In support of Aries Red Sky (available here), I had some work commissioned by A.R. Crebs.  A.R. is a fellow author as well as an artist, and I’ve mentioned her before when discussing the system maps for the book’s interior.  Introducing Oscar and Ollie, a pair of otters who are the subject of a 31st Century children’s show (of which more will be written later):


Harpoon Otter 18x24Ray Gun Otter

Hope you find these two images amusing.  They serve the basis for the unit patch for VF(S)-10, the “Obstinate Otters.”

A Quick Note

Greetings all, it’s been awhile.  Lots of good news, and there will be a longer newsletter (subscribe here).  But first, three items of major import:

As of 11 May 2018 I have received my doctorate in U.S. History from Kansas State University.  Here is one picture of me getting hooded by my committee chair, Dr. Don Mrozek:



The next piece of news is that I will be at Smallville Comic Con in Hutchinson, KS on 23-24 June 2018.  We will be at Booth #44:

Smallville Map

Last but far from least, the next Vergassy Universe novel, Aries Red Sky, is available for pre-order from Amazon.  Feel free to pick up a copy so that it will download on its release date, 24 July.  Also, if you prefer audiobooks, a producer has been hired for the book with an expected completion date of 10 August on ACX.

Aries Red Sky Kindle Cover.jpg

That’s all for now!  Hope you are all doing and have a chance to pick the book up.

Planet Comic Con

Just got through with Planet Comic Con.  Good show, lots of new and old fans.  If you’re just checking in from a panel or having grabbed my business card, feel free to poke around.  The tags below should let you find things fairly easily with regards to writing, promoting, and other thing of interest to independent authors.  Happy reading!

Guest Blogging, Some News, and a Little Q&A

Sorry for some of the intermittent posting.  I have spent most of the last few days filling out interview questions for my blog tour through Goddess Fish Promotions.  For those of you who do not know what a blog tour is, basically a promotion site sets you up with guest blogs / reviews of your book on several different websites.  This is my first time trying it, so we’ll see it goes.  Even if it doesn’t work for me, successful paranormal / urban fantasy author R.L. Naquin swears by them–so it may be a genre thing.

In other news–I have recently been published in Armor magazine, the U.S. Army’s professional journal for mounted warfare.  You can find the article here:  .  It’s regarding doctrine, so odds are it may be a little dry without context.

Out of all the questions I got asked (and there were a lot), I had the most fun with the “What is your musical playlist?”  one.  I kept it limited to 15 songs, but here was my answer (with some Metal Monday Alumni):

1.) Dawson’s Christian – Vixy and Tony (

2.) Husker – Bear McCreary, from BSG: Blood and Chrome (

3.) Gettysburg Trilogy – Iced Earth (

4.) The Stars Will Fall – Crom (

5.) One Last Battle – Vic Tyler (

6.) Attack – Hans Zimmer, Pearl Harbor OST (

7.) Requiem For A Tower – London Music Works (

8.) Theme from Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla—Akira Ifukube (

9.) Bottle of Pain—Combichrist (

10.) Freedom Fighters—Two Steps From Hell (

11.) The Bleeding—Five Finger Death Punch (

12.) I Love You—Woodkid (

13.) Long Live the King—Sabaton (

14.) When Winter Comes—Miracle of Sound (

15.) Even in Death—Evanescence (

I also learned that a lot of interviewers unwittingly ask the same questions.  I don’t want to steal any of the gracious hosts’ thunder, so I’ll start regularly answering a set of these questions  here on the blog / in my newsletter.  (“Newsletter?  How do we sign up for the newsletter?”  “Click here, my curious friend!”)

“A Midwinter’s Ski” was reviewed by Roses In Ink.  If you liked it as much as they did, pick it up for free on Amazon.

