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The Explosive Conclusion to Nexus and Crux
Global unrest spreads through the US, China, and beyond. Secrets and lies set off shockwaves of anger, rippling from mind to mind. Riot police battle neurally-linked protesters. Armies are mobilized. Political orders fall. Nexus-driven revolution is here.
Against this backdrop, a new breed of post-human children are growing into their powers. And a once-dead scientist, driven mad by her torture, is closing in on her plans to seize planet’s electronic systems, and re-forge everything in her image.
A new Apex species is here. The world will never be the same.
About the Author
Ramez Naam was born in Cairo, Egypt, and came to the US at the age of 3. He’s a computer scientist who spent 13 years at Microsoft, leading teams working on email, web browsing, search, and artificial intelligence. He holds almost 20 patents in those areas.
Ramez is the winner of the 2005 H.G. Wells Award for his non-fiction book More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement. He’s worked as a life guard, has climbed mountains, backpacked through remote corners of China, and ridden his bicycle down hundreds of miles of the Vietnam coast. He lives in Seattle, where he writes and speaks full time.
[Note: I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley.]
I was instantly captivated by Ramez Naam’s sci-fi debut, Nexus, and have loved reading how his characters and this near-future Earth have responded to the burgeoning transhuman movement. With Apex, Naam picks up the story threads left at the end of book two, Crux, and delivers a highly satisfying conclusion to his series.
Apex is a large book, in both page count and scope. The advanced brain enhancement technology of the NexusOS has been causing a political stir for quite sometime, and it all comes to a head here. There are political coups, conspiracies, terrorism, riots, the rise of AI, and the threat of nuclear warfare.
This is a dense novel, with multiple subplots revolving around the birth of the PLF, a pro-transhumanist terror group, technological heists between China and India stemming from the viral load of the once-human Su-Yong, and disputes over the US presidential election, and so many other moving pieces intersecting these various subplots that the book feels much longer than it really is.
And that, really, is my only gripe. While Amazon lists the page count of this book at 608 pages, it feels twice as long and makes for a bit of a ponderous read. There is just so much happening, and so many characters involved, that it’s hard not to feel the weight and pressure of the story. I recall the prior two books being rather briskly paced and energetic, whereas this one is more of a massive pot-boiler. While it took me some time to get through, it was certainly well worth it. There’s also the issue of information delivery, with segments of the story being told in large chunks and then abandoned for a long while to focus on other issues, before circling back to pick up the threads on something else.
All that said, I did find Apex to being a strong finish to the story with the characters meeting their natural conclusions and, in some cases, a few surprises along the way. I do wish more would have been done to make Sam less one dimensional here, as she’s been a strong character previously with a very interesting background and journey throughout. It’s a bit of a shame to have her reduced here to a simple worrywart, mother figure with little else to do. I was happy to see Ranjan Shankari with a more integral role this time around, though, and Kade’s steps toward becoming a leader was very well done.
Naam is due tremendous applause for keeping all the gears turning in this massive tome. As I said, there is an awful lot happening here, with a lot of spinning plates to keep an eye, but the author does a fabulous job of tying up the various thread and delivering an energetic and compulsively readable finale to not only Apex, but to the series as a whole.
If you’ve been following the Nexus series thus far, then grabbing a copy of Apex is a no-brainer and it brings the series to a close with a rollicking finish replete with serious tension and action. If you haven’t been, then I highly recommend you start at the beginning, where you’ll likely find yourself becoming a fan in no time.
I’m a few days late in reporting this, but over the weekend I learned that Consumption has been nominated for a 2015 Independent eBook Award in the categories of Best Short Story and Best Horror in this year’s eFestival of Words.
You can check out the complete list of nominees here. This is a peer-nominated program, so if whoever nominated me is reading this, thank you so much for enjoying Consumption and thinking so highly of it. I’m glad the work stuck with you!
I know it’s probably a bit cheesy, but the phrase “it’s an honor just being nominated” is certainly apt, and I cannot even begin to express how incredible it is to find my name alongside a bunch of other writer’s whose work I enjoy and admire. Somehow I am getting lumped in with the likes of Hugh Howey, David Gatewood, Jason Gurley, William Meikle, Carol Davis, Joe Konrath, Joseph Nassise, Lindsay Buroker, Iain Rob Wright, Therin Knite, and so many others. This is a ridiculous thrill for me!
