Category Archives: Alien and human bonding

An Indie Author’s Update

Readers of my blog are science fiction and fantasy fans who also are interested in book marketing and writing. On the science fiction side, I often throw in current, relevant science news.

To that end, I want to offer a link to a blog that talks about the discovery of time crystals. This intrigues me because alien crystals play an important role in influencing my characters in the Alysian Universe Series, particularly in the book Touching Crystal. To discover that my made up time crystals actually exist, blew me away.

(We have been having large windstorms lately).

Nevertheless, they are not the same as the crystals in my stories influence certain humans and heighten their Talent abilities. My crystals are also alien and no mention of that had cropped up with these real crystals… as yet

Still the blog is worth a look and if you are interested in actual time crystals take a peek at:

https://futurism.com/the-first-quantum-computer-you-own-could-be-powered-by-a-time-crystal/

On the marketing side, my Books Barbarian ad outdid the Freebooksy ad. This may be due to the book advertised. Caught in Time always sells better as it is the first in the series and is a time travel romance–always popular.

Cosmic Entanglement doesn’t sell as well (maybe the title is too hard science) and actually has a more Ender’s Game YA flavor. Romance still plays a part in the story, however, with a bet that the current Sunpointe Academy’s Lothario can’t get the Ching T’Karre princess to acknowledge him or even speak to him. He takes on the challenge and falls in love. Young men in love with a bet on the line are known to do crazy things. It’s a fast-paced book that contains an attempted murder and a dramatic martial arts competition finale.

Spring into summer is usually my best selling time, so I’m looking forward to warmer weather and increasing sales. Let me know what works for you in the marketing and sales department, so we can exchange ideas.

Last week, I enjoyed the light-hearted fantasy Tinker by Wen Spencer. Therefore, when fellow Powell’s reader, Lea Day, suggested Anne Bishop’s Others series, I jumped in with Written in Blood, the first in the series. Lea has read an enormous amount of speculative fiction and knows her stuff. Having once been the personal assistant to the late Anne McCaffrey, she has also been a valued Beta Reader of mine. When she speaks, I listen, even when she whispers the werewolf word.

Written in Blood takes place on an alien world discovered by humans. Immediately, they try to take over, only to find the indigenous species is the stuff of nightmares. The planet is populated by deadly werewolves, vampires, elementals, crows and others who can shapeshift from human to monster at will. They consider humans “meat.”

Like native Americans, the humans are restricted to certain areas of the planet in return for an exchange of their technology and trade goods. Often at the edge of these human reservations are compounds inhabited by the others who watch the humans, and sometimes interact with them.

Into one of these compounds, on a cold winter night, comes Meg Corbyn who is fleeing from some terrible secret and begs for a job and sanctuary.

The vampire leader calls her “sweet blood” and marks her off limits. The managing werewolf of the Lakeside compound, Simon Wolfgard, smells her and receives the scent of “not prey.” He offers her the job of human liaison and puts her to work in the post office. Surrounded by deadly creatures whose touch, look, or bite could kill, she charms them all.

Simon discovers that Meg is a cassandra sangue who has been held with similar girls against their will. When a cassandra sangue is cut, their blood produces prophecies for wealthy patrons who willingly pay large sums to get a glimpse of the future. Covered with scars, Meg hides from her human tormentor, known as the Controller, who plans to recapture his “property.”

Anne Bishop nicely weaves this impossible story with believable characters. Deadly creatures tiptoe around the innocent girl, attempting to protect her from harm as she, in turn, saves them from danger using her own unique abilities.

Enthusiastic about the story and wanting to read more about what happens, I immediately read the next book, A Murder of Crows. In this second of the series, Meg’s secret is out. Lieutenant Montgomery, a local human detective, realizes the problems and the escalating conflict between human and indigene. Arrogant humans do not realize what they stir up when they use the blood of the cassandra sangue to create a drug that incites the indigene and humans into a frenzy so that they will attack each other. These uncontrolled behaviors are meant to start a war between the species. When Meg is attacked, the elemental, Winter, exacts revenge by sending a devastating storm, which almost wipes out the nearby human town.

Meg cuts herself to cause prophecy in hopes of saving her fellow protectors. She reveals a series of strange images that warns of the drug baited in meat left for the indigenes to eat. Her actions attract the notice of the Controller who sends out several hunters to recapture her.

The second book is just as good as the first and is the reason that I just got back from the library with the third one called, Vision in Silver.

