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Excerpt from Gabriel’s Return, Book 2: Heavy Weapons in Action

February 27, 2012 Leave a comment

When Escobio Armory Ltd., a small company based in rural Mexico City, started producing weapons for the North American Federation military forces, they at first specialized in handguns, small caliber long range rifles, and man-portable light machine guns. They did not begin to manufacture pulse weapons until 2172, not long after the disastrous raid on Eden.

The NAF brass had asked Escobio’s management to help create a larger, more powerful heavy assault weapon that a soldier could carry long distances, across and through difficult terrain, and that required little to no maintenance. They had deduced from the Eden mission that a small military force, far from home, with a limited supply train, still required heavy weapons to back them up, and ones that didn’t need an ammo carrier to slow the soldier down, or vehicles to mount them on.

From this request came the Oso, or bear in Spanish. The newest incarnation of Escobio’s creation, the Oso-11, was set atop a small hill on a bipod, and behind it squatted the blurry outline of Lieutenant Harris Brevik, NAFN.

Coherent light spat from Brevik’s Oso-11, bright orange pulses of energy accelerated by shaped magnetic fields along the weapon’s three-foot long, five-inch diameter carbotanium barrel. Brevik held the trigger pad down, feeling the heat wash over his visor as the energy pulses blasted from the end of the weapon, forty times per second.

The guard barracks, built from a standard extruded plastic housing unit reinforced with steelroot studs and neopine planking walls, stood no chance. The pulses tore the building to shreds, flashes of orange light mixing with flaming wood and melting plastic expanding in all directions. Brevik walked the pulses from side to side along the top of the building, and within seconds the entire top half of the structure was shattered beyond recognition.

Several terrorists ran from the burning building, the ones that survived the initial barrage, and began firing their rifles in the general direction of Brevik’s pulses. The Oso immediately cut down two in flashes of energy, the bodies crumpling to the ground. One ran out with his hands in the air, then dropped to the ground prone. Brevik made sure the pulses skipped him.

One terrorist had made it to the cover of one of the nearby yellowboles, and was firing around the edge of it, only a glimpse of the rifle barrel visible. Brevik paused in his firing, surveying the area.

“Hey kid, can you see him?” he called.

The youth, who was squatting several yards away, rifle at the ready, nodded. “Yes, can you draw him out?”

Without a word, Brevik let loose several more pulses, blasting dirt and debris into the air on the opposite side of the yellowbole. The terrorist stepped away from the explosions, momentarily forgetting his cover. Three bullets stitched their way from his stomach to his neck, and he dropped.

“Nice shot, kid,” Brevik said. He looked back at the guard shack, and saw several more armed men running from another building towards it, firing from the hip. He pressed the trigger pad, and the Oso roared to life again.

***

GABRIEL’S RETURN is Book 2 of the top-rated science fiction/adventure Gabriel trilogy. Enjoy the scene, like the genre? All three are available for all major ebook platforms, and now paperback: http://steveumstead.com/my-books/

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Gabriel’s Return entered into Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel contest

January 29, 2012 4 comments

I’m coming up on my one-year anniversary of publishing Gabriel’s Redemption (February 2nd), and I was struck with a memory the other day. Last year on a whim, just before publishing, I submitted it to Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award Contest (ABNA), and a few weeks later was astounded to find it qualified for the second round. Seeing my name, and the book title in ‘official print’, in that master list of 1,000 qualifiers was damned exciting, I must say.

In the year since, a lot has happened, including publishing two more Gabriel novels, completing the trilogy (a trilogy I didn’t even know was going to happen last year at this time – I thought it was a one-and-done novel). Gabriel’s Redemption has over 50 reviews with a 4.6 star average on Amazon, and the follow up novels have done just as well (better actually, according to average rating, though the sample size is admittedly smaller).

