Cover of the Year, shirts of January

Well, this year isn’t off to a bad start.

First up, a big thanks to everybody who voted for The Caledonian Gambit’s cover over at The Qwillery’s Cover of the Year poll. There was some stiff competition from Sara O. Thompson’s Muddy Waters, complete with a lengthy teeter-tottering for first place, but I’m happy to say that we emerged from the scrum victorious, carried aloft on a ceremonial book cover. Or, well, the little bar on our results was just a little bit longer anyway. Anyway, that’s amazing and flattering, but full credit must go to cover artist Sebastien Hue and cover designer Rain Saukas, who did phenomenal jobs putting the whole thing together. The best that I can hope for is that it means you can judge my book by its cover. (And once again, I’m ever thankful that the folks at Talos didn’t opt to use my original cover design).

Secondly, you might remember in my last post that I was going on a bit about my lateral move into apparel. Well, the response was simply fantastic: almost 90 people ordered shirts! Far more than I’d anticipated, but fortunately the good folks at Cotton Bureau were well up to the challenge. Orders are going out now, and hopefully everybody who ordered one should receive it in the next week or so.

If you missed out on this run of shirts, you can still register your interest at Cotton Bureau, and they’ll let you know when it’s available to order again. Next time around, I’ll also probably make the Illyrican Empire option available as well, and maybe some new color options for the Commonwealth version too.

Thanks again to those who decided that they wouldn’t mind walking around with a logo from my book emblazoned on their chest—truly, the highest honor. I look forward to seeing one in the wild at some point; then, I’ll know I’ve really made it. If you do have one and wear it some place I might see it—say, one of my upcoming appearances—who knows? Maybe I’ll have a special surprise for you.

Finally, I’m at work on a few projects that I’m hopeful you’ll all enjoy, though most of them are early days. If you’re looking for a good book to read in the meantime, let me point you towards the excellent techno-thriller The Exphoria Code by my good friend Antony Johnston, whose name you might know from a little movie called Atomic Blonde. It’s a ripping good read, as you’d expect from him.

Posted in The Caledonian Gambit | Comments Off on Cover of the Year, shirts of January

Getting shirty

Over the past few months, I’ve had great fun sending out free signed bookplates and handing out stickers emblazoned with the insignia of the Commonwealth of Independent Systems and the Illyrican Empire, the two major factions from The Caledonian Gambit. Between those and the stamps I had made for signings, it’s a fun way to bring a little personalization and depth to the story. But I wanted to take things a step further, so I’m pleased to announce that I’m selling my first t-shirt.

The Commonwealth of Independent Systems shirt is now available for a limited time from Cotton Bureau, in one of three colors: a royal (canonical) blue, an indigo, and a military green. The campaign runs for two weeks, wrapping up on January 16 at 8pm EST, so make sure to place your orders before then. (And read on for how to enter to win a free shirt!)

For you Illyrican fans out there, I haven’t forgotten about you. I’m considering doing an Illyrican shirt later on, depending on how sales of the Commonwealth shirt goes, but I opted to start with this one because in sending out bookplates, the Commonwealth versions were requested twice as much as the Illyrican. But here’s a sneak peek at what an Illyrican shirt will probably look like.

I’m also offering a chance for one lucky person to win a free Commonwealth shirt! All you have to do to get a chance to win is subscribe to my very infrequent mailing list by entering your email address in the form below.

I know, I know: giving away your email is a precious commodity these days. I understand completely. But I solemnly swear that the only thing you’ll get is a pretty rare email from me letting you know about announcements related to my writing and appearances. That’s it. Nobody else gets your email, and I won’t abuse the power. So you’ve got nothing to lose and a possible t-shirt to win!

I’ll pick a winner from everybody who’s subscribed to the mailing list as of January 16, 9 a.m. EST, so if you’ve already signed up, you’re automatically entered. (That also gives me time to contact the winner and for you to still buy a shirt if you didn’t win.) Good luck!

Posted in The Caledonian Gambit | Comments Off on Getting shirty

Audiobook, signed bookplates, and reviews

Hey friends! It’s been a couple weeks since The Caledonian Gambit officially hit shelves, and I’ve got a couple of fun pieces of news to share with you, my nearest and dearest pals.


