Tag Archives: Daedalus Incident

Thinking about how to define authorial success

What makes a book successful? What makes an author successful? What makes some books and/or authors more successful than others? All fair questions. I saw some discussion of this among my colleagues and friends on Twitter this past week, prompted by these thoughts from the amazingly talented Delilah S. Dawson. and it gave me some things to think about.

My first novel came out in 2013 — just three short years ago! I started writing it in 2010, got my agent in 2011, and nabbed a book deal in 2012. So I’ve been at it for six years now, and a published author for just half that time. My fourth book comes out Sept. 6 in hardcover.

Have I been successful? Abso-freakin-lutely. But that’s in terms of my vision of success. And I think it’s important to define your own measures for success going in — and to keep them realistic.

(This is a long-ish post. Get comfy. Go grab a beverage if you like. I’ll be here.)

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The secret to improving writing: Just write

I was asked by a colleague today about advice for improving one’s writing, which is lovely even though it makes me feel a tad old. (That latter bit could be because I just got a haircut and all the gray is standing out now. All. The. Gray.) Anyway, the person doing the asking had a rough time with writing in college, thanks to a horribly demeaning professor, but really wanted to improve her writing regardless.

First off, props to her for taking another stab at it. It’s not easy.

I keep a binder in my office with the very first draft of The Daedalus Incident inside it, the text covered in red-pen edits. This draft, as seen here, represents maybe 60% of the concepts that ultimately became the finished product, but perhaps only 20% of the words, tops.

Why? Because that first draft was bad, man. So very not good. It had all the hubris that pushed me to write a novel, but very little of the craft that I developed over the course of multiple revisions, and none of the lessons learned from my agent and editor.

I keep it on the shelf to remind me that I’ve come a long way as a novelist, and also to keep me humble and striving to do better with each successive work. And I showed it to my colleague as a case study in how one can suck at first, and improve.

The key to improvement? Write. Write more. Then write a bunch more. Revise. Write again. And write some more. Go get some coffee. Then finally, write another thing. And revise it.

Yes, of course, classes and workshopping and reading all can contribute to improvement. But all that learning still has to be applied. And you do that by writing.

That said, I did recommend that my colleague go get her Master’s degree from her mother’s house, frame it, and keep it handy to remind her that, yes, she’s already written something truly worthy of accolade. (Heck, I don’t have a Master’s degree! That takes work!) It’s good to remember the good with the bad. Many of us tend to emphasize the criticism and minimize the success — try really hard not to do that if you can.

It’s hard if you’ve been told that your writing stinks. Getting over something like that takes guts. And even when you’ve had success, your writing will still have its critics. But the only way through that is…straight through it. Sit down, open a Word file, and go to town.

You totally got this.

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The Venusian Gambit launches today in mass market paperback!

As is now tradition, I went to a bookstore — this time, the Barnes & Noble on 5th Avenue in Manhattan — to sign a new release: The Venusian Gambit, officially out today in mass-market paperback! Never really gets old to see one’s books in a store.

(In fact, there are signed copies of Gambit as well as The Daedalus Incident at that very store now, if you happen to be around midtown!)

The Venusian Gambit wraps up the Daedalus trilogy with an epic clash between the forces of the Martian warlord Althotas (and his dupe, Napoleon) and the combined efforts of now-Admiral Thomas Weatherby and Commander Shaila Jain. Plus, as you might discern from the cover, there are aliens and zombies and a mech.

You might also take note of the snippet of the starred review from Publishers Weekly, which was really very wonderful. It’s available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Books-A-Million,Kobo, iTunes, and Google Play.

In addition to getting Gambit in a less expensive and cumbersome format, you’ll also get a brand-new excerpt from MJ-12: Inception in the back. This one deals with a young woman named Maggie Dubinsky, a former schoolteacher whose sudden Enhancement became far too burdensome to bear. Yet despite her fears and scars, the agents of MAJESTIC-12 have nonetheless sought her out for recruitment….

Very excited to see Gambit out in the wilds again, and doubly so for everyone to read just a bit more about MJ-12: Inception. The new paranormal Cold War spy series kicks off Sept. 6 in hardcover; you can pre-order it at  from AmazonBarnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Mysterious GalaxyBorderlands Books, Apple iBookstore and/or through your local bookstore via Indie Bound.

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Yes, I actually read the reviews

TDI-mmpb-coverWhile on a panel with other authors at Phoenix Comicon, an audience member asked us whether we read the reviews of our works. At least half of the authors there said no. And I totally get that — kindness and constructive criticism is in short supply on the Internet. It can be hard to read how all your hard work resulted in someone despising the book.

I piped up and said yes, I do read reviews. I don’t really seek them out, but when they’re brought to my attention via Twitter or Google alerts, I’ll give ’em a read. I’ll also occasionally look at what folks are saying when I link to Goodreads or Amazon.

Am I a glutton for punishment? Maybe. But then, I’ve been writing professionally for 23 years now, in one form or another. I used to be a journalist, and I’ve been taken to task not only by editors, but by the people I wrote about. I’ve had to defend my work repeatedly. It tends to give one a thick skin.

Yes, I’ve received negative reviews. I’ve had my ability to form coherent sentences called into question. I’ve been accused of crimes against the English language. There have been a few folks who considered the publication of my fiction yet another indication of the death knell of my publisher, or even the entire publishing industry. There have been screeds.

And you know what? All right then. I hope the screed made the reviewer feel better. Catharsis is good.

I’m really, really fortunate that my works have been generally well received — 4 stars or better on Amazon, at least 3.5 or better on Goodreads, with 4- and 5-star ratings well outnumbering the 1- and 2-star reviews. I got a couple starred reviews from major publishing sites. At this point, I’m reasonably confident that I can write enjoyable fiction.

That said, I certainly notice common threads in reviews, and there have been some dings that I’ve no doubt earned. And that’s actually helpful — that’s something I can take away and learn from, and I have. That could be one of the reasons that The Venusian Gambit was the best reviewed book in the Daedalus trilogy, and that early word on MJ-12: Inception has been really positive. I want to get better as a writer, and feedback helps.

I would never fault a fellow scribe for avoiding reviews. Folks aren’t kind sometimes, and having one’s parentage or even existence called into question ain’t a walk in the park. And some of those reviews are by no means reasonable or warranted — fellow beard-o Chuck Wendig was heartily thrashed in some quarters for Star Wars: Aftermath because folks were furious that the old Expanded Universe novels were consigned to non-canon status. It’s not like Chuck forced Disney to do that, y’all. (I shudder to think of what he would actually do with that kind of power.)

He was also ripped into for introducing a gay character into Star Wars, which the worst sort of mean-spirited, specious criticism. It’s 2016, people. Honestly, it’s about time we saw LGBTQ+ folks represented in popular fiction, and I’m proud to call the guy who brought the rainbow to a Galaxy Far Far Away a friend.

Anyway, I digress. I read the reviews, good or bad. The good ones are a nice little ego boost, and give me a nice hit of writer fuel to tackle the next book. The bad ones? Eh. I’ve had Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft, rant at me over something or other — and he was six inches from my face. And he was eating at the time. If I could stand my ground then — and I did — I’m pretty OK with someone not liking my books.

And speaking of reviews: I saw a couple that were pretty nifty keen. Rob Bedford reviewed The Enceladus Crisis over at SFFWorld and had some really nice things to say about it. And a fine person named Magilla Gurilla (how awesome is that nom du plume?) over at The Veteran Gamer “absolutely recommended” The Daedalus Incident. Glad you folks liked the books. And I’m glad I read your reviews!

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Interrogate your worldbuilding

roomSounds kinda cool, doesn’t it?

SCENE: The precinct downtown. A gray room with bare walls, a metal table, two uncomfortable chairs, a single bulb dangling from the ceiling. A detective paces the room in a suit stained with coffee and despair. He suddenly wheels on your worldbuilding and slams his hands on the table. “TALK! Or it’s the chair for you!”

Actually, I’d read the heck out of that. *makes note to self*

Sadly, this isn’t what I mean by “interrogate your worldbuilding.” I was on a couple of worldbuilding panels last weekend at Phoenix Comicon, and I briefly touched on this concept. So I want to sit down and work through it a bit better.

No interrogation room, though. Go sit on the couch and grab some tea or wine or something. This should be mostly painless. Ready? Let’s go. (Warning: There are mild spoilers ahead for MJ-12: Inception.)

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Who are you writing for?

