gabriel trilogy

Have to share a most excellent review…

I don’t often post these (but when I do, I prefer Dos…ah, never mind). Had to share a really complimentary review of the Gabriel trilogy I just saw on Amazon. Yes, it’s a bit of crowing, but I’ll take the heat. I’m flattered and humbled, and gosh darn it, proud of my editing. (A little shout out to Jennifer Gracen for her editing goddess skills…) And a very nice closing compliment to the quality of self-published work out there, because contrary to popular opinion, there’s a bunch.

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This series had me hooked from start to finish. This is one of my favorite SciFi series indie published or not. I should note that I was so into the first book after only 20% or so that I immediately purchased the other two without regret. Also, this review was written for the omnibus addition Gabriel’s Journey. It applies whether you buy the books separately or together in one volume.

I am no reviewer and hate spoilers, so I will just list the qualities that had me so riveted to this story all the way through.

1. The author clearly knows his craft. The quality of writing and inventiveness of the plot never wavered. Descriptions were clear without rambling endlessly and the action scenes put me right in the thick of it. In other words, suspension of disbelief and ease of visualization were, for me at least, effortless. I also really liked the characters but was grateful that I did not have to sit through endless character introspection and angst. Life provides enough of that as it is. Unexpected twists were also done well.

2. I found the science to be very interesting and believable (albeit fictional). I enjoyed it’s role in the story throughout the series. No Star Trek “science” here. From maneuvering a ship in space to advanced weaponry, I was never jarred out of the story with nonsensical pseudo science.

3. This is military science fiction and while I am not a soldier (was in the sixties however), I was impressed with the tactical descriptions of special ops warfare. The main characters are very competent soldiers indeed without being super heroes who are immortal, invincible and invulnerable all at once (as in so many other books). They make mistakes and pay for them like the rest of us.

4. Finally, the editing. In my large format copy of Dune (an all time favorite novel by Frank Herbert), I found over 15 errors. In the Gabriel Trilogy I found less than five (two of those debatable). Great editing for no matter the publishing method. Kudos to Steve Umstead who has not only provided us with an excellent series, but cares enough about his readers to get it right. Thank You!

A bit of proselytizing before I close this:

In the last decade or more I’ve noticed that professional publishing has gone down hill quite a bit. Typos, grammatical errors and spelling have suffered as the publishing houses race to greater profits at less cost. I bring this up because Indie publishers have taken a big hit (deservedly so in many cases) for editing errors while the publishing houses have been allowed to skate. I am a very big fan of Indie publishing and have been noticing a marked improvement as time has gone on. Both in quality of writing and quality of editing. While there is plenty of bad stuff in both publishing worlds, I believe Indie publishing is coming into it’s own. With the outright price gouging that the big publishers are resorting to and the lack of quality and availability of their work (try to find a complete SciFi or fantasy trilogy at B&N) it is my hope that Indie authors and E-books will become the new normal. I think the big publishers are shooting themselves in the foot with their mercenary practices. Time will tell.

Much appreciated, J. Kirwan. Much appreciated.



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My little announcement regarding “publishing” and “contract”

Here’s my teaser tweet from last night:

While “contract killer” would make for a very interesting announcement, it’s not that. As a friend pointed out online, I’ve already got two jobs – I don’t need hitman as another one.

Not that I’ve got people waiting with bated breath, or any type of breath, but it’s fairly big news on my end. As many of you know, I’m self-published and happy to stay that way. I’ve got a long-time business owner background, so maintaining full control, full decision-making, and full royalties (disclaimer: as full as Amazon, BN, Apple, et al pay; no publisher/agent/marketing cut) is extremely important to me. Extremely.

I have absolutely zero interest in signing with a publisher. Zero. Keeping my work “in house” so to speak is a no-brainer to me. Formatting the ebook/paperback, designing (or hiring a designer – big plug for my man AJ Powers and his work on the Gabriel series), editing (or hiring an editor – big plug for my girl Jennifer Gracen for her editing goddess skills), and promoting the book(s) are all right up my alley. I can’t imagine outsourcing those facets of the book I can do myself, and in many cases, feel I can do better than someone else who’s handling X number of other authors and won’t give my work the time and effort it deserves.