A lot of people have asked if an audiobook version of TCG is coming. Good news: It is! Tantor Media is producing it, it’s scheduled to come out on July 20. Narrator Rob Grgach has already proved worth his weight in gold by catching a little math error in the text.1

The CD version of the audiobook is already up for pre-order on Amazon, but I have it on good authority that a downloadable version will also be available and, as Tantor’s other titles are on Audible, I would presume it should be available there as well. More information as I get it, but if you’ve been waiting for the audiobook version, rest assured it’s on its way.

Signed bookplates

I got to sign a couple more books at WWDC this past week, but I’ve also had a lot of questions about where people can get signed copies. Unfortunately, right now, unless you’re in the Boston area (or someplace else that I’m visiting), you’re kind of out of luck. Currently, I don’t have any other plans for signings, but I’ll update my appearances page if they arise.

However! If it’s simply an autograph and not my scintillating company that you crave, I’m more than happy to oblige. I’ve had some very attractive bookplates printed, and I’m more than happy to sign one and send it to you for the low low cost of absolutely nothing—I’ll even personalize it for you! Just head over to this form (the password is sabaea) and fill out your name, address, and any personalization you’d like.

I’m offering two different styles of bookplates to choose from—Commonwealth and Imperium—and I’ll accommodate all requests as long as supplies last. The bookplates are adhesive, so you can stick ’em in your book if you want, but you certainly don’t have to—it’s yours to do with as you please!2

A few other things are cooking on this front, so stay tuned.


Finally, just close it out, a huge thanks to everybody who’s taken the time to leave a review or a rating of The Caledonian Gambit on Amazon, Goodreads, and the iBookstore. I really appreciate it. If you like the book and want to read more, this is one of the best (and, let’s be honest, easiest) ways to show your support! Other great options include telling your friends, telling your local bookstores, and telling random people on the street. But whatever you’re comfortable with, really.

If you’ve read the book and enjoyed it, but haven’t yet had time to leave a review, no worries—there’s still time! Even a short sentence or two is all it takes. Plus it helps ensure that there may very well be more to come in the continuing adventures of these characters. On which topic, I hope to have more to say…soon…

  1. Whoops! Thanks, Rob!

  2. Well, I mean, don’t copy my signature and sell it. Rules and laws apply, etc, etc.

Posted in The Caledonian Gambit | Comments Off on Audiobook, signed bookplates, and reviews

Ratings, giveaway, cover battle, and more

It’s less than a week before The Caledonian Gambit is out there in the wild 1, so it seemed like a good time to let you know what’s going on in the run-up to the book’s official release.

Ratings and Reviews

First of all, a huge thanks to everybody who has preordered the book. You folks are all champs, and I really appreciate the support. This is something I’ve been working hard on for years, and I’m about as excited as a cat chasing a laser pointer that it’s about to happen.

If I may ask one last favor of you fine people: once you’ve read the book, if you like it, please tell the world.2 Tweet about it, tell your friends, climb up to the local rooftops and scream about it3, whatever.

If you’re looking for a slightly easier way to share your fondness for the book, Goodreads and Amazon both make it pretty easy to rate books, and if you have time to leave a review—even a short one such as “I really enjoyed this book!”—that’s a huge help. If you’d like to write more, by all means, go nuts. But reviews might help other people decide to check it out, and that means I get to keep writing books, which, I think we’ll all agree, is the best thing for everybody right now: you, me, America.

Goodreads Giveaway

Speaking of Goodreads, just in case you’ve been holding off on pre-ordering the book, you have an opportunity to win your very own paperback edition from Goodreads. My publisher is giving away copies of The Caledonian Gambit to five lucky entrants! (As of this writing, amazingly, 193 people have entered. So you still have better than a 1-in-40 chance, which is way more likely than winning the lottery, and, honestly, comes with fewer long-term downsides.) The contest runs through May 25, so you’ve still got time to drop your name in the hat.

Qwillery Poll

Looking for other fun ways to support the book? The Caledonian Gambit is facing off in the Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars for May over at The Qwillery. We’ve got a pretty solid lead currently, but I don’t want to get cocky. If you haven’t yet taken a few seconds to register your vote, hit that link above and tell them how pretty you think the cover is.

Reading/Q&A/signing on 6/1

Boston-area people, if you’re looking for a chance to hear me read from the book, get your copy signed, and may even have your questions answered, good news! Thursday, June 1, at 7pm I’ll be at Newtonville Books in Newton Center, just a stone’s throw away from where I grew up. There’s a Facebook event to register your interest, if that’s your jam, but it’s not required, so feel free to drop by and say hi.

