Category Archives: Alien worlds

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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Publishing Wrap-up 2016 and Five Scifi Selections for 2017

IMG_0174January has certainly gotten off to a contentious start. How does that affect book sales? I would imagine that readers are turning on the television to get the latest incendiary news distortion or taking to the streets to loudly voice their opinions…

…rather than quietly reading.

Kristine Rusch has a lengthy blog that talks about Indie publishing as a business and some current trends. She discusses the fact that sales were down in 2016 and the reasons why. Publishers say there was no breakout novel. Election noise took away reading time. The ebook publishing business is leveling off.

My sales were good until November, and then, I also saw a downturn. I’m seeing it in January, but I’m blaming politics and a lack of marketing enthusiasm. I’m a bit burnt out on marketing at the moment. I need to catch up on my writing and fill up the piggy bank because having the necessary funds to see you over the down part only makes good business sense.

She mentions that also. Here’s the blog: http://kriswrites.com/2017/01/18/business-musings-2016-disappointments/

January is one of the most fun months of the year for my blog because I get to select books to read for the year. Sometimes a book doesn’t meet the publication date (Thorn of Emberlain ) and sometimes I decide the book isn’t up to my standards and don’t mention it. (Split Second) However, it’s a way to prime the pump and get enthusiastic about reading. I have found lately that good science fiction is hard to find. There’s a mishmash of books out there but very little in the “got to read” category.

Anyway here’s my next five:

all-the-birds-in-the-sky1. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. I keep seeing this on recommended lists. I have avoided it because I really don’t like apocalyptic novels. They tend to be downers rather than contain interesting science. There’s always a struggle with the environment, and too often zombies show up. But this is about a young girl who is involved in magic. A long ago geek friend she knows from Middle School gets back with her. Also, it takes place in San Francisco, and I lived in the Bay area for eight years. So, it’s on the list.

2. The Unquiet Land by Sharon Shinn: I’ve been waiting on this one. I’ve read the previous books in the series (Elementals) so I know I will like this. (Rubs hands together)the-last-year

unquiet-land3. The Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson. New release. Time travel. Amazon best list. Charles Wilson (Spin) I’m in.

4. The Traitor ‘s Blade by Sebastien De Castell: Peter who works in Powell’s at Cedar Crossing has been their science fiction expert for a long time. He’s the liason for our Science Fiction Book Club. He knows his stuff, and when I whined about wanting a good book, he stuck this in my hand. Of course, I bought it and put it on the list.traitors-blade

5. Night Without Stars by Peter Hamilton. A hardback library find. Well, I’d actually been seeing this on a few a-night-without-starsrecommended lists. I’ve read earlier novels in the series also. It’s a big book which means it will take a while to read, but this is a far future space opera, and I’m ready for that.

By the way…don’t forget the second season of the Expanse starts on television tomorrow night February 1, Syfy channel. Watch that rather than the political insanity. Or, maybe the politics of the future there will look frightening familiar, and you can get a two-for-one.

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Survival in science fiction

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

Yeah

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

It all makes writing fun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New Year Science Fiction

IMG_9512Welcome to a new year 2017.new-year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enuff said.

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

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

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

Thanks, Kevin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll help you with that.

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Military Fantasy

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

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

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

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

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

Wouldn’t that be nice?

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

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

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

The story of Tavi continues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas horn

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Twelve Authors to Binge on in Science Fiction and Fantasy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visitor

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ender's Game

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

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

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

Until then,

May the Christmas Spirit be with you.

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Book Reviews: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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

TWO YEARS! ONE BOOK!

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

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

What could go wrong???

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just saying.

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

Just so many hours in the day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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