Paginations

An excerpt from Gabriel’s Return – some jungle combat to brighten your day

A snippet from a scene out of Gabriel’s Return, book 2 in the scifi adventure series. Though I’d love for you to take a look at this story (which I think has the best action out of all three, but that’s just me), you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not actually starting with book 1, Gabriel’s Redemption. Or why not jump in with both feet for the complete trilogy? Or (never let it be said I didn’t give all the options), try out the series prequel for freeGabriel: Zero Point. All are available on my Books page. Yes, I’m shamelessly plugging my books.

So settle back and enjoy some jungle carnage…

Gabriel's Return full res[In position,] came Olszewski’s burst.

Gabriel double checked the icons in his heads-up and verified everyone was set. He took a deep breath and reached over his shoulder to his concealed pulse rifle. His gloved hand closed around the stock, and he sent the confirmation.

[Proceed when you have a shot.]

Olszewski sighted down the scope and saw a minutely-detailed image of the hide. The steelroot was thick, but he saw some breaks in it, and the faintest hint of movement. Lining up the Dobranoc, he felt the tingle in his hand as he gripped the trigger pad. His neuretics removed the single-shot safety code, and he squeezed the pad.

Six depleted uranium rounds spat from the end of the long sniper rifle barrel at over nine thousand feet per second, only a few milliseconds between each round, and only a barely audible clack sounding at each one. The forty-eight caliber slugs tore into the steelroot, blowing huge chunks of wood in all directions. Olszewski watched the destruction through the scope the entire time, as the recoil on the Dobranoc had been reduced to near zero by the finest Polish weapons techs the Olszewski family could afford.

Out of the carnage, a bloody body holding a long rifle dropped onto a flat part of the yellowbole branch the hide was built on, bounced, and tumbled to the jungle floor below. Olszewski quickly safed his rifle and tucked it over his shoulder into its back pouch, then scrambled down the tree trunk, on the side facing away from the hide.

On the ground, two terrorists, obviously shocked at the sudden turn of events forty feet over their heads, jumped from their concealed hideouts and started firing automatic kinetic rifles wildly in the direction of the tree Olszewski had fired from. Gabriel pulled his pulse rifle from its pouch and brought it to bear, but waited as the scene played out. He was a bit too far back from the two positions to make a difference at this point; Negassi and Sowers were nearly on top of them.

Sowers jumped up from his position, only fifteen feet from where the terrorist had popped up, and raised his assault rifle. The terrorist must have caught the movement, and he shifted his firing towards his new target. Gabriel saw Sowers get clipped by several rounds, the impacts staggering him back, but he managed to fire off a few rounds, and the terrorist went down in a spray of arterial blood.

Negassi’s opponent was far closer, the icons in Gabriel’s heads-up nearly blending into one. He was shocked she had been able to get in that close undetected, but not nearly as shocked as the gunman was as two takobas flashed in the green-filtered light. His right arm was severed at the elbow and the rifle immediately stopped firing. He screamed in agony and surprise as the second blade arced his way. The scream ended in a gurgle as the takoba slashed across his upper chest and throat. Gabriel didn’t watch the end result, knowing it would be an image he wouldn’t want to relive later on.

He stood up and grabbed Sennett by the upper arm. The corporal hopped up from his position, and the two men double-timed it to the scene of the carnage.

As Gabriel approached the fallen terrorist Sowers had taken out, he noticed Sowers had taken his helmet off and was breathing heavy. “You okay?” he asked.

Sowers nodded, trying to catch his breath. “Caught me off guard, sir, that’s all. I’m fine.” He looked down at the body, which had taken several rounds to the chest and face. “They’re using steelroot as armor?”

Gabriel took his own helmet off, and looked down where Sowers was staring. He saw pieces of gray wood scattered around the body. “No, not as armor, but it looks like they’ve figured out it blocks our neuretics to a point. It appears he was lying underneath a pile of it.”

“Same here,” Negassi said. She was wiping her takobas clean, a blurry outline with two floating swords and a bloody towel making for a surreal image in Gabriel’s visor.

“Sowers, tend to the hostage,” Gabriel said, pointing towards where the unconscious man was tied to a tree. “If he’s completely out cold, hide him somewhere.” He paused and sent a shielded burst back to Eden City about the hostage, the third one he’d notified them of. One more, he thought.

A screech from above sounded, and Gabriel looked up to see a flutter of wings, followed by several dozen more as a large flock of spiderbats took flight from a nearby tree. He wondered what had set them off now after all the weapons fire, when suddenly a fat raindrop landed in his eye.

Shit, he thought. This will make the last few miles a pain in the ass.

