Wednesday double-barreled book BOMB!

WEDNESDAY MORNING DOUBLE-BARREL BOOK BOMB! My friend and colleague Larry Correia has been kind enough to double-promote Tuesday’s releases of A STAR WHEELED SKY and Dan Willis’s IN PLAIN SIGHT. Please, please, please, share wide and far! Dan’s noir urban fantasy is only 99 cents on Kindle right now. It’s a steal! And there is a paperback to boot. (I have three paperbacks on order myself, in addition to the Kindle download.) I will vouch for Dan, as one of Utah’s veteran authors, and a great guy as a person. You cannot go wrong putting down dollars on both books for the holidays!

Dan Willis’s In Plain Sight for Amazon Kindle, or also Trade Paperback.

. . . “Here you are at last, dear boy,” Doctor Ignatius Bell said, shutting the flimsy paperback book he’d been reading. “I was beginning to think I’d have to send out a search party.”
     Alex laughed and sat down in the chair next to Bell, setting his hat on the ottoman.
      “Not to worry, Iggy,” Alex said with a grin. “I had to make a stop at the Mission.” Alex had dubbed Bell “Iggy” during their first year together and the name just stuck. Bell didn’t particularly like it, but he seemed to take it as a sign of affection from Alex, so he tolerated it.
      “Yes, your secretary informed me thus when I called.”
     There was a note of irritation in Iggy’s voice and Alex flinched.
      “I should have called,” he admitted, taking out another of Burt’s cigarettes and lighting it. “Did I ruin dinner?”
     Ever since Iggy let Alex run his own cases, Alex had been paying rent to bunk at the brownstone. Iggy hadn’t insisted, but Alex needed to pay his way. He did, however, let Iggy cook for the both of them. Iggy had learned to cook in the navy and it had become a serious hobby for him ever since.
      “I made a quiche,” Iggy said, puffing on his cigar. “It was delicate, light as air, and delicious.”
      “What’s a quiche?”
     Iggy sighed and put his hand to his forehead as if it suddenly hurt.
      “I think your fellow uncultured Americans would call it a bacon pie.”
     Alex perked up at that. He hadn’t eaten anything since the poached eggs Mary cooked him.
      “I left you some on the table under a cover,” Iggy said.
     Alex put his hands on the chair’s arms but before he could rise, Iggy spoke again.
      “How did it go today?” he said, opening his book again. “It must have gone well if you can afford cigarettes again.”
     Alex stifled a sigh and leaned back in his chair. Apparently Iggy wanted his pound of flesh for Alex’s lack of judgment. The Brits really loved their social rules.
      “Funny story about the cigarettes,” he said, then launched into a detailed description of his day. For the most part, Iggy just listened quietly, commenting when he wanted clarification on any certain point.
      “So,” he said when Alex finished. “Father Harry wants to see you in private on Saturday.” He puffed his cigar for a moment before adding, “Ominous.”
     Alex laughed. Father Harry was many things, but mysterious wasn’t one of them. The man was an open book.
      “He probably just wants me to do some rune work for him and doesn’t want to talk about it in front of the sisters. You know what a gossip Sister Gwen is.”
     Iggy nodded, staring into the fire.
      “I’m sure you’re right,” he said, though he didn’t sound convinced. “In any case, I’ll wager you’re hungry.”
     Alex stood and picked up his hat.
      “Oh, Father Harry even paid me for my work.” Alex fished the five-dollar bill out of his pocket and held it up.
      “You should probably put that in the safe,” Iggy said before returning to his book.
     Turning toward the hearth, Alex approached the bookcase on the left. About six feet off the floor, just high enough that Alex had to reach up to get it, stood a thick book bound in green leather. Unlike the other books on the shelf, this one tried very hard not to be noticed. The rune that shielded it was so powerful that it bled over onto the books on either side, a volume of Shakespeare’s poetry on the right and a large, thin book bound in red leather on the left.
     Alex took down the green book and opened it. The center of each page had been painstakingly cut out with a razor blade, then painted with varnish to make them all one solid piece. From the outside, the book appeared perfectly normal, but once opened, it had a hollow well inside, large enough to hide three of Iggy’s pulp novels. Alex withdrew a small stack of cash held together by a paper clip. He added the fiver to it, then retuned the clip and re-shelved the book. This was Alex’s emergency stash, money that not even Leslie knew about. Any time he had off-the-books cash, it went into the safe. Iggy said it was an important habit to develop.
     Iggy had lived through the big war and several bank runs in his home country. Alex never doubted that the man mistrusted banks. He was also sure that Iggy had his own safe somewhere in the house, under the floorboards in his room, or maybe behind some loose bricks in the basement. It never tempted him. Alex made his own way in the world and he never took what wasn’t his just because he could. Still, the idea of it made him want to go looking, just to see if he could find his way through the runes that kept it hidden.
     Of course, it was more likely that it was here in the library, in a book or a series of them, just like Alex’s.
     Always hide things in plain sight, Iggy told him. No one thinks to look there; they always think you’re trying to be clever.
      “Good night, Iggy,” Alex said but the doctor had bent over his novel again and seemed oblivious.
     Alex ate his bacon pie in the kitchen. For something with a girly name like quiche, it was really quite good. After he finished, he washed his plate, fork, and glass in the sink, then set them aside to dry. He thought about opening his magic vault and replenishing his rune book, but he just didn’t have the energy. He was tired. He’d had a full day, but it wasn’t full the way he wanted it to be. The police job had started out great, but now Danny and Callahan would lie in wait and catch the murderers red-handed. It was open and shut with nothing more for him to do but pick up his check. Not that he minded that part, but he wanted to feel more useful. He wanted a case that would be hard to solve, one he could make his name with. If Leslie got him one more job finding a lost dog or a cheating husband, he’d pack it in and hawk Barrier Runes on rainy street corners.
     Not really, of course, but it had been a long day and Alex wanted to indulge in a few minutes of self-pity.

     His room was on the third floor, above Iggy’s. It was small and modest with just the bare essentials; a bed, a desk, a wing-back chair, a nightstand, and a dresser. A narrow door led to a tiny bathroom with a toilet, sink, and stand-up shower. A telephone and a bottle of bourbon with a glass stood on the nightstand, and Alex poured himself a slug, then stripped down. He hung up his jacket and threw his trousers over the back of the wing-back chair. His barrier rune only kept falling rain from hitting him. It did nothing about puddles, so his shoes were soaked. He’d have to oil the leather to keep it supple. He poured himself a second slug of the bourbon and set to work.
     When he finally got to bed, the clock on the nightstand read eleven twenty-five.
     It felt like Alex’s head had just hit the pillow when he was startled awake by the telephone. At whatever ungodly hour of the morning it was, the sound grated on his nerves like a rasp. He felt an instant headache form somewhere behind his left eye. Reaching out in the dark he managed to find the phone and fumbled the receiver to his ear.
      “Yeah?” he mumbled.
      “Alex?” a desperate voice came across the wire. He knew it sounded familiar, someone he knew, but his brain wasn’t fully awake yet. It was a woman, he recognized that, and she was just short of hysterical. “Alex!” the voice said again, more urgent than before. “Are you there?”
      “Sister Gwen?” he asked, the connections in his mind putting a name to the voice. “What’s—”
      “You have to come down to the Mission, Alex,” Sister Gwen said. Her usually calm voice broke. Alex had never heard her anything but calm and in control, but now she was neither. The relief of reaching him warred with some unknown panic and she sobbed. “You have to come now. Hurry!”
     She was weeping and her voice betrayed a fragile state of mind.
      “Of course,” Alex said, sitting up. “Of course. I’ll come down right now.”
     He hoped this would calm her and she seemed to relax a bit. She drew several ragged breaths and her voice came over the wire in a tense whisper. “They’re dead, Alex.”
     Alex’s mind snapped into full wakefulness.
      “Who?” he demanded. “Who’s dead?”
      “Everybody.”

• • • ● ● ▼ ● ● • • •

I also forgot to plug (in yesterday’s launch) the FREE STORY in the Waywork Universe (hat tip: Joe Monson!) which is up at the Baen web site. I’ll put the free link to the story at the top of the comments. 9,000 words of my award-caliber short fiction, which gives the story of a very important character in the book, and get the Waywork Universe started off.

