Book Sale Announcement!

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With all the craziness of WorldCon 74 over the weekend, I completely forgot to mention that Angry Robot Books has exercised their option on Book III of the CHILDREN OF THE DEAD EARTH cycle.

Which means that we’re returning to the Ark and Gaia once more. The working title of Book III is CHILDREN OF THE DIVIDE, and takes place fifteen years after the events of TRIDENT’S FORGE.  Humanity’s beachhead of Shambhala has swelled into the largest population center on the planet, and comes with all of the perks and problems of a major city. Benson, Theresa, Chao, Korolov, and Kexx are joined by a whole new generation of young upstarts who’ve grown up calling this strange world home and threading the needle between the simmering clashes happening at the intersections of two very old, very different cultures.

Look for CHILDREN OF THE DIVIDE next summer. But even before then, both THE ARK and TRIDENT’S FORGE will be going back to the printers for another run, this time with new covers and updated content. Including an official schematic of the ship itself based on my own drawings! So cool.

Anyway, I’m about two thirds finished with the rough draft, and with no more hugely fun, and hugely disruptive conventions on my schedule for the next few months, it won’t be long before it’s finished. So keep an eye out here for updates, excerpts, cover reveals, and all the other goodies that happen along the way.

Oh, and if you haven’t read the first two books yet, now’s your last chance to get your hands on the first editions. Heh, can’t believe I just got to type that.

And follow me on twitter @stealthygeek!

 

See Me at WorldCon 74!

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The big event is almost here! The 74th annual World Science Fiction Convention lands in Kansas City, MO (that’s the good Kansas City, there, I said it) next Wednesday through Sunday.

Here’s my schedule for the convention:

Wednesday: Arrive 5pm. Find Mike Underwood and make him do five shots of tequila while playing “Bat Spin” in the lobby.

Thursday: 10am-Noon. Man the Angry Robot Books booth. Draw images of fornicating tapirs in every copy of Peter Tieryas’s new book UNITED STATES OF JAPAN.

Thursday: Noon-2pm. Afternoon nap spent spooning totally platonically and in a hetero way with Adam Rakunas.

Thursday: 6pm-12am. Hunt Deadpool cosplayers with a paintball gun.

Friday: 4am. Wake up to face the inevitable existential crisis and to pee.

Friday: 10am-4pm. Back in the ARB booth. Throw books at unsuspecting passersby and shout “You touched it, you bought it!”

Friday: 7pm-10pm. Lead a pack of sci-fi writers to local sportsball game between the KC Royals and MN Twins while wearing a Milwaukee Brewer’s shirt and shouting about “Hat Tricks” and “Field Goals.”

Friday: 10pm-2am. Stress test liver.

Saturday: 10am-2pm. Back to the ARB booth. Make a fort out of Jay Posey’s books. Live in it. Threaten anyone who gets too close with a paper cut in that little webbed spot between their fingers and a lemon.

Saturday: 4-5pm. Share a strawberry shake with Adam Rakunas, two straws. Shout at anyone who stares that it’s 2016 and it’s okay for two men in a totally non-romantic relationship to express affection for each other. I mean really…

Saturday: 6pm. Get showered and dressed for the Hugo Awards ceremony.

Saturday: 8pm-10pm. Live tweet Hugos while slipping progressively further into despair for my own career as I drain flask after flask of Scotch. Be pissed Ramez Naam isn’t there with the good stuff.

Saturday: 10pm-??? Attend room parties. Navigate crowds of Hugo winners and losers. Negotiate minefield of trying to make strangers and passing acquaintances laugh without saying something that will get me blacklisted.

Sunday: 10am. Make one of those hilarious blanket and pillow “dead bodies” for the housekeepers to find. Drive back home.

 

Get Ready for GenCon

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It’s that time of year again! In five days, sixty-thousand plus gamers, cosplayers, aspiring writers, and nerds of all stripes will descend upon downtown Indianapolis like a swarm of geeky grasshoppers for GenCon, the best four days in gaming.

And once again, one of the best kept secrets in the publishing industry will be happening right across the street. Taking up brand-new digs at the Westin just a short skywalk away from the convention center, the GenCon Writer’s Symposium is running almost 200 hours of programing from Thursday to Sunday, featuring more than 70 guests. With everything from panels with professional authors, to readings and signings, to pitch sessions with actual literary agents, the Writer’s Symposium has grown to be a con-within-a-con.

