Thursday, November 7, 2019

Black Friday Origin Story

It's November and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. For those of you who have read Paige's story, it's no secret that most of the book takes place at or around Thanksgiving-- the most important part of the story taking place on Black Friday.

Spoilers ahead for Paige's Story

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Family Night: A Fort Thomas Short

Okay, So here it is, a little late, but hopefully worth the extra wait. My birthday short story. I hope you enjoy it.

Family Night
A Fort Thomas Short
By: A.J. Bass

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Character Spotlight: Nix

So, here we are again with another character spotlight. Last week I highlighted Fer and it seemed to go over pretty well so, let's keep going and put the spotlight on Nix.

Nix is best described as a golden retriever-- Loyal, intelligent, sometimes a little derpy (if he has a flaw, it's that he's not much of a reader, thus a lot of jokes fly right over his head), but he will absolutely rip your fucking face off with no issues if he needs to. 

Nix is typically known for being the Captain of the Omega Squad and Alpha's right-hand man. To Paige, he's mostly known as the super hot blonde she has a massive crush on. And, to Fer, he's known as "a fucking asshole" or "you illiterate fuck" or just basically anything unfriendly with the verb fuck as a descriptor. Nix and Fer don't exactly see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. Where Nix is generally calm, rational, and mindful of humans and their perception of synthetics, Fer doesn't care... and that drives Nix insane and the fact that Nix does care, likewise, drives Fer insane.

Prior to Fort Thomas, no one is really sure what Nix did or who he was. His body was found, barely functioning, by scrappers in some back alley in New York. When they brought him to the local Synthetic Repair Center for repair and examination, they couldn't find any record of him in any of the synthetic registries. He has no markings of a manufacturer, he's a custom design (unlike Fer is one in a series of a specific make and model), and when they actually opened him up, found that his Synthetic Registration Number (SRN) had been completely filed off his chassis.

Then name "Nix" was coined there in the SRC-- when Alpha asked what information was found on their newest arrival and the repair tech replied with, "We got nothing, nada, nix." That soon evolved into calling him "Mr. Nix" as sort of a playful formality, to just Nix after a bit. Fer likes to tease him over his lack of memory and origin. No real reason... Fer just likes to give him shit. 

Once he was repaired, Nix went through basic training and became a scrapper where it became apparent, that whatever he did before Section, it was probably violent. Nix is a ferocious fighter and that ferocity earned him a bit of a reputation. Combine that with his height 6'4", and you've got yourself one intimidating drink of water. ...handsome as all get out... but still intimidating. 

Despite his reputation for being a badass, and kinda scary, Nix is actually a gentleman. He hates losing his temper... which he does more than he likes... Thanks, Fer. He is very polite and always strives to make a good impression Which is why when he first meets Paige after a very heated argument with Fer, and sees that she's actually frightened by him, he tries to make amends. As for Paige and her family, he finds them endearing and a welcome change to all the military brass and scrappers he's usually around. They treat him like a regular person, no pretense, no formality, just Nix-- especially Anita who has no trouble calling him names and smacking him upside the head when he needs it. 
Thanksgiving day, before his re-assignment to Fort Shelley
Now, I think, if you asked him about Alpha, Nix would tell you that Alpha is his best friend and mentor. But it really goes a bit deeper than that. Alpha is the one who gave Nix a new life at Section, who gave him a purpose, and through that purpose Nix was able to earn respect and status, not as just another scrapper, as but the best of the best. So... if you prodded him a bit to elaborate, he would say he owes Alpha a dept he can never hope to repay, but will gladly spend the rest of his life trying.

So that's basically Nix. He was always one of my personal favorites. Here's a fun fact: in my first draft, he was actually a complete asshole. He was cold, aloof, and violent. But as I wrote I thought to myself, "Why the hell would Paige like someone like this? What the hell kind of example am I setting by trying to glamorize this prick?" So it was either kill Paige's unhealthy crush and let him continue on as a toxic character, or make him a better person. I'm glad I made him a better person.
Nix carrying Paige to safety on Black Friday
  I have a lot in store for Nix... not all of it very pretty... but I think he'll be up for it. He's got a good family behind him to help him if and when he needs it.

If this is your first encounter with Nix and you want to see him in action, please check out Paige's Story over on Amazon or Audible.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Character Spotlight: Fer

Hey, everyone! So, I've decided to a series of blog posts spotlighting the characters in my books. I'll talk about things you know about them, things you don't know about them, and share some illustrations.

I've been with the crew of Fort Thomas for a long time... some of them since I was 14 or 15-years-old  (that's 1995/96, people) and I know them as well as I know my best friends. So, to kick this series off, let's talk about the solid fan favorite, Fer.

Fer as drawn in 2010
Fer is your standard military synthetic. He was born on an assembly line with about 100 other synths who look kinda like him, but not quite. Mirth is one of those other synthetics... they are described as looking like siblings or close cousins if they were human. He's the best marksman at Fort Thomas and knows it. He's snarky, grumpy a lot of time, and likes to drink and smoke.

After the Jane Virus infected him and made him sentient he was assigned to Section's Rho Squad.

Sooo, Rho. Yeah. The Rhos were basically the proto Omegas back in the day. They were the special ops of Section who would go into extremely dangerous situations and put down corruptions or rescue Janes in distress.

It was his first year as a Rho when he got his name. Despite his superior, Sgt Victor 'Hem' Hemingway, insisting he go by Iron Man, Fer opted for the far more subtle and elegant term his Captain used: Homme de Fer, or just Fer for short--Fer is French for iron. Homme de Fer is basically Iron Man. Captain Fabron was a French immigrant with a thick accent who would often slip into his native language... especially if he got riled up. It was his time with Rho where he developed his smoking and drinking habit, thanks to Hem. Even though neither alcohol nor nicotine do anything for him, he continues to do both to this day... mostly to just remember Hem, his first real friend.

The Rhos all met a very unfortunate end during a mission in the Western US. They were out on a search and rescue mission when the Western military ambushed them. Every one of them perished, save for Fer.
Fer after the attack on Rho
Fer had a really hard time coping after the loss of, what he considered, his family. And, let's face it, no one really knows how to help a machine cope with grief. Janes are very similar to humans, but they're not the same. They can't forget things. Their memories don't fade. When Fer remembers the attack that took his squad, he remembers it in such clarity that it's like reliving it all over again. Rho's destruction is what fueled his intentional distancing from humans. To him, they are too fragile and too easy to lose. It's why he won't support humans on the Omegas and why he was so angry when Alpha and Nix went against his advice and accepted Hector Mendoza to the squad... only to lose him. 
 It was during this time, after Rho, when he happened to meet Melissa Park, who we know as Paige's Taekwondo instructor. She helped him learn to cope with his loss through martial arts, meditation, and by giving him a much needed shoulder to lean on. He loves her and she loves him, but their relationship is complicated at best. The biggest issue being that Fer is literally government property and will be until the day he's scrapped. This means he's never really off duty. He can have his free time and a life, but when Section calls, he listens. He can't pick and choose where they send him or when.

The second biggest issue is that he's obviously not human. Human/Jane relationships are still a relatively new thing in this world. I mean, holy shit, people still freak out over inter-racial relationships or homosexual relationships. Can you fucking imagine people reacting to an inter-species relationship? Yeah. It can get ugly sometimes. They sometimes have to endure ugly glares or words when they are in public together--yeah, even in the progressive East. Thankfully, no one has tried anything physical on either of them... because Fer and Melissa would probably kick the ever loving shit out of them. 

As I said, Fer's not entirely big on humans... except for Melissa. So when Paige happened to cross his path he was less than pleased. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, their paths kept crossing and because of this, Paige went from a major annoyance, to more or less tolerable, to (in book 2 and 3) one of his best friends.  

Fer has a very acute sense of right and wrong and he knows Janes are treated like shit, no matter how much better they have it in the East than the West. He knows the world is one giant shade of gray. He knows it and he hates it, because he's not sure how what to do about it. After all, he's a scrapper. His job is to put down his own kind when they get violent. He's very thoughtful but his constant thinking and mulling over his lot in life makes him come off as brooding and unapproachable. 

In all seriousness, he's got a huge heart-- despite not physically having a heart-- and he will always be there even when things are at their worst. 
Fer dragging Anji from her burning house.

