Upgrading Your Novels and Mark Lawrence

I’ve been writing for a while (years) and have reached the point where I want to pause and evaluate what I have done. The advantage of self publishing is that you can do this. Amazon permits you to revise and then re-publish at no cost.
For a Tweeker like me, this is a boon.

So, if you have written several books, especially those in a series, you might want to think about how you can refresh your work.

A new cover might be in order. You can retitle too. A few years ago, another author added her book to Amazon under the title Caught in Time. I was furious. That was my title, but titles are not copyrighted. So, too bad for me. You would think she could have done a search on Amazon to see if anyone else had the title, but she didn’t. Then a few weeks ago, the title Cosmic Entanglement came on and popped up ahead of me on the search list. Don’t think I was pleased about that. I thought about a re-title, but that would only confuse my readers. So, check out your title for a duplicate before you publish. Even so, I can re-title if I feel the need.

Back in the day, early writers were eager to get published and some drew their own covers or had an artistic friend put one together. That was good enough for a beginning author. Now, several years later, they have networked with other authors, attended conferences, and realize the advantage of a professional looking cover. I know a few who have revamped the look of their entire series.

Sales bumped up.

Okay, the outside is all spiffed up. What about the inside? If you are writing a series like I am, your earlier books don’t have your most recent books listed in the front matter. You might want to add them. Also, in the back matter, make sure you have a short teaser for each book with a link. Best time to catch a reader is when he has just finished and is interested in reading more of the story. One click and he’s there at your buy button.

Self publishing used to have a bad rap. Authors would read over their works and think it was just fine. We can’t see our own mistakes … trust me on this one.
Commas. And repetition. My downfalls. Try as I could, I didn’t catch them all, even though I have a Masters Degree in English, speech and journalism.

That’s why I’m now going back through my third book, Cosmic Entanglement and making it even better. Yes, it was edited by someone who was not only a science fiction and fantasy writer, but who also edited for several New York publishing houses. I paid a professional level fee, but still, guess what? … There were errors.

This time, I’m not going back in alone either. I use the ProWriting Aid program and Grammarly. It’s an eye opener. Prowriting Aid is reasonably priced at the premium level. ($70 per year) It gives a summary and then breaks down the writing for grammar, style, sentence structure, repeats, over-used words, offers correcting suggestions, and has a thesaurus for your words. Other reports are also available.

Grammarly is widely used. It has a free version, but mentions frequently that you have more errors which a premium version could fix. Unfortunately, it runs thirty dollars per month ($30) or cheaper per month if you pay either quarterly or in a lump sum. Lump sum is $139.95 which averages out to $11.66 per month. But then you are committed if you don’t like it.

I use the free version, however, if you’re writing hot and heavy, the premium might be your choice. It is cheaper than an editor. Or, is a good way to clean up before presenting to an editor, so her time isn’t wasted with minor spelling and grammar errors.

Now you know what I’m currently doing in the writing field. This aspect of the job is important, but it takes a different skill set than creating a story. Perseverance is critical. You must be able to forgive yourself for how many times you used the word just in the manuscript and never noticed. ( or various other words you may be fond of ) Editing again takes time, but it is time well spent.

Another place I’m spending time is in reading. I recently finished Mark Lawrence’s series Book of the Ancestor: Red Sister, Grey Sister, and Holy Sister.

I highly recommend the series.

If you like strong female protagonists, magical abilities and antics in an Abbey, you’ll like this story. I also enjoyed the allusion to a previous race that left behind strange technology, and a past starfaring race that visited the planet and incorporated bits of their genes into the current inhabitants, giving a select few extraordinary abilities.

Sound familiar?

Also, the world itself was intriguing. Covered in cold and ice, a narrow corridor rings the land, which is kept warm by an artificial moon. Its laser beam heats up this section at night, staving off the ice. Unfortunately, the sun is dying and the world’s getting colder. The corridor is narrowing. The people are getting squeezed for land, causing wars and violence as various nations fight for room and survival.

Into this mix arrives a young, dirty, recently orphaned girl called Nona. Kidnaped by a child trader and sold to the fight arena, she kills the son of the richest lord in the land by defending herself and a friend. She is saved from the noose by Abbess Glass who runs the Convent of Sweet Mercy and recognizes something special in her. But, there’s nothing sweet about the abbey or Abbess Glass who trains certain genetically gifted young girls to kill.

