Category Archives: artificial intelligence

Ad Survey for Self Publishers

Happy Autumn!

As my blog readers know, I often talk about marketing. I do this not because I’m any marketing guru, but because I like to share information in the hopes it will help other authors out there. I occasionally use ad sites. When I don’t, sales slump, and when I do, sales do better…depending on the effectiveness of the site.

That’s why over the last two years, I have participated in Jason B. Ladd’s survey on results authors have found for various ad sites. Before I was buying blind on whether they were effective or not. Even though his samples are small, they do shed light on some of the sites and their effectiveness.

Of course, genre plays a role. Robin Reads appears to favor the romance writer whereas Book Barbarian is limited to science fiction and fantasy only. Bookbub is the clear winner for garnering most downloads and sales, but very expensive and practically impossible to get accepted unless you have a million five star reviews. Also, I notice lots of famous author’s backlists show up there, most likely supported by traditional publishers. Amy Tam has listed and Isaac Asimov, Gordon Dickson and others listed recently. I’m not in that league … yet.

So, Jason and helpers took all the results of ads sent in by self publishing authors and compiled the results to see if the promotions are worthwhile. He asked the question : Is spending money on ad sites worth it? Here’s a good look at how the ads broke down by genre and what you can expect to pay and what you can expect to receive in downloads and sales.

Here’s the link : http://www.jasonbladd.com/run-book-promotion-numbers-say-yes/

In addition, he has published a book on how to get reviews called Book Review Bonzai. I need reviews, but when I read the method, it looked like a lot of difficult work. It involves using software programs that scrapes the internet for reviewers, putting information on a spread sheet to keep track, and batch e-mailing them to ask for a review. It works, but sounded very time-consuming.

Besides, I’m a reviewer who likes to choose what I review rather than be hounded into writing one. Nonetheless, this may just be what you are searching for to pump up your reviews. Having a good number of reviews is important as often certain advertisers require a minimum number before accepting your novel. This could be the very tool you have been looking for to increase your reviews.

This week for my science fiction suggestion, I’m returning to a favorite author.

Catherine Asaro has just released the next in her Skolian Saga called The Bronze Skies. This is a stand alone in the story of Major Bhaajan who comes from the Under City of the City of Cries. She calls it book eight in the Skolian Empire series but it follows the more recent Undercity title published last year.

The story:

Born into the slums below the City of Cries on the planet Raylicon, the orphan Bhaajan broke free of her crushing poverty and joined the military. There she rose in rank to become a military officer with the Imperial Space Command. Now she is retired and offers her service as a private investigator. Undercity tells the story of her first investigation, which I reviewed last year.

The Bronze Skies continues her story, as she takes on solving an odd murder witnessed by the Ruby Pharoah.

The House of Majda rules the City of Cries and Cries rules the planet Raylicon. Three formidable sisters hold power in the house of Majda. The oldest, Vaj Majda, serves as the General in the Pharaoh’s Army which makes her joint Commander of the Imperial Space Command. The youngest, Colonel Lavinda Majda, is a high Commander in the military, and the third, Corejida Majda  runs the finances of the empire.

The Ruby Pharaoh, Dyhianna Selei (Skolia), is descended from the Ruby Empire, a far-flung civilization that at one time stretched across the stars. It collapsed, and now an elected Assembly rules. Dyhianna, as the Ruby Pharaoh, controls and monitors the interstellar meshes that tie humanity together. The meshes even extend into a different universe, Kyle space. You couldn’t visit the Kyle but you could transform your thoughts there if you were a trained operator with proper enhancements. This enables instant communication light years across interstellar civilization. The Ruby Pharaoh has to have a certain genetic lineage to give her this ability.

The murderer is Jagernaut Daltona Calaj who walks into the financial office at Selei City on the planet of Parthonia and shoots the aide Tavan Ganz. Jagernauts are thought to be unable to murder like that.

Major Bhaajan gets involved when the Ruby Pharoah claims to have witnessed the murder and suggests the AI node implanted in the jugernaut’s spine may have been corrupted. And now, the murderer, Calaj, is on Rayliccon and suspected of hiding out in the Under City—Bhaajan’s old stomping grounds where very few upper level humans can survive.

