Chapter 1 – The Corsair Uprising #1: The Azure Key

The Corsair Uprising #1: Chapter 1Chapter 1 Permafree

Welcome! I hope you enjoy the chapter 1 of The Corsair Uprising #1: The Azure Key. If you enjoyed it, you can download the entire book for free on Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, and a number of other websites.

 


Chapter 1

 

2144 A.D. – Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Liam Kidd stood in an alley surveying the bustling street, making sure to check the sky for surveillance drones. A bead of sweat rolled down his scarred face, which he quickly wiped with a gloved hand before it froze in the cold Toronto winter. His bright blue eyes darted between passersby as he searched for his pursuer. They wanted credits, and if he didn’t pay, he’d end up paying a different kind of price.

Takara was a corporate enforcer and sometimes assassin working for Vesta Corporation, the largest asteroid mining company and the first one to hit one trillion credits in valuation. They were an old corporation with ties to every political office on the planet. Earth needed the precious metals and minerals for manufacturing and some fat cats at Vesta had found a way to deliver them from the Asteroid Belt, holding a tight grip on the supply. Even more frightening was their mafia-like tactics that left countless people missing and presumed dead.

Agents like Takara, a former Yakuza member, practically had immunity from prosecution. The system was corrupt, but Liam had never had a problem with it. Until now. He’d done a few freelance jobs for Vesta Corporation in the past. Nothing big. A smuggling job here and a protection detail there. It was easy money. That is, until millions of Vesta Corporation’s credits went missing and he was the prime suspect.

Liam poked his head out from the alley and decided to take his chances. He pulled the brim of his winter hat low over his long blond hair and pulled his blue jacket close. A gust of wind made his thick Norse jaw quiver, his short stubble doing little to warm his face. The fibers of his clothing were engineered to keep heat in, a necessity during the winters up North, but hardly a panacea for the frigid climate. He kept close to the buildings as he walked toward a growing crowd. It was New Year’s Eve and people were already showing up for the festivities. Liam had never been a big fan of crowds, but he would make an exception, just this once.

When he was intermingled in the mass of people he chanced a backward glance. His heart raced as he searched for her face. Takara was hard to miss. She was heavily tattooed and had cybernetic implants on her arms and parts of her face, her normally graceful lines interrupted by cold, sharp alloys. He didn’t know exactly what the implants did, but he was sure it was all to make her a more efficient killing machine.

There was no sign of her. Liam let himself relax a bit. He needed to sort through this mess before he ended up dead, or worse. Liam imagined being sent to the asteroid mines. Though spider bots did most of the hard labor, they needed workers to maintain their systems and to start the refining process. He’d been on smuggling runs to the Mars Colonies in the past, but disliked the cramped quarters and extended length of the mission. Even with the latest ship upgrades it took about three weeks one way. Too long in cramped quarters for Liam Kidd.

The New Year’s celebration had a number of musical acts lined up for the afternoon leading up to the midnight countdown. Kim-Yoon, a Korean pop star, was singing live on the stage. What passed for ‘live’ was a hologram of them singing live in another location. To be fair, the holograms were so lifelike it was hard to tell the difference, apart from the occasional glitch. The same performance was being broadcast in New York, Rio, Los Angeles and everywhere else. It was almost midnight in Korea, which meant their headline act was about to perform.

The song ended and the air was filled with the screams of teenage girls. Video of cheering crowds from around the world lined the screens on the metal frame of the stage. He couldn’t stay there. Now was his chance. Liam made his way through the cheering crowd, keeping low and using the cover of the masses to shield his face. Any minute a drone could recognize him and he’d be done. Facial recognition would only take a moment.

After a few minutes he reached the edge of the crowd and decided to try to make it to his apartment on Fifth Street. It was only three blocks, but it seemed much farther in the waning light of the sun. He was going against the grain as more people began to show up. He cursed. Liam would look out of place to any trained observer, but he had to give it a shot.