I wanted to find out what happens next to characters I have come to care about. The idea of deadly creatures doing everything they can to protect a particularly vulnerable young girl because she treats them well, makes a touching story. I also wonder how the other human who respects the terra indigenes will fare, the divorced detective Lieutenant Montgomery for example.  And then there is the werewolf, Simon, who is half in love with Meg and struggles with that fact. I want to plunge myself back into this fascinating world. The fifth in the series, Etched in Bone, just came out and is now available.

Thus the power of writing a series…if it is good enough.

And I found this one was.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, Best selling author, Cutting Edge Science ideas, fantasy series, hard science, Marketing and selling novels, Paranormal Romance, Self-publishing, YA science ficiton

Science Fiction Space Opera Selection: Peter Hamilton

IMG_9518I think as a country we are ready for Valentine’s Day…a day to focus on love and the appreciation of the special people in our lives rather than plot how to stab political enemies in the back.

Besides, all this politicking is distracting people from reading–be it a good science fiction or other genre. Stop trolling on Facebook and taking every slanted article in Flipboard, or other news, as fact. It’s sad that it’s getting hard to separate reality from what people claim is truth.

Step outside. Spring is coming. I saw the sun today and recently took this picture of a robin. A new wind is blowing and along with the fresh air, some debris is bound to shake loose. Deal with it in a mature and effective manner.20170211_162653

After reading various articles on marketing, I kept finding that successful authors recommend writing another book as the best strategy for success. They talk about building a body of work.

All righty then.

I have started a new series called the Terran Trilogy. The first book is a starship adventure (A World too Far), the second is about first contact, and the third will explore settling on an alien planet. Rather then aliens invading Earth, I have switched the viewpoint to Earthlings invading an alien planet. I may be forced to explore the concept of immigration from both the native’s point of view and the arriving stranger’s. Talk about topical!

The Terran Trilogy will eventually dovetail into the Alysian Universe Series. However, it is a stand alone and not a required read. But if one reads the earlier books, they will know a few delightful facts and events that the current characters do not. Sometimes, knowing situations and results that a character does not, is fun.

a-night-without-starsThis week I read Night Without Stars by Peter Hamilton. Be warned that it is a door stopper of 702 pages in the hardback version. Still, I wanted to escape.

There was a lot of snow outside with travel ban warnings. I wasn’t going anywhere.

But escape I did. This novel continues the story in The Abyss Beyond Dreams, from Hamilton’s popular Commonwealth series and provides fast-paced action, interesting aliens, and a well written plot.

Yeah, I know. Those kind of books still exist.

After centuries of being trapped inside a strange void, the planet Bienvenido is expelled into space millions of light years away from the Commonwealth that knows nothing of its existence.

Humans and Fallers fight for control of the planet with humans looking to lose. Fallers can shapeshift and have managed to infiltrate deep into the fabric of human society. There is a prediction of a Faller’s Apocalypse.

Then a routine space flight, jars loose a Commonwealth ship from an orbiting Faller Tree. The ship carries within it an unusual baby that must be hidden until it matures. The baby carries Commonwealth knowledge and grows at an abnormally fast rate. As the Fallers take over the planet, this fast developing human becomes humankind’s best hope for survival on the planet.

Sometimes science fiction suggests events or objects long before their existence. Recently I have become aware of mysterious black, empty areas in space the scientists are calling voids. Yet, Hamilton has written about a mysterious area in space that he called the Void for several years now.  http://www.space.com/33795-cosmic-voids-fill-in-blanks-universe-mysteries.html

Interesting.

Anyway, I enjoyed this fast-paced adventure and want to recommend it to those readers who like deep, complex, and exciting space opera stories.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, Best selling science fiction, Cutting Edge Science ideas, first contact, genetic manipulation, modifying humans, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Space opera, Voids in Space

Counting Spaceship Colonists

IMG_9518Writing science fiction often takes you off into the weeds of future speculation. When I took on the Terran Series and started writing A World Too Far, I had to figure out how many people and ships would be traveling. I also had to state a reason for the mission.

I didn’t want the reason to be that the Earth was annihilated or destroyed. I hope that as time goes on we do things better and more efficiently. Stephen Hawking says that we need to expand out from Earth in order to survive long term. The “Not Everyone in the Same Basket” theory. I think we have enough people like Elon Musk that we don’t need a catastrophic event to push people out into space. So I made the reason for the expedition the fear that humans need to diversify to other planets in order to survive…and the plain old human drive of seeking adventure and new worlds.