The skies opened up.

Speedpaint__Jungle_River_by_I_NetGraFX

steve

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A visible example of why LinkedIn doesn’t matter (at least for me)

Yes, back in the heyday of social media, when I was young and foolish (okay, not that young), I did what everyone else did: sign up for each and every possible social media outlet, program, site, etc. in the hopes of ‘getting my name out there.’

They’ve come and gone. I’ve churned and burned Klout (might be the silliest I’ve signed up for – cancelled), Flickr (never bothered ever uploading), Instagram (I’ve made my feelings known about sushi photos), MySpace (kidding – just checking if you were paying attention), Pinterest (meh, I don’t have that interesting of a photo portfolio), and I believe everyone reading this knows (or senses) my stance on the ultimate time suck, Facebook. Plus probably a few others I can’t remember now.

I’m still active on Twitter, I try to stick my head in Goodreads from time to time, and do still visit Google+ (laugh all you want – it doesn’t have the scope of 1 billion users, but at least there are more interesting people and posts, fewer cat photos and memes). Which brings me to LinkedIn.

It was one of the first I signed up for, even prior to getting into the writing gig, as a way of networking with other business professionals in my industry. I don’t know where it went off the rails, but now it does nothing but remind me of Klout and its ridiculous +Ks. How, you ask? And I know you were asking. Here’s an email I received this morning:

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 11.00.59 AM

This guy, Earl [name redacted], has endorsed me for a whopping 10 categories. It’s flattering and all, being recommended like that, except for one thing.

I have no idea who Earl [name redacted] is.

I don’t even know how I got connected to him. Never spoke to him, emailed, ran into at a trade show. So how does this “recommend” thing work again? Oh right, it’s like that retweeting post I did a few days back, where the author I mentioned retweeted everyone she could in order to get her own retweets. I guess I’m supposed to go recommend Mr. [name redacted], right? Yeah, great social media service…very legit. No thanks. Deleting account.

steve

 

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My view on authors tweeting/retweeting – you may not like this…

Big time preface – YMMV. Everyone’s does. There are authors that do nothing but tweet book links, and they do fine. There are authors who aren’t even on Twitter, and do fine. And the converse – authors doing nothing but tweeting book links not selling a lick, and authors who aren’t tweeting aren’t selling.

Before you say, “Hey, I’ve seen YOU sending book links on Twitter, you hypocritical jackass”, relax. Yes I’ve tweeted about my books, and yes I’ve retweeted others’ in the past. But if you scroll through my stream (if that doesn’t sound icky, I’m not sure what does), you won’t find anything outside of price change announcements or new review mentions for a very. Very. Long. Time. I actually gave up hawking my own crap on Twitter well over a year ago after doing some of my own experimentation. Know what I found?

It. Doesn’t. Work. 

Again, YMMV, and feel free to dismiss my conclusions. But my A vs B comparison test, for my works, was very definitive. I spent over a month doing on/off weeks of tweeting/not tweeting. At the end, I tallied the results, and found absolutely no change in sales volume. The number of books I sold per day was no different between the weeks I tweeted the hell out of them and the weeks I stayed totally silent. No difference at all, not even a blip. My book sales have zero degrees Kelvin to do with tweeting about them. And that also relates to retweets. How? Because during those weeks I tweeted, I got retweets – just the nature of the medium. And during the weeks I didn’t tweet, I received (duh) no retweets.

Oh, and along the way, way back when, I probably pissed off a goodly number of Twitter followers who took me out of their lists or unfollowed me, and any future messages, like my upcoming cure for the common cold and tomorrow’s Powerball winning numbers, will never be seen by them. I’ve also lost them forever as a possible reader.

Now the reason I figured I’d put my thoughts to ‘paper’ is that I’ve been in contact with a fellow author, a woman who writes well outside my genre, and I’ve been watching what she does. Very interesting. She retweets other authors’ book links like a possessed madwoman, and with a purpose. She wants retweets of her own, which is understandable. And she gets them, in droves.

She herself has just over 10,000 followers on Twitter. She’s been on Twitter, according to the stats, only since this past summer, yet has over 74,000 tweets – an impressive online volume of over 300 tweets per day. Per DAY, folks. I don’t think I have time to inhale a breath 300 times per day (no need to correct me medically here…). She receives between 10-20 retweets of each of her own book links, each time, which is at least two dozen of her own tweets per day. And that’s impressive, so many people retweeting her links. It’s because she’s retweeting theirs, which makes sense. So she’s on average receiving 240 to 480 mentions of her book, per DAY, on Twitter to who knows how many hundreds of thousands of Twitterites, her own 10k followers notwithstanding. That’s a massive volume of Twitter mentions. Like mind-boggling. Her book is being mentioned maybe 500 times per day. So how does that translate to sales? She must be rolling in it, right?

