Wednesday, April 23, 2014

New Cover Reveal: The Thorne Legacy

Using Julius Camenzind's original art for the cover, and a crash course in Photoshop from my wife, I have cropped, enhanced, and retitled the cover image for The Thorne Legacy.  And  I am 1000% happier with it!

My main issue with the previous version was that, while the image was awesome, it was too small and detailed when seen as a thumbnail, which is how you'll see it on most ebook sites.  Plus adding the black bars with the crappy titles was my idea, so I'm glad to have rectified that wrong personally.

Behold, the new, bolder, more exciting, more colorful cover of this military sci-fi, WHAM, BAM, can I cram any more descriptors into this sentence, hit!

(By the way, this SF contest finalist is only $0.99 at your favorite ebook retailer right now!)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Eldar Jetbikes: a Tactica

(image obtained from this site)

Eldar were my first 40K army way back in the 80s, and so I still felt an affinity for them when I started getting back into it 20 years later.  That continues today as I work to find the right way to play my Eldar.  In the 6th edition they have definitely become the fast, graceful but deadly army I want them to be, but each game I play is a work in progress on figuring out just how I want to play that out.  And obviously the fastest unit available, able to move 48" in a single turn, is the Eldar Windrider jetbikes.

Much of the talk online about playing them is all about using them at the end of the game to make fast grabs for objectives.  Okay, sure, they're good for that.  They are scoring troops and they move lightning fast.  But that's turn 5 or later, what about the first four-fifths of the game?  Aren't they good for something more?

(image lifted from here)

Yes, they are!  With the general increase in the Eldar stat line (originating, I think, in the last Dark Eldar codex in 2010, and making much better sense for a long-lived and more agile species), even Guardians and Bikers become somewhat elite.  And when joined by a Warlock they take on an even more expansive role.  Some of their potential uses I have found and been successful with include the following:

   * Escort duty.  Who else can accompany those grav-tanks as they bolt across the field?  If you have one unit in a single tank and it's driving deeper into enemy territory, it's a good idea to send along an armed escort.  The bikers can keep up, give the enemy someone else to shoot at, and return fire with a storm of armor-cutting shurikens.  This is especially important when you have an elite unit aboard with a specific mission in mind, like fire dragons or howling banshees.  You don't want to give them a taxi ride to oblivion, right?  Don't send them in alone, send them with back-up!

   * Drawing fire.  I've found that jetbikes make some people nervous.  Zooming around quickly like angry hornets draws attention from anxious enemies.  And if you pair the bikers with a warlock who has Conceal (fortunately their default power, so you can always go that route), they get +2 to their Jink cover saves.  So just moving with Conceal on gives them 3+ cover saves, and turbo-boosting gives them 2+ cover saves!  They zap across the board and all of a sudden the badguys are shooting at them like mad, cuz these space elves just appeared out of no where and they MUST be up to no good, so let's spend all our fire trying to kill them.  And yet the 2+ cover allows them to survive quite well while your opponent is ignoring your other units this turn...

   * Anti-Tank.  Yes, you read that right.  I just this weekend realized their great anti-vehicle potential.  I ran 4 bikers with a shuriken cannon and a spear-throwing warlock.  A singing spear is S9 against vehicles when thrown.  A shuriken cannon is S6, catapults fire a lot of twin-linked S4 shots, and all shurikens can come up as AP2, which is +1 on the vehicle damage chart.  The bikes can leap over vehicles and fire into their rear armor, which is usually AV 10.  Tank Hunters baby.  This last game they killed some armored-up sentinels and a Leman Russ by doing just that!  Then in the assault phase, they avoid retaliation by jetting another 2D6" out of the way.

   * Assist Unit.  Both in shooting and assaults, I wouldn't bet the game on the Biker unit.  They can be deadly in shooting, true, but I'd only initiate an assault if I were desperate.  Or if they were joined by an Autarch on a bike.  Dodging around and shooting guys up is one thing, diving head-first into combat is another.  A warlock's witchblade and special powers might help, but they aren't enough to bid a full-blown attack on unless the target is pretty soft.  They could be good for assisting other units, though, like in an assault.  Gaining those extra Init 5 WS 4 armor save 3+ models to help tip the scale is a good idea, but again, going it alone might not be good for them. 

Well, that's my take.  I feel like the Eldar players at large are generally underselling their jetbikers.  In an Eldar army (just like in their fluff), your units are few and elite by nature, so you have to make the most of each one.  We don't have throw-away units; or if we do, they are thrown away at high cost and their sacrifice better be worth it.  All Eldar units should be considered adaptable and able to function in various new roles.  We Eldar are an endangered species, after all, so we need to be able to cover a lot of bases!

(borrowed from here)

p.s. I also think each Windrider squad should be allowed to include a single Vyper for high-flying gun support.  Hey, Dark Angels can do it!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Astra Militarum: Captain America 40K

I've had fun in the past coming up with superhero stats for 40K (just check out the "avengers" labeled posts, though that string also led into Eldar dire avengers, just so you know).  So with the new Imperial Guard / Astra Militarum codex all the buzz, and the new Captain America movie out, I thought I'd revisit and update Cap as a Guard hero (it'll always be Impieral Guard to me, not astro-billirubinemia or whatever).

And for those sticklers, please note that this is just for fun and not meant to be taken too seriously...

Captain America: 


Super-Soldier:  Cap has Eternal Warrior, Preferred Enemy, Rampage, and Feel No Pain, as well as being Stubborn.

Inspiring Presence:  All units within 12” may use Cap’s Leadership score.  In addition, any unit he joins gains Stubborn and Preferred Enemy.

