Paginations

My global domination of the paperback market begins…now!

My UPS guy loves me. And not just because my kids look like him (hey, wait a minute…) but because he brings me cool stuff every few weeks. Today was a toner cartridge (those of you who caught my inadvertent tweet through Amazon when I bought it the other night know how exciting my nightlife is at home), and a caseload of fabulousness:

Now, off to work on some way to sell them, thereby furthering (or at least starting) my plans for global market domination…

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New Update: Steadily increasing Nook sales due to not doing KDP Select?

UPDATE AS OF 2/29 – SEE BOTTOM OF POST

I took a peek at my months sales figures for Barnes & Noble Nook ebooks this morning, and something caught my eye. I looked back at January’s numbers, and figured out what it was. As of February 17th, my Barnes & Noble sales exceeded January’s entire monthly total. January was my best month to date for Nook, so I peeked back at December…and saw a trend. Where this trend comes from I have no way of telling*, but I’m liking the trend.

* As a marketer at heart and by trade (my degree is in marketing, and I’ve been doing marketing essentially my entire adult life – from putting flyers under windshield wipers for an ice cream parlor to putting together a complete social media program for my company), not knowing where a sale came from, not being able to track what methods work and don’t work based on measurable end results, absolutely kills me.

November of 2011 was a decent month for Nook sales. December was 40% better than November (nice, I can pay the wine bill!). January was even better, a 50% increase over December (hey, more wine!). And now February has exceeded January by the 17th of the month. Why? I can’t be sure, but I have a guess.

I think there’s a strong possibility that my steadily increasing BN sales may be due to me NOT choosing to go KDP Select.

A lot of my blog visitors are readers, not authors, so very briefly on KDP Select: Amazon launched an exclusive program called Select in early December that authors sign up with for a 90 day period during which time they are NOT allowed to sell/distribute/list excerpts/give away their ebooks through any other method. Not sample chapters or excerpts on a blog, not Nook, not Kobo, not Sony, not iPad. In exchange Amazon allows authors to give away their book for free up to five days during that 90 day period (among other ‘benefits’, none of which I see as an advantage by any stretch). I’ve come out against KDP Select for many reasons which I won’t get into here (maybe later), but in a nutshell I feel going exclusive through one channel is business suicide (not to mention pissing off owners of Nooks, Kobos, Sony Readers, etc. that would no longer be able to buy my books). However, a boatload of authors have jumped onto the Select bandwagon, which leads me to this hypothesis:

There is now less competition in my genre, meaning my books rank higher and are more visible to potential readers in Barnes & Noble’s systems. All of those authors that latched onto the Amazon bandwagon gave me a better opportunity to provide science fiction/adventure to Nook users looking for books.

Nook sales are still a very small percentage of my overall sales; Kobo, Sony, and iBooks even less, but it’s still a percentage. And it’s a growing number, so far. I have no intention of cutting off that percentage. Barnes & Noble had a 70% increase in Nook e-reader sales this past holiday season over the previous season. The iPad is still by far the most popular tablet (over 60% market share), and the iPad 3 is set to be announced March 7th. Kobo is a massive player in Canada, having 36% of the market compared to Kindle’s 25%. Why would I want to ignore those markets, small percentage or otherwise?

And readers – would I have pissed you off by going Amazon only with the Gabriel books?

UPDATE: As of Feb 29 (so some stragglers may still show up after month’s end), my Nook sales have increased by over 70% over January’s totals. To recap – since the kickoff of KDP Select, Nook sales are up 40% from November to December, up 50% from December to January, and now up 70% from January to February (and keep in mind this month is 2 days shorter than January). I’m starting to think there’s something to this theory…

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Excerpt from Gabriel’s Revenge, Book 3: Spy Ship Brings Data…and Questions

“NAFN Richard Marcinko, this is Corporal Lewis Grienke aboard the MDF packetship Shadow. Coded message for Commander Gabriel. Please respond.”

Gabriel turned to McTiernan with his eyebrows raised. “There’s a man in that thing?”

McTiernan nodded. “Yes, we were as surprised as you. Damned thing is less than five feet across. Must have been like flying in a coffin.”

An image of the drop capsules screaming through the atmosphere of Poliahu flashed across Gabriel’s mind. “Been there, done that.” He squinted at the image on the screen. “Have you responded?”

“Yes, Ensign Giroux confirmed the receipt of the tight-beam with our own. The corporal is asking for you personally and will not release the message without your code.”

Gabriel shook his head. “I have no idea what code he’s speaking of, but I guess you’d better get me on the line with him.”

McTiernan waved his hand to Giroux and the communications officer opened a channel. “The packetship is still half a million miles or so away, so there’s a three second lag each way.”

