Fantasy v.s. Science fiction

photoMy writing group has a mix of both science fiction and fantasy writers, and I’m coming to some conclusions on how these two genres differ in regards to writing styles.

One differences is the extent of world building. Sure I put a map in my second book, but I just finished Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance tome, and he has not only an extensive map but extensive illustrations of the flora and fauna in his world, the fashion of his world, and the social hierarchy. Science fiction writers paint a world and then get on with the action; fantasy writers dally in the landscape and admire the scenery more.

Fantasy seems to be more character driven while science fiction is more plot driven. The reader doesn’t get too deep into the complex psychology of the Splinkx, whereas in Fool’s Assassin, the complex emotions of FitzWilliam is a focus for the story and provides the impact at the end.

And the science fiction writers like their high tech gadgets and cutting edge science almost as much as fantasy writers like their magic. Sometimes the two are very similar. (see sidebar quote)

In my series, there is time travel. Poof you’re here; poof, you’re there. Sorta magical.

Both may involve large battles. However, in Lord of the Rings, the battle is mostly on the ground while in in Star Wars or Star Trek, the battles are usually out in space with lots of lasers and gunships.

The enemy tends to be ugly in both genres. Whether it’s Klingons or Orcs, it’s not a pretty face. Our allies, however, are attractive. Legolas and Aragon make me drool, although we should skip the characters of George R. R. Martin as he is changing this trope a bit . Princess Leia and Hans Solo are also easy on the eyes…but the occasional hairy Wooki does pop up. And some of our friendlier aliens often exhibit odd behaviors.

In writing group, the fantasy people are always telling me to put more description in my story while I’m always asking them to stop admiring the scenery, the dress, character behavior and get on with the action and storyline.

This interplay makes for better writing on both sides of the aisle. Still, as a writer, you must recognize your genre and the style that your reader expects, and accommodate that expectation to a certain extent.

I recently read a blog by Tara Sparling and even though it is dated, the numbers are interesting. It’s data on the best selling books of 2012 with charts and graphs. Check it out here: http://tarasparlingwrites.com/2013/08/21/2012-bestselling-book-data-visualised/ 

Words of RadianceThis week I finished Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson. (Huff. Huff) The over one thousand pages looked overwhelming, but they were actually easier to do than I expected– although it entailed a few really late nights. Way of Kings is the first in this series and I reviewed that last year and really liked it. Brandon Sanderson is a favorite of mine.

If you like chunky epics with detailed world building, you will love this one. The characters are compelling and the magic, as ever with Sanderson, is interesting. There are three major point of view characters: the doctor’s son betrayed into slavery and clawing his way back, the king’s uncle and stalwart hero who battles both in the trenches and in the  evil court, and the abused beautiful young girl who searches for the strength to become a powerful woman. Each has a story and each interact with the others. The stories start slow, but build beautifully.Way of Kings

Sanderson writes with passion and a good storyline. That combination always makes an excellent read and is worth being a little sleep deprived at times.

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Filed under alien life forms, award winning scifi, ebook marketing, fantasy, fantasy series, magic, Marketing and selling novels, New York Times Best Sellers, Tor's Reader's Choice, Writing Critique groups

Ebook Marketing

IMG_9503Spring is coming!

I feel like dancing.

For whatever reasons, my most recent marketing program exceeded expectations. Many authors had been grumbling that free doesn’t work as well anymore…that ebook libraries are bursting at the seams with free books…And my previous marketing attempt seemed to indicate that might be true.

But if I still see an interesting free book, I grab it.

I’m just that cheap.

And if I like it, and there’s more by that author, I’m willing to pay a certain price for that reading experience. (See previous blogs)

Several readers did just that, buying up my whole series in some cases.

The key is finding a way to get your name in front of readers so they can sample your writing…get to know you.

There are a variety of “free and discounted” book websites that charge the author for displaying his/her book. The cost to the reader is giving out his email address. That’s all.

The cost to the author varies depending on the effectiveness of the website with Bookbub leading the pack. However, there’s a price to pay for the author and hurdles to leap because of their popularity. I did find that the cheaper sites are most often less effective. You get what you pay for. So you have to find a balance.

Why was this program more effective?

