Paginations

kindle

Winner winner, chicken dinner – the Gabriel: Zero Point grand prize winner announced

And the winner is…

A TIE! So I’ll be selling the Kindle Fire on eBay…

Kidding…I kid. Before the announcement, a huge thanks to all of my spread-the-word contest participants, all the commenters and voters, and most especially my readers. It’s been a fun two weeks, Gabriel: Zero Point is fully ‘launched’, and I’m outlining/drafting a new project as we speak. The enthusiasm and excitement about my current books tends to really push me to get more stories ‘on paper’, so away I go…with any luck, summer will bring a whole new work…sans Gabriel, though.

First announcement – the random commenter $10 Amazon Gift Card. I used random.org to choose a number between one and twenty-five (the number of comments on the voting page):

Winner is “Jaye“! (JWManus I believe?) Please contact me (sumstead AT gmail DOT com) or on Twitter and I’ll get the card out via email.

Now for the grand prize. It was a two man person race from the get-go between Shay Fabbro and Rob Pruneda. Both did a bang-up job spreading the word about the book launch, and a double bang-up job spreading the word about the voting. The past five days have been THE busiest at Paginations, like…EVAR. Friday alone saw nearly 900 page views.

It came down to the final hours…and the winner of the Kindle Fire/Nook Tablet:

ROB PRUNEDA by a measly 5% margin!

Congrats Rob, and great job by everyone. Perhaps in a few months, we’ll be doing this again for the next launch!

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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!

POLL CLOSED!

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Win a Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet by helping me spread the word about Gabriel: Zero Point

UPDATES:
Thursday’s winner of the $10 Amazon Gift Card is Mike Crate
Wednesday’s winner of the $10 Amazon Gift Card is Rob Pruneda
Tuesday’s winner of the $10 Amazon Gift Card is Richard Guadagno
Monday’s winner of the $10 Amazon Gift Card is Misti Bryant Swartz

It’s contest time! To celebrate the launch of Gabriel: Zero Point (prequel to the Gabriel scifi trilogy), and to help spread the word about the book, I’m having a two-week giveaway with some very cool prizes (at least I think they’re cool – and if my wife doesn’t think they’re cool, that means they’re definitely cool…)

As Jeff Probst would ask, “Wanna know what you’re playing for?”

Daily from Monday through Friday of this week (April 16-20), I’ll be giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to a randomly selected word-spreader. All you have to do is share a tweet or post through your social media outlets. But two requirements – your post/share must link to a specific page, and I have to be able to track it.

LINKS
If you’re retweeting or sharing one of my posts, there will be a link already incorporated, so you’re golden. If you’re creating your own, it has to have a link to either the Kindle or Nook version of Zero Point, OR my blog page with my books listed. Here are the links (already shortened for you):

Zero Point for Kindle: http://amzn.to/ZeroPoint
Zero Point for Nook: http://bit.ly/ZeroPointNook
My Books at SteveUmstead.com: http://bit.ly/StevesBooks

TRACKING
Muy importante! If I don’t know you shared or tweeted, I can’t count you for the contest! There are four outlets I will be tracking – feel free to use others (I’d appreciate any word-spreading!) but these will be the only four I see, so if you post elsewhere, make sure to mention it using one of these methods. Each one has a way to “tag” you for the contest, and they’re easy:

Twitter: Use the hashtag #GZP (retweeting any of mine this week will have this already)
Facebook: Tag my personal Facebook account OR my author page in your post (sharing my post will do this automatically)
Google+: Tag my Google+ account (again sharing my G+ posts will do this)
Blog: If you’re using WordPress, my linking to my www.SteveUmstead.com WP blog within the text of your post, I’ll get a ping back and count it. If you don’t have a link, or use non-Wordpress, make sure to use Twitter/Facebook/Google+ methods to promote your blog with the appropriate tag so I see it.

Every day this week, Monday through Friday, I’ll select a random “share” as the Gift Card winner. Without a link and tracking method, you won’t qualify!