Okay, how many then? Two names kept cropping up. One was John More who said 160 was enough. Local Portland University anthropologist Cameron Smith said 14,000 to 40,000.

space-station-485590_640

Wikipedia:

Estimates of the minimum reasonable population for a generation ship vary. Anthropologist John Moore has estimated that, even in the absence of cryonics or sperm banks, a population capacity of 160 people would allow normal family life (with the average
individual having ten potential marriage partners) throughout a 200-year space journey, with little loss of genetic diversity; social engineering can reduce this estimate to 80 people.[6] In 2013 anthropologist Cameron Smith reviewed existing literature and created a new computer model to estimate a minimum reasonable population in the tens of thousands. Smith’s numbers were much larger than previous estimates such as Moore’s, in part because Smith takes the risk of accidents and disease into consideration, and assumes at least one severe population catastrophe over the course of a 150-year journey.[7]

Cameron Smith in Acta Astronautica
April–May 2014, Vol.97:16–29, doi:10.1016/j.actaastro.2013.12.013

Estimation of a genetically viable population for multigenerational interstellar voyaging: Review and data for project Hyperion

I find that previously proposed such populations, on the order of a few hundred individuals, are significantly too low to consider based on current understanding of vertebrate (including human) genetics and population dynamics. Population genetics theory, calculations and computer modeling determine that a properly screened and age- and sex-structured total founding population (Nc) of anywhere from roughly 14,000 to 44,000 people would be sufficient to survive such journeys in good health. A safe and well-considered Nc figure is 40,000, an Interstellar Migrant Population (IMP) composed of an Effective Population [Ne] of 23,400 reproductive males and females, the rest being pre- or post-reproductive individuals. This number would maintain good health over five generations despite (a) increased inbreeding resulting from a relatively small human population, (b) depressed genetic diversity due to the founder effect, (c) demographic change through time and (d) expectation of at least one severe population catastrophe over the 5-generation voyage.

That’s quite a range.
What to do?

I started with sixty ships with two hundred per ship that worked the ship and two hundred in cryo. But then as the ships approached the designated planet, a population campaign increased the live colonists to five hundred per ship, give or take. That put us in the range of thirty thousand along the lines of Cameron Smith’s estimate.

Besides, I liked Babylon Five, the TV series, and wanted several ships on the journey for diversity and interest.

When the target planet was found toxic, forty ships decided not to land and jumped away. Of course, problems started happening immediately and the population underwent a severe reduction.

I needed a more manageable number of characters. I was trying to read The Dark Between the Stars by Alan Dean Foster and too many main characters overwhelm a reader. I got overwhelmed and didn’t finish the book.

As ships sought ways to increase the population, space found ways to destroy ships.

Now as I’m writing the next stage that deals with survival on a space station and alien planet, numbers again play an important role. Only so many can fit on station, and those stranded on the orbiting ships create a nice tension to those on planet that don’t want a horde of aliens invading their home and try to keep them on the station or ships.

Readers often don’t realize how much science fiction authors need to balance science plausibility with attention-keeping fictional plots and often wander off into the weeds of research.

Or maybe they do. Maybe they require it.

fortunes-pawnThis week I read Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach as it is a Powell’s science fiction readers group selection. I really enjoyed it…so much so that I’m now reading the sequel Honor’s Knight.

It’s even better.

Devi Morris is a super gung-ho mercenary from the military planet Paradox where the king reigns supreme. The universe is full of inhabited planets and ships travel all over via jump technology.

However, there is an unknown dangerous threat lurking at the edges of the universe.

Devi’s favorite possessions are her battle armor, which she has named Lady Gray, and her weapons. (Also named). She polishes them and talks about them a lot. Being a merc, she has few friends. Being aggressive and battle smart… she has few friends.

In order to accelerate her career, she has taken a job in a beaten up trading ship called The Glorious Fool. The ship has a dangerous reputation but it’s rumored to be a fast track to the rank of Devastator, the name of the king ‘s elite guards, a rank Devi aspires to.honors-knight

On board, an interesting assortment of aliens form the crew. The navigator is a cranky aeon, a birdlike species; her doctor is from a race of crablike insects that are enemies of most humans, and the cook, Rupert, well, he’s incredibly handsome and nothing like he seems.

Nothing.

Actually, nothing is as it appears and soon Devi is wrapped up in secrets that are world heavens-queenshattering with the real possibility of not surviving her tour.

But she’s a stubborn, resourceful, and surprisingly capable mercenary who soon finds herself with a few deadly secrets of her own.

Fast page-turning action with a passionate love story makes this one of my favorites, and one I recommend.

