Survival in science fiction

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This has been one of the snowiest winters I’ve ever experienced in the northwest
Which means I can stay in and read or write.

Yeah

The writing has slowed down as I’m trying to figure out how to get the the next series of events down on the page in an interesting fashion. Debates rage in writing circles on whether to be a pantser (writing by the seat your pants) or an outliner. For me, I do a broad outline and then charge ahead, putting myself in the head of my characters. Often they present surprising twists and turns in the action. I’m involved in one now and scrambling to see how my main characterIMG_0174 is going to get out of the pickle he’s got himself into.

It all makes writing fun.

I’ve been reading too. I usually put together a list of ten books to read throughout the new year, but this time I’m having difficulty coming up with an exciting list. I keep going back to authors that I have enjoyed in the past. I made a conscious effort to try new self published works last year and kept getting disappointed. Giving reviews became frustrating, particularly since I was not getting reviews myself.

I’m wondering what’s happening to book marketing. If you’re not tied to a large publisher with a big fan base, then book signings are not worth the time, expense or effort. I found add sites very effective for a while. Lately, not so much. As a reader, I’m not seeing exciting offerings and as an author, there are some I have used several times and my return on investment isn’t as rich as it used to be. It feels as if ebooks are becoming more and more devalued.

We probably brought it on ourselves with all the giveaways and promotions. But, hey, you have to get out there and offer something worthwhile to pique a reader’s interest. If you don’t put your name out, no one will know about you. I really feel these are great stories that readers will enjoy if they got to know about them.

As for other books… I still feel it is important to suggest good science fiction and, occasionally, fantasy. I want to keep a dialog going.

castaway-odysseyThis week, I read a book that caught my eye when I was library browsing. Publishers price new books expensively and often make them only available in hardcover for the first year. But, of course, those books are often found in the library for free. I picked a new book co-authored by Ryk Spoor and Eric Flint. Both are well known midlist science fiction authors. Their most recent book, Castaway Odyssey appears to be a later book in the Boundary Series, but I had no trouble with reading it first.

The story goes: Sergeant Samuel Morgan Campbell finds himself in a desperate situation when their starship the Outward Initiative shatters and disappears, leaving him and four boys on board a lifeboat during a practice drill. Outside on the hull, inspecting their actions for the drill, Ltd. Pearce Halley sustains life-threatening radiation exposure. Unexpectedly, the Sargeant and his untrained crew find themselves stranded in the depth of space, light years from any known colony, and with all electronics dead on the cramped lifeboat.

Boys ranging from Xander, recently graduated at the academy, to Francisco, who is an emotional nine years old, Sergeant Campbell has to calm and manage the occupants in this life-threatening situation.threshold

For fans of McGyver, this book is packed with interesting science written in an easy to understand manner as the novice crew has to repurpose equipment and find a way to survive far from any help. The second half of the story continues the survival theme once they discover and land on an unknown planet. Here, the reader gets a taste of the Swiss Family Robinson story as the crew now battles a dangerous alien planet that throws several lethal surprises at them.

I enjoyed the book as a light read with a YA flavor. It is always interesting to see what an author considers important in a survival situation in space. It does not have the detail and intensity of The Martian, but may appeal to that audience, nonetheless.

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New Year Science Fiction

IMG_9512Welcome to a new year 2017.new-year

This is the time everyone decides to improve their life; whether it be by dieting, more exercise, more family time, or finding a new job. Having a point in time to evaluate your situation is always good.

This year I plan to complete book two, Somewhat Alien, in my new series called The Terran Trilogy and write at least half of book three. I’m midway through the writing of book two and am really having fun with it. Also, I’m blessed in that I’m not reliant on my writing to pay the mortgage. However, I make enough to keep me busy and add to the family coffers. (A Snickers anyone?)

Usually, I pick out five books the first week of the new year and five books the second week that I plan to read sometime during the coming year.

But first, I want to mention a blog by Written Media that makes ten predictions for 2017 in the publishing world. Check it out : http://bit.ly/2hVpPOQ

You’ll notice at the bottom of Written Media‘s blog is a link to Mark Cocker’s 2017 predictions. He has a lot to say but is very anti-Amazon. My only comment is that I tried to sell through Smashwords for four years and sold one book. They are a distributor that did nothing to help me promote or sell, even though they put your books out on various platforms.

