Author Archives: Sean Monaghan

About Sean Monaghan

Writer. Voracious reader.

Tombs Under Vaile – How to actually buy it.

tuv smI started my last post with the phrase “Despite the fact that I’m a fair writer… I do still have so much to learn about self-promotion”

And then went on about my new book.

Completely failing to mention anything like, oh, where to buy it, how much it costs, what it’s about, which formats or even a snippet so you could see if you might enjoy the book.

Sheesh. Proving myself right in a kind of very circular way.

So here we go.

ebook is $3.99. This link takes you through to a variety of retailers (Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, etc.), where you can purchase the book. It’s one of those Universal Book Links provided through Draft2Digital. If you’re publishing books, D2D is a pretty good platform/aggregator.

Print book is $13.99, plus shipping, from various places, but Amazon is probably the easiest. Your local independent bookstore could even order you a copy. I’m a big advocate of supporting your local bookstore.

Tombs Under Vaile is the sixth in my Karnish River Navigations series (that link leads to a little page about the other books – you’ll see I have yet to update those other covers).

 

Tombs Under Vaile – blurb:

The giant stone block of Vaile Max prison stands on the Karnish plains. Impregnable and escape-proof. Prisoner Cole Dugald waits, release imminent. He wants no trouble. But when authorities demand help from investigator Flis Kupe, trouble looms. For everyone. On a collision course with deadly psychopaths, Cole and Flis must team up to survive. A Karnish River Navigations novel that expands the world with unexpected revelations.

 

And opening chapters

Tombs Under Vaile

Chapter One

Cole Dugald stared at the plasteen wall. Glints of light reflected back at him from myriad scratches. The same view he’d had for the last six years.

A view he might still have for another week. If luck played on his side.

Not that he’d had much luck. Not ever.

A cell. One high, barred window. A flat bunk that also served as his daytime seat. In the corner, a tiny commode, with a washbasin above.

A gray door with a tiny air vent. Air just a shade too cool. Some kind of stale smell hanging. The door had two circles where he had to place his hands anytime he needed escorting some place. He knew the drill.

Microscopic cameras embedded everywhere. Recording his every move, interpreting his every thought. Some AI somewhere breaking all his actions down into motivation and intent.

Even a hint of thinking of making an escape could bring three electro-lashes. The guards relished that kind of thing.

Three times a week he showered in the communal block, when all the other prisoners were back in their own cells. Dugald did not get to mix with the others. Not anymore.

He wore the same thing every day; orange overalls with black, soft-soled moccasins. The overalls had a silver PRISONER legend across the back, shoulder to shoulder.

Nothing ambiguous about the outfit.

From outside, through the window. came the clanking, whirring sounds of machinery. The prison’s refinery and power equipment. Not shielded nor sound insulated. Why bother? It was only prisoners who could hear it.

From the corridor outside the cell came the smells of collective humanity. Sweat and excrement. These people worked out–not much else to do here–and ate well.

Perhaps ate plenty was a better way to put it. No one in Vaile Max ate well. Maybe the governor and the guards. Not the prisoners. The slop they got served came from a recipe that had to date back thousands of years. Something like oatmeal, ground beef, oil and carrots. Maybe some herbs if the cooks got lucky.

Bland and disgusting. After two thousand two hundred and eighteen days, Dugald barely noticed anymore.

Dugald stood just over two meters tall. He worked out in the prison’s gym when he could. Worked out in his cell when he had to.

He weighed in at a hundred and forty kilos even. Some pockets of fat he couldn’t shift, but lean enough that people stayed out of his way.

Mostly.

Fewer than a hundred and fifty prisoners were housed here. Vaile Max’s capacity exceeded two thousand. That made for a whole lot of empty cells.

Dugald rolled his shoulders. A few tingles in there. Four days since he’d gotten to the gym. Punishment for failing to answer a question quickly enough.

Not many ways the guards could punish a prisoner, anyway. It wasn’t as if they had a lot left to lose already. Not the men and women incarcerated here.

It was the little things. Toilet paper. Gym time. A simple warm blanket. Easy privileges to remove.

One week left on his sentence. Dugald just had to make it through that.

Seven days.

One hundred and forty-seven hours.

Paulding’s day ran to twenty-one hours, which he still didn’t feel he’d adapted to. Back home on Kulanath the day was a shade over twenty-four hours. Closer to natural human biology.

People adapted. But Dugald had never planned on even needing that. The trip should have been a quick in and out. Less than a day on the surface. Collect the artifacts and depart.

Which all had made it look bad when the cops found him with a ship full of contraband.