Four alien starships visited this world at one time, each carrying a certain trait now disbursed into the genetic mix. Nona is a rare child that carries three of the four. Speed, envisioning the path, and conjuring magic are her gifts. Size and strength is the fourth combination talent. A prophesy predicts one child will come with all four traits and save the world.

Nona’s abilities gradually unfold as she trains at the Abbey, becoming an instrument of destruction for whoever crosses her path. She finds friends, makes an enemy of the richest lord of the land, his older son, and the deadliest woman of power. Within the girls themselves hide spies and traitors. Be prepared for twists and turns, betrayal and loyalty. Plan to lose sleep if you read at night.

Mark Lawrence writes a powerful book with a powerful storyline that I hope you’ll enjoy.

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Filed under Alien worlds, Amazon publishing, Best selling science fiction, Experiences in writing, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction series, Self-publishing, Women in Science Fiction

A Second Chance for a Hugo Winner

Hey there:

Sometimes you have to give someone a second chance.

In this case, I tried to read N. K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and not only was I confused, but bored. Gods meddling with humans is not my thing.

So, I shunned her novels for years until the acclaim became so great I felt I should try again.

After all, winning the Hugo three years in a row is quite a feat. Lois McMasters Bujold, my favorite author, has won four times and only Asimov, Willis, and Vinge have won three times, and not sequentially. All other authors have won two or less… or not at all.

So I started with The Fifth Season.

Right off the bat, I want to say that I did enjoy the whole series. But first, I had to get over being angry. At the very beginning, Jemisin writes as if the reader is sitting next to her in an easy chair and Jemisin is telling her a story … that flips back and forth through time.

Her first sentence : “Let’s start with the end of the world, why don’t we? Get it over with and move on to more interesting things.”

Start at the end? Talk straight to the reader?

What she moves on to is a detailed description of the land using an incredible amount of telling in third person ubiquitous. She also describes two people, one a man who raises his arms and creates a gigantic earthquake and breaks the land. You have no idea who he is or why he does what he is doing. Even, how he can do it. His description isn’t woven in the story as so many experts tell an author to do, but told… Telling not showing.

We have an award winning author writing from a point of view that many so-called word police say you shouldn’t. Keep your author’s comments and voice out of the story, they say. Also, “show, don’t tell.”

She didn’t. Lots of description.
Voice intrudes throughout the series.

“Don’t jump back and forth in time, you’ll only confused the reader.”

She does.

Then after long descriptions of the land, a city, and a strange metamorphosis of rock to a human shape, in the next chapter, she switches to the second person to tell the story of Essun who discovers her son dead in her home.

Second person narrative. Tricky at best.

With little background at this point, the reader has no idea what is happening until Nemisin hones the story down to Essun, a middle-aged, impoverished woman who walks into her home to find her son murdered by her husband, his father.

So, now the reader is interested. Why?

We find out Essun is an orogene, which means she has the ability to move the earth and control certain elements of the ground … and other scary stuff.

Her kind is hated and feared, and she has to hide what she is. Her children are to be eliminated to protect humanity. So, her son is murdered by his father when he realizes what his son is. For some reason he doesn’t kill the daughter, but runs away with her with plans to kill her.

But how did Essun come to this state?

Next chapter, we skip back to her childhood where as a young child she is sold by her mother to frightening warrior called “a Guardian.” He takes her to the Fulcrum, a place where orogenes like her are controlled and trained. The first thing the guardian does, once he finds her hiding in the barn under the straw, is place a tracker inside the back of her head. He smiles and says nice words, but doesn’t mean any of it.

So, the story takes off. You become used to being addressed directly at various points in the story and the changes in viewpoints, and the jumps through time. The land becomes almost another character as it affects the lives of the beings on the planet, not all of them human.

By the end of the first book, when I realized the planet was unstable due to a missing moon, I was ready to read the second in the series, The Obelisk Gate. This follows Essun as she searches for her daughter to try and save her. Only her daughter is growing more and more powerful, and can do a few things of her own.

I was interested in following more of the life of Essun, first known as Damaya, and also other names. Keep track.

