Category Archives: award winning scifi

Authors Using Technology: Blessing or Bane?

Technology : Blessing or basin of authors.

There! Right there. I typed bane not basin. My computer decided I meant something else.

I love the ease of Swype where I can glide my fingers effortlessly across the keyboard, but it comes at a price. I often face a battle over how to spell words and even what words I’m writing. I can’t fathom where my computer finds these words. Sometimes, I try to write a very simple word several times, and computer boy wants something else. Yelling and shouting at the keyboard does no good. It’s deaf.

Many times, I have threatened to leave the program. But like a bad boy you can’t give up, the program reactivates, and I come slinking back just for the feel of the glide on my fingers and the ease of typing. And like a bad boy, I have to keep an eye out and constantly check up on what the program is saying for fear of some outrageous word cropping up… Like basin for bane, and then name, and then… until I’m pounding the keyboard in frustration.

Does technology do that to you? Do you bless and curse it all in the same breath? What technology do you use as an author that helps you?

As my writing circle shrinks, I’ve been exploring editing programs. I’m now familiar with Grammarly, Ginger, and Prowritingaid. Autocrit, Hemingway, Slickwriter, and Scrivener are a few others.

Of the three I use, the most value from the program for me comes from Prowritingaid. For forty dollars a year, I bought the premium version. It’s fairly easy to use, but can be overwhelming. It offers a critique summary which tells you your reading level, grammar mistakes, word repetitions, spelling, sentence lengths, punctuation and much more. I feel there is too much, but then I pick and choose what I want to change, and my writing is better for it.

Next I like Ginger. This editing program has a free version that is quite adequate. You import your section, and it tells you grammar errors, punctuation problems and offers a fix. The free version has limited word count of five hundred words at a time, but you can do it  piecemeal. If you have the patience, what Ginger has that the others don’t, is a program that goes sentence by sentence and offers several alternative words and sentence structures. Often, they will suggest a word that makes the meaning sharper. Instead of she walks, they’ll offer she ambles or struts. Sometimes, like my Swype program, they’ll offer a total off-the-wall suggestion. One of the choices might say: The queen rained. You just blink your eyes and move on.

Grammarly is also good and very popular. There, too, you can get a free version. Just be aware that you must put up with the constant sales pitch, and slyly, they won’t tell you all the errors, saying you must upgrade to their thirty dollars a month version to get a full critique. I don’t feel the upgrade is worth it.

Still, the free version does an adequate job, even though it harps on my use of articles for various nouns, or rather my lack of them, and my negligence in adding commas between compound sentences while completely ignoring the lack of punctuation at the end of a sentence.

I never liked Hemingway’s compact and sparse prose. I’m more of a Faulkner writer with his long involved sentences and intricate descriptions. Juicy. So, I didn’t explore the Hemingway editing program.

If you use an editing program or a writing program, which one is it, and what do you like about it? What is your opinion–technology: blessing or bane?

This week I want to suggest reading two of my favorite books : Heavy Time and Hellburner by C. J. Cherryh.

I’m now having fun writing the third novel in my Terran Trilogy called The Weight of Gravity. Previously, I’d become stuck in the middle of the story as often happens to writers. I knew I wanted to write about the conflict between Alysians and Terrans as the Terrans try to settle on Alysia. I wanted to add urgency to the story with the threat of an attack, and that’s when I remembered reading Hellburner.

But I had to start with Heavy Time because Hellburner was hard to find, and also because Hellburner happens earlier and continues the story with the same characters. Rimrunner also takes place in the same universe.

Heavy Time has strong political overtones and tells about the struggles the small independent spaceship miners have against the big company asteroid mining conglomerates. Pilot Paul Dekker is discovered drifting in a tumbling mining spaceship and half dead without memory of what happened. His crew appears to have been murdered, and he is the number one suspect. Paul is half out of his mind and keeps calling out for his lover and crewmate, Cory. With great reluctance, Ben Pollard answers his distress call and brings him in, complaining about the cost and inconvenience. Paul ‘s constant frantic rantings after his missing girlfriend annoys Ben, and he abuses Paul in order to stop it.. Once on station, Paul’s former fellow crewmate, Bird, takes pity on him and is the only person who tries to clear his name, but it doesn’t prove easy.

