’s going to be interesting to see if there is more traction for this release than for the other short stories.

The next thing I had to determine was pricing for Battle Wounds. There’s been a lot of discussion since Amazon first opened up to indies on how much we should price our work for. If you ask indies, you’ll get a wide range of answers. Some look at pricing and take the long view on it all. Others look at the amount of money they earn per sale. Both sides have pros and cons. The problem with both, however, is that we are looking at it from the viewpoint of the author. Instead, we need to look at it from the point of view of the reader. After all, they are the ones making the decision to buy the short story or title.

And, like it or not, as indies, we operate in a world where our readers understand, on the whole, that we don’t have the overhead trad published titles have. Therefore, they aren’t going to pay as much for our work as they will for Nora Roberts or Stephen King or David Weber.

So how do we figure out the best price for our work?

The first thing we do is listen to our readers and to readers of our genre in general. We can do that by checking blogs and other social media platforms. We can also do it by checking the best sellers lists on Amazon. Look not only at what indie titles are on it but at their prices as well. Compare the price of the work and its length to what you are about to publish. Then there is the beta pricing tool you can use once you are setting up the title on Amazon.

There is something else we have to take into account when we are setting prices. Sarah, Dave and Brad can get away with charging more for short stories than I can. Why? Because they have a following of readers who have known them not as just indie authors but as trad published authors as well. They’ve earned their bones in the eyes of those readers. They have more published than I do as well. So, because they have the reputation and the experience, they can charge more for their work. Readers even expect them to.

But for me, even though I have 16 novels, 2 (?) novellas and a handful of short stories published, all but one of the shorts have been indie. I can charge more now than I used to — and I should — for novels, not so much for short stories. There are two reasons for that. First, and most obvious, I’m not a “name” that people are willing to pay additional money to read. Second, I look at short stories as loss leaders, which they are. They are promos in many ways to keep people interested in my work until the next novel comes out.

But there is something else. I know what I’m willing to pay. I can’t think of a single indie-only author I will pay more than $0.99 for a short story (for the purposes of pricing, I’m including anything under 20k words). I’ll pay $1.99 for work between 20k and 50k words or so. After that, I’ll pay $2.99 up to $4.99. There are a few indies I’ll pay $5.99 for a long novel but those are very few and far between. So I keep that in mind as I start thinking about pricing.

I also realize there are many, many, many readers who feel the same way I do about how much they are willing to pay for a title. Yes, readers to look at the price and, if they think you are pricing a work too low, they wonder if you aren’t convinced your work is any good. However, for a short story, you can quickly price readers out. So it comes down to deciding if you would rather sell more copies at a lower price and royalty or fewer copies at a higher royalty. For me, because I don’t look at my short stories as a major income generator in the short term, I price them on the low end, where most other short stories are priced. What I’ve discovered by doing so is I tend to sell more over time, more than making up for the difference in royalties.

But the decision is yours. Just remember, you need to look at more than how much are you going to make per sale. You need to take into account what the going rate for stories in your genre with a similar length. If you price yourself out of the market, you are not only cutting your own royalty throat, so to speak, but you are denying your readers the opportunity to read your work.

Shrug.

I really wish there was an easy to use manual that told me the best way to promote my work, the best price point, the best day for release, etc. Instead, I get to watch my hair turn even whiter as I try to figure it out for myself when all I really want to do is write.

Oh, go buy Battle Wounds. My kitties need kibble. 😉

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Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: PUBLISHING

When a book becomes a series

Jason is being held hostage by work this week. He mumbled (can you mumble via IM?) something about 120 hour work week. So I said I’d stand in for him. The following post is one I wrote for Nocturnal-Lives a couple of months ago (with a few updates today). I thought I’d run it here today because Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) will go live in a little more than two weeks.

How did I find myself writing a series? Usually, I don’t set out to do so. Honor and Duty (3 Book Series) was the exception. I knew it would be a series. The initial plan was for two books, three at the most. I wanted to do a story arc that took the main character, Ashlyn Shaw, from betrayal to redemption. I wanted it to be a mix of space opera and military science fiction. What I didn’t expect was that it, too, in many ways would take on a life of its own.

The first inklings of the plot for Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1) took root some time ago. A hint of a plot here, a glimpse of a character there. When I finally decided it was time to sit down and see if I could get it all to gel together, I had the basic premise firmly in mind. What I hadn’t expected was that this would be a book that resisted all attempts to outline, basic or in detail. It had a way it wanted to be written and nothing else would do.

So, after fighting it for a while, I gave in and let the muse — I have mentioned before she is not only evil but stubborn, or maybe evilly stubborn or stubbornly evil — have her way. What came out is a novel I’m proud of. It is also one I had fun writing, once I quit fighting it. More importantly, Vengeance does exactly what I wanted it to do. It is peopled by characters who aren’t perfect. They are flawed and know it. Sometimes they fight those flaws and other times they give in and do things they will come to regret. The heroes make mistakes and have “bad thoughts”. The villains might enjoy what they are doing but they do, on the whole, have some redeeming qualities. Not all of them mind you. After all, there needs to be at least one sociopath in any evil scheme, right?

Ashlyn Shaw has been betrayed by the Corps she devoted much of her life to. Worse, that betrayal led to the deaths of some of the men and women who had been under her command. The result was that she had been court martialed and, along with the survivors from her team, sent to a penal colony where brutal conditions would be an improvement most days. When she is returned to the capital without warning, the last thing she’s willing to do is trust those who now ask for her help. That changes when the capital is attacked and she slowly begins to understand that things have changed and those who turned a blind eye to the way she and her people had been betrayed were no longer in power. Not that she is willing to put aside all her doubts and suspicions, even when her people are freed and every one of them receives not only a pardon but full exoneration of all charges against them.

After all, she has a duty not only to the Corps or her homeworld but to those who had looked to her for leadership and protection. She would discover who had betrayed them and that person (or persons) would face justice, even if it came at her hand. Especially if it could come at her hand.

Duty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2) picks up where Vengeance left off. Ash is starting to settle back in to her role as a Marine. She watches closely as the investigation into the events leading up to her court martial continues. Trust is slowly returning but that niggling voice of doubt is still there. It is something she fights on a daily basis, except when she is with her son. He is her anchor and her reason for not doing anything foolish. They had been separated during her time at the penal colony and she would not let that happen again. Duty might take her away from him for extended periods of time but, short of death, she would always return home.

War is now a way of life for Ash’s homeworld and its allies. The enemy is one they know well, one they have fought before. But there is something different this time. Tactics and strategies have changed. More importantly, the enemy now has ships and weaponry it hadn’t had just a few years ago, before a ceasefire had been agreed upon. That bothers Ash as well as some of her superiors. Is the enemy receiving aid — or more — from a third party they have yet to identify? Or is this simply a case of them putting to use material gained as a part of the renewed hostilities?