And now here he was. Counting down to his release. One week. Seven days.

Assuming nothing went wrong.

And something always went wrong.

 

Chapter Two

Flis Kupe stood on the end of the short vatwood jetty, the wind flitting through her hair. The sun sent coruscating glints from ripples on the water’s surface, and warmed her back. The vatwood’s surface was gray and cracked with age. Still, it felt solid.

The water that lapped at the uprights was locked into a box a hundred meters on each side, with old pitted concrete b-walls holding it separate from the surrounding flat ground. This part of Karnth, the plains rolled on for dozens of kilometers, with only a few jacarandas and eucalypts in copses, breaking up the monotony, stretching for the sky.

Mostly the plains had old corn and wheat fields. The ancient crops were generations down and growing wild now. A haze of sweet pollen drifted above the plants’ tips.

Nearby, a new autotug cruised along the canal. Approaching the lock. The autotug had a bridge probably three meters above the waterline, painted bright yellow, with numerous antennas a connectors. Its engine hummed.

The canal had grassy banks along this section. Just five meters wide. The autotug would just fit. It should be pushing just one barge.

The boxed in water formed a quiet holding place for goods and supplies. Back in the day, the tiny harbor would have held several barges, all awaiting transport to the markets in Turneith, or smaller Vaile, which lay much closer.

Two sturdy lock gates separated the canal from the area. Both stood closed, the water level within the box three meters higher than the canals. It gave the homestead a degree of separation from the canal. More difficult for pirates to plunder the place.

The heightened water level also gave access to lifting for the transfers, and as a backup supply for irrigation. The land around here, to the east of the canal, was higher than to the west, but the canal ran parallel to the rise for another kilometer before entering transit locks for the more northern farms.

A retrofitted system here had allowed the farm to continue to operate. Back in the day.

Nowadays, with so little trade, there were only occasional visitors, and even fewer trade barges.

Behind Flis, up on a small graded rise, stood a two-story white-walled homestead. Steep roofed, with some attic windows, and a long veranda along the front. A few bright flowering potplants stood along the veranda’s front edge, between the railing uprights.

The home of her and Grae’s friends Angel Guthman and Dae Deacon, and their three kids, Ben, Koi and Idz. Friends by way of Flis and Grae having helped them out with a problem.

Angel’s brother Karl had found himself thrown in jail, alibi broken, after a couple of renegades had robbed his store. The renegades had wound up dead a few days later.

It had turned out that the other ‘friend’ who’d provided Karl’s alibi had been in on the robbery in the first place.

A complicated case, that took a whole lot of digging, but Karl had been released, and Flis and Grae now had new dinner party companions.

That first dinner party had been a doozy. Homesteaders from as far as a hundred kilometers away had come. They’d brought so much food and drink that Angel and Dae hadn’t had to synthesize anything for weeks.

The autotug’s engines changed pitch as it slowed to turn into the lock. A white bird took to the air, darting away from the canal’s edge and swooping by Flis. She ducked instinctively.

“Are you on edge over there?” someone said.

Flis turned and saw Grae, her business partner and occasional other, standing at the land end of the jetty. They had a complicated relationship, but it worked. Somehow they kept their personal relationship separate from the business relationship.

Their little investigative business did all right. It paid the bills and kept them both alert and engaged after their time offworld in the military.

Flis had grown up on Paulding, even deeper into the canal lands than Angel and Dae.

“On edge?” Flis said.

“Saw you duck for that bird.” Grae wore black trousers, work boots and a light casual shirt. They could have been twins.

“Funny. I’m relaxed. Just waiting for this delivery.” Angel and Dae had ordered some new pumping equipment their house couldn’t manufacture. They were off in Turneith, working on a new financial arrangement and had asked Flis and Grae to housemind for a couple of days.

“Only because this delivery’s coming,” Dae had said. “Otherwise things would be–”

“It’s fine,” Flis had told them. “We could use a break.”

The lock’s outer doors groaned as they swept open. The autotug slowed.

“Glad you’re relaxed,” Grae said, stepping onto the jetty. “It’s been a good break here.”

“‘Been’?”

“We’ve got a job.” Grae held up his rippletalk, the little handheld device that connected them to the outside world.

“A job? Couldn’t that wait?” The time at the homestead had been so relaxing. Quiet, dark at night, easy. She’d spent hours just reading in a recliner, shaded from the sun out on the house’s back verandah. Some moments it seemed like they should sell up and move to the country.

“It can’t wait,” Grae said. He handed over the rippletalk with its display wide open, showing all the details. “Escaped prisoner. They’re on a timeline to get him back.”

