Shannon's Professional Blog

Just another Universal Nexus site

Thoughts on reviews and reviewing

July 26th, 2014
English: Icon for lists of science fiction authors

English: Icon for lists of science fiction authors (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For reasons that are complicated to explain without getting into oddities of book promotion that I’m pretty sure most indie authors already know and no one else cares about, I’ve been reading lots of things to review them lately.   I’ve also just recently gotten in the habit, probably because of this (and possibly because my OCD found keeping notes on things as I read them to be a nice process to latch onto), of writing reviews for everything I read.  The only exception in the past few months are Stolen Time by J. M. Brink, because I’m not reviewing a work when I co-created the setting, and “Oh Pretty Bird” by Seanan McGuire because I couldn’t figure out how to fairly review it, because my appreciation of it was so tied into my appreciation of earlier works in her InCryptid setting.  I’ve also begun getting reviews.  So, reviews are very much on my mind of late, needless to say.

There are some common bits of author wisdom passed around.  One is “Never respond to reviews”.  I violate this.  I don’t respond to every review, I don’t even respond to many, but some, I do respond to, so far just to clarify things like “The sequel to The Crown of Eldrete will be more clearly space opera, so that’s why this one was marketed as such” for readers of the review.  I also Like (on Goodreads) and mark as helpful (on Amazon) truly helpful reviews.  Note that I said “helpful.”  I’ve liked a two star review, and even thanked the author of it.  Why?  Because his criticisms were valid.  If what he was criticizing the lack of was what you were looking for in a story, you’d be right to not read Jake’s Last Mission.  So, it was a helpful review for readers, so I liked it, same as I would if I was a reader and found it.  On the other hand, I’ve got a four star review of The Crown of Eldrete that I marked as unhelpful on Amazon because it would give the reader the impression it’s straight up fantasy.

Another bit of author wisdom is “Bad reviews are more helpful than good reviews”.  This is, mostly, bullshit.  Of course, I’m not counting three star reviews as bad reviews as some authors do, and most of my most helpful reviews have been three stars.  But, for the most part, one and two star reviews — not just on my stuff, but on lots of other things I’ve read lately — are useless.  “This sucks!”  “This was a horrible book!” and the like are more common that truly thought out criticisms.  Now, I’ve left enough two star reviews lately that I’m starting to wonder if I’m the pickiest reader ever, but I try to always make clear why I didn’t like the book.  Note, “why I didn’t like the book”, not “what the author should fix”.  This is a thing many reviewers seem to have trouble with, especially ones who are authors themselves.  The purpose of a review isn’t to be a beta reader and tell the author where they goofed up.  It’s to tell a potential reader whether or not this book is worth their time.  Yes, in many cases what makes a book not work for you as a reader can be seen as “where the author goofed up”, but I guess it’s mostly a difference in phrasing.  “This book could be good after another revision pass to tighten up the plot” is a phrase I’ve actually seen in a review.  That’s not a review.  The book is published.  If you’re reviewing it, treat it like it’s something you bought having never heard of the author, even if it is something you got for free as part of a review exchange with the author.  I’m reading two books right now that I’m not particularly enjoying.  One is by an indie author as part of a review exchange group.  The other is by someone who’s been dead for thirty years.  I’ll be reviewing both the same way.  The difference is, I’ll cringe as I post the first review and not the second, because having talked to the other author, even for only two seconds, I know there’s a person who’s going to see my criticisms and be hurt by them.  But, I can’t put the line about receiving the book for free for an honest review in a review unless I treat it as dispassionately as I would any other review I’m writing.  Maybe this makes me a heartless bitch.  I prefer to think it just means I’m being professional.

Which brings me to another point:  If you have published a book, be it through one of the big publishers or on your own, you are a professional author.  Act like it!  Don’t give vengeance one star reviews.  Don’t automatically mark all low star reviews as unhelpful.  Don’t encourage your fans and friends to do so.  It’s petty.  Again, just because the reviewer got your book for free for the express purpose of reviewing it doesn’t make them any different than any other reviewer.

And now, I have some comments on writing reviews.

