Category Archives: Aliens in Science Fiction

Recommended Science Fiction for 2016

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Happy New Year to all science fiction and fantasy fans.

2016 is off to a great start.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And on that I heartily agree also.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are my first few picks:

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Louis Bujold

The Jeweled Fire by Sheron Shinn

Time Salvager by Wesleyan Chu

Deep Crossing by E. R. Mason

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

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

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

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

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Holiday Magic

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Christmas hornHappy Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What the market can bear.Bands of Mourning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Glad Tidings for Self Publishers

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

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

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

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

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

Read and rejoice all indie authors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(See me jumping up and down)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Marketing Day: Considerations of an Author

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

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

FREE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, he didn’t disappoint.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An Author’s Life

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I’m coming down the home stretch.

The latest book in the Alysian Series is gathering momentum as the publication date comes in sight. Toni Boudreault, my cover designer, just sent over the cover for me to approve.

What did I consider important in the cover design?
First, I wanted to use the same font as I used on the others in the series to tie them together.

Second, I wanted a title short enough to fit comfortably on the cover, while indicating the theme of the book. I wanted the letters big enough to be able to read in a thumbnail.

A central theme in the story involves an equation that not only predicts, but can manipulate the future. It took a long time and several working titles to finally settle on Time’s Equation as the final choice.

Next I wanted the background to show interesting equations, but I didn’t want the cover to look like a math book. Several of my immediate readers don’t like people on the cover. They prefer to imagine what the characters look like. For science fiction, about half have people and half have images of ships, worlds, planets, etc. So some of mine do, but most don’t show faces on the cover.

But this story is about time travel along with the development of a romantic relationship. Consequently, we settled on hands reaching out to touch through a swirling timegate. The story contains both mathematical science and romance.

I chose the blue background because it’s cooler and contrasts against the warmer tones of the hands.

There’s also aliens, androids, clones, cyborgs, nano viruses, you know… the usual.

That’s my process for working with Toni to get a cover. I’m lucky that she listens to my ideas and then goes off to make magic. Towards the end, she is patient with my many tweaks and suggestions because we both know how important a cover is for attracting readers.bk8_cover_proo4

Also happening is the incoming comments from Beta readers. One of the things that I work hard on is to get the writing right. Through a writing critique group and then Beta readers, I’m able to polish the writing. It isn’t easy and takes months of hard work.

Occasionally, I hire a professional editor, but they can be very expensive and sometimes not worth the price.

I format as I go so I can estimate the length of chapters and start most chapters on the right side page. Often I add or delete sentences during writing to keep the formatting professional.

Finally, I have scheduled Cosmic Entanglement for a free run on KDP Select from November 13 through November 16 to set up some buzz on the series.

I apologize that I’m not an avid social networker. My life isn’t chock full of excitement (thank goodness) because most of my time is involved in writing or editing.

And currently, a wedding.
My daughter is getting married in February, and that’s taking up a bit of time and will accelerate as the wedding approaches.

My recommendation for this week is to read Caught in Time as a start to Cosmic Entanglement…although I’ll tell you a secret.

Cosmic Entanglement works very well as a first book. You can do that with time travel. Both Caught in Time and Cosmic Entanglement start around the same time. One just goes back in time while the other goes on to normal time events.

Here I have given you a sneak peak into an author’s life this week, and now I have to go do some more writing and editing. See you next week with a new recommendation for science fiction or fantasy.pumpkin

Powell's books

ps. Here’s photo of Robin Hobb’s signing at Powell’s.          HAPPY HALLOWEEN

                                                                                                                    

 

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A Self Publisher Markets and John Scalzi’s latest

IMG_0193This self publishing gig isn’t as easy as it’s cracked up to be.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” you mutter.

There is a world out there willing to give advice, but how good is that advice for your situation?
Who knows?

I can only tell you what works for me…and what doesn’t.

With some success last month, I once again threw myself into the marketing fray. Since I had extra funds in the marketing budget, I decided to advertise two places during my KDP Select free book week.

Robin Reads has been getting buzz lately as an upcoming site still reasonably priced. For $20, I got the number one spot. That was sweet. My criticism of Robin Reads as a reader is that I haven’t figured out how to select out the genres I prefer, so every day I get a list of all types of books which is a pain to page through. I’m not into steamy romances or zombie thrillers…but many readers are.