Whether you’re an aspiring writer looking to polish your skills, or have a finished manuscript looking for a home, this is the place for you.

I’ll be on several panels this year. Here’s my schedule:

Friday, 9:00am: Business of Writing: Social Media 101

Friday, 3:00pm: Writing Novels: Ending it Right

Friday, 4:00pm: Signing

Saturday, Noon: Writer’s Craft: Fun Story, Smart Message

When I’m not speaking on panels, you’re almost sure to find me at the Angry Robot Books booth, #3044, in the main dealer hall, where I will be selling my books, and defacing copies of Adam Rakunas novels.

Check out the rest of the schedule. Sign up for some panels. You won’t regret it. And don’t forget to swing by and say hello. I’d love to sell you books meet you!

 

 

Moving Up and Moving Out

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Good afternoon, readers. I have an exciting announcement to make regarding the future of the blog portion of the website. After many years shouting into the void, a series of fortuitous accidents has ended with me accepting an offer to become a political contributor to “The Hill,” where I will still be shouting into the void, but from a much larger platform. You can see my first two posts, and some of their inevitable fallout, here, and here.

As a result, the flavor of my personal blog will be changing. Going forward, political or socially-themed posts will largely be directed towards my contributions to The Hill, where the audience is specifically looking for political content. If you’re one of the masochists who liked those posts, and there are a lot of you, I know, I watched the analytics, then please sign up for email updates and follow us on twitter @TheHill.

For the rest of you, this space is shifting gears. Instead of the previous blend, posts here will cover my thoughts and experiences on writing, the publishing industry, performing comedy, musings on genre issues, reviews of books, movies, games, and other pop culture, as well as news and announcements on projects I have coming down the pipeline.

Tonight, I’ll be heading out to watch Star Trek: Beyond, which I am super excited for. The first post of the revamped blog will most likely be a spoiler-free review of the movie after I’ve had a little time to digest it and punch something up on Saturday.

Stay tuned!

 

Europa or Bust

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This is the first image from Juno, NASA’s new probe to Jupiter. In it, you can see the solar system’s largest planet (Jupiter, obvs), the solar system’s most volcanically active body (Io, first spec to the right), and arguably the solar system’s best patch of real-estate to search for extraterrestrial life (Europa).

I say the best patch to search for ET around our star for several reasons. First of all, Europa has an ENORMOUS subsurface ocean, totaling as much as twice the volume of Earth’s oceans of liquid water and, even more encouragingly, resembling them in chemical composition as well. And unlike Mars, the potential biosphere beneath Europa’s ice has been actively stewing for billions of years.

Also unlike Mars, the odds of cross contamination from another body into Europa’s oceans are slim. Any ancient bacteria hitching a ride on a meteorite knocked loose from Mars or Earth would have to contend with not only the intense radiation belts surrounding Jupiter (Jupiter actually puts out MORE energy in radiation than it receives as light from the Sun), but it would have to have penetrated many kilometers of rock-hard, solid ice.

Which, for my money, makes Europa the best candidate for a true, second genesis of life in our solar system that arose independently of any life forms found on Earth. Thanks to pioneering work done by NASA’s Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity rovers, we know with a high degree of certainty that long ago, Mars had a warm, wet environment with a thick atmosphere many tens or hundreds on millions of years ahead of the point Earth reached habitability.

I would not be surprised at all to learn the life started there and then an asteroid impact made Earth and Mars into kissing cousins, swapping spit and mouth bacteria back and forth for millions of years. which means there’s a good chance that no mater which one life actually started on was the single point of origin. Which would be an amazing discovery, but would tell us nothing concrete about the prevalence of life in the rest of the universe.

Europa probably watched on in envy as the action between Earth and Mars heated up, but couldn’t join in. Which means (probably) that if there IS life in the dark waters under Europa’s ice, it was entirely home brewed. And THAT would mean life developed independently, twice, in the same solar system, within a few billion years, likely far fewer. And THAT would mean that the universe is absolutely lousy with life. As saturated with it as a teenaged boy’s crumpled sock.