Award winners will be announced in August, which gives readers plenty of time to devour my ‘Chopped by way of Lovecraft’ culinary-horror aperitif. You can find it on Amazon for purchase or borrowing through Kindle Unlimited or the Kindle Owners Lending Library now.
I had the pleasure of reading Weapons of Mass Deception earlier this month, and really enjoyed what David Bruns and J.R. Olson did here. It’s a finely-tuned military thriller on the bleeding-edge of today’s global politics. There’s a great deal of action, and most of all, heart, with solid characters across the board. You can read my review of this title here, check out their press release below, and order a copy of this just-released title at Amazon right now.
Happy weekend reading!
TWIN CITIES VETERANS RELEASE MILITARY THRILLER ABOUT NUCLEAR TERRORISM
Iranian nuclear program, rogue intelligence operatives, Navy SEALs – all with a Minnesota touch.
U.S. Navy veterans David Bruns and J. R. Olson have released their co-authored military thriller, Weapons of Mass Deception. Based on the premise that Saddam Hussein really did possess nuclear weapons–which he smuggled into Iran before the 2003 US invasion of Iraq–their story weaves historical fact and technical accuracy about military operations into a tale that could be ripped from today’s headlines. Both authors are long-time residents of the Twin Cities Metro and their novel features local landmarks in some of the key chapters.
Bruns, a former US Navy submarine officer and corporate executive with a science fiction series to his name, provided much of the writing, publishing, and marketing expertise to their creative joint venture. Olson’s 25-year career as a naval intelligence officer specializing in human intel or HUMINT, took him to war zones in Somalia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf, as well as a stint as the US Naval Attaché to Finland. His experiences helped to build the plot for Weapons of Mass Deception and ensured technical realism in their storytelling.
Bob Mayer, West Point graduate, former Green Beret, and New York Times bestselling author, states: “These two Navy veterans have put together a ripping yarn about modern-day nuclear terrorism. I was hooked from the very first page.”
Both Bruns and Olson are graduates of the United States Naval Academy and the idea for their partnership grew out of an April 2014 speaking engagement to the Minnesota chapter of the Naval Academy Parent’s Association where they were invited to talk about their careers. At the conclusion of their respective stories, a member of the audience suggested the two collaborate on a novel.
Now, one year later, Weapons of Mass Deception is available in print and ebook at Amazon.com (http://bit.ly/buy-wmd) and at BN.com (http://bit.ly/WMD-on-BN). For more information, visit www.davidbruns.com.
This post is going to look pretty heavily at the business end of my writing affairs, so if this is of no concern to you, feel free to move on (no hard feelings!).
Last week, my latest novel, Emergence, released. This one is a sequel to my prior novel, Convergence, and I thought I could use the nature of this series as a solid base to build my audience. So, my promotional efforts were largely focused on Convergence, since it’s Book 1, rather than the newly published sequel – although, Emergence did get some central attention in a few areas.
In order to ramp things up a bit, a few writer friends, some of whom were also collaborators on the No Way Home anthology, were kind enough to interview me for their blogs – and, by all means, check out their work as well!
Nadine Matheson at Spectrum Books: http://www.spectrumbooks.co.uk/#!Spectrum-Books-interviews-Michael-Patrick-Hicks/cu6k/55462a000cf24874170861ad
The ARC and Reviews
Here’s where things got a little more difficult.
I had hoped to launch Emergence with a handful of reviews (I had hoped for between 5 and 10), but the final ebook files came in a little bit later than I had anticipated and I was really itching to make my May 4 launch date. This only gave my reviewers and newsletter subscribers, who all got a free ARC, maybe an entire week to read and write their reviews. And that was if they all dropped everything to help me out, which is a pretty unfair and unrealistic expectation.
Next time around, I’ll plan on getting ARCs out sooner and shifting the release window if necessary. Although I didn’t hit my hoped-for numbers I did get four reviews pretty early on, which were spread out between May 6 – 8, and the early response has been very positive. I know there’s also at least one more on the way soon, too.
The Promotional Nitty-Gritty
In an effort to drive more readers toward these two books, I ran a week-long free run on Convergence and priced Emergence at 99c. A short while back, I made the decision to make Amazon my exclusive retailer so I could try out KDP Select.