The Under City is a place of scavengers, of a hidden people who never see the sun and live a brutal existence. For ages, they have been ignored by the upper class citizens of Cries who live on the surface, and only recently recognized. Because she was born there and lived a brutal childhood there, Bhaajan knows the lingo, the culture, and the people. The crime boss of an illegal brothel and gambling house is her lover. So she is uniquely qualified to track down the illusive culprit who is said to be hiding there. Her search into the underground and where the trail leads makes the story more than a simple murder.

I found the story appealing on various levels. Bhaajan is an interesting character with conflicting emotions concerning her background and current status in a highly stratified society. This is an involved universe, so be prepared for clumps of background information to be dumped into the story to keep you up-to-date.

Bhaajan has an implanted, sentient AI that has formed a close bond and they have an ongoing conversation with each other, which I find delightful. Her body has been augmented, making her powerful physically. Her relationship with Jak, who grew up with her, is a sensual one and conflicted, although her one goal is to better the people of Undercity. This society is rich in culture and forms an intriguing storyline in and of itself.

But most interesting is the desert ruins outside of Cries, hinting of a long gone civilization and visitors from the stars that originally colonized the plant, and then mysteriously disappeared. Within these ruins, she discovers powerful AIs who are maintained by a mysterious cult of cloned telepaths…and one rogue AI that awakens from a crashed starship and is out to destroy all humans

At the center, is Dryhianna, whose mind grapples with the artificial intelligence within the mesh and Kyle space, and discovers this hidden and powerful AI that wants to wipe out all humans.

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Filed under artificial intelligence, artificial nature, award winning scifi, Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, Clones, downloaded personalities, genetic manipulation, Implanting humans, Marketing and selling novels, modifying humans, Nebula nominations, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Transhumanism

Publishing Prediction for 2017

Mother nature is throwing fits.

In Oregon, just west of us, forty thousand areas of beautiful forests are burning near Multnomah Falls. Here in Portland the sky glows an apocalyptic orange and ash sprinkles all over, dusting my car and home.

In Florida, where both my husband and I grew up, and some family still resides, a monster hurricane roars toward land and residents flee before it.

What is going on?

My brother in Winter Garden, Florida, commented that the two events should meet and cancel each other out.

If only it were that easy.

Maybe an author could use the two events to pen an apocalyptic novel. They seem so popular nowadays.

Meanwhile, there’s hope for the future. While the hurricane is still whirling toward Miami, our winds have changed course today and are blowing the smoke away from us. (cough, cough)

So, hopefully, we resilient humans will survive nature’s tantrums.

Looking into the future, Written Word did a survey at the beginning of 2017 on publishing, and since I’ve been in full blown survey mode lately, I thought to pass along the results and implications for you as an author. The caveat is that Written Word sponsors ad sites such as Freebooksy, Bargain Books and others and is ebook friendly.

Here’s the link : http://bit.ly/2hVpPOQ  

Their Findings:

  1. The Majority of Fiction Sales will Come from eBooks.  What does this mean for you? For a first-time fiction author, publishing your work as an ebook is an affordable and easy way to enter the market.
  2. Indie Authors and Small Presses will Dominate. Fifty percent of fiction’s market share consists of small presses, Indie authors and Amazon imprints. Competition is increasing and pricing alone is not enough.
  3. Amazon Imprints will Command Top Spots. Amazon now has thirteen active publishing imprints, each in a given genre. If you can market your book in conjunction with an Amazon imprint title, the number of readers who see your book may go up.
  4. Kindle Unlimited Readership will Grow. The subscription based model is catching on all over. While belonging to KDP Select puts your book in front of more readers and enables you to be paid by the page, this trend may over time decrease single unit sales as readers stock up their libraries with “borrowed” books.
  5. Crowding will Result in Increased Competition. Books are no longer short term. There is a long tail that an author should cultivate. Check out Katherine Rusch’s blog on marketing and branding. (see previous blogs) Think out your strategy. For some authors, it may involve getting back rights, re-invigorating old titles with new covers, and bringing them online.
  6. Audiobooks will Gain in Popularity. Already I’m hearing readers talk about how they listen to books in the car, on the job, at home. Expand your horizons to include other formats such as paperback. The more formats you have, the wider your audience.
  7. Marketing will Determine the Winners. More and more, this is becoming true. This survey was done by an ad site that offers various ways to pay for marketing, but even so, I feel this is true. Marketeers are springing up to provide the dreaded marketing service, so once again, author beware of what you are paying for. Research how you plan to market your work and then work your plan.
  8. Amazon Marketing Services ads are likely to become the next big thing. Maybe. The point here is that this is a rapidly changing business. Keep abreast of what is working and what has played out. Don’t be afraid to try new techniques when it comes to selling your books.
  9. International Audiences Provide for Growth. Mark Lefebvre of Kobo talks about the growing trend in international publishing. I sell a certain percentage of my books to the UK, Canada, and Australia through Amazon. “Going Wide” may be a way to extend an author’s reach and generate more sales.
  10. Author Will Band Together. I already see a rise in book bundling. Authors such as Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck have bonded together under the pen name of James S. A. Corey to write international best sellers and produce a popular television series. Others join with authors in a similar genre and publish together in a set. Each brings their fans to the table and expands the fan base of the others.