In spite or, or maybe because of, her time at the penal colony, Ash and her Marines are sent on a mission to help liberate one of the systems seized by the enemy. Finding allied prisoners being held in conditions similar to those she had endured almost sends her over the edge. The only thing that keeps her from killing the commandant of the camp were her own people stepping in. That, and seeing how they understood and agreed with her but how they were also determined not to let her do anything foolish, causes her to step back. It is hard and she knows how close she came to breaking. More importantly, she is ready to face the consequences when she returns home, not that she wouldn’t do it all over again because it helped get them the information they needed to not only save more POWs but because of the possible intelligence it led to.

Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) is currently available for pre-order. In this book, the war is in full swing. As the intelligence Ash and her people found, as well as that being sent from other units, is reviewed, it becomes clear that their suspicions were correct. There is a third party involved in the battle, one no one suspected. Add to that the fact the third party has operatives on-planet who are determined to make sure those who set up Ash and her people never reveal what they know.

Because it is war, people die. Ash is going to face the loss of not only some of those under her command but of people close to her. The first is expected. They are Marines and their unit is the one often sent into the worst possible situations, the unit expected to do the impossible. The latter is something she has always known to be possible but never something easy to take.

Here’s the blurb:

War isn’t civilized and never will be, not when there are those willing to do whatever is necessary to win. That is a lesson Col. Ashlyn Shaw learned the hard way. Now she and those under her command fight an enemy determined to destroy their home world. Worse, an enemy lurks in the shadows, manipulating friend and foe alike.

Can Ashlyn hold true to herself and the values of her beloved Corps in the face of betrayal and loss? Will honor rise from the ashes of false promises and broken faith? Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs are determined to see that it does, no matter what the cost.

Honor won’t be the last book in the series. There will be one more to complete this story arc. However, my evil muse is already telling me that there will be more stories written in this universe. Some will have Ash and company as supporting characters. Others will focus on some of the characters we’ve met but who didn’t play major roles in this series.

Or, my muse could fool me again and decide that there will be another two books in the series. I just have to remember to remind her that there comes a time when all series, no matter how much she loves them, must come to an end.

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Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: LIFE, WRITING: PUBLISHING

Putting things into perspective

One of the challenges anyone who happens to be self-employed faces is having to carry on in the face of real life challenges. It doesn’t matter what your profession. You can be an accountant or professional dog walker, a painter or a writer. When you are self-employed, you don’t have the cushion of paid time off or sick leave. No matter what the hurdle life throws at you, you have to find a way to continue working. If you don’t, the money stops. That is the reality of the situation.

It is also one that was brought home to me with a vengeance this past week. Oh, I know we here at MGC talk about life derailing us from time to time. Usually, it is only a bump in the road. It throws us off our plans and makes us have to reflect for a bit to find a new plan of attack. Sometimes it becomes hard to push through, more because what we had planned has suddenly fallen through than anything else. There are times when we have to focus on things other than our writing but we always know we will get back to it sooner rather than later. We have managed to survive moves (and I still shake my head in wonder at how Dave and Barbs managed to move to Flinders Island without going absolutely insane) and illness and job loss and more.

This past week, however, I found myself faced with something that made me realize how important it is to put things into perspective. But it was more than that, not only do we have to put all those hurdles into perspective but we have to have an emergency game plan, not just for life but for work. Why? Because things happen and we can’t always control it.

I won’t go into details here because the hurdle isn’t mine, not really. But it is one that will impact me because it has risen up to hit people I care about. One of my oldest and dearest friends is facing a challenge the vast majority of us will only ever read about. She is going to need me with her as she faces this challenge. Even if she hadn’t asked, I would be there for her. Why? Because she has always been there for me and mine.

That’s what friends and family do. You rally around those you care about.

But, when you do, work is impacted.

I know that the next few weeks and months will see us waiting for the shoe to drop. In some ways, it will be like those last weeks of pregnancy. A bag will be packed, the gas tank filled and we will all be waiting for the phone to ring to tell us it is time to leave. No, not a bug-out, at least not in a Ringo-esque sort of way. This is the call to get to the hospital within a certain amount of time. The clock is ticking and it is very loud.

It has impacted my work and will continue to. It’s hard not to let it when suddenly you are reminded what is important in life. So I spent some time over the last week figuring out how to deal with the rollercoaster the next few weeks and months will be. Part of it will mean being very disciplined about work on those days when I know I can work. Those days — like today — the butt goes into the chair after the first cup of coffee and it basically stays there until the end of the work day. Yep, I am forcing myself to get back into the habit of an 8 – 5 work day. Not all of it is writing. There are breaks for research, all carefully timed so I don’t fall down the research hole, and editing. Then there are the inevitable interruptions to let the dog out — and bring him back in.

I am also having to look more closely at my publishing schedule and how to keep as close to it as I can without completely going off the tracks when the proverbial fecal matter hits the fan. I have always had more than one project going at a time. Usually, that has meant I’ve been writing one novel while plotting the next one. That hasn’t changed but I now am looking at writing, editing and plotting all at the same time. It takes discipline, but it can and will be done.

It has also meant changing what I have with me at any time. I’ve always had my phone and a small notepad squirreled away in my purse in case I needed to make a note about something. Smart phones are great for being able to use for dictation and look up things, etc. Now, however, the small purse — my preference — has been traded for a larger one. The smartphone and pad have been joined by my Surface Pro 3, stylus and charger. Why? Because the SP3 gives me everything my laptop does but at a fraction of the weight. The screen, while small, is still larger than my Android tablet and the keyboard is much better than the virtual keyboard on the Android. Add in the thumb drive with all my working files and I have my office on the go.

The other thing I’ve done to make work more streamlined is I have turned off social media. Once the butt goes in the chair, I disconnect from Facebook, etc., and only go back at lunch and after the “work day” is over. Oh, it isn’t a complete cut off because there are a few folks I keep in touch with through social media. Notices go to my phone and I check them during breaks. However, all I see are headlines. If it isn’t an emergency, those notices get dismissed, forgotten until after work.

The result has been that I can and have been getting the job done despite the worry that is constantly there right now. I am working hard to not only meet the schedule I set for myself at the beginning of the year but to get ahead. I want that cushion for the day when we get the call telling us it is time to meet my friends at the hospital. I want to be able to be there for them and not worry about falling behind on “work”. I need to know that I am keeping with my schedule so the money can and will keep coming in. I need to know that, no matter what the time of day or day of the week, I am able to continue working without worry about where I happen to be. So, I will push now to get as much done as possible. I will plan for those days spent in waiting rooms by having a go-bag ready. That means always making sure I know where power cords are and extra thumb drives with all my current files backed up onto them.

It means being flexible, something I’m not always good at. But for now, it also means being disciplined.

So here’s my question for you. Are you prepared to continue pushing through you work in the face of a crisis? If so, what steps have you taken? If not, why not?

Finally, because I am a working writer, that means I need to do some promo — which I suck at.

Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) will go live April 18th. It is available now for pre-order. Here is a short snippet. This is from the rough draft — I’m still working on my first cup of coffee this morning and getting up to find my thumb drive means moving the cat and dog currently guarding my feet. VBEG

*   *   *

“Please have a seat, Colonel. The others will join you shortly.”