One of the big perks of KDP is the Kindle Countdown, as well as the option of setting a free run. I also layered a few advertisements, kicking the week off with freebooksy on Monday, and bargainbooksy on Tuesday for Emergence. In between, there were ads in Book Barbarian, Betty BookFreak, SciFi365.net, and assorted others sites via eBookBooster.
The freebooksy advertisement on Convergence paid off immediately, with “sales” climbing throughout the day and hitting a peak of 2,889 downloads. The drop-off in sales from there was pretty steady as the week wore on, but the book was still getting downloaded for free into the early hours of Saturday morning before Amazon was able to revert the title back to its normal price in all regions.
I’m really happy with the results of the free promo, and by week’s end nearly 7,000 copies had been downloaded. The promo also helped push Convergence into some foreign territories for the very first time, with buyers popping up in Germany, France, India, Brazil, Australia, and even one in Italy and Japan! Safe to say, this is the largest reach my debut has enjoyed to date.
On the ranking end of things, these downloads pushed Convergence into the #44 slot in Amazon’s Top 100 Free store, and landed it in the #1 slot for both the Science Fiction category, as well as the Cyberpunk and Hard Science Fiction subcategories.
Emergence also performed above my expectations, which I admittedly tend to keep pretty low, particularly since I’m pretty new to the indie author game. Although the click-through rate between those who bought Convergence and also bought Emergence was very low, the sales were satisfactory enough. In fact, during this week-long release window, Emergence actually outsold the entire first year’s worth of Convergence sales.
Emergence started out strong on Monday with an even 60 sales. Tuesday, though, actually outperformed this, which I’m chalking up to the bargainbooksy ad. Unfortunately, sales had a pretty steep fall-off from there, dropping nearly by half every day following. Tuesday was the high-water mark with 69 paid sales, then 36, 20, 13, 6, and so on as the week continued.
Still, I can’t complain. Emergence made it into the Hot New Release charts for Cyberpunk titles and was even sitting at #1 there for a while (at the time of this writing, it’s #8), and has been pretty tenacious in holding on to its ranking in the Top 100 for the Cyberpunk subcategory. At one point it even broke into the Top 10 for its subgenre, and appeared on the subcategory of Genetic Engineering.
Another benefit of being enrolled in KDP is that it gives Kindle owners access to the Lending Library, and also makes it eligible for borrowing through Kindle Unlimited.
While these are not record-breaking numbers by any means, it does look like the promotion caught the attention of borrowers, particularly in the days following the sale’s end. This past week and early Monday morning (the time of this writing) has seen a handful of borrows for Emergence, and even a couple more sales for both titles.
As an added bonus, my perpetually under-performing short horror story, Consumption, even got a little bit of attention as a result of the promo and got a few borrows (five, to be precise). It’s been difficult to find an audience organically with that particular story, and I don’t do much in the way of advertising for it, so to see a little bit of activity surrounding it was a nice surprise. I’ve taken the liberty of raising the price point for this one and will be running a countdown deal on it next month (likely unadvertised, since much of my promo money went to scheduling ads for Convergence).
Furthermore, not only is Emergence still hanging on to its ranking in the Cyberpunk subcategory, but Convergence has even reappeared there in the wake of its return to the paid store. The borrows and post-sale purchases has put it (again, at the time of this writing) into the Top 50 Cyberpunk books in Amazon, and even caught an additional five-star review.
When I decided to enroll in KDP in March, it was in anticipation of the release of Emergence and my plans for promoting the DRMR novels. All in all, I’m pretty happy with the pay-off and am eager to see how the rest of the month goes. This was a solid release week, and the fairly steady growth in borrows gives me hope that there is an emerging audience (forgive the pun) that is finding and enjoying my work.
Now, back to writing my next novel, this one for the Apocalypse Weird line of books.
Patriot Games meets The Fourth Protocol in this riveting story of modern-day nuclear terrorism.
In 2003, the world watched as coalition forces toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, then searched—unsuccessfully—for the weapons of mass destruction they were certain existed.
None were ever found, but they do exist. On the eve of the invasion, a handful of nuclear weapons was smuggled out of Iraq and hidden in the most unlikely of places—Iran.