The overhead speaker beeped with the opening of the comm link.

“Corporal Grienke, this is Commander Evan Gabriel. I received your transmission, but I do not have a code.”

After a few seconds, the overhead speaker crackled. “Thank you sir, voice code received and accepted.”

Gabriel glanced at McTiernan, who merely shrugged his shoulders. “Didn’t think it would be that simple,” Gabriel said in a low tone.

“He found us, Commander,” McTiernan replied. “He probably isn’t too worried about imposters at this point.”

Gabriel nodded. “Go ahead with your transmission, Corporal.”

Before the voice returned, Giroux called out. “Captain, I’m receiving a data stream overlaid on the transmission. It’s clean. Shall I put it up?”

“Go ahead, Ensign, same screen.”

The image of the ship and its statistics disappeared, replaced by a schematic of the solar system. The Ryokou wormhole was a green square, surrounded by several red threat dots, with Mars a flashing yellow circle. Numbers scrolled down one side of the screen showing distances, estimated armament, positioning, open corridors, and other tactical data.

“Commander, I have a message from Major Andon,” Grienke’s voice continued. “He sends his regards and his congratulations for a mission well done on Eden, but has a significant warning to pass along. And yes sir, he used the word significant. You should be seeing the data I collected on my flight out. It was… tight… getting through undetected, as the wormhole approach is littered with Chinese fighters. I’m sure they didn’t see this packetship, but they probably picked up my wormhole transit. I fully expect them to know you’re on the way. Major Andon’s warning is that these fighters have orders to shoot the Marcinko on sight, no questions asked.”

Several seconds passed in silence. Gabriel squeezed the railing hard enough to make his knuckles go white. “Just like Eden,” he said under his breath.

Grienke went on. “I’ve sent you the data on the wormhole area. I’m also sending you data on the Mars blockade ships as best as we can detect. The bulk of the Chinese ships are at Ryokou, only a handful around Mars. They seem to be putting quite an effort into blocking your entry into the system. Major Andon has also enclosed data on the situation on the ground, which is a second packet I’m sending you.”

Giroux raised his hand. “Received, Captain.”

“Corporal, stand by to be picked up,” said McTiernan.

A few seconds ticked by as the light speed transmission went out and was answered.

“Ah, sir, I’m supposed to continue on to Calypso to be attached to the MDF training force. This mission sort of dovetailed with my schedule, blockade or not. Lucky me, right?” A small laugh came through the speaker. “And while it’s a bit tighter quarters than I expected, I’d rather keep going than join you in a firefight. No offense, Captain.”

“None taken, Corporal,” McTiernan replied. “Safe travels, and thank you for the information.”

“Thank you, sir, and good luck. Shadow out.”

McTiernan shifted in his command chair to face Gabriel. “What is it with the Chinese connection?”

Gabriel shook his head, still staring at the solar system schematic. “Wish I knew, Captain. But I get the feeling we’ll find out soon enough.”

***

GABRIEL’S REVENGE is the finale 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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A little moment of panic regarding errors, thanks to Microsoft Word

Just a quickie – quickie post, get your mind out of the gutter…

I was setting up my complete trilogy for a CreateSpace paperback printing (warning: shameless plug ahead) over the weekend, using Word to copy/paste the individual manuscript files into one large combined file. The trilogy itself, Gabriel’s Journey, looks like it’ll top out around 655 printed pages with a larger (6 x 9) format than I used for the individual books (5 x 8). I went with the larger size to reduce the page count and try to keep the selling price lower.

In the middle of the setup, while manually setting up the chapter headings the way I like, I get this pop-up from the ever-so-helpful Microshaft Word:

And I panic. Ho. Lee. Crap. Where did so many errors come from that would cause Word to hiccup? Regular readers may recall my annoyance at finding errors (post here) so you can imagine the number of heartbeats skipped when this showed up.

After breathing into a paper bag for a few seconds (sans spray paint, I assure you), it hit me. Writing in a scifi genre means a whole heckuva lot of made-up words and unusual location names. Words like neuretics, Arsia Mons, Janzsoon, comm, wallscreens, Shiang Xiao, battlecomp, and so on. So Word helpfully decided to try to underline each and every instance in squiggly red lines, then finally gave up the ghost.

So…in a nutshell, false alarm. Please go about your business. Nothing to see here…

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

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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Excerpt from Gabriel’s Redemption, Book 1: Back Office Troubles

When Santander arrived, Gurnett and two other security men had two plant workers seated in chairs in a back office. One of the security men was training an odd-looking handgun at them. As Santander approached, one of the plant workers stood up and pointed. “That’s him, that’s the guy who set me up for this!” he yelled.

The handgun butt smashed into the worker’s stomach, and he sat back down hard, gasping for breath.