Amazon is constantly trying to figure out ways to help authors promote their books. Unfortunately, scammers have leaped in and given valid authors a bad rap. And, in trying to weed out the miscreants, Amazon has hurt a few legitimate authors.

Nonetheless, I sell very well through Amazon. After fifteen years of writing and submitting to traditional publishers, I’m thankful to be able to publish my exciting series through Amazon.

Enuff said.

Thorn of EmberlainMy first pick to read in 2017 is The Thorne of Emberlaine by Scott Lynch. Why does that title sound familiar? Because I picked it last year when they said it would be published. Didn’t happen. Rather than being upset, I’m actually relieved that such a famous author from a traditional publishing house would be so late. I always angst when I run behind schedule, but I’m realizing others do so too. (You hear me Pat Rothfuss and George R. R. Martin?)

My second pick is a library find called Castaway Odyssey by Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor. I haven’t mentioned these two well known authors yet, and the story of survival on an alien planet after crash landing there intrigued me. Rather a Swiss Family Robinson with a twist.castaway-odyseey

Kevin McLaughlin has graciously offered his expertise and advice on LinkedIn time and again.

Thanks, Kevin.

accord-of-honorI have found your comments accurate and helpful–especially during my early days of self publishing. So when Kevin came out with a science fiction book with a cover that featured an awesome ship against an alien planet, I was in. I even paid money. Accord of Honor by Kevin McLaughlin is my third choice.

However, I am guilty of grabbing free or discounted books off of add sites at any moment. (I’m just that cheap) Actually, I have built up an embarrassing library of books I plan to read any day now. That’s great, except Amazon keeps e-mailing me and asking how many stars I would give to books I haven’t read yet. Since I do like time travel, I’m choosing Split Second by Douglas E. Richards and whittling down the stack.split-second

Finally, my fifth choice is part of a series that I discovered last year. The title drew me in and the book proved entertaining. Dome City Blues by Jeff Edward delivered a combined detective and science fiction story. My two favorite genres. So, I’m planning on reading the next in the series, Angel City Blues.Angel City Blues

I feel that my writing has improved, and the later books in my own series are even better than the first ones, but everyone wants to start with the first book. I’m not sure how to overcome this situation, except with time and discovery. It has taken me a year to get to the second book in Jeff’s series. So, as I often say to my daughter, “Patience is a virtue.” Usually, I just like the scrunched-up face she makes when I say it.

There you have it. It’s only a rough plan, and as you know, subject to change. I always add in other books as they come along. I’ll add five more next blog.

May 2017 be a fulfilling year where you enjoy lots of good science fiction.

I’ll help you with that.

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Military Fantasy

IMG_0174The holidays are almost upon us. I thank all my readers for becoming a part of the Alysian Universe. This yearhas been an adventure, and I was glad so many came along for the ride.

For December, I advertised through Book Barbarian, a science fiction and fantasy adsite. The cost was low, but it has proven the best of sites this year for return on investment. Several readers bought the whole series.

2014-12-17-14-20-22A blog I recently read that writers might like is a blog by Judith Briles. It talks about a check off list of important elements to consider before publishing your book, or even after publication, if sales are lagging and you want to investigate why.

https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2016/12/does-your-book-suck-or-soar/

Then another important link is a blog by Katie Force that offers some startling data concerning Indie authors. With a response of 2000 authors, over half Indie, half hybrid, 1543 or 49% averaged 0 to 5 books per day. At the other end of the spectrum, eight or .43% reported selling over 1000 per day on an average day.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Most were women between 41 and 53 years who responded and wrote in the romance genre. Still an interesting blog on the current state (as of October-November 2016) of genre Indie sales.

http://www.thepassivevoice.com/2016/12/survey-indicates-indie-publishing-is-pot-of-gold-for-some-work-in-progress-for-many/?

Cursor's furyLast week I wrote about binge reading and offered several series that were my favorites. This week I want to also mention Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. I reviewed the first two books earlier and just finished the third called Cursor’s Fury.

The story of Tavi continues.

