Free Heist Story!

I love con and heist stories. I love them so much that I’m building a science fiction series, Underwater Restorations, around a band of roguish, fun-loving thieves. In fact, over the next few months I’m releasing two heist novelettes and later this year a full-length heist novel in the Underwater Restorations Universe. It’s the type of fiction that’s just fun to read (and super-fun to write!) and pretends to be nothing else but entertaining.

To celebrate my love of heist stories, I put up the The Secret of Sky City *free* on NoiseTrade. It’s a heist story (in case you couldn’t guess). So if you love heist/con stories then check out the The Secret of Sky City for free.

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2065. A Floating City. Unexplained Powers.

Sky City. Billed as the most perfect place on earth. It floats a mile above the surface, leisurely circumnavigating the globe, a favorite vacation spot for the wealthy. Its king: an alien-being shrouded in mystery. Residents and visitors alike are compelled to follow his rules, an enchantment placed upon them.

All except for Jena Alwen—a first time visitor, and the thief contracted to steal: The Secret of Sky City.

Celebrating One Year of Indie Publishing

April marks my one year Indie publishing birthday!

Approximately one year ago today, on April 17th, 2014, I released Voices in the Deep my first ever Indie publication. Since then I have released a total of seven Indie publications (!) and learned a near un-quantifiable (and satisfying) amount about publishing. It’s been frantic at times, but always a blast. Connecting directly with readers who enjoy your work makes it all worth it.

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To celebrate the first year of Indie Publishing, I collected the first five stories I Indie published into one volume called Vacationing Offworld: Ballard’s Speculative Fiction Collection 1. I also included three never before publishing stories in the collection that I felt were too short to release on their own. So look for those! The collection will be the only place they’re available. And! And! I wrote an introduction to each story: the story behind the story, as fun bonus material. I talk a bit about inspiration for the story and some of the writing process involved. I always enjoy reading those in collections, so I hope y’all do too.

The first year was incredible. And the second year is shaping up to be even better.

Time-travel Story Bundle

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I’m interrupting the regular schedule of blog posts to bring you this awesome time-sensitive (heh) announcement. Fiction River: Time Streams (of which I am a contributing author) is in a pretty awesome story bundle of all time-travel stories. So if you love time travel as a plot device, then you absolutely don’t want to miss this.

If you’re unfamiliar with story bundles, they’re awesome and they work like this. You pay want you want (generally with a minimum [way below market value]) and if you’re willing to pay a little bit more you can get bonus work. It’s a super-affordable way to get a bunch of books curated around a theme that the reader likes. For this time-travel bundle:

The initial titles in the bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:

  • The Rock by Bob Mayer
  • Time Streams by Fiction River (My story The Highlight of a Life included!)
  • Alternitech by Kevin J. Anderson
  • Time’s Mistress by Steven Savile
  • Parallelogram Book 1: Into the Parallel by Robin Brande
  • Lightspeed: Issue 28 by Lightspeed

If you pay more than the bonus price of just $14, you’ll get another six titles:

  • The Edwards Mansion by Dean Wesley Smith
  • Time Traveled Tales by Jean Rabe
  • The Trinity Paradox by Kevin J. Anderson and Doug Beason
  • Summer of Love by Lisa Mason
  • Ansible by Stant Litore
  • Snipers by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

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It’s very appropriate to me that this bundle just recently brought The Highlight of a Life to mind. I recently posted the above photo of me to Twitter, working on my current novel one handed while rocking my new baby daughter to sleep. When I wrote The Highlight of a Life, my first daughter was seven months old (the very one that is now a toddler and at this very moment screaming at me from across the table becuase she asked for milk and I dared to put it in her cup, thereby prompty giving her exactly what she asked for–toddlers!). But at the time and I was spending the longest time I had been away for a week at a writing workshop learning and practicing my craft and the theme of balancing work with fatherhood was heavy on my mind. The story is one of my favorites, and I’m always looking for an opportunity to share it. So check out this awesome story bundle! It’s a great steal at $5.

Venus Snow included in the Anti-Apocalypse

Issue 16 Cover Preview

I have a new story, Venus Snow, in Plasma Frequency’s Anti-Apocalypse issue. I *love* their theme, and the issue didn’t disappoint. I’ve read most of Game of Thrones, but somewhere in the middle of it, I stopped and trawled through my library muttering “I need some gosh-dang hope in my fantasy” (I ended up re-reading the DragonLance Chronicles for those curious). I was tired of all the grim-dark in that series, which I think is very much in vogue right now. So I was super-excited to see this theme-call.