I think timing played an important role. Lucky for me, I didn’t realize that a winter storm was coming in to strand a large number of people in their homes where they had more time to read.

Having said that, a lot of the books sold were out of the U.S.A. Sold three in India for crying out loud. And to my Canadian readers… many, many thanks!

Readers in the U.K. are the second largest market (after U.S.A.) but also Germany, France, and Japan sold.

Also, I saw my numbers spike when I advertised on Freebooksy. An earlier website was cheaper, but sold very little even though they put out a lot of tweets. The tweets didn’t translate into sales. So that was interesting.

If you have a compelling cover and a blurb that intrigues readers; it’s key.

So, I am a supporter of Amazon and their marketing efforts because I would probably be selling a lot less without their various programs.

Win. Win.

Five Element AnthologySpeaking of winning…

Recently several writers in my group have won awards for their short stories. They are quite good at it. So in a moment of insa…enthusiasm, we decided to all write a short story. Then, some wise wit suggested each member offer an element to include in the story. We went around the table. I sagely suggested putting in an alien; others suggested a spaceship, a ghost, a conflict with a boss, and then Chelsea grinned and added a fireplace poker.

Yikes!

That’s just like her!

Now short stories are not my strength, but I actually had fun writing mine. Be forewarned, there is a strong humorous component in it. As a result we came up with seven amazing stories that we have put in an anthology called the Five Elements Anthology.

All the profits will go to the Willamette Writers literacy program Books for Kids. It’s priced at an affordable 99 cents. To do this, we had our Willamette Writers member be the publisher and collect the royalties. We are not allowed to funnel funds directly to the Association, so at a given amount, Ted will send a check to the Association in our name. It was important that we communicated with the Willamette Writers and clear the idea with them first. They have been most enthusiastic and already have mentioned the anthology in their newsletter.

You can easily get the anthology on Amazon. Just scroll down a bit since Five Elements is a popular name. You’ll see my name and the rest of the group on the dynamite front cover.

We’ve sold two already in England along with a number in good old U.S.A.

Writing a short story was so much fun, I might try another one and offer it as a special for my website readers. Stay tuned.

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Filed under alien life forms, Aliens in Science Fiction, ebook marketing, ebook science fiction, fantasy, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Marketing and selling novels, Science Fiction Anthology, science fiction series, Self-publishing, Wizards and magic

Ebook Marketing: Science Fiction

photo Fame is fleeting.

But so sweet in the moment.

Yesterday Caught in Time made #1 in Amazon’s Free Kindle>science fiction>space opera bestseller list.

Oh the glory.

Today…now that my promotion is over, I’m swimming in the deep ocean of paid Kindle eBooks. Sigh. Like I said…fleeting. But wonderful, nonetheless.

However, sales for books in the rest of the series have picked up briskly and I’m hoping readers will explore further the Alysian Universe. Later books are more adult, and I hope the YA flavor of the earlier ones won’t deter readers.

So read on, you all. Select a book from the series, huddle under the covers, and let those cold winds blow outside while you explore another world and keep warm. Undercity

Does the series idea work? I just finished reading Catherine Asaro’s latest novel, Under City and renewed my love for her stories. She is beginning a new detective series with a female protagonist, Major Bhaajan, former military officer with Imperial Space Command, now a hard bitten P.I. She takes on a case that unearths her poverty stricken past and turns up old loves and old enemies. A prince of the royal family has disappeared and her job is to find him. The trail leads downward where she not only has to save the prince, but possibly a whole way of life hidden underground.

Asaro brings deep emotions and romance to science fiction. Once a ballet dancer and also a producer of a jazz album, Asaro carries heavy credentials in the smart department with a M.A. in Physics and a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics from Harvard. This stretch of hard science combined with artistic talent is reflected in her writing. Two time Nebula Award winner, her series in the Skolian Universe is one of my favorites. Lightning Strike

While this new series slides down the social scale, diving underneath the city of Cries to a place where survival is a day by day struggle, several royal members from past books make cameo appearances. The new reader takes scant notice, but for her fans, the chords from past novels are plucked and resonate in memory.The City of Cries Of course, I recommend Under City if you are an Asaro fan.