. . . The fist that caught Elvin in the face was a sucker punch. He toppled back over the school lunch bench, knocking the trays of two other students to the floor and half covering himself in food.
     The trio of Outworld boys were the same three who’d been menacing Elvin ever since he’d turned fifteen. Not any bigger than Axabrast was. But—by Elvin’s estimation—much meaner. They were the sons of men who’d come from elsewhere in the Starstate. Technicians lured to Planet Oswight’s shipyard industry by promises of bonus money. It wasn’t glamorous work, any more than the Outworld boys were glamorous young men. They sneered at Elvin as he got to his feet.
     “Typical Dissenter,” said one of them, a particularly cruel lad named Boxlo. “Doesn’t know his table manners.”
     The three howled with laughter, as sauce, meat, and vegetables dripped down Elvin’s front. The smell in his nostrils was the same as it had been on other occasions when these particular lads had come for him at meal time. Like before, Elvin struggled to contain his rage. Three-to-one was never good odds, no matter how you sliced it. He’d fought back each time, and gotten cracked harder for his effort. He vacillated between eyeing the school mess hall exit, and the leader of the trio, named Ordi.
     Elvin unconsciously rubbed the seal on the back of his hand.
     “Takes three o’ you bastards to equal one o’ us,” he growled.
     “Is that so?” Boxlo said, mocking Elvin’s tone.
     “Aye,” Elvin said.
     The third Outworld boy, who typically followed the other two, picked up a piece of fruit from the deck—an apple grown in one of Planet Oswight’s many hydroponics farms—and threw it at Elvin’s head.
     Elvin ducked, while the older boys and girls around him cleared the area. They’d seen this kind of thing before. Outworlds ganging up on Dissenters, and Dissenters doing the same in kind. The school was riven in this way, to the point that most Outworlds and Dissenters traveled the school corridors in packs. Even the girls, who didn’t ordinarily go in for the kind of macho violence upon which the older boys seemed to feed. But they could get sucked in, too, once somebody threw a punch.
     Elvin, in his usual fashion, was one of the few Dissenters who preferred to walk alone. And he paid for it every time.
     In his head, Elvin heard his gran’s voice say, There’s nae respect among men that you don’t earn the hard way.
     Elvin then launched himself at the three, and got Boxlo on his back before the other two could react. One satisfyingly hard fist to Boxlo’s mouth, and the other two were suddenly on top of Elvin, kicking and hitting. Each time, the strikes came harder, got more vicious. Elvin didn’t care. The adrenaline of rage was in his blood. Too many days hearing his name mockingly called after him as he went to class. Too many instances of humiliation in front of the other kids, who always left him to fend for himself—even the other Dissenters, who didn’t consider Elvin to really be one of their own. Not enough to rush in and risk punishment on his behalf. If he’d been a good pack-runner like most, maybe things would have been different. But here again, Elvin had to make his own justice.

Read more HERE!

And then . . . BUY THE BOOK!

Amazon paperback.
Amazon Kindle edition.
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Barnes & Noble paperback.
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Book launch for A Star-Wheeled Sky

Amazon paperback.
Amazon Kindle edition.
Amazon Audible.com audio book edition.
Barnes & Noble paperback.
Barnes & Noble Nook edition.

FOR OVER A THOUSAND YEARS the Waywork has been both boon and bane: an alien interstellar highway system, which offers instantaneous travel between a closed network of stars. Within this bubble, the orphaned refugees of Earth—long lost—vie for control of humanity’s destiny. Can the beautiful daughter of a royal family, together with the rugged son of a shipping magnate, join forces with a proud but disgraced flag officer, to seize the initiative? Because the Waywork may at last be ready to give up its secrets, and one woman—a merciless autocrat, from the Waywork’s most brutal regime—is determined to ensure that she controls it all . . .

