We Sail Off To War: first royalties sale!

The royalties from my first quarter of e-book sales landed the other day, and in celebration, We Sail Off To War is going on sale for the low, low price of 99 cents! If you want in at that price, you’ll have to act fast. It’ll only be available at the sale price for one week, through the end of Sunday, October 2. After that, it goes back to the long tail price of $1.99. Don’t miss your chance!

If you’re one of my highly-valued early buyers, thanks! You’re free to kick back and relax this time around: you’ve already done your bit. If you want to do more, though, you can do a few things to pitch in:

  1. Vote at TopWebFiction, using the link over to the right
  2. Review Many Words Press at Muses Success and Web Fiction Guide, links in the same place
  3. Review We Sail Off To War at your e-book retailer of choice

Do any one of those, and you’re a cool person. Do all three, and you’re a Many Words Press hero.

Anyway, you can find We Sail Off To War on sale at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple iBooks, and Smashwords, as well as all e-book stores to which Smashwords distributes. (If you’re reading this early on Sunday, September 25, the new price may not have reached all retailers yet. The changes should show up soon. Similarly, if you’re reading this early on Monday, October 3, you may be able to sneak in at the lower price for a little while longer.)

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Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 18

Wailani seemed to find this funny, and the conversation moved on. Eventually, it came around to literature, and Cannon seized his chance. “I had the opportunity to spend some time in the ship’s library this afternoon, and I must say, it was a singular pleasure.”

“Indeed?” Wailani replied. “I would have thought its charm limited for those who speak no Russian.”

Cannon tilted his head by way of acknowledgement. “Perhaps the English selection is a bit on the light side, but to see such a library on a zeppelin is nothing short of astounding. The captain must take a great deal of pride in it.”

Wailani nodded. “It is one of the crown jewels of the Soviet fleet.”

“No surprise.” Cannon took a deep breath. “Mrs. Smith and I thought we might make a contribution, in the hopes of meeting Mr. Volkov at the captain’s table. Of course, we have nothing of interest to a collector of Russian literature. We were hoping you might.”

Wailani’s eyes narrowed. Cannon hoped he hadn’t overplayed his hand. Wailani spoke. “I do have something of that nature but I certainly cannot just give it away.”

That was the opening Cannon had wanted. “Certainly not,” he agreed hurriedly. “I would hardly presume so much. Rather, I propose a trade.”

Wailani’s mood brightened considerably as the conversation returned to his home turf. “What do you have to offer?”

Cannon looked from side to side, then leaned across the table. “Do you know of the great Dutch explorer van der Hoek?”

Wailani nodded, unconsciously leaning forward himself. “I have heard the name.”

“Did you know that he wrote a three-volume set by the title, The Histories and Migrations of the Peoples of the South Pacific?”

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Late update update

Tomorrow’s update will be coming later in the day: I spent my evening on getting email sent from the Many Words webserver properly authenticated (Google has been bouncing them lately, it turns out). Less productively, I also watched the Presidential debate, and am strengthened in my convictions that nobody is qualified. C’est la vie.

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Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 17

And so they did. They watched the liner pass, leaning over the railing above the bank of windows and waving, though Cannon doubted the passengers below could see them. Later, they found half of a game of bridge and joined in with enthusiasm, if not skill.

Before they knew it, the clock chimed seven, and over the intercom, the captain called them to the dining room. Cannon looked around for Wailani, and found the Hawaiian just sitting down at the captain’s table. Wailani caught his eye, smiled sheepishly, and shrugged.

Cannon and Iseabail dined instead on the lower level. The food was more plentiful, the service less attentive, and the people different, too. It wasn’t that they were uncouth—the uncouth couldn’t usually afford to travel by zeppelin—but they were Alaskans, or Russians from the Far East, or wealthy frontiersmen from Central America. It was no surprise that they were more rugged than the usual zeppelin traveler. The vodka did not surprise Cannon, and the folk songs surprised him only a little.