First — and I know there are many who disagree with this — you have to judge a book by the genre, and in some cases even sub-genre, it is.  It’s not fair to judge, say, sword and sorcery, by the same standards you’d judge hard science fiction.  What they’re trying to accomplish are very different things.  Magic that doesn’t make complete sense if you try to break it down scientifically is part of the fun of sword and sorcery.  Hard science fiction, on the other hand, better have science that can be explained by current theories.  Contemporary fiction needs to seem like it takes place in the real world.  Erotica better be arousing.  It does a reader no favors if a book has all five star reviews praising the quality of the writing if the book fails to be what it is supposed to be.

Second, you have to judge a book with an eye towards when it was written.  I’m tired of seeing reviews of Little Women that criticize how unfeminist it is.  For the 1860s, it was a rather feminist work, actually.  I see reviews of classic space opera like Triplanetary that criticize the science, despite the facts — and this goes back to my first point — that scientific rigor is not a feature of the sub-genre and under scientific theories of the day, some of it wasn’t that far-fetched.

Third, a review should, well, review the book.  “This was the best book ever!” isn’t a good review, regardless of how many stars you leave.  Why did you like the book so much?  If you can’t tell, that’s fine.  I have a hard time reviewing books I love.  It’s easier for me to criticize things than to compliment them.  Maybe that says not-so-good things about me, but I’m sure I’m not the only person with that problem.

Really, what it all boils down to is this:  reviews are for other potential readers to know if they want to read the book, not a place to give feedback to the author, and therefore a review should be of the book as it is and based on what it’s trying to be and do.

My first obligatory fanfic opinions post

July 5th, 2014
The Star Trek fanzine Spockanalia contained th...

The Star Trek fanzine Spockanalia contained the first fan fiction in the modern sense of the term. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m pretty sure every author makes one or more of these eventually, hence the title.

This was inspired by Seanan McGuire‘s post here.  (By the way, if you like Universal Nexus, try her InCryptid series.  I think my characters may be descendants of hers.)

Universal Nexus exists because I failed horribly at writing fanfic.  The genesis of what has become Universal Nexus was born of my attempts at fanfic for various things I love.  I won’t detail what.  If you know me in real life you can probably guess.  If you don’t, you can still probably guess at least a couple because I hide them about as well as Scalzi hides the influence of Starship Troopers on Old Man’s War.  (Hint:  Read the dedication to The Crown of Eldrete to discover two of my most favorite things in all of media.)

But anyway, I can’t write fanfic.  I apparently can’t play in other people’s sandboxes.  I don’t know why this is.  Probably because I’m a control freak.  I do the same thing as DM.  I can’t run settings as written.  It’s a weird quirk of my brain.  I have to tinker with everything until, for example, it’s not still Star Wars fanfic when all that connects it with Star Wars is a character’s last name being Skywalker, in my opinion.  So, eventually I changed the character’s name and . . . I won’t tell you who all were originally part of the Skywalker clan.  That was several years and many revisions of the setting ago.

So, while I don’t write fanfic, I clearly can’t be opposed to it.  It’d be rather hypocritical.  Nor do I, as I’ve seen other authors say, consider it a training ground before someone tries real writing.  All writing is real writing, just not all writing is for the intent of publishing professionally.  Fanfic is, in my opinion, the ultimate compliment to a creator.  It’s someone going “I like your stuff so much that I’m going to stay there after I’m done with this book/movie/TV series/whatever.”

Fanfic also allows people to explore possibilities that weren’t in the source material.  I would have never thought that Duncan/Methos was a remotely valid pairing, but I’ve read many Highlander fanfics that made it work while remaining true to the characters.  That, my friends, takes talent.  I would have never wondered “what if Snake Eyes was an Old West gunslinger?” but I once read a GI Joe fanfic that posited just that and was, as I recall, pretty good.

But, you say, “Most fanfic is porn!”  First, that’s not true.  Second, even if it was, so what?  Maybe one of the possibilities people want to explore that was missing from the source material is what two or more characters do in the bedroom.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  If you don’t like it, don’t read it, applies to fanfic as much as to any book on the bookstore shelves!  As Seanan says, not everything is for everyone.

I, for instance, have no interest in reading Bilbo/Frodo slash, but I’m sure someone out there does.  And as I was wondering yesterday if anyone had ever written Matthew/Marilla Cuthbert fics, I have no right to judge.  And even if you’re not as disturbed as you’re now thinking I am for wondering that, I’m sure you’ve got your own “I wonder if” or “I wonder what it would’ve been like” things that would make me think you equally disturbed, so you don’t get to judge either, even if yours have nothing to do with sex.