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

No, you’re not going through all of that for a $10 gift card. There’s a GRAND PRIZE based on your creativity! At the end of the week, my esteemed panel of judges (okay, me and my family) will choose the MOST CREATIVE word-spreaders and the following week, your social media contacts and mine will VOTE on who they think was the BEST word-spreading. (Hint: Just retweeting my tweets won’t get you into the finals…)

The weekend of April 28-29, the voting will be closed, and the person with the most votes will win:

A KINDLE FIRE or NOOK TABLET
plus e-copies of all my titles!

You don’t have to be one of the gift card winners to be in the final vote; you just need to be creative. Write a blog post, run some trivia, dress up in a tutu and…wait, skip that.

So look for my tweets and posts and share them through your social media outlets, or create your own, to help me spread the word about Gabriel: Zero Point. You could win a Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet!


Disclaimer: Maximum of one gift card per person; if repeat card winner is drawn at random, card prize will be redrawn. Grand prize winner chooses Fire or Tablet, or a $100 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card if neither is preferred or possible. No purchase necessary, void where prohibited by law. Random card winner will be chosen daily by importing that day’s mentions/shares/retweets into a spreadsheet, and using random.org to choose a cell within that spreadsheet.

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Today launches Gabriel:Zero Point with special weekend pricing

The official day is officially here – the official launch day of Gabriel: Zero Point, the prequel novella to the Gabriel science fiction-adventure trilogy! Those of you who have read the series can find out more about how Gabriel came to be the man waking up in the seedy Jamaican hotel room at the beginning of Gabriel’s Redemption, and those of you who haven’t yet dipped your toes into the trilogy can start with a bite-sized story (22,000 words) to lead into the overall arc.

It wouldn’t be a launch without a proper promotional price (and a hint of a very cool contest to come). But first – the story:



GABRIEL: ZERO POINT

Prequel Novella to the Evan Gabriel Trilogy
Evan Gabriel wasn’t always a feared and respected North American Federation Navy Commander. Before dangerous missions to the ice-bound planet of Poliahu, the deadly jungle world of Eden, and politically corrupt Mars, he was a simple recruit, fighting to make his mark in the elite Naval Special Forces…and was part of a top-secret military experiment that would change his life forever.Zero Point tells the tale before the science fiction/adventure trilogy, a tale of a young man faced with difficult choices and dangerous trials. Fans of the series will see part of the mysterious past Evan Gabriel carries with him, while readers new to the series get a preview of what is to come in a military man’s haunted life.

Zero Point is the true beginning of Evan Gabriel, and his story is just getting started.


.
I did mention special promotional pricing, right? For THIS WEEKEND ONLY (ending Sunday night the 15th), Zero Point will be less than a cup of coffee from a gas station. A whopping $.99 (£.77 for my friends across the pond). It’s currently available for Kindle US, Kindle UK, Nook, and Smashwords for other platforms (Smashwords is notoriously slow for distributing to Sony, iBooks, Kobo, etc. so I knew it wouldn’t be ready for today – Smashwords.com it is, sorry.)

         

Then watch this space Sunday night for an announcement of the Zero Point “spread the word” contest. I need all of my friends’ help to get the word out about the new release, so I’ll be giving away Amazon Gift Cards daily, plus a KINDLE FIRE or NOOK TABLET to one lucky winner at the end.

Hope you guys and gals pick up a copy, and hope even more that you enjoy it (and if you do, a review goes a long way for us struggling authors).

 

P.S. Hey look, it’s my 100th WordPress post…

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Excerpt from Gabriel’s Revenge – Chasing the Station

The Trilogy Concludes

“Closing, sir,” said Stirling. “Slowly but surely.”

McTiernan clenched at the armrests of his command chair, staring at the main wallscreen that showed the computer generated image of their course. The icon for the Marcinko was inexorably drawing closer to the icon representing the out of control skyhook station. The computer superimposed their courses, showing intersection in less than five minutes.