Gurnett shook his head and looked back at Santander. “Never learn, do they?”

“No, I suppose not,” he replied, avoiding Gurnett’s face. “So what’s the situation?” he asked the non-gasping individual.

The second worker gulped nervously, looking alternately at the other worker, who was just now catching his breath, and his questioner. “You’re the security chief? You runs things here, right?” he asked.

“Correct,” said Santander, crossing his arms.

“Dural has been pocketing vials, skimming from the top of our production. I walked in on him today. I gave him a chance to explain, but he just threw your name back at me, saying you know all about it, and then accused me of stealing production equipment!”

“So you’re Rechichi?” he asked. “How long have you been here? What’s your position?”

“Four months, sir. I handle post-processing for most of the final compounds, prior to packaging. Same as Dural.” Apparently unsure of where this conversation was going, beads of sweat began to appear on his upper lip.

“And Dural?” Santander asked Gurnett.

“Two years. One of our best men,” he answered.

Rechichi was now sweating profusely, wiping his brow with the sleeve of his shirt. “I’m not lying!”

“No, I don’t think you are,” Santander replied evenly. “Wrong place at the wrong time, I suppose.”

He held his hand out to the security officer, who passed over the handgun. “Codes,” he said. The security officer flashed arming codes for the weapon to Santander’s neuretics, and the handgun powered up.

“Wait!” screamed Rechichi, holding his hands up, palms out, in protest. “You can’t do this!”

Santander raised the weapon, the tingle in the grip indicating it was armed and fully charged. “Of course I can. I run things here, remember?” And he fired.

The handgun wasn’t silenced, so a loud piercing clangggg filled the small office. The depleted uranium pellet shot from the barrel, accelerated by magnetic fields to over six thousand miles per hour, and smashed through the plant worker’s skull. The entry wound was tiny, matching the pellet’s 3 millimeter diameter, but the resulting exit wound wasn’t nearly as neat. The back of Rechichi’s head exploded onto the wall behind him, and his body flew backwards out of the chair, onto a large plastic sheet. A small hole was visible in the back wall, now dripping with brain matter and blood.

Damn, Thao, what the hell is this thing?” Santander asked the security man, looking in wonderment at the weapon.

The security man who had given Santander the gun smiled. “Miniature railgun, sir. Made by Strittmaier out of New Berlin. Newest tech on the market. Undetectable to electronic or neuretic scans too. Cost me a month’s pay to afford it.”

Santander nodded. “I like it. No recoil, that’s fantastic.” He turned it over in his hands a few times. “A little loud though. Gurnett, look into getting some of these. And reimburse Thao for having to buy his own.”

Thao beamed. “Thank you sir.”

Santander looked over at Dural, whose wheezing had completely stopped. Even his breathing had stopped as he stared behind him at the carnage that was his coworker.

“Dural,” Santander said.

Dural’s head snapped back. “Yes, uh, sorry. Thanks Mr. Santander. He just walked in on me, he shouldn’t even have been on shift. Won’t happen again, I know you need those vials, and I’ll keep them coming.”

“I do need those vials. What I don’t need are morons working for me.” He raised the pistol again, and fired twice into Dural’s chest. The body toppled over to rest near Rechichi, two holes blown clean through his chest, the chair back, and the wall. The dual clangs reverberated off the ceiling and walls.

“Hot damn, I love this thing!” he exclaimed, handing it back to Thao. “Gurnett, you gotta get me one. First on the list, hear me?”

Gurnett nodded. “Absolutely. Sorry again to bother you.”

“Not a problem, I needed a little release,” Santander answered. “Nice touch with the plastic sheeting, makes cleanup a lot easier.”

He strode from the room, whistling.

***

GABRIEL’S REDEMPTION is Book 1 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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Using profanity in writing – is it necessary, or even missed?

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?

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On 50th anniversary of first American to orbit Earth, Glenn pushes for manned Mars mission…and so do I

From Space.com:

1975 Viking photo of Mars

Former NASA astronaut John Glenn is pushing for manned exploration of Mars and other farflung destinations.

On Feb. 20, 1962, Glenn became the first American to orbit Earthwhen his Friendship 7 capsule zipped around our planet three times, then splashed down safely in the Atlantic Ocean. Glenn’s flight put the United States back on even footing with the Soviet Union, which had launched the first manned orbital flight in April 1961.

The U.S.-Soviet space race in the 1960s got much of the American public excited about space science and exploration. That enthusiasm has since flagged, but sending astronauts to the Red Planet could help rekindle it, Glenn said.

“We haven’t done everything we should be doing in low-Earth orbit, as far as I’m concerned,” Glenn said. “I think your best way to Mars is assembling the vehicle in low-Earth orbit, and then eventually going out of low-Earth orbit from that.”