The second book jumps back and forth between her and her daughter’s experiences. Yes, a bit confusing, but I wanted to know how they were going to save the planet from the many episodes of upheavals called “the Stillnesses.” These are dramatic upheavals of the dangerous planet that create devastating events such as plagues, floods, etc. and can happen at any time and last ages, or not.

Would the moon ever return? And if it did, would ancient technology left by a previous race, enable them to capture it and stabilize the planet?

So, I read The Obelisk Gate and then The Stone Sky.

I was hooked.

I realized an original and interesting story often trumps certain rules of writing.

 

BUT…

Often the guidelines are there to strengthen your writing. Yesterday, I read Diana Wallace’s blog and finally understood “filter” words and how they weaken your writing.

Read her blog for more details at:

http://www.mythsofthemirror.com.

In commerce, the middle man is being taken out of the transaction. Amazon goes directly to the buyer, eliminating the publishing house or consumer. In the same way, words such as heard, felt, thought are filters that diminish the reader’s experience. Here is an example taken from Diana’s blog that will explain.

Ex:
Greta stood on her front porch. She felt the long-awaited spring call her with a rustling of leaves and patter of hummingbird wings. A smile brightened her face as she watched them battle around the feeder that she’d remembered to fill yesterday.  She supposed she wasn’t the only one enjoying the languid morning. On the porch rail, she saw her lazy tabby stretch and heard his rumbling purr as she rubbed his ears. She knew he liked the sunshine; she imagined he always had.

Correction without filter words:
Greta stood on her front porch. The long-awaited spring called her with a rustling of leaves and patter of hummingbird wings. A smile brightened her face as they battled around the feeder that she’d filled yesterday.  She wasn’t the only one enjoying the languid morning. On the porch rail, her lazy tabby stretched, and he rumbled a purr as she rubbed his ears. He liked the sunshine; he always had.

See the difference?

For more explanations and other great insights, check out her blog.

Yes, yes, I know that I just ranted and raved about a triple Hugo winner breaking all the rules, and then I turn around and give you a rule.

Who said writing was easy?

Not me.

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, award winning scifi, Hugo winners, Science Fiction book review, science fiction series, Writing Tips and Lectures

Hugo Announcements and Richard Morgan’s Thin Air

The Hugos are in. Wahoo.

The Awards were presented last night, Sunday August 18th, 2019 at a ceremony at the 77th World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin, Ireland, hosted by Afua Richardson and Michael Scott.

Winners for the 2019 Hugo Awards and the 1944 Retrospective Hugo Awards appear in bold.

Members of the convention cast a total of 3097 votes, all online except for eight paper ballots.
Congrats to the finalists and winners!

2019 HUGO AWARD FINALISTS

Best Novel

Calculating Stars

The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)
Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente (Saga)
Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Macmillan)
Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)

Best Novella

 

 

 

 

 

Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)
Beneath the Sugar Sky, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
Binti: The Night Masquerade, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com Publishing)
The Black God’s Drums, by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, by Kelly Robson (Tor.com Publishing)
The Tea Master and the Detective, by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean Press / JABberwocky Literary Agency)

Best Novelette

“If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” by Zen Cho (B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, 29 November 2018)
“The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections,” by Tina Connolly (Tor.com, 11 July 2018)
“Nine Last Days on Planet Earth,” by Daryl Gregory (Tor.com, 19 September 2018)
The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander (Tor.com Publishing)
“The Thing About Ghost Stories,” by Naomi Kritzer (Uncanny Magazine 25, November- December 2018)
“When We Were Starless,” by Simone Heller (Clarkesworld 145, October 2018)

Best Short Story

“A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine, February 2018)
“The Court Magician,” by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed, January 2018)
“The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society,” by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine 25, November-December 2018)
“The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington,” by P. Djèlí Clark (Fireside Magazine, February 2018)
“STET,” by Sarah Gailey (Fireside Magazine, October 2018)
“The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat,” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine 23, July-August 2018)

Best Series

A Closed and Common Orbit          A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)
The Centenal Cycle, by Malka Older (Tor.com Publishing)
The Laundry Files, by Charles Stross (most recently Tor.com Publishing/Orbit)
Machineries of Empire, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
The October Daye Series, by Seanan McGuire (most recently DAW)
The Universe of Xuya, by Aliette de Bodard (most recently Subterranean Press)

*                                 *

For the complete list go to: http://www.thehugoawards.org/

Once again the women swept the awards, putting to rest the old belief that men dominate the science fiction genre. Still, as an author, I have to be aware that men read more science fiction than women. And as a female, I have to cheer the fact that we are doing so well in the genre. We don’t have to use initials before our last name to hide the fact as many female writers used to do.