TDI-mmpb-coverWhen The Daedalus Incident was being prepped for release in early 2013, there was some confusion as to where it should be shelved within the multitude of sub-genres of science fiction and fantasy. It certainly has some steampunk elements to it, though there’s a very evident lack of steam. Historical fantasy? Sure, though there’s no over “magic” in it. Space opera? Certainly possible, though the 22nd century stuff was distinctly science-based.

When I was writing it, I didn’t care. I knew what I wanted to do, and I did it. The result borrowed from several subgenres (hard SF, military SF, historical fantasy, space opera, steampunk…to name a few) and, I’d like to think, resulted in something greater than the sum of the parts.

Had I thought more about the book-buying marketplace, I might’ve slimmed it down somewhat. Indeed, one potential publisher back in 2012 had thought that cutting the 22nd century stuff altogether might make it more marketable. I tried it, edited it down and it was OK, but I’m glad it didn’t happen in the end. The Daedalus Incident and its sequels are exactly the stories I wanted to tell.

Publishers tend to think in taglines — “police procedural with zombies,” for example, or “Heinlein-esque military SF with humor.” Even the forthcoming MAJESTIC-12 series can be summed up with “paranormal Cold War spy thrillers” or “X-Men meets James Bond.” But the Daedalus trilogy really didn’t lend itself well to that kind of summation. Even my standard go-to tagline, “Napoleonic Era space opera,” only captures half of the equation.

The other side of this is the “what’s hot” trend. Dystopian YA? Thanks, Hunger Games. It’s practically its own subgenre. Vampires are so over, though urban fantasy still has a plethora of mythic beasties and monsters wandering the darkened streets of the 21st century. Steampunk marches on, dominating the alt-history section of the bookstore. Some publishers are looking for the next big space opera, or grimdark fantasy like Game of Thrones, or near-future cyber-thriller.

What’s a writer to do?

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Sail on! The Enceladus Crisis launches today in paperback!

Very, very excited to see The Enceladus Crisis out there in paperback today. And as is my tradition, I stopped by the local Barnes & Noble in Hackensack, N.J., to sign copies. They now have both The Daedalus Incident and The Enceladus Crisis in stock, and signed!

enceladus-launchday

In addition to detailing the ongoing adventures of now-Captain Thomas Weatherby in 1798, and now-Lt. Cmdr. Shaila Jain in 2134, the paperback edition also has a brand-new, never-before-seen excerpt of MJ-12: Inception in the back. This one followed U.S. Navy Lt. Danny Wallace as he explores the stark, horrible destruction of Hiroshma after World War II. And he finds something utterly surreal there.

Here’s a peek at the first page.

enceladus-excerpt

The third book of the Daedalus trilogy, The Venusian Gambit, is set to go July 5. And yes, you’ll get another excerpt there as well. MJ-12: Inception is due out in hardcover from Night Shade Books on September 6. If you’re attending Phoenix Comicon, I’ll have some advance copies to give away, so come say hi!

My thanks, as always, goes out to the fine folks at Night Shade Books for continuing to support the Daedalus trilogy with these new releases, as well as to super-agent Sara Megibow and all the folks who have read and enjoyed these books. You all rock!

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The Enceladus Crisis comes out in paperback May 10!

TEC-cover-mmpgApril’s been a very busy month, and I haven’t given the blog it’s due. And I’ve been remiss in mentioning that The Enceladus Crisis will be released in mass-market paperback on May 10, which is super exciting for me and, hopefully, a new opportunity for readers to explore the Daedalus trilogy.

The Enceladus Crisis picks up where The Daedalus Incident left off — two years after the strange quakes on Mars that plagued our heroes in the 22nd century, and nearly twenty years after a young Lt. Thomas Weatherby unraveled the mysteries of Cagliostro’s insidious plot. There’s more twists and turns in this one, new and exotic locations, and the peril — oh, the peril! It’s not an easy time for anyone in this book.

The paperback release, in addition to being easier to carry around and cheaper (ebook prices have already started to come down), also includes a new excerpt from MJ-12: Inception, the first book in the MAJESTIC-12 series of paranormal Cold War spy thrillers out in hardcover this September.

The first excerpt, in The Daedalus Incident paperback, introduced readers to a young Army officer named Frank Lodge as he navigated a particularly harrowing situation in Berlin in the aftermath of World War II. The excerpt in Enceladus introduces Danny Wallace, a Navy man investigating something very unusual in Hiroshima three months after the city was leveled by the world’s first atomic weapon.