Last month I rode out to San Diego to attend the WEST 2017 Naval Conference hosted by the USNI (United States Naval Institute) and AFCEA (Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association).  The primary purpose was to receive my physical award for winning the USNI’s 2016 Cyberwarfare Essay Contest.  As a bonus, I also got to see a lot of awesome exhibits, visit the U.S.S. Midway, and talk some slight smack to a Class of ’64 USNA grad.  (“I guess we decided after 14 years to finally let your guys experience a victory.”  “_My_ class never lost to Navy, Sir.”).  This is me with the other award winners:


Here’s what the plaque looks like:


I’m pretty sure that The Prolific Trek is still muttering about driving halfway across the US to pick up something that would have easily fit in a mailing package.  But, had I done that, I would not have gotten to see the Grand Canyon:


Or totally fan boy over meeting the amazing Vincent P. O’Hara, author of several naval history books.  The one I’m holding, The U.S. Navy Against the Axis, is probably the best single-volume coverage of the USN’s surface fleet during the Second World War.  While James Hornfischer’s Neptune’s Inferno is my go to recommendation for the Guadalcanal Campaign, O’Hara’s is my choice for a complete series.


Finally, my next upcoming event is Little Apple Comic Expo (LACE).  It will be hosted at the Kansas State Student Union on 18 March from 10 AM to 6 PM.  Feel free to swing on by to see Anita C. Young and I hawking our wares.

Anyway, that’s it from the Midwest.

Young’s Ten Tips

Susanne Lambdin and I do a regular panel we call “Strategy and Tactics of Novel Writing.”  Inevitably we figure some poor sods come in thinking we’re going to talk military stuff.  For you folks, we are sorry.  For everyone else, don’t be fooled–we really do talk about how to write a novel.  We usually start of with talking about Elmore Leonard’s Ten Tips for Writers (most of which we disagree with).  Susanne then does her ten tips for writers (which I will get from her later), while I have mine:

Young’s Ten Tips For Writing

1.) Butt in seat, words on screen. You will not get writing done unless you actually sit down to do it.

2.) Yes someone has “done it before.”  Do it anyway.  Every story, when you get down to it, has been done by someone, somewhere.  You have an original spin on the “same old story”—tell it.

3.) Develop your own style of “write fu.  There are things you will do that make sense to no one else but work for you.  There will be things that work exceedingly well for others that will have your muses abandon you like rats from a sinking ship.  Figure these things out early, stick with those that work.

4.) The Shining is a cautionary tale.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  All work and no play also makes Jack batspit crazy, cranky, and increasingly likely to be a homicide victim.  Take a break from writing every once in a while in order to stay fresh.

5.) Research or experience.  You do not get many chances to convince a reader you are competent.  There are boundless opportunities to persuade them you are an idiot.  Check something before committing it to paper unless you experienced it firsthand or are well-versed in it academically.

6.) Have fun.  Self-explanatory.  If you do not like your writing, your readers will not either.

7.) Join a writing group.  A good writing group is worth its weight in gold, both for critiques and for friendships.

8.) Series Bible.  You can do it early, or you can do it when you’re trying to write the sequel to the first book.  Guess which one hurts less.

9.) Nanowrimo.  It is good to get in the habit of attempting to write quickly, and Nanowrimo helps you do this.  It can also help develop good daily habits that will carry over going forward.  Finally, we’re all lab rats and reward oriented—so it’s great getting to 50,000 with your friends.

10.) Learn to find the good in every criticism.  This is not “develop a thick skin.”  Likely by this point in life you have whatever skin you’re going to get whether it’s tissue paper or ablative armor.  Instead, even if something crushes you, go have a good cry, smash a dinner plate, or burn a building down (okay, that’s excessive)…then figure out what you can learn from the shot you just took.  Odds are you’ll find something useful even in the most banal criticism someone gives you.

Clearing The Dust Off

Hey folks–sorry I have been so silent lately–lots of Cons, lots of other tasks consuming time.

