Thursday, July 31, 2014

Milestones and Principles

Hi all,

I figured that today would be a good day for a slight progress report given that it's the end of the month, and maybe a little insight into the rules I've set for myself regarding my sci-fi.

Rich Man's War is #1 in military sci-fi and #5 in sci-fi adventure on Amazon as of this writing, which is super exciting and very gratifying to me. Those stats may well change quickly--they can rise and fall on an hourly basis sometimes--but it hit those numbers yesterday, and that made me feel good.

Per my announcement when RMW was released, anything I make off of Poor Man's Fight from 7/22 through the end of August will be donated to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Again, that's not an endorsement from them (we've had no contact) and that's after Amazon gets its share of royalties & after taxes...but I'm pleased to say that as of this writing, I am now on the hook for about $528 there (assuming I can do math), and I sincerely hope it keeps growing!

So I figured, for anyone who might be interested in things like "world-building," that I might share something I wrote up for the PMF setting a few weeks ago. As some people may have noticed, I try to avoid lengthy third-person info-dumping in my stories. Sometimes a little of that is necessary, but I find that it's best to keep it to a bare minimum. But in getting into the climactic battle at the end, I decided it might be time to maybe write these things down in a single list just to help me keep them straight. Obviously not all this is technical or historical; some of it is the make-believe space opera physics of the setting, but some of it is thematic. I thought, just for the hell of it, that I would share it for the sake of anyone who might be interested.

Also, please note: very little of this is truly set in stone. One of the guiding philosophies in my books is, as a college professor once told me, "Change is the only constant." Tech moves on. Cultures change. People really do change, though not as deliberately as they would like. But here, as the world of Tanner and Janeka and Alicia and Casey stands, are The Rules:

The Rules

  1.        Everyone thinks they’re the good guys. Every crime, every lie, every act of oppression comes with a justification or at least an excuse.
  2.    People can always be lazy, careless, irritable, backstabby, selfish and well-meaning but ignorant, even in space.
  3.    The future is not all that white. Unless a character appears in my head fully formed including an ethnicity, the character will likely have a name that is Chinese, Indian, Latino or from sub-Saharan Africa. In any case, many people are of mixed heritage regardless.
  4.    The Union of Humanity binds humans to a common defense and diplomacy vis-à-vis alien powers. It maintains a Union fleet with funding quotas for member worlds, standardizes weights and measures and basic regulations for interstellar travel… and that’s IT. There is NO universal standard for human rights, no supreme court, no common process for extraditions, no common currency and no prohibition against member states going to war against one another. It’s the best anyone could manage. The Union is a confederacy. Hah.
  5.    Aliens are really, really alien. You don’t hang out with them in bars. The most powerful aliens think “economics” is a stupid concept. The two known alien civilizations keep their distance and don’t trust humanity because they aren’t stupid.
  6.    Combining #4 and #5: neither alien civilization enters many binding agreements with humanity, because experience has shown that the right hand of humanity has no real control over the left.
  7.    Faster Than Light travel requires an FTL engine. You cannot “see” or “hear” faster than light. If you want to contact someone on another planet, you either suffer from transmission lag (Earth to Mars is two minutes at their closest points), or you put your message on an FTL-capable ship or drone and they get it when it gets there.
  8.    Because of FTL lag, electronic cash has returned to prominence. Electronic bank transfers (a la ATM purchases) are only practical on a planet’s surface or in large-scale matters of corporations or government entities. Individual travelers rely mostly on some form of secured electronic (or even physical) cash.
  9.    FTL travel within a star system is exceedingly dangerous, and therefore typically illegal. Travel too close to a gravity well in FTL, or come out of FTL too close, and your ship is torn apart.
  10.   An object in FTL undergoes funky changes in mass; a dime fired at a planet at or near FTL speeds will not cause catastrophic damage. However, it will suck for the dime and possibly the immediate vicinity of its impact. This is narrative space magic counter to real-world physics, and thus will not likely come up in the books.
  11.   A pretty hot-shit FTL starship can cover one light year in two hours. (Sun to Alpha Centauri = 2 hours)
  12.   Maximum starship weapons range is 120,000 km. Anything that moves fast enough to make space travel practical is an inherently difficult target, even with computer assistance.
  13.  There are no energy shields. Spaceships and some other objects can undergo electrostatic reinforcement—the molecules hold together with greater strength, but that doesn’t make anything invulnerable.
  14.   Interstellar economics is mostly about finished goods and specialized services. There is some trade in rare raw materials, but this is a minor factor in the overall scheme of things.
  15.   Most current human art forms are alive and well, including specifically rock’n’roll music and cinema.
  16.  To quote my real-life Chaplain in basic training, “Nobody listens to the fucking Pope,” but there is still a Catholic church, and it doesn’t give a damn about anyone’s sexuality. Islam is alive and well, though life in the stars makes practices like the hajj and prayer toward Mecca into complex issues, leading to new sectarian divisions.
  17. [Redacted--Tanner's love life] If I ever sell off film rights, this will be in the contract.
  18. Tanner will always be a shitty pilot.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014