But, you say, “Most fanfic is horribly written!”  To which I say, Sturgeon’s Law:  Ninety percent of everything is crap.  I’ve read some fanfic that I can only hope was written by a six year old, but I’ve also read some that was so well written that when I read that the author was a published novelist, I wished she’d reveal her real name so I could go buy her book.

Now, I can sort of understand one argument against fanfic.  GRRM just doesn’t like people touching his characters because he thinks of them as his children, from what I understand.  That makes a bit of sense.  I know if I ever become as famous as him, people are going to write things about, say, Lyndsey, that make me very uncomfortable.  But, I know there’s no point in trying to stop it.  If I don’t let people put it online, they’re still going to write it, so what’s the point?  They’re also probably still going to put it online, just in a members’ only area or something, so, again, what’s the damned point?  Write your Lyndsey/Darrien fic.  Write your fic where Lyndsey gets brutally and graphically raped and murdered because she overestimates herself while fighting the wrong person.  Write your AU where Lyndsey is a demure housewife.  Whatever.

Once a story is out in the world, what happens to it and its characters are beyond the author’s control.  Just don’t make money off of it, because I’m trying to make a living here.



Cover Reveal!

June 25th, 2014

Here is the cover of No More Lies, in its final form!

No More Lies Cover In Progress 8

Awesome, yes?  Okay, so it doesn’t really suggest space opera, but honestly?   This is a romance and a coming-of-age story a LOT more than it’s a space opera.  The space operaness is mostly set dressing.

Here’s what it’s about:

Years ago, Bobby Kavaliro ran away from Sweytz, from everything and everyone he’d ever known, lured by promises of money and power made by the smooth-talking dictator of Anerix.

A few years later Bobby came to realize how stupid he’d been and became a spy for the very world he left.

A spy posing as an assassin.

A spy whose best friend and mentor has just had his cover blown.

A spy who jilted someone who would now like to see him dead.

A spy, in other words, who needs a vacation.  And a spy who is hoping to meet someone to share his bed while on that vacation.

Bobby finds more than that when he meets Karen.  So much more, in fact, that before too long he’s moving back to Sweytz, looking for a job, and trying to quickly learn how to be a responsible adult for the first time in his life.

Meanwhile, Anerix’s High Command, now very much suspecting he was a spy, are sending assassins after him . . . and after Karen.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, Karen doesn’t believe half of what he’s told her about his past, nor is she sure she wants to be with him after she gets to know just how temperamental and immature he can be.

Bobby has to grow up fast to keep her love, deal with everything he’s missed while he was gone, try to avoid being killed, try to keep Karen safe, and try to rebuild his relationship with his family, all at the same time.

It should be out sometime later this year or early next.

Well, it had to happen eventually

June 5th, 2014

I got my first bad review.

Now, I know conventional wisdom is that bad reviews are better for authors than good reviews because we can learn from them.  However, given what my bad review says, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to learn.

Here is the entirety of the review:

“Book was awful…one of the worst of all-time….hopefully this is the author’s last mission…

Save your money….sucked!!!

Thank you for wasting my money…”

 So, what can I learn from this?  I don’t see anything.  I see one person who thought Jake’s Last Mission was one of the worst books of all time.  That’s fine; we’re all entitled to our opinions.  But, that’s not a review or a critique or anything remotely useful.  If I was a reader wanting to know if I should buy Jake’s Last Mission, I’d mark that review as not helpful, because it tells me nothing about the book.   Really people, think before you submit your review:  Does it help potential buyers know whether or not the book is for them?  If not, then it’s not a good review.
What’s really annoying me about this is that I’m fairly certain the person did not, in fact, buy the book as I haven’t had a sale in several days — though I have given away some copies for reviews for free, so I suppose maybe he could’ve been one of those reviewers, and I wasted his time if not his money — and the person has the same uncommon last name as the editor of a book I recently gave a negative review to.  So I have a feeling this was not, in fact, a negative review of my book, but was instead someone reacting irrationally to me giving a negative review to something they or someone close to them was involved in.  Sad.

New cover for the new edition!

