Time to Read: Bone Clocks

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Interesting science news:

Currently I’m writing about space travel. It’s a story called Worlds too Far and has been a blast to write. I had the convoy of ships stop at an asteroid field for water and minerals…then I saw this great article on space.com.

Also turns out that oxygen has been found within a comet. There’s more out there in space than man can imagine…. except for we science fiction types.

http://www.space.com/30582-asteroid-mining-water-propulsion.html?li_source=LI&li_medium=more-from-space14-space-future-spaceflight

In the marketing information section:

This month I’m back to marketing. I will be trying out the Amazon Countdown for Caught in Time January 22 thru 29 and combining with Booksends on January 22 @ 99 cents and Bargain Booksy @ 99 cents on the 23rd. With Countdown, the price goes up every two days so get in early for the best price. I like that doing it this way encourages readers to act immediately rather than put off a purchase. Caught in Time is my first book, although often I’ve said that with time travel you can read any of the the first three and be fine. Each book in the series has a stand alone story. I’ve tried to model Lois McMasters Bujold’s concept of a series having a timeline with each book complete in itself.

November’s marketing strategy turned out well using Booksends for Cosmic Entanglement and carried over into December where I was too busy to do much marketing. Now’s a new year and I want to keep momentum going.

Figuring out marketing is difficult. Personal signings require a large local fan base and craft shows aren’t always successful. Having said that, one of the authors in my writing group sold 70 books at a local book fair over the holiday. So, you never know. The word got out.

Bone Clock D. MitchellBook Review:

This week I’ll report on one of my 2016 selections. A lot of people have read this to mixed reviews. It is different– Urban Fantasy with a background of paranormal.

Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Voice. Sometimes a story has a character with a distinctive voice brought on by unique dialogue and particular behaviors.

Bone Clocks tells a story unlike any I’ve read in speculative fiction. Actually, it’s four sections told from different viewpoints that intersect each other, going from 1950 to the far future.

The start is the strongest part of the book, as fifteen-year-old Holly Sykes has a row with her mother and hies off to live with her boyfriend only to discover him in bed with her best friend. A fifteen year old, torn by betrayal, doesn’t stop to consider the dangers and struggle in store for a homeless and penniless young girl as she runs off aimlessly and grief-stricken.

But Holly is no ordinary girl. She hears “radio voices” and, as a young girl, was visited frequently in the night in her bedroom by a strange and ghostly woman who would have conversations with her. Something is going on behind the curtain, but Mitchell is shy about revealing all too soon.

We skip to Hughe’s part in the story. Hugh Lamb is the opposite of Holly. A rich kid at university with low morals and a clever mind, Hugh manipulates his friends, eventually causing one to suicide. In the end of the second section, he briefly meets up with Holly but selects to follow strange, shady beings who promise immortality and awesome power. We leave the dangerous Hugh tripping off with his new companions. The timeline then continues with Ed, a wartime journalist and Crispin, an embittered author, past his prime.

Eventually two factions reveal themselves in the background. One powerful and immortal faction fights for the survival of humankind; the other immortal aliens, are trying to consume humans. The ending is a bit of a let down and confusing for me.

However, the strange and powerful immortals in the background fighting for power while only certain human with psychic powers are aware was interesting.

Still, if you are looking for a different slant to a speculative novel, you might enjoy the Bone Clocks.

Some readers did; some didn’t.

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Science Fiction and Fantasy Picks for 2016

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Dialogue. A great book often has witty dialogue…and Scott Lynch has witty dialogue in spades. His characters’ conversations reveal the bond of friendship that runs deep in spite of outrageous adventures. So, I’m looking forward to his next book, Thorn of Emberlain. This is an author who I have already read and loved.Thorn of Emberlain

Three Body ProblemThe number one reason a reader picks a certain book is usually word of mouth. A member in my Powell’s reading group shook my arm and insisted that I read The Three-Bodied Problem by Cixin Liu. After checking out strong reviews, I added it to my list.

The second reason most reader select a book is because they already like other books by that author. I’ve read and enjoyed  a number of Katherine Asaro other books. Many of her works have won awards, most notably The Quantum Rose, which won the Nebula in 2001. So, when I saw she had a new one out, I put The Veiled Web on my list. She’s good at science fiction romance with a heavy science emphasis since she has a PHD in Physics.

The Veiled WebRookie Privateer I found as a free book that piqued my interest. A lot of my bloggers like military science fiction, so, hey, this one is for you guys. Subject matter is a major reason to select a certain book.Rookie Privateer

They say a cover often sells a book, and in the case of A Child of Our Time, that’s what happened. This was also found on a free book website. I also liked the title and subject matter. However, it only had one review. Knowing how hard reviews are to come by,
I decided to take a chance, go wild and put it on the list. In this case, I have nothing to lose. It’s only 123 pages, however, but part of an ongoing series. I’ll sample this and see if I want to continue with the rest.

So here are the next five:A Child of Our Time

Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch
The Three Bodied Problem Cixin Liu
A Child of Our Time William Bowden
The Veiled Web Katherine Asaro
Rookie Privateer Jamie McFarlane

I know with the arrival of the new year, most readers and authors are organizing their calendar for 2016. To help you with some good advice, I found this website:

https://geediting.com/blog/the-120-best-websites-for-writers-2015/

The 120 best websites for writers. I have used several of these websites to help me in my writing one way or another. Maybe they can help you too.

So that’s the second half of my list of ten for 2016. I hope you have a wonderful year and read many great books.

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Recommended Science Fiction for 2016

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Happy New Year to all science fiction and fantasy fans.

2016 is off to a great start.

First, I want to mention Mark Coker’s annual predictions for the future. Many of his comments are worth reading, especially if you are an Indie Publisher. Just be aware of his bias as he goes on a rant against Amazon, and especially Kindle Unlimited. They are competitors and Amazon is seriously in the lead.

Http:/www.smashwords.com/2016 Book Publishing Industry Predictions: Myriad Opportunities amid a Slow Growth Environment

As an Indie Publisher, I support Amazon, and the Kindle Unlimited program has been very generous to me. I had several books listed on Smashwords and two in their Scribner program…profit? $0. Now in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited almost half my income comes from the program, and new readers are finding my books and buying others in the series. As an author, what would you do? Who is best supporting the fledging author?

If the Kindle Unlimited program becomes unfavorable at any time, all I have to do is opt out. The exclusive requirement in the contract is for just three months with volunteer renewal options.

I find it a great way to expose my books to avid readers while being paid at the same time. At the moment, it’s a great deal for an author like me.

Having said that, Coker has a lot of good comments based on data from his ebook distribution website called Smashwords. Here are a few quotes to munch on:

“Every year readers are spending more hours reading books from indie authors. Reader eyeballs will continue to transition to indie ebooks in 2016….”

“In the 2015 Smashwords Survey we found strong evidence that series with free series starters earn more than series without…”

“Amazon understands, and we at Smashwords agree, that the future of publishing is self-publishing.”

And on that I heartily agree also.

This week I get to pick five books to read for 2016.

Jeweled FireFirst, I chose some old favorites such as Lois Bujold and Sheron Shinn but who have new books out in 2016.

I also wanted to try out a few best seller listed books such as The Bone Clocks and Time Salvager. Books that make such lists often turn out to be good books.Bone Clock D. Mitchell

Finally, I wanted to read a few self published authors who had an interesting looking story, which I found free on an ad website. Deep Crossing was one that was also suggested by Amazon. In this way, I can help promote fellow Indie authors and get a deal to pass along to you too. Since I’m currently writing about space exploration, military science fiction and stories on traveling in space interest me.Deep Crossing

Time SalvagerNext week, after further research, I will add five more with the understanding that the list will be filled in with other selections as the year rolls on and new books get published.

Making a list and putting it out focuses me on thoughtful choices so that I’m not flailing around on what to read. It also gets me excited about reading new science fiction.

Some on the list are not out yet. Bujold’s Gentleman Jole will be published in February. Stephen Lynch The Thorn of Emberlain is promised for Spring of 2016.

Gentlemen Jole and the Red QueenSo is my ninth novel, Worlds Too Far, which will also be published some time in the Spring. My writing group claims it is the best one to date. It stands outside of the series and yet takes place in the same universe.

A fleet of spaceships search desperately for a world to call home, but face insurmountable odds fighting against the dangers of space and the frailty of human nature.

Here are my first few picks:

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Louis Bujold

The Jeweled Fire by Sheron Shinn

Time Salvager by Wesleyan Chu

Deep Crossing by E. R. Mason

I’m now combing the lists of upcoming titles and will select five more to review and report on for you.

Meanwhile, each blog will contain information on marketing, exciting science news, or an occasional author’s rant . Why else blog if there’s not a good discussion/rant, now and then, where I can talk about what it’s like to be an author and find out what other authors are doing?

Some good books look to be headed our way and 2016 could be a great reading year. Enjoy some special ones with me.

Ps: I hope you’re watching  the Expanse Series on the SyFy Channel. Reading the books has helped me understand the plot better, and I really like the sets and special effects.

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Holiday Magic

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Christmas hornHappy Holidays

Holiday parties and holiday shopping are making it hard to wedge in any leisure reading.

In addition, checking over a final proof for Time’s Equation also kept me busy.
Beta readers got delayed by new jobs or new babies.
Meanwhile, there is a stampede to get a slot for holiday book advertising, but I decided to pass. I don’t think people have the time now to download ebooks. Maybe after Christmas when they are trying to fill up shiny new iPads or tablets.

What is your best month for sales? Tara Sparling, data hound extraordinaire, recently wrote a blog about this exact subject and highlighted May and December. Nick Rooney also added the following advice:

“Mood and market reception are really important. Certain books work better at various times of the year.

  • January – April: Romance, Self-help, Business books, Cookery
  • May – August: Adventure, Fantasy, Travel
  • Sept – Nov: Academic, Horror, Paranormal
  • Dec – Jan: Children, Cookery, Illustrated, Quiz, Dictionaries and quirky fun books.”

It’s a general guide. There are no hard and fast rules. Try and tie your book into an event or occasion when you want to promote it.

Christmas appears to be a great time for hardback books that make nice gifts. January and February appear great for ebooks when the weather invites an indoor snuggle with hot chocolate and a good read. Some of my best sales have been February and then May as people fill their Kindle libraries to prepare for summer vacation reading.

Shadows of SelfMy book for this blog is Brandon Sanderson’s Shadows of Self that continues years later in the Mistborn Series. I must admit I’m enjoying the action and the intriguing system of magic that uses metals. January 26 the next in the series, Bands of Mourning, will be coming out. Unfortunately, because it is a very popular series, TOR has decided to charge $14.99 for a Kindle edition. Why? Most likely because they can. Old line publishers are pushing up ebook prices, but as both an author and reader, I’m conflicted about the practice. As an author, I would like to make more money by charging more, but as a reader, I spend a lot already on books. Reminds me of the drug company pricing.

What the market can bear.Bands of Mourning

In Shadows of Self, Waxillium Ladrian is a Twinborn, able to use both Allomancy and Feruchemy, the dominant magical modes on Scradrial. He uses various metals as both weapons and protection. An example of this is the ability to fly through the air by shooting out steel to propel himself. His eccentric sidekick, Wayne, and a young constable, Marais, sister to his fiancee, help Wax untangle the conspiracy that threatens their city.

They chase a nonhuman kandran named Bleeder that can assume the shape of any animal or person it digests. Normally aides of the God Harmony, kandran act like angels, but this one has gone mad and is on a murder spree. High Lord and lawman combined, Wax pursues the paranormal enemy, uncovering corruption and rebellion within his city.

Because, Shadows of Self is set in a turn of the century time period, it has a steampunk flavor along with an intriguing magic system.

Brandon writes well. He has a worthwhile writing lecture series on uTube that is taped at Brigham Young University. 

http://brandonsanderson.com/writing-advice/

Exciting action, interesting characters, unique magic, and clear writing all add up to a book that I recommend. Good news is that it’s available at your local library if you’re willing to wait.