Hellburner continues Paul’s story.

After testing Paul to see what skills he might have, the military discovers through an incident that he has extraordinary piloting skills. A powerful executive in the Mars Company, Cory’s mother, is out to crucify Paul as she believes he is responsible for her daughter’s death. She tries to bring him off station to Earth to try him for murder.

But the military has a secret warship in development and needs Paul’s skills to pilot their prototype. They offer him refuge from prosecution if he will pilot the ship. However, within the various divisions of the military, conflict develops as to who will control the program, and Paul ends up right in the middle of the fight with several murder attempts aimed at him. Against his will, Ben is pulled in to bring a drugged Paul back to sanity where he uncovers a secret plot within the military.

Fast-paced, the story is typical Cherryh. Told in various first-person viewpoints, it’s solid science fiction with a lot of emotional heat. She keeps you guessing as what is really going on until the very end.

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Filed under award winning scifi, Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, C. J. Cherryh, Classic science fiction, military science fiction, Science fiction thriller, Technology Authors can Use, Writing Critique groups, Writing Tips and Lectures

Time Travel Review

Spring arrived in Oregon and the tulips were blooming. Perfect weather dawned on Sunday with the Tulip Festival in full swing. A spontaneous decision…we should go. What could go wrong? Fresh air, beautiful flowers, and wine all sounded lovely.

Unfortunately, half of Oregon came to the same conclusion.

Rolling along at the breakneck speed of three mph behind a congo line of cars, we enjoyed the passing country scenery–for hours.

Lots of colorful tulips covered the fields as far as the eye could see, and the swarming mass of humanity reminded me of the huge reader potential out there. I just had to figure out a way to tap into it.

Maybe offer a tulip if they purchase a book? Nah… Tulips are tender.

Nevertheless, there was a party atmosphere, and we had a fun time.

Authors face life circumstances such as this that unexpectedly interrupt their writing schedule. After all, they have family and a life outside of writing, but it means they have to be aware of such events when they set their schedule and build in flex.

Another situation taking time away from writing was the book I chose for this week. Neal Stephenson ‘s D.O.D.O. jumped off the library shelf into my hands, causing me to stagger backward. Eight hundred and fifty some pages is a doorstopper of a novel, and a novel that may stop a lot of readers from picking it up .

It brought up the topic in our writing group : Just how long should a novel be?

The expected answer is : As long as it takes to finish the story.

However, Nathan Bransford, who writes a popular blog, lined out suggested lengths.

Chapter Books (i.e. pre-Middle Grade) – 5,000 – 20,000
Fantasy – 80,000 – 120,000
General Fiction – 75,000 – 100,000
Historical Fiction – 80,000 – 120,000
Literary Fiction – 40,000 – 120,000
Middle Grade – 30,000 – 60,000
Mystery – 75,000 – 90,000
Novella – 20,000 – 40,000
Romance – 50,000 – 90,000
Science Fiction– 90,000 – 120,000
Thriller – 80,000 – 100,000
Young Adult – 60,000 – 80,000

I felt the length of D.O.D.O to be too long and it really didn’t end satisfactorily. The story is about how a collection of individuals work on a top secret program that uses time travel to try to bring magic back into the world. Set in the near future, they go back in history to collect witches that they use to send and bring back selected people who fiddle with history.

Different chapters use letters, memos, transcripts, and various forms of communications to reveal the different viewpoints in the story. There is hilarity in the differing perceptions.

You have your bright, intelligent main character who is a linguist and your handsome military undercover male. They form a romantic interest. The arrogant professor wanting control and the headstrong witch who doesn’t put up with anyone ‘s nonsense provide humor. Trying to keep everything under control and under wraps is the strong military brass. Of course when you start messing with time, trouble happens…and then compounds.

How Stephenson handles time travel is also interesting. He has many dimensions side by side that vary slightly. As the one traveling changes circumstances, they create other different time dimensions.

I enjoyed it because I like books on time travel, but toward the end, I felt the story dragged.

There will obviously be a sequel as nothing was really resolved. I’m not sure I’m ready to put in the time.

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Filed under award winning scifi, Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, time travel, Wizards and magic

Hugo Awards

So…. they have announced the nominations for the Hugo Awards, usually a list for my reading table.