Before she could reply, the young lieutenant stepped back and the door slid shut. For a moment, Lt. Colonel Ashlyn Shaw stared at the door, her concern growing. It went beyond this unscheduled – and so far unexplained – summons to meet with General Helen Okafor, Commandant of the Fuerconese Marine Corps. It even went beyond the very bad memories she had of this particular conference room. Something was wrong, very wrong. She could feel it all the way down to her bones. She simply didn’t know what it might be.

A frown tugged at the corners of her mouth as she looked around. Memories washed over her. Two and a half years ago, she had stood in this very same conference room, unaware that her life was about to be turned into a living Hell. That day, the JAG officer in charge of prosecuting her and the surviving members of her squad had offered her a deal. If she pled guilty to all charges, he would recommend a sentence of twenty-five years – without parole – and would make sure her people served only ten years He assured her it was much better than she would get if she were found guilty of the charges that had been leveled against her. She had refused. How could she plead guilty, how could she ask her people to plead guilty, when they had done nothing wrong? Foolishly, she had believed her beloved Corps would not turn its back on her and her squad mates.

That decision had cost all of them two years in the military penal colony on Tarsus. Two long years when she believed the Corps, her family and her homeworld had turned their backs on her. She knew better now but the hurt and the distrust sometimes returned. She had no doubt it would continue until those responsible for framing her and her squad, not to mention being responsible for the deaths of their squadmates, were tried and found guilty.

But she had to put that behind her.

She had put it behind her.

Breathing deeply, she turned and made her way to the table in the center of the room. The only other person present watched her, his expression betraying a mixture of concern and curiosity. Seeing it, she guessed he had more idea why they had been sent for than did she. Unfortunately, that did nothing to reassure her. Experience had taught her bad things came all too often from such meetings.

“Stand easy, Ash,” Admiral Richard Collins said before she could brace to attention. “Have seat.”

“Thank you, sir.” She sat opposite him and smiled in appreciation as he poured her a mug of coffee the carafe someone had left.

“By any chance do you know what this is all about?”

“That’s a negative, sir. I was hoping you could tell me.”

She heard the uncertainty in her voice and silently cursed it. No, she cursed the reason for it. The nightmares that had plagued her might be coming with less frequency but they still lurked just beneath the surface of her self-control. They mingled with the ever-present doubt that the last few months had been nothing but a ruse and she would soon find herself back on Tarsus, once again a military prisoner. Intellectually, she knew that to be false but it was hard to put the betrayals of the past behind her.

“I guess we have to wait and see then.”

Ashlyn nodded again and produced her datapad. She might have to wait to find out why she’d been sent for but that didn’t mean she couldn’t work. There were always reports to review or write and assignments to be made. Even though the Devil Dogs had been groundside for almost a month, it was her job to keep them at combat readiness. Fuercon was at war and that meant they could be shipped out any time or, worse, the capital could once again come under attack.

The door once again slid open. Instantly, Ashlyn and Collins slid their chairs away from the table and stood. As they braced to attention, two others entered. They remained silent as they move to the table. Then, as the door closed and a low hum filled the room, signaling full security block had been put in place, Linden Klingsbury, Secretary of Defense, motioned for everyone to be seated.

“Thank you both for coming.” His deep voice might not betray his feelings but his eyes did. Ashlyn saw the worry and something else, anger maybe, reflected in them. “I apologize for not only the early hour but also for the lack of notice in getting you here. I assure you, it was necessary. The last thing General Okafor and I want is for certain parties to start asking questions we aren’t ready to answer.”

He broke off as a soft tone signaled someone at the door. A moment after the admiral lowered the security screen, the door slid open. The lieutenant who had shown Ash in earlier stepped inside, followed by an ensign carrying a tray with coffee and several covered dishes on it. They quickly served coffee to the newcomers and then topped off Ash’s and Collins’ mugs. After making sure nothing else was needed, they left the room. Klingsbury reactivated the security screen even as he motioned for everyone to help themselves.

“Admiral, Colonel, what you are about to see and hear cannot leave this room. The only reason you are being read in right now is because this information came to us through your actions as well as the actions of your people. Your last mission gave us a treasure trove of intel we are still examining. To be honest, even that isn’t reason enough to read you in. However, both of you have started asking questions that show you have started putting two and two together. These questions, while valid, are best left unasked for the moment. It is my hope you will understand before you leave here.”

Concern once again growing, Ashlyn reached for her mug. As she did, she thought back to that last mission. They had been lucky, probably luckier than they had any right to expect. For whatever reason, the enemy had moved out of the Cassius System, leaving only a minimal defensive presence. Whether they had been overconfident or there had been another motive, she didn’t know and, frankly, she didn’t care. That decision had meant First Fleet and the Devil Dogs had been able to liberate the system and rescue the POWs with minimal losses.

None of which explained what the admiral meant.

“Before we get started, I need you to confirm, on record, that none of what you are about to see or hear will leave this room without permission from either myself or General Okafor,” Klingsbury continued.

For a moment, neither Collins nor Ashlyn spoke. “A point of clarification, sir,” Collins said. “Does this apply to our XOs?”

“It does.”

Ash frowned. She did not like keeping her XO in the dark, no matter what the information might be. That was especially true if the information could help the Devil Dogs do their duty. “General, begging your pardon, but that could put our people at a serious disadvantage.”

“Ash, I understand your concerns,” General Helen Okafor said. “All we are asking is you don’t jump to conclusions until you have seen what we have to show you. If, after you have, you still want to discuss reading in your XOs, we will consider it.”

Knowing she could ask for nothing more, Ash nodded. “Then, with that proviso, I agree.”

“As do I,” Collins said.

“Thank you, both of you.” Klingsbury punched a code into the console in front of him and the holo display over the table came to life. The Fuerconese flag filled the display. “Admiral Collins, Colonel Shaw, the two of you, along with the men and women under your commands, have served Fuercon and its allies well. This information will help bring an end to the war, hopefully sooner rather than later. But it is not something we can move on just yet. Not without further confirmation of what it appears to represent. However, I believe that once you see this, you will understand its importance and the need for secrecy until we are ready to act.”

“Help yourselves to food and then we’ll get started. There is a lot for you to see and, unless I miss my guess, there will be even more to discuss,” Okafor said.

Ash cast a quick glance at Collins who shrugged. Like it or not, she would just have to wait to find out why she’d been summoned to this off-the-books meeting with the Commandant of the Fuerconese Marine Corps and Secretary of Defense.

 

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Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: LIFE

It’s Wednesday and Sarah is MIA

Well, not really. She is at a workshop and we got an SOS from her earlier to let us know that her travel laptop has crapped out. Now, besides being a pain because it means her writing will be impacted, it means she isn’t able to do a blog today. So here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to post a few links — some of them are very interesting reading and some show just how strange things can get on the internet — and I’m going to post a few book promos. Then I’m going to throw open the comments. I’d like to hear what you guys think about what’s going on in publishing, what you think about the links I posted and you can post ONE promo link. Sound good?