King Gaius recognizes a coming war with the power hungry high Lord Kalarewho makes a pact with the Canin, a savage beastlike enemy of the Realm.

Gaius pulls Tavi out of the Academy and sends him under an assumed name to a newly formed Legion with inexperienced soldiers who are poorly equipped. The unit is sent supposedly out of harm’s way. But a surprise invasion of thousand of rabid Canin set Tavi’s ragtag unit square in the forefront as the only means of protecting the Realm.

This is a very military action book with interesting strategies and surprising twists and turns. You discover Tavi ‘s secret origins and get a little romance along with ferocious battles and non stop action.

I liked it a lot, and it made a great escape from some of the holiday madness.20161222_160215

I have two busy snowshoe Siamese cats who delight in holiday decorations and presents. Keeping an eye on them is a full time job, but they are fun to watch as they deal with all the commotion.

Hope your holidays are filled with lots of fun commotion and writing or reading success.

Christmas horn

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Twelve Authors to Binge on in Science Fiction and Fantasy

img_1018Santa will soon be sliding into town and my rushing around to get ready is taking time from writing and reading. But in attempt to get you ready for the holiday doldrums, I’ve come up with twelve binge reading ideas.

Because once the hooha dies down, there may come days in a row where you are tired of parties and company and would like to do a little binge reading.

I’ve picked out twelve authors randomly (for the twelve days of Christmas) who offer a good binge-reading experience.

1. Frank Herbert’s Dune Series. Dune is a classic with incredible world building and intriguing characters. After Frank Hebert’s death, his son, Brian Herbert and fellow writer, Kevin Anderson, added a number of readable prequels and additions to the storyline. Just out in September 2016 is Navigators of Dune that tells about the strange ship navigators that can fold space.

Fool's Quest2. Robin Hobbs and all her Realm of the Elderling books are good. Start with the Assassin’s Apprentice and read on up to her current Fool’s Assassin.

3. William Gibson’s Sprawl Series. William Gibson is the father of Cyberpunk. Neuromancer is his Hugo winning start, but the rest in the series : Mona Lisa Overdrive, Count Zero Interrupt, Zero History etc. are interesting, particularly if you look at the dates when they were written and current technology and events.

4. Lois Bujold’s Vorsigan Series. Read how the irrepressible Miles Vorsigan deals with life. I even enjoyed the more recent Captain Vortapil’s Alliance and Miles wasn’t the main character. Bujold has won numerous awards for this series and others in the fantasy realm.Barrayar

Visitor

5. C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner Series. Start at the beginning, but her latest, Visitor is seventh in the series and an amazing study on how to handle first contact with an alien race. Also, Cherryh has an Alliance-Union Series of merchant ships caught in the politics of war among planets. My all-time favorites of Heavy Time and Hellburner are in this series. Rimrunner, Merchants Luck, and the Hugo award winning Down Below Station are stand alone stories that also take place in the Alliance-Union Universe. I also want to mention a good fantasy series of hers called the Fortress Series

Expanse Collection6. James Corey’s The Expanse Series. Recently this exciting series hit television with some interesting visual effects. In January, the second season is due to fire up and continue the storyline. Start with Leviathan Wakes and read up to the new Babylon ‘s Ashes just published December 6. Space Opera at its best.

7. Joe Abercrombie ‘s First Law Trilogy. A fantasy trilogy that you won’t be able to put down. It starts with The Blade Itself, Before They were Hanged and ends with Last Argument of Kings. If you’re a delicate reader, this one gets gritty… Fair warning.First Law Trilogy

8. Brandon Sanderson has several series. His Mistborn Series breaks into two trilogies. The most recent just out is Bands of Mourning. (See my blog on it) Also his The Stormlight Archive with Way of Kings and Words of Radiance is quite good. Doorstoppers, both of them.

The Lies of Locke Lamora9. Scott Lynch and his Gentlemen Bastards series has also been a favorite of mine. The first is The Lies of Locke Lamora, then Red Seas Under Red Skies and The Republic of Thieves. Soon to come out is The Thorn of Emberlaine. Great adventure in the life of Renaissance swindlers.

