Sunday, March 24, 2013

Coming Soon to Paperback: Unalive

Greetings, fellow castaways.

This has been an amazingly good year for the Keith Household, and we thank our maker copiously for his abundant blessings.

We actually managed to NOT have anyone die, have a stroke or heart attack, have major surgery, lose a home, lose a vehicle, or anything else in the Annual January Blegh Attack. That's the first time a major catastrophe has not stricken our family in January or February since 1985. I'm not exaggerating, folks. I won't go into the graphic details, but suffice to say this is turning out to be a pretty good year.

Becoming NADIA, my debut novel, has been selling well in paperback. And here's the awesome news:

This June, it will be joined in print by its sequel, Unalive. Is anyone else out there as geeked as I am? I think, as much as the fact that I can hold it in my hands, I'm overwhelmed by the positive response from my readers. I have people asking, "When is the sequel coming to paperback?" Here I am, three novels published in eBook format in international markets, a novella coming out this June as well, and I'm still stricken with perma-grin with every new contract, every new step forward in my writing career. I just can't help it.

Anyway, this week I want to share with you an excerpt from Unalive, for those who are still waiting for the paperback.

The cover is by Delilah K. Stephans. Editing was by Fiona Young-Brown and Greta Gunselman. Gotta give credit where credit is due, BTW. ;-)

Anyway, go ahead and check it out if you haven't already. I think you'll like it.


BLURB:

In the second installment of The NADIA Project, the potential stakes are raised even higher.
The lab where Nadia was built is no more. But when The Pinnacle strikes back at the
government agencies trying to crack its secrets, a horrible truth emerges: The evil cabal of
kingmakers is still building living weapons of mass destruction somewhere on the globe.

Jon Daniels and Nadia Velasquez must find the lab and stop it before a new wave of terror
erupts across the world. In order to succeed, though, they must get through The Pinnacle’s most
deadly weapon: Jenna Paine.

All who stand between evil and the innocent are two ancient warriors, a misfit genius, a
rogue FBI agent, and a living antimatter bomb named NADIA.

EXCERPT:

The limousine parked across the end of the boardwalk with its doors open. The driver, a
huge Samoan, stood to one side, his hands folded in front of him. Jenna didn’t recognize him;
she didn’t necessarily expect their usual driver on a moment’s notice, but something in the way
he just stood there… Jenna stepped forward, in front of Anna and Sofi. Something was wrong.
The car blocked the end of the boardwalk with no room to get around it. A quick scan of the
trees and the other bungalows in the direct area revealed no direct threats, but this whole scene
stank.

“Anna,” she said quietly, trying not to move her lips, “I’m too late; I’m sorry. Get ready to
drop the bags and follow me, okay?”

Anna’s face paled. Sofi stood, silent and blank.

Suddenly, Jenna heard the whisper of a stirring in the water underneath their bungalow.
Then another, and another. She dropped her burden and drew the SIG from its holster. “Run for
the car!” she shouted, and charged the driver, who was drawing his own weapon. She shot him in
center-mass before he could drop behind the limo. The strike of her bullet knocked off his own
aim, and his shot went wide. He went down in the dirt on the far side of the car.

Behind her, Jenna heard a cry of surprise from Anna, and turned to see a man in a wetsuit
advancing along the boardwalk from the bungalow with an SKS assault rifle. She blew his head
open with a shot that hit him between his eyes, and swung the SIG to fire again at a third attacker
who opened up from the cover of the bungalow. Anna cried out in pain as her arm spouted red.
Jenna’s shot missed the man and spanged off the corner of the building. He shrieked as splinters
sprayed into his eyes.

“I said run, dammit! Go!” Jenna screamed. Anna finally started forward. Sofi froze at the
sight of her mother’s blood pouring down her wounded arm. Jenna had to drop out of her combat
stance to grab the small girl and drag her down the boardwalk to the car.

A bullet snapped through the air next to her head and she fired one-handed and off-balance
at the last diver emerging from around the bungalow. The shot missed. He ducked back around
the corner. She threw Sofi into the back seat of the limousine. Anna made it to the car just before
Jenna slammed the door, securing them behind the bulletproof glass. She spun back around as
another bullet pinged off the armored window.

Jenna vaulted over the hood of the car and landed on top of the driver, who had managed to
crawl into a defilade behind the front of the car. Wounded the giant man was, but far from
disabled, even with a .45 round in his belly. He grabbed her ankle as she came down and she
sprawled clumsily onto the sand. The SIG dropped from her hand as she lost her balance.

She hit hard on one knee and he was on top of her in a flash, whipping open a butterfly knife
as he pinned her down by sheer weight. One of Jenna’s hands was pinned behind her back as she
landed, and the driver grabbed her free wrist as he brought the knife down at her chest.

Jenna rolled under him before he could complete the thrust. The blade stabbed down into the
sand. The hand behind her back came free as she rolled, and she thrust her thumb into his eye.
He rose up and dropped the knife with a cry. She wriggled free and tried to get to her feet, but a
huge, wildly-swung fist caught her between the shoulder blades. She flew through the air,
landing on her face in the sand. He was on her again before she could get her breath back. He
grabbed her and rolled her over. She saw his face, a mask of hate and rage, as he swung a fist at
her face.

Jenna brought up an arm and blocked the blow, redirecting it across her attacker’s body, and
she rolled again as he came down on top of her with all his weight. She carried the roll through
like a human ballbearing and threw him off her. She found herself suddenly free enough to get
up. Staggering back against the side of the limo, Jenna caught her breath as the driver fought his
way to his feet. Jenna scanned the area, finding the knife and her pistol lying in the sand a meter
from each other.

As she dove for the pistol, a burst of automatic fire erupted on the other side of the car.
Bullets ricocheted off the armored window as the last gunman emptied his magazine at Anna and
Sofi. Jenna grabbed the SIG, snap-rolled up, and popped off two shots over the top of the car.
The first round hit him in the face, the second ripped through his neck, and he collapsed in a gory
heap on the boardwalk. The distraction was enough. The huge Samoan freight-trained her from
the side and sent her flying again, knocking the gun loose.

This time when she hit, she had enough sideways momentum to roll up into a kneeling
position as he charged again. He had size and reach; Jenna had speed and training. She dodged
another ham-sized fist and closed inside his defenses before he could follow up. She punched
him twice in the groin as he reached down to grab her, and he grunted and dropped. As he came
down, her hand came up, driving his nasal bone into his brain. He hit the ground and lay
quivering as the sand around his head and chest blossomed red.

Jenna struggled to her feet. Pain wracked her body. She staggered to the limousine and
opened the back door. Anna’s face was pale, and she was barely conscious. Sofi bawled in terror
as she held her hands over the wound in Anna’s left upper arm. It didn’t do much good. Her
mother’s blood still ran freely down, soaking her blouse, covering Sofi’s tiny hands and the car
seat.

“Hang on, honey, let me find something,” Jenna panted. She found the driver’s butterfly
knife lying in the sand and cut a shirtsleeve from his body. She quickly fashioned a pressure
bandage and stuck the folded knife into the wrappings, winding it around twice to tighten the
bandage and put additional pressure on the wound. She used another strip of cloth to secure the
knife handle. She gently lay Anna down on the floor and put her feet up on the seat to treat for
shock. Then she checked on Sofi.

The little girl was covered in her mother’s blood, trembling uncontrollably as she cried. She
didn’t have any open wounds, but she also was going into shock. Jenna tried to take her out of
the back seat, but she couldn’t get Sofi to let go of her mother. So Jenna tried a different
approach. “Sofi, listen to me! Can you understand me, honey?” Sofi stopped crying and nodded,
but the fright in her expression remained. “Sofi, I need you to hold tight onto your mom, okay?
I’m going to get you to a hospital, and I need you to help Mommy stay awake, all right? Don’t
let her go to sleep. Do you understand me?” Once again, Sofi nodded.