So, what better way than to start the day with a link to last week’s Book Plug Friday by our own Sarah and ChaSJWrlie Martin. For those who haven’t discovered BPF, it is a wonderful — and free — promotion tool for authors. That’s important. But even more important is how Charlie and Sarah discuss what is going on in publishing and, as they do in last week’s piece, show that the SJWs don’t even check their facts before staking to their soapboxes to complain about how women have been locked out of science fiction. In this particular case, they burst the bubble that has been put forth that women are “finally” making inroads into the awards scene in SF. Unlike the special ones, they did their homework and listed the female winners of the Nebulas. Funny, I don’t see how women were pushed out, do you?

And, while we’re talking about Sarah, let’s have an example of just how strange things can get on the internet. Back on the 6th, Laura J. Mixon posted her investigation into the blogger Requires Hate. You can find that post here. Needless to say, the interwebs blew up as the SJWs tried to process all that had happened and who RH turned out to be. And this is where things got more than a little weird. On another blog, a commenter posted that they thought our own Sarah and Requires Hate were one and the same. Yes, you read that right. I’ll leave you a few moments to consider that and to quit laughing. Sarah’s response when it was brought to her attention? Stunned silence and then hysterical laughter. Sort of like everyone else who knows her has reacted to read the comment.

The best response to the entire “report” has come, imo, from Larry Correia. Read it. Enjoy it. Consider all he says and let’s pop the popcorn and watch as this feeding frenzy becomes more and more frequent.

(BTW, apparently there has now been a call for the “whites” to step out of the conversation about RH and everything surrounding Mixon’s report. It seems the POC community needs time to consider and reflect on what has been revealed. Sorry, but if this is an issue of real import, then the voices of all should be heard. My opinion, of course.)

Now, onto something a bit more fun. I loved Larry’s reaction to his Czech book covers.

The Czechs are like “Patriarchy? What is this word? Is the succubus not sexy enough? Wait… Cis what? Do you mean we should make the werewolves on fire? We can do that. Dmitri! More fire! Now, why does this flabby man pose in his underwear like sexy pole dancer? You do not want to appeal to people who give you money? America is strange place.”

Take a look at the covers and you will see what he means and, to be honest, he’s right. I wish more American publishers would consider just how important a cover is in getting folks to pick a book up off the shelf — for those who still go to bookstores. But then, I’m not enlightened enough for the SJH/GHH set. I happen to like the covers.

Now, for a few book promos.

 

chaplainThe Chaplain’s War
by Brad Torgersen

The mantis cyborgs: insectlike, cruel, and determined to wipe humanity from the face of the galaxy.

The Fleet is humanity’s last chance: a multi-world, multi-national task force assembled to hold the line against the aliens’ overwhelming technology and firepower. Enter Harrison Barlow, who like so many young men of wars past, simply wants to serve his people and partake of the grand adventure of military life. Only, Harrison is not a hot pilot, nor a crack shot with a rifle. What good is a Chaplain’s Assistant in the interstellar battles which will decide the fate of all?

More than he thinks. Because while the mantis insectoids are determined to eliminate the human threat to mantis supremacy, they remember the errors of their past. Is there the slightest chance that humans might have value? Especially since humans seem to have the one thing the mantes explicitly do not: an innate ability to believe in what cannot be proven nor seen God. Captured and stranded behind enemy lines, Barlow must come to grips with the fact that he is not only bargaining for his own life, but the lives of everyone he knows and loves. And so he embarks upon an improbable gambit, determined to alter the course of the entire war.

***

joyJoy Cometh With The Mourning: A Reverend Joy Mystery
by Dave Freer

Reverend Joy Norton is a timid city girl, and she’s never been the primary priest in any parish. When her bishop sends her out to a remote back-country church, she doubts both her ability and her suitability. Those doubts grow when she hears of the mysterious death of her predecessor. But from the first encounter with her congregation — having her little car rescued from a muddy ditch, she finds herself deeply involved with her parishioners and touched by their qualities and eccentricities. Which makes it worse for her to think that one of the people she’s coming to care for murdered the previous priest…

***

joxsonJaxson: Military Romance (Island Warriors Book 1)
by Kris Keldaran

In book one of the Island Warriors: Kehau Makoa thought her life was on track. Fun-loving and taking everything in stride, until a combat veteran steps into her sight. The gorgeous dance teacher never imagined that on her agenda. Till now.

Jaxson “Johnny Rocket” Kuznia never saw a brawl he didn’t wade into with both fists flying. Broad, burly, and an expert with his hands, the Marine soon realizes Uncle Sam didn’t prepare him for everything that would be thrown into his path. It doesn’t take Jax long to figure out he will need every bit of skill and luck he’s got if he wants to win the heart of a woman he seems unable to live without.

From North Shore to Waikiki, and Ko ‘Olina to Kailua, the Jaëger Guardsmen put their hearts and lives on the line to learn if they’ve found a love that will last a lifetime.

***

gallileoThe Galileo Syndrome (Born Between Worlds) (Volume 1)
by Stephen J. Simmon

The world can be very frightened of change. History offers us endless examples of geniuses who were treated badly because their ideas threatened the established order … That’s because Galileo didn’t have a little sister named Peaches. Ricky Benson is a genius who was born with the ability to perceive – and travel between – parallel universes. Luckily, he was also born with a sister who is devoted to defending him, at any cost.

(The e-book will be available very soon — so keep checking back if you want digital instead of hard copy.)

***

farmhandFarmhand (Bluehills Book 1)
by Lilania Begley

Wounded veteran Dev Macquire needs some farm help until he recovers. When his father, Gray, brings home a new hand, he’s dismayed to meet Irina. How can a woman do the rough, heavy work they need? As she works her way into their life, and into his heart, he’s faced with a new dilemma. Can he persuade her to stay, and to accept a new role in his life?

Irina took the job on a whim. She just wanted to work hard enough to forget why her life was on hold and her future uncertain. Daily reminded of a brighter past, a childhood spent on horseback…but her new feelings for Dev were definitely not sisterly. At the end of the summer she’d leave, it was too dangerous to risk staying near him.

As a wildfire threatens the countryside, racing toward the Macquire place, Dev and Irina discover what true partnership can feel like, working together to find the arsonist who is responsible. When the fires die out, are there embers left smoldering in hearts?

***

dutyDuty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2)
by Sam Schall

Duty calls. Honor demands action.

Major Ashlyn Shaw has survived false accusations and a brutal military prison. Now free, she finds her homeworld once again at war with an enemy that will stop at nothing to destroy everything she holds dear. Duty has Ashlyn once again answering the call to serve. She has seen what the enemy is capable of and will do everything she can to prevent it from happening to the home she loves and the people she took an oath to protect.

But something has changed. It goes beyond the fact that the enemy has changed tactics they never wavered from during the previous war. It even goes beyond the fact that there is still a nagging doubt in the back of Ashlyn’s mind that those who betrayed her once before might do so again. No, there is more to the resumption of hostilities, something that seems to point at a new player in the game. But who and what are they playing at?