Now, as the threat of WMDs fades into a late-night punch line, a shadowy Iranian faction waits for the perfect moment to unleash Saddam Hussein’s nuclear legacy on the West.
Brendan McHugh, a Navy SEAL, meets a mysterious Iranian diplomat on a raid in Iraq. His former girlfriend and FBI linguist discovers a link to Iran among a group of captured jihadis. And pulling it all together is a CIA analyst who can’t forget about Saddam Hussein’s WMDs—even if it costs him his career.
[Note: I received an ARC of this novel from the authors in exchange for an honest review.]
Weapons of Mass Deception, a collaborative effort between two Navy guys, is a top-notch military thriller and one that I hope is only the beginning of a new series.
The book is filled with as much heart as it is technical know-how and first-hand experience from the authors in the realm of naval operations and military intelligence.
There is a lot of depth and many moving pieces to the narrative, which concerns Iraq’s fabled weapons of mass destruction. In the story, Saddam’s nuclear arms were very much real and smuggled out of Iraq and into Iran just days before the US invasion in 2003. What follows is a sprawling narrative involving a trio of Naval Academy graduates that the writers track across more than a decade as they settle into their various career paths and remain united by the central terrorist operations of a rogue Iranian Quds Force agent.
Co-authors Bruns and Olson bring a lot of knowledge to the table, having operated in the trenches of the US Navy and Commander Olson’s twenty-one years as a naval intelligence officer and U.S. Naval Attaché to Finland. There’s definitely an “insiders” feel to the level of detail and machinations in both the US Armed Forces and intelligence community, as well as the global operations of a terrorist network hellbent on achieving nuclear Armageddon.
There is also an added layer of heart thanks to the interpersonal relationships between the trio of US Naval Academy graduates and the rocky on-again, off-again love story between Brendan and Liz, the former a SEAL and the latter now working for the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. As the authors chart the lives of these two, as well as fellow Academy classmate turned CIA analyst Don Riley, over more than a decade of their careers, we really get to know each of them very well. The authors also spend a considerable amount of time developing their terrorists as well, particular Rafiq, which helps prevent the bad guys from being overly-simplistic, one dimensional stock villains. There’s a great amount of character development and depth across the board, along with a healthy dose of honor and mission-driven purpose on both sides of the aisle.
Fans of Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, or Nelson DeMille should feel right at home with this story of lost nukes, Navy SEALS, intelligence agency operatives, and up-to-minute global politics. This is a terrific addition to the line-up of military thrillers and should not be missed. Highly recommended.
Today is the last day to buy both of my cyberpunk thrillers for a grand total of 99c!
Buy CONVERGENCE (A DRMR Novel, Book 1) FOR FREE. amzn.to/1E2ZphG
Buy EMERGENCE (A DRMR Novel, Book 2) for only 99c: amzn.to/1GDsFx8
Emergence finally released this week, and it’s looking like my hard work has paid off! The book is currently ranking near the top of the charts in Amazon’s Sci-Fi > Cyberpunk category, as well as that category’s Hot New Releases chart. To say I’m thrilled is a bit of an understatement!
But, man, getting to this release week? It’s been a bit of a slog. A good slog, but a slog nonetheless.
Now that I’ve come out on the other side of another finished product, here’s some random thoughts on the book, in no particular order.
Your mileage may vary. For me, writing was Emergence was, mostly, a lot of joy. This is a story I had in mind for quite a while, and one that, in order to get to, I had to write Convergence first. That book lays the basic groundwork for a lot of the things that happen in Emergence and sets up the characters. In Emergence, I’m able to take those characters and knock them around, manipulate them, leave them bruised and bloodied in a way that I couldn’t necessarily do in Book 1. Book 2 is where I get to go apeshit on everybody.
Emergence is also a lot more action-oriented, and the stakes are larger and more personal. I also wrote this one as more of a chase thriller, so it’s got a little bit of a different feel than the prior entry. It’s sort of like the Alien/Aliens dynamic to the sequel framework, and I wanted to push these characters into harsher directions with big, hard-hitting impacts.