May 23rd, 2014

Once A Hero, Always A Hero’s original cover was one of those things that seemed like a better idea than it ended up being.  I have no idea if it hurt sales of the book or not, but it certainly didn’t catch anyone’s eye and cause an impulse buy!  So, for the new edition, I went looking for new cover art.  Two minutes with google and twenty with Photoshop, and here you are, the new cover:


Once A Hero Revised cover

What a difference a couple of years makes

May 20th, 2014

I released my first story, Once A Hero, Always A Hero, in September 2012, after it’d been done for several months.  Don’t ask.  At the time, I thought it was pretty good.  Not something I’d have given five stars if it was by anyone else, but certainly three or four.

A few days ago, I opened the master file to make a couple of tiny error corrections and discovered that it’s atrocious.  Oh, sure, the story is pretty good, but the way it’s told isn’t.  I don’t mean there are flagrant grammar abuses or typos.  I mean the narrative voice is all over the place, from overly florid to overly dry.  I mean there are bizarre inconsistencies in what time units I used.

I mean, in short, the narrative gets in the way of enjoying the story.

I decided to do an experiment.  I rewrote the first bit in my current style, especially since I’ve discovered I write much better in first person than third.

Here’s the original first paragraph:

Almost as soon as they’d walked into Scorig’s house, instincts honed by dozens, if not hundreds, of battles each told the two men something was wrong. Scorig was frightened. One didn’t have to know anything about Zeipierans to figure that out. He kept glancing at the windows and door of his simple one room house and jumping at every slight noise. Bobby and Viktor both noticed, but neither said anything; both quite determined to remember that they were retired from, as one of Viktor’s spice put it, “compulsive heroing.” Viktor by his own choice; Bobby because his wife was tired of worrying about him. Besides, business negotiations on this world were highly ritualized and both just wanted to get them over with and get permission (or be denied it) to serve Scorig’s brandy, which no less than Darrien Hawke himself had recommended.

Here’s the one I wrote the other day:

From the piclano I’d walked into Scorig’s house, I knew something was wrong. The little Zeipieran was constantly flitting his eyes to the windows or door of his tiny, one room shack and jumping a bit every time there was a sudden noise. From Vik’s body language, I could tell he’d noticed too. I tried not to worry about it. I was out of the saving people business. Karen and the kids had talked me into retiring from SDFSF about a year and a half before. I was there to complete the insanely intricate ritual required before we could get permission to serve Scorig’s brandy and then go home. Someone else could deal with whatever he was worried about.

I’m sure I don’t need to point out how very, very much better the second is, right?

So, this is the official announcement:  Once A Hero, Always A Hero will be revised heavily very soon.  If you are interested in purchasing a copy that is not the revised edition, get it now.  I intend to be more thorough than George Lucas in making sure the original disappears.  (Don’t worry.  I won’t change who shoots first anywhere.  :))

The narrator will be Bobby Thase, who you can find out more about by clicking the link below that says “Tafinith Robin Thase.”

I’m not sure when exactly the revised edition will be released, as I have some pressing obligations to take care of, as well as all the normal stuff in life, but it shouldn’t be later than the second anniversary of its initial publication.

Free copy!

May 16th, 2014

One free copy of Jake’s Last Mission — one free PRINT copy specifically — is available to the lucky winner of this giveaway!

Work In Progress Meme

April 28th, 2014

Apparently this was going around the, ahem, blogosphere a couple of years ago.  I missed out as I wasn’t keeping a blog at the time.  So I’ll do it now.

If anyone cares, I shamelessly stole from three other author blogs I found fairly randomly.

I have, at last count, twenty works-in-progress, but I’m only going to answer this for the one I’m determined to get finished by the end of this year.


What is the name of your current WIP?

No More Lies

Ready to do a cover reveal?

Just about.  Not completely sure I’ve got my name in the right color yet, but I’ve got the rest of the cover perfect.

How many words are you into it?


Goal word count by the end of the week?

90,000 sounds good.

Goal word count for the entire manuscript?

I have no freaking idea.  It was supposed to be a 3,000 word short story originally . . .

What genre does your WIP fall within?

Science fiction romance/coming-of-age story (if I can count it as that when the protagonist is twenty-four.  He’s a very immature twenty-four, for what it’s worth.  Especially for his society.)

When would you like to publish this project?

Sometime next year.

Go to page five and pick a random sentence to share with us!

“Moulei?  Well . . . it’s nice.  Very old, founded before the old Federation, or in its early days, I’m not completely sure.”

Page five is one of the weakest pages in this draft, unfortunately.