At this distance, they still were not able to visually see the cable itself. Being only sixteen inches in diameter, and matte black, they’d have to be right on top of it before even the long range visual sensors would catch a sniff of it. But the asteroid on the far end was in sight. And still moving.

“Lieutenant Commander, time to flipover,” he called out.

Vaillancourt answered without taking her eyes from her screen. “Ninety seconds, Captain.”

“Mister Giroux?”

The ensign held up a hand. “Captain, I’ve got…” He tapped at a few icons on his screen. “Four tugs. Three are projected to be where we need them to be, the fourth is going to be a bit behind. I’m having the computer redirect that one further up the trajectory. I’ve got calls into two more, but I don’t think they’ll make it in time.”

McTiernan looked at the main screen, where the computer had added the mining ship icons. He grimaced as he saw the tight window of opportunity. He felt the Marcinko straining at the max accel run, her engines’ thrum more of a roar. A distant corner of his mind played out the situation on two different paths. One where they caught the station, and one…

“Ensign, any word from the station itself?” he asked.

Giroux turned around, and McTiernan saw the sadness in the young man’s eyes. He knew the answer before Giroux even opened his mouth.

“Nothing, sir. No answer to comm, all channels. I don’t even know if it’s worth…”

“We have to try, Mister Giroux,” McTiernan said. “Even if the possibility is remote.”

“Aye sir,” Giroux replied and turned back to his screen.

“Five seconds to flipover. Engine cut off,” called Vaillancourt. The sound of the engines faded, and the bridge was left in silence as the Marcinko performed her end over end turn to begin the deceleration. McTiernan took a deep breath as the pressure in his chest ceased and the bridge went back into weightlessness.

“Captain!”

McTiernan looked away from the main screen towards LaFuente, who was excitedly signaling from his Sensor station. He waved for him to continue.

“Sir, I picked up one of the skyhook cars. It appears intact!”

He squeezed his armrest hard enough to feel the plastic underneath buckle. Maybe…

“Put it up on the screen, max resolution.”

The wallscreen changed from the course trajectory plot to a grainy video image. Mars’s shadowy outline appeared on the left third of the screen, just a sliver of red showing as the sun set across the planet. The computer outlined the skyhook car location in blue. The car wasn’t visible.

“Mister LaFuente, can’t you get it any closer?”

“Trying, sir,” the young man said, tapping furiously at his screen.

McTiernan squinted, trying in vain to make the image clear up. Suddenly the screen flickered and the skyhook car came into view.

“Got it, sir! I messed with the algorithms, and…”

The seaman’s voice trailed off as he looked up to the screen. McTiernan’s heart caught in his throat as he stared at the image.

The skyhook car, a boxy structure slightly larger than a standard ship-to-surface shuttle, was tumbling, and to the bridge crew’s horror, was entering Mars’s thin upper atmosphere. Pieces of the car were breaking off and bursting into pinpoints of light. Now that the image had cleared up, it showed the car itself starting to glow around its edges as it rolled slowly.

“Sir, can we…” Giroux began.

“No,” McTiernan said. He surprised himself with the sadness and resignation in his voice. “It’s too late. God rest the souls of anyone in that car.”

Several moments of silence passed as the crew watched the skyhook car tumble and break apart. With one last burst of light, the car disappeared from the image.

Vaillancourt cleared her throat. “Sir,” she said in a low voice.

McTiernan gritted his teeth. He knew those cars could hold a hundred people or more. People with families, children, people heading off planet on vacation. A hundred people…

He pulled his eyes away from the screen. “Yes, Karlyn.”

“Sir, ten seconds to decel.”

He nodded. “Very well. Mister Stirling, have the battlecomp shut down all active jammers and stealth systems. No need to sneak up at this point.”

Stirling acknowledged the order, and Vaillancourt began her countdown. The main screen switched back to the trajectory plot and McTiernan unconsciously cinched his belt tighter. He fought to push the image of the tumbling skyhook car from his mind. It was replaced by thoughts of what it must be like on the station as it headed away from Mars.