If you're just now stumbling across Fer for the first time and want to learn more about him, please check out my novel, Paige's Story over on Amazon available in paperback, ebook, audiobook, and on Kindle Unlimited.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Let's Talk About the 'S' word

Hey everybody! Long time no see! I know, I'm terrible at keeping this blog up to date. I'll try and be better. (Let's be honest. No, I won't. Enjoy this post while you can, suckas!) Today we're going to talk about the 'S' word. Not sex. No, not swords either. Sales. We're talking about sales and marketing.

But first, a bit a news.

--The audiobook of Paige's Story has been up for a little over a month now. It's doing great. I mean, I think it is. The ratings are good and it's selling so I'll call it a win.

--My husband, Benjamin W. Bass has just released his debut novel, Alone in the Light. People.People. Listen to me. It's a fucking great book. It's not zany, or action packed, or funny like mine. It's also severely lacking in robots. But if you want a one-of-a-kind love story that's an emotional roller coaster, boy-o he's got your back. The book deals with the post deployment life of two veterans who are struggling to return to normal and finding that there's no normal to be had. It deals with mental health, PTSD, love, grieving, and hope. Seriously. Check it out.

--There are some updates to my online store coming soon. There will be stickers and bookmarks for sale. I'm also considering adding coffee mugs... but I haven't decided yet.

--Fort Thomas Book 2 is still in the works. It has some complex story lines that I'm having trouble ironing out, but it'll get there.

So, enough with the newsie bits. Let's talk. Let's talk about sales or lack thereof.

Writing a book is one thing. Selling a book is a whole different animal. Everyone, including myself, has this glorious vision of publishing their book and then just sitting back and watching the sales roll in. Unfortunately, I'm not Stephen King. Neither are you... unless you really are, in which case, HI MR. KING I LOVE PET SEMATARY!

No, no, we don't have the level of street cred to just publish and wait... not yet. So. what do you do? Well, you school yourself in the necessary evil that is marketing. I moseyed on over and downloaded a copy of William F. Aicher's Indie Author's Guide to Self Publishing and educated myself on what to do next. My husband and I also had a nice conversation with Nick Smith via Facebook or Twitter... maybe both... Anyway, he stressed that now that I'm published, I really need to establish a brand and market things for it. Since he's ridiculously successful, I figured he knows what he's talking about. Ben and I began working on the Fort Thomas brand. We made up T-shirts, stickers, bookmarks, and all that. We also put our art school degrees to work, made ads, and bought ad space. Yeah, it costs money, but not much. A boosted post on Facebook can be as cheap as $10. We also contacted our library, our town Facebook pages, and newspapers and we basically said, "Hey, we live here and we just did this thing. You should maybe interview us."

Well, maybe not with that level of smarminess, but you get the idea. We put ourselves in the spotlight to get local exposure offline as well.

So far, all this work has been paying off. When my first round of audiobook royalties get in, I'm using some to buy a dishwasher... because I'm a sad, sad, adult and I want a new dishwasher. One that's not 20 years old and... gross.

Look, being a self published author means you wake up and think of new ways to tell the world about your book. You have to do it every day because no one else is going to do it for you. You pester readers for reviews, you give away bookmarks and stickers, you have raffles for free books, and you blast every corner of the internet with this info until the algorithms force you to take a break. Then you fucking do it again.
This is your life now. I mean, not really, but is sure seems like it and that's good. I like this life.

What I'm saying is, you absolutely can't just publish and expect to sell. The market is way too oversaturated. Yay! You published a book! So did 400 other people today. If you don't market it, your baby will get lost in the crowd never to be seen by anyone. Big fat zeros in your sales report is discouraging. It's why so many talented authors give up, and that's a damn shame.

I'm not trying to discourage anyone. I just know way too many authors who quit too soon. I'm not going to be one and I don't want you to be one either.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Mental Health Revisited

Welcome to the party. You're gonna hate it here.

I'm sure you know this by now, but I have anxiety and depression. I've always been anxious. I'm
pretty sure it really, officially set in when I was in high school. After my son was born 7 years ago I had some pretty wicked postpartum depression and I finally got medication to help. It was a decision I wish I had made much, much sooner.

