Science Fiction Thriller



I was studying Data guy’s new report on author’s earnings to understand the influences on total book sales, both paperback and ebook.

The data suggests that ebook sales have declined recently. However, keep in mind that more and more Indie and self published authors are using ASIN numbers rather than the more reportable ISBN number.

Also, the report mentions the influences that heavyweight Bookbub has on sales. Traditional publishing houses are paying the large fee to drive up their ebook sales and squeezing out the smaller fry. While Bookbub protests that it is fair, it really isn’t. You need a lot of reviews to get accepted and the cost is high. It’s also a matter of the higher number of sales and reviews you get, the more likely you will get more in the future. As an independent publisher, I struggle to get reviews. Sales are good, but reviews are few.

Price as an issue is also discussed. The traditional and mid-sized houses are putting high price tags on ebooks and that drives down sales. Discounting paperbacks results in selling less ebooks and more paperbacks. The popularity of coloring books that are counted as paperbacks was also a factor in the paperback sales bump.

Version 2Also, I’m concerned about the increasing availability of free books. Bundling is also a new marketing ploy that enables a reader to get a number of books for a lowered price. However, as an author, when I offer my first in a series, I get a lot of follow-on sales, so offering one free is well worth it for me and part of my marketing strategy.

There is also mention of Amazon’s recent changing of algorithms. Scam artists have infiltrated Amazon to manipulate the page reads in the Kindle Unlimited program. A number of innocent authors have been hurt in the crossfire. Since Amazon doesn’t disclose how they count these pages, authors rely on Amazon numbers for how many pages are read…and these numbers have changed dramatically recently.

There’s a lot of data and graphs to look at and some interesting comments on the current state of the business. So, take a look and draw your own conclusions.

blended-humanThis week I’m talking about The Human Blend by Alan Dean Foster. This is part of a completed Trilogy (The Tipping Point Trilogy)  that deals with extreme genetic manipulation of humans. I picked this because it is near future science fiction that is different than my usual fare. Also, the book is by a well known author that I haven’t discussed before.

Whisper is a thug who has chosen to alter his body to extreme thinness. His partner in crime is Jiminey Cricket who has long legs and can jump far. They attack a supposed tourist in an alley to harvest his hand to sell. Whisper is attracted to a hidden shimmering silver thread that he pockets. Not long after, shadowy figures start hunting them.

The book is a chase through strange environments and even stranger people. At first, the two run, thinking it is the hand that their pursuers want. Then, after they split up to throw off their trackers, Jiminey disappears. Whisper calls forth everything and everyone he knows to evade whoever is after him. And some of the characters are pretty strange…such as alligator man.body-inc

After he is shot with tracker bullets, Whisper ends up at Dr. Ingrid Seastrom’s clinic, desperate to get the bullets removed where he shows her the thread. He hopes her advanced equipment will reveal what he carries so he will know its worth. Unlike Whisper, Ingrid is an attractive Harvard educated natural. Investigating the thread leads to a startling discovery, and it appears to be connected to a quantum entangled nanoscale implant she took out of a young girl’s brain recently. The silver thread is a data storage device made from an impossible bit of material not from Earth. Her scientific curiosity wants to know more about the strange material, so together they form a partnership.

the-sum-of-her-partsBut their pursuers appear to have a lot of clout and skilled assassins to call upon in order to retrieve the stolen thread. The result is a wild chase through a disturbing world where what it means to be human is a very blurry line indeed.

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Filed under artificial nature, Cutting Edge Science ideas, gene modification, genetic manipulation, hard science, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, modifying humans, Near future science fiction, quantum entanglement, Science Fiction Mystery, science fiction series, Transhumanism

A Whiff of Science Fiction in a Good Thriller

Image 1With the rain coming in and A World Too Far published, it’s back to writing…no excuses.
I know the general overall scope of this next story, just not all the details—and the devil is in the details.

That’s when Larry Brooks’s story structure comes in handy. (The Storyfix) He uses a four point system. The first twenty pages is the initiating event with a hook. Something happens that shows the character’s life is about to change. The first 25% is the set up and the first plot point. We learn about the character and his world. The primary obstacle is defined.larry-brooks

The hero confronts the obstacle, but then there’s the pinch point at 37% of the way through where we are reminded of the nature and intention of the antagonistic force.