She has one novel published, and it’s priced at $.99 (not that that has anything to do with it, but it needs to be mentioned because she’s making less than 35 cents royalty on each sale). Her current rank on Amazon (most of her tweets are Kindle; I’m not ruling out BN/Kobo sales, but they are certainly a small parts of the pie historically, and by nature of the links she sends).

Current rank on Amazon in the paid store: 310,167

Self-published authors know exactly what that ranks means. For those of you who don’t obsess in watching the KDP reports (ahem), I’ll tell you: not a whole heck of a lot. My guesstimate on sales volume would be around 2 to 3 copies per week, so maybe a dozen sales in a month. (Check out Edward Robertson’s quickie formula, which is quite accurate from what I’ve measured myself). This book is in a popular category and has an average ranking on Amazon of 4.5, with no 1-star reviews.

I am NOT belittling her or making fun of her sales. I’m not naming names – she may even be a he, so there. I’m just illustrating using a real world example (and my own experiment) how the medium of Twitter just ain’t what authors think it is. This woman, for all her hard work online (300 tweets a day? Good Lord…), is pulling in maybe four bucks a month in Amazon royalties. And that sucks. My opinion, should she (or he!) ever ask, would be to quit that craziness and spend that 300 tweet time per day writing another book, but she (or he!) hasn’t asked. (As an aside, she’s doing this manually and does not have an automated system to retweet certain people or lists or keywords. Don’t ask me how I know…I just do. There are ways to tell…)

Why doesn’t it work? Just off the top of my head, my first conclusion is that a lot of authors online are followed by…wait for it…other authors. It’s a great community, but we’re all writing and trying to sell. Don’t bombard each other with your own book links. We’re all too poor to buy books, and I mean that in two ways: money and time. My Kindle account is rife with books I haven’t gotten to, and may never get to, because my priority is writing the next one. (I can’t read a book while in the midst of writing – otherwise my thoughts, ideas, dialogue, etc. pull too much from that work.)

Another conclusion – Twitter is a volatile medium, one not truly suited for effective commerce. In order to be seen as much as possible by the widest audience possible, an advertiser (don’t kid yourself, authors – you are advertisers) needs to send many messages throughout the day in order to hit the right target when that target is watching. Which is why you see the same TV commercial several times each evening on the same channel – consistency and repetition in the message. So what happens is that advertiser is overdoing it to those who spend a lot of time on Twitter, and those messages are ignored (or the tweeter is taken out of a list and never looked at again) just so Johnny who checks his feed once every other day sees the message. (In other words, you’re pissing people off.)

I will mention my books from time to time, usually in conjunction with a sale price, or a mailer promo, or maybe when receiving a new review (I do like to crow whenever I have the chance, be warned). But I’m not the type to tweet incessantly, and probably never will. Because it simply doesn’t work.

Feel free to disagree, vent, call me names, whatever. But I’d love to hear your thoughts, or perhaps your results…

steve

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My live Oscars tweeting from the FUTURE was spot on – 3 for 3, baby…

Yes, I admit – I watched the Oscars. Not for the idiocy, or the gowns, or the self-congratulatory atmosphere, but for the movies themselves. It’s the only awards I’ll ever (or have ever) watch. I’m a movie fan, so deep down I dig watching clips of the best of the best, seeing the actors outside the roles, and who doesn’t like predictions?

Instead of predicting, I decided to live tweet from the FUTURE. No, really:

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 8.25.08 AM

Check out the time stamp. That’s 8:06PM east coast time, hours before the three biggies came out. And at somewhere past 11:30PM (Jeez, those things run long), there they were:

Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence
Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis
Best Picture: Argo

Uncanny, huh?

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 8.25.27 AM

I’m not telling my secret. Nope, you’ll never find out…

tardis-image-picture

steve

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New lower price on Gabriel’s Redemption, book 1 of the scifi trilogy – $2.99/£1.99/€2.99

Gabriel's Redemption full res[Insert witty and entertaining comment here]

‘Nuff said – now Gabriel’s Redemption is $2.99 (£1.99, €2.99 in most non-US) for the major e-reader platforms. Maybe it’s permanent, maybe not…gamble if you must.

If gambling’s not your thing, pick it up now at the following fine retailers:

Kindle US
Kindle UK
Nook
iBookstore
Kobo

Pray that I do not alter the deal any further.