I have mentioned that I have met and talked to Mary Robinette Kowal, and she is a delightful person who used to live in the Portland area. (Bit of name-dropping here)

Her Calculating Stars is on my 2019 reading list, and now I’m more than ever eager to read it. So stay tuned. I’ll let you know what I think. I have mentioned several of her other novels in earlier blogs.

Currently, I’m reading Becky Chambers’ Record of a Spaceborn Few and enjoying it a lot. I’ll discuss my reactions once I’m finished. I also have blogged about her other novels in the Wayfarer Series.

Thin Air

However, this blog needs to catch up, so I’m going to report on Thin Air by Richard Morgan. Richard Morgan is more a male’s read with lots of violent action and gritty dialog.

I just re-binged Altered Carbon, his more famous novel that was made into a series for Netflix. Watch it if you haven’t yet. Lots of clones, re-sleeving (putting a consciousness into a different body), violent fights, artificial computers who act like humans, and a twisty murder mystery.

Thin Air follows this trend with an ex-corporate enforcer who is stranded on Mars and just wants a ticket back home to Earth. Hakam Veil has all the equipment a military-grade body needs, along with plenty of attitude. When the Earth Oversite Corporation offers him a way home in exchange for finding a missing lottery winner, the gig sounds too easy and Hakan grabs the offer.

But, of course it isn’t.

As Hakan digs deeper into the disappearance, the once easy job gets more and more complicated … and dangerous.

I love the action, the high tech gizmos, and the future worldview. Just make sure you’re ready for what Morgan dishes up as he pulls no punches.

Here’s the trailer for Altered Carbon on Netflix:

 

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Filed under Alien worlds, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, downloaded personalities, genetic manipulation, Hugo winners, Science Fiction Mystery, science fiction series

Where are the Aliens?

Happy soon-to-be Fourth of July.

A few announcements first :

I was listed in the top fifty science fiction blogs (#29 to be exact) So that’s nice.
https://blog.feedspot.com/science_fiction_blogs/

Also, I wanted to mention my author’s website https:/sheronwoodmccartha.com. It goes into more detail about my life and books. Check it out.

I encountered an article on the Live Science website that offered nine more reasons (in addition to Fermi’s from my previous June blog) on why were haven’t found aliens. So, I thought I’d share.

1. Aliens are all under the ice where we can’t see them. We know several moons where ice covers the planet, but water exists under it. If in our solar system, then possibly it’s a prevalent condition throughout other parts of the Milky Way.

2. Aliens are trapped on super planets. Super planets have ten times the mass of Earth along with 2.5 times the escape velocity. Aliens may just be stuck on their own world without the technology to reach their escape velocity just yet.

3. We’re looking in the wrong places because the aliens are robots. We ‘re looking for analogues of ourself, but maybe the aliens have evolved to intelligent machines and live in places inhospitable to humans.

4. We’ve already found aliens but we’re to distracted to realize it. Maybe we have let our preconceived notions of aliens prevent us from recognizing them.

5. Humans will kill life or already have. The thinking here is that humans bulldoze their way through the galaxy, not noticing smaller in-the-way organisms… Much like a construction worker bulldozing through ants.

6. The aliens triggered climate change and died. So, maybe we should take care.

7. The aliens couldn’t evolve fast enough to survive planetary change and died.

8. Dark energy is creating increasing distances between us and none of us has the technology to span the widening gulf.

9. We are the aliens. This is a popular theme for science fiction. I used it. Earth is a seeded colony from meteors carrying bacteria from other worlds. Scientist call this the Panspermia theory. I went with Alysia being an earlier and forgotten Earth colony.

You got a theory? Just let me know. It’s all good fodder for science fiction stories.

For the complete article, go to:
https://www.livescience.com/63208-alien-life-excuses.html

For this blog I’m discussing Sideris Gate: Paradisi Exodus: book 1 by Cheri Lasota.