Amazingly, initial funding for a Europa mission has gotten through Congress. And since it’s well after 2010 and we haven’t gotten any  cryptic “All these worlds are yours except Europa. Attempt no landings there,” messages, I for one can hardly fucking wait for it to launch. And for the love of God, can we stop letting the robots do all the cool exploration jobs? Let’s get alien dirt under our fingernails, people.

Oh, and if you want a masterful fictional exploration into the sorts of things that might be swimming around in Europa’s oceans, go buy A DARKLING SEA by James L. Cambias. It has not one, but two of the most expertly crafted alien societies I have ever read.

I’m Done Apologizing for Star Trek

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“You were one of those Star Trek nerds in high school.”

So, as one or two of you might know, I get into little scraps on the internet from time to time. Usually it’s because someone is being a douche about one or more social or political issues important to me.

Anyway, long story short, at some point in all of this the target usually gets mad, frustrated, and completely abandons any pretext of trying to defend their position and instead start digging through my public profile looking for things they believe will embarrass or discredit me. And something almost every brototype or ex-quarterback with blown-out knees eventually settles on is my Star Trek fandom.

“You were one of those Star Trek nerds in High School!” They shout, convinced it’s going to be the silver bullet that will finally slay their nemesis and send me scurrying for cover. Trouble is, that doesn’t work anymore, because I’m done apologizing for Star Trek.

Let’s set aside the fact these man-children continue to retain an unhealthy fixation on the social hierarchies that defined them as teenagers and focus on the accusation itself. Star Trek fandom was supposed to be a mark of shame, proof of status as a social pariah.

And you know what? They’re right. I was one of those Star Trek nerds in High School. I was one of those nerds in Grade School. And now at thirty-six, I’m still one of those nerds. And I couldn’t be more proud of it.

I’ve seen every episode, of every series (including the animated series), and every movie. I’ve been building kits and even scratch-building ships for twenty-five years. And not only that, but I’ve met several of the actors. I’ve become friends with people who have written episodes for Star Trek, novels for Star Trek, done graphic design for Star Trek, built filming miniatures for Star Trek. The voice talent who records my own novels for Audible.com was a character actor on both Next Gen and Voyager. I’ve built relationships with people who have helped create and shape one of the most enduring, popular, and prolific television and movie properties in the entire history of those mediums.

Yeah, you can say I’m a fan. Why in the hell should I be expected to be embarrassed for it? Star Trek has been one of the most consistent voices for tolerance, moderation, inclusiveness, empathy, and basic human decency throughout my life.

Captain Kirk taught me that real men don’t throw the first punch, but they sure as hell throw the last one. Commander Spock taught me the value of patience, logic, and controlling one’s passions.

I watched Next Gen week after week as new episodes aired. And over the course of those seven seasons, I watched an implacable Klingon warrior become a loving father without giving up what made him strong. I watched a blind African American and an albino android become the closest of friends and confidants. I saw a bald Frenchman talk through crisis after crisis with sworn enemies without a shot fired or loss of life to either side, saving people who only hours before wouldn’t have spit on him if he were on fire, and I never once questioned his masculinity for finding a peaceful solution instead of rushing into a fight.

I saw humans, aliens, and androids coming together, embracing their differences, growing to respect and trust one another as compatriots, then friends, and eventually family. And becoming unstoppable somewhere along the way.

And now I’ve learned that one of my favorite starship captains, Sulu, is in a same-sex relationship and raising a family with his partner, and I couldn’t be happier for them.

Those examples have never left me. They are the foundation of my values and morality, and my unshakable belief that we are stronger together. That our differences are superficial and illusionary. That infinite diversity in infinite combinations is a noble goal. And that those that seek to separate and divide us are holding us back from our ultimate destiny out among the stars.

These beliefs shape my politics, my comedy, and especially my writing. As angry as I may seem at times, as cynical and short-tempered, it’s all due to impatience. Because I’m in a rush. A hurry to see my world, our world, reach out to the future I know humanity has waiting for it once we put away all this bullshit and embrace our shared, collective potential.

Yeah, I’m a Star Trek fan. And I’m done apologizing for it, because there’s absolutely nothing to apologize for. Here’s to fifty more years.