Jenna picked up her SIG before she got into the driver’s seat and turned the key. God knew
what might be between them and the hospital.





Saturday, March 16, 2013

More on Random House's New Imprints

Okay, folks. A new sign is in the wind, and it's a mighty fine one. Writers seem to have a stronger voice in publishing today than ever before.

Last week, writers' associations and individuals, in short the industry as a whole, lambasted Random House on their new imprint Hydra, Alibi, and their other eBook-only houses. And let's face it. It was for good reason. Their contract terms were absolute trash. No author should have to pay a contract publisher for setup charges.


The good news is this: Random House has revised their terms (slightly, but let's give the poor schlocks credit where credit is due). According to Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing,

http://boingboing.net/2013/03/12/random-house-reconsiders-and-i.html

the terms are better. Now, RH offers a standard advance-plus-royalty deal, as well as the profit-sharing deal, and they've removed setup costs from the author for eBook editions. They still intend to charge setup and shipping for print versions of books with these imprints, though, which is a real shame. Read Cory's article and check out the new posts at WriterBeware for the details. Plus, they did improve the reversion clauses in the contract so if sales drop below a certain amount, an author can demand the contract be terminated and all publication rights be returned to them.

Let me define some terms for those who are still looking for their first contract: Rights, where the publisher is concerned, include publishing, sales, and distribution rights. An author owns his work, meaning the copyright. The right to copy belongs to the author. He allows the publisher to publish, sell, and market the work. The publisher picks up setup costs, including editing and cover art.

Every contract defines specific things the publisher is allowed to do, as well as how long they are allowed to do it.

Okay, so RH is forgiven, to a point. But they still have some pretty crappy terms in place. Some of them can be negotiated out, but I'll be honest: RH still isn't going to be my first choice of houses in the future.

Yes, they did fix some of the more egregious terms in their eBook contracts. We have to give them credit for that. Their response to pressure from the industry is encouraging. It shows that even the Big 6 aren't so big they can afford to ignore writers, and it shows that writers are being given a louder voice as a whole.

There's still some room for improvement, though. I think we can all do better. The thing to remember here is that, even though we all want to be picked up by the Big Houses with their Big advertising budgets and their Big market appeal, sometimes the cost of doing business at that level is just too high. We'll keep watching things, and get back with you  as they develop.


Yes. We can and should do better. But thanks for little things.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Hydra vs Hydra: What's the Buzz?

Wow. I could just end this with "Wow." But then you'd be looking at that one word, and wondering why the hell would I just publish "Wow" when you don't even know what "Wow" means besides "Wow." I mean, I could have just said "Wow" about watching exploding ducks rain over I-94, or a yodeling Samurai monkey selling Amway door-to-door. But those things wouldn't make some other people say "Wow." They might go "Ew!" or "Hehn?" instead, so let me start at the beginning.

This week has been one of the most..."Wow" weeks in recent history. I touch a test switch for a customer, and it falls apart in my hand. I attempt a repair on a leaking air sensor system (I have almost 20 years experience with this type of system), and the leak is a hundred times worse than when I started, after almost 50 hours of troubleshooting.

And Random House, one of the most respected publishers in the world, has turned into a cheap-assed vanity press.

This makes me wonder why in the world they would do this kind of thing. John Scalzi, president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, has called our attention to it in his blog:

http://whatever.scalzi.com/

John's initial announcement, Random House's response, and John's final word, are all on the page. Just scroll down. What shocked me to my core, is the same practices that Hydra is trying to foist on the writing community are the same practices that made PublishAmerica a pariah at WriterBeware and other "Heads-Up" warning blogs and sites. Hydra is paying no advances to authors. Now, my own publisher, a small press, doesn't pay advances at the moment. But what Hydra is doing is charging authors for publishing. Give me a break. NO AUTHOR SHOULD PAY DIME ONE TO A PUBLISHING HOUSE LIKE THIS.