Are there trends that you are noticing? What do these trends mean to authors and how can we adapt to them?

This week I wanted to support a small press offering that I discovered from an ad site. Chimera by N. J. Tanger has received 260 reviews with a 4.6 rating. Pretty impressive.

The story: For over  a decade, Earth’s first colony has been waiting for word. No contact, no resupply from the mother planet is causing the colony to slowly go extinct. The only way to make contact is through the ancient colony ship Chimera. But the onboard AI is asleep and the ship derelict. It needs extensive repairs. A selection process is put in place for a young crew, and one desperate teenager hacks his way onto the list.

Another young girl has piloted a trawler illegally for her alcoholic father, and through a chance encounter onboard the Chimera, makes contact with the AI when no one else can.

An interesting story with a YA flavor due to the main characters, but adults will like it for the characters and developing plot. This is the first in what looks to be an enjoyable series.

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Filed under Alien worlds, artificial intelligence, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Publishing Trends, science fiction science, space ship, YA science ficiton

Science Fiction: On the Edge

I live in Oregon and the whole region around me is a-twitter about the coming total eclipse. I live an hour away from the coast area that lies in its path. However, my husband is not a fan of big crowds, so I expected we would view what we could from home. Then a week ago, he ups and says, “It’s a once in a lifetime experience. We have to go see it.”

A million people converging on the area, and he plans to drive somewhere to view it somehow. Details were sketchy.

Heaven help me… And it did.

I was moaning about this turn off events while bringing in the garbage cans, when my neighbor (doing the same) offered an invitation to join her and her husband at their place in Pacific City. We can leave a day or two early and hopefully miss some of the traffic. They are fun to be with, and what at first sounded like a disaster, is turning into whaeclipset could be a very memorable weekend.

It is exciting to be in a place where such a unique astronomical event occurs.

Something to tell my grandchildren about. If that ever happens. Something to mutter in my old age, “I remember when…”

***

This week I finished Edge of Dark by Brenda Cooper. It was nominated for the Campbell Award. I must mention that it is tied to previous books The Creative Fire and The Diamond Deep. I was unaware of this until I encountered a rant by a reviewer on Goodreads. Frankly, it didn’t disrupt the story for me at all. In my own series, several of the books are separated by spans of time and are also stand alone stories about future generations of the originals.

What makes this book worth reading is its approach on the issue of transhumanism. Each chapter is titled with a character’s name and represents his or her viewpoint. (three main characters)

Charlie stands for the environmentalist. He is a ranger on a planet called Lym that at one time had been mined and polluted. Under the rangers’ care, the wildlife and environment are being restored. The wildlife, however, can be very dangerous and the planet represents raw nature.

Nona comes from the Diamond Deep, an immense space station out in the depths of space. Her mother is dying, her father dead. Both were too late to receive the cocktail of life, now given to their daughter. Upon her father’s deathbed, she promises him to see a sky and watch a sunset. As her mother is dying, she reminds Nona of this promise and asks her to talk to a powerful relative, Saryana. Reluctantly, Nona does and learns that she owns her own spaceship and an inheritance. She’s rich. Saryana directs her to Lym and hires Charlie to be a tour guide for the young woman so she can experience what a planet feels and looks like.

