Category Archives: Aliens in Science Fiction

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alien worlds, aliens, Aliens in Science Fiction, Discovering new a Earth, military science fiction, science fiction, science fiction space opera, Science fiction world building, space travel, terra forming

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

4 Comments

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.

4 Comments

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.

3 Comments

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.

2 Comments

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, award winning scifi, Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, C. J. Cherryh, first contact, Hugo Nominations, Hugo winners, Lois McMasters Bujold, Political Science Fiction, science fiction series, science fiction space opera

Curating the Curators

Image 1At first, there was whatever a select group of publishers deemed worthy. Then, because of Amazon, a flood of books of varying quality swamped readers. Who could tell which books were worth a person’s hard-earned money? And among the hordes of new offerings, how could authors connect to readers who wanted to read their genre? Curation became a popular word, and hence Bookbub was born. Now, hundreds of websites are jumping on the lucrative bandwagon to unite reader and authors.

Some are great; some are a waste of money.

Which means, any author wanting to forego the wear and tear of cross country book signings, or who just doesn’t have the name or money for it, can advertise on one of these sites and get out to readers. For a fee. Rates vary.

But to entice the buying reader to allow his e-mailed to be invaded, the author has to offer his book free or severely discounted. It takes a lot of sales for a $.35 royalty or a free first in a series. Readers are loading up and getting used to lower prices and free fare. A bit dangerous for authors who work long and hard on a story.

But some ads sites are worth it. What else can an author do? Tweet for all your worth? And what does that accomplish for actual sales?

So now we have Jason B. Ladd, who writes a blog that encourages authors to share their ad buying experiences. http://www.IndieListers.com Very interesting. I found it a great help.

We’re curating the curators because ad buying is ridiculously expensive and indie authors are using the term roi (return on investment) more and more frequently.

What’s next in this reading evolution? An inquiring mind wants to know.

While I have decided not to take review requests any more, I recently was asked to review a new Indie author whose book sounded like one I might enjoy. Okay, yell at me, but put down that tomato.

Beyond Cloud NineBeyond Cloud Nine (book 1)and Beyond the Horizon (book 2) by Greg Spry were pitched as starship adventures. Since I’m currently writing a starship space adventure (Worlds too Far), and one of my titles is Past the Event Horizon (see at right),I was intrigued. I also want to promote good indie writing, but too often it is riddled with format, story or grammar errors. Writing isn’t as easy as you might imagine.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised, and this first book in the series, Beyond Cloud Nine, is worth recommending. You have Brooke, a kickass female pilot with a drug addiction and guilt issues, her twin sister who is a reporter, and a series of exciting space battles with a mysterious English speaking alien. Life gets complicated when Brooke discovers a human conspiracy at the highest levels within her own government that puts her life at risk. The story moves along well with some nice plot twists, and very few distracting grammar or spelling errors. I got lost in the story.

Greg Spry nicely balances action with character. Not only does Brooke ferociously battle aliens physically in warships and fights against a conspiracy, but also emotionally battles her twin sister and an addiction to a drug that amps up her ability to fly. Beyond the HorizonShe needs the drug to fly her best and win that first FTL pilot slot that she badly wants. That experience reminded me of Star Wars and the space jump to FTL. There is also some nice interaction with an A1 implant in her brain that works with her and has a cute personality. I could use one like “Bob.”

All in all Beyond Cloud Nine is a really fun book for science fiction enthusiasts. The second in the series, Beyond the Horizon is on a stacked reading desk that I plan to read in the near future.

Enjoy spring.            Daffodils-006

4 Comments

Filed under alien life forms, Aliens in Science Fiction, Computer implants in science fiction, ebook marketing, Indie Publishing, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Marketing and selling novels, military science fiction, Political Science Fiction, science fiction space opera, space ship, Transhumanism

Do You have a Yen for Some Hard Science Fiction?

Image 1Hard science fiction…so hard that it’s like knocking your head against granite. L. E. Modesitt, Jr. in his latest novel, Solar Express presents a compelling plot against the background of a developing war among the Sinese Federation, Noram (U.S. Military), and India. Much like the fear that drove the development of the atom bomb, fear of another country getting control through space drives these three power superpowers to secretly start weaponizing space.

