Category Archives: Best selling science fiction

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

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

Science Fiction Awards List

The nominations for the 2017 Hugo are in, but to refresh your memory here are the winners for 2016: https://www.theverge.com/2016/8/20/12551696/2016-hugo-awards-

Of the four mentioned here, I blogged on Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, read an intro of Seveneves by Neil Gammon (thanks to Amazon which offers free introductions) and liked what I read but haven’t bought the book yet, and have been an enthusiastic reader, and blogger of, Jim Butcher’s other two series: Codex Alera and The Dresden Files. Makes me feel that I’m picking books to talk about that other people like too.

Also out are the Locus Awards.
http://www.locusmag.com/News/2017/06/do-not-touch-2017-locus-awards-winners/

On the Locus list, this year in blogs, I talked about Visitor by C.J. Cherryh, Babylon’s Ashes by John. S. A. Corey, Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson and All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Anders. I tried to read Take Back the Sky by Greg Bear but for some reason abandoned it.

Now we have Hugo nominations for 2017:

http://www.tor.com/2017/04/04/2017-hugo-award-finalists-announced/

In this list is All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Anders, The Obelisk Gate revisiting J.K. Jeminsin, A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers, who also did A Long Way to an Angry Planet that I commented on in a recent blog.

And Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer.

I don’t know where to begin with this one.

My usual policy is not to discuss a book that I don’t like. I acknowledge that each reader brings their own experience and taste to a story and being in my Powell’s Book Group (25 plus members) has made it abundantly clear, everyone’s taste is different. So what I don’t like, others may love.

But as an author and writer, Ada Palmer has had me ranting for days. (My poor husband) She breaks all the conventions of what I’m told is good writing and then makes the Hugo nominations list! Thanks TOR.

Right off the bat, her first sentence warns the reader that the narrator is unreliable. So throughout the entire book, you’re wondering if what you’re being told is true or not. A lot is left out.

Constantly, in the book she talks directly to the reader as if they are sitting in a chair across from her. In her far future world, an attempt to level the playing field of gender results in people not using a definitive pronoun. So in describing a person, it can be a they one moment, then a he or a she, the next. Gets confusing, but it worked for Anne Leckie, also a Hugo winner and nominees, so maybe Ada liked the idea.

In addition, one person often has several names depending on who is in the room talking to them. And there are a lot of characters to keep track of throughout the book. The names are crazy, taken from the 18th century. For example, the narrators name is Mycroft Canner, an homage to Sherlock Holme’s brother.

In fact, the whole book is packed with inferences involving the 18th century, and unless you are a history major of that era, you spend more time researching Palmers’ allusions to the time period than you spend paying attention to the plot.

What plot?

Also, she didn’t hear about the “show, don’t tell” rule and expounds in detail on several historic names, places and events.

Point of view jumps around incessantly and some major characters don’t even talk in English. When they speak Latin, Palmer puts the translation in parenthesis after each sentence. Fonts are constantly changing. There’s sprinklings of French, Spanish and Japanese in the dialog.

In due time, the reader (hopefully) realizes that Mycroft is a criminal (she alludes to his servicer’s uniform) and is sentenced to pay for his crime in service to those families he harmed. But the mystery is that he /she /they is constantly being relied on by the powerful leaders of this world to supply sensitive information or used for top secret activities. He is on familiar terms with every powerful leader throughout the world. Mycroft is more than a common criminal who has performed unspeakable crimes, but as a reader, I wasn’t sure what his connection was to the others, and why they were so nonchalant at having him constantly nearby. I’d hoped to learn by the end of the book.

And that is my main complaint. While Mycroft harbors a boy who can touch toys and make them come alive, (rather cool) the commotion in the story is caused by a list of ten names that is stolen from Mycroft bash (commune/house). For some reason, undisclosed to me, this list is controversial. It’s rather a list of the top ten most important people in the world, according to a journalist who puts out the list once a year. Then you find out there is more than one list floating around.

Have I confused you enough? Not even close. The politics (a blend of distant future and 18th century) and network of intertwining relationships is mind boggling. I read this to the end to see if I could make sense of anything… guess what?

Nope.

It’s a Hugo nomination and I’m ranting and raving all over my house about it… Could you tell? At least as one member in our group commented, “It’s different from any other science fiction novel.” And there she was right.