“They will never let you go…because there’s no money in it.”

No one walks away from business with the three biggest corporations in the Union of Humanity. Cutthroat trade deals, relentless propaganda and bloody covert operations drive that point home as the star system of Archangel slips further away from corporate dominance. Yet despite all their power, the Big Three are more vulnerable than anyone knows—leaving them desperate to make an example of Archangel.

Tanner Malone would gladly avoid such struggles. He’d rather just run out the clock on his enlistment in the Archangel Navy. Instead, he’s been ordered back into the front lines of a cold war that quickly grows hot. He doesn’t know about his government’s shady deals, or about the old enemies lurking in the shadows. All he knows is that the sky is falling—and he’ll have to fight like hell if he doesn’t want to be crushed beneath it.

And yes, the paperback version is in the works!

AND IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS: All author profits from Poor Man's Fight for sales from today (7/22/14) through the end of August 2014 will be donated to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). This is, just to be clear, the author's portion only; Amazon and the other vendors still get their regular cut, and unfortunately I can't really afford to eat the taxes levied on my sales. However, experience has shown that I tend to see a sales bump in all my titles when a new book comes out, and I'd like to do something good with at least some of that money. Please note: this is NOT an endorsement from the IAVA. I have had no contact with them. Their website says that anyone doing a fundraiser for them can use their name, and so I have. But I don't want to go putting on any pretenses of affiliation or anything like that.

Once I've received royalty payments from the vendors for sales covering the time period listed above, I will make the donation and post pictures or other proof of said donation here on my blog (sans personal info--yes, I write under a pen name).

As always, thank you so much for your interest and support! Remember, nothing helps me out like reader reviews--so when you're finished, a few words wherever you picked up this e-book would be much appreciated!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Release Date...ish!

It's looking like sometime next week. Maybe Monday, in order to hopefully make someone's Monday less like a... well... like a Monday.  :)

I'm in the process of squeezing out unnecessary words. I am hoping to hear from a few more of my beta readers because I value their opinions, but I really want to get this book out soon.

Here's hoping I didn't just jinx myself by making a prediction!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Progress Report: Getting Closer!

So as of this evening (Monday the 7th), the current draft of Rich Man's War is now in the hands of my trusty beta readers. I have seen a very recent version of the cover art, and I'm thrilled with the progress and excited to see the final product.

At this point, I know I'll need to do one last round of edits to squeeze out every last unnecessary word and to make sure I have all my punctuation straight, but it's looking like it won't be long now. That is, unless my beta readers all come back to me and tell me that these words I've been seeing on my computer screen are all just a giant incoherent illusion and really I've spent all this time mashing keys on my keyboard and telling myself it's a story.

This is always a weird feeling.

But on the bright side, the still-undetermined release date is now closer than it has ever been!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Rich Man's War: Prologue

I feel like I have money burning a hole in my pocket.

I've wanted to share this for a while. I have often thought that having this piece available would propel me into getting the rest of the book done faster. But I wanted to make sure the biggest hurdle was cleared first, and that's the rough draft. That part is done now. I'm on to revisions. I do not know how long it will be before Rich Man's War is released, but I know that the hardest part is done and that I'm more excited about getting it out than anyone else could be about reading it.

For the record, the piece below may still be subject to slight changes and edits for the novel. Regardless, here it is: the prologue for Rich Man's War.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Almost There (kinda)!

An Update:

This is all rough draft stuff, so please don't take this the wrong way.


I got to the end of the last full chapter on Rich Man's War last night. That brings me to 140,021 words and only the epilogue left to go.

