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Posts by Kevin
Thanks very much everyone who visited here during the hop. Hope to see you all again soon! =)
A quick reminder! Today is the LAST DAY of the Spooktacular Blog Hop! Make sure you sign up here, if you want a chance at winning free books!
Lots of other blogs on the hop as well, check out the others at the same link.
Back in 2008, my wife found out about this thing called “National Novel Writing Month” – NaNoWriMo. Crazy thing – people all over the world agree to write a 50,000 word book in just 30 days, over the month of November. It had been going on for years, and looked like fun. My wife and I both decided to give it a go.
Accord of Honor was born that November. Accord is a science fiction novel, written about a near future period where Mars has been lightly settled as a UN colony, and regular transit is taking place between Earth and Mars. But something happened a couple of decades prior – a disaster of such scale that the nations of Earth agreed to ban forever all weapons from space. No nation or person was to bring weapons beyond small arms into space, on penalty of death for the offenders.
Accord is all about the inevitable result when disarmament causes a power vacuum. But one of the main characters from that book, Nicholas Stein, helped set into motion the chain of events which led to the events that take place in Accord.
This story finally tells that tale.
Someday, I’ll get Accord of Honor finished. There’s at least one sequel in my head as well, and that’s not written at all. Accord of Honor was lost in a hard drive crash about a year after it was written. I had a paper copy, and began retyping it into the computer, writing freshly as I went, revising and bringing to bear the skills I’d earned in the two years since first writing it. But then I took a break for a while to work on the Blackwell Magic stories, so the Accord has been on a back burner for a while.
That won’t last. The story is one burning to be finished and told. As soon as I can free up some time from other work, I’ll return to the novel and polish it for production. In the meantime, please enjoy this snippet from the past – a time about two decades before the Accord novels begin.
Word count: about 3600 words. This short story has been uploaded and is available on Amazon, B&N, Apple, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony, and other vendors.
Jewels in the Night – A short story of the Accord
By Kevin O. McLaughlin
Almost every war comes down to resources. The side that has them, wins.
Deny key resources to the other side, and you can crush them.
Nicholas Stein is forced to stand by, helpless, while the enemy uses a new ship to destroy the US colony on Luna. The loss will devastate his nation’s ability to wage war – unless Stein can find a way to balance the scales.
Jewels in the Night
By Kevin O. McLaughlin
He would never forget having a front row seat to seeing ten thousand lives extinguished in nuclear fire. No one could forget that sight. The worst was not being able to do anything about it, except avenge the fallen. For a naval captain, being unable to prevent the deaths of those he was sworn to defend was the second worst possible fate. Being forced to hang helpless in space while those people were slaughtered was the worst.
“Alea iacta est,” he said.
No one else heard his words. The only other people within radio range were his six marines, each wearing a space suit similar to his own. Pitch black, and equipped with the latest in stealth hardware, the suits were extremely hard to spot, so long as none of them used their radios. The operation was to be accomplished under radio silence until they’d made contact with the enemy.
That was still in the future. For now, Captain Nicholas Stein was for all intents alone in space with nothing but his thoughts and the destruction of the lunar colony to keep him company. He was near enough to see the detonations. He imagined that he could hear the screams.
The United States had simply gambled and lost. Since discovering there were fissionable materials on the moon for mining, the US had been able to come out well ahead in the war back on Earth. China had burned up most of its own fissionable material for energy during the early years of the war, as had the US. Access to a new energy source was essential, and the only moon base belonged to the US. In fact, the Chinese supposedly had no ships capable of reaching the moon at all. The only ship the US Navy had set to guard the lunar colony was Stein’s own largely toothless old cruiser. With an old engine, a crew of two dozen, and no external weapons at all, the ship wasn’t much of a defense.
But then, no one had thought they needed to spend on defense in space. The US-Euro supremacy there had been unchallenged for years. Until today.
Stein dialed up the resolution on his helmet camera. There she was. The Chinese ship no one had thought existed. Beautiful, really. She looked like a predator, so obviously built to bring death. Which she had done with callous ease, the huge engines carrying her swiftly to the target while Stein’s own ship was too far to be able to intercept.
He’d gone over the math himself, over and over. There simply had been no way to coax enough speed out of his older ship to intercept the aggressor. He’d have ordered his ship to ram the enemy, if he could have thought of a way to accomplish that. There simply wasn’t. The enemy had timed their attack while his ship was too far away to respond.