However, as an author and advertiser, I received fourteen hundred downloads in one day (9/19) for my anchor book, Caught in Time. Not great, but better than I expected for the price. Now usually, a program like that is immediately followed by retail sales of other books in the series.

Crickets.

Added to Robin Reads, I spent $70 at Freebooksy for one day (9/21) where I have had great success, so I was rubbing my hands together in excited anticipation. I got almost a thousand downloads that day. So, over two thousand plus free downloads.

Retail sales? Crickets.

April Aasheim author of The Witches of Dark Root,  reports good luck advertising on Facebook. I’ve been reluctant to try. Anyone having good luck with that?

Meanwhile, The Fussy Librarian sent this out in their newsletter. I thought it interesting. It talks about an article that claims paperback sales are picking up and Ebook sales diminishing.

Seriously? I find that hard to believe. My sales are mostly in EBooks, although paperbacks are readily available.

http://us7.campaign-archive1.com/?u=1fa68a8fb20ec8a1817392970&id=a8f7a5bbb8&e=d0ae4f54e9

The End of All Things2This week I’m suggesting a favorite author. John Scalzi is deeply entrenched in traditional publishing in many forms: hardback, paperback, iBook, audio, short story serials etc. He recently came to Powell’s again to promote his new book The End of All Things.

Now there’s a catchy title. It’s available in hardback for $24.99…thank you, big publisher (TOR)…or free at the local library, no taint involved in the free price.

This science fiction soap opera takes place in The Old Man’s Universe, meaning in the universe of his John Campbell Award winning book, Old Man’s War.

True to form, Scalzi does something different. Humans have expanded into space, only to find it populated with thousands of alien species. The Colonial Union formed to protect humans but kept Earth ignorant of aliens so as to provide colonists and soldiers by using consciousness of old people in repurposed bodies.Old Man's War

Many of the alien species threatened by these superhumans formed their own alliances called the Conclave.

Then Earth found out it was being used and got angry. It stopped providing experienced conscious minds and bodies. Without Earth to provide bodies for fighting, the Colonial Union found itself in trouble.

Unbeknownst to the Colonial Union, bitter infighting and politics now threatens to tear the Conclave apart.

The first story of the book is told by the sole survivor of an ambush on the ship the Chandler. A mysterious splinter group known as the Equilibrium has been secretly pitting the Conclave and the Colonial Union against each other. This secret third faction is made up of individuals from the different groups who plan to overthrow all other contenders. While all on The Chandler and any escape pods are ruthlessly killed, Rafe Daquin, recently hired as third pilot on the Chandler, is allowed a consciousness in order to pilot the ship, but he is separated from his body and reduced to operating as a brain in a box.

So your narrator for the first section is a brain in a box who tells the events of the attack and how he thwarts his enemies working without a body.

The Last ColonyThe second part of the book tells events from the point of view of Hafte Sorvalh, the second most powerful individual in the Conclave, or the advisor to Tarsem Gau, the Conclave leader. This story is political theater at its best and Scalzi is a master of clever dialogue. Subtle nuances of behavior by politicians during a Conclave Congress reveal that this powerful body of aliens has its own problems, and act more like humans than most imagine.

The third section brings in favorite character Harry Wilson from the other books in the series who thwarts an Equilibrium attack and interrogates one of their leaders in an attempt to unravel their plans. This section reads more as a spy thriller.

Scalzi admits to frantically trying to finish writing on time and missing deadlines as he travels around for signings and marketing. It makes the book choppy. You can imagine him writing a section, dusting off his hands and sending it in.

Still…

I enjoy Scalzi’s interesting science and clever dialogue. He makes reading science fiction both fun and enlightening…

And that’s the way it should be.

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What Makes Readers Put Down a Book?

photoWhat Makes a Reader Put a Book Down?

I read a lot of books. At least one a week for this blog…and more. Lately, I’ve been noticing poor writing, and not solely by Indie Writers. I believe a lot of self-published writers deserve the criticism they get because their books are published too soon and really need more polishing. Putting a book out is hard work, and it’s too easy to say, “Good enough.”