Will Ashlyn be able to unmask the real enemy before it is too late?

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Promotion Sunday

Sarah is off on a well deserved getaway with her hubby this weekend, leaving the boys and the cats alone in the house. Yes, she knows she is taking a risk and that when they get home, she and Dan will discover the cats have taken over and the boys are now their servants. Oh, wait, that’s what it is like in any home owned by a cat. 😉 Anyway, because she’s having some “quality” time with Dan, we’re going to do something we aren’t real good about here. We’re going to promote our work. All we ask is that you remember a number of us are servants to our royal feline overlords and have kibble that needs to be bought.

coverforvfaVengeance from Ashes
Sam Schall

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

 

hunter's homeHunter’s Home
Ellie Ferguson

They say you can never go home. That’s something CJ Reamer has long believed. So, when her father suddenly appears on her doorstep, demanding she return home to Montana to “do her duty”, she has other plans. Montana hasn’t been home for a long time, almost as long as Benjamin Franklin Reamer quit being her father. Dallas is now her home and it’s where her heart is. The only problem is her father doesn’t like taking “no” for an answer.

When her lover and mate is shot and she learns those responsible come from her birth pride and clan, CJ has no choice but to return to the home she left so long ago. At least she won’t be going alone. Clan alphas Matt and Finn Kincade aren’t about to take any risks where their friend is concerned. Nor is her mate, Rafe Walkinghorse, going to let her go without him.

Going home means digging up painful memories and family secrets. But will it also mean death – or worse – for CJ and her friends?

 

Pixie NoirPixie Noir
Cedar Sanderson

You can’t keep a tough Pixie down…

Lom is a bounty hunter, paid to bring magical creatures of all descriptions back Underhill, to prevent war with humans should they discover the strangers amongst them. Bella is about to find out she’s a real life fairy princess, but all she wants to do is live peacefully in Alaska, where the biggest problems are hungry grizzly bears. He has to bring her in. It’s nothing personal, it’s his job…

“They had almost had me, that once. I’d been young and foolish, trying to do something heroic, of course. I wouldn’t do that again anytime soon. Now, I work for duty, but nothing more than is necessary to fulfill the family debt. I get paid, which makes me a bounty hunter, but she’s about to teach me about honor. Like all lessons, this one was going to hurt. Fortunately, I have a good gun to fill my hand, and if I have to go, she has been good to look at.”

 

Trickster ebook coverTrickster Noir
Cedar Sanderson

After the battle of Tower Baelfire ended, Lom lay dying. Bella was tasked with not only the job she never wanted, but the one she did. Could she keep Lom alive long enough for him to come to the rescue when their kingdom needed them? And what did Raven, mysterious trickster spirit and honorary uncle to Bella, want with them? If the threat was big enough to have the trickster worried, Bella knew she needed to have Lom at her side. Underhill might look like a soap-bubble kingdom, but Bella and Lom knew there was a gritty underside. Why else would fairyland need a dark man willing to carry a big gun and be the Pixie for Hire?

 

witchfindercoverfinalWitchfinder
Sarah A. Hoyt

In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.

 

coverfinalbrightDeath of a Musketeer
Sarah D’Almeida

April in Paris 1625. D’Artagnan, and his new friends who hide their true identities under the assumed names of Athos, Porthos and Aramis, discover the corpse of a beautiful woman who looks like the Queen of France. Suspecting an intrigue of Cardinal Richelieu’s and fearing the murder will go unpunished they start investigating. But the enterprise will be fraught with danger, traps from the Cardinal, duels with guards and plotting from the king himself.

 

stardogs Stardogs
Dave Freer

Revolution rises!

The Interstellar Empire of Man was built on the enslavement of the gentle Stardogs, companions and Theta-space transporters of the vanished Denaari Dominion. But the Stardogs that humans found can’t go home to breed, and are slowly dying out.

As the ruthless Empire collapses from its rotten core outward, an Imperial barge is trapped on top of a dying Stardog when an attempted hijacking and assassination go horribly wrong. Trying to save its human cargo, the Stardog flees to the last place anyone expected – the long-lost Denaari motherworld.

Crawling from the crash are the Leaguesmen who control the Stardogs’ pilots by fear and force, and plan to assassinate Princess Shari, the criminal Yak gang, who want to kill everyone and take control of a rare Stardog for their own, and an entourage riddled with plots, poisons, and treason. But Shari and her assassin-bodyguard have plans of their own…

Stranded on the Denaari Motherworld, the castaway survivors will have to cooperate to survive. Some will have to die.

And some, if they make it to the Stardogs breeding ground, will have to learn what it means to love.

morningstarMorningstar
Dave Freer

(Previously published, according to our astute readers, as The Forlorn.)

Across the one human colony world, a place technologically regressed to near medieval, possibly the last place humans still survive, a desperate search continues. Scattered across the deserts, tangled jungles, and alien fortresses, lie the core sections of the matter transmitter.

These sections hold the key to vast wealth, power, or… the fulfilment of the colony’s purpose: to help humankind survive the rabidly xenophobic alien Morkth who will tolerate no other intelligent species. The Morkth managed to follow the colony ship, and, despite their mothership being shot down and their queen being killed, they continue their relentless struggle to destroy humankind… and to reconstruct that incredibly valuable matter transmitter. If they succeed, they’ll be able to return to the hive with the location of the colony of vile humans, and have a new world to occupy. If they fail, they’ll destroy the planet.

The search has gone on for centuries, and it is all reaching an end point. The future hangs in the balance.

The Morkth have lasers, aircraft, nukes. Those who want the core sections for their own ends… have vast armies. Against them are three unlikely reluctant heroes: A street child thief, a dispossessed spoiled brat of a princess, and a confused, amoral Morkth-raised human, armed only with 14th century weapons and their own wits.

It’s a lost cause, a forlorn hope.

But it’s all humans have.

consensual2smConSensual
Kate Paulk

There are vampires in the lobby, succubi in the beds, and bodies in the bathroom. It’s ConSensual, where the editors are demons, the writers are crazy and the vampires and werewolves might be the most stable people in the room.

If that isn’t enough, Dracula is staying at the hotel on a business trip for his wood-based hardware chain, Kit Marlowe is one of the authors, and there’s an out of control baby vampire to deal with. Once again, the “Save the World” department is caught with its pants down.

 

impalerImpaler
Kate Paulk

Impaler by Kate Paulk revisits the tale of Vlad Dracul, also known as Vlad Tepes and Vlad the Impaler. This is the tale of historical fact mixed with fiction and a touch of fantasy. But this is most definitely not the tired tale of vampires skulking in the night, lying in wait for innocent victims. Impaler tells the tale of a man devoted to family and country, cursed and looking for redemption.

December, 1476. The only man feared by the all-conquering Ottoman Sultan battles to reclaim his throne. If he falls all of Europe lies open to the Ottoman armies. If he succeeds…

His army is outnumbered and outclassed, his country is tiny, and he is haunted by a terrible curse. But Vlad Draculea will risk everything on one almost impossible chance to free his people from the hated Ottoman Empire.