So instead Stein had his ship lay himself and his men in the likely course his enemy would follow back to Earth. Like a minefield, they drifted in the void, subtle accelerations calculated by suit computers bringing them into an intercept. Just seven more bits of man-made debris in an orbital that had been filled with junk by a century of spaceflight. He was confident they wouldn’t be seen.
The ship was getting closer. His suit computer was still receiving a data feed from nearby US satellites, giving him precise information about the enemy ship’s course. The suit began making small course adjustments again, bringing him directly into the path of the ship with small spurts of energy. He’d guessed their course correctly. By setting his own ship on the route he had chosen, there was only one clean path back to Earth that would take the ship in without exposing it to fire from the US hunter-killer satellites in geosynchronous orbit over North America and Europe. Ever closer it loomed, still moving fast despite his suit’s attempts to match velocity. This was going to be tight.
Then he spotted one of his men for the first time in hours. From his angle, it looked like he was falling toward the ship, and the man was falling below him. For whatever reason, the marine hadn’t managed to boost his speed enough, and was just falling to fast. A moment later, and Stein saw the marine’s dark suit break into fragments against the dull gray hull of the ship. He closed his eyes for a moment.
Accelerate too much, and he’d be spotted. Too little, and he’d splatter against their hull or miss entirely and be burned to a crisp by the ship’s thrust.
So, today I am part of another blog hop – hope to see some folks popping in! This is the second time I’ve done this, and I’ll be doing things a little differently. This is an enormous hop. Tons of blogs involved. So if you’re new to the site, welcome! Please feel free to pop around a bit. I have an old award-winning short story of mine which I posted here for visitors to enjoy; if you’re into traditional fantasy stories, take a peek.
I’m calling this story “number zero” because it doesn’t count toward the challenge. I wrote this in the early 90s. It was actually my first professional publication, and won an award. I really liked this story, enough that when I got back into writing last year I dug a copy out. But it’s only just shy of 1400 words, so it’s really not long enough, even for a 99 cent ebook. And it’s already been published, so I can’t see a magazine wanting it back again.
But because it’s not new work, it doesn’t count toward the short story challenge.
I plan to write a couple more stories about this character. I’ll get one or two more done as part of this challenge, and then upload a pair or trio of shorts as a single ebook.
But I thought it would be fun to give you this story, before writing the other – so that you know a little about where the character entered the world of my imagination. I was in college, doing my best to figure out what I was doing with myself, and not really writing all that much. I wrote this story almost on a lark, didn’t think it was anything special, but submitted it anyway. A couple hundred dollars and my name on a plaque later, I learned an important lesson: the writer often has absolutely no idea whether a work is good or bad. Or if we think we have ideas, we’re often very wrong.
The story originally appeared in “The Chameleon” in 1993. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing it with you.
Tessa glanced up at the tower as she entered the glade. The shadows seemed to cling about its spire, and the sun seemed to shine less brightly upon it. The old stone building radiated an aura of awe and foreboding. Were a less intrepid mind to combine this feeling with all the tales the bards had spun about this place, a response of deep fear might be evoked.
But not from her. She strode down the path toward the tower without hesitation. The narrow gravel track crossed a lawn of bright green grass, spotted by the occasional tuft of a yellow dandelion. Somehow, Tessa thought, the flowers made the place seem less ominous. What truly horrible place would have dandelions growing in the front yard?
She felt decidedly uncomfortable walking in the new robes the village Elders had insisted on providing for her. In their “infinite wisdom”. At least she had been allowed to pick the color. The turquoise cloth provided a bright contrast to her red hair. She’d always liked wearing the color. But turquoise or no, the garment hampered her movements almost unbearably. She thought with longing of the soft deerskin breeches she’d been forced to leave behind. But the hide-bound idiots had informed her that if she was to be tested for apprenticeship with a wizard, she would go to the testing looking the part. Tessa brushed an unruly lock of hair away from her eyes. The Elders were a bunch of busybodies with too much free time to meddle.
She pulled a worn leather belt from where she’d kept it hidden beneath her robes. She buckled the belt around her waist, gaining confidence from the familiar weight of the knife on her right hip. Tessa had no idea what the Elders would think of their “young lady” wearing a six inch blade at her side. She didn’t care, either. That dirk had been a gift from her father, and she’d be damned before anyone would take it from her.
She reached the front door. It was constructed from thick oak planks, bound together by twisted bands of iron. A silver knocker hung in the middle of the door. Tessa ignored the implied request for courtesy and lifted the latch instead. At her insistent push the door creaked open.
The room inside was larger than it had looked from the outside. A crystal carafe filled with clear liquid sat upon a table in the otherwise bare room.