Signed copies

As long as we’re on the topic of signed copies, I’ve had a lot of people asking about how to have me scribble in their copy. At present, the only surefire way is to be in the Boston area, which is where I’m likely to hold most events. I’ll also be attending Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose early next month, so if you’re at the Relay FM meetup or some of the other events happening that week, just find me. (Or if you’re in the area but not at those events, shoot me a tweet and we’ll figure something out.)

I’m working on a way to accommodate those of you who aren’t in the Boston area, but I’m not quite ready to share that yet. When I am, you can be sure that I’ll let you know. If you want to be among the first to get the details, remember you can always sign up for my super low volume mailing list from the front page.

Thanks again for all your support. We’re in the home stretch here, so hold on tight.

  1. Excepting all those copies of the paperback that Amazon has already shipped, anyway, so thanks, Amazon!.

  2. If you didn’t like it, maybe just write an angry screed and post it on your refrigerator.

  3. My legal counsel advises me that I should not tell you to do this.

Posted in Appearances, The Caledonian Gambit | Comments Off on Ratings, giveaway, cover battle, and more

Words and pictures

Since today is my birthday and since there’s less than one month until The Caledonian Gambit1 hits stores, it seems like a great time for a few quick updates—including a special present, oooooh.

How to help

A lot of folks have asked me what the best way is to support me and the book. That’s incredibly generous, and I really appreciate it. The short answer is: pre-order the book. My understanding is that pre-orders count as Week 1 sales, and that Week 1 sales are instrumental in determining the success of a book—and in helping ensure the existence of future books.2

Some people ask if one format (ebook vs. paperback) or one vendor (iBooks vs. Amazon, say) is better than another, to which I’d say: whichever you prefer. Seriously, it’s all up to you. Buy the copy that you’ll get the most out of.3

For those of you who’d prefer not to buy online, I totally dig it. I’m not sure yet how broad the paperback distribution will be, but if you want to support your local independent bookstore—and who doesn’t?—you can always ask them to order The Caledonian Gambit for you. They’ll do it! Honest!

Beyond that, if you still want to help, tell other people about the book. Twitter, Facebook, carrier pigeon, “real life”, et cetera.

And, hey, if you really want to go above and beyond, you can ask your local library to order a copy as well. You can certainly ask a librarian about the best way to do that4, but a lot of libraries now have pages on their websites for just such a purpose. For example, here’s the one for my local library in Somerville.

A thousand words

Hey, it’s my birthday! So I decided to get myself a little present—and fortunately, it’s a present that I can share with all of you.

So, The Caledonian Gambit is set against the backdrop of a Galactic Cold War. On one side, the Commonwealth of Independent Systems, a confederation of worlds that have allied for the purposes of self-defense. Arrayed against them, the Illyrican Empire, a former colony of Earth’s long thought lost, but which returned with conquest on its mind.

To me, those conjure specific images built up over the long period I’ve spent working on this book, but I realize that for most people, they don’t carry that kind of weight—you haven’t been living with this world in your head for over a decade. So I wanted to come up with some concrete imagery that I could share with all of you.

Here’s the thing: words I can totally handle. But, as we’ve previously established, art is not my strong suit. So I got in touch with the mysterious Forgotten Towel, who you may know from such podcast logos as Liftoff, Lazy Doctor Who, and Relay FM (not to mention other fantastic designs like the PCalc icon), and I pitched him on an idea: creating the emblems for the Commonwealth and the Imperium.

Let’s just say he succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. I’m so psyched to share what he came up with. So let’s do this:

Commonwealth of Independent Systems

Illyrican Empire

Pretty cool, right? Let’s just sit with those for a second. Really take ’em in. Bask in them. Gorgeous. I’m beyond thrilled with them, and, hey, if you need design work done, I cannot recommend Forgotten Towel enough.

Anyway, I’ve got some exciting plans for these, which I’ll dish on a little closer to the book release.

Mail call

Finally, you might be wondering about the best way to keep up with me. You can always subscribe to this site, of course, and I’m still over on Twitter (though I understand that a lot gets lost in the shuffle over there these days). So I’ve set up a very low-volume mailing list to keep people apprised of updates like when the book gets released, my appearances, and other salient details. I’m going to say “low-volume” again just because I know I hate getting spammy emails, and that isn’t my intent here at all.

I’m also plotting some exclusive things to share with people who sign up for the mailing list, but I haven’t quite worked out all the details yet. (If there are specific things that would encourage you to sign up, let me know! I’m open to suggestions.)