But there is an aspect of publishing that is a bit outside my skill set, and it’s an aspect that’s been on my project list for the future: audiobooks. So with all that being said above, here is the official announcement:

I’m excited and proud to say I’ve signed with Podium Publishing for the audiobook versions of the entire Gabriel series (books 1 through 3, plus prequel), and they’ll be hitting in the near future.

aud_logo._V383473417_How did this happen? I will say, it was a bit out of the blue. I certainly wasn’t seeking a publisher; audiobooks were on my project list to do, but admittedly in the far-future section. Podium found me through a referral of a referral, read book 1, contacted me, and after a long conversation, offered me a contract. Ordinarily I take unsolicited business emails with a grain of salt (especially if they say “Dear [%&NAMEHERE&%]), but James at Podium was very convincing and professional, and they have several very well-known authors in their audiobook stable (most notably Edward Robertson, whose Breakers series is excellent, and Andy Weir, whose book The Martian was just picked up by Random House and signed for movie rights). Robertson had excellent things to say about Podium, which is probably what tipped me over the edge, and yesterday the contract was signed.

Podium has the ability and technology that I simply don’t have right now, and may never get to. My focus is the writing part, and while I again have zero interest in ever signing with anyone for the paper/ebooks themselves, the audiobooks are another story. I know I’m giving up potential royalties versus doing things in house, or even hiring a narrator and keeping it mostly in house, but this is an opportunity and a growing outlet that I’m not going to be able to get to anytime soon. Podium gives me the ability to get professional audiobooks out there well before I’d ever get to them.

Stay tuned (hey, an audio pun!) – the process has just started, but I’m looking forward to it.


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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, the Internets have picked a winner. Drum roll please:

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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.


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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Excerpt from Gabriel: Zero Point – The process of augmenting Lt. Gabriel begins

Excerpt from Gabriel: Zero Point, the prequel novella to the Gabriel Trilogy. GZP is FREE (as in beer) for Kindle US, Kindle UK, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, and Smashwords. Free, so what’s the harm in trying it on for size?

gabrielzeropoint2-6x9The plastic was unnaturally cold against his skin as he stretched out in the capsule. It felt more metal than plastic. The glass lid perched above his head, still hinged open, blurring the designs on the ceiling panels, probably leftover from the original luxury suites. He wriggled to find a comfortable position.

“All set, Lieutenant?”

Knowles’s face appeared above him, looking down into the capsule.

“The underwear itches,” he replied. “Other than that, yeah, I suppose so.”

She smiled. “Itchy underwear will be the least of your annoyances. I forgot to tell you. The oxy fluid is ice cold. And the scout nanites will be injected prior to sedation, so you may feel some… discomfort the first few minutes.”


“They pave the way for the rest of the machines. Scouting pathways, blood vessels, arteries, and the like. Just making it easier for the others. But some patients have complained of some initial pain. No worries, Lieutenant. You’ll be under sedation in a matter of moments after the process begins.”

“This gets better and better,” he growled.

Knowles’s face disappeared for a few seconds, then returned. “Tank is online. Relax, take a few deep breaths. Like I said, the fluid is ice cold and will startle your body when it enters your lungs. Go with it. In the womb, we all breathed like this. It’s natural.” She smiled. “Sort of.”

Her face disappeared and reappeared again. “The process has started,” she said as the glass lid began to slowly descend. “I’ll see you on the other side, Lieutenant Gabriel.” Just before she pulled her head back, he saw the same flicker of emotion on her face he had seen a few minutes ago. Sadness? Worry? Before he could say anything, her face was gone.

He closed his eyes as the lid connected with the capsule with a thunk. He heard air hissing, then from under him came the freezing cold fluid. His body tensed and he clenched his teeth, trying desperately to push the thought of drowning aside. The liquid poured in and cascaded over the tops of his legs, then stomach and chest. His skin puckered at the cold and he took short, sharp breaths. His fingers curled, nails pressing into his palms.