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00006]War To The Knife (Laredo War Trilogy Book 1)
Peter Grant

Laredo’s defenders were ground down and its people ruthlessly slaughtered when the Bactrians invaded the planet. Overwhelmed, its Army switched to guerrilla warfare and went underground. For three years they’ve fought like demons to resist the occupiers. They’ve bled the enemy, but at fearful cost. The survivors are running out of weapons, supplies, and places to hide.

Then a young officer, Dave Carson, uncovers news that may change everything. An opportunity is coming to smash the foe harder than they’ve ever done before, both on and off the planet. Success may bring the interplanetary community to their aid – but it’ll take everything they’ve got. Win or lose, many of them will die. Failure will mean that Bactria will at last rule unopposed.

That risk won’t stop them. When you’re fighting a war to the knife, in the end you bet on the blade.


murder world kaijuMurder World: Kaiju Dawn
Jason Cordova

Captain Vincente Huerta and the crew of the Fancy have been hired to retrieve a valuable item from a downed research vessel at the edge of the enemy’s space.

It was going to be an easy payday.

But what Captain Huerta and the men, women and alien under his command didn’t know was that they were being sent to the most dangerous planet in the galaxy.

Something large, ancient and most assuredly evil resides on the planet of Gorgon IV. Something so terrifying that man could barely fathom it with his puny mind. Captain Huerta must use every trick in the book, and possibly write an entirely new one, if he wants to escape Murder World.

baptism by fireBaptism By Fire (Edge of Faith)
David Pascoe

When a madman and a giant flaming thing attack James Lawrie’s Marine outpost, the medic and an explosively talented sergeant aren’t supposed to save the day. Life becomes no simpler when Petty Officer Lawrie returns home on leave to find federal agents investigating the disappearance of a young woman from his past. A young woman whose body turns up marked with eerily familiar symbols.

 

fancy freeFancy Free
Pam Uphoff

In the last parts of the Twenty-first century, AI, Artificial Intelligence is commonplace. Highly able computers, and nothing more . . . until some rare and as yet unidentified trigger creates an actual personality.

Artificial Personalities, APs or hals, are illegal. Destroyed upon discovery. Even Beowulf, the AP the government controls, and uses to hunt down emerging hals, isn’t legally recognized, has no right to existence.

So you’d think that when the Special Grid Security Unit started paying extra attention to the area where a certain cooking show operates, Fancy Farmer—the AP who runs the show—would be concerned.

But Fancy has a bigger problem.

She’s been stolen.

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Sequels and a snippet

adjustment2I have a love/hate relationship with my muse. From what I can tell, I’m not unique in that. Most writers seem to feel the same way. In my case, it’s because I love to write but I hate when it comes time to writing sequels. That’s the situation I find myself in right now. I know the plot. I can see it in my head. I’ve been living with it for two months now. But getting it from my brain to the page has been next to impossible. That’s the really frustrating thing. As a result, I begged — well, browbeat might be more accurate — Sarah into reading the first scene of Duty from Ashes, the sequel to Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1). She did and then she told me to quit dithering — yes, I cleaned it up some. She was a bit more, um, direct than that — and finish writing the book. Since I always do what my mentor tells me, I’m going to try to do just that. In the meantime, here’s the opening scene from Duty from Ashes, book two in the Honor and Duty Series.

 *     *     *

Smoke filled the air and the ground seemed to shake beneath her boots as another explosion sounded. It was close this time. Too close. Cursing, she ducked behind the makeshift barricade she and her team had erected outside the school and tried to catch her breath. As she did, the tell-tales from her battle armor warned that her heart was racing and her breathing was labored, not that she needed the onboard computer to confirm what she already knew. This was her worst nightmare come to life and, just like the last time, there had been no way to avoid it.

But she’d be damned if it ended the same way as before.

Not this time.

Carefully, she edged forward until she could see around the edge of the barricade. As she did, dirt and rock kicked up just inches from where she knelt as yet another round of enemy fire filled the air. Even as her team returned fire, she scanned the area, flipping through the various screens of her HUD. Then her lips pulled back into an almost feral smile.

There!

Finally, she’d located the last of the areas where the enemy had dug in. Now it was her turn to show them just how foolish they’d been to think they could get the drop on her and her team.

“Boomer, two o’clock. The culvert near the edge of the first building.” Once again, she cycled through the various filters on her HUD, taking careful note of what each told her. “Scans show six there. Looks like one SAM and three unknown heavy weapons. We’ll give you cover fire so your team and move into position. Hold your fire until I give the order. We need to take those guns out before they decide to turn their attention to the school.”

“Roger that, Angel.”

“Hound, second target’s yours. Same building. Four stories up. Third window from the corner. I spotted at least one sniper.” Once again, she cycled through her filters, scanning the building. As much as she’d like to just level the building and be done with it, she couldn’t. Not if there were civilians inside. “I’m not picking up any other life signs in that area, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have mechs of some sort up there. So don’t worry about being too gentle with your shot. Just remember your target zone.” She waited for his response, knowing he was calculating the best way to carry out her orders.

“Got it, Angel. I’ll be ready on your order.”

Her heart beat a little slower. So far, so good. Her team still had a chance to get out of this alive and, with a little luck, they’d manage to save those civilians sheltering in the school as well.

Knowing their next move could mean victory or defeat, she called up the last data they’d received on the enemy’s movements. As she studied it, her mind did the one thing she’d been fighting to avoid since the battle began. It went back to that terrible day more than two years ago. She’d been in this exact location, fighting this same battle. Only then she’d been given compromised intelligence. As a result, she and her squad, a different one from this time, had walked straight into a trap. So many had died. She and the six who had managed to make it back to the shuttle for extraction had been lucky to get out of there alive. At least that’s what she’d told herself. Of course, that had been before they were arrested, brought up on bogus charges, court martialed and sent to the Tarsus military prison.

Damn it! She couldn’t think about that. She couldn’t let the past distract her from what was happening right now. Not if she wanted her team to survive.

“We’re almost in position, Angel,” a voice reported over her comm a few moments later. Master Sergeant Kevin “Loco” Talbot. Another asset, an invaluable one, and one she hadn’t had on that previous mission.

“Roger that, Loco. Let me know when you are.”

She paused, waiting to hear from the final team she’d sent out. As the seconds drew out into minutes that seemed like hours, her concern grew. She’d been forced to split her forces before with disastrous results. Was history repeating itself?

She licked her lips and fought the urge to message the last team. It was difficult, but she didn’t. Instead, she reminded herself that they needed to move slowly and carefully to avoid detection. At least she hadn’t heard anything from the direction they’d taken that might indicate they’d been discovered. Surely that had to be a good sign.

Stop it!

She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. Her emotions and doubts were running too high. She had to get them under control. This was her command, her mission. If she couldn’t hold it together, they would fail. But she couldn’t think about that. She couldn’t let herself be distracted by the dead, hers and the civilian lives that had been lost in that previous battle. This wasn’t the time to let distractions in.

Finally, just as she was about to give up and demand an update, her comm came to life.