At the mid plot point we are 50% through and everything changes. New information shows up. The hero has to dig deeper and find new solutions to reach his goal.

At 62% into the story, the confrontation escalates. Obstacles change and evolve. The hero finds a new course, and new opportunities set up the final showdown. Protagonist takes command. We think the solution is in hand …but not so fast. Greater feats are required.

At 80% a plot point carries the final battle. The character has evolved, changed through the experience and a major confrontation occurs to prove his or her worth.

The resolution brings the final pages of the story where ends are tied up, actions are explained, and a sense of completion ends the story.

I use this outline to try to keep on track so my heroine is not off wandering in the weeds with readers asking : what’s she doing? What’s the point? There has to be a rub…conflict worthy of a story. And, for me, there can be multiple conflicts and lines of progression. Sometimes the conflict is outward, but sometimes, the conflict is internal. Sometimes both at the same time.

Brooks has a blog called the Story you might want to check out. He goes more in-depth  with the process.

Okay, now (sips coffee, rubs face) time to write.

legaciesThis week I read a book recommended by a new reader. What I like is that it’s a hidden gem not on any current list. It was published a while ago, but it’s new to me. That’s the beauty of this new publishing world. The reader comes fresh to the story if he’s never read it before no matter what the publication date. Ebooks are forever.

The other caveat is that it barely ekes into the science fiction genre. There is a science fiction element hiding in the story, so I decided to go ahead and mention it. It’s there so keep reading.

The book is Legacies by F. Paul Wilson. This is in the popular Repairman Jack series. Repairman Jack isn’t your average repairman, although his own father is oblivious to what he really does and wants him to move to Florida, buy a fleet of trucks, and with Florida’s great opportunities, expand his business there.

What Repairman Jack fixes is lives. He rights injustice. He defends the underdog. He lives off the grid, not daring to marry for fear of creating a data trail. In certain circumstances, he is willing to murder if necessary. He has no social security card, does not deal with banks or leave an identity trail of any kind. Often, his opponents were powerful men who did bad deeds. Consequently, over the years he has antagonized dangerous people. But he chooses his jobs carefully. There is a bit of MacGyver in him.

Dr. Alicia Clayton works with children who have aids. These are abandoned children of mothers usually on crack, heroine, or other drugs and have passed aids onto their child. Alicia runs a center to help these desperately ill children.hosts

She inherits her inventor father’s house after his death in a mysterious plane crash. Both house and Alicia carry deep secrets. Her half brother is willing to do anything to get the house out of her hands, but if she is killed, the house passes to the Greenpeace organization.

So, those desperate to uncover the house’s secrets stop at killing her. Shadowy Arabs, a lurking Japanese ninja, and various nefarious characters enter the picture. Alicia wants the house burned, but competing shadowy international figures want the house at any cost. They offer millions, but for some reason Alicia will not sell. Everyone who helps her, from lawyer to private eye, ends up murdered. She is becoming emotionally unhinged trying to deal with what is happening to those who try to help. Someone of daring and cunning who is willing to risk his life to uncover the mystery is needed.

the-tombAnd so enters Repairman Jack under his many aliases to right the wrong and uncover the mystery.

Clever with many plot twists, this page-turner thriller will pull you in until the last surprising moment.

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Filed under Hard science fiction, science fiction, Science Fiction Detective Story, science fiction series, Science fiction thriller, Writing Tips and Lectures

Science Fiction Specials

IMG_0174A one day special…today!

To kick off my new book A World Too Far, I have partnered with Free Kindle Books and Tips to offer a special discount to celebrate the new release.

This starts a new Trilogy that remains in the Alysian Universe, but presents a whole different viewpoint and characters. Offered on Amazon or through FBKT, grab this .99 deal because it’s going away tomorrow. or

I don’t usually go into writing on my blog, but Thomas Weaver of North of Andover gave a good explanation of an irritating grammar point–the em dash. Here it is if you’ve been wondering.