I’m also a research scientist by trade. This means I rather enjoy the research phase of a story. I get to dust off my old college textbooks, break out the old-school TI-82 calculator and nerd out. The research for Venus Snow was no exception. I read several academic papers on Venus, sketched out rough plans for a space station, and punched on my TI-82 until my heart’s content. I also learned that female centaurs are called kentaurides (cool bit of trivia knowledge). I hope that you not only enjoy it, but that it leaves you feeling hopeful!

P.S. You can read a review of the issue by Charles Payseur over at Quick Sip Reviews if you’re curious.

The Oracle Algorithm Released!

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The Oracle Algorithm, a YA thriller novel went live this week! This one was a lot of fun for two reasons. One, it’s a thriller, and thrillers are just plain fun. And two I designed the cover using Photoshop, it was a lot of fun and I really like the way the way the text came our around the crystal ball with the smoke, pretty cool right? Fun fact: I actually attempted the central conceit to this story. It failed, but I learned a lot about Hidden Markov Models and Neural Nets in the process. Plus I got a novel out of it! I hope you enjoy it.

To help promote The Oracle Algorithm I am giving away 10 free signed paperback copies on Goodreads, sign up for your chance to win!

Welcome to My New Home!

Well if you’re reading this then, welcome to my new home! Isn’t it just spiffy? I’ve been excited about this ever since December when I began working with Clockpunk Studios. The old site was serviceable, but man I hated updating that thing. I used to have to block off a half to a whole writing session to update the website, and with an understanding that I’d likely be in a bad mood the rest of the day and not to take it out on anyone.

Plus, the design on the old site had gotten stale and I’m just in love with the new design. I heart me some aquatic themes, which if you’ve read my fiction shouldn’t come as a surprise. The artist, Phuoc Quan, is absolutely fantastic. I lost a good hour scrolling through his site. So much of his art resonates with the imagery in my head when I’m writing; many match well with stories I’ve already written. I’ve bookmarked his site and will be returning often—hopefully to buy one day.

In celebration of the awesome new website, I decided to drop The Kerephrine Reaction down to $0.99 from $2.99 to take the new website out for spin with marketing. So if you haven’t checked it out yet, now’s a great time to do so!

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Make Writing a Habit

At the start of the year I wrote that I planned to write 3 novels in 2015, a rather ambitious goal considering two things: 1) The longest story I have written to date came out to a short novel, not a full-length novel and 2) I fit my writing into and around the cracks of my life (for instance I’m writing this blog post in the car while my wife drives us to work). How do I plan to accomplish writing 3 full-length novels then? By making writing a habit.

I’m not a morning a person, never will be. Given an uninterrupted stretch of days, my schedule will shift to staying up late and sleeping in. But early morning (and I mean early—before the kids wake up) is the only consistent time I’ve been able to find to write. I’ve been fortunate enough to make this a habit, so much so that I give it little thought when I’m not writing a blog post on it.

By consistently getting to the keyboard, bleary-eyed and grumbling, day-in and day-out, I managed to crank out 22k words in January, and that included time spent on content editing the first part of the novel and a coarse polishing pass. Some of those sessions were awesome (3k!) others were abysmal (100 words) but by having a regular habit progress was made every day and I’m on pace to hit my target of 3 novels (3 novels at 80k each is 240k words for the year, or 20k a month).

Little bits add up in a big way. And if you’re a writer, for a fun way to track those little bits check out my last blog post that referenced the 2015 Word Tracker.

I’m off to accumulate more words.

Novel Progress & a Fun New Widget

The Year of the Series is in full swing. I’ve been so lost in my novel’s world having fun that I nearly forgot to come up for air and check in with the blog. And now that I’m here, I’m pleased as punch to report that the first part of the first book is done. Woo-hoo! So far so good on the schedule.

In other, useful news,  I started using the fun and helpful 2015 Word Count Tracker by Christie Yant to track my progress. It’s less about hitting a number every day for me, but more about watching the numbers steadily climb. What I really like about it is the colors change based on your word count. It forced me one day to stretch for an extra few hundred words to see it turn gold! So anything that results in me writing more words, is a good thing in my book. If you’re a writer and interested in tracking your progress, I suggest you check it out. 

I’m also pleased to report The Watchers is being well received (here too). I love that story. Go little story, go! Check it out if you haven’t yet already.