Take the time.

However, I have noticed well-known authors, acclaimed novels, and small house publishers also making major mistakes in producing quality books, causing me to stop reading and move on. It’s not just the new self-publisher doing this.

Blood of the CosmosKevin Anderson is one of the better known science fiction writers. He has made a name co-authoring with Brian Herbert whose father wrote Dune. They have taken Frank Herbert’s notes and done a credible job with authoring an extended Dune series. Then Kevin has several of his own series: Saga of the Seven Suns, Terra Incognito. Now he has a new series Blood of the Cosmos. Book two in the series sat on the library shelf, then slid into my hand.

I started to read. Eighteen pages in I was still wading through a narrative backstory. “He went here…then she did that…” Chapter One at least had dialogue and action, but by then I felt as if I had swallowed a bottle of Ambien and couldn’t keep my eyes open. This is not the only big name book that has done this recently.

I write a series and it’s difficult to weave in the backstory when you’re four or five books in, but a yawn of a long narrative at the front entitled,”The story so far” is not what keeps a reader turning pages. That book will get slapped back down on the library return pile.

Memory of WaterSo, then I tried Memory of Water, a novel by Emmi Itaranta. Published by Harper Collins, it has recently won several literary awards. It was also recommended as a book for our Powell’s reading group. So I bought it.

It is a debut novel that depicts a future where water has become scarce. At times and in the beginning the writing was lyrical, almost over the top…you know”literary” writing. A young girl trains with her father how to do a tea ceremony. In this case, the not-so-hidden lecture on ethical environment finally got under my skin.

If the author was chiding our current generation for not conserving water properly, then why was the villain of the book the water police? They try to arrest and kill those who break the water laws in an attempt to preserve what little remains. For me, that’s conservation in the extreme.

Noria’s father, as tea master, reveals to his daughter a hidden cavern with pure splashing water that used to be the village’s water source. Neither shares this secret, but they use the water for themselves and their garden. (At least as far as I read) Yet, she is considered the abused victim in the book.

I just don’t appreciate books who preach at me using the hidden guise of story-telling. Yeah, I hear you say that a lot of writers do it. Aesop comes to mind. I still don’t like blatant preaching.

My last admonition is on the formatting of a book. If the writer selects a small publisher, they must research them to ascertain if they’re competent. Often the excitement that any publisher would be interested overwhelms a new author, and they end up with a book that is poorly formatted by a publisher who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Often the writer puts in years of hard work to write a good story, but the reader doesn’t see that, only the amateur formatting and jumps to conclusions about the story .

Recently, an ebook I purchased had type that kept changing from regular type to bold and then back for no apparent reason. Sure, I use different type in Someone’s Clone to designate what Kayse’s computer, Lola, says as a contrast to his dialogue. But in this case, there appeared no reason for the continual change of font. That wouldn’t have been bad except the single spaced writing had almost no paragraph indentions or breaks of any kind, looking like one big block of writing.

I couldn’t catch my breath. My eyes hurt.

So why am I on a rant? I like to share books that I love and expect my readers might also. I don’t talk about bad books…normally. But, after starting four different books, both big name published and self-published, I still didn’t have a book for my blog that I felt comfortable recommending. I gave up and picked Tracker by my favorite author C.J. Cherryh. This is just out, #15 in her Foreigner series, and it is good.

TrackerThe start is slow and relaxed, and yes, she does a bit of backstory narrative to begin, but don’t let the early “everything is fine” atmosphere fool you.

In one sentence, just as the reader relaxes their guard, the story gets turned upside down. An alien ship is sighted headed to the Atevi planet. Bren Cameron, human ambassador to the Atevi, is notified, and the clock begins to tick down.

Cheryl throws in dramatic Atevi and human politics…adding in Mospherii (from the planet) against Reunioners (from the space station) conflict also. Humans aren’t getting along and squabble among themselves as the alien ship continues its approach.

Bren lands right in the middle and drags in the Atevi dowager and the young heir to be the greeting committee on station. After all, those three originally met with the aliens they hopefully think are coming and understand them best. But both stationmaster and Captain of the planet’s one spaceship want to run the show their way and resent his interference onto their turf.