One last announcement while we are talking about new books out. I’m waiting on my proof for Somewhat Alien and within a week or two should be launching the book. Here is the cover:

It’s an exciting story that takes place on a space station. No Latin or French involved. (Tant pis)

 

Stay tuned.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Hugo Nominations, Hugo winners, Locus Award Winners, Political Science Fiction, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Uncategorized

Comments on Mark Coker’s Smashword Survey

Mark Coker’s Smashwords survey is in. Smashwords is a distribution service for ebooks. You download a Word document and their famous meat grinder formats and distribute your work to a wide variety of vendors. IBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords are the bigger names. Smashwords is in competition with Amazon so they distribute very little there. The author gets an 85% royalty. 127,000 authors with 437,200 ebooks comprise the current Smashwords catalog.

Sales of 87.5% make up up the fiction category and of that 45% are romance writers. So, romance dominates Smashword’s sales. Only 3% of the top 200 bestsellers are science fiction while 73% are romance.

Pre-orders appear to be a new marketing tool to use to launch a new book. However, only 12.23% of books released during the survey were born of preorders. In the top 1,000 sellers, 61% used preorders, so this is a marketing tool to consider.

Box sets are also becoming popular. 90% are single author box sets. Multi-author sets are also being used, but I wonder how the royalties are divided out. You can expand your readers through other authors’ promotions, but don’t expect to reap a rich monetary reward. And taxes could be a headache.

When studying pricing, free still gets the most downloads by a wide margin, but $3.99, $9.99 and $4.99 yields the most earnings. It was interesting that $3.99 and $4.99 got more downloads by a slim margin over $.99.

The average word count for the top 70 best selling romance books was 113,803. So the longer book is still popular. That surprised me. This may depend on genre.

Having a series helps sales. Top best sellers show they are likely to come from a series. A series with a free starter book boosts sales of the whole series. In the top 100, a free starter book increased sale of the series by 80%.

Data on title length once again urged authors to keep it fairly short. Twenty-four characters titles are in the top 100 while 37.11 characters were in the wider top 1000 range. So those with less sales had longer titles on average. There are always outliers.

And where did Smashwords sell the most? The United States garnered 69% of the sales, far out-distancing all other countries. Lesser sales were in Great Britain (8%), Canada (11%) and Australia (5%). This jives with my numbers, except that I have a strong Australian contingency.

Hi Ya Mates!

All of this is interesting to me as an author, but I write science fiction. For years, I tried to sell on Smashwords (they call it “going wide”), but I don’t sell there. To be eligible for Amazon Select, you cannot list on Smashwords, or any other platform. This has created tension between Amazon and Smashwords, but I decided to go where I can sell well, and that is Amazon. Amazon helps with innovative marketing and has a bigger pool of readers. The bottomline is that I sell so much better there.

Still, this data gives food for thought on several ways any author can market and provides a good snapshot of one section of the ebook market.

For you data geeks, here’s the link: http://blog.smashwords.com/2017/06/smashwords-survey-2017.html

This week I’m reporting on Babylon’s Ashes by James S. A. Corey. While I have been enjoying the Expanse Series, both the books and the television show, I kept waiting for something exciting to happen in this book.

A violent group of Belters called the Free Navy has cobbled together black market spaceships and reigned terror on Earth by throwing rocks that have seriously damaged the planet. In addition, they are attacking colony ships headed out through the gate to the new worlds and plundering their supplies to redistribute to Belter communities. So it is up to James Holden’s crew of the Rocinante to stop them. Politics make former enemies unite (Mars, Earth and others) in order to combat this threat. Be ready for several twists and turns.

In this book, the protomolecule takes a backseat to a Belters and inner system war. It felt like an interlude that cleaned up a problem brought out in the previous book. This was not my favorite book in the series, but still I consider it a good read, considering the dearth of good new science fiction out there. The usual characters appear and a number of other voices are given center stage. Marcos Inarcos, leader of the Free Navy, (and Naomi’s former lover) is seen as one who champions the oppressed Belters, but then turns strident and vicious, not caring who or how many get killed as he grasps for power. Naomi’s son, Carlos, also heads up several chapters. At first, he is his father’s right hand man and believes in the “cause,” but gradually as the losses accumulate, and Marco’s excuses for them sound lame, he begins to wonder if his father really has a plan or the Belter’s welfare at heart.

Orbit has bought three more books for the series, so it should be interesting how Corey (Abraham and Franck) continue the overall plot.

For those readers who want an update on my upcoming book, Somewhat Alien, it is in the works. I’m still waiting on a Beta reader and the delivery of a proof copy. Because of that, my publishing date has been pushed out a week or two. I want to make sure this one is polished and complete as it is one of my favorite stories. Lots of good stuff happens, and I want it to be an exciting adventure for you.

So stay tuned.

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Filed under Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, Beta Readers, ebook marketing, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Political Science Fiction, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Science fiction world building, Self-publishing, Space opera

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