Tag Archives: Venusian Gambit

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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The Venusian Gambit coming in paperback next month; The Gravity of the Affair still free to download!

It’s past time to bug you good people about the upcoming mass-market paperback release of The Venusian Gambit, which is due to hit stores July 11. (I thought it was July 5, but Amazon says otherwise. So.)

I admit, Gambit was my favorite of the three Daedalus books to write. By the time I started in on Gambit in 2014, I knew the characters and the worlds very well, and I very much enjoyed seeing this saga come to a rousing conclusion. I got to end this story exactly how I wanted to, with lots of great pulpy goodness and interdimensional hijinks.

And to my great delight, Publishers Weekly felt the same way, giving the book a starred review. I’m still kind of stunned by that. It’s pretty nifty for a book that has mech-suited astronauts fighting side by side with Venusian aliens and 19th century Englishmen against French zombies created with alchemy.

If that last sentence didn’t convince you to pick it up next month, I should also point out that the new paperback edition has an all-new, exclusive excerpt of MJ-12: Inception tucked in the back. This bit introduces you to Maggie, a troubled young woman who’s manifested a very powerful ability — one that bring people to their knees with a thought.

July 11, you guys. The mass-market paperback is already up for pre-order at Amazon, and I’ll be mentioning other sites as they become available. And yes, I expect Amazon will reduce the Kindle price as well once the paperback is released.

gravitycover-hiresI also want to point out that my e-novella, The Gravity of the Affair, remains free to download at Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Google Play and elsewhere. (Barnes & Noble has it at 99 cents, for obscure and strange business reasons; don’t blame me.) I wrote it back in 2013 as a kind of introduction to the world of the Daedalus trilogy, but it remains a complete, stand-alone story. So if you’re curious about this whole sailing-ships-in-space thing, or just haven’t read it yet, it doesn’t get much better than free!

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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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Two years later, Iceland still inspires

DSCF1050It’s been nearly two years since I visited Iceland, and out of all the places I’ve traveled, there’s something about it that stuck with me — so much so that the country itself has now shown up in my writing.

Back in April 2014, my wife Kate participated in the inaugural Iceland Writers Retreat, which is pretty fantastic in terms of writing workshops; folks like Susan Orlean and Andrew Evans were among the writers imparting wisdom. Now, this was Kate’s thing — my daughter and I went along for the ride because, hey, Iceland! Why not, right?

The cool thing was that we all got to participate in the cultural parts of the retreat — pretty much everything except the writing workshops themselves. So yes, we met the president of Iceland at a state reception at Bessastadir. We went on a tour of nearby landmarks and got a pretty great rundown on the nation’s history. We listed to Iceland’s foremost working author, Sjón, give a reading in the house of Haldór Laxness, Iceland’s Nobel laureate in literature.

When Kate was in her workshops, my kid and I explored. There were old Cold War bunkers set into the hillside overlooking the hotel and airstrip that led to hours of exploration. We explored a lot of Reykjavik, which is probably the most picturesque capital I’ve visited. There were world-famous Icelandic hot dogs, many tales of Vikings, architecture old and new, and super-friendly people. You know the snow that sort of floats about on Game of Thrones when they’re doing scenes at or beyond the Wall? I stood in that snow. I put a lot of fun stuff on Twitter.

And everywhere we went, we were reminded of Iceland’s love of the written word. The Icelandic sagas were, in many ways, some of the world’s first novels. There’s a literary history there that’s the pride of the Icelandic people; President Ólafur Ragnar Grimsson went on for 20 minutes at the reception talking about his country’s literature — off the cuff, no notes, I might add.

I also wrote parts of The Venusian Gambit there, and found the environment particularly conducive to getting the work done. Now, two years later, I’m telling stories featuring Iceland.

My Geeky Giving story, “Mind Flight,” is largely set at an air base in Iceland and the protagonist, Rós Ragnarsdóttir, hails from there. Rós is a fighter pilot and one of the last defenders of Earth against the alien invaders called the Housh. In order to be effective against Housh technology, Rós has been given nanotech implants in her brain that allow her to control her fighter jet with her mind — the jet, essentially, becomes her body. But when the Housh come up with a new weapon against these fighters, Rós finds herself turning into a threat against her own people and her homeland.

I felt that the quiet strength and resiliency of Icelanders was a perfect fit for the story, and Rós as a character just kind of came to me, almost fully formed. She’s descended from Vikings, after all, so she’s already a bad-ass. And I thought Iceland itself — not as frigid and unwelcoming a geography as you might think, but pretty remote and not exactly balmy — was a fine place to set one of the last redoubts of humanity.