10.  L. E. Modesitte has written sixty books! His Saga of the Recluse Series is very popular and his Imager Series just had its seventh book released today called Treachery’s Tools. He has several other series that are more hard science and futuristic. One of my favorites is Gravity Dreams and the Octagonal Raven. Lots to binge on with this author.   Imager

Ender's Game

11. Orson Scott Card. Can’t forget his Ender’s Game, one of the most popular science fiction books of all time. (made into a movie) Spin offs from this series are still popping up, so start now and be on the look out.

12. And last but not Least…Sheron Mccartha’s The Alysian Universe series. Now you knew I would have to mention it. For all the books in this series look right and see my listing.

These are just a few series or large books to binge on over the holidays when you want to escape the madness of the holiday or the frenetic relatives. There are more equally as good I haven’t yet mentioned (and might). Do you have any favorites? Let us know.

Until then,

May the Christmas Spirit be with you.

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A Science Fiction Author Greets the Holidays

IMG_0165The holidays are upon me.

Christmas horn

I’ll never get everything done.

I say this every year and, somehow, Christmas happens…but right now, I’m overwhelmed and my feet hurt. Once a year, my daughter and I do a Christmas window shopping excursion at the mall complete with a tasty lunch, laughter, and lots of gift suggestions. Everything she tries on, she looks great in. This year her mother-in-law, Nancy, joined us and made it even more festive.

We don’t buy, we just take notes. Then I go back and pick out what I want to give her/them.

Why am I telling you this?

I haven’t been reading, and I have barely been writing. I am finishing up edits and working on marketing in addition to the usual household craziness.

I’m makingChristmas horn excuses for a late blog.

Since I’m writing the next book in the Terran Series provisionally called Somewhat Alien, I’m focused on writing tips. I could go on a rant about all the current rules of writing…especially “show don’t tell.” Critiques concentrate so much on the details of writing that often they miss the forest for the trees.

Luckily, I have an author in my writing group who questions pacing and the overall balance of plot and characters. Sometimes it’s good to back up and get a viewpoint on your overall story.

A recent blog on this that I just read is: https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2016/11/rhythm-and-pacing-of-writing-the-final-flourish/

Read through to remind yourself to back up and look at the overall story as you are writing.

On the marketing front, on Cyber Monday, I offered Someone’s Clone for free on Booksends. I figured lots of people would be checking their e-mails for deals, and there I’d be.

The results were disappointing for all that brilliance of thought, the follow-on sales thin, although follow on results have just begun. I don’t know if this is due to the ad site or mostly how busy everyone is. This book is rarely offered free, so if anyone else has used Booksends, I’d be interested in their results. Not long ago, I mentioned Jason B. Ladd’s website where authors are recording results from various add sites to compare which works best. Of course, the book itself plays an important part in success or failure of the effort.

http://www.jasonbladd.com/indielisters/

However, not to be dissuaded, I’m once again offering my first in a series, Caught in Time on December 19 on Book Barbarian. For the price, it got good results recently. I’m thinking people will be buying new tablets as gifts and will be looking to load exciting stories onto them. Then on December 26, I’ll offer it again. Readers should be done with parties and want a quiet read. I’ve picked Fussy Librarian as my ad booster site then. It has gotten good reviews with a low cost.

I’m not doing book fairs or signings. In the past, they have been expensive and not cost effective. If they have worked for you, tell me how…I’m interested.

tinkers-daughterThis week I’m going to mention a suggestion given to me by another avid science fiction reader. Ted Blasche has written The Rust Bucket Chronicles, a military science fiction with humor and romance along the lines of Lois Bujold. He e-mailed me and suggested I read the Tinkerer’s Daughter by Jamie Sedgwick. When I went looking for an Amazon best seller, there it was.

Breeze is an outcast, born of an elven mother and a human father, who is recalled to a war between elf and human that has been going on for a thousand years. The safest place he could leave her is with a tinker who makes noisy inventions and dangerous machines. Kids at school bully her, and she has to hide her elven ears to protect herself from the townsmen who see her race as the enemy.  Then, she gets an idea that could stop the war and save the planet if it works. If it doesn’t she could be hunted down for treason and killed.