This is one of the books in the Paradisi collection where various authors are writing books within the same universe. I previously read Faces of Janus and The Janus Challenge by Andy McKell. Andy presents a different viewpoint on the escape from Earth for the last ship, the SS Challenge.

Between Mountain and Sea by Louisa Loci was also an enjoyable story that I reviewed earlier. That adventure takes place on the colony planet and describes the founding families that arrived there first, and the conflicts they encountered.

Paradisi Exodus describes the frantic escape from an Earth on the verge of nuclear winter. The SS Challenge is the last ship out of eleven and contains the families and friends of the builders and scientists who constructed and developed the fleet. They had a contract that if they would build the ships, their families would earn a place on the last ship out. Days before lift off, one of the leaders, Solomon Reach, of the group called Reachers, discovers a plan to replace them with some remaining founding families and associates who didn’t qualify (illness or age) for the previous ten ships.

Thousands of founding families’ associates still remaining behind are smuggled onto the space station into the Serica section with a plan to evacuate the Reachers and replace them. But Solomon Reach gets word of the betrayal and gathers a small band to prevent the takeover. Violence erupts in the corridors, Reach is tortured in order to discover his sabotage plans, while nuclear weapons are let loose down below on Earth. In the midst of all the commotion is a romance between Reach and the daughter of a founding member who wants his people off the ship.

I feel Lasota leans a bit heavily on emotional elements of the story. Everyone has a back story of lost lovers, sisters, family ties and left behind wives. The angst gets to be a bit much as each one feels they should have a place on board. Lasota explores this ethical question of who has a right to decide which person stays behind to face sure death, and who gets a place on the ship for a possible new life.

There are many more offerings by authors in this exciting and interesting collection. Reading the same event or visiting the same location and experiencing it through different authors brings new levels of understanding to the total story.

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Filed under Alien worlds, aliens, Discovering New Worlds, Dystopia Earth, space ship, space travel

Throw Away Your Marketing Plan

Want to sell more books?

Get lucky.

I often write about marketing and how difficult it is… And then I read JA Konrath’s blog, Your Book Marketing Plan Won’t Work.

How did he know?

It was an eye opener. For the complete blog:
http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2019/06/your-marketing-plan-wont-work.html

He says social media won’t sell your books. How often do you buy books due to social media? However, he does go on to say you should have a social media presence. He suggests commenting on Facebook and writing a newsletter which mentions upcoming books, ways to pre-orders, and general information on your writing. He also endorses commenting on Twitter, but cautions that your time would be better spent on writing than desperately and endlessly engaging in every sort of social media.

Advertising also should be judiciously employed. He admits to throwing tons of money at advertising of all kinds and barely getting a return on his investment. Still, it does get the word out to those readers who might not know about you. But budget time and effort wisely.

How to Market books get a sneer. He has a good point. If an author knows how to write a best seller, why are they writing a marketing book, and not another best seller? He suggests you investigate the ranking of the author’s other books. If they aren’t in the top one thousand, the advice isn’t worth your time and money.

Forget publicity. The right kind is difficult to get… But if you can, then the pop in sales is normally fleeting.

I have found that he’s pretty close to the mark and refreshingly honest about this business of writing.

So, what works?

Luck. Right time, right place. And write books.

Oh, great. We have to depend on the whimsy of Lady Luck?

He admits that when Amazon came out with the Kindle, he had ten shelf books, rejected by publishers, ready to self publish. At the cheaper price for e-books, they were popular and sold well. So, he got more of his backlist from his publishers and was soon making over eight hundred thousand a year.

Nice!

Then, Kindle Unlimited came along and cut that income in half.

Still, he had traction with Amazon and that, along with writing more books, kept sales going.

So bottomline?

Write more books. Do a once a month newsletter. Chat in an informative manner on Twitter and Facebook and not in an annoying buy-my-book tone. Be consistent. Write in one genre with one name, and write five 75,000 word novels a year. That’s a more efficient use of your time and effort. Make sure they’re interesting, well-edited, and have attractive covers. Do some advertising and…

Your luck might improve.

So, good luck everyone.

****

For this blog, I’m going to suggest a book and author who has followed these guidelines with amazing success. She has written over seventy books in the science fiction genre, winning three Hugos and numerous other awards—one being the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award.