But it was the Efreet which immediately drew her eye. Continue Reading
Mike Shatzkin has just posted an excellent new article: “Will book publishers be able to retain primacy as ebook publishers?” Some snippets:
“… I think we’re going to see a US market that is 80% digital for narrative text reading in the pretty near future: could be as soon as two years from now but almost certainly within five …
… Now here’s a fact which is documentable, and would be documented right here on a day when time wasn’t in such short supply: brands that are not publishing houses are directly publishing their own ebooks with increasing frequency. Magazines and television networks and web sites are recognizing the reality that self-publishing ebooks is something they can do themselves without the complications (or revenue-sharing) that working with a publisher would require.
This is not a surprise to me, but it does really raise a point that major publishers have to consider: can book publishers add enough value to the ebook publishing process to persuade another brand with content credibility, one that has direct contact with the vertical community that is the audience for their books, to do their ebooks through the publisher rather than directly?
This is an existential question for big trade publishers …
… Which leads to the conversation I had this past week with the marketing VP … I raised the question: “will publishers be able to persuade these non-publisher brands that it is worth giving up margin and some control to work with publishers in the years to come?”
“That’s a very tall order,” he said …
… Developing skills and capabilities that make their ebook-publishing ability superior to vertical brands is going to be essential for publishers’ survival as the skills and capabilities to do print publishing become less important commercially over time, as they will …”
I think this is a vital question – maybe THE question, for publishers, for writers and other content producers, for literary agents – for the entire publishing infrastructure.
Writers, I’m going to guess most of you are following Dean Wesley Smith’s blog. If you’re not, I can’t recommend it strongly enough. There’s very few websites I’d consider “required reading” for the modern fiction writer. That’s one. Passive Voice is another. Kris Rusch’s Thursday blogs on the writing business are right up there as well. Oh, just check my Links on the sidebar. Every website I have is there for a reason – they’re ALL worth checking out.
But anyway, Dean. There is an enormous wealth of information on his site, from his “Sacred Cows” articles debunking the myths around writing and publishing (sort of like Mythbusters, but for writers), to his New Age of Publishing, Thinking Like a Publisher series, and tons of other assorted posts, Dean gives from decades of experience writing over a hundred books. Really not kidding – super, super stuff there.
Back in January, he announced that in addition to his other writing, he was going to write a hundred short stories this year. He’d already done one a week before, so he wanted to make it really challenging. He would post each one on the website; he’d make a cover, and publish them to the major ebook sites. And he’d tell us how long he spent doing those things. The stories would stay up on his website until he wrote the next one, then he’d take the old one down.
The year started off well, but…life happened. And Dean wrote a post recently where he mentions that he’s only done 28 stories so far this year. Math wizards have already figured out that means he needed to write 72 more stories – and this was September 25th, with just 97 days left to go.
Most people would give up. Or at least, scale back expectations. No – instead, he wrote “But I still think I can do this, or give it a good run, … So not tossing in the towel just yet.”
This isn’t just a challenge anymore. This is epic, epic stuff. =)
My gut wanted to say I’d match him story for story for the rest of the year.
My head said that was crazy talk. I have work, and kids, and NaNoWriMo coming up in November, and two novels to finish and get out the door. So I bit my tongue and just posted an “attaboy!” comment to his post, saying how inspirational he is.
I got to thinking about that a little.
If we back away from chances to fail, we also back away from opportunities to be great. Dean isn’t a great writer because of his successes or because of his failures; he is a great writer because he is not afraid to fail.
Another writer, Bob Mayer, has a statement he believes in so strongly that he made it the name of his publishing company: “Who dares, wins.”
I’ve paused a few times in the writing of this. Because I take this sort of thing seriously. But if Dean’s going to keep going with his challenge, I will do my utmost to match him.
That’s what this is about: I will match Dean story for story til the end of the year.
Sometimes with longer stories; maybe sometimes with short ones. You’ll get to see them all – I’ll follow the same rules he has. I’ll be writing fast and streaming the work up here for you all to read, but each will be pulled down as the next is posted, available only from the major ebook retailers from then on. Some of the stories you’ll probably hate. Hopefully, some of them you’ll really like.
Should be an interesting time. It’s a lot of writing, but practice is how we get good.
Because it’s crazy.
Because it’s epic.
Because it supports the effort of a man I respect and admire, while at the same time pushes me to excel.
Because sometimes, you have to Dare to be Bad. ;)
And because if we do not dare, we cannot win.
So, a few new changes to the blog over the last 24 hours!