When the subject of 2012’s ABNA came up a few weeks ago, I didn’t even consider it at first, but then it hit me. The second in the trilogy, Gabriel’s Return, I feel is an even better story than the first (if I do say so myself), and I don’t see anywhere it’s written that a second in a trilogy wouldn’t qualify, so what the hell.

It’s in as of last night, with a pitch based on the book description, and the first two chapters as the excerpt. And away we go…

Anyone else in??

 

P.S. In a Twitter chat last night with @Harper_Jayne, I had a thought…winning the whole contest, and telling Penguin thanks but no thanks for their publishing contract. Yeah…that’s a nice goal.

Great experience with my wife this morning (a non-salacious blog post, seriously)

January 10, 2012 9 comments

I had a very cool experience with my wife this morning. NO, you dirty minds. Get that out of your head. I’m married…

Here’s the history: A year ago at this time, I was researching self-publishing after wrapping up final edits on a little story called Gabriel’s Redemption. Just testing the waters to see if it was worth doing. I said what the hey, can’t hurt, so on February 2nd, it went live on Amazon. It garnered some nice reviews, but after an initial burst of sales, kind of languished in mediocrity – making just enough to cover the wine bill every now and then.

Six months later, the sequel Gabriel’s Return was published. I did a blog tour with some great friends, tried to spread the word as best I could, and saw some success. But in October, sales really took off (don’t ask me why; I wish there was a simple answer, because I’d keep doing it) and I had my best month to date. As a matter of fact, my sales in October were more than the previous 8 months combined. By this time I was well into writing the trilogy finale, Gabriel’s Revenge, which would end up hitting the virtual shelves just a few days before Christmas.

Where am I going with this? No, not a self-congratulatory verbal hemorrhage. I am loathe to give out sales numbers. Something more personal, more satisfying.

Back to the beginning, my very cool experience this morning. Those of you who publish through Amazon KDP know that the royalty check arrives two months after the close of the calendar month. So a few days ago, a check arrived for my October book sales. And I did something I never thought I’d be able to do, in my wildest dreams.

I paid off all of our Christmas gifts.

Like many others, we buy on credit cards, pay off the following month (I’m also loathe to carry a balance). And like many others, we’re last-minute shoppers, so most of the purchases were in the billing cycle that is due this month. This morning, I handed my wife an envelope of cash that pays off all of our gift purchases.

Sounds strange, I know, but I can’t even describe how satisfying and rewarding that felt. Knowing that I’ve made a few bucks over and above the day job, doing something I really love, and was able to give the kids and family presents that were paid for by my writing.

And maybe the best part? I still love what I’m doing. Second best part? November and December were even better than October…

And then there were three…proofs of the Gabriel series are in

January 9, 2012 5 comments

Just a quick post…well, more of a gush…about the paperbacks of the Gabriel trilogy. Last week I received the proofs from CreateSpace for Gabriel’s Return (2) and Gabriel’s Revenge (3). Interior was perfect, covers on both just need a tiny shift tweak so that the text on the back cover is centered, and they’re ready to go.

Just this afternoon, the updated paperback proof for Gabriel’s Redemption (1) arrived. This book has been available in paperback for several months, but with the release of books two and three, I decided to redo the cover and some of the minor interior formatting to match the two new books. So here, without further ado, are the soon-to-be-released series in paperback, along with the oldie but goodie original cover for Redemption:

 

Another huge shout out of thanks to AJ Powers for the cover art design, all done from scratch by that talented young (well, younger than me) man.

I’ve given CreateSpace the official OK for Redemption to process through, so they should have the new version within a few days, and Amazon should as well. Barnes & Noble will probably take a bit longer as it propagates through the Expanded Distribution Channels. Return & Revenge will be a few days longer – I have to reupload the shifted cover art and approve.

Guess I’d better start writing something else…

 

 

Excerpt from Gabriel’s Redemption for #SampleSunday

July 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Lamber and St. Laurent crept up on their first two targets, red outlines in their IR sensors showing the warm bodies huddled behind a ten foot snowdrift about forty feet away from the doors, where the other two figures stood. St. Laurent reached her target first, a man wearing a civilian environment suit. His visor was so iced over that she would have been invisible even without the active camo. With the camo and silent approach, she was able to get within just a few feet of him before he even turned his head. She punched with her battlesuit’s armored fist.

