Archive

Posts Tagged ‘ebooks’

My podcast interview with fellow author Robert Swartwood. It’s cool, I promise.

July 1, 2012 Leave a comment

A few days ago I had the pleasure of being ‘interviewed’ by Robert Swartwood, author of several novels, including The Calling, The Serial Killer’s Wife, Man of Wax, and No Shelter (one of my favorite reads of 2011, with a funny story behind the pseudonym – one which you’ll only know if you listen.) We chat about:

  • How he and I first met (nothing of a romantic nature, I assure you)
  • My thoughts on Smashwords (why I use them as little as possible, and why you won’t see me send SW book links)
  • Our discussion on ebook pricing, the $.99/$2.99 price points, the value of higher pricing, and Amazon as the big bad guy in the room
  • The crap and/or offensive material being published, and what a potential barrier to entry might do to clean it up
  • A little about my Gabriel series, along with a brief sneak preview of my current (non-Gabriel) work in progress
  • And finally, a chance to win my complete trilogy, Gabriel’s Journey, by leaving a comment on Robert’s blog by midnight Monday the 2nd

It’s around 40 minutes long, so if you’ve always wanted to hear my voice (for whatever strange, potentially creepy reason) hit the Play button and continue writing. Here’s the link to Robert’s site:

http://www.robertswartwood.com/insights/in-which-steve-umstead-and-i-talk-about-important-things/

Leave a comment on Robert’s blog, I know he’d love to hear from you guys.

The super-secret project revealed – another addition to the Gabriel universe!

April 1, 2012 11 comments

At long last, what you’ve all been waiting for (well, okay, what no one was really waiting for, I admit), I can reveal the super-secret writing project I’ve been working on the last month or so. And here we are:

Click to enlarge

Gabriel: Zero Point is a prequel novella (~22,000 words) that goes back to the man before the trilogy, and starts with his recruitment right out of Navy Officer Candidate School by NAVSOC (Naval Special Operations Command), shows how he gained some of his unusual “abilities”, and gives more of a background of how he became who he was at the start of Gabriel’s Redemption.

I had had many people ask (a) if I was done with Gabriel after the trilogy was complete, and (b) would I ever visit the person that wakes up in a seedy hotel room in Jamaica in Gabriel’s Redemption’s first scene to show how he got there. So the answers would be no, yes. Evan Gabriel has a backstory, and this is part of it. Not all, and who knows – I may go back one day in the future to explore more. But for right now, this will be the end of Gabriel writing. I’ve got several other ideas bouncing around in my head over the past year I really want to commit to paper, but I also wanted to say hello to Gabriel one more time.

Yesterday I polished off the first draft (writing 9,000 words in one day, mind you – I’m surprised my fingertips have any feeling this morning) and have been doing my initial edits today for mechanics, then tonight going through for content/plot/etc. Tomorrow (Monday the 2nd) Zero Point will hit the hands of my trusted beta readers (a great group of people who know Gabriel and the universe, and whose opinions I value greatly) with the hope I receive crits and suggestions by next weekend. If all goes well, Gabriel: Zero Point will hit the virtual shelves the following week.

A huge thanks to all my readers – without your support and enthusiasm, Zero Point wouldn’t have ever gotten off the ground. I hope you enjoy this new one!

Excerpt from Gabriel’s Revenge – Shuttle Launch to Mars

March 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Gabriel had just cinched his straps when the Marcinko’s engines ignited, pressing each of them back into their seats in the shuttle. He heard Olszewski mutter a curse from next to him. He looked over at the private with a raised eyebrow.

“Sorry, sir. I’m a ground pounder. I hate this shit. Necessary evil to get me where I need to go I guess, but doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

Gabriel turned back to the front of the shuttle. He stared past the pilot’s helmet and out the viewport, where he could see a sliver of starry space. The ventral bay doors had begun to open.

He closed his eyes and linked his neuretics in to the Marcinko’s battlecomp feed. He saw with some satisfaction the other five in his team all did the same. He knew some did it for the thrill of watching the battle unfold, some for the situational awareness. Whatever their reasons, he didn’t blame them. It wasn’t just a learning experience for him either. He wanted to see the enemy. And see them destroyed.

The specialist that had loaded them and their gear, Allen, was also their pilot. His hand flew over the switches mounted in front of him as he prepared the shuttle for launch.

“Sirs and ma’am, hold on,” Allen called out. “The captain’s got some rapid maneuvers planned, and we’re getting spit out in the middle of them. Hope no one ate lunch yet.”

“Keven?” It was Sowers’s voice.

“Zip it,” said Brevik. “Watch.”

Gabriel kept his eyes closed and let his Mindseye show him the situation.