Even though they have no idea of what’s coming.Foreigner

All makes for great reading devoid of odd formatting, grammar lapses and poor plot. Cheryl has won the Hugo three times, and she deserves it. Check out this interesting series about humans struggling to adapt to an alien society on an alien planet. And now, maybe another alien race will jump into the mix.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, C. J. Cherryh, ebook science fiction, Hugo winners, Political Science Fiction, science fiction, science fiction series, Science fiction world building, Self-publishing

A Discovered Science Fiction Favorite

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The hardest part of being an Indie author is the marketing. For May I tried The Fussy Librarian for $16.

And you get what you pay for.

Five hundred free orders (KDP select) so far, which is a far cry from the 4500 free orders of a year ago at this same time through Sweetfreebooks.

In addition, last year, readers immediately started buying the other books in the series, and I sold through June, also, at a record rate. Not yet so far.

There may be certain readers who comb the sites looking for bargains, and they already have my book by now. I also know The Fussy Librarian is still in the building stages, maybe the reason they were not as effective. Ah well, this marketing endeavor is an experiment for me to see what works and what doesn’t.

So, I have checked this off for me, but It may work better for you.

Look at this interesting report comparing various author earnings. It makes me feel that I’m doing the right things. http://authorearnings.com/report/the-50k-report/

Forerunner FactorIn the last several blogs, I have talked about current authors, known and unknown. This week I read an old classic that I never got around to reading in my early days. I enjoyed her. Andre Norton has extensive works on the Forerunners, The Witch World and Solar Queen series to name a few better known ones. The book I read is called The Forerunner Factor. It contains two of her previous works.

 The story tells of Simsa, a Barrows orphan who scrounges underground in a Labyrinth of caves , living with an elderly eccentric woman who collects old “treasures” found in various nook and crannies of her world. Found as a babe in an old Forerunner’s ruin, Simsa’s odd appearance of ebony black skin and silver curly hair set her apart from all others on her world so that she slinks about at night with her head covered so as to escape notice.Time Traders Norton

When her mentor and protector dies, Simsa is just a young woman, and she gathers the old woman’s artifacts together, hoping to sell a few in order to survive. Through a series of incidents, she is thrown in with a star traveler named Thorn, who arrives on her world searching for any information or remnants of a long lost civilization known as the Forerunners. Needless to say, Simsa’s strange sculpture she tries to sell and her odd appearance captures his attention and the attention of the current Overlord who also is interested in old artifacts and strange tech.

Also, Thorn’s brother went missing while searching for Forerunner artifacts on Simsa’s world, and Thorn is determined to discover what happened to him. Along with Simsa, is her pet Zorsal named Zass who she can mind-link and is trained to her commands. Zass is an alien bird-like creature, utterly loyal and very useful.Gates to Witch World

Together the three scrabble ahead of the Overlord’s hunters who follow them, and eventually they stumble into a lost ruin deep in the Hard Hills that changes their lives forever.

This is a story of a scramble for survival and a hunt for treasure. At times, it goes on a little overmuch, but the premise kept me interested. There are two parts to this bundle, and the second part is similar in that Simsa tries to escape from captors and lands on a barren, but dangerous, planet, once touched by the Forerunners. Thorn comes after her, and again the two try to survive in a dangerous alien world that harbors ancient secrets.

For over a half century, Andre Norton has written a huge number of enjoyable stories, achieving the Grand Master Award for Fantasy and Science Fiction. She now resides in Murfessboro, Tennessee, still writing.

Norton has an easy to read style and intriguing story lines. I don’t know how I missed her stories, but you shouldn’t.

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Ebook Marketing and Talking Starship Crew Members

IMG_9518Sometimes I can control time.

It’s a Talent I have.

I told myself I needed to wake up at 12:00 a.m. so that I can take my next set of pain pills. As most of you know, I did a little stair sliding recently and broke a shoulder bone..the humerus. So I’m not as funny as I used to be.

Not recommended at all! Very painful. I need my meds.

In pitch dark, my eyes blink open to see the digital clock click over to exactly 12:00 a.m. Time for my meds.

How did I do that?

And it happens on a regular basis.

With all of time swirling around me, how can I pluck out the exact moment that I need to wake up?