The liquid reached his mouth and he squeezed it shut, involuntarily holding his breath. He knew the process; it was the same as long-range high-acceleration ships used for inertial dampening for crewmembers in stasis. But to a human body, it was completely unnatural, regardless of what Knowles said about the womb.

abando51He was now completely submerged and shivering uncontrollably. His lungs burned for air. He opened his eyes, and the freezing liquid stabbed at his eyeballs. It was as if looking through pale blue gelatin.

His lungs could take no more, and he gasped for breath. Spasms racked his body as the fluid poured down his throat and into his airway. He spasmed several more times, and the image of being pushed under by an ocean wave flashed across his mind. He willed his body to relax, and finally the fluid filled his lungs and his body settled. One last gasp and spasm, and Gabriel was breathing liquid.

Through the rushing waterfall sound of the liquid in his ears, he heard a mechanical whirring. He felt a pinprick on his right thigh, then a matching one on his left. Six more pinpricks: one in each arm, one each on either side of his rib cage, one in the bottom of each foot. The scout injections, he thought. He imagined them like cartoon robots, running down red corridors to their jobs, leaving bread crumbs behind for others to follow. He started to smile, when he felt a burning sensation in both feet. The image of the fire ants came back to him as the same burning crept over his legs, then sides, then arms. Suddenly the burning was coursing throughout his body, and he began to panic. This wasn’t the discomfort Knowles alluded to.

The burning intensified, like miniature plasma torches being placed against his skin in a thousand places. He struggled to move, but the paralytic chemicals in the fluid had taken effect. He was immobilized, the nanites started their work on him, and he was still awake.

He grunted as the burning continued. He couldn’t even grit his teeth, and his eyes were still open, staring at blue-tinged ceiling panels. Then the sedation kicked in. His vision began to gray, but the burning increased to an unbearable level.

Gabriel screamed in silence.


Here is where I shamelessly stump again –  Gabriel: Zero Point is FREE for Kindle USKindle UKNookiBooksKobo, and Smashwords.


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New review for the Gabriel trilogy – so well written I thought I’d repost here (and preen my feathers)

Yes, another post of self-flagellation (er, adulation…maybe congratulation?).  I just received a really well-written review for Gabriel’s Journey, and the author of the review (Justin Gifford, copy editor at gave me permission to repost here. I appreciate the in-depth attention he gave each story, as well as (maybe even more so) the critiques. I’m always looking to learn…

Oh, and the bold text is my emphasis. I like emphasis. It helps the skimmers of the world figure out what I’m trying to…emphasize.

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Steve Umstead’s Evan Gabriel Triology (Gabriel’s Redemption, Gabriel’s Return and Gabriel’s Revenge) is a well-put-together series of military science fiction (with hints of hard sci-fi thrown in here and there) whose components stand up well on their own but are probably best consumed as the 3-book package.

The series starts off with a bang as we find the disgraced former Commander Gabriel of the North American Federation living a less-than-ideal life in the Caribbean on an Earth a couple of centuries in the future where interstellar travel is somewhat common and man has begun to colonize the stars. Dragged back in to work for the commander who ruined his career, Gabriel and his team take off on a three-book journey that sends him to the far ends of mankind’s reach and back home again.

The dialog in the book is well developed. It’s neither overly-wordy nor too terse and you do get some character development just from speech patterns. There is an appropriate amount of comic relief, without which the books would have had a much darker tone, particularly the third book, Gabriel’s Revenge. The pace of the books is fast enough that there’s not an overwhelming amount of turnover among Gabriel’s team, but reading the books in one clump like I did made all but the two or three most important supporting characters seem somewhat interchangeable; although new characters are introduced (and I dislike when an author takes too much time rehashing the previous book/s) there were several points that would have had much more emotional resonance had the characters involved been someone who resonated with me as a result of their dialog and interaction with other characters.

The settings and travel between them (a world thrown into a global ice-age by a meteorite, a jungle covered world, Mars, and an Earth that seems familiar but scarred as a backdrop) are very well described, although the explanation for the ice world struck me as much more acceptable than an entirely jungle-covered world – when the audience is inclined towards science and maybe astronomy, a world with one climate and biome seems a little slapdash. That said: the thought process that went into inventing the biome was detailed, painted a pretty good picture in my head and kind of made me want to go on a visit, so don’t read that criticism as overly harsh.