Depression is a fickle bitch. Anxiety is just as bad. They're like the dynamic duo of bullshit and they
basically come and go as they please. Bright sunny day out? Feeling good? Here comes anxiety kicking in your door like the goddamn Kool-Aid Man. You're on edge. You're scared. You feel like something bad is about to happen, but you don't know what or why.  Or in the case of depression, you just don't feel much of anything. The song Mr. Blue Sky could literally be playing out in real life, right in front of your sad-sack face, and the most you'll be able to muster is a weak, "meh." Or maybe some low key snark, if you're feeling saucy.

World: The sun is shining in the sky!
Me: Yes. If it wasn't, we'd all be dead.
World: There ain't a cloud in sight!
Me: Yeah? And?
World: It's stopped raining!
Me: 'Bout goddamn time.
World: Everybody's here to play, and don't you know, it's a beautiful new day!
Me: I'm going to bed.

Now, as far as I'm concerned, there are two types of people in the world. Those who understand mental health issues and those who need to shut the fuck up.
...And I mean that in the nicest way possible. You can always tell someone who doesn't get it by how they respond to the situation. They think depression will magically go away if you count your blessings, or smile more, or... ugh... tell yourself you don't have any real reason to be depressed.

Bitch, my brain physically cannot make the proper cocktail of smiley chemicals and neurotransmitters to keep me on what is considered to be a socially acceptable level of  happiness. I can't possibly think of any reason more real than that. Throw in some shitty genetics on top of it (Thanks Granny D!), and tell me again to count my blessings.

The people who understand things like anxiety and depression are, more often than not, people who also suffer from it. They're the ones who will hand you a bottle of water during a panic attack, say, "You are slogging through shit valley, my friend. Hang in there, it'll be over soon." and then send you funny cat pictures once you're calmed down. They don't ask you to explain why you're freaking out or feeling down. They know there isn't often a reason beyond the fact that your just brain decided to kick you in the mental balls today.

And that's cool. Just make sure that you get back up. Take your meds. Talk to your therapist. Visit
your doctor. Practice some fucking self care. And don't be so hard on yourself. You're doing everything a regular person is doing with the added weight of your brain arguing and screaming at you like the grumpy, sleep deprived toddler it is.

Good for you, dude. Good for me! Yeah bitches! We're slogging through shit valley with a backpack full of everyday life to look after and we're still moving! We're slapping our freeloading junk heap of a brain with some medication and talking about our goddamn feelings to people who get it and get us! We're taking a break in shit valley to regroup when we get tired and we don't give a fuck if people look at us and wonder why. Then, when we're rested, we'll pick up our backpack full of everyday life, and get back to slogging... but maybe a little more steadily this time.

Slog on, bitches.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Jenkins, Get Me My Groove Back

Well, well, well, look what the cat dragged in.

Surprise! It's me!

So, guys. It's been a long winter. A long, dark, cold, awful winter, and Spring is really dragging its
feet to get here. Unfortunately the seasonal affective disorder is strong with me... actually the everything affective disorder is strong with me and the winter just makes it worse. Something about rain, clouds, and other unpleasant weather for weeks at a time, on top of hating my day job with the fire of a million suns really gets to me. Can't imagine why.

Yeah, the ol' mental health has sort of been tanking again and I've been spending more time screaming into the void of existential dread and self loathing than I have been writing. Granted, I have been writing, just not as much as I'd like. But, with the sluggish dawn of spring and warmer weather my motivation and spirits have picked up.

I've got big plans for book two and even bigger plans for Paige's Story.

For my next trick, I'm turning Paige's Story into an audio book! I've been in contact with Phil Thron, check him and his work out here, and he's graciously agreed narrate it. It's very exciting as he's such a great narrator, and his dialogue delivery is perfect for the irreverent and sometimes crude interactions between Paige, Fer, and the rest of the cast.

Now, Phil's really reasonable with his pricing. But, I have a long book. After crunching the numbers, it looks like I'm about $1500 short of the approximate 4 grand I need. So, if you're feeling generous, I've set up a Go Fund Me to help raise the rest of the money. He's currently reading the .pdf of my manuscript and making his notes. As soon as he's ready and the cash is in hand, we can begin work.

 So, if you're interested, click on over and help a gal out

Stay tuned for more updates on book 2 and my first ever endeavor into audio books!