Are you a Firefly fan? If you think I’m talking about flickering flying insects, you couldn’t be more mistaken.

I’m talking about the kickass series of odd job spacers who fly around the stars from episode to episode running from the government and it’s secret operation and trying to pick up various dangerous jobs in order to survive.

And starring hunky Nathan Fillion. Oh, so now you know what I’m talking about.


dark-runIf you like that style of science fiction, then, Dark Run by Mike Brooks may just be your cup of kauf.

The Keiko’s crew are smugglers, tarnished soldiers of fortune, ex-pirates, and con artists who want their past to stay secret. It’s the code of the ship to not dig up a fellow crew member’s past. But the past has away of coming back and biting you, so Captain Icabod Drift is abducted and blackmailed into taking a job by an old corrupt employer who has revenge on his mind and wants to use the Keiko to deliver it. For a cool hundred thousand up front and another after delivery, Captain Drift and crew must deliver three crates to an exact location at an exact time.

Scrambling to make the deadline, several obstacles force the ship into various fraught situations. Their female Chinese pilot flies the ship through impossible maneuvers and the huge Maori named Apirana serves as bodyguard and protectorate. Drift and first mate, Tamara Rourke, form a special bond. (romance here) Crew member Micah has his own secrets and a past he’d rather hide. And the pilot ‘s brother Kuai lurks in the engine room muttering at his sister’s recklessness and trying to protect her.

But as events unfold and the deadly, mysterious cargo is discovered, hidden past identities begin to unravel and surprising identities are revealed. The most shocking is the true identity of their once trusted Captain. As the revelations unfold, the crew must decide if they want to remain together and continue with the close fellowship they have experienced over the past several years or split for new horizons, now knowing the truth of fellow crew members.dark-sky

But each feels betrayed by what happens and revenge becomes a strong glue that keeps them together as they seek out to destroy the powerful employer who set Drift and his crew up in the first place.

Definitely a fun ride with all the elements of an action adventure science fiction story in place and ready to be enjoyed.

Flicker on firefly.

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Filed under Alien worlds, Classic science fiction, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction, science fiction space opera, Science fiction thriller, Space opera, space ship, space travel

Publishing Science Fiction

IMG_9503Lots of exciting stuff is happening at my place.

First off, A World Too Far just got published! This is the first in a new exciting trilogy built around: The Ship, the Station and the Planet. I love to write about space ships and space stations. Our view of the universe has changed so much since I was in school. Yeah, yeah, I did learn the sun was the center, not the Earth, but black holes, dark matter, multi-verses– so much more has been discovered or speculated about over the last few years. I wanted to put some of that in my book.bk9_cover_a_world_too_far_ships_kindle

Next, I’m working on marketing… my style. This means I don’t have the funds for a blizzard of ads or the inclination to travel the country for low attendance signings. That gets expensive too. I haven’t built up a large local fan base, but my readers in Australia are amazingly enthusiastic.

Thanks, mates.

I want to go there some day. My daughter studied at Macquarrie for a term in Sidney and enjoyed the city. It’s on my radar.

I will be offering Caught in Time for free once more as a first in a series book on September 14th and on Free Kindle Books and Tips on the 15th. Here’s the link for Free Kindle Books and Tips: Check it out. I’d heard they were good and so far the process has been smooth and the cost reasonable.

The beauty of Indie publishing is that you can go back into the book and update to your current books in the front matter and give new links and information at the back. I also did another read through looking for punctuation and grammar corrections …and found a few. Fixed those.

I taught high school English, but commas still give me the fits.

Along with all this commotion, I’m writing the next book in the series and purely loving it. There are moments of panic when I wonder what is coming next, but the characters always come through with some new crisis that gets me scribbling away…er…madly texting. Human nature being what it is. Aliens being what they are–something always happens.

Also, I’m working on marketing A World Too Far and found a charming new reader who is a big science fiction fan. (my kind of guy) His son works at the Oilerie and just by mentioning I was an author, he showed interest, I showed my card…and the rest was fate. This is a shop that sells mainly olive oil along with a few other intriguing condiments. It’s become my go-to place.