Hey, don't get me wrong. There are self-publishing houses out there, and some of them are even respectable houses. There's one just down the road from my house that makes a lot of its authors very happy. But they bust their cans lining up publicity, book tours, their artwork is excellent, and their editing services are worth the investment according to the authors who use them. And they specialize in print, and are expanding into audiobooks. In other words, the author is getting a product or service worth their investment.

But what Hydra is doing is unconscionable. They not only charge their authors FOR EBOOK ONLY PUBLISHING, but they also demand exclsuive rights for the term of the copyright. In other words, until 70 years after the death of the author. Not 7, 70. To contrast that, my own publisher goes on a renewable three-year term.

Seriously, writers: Why would you want to get roped into an exclusive contract with anyone that only expires 70 years after you die? That's also roping your descendants into the same terms, and that, my friends, is foolish.

There is another wrinkle I've just turned up: A small press called Hydra Publications (  http://www.hydrapublications.com/ ) turns out dynamic books with award nominations and winners in their lineup. Could it be that the Big 6 are looking to squash the bugs that are turning eBook publishing on its ear? What if (Random House) Hydra's only purpose is to destroy Hydra Publication's reputation? Just by painting itself with the image of a draconian, PA-style vanity press, is Random House trying to strangle Hydra Publications' credibility in the industry via guilt by association? Just think of all the decent, God-fearing men named Josef or Adolf who couldn't pass on their good names after 1935 or so.

It's a damned dirty trick. But what do the Big Houses do at bookstores? They crowd out small presses by buying up all the shelf space at Barnes and Noble. Let's face it; publishing is a highly competitive business. Maybe a little "innocent slander" wouldn't be beyond the scope of their capabilities as well.

Or maybe it's just my "conspiracy nerve" flaring up again.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Great News!!!



I am officially on "the ride" now.

My first novel, the award-winning Becoming NADIA, is in available paperback as well as all eBook formats. I ordered twenty copies to sell personally, and lo and behold, they sold in a week. I ordered more, and since last Friday, I've sold about half of that one as well. Needless to say, it's pretty exciting.


 


There's only one thing that pretty, popular TV reporter Nadia Velasquez is missing: her memory from before the explosion that killed everyone else in the room, including the President of Nigeria. But from the moment she meets FBI agent Jon Daniels, all hell breaks loose. Friends turn into deadly enemies overnight, and she has no idea who she can trust anymore.

When Jon and Nadia investigate further, they discover the living terror that is the truth behind Nadia's existence, a truth that could mean the death of millions.

Oooo, sounds cool, doesn't it? Seriously, I had a load of fun writing it, and I haven't yet heard anyone tell me they regretted buying it. And believe me, my friends all let me know if they don't like something. I'm so pushy about everything I like, they got sick of saving my feelings a long time ago. Anyway, if you want to check out more, click here.

Last week, I signed the print contract for my second book, Unalive. It's the sequel to Becoming NADIA, and the second installment in the series The NADIA Project.

 

In the second installment of The NADIA Project, the potential stakes are raised even higher. The lab where Nadia was built is no more. But when The Pinnacle strikes back at the government agencies trying to crack its secrets, a horrible truth emerges: The evil cabal of kingmakers is still building living weapons of mass destruction somewhere on the globe.
Jon Daniels and Nadia Velasquez must find the lab and stop it before a new wave of terror erupts across the world. In order to succeed, though, they must get through The Pinnacle's most deadly weapon: Jenna Paine.
All who stand between evil and the innocent are two ancient warriors, a misfit genius, a rogue FBI agent, and a living antimatter bomb named NADIA

 You know what the first response from the guys at the hangar was? "How do I get her phone number?" Oh, I can definitely agree that the girl my cover artist chose was a PERFECT Jenna, wouldn't you? We ramped up the action and suspense to a level that is not kind to those with heart conditions, and we threw in a few more surprises, just to tease.