But I’m on a rant, as I notice the novels are once again mostly by Orbit Publishing, except for Tor’s John Scalzi, a past president of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America… and frequent nominee. He’s a popular guy who tweets hilarious tweets and has done a lot for science fiction, but… he’s getting nominated an awful lot.

To vote for the Hugo, you must be a member of the World Science Fiction Convention. The entrance fee is about $40, so that’s not too bad. No author is allowed to submit as the voting takes place through electronics and word of mouth. (four paper entries so far)  I imagine there are quite a few campaigns in the backroom, or maybe I’m just getting skeptical in my old age. I get tired of seeing TOR and Orbit walk away with most of the awards. Someone should put together a self-publishing/small publishers best novel, short story award presentation so the small presses and self-publishers get a chance to shine. They’re certainly an expanding number of them.

Or maybe, the awards will go the way of the New York Times Best Seller list that we now know has been manipulated for decades by the traditional publishers.

There is also a lot of re-nominating of authors who have either won or been nominated in past years. I have blogged about John Scalzi, and I like his novels. I have recommended several, and will continue to do so. I have even met him, and he is a humorous gentlemen who delivers a good speech. Even so, bear in mind, he has a $13.4 million dollar deal with TOR to deliver thirteen books. TOR will want to get their money back on that investment, so we’ll be hearing a lot more about Mr. Scalzi.

And I’m not saying that is a bad thing. Just be aware of agendas in the background.

Ann Leckie has also won before in 2014 with her debut book Ancillary Justice. Her novels are interesting because the narrator’s point of view comes from an A-I who once ran the computers on a large military ship. Unfortunately, it confuses the reader by its utter disregard for gender, and you’re not sure if the human it is speaking about is male or female. That certainly pointed out to me what a gendered society we live in. There was also some confusion with clones in Ancillary Mercy as the leader of several worlds fought for dominance among his seventeen other clones who wanted to rule everything too.

Another reoccurring name is Kim Stanley Robinson. He has also won the Hugo and other awards for his Mars Trilogy. I’ve also blogged about those three books, which are very scientific, and yet the characters pop. Now he has been nominated for New York 2140 which looks very different.

I haven’t read Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty or know about him, but that one appears to be right up my alley. It takes place on a ship with clones that are pulled out of cryo and there’s murder onboard. Sound familiar? If not, you haven’t read my A World Too Far yet, which starts with the captain being yanked out of cryo amid a pending mutiny on board the ship. So, that one I definitely want to try.

N.K. Jemisin keeps popping up in the winners and nominee lists also. I tried to read her first book, but it wasn’t to my taste. Nonetheless, many readers love her and here she is on the ballot again. Maybe I should give her another go. Have you read and liked her? Why?

Please know that my blog is full of my opinions and you may feel differently. Okay by me.

Just saying.

But I have been reading science fiction for decades, so I feel justified in leaping to certain assumptions. However, without further ado, here’s the nominees for the 2018 Hugo Awards:

Who do you think should win? Why?



The finalists for the 2018 Hugo Awards, Award for Best Young Adult Book, and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and for the 1943 Retrospective Hugo Awards were announced at simultaneous events held in San Jose, California, at Norwescon 41 in SeaTac, Washington, and at Follycon, the 68th British National Science Fiction Convention (Eastercon).

The finalists for the 2018 Hugo Awards, Award for Best Young Adult Book, and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer are:
Best Novel

The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi (Tor)
New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
Provenance, by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty (Orbit)
The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

Best Novella

All Systems Red, by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)
“And Then There Were (N-One),” by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny, March/April 2017)
Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com Publishing)
The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang (Tor.com Publishing)
Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.Com Publishing)
River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com Publishing)

Best Novelette

“Children of Thorns, Children of Water,” by Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny, July-August 2017)
“Extracurricular Activities,” by Yoon Ha Lee (Tor.com, February 15, 2017)
“The Secret Life of Bots,” by Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld, September 2017)
“A Series of Steaks,” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld, January 2017)
“Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time,” by K.M. Szpara (Uncanny, May/June 2017)
“Wind Will Rove,” by Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s, September/October 2017)