First, I added a new column. The new column has links to my books and short stories on various vendors (just Amazon and Smashwords for now, but I’ll be adding B&N soon as well). I can already see that becoming a problem down the road as I get more stories up. I think I need a slider or something…! Not yet. But can definitely see the need. If anyone out there knows a good tool that I can use with WordPress to show images and text links in a scrolling manner, I’d be obliged to hear about it.
I also added a new page – contact me! I’ve got links there to Facebook, Twitter, and my email. I’ll always try to respond to every email. Might not be right away, but I do love hearing from readers, so I’ll get back to you. There’s also a link to a newsletter sign-up. And another link to the same newsletter in the side bar.
What newsletter? Well, it’s new, too. =) I’m using MailChimp to collect the email addresses of readers who’d like to hear about upcoming book and short story releases. The list is private, of course, and will be used sparingly; but if you’ve enjoyed By Darkness Revealed, for instance, and would like to read “Ashes Ascendant” when it comes out, then the newsletter is a great way to hear about the release.
Yes, soon. =)
And to top it all off, I’ve decided to try something really different, and participate in a blog hop.
Never having done one before, I have no idea how well this will be received, but…why not? As a character from my kids’ favorite show says “Get messy! Make mistakes!” One could do worse than follow the advice of Ms. Frizzle.
So I’ve signed up to offer a giveaway for the 7th through 10th of October, as part of the HOP FOR RED OCTOBER.
And what am I giving away, you ask?
Something with monsters, and magic, and a little mayhem.
Something with darkness, and sinister beings, and a battle against a renewed evil.
For the next few days, til the blog hop is done, every person who signs up on my newsletter list will receive a coupon good for a copy of By Darkness Revealed on Smashwords.com. That will include all major and most of the minor ebook formats – Kindle, epub, even PDF. Download and enjoy in the format of your choice, just for signing up.
One reader who signs up in that time will receive a free print copy of the book, autographed by the author however the winner would like.
But that’s not really enough; so here’s a little advance news. A short while before Ashes Ascendant is released to the world, I will be doing a drawing for several people to win ARCs – advance release copies – of the book. The winners will be chosen from folks who’ve reviewed By Darkness Revealed at the location of their choice. Amazon, B&N, Apple, Smashwords, Goodreads, your own blog – doesn’t matter where, and multiple entries will be awarded for reviews at up to three locations.
So, you can sign up for the newsletter now, get a free ebook, maybe win a free print copy of the book, AND get more information emailed to you about an upcoming special giveaway of a privileged few advance copies of the sequel!
All for signing up with a newsletter? Yes!
To make it really easy, here’s the newsletter link:
Thanks for stopping by! Enjoy the book! And check out the other blogs in the Hop here:
Mike Shatzkin said in an article recently that “We know that rate of growth is mathematically prevented from continuing for even three more years (because it would put ebooks at 160% of publishers’ revenues if it did!)”
I looked at that and nodded. Bet most other folks who know the industry did too.
Then last night Kris Rusch pointed out the problem with that line of thinking, in her blog. An excellent read: http://kriswrites.com/2011/10/05/the-business-rusch-the-way-we-were/
Shatzkin’s line of thinking assumes that the industry will continue the plodding 4% annual growth it’s averaged over the last 50 years.
Which isn’t necessarily the case.
The last time publishing grew exponentially, Rusch writes, it was back during the 40s and 50s – immediately after WW2, when tens of thousands of soldiers recently returned from the war used the GI Bill, went to college, learned to love reading for pleasure, and then passed that love on to their children. She comments that books got easier to access, because more people had more education and learned to love reading, which resulted in enormous growth of the publishing industry.
And she postulates that ebooks could represent a similar disruption. Because most people don’t go to bookstores to get books – they snag them at Costco, Walmart, Target, or supermarkets and pharmacies. But ereaders – which are now starting to show up in “everyman” type stores – bring the bookstore to the reader. And even if they don’t have time to go to a bookstore, they might well have a smartphone – each of which is an ereader.
That changes access. And we’re already seeing evidence that people tend to buy and read more books once they start reading ebooks. It’s possible – not definite, but worth considering – that the ease of access will increase the pool of readers in a similar manner to how the GI Bill did, by placing the ability to buy books into the readers’ hands at any time, day or night, with the press of a few buttons.
Which means the growth curve folks like Shatzkin are looking at might not be the real curve. It might be a small part of a much bigger curve. And the phenomenon Kris writes about, IF it is happening at all (which I am seeing strong signs of, but of course nobody can confirm), is going to be next to impossible to predict.
Not only don’t we know where the curve will flatten – we might not even know where the ceiling is.