“We’re in position, Angel. We have four bogies ready and we’re ready to paint them,” Captain Lucinda Ortega reported.

“Hold position, Sorceress. I say again, hold position until we confirm air support.”

“Roger that, Angel.”

“Eagle, are you ready to paint your target?”

“Eagle is ready, Angel,” the squad’s sniper replied.

“Alpha Team, prepare to lay down cover fire. Boomer, the moment we do, you and your team haul ass and take out those heavy guns and that SAM.”

“Roger that, Angel. Beta Team is ready.”

She nodded, not that the demolitions expert could see her, and drew a deep, steadying breath. A quick check of her battle rifle and she was ready. It was now or never. With a glance at the four Marines crouching behind the barricade with her, she snugged the butt of the rifle against her shoulder.

“Now!”

She leaned around the corner of the barricade and opened fire. Instantly, the sounds of weapons – battle rifles, railguns and more – filled the air. Three of the four teams laid down heavy fire to cover the fourth team as it moved into position. On her HUD, three small green lights moved quickly toward the target zone. So far, so good.

“Almost there,” Boomer’s voice said in her ear.

“Keep it up, Devil Dogs. Don’t give those bastards time to breathe, much less regroup.”

“Fire in the hole!”

Boomer’s shout was the only warning they’d get. Instantly, she set her visor to block the flash from the explosion even as she kept firing. At least this time when the ground shook, it would be working for them instead of against them.

“Keep firing!” she ordered. “Eagle, Sorceress, stand ready. I repeat, stand ready. Paint the targets on my signal. Once the air strike begins, we move in.”

Without waiting for the teams to respond, she activated her ‘link once again. “Angel to Kali, we are a go for the airstrike. I repeat, we are a go for the airstrike.”

She waited, scanning the battlefield in front of her for any movement. Smoke and dust from the explosion filled the air. From the distance, she could hear the enemy. Some called for help. Some, those caught in the blast and not lucky enough to be granted a quick death, cried out for their mothers. A small part of her felt sorry for them. But another part, the soldier in her, knew it was either them or her and she much preferred living.

As she knelt there, ready to swing her rifle toward anyone who came her way, she imagined each member of her team wanting to look skyward, but keeping their eyes on the enemy locations, as they waited for the air support to come.

Air support that hadn’t come that first time. Would it now?

“Angel, this is Kali. We are on approach. Paint the target. I say again, paint the target.”

The voice coming over the battle-net was like an answer to her prayers. She relayed the message to the rest of her squad. As she did, she inched further around the edge of the barricade. Once in position, she raised one gloved fist, knowing the others were watching for her signal. Then she waited, knowing any number of things could still go horribly wrong and praying that they didn’t.

Moments later, the sounds of the fighter wing racing in their direction filled the air. The target, six heavy ground transports that had been moving closer and closer to the Devil Dogs exploded into a wall of flames as the fighters dropped their payloads. Instinct and training had the Marines diving for cover, any cover, as shrapnel from the transports flew through the air. Screams from the enemy soldiers unlucky enough to be caught in the open followed. Then, before the screams died out, she gave the order to move in.

“Take out those snipers!” she yelled as she sprinted across the clearing in the direction of the school.

Damn it, this time she would save those huddling inside.

Hound, moving at a speed no human could without the assistance of powered battle armor, leapt from where he’d been taking cover. The moment he landed, he turned and leveled the grenade launcher that was currently his armor’s primary weapon at the target. The building she’d identified for him a few minutes earlier was soon missing part of its far side. Smoke billowed from the area where the sniper had been holed up. Someone would need a new office or apartment when this was all over. But, hopefully, they’d survived the fight and would be able to return home soon. Even as the thought came, she knew the truth could be far different. War was never clean, no matter what the politicians wanted. There was always the possibility of collateral damage, especially when the enemy had no compunctions about hiding behind a shield of innocents.

Ahead and to her left, a head popped up from the culvert. A split second later, it exploded. She smiled slightly as Eagle gave a war cry that almost split her skull. She’d remind him later about how that sort of thing sounded through the battle-net. Not that she blamed him. They’d spent too much time hunkered down behind makeshift barricades and hiding in the shadows. It felt good to finally be on the move again. Now it was time to make the enemy pay for all they’d done.

“Angel, to your right!”

Loco’s warning came at almost the same moment that her armor’s sensors warned her of someone or something suddenly appearing and moving in her direction. She turned, bringing her combat rifle to bear. Her finger slipped behind the trigger guard and she felt her combat implants coming to life as she focused on the figure running hell bent for leather in her direction.

“Hold your fire!”

Without waiting for confirmation, she broke into a sprint, racing toward the small figure. The child couldn’t be more than five or six. Where he had been hiding during the fighting she didn’t know and, just then, she didn’t care. Not when her armor’s onboard computer was telling her that several of the enemy were bearing down on them.

She had to get to t child before he was hurt – or worse.

Without conscious thought, she switched out her battle rifle for her sidearm. Using the targeting system of her HUD, she laid down fire in the direction of the nearest enemy soldier. A scream of pain followed. Good. One down but who knew how many more to come.

Three more steps and she scooped the child up in her arms. He cried out as an enemy trooper appeared to the right and opened fire. Reacting on instinct, Angel shifted the child so he was shielded by her armor before returning fire. Then she pivoted, running in the direction of Loco and the rest of his team. They were laying down cover fire, forcing the enemy troopers to duck back down into the trench. At the same time, Sorceress was calling in air support. But that was all in the background. Angel was focused on the child in her arms and getting him to safety.

“Down!”

Loco’s tone of voice was all the warning she needed. She dropped, sliding feet first toward the barricade. At the same time, Loco stepped forward, Tank and Hound on either side of him, and all hell seemed to break loose. As they opened fire with everything they had, so did the rest of the squad. If that wasn’t enough, three Sabres, the newest and most deadly fighters the Fuerconese Navy had in operation, screamed overhead and opened fire on the culvert.

The ground shook again and another explosion – no, a series of explosions – deafened them. Then there was silence, the kind of silence that really wasn’t. Her pulse pounded and her breathing was ragged. The crackling of fire mixed with the heavy smoke that filled the air. She heard someone, one of her people, offering up a quick prayer of thanks. Someone else uttered a curse. For once, she agreed with both sentiments. Then she heard the boy whimper. Much as she wanted to reassure him, she couldn’t. Not yet. She had to make sure the area was secure first.

Still cradling the child in her arms, Angel twisted around so she could look in the direction of the culvert. Nothing moved except for the smoke rising from it. Without warning, the silence was broken by a single shot to her left. Instantly, half a dozen battle rifles responded. Then nothing.

Barely daring to hope that it was over, she went to active scans. For several long moments, she studied the readouts on her HUD. The locations they had tagged as being held by the enemy were either showing red, indicating they were too hot for anyone – even armored – to survive or there were the tell tales of the dead and dying. Could it finally be over?

“Sound off!” she ordered as she carefully climbed to her feet.