This sort of person, the rough and ready entrepreneurs and high-end scoundrels, was more Cannon’s speed, and although he could communicate with most of them only by way of one Russian’s astoundingly poor French, he still found he was enjoying himself. All too soon, the stewards took away the final course and shooed them away to the lounge.

“No’ tae ge’ in the way of yon diplomatic progress,” Iseabail said, as they ambled that way, “bu’ shouldna we ha’ a talk wi’ Mr. Wailani about wha’ we can give the cap’n?”

Cannon held up a hand to the Russian to his right and nodded to Iseabail. “You’re right, of course. We shall drop in on him in the lounge.”

They passed through the lounge door, and to their left, Wailani, at his customary table, waved to them. Cannon made his excuses to the Russians, and he and Iseabail joined Wailani.

“Good evening,” the Hawaiian said, directing them to the seats across from him. “Your French—you have an exceedingly unusual accent. I could swear I have heard it before.”

Cannon laughed nervously. Lachapelle always gave him a hard time about how bad—and how distinctive—his French was. He tried to remember if he’d ever crossed paths with Wailani before. Covering for himself, he said, “Just what’s to be expected, when an Englishman marries a Scot, then learns a new language.”

“Wha’s tha’ supposed tae mean?” Iseabail demanded, turning a glare on him. She held it for a few seconds before the first giggle escaped. “Ach, I cannae keep a straigh’ face for anythin’.”

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WIPJoy Deep Stuff: Nathaniel Cannon and the Majestic Affair

Bethany Jennings, an author of young adult SF&F, does this thing called WIPJoy, where we authors talk about a work in progress over the course of September. Find other authors on social media using the hashtag #WIPJoy.

Share a line that hints at your theme.
This is difficult: if I have a theme, it’s that adventure is cool, and the whole story illustrates that point.

What’s one big reason you’re writing this story?
SF&F these days is full of what I like to call ‘message fiction’: that is, a story written to make some broader point. I’m not going to claim that message fiction necessarily sacrifices story, but I do think that we lose something when the big authors in the field are concerned first with saying something. Sometimes a story should just be a story.

What kind of reader desperately needs this book?
If you agree with the previous answer, you’ll probably like all of my stories.

What’s been your biggest challenge with this WIP?
That’s a great question. It might be my continued insistence on writing with pen and paper—I’ve assumed, in the past, that pen and paper and its free editing pass when I type improves the quality of my drafts, but my last few drafts may have put that theory to bed. I guess we’ll see.

Describe your work in progress with a single image.

What aspect of this book is the most unique?
I hope it’s my commitment to scientific and historical plausibility even in the midst of stories about ancient mystical artifacts. The zeppelins designed for Skypirates stories are within about 10-20% of being plausible from a lifting capacity standpoint, the performance characteristics of the airplanes are more or less accurate, and of course the firearms details are pretty spot-on.

Share a line that’s a fantastic example of your writing voice.

It had started a week ago, in Australia, when Pietro di Giacomo, one of his mechanics, received a telegram.

“From my cousin,” di Giacomo explained. “He read of your venture in Panama several years ago, and he thinks he has a problem you can solve. He says he can pay, but mio capitano, he is a monk, a man who has taken vows of poverty.”

Cannon had given him the third degree, and decided that most monks weren’t of the type to lie outright. Inconstant was due for a trip to Europe in search of spare parts anyway, so Cannon rounded up his crew from Darwin’s bars, gambling halls, and houses of ill repute, and set his course for Istanbul by way of Arabia. It had been an uneventful crossing until the HMS Sparrow turned up.

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Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 16

“Did you two have a nice chat?”

Besides tha’ the conversation was pleasant, I found out how we migh’ go abou’ gettin’ an invitation tae the cap’n’s table,” Iseabail replied archly. Cannon sat up, suddenly interested. Iseabail continued. “He’ll aye be dinin’ there tonigh’, an’ all he had tae do was give yon Russian skipper a gift.”

“I don’t know if you noticed, but we’re traveling light.”