Folks, real life is sometimes quirkier than fiction. And I’m richer for it.

I did a Facebook announcement and was overwhelmed by the response. Some of my former Bradford High School students that I taught back in the day in Florida, stay in touch. I get glimpses of their lives long after high school. It was also nice to reconnect with some of my earlier readers and catch up with them.

to-the-starsThis week I’m highlighting another ebook space adventure called To the Stars by Thomas C. Stone.

After a brief prelude, the story starts with the process of selecting a crew to go search for new worlds. Braithwaite Corporation is a conglomerate reaching out to develop new planets and they are sending out a ship. Our main character, Harry Irons, is put on standby but then gets selected for the crew through a suspicious death. So the flight starts out with some uneasiness with him wondering if a murderer is on board.

Of course, the crew doesn’t get along with each other. However, a serious romance develops between Harry and a smart, attractive girl named Kathleen. Their Captain, Fagan, has deep secrets and appears to be directing the expedition to a particular planet.

They land on a world that has large forests and a livable atmosphere, but questions concerning its evolution cause the explorers uneasiness. Then an indigenous species, very much like the aboriginal man, is discovered. There is a viewpoint shift as we see events transpiring through the eyes of two primitive men who are brothers.

But as the crew learns more about this world, another high-level species encased in a machine body shows up to hunt the humans.

While all this develops, tensions escalate among the human crew. Kathleen is kidnapped by the local cavemen where she learns about their primitive culture.

I enjoyed the description of traveling in space and the deepening mystery of the planet. Things were not fitting together, and it became more and more apparent through the character of Harry that their Captain, Fagan, had an undisclosed agenda and knew more than he let on.

I also liked the portrayal of the two different aliens. The plot moved along and the characters were believable. However, the cover could be better. Some readers didn’t like the treatment of other crew, calling it racist or biased, but I was fine with a varied crew, and I didn’t mind that it wasn’t politically correct for affirmative action bureaucrats.

It was not trendy scifi, but it was classic and enjoyable.


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A Best Selling Fantasy, er, Science Fiction

photoSummer is over and, in Portland, that means that the rains are on the way. My only consolation is that football season is beginning, and the Ryder Cup is coming up this month.

I didn’t do any marketing in August and sales suffered. I don’t care as I am wrapped up in getting my latest book, A World Too Far ready to publish. I have one more Beta reader to report in and a proof with the second cover to check over, and I’ll be done. I’m dancing about because in all my stats, September tends to be the lowest in sales, and I’m analyzing when would be the best time to launch. Publishers claim November and December are strong because of Christmas, but I would guess that would be for hardback or trade paperbacks. I still sell more ebooks than paperbacks. Another difference from how book publishing used to be.bk9_cover_a_world_too_far_ships_kindle


The answer may be…when the book is ready. I’m considering setting May 2017 as the date for the next book and making it firm as May is usually one of my strongest months.

Speaking of the book publishing business, Hugh Howey has an excellent blog you should read. under “A Peek Behind the Curtain”

Good stuff.

wheel-of-osheimThis week after a few false starts, I got my teeth into the newest (and I think final) book of Mark Lawrence’s Red Queen’s War book three, The Wheel of Osheim.

I really enjoy the bad boy characters in his books and, in fact, Jorg Ancrah of Prince of Fools makes an appearance to give Jal some serious advice. We see the character arc of Jal Kendreth who trips into a hero’s role no matter how hard he tries to run away.

What I liked least was the jumping back and forth between Snorri in Hell trying to save his family and Jan’s escapades after he wiggles out of Hell, leaving Snorri behind.

Escaping Hell, Jal finds even worse nightmares and villains among the living nearer to home. A bit of a zombie apocalypse erupts as he is left alone, appointed as Marshall to save his city of Vermilion, while grandmother, the queen, goes after the Blue Lady and her many mirrors. The Blue Lady is bent on speeding up the turning wheel of Osheim that portends the end of the world.Liars Key

The wheel of Osheim is turning faster and faster, threatening to crack the world. Loki’s key may play a vital role in stopping it or speeding it up, depending on how it ‘s turned, and Jal carries it.