(I should note here that you can get “Mind Flight,” as well as stories from A.C. Wise, Robert Lowell Russell and Jeff Somers, for just $5, the proceeds of which benefit the Barrow Neurological Foundation. Click here to donate and get reading.)

IMG_3123And then there’s MJ-12: Inception, my paranormal Cold War spy-fi thriller coming out in hardcover this September. From the moment we discovered the decaying bunkers on Öskjuhlíð hill, I just sort of knew that Reykjavik would be in the book somehow. It’s not a huge chapter, but it was pretty fun. In fact, since I’m talking about it, here’s the first few paragraphs of that chapter, just because I can:

Brennivin was a beautiful, horrible thing.

Passed off to tourists as a kind of homemade liqueur with birch and licorice flavors, it was marketed as something that little Viking grandparents would have in little glasses before an early bedtime under the Northern Lights.

But among themselves, local Icelanders called it the “Black Death,” which was very typical of their dark-but-good natured humor. Brennivin went down with all the grace and subtlety as strong vodka.

The fisherman at the bar on Laugavegur Street was already several shots deep by 6 p.m.—although that wasn’t particularly noteworthy given that the sun was already down. In the few short months he’d been working on the Reykjavik waterfront, he’d become a regular, and one that his fellow patrons had grown to tolerate. He wasn’t from around there, and never would be; Iceland was a small country, you were either from Iceland, or you’d always be from somewhere else.

It didn’t hurt, though, that he had a biting wit, and an eagerness to smooth over ruffled feathers with alcohol. After the Black Death, it just didn’t seem all that important, and so the outsider grew to suit many of the locals just fine. They were fishermen and dockworkers, laborers and tradesmen, all hard workers who drank just as hard and smelled vaguely of salt and crud at the end of the day anyways.

The fisherman knew where he stood, and he’d worked hard to earn the locals’ respect, even if it was a rather begrudging one. So he was irritated, this particular evening, when two military men entered the bar. It wasn’t the first time the British and Americans ventured into local establishments like this one, but most saw the woolen-clad fishermen—and the distinct lack of women—and turned right around, or stayed for a single drink if they were feeling particularly polite or brave. It didn’t feel like these two were going to do either.

Yeah, I think it’s fair to say that the place rubbed off on me a bit. So thanks, Iceland. Have a shot of brennivin on me.

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Your Friday grab-bag of updates

Just to make things easier, I thought I’d throw a bunch of little things into a single post. Here we go!

Operation: DAEDALUS: Robert Junker is the winner of Operation: DAEDALUS! There were over a hundred individuals who left reviews, posted to Facebook, Tweeted and otherwise used social media to get the word out about the paperback release of The Daedalus Incident, and I am hugely grateful to everyone who did so. Robert went all out across multiple platforms, multiple times over, and the law of averages was on his side. Thus, he gets a signed Daedalus paperback and a signed ARC of MJ-12: Inception later this spring. Congratulations, Robert!

More operations ahead: The Enceladus Crisis is coming out May 10, so stay tuned for details about Operation: ENCELADUSI may try something different there, in terms of the qualifying stuff. Or not. Again, I’ll keep you posted. And yes, there will be an Operation: GAMBIT this summer, too, and even possibly an Operation: INCEPTION. Because you’re all awesome…or just want free books. Either or, I’m good with that.

Lunacon!: As a reminder, if you’re in the greater New York City area and want to geek out with me, I’ll be haunting Lunacon this Saturday. My schedule is here. Come say hello!

MJ-12.net update: Now that The Daedalus Incident paperback is out — with an excerpt of MJ-12: Inception therein — I’ve updated MJ-12.net with a post about Frank Lodge, one of the first people we meet in the excerpt. So head on over to MJ-12 net and dive in to the mythology I’m building around the MAJESTIC-12 series.

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Crouching Tiger, Hide This Sequel: Why do some sequels work and others…don’t?

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a masterpiece, and I will brook no argument to the contrary. It’s a film that manages to be many things at once: A heart-wrenching romance, a character study, a contemplation of a certain time and place, and an epic, kick-ass Wuxia film. The acting is superb, the directing brilliant, the writing spot-on, the cinematography dynamic and lush, and don’t even get me started on the music.

So when Netflix said they were doing a sequel — the epically titled Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (seriously, a comma and a colon) —  I was excited. I didn’t even think to be super nervous about the quality of it. Sure, Ang Lee wasn’t directing and Chow Yun Fat would obviously not be returning, but still. You take a title like Crouching Tiger and you’re taking on some responsibility, man. There are expectations. Of course it would be done well.

It’s amazing, the naivety I still have despite 43 years in the world.  Continue reading

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