As the Gabriel Trilogy could be classified as “military sci fi,” there’s plenty of action, but it avoids the trope of many other action books that substitute explosions and exclamation points for meaningful plot development. The action in these books serves a purpose. It’s still exciting to read and the presence of neural interconnectivity between the squadmembers adds an interesting dynamic, particularly when it comes to mission planning & modification on the fly. Even the ship-to-ship combat (and other space-related ‘stuff’) is well put together; some thought went into physics, combat difference and ship design. The only critique I have regarding the otherwise excellently done ‘guns and stuff’ is that on several occasions, a projectile weapon is described as firing a projectile at an insanely high speed with no recoil. Much has been done to mitigate recoil throughout mankind’s experimentation with long-range weapons, but nothing, not even magnetic acceleration, is going to eliminate it entirely. In a less carefully-thought-out science fiction novel, I would have rolled my eyes and moved on, but when obvious care has been taken in a variety of other high-detail opportunities to the book’s benefit, it struck me as a departure from tech that “made sense” and swung the pendulum towards “tech as magic.”

Minor critiques aside, the Gabriel Trilogy was darn entertaining and I ripped through the whole thing over a 3 day period because I enjoyed it so much. In addition to being a ‘fun’ read, it takes some time explaining practical approaches to some of sci-fi’s harder questions (is there FTL travel? What about gravity? Laser guns? …)and the times it doesn’t don’t detract from the novels as a whole. One final note: I read a lot of titles on my Kindle/Tablet. I’m also a copy-editor. The proliferation of self-publishing has been a boon to me as a reader, but very few things will pull me out of my immersion in a book I’m enjoying faster than poorly edited / transferred to Kindle books. Gabriel’s Journey, Return & Revenge, thankfully, were almost, if not entirely bereft of these unfortunately common errors, so if you’re as bothered by poor editing as I am, you’re safe with Mr. Umstead’s books.

I’d give a recommendation for sci-fi / adventure / military genre fans to check out this trilogy without hesitation.

Much appreciated, Justin.


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Gabriel’s Redemption on sale to close out the month/quarter/summer/whatever…

Just a quickie post to blather on about a price reduction for Gabriel’s Redemption, book 1 of my top-rated military science fiction trilogy. Normally $3.99, it’s on sale through the end of September for $2.99, a 25% off sale (don’t spend that saved buck all in one place). It’s available for the four major e-reader platforms (sorry, Sony/Diesel/Blackberry/stone tablet) plus Kindle UK:

Kindle US • Kindle UK • B&N Nook • iBooks • Kobo




North American Federation Navy Commander Evan Gabriel was dishonorably discharged after a disastrous mission on a far off world called Eden. He’s spent the last five years hiding from his past, from those responsible for the failed mission, from those responsible for running him out of the Navy, and from those originally responsible for making him into who he was – a highly-trained, physically and mentally augmented Special Forces soldier.

Two mysterious visitors appear unannounced at the door of a Gabriel’s seedy hotel room in the slums of Jamaica. His past has finally caught up with him.

From the decaying Caribbean to politically-charged South America, from the back alleys of Mars to a tiny colony on a planet six hundred light years from Earth, Gabriel’s Redemption is a near-future military science fiction story of a personal journey seen from the perspective of a soldier who has lost everything — one who desperately needs to redeem himself not only in his government’s eyes, but also his own.

Interstellar action and political intrigue mix with one-on-one battles on the surface of a frozen planet in Book One of the science fiction-adventure trilogy.

“A cast of interesting and believable characters and a plot that kept me turning the pages…I enjoyed the author’s take on technology and the political landscape of the future. Definitely recommended!” – Michael R. Hicks, bestselling author of the In Her Name science fiction-adventure series and the bestselling thriller Season of the Harvest.


And hey, if you felt inclined to spread the good word, use the “Spread the Good Word” links below the post. Gracias!


P.S. Couple of freebies for you… Gabriel: Zero Point (prequel novella) is free for iBooks and Kobo, and Incursion (scifi short) is free for Kindle, iBooks, and Kobo.


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Chapter One from Gabriel: Zero Point, the prequel to the Gabriel scifi trilogy

November, 2166
North American Federation Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island

“Which one is he?”