One of the reasons I like science fiction is that I like to wonder what the future might bring. If you’re like me…then this article on Kurtzweil’s predictions for the next twenty-five years might pique your interest. It’s my nod to you hard science guys who have been so patient lately while I’ve dallied in fantasy. http://www.inquisitr.com/1805304/ray-kurzweil-predicts-some-fantastic-things-coming-in-the-next-25-years/

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Cutting Edge Science ideas, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Science Fiction Detective Story, Science fiction world building, Space opera

Romance in Science Fiction for Valentine’s Day

photoLove is in the air. Valentine’s Day is here. Today is dedicated to recognizing the special people in our life and telling them that we love and appreciate them.

Too often we’re too busy to mention how important they are to us.

So take some time today and let them know.

You probably have it already on your agenda.

You know I’m working on marketing, so I want to make sure that you’re aware that my time travel romance, Caught in Time, will be offered free on Amazon today February 14th through the 18th.

Caught in Time Cover1.1 2Travel back in time to a medieval period…on an alien planet. Rowyna Grae is a regendered clone from the last dying time traveler and is sent into the past to kill a king who is considered the origin of those with special abilities called, Talents.

However, instead, she falls in love with him while dealing with no running water, lack of heat, a barbaric people, betrayal at the royal court, and a looming war.

Think Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court…only Rowyna Grae is no simple Connecticut Yankee and King Telluria’s court can get complicated to a young woman from the future.

Enjoy yourself. It’s FREE for a limited time only.

Currently, I am watching the Brigham Young University series by Brandon Sanderson and really am enjoying his lectures. I gave a link on a former blog. I am thinking of reading Words of Radiance since I have read and reviewed the first book of this epic fantasy, Way of Kings, already and liked it. Unfortunately, it’s over a thousand pages long. I can’t do that in a week. But I’ll probably try.Way of Kings

MistbornWord is that sequels to his Alloy of Law series will also be out later this year. So heads up there. The earlier Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson is a favorite of mine and many other fantasy readers. If you haven’t read it, you might give it a glance.

Since I’m constantly in edit mode nowadays, I bought Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown. I usually use an editor, but it helps to edit myself first before I hand it off. One of my favorite bloggers just came out with a long list of books to help the struggling writer of today and that is where I discovered this title. Check out http://www.veronicasicoe.com/blog/2015/02/writing-advice-books-list/ and her latest blog for ideas and comments.

Then, don’t forget to hug someone significant and tell them that you love them.

XXXXX

 

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Filed under Alien worlds, alloy magic, Best selling science fiction, ebook marketing, ebook science fiction, fantasy, fantasy series, Indie authors, Indie Science Fiction Authors, magic, Marketing and selling novels, Mistborn series, science fiction, science fiction series, Self-publishing

Science Fiction Mystery Wins 2013 Edgar Award: The Last Policeman

IMG_0165A looming apocalypse. An asteroid heading to Earth.

With all the kerfuffle of asteroids whipping past Earth lately, the selection of The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters seems appropriate, and poses the sticky question of what would you do with only six months to live?

A clever premise.

In the story, asteroid 2011GVI is heading like a bullet for planet Earth with 100% assurance it will impact within six months.

The Last PolicemanAgainst this backdrop Detective Hank Palace is called to a McDonald’s bathroom to investigate a hanging that he pronounces a murder.

Jaws drop. Heads shake.

With suicides almost every day, and hangings in particular being his small town’s specialty, no one believes the case is murder.New Image of Comet ISON

Yet doggedly, against a world unraveling around him, Hank is determined to prove his case and bring the person to justice. As the case develops, it becomes obvious that Detective Palace is not just searching for a killer, but trying to find meaning and purpose in a world going mad around him.

But others are fleeing their jobs to drink, paint, escape to the beach, be with family, reunite with lost friends, as suddenly priorities shift. Yet some, like Hank, continue to pursue their job, trying to hold society together.

As Hank follows various leads, the police station empties out, courts lose judges and clerks, retail stores close down, and the world prepares for collision. No one cares who the murderer is, but Hank. And what would anyone do if he or she were found?

Countdown CityI found the storyline interesting and Hank Palace a bit quirky. Winters won the 2013 Edgar Award for this story and the Macavity Award for best mystery novel. Also it was an Amazon best book of 2012.