“Ach, that’s a problem, aye. Unlike yon crew, I dinnae think he’d take tae a bribe.” Iseabail nodded at something over Cannon’s shoulder, and he turned around. The steward returned with a teacup. He set it in front of Cannon, dipped his head, and left.

Cannon took the teacup, absently stirring in a few sugar cubes, and blew across the top of the cup. Steam wafted past his nose in little curlicues.

“Barbarian,” Iseabail said.

“Oh, give it a rest. I’ve seen what you do to good coffee.”

“Good? Tha’s a stretch.”

Cannon blinked. “We get ours from the island it’s named for.”

“Wha, Coffee Island?”


“… oh.” Iseabail reddened and stared into her tea.

Cannon smiled to himself. Discipline required that he clamp down on his crew’s more notorious wags when he was Captain Cannon, zeppelin commander. Every now and then, though, he got to be Nathaniel Cannon, roguish pirate, and he relished the occasional chance to engage them on their own battlefield. They never seemed to see it coming. No reason to let Iseabail stew in it, though. Not for long, anyway. “Never mind. What did Wailani give the captain?”

Iseabail recovered herself and met his eyes. “He didna relate.”

“We’ll have to ask him after dinner,” Cannon decided. A sudden commotion on the lower level drew his eye. From the excited chatter, Cannon gathered an ocean liner was passing below. “We’ve done all we can for now. Come on. We may as well have a little fun.”

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WIPJoy Protagonist Takeover: Nathaniel Cannon and the Majestic Affair

Bethany Jennings, an author of young adult SF&F, does this thing called WIPJoy, where we authors talk about a work in progress over the course of September. Find other authors on social media using the hashtag #WIPJoy.

Good morning. I’m Nathaniel Cannon, captain of the pirate zep Inconstant, and it looks like I’m here to answer your questions.

Share a deep regret.
I’d rather learn from my mistakes than dwell on them.

What’s that? You won’t let me weasel out of this one that easy? Fine. I’ll name two. First: Panama. I lost friends there, and almost lost everything. Enough said. Second: my early years with Inconstant. Look, in my line of work, there’s no room for soft people, but you don’t have to be a brute to be tough. It took me too long to learn that lesson. I owe my friends more than I can say for sticking around while I did.

How do you really feel about a character closest to you?
That’s Joe Copeland. We first met in the skies over Dayton: he was flying for the Rebels back then. I came in on his four o’clock and put a burst into his engine. Turned out he wasn’t that steamed about it. For a slave pilot, crash-landing alive on the Union side of the lines was about the best thing that could come of a forward patrol. I stopped by the field hospital and met him face to face, and we hit it off. He’s been around ever since, even when he had a good excuse to leave. He’s as good as a brother.

Weapon of choice?
That would be the Mauser Broomhandle you see on my belt. I took it from a Rebel pilot during the war, after I brought him down east of Cincinnati. It’s served me well ever since, for ten years now. Another decade like the last one, and I’ll have to have Iseabail knock together a new barrel for me.

How do you feel about romance?
Put me down for ‘yes’. No, I won’t say any more. A gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell.

How do you feel about your author?
Who, Lachapelle? The little Frenchy sold us out in Panama, but ended up stuck in it right with us. It took us a while to get past that, but now—

Oh, that author. Well, I’ll tell you this: if he weren’t around, our lives would be a whole lot duller.

Any words for future fans of you?
I hear there’s a fan club out of Columbus, but they aren’t affiliated with me. Keep an eye on the newsreels and the papers, that’s my advice. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for our author to get the stories done, and we all know what a wait that can be.

Do you make faces in the mirror when you’re alone?
For the record? No.

Between you and me? You bet I do.

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Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 15

Opening the book, Cannon took a moment to reacquaint himself with an alphabet he knew by heart. Fred Jane’s men had cobbled together a deck plan of Red Banner. The passenger spaces matched the diagram in the official history. The crew spaces were slung beneath them, with access by companionway to the exits from the passenger spaces.