Vice Admiral Eriq Cafferty looked up from his flexscreen at the sound of his attaché’s voice behind him and rubbed his eyes with one hand. The unforgiving steel bleachers he sat on played havoc with his lower back, and the squeaking of sneakers on the polished hardwood floor from the far side of the gym was starting to give him a headache. He twisted one hip, trying to get a bit of relief while at the same time politely facing his questioner.

His attaché, Lieutenant Commander Alejandra Basilio, was looking across the wide gymnasium at the sweat-drenched recruits crashing and banging into each other. Behind her sat a bald man in civilian clothes. His eyes were shut, most likely going over neuretics information. The two of them along with Cafferty had entered the gym a few minutes earlier and took a seat as far away from the action as they could to observe unseen.

It was ostensibly a pickup basketball game, but as they observed, fewer and fewer baskets were scored, while more and more grunts and curses were heard.

It was obvious to Cafferty that the young officer candidates were blowing off steam. Today marked the nine-week milestone in Officer Candidate School, and these six, five men and one woman, passed their Victory Runs the previous day. As of today, they were regarded as Candidate Officers, a position of some esteem and authority within the twelve-week long OCS class. According to Cafferty’s flexscreen, all distinguished themselves in one way or another, and passed each and every one of the NAFN’s toughest tests along the way. But only one had unanimously blown away the instructors with his mettle, determination, and intelligence. Not to mention scoring off the charts in raw skills, Cafferty thought. As best as they could be measured.

“The blond,” he said to Basilio.

Basilio squinted. “Ah, sir, two of them are blond. At least I think so. They’re all dripping with sweat,” she said, wrinkling her nose.

Cafferty smiled. “The big one.”

“Oh, the banger, not one of the bangees,” she replied.

Cafferty slid his flexscreen closed and pointed with it. “Yes, banger.” He waved the tube. “He’s been giving the instructors a hell of a time keeping him challenged on the courses. I’m sure you’ve seen the results of…damn.”

The flexscreen tube slipped from his grasp and clattered onto the metal bench in front of them, then bounced down through the bleachers, striking several more benches on the way down to the floor. The sound echoed off the walls, and the sneaker squeaking ceased.

Cafferty heard a low, “Oh shit,” from the game, then a much louder, “Admiral on deck!”

The six on the court snapped to attention facing the bleachers as the basketball bounced lazily away, coming to rest near the far door. Cafferty let the silence linger for a few moments, thankful for the rest it gave his ears, then waved a hand.

“At ease, Candidate Officers,” he called out. As one, the six went to sharp parade rest. He heard their low breathing sounds as each of them attempted to maintain a perfectly still composure while trying to catch up on oxygen. Tops in their class, he thought as he stared across the gym. These are the young men and women who will be leading us into the next decade, taking over for me and my generation’s bad backs. He twisted his other hip and felt a small, satisfying crack.

He waited a few more moments, then said, “Candidate Officer Gabriel, report on the double.”

A tall man snapped to attention, then jogged towards the two officers on the bleachers. Upon reaching them, he came to rigid attention again, staring at the wall above their heads.

“Officer Candidate, er, Candidate Officer Evan Gabriel, reporting, sir!” the young man said.

Cafferty chuckled. “Took me a while to get used to all the different names I was assigned during OCS as well.” He looked back at the other five, who were still at parade rest, and saw several curious glances in his direction. He waved his hand again. “Back to the game, candidates.”

The five looked at each other uneasily. Finally the lone woman in the group walked over to the basketball, picked it up, and threw it two-handed into the chest of one of the others. The game, or grunt-laced brawl, picked up where it had left off.

Cafferty folded his hands on his lap and turned his attention back to the young man in front of him. “Tell me, son. How does an additional title of Regimental Commander sound?”

One eyebrow rose almost imperceptibly on Gabriel, but his gaze never left the wall. “Quite an honor, sir!”

“An honor I understand you deserve based on what I’ve been told by your instructors. You’ll be nominally in charge of several other candidates for the final three weeks of school. Is command something that interests you?”

“Absolutely, Admiral,” he replied with a tiny nod. “It’s why I applied to OCS.”

Cafferty returned the nod. “And your friends out there,” he said, glancing at the basketball game. “Can you command friends? Send them into battle? Send them to die?”