Best Short Story

“Carnival Nine,” by Caroline M. Yoachim (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, May 2017)
“Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand,” by Fran Wilde (Uncanny, September 2017)
“Fandom for Robots,” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Uncanny, September/October 2017)
“The Martian Obelisk,” by Linda Nagata (Tor.com, July 19, 2017)
“Sun, Moon, Dust” by Ursula Vernon, (Uncanny, May/June 2017)
“Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience™,” by Rebecca Roanhorse (Apex, August 2017)

Best Series

The Books of the Raksura, by Martha Wells (Night Shade)
The Divine Cities, by Robert Jackson Bennett (Broadway)
InCryptid, by Seanan McGuire (DAW)
The Memoirs of Lady Trent, by Marie Brennan (Tor US / Titan UK)
The Stormlight Archive, by Brandon Sanderson (Tor US / Gollancz UK)
World of the Five Gods, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Harper Voyager / Spectrum Literary Agency)

Best Related Work

Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate, by Zoe Quinn (PublicAffairs)
Iain M. Banks (Modern Masters of Science Fiction), by Paul Kincaid (University of Illinois Press)
A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison, by Nat Segaloff (NESFA Press)
Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler, edited by Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal (Twelfth Planet Press)
No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, by Ursula K. Le Guin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Sleeping with Monsters: Readings and Reactions in Science Fiction and Fantasy, by Liz Bourke (Aqueduct Press)

Best Graphic Story

Bitch Planet, Volume 2: President Bitch, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Valentine De
Black Bolt, Volume 1: Hard Time, written by Saladin Ahmed, illustrated by Christian Ward, lettered by Clayton Cowles (Marvel)
Landro and Taki Soma, colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick, lettered by Clayton Cowles (Image Comics)
Monstress, Volume 2: The Blood, written by Marjorie M. Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
My Favorite Thing is Monsters, written and illustrated by Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)
Paper Girls, Volume 3, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher (Image Comics)
Saga, Volume 7, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Blade Runner 2049, written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Alcon Entertainment / Bud Yorkin Productions / Torridon Films / Columbia Pictures)
Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele (Blumhouse Productions / Monkeypaw Productions / QC Entertainment)
The Shape of Water, written by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, directed by Guillermo del Toro (TSG Entertainment / Double Dare You / Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, written and directed by Rian Johnson (Lucasfilm, Ltd.)
Thor: Ragnarok, written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost; directed by Taika Waititi (Marvel Studios)
Wonder Woman, screenplay by Allan Heinberg, story by Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs, directed by Patty Jenkins (DC Films / Warner Brothers)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

Black Mirror: “USS Callister,” written by William Bridges and Charlie Brooker, directed by Toby Haynes (House of Tomorrow)
“The Deep” [song], by Clipping (Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)
Doctor Who: “Twice Upon a Time,” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Rachel Talalay (BBC Cymru Wales)
The Good Place: “Michael’s Gambit,” written and directed by Michael Schur (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television)
The Good Place: “The Trolley Problem,” written by Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan, directed by Dean Holland (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television)
Star Trek: Discovery: “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” written by Aron Eli Coleite & Jesse Alexander, directed by David M. Barrett (CBS Television Studios)

Best Editor, Short Form

John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Lee Harris
Jonathan Strahan
Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas
Sheila Williams
Best Editor, Long Form

Sheila E. Gilbert
Joe Monti
Diana M. Pho
Devi Pillai
Miriam Weinberg
Navah Wolfe
Best Professional Artist

Galen Dara
Kathleen Jennings
Bastien Lecouffe Deharme
Victo Ngai
John Picacio
Sana Takeda

Best Semiprozine

Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews
The Book Smugglers, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James
Escape Pod, edited by Mur Lafferty, S.B. Divya, and Norm Sherman, with assistant editor Benjamin C. Kinney
Fireside Magazine, edited by Brian White and Julia Rios; managing editor Elsa Sjunneson-Henry; special feature editor Mikki Kendall; publisher & art director Pablo Defendini
Strange Horizons, edited by Kate Dollarhyde, Gautam Bhatia, A.J. Odasso, Lila Garrott, Heather McDougal, Ciro Faienza, Tahlia Day, Vanessa Rose Phin, and the Strange Horizons staff
Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, and Julia Rios; podcast produced by Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky

Best Fanzine

File 770, edited by Mike Glyer
Galactic Journey, edited by Gideon Marcus
Journey Planet, edited by Team Journey Planet
nerds of a feather, flock together, edited by The G, Vance Kotrla, and Joe Sherry
Rocket Stack Rank, edited by Greg Hullender and Eric Wong
SF Bluestocking, edited by Bridget McKinney

Best Fancast

The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
Ditch Diggers, presented by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace
Fangirl Happy Hour, presented by Ana Grilo and Renay William
Galactic Suburbia, presented by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce and Tansy Rayner Roberts; produced by Andrew Finch
Sword and Laser, presented by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt
Verity!, presented by Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, L.M. Myles, Lynne M. Thomas, and Tansy Rayner Roberts

Best Fan Writer

Camestros Felapton
Sarah Gailey
Mike Glyer
Foz Meadows
Charles Payseur
Bogi Takács
Best Fan Artist

Geneva Benton
Grace P. Fong
Maya Hahto
Likhain (M. Sereno)
Spring Schoenhuth
Steve Stiles

Award for Best Young Adult Book (Not a Hugo Award; rules set by WSFS and administered by current Worldcon)

Akata Warrior, by Nnedi Okorafor (Viking)
The Art of Starving, by Sam J. Miller (HarperTeen)
The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman (Knopf)
In Other Lands, by Sarah Rees Brennan (Big Mouth House)
A Skinful of Shadows, by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan UK / Harry N. Abrams US)
Summer in Orcus, written by T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon), illustrated by Lauren Henderson (Sofawolf Press)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (Not a Hugo Award; sponsored by Dell Publications and administered by current Worldcon)

Katherine Arden
Sarah Kuhn*
Jeannette Ng
Vina Jie-Min Prasad
Rebecca Roanhorse
Rivers Solomon
*Finalist in their 2nd year of eligibility

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Filed under award winning scifi, Hugo winners

LitRPG: A Newish Science Fiction SubGenre

I just discovered a new subgenre … at least new to me.

It’s called LitRPG. LitRPG, short for Literature Role Playing Game, is a literary genre based on combining all the key components of MMORPGs with science-fiction fantasy novels.

Okay. What’s a MMORPG?

It means Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs), which are a combination of role-playing video games and massively multiplayer online games in which a very large number of players interact with one another within a virtual world. Very Millennial.

As in all RPGs, the player assumes the role of a character (often in a fantasy world or science-fiction world) and takes control over many of that character’s actions. MMORPGs are distinguished from single-player or small multi-player online RPGs by the number of players able to interact together, and by the game’s persistent world (usually hosted by the game’s publisher), which continues to exist and evolve while the player is offline and away from the game.

LitRPG is the new hot thing. Think of current books such as Ready Player One and the new Jumanji movie that is coming out soon. In the old days, Start Trek had a holodeck, but it was most often a side story. Nonetheless, if you search for LitRPG in the Kindle store, over a thousand books are available.

Who knew… Not me… but maybe you.

But just in case… There it is.

I want to revisit a blog by Tara Sparling, Irish data wit who talks about what makes people buy self-published books.

That stuff is always good to know if you’re Indie published.

She has some nice graphs that support her conclusions.

As always, word of mouth is strong. Genre also is a determiner. Recently, someone wanted me to read a very well-reviewed thriller. While the book would be great for someone who reads that genre, I don’t have time. It would have to be extremely compelling for me to unclasp my hands from science fiction and fantasy…or be an old favorite author of mine like the soon-to-be-mentioned Janet Evanovich.

Cover and blurb are important for influencing a buy, but it comes down to price for me for the final decision. Of course, price often depends on the current status of the buyers’s pocketbook. My can fluctuate, and during the holidays, wallets can be a little looser.

Even so, if you are involved in marketing your book, her blog is worth the read.

https://tarasparlingwrites.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/influences-upon-readers-when-buying-self-published-books.png

What makes you buy a book? What are the critical factors that convince you to tap that buy button or hand over a credit card? Inquiring author wants to know.

For this blog, I’m reporting on a popular new title, Artemis by Andy Weir. The popularity of The Martian paved the way for this second book, not to mention traditionally backed advertising and well-known buy lists.

It wasn’t what I expected.

His first book had a lot of heavy science, but as the narrator was a Robinson Crusoe character, the dialogue tended to be one-sided. Previously to reading this, I’d been slogging through Gaimon’s Neverwhere (More on that later. Another blog, another time) and got a call from the local library that my request for Artemis was there and come get it.

I ran.

The narrator is first person, a snarky twenty-something female named Jazz, who is brilliant but can’t stay out of trouble. She lives on the moon in a city called Artemis, which is a collection of interconnected bubbles that are named after famous astronauts. Her Muslim father is a welder, and Jazz (short for Jasmine) has a job as a delivery girl who secretly smuggles contraband on the side.

She reminds me of Stephanie Plum, star of the series by Janet Evanovich. (See, I got there)

Jazz’s relationships with her father, the local enforcer, her ex-boyfriend, a science geek and even her letters to an young Earth dude, are hilarious as she doles out relationship advice to her male companions.

From the book: Her geeky friend is excited that he has invented a reusable condom. He wants her to test it. She points out she is female and why doesn’t he test it himself. Turns out he is shy.

“I don’t have a girlfriend and I’m terrible with women.”

“There are brothels all over Aldrin! High-end, low-end, whatever you want.”
“That’s no good.” He crossed his arms. “I need data from a woman who is having sex for fun. The woman has to be sexually experienced, which you definitely are-”

“Careful . . .”
“And likely to have sex in the near future, which again–”
“Choose your next words wisely.”
He paused. “Anyway. You see what I’m after.”

Of course, throughout the rest of the book he keeps asking her if she has tested “his product.” She, meanwhile, is frantically trying to dig herself out of a dangerous situation that keeps escalating with absolutely no thought or time for any kind of sex.

Offered a million slugs (their currency) to blow up some harvesters, greed takes over, and she accepts the job, only to dig herself deeper and deeper into trouble.

However, Weir doesn’t forget his science as Jazz’s sharp wits and intelligence are needed to keep herself and the entire city alive when all goes drastically wrong.

I really enjoyed this one for its great character relationships and the hard core science perspective of what it means to live in an environment such as the moon provides. You get fast action, great characters, snappy dialogue with solid hard moon science.

Put this one on your to-read list. Sometimes those lists are right.

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Filed under award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Cutting Edge Science ideas, ebook marketing, environmental issues in science fiction, Hard science fiction, LitRPG, Marketing and selling novels, Novels that take place in the moon, Science fiction thriller, Self-publishing

Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading List for 2018

Happy 2018 to everyone. Yes, it’s hard to believe we have a new year starting again, and although there was plenty of tumult around me, this past year was a good one.

I’m currently working on the third book in my Terran Trilogy called The Weight of Gravity. This trilogy is part of the overall Alysian Universe series, but from a completely different prospective. It makes the tenth book I’ve written, along with other shorter works in anthologies. Kristine Rusch talks about author burnout, and I’m battling a bit of it myself. Maybe the new year will energize me.

When I set out to pick ten books for the upcoming year for my blogs, I noticed that my kindle library was bursting with books gathered from various ad sites that I promised myself I would get around to reading. So, that’s where I will draw from for some of my selections. I’m worried that ebooks are getting cheaper and cheaper, many are offered for free, and personal libraries are filling up so buyers don’t need to purchase quite as much to satisfy their reading needs. A lot are free. As a reader, I like it when I don’t have to spend tons of money on books, but as an author, I wonder where the trend is going, and will I be able to keep up my income? Are we reading more or spending less? Or both? Or does it even out?

This year, I had my highest month ever, and lowest, in royalty income. Several authors mentioned a similar situation of lower royalties, blaming it on the distraction of the election and following political commotion. Since my lowest month was January, I’m buying into the theory. Luckily, the summer months brought a welcome increase in sales with August my best month ever. A number of authors have commented on this seasonality of book buying, and I’m thinking to research this further in another blog.

In my December blog, I always select five books to add to my reading list for the year. This time, I wanted to consider a mix of stories with time travel and space opera foremost but also include a bit of fantasy. I wanted to suggest both traditional and self-published novels. Last year, I discovered a few new authors who wrote in a series, and I decided I should continue their works. Along that line, the Expanse Series is coming back to television, so I picked the newest release, Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey. I’ve read the earlier novels and blogged on several of them, so check it out if you want to know more. If you haven’t read the books, the television version can be confusing, but I love the special effects, even though I disagree with the choice of actors who play the characters.