Until next time …

2015 Year Goals

Happy new year! 2014 is behind us and now it’s time to look forward.
I’m excited about 2015 for a number of reasons:
1) New releases
2) New goals
3) New awesome thing I’m not sharing yet (wink)
http://www.amazon.com/Watchers-Jeffrey-Ballard-ebook/dp/B00RASDY0S/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1419207543&sr=8-2&New releases: I released The Watchers a few weeks early before Christmas for the practical reason of people have fresh electronic toys from under the Christmas tree and might be looking to put something on them, but also because The Watchers is hands down one of my favorite stories. It’s a science fiction novella in the space-opera mold that just seemed to write itself and surprise me, the author, along the way. I felt like a reporter recording reality more than a writer pulling things from the ether. I had just come back from the Character and Voice workshop recharged on writing and had just watched in horror a few months before the Sandy Hook tragedy. The first time I sat down to write upon returning from the workshop, The Watchers is what came out. It’s one of those stories the author really loves and wants to share with the world, so I hope it does well.
New goals: While 2014 was the year of Indie Publishing, 2015 will be the year of the Series. I have decided to not write anythingthat isn’t in a series. Broken down the targets for 2015 are:
1) Write 3 novels
     a) 2 in a new steampunk series I’m working on
     b) 1 novel in the Underwater Restorations Universe
2) And that’s really it …
I’m not including cons or workshops or contests or what-not. Novels. That’s it. That’s my entire focus. Those other things may come into place and I may write some short stories set in the steampunk series world or Underwater Restorations, but I’m not specifically planning on them. Readers want novels, they want novels in series, so that’s what I’m going to give them while still having fun (I love Isa and her crew—I can’t wait to write their first novel). It’s going to be a fun year. I’m tempted to gush about the steampunk setting and ideas, but I think I’ll just take that energy and go write right now.
Oh, and New awesome thing: Well … you’re just going to have to wait a few more months.
Until next time …

2014 Year in Review

It’s that time of year of again. The air outside has turned to a chill, while Christmas lights twinkle through the long, dark nights. And that means another year is almost behind us. It’s time to take stock of progress over the past year and turn our eyes forward.
Earlier in the year I set the following goals:

1) 16 new stories (later revised to 8 + 1 novel)
2) Start indie-publishing stories
3) Put out a new story every other month
4) Enter Writers of the Future contest every quarter
5) Enter Jim Baen’s Memorial Writing Contest
6) Attend on craft level workshop
7) Attend the local sci-fi/fantasy con

I’m pleasantly surprised to say I hit all of them with one caveat to  number 4. The novel, The Oracle Algorithm(due out in March 2015), happened by happy accident. It started as a novelette, then a novella, and finally a short novel. So I hit that one unintentionally, but I’ll take it! I also, quite unintentionally (or at least without paying active attention) wrote eight short stories.
I also wrote some flash fiction, which I don’t count here. And that leads to one of the bigger revelations I learned in 2014: I can’t write flash. But more importantly to me as a writer: I don’t liketo write flash. Honestly, that revelation was a bit of relief. I can now happily ignore it.
http://www.amazon.com/Voices-Deep-Science-Fiction-Short-ebook/dp/B00JG4UIG2/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=http://www.amazon.com/Highlight-Life-Science-Fiction-Short-ebook/dp/B00K0QIDQM/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=http://www.amazon.com/Kerephrine-Reaction-Science-Fiction-Novelette-ebook/dp/B00LFL8T7O/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

http://www.amazon.com/Cancer-Under-St-Pauls-Fantasy-ebook/dp/B00N7GMWWI/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=http://www.amazon.com/Bear-that-Painted-Stars-ebook/dp/B00PDA4FW6/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1417475979&sr=8-1&

I started the year saying 2014 would be the year of Indie publishing for me and that has proven true. I started regularly releasing titles in April. It’s been quite the learning curve and journey, and there’s a long way to go. But I’ve started! And I’m really excited about the 2015 lineup. So much good stuff coming down the pipe.
I entered both contests (numbers 4 & 5). The Jim Baen contest is hard sci-fi confined to no more than 60 years in the future, so it was a bit different than I normally write. I tend to go a bit more … speculative and farther into the future when I do sci-fi so I had to reign myself in a bit, which wasn’t as much fun. I think I’ll be skipping that one in the future, but you never know. I entered Writers of the Future 3 out of 4 quarters, but the missed quarter wasn’t for lack of material, but instead was a conscious decision on my part to stop entering. The connection L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology was something I ultimately decided I couldn’t reconcile, and wouldn’t feel comfortable winning. So I’m done trying to win that.
Finally, I hit the craft level workshop when I went out to the Oregon coast to learn about thrillers. And attended the local Austin Con, where the highlight was an amusing hour at a reading of Barbara Ann Wright.