Looking furtively from side to side, Cannon faked a coughing fit to cover the sound of tearing paper. He folded the page and secreted it away in his waistcoat pocket.

The clock struck four, and Cannon blinked. Had he been here that long? The rumbling in his stomach suggested he had. Iseabail would be worried. He fixed his hat upon his head and made his way back to the lounge.

He found Iseabail, remarkably unconcerned, sipping a cup of tea on the balcony level. On the table in front of here was a teapot and a multi-tiered tray with a selection of finger sandwiches and pastries. She pushed a chair out for him with her foot. Setting her teacup down, she related, “I thought ye mighta died.”

Cannon sat. “And you’re here drinking tea?”

“I heard there’s a library,” Iseabail said, pushing the tea tray toward Cannon. “Tha’ seemed aye more likely. Ha’ some of yon wee tasties.”

Cannon took a few of the sandwiches. Mouth full, he asked, “Teacup for me?”

Iseabail shrugged. “I havena seen yon steward I bribed tae bring me this. If he comes by, we’ll ask.” She crossed her arms. “Ye find anything wi’ your afternoon?”

“What I was looking for.”

Iseabail interrupted him, waving at someone over his shoulder. “‘Scuse me. D’ye think we migh’ get another cuppa tea for yon good doctor?”

Cannon turned to see a steward incline his head. “Of course.”

Cannon raised an eyebrow at Iseabail, who grinned back. “Dinnae gi’ me tha’ look, Mr. Smith. It’s aye nice ta ha’ the terms a’ conduct wi’ yon stewards so clear.”

“Is it,” Cannon replied flatly. He shook his head and went on. “I found a good deck plan. Should be enough to go on. Do you have my list?”

“Tha’, an’ information, too,” Iseabail said. “While ye had yer nose stuck in some book, I had a lovely lunch wi’ Mr. Wailani.”

“I guess it’s too much to expect you’d find something useful—”

“Y’know, Mr. Wailani,” Iseabail said, “Our friend who dines wi’ the cap’n?”

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Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 14

Cannon hardly noticed. He turned the page, and found what he was looking for. Or so he thought: on closer inspection, the detailed deck plan he’d just laid eyes on only showed the passenger spaces. It wasn’t a bust altogether, however. He saw four ways between the passenger spaces and the crew deck below: the aftermost hatches in the lounge and the dining room, a hatch he’d passed on his way aft in the main central corridor, and the far forward hatch at the corridor’s other end. Besides that, the plan showed dead-end hatches in the luxury cabins fore and aft of the lounge, through which the crew could presumably serve the more distinguished passengers without disturbing the common masses. Volkov had one of the fancy cabins, and Cannon had a strong suspicion Wailani had the other. Could come in handy, if it came to burglary, or if they had to beat it in a hurry.

He took one last look, then folded the deck plan away and returned to the shelves. His next stop was a Russian knockoff of Jane’s All The World’s Airships, which was a little more in keeping with the quality he expected out of the Soviets. It had no entry for the Red Banner, though, as he flipped through the pages, he discovered it did have an entry for Inconstant. As far as technical accuracy went, Cannon gave it a failing grade. He knew enough Russian to know his own name, and spotted it in the text. Fifteen minutes with the dictionary suggested he already had quite the reputation with the Soviets. he smiled to himself as he put it away. If only they knew.

That pleasant interlude behind him, he went back to the card catalog and rifled through it aimlessly. He had very few ideas left. Unless— a card caught his eye. He pulled it from the catalog and sounded out the title: Джейнс.

… Jane’s. He rubbed at his temples. Just his luck.

Sure enough, the Red Banner‘s copy of Jane’s All The World’s Airships was tucked away in a corner on the balcony level, along with a shelf or two of other, unrelated volumes, the sum total of the library’s English-speaking material. Cannon took Jane’s and found a secluded reading desk tucked against a section of wall where the bookshelves momentarily gave way to wood paneling.

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