• • • ● ● ▼ ● ● • • •

. . . Suddenly, a second set of rocket attacks blasted from the ruins, even father away from Garsina’s position than the first. The unguided missiles hit one of the sandbagged security positions, several shots at once. The sandbagged hole went up in a fireball which illuminated the night sky for several seconds.
      “That detail headed toward the pyramid is double-timing back to help their comrades,” Wyodreth said, with no small degree of satisfaction. “Remind me to put Captain Fazal in for a commendation. Meanwhile, Mister Axabrast. Shall we?”
      “Aye, lad,” the older man said, drawing his sidearm. “Lady? Mister Kalbi? Madam Lethiah?”
     Antagean went first, with Lethiah on his heels, Kalbi in the middle, Garsina behind him, and Elvin bringing up the rear. Garsina crouched and ran at the same time, remembering having watched the TGO troops do it earlier in the day. Then realized nobody else was crouching, and simply stood up, putting one foot in front of the other as fast as her legs would carry her. The moonlight shining down on the ruins in front of the portico made it plain that there would be nowhere to hide. They’d be fully exposed for at least the last fifty meters. And they still didn’t know what waited for them inside.
      “Go, go, go,” Elvin said to Garsina’s rear as she pumped her legs, the bandolier of ammunition slapping uncomfortably across her chest, and the carbine feeling heavy in her hands. She was careful to keep her fingers away from both the trigger and the safety while she moved. The last thing she wanted was to accidentally shoot herself, or anyone else in the remaining leadership group.
     Wyodreth went into the portico first. Almost immediately, there were shouts, screams, and the sound of the lieutenant commander discharging his battle rifle. The shots were like physical impacts on Garsina’s ear drums, and she cringed, resisting the urge to slap her hands over her head. With Elvin close behind her, she crowded into the portico behind Kalbi and Lethiah, who were crowded behind Antagean, who was angling his weapon down the length of the corridor at the backs of several fleeing people.
     Three bodies lay on the illuminated floor—their blood staining the hexagonal pattern of glowing lines which spread a diffuse light throughout the hexagonally cross-sectioned space. They’d each been struck at neck level, where their armor didn’t cover.
     Elvin aimed his sidearm over Garsina’s shoulder and discharged several shots at the fleeing enemy, which did make Garsina drop her weapon—to dangle by its sling—so that she could slap her hands over her ears.
     Elvin then quickly swiveled his head to look to their rear, and reversed himself—aiming back the way they had come. Garsina thought she saw a flicker of movement in the ruins. Several more shots erupted from Axabrast’s sidearm, and two human-shaped shadows toppled out of the darkness. They awkwardly pawed forward half a meter, then collapsed completely. Not to move again. Elvin grunted with satisfaction, and ejected the magazine for his weapon from within the weapon’s single, use-worn handle. Without looking, he removed a fresh magazine from its perch on his gunbelt, slapped the magazine into the sidearm, worked the sidearm’s action, then turned his attention to the men Wyo had killed.
     Antagean stared at the people lying on the f loor of the entrance. They didn’t look any different from Constellar troops, save for the fact that their uniforms were a different style and a different color. They were also young, and male, their eyes staring in empty surprise at the alien ceiling. Almost as if the last thing they had expected, at the pyramid’s main entrance, had been an enemy officer using a rifle.
      “How many?” Elvin demanded.
      “Didn’t . . . didn’t count them,” the lieutenant commander said, still staring down at the bodies. His eyes were large, and he looked sick.
     Elvin—for once—took pity on the man.
      “It’s a terrible thing, lad,” he said. “And you won’t be able to make it okay with yourself for a while. Just keep moving, see? We’ve come this far. Don’t let the gears seize up in the engine now. Keep moving, keep moving, keep moving.”
     Antagean literally shook his head, swallowed several times, seemed to hear the ongoing battle at the Nautilan aerospace site not far from the portico, and said, “Right. Sorry. Uhhh, okay. Sorry. Let’s go.”
     Elvin slapped the lieutenant commander on the shoulder, and the businessman’s son, who’d turned soldier, stepped over the dead, and trooped off down the corridor. Lethiah—who didn’t seem bothered by the bodies at all—followed, then Kalbi after her. The infotainer seemed even more horrified by the sight of the dead Nautilan troops than Wyodreth had been, and he had to be prodded to continue.
      “Follow Antagean!” Elvin roared, pushing the small man in front of Garsina, “or we leave you behind!”
     Kalbi moved, but his actions were robotic. Forced.
     Garsina moved too. Seeing the blood was something she knew she was never going to forget. It had been fresh, and dark, filling the air with a slight coppery sent. Who those young men had been, and where they had come from, Garsina would never know. As Elvin had patiently explained to her, back aboard the starliner, good people did bad things to each other in war. It was just the way of things. You couldn’t stop and judge it in the moment. Forces were at work, well above the consciences of single men. Though single men—and women—would bear the burden for those deaths well beyond the battlefield.

Click HERE to buy the book!

“Outbound” wins Analog AnLab Readers’ Choice award!

(Click to get your Kindle copy for only 99 cents!)