And yes, there will be a third, all-new excerpt of MJ-12: Inception released with The Venusian Gambit paperback in July.

I’m quite excited and very gratified at how The Daedalus Incident sold in paperback — thank you, readers! And the support the series has been getting on social media has been pretty awesome. I don’t have plans to run a contest for The Enceladus Crisis at the moment — there’s been too much other stuff to do — but any shout-outs on social media, and any reviews you care to place on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads and the like, is greatly appreciated.

MJ12_FinalAs for other things, I’m busy preparing to draft MJ-12: Shadows (working title), the second MAJESTIC-12 novel. It was a tougher nut to crack since the world of the Variants has expanded quite a bit, but I worked through a bunch of stuff this month and have the whole thing mapped out, as is my wont before I start the actual writing. It feels like I’m a bit behind in the process, likely because I’ve been busy with day-job things, but when I look at the calendar, I feel quite good about where I am.

Advance reader copies (ARCs) of MJ-12: Inception have been printed, and I’m eagerly awaiting my stash. The cover is beautiful, and the interior design is absolutely gorgeous. (I may have mentioned that before, but it bears repeating. Gorgeous.) I’ll also be getting digital ARCs soon for reviewers and the like. It’s a real thing that’s happening, and I’m pretty stoked.

I’m also getting excited for Phoenix Comicon during the first weekend of June. Not 100% sure on panels yet, though I know I’m doing something with Geeky Giving as well as a panel on humorous sidekicks, plus there’s the Elevengeddon signing at the Poisoned Pen and the Drinks with Authors charity thing. I’m bringing some MJ-12: Inception ARCs as well — if you’re going, watch my Twitter feed carefully if you want one.

So that’s what I got going on. I promise to be far more entertaining on the blog in May.

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ELEVENGEDDON returns! Join us in Scottsdale on June 1!

Kevin Hearne made this. He’s a multi-talented fellow.

Going to Phoenix Comicon? Of course you are. It’s a rad con. And if that’s the case — or you happen to live in the greater Phoenix area — you had best brace yourself. Elevengeddon is coming back.

For the second year in a row, the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale is hosting a veritable bushel of fantastic science fiction and fantasy writers the night before Phoenix Comicon kicks off. And yes, that bushel includes me. Last year was so much fun, and this year promises to be even better.

The event kicks off on June 1 at 7 p.m. at the Poisoned Pen, 4014 N. Goldwater Blvd, Scottsdale, Ariz. Here’s the calendar listing. And as for the authors, well….

I mean, good Lord. This is an awesome bunch. I know some of these fine people personally, and know others solely from their work. All are amazing.

Now, if you can’t get to Arizona — though, really, you should — never fear. Just call the Poisoned Pen ahead of time and they’ll have us sign books for you, then ship them right to your door. (Note: You still have to pay for ’em.)

That said, I really hope you can get there if you’re going to be in the area. I may very well have advance copies of MJ-12: Inception to give away to one or two lucky attendees. Plus, of course, I’ll be signing the Daedalus series books — including the mass-market paperback editions of The Daedalus Incident and The Enceladus Crisis

Finally, my thanks to the incomparable Kevin Hearne for organizing this again. He’s a fantastic fellow, and you should purchase and read all his books.

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Getting back into the story

I am officially back from vacation, and not even a full slate of work in the office can shake my Bahamian mellowness. It was a lovely trip and I very much enjoyed spending down-time with the family in a tropical paradise. Plus, the food was crazy-good.

It also served to clear a bit of mental logjam. See, I’ve spent the last two months finalizing edits on MJ-12: Inception, writing a short story for an upcoming anthology, and most importantly, tackling a couple of rather huge day-job work projects. All that pretty much kept me away from my work on MJ-12: Shadows, the tentatively titled sequel to Inception. In fact, it was two months to the day when I had last cracked open those files.

And man, that’s daunting. I write fast, sure — a couple long stints at The Associated Press will do that. But I really hadn’t been able to spare much thought to the next MAJESTIC-12 book, which meant I was faced with several Word files of notes and a huge incomplete mess of an Excel outline.

How do you get back into a story when it’s been back-burnered for so long?  Continue reading

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