The hardened carbotanium caught the man squarely in the chest, knocking the wind out of him as he collapsed around her arm like a rag doll. She caught the falling body, hoping she didn’t break too many ribs, and lowered the gasping figure to the ground. Taking one of the personnel autorestraints from her belt with the other metal hand, she slapped it over his head and activated it. The net-like device expanded and covered his entire body in less than a second, cinching itself at his feet and sealing. The mesh surface tightened and immobilized him, cocooning the man in a sound- and electronics-deadening Faraday cage, preventing any outbound transmissions from comms, neuretics, or anything else short of two tin cans and a string. The body struggled in the net, but made no sound. She moved on to her secondary target.

Meanwhile Lamber had taken out his primary a little differently, St. Laurent noticed out of the corner of her heads-up. His immobilized target, while showing life signs, also showed no signs of movement, and appeared to be bent at a very unnatural angle.

On the other side of the compound, Jimenez and Sowers were in position. They crouched on the opposite side of a mining vehicle from Beta, two figures that appeared to be smoking and talking in low tones. Sowers sent a quick burst to Jimenez, signaling him to go around the back end of the vehicle as he rounded the front.

They both slowly made their way around the truck, stepping carefully around waste containers. Just as they approached arm’s reach, Jimenez tripped over a half-buried container and fell forward into the snow, not being able to compensate quickly enough for the mass of his battlesuit.

The two sentries looked up in alarm, seeing the indentations in the snow as Jimenez struggled to right himself. One of the men shouted and raised a weapon as a cigarette fell from his lips. Sowers cursed as he caught a burst of a comm. He snapped an active jamming signal out, blocking any further communications from the sentries, but most likely alerting others to their presence.

Stepping forward quickly, Sowers was able to disarm his sentry with a quick chop of a steel arm. He heard the bones snap in the man’s forearm as he screamed in pain. A careful smack to the side of his head knocked him out cold, and his body dropped into the snow.

Jimenez wasn’t so quick as he staggered upwards from his fallen position in the snow, and the second sentry’s weapon spat rounds rapid fire. Jimenez stumbled back under the onslaught of the rounds, but his suit’s carbotanium shell withstood the kinetic impacts. Sowers took a few steps forward and grabbed the assault rifle, yanking it from the sentry’s hands and crushing it, the loud firing immediately ceasing. With his other hand he grabbed the sentry by the front of his environment suit, picked him up, and threw him into the side of the mining vehicle with a loud thump. His unconscious body slid down into a sitting position in the snow.

Sowers went over to where Jimenez was standing to assess the damage. He sent a quick burst to Gabriel to let him know the targets were down, but that it wasn’t exactly quietly. Jimenez sent a neuretics apology to Sowers, who snorted in his helmet. You owe me, buddy, he thought.

Meanwhile St. Laurent and Lamber were both approaching the doors where the other two sentries stood. St. Laurent watched the passive scans in her heads-up, puzzling at one’s unusually small size. Before they were within twenty feet, they heard rifle fire from the other side of the building. Double time, she sent to Lamber, and the two of them sprinted the last few feet to the two figures at the door.

The sentries were alerted, and their figures went into crouches in St. Laurent’s heads-up. As she got within arm’s reach, she skidded to a halt in shock. In front of her, in a combat stance, was one of the Poliahu aliens she had seen in the briefings, wearing partial body armor and holding a laser pistol. Before she had time to react, the alien fired, and the light blast splashed across her armored chest plate.