This is the part I liked the best. Lawrence inserts science fiction into a story that could masquerade as a fantasy except that rumors and hints say it’s the future after a nuclear holocaust. Jalan meets what is described as holographs or “data echoes” of long dead “builders” involved in the “wheel” that sounds suspiciously like the Hadron Collider. Blending mythology (Loki’s key and the Dead King ) and science (the collider and the builders ), Lawrence King of Thornsdelivers a rousing and unique story.

ps. You do know that we barely escaped being hit by an asteroid only 7.3 million miles away, don’t you? And September 17, a smaller one is on track to come nearer, but hopefully to also miss. See header for picture.


Filed under Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, Beta Readers, fantasy series, Hugh Howey, science fiction, science fiction series

Cover Reveal and Survey

IMG_0180Yeah, yeah, I know. The blog’s overdue.
But I have excuses. You do know it’s summer and that means vacations.
We took a mini vacation last weekend to go camping at Paulina, Oregon. (Pronounced like North Carolina…I never got it right)
See the gorgeous photo in the banner heading.

The other excuse is: I was waiting on my covers so I could do a splashy cover reveal.
There is an ongoing argument among my readers and the writing clique on whether a science fiction novel should have a face on it or not. So far it’s evenly split.

One-third argues strongly that people want that human connection, and a face or faces should be on the cover.

One-third counters with the argument that they would prefer to envision the being in the story using their own imagination and not some artist’s rendering.

The other third says it doesn’t matter to them. They only want to read the blurb and the story itself is what will sell them.

To this end, I had my graphic artist Toni B0udreault do two covers, and I may experiment a bit with which one gets the most sales.






What do you think? Which cover would you be most tempted to buy?


 Speaking of marketing…I wanted to include this interesting link.

 Over the last five to six years the publishing industry has been transforming at a dizzying pace. What worked earlier, may not work now. Traditionally published books may be handled quite differently than a self-published fiction, and that is handled differently from a non fiction work.

For authors using small publishers or self publishing, the learning curve is steep and often changes.

 If you are using ads, check out

Jason Ladd is trying to get a handle on which ad websites are worth the expense.

Okay on to the book of the week:

This week I read The Catalyst by Chris Reher. Chris has a full series out called the Taragon Tales and The Catalyst is book one. Like my series, each book stands alone, but characters from different books intertwine in the series. She also has several other series as well.

Once again, I discovered Chris through an ad site and Amazon’s newsletter marketing.

The Catalyst starts with Nova Whitesides, lieutenant, who is sent to escort an octopus-like alien to a distant star system. When her transport is attacked by pirates and the alien’s housing broken, it attaches itself and deposits a mysterious substance inside of her.

In order to survive the attack, Nova relies on a past lover, Seth Kadran who has aligned himself with the rebels, bent on taking down the Commonwealth. He comes in with the murderous pirates but during the attack he saves Nova’s life, helping her escape.

 Nova needs to discover what’s inside her and whether she can trust Seth to help her. Will personal attachments trump political differences, and which side is her former lover really on? As things get more complicated, Nova may soon go from MIA to AWOL or worse, in spite of her high level military father. Trying to do the right thing places Nova in questionable circumstances that could lead to military charges and a ruined career if she isn’t careful.

 A developing war has Nova wondering whose side she really should be on as greedy corporations face off against saving a world and an entire intelligent species.

 Chris Reher crafts an interesting story with twists and turns, full of romantic tension and dramatic action.


Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, Indie Publishing, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction, science fiction space opera, Self publishing a cover, Space opera, space ship

Science Fiction Romance

IMG_9518Summer is going by too quickly.

