Hell’s Bells, People…

Yesterday, this little nugget of news came across my radar:

This is one of the dumbest things I’ve heard of lately, aside from Rick Santorum running for president again, and my gut reaction is that pretty much anything fundamentalist Christian conservative lobby groups such as this and the American Family Association that oversees the no-doubt inflated figure of One Million Moms are against, I’m for. Like, you know, human equality, or, I dunno, cakes for anyone willing to buy them from people who make cakes for a living, but whatever…

As Comic Book Resources reports:

The petition describes the show as “a new series which will glorify Satan as a caring, likable person in human flesh.”

“The series will focus on Lucifer portrayed as a good guy, ‘who is bored and unhappy as the Lord of Hell,'” it continues. “He resigns his throne, abandons his kingdom and retires to Los Angeles, where he gets his kicks helping the LAPD punish criminals.”

Well, Heaven forbid… Conversely, can you imagine the outrage of these twelve angry moms if their biblical god were ever depicted accurately on screen? I can’t help but note that The History Channel’s adaptation of The Bible, by all accounts, seemed oddly free of genocide, rape, slavery, bigamy, incest, and anything even remotely challenging or provocative. But, I suppose it made Joel Osteen smile and likely bought him another mansion for all of his consultancy work.

By the way, if you’re interested in some solid figures and a fun look at who’s the bigger dickbag in the Bible, might I recommend Steve Well’s Drunk With Blood – God’s Killings In The Bible for some light reading?

Needless to say, as I did with the release of the nonsensical Clean Reader app, I have some thoughts on this ill-conceived and derisive attempt at religiously-motivated censorship pandering. As Newsarama notes, this same group has a history of trying to bend entertainment media across their knee, and in 2012 lobbied against both Marvel and DC Comics for their inclusiveness of gay characters in their comic books.

So, as I’m wont to do in times such as these, I had a brief twitter rant, shown below.

Now, from what I can understand, the Fox TV adaptation of Lucifer strays a good deal far away from the comic book source material. And perhaps much to the shock of the pitchfork, fire, and brimstone crowd, this is a fictional television drama based on a fictional comic book. But, even if it weren’t, that wouldn’t change the fact that at the core of it all is a fictional character that exists only in literature and other entertainment and media-based venues.

Lucifer is not real. Demons are not real. Supernatural is not a documentary, and, sad to say, End of Days was not just another day in the life and times of Arnold Schwarzenegger. In point of fact, the TV series Lucifer is every bit as valid an interpretation of the iconic, and public domain, character of Lucifer as the Bible, Dante’s Inferno, or Milton’s Paradise Lost.

In fact, as near as I can tell, this petition is not really about Lucifer at all. It’s more about the difficulties of being a parent and opting to shrug off any bit of responsibility for raising sensible children in favor of demanding society bow to your will instead.

Apparently, diligently attempting to court controversy is much simpler than, oh, say, changing the god damn channel on your TV and monitoring the viewing habits of your own child. Then again, I’ve never understood this mentality of “I don’t like it, so the whole world needs to change for me” that is at the core of this pathetic drama. And also, I just really hate it when Bible-thumpers think they can tell me, or anyone else, what I can or cannot do based on their beliefs instead of what I find suitable for myself. It’s like they never heard of free will or something…

People are free to watch or not, but the fate of this series, along with any other creative endeavor, should be determined by the audience and the work’s own merits, rather than a group of bigmouths casting blind aspersions because they prefer to be fear-mongers instead of informed adults and active, engaged parents.

Hell’s Bells, People…

Review: Apex (Nexus Arc Book 3) by Ramez Naam

Apex-144dpiAbout Apex

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.


My Thoughts

[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.

Buy Apex At Amazon
Review: Apex (Nexus Arc Book 3) by Ramez Naam

CONSUMPTION Is An Award Nominee!

consumption-completeI’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.

CONSUMPTION Is An Award Nominee!

Now Available: Weapons of Mass Deception by David Bruns

WeaponsMass_CVR_LRGI 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.

Now Available: Weapons of Mass Deception by David Bruns

Promo Postmortem

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!).


convergence                Emergence-800 Cover reveal and Promotional

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.

The Interviews

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

SW Fairbrother: http://swfairbrother.com/reading/author-interview-michael-patrick-hicks/

Ted Cross: http://tedacross.blogspot.com/2015/05/interview-with-author-michael-patrick.html

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.

You can check out the reviews at Amazon and the blogs of Franklin Kendrick and Books & Such. I’m truly grateful for their kind sentiments and their help in spreading the word!

As an added bonus, Emergence even got picked up as Book of the Week (May 8 – 15) by SciFI365.net, an honor granted upon Convergence back in December. Very cool!

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.

KDP-FreeRunI’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.

EmergenceSaleEmergence 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.

KDPBorrowsWhile 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.

Top50Final Thoughts

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.

Promo Postmortem

Review: Weapons of Mass Deception by David Bruns and J.R. Olson

WeaponsMass_CVR_LRGAbout Weapons of Mass Deception

May 14, 2015

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.


My Thoughts

[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.

Buy Weapons of Mass Deception At Amazon
Review: Weapons of Mass Deception by David Bruns and J.R. Olson