Mixed reviews suggest you consider whether this is your style of story, but my friend gave it two thumbs up, and I plan to read it soon.tinkers-war

If you’re looking for other ideas, there are a number of series that I haven’t had time to follow up on : Chris Rehner, (Catalyst), Bella Forest (The Star King), any Sharon Lee and Steve Miller in the Liaden series, and maybe you might consider my Alysian series. The later books get even better. Or scan through my two years of blogs on great science fiction reads.

Whatever you have time for, I hope your holidays are filled with fun and good company. Laugh, love, visit with friends, and have a good time.Christmas horn

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Filed under Best selling science fiction, book fairs, ebook marketing, fantasy series, Liaden Universe, Marketing and selling novels, military science fiction, Political science fictionLois McMasters Bujold, science fiction, science fiction series

E-Book Marketing

Image 1The holiday season is barreling down on us, and if you plan any book marketing, you might need to get it in place soon. Selecting how to market is like running through an obstacle course. Each site has different requirements. Most want at least five reviews, which sounds easy except for the new Amazon rules, and if the book is a new release, you may have very few. However, several sites will take a new release if you have other books with fifty strong reviews from Amazon.

Just when I found a book I would consider offering that meet all the criteria, I realized it had no more free KDP select days. I get better results offering one free, and then readers buy the others. Back to the drawing board.

Finally, I got it all in place. I have offered Someone’s Clone free on Cyber Monday November 28 through Booksends, but it will also be free through KDP from November 25 to 29 since I estimate a lot of people will be online looking for deals… And viola, there I’ll be.

Free, free, free.

At least that’s the rationale.

I have something set up for December after Christmas when the commotion has died down and new Kindle and tablets are wanting to be filled. Caught in Time will be free December 26, mainly because Fussy Librarian was filled the other days I wanted.

I’ll let you know how each one performed.

Kathryn Rush did an interesting blog with numbers and math that indicated retail sales across the board were down in October due to folks concentrating on the election. I know mine were. I wondered why. I thought it was because I didn’t do a promotion or much advertising because I was so busy launching A World Too Far.

She said relax. Low sales were not any authors’ fault. Data going back several other election years showed the same trend for October and November.

I feel better.

crosstalkThis week I’m mentioning Crosstalk by Connie Willis. Connie has won numerous Hugo Awards and Nebulas making her a top science fiction author and a favorite of mine. If you ever thought it would be a good idea to be able to read minds, this will change your opinion. If, like me, you feel you are being overtaken by technology, especially the new Alexa, Google, and other devices that are intruding into our homes, in addition to the ever present smart phone, iPad, etc., this will confirm that feeling.

Briddy Flanigan is a young thirtieth professional woman who works at a cell phone and communications company competing with Apple. She is constantly on her phone checking and getting texts, emails, and calls from everyone who knows her business before she even does. Trent, the hot VP at the company, and her obsessively career-minded boyfriend, has convinced her to get an EED. This is an implant that allows a couple to be aware of each other’s emotions and often gotten prior to marriage to bring two people closer together.

So, now everyone in the company is a buzz, thinking there’s an engagement coming… And Briddy is already overwhelmed by communication in her life that includes her intrusive family of a paranoid mother, a younger precocious sister, and a single desperate older sister who constantly falls for the wrong guys and runs to Briddy for consolation.crosstalk-paperback

The high profile doctor who will perform the implant assures her that nothing can go wrong. But this is a story by Connie Willis, so, of course, chaos breaks out.

The book is a biting social satire on what happens when there is too much human communication. Events spin out of control for our heroine, resulting in hilarious situations that proceed at a breathtaking speed. Bundled in all this shenanigans is a touching love story.

It’s a fast-paced, near future read, written with a light heart that asks some deep questions, and one you don’t want to start too late at night.

Also by Connie: Hugo award winner To Say Nothing of the Dog.dog

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Book Reviews: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Image 1A lot has been said and heard about the terrible editors and publishers who totally ignore or devastate eager new writers. With so many writers out there, the traditional publishing funnel is getting smaller and smaller. I know, I tried to squeeze into one of them. I wasted two years waiting for Baen books to get around to turning down my first book after expressing interest and asking for a completed manuscript.