Charlie expects her to be a spoiled rich spacer, but of course, I smiled as I watched a bit of impossible romance bloom between them.

Nona’s best friend is Chrystal who lives in the High Sweet Home, an outer ring space station. She lives with three others: two men, Yi and Jason, and her friend Katherine. They are scientists living in a commune and breeding genetically modified stock.

Outside beyond the dark are the banished cyborg and artificial intelligent robots that call themselves the Next. Far more intelligent than humans, and physically able to modify themselves, they do not need to eat, sleep or breathe. They are powerful beings who want to return and claim portions of planets, such as Lym, for the metal resources there. They capture the High Sweet Home and take Chrystal and her group, destroy their human bodies, and download them into robot bodies that resemble their original form to use as liaisons with the humans.

Chrystal’s chapters are chilling. They are first person narratives where the reader experiences the emotions of a human mind forced into a powerful mechanical body against her will. Not all survive the transformation, and in fact, Katherine doesn’t make it.

The Next make the three, Crystal, Yi and Jason their ambassadors and lure Nona out to the Diamond Deep to save her friend. Charlie is persuaded to go as Lym’s ambassador. Since he’s never been off planet, adjusting to space is a challenge for him.

Brenda Cooper neatly presents all sides of the artificial intelligence debate. Charlie is the human who wants to keep his planet pristine and natural. Nona is the child of ship and station who only knows life in space. Chrystal experiences the vicious prejudices of the terrified humans who call her a thing and refuse her humanity. Even her own mother repudiates her. And Jhailing is the robot who teaches Chystal to survive her difficult transformation. She learns to speak to the other robots using a kind of mental telepathy. No longer does she need to eat, sleep, or breathe. Her powerful body can pick up a human and kill him with a throw. As many humans who are repulsed by the robots, an equal amount are intrigued with the thought of becoming a robot in order to gain immortality, great intelligence, and the strength of such a form.

The reader gets a glimpse of the frightening things that the shadowy, more advanced robots can do, including shape shifting and duplication and wonder at their true purpose in returning. The humans are given a choice of Uphold, Allow or Help as the council votes on their human response to the approaching fleet of Next.

The Spear of Light continues the story. Also, Cooper just released in June, The Wilders.

***

 Monday the world will go dark in the middle of the day. A reminder of the frailty of the human species in a powerful universe.

But it will only be for two minutes, and the sun will return.

President Trump will tweet something, and somewhere a terrorist or protester will commit a violent act, and we’ll return to the insanity of our vulnerable world.

With only science fiction to warn us that we should behave better or face the consequences.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, Alien worlds, artificial intelligence, Best selling science fiction, Cutting Edge Science ideas, environmental issues in science fiction, gene modification, genetic manipulation, Hard science fiction, modifying humans, Robots in science fiction, science fiction science, space ship, space travel, Transhumanism, Uncategorized

Various Forms of Aliens in Science Fiction

Anyone reading science fiction has most likely bumped into a few alien characters. Now, aliens are tricky to write about. If their form and thought processes are too alien, the readers won’t connect with them. Also, trying to figure out how an alien would look and think is difficult if you’re working from a human brain.

And that’s my assumption for most authors.

I finished reading A Long Way To a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. This is truly old-fashioned science fiction at its best. The Wayfarer is a patched- up space ship that has seen better days. The captain is offered a lucrative contact to tunnel a wormhole to a far off planet. Human Rosemary Harper is running from her past, and this opportunity to explore the galaxy with beings that know nothing of her family is just what she is looking for.

While Captain Ashby is human, the rest of the crew is an assortment of delightful aliens, along with a sentient computer, named Lovey, that runs the ship. A surprise clone is also thrown in for good measure. You get a delightful dollop of diverse aliens.

However, the trick Ms.Chambers uses to make the aliens connect to the reader is to co-opt familiar animal forms and behaviors found on Earth.

Sissix is their exotic reptilian pilot, complete with lizard tail, who gets traumatized when she starts shedding her skin. Kizzy is the brilliant ADD engineer with feathers, beak, and nesting instinct–definitely of the avian line. Jenks is her dwarfish assistant, born premature, who is in love with the ever-present Lovey. He is saving up his money to buy a body for the AI so he can download her to physical form.