He saw Gabriel’s jaw clench. Good, emotion, thought Cafferty. Can’t have robots in the Navy.

“Sir, I don’t have any friends,” he replied, and Cafferty caught a minute change in the tenor of his voice.

Gabriel’s file, the one Cafferty had pored over that morning on the flight in from Toronto, read like a Greek tragedy. Lost his mother to a rare form of untreatable cancer when he was only nine. Lost his father in an accident in the immediate aftermath of the Shanghai asteroid event when he was twelve. Lost his older brother when he had unexpectedly left Earth several months ago to pursue business on New Tokyo. He had no other immediate family, and he enlisted in the Navy, with the backing and help of his only other surviving relative, an uncle, a Navy man himself. He bounced around from one location to another, never staying in one place long enough to create any connections.

When Gabriel was a noncom serving in South Africa, he applied for Officer Candidate School. His commanding officer put in a glowing recommendation, part of which said that Gabriel would most likely be his commanding officer within a few years if he was granted entry.

What the file didn’t technically say, but Cafferty easily understood, was that Gabriel was alone and had been most of his life. He put his heart and soul into the military, and his achievements and grades during the first three quarters of OCS showed it. Looking at the square-jawed young man standing in front of him, hazel eyes boring into the wall, Cafferty knew Gabriel had been meant for something greater than grunt work. He suspected the man was destined for an important future.

“You have three more weeks of OCS,” said Cafferty. “After which time you will graduate to O-1, an Ensign, and be assigned to a North American Federation Navy regiment either on Earth or off-world. Do you have any preference as to where you’ll be sent?”

“No, sir,” Gabriel said immediately. “Happy to serve wherever I’m sent, sir.”

“While we both know everyone has some type of preference, I appreciate your flexibility,” said Cafferty with a small smile. “And that is the correct answer, of course.”

“Admiral, if I may?” said Basilio, and Cafferty nodded.

“Mister Gabriel, what are your goals?” she asked.

Gabriel shoulders shifted. He blinked twice, but regained his composure. “Ma’am?”

“Your goals,” Basilio repeated. “Why are you here?”

Gabriel opened his mouth to reply, then closed it. After a few moments, he answered, “I’m sorry, ma’am, I’m not sure what you mean.” His eyes never left the wall behind the bleachers, but Cafferty saw a flicker of uncertainty in them.

Basilio leaned forward. “Why did you enlist in the Navy, Mister Gabriel?”

Gabriel cleared his throat. “I’m not entirely sure, ma’am. I… I had nothing else. And it’s something…” He paused.

“Go on,” said Cafferty.

Gabriel’s lips twitched and he blinked deeply. “It’s something I thought I’d be good at. And I feel I am good at it, ma’am. Sir.”

Cafferty nodded slightly. “That you are, son. Seems as though you may have found your calling.”

He turned to Basilio. “Anything else, Lieutenant Commander?”

She shook her head. “No, sir. That’s all I wanted to hear.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Cafferty caught Gabriel’s gaze shift slightly to the man who sat two rows behind Basilio. Cafferty saw that the man had focused his eyes on Gabriel like targeting lasers.

“Never mind him,” said Cafferty. “He’s just an observer. From another department.”

“Sorry, sir, I…” Gabriel began, only to be cut off by Cafferty’s raised hand.

“No worries. Please,” he said with a wave, “rejoin the game. If I recall from my OCS days many years ago, you’ve only got a few hours open today, then it’s back to the grind.” He stared into Gabriel’s eyes. “But I’ll be watching you, son. Following your progress. I think you have a great deal of potential, Mister Gabriel. Don’t waste it.”

Gabriel’s posture tightened. “Aye aye, sir. Thank you, sir!” he snapped, then spun on one heel and jogged back to the court.

Cafferty watched him go, then grimaced as the pain in his back shot through his system once again. “What do you think, Alex?”

“I think it’s an excellent class, Admiral,” she replied. “And I think that Gabriel is obviously the standout. I also think…”

“I want him.”

Cafferty turned at the sound of the voice behind him. The man in civilian clothes stood up and stepped down the rows of metal benches, his clanging footsteps competing with the sneaker squeaking from the far side of the gym.