The Marcinko went to full power and arced down towards Mars. Gabriel felt his chest squeezed by the G-forces and tried to control his breathing as he saw multicolored stars behind his eyelids. After a few seconds the heavy acceleration eased and the stars cleared, leaving him more able to focus on the Mindseye feed.

The battlecomp tagged the blockade fighter with a red icon. The projected path of the Marcinko was just outside of its orbit, but Gabriel saw the flight path of the shuttle, once launched, went almost directly through the red icon. He remembered McTiernan’s order to the tac officer to ‘remove it from the equation’, so he was not surprised when he heard the clank of the internal missile launcher falling into place in front of their shuttle.

The rotating launcher spat two Jayhawk missiles, then immediately swung back up to the ceiling of the docking bay. Another clank sounded throughout the cabin as the launch arm grabbed the shuttle and set it into position above the open ventral doors. The Marcinko began its release maneuver and Gabriel was pressed into his seat. With a loud hiss of hydraulics that could be heard even within the pressurized cabin, the shuttle fell from the docking bay, and he went weightless.

Gabriel’s Mindseye painted a vivid image of the scene around them: the Marcinko peeling away from their position, the two Jayhawks going hypersonic in front of them, and the dusty orange globe below them. The serene image lasted only a split second before Allen fired the shuttle engines and initiated the descent.

The picket fighter never stood a chance. It was only using station-keeping thrusters and apparently not expecting an attack, especially one that came from a hole in space. The Jayhawks were on it before it even had an opportunity to light its engine.

“Hold on!” yelled Allen. Gabriel opened his eyes to look out past the pilot. The explosion of the fighter loomed ahead and grew quickly in size as the shuttle accelerated towards Mars. A sound like nails on metal decking rattled through the cabin as the debris from the explosion peppered the hull of the shuttle.

“We’re clear!” The pilot turned to look over his shoulder. “Everyone A-OK?”

Gabriel saw Olszewski raise a thumb next to him, then heard a retching from Takahashi behind him. He ignored it — at this point he was used to it — and stared out of the pilot’s viewport.

Ahead of them lay Mars. And Renay.

My thoughts on a lost era: Encyclopedia Britannica to stop printing books

March 14, 2012 6 comments

Wow. I read this headline yesterday while taking my daily CNN.com cruise (I do have to see just how the silly GOP primary season is going, after all – it’s like a slow-moving train wreck, and I just can’t look away…) and stopped short. As crazy as it sounds, I had this massive flashback. Me, sitting in the closet of my mother’s dressing room, around the age of six or seven, reading our set of Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover for weeks on end.

My parents were one of those hundreds of thousands who purchased the full set – the type of set many of you may remember, where a volume arrived very few weeks or so until the A to Z collection was complete. I read them like a fat kid ate cake. Couldn’t get enough of them. When I got to the end of the Z volume, I went back to A. Still to this day, I attribute a lot of where I am today to reading those voraciously as a young child. As a parent myself, I knew that THE most important thing I could teach my children was to read, and to constantly encourage them to read.

It’s a different world now, obviously. I’m totally on board with digital editions of books – have been for quite some time. I’m not one of those married to the “feel” or “smell” of books, and I would definitely rather read ebook than paper, but…man, this hit me. The knowledge of the world is available in seconds online, yet there’s just something about that memory, me holding a flashlight a cracking open the next exciting letter volume, that made me stop and think.

In all likelihood, that’s an era that will never be experienced again – a 244 year history of printed encyclopedias has come to an end. Kids won’t wait anxiously for the encyclopedia salesman to drop off the next five pound book that they will crack (literally, as that crisp new spine cracks for the first time) and hide in the closet to read.

Kids today have access to infinitely more knowledge than at any time in human history, and even though I don’t pine for the days of horse & buggy, or telegraphs, or oil lamps, I have to look upon this news with just a touch of sadness.

Last night I ordered the hardcover versions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy for my 11 year old son. I have the electronic versions for his Kobo, but something just made me want to give him that crack of the spine.

Love to hear your thoughts or memories…

 

Gabriel covers getting a tweak – take a peek (hey look, my first foray into poetry!)

March 10, 2012 13 comments

UPDATE 3/11: Yep, that didn’t last long. Made a couple extra tweaks: changed the font, gave it a slight inset as opposed to an emboss, moved the subtext up. So now I have before, after, and after-after. Hopefully I’m done…

I spent a few hours yesterday doing some tweaks to the Gabriel scifi series covers. Nothing with the images – I’d never touch the incredible original artwork from Josh Powers, but I wanted to clean up the font size/style/color a bit, perhaps give it more of a pop. I’m not usually a fan of serif fonts (especially for science fiction), but I used one in the original covers because I thought it looked decent…but my pseudo-ADHD kicked in recently and I wanted to modify it.

Below are the before & after shots of all four covers, now with sans serif fonts in a bolder, white style & color. They should be making their way downstream to Amazon, BN, et al within the next few days.