Dr. Chef is a tall affable cook /doctor in the crew who has a multitude of hands/feet and reminds me of Alice in Wonderland’s talking caterpillar. His favorite dish is Rock Bugs, a supposed delicacy. The navigator is a Sianat pair conjoined due to a virus and able to visualize multidimensional space. They have short blue fur, large eyes, long fingers, and other quirks. There are more in the crew, but the connection to the aliens comes from various species of creatures familiar here on Earth that are presented as sentient.

An alien species that sits at a middle ground between human form and strange is C.J. Cherryh’s atevi found in her Foreigner series. The atevi race has the basic human form (a head, two eyes, mouth, arms, legs, etc.) but are ebony colored and eight feet or more tall. They have familiar behaviors of family, politics, emotions, but also cultural differences that contrast with their human residents.

The atevi are seen through the human eyes of Bren Cameron who becomes the designated paidhi to the tevi, which is a form of ambassador. The series embeds Bren into the atevi culture as he climbs the political ladder serving Tabini-ajii, the current ruler, and his heir, Cajeiri. Bren’s ability as go-between takes him up the social ladder until farther into the series, he becomes an atevi lord with his own estate and guild. (entourage of bodyguards and attendants)

The atevi are alien enough, but very relatable to the reader. Then, in Visitor, book seventeen of the series, (see my recent blog on it), Cherryh’s introduces an even more alien species in the form of the Kyo. Bren, Cajeiri and Ilisidi, Cajeiri’s dowager grandmother, meet the Kyo at the orbiting space station Alpha to form a treaty, hoping to keep relations friendly. These aliens have a harder form factor and show emotion through thumps and noises, but are technologically far advanced over both atevi and human. Thus, they form a threat. Bren uses all his skills as a diplomat to try to make friends with a species that is far different from human. The major content of this book is to show how difficult it would be to communicate with a completely alien species.

The most recently published novel in the series, Convergence, sends Bren to Mospheira, the human settlement on the atevi world to deliver the Kyo treaty. The clever trick that Cherry accomplishes is to have so immersed the reader in the atevi world over the last seventeen books, that when Bren confronts the humans, they feel like the aliens.

This most recent book in the series doesn’t have the heart pounding tension of the previous one, but is a pleasant read, nonetheless, even if the humans come off as arrogant jerks.

In my latest book Somewhat Alien, coming out in June, I bring the alien even closer to human. The invaders are from Earth, and the native species they interact with share their DNA. However, looks can be deceiving. Just like cultures here on Earth can sharply differ in dress, religion, and mindset, so too, the Alysians and Terrans differ in unknown ways. Two diverse cultures coming into contact to share a planet create conflict. And even when the alien is only somewhat alien, there’s bound to be misunderstandings.

***

Saving the best for last, I wanted to offer a link to an easy to read visual presentation of genre books sold through Amazon. These charts offer an intriguing glimpse at how various publishers are represented in Amazon’s Top 100 bestseller lists and asks the question: Is Amazon influencing the best sellers list?

An interesting peek at what genre sells best where.

http://selfpublishingadvice.org/visualizing-amazon-best-sellers/

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Aliens in Science Fiction, Amazon publishing, artificial intelligence, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, C. J. Cherryh, first contact, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, space ship, space travel

Changes in Publishing

photo-on-2011-02-04-at-15-44-2

Publishing is changing, but you knew that. The problem becomes how is it changing right now, and what headlines are we to believe about recent trends. December and January are great months to evaluate the past year and forecast upcoming developments.

Unfortunately, several publishing headlines proclaimed facts that don’t present the true picture. Politics isn’t the only purview of misleading or fake news.

Thank goodness for Hugh Howey and Data Guy.

Articles claimed that ebooks were decreasing and paperbacks were on the rise. Turns out that the rise of paperbacks sales came from several sources. 1: adult coloring books in 2015-16 became wildly popular. 2: Traditional publishers winning against Amazon (remember the big battle for agency pricing?) hiked prices for popular ebooks to sometimes the cost of a paperback. Readers chose the paperbacks when Amazon discounted them almost to parity with the ebook. 3: Finally, the data for these articles came from Bolkers who issues ISBNs. ISBNS are used by traditional publishers to track books. One book could have three or four different ISBNS depending on its format. An overwhelming amount of Indie publishers don’t use ISBNS due to their high cost here in the United States. They are not required by Amazon to publish ebooks. Amazon provides for free their own ASIN to tag ebooks. Indie authors often sell the large majority of their work as ebooks on Amazon and use Amazon’s ASIN. I use both.