He squeezed his eyes shut as the Marcinko lit her main engines for the decel, and the pressure returned.

***

Enjoy the genre, like the scene? Gabriel’s Revenge is now available for all e-book platforms. Get into the trilogy with book 1, Gabriel’s Redemption, and book 2, Gabriel’s Return. Thanks for stopping by!

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Excerpt from Gabriel’s Revenge – Renay in Trouble

The Trilogy Concludes

The cot creaked again as Renay shifted her weight. Her arm was now throbbing almost as much as her head. After the tube ride, the next thing she remembered was this room, now, and she wracked her brain to try to figure out the timeline and which tube they took her through. Arsia Mons had four, each leading to other domes with their own branches, so any guesswork was just that: guesswork.

She reached out to the table and gave it a tug. It was firmly fastened to the wall. However, of the four support legs beneath it, one wobbled a bit as she pulled. With a glance up at the now-invisible A/V bug, she got up off the cot and positioned herself between the bug and the table, and sat down on the floor. She made a show of stretching her good arm up and over her shoulder, grabbing onto the edge of the table that was behind her head. She grunted with the effort, hoping the person or persons watching would assume she was working out kinks. She raised one leg at a time, alternating, as if to stretch her hamstrings.

She turned her body slightly, and reached behind her lower back with her wounded arm. The pain shot through her like a laser, and she felt the bandages stretch. Wetness ran down her arm as she pulled at the loose table leg, all the while shielding her actions from the bug. After a few pulls back and forth, the leg came free, and she gasped with the effort. She slid the thin piece of metal down the back of her pants, down her left leg, leaving just an inch above her waistband.

She released the table with her other hand and stood up carefully, not wanting to injure herself further by slicing open her femoral artery with a jagged table leg. The end of the leg ran down to just above the back of her knee, so she could still walk normally, but sitting down on the cot could be challenging.

She walked over to the corner of the dark room where the A/V bug was stashed. Pressing her hand against the soaked bandages, she looked up into the corner.

Oye, banditos,” she called in her best accent. “Ayuda me. Mi brazo está sangrando.” She hoped that meant her arm was bleeding. With her neuretics offline, she now realized how much she relied on them. There was only so much she was able to pull from high school Spanish.

A few seconds passed with no response. She tried a different approach.

“Please,” she said in a weak voice. “My arm is bleeding badly. I need some help.” She started to cry, sniffling loud enough for the bug to pick up, she hoped.

A few more seconds passed, then the light came on. She blinked away her fake tears.

“Move to bed!” the voice commanded.

She obeyed, walking backwards with her head down, keeping the table leg out of sight. As she reached the cot, the door hissed open and red light spilled in, framing a large man in the doorway.

“Hurt?” he said.

She nodded, biting her lower lip. “My arm is hurt bad, I need a doctor.” She pointed to the bloody bandage covering her upper arm.

The man hesitated, looking over his shoulder for a brief second, then back to Renay. He seemed to come to a reluctant decision.

“I fix,” he said, and stepped into the room.

Renay sprang towards him. She pulled the table leg from her pants and swung it over her head in one smooth motion. The metal rod caught the large man over his right eye and he grunted in pain. He went down on one knee, holding up his arm.

She pulled the table leg back and swung again, this time sideways. The rod smashed into the man’s temple, and he dropped to the floor soundlessly.

She didn’t waste any time, knowing the entire scene had just played out on a video monitor somewhere. She stepped over the man’s unconscious form and into the doorway.

A hallway extended in both directions with no other doors in sight. Ruby-lensed lightstrips illuminated the corridor in a bloody glow. She heard a voice from one end of the hallway, so she padded across the threshold of the doorway and started running in the other direction, still clutching the table leg.