TWO YEARS! ONE BOOK!

Now the shoe is on the other foot, and ouch, it pinches.

Because I write science fiction and have read it for years, I thought it would be fun to share that wisdom with others.

What could go wrong???

I was always eager to hear about a good book. Not many people around me read science fiction, and I was always on the lookout for something worthwhile to read. Through my blog, I could spread the word about my favorites, so other readers could find what I liked.

Amazon has solved that problem for me, somewhat. But I still thought it would be a good idea to blog about it… and I am having fun doing that. But a new monster has raised its head, and that’s the monster of declining reviews of authors’ books. I’ve been flooded with more review requests than I have time for while garnering very few for myself.

So far, I have had wonderful writers who have been more than gracious when I have said, “No, thanks.” A while ago, a new UK writer e-mailed asking me to review a story about booze crazed alien slugs that unleash unspeakable terror on the world, and only an array of broken cleaning attachments can save the day.

It was tempting, but I felt a need to decline in that I don’t review appliance fiction. (for your future reference) and it sounded a bit sucky, to tell the truth.

We’ll probably read about it on Amazon’s best seller list.

I also got a request from Richard Flores who wrote an intriguing blog on this matter. His blog is entitled “Form Rejection.” Since he also reviews, he thought he would respond to writer’s submissions he had to reject with advice on how to make the manuscript better. You know, the personal touch. Being helpful.

He came to the conclusion that writers, on the whole, didn’t appreciate his help in making their manuscript better.

Turns out there is another side to this dance. Writers can get downright snarky if you call their baby ugly. He said that some used foul language and threats.

Hence the use of form rejections by publishers, editors and agents that are vague and non judgmental. “Doesn’t fit into out current offerings.” Etc.

A nice “No thanks” for those that don’t want a home fire-bombed.fireworks

Now, so far, I have been lucky. Please, all writers be aware that just because one person backs away, doesn’t mean it’s a bad book or story. I recently said no because I couldn’t deal with the graphic description of the main character immediately dying from cancer, even though the writing was good. It’s just I have to make a judgement call on what I put my name on and, in the publisher’s case,… it’s their money, or for some, it’s their career. This doesn’t excuse certain behaviors that I have encountered in editors, but it has certainly opened my eyes to their side of things.

Just saying.

So, I’m not taking any more review requests at this time as it’s too painful to turn down very nice authors with books that don’t quite ring my chimes but may thrill another reader. Also, I have gotten embarrassingly far behind in reading and following up on reviews that I have already accepted.

Just so many hours in the day.

mortalis-beyond-the-starsHaving said all this, I still owe the gracious Larry Crockerham and his book Mortalis:Beyond the Stars a mention.

The premise of a female military leader discovering and colonizing an inhabited world intrigued me as I’m currently writing a similar book. I wanted to see how another author handled that kind of story.

The writing is edited well on the technical side. I wasn’t finding spelling and grammar errors. The covers are gorgeous. The story was reasonable and plotted out well. My hang-up came with becoming involved with the main character. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t “connect.”

For the more “action types” who like stories with more plot and not a lot of touchy-feely, they may like this story. There were a number of five star reviews. There were also a number of reviewers who felt the character wasn’t fully developed and had issues with that part of the writing. I did too and don’t know why.

Larry also has a sequel that came out last April. This one interests me because it has time travel in it. The main character, Marion, finds a time gate and from starship and world wrangler, she travels back to Civil War times where she had to evade a Civil War officer. She finally escapes, but lands in the World War II era of our history where his grandson pursues her. Sounds interesting.the-mortal-beyond-the-cosmos

I feel this was a good study for me on what engages a reader and what doesn’t… the essence of storytelling. I still haven’t reached a final conclusion in this case.

What I have realized, through Powell’s book club, is that no two readers feel the same way about a book, and even the best books (Hugo award winners) have readers who don’t like them for some reason or another. The Powell’s group is an opinionated, out-spoken and diversified collection of science fiction lovers who never wholly agree with each other, or me, but I love them all.

However, I think you’ll find some great science fiction and fantasy if you scroll through my blogs and often the cream does rise to the top.

I can only present what I find worth reading in this blog, and you are invited to take it from there.

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