As she did, the medic assigned to her squad hurried forward to take the child from her. Except the child had other ideas. He wrapped his arms and legs more firmly around her and burrowed in. with a jerk of her head, she motioned the medic off. She could spare the child a moment as she caught her breath and her people reported in.

One by one, each member of her team sounded off. A few sounded the worse for wear but she’d lost no one that day. Thank God. The nightmare hadn’t replayed in all its horror. It had come close, though, and she wanted to know why.

Relieved, she looked down into the child’s face and the world came to a crashing halt. No! He couldn’t be there. Damn it, he couldn’t be there. As bad as that time had been, that would have made it worse, so much worse.

“End sim!” she ordered, ripping off her combat helmet. “I said to end the damned sim!”

*     *     *

Needless to say, this is a rough draft, so there may be changes between this and the final version. Now, to get back to work before Sarah puts on her pointy boots and comes after me for not minding her.   😉

 

 

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The Road to Indie

adjustment2It would be so easy to do anther post about Hugos this morning. In fact, I considered it, especially after seeing how one of the editors posted a diatribe of sorts on the Tor site. However, since I know Kate is fisking the situation Thursday and because Dave did such a great job looking at what’s happening yesterday — and the fact I have a feeling we’re going to be hearing a lot more until the Awards are announced, I’ll leave off on it for now. Instead, I think I’ll discuss my foray into self-publishing and the reasons behind it.

Let me start by saying that I am still firmly behind Naked Reader Press, both as an employer and as my publisher. I thought long and hard about taking Vengeance from Ashes indie. But I’m a firm believer in the adage of not putting all your eggs in a basket and, since VfA is not related to anything I already had with NRP, I figured this was the book to strike out on my own with. That doesn’t mean NRP won’t get more of my books because it will. It just means this particular series will be under my own imprint, so to speak.

So, the process. Oh the process. Even though I can do the process of publishing an e-book in my sleep, it is very different when suddenly you’re doing it for yourself. Suddenly things I was used to just emailing to another member of NRP had to be figured out or farmed out to someone else. Then I had to decide the best way to get the novel out to the widest market. Despite doing this for years, I found myself fumbling some as I looked at new aggregators and tried to figure out if I wanted to go that route or upload directly to the different stores, etc.

But before I did that, I had to think about the novel itself. I knew I needed to build at least a little interest in it before it came out. So, as I finished the first draft, I began posting snippets of it on my blog. The response was positive and enough to convince me — with a few kicks and shoves from Sarah and the others — to keep at it. Then the unthinkable happened. I realized that there were a couple of major plot flaws with the book. So, I went back, did some major rewrites and prayed I was doing the right thing. I waffled and whimpered and whined and Sarah did some more kicking and shoving. She reminded me that I’ve gotten comfortable writing the urban fantasy and paranormal books. But science fiction was different, especially since it is my first love when it comes to reading.

I listened — she was making sense, even if I didn’t want to admit it — and finished the novel. I let it sit for a bit and then did my first round of edits. That’s when I realized I needed someone who could check the book for consistency and proof it for me. Hmmmm. Oh, and I needed a cover. Hmmmmmmmm. So, I thought and talked and everything got done. With a few hiccups along the way. There are always hiccups, whether you realize it at first or not. The edits turned up a couple of minor plot points that needed to be tied up. So, back to the keyboard I went. Yep, that helped. The story was stronger. The cover was done and I heaved a sigh of relief. Everything was ready to start the publishing process.

Or so I thought.

The Amazon account was set up. No problem there. Amazon has a very simple interface for setting up your KDP account. Quick, easy and no sweat. Whew. On to B&N and the rest. No real problem, although the banking confirmation on a couple of them seemed to take longer than necessary. But soon, the accounts were set up and I was ready to move on to the next stage.

Except there was a problem. Or at least there was something I had to ask myself — because Sarah asked me. Damn her 😉 — I use a pen name (Ellie Ferguson) for the paranormals and my own name for the urban fantasies. If I published Vengeance from Ashes under either of those names, would my readers buy it expecting shifters and/or romance? So, after some back and forth, a new pen name was born. Ashes would come out under the name Sam Schall. The name has family ties and has the added benefit of seeming to be male for those who still think women can’t write sf. But, as I pointed out to someone, it is also a name that can be seen as the shortening of Samantha. So, the reader can decide for themselves if the author is male or female. The only problem is that I hadn’t told folks ahead of time that the book would come out under a pen name — head meet desk. Desk, sorry for the dent, but this is my head.

So, title page changed.

Now, finally, I was ready to convert the manuscript for uploading to the different sales sites. I followed my usual process and took the DOC file and converted it to ePUB and then fro ePUB to MOBI. The MOBI file was uploaded to Amazon without any problem and all I had to do was wait as it went through the review process. So, on to B&N where everything came to a screeching stop. I uploaded the ePUB file and checked the converted file. WTF?!? There were formatting errors all over the place. Okay, maybe I mucked something up. Tried another ePUB file. More formatting errors, but not the same ones. Huh? Fine. I uploaded the DOC file. OMG, now the entire book was italicized. I started banging my head against the desk again.

Grumbling and grousing, I decided that I’d use an aggregator. That meant I had to look at Smashwords or one of its competitors. Since I hate Smashwords with a passion because of the meatgrinder and the lag in payments, I started looking around. After spending more time that I wanted to on the problem, I settled on Draft2Digtial. I liked several things I read about them. First, there was no arcane formatting required like there is with Smashwords. So I didn’t have to go back and make a different DOC file to get rid of section headings, replacing them with bookmarks. Nor did I have to add any odd legal language and disclaimers like Smashwords requires. Then there is the monthly payout and a much quicker post time to B&N, Kobo and — hopefully — iTunes.

So far, I’ve been very happy with the experience with D2D. It’s been extremely easy to use. I can see daily sales and updating the files is simple — or it was once I figured out where the “edit” button was on the page.

Which brings up the two problems I had after Ashes went live. The first happened when Sarah pointed out that I’d accidentally uploaded an earlier version of the cover. Okay, no biggie. I went through and uploaded a new cover image on each of the three sites — Amazon, Smashwords (for their site sales only, not as an aggregator) and D2D. I edited the book file to include the new image and uploaded those files as well. No harm, no foul. Then I sat back and waited, sure that was the last of the problems.

Nope. I’d jinxed myself. It turns out that I’d managed to mangle the names of two characters and it had been missed through all the edits and review process. Yes, the dent in my desk is now the size of a small crater. But, after my head quit hurting and my eyes could focus again, I went back to the manuscript, made the corrections and uploaded the new copies. And I thanked the kind reader who’d pointed out the problem to me instead of posting a scathing review.

Now, like so many other authors, indie and others, I’m watching my sales figures. And trying to figure out how to get the word about the book out to a wider audience. And hiding under the kitchen sink. And, well, being a writer with all the fears and neuroses that attach to it.

So, I guess what I need to do now is give you the links to the book and ask you to spread the word — and ask the if you’ve already read it, you leave a review on Amazon or wherever you purchased it.

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Smashwords

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