And then an alien object is sighted headed in system towards our sun.

The problem becomes that Modesitt wants to get each detail completely accurate and properly measured. The main character, Chris Tavoian, low orbit shuttle pilot, is promoted to major and sent out on a covert mission to investigate the alien artifact, conveniently categorized as an asteroid to keep secret it’s alien nature. Each minute is painstakingly recorded, each angle of the artifact explored while under the time pressure of an approaching Sinese spaceship.Solar Express

Meanwhile, back on the moon, his love interest, Alayna Wong-Grant who discovered the alien object, and doesn’t understand why no one has mentioned it in the media, is investigating the mechanism of multi-fractal mini-granulations found in the sun.

See what I mean? More science with big words.

A thrilling plot, rife with politics, told through memos and emails between moon-bound Alayna and alien-probing Chris. Theirs is a relationship developed through correspondence, much like our online dating and email nowadays.

I wanted to really like this, especially since Modesitte is a favorite author, but I struggled through it. However, if you have been yearning for hard science among the slim pickings of good science fiction offerings of late, and an interesting plot, this may be a good read for you. Modesitt explains the rational for his novel.  http://www.lemodesittjr.com/2015/11/17/another-reason-for-pseudonyms/

My marketing has slowed because I have been catching up on my writing. My life as an author is like being on a seesaw. Personal life, writing or marketing? It’s hard to balance all three. I needed more time for writing, but needed to put a plan in place for marketing, at least for this month. Sales declined while my attention was on the wedding.

Caught in Time, my first in a series, will again be available for free Thursday, March 11 through Sunday March 13 through the KDP Select program. I decided to shortened the time to only three days to leave room for another campaign later. If I don’t promote, sales tail off.

I chose Free Kindle Books and Tips because I have not used them before as an ad venue, and also Choosy Bookworm. These are two new sites that I’m trying out, and I’ll let you know if they’re productive. I have to also balance the cost of promotion against possible sales.

I love writing this blog, but Facebook and Twitter are not my thing. My life is quiet because I like it that way. I get my excitement in my stories. Never mind SnapChat, and that other thing. I am verbal, but not able to think up witty things on social media.

Sharing results is helpful, so I’m offering a link to an interesting article on what makes people buy self-published books. Lots of pretty graphs and hard data by a favorite blogger of mine from the Emerald Isle.

http://tarasparlingwrites.com/2014/07/31/what-makes-people-buy-self-published-books/

For you fantasy fans, I must say that I’m enjoying the Magicians series on the SyFy channel even more than the books.

Isn’t that a switch? Check it out and my review blog on the book.

My Powell’s book group meets tonight and we’re discussing John Scalzi’s Redshirts. I’m ranting and raving about the editing. TOR is his publisher and promotes him extensively, so you’d think it would be better edited. I tried to find a science fiction ebook from a promotion, but the one I read was so poorly edited, I stopped completely and would not recommend it; the other was forty pages long and not worth recommending either at that length.

More on this in my next blog as I’m trying to finish Redshirts. Add finishing reading my books for my review blog to that wobbly seesaw.

4 Comments

Filed under aliens, Aliens in Science Fiction, Best selling science fiction, ebook marketing, first contact, Hard science fiction, Hugo winners, magic, Marketing and selling novels, Political Science Fiction, science fiction, Science fiction thriller

Alien Invasion

Image 1I’m back to the business side of publishing and writing, now that my daughter’s wedding is over. I’m finishing up my ninth book that is in the same universe as the other novels, but it doesn’t take place on the planet Alysia and has a different cast of characters for the most part. It takes place on a starship that is part of a fleet of ships seeking a habitable world.

Lots of fun to write.

Currently, one of my characters is designing robots to make up for the low population due to a recent epidemic. It made me think that finally robots are becoming more and more a part of our society. Years ago Isaac Asimov wrote his famous Caves of Steel, book 1 of his robot series. Even made it into a movie starring Will Smith. He had robots act indistinguishably from humans. We haven’t gotten there, but here is a link to an article that talks about recent strides in the field.download (1)

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-32334571

If you’re not familiar with her blog, yet, then I urge you to look up Kriswrites by Kathryn Kristine Rusch. She and husband Dean Wesley Smith have had a foot in the traditional publishing world and a foot in the Indie world. Together they have written hundreds of books, a great number which are science fiction… And they live in Oregon.