Do humans connect more subconsciously with the universe than we realize? Will we ever be able to use this connection? Do we already use this connection in some way? Or is it just a random event?

As you might know, I’m exploring ebook marketing programs. For me, the KDP Select platform has been successful. My numbers are still coming in, and last month I did very little with any marketing.

Remember the stair sliding/wall smashing bit?

In April I intend to do a guest blog over at my friend Diana’s website and interview her on my blog here. She has several intriguing fantasy novels published that I want to mention.

EarthriseThis week I went to my Kindle shelf to select Earthrise by M.C.A. Hogarth to review. I have signed up at various sites that offer free and discounted books. on a daily basis. To a certain extent, these sites curate books by price, genre, popularity (number of five star reviews) and other factors often selected by the customer.

This is a dramatic shift in how books are bought.

I am conflicted about this trend. I recognize the desperate need for a way to select out the better books from the overwhelming tsunami of books being currently published and shoved out to a bewildered public. I also see the need for Amazon to have competition. However, my email box is getting jammed with advertising by Bookbub, Freebooksy, Sweetfreebooks, ebooks daily and other such services that now proliferate the web. Okay, so I signed up and can unsubscribe if I want. But, cleaning out the various email boxes is becoming another boring time sink.

Surprising is the growth of my sales via Kindle Unlimited and The Kindle Library for Prime members. Based on the Netflix model of a monthly fee, my sales in that arena have skyrocketed. This a a double-edged sword in that Amazon doesn’t set a fixed amount for the sales, but sales are dependent on how many books are sold and how much Amazon puts in the coffer that month. The question for the author is: would this book have sold the usual way if not in the program or was the book an incremental sale? The income from this kind of sale is not considered a royalty, and the net profit to the author is set at the whim of Amazon.

And yet, it is an increasingly popular way readers are now buying books…especially the voracious reader. If your book was not there sitting on the KindleUnlimited shelf ready to be plucked off for someone’s Kindle library, would another book be the one chosen instead of yours? Would that sale have gone to another author? Let’s face it, after 10% of the book is read, Amazon pays you whether the reader finishes the book or not. Those nickels add up, and no initial fee is required from you, the author. Neither program costs a dime, except in the opportunity cost of sales on other sites due to Amazon’s requirement of 90 days exclusivity.

It was while scanning my email and discounted book sites that my eye caught Earthrise by M.C.A. Hogarth for $.99. Normally I don’t read science fiction where the aliens are talking animals or the aliens so alien that it is hard to relate to them. But the blurb sounded interesting, I got a deal on it, and soon found myself enjoying the story so much that I couldn’t put it down.Rosepoint

The story concerns Reese Eddings, a feisty, independent, black female who comes from a maternal culture that expects their women to return home and procreate. Instead, Reese scrapes together her funds, one being a mysterious loan from a very wealthy benefactor, the other from family resources, to gather enough to buy a broken down ship and pay her micro crew their salary. For several years she struggles this way, her nose barely above water.

She manages to assemble a fascinating and diverse crew onto her ship, Earthrise. The ship is run more like a family than a business enterprise. Irine and Sascha are Harat Shar, twin felinoids from the pelted universe. Think lusty cats that can fly space ships. Also on board is Kis’eh’t who is a Glaseahn and carries a centaurean body shape that includes two sturdy black arms, four black and white legs, feathered ears, a flicking tail and two small leathered wings. Kis’eh’t’s calm personality and strength come in handy slinging cargo around.

Image 3Next, Breyer is a Phoenix or a large birdlike creature with metallic plumage and hidden talents and abilities. Finally, there is Allakazam, the Flitzbe, that strongly resembles a Star Trek Tribble and communicates through touch, color, and internal emotions. It carries healing abilities.

Contemplating the need to crawl back to her family for yet more money in order to survive has given Reese an ulcer and digestive problems that she tries to solve by escaping into a good Eldritch and human romance story.

And then, after all those years, her long ago wealthy benefactor resurfaces and calls in the loan. Reese won’t have to pay back the money, however, but rather rescue an Eldritch prince out of the clutches of drug smuggling pirates.