 

Chapter Three

Cole Dugald stared at the cell wall. Light sparkles reflected back at him from scratches in the plasteen.

The same view he’d had for the last six years.

A view he might still have for another six days.

If luck played on his side.

Not that he’d had much luck.

Not ever.

“Dugald!” a guard called from outside the cell. “Assume the position.”

 

You get the idea.  If you enjoyed this and want to keep reading find the book available here.

 

Thanks. Long post, I know. If you made it this far, let me know in the comments – I’ll send you a download code (which I’ll say I’ll limit to ten, and I’ll remove this if I give away ten. Pretty safe, last time I did this I gave away two. And one of those was to a good friend. Still, it’s probably good to fumble and stumble along this marketing thing. Eventually I might learn how to do it all proper like).

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Tombs Under Vaile – new SF novel out

tuv smDespite the fact that I’m a fair writer (some say I should scream about all the awards and publications, but I still have so much to learn) and that I do get plenty of my stories and novels out there (eighteen indie publications this year, including six novels), I do still have so much to learn about self-promotion. Unlike say Kent Wayne, who is doing a brilliant job of self-promotion, with his Echo series. Or Terry Mixon, or Thomas K. Carpenter, or just about any author who isn’t me.

Still. I’ve put my new novel out. Sixth book in the Karnish River Navigation series (which can be read in any order). I’ve rebranded too – see my recent post on where I rebranded my Captain Arlon Stoddard series, though in this case I’ve yet to go back and redo the covers of the previous five Karnish novels.

So it’s a new layout, a slightly different concept with cover art (this one by Ilya Shalkov | Dreamstime.com). Not sure I know what I’m doing yet. There are professional designers always making fabulous covers for my contemporaries, and I’m just me, muddling along and slowly figuring things out.

I love the series. Flis is such a fun character to write. It’s neat to take it in new directions. I have another novel in the series complete, just needing that final tune up and tidy before getting it out.

Now that I’ve posted this, I’m feeling energized for the series again. I might even get started on another novel.

Bad Advice and knowing what’s coming next

blogtriteim1Seems to me that I’m spending all my writing time working to get over and unlearn all the bad advice from years (decades) of well-intentioned suggestions, poorly considered courses and lengthy apparently learned blog posts.
One thing that I just remembered was a piece of advice which went something like “Finish a writing session at a point where you know what comes next” and associated with that was one like “Stop halfway through a sentence. That way when you sit down again, you just carry on with that sentence”. The reason I remembered was because I finished up a writing session knowing absolutely nothing about what was going to come next.
Not a thing.
I realize that I’ve been doing this for awhile now. Stopping the writing session when I don’t know what comes next. Frankly, my writing is a whole lot more fun too. I remind myself that it’s no special jewel or flower. It’s just a story. Entertainment. And the first person I’m entertaining is myself.
Looking back, I’ve tried the ‘knowing what comes next’ thing and just found myself actually struggling to remember what it was I’d thought of when I sit down at the next session. What was it? She was running toward something, and what’s-his-name was doing that other thing, but what was the whole point? Or something like that.
And a half a sentence? Sheesh. I’ve always ended up just deleting the half and starting a new sentence.
Somehow, after years of angst with this, I’ve finally reached a point of just stopping. Stopping when I don’t know what next. Often times that ends up being the end of a chapter. I might type in “Chapter Twenty Three” ready to go for the next session.
Not one idea what that’s going to be.
I also realize that this does not exist in isolation. It’s paired with a whole lot of other things I’ve been learning, as I fill those gaps of unlearning.
One is cycling. I read back through the work as I go. That’s enough for a post of its own.
Another is ‘being there’. I spotted this in a short essay by James Patterson (at least that’s where I thought I’d seen it, looking back now, the essay I was thinking of doesn’t mention this). Reading through, that is, cycling back, I play at putting myself in my character’s situation. Attempting to ‘be there’. What’s her experience of the place? What’s his reaction to that last thing?
It turns out my subconscious is ready and raring to go. Those next lines and next events show up. I get out of my own way, entertain myself and let the story grow.
I don’t know what’s coming next, and the writing is a whole lot more fun.

Beyond the Stars: Unimagined Realms: a space opera anthology

IMG_20180826_151033My deep space adventure story “The Old Fighting Goose” appears in the latest of the Beyond The Stars series, subtitled Unimagined Realms.

I’m stoked to be sharing the contents page with some wonderful writers. Plenty of bestsellers among them, so you know you’re in for some good reads.

The book is on special for the next few days at .99c (until the end of the month), so grab a copy quick. $2.99 from then on.