Having said that, the story focused more on the mystery of whether it was a murder and if so, who did it? Winter writes using excruciating detail at times to describe a scene while the main character remains a mystery. All we know of Hank Palace’s physical description is that he is young and has a mustache. Also, he wears several suits of the same color. Psychologically, this case is his umbrella against a rain of emotion that destroys many others who commit suicide so they won’t have to face “the final days.”

For me the book was interesting enough to mention, but not one that I would put to the top of my “must read list.”World of Trouble

This is the first book in a trilogy, and although the mystery resolves to a certain point, the asteroid continues to plunge closer in, evidently waiting for the next two novels before it can hit. This puts an unresolved tension on the whole story. If the case had proven more interesting, maybe…but enough other readers liked it that I wanted to mention it. It is also a Powell’s book group selection and should raise a fair number of comments and discussion.

For those of you interested in the business of books and publishing, I wanted to suggest the following links:

Mark Coker puts out a forecast every year for the book business that is worth reading. Here is a link: He lists fifteen changes or developments that will happen in publishing in 2015.

http://blog.smashwords.com/2014/12/2015-book-publishing-industry.html.

And for my Indie author readers, M.L. Banner, author of Stone Age, offers a podcast with unique ideas on how to reach the bestsellers list on Amazon with your first novel.

http://blog.reedsy.com/post/110078423257/reaching-bestsellers-list-with-first-book-indie-author

Last night my writers group was awesome, so I’m up and writing more in the next installment. My next book poses the questions, “What if time travelers from the future came to your present and tried to change things? How would you react?”

I’m finding it an interesting story.

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Filed under award winning scifi, Comets and asteroids, Disaster Fiction, ebook marketing, ebook science fiction, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Science Fiction Detective Story, Science Fiction Mystery, Self-publishing, The future of publishing, time travel

Best Selling Fantasy

IMG_0174

Marketing: the bane of the Independent Author. So, yes, I’m marketing again. From February 14 through 18, I’m offering Caught in Time free through Amazon KDP Select. This is the first book in the Alysian series. The last time I did this was highly successful and many readers continued on and bought a number of the other books in the series. Each story is different and can stand alone, but all continue in the Alysian Universe. See my author’s page for summaries on each. http://www.AlysianUniverse.com

http://www.amazon.com/Sheron-Wood-McCartha/e/B0045K0HD6/ 

Since I did this back in May 2014, Amazon has come out with their Kindle Unlimited program. This is a similar business model to Netflix, in that you pay a fee of $9.99 per month for unlimited downloads of novels that have signed up for KDP Select. So not everyone is in the pool, but since it’s Amazon, the pool is more like a Lake Erie size body of water.

I have been hearing that the Kindle Unlimited program has impacted Ebook sales negatively, but my information has not been quantified. What has been quantified is the information in the following link, which you might find interesting.

 https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/getting-your-book-discovered-2015-readers-have-omar-luqmaan-harris

What I have noticed personally is KOLL/KUL (Prime free sales and Kindle Unlimited) have quadrupled for my books while standard sales have dropped. This could be a seasonal phenomenon or a result of Kindle Unlimited. Are we having yet another seismic shift in how books are sold? Stay tuned.

Goblin Emperor by Katherine AddisonThis week I read The Goblin Emperor and really enjoyed it. Okay, yes, it’s fantasy, but occasionally I take a break.

Because this is a TOR book, I found it in the library. Readers often find books by legacy publishers free through the library, but may have to pay for independently published books (who are not in the library catalog) from online storefronts…(Amazon, Kobo, Nook, etc.) A groundswell of online websites such as Booksy.com, now promote eBooks and charge the author an advertising fee. For the subscribed reader, they send announcements of recently discounted books via e-mail on a daily basis. Caught in Time will be featured on Booksy February 18th and link to Amazon where it will be free. I plan to compare the other free dates of 14-17 and see if this type of promotion is worthwhile.