I’m talking about one of my favorite authors C.J. Cherryh. I have mentioned other books of hers in previous blogs, so check them out. She lives in the Northwest in Washington State, not too far from me. Alliance Rising takes place in the Alliance-Union Universe and is a prequel to many of the Alliance Universe stories. It’s been a long time since a book in that series has come out, and I eagerly awaited it.

Cherryh co-authors with Jane S. Fancher for this story. The partnership follows the same intense introverted style, retaining Cherryh’s familiar cadence of writing.

At first, I liked it, but eventually, I got impatient with all the nuanced, dense, introspection concerning an approaching Pell ship that has come to investigate an Earth Company ship, Rights of Man, docked at Alpha station and shrouded in ominous mystery.

We get an early peek at James Robert Neihart, captain of Finity’s End as his younger self and the developments that lead to the Alliance-Union-Earth war of the later novels. In fact, Captain Neihart is instrumental in putting together the alliance of merchanter ships that try to band to gather to protect their interests against the dominating Earth companies. Hence the title: Alliance Rising.

A story, not as good as some of the others, but well worth a read if you’re a fan.

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Filed under award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, C. J. Cherryh, ebook marketing, Hugo winners, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Political Science Fiction, science fiction series, Self-publishing

Where are the Aliens?

Where are they?
You know… The aliens.
It boggles the mind how big our universe is and how many stars with planets are out there.
… And yet, crickets.
Groups of humans are searching for any signs of life.
Like SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), which has been around for a long time and has found nothing so far.

 

And yet, do we know what we should do if we find anything? Is there any plan in place for dealing with aliens?

Do we really want to find them? You know, considering how very co-operative we are with our own species. Would finding other intelligent species work out all that well?

Here’s a recent Hubble picture of star Monocerotis V838. Might alien life be there?

There is a series of explanations that you may be familiar with called the Fermi Paradox due to the famous Italian Enrico Fermi.

He gives several reasons why we haven’t found aliens so far.
I wanted to share these thoughts with you.

Image result for fermi paradox

Do you have any other suggestions as to why we appear to be alone out here?

I picked The Fold by Peter Clines this time around because his story has man’s first encounter with aliens in it, and it raises the question: Do we really want to find them?

Secret experiments, supposedly involving teleportation, are being conducted out in the desert of California somewhere, but Reggie Magnus, the Department of Defense official in charge of overseeing the project, feels that something is off. He has already authorized hundreds of millions of dollars, but the group of scientists on the project are still dragging their feet on releasing any significant details of their work. The funding committee wants more information, and the scientists will not disclose their process.
Reggie goes to his long time friend who currently teaches high school English and is brilliant. (Why, naturally!)

Leland (Mike) Erickson has eidetic memory and an off-the-chart IQ. He hides out teaching high school English in order to live a normal life. However, when his old friend, Reggie, high up in government comes calling, the idea of teleportation intrigues him. He agrees to observe and report on a top secret project called the Albuquerque Door.

And indeed, during an experiment, he watches one of the scientists walk through the gate, disappear, and arrive at an installation several miles away. All seems as advertised until Mike begins to notice discrepancies in behavior and gaps in explanations. Something is amiss.

He begins to suspect The Albuquerque Door is not as advertised. The scientists are too focused on fame and fortune that will soon come their way if only they can iron out a few disturbing kinks. They feel Mike is trying to stop their precious project and distrust him. Mike believes they are hiding things. And they are. Then, events begin to spiral out of control, leaving Mike as the only one who understands what is happening. But it may be too late.

This book asks the questions: What responsibilities do scientists have for their discoveries? If we can do a thing, should we? Who decides what science can or cannot do? Should or should not do?

It also presents the question of aliens, and what would we do if they were really dangerous?

Questions we should be thinking about before it’s too late.

To continue in this universe, you can also read 14 by Peter Clines.

And here are kittens… because they’re fun, even if this pair sometimes acts like wild aliens..

 

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, Alternate Universes, Best selling science fiction, Book reviews, Discovering New Worlds, first contact, Multiple dimensions in science fiction, Portal fiction, science fiction, Science Fiction Detective Story

Squishy Robots and Book Ad Promotions

Are we Indie writers shooting ourselves in the foot, so to speak?