And if I haven’t stumped enough for the prequel, Gabriel: Zero Point is free across the major platforms as well.

Enjoy – and as always, I’d love to hear your feedback. You know, as I write a new story…hint, hint.

steve

P.S. Sorry if all stores or territories do not reflect the lower price; I do what I can through the outlets I can. No, I’m not lowering the Smashwords price – their distro methods and time frames are absurd. This also means Sony didn’t go down, since I have to push through molasses, er, Smashwords to sell through Sony. 

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I’m giving away the Gabriel trilogy, autographed, in original cover design. Could be a collector’s item. Or not…

WINNER ANNOUNCED: A grand total of 470 entries were received (wow, many thanks!), and after plugging that into random.org, the Internets have picked a winner. Drum roll please:

Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 11.33.00 AMScreen Shot 2013-02-18 at 11.33.07 AM

Big congrats to Michael Wilson, winner of the autographed Gabriel trilogy. I’ll be contacting you soon…and a huge thanks to all who participated! I might have another copy or two lying around…

Yes, you heard right. After doing some winter cleaning around the house, I saw that I had a small quantity of paperbacks lying around, feeling lonely. So I decided to do a giveaway – why not, right? But here’s the fun thing: these are the original cover design, with the yellow serif fonts. Maybe they’ll be worth MILLIONS in the future. Then again, maybe not. Actually, more than likely not. In any case, here’s the deal:

IMG_1763-smI am giving away the complete set. The single winner will receive all THREE books in one cute box in the mail*. All three will be autographed and I’ll add in whatever text you want (such as “Pete, you’re my biggest fan” or “My God you look stunning in your Twitter avi” or some wise Confucious saying.)

*Disclaimer: Since I’m still a low-budget author, I apologize in advance – this giveaway is open ONLY TO US RESIDENTS. I’m shipping a box via good ol’ USMail, and can’t get into the customs forms, etc. to send internationally. Sorry…

Use the PunchTab giveaway box below to enter below. Each “method” you use to enter gives you another “ticket” in the “hat” I will draw from. (Enough quotation marks for you?) This giveaway will end Sunday night the 17th at 5PM ET.

 

Ready, set, go – and good luck.

steve

P.S. Entering via email means your address will go into my newsletter database, but I only send very rarely, never spam or sell the list, and it’s absurdly easy to opt-out. Just had to say that. Trust me, what could go wrong?

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Heading south tomorrow. South like Cancun. I have to keep up with the latest in swim up bars, right?

I’ll be on vacation* in Mexico starting tomorrow, our annual Super Bowl weekend trip (wife and kids and I have been doing this now for 8 years; the resorts set up a wide screen on the beach, cook out, and so on – far superior to someone’s stinky basement to watch the game). But with the magic of the Interwebs, I won’t be too far out of reach.

* Disclaimer: because this is my day job (travel), there’s no such thing as 100% vacation any more. Anywhere I go, I end up meeting with management, touring hotels, taking photos, and so on. Yes, weep for me… 🙂

One of my main focuses (foci?) will be to inspect the swim-up bars. As you may have seen from my Twitter profile, I do list that as part of my vocation. I need to make sure all the tiles are in place, the seats aren’t too slanted, the drinks aren’t watered down, and so on. You know, to make sure our clients enjoy their future stays.

swim up bar

Note: That’s not actually me, but that’s the hotel I’ll be at.

Perhaps my muse will follow me down there, and I’ll come home with thousands upon thousands of words written. Or, more likely, a sunburn and a headache.

I may have room in my suitcase…any stowaways interested?

steve

 

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Insomnia strikes, with a side platter of a new story idea.

I’m typing this precisely twelve hours after I woke up, meaning it would normally be the end of my day, time to kick off the shoes and chillax with some mindless TV. But alas and alack it is not the end of my day, because I woke up at 2AM. My mind was racing, and I’m talking Bugatti Veyron racing, not go-carts. And it was racing with images and sounds and dialogue and settings and pew-pew laser blasts. Okay, not specifically pew-pew, but you get the idea.

Maybe something will come of this. I’ll percolate it into a basic outline, slap down some plot points, perhaps even sketch out a few characters. And maybe one day I’ll look back on this post as the beginning of creating the Next Great Novel, and will remember it warmly when I accept my Nobel Prize in Literature, and again when women pour champagne over me in the Oscars after parties. Or, it may just fade away as many ideas do, making room for a better one.

In any case, it’s off to work I go. Wish me luck.*

steve

* There’s no such thing as luck. Don’t let anyone tell you any differently. It’s simply being prepared for an opportunity when it comes along. Trust me…

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