He pulled the brim of his hat down and walked along the smooth grey facades of the downtown buildings. Liam only made it a block before he heard the familiar robotic chirp. It was the unmistakable sound of information being sent from a drone to a user. He looked up and saw a spherical drone hovering above him, a small jet distorting the air below it. Its smooth metallic exterior was interrupted by several camera lenses pointed in every direction. Red OLEDs flashed, making the drone appear to glow in the fading light.

Liam ran. The drone followed closely, continuing to chirp frantically as he tried to lose it down a side street. If Liam didn’t get away fast, he didn’t like his odds. He’d been on the other end before and knew that the more time that passed, the less likely he was to live.

He came out on Third Street, the drone trailing by a few feet as he weaved in and out of passing people on their way to the concert, bumping shoulders with several of them and prompting a slurry of snide remarks. The sound of heavily electronic music filled the air once more and a laser-light show began behind him, sending colored beams of light into the cloudy, darkening sky.

Liam passed a side street that was filling up with food carts for the New Year’s celebration. Alley parties were finally catching on in Toronto, though Liam never saw the point. He couldn’t remember one good experience that occurred in an alley. Yet, dozens of vendors were already set up and serving while a DJ erected his speakers. The smell of countless spices floated over to him along with the brief feeling of heat against his face. When he ran past the alley another gust of cold air hit his face and the long scar on his right cheek seemed to tighten.

He was sprinting now, clear of the bulk of the crowds and in a straightaway to his apartment. Liam was in fairly good shape, not too bulky or too skinny, athletic despite his generally poor nutrition. He thanked his genetics for that. As his speed increased the drone started to trail a bit, unable to match his pace. Still, Liam continued to turn his head every so often to make sure he was losing the robotic nuisance. After taking one final glance backward he turned his head back to his front, where he saw a flash of something metal.

Whatever hit him made him lose his balance on the snowy ground so that his feet dug in and found only ice beneath. He lost his footing and flew backward, landing hard on the sidewalk. His eyes unfocused as he stared up into the dusk, until there was nothing left but a dark grey blotch with sprinkles of white fluttering down casually. The buildings and the sky were indistinguishable to him.

“Takara,” Liam breathed, the wind knocked out of him.

“Liam Kidd. Always making trouble.”

Takara straddled him and put her laser weapon up to his head just below his cap so he could feel the freezing metal tip. He squinted, focusing his eyes on her face. He’d never seen her this close before. She might have been very pretty before all of her modifications. Her dark brown eyes now looked like the leads of a circuit, her fine black hair tied back behind heavily pierced ears. She was dressed from head to toe in form-fitting black leather, itself a testament to her moxie since most countries banned the tanning of leather in the 2070s.

Takara gripped his jacket tight and brought Liam’s face close to hers. “Where’s my money, Gaijin?”


 

 

Well, that was Chapter 1 of The Corsair Uprising #1: The Azure Key. Hope you enjoyed it!

Please download the entire book for Free on AmazonNookKobo, or Smashwords! Please let me know what you think in the comments below! The first book is permafree, meaning it will always be free wherever digital books are sold. If you like the first book, please consider buying the other books in the series.

The Corsair Uprising #2: Nightstalkers

The Corsair Uprising #3: Death Wish

The Corsair Uprising #4: The Lost Corsair

Competitive Analysis 101: Know Your Place

Competitive Analysis 101: Know Your Place

Competitive Analysis, you say? I don’t have an MBA…

…You don’t need an advanced degree to do a competitive analysis and understand your competition. Use the steps I outline below and discover how to make your book stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Who are your rivals, and what do they do?

Competitive AnaTry to pinpoint the genre you want to apply your work. I know, I know, your writing can’t be categorized in a little box. That’s why Amazon lets you use up to seven keywords and two main categories. Use them all! However, don’t just make up a genre off the top of your head. If you want to be found in the categories Amazon actually uses, look up Kindle ebooks on their website. On the left sidebar (Shown at left for your convenience). Drill down into the various categories until you find several that have less than 5,000 or 10,000 books. This will make it easier to stand out and reach the top 100 lists (something critical for organic sales).