Signing up is easy: there’s a form on the front page of the site, and hey, let’s drop one in right here to make it even easier.

Thanks again for all of your support. I quite literally could not do it without you. Now, let’s buckle down: Just three and a half weeks to go.

  1. You’ve put your pre-order in, right?

  2. I’d like to keep writing more books for you, so the better the sales, the more likely that is to happen!

  3. And, if you want to buy multiple formats, well, I am not going to stop you.

  4. Because librarians are awesome.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Words and pictures

Cover story and Q&A

Over at the Skyhorse Publishing blog, they’ve officially revealed the cover for The Caledonian Gambit, along with a Q&A with me about the book. But there’s a bit of a funny story about the development of the cover that I wanted to share.1

As this is my first novel, when my editor at Talos, Jason Katzman, asked if I had any thoughts about what should be on the cover, I admit that I panicked a little bit. I’d been more or less trained to expect that my input, if any, would be on the minimal side, so I think I just babbled something about spaceships and the opening scene of the book, which features a pivotal space battle.

But of course, having written the scene, I did have some idea of what it looked like. So, later on, I pulled out my iPad and a stylus and made a quick, rough sketch. Very rough. Really, exceedingly rough. I’m kind of embarrassed to share it, but okay, here:

You know, both my mother and my dad’s sister were pretty talented artists. I clearly did not inherit any of those genes.

Fortunately, I managed to remember to at least name some of my favorite artists who’ve done this sort of work, including Ralph McQuarrie and John Harris, when I relayed this to my editor. Even more fortunately, he didn’t laugh at me too much when I sent the sketch over.

Still, I wasn’t prepared for what he came back with. Illustrator Sebastien Hue had somehow managed to pluck a better version of the scene right out of my head and translate it to the page. Rain Saukas turned that illustration into a beautiful cover design that conveys exactly the kind of futuristic feeling that the book shoots for. It’s just beautiful.

I love this cover. It’s amazing, and it’s more than I ever could have hoped for. I’m even more excited for the book to come out, so mark your calendars for May 23.

  1. Because this is a story in which I look pretty silly, which is probably the best kind.

Posted in Writing | Comments Off on Cover story and Q&A

2017: A big year

So, it’s 2017. Which still sounds about as futuristic as 2015 did back in Back to the Future, Part II, but at least we’ve still got a few years before 2020 rolls around, and we all come to terms with that.

For me, 2017’s a big year because hey, look, my first novel comes out! I’m still not entirely convinced this is real, and fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly between now and then. Like, hopefully I don’t get hit by a meteor, because that would put a real damper on everything.

Anyway, you’ll all be able to read the novel later this year1—I’m not 100% sure exactly when, but as soon as I do have confirmation, believe me: I will be shouting it from the rooftops. Which is probably how I end up getting hit by that meteor.

But because of that, I’m going to be doing some public appearances this year, and I figured it would be a good idea to have a place to keep track of that, a) for interested parties and b) so I remember exactly where the hell I’m supposed to be and when. Hence, the new (and currently kind of bare bones) Appearances page at that link there and in the navbar. I’ll be updating it with more events as the year progresses and I confirm my travel plans, and I will include more information about my specific appearances at those events as those too get the thumbs up. So, if you’re interested in catching me in the wild, like one of your Pokémons, you’ll know where I will be.2

  1. I’m very excited about this, but also kind of terrified in a way that only emoji can express: 😱

  2. OR WILL I?

Posted in Appearances | Comments Off on 2017: A big year

Finishing things

You know what? Finishing things is hard. I don’t want to undersell quite how difficult it is: for every project that finds its way to completion—no matter how imperfect—there are dozens, if not hundreds, that lie discarded along the way: some half-built, other nearly constructed but clearly faulty, still more that never really get out of the idea stage.

Despite saying as early as first grade that I wanted to be a writer, I didn’t finish a novel until I was 24. In the years up to that, I’d started countless stories, all of which usually petered out a few thousand words in. (One particularly valorous attempt, while I was studying abroad in Scotland and suffering from extreme homesickness reached maybe ten or twenty thousand words or so before it made its way to the dustbin.) But up until that first book I finished, I never quite had the discipline to make myself finish a story.