Thankfully, Data Guy has a software program that scrapes data from Amazon, and other distributors (Kobo, Nook, etc.) to provide a more accurate picture of what might be happening.

Jane Friedman writes a blog with some interesting comments on the state of publishing.
https://janefriedman.com/9-statistics-writers-know-amazon/.   Check her out.

I believe that politics has impacted sales for January and February by distracting readers from books. My sales have dropped off, and I blame lack of marketing and political distraction, but this is merely my assumption. What about you?

Surprising changes in publishing are Amazon’s foray into brick and mortar to sell books and their new traditional publishing style imprints that are popping up.

I live five minutes away from the mall that houses Amazon’s new brick and mortar store. It’s fresh and new and highly curated. All covers face out and most are selected from Amazon’s bestsellers lists. It’s clever because a reader is presented with books that are proven already successful in the marketplace. No prices are put on the books since Prime members pay less and prices may vary. Will this new Amazon strategy pay off?

As a friend of mine often says, “We’ll see.”

all-the-birds-in-the-skyThis week I read Charlie Jane Anders’ “All the Birds in the Sky.” The timing couldn’t be better as it has just received a 2016 Nebula Award nomination.

The story starts off with Patricia Delfine’s tortured years at Canterbury Academy. All the angst of junior high school are magnified. Cliques of girls harass her and call her a witch. True, she talks to birds and a rather important tree, but only in the woods where no one can hear her. Nature is sacred to her and often she tries to escape the cruelty of her life by going into the forest behind her house.

Not only is school traumatic, but when she gets blamed for mean girl tricks, the school calls her parents and they lock her in her room for days, only letting her out to attend school. Her younger sister brings her meals, but not before she has poured hot sauce and chili pepper all over it.

Sibling love at its finest.

One day, Patrica literally runs into Lawrence Armstead who also gets pushed around and ridiculed at the same school. He, however, is a computer genius, and through a schematic on the Internet builds a time machine in a wristwatch that can jump him ahead two seconds. It’s not much, but it helps when spit balls come his way. Eventually, he builds a robot from parts and hides it in his closet. Unfortunately, his parents don’t value his geeky genius and sign him up for the Great Outdoor Nature Adventure to get him away from his computer and experiments so he can be more like “normal” boys. He hates it.

Patricia and Lawrence become awkward friends. Patricia is talked into lying about his attendance at nature class in exchange for twenty dollars. Lawrence also provides her with a module so she can talk to his robot and “socialize” it. The AI, in turn, gives out good advice on coping.

The book skips forward to San Francisco and young adults Patricia and Lawrence. Both have survived their childhood…barely. Patricia actually saves Lawrence’s life and, after a traumatic event, Patricia is found by a magician and runs away from her family to magic school.

The second half of the book follows the reunion of the two where they both struggle with lovers, their jobs, current co-workers, and a growing threat to the world. It becomes apparent that Patrica represents magic and nature while Lawrence symbolizes science. Together the two, with their talents, might save the world from a looming doomsday threat.

This is a strange book for science fiction. The early lives of the two main characters makes for agonizing reading and points out the failure of society both in education and child raising. I find the Nebula has often nominated and awarded unusual books that dance between fantasy and science fiction. This is one of those books.

Although the ending rather disappointed, I still recommend reading the book for its vivid characterizations and emotional events. It has a bit of the flavor of the Magicians in it. The trials these two have to overcome endears them and is worth the read.

And while reading this book, if you’re an adult, you’ll be glad you are. If you’re a teenager, you’ll be grateful that your life is better than their early life was… I hope.

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Filed under Amazon publishing, artificial intelligence, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, ebook marketing, Hugh Howey, Indie Publishing, Nebula nominations, Robots in science fiction, Wizards and magic, young adult science fiction

Review of Dome City Blues: A science fiction murder mystery

Image 1How do you buy your books nowadays?