The print release comes out this June, so look for it. Check out a free taste here. Go ahead. Click the link. You know you really want to.

I will say this: I'm a bit of a prude. Yes, I feature a fair amount of violence in my work. But it's all central to the plot, and I think it has a redeeming value in the end. I don't write graphic sex, and I keep the language within comfortable range for teens and up. I just think that literature should be available to as wide an audience as I can make it, without a parent blushing about their kids reading it. Granted, some of my bad guys are really good people, and some of my good guys treat each other like the southern end of a northbound elephant. But that all goes toward raising questions like "What really is the difference between Good and Evil?" and "What makes a person, a person?"

Anyway, I'm sure my third book (the final installment in the series, titled Critical Mass) will be coming to print as well. Check that one out here. 

 

Thanks again for letting me go on. It really is quite a ride, this whole "published" thing.  And I'm going to take Neal Gaimann's advice. I'm going to enjoy it while I can.

Good News!!!

I am officially on "the ride" now.

My first novel, the award-winning Becoming NADIA, is in available paperback as well as all eBook formats. I ordered twenty copies to sell personally, and lo and behold, they sold in a week. I ordered more, and since last Friday, I've sold about half of that one as well. Needless to say, it's pretty exciting.

 




There's only one thing that pretty, popular TV reporter Nadia Velasquez is missing: her memory from before the explosion that killed everyone else in the room, including the President of Nigeria. But from the moment she meets FBI agent Jon Daniels, all hell breaks loose. Friends turn into deadly enemies overnight, and she has no idea who she can trust anymore.

When Jon and Nadia investigate further, they discover the living terror that is the truth behind Nadia's existence, a truth that could mean the death of millions.
Oooo, sounds cool, doesn't it? Seriously, I had a load of fun writing it, and I haven't yet heard anyone tell me they regretted buying it. And believe me, my friends all let me know if they don't like something. I'm so pushy about everything I like, they got sick of saving my feelings a long time ago. Anyway, if you want to check out more, click here.

Last week, I signed the print contract for my second book, Unalive. It's the sequel to Becoming NADIA, and the second installment in the series The NADIA Project.



In the second installment of The NADIA Project, the potential stakes are raised even higher. The lab where Nadia was built is no more. But when The Pinnacle strikes back at the government agencies trying to crack its secrets, a horrible truth emerges: The evil cabal of kingmakers is still building living weapons of mass destruction somewhere on the globe.
Jon Daniels and Nadia Velasquez must find the lab and stop it before a new wave of terror erupts across the world. In order to succeed, though, they must get through The Pinnacle's most deadly weapon: Jenna Paine. 

All who stand between evil and the innocent are two ancient warriors, a misfit genius, a rogue FBI agent, and a living antimatter bomb named NADIA.
 You know what the first response from the guys at the hangar was? "How do I get her phone number?" Oh, I can definitely agree that the girl my cover artist chose was a PERFECT Jenna, wouldn't you? We ramped up the action and suspense to a level that is not kind to those with heart conditions, and we threw in a few more surprises, just to tease.

The print release comes out this June, so look for it. Check out a free taste here. Go ahead. Click the link. You know you really want to.

I will say this: I'm a bit of a prude. Yes, I feature a fair amount of violence in my work. But it's all central to the plot, and I think it has a redeeming value in the end. I don't write graphic sex, and I keep the language within comfortable range for teens and up. I just think that literature should be available to as wide an audience as I can make it, without a parent blushing about their kids reading it. Granted, some of my bad guys are really good people, and some of my good guys treat each other like the southern end of a northbound elephant. But that all goes toward raising questions like "What really is the difference between Good and Evil?" and "What makes a person, a person?"

Anyway, I'm sure my third book (the final installment in the series, titled Critical Mass) will be coming to print as well. Check that one out here. 

Thanks again for letting me go on. It really is quite a ride, this whole "published" thing.  And I'm going to take Neal Gaimann's advice. I'm going to enjoy it while I can.