Today I’m running a promotion on Book Barbarian for Caught in Time. This is my first in series and I’m offering it free. Often the first of a series is the one that ad sites want. I did this to reach out to a pool of readers of science fiction who may be interested in my books. Discoverability is difficult for most Indie authors, and promotions are one easy way, but they cost. I chose Book Barbarian because it targets science fiction and fantasy and is at a reasonable cost. The top site is Bookbub where I recently ran into an article that was really a promotion piece, which raised some questions I wanted to ask.

Below is the last section from the piece I discovered on Flipboard that extols their site. Bookbub is considered the top ad site for books, difficult to qualify for, and very expensive. However, authors swear it’s effective. It’s the last sentence of the “article” that is causing me concern.

Book lovers are Obsessed with this Site. (Flipboard May 9)
By Bookbub.com

…”Book lovers have now become practically obsessed with this concept. In many cases, they’ve downloaded hundreds of books and saved hundreds of dollars using the service.

“I now have more books than I can read in a lifetime,” said Suzie Miller of Auburn, WA. She said she has downloaded more than 350 free ebooks using the service.”

As a reader, I use the service, and like Suzie Miller, (a real person?) I have downloaded more books than I will be able to read this year.

But is this a good thing for authors?

Your book gets downloaded, but may sit in a reader’s library for ages.
Or, maybe they read it and buy out the series.
I’ve had both things happen.
But I’m afraid authors are devaluing their hard work, and readers are not as eager to download the offerings as much as they used to, or buy books at retail. Why pay full price when you can get a similar book free or heavily discounted? Are we harming future revenue?

Am I right or wrong, or somewhere in between?

Do I, as an author, have a viable alternative?

No answer here. Just putting it out there.

NASA Develops Soft Robots for Future Space Missions

What do you think of when you hear the word robot?
Probably something made of metal with hard edges.

Maybe not. Often I throw in interesting science pieces and this article on building soft robots, with space in mind, caught my eye. I wanted to pass it along.

https://www.space.com/soft-robots-could-crawl-on-the-moon.html?utm_source=sdc-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20190509-sdc

…”The advantage of a soft robot is that it’s flexible and, in some ways, better able to adapt to new environments. Soft robots move in ways similar to living organisms, which expands their range of motion, perhaps making it easier to squeeze into a tight spot, for example.”

Also, probably easier to transport when weight is so much a factor.

…”By design, the actuator has chambers, or air bladders, that expand and compress based on the amount of air in them,” NASA said in the statement. “Currently, these two interns are operating the design through a series of tubes in the air bladders, allowing them to control the movement of the robot. By adjusting the amount of air in the chamber of the soft robotic actuator, the robot can flex and relax, just like a human muscle.

In particular, the interns are investigating four key properties of the actuators — mobility, joining, leveling and shaping — and how to use them in space exploration. Mobility refers to how the soft robot moves in its environment, while joining concerns how robots can link together (for example, to make a large temporary shelter). Leveling refers to how actuators can create a surface, such as filling in space underneath a lunar habitat, while shaping examines ways of adding strength to materials like dust shields.”

Once you hear the idea, it makes so much sense. Of course, I’m wondering about the computer components and how they operate the robot and the toughness of a material that can stand up against a space environment.

But NASA is working on it. Thinking outside the hard metal box.

This week I’m talking about Sea of Rust by Robert Cargill. Mainly because I mentioned robots in the blog, and this story is all about robots.

The story begins thirty years after the apocalypse and fifteen years since the murder of the last human at the hands of robots.

We’re extinct, and the world is dominated by an OWI or One World Intelligence that shares consciousness and is trying to upload all the remaining robots into its mainframe.

Enter Brittle, an independent robot trying to survive a wasteland that once was our Midwest. But its mind is deteriorating and body parts are losing function. The only way to replace them is by scavenging other parts from similar robots

So it’s a bit gruesome to start.

There are other solo machines wandering the wilderness, and they form a pack with Brittle, trying to escape assimilation.

If you can handle the grimness (think Madd Max), then the story is interesting from the robot’s point of view, and the interaction, almost human, of the robots that struggled to survive and evade assimilation makes for a worthwhile story.

And finally,

I want to give a shout out to Tabby’s fantastic book club. They were a warm and amazing bunch. I don’t think they expected someone who could talk as much as I did. Enthusiasm does that to me. So, thanks for your hospitality.

It was a fun way to meet new people… and show off my books.

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