This comes to mind because this morning I finished the first draft of a book I’ve been working on for a couple years now. It’s been on and off at times, and I’ve tossed incomplete drafts and started over, then later gone back and reintegrated the material that I cut, and so on and so forth. And though this is the sixth novel that I’ve written to completion1, it’s the first new book that I’ve finished since 2012.2 Because it doesn’t really get any easier.

Years ago, I read an essay of Neil Gaiman’s, in which he related something he was told by legendary author Gene Wolfe:

“You never learn how to write a novel,” he said. “You just learn how to write the novel that you’re writing.”

Damn if that hasn’t stuck with me for the past decade or so.3 Sure, you learn and get better at the craft of writing as you go, but every novel is a different process. Just like the more you cook, the better you’ll probably get at the craft of cooking, but making a new dish is always going to be a bit of a learning experience.

There’s a lot of work left to do on this particular book before it’s ready for anybody else’s eyes, but I’m pretty bullish on it. (Good thing, too! Who wants to finish a book and not like it?) In large part that’s because it’s different from anything else I’ve really put my hand to before and, having come off writing a couple books set in the same world, it was nice to be able to shift gears and prove that I’ve got more than one idea. Hopefully more than one good idea, even, though that remains to be seen.

So: the new book currently weighs in at 92,000-plus words and is tentatively titled All Souls Lost. I’m looking forward to sharing it with all of you—well, when it’s finished for real, anyway.

  1. I mean that in the sense of just getting the whole story down on the page—there’s always more editing and rewriting to be done.

  2. And that book isn’t “done” in the sense that it’s currently with my beta readers, after which it has to go to my agent, who will probably have some thoughts, and so on.

  3. I’m not sure precisely when I read it, and Gaiman’s site doesn’t have a date for it, so that’s just a guess.

Posted in Writing | Comments Off on Finishing things

The Road to Published

Yep, it’s true: I sold a book!

Well, more specifically, my fantastic agents over at JABberwocky, Joshua Bilmes and Sam Morgan, sold my first novel to Talos Press, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing. That book, which is now titled The Caledonian Gambit, began life several years ago (the earliest chapter in my Scrivener file dates from March 7, 2009) and was originally titled Resurrection Men.1 The characters and plot date back even further, to an idea I started cooking up during my senior year of college, but it took me a while to actually turn it into a whole book.

Clearly it was a long road to get to this point, but as I was reminded recently while doing some cleaning in my office, that journey goes back even further. While flipping through a folder of old letters, I stumbled across this:

Book rejection

Yep, that’s a form rejection from my now agent Joshua, dated October 2005, ten years prior to JABberwocky signing me as a client. The submitted novel was the first one I’d finished, a post-apocalyptic fantasy called The High Road.2 It wasn’t the only rejection for that book, so I figured maybe it was time to set that aside and work on something totally new.

It took me a few years after that to get started on the next project; I wrote a few aborted NaNoWriMo novels during that time, but I was mainly busy starting a new career as a professional tech journalist. I couldn’t stay away from fiction forever, though, so I started in on the then-titled Resurrection Men in 2009, and wrapped up my first draft sometime around July 2010. Thus began the even longer, even more arduous process of trying to turn that manuscript into something resembling a publishable novel.

I first met Joshua at Boskone in February 2012, thanks to an introduction from another of his clients, unstoppable author machine Myke Cole. I spent the next three-and-a-half years going back and forth on various drafts with Joshua and Sam until we got to the point where they felt the book was ready for them to sell.3

Which was a nice milestone, but hardly the end of the process. From there it was another several months before we got an offer from the folks at Talos/Skyhorse, and it will be a while yet before the book actually makes it onto shelves, and into your hands.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that if I’ve learned anything from this whole experience, it’s that persistence is the better part of success. It’s easy to get disheartened in this business, but what they say is true: Finish what you start. Be willing to keep going back to the drawing board, no matter how much it hurts. None of that’s a guarantee of success, but the one thing that is 100-percent certain is if you don’t finish that book, if you don’t set aside the rejections and keep sending it out, and if you don’t work on making it the best damn book it can be, then that road to getting published is just a dead end.

  1. A few folks read it under this title, but spoiler: that term no longer exists in the book.

  2. It should probably never see the light of day, though I do have a soft spot for it. And its sequel, *The Road West*. And the half-finished conclusion to that trilogy, *The End of the Road*. See? You write a lot of crap on the way to a salable book.

  3. During which I, among other life changes, got laid off from my tech journalism job and started the very scary reality of working as a freelancer.

Posted in Writing | Comments Off on The Road to Published