\

 

Thoughts?

I got snookered…by a “free short story”

March 6, 2012 12 comments

I just wrapped up a great read over the weekend (plug: Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell – muy excellente), and was in the mood for a quickie. Stop it…

No, a quick read. Nothing too deep; I’m in the midst of my own writing project, and it’s difficult for me to read and write at the same time (I’m always afraid of someone else’s style/technique/language seeping into my own). I opened up the BN store on my Nook, flipped through the scifi section, and found one by one of my favorite authors. I won’t name names here, since I’m annoyed by what happened, but he shares his first name with the original lead signer of Genesis, and last name with one of the Texas Rangers’ most powerful hitters. (Ready, set, Google!)

I downloaded it (freebie!), and it said 41 pages. Excellent, sounds like 20-30 minutes of relaxation. Starts off well, sounds like an interesting concept, then boom. I hit page 11 in about five minutes, and it’s over. And I’m not talking Nook pages vs. real world page count – this was page 11 out of 41. What happens on page 12? “Read further for sample chapters of [author’s name]’s new book.”

Yep – snookered. Thought I had a 41 page short story, and ended up with 30 pages of “samples” encouraging me to buy the next book. Hey, I totally understand marketing, and I can’t complain (too much) because the short story was free. And I have sample excerpts at the end of my books (though they are a minuscule percentage of the book content). But it just stuck in my craw* that this short story was nothing but a vehicle to sell other books.

* What exactly is a craw anyway?

This wasn’t written to entertain in my opinion, because after 11 pages there just isn’t enough to truly entertain – it did the opposite and annoyed me. It didn’t meet my expectations, and probably turned me off (for now) of buying that other book (I probably will later, because I love that author’s work, but if it were one I wasn’t familiar with? Not so sure).

If it was 11 pages and 1 page of “look what I have for sale”, fine. But for 75% of what I downloaded to be marketing material? Yeah, I feel snookered. I’m in the travel industry, and a lot of the hotels I visit have time share reps disguised as concierges or front desk staff. When I get caught up in a time share discussion when all I wanted was the restaurant opening/closing schedule, I feel snookered – just like I felt when I hit page 12.

Am I looking at this the wrong way? Should I just be happy with 11 pages of a short for free?

Categories: Thoughts Tags: , ,

Using profanity in writing – is it necessary, or even missed?

February 22, 2012 32 comments

I woke up this morning (but unlike Jim Morrison, did not get myself a beer) to a very complimentary 5 star review on Amazon for Gabriel’s Journey, the trilogy collection:

“The reviews for it were fantastic, but you know how that could go. I’m in between reads so I bought it. What a pleasant surprise! Well written, with the right amount of humor as well as a distinct lack of profanity. Enjoyable in all aspects. Just what I needed, another good author on my watch list. Highly recommend this one!!”

Something in there really stood out to me, something I struggled with early on, but something I’ve stuck with, and I’m glad I did. It’s the phrase “distinct lack of profanity.”

The Gabriel stories are military stories at their heart. The lead character is a Navy Commander who has been through a lot, continues to go through a lot, and is surrounded by military throughout the trilogy. The general consensus is that many members of the military can rival truck drivers (or vice versa) for their florid language skills. However, I took a slightly different tack with my stories, and I’ve heard feedback in both directions.

A brief background: I wrote my first book, Gabriel’s Redemption, not with the intent to publish, but more as a challenge to myself (National Novel Writing Month) to finally finish a story, and perhaps even more so as something I wanted my kids to read (two boys, 10 & 13 at the time). Therefore, I went light on the violence, extremely slim on the profanity, and absolutely zero on the sex.

After it ended up being published, I did get some feedback about the language (or lack thereof) used by hardcore military guys and gals, and after (only after) my kids both read the story, I did go back and add in a little color. But I still kept it light, on purpose. I’ve read a lot of books where the F-bomb is used liberally, far more than is necessary, and it pulls me out of the story a bit. I’ve always told my kids that using profanity is a sign of an uneducated vocabulary, that the speaker is using swear words to get a rise out of another when a different word would be just as effective, and perhaps even more effective. Stand-up comedians would be a good example. Eddie Murphy and George Carlin can use profanity well, but many others just use it for the sake of getting a laugh, unnecessarily.

I rarely use profanity myself; never in casual conversation (even with ‘the guys’), and usually only when the hammer misses the nail, or the pot boils over, or the computer crashes. And that leaks into my writing. I want my stories to be accessible to a wide range of readers, and wouldn’t want anyone pulled out of the story because of unnecessary profane language. Is that a 100% accurate portrayal of military life? Probably not, but hopefully (a) the rest of my military portrayal is spot-on, and (b) it doesn’t take away from the realism of the dialogue in the overall story.

What are your thoughts on seeing profanity in what you read?