Do you saunter down to the local bookstore and browse the shelves, picking out twenty-five dollar hardback or fifteen dollar trade paperbacks?

Or do you open Amazon and check out the suggestions on the front page, then click on best seller and free lists by Indie publishers at $2.99 to $4.99 or free?

Or do you grab a cup of coffee and open your iPad email to see what books certain ad sites are offering for free or discounted ?

Or do you check out your books at the library?

I must admit that I do all the above. Lately, however, I have been picking up books off the ad sites more and more. Stashing books on my Kindle takes up little room, and they don’t degrade over time or have overdue fines.photo

I used to concentrate on the list from the Hugo and Nebula awards. I thought that a popular vote had to result in a good book. Often this was true. Now, I notice that the books presented mostly are from traditional houses with a strong marketing team…TOR, Orbit, etc. and seem to repeat certain authors.

Don’t get me started on how disappointed I have been lately with the Nebula offerings I have read.

Still, as you can tell from my blog, if I like a particular author, ( Bujold, Asaro, Lee and Miller, Lynch, Gibson etc.) I quickly pick up their next book in the series in any of the above ways.

Powell's booksAlso, word of mouth or blogs (similar to mine) still impact my choice. Powell’s has a dynamic science fiction and fantasy reading group, so I often ask fellow readers what they are reading and will buy several books after our lively meetings. Powell’s also offers special deals and pricing on various books, but are constricted by purchasing through the catalogue. (there are exceptions) I must admit, they support local authors and have a robust author signing schedule.

Jan’s bookstore also offers used books with good prices and partners with Kobe for ebooks. They are friendly and helpful, but I’m getting lazy and don’t often drive across town for a book as much as I used to.

A lot of fans attend conferences and conventions to discover or support authors. Portland has Orycon and the Willamette Writers Conference. I used to attend every year, but more as an author for the panels than as a place to suss out my next novel to read. Still, a lot of traditional authors sponsored by bigger publishers with a bigger budget than mine go that route with great success.

Studying how books are bought can help an author decide what marketing path works best for his or her situation. Putting a book in a bookstore hasn’t worked for me. Attending conferences can get expensive and exhausting. Orycon is getting insular with the same locals appearing on panels and no top selling names as in the past. There is a definite traditional publishing bias and a bit of snobbery against Indie publishing. So, I quit going. Things may have changed since I last went, but I’m skeptical.

Last time I went to Willamette Writers, there was little to no science fiction offered on the panels or by interviewing agents, and I paid over five hundred dollars to attend. (that didn’t include the dinner). Now, I’d rather spend that on a good cover and editing. What is working for me is publishing more books and ad sites. It’s a spiral both ways. The more books you sell, the more your name gets out, the more books you sell.

Of course, the critical factor is to write a really good book. It helps to have a good marketing team with a lot of money to splash around and get the word out at the launch. I don’t, so I have to build slowly. I doubled sales and income last year from the previous year, and am on track to double again. Right now, sales are great. But I need more reviews…especially if they’re good. (hint)

So remember, it’s a long game now, and persistence and patience often are a winning combination.

Dome City BluesLast week, I talked about the trend of blending genres. When the author no longer has to figure out what section of the bookstore to place his book, or abide by a publisher dictating genre rules, then he or she can write a story that mixes genres. Science fiction romance, science fiction murder mystery, etc.

So I took a sharp right turn from my usual fare and picked up a book from an ad site. The title Dome City Blues by Jeff Edwards caught my attention. The title says it all. Mike Hammer meets Blade Runner.

I was in the mood for it.

David Stalin is a retired detective and war veteran. He lives in a fun place controlled by an artificial intelligence (even gets his coffee) under a dome that is one of several that cover parts of Los Angeles. His world is badly polluted and humanity lives mostly in domed cities.

The story uses the gumshoe detective trope and decorates the action with futuristic trappings. A beautiful, distraught prostitute pleads for David to investigate her brother’s case and clear his name so she can receive compensation. It appears to be an open and shut murder with a video of him confessing to the crime of killing young girls and ripping out their hearts before he records himself blowing out his own brains.