Once you’ve narrowed down the field, seek out books that are similar to your own. Research the authors, including their Kindle ranks in various categories, social media followings, website presence, number of reviews, and anything else you think might be appropriate. Do this for three to five competitors to get a good idea of the current market and what you’re up against. Based on these real-life numbers, set goals for yourself. If you want to stand out, you’ll need to best these other authors in at least one or two of the areas I just mentioned.

Social Media:

As I said before, research the author’s platform (their website, social media presences, and more). Find out if they have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, or Pinterest accounts. If so, how much do they post? What do they post? How many followers do they have? How long have they had the account? These are all good things to know.

Covers:

Something else you’ll want to look at is your competition’s covers. Do they use real photos or illustrations? Stock photography (Istock Photo) or a professional designer? What kind of fonts do they use? What kind of color schemes? I hate to say that the cover is the most important thing you can do to stand out in a crowded market, but the reality is that statement isn’t far off. I made a mockup of a nonfiction cover for my recent book Your Time and the initial design was way off base. I did more research and found that using illustrations with cartoony people for Time Management books was far more common. I redesigned the cover and now it looks like the book really belongs in the same field. Whatever genre you’re writing has similar standards that will help guide you to a more successful cover. If you have already published a book and aren’t receiving many sales, compare your cover to your competition’s and see if you need to make a change.

Know Yourself

Competitive Analysis
Your competition may be hiding in the most unlikely of places. Take this mythical Beer Dragon for example.

Sometimes doing a competitive analysis of the current marketplace can give you a better idea of yourself and where you want to go. In between novels or stories, it’s good to reevaluate where you’re at see if you need to make a change. I hope this blog helps you discover your place in a crowded market.

Tell me your thoughts in the comments below. What else do you do when conducting a competitive analysis?



May Update: Great Things Happening

May Update


May Update Memory Leak CoverMay update Death Wish CoverIt’s been an amazing year, so I thought I’d give everyone a May Update to catch up with what’s been going on in my corner of the internet.

1. Death Wish Cover Reveal. I recently released the cover of my upcoming novel Death Wish, the third in the Corsair Uprising Space Opera Series. I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback about the cover and I’m excited to release the novel this summer.

2. Dirge of the Corsairs Music Video. It’s not every day an opportunity presents itself to do something unique and exciting that you’ve never done before. While I was writing Death Wish, I wrote some song lyrics that really fit well into the context of the story. I decided not to stop there and I recorded the song. Next, I went out into the desert and filmed a music video to accompany the song. The moral of this story is don’t write an idea off as silly or not feasible. If you put your mind to it you can accomplish great things. You can read about the making of the music video or watch the video here.

3. Memory Leak Gets a New Cover. Memory Leak is a science fiction thriller that I released originally back in 2010. The cover was dated and I didn’t feel it conveyed the right tone, so I made a new one that matched the branding on my most recent novels since 2014.

4. Symbiote to be released as an audiobook in Summer 2015. Books In Motion has picked up my science fiction thriller Symbiote and it’s currently being read by a talented reader in a studio.  Stay tuned for the release date and more details.

5. Amazon Bestseller status. Last weekend, The Corsair Uprising #1: The Azure Key reached bestseller status on Amazon, hitting #1 in Steampunk and multiple other categories. I’d like to say thank you to the more than 500 people who downloaded my book over the span of a couple of days and the thousands of people who’ve read my books so far. Without your help, none of this would have been possible.

 

I have a lot more great news coming later on this year, so please keep an eye out for those updates as they come in. Things are definitely changing for the better and my name is getting out there. Once again, thank you to anyone who has read my work. Without early adopters, there would be no superstars.