Happy Halloween!pumpkin

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, artificial nature, Classic science fiction, genetic manipulation, modifying humans, Non fiction Science for science fiction, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, space ship, space travel, Transhumanism

Cover Reveal and Survey

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

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

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

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

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

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

bk9_cover_v6_face_final

bk9_cover_a_world_too_far_ships_kindle

 

 

 

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

Why?

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

 https://www.amarketingexpert.com/indie-authors-7-marketing-trends-no-longer-work-can-instead/

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

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

 If you are using ads, check out http://www.Indielisters.com

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

Okay on to the book of the week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Science Fiction Romance

IMG_9518Summer is going by too quickly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nineteen years pass on Earth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trends in Science Fiction

IMG_9503I’ve been noticing an interesting trend among authors I know. After a reasonable amount of books and years, they are taking control of their work, redoing the cover, and polishing their earlier writing.

It used to be that once a book was written, that was it. Set in stone. Now, authors can improve their work as they become better writers.

And many are doing just that.

Because of the constant updating of software in various programs, apps, and cell phones, the current society is becoming used to constant improvement and change.

I think this is a good thing…for the most part. I have gone through Caught in Time and re-proofread and fixed some of my earlier punctuation and grammar mistakes. Graduating with a Masters degree in English certainly didn’t make me perfect.

But as a more, ahem, mature woman, I find that as soon as I learn one program, phone, etc., I have a new “improved” version thrust on me that I have to figure out. Sometimes I want to scream. You hear me, Word and Windows?

Phew. Now that’s out of my system.

Alliance of EqualsToday, I want to mention an old favorite that has come out with a new book in an extensiv, ongoing series. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have a great series in the Liaden Universe that I have enjoyed over the years.

My own Alysian Universe has been heavily influenced by their stories and format. While I submitted to the traditional houses, I continued to write. I didn’t get discouraged. Well, I kept going, shall we say? When Kindle and Createspace emerged, I had a number of books already drafted. Even so, it has taken several years to get them all published. This gig isn’t easy.

I didn’t have the courage, the knowhow, or the time to be able to distribute them using the computer. I remember vividly sitting at a table at Orycon with TOR editors and being told that if I put my stories out over the Web, I would be blackmailed by traditional publishers and my books would never be published.

So I didn’t.

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller also continued writing exciting stories in an expanding universe and eventually were picked up by Baen books where they now have a new novel coming out, much to my delight.Koraval's Game

Alliance of Equals is their newest offering. In fact, I received an ARC (Advanced reader’s copy) The book is due out July 5, 2016. So be one of the very first to know about it. Hot off the press. Sizzle!

The story continues for clan Korval of the Dragon-and-Tree. Master trader Shan yos’Galan and his heir and apprentice trader, Padi yos’Galan, are on a mission to re-establish their trading routes while hoping to add some new ones. Their whole clan has relocated to a planet called Surebleak (now there’s an inspiring name) after being banned from their home planet of Liad. Funds are low. Unfortunately, their Liaden enemies from the Department Of Interior are still working against them and trying to destroy their trading business by various methods.

As they visit different ports to rebuild their trade routes, they encounter problems. While this is going on, Padi hides a dangerous secret that could threaten her coming off age and even her life.

I love the descriptions of the spaceship and the various ports. Intertwined with the science, Lee and Miller develop characters that hold mystic powers. These supernatural powers are really interesting and add a drop of fantasy flavor to a basically science fiction story.

Dragon Variation vol.1Continuing to innovate, Lee and Miller were among the first to bundle their stories into what they called Omnibus Volumes. Three or so earlier books were grouped together and a new title and cover added.

This idea, several years later, is a hot tend among authors. Some group according to topic. For example, there ‘s a new book bundle out on stories of clones by popular authors. Others pick stories with a certain theme.

Lee and Miller have taken their short stories and put them together in “story collections.” The Liaden Constellation Vol. 3stories are often related, told from different character’s viewpoints, and all are set in the Liaden Universe. I have read Volume One and Volume Two already. Now, three is out.

The process of how we read is changing, thanks to new technology and innovators such as Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.

And it will continue to change.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien pets in science fiction, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, Best selling science fiction, dragons, ebook marketing, Liaden Universe, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Space opera, space ship, The future of publishing

Alien First Contact Best Seller: Visitor

photoDo as we say, not as they do. “We” are the midlist authors or ex-agents who set themselves up as writing experts, and “they” are the multi-Hugo and Nebula award winning authors.

I was told not to use too much internal dialog in my writing. Show, don’t tell…and action, action, action. Read all the blogs, you’ll see.

Well, I just finished multi Hugo award winner C.J. Cherryh’s latest book, Visitor from her Foreigner Series, and there’s lots of internal dialog.