 

I’m a huge fan of manned spaceflight; one of my high school memories was running home as fast as I could to see the television coverage of the Challenger explosion after hearing rumors in school. And who hasn’t envisioned men (and women) on Mars? Mars has been such a driving force in my imagination, I couldn’t help but make it a central part of many scenes in my works. And with that, an obligatory snippet, this one from Gabriel’s Revenge (book 3):

Gabriel could hear the thin Mars atmosphere whipping past his combat helmet’s visor. Visibility from a thousand yards altitude was excellent, enhanced by his helmet’s optics, but no matter how hard he stared, there was simply nothing to see. Even the approaching dust storm barely visible in the distance held no interest for him.

Ordinarily, a typical first-time visitor to Mars would gawk at the wide open plain and the terraced steppes of the northern rim of Valles Marineris, or marvel at the flashes of dirty gray water ice in the shade of some of the peaks, or point excitedly at the ancient dust-covered Russian and Japanese landers…

I’d very much like to see a manned landing on Mars before I shuffle off this mortal coil…hurry up, guys.

 

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Update on the word count rising & weight falling

It’s been five days since I decided to get my fat butt in gear and make it smaller, while getting my lazy butt in gear and making my WIP larger.

The good news? In five days of removing the crap I always eat, and putting in a minimum of 30 minutes per day exercising (cold this week, so it’s mostly been on treadmill), I’ve lost five pounds. But those were the easy ones; I know it won’t be a pound a day. If it was, hey, in a few months I might all but disappear…

Bad news? I’ve let the day job and its various tendrils that seep into my non-day job life overwhelm my sense of writing, and let it ruin my motivation for writing, so my word count is terrible. In five days, just under 2000 words. NOT the 1k per day of my goal. The silver lining is I still have 45 days to go, and I can easily get back on track with this – IF (all caps) I can just separate the job from the job.

With that brief update out of the way, I’m off to conference call #1 of two today, but hope to get back into the WIP this afternoon and evening. Wish me luck…

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Excerpt from Gabriel’s Redemption, Book 1 of Scifi Trilogy – Hand to Hand Combat

Meanwhile the titanic struggle between Brevik and Rheaves had reached a crescendo. The two bodies were crashing into workstations, chairs splintering under their combined weight. Rheaves was slightly larger, but in the clumsy Chinese battlesuit lost out to Brevik in dexterity. Realizing this, Rheaves attempted to keep the fight close to overwhelm Brevik, but each time he thought he had the upper hand, Brevik slid from his grasp.

The two men separated briefly, panting hard. Brevik’s pulse rifle arm had already been damaged by Rheaves’s first grapple, and Rheaves’s assault rifle was well out of reach. Both men were unarmed, but neither cared.

“Well, old friend,” Rheaves said, gasping for breath. “Is that all you have?”

Brevik gave a dead smile. “It’s all I need. You should have never left the academy. You had potential.”

Rheaves laughed. “Potential. Yeah, potential to get stuck in a dead end job like you?”

Brevik eased closer, preparing for another assault. “I’ve got friends here. You’ve got nothing. One last chance for you. Give it up,” he said.

Rheaves spat on the floor. “Screw you, Harris.” He rushed Brevik.

Brevik caught the big man’s left arm and spun, using Rheaves’s weight and momentum against him. Rheaves twisted awkwardly, crashing into a workstation, and shards of screen glass sprayed in all directions. Brevik gave a hard yank and Rheaves’s armor cracked, the shoulder popping from its socket with a tearing of cartilage. Rheaves bellowed in pain and rage, and pushed up from the workstation’s wreckage with his good arm.

“I’ve lost my patience with you, Harris,” he said, grimacing in pain as his left arm dangled uselessly at his side. He lunged forward, right arm outstretched.

Brevik stepped inside Rheaves’s move, blocking his arm, and punched with all his strength into the center of mass. His combat armor’s servos whined in protest as his own muscles pushed the suit beyond its limits. His armored fist crashed into Rheaves’s chest, and the Chinese-made battlesuit collapsed in on itself. Metal splintered and flakes of paint erupted in a tiny dust cloud.

Rheaves staggered back under the blow and looked down at the ruined chest plate with wide eyes, feeling his cracked sternum and rib cage tearing into his lungs and heart. He fell back into a seated position, coughing and gasping, and clutched at his chest with his functioning arm.

Brevik took a step forward and stood over him, looking down with pity. “Shame you didn’t see it my way,” he said, and gave a kick to Rheaves’s shoulder, toppling him over onto his side. The mercenary gave one last gasp and died.

***

All three Gabriel science fiction-adventure books available for all major ebook platforms, and now paperback: http://steveumstead.com/my-books/

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