2. Control Your Authorial Voice.
Every writer puts a bit of themselves into their characters, or puts pieces of themselves on the page (hopefully not literally). So while writing this book was fun, I also couldn’t get too comfortable, and I had to rein in a lot of my own influences that got laid down on the pages and in the character because those words weren’t necessarily true to the characters themselves. Sometimes my own personality worked its way into the story or thoughts of the leads, and it was a bit of corrupting influence.
When Emergence went through developmental edits, my editor, Laura, pointed out something to me that took me by a bit of a surprise. There’s a scene in the book where Mesa is going through a seedier part of Nevada, populated by gamblers and hookers, and she remarked that she could practically hear the crotch crickets. Laura noted, rightly, that isn’t really something that Mesa would say or think. It’s the kind of off-hand remark I might make, though. But not Mesa.
A little too much of me bled through. Yeah, I made Mesa, but she’s become very much her own person, separate from me, in my own mind. And while she can be foul-mouthed at times, I’m not so sure that she’s so blatantly vulgar.
So, there were a few instances where I needed to reign in my own peculiarities as an individual who was writing, and let the characters talk for themselves.
3. Writing Is Learning
Seems a bit like a given, but let me elaborate a little.
There’s certain rules to writing – things like tense shift and maintaining point of view. Convergence was a first-person work, and in that first draft I shit all over things like keeping it directed in first-person. Thus, there was a good amount of heavy lifting when it came time to edit. The editing experience with that book also gave me a huge list of no-no’s and things to avoid – phrases like “it was” or a list of crutch words, such as “like” or “just,” two massive crutch-words in my first drafts.
The editing process in Book 1, taken as a whole, paid off a lot when I was ready to get to work on draft two of Book 2. I could let the first draft be bad, because the writing was the most important part; just getting the work done was my primary focus. When it came time to edit, though, I felt a step ahead of the game, having gotten schooled on the ins and outs of content edits the prior time around. I was able to rewrite more effectively before the manuscript was sent off to my editors, which made their feedback all the more critical and necessary. I wasn’t hampering them with petty stuff, and they were able to focus on and scrutinize the more important things, like structure and content, and it helped make the line edits stronger.
4. Stick The Landing
Endings are important. Some books just kind of fizzle out, or come to an abrupt ending. In the first draft of Emergence, I really rushed the ending, which was stupid. It needed to have a proper come-down and a fitting resolution to what had come before.
Laura smartly suggested that I take the dual concepts that had formed the original ending and elaborate on them, giving them each their own chapter. And she was dead-on correct. The new finale is so much stronger, and such a better fit to the book itself. I’m really proud of how well this revision worked, and it prompted me to introduce a new character that could potentially have an impact once the dust settles a bit more and I start working on book 3.
While Emergence is book 2 in a series, one of the most crucial things I’ve done over the last year is getting involved with other projects. Writing, and the entire process that goes along with it on that path to publication, is time-consuming. Saying no to things – even beneficial things – can be awfully tempting. Let me tell you, though, that saying “yes” can be even far more rewarding.
The DRMR series is likely going to be the backbone of my early career, but I also want to have a number of other, smaller, strong works out there. The key to that is to dabble in other projects and dip your toes into unfamiliar waters.
When Lucas Bale approached me to take part in the No Way Home anthology that he was curating, saying yes was a no-brainer. I was enjoying Bale’s solo work and when I got word of what he was intending with the collection, I knew I had to take part. My story was a bit risky and has been largely well-received, if not a touch controversial given the current political winds in America. Taking part in Bale’s second curation, due out later this year, was an obvious and easy choice.
Last month I was invited to take part in another anthology, this time revolving around urban fantasy. I had a great idea for it, but unfortunately I absolutely did have to say no due to saying yes for another project – writing a book for the Apocalypse Weird series (you can read my announcement on that here).
The key, I think, is to make your name visible across a few different platforms and try to hook in various readers through a number of quality projects.
This is also important because it helps keep me from getting burnt out on writing the same characters in the same series time and time again. I need to do some non-series work in order to dive back into the DRMR books fully refreshed and recharged. And hopefully you, and plenty of others, will join me in these other adventures!
- Buy CONVERGENCE (A DRMR Novel, Book 1) FOR FREE. amzn.to/1E2ZphG
- Buy EMERGENCE (A DRMR Novel, Book 2) for 99c: amzn.to/1GDsFx8