Tactician:  Your army may reroll to determine who gets the first turn.

Armored Costume:  Armor Save of 5+

Vibranium Alloy Shield:  Cap’s shield gives him a 3+ Invuln save.  He may also throw it as a ranged weapon with the following profile:

            Range 12”        S4        AP--    Assault 3, Split Fire, Stun*

* As the shield ricochets around before returning to his hand, he may Split Fire.  Any model that is Wounded but not removed by the shield throw has their Initiative reduced to 1 in the following Assault Phase. 

Shield Bash:  Cap has Hammer of Wrath when charging.  During combat, he can choose to use his shield as a weapon, thus increasing his damage but leaving him more vulnerable.  Shield Bashing in combat gives his melee attacks AP4, but reduces his invuln save to 5+ during that combat turn.

40K Flavor:  I’d have fun remaking Cap as an Imperial Super Soldier.  Rather than the American motif he could have an Aquila on his chest, probably like the carapace breastplates some Impie officer models have, plus lots of belt pouches and straps and holsters and such.  Obviously he’d have a big round storm shield with an Imperial symbol on it and probably a bolt pistol.  He’d be best joined to storm trooper or vet squads. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Book Signing Success

My "hobby time" gets split many ways (which is why my Eldar jetbikers aren't painted yet and my first warwalker doesn't have legs yet).  Here's another way this limited time slot is spent:

Saturday I held another book signing on Fort Sam Houston, and it was by far the most successful one to date! Thanks to everyone who came out, whether you bought a book (or three), took a free bookmark, or just asked for directions to the bathroom. :)

This was the fourth of my on-base book sales that I've done, third on Fort Sam with the previous one held on Lackland AF Base. All have been one-day events (since I have to go to work five other days in the week), and I generally came away from the first three with mixed feelings. If you have attended or just passed by any non-superstar book signings yourself, you've probably seen the writer sitting or standing alone an awful lot. The experience can be both encouraging and discouraging, depending on how few and far between the sales and signings, or just plain conversations, may be. And if the writer has no interested parties or human contact for the last two or three hours of the day, they leave feeling pretty crappy. But not this past Saturday. That day I left with only a great sense of success and accomplishment! Saturday's sales were triple of any previous signings, spread across the entire day from set-up to tear-down, and I think there were a few key factors involved in making that happen.

One is that I have new cover art on two of my books, which look awesome. Covers definitely help sell books. If your cover looks unprofessional, readers will assume what's inside is unprofessional too. Second, getting the word out ahead of time so those interested can actually plan on attending. About half of those who bought books had already known I'd be there; the other half were spontaneous walkers-by (I think I just invented that word). And strategic site location certainly helps. There are a lot of younger readers on Fort Sam (being a training base there's quite a lot of 18-22 year olds), and of course younger folks are probably more into fantasy books than the older, retired military crowd (lot of those folks here, too).

A final tip that I think helped me, something I learned at my last signing event: A woman was checking out my books and after deciding they might be something she was interested in, she asked how much they were. When I told her, she said, "Is that all? Okay, I'll take these two." It then occurred to me that most people seeing someone selling their own books--not from a shelf in a bookstore but right there in person--probably assume the price is inflated. And to a degree, they are correct: it's much more expensive for the individual to have books printed and shipped than for the mega-publishers who are rolling out thousands at a time. We do have to charge a little more to keep from losing our shirts. However, if said self-pub author stays aware of that inherent price hurtle and is committed to keeping theirs modest, if they realize they are a humble newbie in a mega-corp world and price accordingly, they might actually sell a few more books. Right after I sold and signed those two books for her, I went into the PX and bought me some colorful sticky notes, which I then used as price tags. Stick note may look tacky but I think posting the prices for passersby to see helps bring down one perceived barrier between author and potential readers/customers; that being the idea that this person is going to charge too much, so I won't even bother to go over there.

Of course, there's also the perception that anyone who is selling their own books couldn't get really published and therefore must suck. Fortunately, this misperception is slowly fading away as readers discover they sometimes like the self-pubbed work better than those cranked out by the big publishing machines.

(Mine may not be the best possible display, but it gets a little better looking each time. My philospohy is to put colors and information out there for easy access to those stealing a peek as they go by.)

This past Saturday may well be my last on-base event here in Texas. Next month (May 3rd) I am go to appear at Dragon's Lair comics and game shop in San Antonio for their Free Comic Book Day, and I have reserved a table for the Capital City Comic Con in Austin, TX, happening July 11-13. I am also looking into getting a spot at the Texas ComiCon in San Antonio in June. As my wife so thoughtfully pointed out to me, events like these are just the kind of places I should be going, even if I have to pay to be there. While being on training bases gives me access to younger adult readers, which is certainly a big genre-reading demographic, having a booth at a Comic Book Convention is even better: everyone there is a nerd like me, so what better place to peddle my wares and meet and greet?!

If you're reading this in Texas, I hope to see you soon!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Free SF, Fantasy, and Horror Stories on Wattpad

I've recently rediscovered Wattpad and am now trying to make the most of it.  It's a totally free site for reading whatever stories its members want to post.  And I'm really amazed at what I'm seeing there!  I actually signed up on it a year ago February and just now realized it...

I've now posted six short stories and teasers that are all free to read.  (You use Facebook to sign in, I believe... But what do I know, I'm a caveman?)

So check out what I have thrown up, it's all free of charge and obligation!  If you've noticed the book covers in these margins before and been curious, now is the time to investigate and see what you like.

Here's my profile page on there where you can find the freebie reads: