Category Archives: blog information

New Year Science Fiction

IMG_9512Welcome to a new year 2017.new-year

This is the time everyone decides to improve their life; whether it be by dieting, more exercise, more family time, or finding a new job. Having a point in time to evaluate your situation is always good.

This year I plan to complete book two, Somewhat Alien, in my new series called The Terran Trilogy and write at least half of book three. I’m midway through the writing of book two and am really having fun with it. Also, I’m blessed in that I’m not reliant on my writing to pay the mortgage. However, I make enough to keep me busy and add to the family coffers. (A Snickers anyone?)

Usually, I pick out five books the first week of the new year and five books the second week that I plan to read sometime during the coming year.

But first, I want to mention a blog by Written Media that makes ten predictions for 2017 in the publishing world. Check it out : http://bit.ly/2hVpPOQ

You’ll notice at the bottom of Written Media‘s blog is a link to Mark Cocker’s 2017 predictions. He has a lot to say but is very anti-Amazon. My only comment is that I tried to sell through Smashwords for four years and sold one book. They are a distributor that did nothing to help me promote or sell, even though they put your books out on various platforms.

Amazon is constantly trying to figure out ways to help authors promote their books. Unfortunately, scammers have leaped in and given valid authors a bad rap. And, in trying to weed out the miscreants, Amazon has hurt a few legitimate authors.

Nonetheless, I sell very well through Amazon. After fifteen years of writing and submitting to traditional publishers, I’m thankful to be able to publish my exciting series through Amazon.

Enuff said.

Thorn of EmberlainMy first pick to read in 2017 is The Thorne of Emberlaine by Scott Lynch. Why does that title sound familiar? Because I picked it last year when they said it would be published. Didn’t happen. Rather than being upset, I’m actually relieved that such a famous author from a traditional publishing house would be so late. I always angst when I run behind schedule, but I’m realizing others do so too. (You hear me Pat Rothfuss and George R. R. Martin?)

My second pick is a library find called Castaway Odyssey by Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor. I haven’t mentioned these two well known authors yet, and the story of survival on an alien planet after crash landing there intrigued me. Rather a Swiss Family Robinson with a twist.castaway-odyseey

Kevin McLaughlin has graciously offered his expertise and advice on LinkedIn time and again.

Thanks, Kevin.

accord-of-honorI have found your comments accurate and helpful–especially during my early days of self publishing. So when Kevin came out with a science fiction book with a cover that featured an awesome ship against an alien planet, I was in. I even paid money. Accord of Honor by Kevin McLaughlin is my third choice.

However, I am guilty of grabbing free or discounted books off of add sites at any moment. (I’m just that cheap) Actually, I have built up an embarrassing library of books I plan to read any day now. That’s great, except Amazon keeps e-mailing me and asking how many stars I would give to books I haven’t read yet. Since I do like time travel, I’m choosing Split Second by Douglas E. Richards and whittling down the stack.split-second

Finally, my fifth choice is part of a series that I discovered last year. The title drew me in and the book proved entertaining. Dome City Blues by Jeff Edward delivered a combined detective and science fiction story. My two favorite genres. So, I’m planning on reading the next in the series, Angel City Blues.Angel City Blues

I feel that my writing has improved, and the later books in my own series are even better than the first ones, but everyone wants to start with the first book. I’m not sure how to overcome this situation, except with time and discovery. It has taken me a year to get to the second book in Jeff’s series. So, as I often say to my daughter, “Patience is a virtue.” Usually, I just like the scrunched-up face she makes when I say it.

There you have it. It’s only a rough plan, and as you know, subject to change. I always add in other books as they come along. I’ll add five more next blog.

May 2017 be a fulfilling year where you enjoy lots of good science fiction.

I’ll help you with that.

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An Author’s Outrage

IMG_0193Outrage.

Several Linked-in discussion groups and bloggers are outraged at Amazon for requiring the table of contents be located at the front of all their books.

Holy Mackerel, where else would you put it? The table of contents purpose is to give the reader an overview of the contents of a book.

Hummmm…turns out scammers are putting the table of contents at the back to get a large page count so they will be paid by Kindle at a per page rate through the Kindle reading platform.

Blog rantings and ravings at big bad Amazon are appearing.

What?

It costs nothing to fix if you are self-published, and if you aren’t, you shouldn’t care because you aren’t getting paid–your publisher is. Put it at the front where it belongs or just skip it.

Sounds like the same kind of people who complained when Amazon took down paid and associated reviews that plumped up the ratings. Authors were swapping reviews with each other under promises of five stars whether they read the books or not.

Screams and yells erupted when reviews were pulled. And yes, a large number of honest reviews got axed. Me included. The honest, paying once again because of scammers. Gee thanks.

Save us from those who are trying to scam everyone nowadays. It’s pervasive. I’m tired of receiving annoying phone calls from someone with an Indian accent claiming they are from “windows” and I need to fix the virus in my computer right now…and if I just open my computer, he will help me.

Right.

Not to mention the “IRS” calls, the bogus credit card offers, the email attacks… need I go on?