We miss you, Spock, Scotty, and Bones.

THE ARK, TRIDENT’S FORGE and The Canopus Awards

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Hey everybody. Sooo… last year the folks over at the 100 Starship Project launched their own Sci-Fi Award called the Canopus to recognize both short and long fiction that expands the conversation and cause of interstellar travel. Well, nominations are open now, and both THE ARK and TRIDENT’S FORGE are eligible works for this year’s award.

So, if you read and enjoyed either, and honestly believe they’re worthy of award consideration, I would really appreciate it if you could head over to their site and fill out the nomination form. THE ARK was published in 2015, while TRIDENT’S FORGE was published in 2016. Both are classified as long form works over 40,000 words.

Oh, and to see what one of the members of the 100 Year Starship Project thought of THE ARK, go here and read his review.

The number of nominations each work gets matters, and it would be immensely helpful for the future success of the series just to wind up on the short list. That’s all for now. I’ll keep you posted about how it goes. Love you guys!

UPDATE: The nomination period has been extended to October 15th! Hurry up and nominate your favorite books!

Too Soon!

“Too soon!”

It’s a phrase I hear a lot as a comedian and blogger, usually shouted from the back of a darkened club, or posted in a comment thread. I hear it after topical jokes, or posts about current events. It’s been repeated so often that it’s become a joke in and of itself.

Whenever a tragedy occurs, be it a terrorist attack, a school shooting, or another example of police brutality, there are always people who come out of the woodwork to say it’s too soon to talk about this, too soon to joke about it, too soon to politicize it.

Sometimes the people saying it are well-meaning, trying to take the feelings of victims or their families into consideration. Other times they’re opponents of change who just want to shut down an uncomfortable conversation that runs counter to their interests.

What they’re actually saying is it’s too soon to publicly acknowledge that there’s a problem. Too soon to start taking the steps necessary to fix it. Too soon to do anything about it.

But it’s when public emotions and attention are at their height can they most effectively be leveraged to affect lasting change. Waiting strips social movements of the critical energy they need to overcome the indifference and institutional momentum inherent to the status quo of any society. Waiting means risking yet another atrocity happening the next day, or the next week, resetting the clock once more and leaving real change eternally waiting for a lull long enough for critics of conversation to deem it respectful to open dialogue once more.

Too soon kicks the can down the road. Too soon defends the status quo. Too soon ensures it will always be too late.

Hillary Clinton, the ACA, and the Importance of the Middle

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Well, that thing I’ve been saying was going to happen for months? It happened. Hillary Clinton is now the presumptive nominee of the Democratic party, earning clear majorities of both pledged delegates and the popular vote. She takes a historic place as the first female presidential candidate of a major American party.

And boy, do people hate her for it.

The level of vitriol, slander, character-assassination, and outright propaganda Clinton has faced over the last twenty-five years in the public spotlight is without precedent. Only Barack Obama has been run through a similar gauntlet of irrational hatred, only his started in earnest in 2007, not 1992.

Even more bizarrely, and despite most of her policy positions being slightly to the left of President Obama, the anger and hatred being directed at Clinton is coming from both extremes of the political spectrum  in almost equal measure, with the #NeverHillary idiots being made up of disillusioned Sanders supporters and rabid Trump bobble-heads in almost equal parts.

This is, quite simply, ridiculous. Clinton’s voting record during her time as a NY Senator was one of the most reliably liberal in congress. Her time in the White House as First Lady was spent largely working towards her goal of ushering in Universal Healthcare, derided as “HillaryCare” by Republicans at the time, a dry run for their attacks on “ObamaCare” more than a decade later.

Which, as it happens, is a surprisingly good analogy for Clinton herself.

Like the Dem’s presumptive nominee, the ACA remains a deeply divisive, even unpopular piece of legislation opposed by the extreme left almost as reflexively as it is loathed by the extreme right. Progressives see the law as merely reinforcing the status quo and being a huge taxpayer funded windfall for the health insurance industry. Conservatives see the law as the very embodiment of communism and a complete government takeover of the healthcare system. Nevermind that it was their goddamned idea.