After a few dozen feet the corridor floor started to curve upwards, like an underground tunnel, but before her amped-up brain could process the information, a bolt of electricity shot through her system. Her already-frazzled nervous system was overwhelmed with the charge and she dropped to the floor. The table leg clanged on the metal decking. The last thing she saw before fading were the guard’s worn brown shoes in front of her eyes.

***

Enjoy the genre, like the scene? Gabriel’s Revenge is now available for all e-book platforms. Get into the trilogy with book 1, Gabriel’s Redemption, and book 2, Gabriel’s Return. Thanks for stopping by!

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An excerpt a day keeps the anticipation at bay… Gabriel’s Revenge

It’s official! Gabriel’s Revenge, the final installment in the bestselling scifi-adventure trilogy, is complete and will be uploaded to Amazon and BN in time for the holidays! Here’s a snippet:

 

Gabriel had just cinched his straps when the Marcinko’s engines ignited, pressing each of them back into their seats in the shuttle. He heard Olszewski mutter a curse from next to him. He looked over at the private with a raised eyebrow.

“Sorry, sir. I’m a ground pounder. I hate this shit. Necessary evil to get me where I need to go I guess, but doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

Gabriel turned back to the front of the shuttle. He stared past the pilot’s helmet and out the viewport, where he could see a sliver of starry space. The ventral bay doors had begun to open.

He closed his eyes and linked his neuretics in to the Marcinko’s battlecomp feed. He saw with some satisfaction the other five in his team all did the same. He knew some did it for the thrill of watching the battle unfold, some for the situational awareness. Whatever their reasons, he didn’t blame them. It wasn’t just a learning experience for him either. He wanted to see the enemy. And see them destroyed.

The specialist that had loaded them and their gear, Allen, was also their pilot. His hand flew over the switches mounted in front of him as he prepared the shuttle for launch.

“Sirs and ma’am, hold on,” Allen called out. “The captain’s got some rapid maneuvers planned, and we’re getting spit out in the middle of them. Hope no one ate lunch yet.”

“Keven?” It was Sowers’s voice.

“Zip it,” said Brevik. “Watch.”

Gabriel kept his eyes closed and let his Mindseye show him the situation.

The Marcinko went to full power and arced down towards Mars. Gabriel felt his chest squeezed by the G-forces and tried to control his breathing as he saw multicolored stars behind his eyelids. After a few seconds the heavy acceleration eased and the stars cleared, leaving him more able to focus on the Mindseye feed.

The battlecomp tagged the blockade fighter with a red icon. The projected path of the Marcinko was just outside of its orbit, but Gabriel saw the flight path of the shuttle, once launched, went almost directly through the red icon. He remembered McTiernan’s order to the tac officer to ‘remove it from the equation’, so he was not surprised when he heard the clank of the internal missile launcher falling into place in front of their shuttle.

The rotating launcher spat two Jayhawk missiles, then immediately swung back up to the ceiling of the docking bay. Another clank sounded throughout the cabin as the launch arm grabbed the shuttle and set it into position above the open ventral doors. The Marcinko began its release maneuver and Gabriel was pressed into his seat. With a loud hiss of hydraulics that could be heard even within the pressurized cabin, the shuttle fell from the docking bay, and he went weightless.

Gabriel’s Mindseye painted a vivid image of the scene around them: the Marcinko peeling away from their position, the two Jayhawks going hypersonic in front of them, and the dusty orange globe below them. The serene image lasted only a split second before Allen fired the shuttle engines and initiated the descent.

The picket fighter never stood a chance. It was only using station-keeping thrusters and apparently not expecting an attack, especially one that came from a hole in space. The Jayhawks were on it before it even had an opportunity to light its engine.

“Hold on!” yelled Allen. Gabriel opened his eyes to look out past the pilot. The explosion of the fighter loomed ahead and grew quickly in size as the shuttle accelerated towards Mars. A sound like nails on metal decking rattled through the cabin as the debris from the explosion peppered the hull of the shuttle.