The second book on my to-read list for 2018 is Angel City Blues by Jeff Edwards. Yes, I know that I selected this last year and don’t know why I didn’t read it. I loved the first book, Dome City Blues and this will bring in an urban cyberpunk genre that will be a fun contrast to my other choices.

My next choice is Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn. This fantasy just appeared to be a fun book to read. Any book that starts out saying, “Sneaking out of the palace may not have been one of Aniri’s best ideas” has me hooked. As third daughter, Aniri is under no pressure to marry and hopes to wed her fencing instructor lover. Then, she gets a marriage proposal from a barbarian prince in the north who has his own secrets and… Not science fiction, but it sounded too good to pass up.

Time travel is a favorite of mine, so when I saw Crossing in Time advertised, I stuck that in my kindle library. The blurb asked, “If someone took everything you live for, how far would you go to get it back?” Turns out, the main character would go far into the past to change events in order to get back a loved one, and that idea intrigued me.

Finally for now, the fifth selection comes from a popular author that I never got around to reading until a year or two ago. Andre Norton has become a favorite of mine, and I have been eyeing her Time Traders sitting in my kindle library. Time to read it.

There you have my first five. In January, I’ll add five more. As you know, other books may be selected as I see fit. Sometimes, publishing schedules change, or other ideas take precedent, so this is not cast in stone, but only serves as a guide. I offer suggestions and comments for books I think readers will like, but I’m not a professional reviewer and don’t take review requests any more. However, I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy for years and love to share this passion with fellow enthusiasts.

This time around, I noticed that a deciding factor was the blurb. Cover and blurb are so important in a reader’s selection process. So, authors, put extra effort into those two elements to help sell your stories.

Here they are to start:

Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn
Angel City Blues by Jeff Edwards
Crossing in Time by D. L. Horton
Time Traders by Andre Norton
Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey

Also, for the new year, I would like to recommend you check out Kristine Rusch’s blog on the state of publishing. Not only does she live in Oregon like I do, but she is in the traditional publishing arena along with being a strong advocate of self publishing, having self-published many books herself. She has written several series in several genres under various pen names and is thoughtful and knowledgeable about the total spectrum of publishing, both Indie and traditional.

Here’s the link:
http://kriswrites.com/2017/12/27/business-musings-the-year-in-review-overview/

With 2017 ending, and 2018 about to begin, I wish a bright future for everyone… and happy reading.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Classic science fiction, Cyberpunk, ebook science fiction, fantasy series, Future of Publishing, Indie authors, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Publishing Trends, science fiction romance, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Space opera, space travel, The future of publishing, time travel

A Writer’s Insights and An Assassin’s Fate

With the stress of the holidays, or maybe just the distractions, many authors are finding it hard to stay on track with their writing and marketing. I’m reading blogs that mention burn out. For me, it’s both. I’m thinking of what to get my family for Christmas, and I’m shopping with my daughter at the mall. There are parties and plans that preempt my writing. Meanwhile, I’m losing the momentum of the story.

Hence my blog is late, and my writing even more behind schedule. My editor is yelling at me and my publisher is disgusted with my procrastination.

Oh, wait…

That’s me.

The hardest taskmaster of them all.

To feel better about this author experience, I offer several blogs for writers intent on becoming authors. The first, if you haven’t read it already, is Hugh Howey’s blog on becoming a writer. If you have read it, now’s a good time to re-read it. He offers great insight into the writing process.

1. His first insight is that the only obstacle to writing is you. To become an author you have to start writing. As simple as it sounds, many authors use various excuses to block their goal of completing a novel.

2. You can’t compare your rough draft to books you’ve read. Those have been polished and edited by professional people.

3. There is no special qualification required…to write.

4. The best writers are the best readers.

5. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Keep it in mind, oh impatient one.

6. Whoever works the hardest will get ahead. In this insight, High mentions that it is easier to work hard if you are passionate about what you do. I find this very true.

7. Competition is complicated. The number of books out there isn’t important. Your book may be the inspiration or escape needed for a particular reader. Don’t let the numbers swamp you.