Image 4Happy Holidays to you and yours and may 2016 be the best ever year.Image

 

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Glad Tidings for Self Publishers

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I write about human clones, so I keep an eye out for news on cloning advancements. Here is a startling article I found on news.yahoo.com.

Boyalife in China is setting up an extensive animal cloning factory in partnership with Sooam from South Korea to be located in Tiajin, China where it will to clone cows, dogs, racehorses and other animals.

Okay…is this step one? How soon will human cloning follow, and what will be the guidelines? Scientist there have already indicated that they can clone humans but are holding back because of politics and public sentiment.clones

I just published on Amazon my eighth book, Time’s Equation in ebook and I’m waiting for the proof of the paperback. Now I’m staring marketing in the eye and can’t hide out with the excuse that I’m under a publishing deadline. Marketing my favorite exercise…not.bk8_cover_print

To inspire myself and confirm that I’m on the right path, I am reproducing (with additional comments) an article I saw on wiseinkblog.com.

Read and rejoice all indie authors.

Self-published books accounted for 31% of all e-book sales in the Kindle Store in 2014. Indie books account for 31% of e-books.

However,
40% of all e-book revenue is going to indie authors. In other words, indies are raking in more money, which means that their sales figures are higher than many of their traditional counterparts. Comment: We can receive 70% of retail revenues for eBooks over $2.99. And self publishers can set their price for both ebook and paperback, balancing marketability and margin profit.

Which brings us to …
Indie books represent 25% of books on Amazon’s e-book bestseller list. Readers aren’t nearly as prejudiced against indie books as they were even a few years ago, and their buying practices suggest it! Comment: Looks like self publishing is becoming more and more “acceptable.” Maybe the story is more important than who publishes it. Maybe Indie authors are being more careful about how it is written.

And in addition…
You can safely dismiss the 50 Shades effect. Only 1.2% of self-published books sales are for erotica titles, which proves that you can indie publish successfully without writing a sex book. Comment: Thank goodness as porn is not in my writing comfort zone.

But best yet…
In Smashwords’ 2014 survey, they found that pricing your e-book at $.99 won’t make you rich. In fact, $2.99-3.99 is the sweet spot for a bestseller, and earn more in sales than books priced higher. Comment: I read Mark Coker’s excellent article on self publishing and have priced all my eBooks at $3.99. However, I see a movement by traditional publishing to raise the bar, and in fact a large number of popular authors published traditionally are ebook pricing at $10 and up.

Think you can only release shorts and novellas on e-book? Think again. The bestselling books in e-book are usually over 100,000 words. Maybe because they’re easier to hold? Comment: I usually shoot for 100,000 words, although read my previous blog that discusses a trend towards shorter novels that get bundled later on.

And increasingly…
According to Bowker, 458,000 books were indie pubbed in 2013 in the US. That’s up 437% from 2008! The self-publishing ranks are growing, and with increasing number comes more exciting and innovative strategies to publish your perfect book. Comment: I own my own ISBN and list on Bowker.

Best news yet…
It’s a good time to be a woman. Indie bestsellers are twice as likely to be written by a woman than traditionally published bestsellers (67% versus 39%). Comment: Yeah! Since I am one, this was good to hear. Science fiction used to be male dominated, but new female authors are getting noticed.

(See me jumping up and down)

This week I’m reading two polar opposite books. Golden Son by Pierce Brown and Solar Express by L. E. Modesitte, Jr.

Golden SonGolden Son is part of a trilogy consisting of Red Rising, Golden Son and Morning Star.
A universe where color dictates the social hierarchy of humans. Darrow is a red, his father a low class miner under the thumb of the golds. After Darrow’s beloved wife is hanged by Golds, he vows vengeance and using high tech and body carvers is transformed into a gold where he hopes to infiltrate and destroy them from within. Then, he gets to know Golds from the inside; their conflicts, their deceptions and their humanity. Darrow becomes “Reaper” a feared battle warrior who kills thousands, but not without remorse or guilt as he tries to change a society spread out among worlds.Red Rising

While the reviews were overwhelmingly positive, I personally found the story a bit overly dramatic. Darrow is on a mission to disrupt a rigid and inequitable social structure and provides some exciting battle sequences, but the angst and internal drama was a bit much for me.