Will this WIP turn into a series?

~sigh~  I don’t really want it to.  I, as I said, have about nineteen other works in progress.  But I can’t help but feeling like it’s going to seem a bit incomplete without some sequels showing how Bobby, the main character, backslides a lot from the growing up he did in this book until it nearly costs him his family, and then how he overcomes that.

What has been the hardest challenge in working on this WIP?

There are times it’s really hard to write Bobby because he’s being such an asshole.

What has been your favorite part of working on this WIP?

Exploring the backstory of characters I’ve previously written about.  Bobby’s got a lot of history, even if hardly any of it’s published in any form yet.

Any special treat planned for when you finish the final draft of your WIP?

Two week break from writing without being wracked with guilt?

Tag two people to do this meme!

Jaye Edgecliff

Elizabeth McCoy



Interview with me

April 15th, 2014

IMG_2934This is the final post in my countdown to the release of Jake’s Last Mission.  I had some sort of brilliant idea, then I forgot it.  Then I had another brilliant idea.

I forgot it too.

Lacking for brilliant ideas, I googled for advice.  I can’t find the sites I found before I made the first countdown post.  Crap.  So I thought it could be fun to pretend I was being interviewed and answer common author interview questions.

Then I read the sorts of things authors are asked in interviews and . . . seriously?  Do readers really care about the author’s writing process?  About where they get their inspiration?  About whether they plan before they write or not?  I mean, I know I care about these things, but I’m an author.  It makes me feel much, much better about my make it up as I go approach to know that Larry Hama does the same thing.  It fascinates me, in a horrified kind of way, to know that some authors approach writing like it’s an actual job, sitting at a desk for eight hours at a time, breaking only for lunch and cigarrettes . . . or exercise, in the case of one.  But I never thought that the average reader cared, for instance, how many hours a day J. K. Rowling writes.  I assumed they were far more interested in things like “Just how many zeroes were in the amount you made from Deathly Hallows again?!”

But, as those seem to be the typical questions authors are asked, I guess I’ll answer them.  I’ll even try not to be too sarcastic.

Quit laughing, everyone who knows me in real life.  I can manage not to be sarcastic.  I think.

So, without further adieu, the questions and my answers:

Where do you get your ideas?

I promised not to be sarcastic, so I’m not going to say something like “From Ideas R Us”.  Instead I’ll tell the truth:  Usually, I have no bloody clue.  Sometimes I get an idea when listening to a particular song or reading something, but usually I just suddenly have something in my head that I must commit to paper before it drives me insane.  Jake’s Last Mission was very much one of those “Must write this down right now!” things

What’s your writing process like?

I wake up every morning at precisely . . . dammit, not being sarcastic is HARD.

I try to write some every day.  I usually succeed in writing about three days a week.  When things are going well, I can write three to five thousand words a day; when they aren’t, I’m happy to get two hundred.  My planner has 1,000 words per day listed in it as my goal for the day though, and someday I’ll have both the discipline and the absence of disasters for long enough at a time to really make that a habit.  I hope.

I try to work on one thing until it’s finished, but sometimes I get thoroughly stuck.  Then I work on something else until I get stuck in it.  With Jake’s Last Mission, I got stuck somewhere on the second page the first or second day I worked on it and stayed stuck for several months.  Then I changed the last sentence and wrote most of the rest of it in a week.

How much do you plan in advance?

I don’t plan the story at all before I start writing, but once it’s gained some momentum, I start making little notes about what will probably happen next and in what order.  I didn’t used to do even this, but I kept forgetting important things and having to go back and try to fit them in, so I started making notes.

I also, generally, have lots of stuff about the setting and characters worked out in advance.  Not in a “have filled out lots of questionairres” sort of way, in a “I have a fairly detailed alternate reality running in my head and can therefore extrapolate all kinds of things” way.

Are any of your characters based on people you know in real life?

Oh, this is an easy one!  No.  More elaborately, probably subconsciously certain people have influenced certain characters — I’m pretty sure Renata has quoted my mother a time or two — but I’ve never consciously based a character on a real person.

Which character is you?

None of them.  Not basing them on real people includes not basing them on myself.  To be honest, Renata looks a bit like me.  We’re both busty, short, and overweight.  And we’re both stubborn to a fault and a wee bit tempermental.  And she did start as a self-insert.  But, she’s a champion swordswoman; genius engineer, inventor, and mechanic; mother of quite a few, and in her fifties, so I’m pretty sure she doesn’t count as a self-insert any more.