8. Be helpful and engaged. Authors should help and encourage one other.

9. Know your readers

10. Know your industry. Treat your writing as if it were a business.

These are the highlights of his discussion with important and insightful comments to support them. To read the complete blog, go to:

http://amazonauthorinsights.com/post/165774835635/writing-insights-part-one-becoming-a-writer

Then, I recommend reading his follow-up blogs starting with writing rough drafts. I swear he was a fly on my wall. I do a lot of my writing in my head in the shower, before I fall asleep, or generally while driving. Then, I put words to these scenes I have created. He describes this same process for his writing.

Who knew?

At the moment, I’m at what he calls “the crux.” Noting that it was a normal phase in writing relieved a lot of my current frustration. I eagerly read where he describes how to get out of this impasse. Give me that machete so I can cut my way out.

http://www.hughhowey.com/writing-insights-part-two-the-rough-draft/

There are several more blogs on the writing process that I’ll visit in a later blog.

The second blog I recommend is the Passive Voice. PG (passive guy) writes a lot about how Amazon has changed the industry in this blog and ends up with these statistics on author earnings that I found interesting.

You may, too.

A few facts from Author Earnings (emphasis is PG’s):

http://www.thepassivevoice.com/2017/12/publishings-greatest-challenge-might-surprise-you/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ThePassiveVoice+%28The+Passive+Voice%2

In 2016, two-thirds of traditionally-published fiction and non-fiction books were sold online.
• About 75% of adult fiction and non-fiction books (including both traditional and indie published) were sold online (77% of fiction, 72% of non-fiction) in 2016.
• In early 2017, Big Five publisher sales on Amazon were 20.8%–or barely one fifth–of all Amazon US consumer ebook purchases.
• As far as the earnings of individual authors who have debuted in the last three years:
◦ 250 Big Five authors are annually earning $25,000 or more from Amazon sales
◦ 200 recent small or medium publisher authors earn $25,000 or more from their Amazon sales annually
◦ Over 1,000 indie authors who debuted in the last 3 years are earning more than $25,000 per year from Amazon sales
• Looking at earnings of debut authors from the past five years, more indie authors are now earning a $50K-or-better living wage from Amazon than all of their Big Five and Small/Medium publisher peers put together.
• Fewer than 115 Big Five-published authors and 45 small- or medium-publisher authors who debuted in the past five years are currently earning $100K/year from Amazon sales. Among indie authors of the same tenure, more than 425 of them are now at a six-figure run rate.
PG suggests that traditional publishing’s greatest challenge is demonstrated by numbers like this.

Lots to think about.

Another reason this blog has been delayed is that I was reading the 800 page tome by Robin Hobbs called Assassin’s Fate. I have been an avid reader of all Hobb’s books, and I am particularly fond of Fitz Chivalry and the Fool.

There are eighty-eight percent five stars out of 755 reviews. So, I’m not alone.

The story: Fitz Chivalry’s daughter, Bee, is kidnapped by the Servants, a secret society that uses dreams of special children to mold the future, often for their own benefit. Fitz Chivalry and the Fool believe Bee is dead, and they embark on a revenge mission to wipe out the whole island where this sect lives to destroy them utterly. The Fool had vowed never to return to where he grew up, was tortured, and finally escaped. But now, he joins his closet friend to wreak vengeance on his earlier persecutors.

Unbeknownst to them, Bee survives and is dragged across the land and sea by her sadistic abductor, who believes she is the chosen one. She brings along a small group from the island who bend to her commands. One minion, when given the spit of the dragon, can control the minds of those around him, except for Bee, who has special talents she hides. She can dream the future also, but she doesn’t reveal this fact to her tormentor. Others bend to her kidnapper’s vicious demands and also bully Bee.

So, yes, there are dragons and ships and magic and many old familiar characters from several of her other books that make a cameo appearance.

Read the earlier books first, write up all your apologies for chores being left undone, appointments missed, late blogs, and then enjoy this fine conclusion to the story of Fitz Chivalry and the Fool.

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Filed under award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, dragons, fantasy, fantasy series, Hugh Howey, Hugo winners, Indie Publishing, magic, Self-publishing, Writing Tips and Lectures

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