Guess what? They’re both fucking wrong. The ACA is far from perfect, and work remains ahead to fix some of the issues that have arisen since implementation. But overall the law has succeeded in curtailing the worst abuses of the old for-profit healthcare system, has expanded coverage to many millions of more people, seen the health insurance cost curve bend downwards for the first time in decades, shaved hundreds of billions of dollars off the long term debt, while extending the solvency of the Medicare and Medicaid trust funds years into the future.

Yet despite these obvious and irrefutable successes, the law still faces unflinching opposition from both sides, with Republicans in congress voting more than sixty times to repeal or defund it, and some progressives openly calling for its removal in the deluded hope that destroying what progress has been made will somehow trigger a revolution that leads them to the Single Payer promised land.

Does that sound familiar? Because it should.

Tea Party Republicans and Bernie Bros both loathe Hillary, but see almost completely different things while they look at her. One sees a gun-grabbing, tax-and-spend socialist on par with Senator Sanders in her zeal to turn America into a communist concentration camp, while the other sees a 1% out-of-touch millionaire beholden to big business donors with no regard for anyone who doesn’t belong to a yacht club.

These caricatures are, naturally, mutually exclusive and cannot represent the same person in reality. Yet they persist, to the point that Republicans are endorsing someone even they have had to admit is openly and nakedly racist, while many on the left are cheering on the prospect of the combover fascist winning because they again falsely believe that they destruction he would inflict would lead them four short years later to the utopian paradise they feel was stolen from them when Bernie lost.

This reasoning is, in short, completely insane. It is also transparently privileged, coming as it overwhelmingly does from the sort of straight, white, males that wouldn’t actually have to directly suffer any of the consequences that would result from crowning a xenophobic, nationalistic, authoritarian, misogynist, racist, war-mongering shit cannon as our Chief Executive for four years.

In the end, these extreme representations of Clinton’s record and career say far more about the people who hold them than they do about the candidate herself. And, just like the ACA, while Clinton is not what either pole of the spectrum wanted, she is what was possible at this moment in time. She is an immensely superior option compared to the alternative, and she will likely end up doing a tremendous amount of good for the country as a whole because she is moderate enough to appeal to the mass of people in the center, meaning she will actually try to get shit done instead of worrying about passing some sort of arbitrary partisan purity test.

Because like it or not, that’s how our democracy was designed to work from the onset. The entire system is built around making large, rapid changes nearly impossible. To tamper down fleeting passions of the electorate and only allow those decisions that have overwhelming acceptance and public support from ALL corners of the country to more forward. That was always the plan. Clinton gets that.

I look forward to calling her Madam President and seeing what she can do.

 

The Art of Throwing Your Books at People

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So, you’re a published author. Congratulations, that’s amazing! Now comes time for a whole new world of anxiety! What’s my Amazon ranking today? How many eBooks are selling? How many Goodreads ratings do I have? Is that enough? Oh, Gods, I don’t have context for any of these numbers!

Yeah, fun times are ahead. Either fortunately or unfortunately, there’s very little an author can do directly to move those numbers. And trying too hard with over-promotion can actually hurt your relationship with your existing audience, (I have probably been as guilty of this as anyone in the early going here).

But never fear. There is an exception. With very little effort, you can become your own best-selling bookstore!

With most book contracts these days, an author will get a predetermined number of free copies of their book from the publisher to distribute to friends and family, use in promotional giveaways, etc. The number varies, but twenty is a good starting point. The great part about selling these copies is they didn’t cost you a penny, so every dollar collected goes straight into your pocket and adds to the money you’ve already made off of the advance, even if the book never earns out.

I ran out of my author copies very quickly and had to replace them if I was to keep selling. In the case of my publisher, I was able to set up a vendor account and reorder new copies just as though I was a bookstore. I also received them for a 50% author discount, or again, what the publisher would have charged a retail bookstore. So each copy cost me $4. Once you reach this stage, there’s always the risk you’ll be stuck with copies you can’t sell, so I’d advise keeping your reorder quantities low until you have a handle on how often and how many books you can expect to sell. No more than twenty. There are advantages to ordering your own as well. First, they count as sales as far as the publisher is concerned. Second, you actually get paid on them twice, once with the mark-up you charge your customer, and again from the royalty you earn from your publisher. In my case, for each of these books I sell directly, I’ve not only made $4, but another 10% of the cover price goes towards paying off my advance and speeding up the day my books earn out and I start getting royalty checks. So win, win, there.