What inspires you?

I know I’m supposed to say something like “sunrises” or “the simple joy of life” or some other saccharine bullshit here, but I won’t.  Instead, I’ll be honest:  nothing really inspires me to write.  It’s just something I do.  Story-telling is something I’ve done as long as I can remember.  What inspires me to actually put my ass in a chair and start writing is pretty much egotism, I admit.  I think I’ve made a damned groovy setting with awesome characters and want to share it with people.

Who are your favorite authors?

This list varies by the day, but the top five today:

a) Robert Heinlein — Yes, I know all the reasons I should hate him.  I don’t care.  I’m not holding he nor any of his characters up as paragons of anything; I just admire the way the man told stories, the way he made me think, the way he made me question everything I took for granted as an immutable “This is right” fact of life.

b) Larry Hama — I’d say about seventy-five percent of what I know about how to write action stories with good characterization I learned from reading GI Joe comics.

c) Laura Ingalls Wilder — Again, I know all the reasons I should shun her.  Again, I don’t care.  Her books are a wonderful recollection of life in the late nineteenth century.  I  fell in love with them at nine and still reread them regularly at almost thirty-four.  That clearly makes them damned good books.

d) Ed Greenwood — Admittedly, as a fiction author he’s got some issues, which he readily admits to.  But he still can tell a very entertaining story, and I love his characters. But his true genius is in his world-building.  One of my goals in life is to have as fully realized a setting as the Forgotten Realms, that has touched as many other people.

e)  Terry Pratchett — If you’ve ever read a Discworld book, you understand.  If you haven’t, get to a bookstore or library and fix this!  They start out mocking fantasy tropes, but as the series progresses they become a delicious blend of social satire and comedic fantasy that words do not do justice to.

What are your favorite books?

Another list that varies by the day, though not as much.  Here are today’s top five:

a)  Imzadi by Peter David — It’s one of the two best love stories I’ve ever read.

b)  Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery — I identified with Anne way too much as a kid.

c)  These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder — The best love story I’ve ever read.  And reread.  And rerereread.

d)  The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien — The first fantasy novel I ever read and still the best.  I like the appendices of Lord of the Rings better than the books.

e)  Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein — I know, okay?!  Please don’t bother with telling me all the reasons it’s horrible, Lazarus is horrible, Heinlein is horrible, etc.  I know.  I also know that most people complaining make basic factual errors about the books that show either a lack of reading comprehension or a faulty memory of how exactly events came about.  I love the book.  It makes me question things.  It makes me think.  It’s also got the best western I’ve ever read as one of the stories in it — the bit with Dora and Lazarus.

What would you do if you weren’t an author?

I don’t understand the question.  If I wasn’t an author . . . these are words that don’t make sense.

What are you currently working on?

No More Lies.  It’s a romance about Jake’s son, Bobby.  Bobby, at the time of the story, was a spy posing as an assassin.  He meets a woman on vacation, falls in love, and then his life gets complicated.

Why do you write?

I think I adequately covered this under the inspiration question.

What are you reading right now?

Enough things that I’d actually have to check goodreads to get a complete list.  The ones I can recall off the top of my head:

a)  Han Solo at Star’s End — I’d be done with this, but I’ve misplaced it with less than forty pages left.  Annoying.

b)  Evermeet:  Island of the Elves by Elaine Cunningham– I’ve been slowly working my way through this for a couple of years.  I don’t know why, but I can’t concentrate on it for long at a time.

c)  Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery — It’s one of my favorite books.  I reread it once every couple of years.

d)  Stormlight by Ed Greenwood — I have a crush on Storm.  That’s really the entirety of why I’m reading this book again, I think.

e)  Blazon – I got it from the free books bin at the used bookstore.  It looked like cheesy space opera which I have a weakness for.  I’m a third of the way through and am considering giving up on it because so far what happens is you get a few chapters from a characters point of view, then they get killed.  This is getting old.

Why do you write space opera?

Because I saw the Star Wars movies way too much as a kid.  That really is the best answer I can give.  Also because westerns would require too much research.  So I stick with space opera where I can use western plots but not have to research things nearly as much.

How do you feel about ebooks?