“You can’t have him, Pete. You know that,” said Cafferty as the man reached the bottom of the bleachers. “At least not yet. He needs to get his feet wet first.”

“Then get them wet, Eriq,” replied the man. “Authorize an accelerated pay grade jump. Bump him to O-2 right away. I know you can do that.”

Cafferty shook his head. “And he needs trial by fire. Isn’t that what you’re always asking for when you cherry-pick my finest?”

“Put him under fire,” said the man as he glanced over his shoulder at the basketball game. “You know there’s a shitstorm brewing in the Canary Islands. And you know you’ll be sending people, regardless of the election results next week.”

The man turned towards the rear door. “Give him a wartime command. Get him to O-3. Then give him to me.” He walked out of the gymnasium without another word.

Cafferty watched the twin steel doors swing shut behind the man, then looked back towards the court. The six recruits were banging into each other, harder than before, as their time off wound down. He saw Gabriel posting up a heavier but shorter man, backing him down into the paint while dribbling. Just as he was about to turn and shoot, the young woman darted in and picked his pocket. She fired the ball back to the top of the circle where her teammate waited. His uncontested jump shot snapped the netting as it sailed through the basket. Gabriel’s expression at the minor failure was pure disgust.

“Admiral, may I ask who that man was?”

Cafferty answered without turning from the game. “An old friend from Naval Special Warfare doing his own recruiting.” He stood and stretched his back. “Every now and then he stops by to see a class. I suppose Gabriel caught his department’s attention as well as ours.”

“And you’re okay with that?” Basilio asked as she stood up.

He smiled. “As long as it’s only every now and then. Sometimes a young man or woman comes along that doesn’t belong in the regular Navy. Someone meant for something bigger.” He watched as the recruits played on, sweat soaking through their workout clothes, turning the gray fabric black. “And this time, it seems to be young Mister Gabriel.”

The two officers stepped down the bleachers. Cafferty stooped to pick up his dropped flexscreen tube and grunted as his back pain flared up. Basilio quickly bent and retrieved it for him.

“Thanks, Alex,” he said. “I’m not as young as I used to be.”

“None of us are, sir.”

Basilio walked towards the doors as Cafferty took one last look at the court. The bodies were crashing together once again. He heard a voice yell, “C’mon, big E, is that all you got?” He smiled and turned towards the door to follow Basilio out.

Good luck, Mister Gabriel.


GABRIEL: ZERO POINT is available for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, and other devices.

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Gabriel: Zero Point is now in paperback (hey, why not?)

Just a quick post about another very cool delivery from the UPS guy (I really should start tipping him). Over the weekend, the first shipment* of the prequel novella to the Gabriel trilogy arrived, and even though it’s obviously smaller (22k word count) than the others, the thrill was still as intense.

* Shipment implies I stock and sell thousands, but I couldn’t think of another word…

Without further ado, my expensive photo shoot of GABRIEL: ZERO POINT:

I’ve got them listed at the low-low price of $5.99, and I convinced Amazon to allow free shipping on them. Well, convinced is probably a strong word. More like hoped. And they did, for Prime Members, plus they’re part of that always-popular (and potentially confusing) 4 for 3 promo.

Jump over to Amazon to pick one up. Or two. Or a full case. I do need some new sneakers.

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The new-cover paperbacks for the Gabriel trilogy are up and running (and I’ve got photos to prove it)

A few weeks back I made a change to the covers of the Gabriel series, going with a more block sans serif font in white as opposed to the original serif in yellow. I loved the new look, thought it was very eye catching and more scifi-like, so I wanted to spread the updated look to the paperbacks.

Mistake #1: Not being ready to make the changes all at once.

I have the full size cover as high-res PNG images for all four books, so I simply went in and changed the fonts, shifted things a bit, added some cool author blurbs from reviews, and uploaded all four. In a day, I received notifications from CreateSpace that the covers were ready for viewing. I had a busy day that day, so I took a peek, didn’t like the way the layout looked (things had shifted too much to one side for one, to the other side for another, and so on), and put it aside until I had more time.

Mistake #2: Not realizing that by not approving the proof, or fixing the proof, the books were pulled from distro.