A recent blog talked about the direction of publishing and compared it with television. It’s all good, but the choice bit for me was:

“As Hugh (Howey) and Data Guy have repeatedly shown, writers publishing indie make significantly more money per title (and in general) than writers who go traditional. Not too long ago, traditional publishing’s argument was that they brought the books to more eyeballs.

They don’t. Now the playing field is level. If indie writers publish trade paper books, audio books and ebooks on all platforms, then the writers will make more money on (good well-written well-produced) books than they would if they went to traditional publishing.

Period.

Those of us who have been in this side of the field have known it for a long time. We finally have more than our personal numbers. We have two years of data.”

To read the complete article go to: http://kriswrites.com/2016/02/10/business-musings-money-talks/ and catch up on her other informative blogs.

cixin liuThis week I read The Three Body Problem by Cixen Liu and was puzzled. This book was nominated for a Hugo. I can only suggest that since it was published by TOR, a lot of politicking must have gone on. I never notice Indie books getting nominated, even best selling ones. Hmmmm. Anyway, the author is Cixen Liu and the English translation is by Ken Liu. Cixen Liu is the most popular and prolific writer of science fiction in the People’s Republic of China. He has won their Hugo equivalent eight times already. Reviews on the book were extremely positive.

But I struggled through it, falling asleep repeatedly as I tried to finish. Better than a lullaby.Three Body Problem

The first third of the story deals with the politics of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and has no science fiction elements. The reader learns of the persecution and public murder of young Ye Wenjie’s physicist father and her subsequent framing by a colleague who writes an incendiary book and claims she is the author, not he.

She is sent away to a lumber camp to work for several years, but then is relocated to a secret military installation because of her technical skills. This is during the time when America’s SETI program was popular, and China didn’t want the West to be the one to make aliens their allies. This Chinese secret project sends signals into space and, after a time, Ye makes contact.

Enter the science fiction portion.

Various eras of Trisolaris are experienced by a character named Wang who plays a popular underground virtual game. Soon a group of scientist and others are playing this game and we learn of a world named Trisolaris that is sending the game to Earth. Ye has decided the awful human race needs to be refined by these aliens and signals them to invite them in. Since their world is highly unstable and headed toward an extinction event, they are eager to come to Earth and what looks like paradise.

Eventually a group on Earth forms to prepare Earth and help the aliens conquer the planet. Another group tries to seek out and eliminate these radicals who would destroy Earth by encouraging unknown aliens to take over the planet. Lots of spy games and violent arrests ensue.

Needless to say, politics fill the book. However, Liu doesn’t shy away from his hard science either, incorporating a lot of physics into the story. While I embrace science in a science fiction story, for me, the story dragged. In addition, the names were confusing. There was Yang, Ding, Wang, Shi Quang, and Ye Wenjie to name a few main characters.

Somehow, contact is made through this virtual game that gives the reader an idea of the world of Trisolaris, but as a story plot, it didn’t seem realistic. Still, an unstable world that has to deal with three erratic suns has its interesting side.

The Dark ForestThis is the first book in a trilogy not completely out in translation, and I’m debating on reading the rest. After all the commotion of advancing aliens, Ye still waits for them in the end, leaving the reader curious as to what might happen when they finally do reach Earth.

And thank goodness, the science fiction elements make the book more interesting.

Leave a comment

Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Cutting Edge Science ideas, Disaster Fiction, first contact, Hard science fiction, Hugo Nominations, Political Science Fiction

Time to Read: Bone Clocks

IMG_9512

Interesting science news:

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

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

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

In the marketing information section:

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

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

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

Bone Clock D. MitchellBook Review:

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

Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some readers did; some didn’t.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Aliens in Science Fiction, Alternate Universes, Best selling science fiction, book fairs, Comets and asteroids, ebook marketing, hard science, Lois McMasters Bujold, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction, Science Fiction book review, science fiction science, science fiction series, Self-publishing, Space opera, time travel, Uncategorized, Urban Fantasy