The constructed world, however, with Roman names and culture that contrasted with high tech weaponry and biology was very interesting.

Solar ExpressDue to the holidays, I have not completed Solar Express, but L. E. Modesitte is one of my favorite authors. So far, it is dry and a bit slow, but that is Modesitte at the beginning of many of his stories. The idea of discovering what at first appears to be a comet, but turns into an alien artifact that changes the sun, is fascinating. So I’m sticking with it for now. Stay tuned.

While husband and in-laws have recently chopped and brought home the living room tree (I’m in Oregon where there are tree farms ten minutes away from me), decorated the house, enjoyed a large Thanksgiving dinner with new relations (daughter’s newly engaged), published my eighth book, Time’s Equation, I haven’t finished reading Solar Express and will report on it next week.

As people immerse themselves in the holidays, reading may taper off, but hopefully buying picks up, although November was a good month for my sales. How about you?

After all, a good book makes an excellent gift at a good price for anyone to enjoy. And the sheer variety of great titles makes it easy to personalize for that special person.

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Ancillary Sword and Exciting Science Fiction News

Image 1At this very moment, Cosmic Entanglement is #1 in Amazon’s Kindle eBooks> science fiction & fantasy>science fiction> space opera and #2 Kindle eBooks>science fiction and fantasy> alien invasion.
I say “at this very moment” because these kinds of things tend to be fleeting.

But still gratifying for all the hard work involved.

My heartfelt thanks to enthusiastic science fiction fans that have read my books, and especially to those who have left great reviews. Such is the lifeblood of an author. bk8_cover_print

More exciting news is that the proof for Time’s Equation is on its way, which means by the end of November the latest book in the series will be published. Here’s a short summary:

“Tempest Steele vows not to fall  again for the charms of Kayse Telluria, but when a murder occurs, and he is a prime suspect, he  jumps through a time gate in an attempt to track down the culprits.

Not thinking of consequences, she follows him to find a disturbing future and creates even more problems. But a math equation may be the answer, if only they can solve it and set the future back on the right course.

It won’t be as easy as it sounds.”

With all this happening, I did manage to read Ancillary Sword this past week. I have decided that if I start a series, there’s no problem in reading books in the rest of the series. I wanted to read a popular science fiction novel. This got nominated for the Hugo for best novel in 2015.

2015 Hugo Awards

Presented at: Sasquan, Spokane, Washington, USA, August 22, 2015
Hosts: David Gerrold and Tananarive Due
Base design: Matthew Dockrey
Awards Administration: John Lorentz, Ruth Sachter, Linda Deneroff, Ron Oakes, Dave McCarty, and Glenn Glazer
Best Novel (5653 final ballots, 1827 nominating ballots, 587 entries, range 212-387)
The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu, Ken Liu translator (Tor Books): winner
▪ The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books)
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
▪ No Award
▪ Skin Game, Jim Butcher (Orbit UK/Roc Books)
▪ The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)

Ancillary SwordI really enjoyed it, but be aware that Ann Leckie uses the feminine pronoun in all cases and it can be annoying trying to decide whether the current “she” being discussed is feminine or masculine.

Having said that, it’s really cool that the viewpoint character named, Fleet Captain Breq Mianaai is a soldier who used to be a warship.

As the warship Justice of Toren, Breq controlled thousands of minds, but even though in one body now, she can access her crew while carrying on conversations on station and also monitoring events down planet. Even better, she carries on dialogue with her current ship Mercy of Kalr, and Athoek Station revealing that ship and station AIs have emotions…and strategies for getting what they want.

Anne Leckie plays with the idea of human emotion affecting machine intelligence and the relationships of humans with self-aware AIs.