Matthew Goff was kind enough to Facebook me on this tonight. I’d known for at least a month, but was sworn to secrecy by Dr. Schmidt until the magazine officially made it public. So, without further delay, I am proud — beyond description — to announce that my novelette, “Outbound,” which appeared in the November 2010 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact, is the 2010 winner of the AnLab award! This is one of two Readers’ Choice awards that Dell Magazines does for both Analog and Asimov’s. Click to view the scan that Mr. Goff sent me! As you can see, I’ve got some amazing company among this year’s winners. Including the estimable and beyond-talented Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who is both a friend and a teacher going back several years. Also on the winners list is Bob Eggleton, who is one of my favorite professional artists in the genre. To be able to stand with these fine individuals, especially as a newcomer to the magazine and to the field, is satisfying beyond belief. Almost overwhelmingly so. I once quipped that I’d never win another award beyond my Writers of the Future award. I guess it didn’t take long for me to make a liar out of myself. (sheepish grin)

HUGE thanks to ALL of the readers who read this story, and liked it enough to give it the top nod when the AnLab ballots went out. Many of you have written me to say how much you enjoyed this story — indeed, that it had touched you on an emotional level or had otherwise been an emotionally uplifting experience. That kind of “fan mail” is worth platinum in my book, because I believe what Tracy Hickman believes: that a story can and will impact lives, and if I’m going to write a story, then by golly I want that impact to be a meaningful one. And it seems I’ve succeeded, with this my first effort for the English language’s oldest, most venerable science fiction magazine. Big kudos to Stan Schmidt for trusting me with his page space. I think it paid dividends, for everyone involved.

Winner, 3rd Place, Writers of the Future vol. XXVI

At last, the silence can be broken.

My success I was crowing about earlier?

It’s official!

Took me six tries to hit the jackpot.

SpongeBob SquarePants

Joy!

Of course, mutual kudos to fellow winners: Brent Knowles and Adam Colston.

Yay us!

And for Jakob Drud, Geir Lanesskog, Dwayne Minton, Robert Pritchard and Tom Waters, keeping at it, people. Brent Knowles had to enter the contest like 19 times before he scored a 1st Place win. Both Brent and I were Finalists who didn’t publish, before we became Finalists again, and won. You just have to get back up off the mat and try again. Besides, being a Finalist is still excellent because you get a shot at being a published Finalist. Depending on how thick the volume is — due to the 12 winners — there may be room for multiple published Finalist stories, which is almost as good as winning because then you can still go to the workshop and you can keep entering until you finally win.

138 rejections and 870,000 words

It was 17 years ago this month that I first got it into my head that I wanted to be a 4 Real writer. As in, paid. As in, professionally paid. I am thankful nobody told me then, at age 18, that it would be almost two decades before I’d get my first taste of bona fide pro success. And while I am not — yet! — permitted to speak on that success, I do want to reflect a little on what went into achieving the milestone.

138 rejections and 870,000 words.

The bulk of those rejections and those words have fallen in two periods: 1995 to 1998, and 2006 to 2009. Two four-year bursts of short production activity, in between which I fooled around with several novel projects, the largest of which went 100,000 words before I realized it was a hopeless, bloated mess, and stepped away. So I can’t really say that it’s been 17 years of constant, arduous effort. More like, surges of activity directly followed by long troughs of relative inactivity.

During which I wasted a hell of a lot of time. Oh Lord, so much. A whopping amount. If I’d had more discipline when I was younger, I am sure I’d have reached this point much sooner. Lack of discipline is still my #1 concern, as I now climb over the top of The Wall and survey the new series of obstacles that I have to climb en route to the next goal. Because The Wall is not the end, it is the beginning. Just like making your first basket as an NBA player must feel good, but you have to follow the first basket up with countless others in order to make a career for yourself.

My historical lack of discipline frightens me, because without significant effort on my part to change my own behavior, I risk becoming a one-shot writer; the kind of person who gets one or a handful of credits, then disappears into obscurity.

Still, I can’t feel too bad. Nobody gets to 870,000 words without some kind of effort. And even though almost all of that remains unpublished — and, probably, upublishable — it did get me where I am today. As practice. Practice with the goal of selling, yes, but practice all the same. I couldn’t have reached 500,000 words without first writing 250,000 words, and so on and so forth. Sometimes I despaired over the quality, and other times I felt totally lost, as to what editors frakking wanted in a manuscript, beyond having a Big Selling Name in the byline.

But I made it. And everything I did up to this point, helped get me here.

So don’t give up, all you aspirants out in Aspirantland. 138 rejections and 870,000 words are what it took for me to climb over the top. If you’re more mature and disciplined than I was — am — then it might take you half as many rejections and half as many words. If you’ve got a clearer picture of what it is you aim to achieve — something I am not sure I had in earlier years — you probably are again liable to get to that first pro milestone more quickly and with less heartache than I’ve experienced.

Because it’s worth it. Oh my goodness, it is worth everything!