Results from my Freebooksy ad were mixed. Cosmic Entanglement made #1 in the Kindle> free> space opera category…briefly. But Yea! Ironically enough, #2 was The Star King by Susan Grant that I had already planned to review this week. (Stay tuned)

While there was an exciting pop for the rest of the series that day, the retail sales tailed off more quickly than usual, but now have picked up again with the start of a new month. I’m wondering if there isn’t a seasonality for ebooks. An unofficial guess would be that March through July, possibly August, sells best because of summer vacations and generally more leisure time. In addition to that, are there certain days of the month that readers are more likely to buy? In the past, my sales slow in September due to readers returning to work or getting kids off to school. I think November and December are best for hardback or paperback books that can be given as gifts because few people have time to leisurely read over the holidays. The big publishers also market hard during the holidays and bring out their top authors. (unofficial survey) I will keep an eye out for this year’s results.

I’m in the throes of working with my graphics artist on the cover for the first book in the Terran Trilogy. Toni Boudreault is easy to work with and understands the technicals of cover making…bleed, 300dpi, etc., along with a strong design sense and a willingness to try my suggestions. (crazy as they may be) So my next blog should contain an exiting cover reveal.

Being an independent publisher means juggling many tasks, but I love taking part in the creative side of designing the total look of the book. I also enjoy the business aspect, and too often can be found checking on sales or planning a marketing program. I live with guilt that I’m not marketing enough or effectively. However, I can pick what I like doing best, in most cases, and having that control is worth a lot.Armed Professions

I want to give a quick shout out for Clayton Callahan’s new book, Armed Professions: A Writer’s Guide. This is a fun nonfiction read on dangerous professions such as: military, police, firefighters, spies, etc. Clayton covers fascinating details starting with the history of these professions on up to current events, all with an eye to the writer. He writes from personal experience and that adds depth to the material. He also mentions relevant books and movies and suggests plots while providing a comprehensive understanding and terminology of each profession.

If you write these types of stories or need a good reference for a story with military titles (which can get confusing), a spy thriller, or firefighters, this is a valuable manual to have.

Because Clayton is in my writing group and known to me, Amazon has flatly said I cannot review him on their website. That’s a shame because this is a unique book that I think is worth having, but I understand and appreciate their initiative to eliminate influenced reviews.

The Star KingThis week I picked The Star King by Susan Grant. As of today, it’s still on free offer, but you hard core military guys stand down. While Lt. Jasmine Boswell is a military fighter pilot, the main story is a love story that transcends worlds and has a lot of heavy breathing in it.

Okay, I know you guys like romance too. At ease.

Lt. Jasmine Boswell crashes her military plane in the desert and blacks out. When she revives, she encounters a stranger with golden eyes as alien warships thunder overhead, targeting them. He pulls her down beneath a rock overhang and saves her life. She, in return, tells him that he must “crush the darkness” and encourages him to carry the fight.
Light years apart, on different worlds, they each save the other.

Against his father’s wishes,  Prince Romlijhian B’kah, known as Rom, watches his only brother shot down and killed by enemy forces. Since his father is king and high nobility, that leaves Rom as sole heir. Both defied their father’s order to not go, and now his brother is dead because of his influence. Devastated, he wants to die, but encounters Jas who encourages him to live. He passes out and when revived is captured by their leader, the ruthless Sharron. He brutally attacks Sharron, gets away, and is rescued by his own men.

Nineteen years pass on Earth.

Jas is now divorced with two children and still haunted by the encounter with the golden-eyed stranger.

Then, Earth receives a message from Jupiter that aliens called the Vash wish to land on the planet and establish diplomatic relations. In a news broadcast, Jas recognizes the man from her vision.

In the meantime, Rom has been disenfranchised by his family and is a renegade merchant trader. The military leader, Fleet Commander Lanat, is reluctant to let Rom land with him on Earth, but Rom sensing a market for precious salt connives a landing berth for his ship the Quillie by quoting treaty regulations at him.

The rest of the story is how both Jas and Rom overcome obstacles of all kinds to finally be together.

Susan Grant begins with an emotional and action-packed start. At times, the writing gets a bit over the top for me, but the story is cleverly done and the reader cheers for the two dream-crossed lovers.Star Prince

This is the beginning of a series, and like me, Ms. Grant offers this first book free, hoping the reader will want to read on.


Filed under Alien and human bonding, aliens, Aliens in Science Fiction, ebook science fiction, first contact, Marketing and selling novels, military science fiction, science fiction romance, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Space opera, space ship