In the last eight weeks alone, I’ve sold more than sixty physical copies at $8 a pop or both for $14, and an unknown number of eBook and audiobook downloads, (not including another 100+ copies I’ve sold working my publisher’s booth at C2E2 and Emerald City Comic Con in that same time). This has meant almost a month’s rent in cash, just because I had books available when people asked.

I have some advantage in this other authors may not enjoy in that my comedy career frequently puts me in front of new audiences. Instead of selling T-shirts or comedy albums as people are filing out, I sell books. The advantages are numerous. Not only are people who buy a book walking away with a memento, but they’ve now had a personal interaction with me. We’ve shaken hands, and they’ve shelled out money for something I’ve created, strengthening my brand as both a comedian and an author, and increasing the odds that they’ll come back for more of both in the future.

However, even if you don’t perform regularly, there are still plenty of opportunities to move some paper yourself. Here’s some of the tips I’ve learned in the process:

1. Always have copies on you:

You never know when you’re going to run into a potential customer. In the last two months, I’ve sold books at bars, coffee shops, a writer’s group, the gym, and even a grocery store. It’s impossible to know when a casual conversation might naturally turn to discussing your own work. When it does, you have to be ready for the chance someone shows interest. Keep a couple of copies in your car, or in a bag. Always have at least one handy.

2. Keep cash on hand:

Along with having copies around, always make sure to have some cash on your person to make quick change. I keep about $20 in my wallet now, broken down into a ten, five, and ones, so I can handle it if someone pulls out a Tubman ($20).

3. Get a card reader:

Seriously, do this right now. Many if not most people these days, myself included, have moved beyond cash and instead use cards for all of their daily transactions. Limiting yourself to cash limits your opportunities to sell. But fear not, there are cheap and easy solutions out there. For example, I use a Square card reader that plugs right into my smart phone and lets me accept any major credit or debit card. The hardware and app was free, and they only charge a reasonable 2% fee on each purchase. There are readers available that can take chip cards now, and the app had advanced to the point that it can take and store transaction even if you’re not connected to the internet. PayPal and several other companies have similar services available.

4. Always project abundance:

This next bit doesn’t apply to the grocery store or gym, but does apply to anywhere you’re going to set up a display or table, like a library or school appearance, or a book club or writer’s group meeting. In these situations where you’d expect that quite a few people may be interested in buying your book, always bring more copies than you realistically expect to sell. I don’t mean a combat air drop, just a few. Why? Because selling out of your supply feels like a great accomplishment until you realize that it probably cost you additional sales. This is a lost opportunity cost, and it sucks. Further, when people look at your table, they should see an ample supply. It may be counter intuitive, but that abundance tells their brain that the product is appealing. Think about it. What’s more visually attractive when you’re out shopping? Fully stocked shelves, or empty racks? Which are you going to be more likely to spend your money on?

5. Bring cards:

It a truth of the modern literary marketplace that there is a small but significant fraction of consumers who no longer buy physical books, preferring instead either eBooks, or a growing number of people who consume all of their books on audio. Don’t let these potential sales slip through your grip. Make sure to always have a supply of business cards or other mementos with links to your website, email, and titles of your books to hand out when physical copies aren’t an option. That way, your potential reader will walk away without having t remember the specifics of your name or book title. It doesn’t guarantee a sale, but it increases the odds that they’ll hit up the Kindle or Nook store and add you to their download queue.

6. You don’t have to be a used car salesman:

In addition to my time spent shouting at people on stage, I was also in sales in a past life, selling everything from sports cars to Medicare Supplements. It’s brutal work. So I can tell you honestly, this is nothing like that. You don’t have to be a larger-than-life personality, or a shameless huckster, to sell your own books. People don’t need the hard sell here. Average, ordinary conversations can very organically lead to people asking you for a copy. As long as you can be at least mildly comfortable talking about your work, odds are good you’ll never really have to try and close the sale. The reader will usually do it for you.

So, that’s what I’ve learned over the last two months. I hope it was useful. Now, go forth and hand sell. Make money! Become famous!

Oh, and buy my book.

Follow Patrick on Twitter @stealthygeek.