Hogarth deftly has this ragtag crew bumble into the pirate’s den and attempt a daring, edge-of-your-seat rescue. Upon meeting him, Reese denies any feelings for the unusual and unbelievably handsome Eldritch prince, Hirianthial. The ship returns to Harat Shar for much needed repairs where Hirianthial would be better served if he listened to Reese and did the opposite of what she claims she wants. Meaning well, crew member Sascha recognizes the growing bond between their captain and the intriguing Eldritch and tries to give the bewildered prince some romantic advice, whether he wants it or not. A few stumbling blocks hinder the process. Eldritch cannot stand to be touched or touch others as he becomes overwhelmed by the memories and emotions of the other. Also, Hirianthial is at least five hundred years old, give or take a few. And, he knows something about the pirates that they are desperate to cover up. They will do anything to recapture him and search out the Earthrise with a vengeance. Then Fleet learns of Reese’s connection to the pirates and gets into the act, entreating Reese to act as bait so they can swoop in and close down the drug ring.

Think C.J. Cherryh’s Chanur series to get a feel for the book. I found myself drawn into Reese’s escalating problems. A delightful book, I’m looking forward to how Reese will figure out how to survive it all.

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Ebook Marketing

IMG_9503Spring is coming!

I feel like dancing.

For whatever reasons, my most recent marketing program exceeded expectations. Many authors had been grumbling that free doesn’t work as well anymore…that ebook libraries are bursting at the seams with free books…And my previous marketing attempt seemed to indicate that might be true.

But if I still see an interesting free book, I grab it.

I’m just that cheap.

And if I like it, and there’s more by that author, I’m willing to pay a certain price for that reading experience. (See previous blogs)

Several readers did just that, buying up my whole series in some cases.

The key is finding a way to get your name in front of readers so they can sample your writing…get to know you.

There are a variety of “free and discounted” book websites that charge the author for displaying his/her book. The cost to the reader is giving out his email address. That’s all.

The cost to the author varies depending on the effectiveness of the website with Bookbub leading the pack. However, there’s a price to pay for the author and hurdles to leap because of their popularity. I did find that the cheaper sites are most often less effective. You get what you pay for. So you have to find a balance.

Why was this program more effective?

I think timing played an important role. Lucky for me, I didn’t realize that a winter storm was coming in to strand a large number of people in their homes where they had more time to read.

Having said that, a lot of the books sold were out of the U.S.A. Sold three in India for crying out loud. And to my Canadian readers… many, many thanks!

Readers in the U.K. are the second largest market (after U.S.A.) but also Germany, France, and Japan sold.

Also, I saw my numbers spike when I advertised on Freebooksy. An earlier website was cheaper, but sold very little even though they put out a lot of tweets. The tweets didn’t translate into sales. So that was interesting.

If you have a compelling cover and a blurb that intrigues readers; it’s key.

So, I am a supporter of Amazon and their marketing efforts because I would probably be selling a lot less without their various programs.

Win. Win.

Five Element AnthologySpeaking of winning…

Recently several writers in my group have won awards for their short stories. They are quite good at it. So in a moment of insa…enthusiasm, we decided to all write a short story. Then, some wise wit suggested each member offer an element to include in the story. We went around the table. I sagely suggested putting in an alien; others suggested a spaceship, a ghost, a conflict with a boss, and then Chelsea grinned and added a fireplace poker.

Yikes!

That’s just like her!

Now short stories are not my strength, but I actually had fun writing mine. Be forewarned, there is a strong humorous component in it. As a result we came up with seven amazing stories that we have put in an anthology called the Five Elements Anthology.

All the profits will go to the Willamette Writers literacy program Books for Kids. It’s priced at an affordable 99 cents. To do this, we had our Willamette Writers member be the publisher and collect the royalties. We are not allowed to funnel funds directly to the Association, so at a given amount, Ted will send a check to the Association in our name. It was important that we communicated with the Willamette Writers and clear the idea with them first. They have been most enthusiastic and already have mentioned the anthology in their newsletter.

You can easily get the anthology on Amazon. Just scroll down a bit since Five Elements is a popular name. You’ll see my name and the rest of the group on the dynamite front cover.

We’ve sold two already in England along with a number in good old U.S.A.

Writing a short story was so much fun, I might try another one and offer it as a special for my website readers. Stay tuned.

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