Okay, back to my review.goblin

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison concerns a part goblin, part elf, named Maia who so far has lived his entire life exiled by Varenechibel the Fourth, his father, the Emperor of Ethuveraz. He is the youngest son, tainted by Goblin blood, and with three half brothers ahead of him in line for the throne, no one thought to prepare him for rule. In fact, he was shunned and abused. So when father and all three half brothers are killed in an airship crash, Maia finds himself called to court to be crowned the new emperor and burdened by layers of court dress, heavy jewelry, and no idea of what to do. Isolated with no friends, Maia must quickly figure out the politics of court, the etiquette necessary to function and the wisdom to rule justly.

Before long, Maia also discovers that his father and half-brothers’ deaths were no accident. The airship was tampered with. The crash was murder.

Whoever is behind the assassinations most likely is plotting to kill him next. Someone is out to seize the power of the throne and takeover the Goblin Empire. But who? And how can he/she be stopped?goblin-shaman

The struggle that 17 year old Maia goes through to untangle the hidden agendas and lines of power in the royal court are fascinating. Isolated, inexperienced, ignorant, Maia is endearing as he tries to be a good ruler, worthy of the crown against overwhelming circumstances.

Deftly drawn emotion, not overdone, but touching and enveloping, pervades the story and draws the reader into the world of Maia and the royal court. Being emperor is hard. Just learning the outrageous names and family lineages tasks not only Maia, but also the reader. (see father’s name above to start)

Still the heart and courage of the story makes me recommend this to anyone who likes fantasy…especially stories about goblins and elves.

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Filed under Best selling science fiction, ebook marketing, fantasy, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Self-publishing

Writing Science Fiction and a Military Scifi Review

photoIf you are an author or writer, I have three interesting links for you to check out. The first is a lecture series on Utube given by Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn, Way of Kings, etc.) for classes at BYU. Seventy-two fascinating lectures cover all aspects of writing: characters, setting, plot and the business end of getting published the traditional way: networking, queries, agents, etc.

You might want to grab a bag of gummie bears before you start. A great lecture series from one of our current best, free on Utube.

The second is a link to the short story market. Where to put a short story if that’s what you write.

Http://wwww.duotrope.com.

The third is a survey by Freebooksy, an advertising site for free and discounted books. (So they are biased) The author signs up and when his book is offered free on KDP Select, Freebooksy features it for the date requested. Readers sign up and get e-mails of these free and discounted books at no cost for the service. Sometimes, the sites that do this charge quite a hefty fee to the author for a promo and are picky about what books they list. Still, the numbers in the survey are interesting.

http://freebooksy.com/author-blog/2012/9/18/freebooksy-report-the-state-of-kdp-select-free-promotions.html

Poor Man's Fight  by Kay Elliot

This week I read Poor Man’s Fight by Elliot Kay. This is the first in a series recommend by my ex-military reader and I quite enjoyed it. Bonus is that it is a well-written Indie published series; a gem glittering in a pile of self published novels. To see a self-published author take care with his story and presentation makes me proud.

Having said that, the plot isn’t dramatically new or the characters unique.

And that isn’t a bad thing.

Tanner Malone’s stellar school performance comes to a unexpected end when family problems and a rigged test cause him to flub his final exam for college placement. His poor performance requires him to go deeply in debt if he is to continue on to college.

Rather than go into debt, he enlists in the military that is ramping up its forces to combat the increasing threat of space pirates.

A large portion of the book deals with his trials and tribulations at boot camp. Then, the story picks up the viewpoint of the pirate horde and their grievances against the current government practices. The author flashes back and forth between the two.

Kay balances his characters nicely. You have both good and bad in both camps. In addition, he does a nice job of portraying Tanner Malone as a highly intelligent nerd caught in the grinder of the military boot camp where physical prowess and guts counts for more than independent thinking and intelligence.

Even in the pirate’s camp, brute viciousness is balanced with a likable leader and his capable, but deadly, female boatswain.

As you enter both worlds, you feel the inevitability of them meeting with violence and a lot of fighting.

If you like military scifi…future worlds with spaceships and battles, I suggest you gear up and try this one. Rich Man's War

Reviews on the sequel, Rich Man’s War,  are even higher.

 

 

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Filed under Book reviews, ebook marketing, ebook science fiction, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Marketing and selling novels, military science fiction, science fiction, Science Fiction book review, science fiction series, Self-publishing, Writing Tips and Lectures