The way I see it the format of a book is irrelevant usually.  I’ve got books that I dearly love that I have gone to great difficulty to track down in hardback so I’d have a copy that wouldn’t fall apart so quickly.  The ability to have those in electronic format instead is great.  Yes, I know there’s DRM and proprietary formats and all that sort of crap, but that’s still less annoying than having to replace my favorite books every few years because I’ve read them to death.

And it’s much easier to self-publish ebooks and get noticed than print books.

Who designs your covers?

Me!  It’s really not that hard.  I choose an image, I put text on the image, sometimes using a template, sometimes not.  Of course, describing it this way leaves out the hours of agonizing of not being able to find just the right image and the hours of crying because Photoshop has suddenly gone fucking insane.  So maybe a bettter way to put it is:  It shouldn’t really be that hard, but something always goes wrong.

So, there you have an interview with me.  Hopefully I amused or otherwise entertained you enough that you’ll go pre-order Jake’s Last Mission from iBookstore, Kobo, or Smashwords.  Or remember to look for it elsewhere on April 18th!


Free stories in here!!!

April 10th, 2014
English: Original Poster for Winter Fest by I....

English: Original Poster for Winter Fest by I.D.A.Soft Studio (GFPL) Русский: Оригинальный постер фестиваля Winter Fest от I.D.A.Soft Studio (лицензия GFPL) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Winter Fest is a Galfarran holiday celebrating, well, winter, obviously, but it’s also a time for families and friends.  There’s feasting and partying and fairs and balls all throughout the korva (month, roughly), but the most important celebration is in the middle of the korva.  In Sweytz’s northern hemisphere, on Feino 14, known as Winter Fest Eve, there is a large fair during the day, a ball at night, and then while the children are sleeping, the solani — kindly winter spirits — bring them, well, what exactly they bring them depends on family tradition, but it’s always some kind of edible treats.

A drabble is a one hundred word story.  They’re not generally a format I write in, as I don’t feel they are really long enough to tell a story, but they can be useful for giving a brief view of a character.

In this case, they give a brief view of Jake, who you can read more about in eight days when Jake’s Last Mission comes out, on various Winter Fest Eves, starting with his first on Sweytz.

Without further preamble, here are the stories:


Winter Fest Eve 260

“Thank you again for having us over,” Jake said to Maia while cuddling his tiny daughter against his chest.

“No need to thank us,” Maia said.  “Winter Fest is about family and friends.  You’re our friends, and you’re far from your families.”

“Still, Valerie and I appreciate it more than I can say.”  Jake’s voice was full of emotion.

Maia touched the young man’s hand.  “There’s no need to say anything.  It’s your first Winter Fest on Sweytz.  You shouldn’t spend it alone.  If you can put that little darling down, come help me set the table.  Dinner’s almost ready.”


Winter Fest Eve 265

“That is cute,” Jake said to Renata who was excitedly showing him a doll being sold at the Winter Fest Faire.  “How much is it?”

With a smile at the cute little girl and her father, the Aslith vendor said, “For you, good sir, only twenty credits.”

Jake pretended to consider the matter, having made up his mind to get it as soon as he heard the price.  “Eh, it’s Winter Fest.  I’ll take it.  And that purple and green drathini there for my son.”

“Good taste, sir,” the vendor said, handing them over.  Renata hugged her new doll tight.


Winter Fest Eve 270

Valerie smiled a bit sadly when she saw Jake’s face on the other end of the call.  “Hi.”

“Hi,” he replied, looking a bit sad himself.  “How’re the kids?”

She sighed.  “They miss you.  Horribly.  But Ren and Bobby seem to understand that the war’s a little bit more important than having their Daddy home for Winter Fest.  And Jeff’s too young to care, really.”

“And how are you?” he asked tenderly.

Her lips quivered as she replied, “I miss you even more than they do.  Be safe.  That’s all I ask.”

“I’ll try.  I love you all,” he said.


Winter Fest Eve 275

“Daddy!” Ren said excitedly when she and Tera came in the door.  Jake hugged his daughter and her wife tightly.

“Weren’t expecting to see me?” he said teasingly.

“No.  I thought you weren’t going to be in until next sulid.”

He smiled.  “Great thing about the war being over:  easier to convince people to shorten patrols.”

Renata looked at him, mock surprise on her face.  “Did you pull strings to get home for the holiday, Father?”