Yeah – didn’t think about that. Over a week went by (busy day job projects) and I had it on my list of things to do, not knowing that the books weren’t for sale anywhere. Not until someone messaged me that one of the books was selling for over $100 on Amazon (one of those pirate/scraper/reseller situations). I looked, and lo and behold none of the paperbacks were for sale properly. Panic. No, I’m not paying the rent with paperback sales, but I do get a decent amount each month, and missing an entire week most certainly cost me a few bucks.

A few hours of scrambling last week, measuring things down to the fraction of an inch, zooming in, zooming out, blah blah blah, and the images were uploaded. A day later, I approved the now-awesome looking proofs, and they’re up for sale.

Last night, the first copies of the books were delivered. Well, not the FIRST – Rob Pruneda scored a copy of GR1 before my shipment came in, so he’s officially the first to see it. I was second, and now you (collectively) are third:

And now for my shameless plug – the three individual titles are available from Amazon using these links:

For Gabriel’s Journey (complete trilogy), it’s only available from CreateSpace direct (larger 6″ x 9″ format, over 650 pages) at $24.99.

As for the mistake, a great quote I heard from a TED presentation I watched the other day:

“The path to success is paved with failures, so make sure your mistakes are good ones.”

I think this qualifies as a good one, since I know I’ll never repeat it…

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Time to vote on the most creative/helpful Gabriel: Zero Point posts, winner receives Kindle Fire/Nook Tablet!

UPDATE: The poll has closed as of 11PM ET Friday the 27th. I have the official screenshot of the results and will post them on Saturday. Thanks everyone!

As Rafiki would say, it is time.

Last week, I asked all of my friends, followers, and fans (the three Fs, in social media parlance… okay, I made that up) to help me spread the word about the release of my new prequel novella, Gabriel: Zero Point. I had a huge outpouring of support, and gave away $50 in Amazon gift cards to five random winners last week. But now, it’s the big one – the Grand Prize.

The esteemed accounting firm of Price Waterhouse Coopers has compiled (I made that up again – my family and I) a group of nominees for everyone to vote on. These nominees were chosen for having the most creative, most comprehensive, most helpful posts or series of posts that spread the word about Gabriel: Zero Point. And while retweets and shares were very helpful, they don’t quite rise up to the grand prize level. I was looking for original social media posts, creative reviews, consistent campaigns, and so on.

I found SEVEN. And now I leave it in YOUR hands to choose ONE. That final winner, as of 11:00PM ET on Friday the 27th, will win their choice of a Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet!

Yes, this is now a popularity contest. Those of you nominated, spread the word to your friends and followers to vote for you. Friends and followers of those nominated, vote and continue to spread the word. Vote early, vote often (though only one entry is counted, sorry). And those of you who see a post or campaign that catches your eye that you thought was the most creative and helpful, throw a vote their way.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE: I will award one last Amazon $10 gift card to ONE random commenter on this post, so even if you’re not nominated and have never heard of any of these people (who are awesome, by the way – you should get to know them), you can still leave a comment and qualify for the gift card.

Contest closes at 11PM ET Friday, and the winner will be announced Saturday. So without further ado, here are the nominees (in alphabetical order), a link to what they’ve done, and the voting box:

  • Shay Fabbro for her blog review (If you like military scifi or just scifi in general, or if you like tough guys running around kicking the crap out of bad guys, then you will DIG Steve’s Evan Gabriel trilogy!)
  • W. E. Linde for his blog review (this prequel installment of the Gabriel story is filled with Umstead’s signature elements that bring his characters and his universe alive.)
  • Debra L. Martin for her blog post announcing the debut, which she spread throughout her Triberr contacts
  • Rob Pruneda for a consistent Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus campaign throughout the week
  • Twisted SciFi for spreading the word in the context of marketing techniques used by scifi authors online
  • Tom Stronach for his blog review (A good read and good value for the money and, I am sure,  a good addition to the first three books.)
  • Eric Swett for his blog review (The pace is quick and the action is heavy, but the reader learns more about Commander Gabriel and why he is the man he is in the rest of the books.)

There they are folks. Now tell me who’s the best…and who gets the Fire or Tablet!


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