The other authors are:

 

David Bruns

T.R. Cameron

Marion Deeds

Patrice Fitzgerald (also the editor)

G.S. Jennson

Joseph Robert Lewis

J.E. Mac

Craig Martelle

Chelsea Pagan

R.A. Rock

Mark Sarney

 

G. S. Jennsen made a nice universal Amazon link for the book here
Here are other links:
Also a shout out to Ellen Campbell for her awesome editing.

Rebranding as if I know what I’m doing

I write in a few series. I like the novels and have fun in the writing of them. I’ve attempted a few branding things, but like many aspects of this indie publishing business, I’ve got a lot to learn. A whole lot.

I got some feedback on my covers recently so my new publications are gaining a different look. I then had a go at updating some of my older covers. Specifically for my deep space pulp adventures in the Captain Arlon Stoddard series. There are just three books so far, with a fourth possibly out later this year.

I like the new look. Smaller author name, same layout, even a strip with the series name at the top. I’m sure that any professional (or even some amateur) designers could find a dozen or a hundred (or more) things I’ve done wrong.

I’ve also updated the blurbs. Aiming for more active language and hype. Funny thing, looking back on those now, I can already see some things that need to be changed. Ah well, I’m getting there.

Anyway, the series of three is out now as ebooks and in print. The latest one, Ship Tracers is hefty by my standards – most of my novels come in around 60,000 words, and this one’s 76,000.

cas screen grab

Another thing on the branding is pricing. I’ve pushed these to $3.99 for the ebooks, and kept the print book prices as low as I can manage (Asteroid Jumpers is $14.99, Ice Hunters is $10.99 [yes, it’s shorter than 60,000 words] and Ship Tracers is $18.99).

The fourth book in the series is Core Runners, and that’s about as kooky as the series gets. So far. I’m enjoying the characters, so chances are there will be a fifth, and maybe even a sixth book. Maybe even more. Next year and on.

Right now I need to go back and look at redoing the covers for my Karnish River Navigations series. When I did those, I thought they looked great. Now, not so much. That will keep me busy for the next little while.

(Cover images copyright by Luca Oleastri (Asteroid Jumpers), Algol (Ice Hunters) and Victor Habbick (Ship Tracers)

Series on Amazon – here

Series at Smashwords – here

And available at your favorite ebook retailer.

Learning to trust my sub-conscious

Deuterium Shine POD cover3I’m deep in the heart of a writing a novel at the moment. Tritium Blaze, book two of The Jupiter Files series (Deuterium Shine, the first book should be out later in the year, then book two sometime next year. Cover image by Philcold | Dreamstime).

I write into the dark, as in, I have no outline (see Dean Wesley Smith’s take on this).

Smith talks about how the sub-conscious, having been exposed to ‘story’ since childhood, knows how story works. If a writer lets the sub-conscious out to play, it knows where the story is going. Even if the conscious mind doesn’t.

It seems, even, that it’s useful to get the conscious mind well out of the way. It can be a know-nothing spoiler. Even a saboteur.

I’ve written into the dark for many years now. Sometimes that means I have to go back in earlier in the story and add something. You know, if a character knows how to fly a jet, but it hasn’t been mentioned yet. A sentence or two in an earlier chapter can do wonders.

Now with this novel I’ve had to smile. Without giving too many spoilers, my character’s spacehip has been in dry-dock getting refurbished from the outset. Now that’s kind of odd, since this is hard science-fiction and my characters need their ship to, you know, do space stuff.

And then, last night, as I’m writing–40,000 words into something that will probably be about 60,000–the reason became apparent and clear and absolutely serving the story.

I am so looking forward to writing the next chapters.

My sub-conscious set it up from the very outset. It’s taken years of training my conscious mind to keep out of the way and last night I really felt like I’d made another little step toward that.

 

Trusty old submissions tracking book.

trusty tracking booktrusty tracking book interior pageEver since I’ve been writing and submitting manuscripts to publishers, I’ve needed a way to keep track of those submissions. I’ve been around long enough that those first submissions went as a printed manuscript, inside a full-sized envelope, with postage on a slightly smaller envelope inside. To match the very physical nature of this, my tracking system also exploited the benefits of paper and ink. An accounting book, to be precise. And mostly pencil, since it lends itself to updates more readily than ink.

I’ve continued the practice into the present day. I’ve just come to the last page of my second book.

I do subscribe to Duotrope, which has a built-in tracking system for stories. That might be the way to go. But I do have another blank book all set. Starting next week, when my latest story will be ready to venture out into the wilds.