“We’re clear!” The pilot turned to look over his shoulder. “Everyone A-OK?”

Gabriel saw Olszewski raise a thumb next to him, then heard a retching from Takahashi behind him. He ignored it — at this point he was used to it — and stared out of the pilot’s viewport.

Ahead of them lay Mars. And Renay.

***

Enjoy the genre, like the scene? Get into the trilogy with book 1, Gabriel’s Redemption, and book 2, Gabriel’s Return, available for all e-book platforms using the links on the right of this page. Thanks for stopping by!

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Are books worth more than gas station coffee?

Normally my blog posts are very reader-centric (book reviews, random thoughts and ramblings), but I just received a Twitter DM last night (actually several in a row) I really wanted to talk to someone about. And since authordom is a lonely profession, I figured I’d blab about it here and see what other authors (and readers) thought.

Here’s what I received, around 1AM (yep, still awake):

“Just wanted u 2 know i finished gabriels return and really loved it, very fun, cool scifi”

“but ur price is way out of wack. its 86 thousand words for $2.99″

“i can get 3 novels 4 that price, plus free ones. u shud make it .99″

“or add some chapters and stuff 2 make it over 100k. i hope the last 1 in trilogy is .99, or i might not get it”

So yeah. Setting aside the professional athlete type of abbreviated grammar (hey, I get the 140 character limit, but 2 for to? Come on…), here’s what I took out of this:

  • This person really loved my book, which is a great compliment
  • This person feels that three bucks is too much to spend for an under-100k words novel
  • This person thinks I should add filler to a book he/she ‘loved’ to make it worth more
  • This person, who (presumably) read first two in my trilogy won’t spend more than a buck to read the last one

I appreciate the first point, I sort of understand the second, but totally don’t get the third or fourth.

We are in a recession, some of the worst financial times I’ve seen in my 40 (ahem) years, so I get the dollar issue. I really do. Do I sometimes opt for the Wawa or 7-11 $1.29 coffee instead of the $4.25 Starbucks latte? Sure. Do I cross the $2 toll bridge that’s a few minutes more out of my way than the $5 one? Sometimes. But to me those are commodities, instant purchase decisions that are used in a matter of minutes. I don’t get hours of enjoyment from driving over the bridge (barring major traffic), nor do I curl up on the couch every night for a week with the same $1.29 cup of coffee.

I’ve talked about this before. A book is worth what the market will bear, not a penny more or less. So I’m certainly not to going to argue a book should be priced based on the work put into it, or the time spent creating it, and so on. I’ve priced my first book anywhere between $.99 and $4.99, and have come down squarely on the side of price vs. value. I feel that $.99 is an impulse buy and may never get read, whereas someone who spends $3 to $5 will invest their valuable time in reading it. I believe that there is a perception out there that $.99 books are self-published junk (right or wrong) that people absolutely won’t touch with a 39 1/2 foot pole (and to some extent, that can be applied to $2.99 books, as those are the two magic price points for self-published books).

I know there’s a whole contingent of buyers out there who will buy nothing but $.99 books, and I get that. I’m not going that way. I still feel $3-$5 is a great value for a book, whether it’s 50k words or 150k. But to say add more to the book to make it worth more, even after they loved it, or saying they won’t buy the last one for that extra $2? Still scratching my head…

Am I wrong to wonder why someone would not spend less than a Starbucks latte for a novel, and instead insist on it being less than a cup of coffee from a gas station? What is the reader and Kindle/Nook book buyer’s perspective on this?

Update: In the spirit of the holidays, I changed “ten foot pole” to “39 1/2 foot pole.” See what I did there? 