Again. Rough draft. I still have to start from the beginning with revisions, and then when I'm done with that hand it to people and see what needs to be fixed before it's ready for prime time.

If I haven't mentioned this before, Rich Man's War holds much more action than Poor Man's Fight. It's a bigger story on a bigger scale, and while Tanner is a very consequential figure in the scheme of it all, he's also just one more grunt in the middle of big events.

When I have the epilogue finished, I will post the prologue here on my blog. I hope to have that done this week, mostly because I have family coming in to visit next weekend and that will surely derail me for a couple of days. So if you're really looking forward to Rich Man's War, watch this space!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Loaded Terms

Once upon a time, when I was younger and I had trouble finding a romantic relationship, I used to say that I was often "friendzoned."

To me, that meant that this woman I liked -- usually already a friend at some level to begin with -- wasn't interested in being anything "more" than friends. It never, ever meant that I should resent her, or that she was a bitch or a whore, or that I should stop being her friend. Never once did that happen. Was I frustrated and disappointed? Sure. Finding a relationship can be hard. Dating can be hard. Sure was for me.

Years later, I discovered that for most people, "friendzone" not only implied that the lady in question wasn't interested in a romantic or sexual relationship, but also that the guy in question turned into a raging, resentful douche about the whole thing. On a personal level, it bothered me a bit that this term, which I thought was a witty and chagrinned but otherwise good-natured note -- 'cause it means we're actually still friends, right? -- didn't mean for much of the world what it meant to me, and that if I kept using it I would effectively be saying something I didn't mean to say. On a broader level, though, was the far more unsettling fact that this was just one more note of all the utterly inexcusable bullshit that women have to deal with on a daily basis.

Just one more drop of juvenile hassling in a sea of unfairness.

So I dropped the use of that term. I didn't have much use for it, anyway, once I wound up on a path of serial long-term monogamy (and, for a significant stretch, polyamory). But I've found in recent years that "nice guy," which I'd always taken literally, also means "total creeper who claims to be a nice guy" for all too many other people. And that bothered me, because I'd gotten that label (with benevolent, literal intent) many times, and it was something that I more or less aspired to. But it has become something else. And thank god I was never big on wearing fedoras, because that's turned into something unpleasant, too.

I write this in part because some readers have taken my urban fantasy books as a "sex fantasy for men" or what have you. Yeah, it's partially erotica, and yeah, I'm a guy and I'm writing from that perspective, but I never set out to write the Men's Sex Fantasy. I certainly hope men like my stories, and I obviously think that sexy stories are for men as much as for women. I also love it when I hear from women who read my stories, too. I want people to like my stories.

I wrote a story that involved a lot of sex, and a lot of sexy women, but I wanted all those women to have agency, equality and independence. It bothered me that when the sequel came out and that degree of agency, equality and independence was even more evident than in the first book, a number of readers were turned off by it. I knew that would happen. I totally expected it. I wrote the story that I wanted to write anyway. There will be more of that, later down the line whenever I get back to Alex & Co., because in my mind the story was always going in that direction. I wasn't bothered that people didn't like that direction; you simply can't please everyone. But I was bothered by the notion that I might have set out to write a Men's Sex Fantasy, 'cause while I understood that some readers might view it that way, I'd never once set out with that as my goal.

As much as I don't want to get super political on my blog here, I felt like talking about this in the wake of the #YesAllWomen hashtag and the responses it has gotten. A lot of the reactions have been angry or super defensive remarks from men. A lot of it has been a matter of trolling, and guys who think they're being funny by making domestic violence jokes or rape threats because, "Meh! It's the Internet!" but this is exactly what people talk about when they refer to "rape culture." It's not a culture that encourages all men to be rapists, or to be otherwise violent towards women -- it's a culture that minimizes the seriousness of that through a lot of "harmless" humor and apathy and bullshit, which in turn minimizes the actual seriousness of actual rape (as opposed to, say, that harmless internet comment).

It's okay to know that #YesAllWomen isn't directed specifically at you if you, as a guy, aren't someone who harasses or degrades women. The point isn't AllMenDoThis. The point is that more than ENOUGH men do this stuff that Yes, All Women have to deal with it regularly.

And it's bullshit. And it should stop. Turns out that whole culture hurts everyone -- men and yes, all women, too.