Her electronics squealed in protest as several systems were overloaded. The battlesuit was able to take laser blasts in stride, but not entirely unscathed from such point blank range. Servos froze up, immobilizing her, as the energy pulsed its way throughout her suit. Her training kicking in, she frantically sent commands to her backup systems, rerouting alternate power and e-links in a split second. Freed up from the pulse, she dropped to one knee and reached out, grabbing the alien’s weapon before it had a chance to fire a second time. Fighting the urge to fire her suit’s arm-mounted pulse rifle, she pulled the alien’s arm downwards and pulled the gun from its grip as her other hand grabbed the alien’s armor to restrain it. A detached part of her brain noted the lack of claws on the alien’s hands, unlike what Gabriel had showed the team in the initial briefing.

Lamber had already immobilized the other sentry and turned to help St. Laurent. As he stepped towards the struggling duo, the alien’s small chest suddenly erupted in red gore, splattering on the doors behind it. The lifeless body fell backwards and St. Laurent let go of it. It landed in the snow with a wet thud, and blood pooled around it, quickly freezing in the super-chilled atmosphere.

“Cease fire!” St. Laurent screamed, breaking comm silence. She quickly got to her feet, checking her scans for nearby activity. Finding it clear, she sent a burst to Gabriel.

Gabriel was monitoring from the back and caught not only St. Laurent’s yell, but the angry tone of her burst. He quickly contacted Sabra, knowing it was her Burton round that just took the first life of the mission. He received an emotionless neuretics click in return. He shook his head. Loose cannon, he thought. He sent another burst to Sabra to recall her.

He called for a rally at the main colony entrance, and the team moved out.

 

Like what you read? Pick up Gabriel’s Redemption for Kindle, Nook, and at Smashwords for various e-reader formats. Print version will be coming within days! Oh, and the e-book version now has a sneak preview of Book 2 in the trilogy, Gabriel’s Return. Just a little appetite-whetting for you…

The Cover Reveal for Book 2 of the Evan Gabriel Trilogy

May 5, 2011 10 comments

Here goes…only about halfway through the writing of book two, but this cover sure is providing some serious inspiration to get cracking:

(Click the image for full size – go ahead, it’s worth the click just to see the amazing detail on the ship itself.)

Big kudos to AJ Powers for his design work. If you don’t know AJ, take a few minutes and stop by his blog to find out a bit more. If you’re on Twitter (and seriously, who reading this isn’t?) drop him a line at @aj_powers to let him know what you think. AJ’s a video game developer in real life, so I thought to ask him one day if he’d be interested in throwing together a ship and planet type of scene I had in mind for Book Two. He graciously agreed, asked me for details about what I had in mind, and went to work on some mockups. Suffice it to say I was blown away.

Although this work was kept a ‘secret’ for a few weeks, I had been seeing the progress on the images from the beginning. Even the line drawing, boxy outline of a generic ship looked fantastic, and as days went by and he added more and more detail, I saw a beautiful piece of covert art come together. Above is the final result after I added and stylized text. The planet, ship, and background were all designed by AJ, FROM SCRATCH. Not stock photos, not something he had lying around from his real job. From scratch, according to some basic specs and preferences I had given him. I couldn’t be more excited (although I will refrain from squeeing, as I’ve been told a 40ish guy shouldn’t ever squee – I leave that to my good friend Shay).

Just a final note on the importance of a quality book cover. In my humble opinion, the cover is second only to the story itself in today’s marketplace. Thousands upon thousands of bokos are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and many other online sites (shameless plug – those links go to Gabriel’s Redemption…have you read it yet? It’s less than the cost of a latte…) so how can your story possibly stand out? Potential buyers can’t, and won’t, take the time to read book blurbs or a synopsis of each one. No, the first thing – and maybe the only thing – that grabs their attention will be a well-designed, eye-catching cover. It’s important to stand out, and just as important to make sure the cover is attractive and readable at thumbnail size.

Go search Amazon and others, look in your favorite genre, and see the huge list of book thumbnails that come up. That’s what your book will be up against. Will your cover stand out? I like to think this cover, thanks to AJ, will.

What do you think?