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Review: In Her Name Empire by Michael Hicks

REVIEW: 

I have to admit, before I even get into this review, that I’m a fussy reader when it comes to genres. I like a very specific, narrow type of science fiction. I certainly read all types – Hamilton, Clarke, Heinlein, Baxter, etc. – and enjoy them, but there’s a type of scifi, I suppose what I call near-future military, that I really get into (as evidenced by the type of scifi I write). So I really dig David Weber, Tobias Buckell, Charles Sheffield, John Scalzi, et al. My problem is it’s difficult, in my opinion, to find such a specific type of scifi from a self-published author, or at least one that’s up to the standards of Weber and the others. That all changed when I picked up Michael Hicks’s In Her Name: Empire.

From chapter one, the introduction to the very young Reza Gard in a captivating scene where he loses his parents as they try to defend him, to subsequent chapters where he moves to an orphanage/near-slave labor planet, his capture by the invading aliens (a blue-skinned humanoid that may bring to mind Avatar, but these are much more…cold, yet fascinating), and Reza’s maturation with the aliens, Hicks grabbed a hold of my attention and never let go.

The characters are fully developed, the settings are beautifully described without going overboard, the creatures encountered, the battles fought, the technology, and finally even a dash of romance, are all told in clear, concise style that made me want to continue turning pages. And the best part? There are two more in the series, then Hicks goes back to before this story to add three more.

The spelling & grammar, formatting, punctuation, and sentence structure (I’ve got an OCD for these errors) are flawless – better than many traditionally published works. No really, flawless. Hats off to Mr. Hicks’s editor; some of the big publishers should look into hiring him/her. Those issues really stand out to me, pull me out of the story, but I found none.

All in all, one of the best science fiction (with a smidgen of fantasy) novels I’ve read in a long time – mainstream or self-published. And easily the best self-published scifi I’ve had the opportunity to lay my hands (and e-reader) on. Congrats, Mr. Hicks – you’ve got a winner, and a customer for the next five books in the series. You actually pushed David Weber’s 4th Safehold novel down my list.

Find In Her Name: Empire, here:

Amazon (Kindle only $.99) • Barnes & Noble (Nook) • Author’s Site (6 other books as well!)

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Book Review: Game 7: Dead Ball by Allen Schatz

REVIEW: 

I’m going to preface this review by saying I am a diehard Phillies fan, and the ’08 World Series win was one of the best nights (or two, if you know what I mean…rain…) in memory. The plot summary of Allen Schatz’s Game 7: Dead Ball sounded like an interesting story, but the fact that it takes place during that series made it a must buy. But what I found was that the story itself drew me in far more than the teams playing. As a matter of fact, I was so into the plot and characters, I glossed right over mentions of the games themselves.

Game 7: Dead Ball follows the lives of childhood friends who have all gone in different directions since their college days. The main character, Marshall Connors, is called in to umpire the World Series because of the medical status another, and now must deal with umpiring for old friends. However the plot isn’t centered around Connors’ reluctance to call a ball outside on the Phillies’ star pitcher – rather, it’s the life and death situation he’s put in by murders and kidnapping.

I won’t get too in depth into the plot – several other reviews online do an excellent job of it, as does Schatz’s book description. I’d just like to praise the writing style, the plot line, the deep characters, realistic dialogue, suspenseful chapter endings, fantastic local scenery (being from near the Philly area, I can see Schatz knows Philly as well), and thrilling conclusion.

One thing I do want to make an important note about: Game 7: Dead Ball was one of the cleanest, most well-written works I’ve seen to date from an independent author. Schatz has not only crafted an excellent story line with lifelike characters, but he’s done it sans typos and awkward sentences, something that always pulls me out of a story. Here? Nothing of the sort. The only possible negative I can even remotely think of is that Schatz introduces main characters that all have significant roles in the story, and I sometimes lost track of them. Then again, perhaps because of my own work situation and not being able to read it straight through (took several weeks), that’s my own fault for losing track!

Game 7: Dead Ball was one of the best novels I’ve read all year, and I’ve already picked up Schatz’s sequel, 7th Inning Death, which picks up with Marshall Connors again.

Highly recommended for all suspense, mystery, and most especially, baseball fans. A no-brainer for the price of a venti latte…seriously.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, or at the author’s site here.

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