First off, it’s been a great Con season so far.  Starting back in February, the tally so far has been thus:

  1. Stealthcon (Warrensburg, MO)
  2. Empower Con (Topeka, KS)
  3. Little Apple Con (Manhattan, KS)
  4. St. Louis Wizard World (St. Louis, MO)
  5. Air Capital Mini-Con (Wichita, KS)
  6. Kansas City Planet Comic Con (KC)
  7. Smallville Comic Con (Hutchinson, KS)
  8. Libertycon (Chattanooga, TN

Anyone else tired?  Because I sure am!  But this train isn’t stopping for a bit.  Next up in the chute is Kansas City Comic Con, 12-14 August.  Hope to see some folks there!


Thoughts on Conning

I really should have done this last night, but by the time I got home I quickly found myself running on fumes.  So, without further ado, here are some thoughts on Planet Comicon (KC-MO, 15 March 2014) from an author’s (as opposed to fan boy’s) perspective.  BLUF: It is worth it for an author to go to a Con, even if for only a day.  While I know I’m preaching to the choir with many of you, for those who may think going to a Con is a waste of time/money this was my experience:

1.) RE: Artists—You will seldom find a case where you have so many artists in one place.  In a matter of hours, I found at least 2 likely leads apiece for alternate history, dystopian future, and science-fiction covers.  More importantly, whereas most of the time you hear quotes of $4-500 for cover art, most of these artists are looking to be established—and thus gave me quotes of around $100-$200.  Given that almost every booth artist has examples of their work there for sale plus info to their website, it’s not like this is a case of agreeing to work sight unseen.  Is this more expensive than buying a stock photo?  Lords yes.  But you won’t end up having something happen like the idiocy that afflicted one of our fellow authors, i.e. someone claiming publicly on your Amazon reviews.  I’ll also say that, as someone who has commissioned some artwork lately and may need to buy some more, the $35 getting in the door will probably more than pay for itself down the road.

2.) Networking—In addition to meeting artists, Cons are good places to meet other folks who might make your life earlier or give you information.  For instance, I met another independent / small press author who was able to walk me through the process if I or a collection of other authors wanted to get a booth.  Would I have ever known a booth was reasonably priced ($400 as opposed to the $1000 or so I thought) or that he’d yet to have a case where he didn’t make his money back?  Or that the trick is to bring a gimmick item to catch people’s eyes? (His was stuffed dragons that, at least from my own observation, brought little kids (and thus the paying parents) like sharks to chum.)  No, I would not have, as I didn’t know anyone who had run a booth at Planet Comic Con before now.

2a.) Some things to go with networking.  First, have something that you can leave with the person which is memorable and distinctive.  In my case I have stickers and business cards.  Second, have an “elevator” speech (or speeches) for your book.  Mine came to me in a flash of inspiration while talking to the wife/business manager of an artist while he sketched.  Last (and this may be difficult for introverts), try to wear something memorable.  In my case, I had a Kaiju-class mecha patch put on the front of a long-sleeve T-shirt.  No other copy of this shirt exists, and minus the fact everyone kept thinking I was a Pacific Rim junkie, the shirt made me stand out.  (“Wait, James, it wasn’t the shirt.”  “Shut it.”)

2b.) Some networking occurs by happenstance.  For instance, I was walking by a booth and had a chance to do a podcast.  Now there’s no guarantee that podcast will ever see the light of day, but in the process I got to meet and make an impression on the two gentlemen who do interviews for the local Kansas City science fiction scene.  Does that happen while staying home?  No, and you best believe I’m dropping them a line offering to come onto the show at their convenience.  Similarly, I was told by multiple people that my current town did not have a science fiction club.  Who should I happen to meet with a booth at the Con?  That’s right, the local science fiction club.  Just two examples of why it’s worth it to go.

There’s much more, and I’ll be happy to answer any questions.  Just wanted to make sure I shared with anyone who might be pondering whether or not they wanted to go next year.