Category Archives: artificial intelligence

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.

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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

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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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Filed under artificial intelligence, Book reviews, Cutting Edge Science ideas, downloaded personalities, Dystopia Earth, ebook marketing, environmental issues in science fiction, Implanting humans, Marketing and selling novels, modifying humans, Robots in science fiction, Science Fiction Detective Story, Transhumanism

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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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, artificial intelligence, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, ebook science fiction, fantasy, genetic manipulation, Indie Publishing, military science fiction, Robots in science fiction, science fiction, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Self-publishing, Space opera

Ancillary Sword and Exciting Science Fiction News

Image 1At this very moment, Cosmic Entanglement is #1 in Amazon’s Kindle eBooks> science fiction & fantasy>science fiction> space opera and #2 Kindle eBooks>science fiction and fantasy> alien invasion.
I say “at this very moment” because these kinds of things tend to be fleeting.

But still gratifying for all the hard work involved.

My heartfelt thanks to enthusiastic science fiction fans that have read my books, and especially to those who have left great reviews. Such is the lifeblood of an author. bk8_cover_print

More exciting news is that the proof for Time’s Equation is on its way, which means by the end of November the latest book in the series will be published. Here’s a short summary:

“Tempest Steele vows not to fall  again for the charms of Kayse Telluria, but when a murder occurs, and he is a prime suspect, he  jumps through a time gate in an attempt to track down the culprits.

Not thinking of consequences, she follows him to find a disturbing future and creates even more problems. But a math equation may be the answer, if only they can solve it and set the future back on the right course.

It won’t be as easy as it sounds.”

With all this happening, I did manage to read Ancillary Sword this past week. I have decided that if I start a series, there’s no problem in reading books in the rest of the series. I wanted to read a popular science fiction novel. This got nominated for the Hugo for best novel in 2015.

2015 Hugo Awards

Presented at: Sasquan, Spokane, Washington, USA, August 22, 2015
Hosts: David Gerrold and Tananarive Due
Base design: Matthew Dockrey
Awards Administration: John Lorentz, Ruth Sachter, Linda Deneroff, Ron Oakes, Dave McCarty, and Glenn Glazer
Best Novel (5653 final ballots, 1827 nominating ballots, 587 entries, range 212-387)
The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu, Ken Liu translator (Tor Books): winner
▪ The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books)
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
▪ No Award
▪ Skin Game, Jim Butcher (Orbit UK/Roc Books)
▪ The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)

Ancillary SwordI really enjoyed it, but be aware that Ann Leckie uses the feminine pronoun in all cases and it can be annoying trying to decide whether the current “she” being discussed is feminine or masculine.

Having said that, it’s really cool that the viewpoint character named, Fleet Captain Breq Mianaai is a soldier who used to be a warship.

As the warship Justice of Toren, Breq controlled thousands of minds, but even though in one body now, she can access her crew while carrying on conversations on station and also monitoring events down planet. Even better, she carries on dialogue with her current ship Mercy of Kalr, and Athoek Station revealing that ship and station AIs have emotions…and strategies for getting what they want.

Anne Leckie plays with the idea of human emotion affecting machine intelligence and the relationships of humans with self-aware AIs.

Breq is sent by the multi-bodied emperor, currently at war with herself, to the only place she would agree to go and finds that Athoek Station and the adjoining planet are morally corrupt. Bodies from conquered races are being put in cryo chambers and sold into slavery for a profit, even though forbidden. Straightening the mess out impacts Athoek’s strongly ingrained culture and proves not to be easy.Ancillary Justice

The first in this series: Ancillary Justice was nominated for every major science fiction award in 2014 (won the Arthur Clarke, Nebula, British Science Fiction and was short listed for the Hugo)

See my 2014 blog for more details.

You might want to also enjoy Ancillary Sword, the follow up, and look for the next in the series.

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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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