Breq is sent by the multi-bodied emperor, currently at war with herself, to the only place she would agree to go and finds that Athoek Station and the adjoining planet are morally corrupt. Bodies from conquered races are being put in cryo chambers and sold into slavery for a profit, even though forbidden. Straightening the mess out impacts Athoek’s strongly ingrained culture and proves not to be easy.Ancillary Justice

The first in this series: Ancillary Justice was nominated for every major science fiction award in 2014 (won the Arthur Clarke, Nebula, British Science Fiction and was short listed for the Hugo)

See my 2014 blog for more details.

You might want to also enjoy Ancillary Sword, the follow up, and look for the next in the series.

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Marketing Day: Considerations of an Author

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As I have embraced the use of ads to boost my book exposure, I have subscribed to various free and discounted book websites. Robin Reads, Booksends, Freebooksy, Sweetfree Books, etc. Some I have abandoned, disappointed by the offerings, while some I have continued to use, delighted at the bargains I find. With the flood of books out there, curation is desperately needed in order to find the right books that will dazzle you, and yet be affordable.

Currently, I’m scheduled on Booksends for Cosmic Entanglement November 14 and it will be offered free November 14 thru 16 on Amazon through their KDP Select program. So mark your calendar. Think Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy meets Ender’s Game.cosmic_ent_cover_kindle copy

FREE!

While this is the third in the Alysian Series, with time travel, you can start here. Book one begins close to this time and jumps into the past with time traveling clone, Rowyna Gray. Cosmic Entanglements starts at the same point, but moves forward with the birth of Richard and Braden Steele and their childhood. So either can serve as a starting book.

What I noticed in the science fiction genre is the trend toward shorter fiction for a first book to tantalize the reader into a series. This first book is offered free or at a low price. Then later, these first few shorter novels get bound together into a book set or compiled together into one larger book that is then marketed at a higher price.

time-jumper-kindle-finalUsing this idea, I stirred the marketing pot even more. I have just published Call Me Time Jumper, a short novella (56 pages),  about a twelve year old boy who tumbles through time, visiting people and places in each of my books. It’s a delightful romp through the Alysian Universe complete with drama, fast-paced action, humor and love.

Here”s a sample of the beginning of chapter one:

“His mother’s name was Tempest Steele Telluria. Yes, Steele. She was the daughter of Richard Steele, Time Master, who ran the Timelab for ages until he shut it down–out of fear.

And his father was Kayse Telluria. Yes, Telluria, that infamous genetic line of temporal Talents. Kayse had proven that clones could reproduce. And when your father was the clone of the notorious Arwoyn Telluria, ex-king, genetic experimenter, time traveler, and overall fate manipulator, well, everyone watched him–especially Trace Walker, Director of I.N.Sys., protectorate for the Democratic Union. They all gazed at him from the moment he was born as if he were some bomb ready to explode.

So, he didn’t disappoint.”

Just published yesterday. Brand new. A short sweet read.

Better WorldSince I’m currently writing about a generation ship desperately lost out in the Milky Way, I have been selecting spaceship stories to read to see how others write about the experience. One I selected from Freebooksy that I would recommend is Better World by Autumn Kalquist (154 pages)

The story is about Mauve who is a metal worker toiling in the blistering sub levels of a three hundred year old Ark ship named London. All over the ship parts are breaking down, resources failing. A hierarchy is well defined within the ship that invites abuse throughout the levels.

The destination planet, however, is in view and Mauve is among the first to land on the toxic planet with the expectation that all in the first landing party will die.

The story has a lot of interaction and tension within the various relationships on board. While giving the story drama, a few times, I thought the emotions excessive. However, I found the story overall enjoyable and if you’re looking for a story involving life on a starship, you might like this.

bk8_cover_printFinally, before Thanksgiving, my most recent book, Time’s Equation will be published and available on Amazon. This is a full length novel (420 pages) that involves Tempest and Kayse in a murder. The murder, however, is not your ordinary murder, but possibly time travelers from the future visiting the present to change their current timeline. A mathematical equation is discovered that can predict the future and even be used to manipulate time itself. Chock full of action and romance, don’t miss this time travel special.

Holidays are approaching. I wish you joy in your holiday experience, but don’t forget to find time to enjoy a good read among the hectic activities .

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