I also recently reviewed Lois Bujold’s Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, and guess what?  Yup, it contains a lot of internal dialog, too. My two favorite science fiction authors with their newest books out and both contain a lot of internal dialog. Go figure.Visitor

Visitor picks up from the previous book in the series with factions of humans and atevi on the atevi’s planet in conflict with each other. Also, human factions on Alpha Space Station are upset with rescued humans from an attacked Reunion Station from another system who are now crowding their station that orbits the atevi world.

Got that? There’s more.

A signal comes in from an incoming kyo ship that announces it is on its way to Alpha Space station. This is worrisome because the kyo are the aliens that soared into the Reunion System and melted a section of Reunion ‘s space station, leaving humans for dead. The nearby human ship, Phoenix, fled rather than fought them. Then the kyo sat nearby and waited, watching for four years. They sent a shuttle to Reunion Station that was captured, and they continued to sit close by for an additional six more years, just observing, while Reunion tried to rebuild. So, the Reunion Station humans, now living on Alpha Station, panic when hearing of the kyo approach. To prevent Alpha Station from being tore apart from riots born of fear, the human station master locks down the Reunion section and refuses to turn over station control to atevi when time for the handoff arrives.

TrackerBren Cameron, human emissary for the atevi leader of the planet below, and human appointee by the president of the human contingent on the island of Mospheira, is the obvious choice to interface with the incoming aliens and also handle station problems. Earlier, he, the young atevi heir, and the matriarch flew on the ship that rescued the Reunion stationers and brought them to Alpha Station to live. In addition, they released a kyo, named Prakuyo, that had been held prisoner on the station for over six years and returned him to his people.

Now the kyo have discovered Alpha Station and the atevi world by following the ship’s trail. The name Prakuyo is transmitted with the words “we come.” So, the alien they rescued is on the incoming ship. Whether he wants revenge for his six years of incarceration or friendship in gratitude for his life being saved, Bren does not know. He does know that the kyo have been involved in an extended war with unknown aliens and carry heavy firepower while Alpha Station and the atevi world below are unarmed and vulnerable.

Bren’s responsibility is to learn the language of the incoming kyo and talk to them so as to avoid a war neither human nor atevi can win. But atevi and humans are just learning to get along and barely speak each other’s language. Also, humans have their own problems and are split among planet, station, and ship captains. Each with their own agenda and ideas of what to do.

Cherryh is a master at immersing the reader into Bren’s psyche as he mentally reviews all the terrifying scenarios, both on station and among the three alien races. There are a bewildering array of conflicting elements. A station master who refuses to give up power on the station complicates Bren’s job. Panicked stationers traumatized by the kyo ‘s previous attack create chaos and distraction. Ship captains, protective of the nearby human ship, try to insert their own authority, and the young atevi heir’s new human friends are threatened with kidnapping to provide leverage to a human contingent that has its own ideas on what should be done. Bren has to solve all these problems and sort everything out quickly before the kyo arrive.

Because time is running out.

The kyo are on their way…and heavily armed.

Cherryh provides a comprehensive first contact problem as Bren tries to figure out how to communicate with an alien species he knows little about. Then, he has to teach both atevi and human how to communicate with the kyo as the kyo have demanded the heir and matriarch to attend a meeting. One wrong gesture or one mispronounced word could set off violence, resulting in damage or destruction. The stakes are high.

And with this situation of complex moving parts, Cherryh adds an ending with a surprising twist. Bren Cameron will be called upon to use all that he has learned as paidhi-aiji to the atevi and communicator for alien species.

Cherryh uses words and language to express the mindset of the atevi-influenced Bren, who now has lived years among them. Because of the way she arranges and uses words, the reader is drawn into the atevi way of thinking. Now, she adds a new alien species and a different way of looking at the world. Communication is much more than words, it involves a whole culture.

As I am working on a first contact event in my current novel, Worlds Too Far, I have to express admiration for Cherryh’s fine job of writing. Her book goes into a more detailed exploration of how to communicate with an alien species than I do. In her book, I often felt the frustration and overwhelming fatigue that Bren feels as he races the clock to handle difficult personalities and solve disturbing actions on station, all the while worrying about what needs to be done to keep the peace when meeting the kyo.

How should we communicate with aliens if the situation ever arises? How can we know if the right approach is to assume they will be friendly or that they will be violent? And then how do we communicate with a species that may think totally different than we do? What might we use to bridge the gap of culture and language to arrive at understanding? How far might we go to protect our own species.

Read and find out.

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