He smirked.  “Nope.  Just told someone I’d ‘forget’ the money they owed to me from a kista game if they let me come home.”


Winter Fest Eve 280

Jake sat on the couch and his daughter, Ashley, climbed immediately in his lap.  “Story?” she said, getting comfortable.

“What kind of story?”

“Solani story.”

He smiled.  “Once a long, long time ago, before Mommy and Daddy were born even, there lived a man named Xavier Flores.”

“I’ve heard of him!” Ashley shouted.

“Shh.  You’ll wake your niece,” he said, nodding towards his granddaughter, sleeping peacefully nearby.  “There was also a bad man named Roderigo Caballera.  Xavier needed a ship to get to him.  It was Winter Fest.  He called on the solani for help.”

“Yay!” his wee daughter cheered.


Winter Fest Eve 285

Jake ran a hand through his hair and sighed deeply as he double-checked the date back on Sweytz.  Cursing the bad timing of his predeccessor’s death yet again, he called Valerie.

“Hi,” she said sadly.

“Hi,” he said, more annoyed than sad.  “Sorry I can’t be home.  Sorrier I didn’t realize the date until now.”

“It’s okay.  You’ve got a whole fleet to run.  Ashley and the grandkids understand.”

“Do they?” he asked, a bit incredulous.

She shrugged.  “They seem to.  We miss you though.”

“Not as much as I miss you guys right now.  I love you all.”


Winter Fest Eve 290

“That’s the great thing about running the fleet,” Jake said, smirking.  “I control the patrol schedule.”

Gerard, his first officer, chuckled.  “And you do everything you can to make sure you get home for Winter Fest.”

“I’m not selfish!  I do what I can to make sure my whole crew — which happens to include me — gets home for Winter Fest.  Because we deserve it.  We do all the hardest shit, after all.”

Gerard nodded.  “I suppose that’s the truth.  Thanks.  Hevel was thrilled to hear I’d be able to spend Winter Fest with him, even though I’d miss the ball.”


Winter Fest Eve 295

“I swear, this damned thing shrunk while it was hanging up,” Jake grumbled as he threw his dress uniform’s jacket aside.

Valerie chuckled as she picked it up.  “It couldn’t possibly be that you’ve gotten bigger?” she teased, pecking him on the cheek.

“You saying I’m fat?”  He sounded a bit annoyed.

Valeried sighed, wishing he wouldn’t be sensitive about his weight.  She hugged him.  “No, I’m saying that maybe, just maybe, that third helping of dessert last night wasn’t a great idea.”

“Or the second helping of lunch?” he said, changing suits.

“You said it, not me,” she said.


Winter Fest Eve 300

Jake stretched out on a couch.  “Ah, this feels nice.  No more needing to worry that someone’s going to ruin my Winter Fest by starting a war.”

Bobby, his son, looked up from the flower he was filling with candy, worried.  “Any reason to think anyone’s gonna do that?”

“Who’s intel here?  Why do you think a retired mithoska’d know more about things like that than you?”

“Because I’ve been on paternity leave for the past two korvare, and you played kista with Quirino last sulid.”

Jake nodded.  “Good reasoning.  Nah, everything is fine.  Relax and enjoy the holiday, kid.”


Winter Fest Eve 305

“Grandpa!” the excited little girl cried as she ran towards Jake.

He smiled as he picked her up.  “Hi there, Courtney!  You’ve grown since the last time I saw you.”

“Yep.  Daddy Vik thinks I’ll be as tall as Momma Ren soon.  I told him that’s a bit silly.  She’s lots … Oh … I like the next song!” the five-year-old telepath said as she wiggled free of his arms.

Chuckling, he bowed as he said, “May I have the honor of this dance, dear girl?”

She giggled and then bowed herself and said, “Of course you may, kind sir.”


Winter Fest Eve 310

While dressing for the ball, Jake couldn’t stop staring at Valerie.  “You like what you see?” she finally asked.

“Very much,” he said, before giving her a kiss.  “There oughta be laws against looking as good as you do.  Gonna give some poor old people heart failure.”

“You aren’t so bad looking yourself,” she said, straightening his collar.

“Never look good enough to be with you,” he said, as he’d said almost every time she’d complimented his looks for over fifty years.

She sighed, as she always had, and said, as always,  “Because you look so much better than me.”




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