At the moment, David is still grieving over his wife’s death where they were working a case together and she got killed, put on ice, and partially sold for parts. He has isolated himself from others, except for an old war buddy who was shot in the spine during a fight and David saved him by carrying him out. Now, this friend, John, can only walk encased in a robotic exoskeleton, but has an obsession to find a way to be whole again.Angel City Blues

David picks at the case and gets drawn in deeper. Hacking into police files uncovers a similar murder of a young girl and a public self-confession several years ago. David takes on the case, uncovering more dead young girls with missing hearts. Getting too close, he is drugged and set up to take the fall for the murder of his main suspect. With a prominent citizen dead and all evidence pointing at him, he becomes a man on the run from the police. A shadowy figure also puts out an underground contract on his head. So, all the punks and criminals are out to kill him and collect.

The case becomes more complex as an underground movement called, “the Convergence” becomes involved. They are fighting a war against the blending of man and machine. David connects with this underground resistance force that is trying to stop this next step in evolution.

While some reviewers criticized Edward’s technology, saying the convergence of man and machine will happen sooner than he predicts, I disagree. Technology is moving faster and faster, but only recently have we been able to get a robot to walk as well as a human. And many have been working a long time on the problem. We are complex creatures. Even though, we’ll have automated driving, it will also take awhile to get a complete infrastructure that supports hovercraft and self-driving cars. Considering this was written in 1992, I think Edwards did a good job of portraying a futuristic world.download (1)

Besides, not all famous authors accurately predict stuff. Right Bradbury? (Martian Chronicles) And how long has it been since we’ve had any manned flights? Forty, fifty years?

I just hope we aren’t as polluted fifty years from now as Edwards expects. Global warming aside, electric cars and environmental activism make me more optimistic than portrayed in the book.

There is a lot of dramatic action, especially toward the end, and a good dollop of emotion, both in the anger of a lost love and the terror of being hunted. Even though I got irritated at the constant smoking that the main character indulged in, I enjoyed the story.

If you like the Blade Runner style of writing, you might want to check this one out. I have no  affiliations with the author, but it is now available for $.99 and was a decent deal.

And if you like the science fiction murder mystery genre, check out my Someone’s Clone. It’s a bit of a genre blend also. (see at right). Murder, time travel and clones.

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Science Fiction and Fantasy Picks for 2016

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Dialogue. A great book often has witty dialogue…and Scott Lynch has witty dialogue in spades. His characters’ conversations reveal the bond of friendship that runs deep in spite of outrageous adventures. So, I’m looking forward to his next book, Thorn of Emberlain. This is an author who I have already read and loved.Thorn of Emberlain

Three Body ProblemThe number one reason a reader picks a certain book is usually word of mouth. A member in my Powell’s reading group shook my arm and insisted that I read The Three-Bodied Problem by Cixin Liu. After checking out strong reviews, I added it to my list.

The second reason most reader select a book is because they already like other books by that author. I’ve read and enjoyed  a number of Katherine Asaro other books. Many of her works have won awards, most notably The Quantum Rose, which won the Nebula in 2001. So, when I saw she had a new one out, I put The Veiled Web on my list. She’s good at science fiction romance with a heavy science emphasis since she has a PHD in Physics.

The Veiled WebRookie Privateer I found as a free book that piqued my interest. A lot of my bloggers like military science fiction, so, hey, this one is for you guys. Subject matter is a major reason to select a certain book.Rookie Privateer

They say a cover often sells a book, and in the case of A Child of Our Time, that’s what happened. This was also found on a free book website. I also liked the title and subject matter. However, it only had one review. Knowing how hard reviews are to come by,
I decided to take a chance, go wild and put it on the list. In this case, I have nothing to lose. It’s only 123 pages, however, but part of an ongoing series. I’ll sample this and see if I want to continue with the rest.

So here are the next five:A Child of Our Time

Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch
The Three Bodied Problem Cixin Liu
A Child of Our Time William Bowden
The Veiled Web Katherine Asaro
Rookie Privateer Jamie McFarlane

I know with the arrival of the new year, most readers and authors are organizing their calendar for 2016. To help you with some good advice, I found this website:

https://geediting.com/blog/the-120-best-websites-for-writers-2015/

The 120 best websites for writers. I have used several of these websites to help me in my writing one way or another. Maybe they can help you too.

So that’s the second half of my list of ten for 2016. I hope you have a wonderful year and read many great books.

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