Now we have scammers stuffing junk, copied material from anywhere, putting on a cover and title and publishing it in order to reap the profits from KNF. And they are reaping large profits out of a set amount that is divided up by other authors. In other words, if the amount is, say fourteen million, that pie is divided out among the Kindle Unlimited qualifying authors who get less per page if the count is big. One blog did a screen shot of over thirty thousand in royalties for one month by a fifteen year old kid.

And authors are yelling at Amazon?

Bottom line is, dear authors, most likely you wouldn’t have a book published if it weren’t for Amazon, or have you forgotten what publishing was like ten years ago?

It’s a shame our free society gets punished by charlatans out to weasel a buck from the unsuspecting public who, in turn, point to the self publishers and accuse them of putting out shoddy books. It gives self-publishers a bad rap.

Then when Amazon tries to fix the problem, authors set up a hue and cry.

Is any one else getting tired of these scammers and ripoff artists? Or tired of ungrateful authors who don’t have a publisher grabbing out a large chunk of their royalties because they can now publish free through CreateSpace? Remember editors turning down tons of good manuscripts because of the flood of submissions they encountered every month in their inbox, never accepting do-agains.

Unfortunately, Amazon is the target because they have revolutionized the publishing industry by providing an alternative and cheap way to publish.

No longer do new writers have to jump through hoops of query letters, finding agents, and a system where only a small percentage of eager writers get to make it through a very subjective process.

All I have to say, as an author with nine books and counting, is thank you, Amazon.Bands of Mourning

I appreciate you trying to fix the problems that deceptive people create so that readers (me) can get a true picture of what they’re buying, and authors (me) receive a fair portion of the Kindle kitty.

See the books at right? Real stories. Most near four hundred pages with honest reviews. Unfortunately, not enough….but I didn’t pay for a one.

Once again, thank you Amazon, for making them possible and providing a way a modest income author can fulfill her dream.

And next week when I catch my breath, I hope to review Brandon Sanderson’s new book, The Bands of Mourning. Stay tuned.

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Beta Readers

Beta readers: solid gold

That make you cry

If they’re doing their job right

 

IMG_0193I haven’t been able to do much reading because my Beta readers are helping me put the final touches on my behind schedule novel, Someone’s Clone. Seems that a Masters degree in English doesn’t make me a grammar expert.

Au contraire…it’s a humbling experience, and often the computer doesn’t help as it auto corrects ridiculousness. I try to explain that I really know it’s from its. Really.

What I don’t know, as one reader pointed out, is how to pour a drink. One of my favorite readers corrected the manuscript, saying that you don’t pour the drink before the ice cubes go in. (As I wrote in the book) To pour a drink properly, you must put the cubes in first and then pour the drink over it.

So heads up out there all you drinkers.

My Beta reader from Zurich, Switzerland, (how cool is that?) just had an adorable little girl. Her pictures are yummy. But, one of my main characters is a thirteen year old teenager who is an only child and is used to getting her way. She wants to go to an event with her mother and when mom says “No,” it goes like this:

“You said I could go with you to fix Kayse,” Tempest protested indignantly.

“I said no such thing. Besides, we’re not ‘fixing’ him; we’re just going to alter a few things to make him look a little different.”

“You promised,” Tempest wailed, a stubborn expression developing on her face. “You told me I could go. I remember you saying it. You’re just getting old and forgetting things,” she grumped.

Elise inhaled sharply. Her voice tightened as she said, “I promised no such thing, and I don’t forget! My memory is functioning just fine. Finish your breakfast. Amy’s due any time now.”

“Getting old and forgetting stuff I tell you. You’re scaring me,” Tempest muttered under her breath.

Elise glared at her. She looked like she might burst into flames at any moment.

 

The new mother was upset with Tempest’s behavior. But this was taken from a real life conversation between me and my teenage only child. Babies act adorable to bond mother and child together, but teenagers are a whole other program. Nature makes them that way so when they’re ready to fly the nest, you’re there holding the door open.

 

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In my novel there is a lot of flying around in “Helios.” Another picky Beta reader took me to task when I dubbed the cyclic a “control stick,” and she proceeded to inform me that the cyclic controls the forward, left, and right action of the helicopter while the collective on the left controls the up and down motion. Pedals manage the spin. Smoke doesn’t fly through but would clear a path as the prop wash pushes air down and away rather than drawing it in. She concludes that if she, as a fifty some year old woman, knows this, a lot of readers might also.

While this is all true, I’m not unfamiliar with flying. I have logged many hours as copilot to my husband during the years we owned or partnered in over five various planes. In fact, the crash in Touching Crystal is taken from an actual experience when we crashed in our Mooney over New York State. I have soloed in a Cessna and rode tandem in our sports Citabria during spontaneous acrobatics when husband got bored flying “straight and level.”

I didn’t know it was called a cyclic, would you know that? However, I am impressed with her accuracy (confirmed by pilot husband) and knowledge, yet I doubt most women or even most men would know that the stick that flies a helicopter is called a cyclic.

But…would someone on another world use that exact label? It’s so specific that I doubt it would be called the exact same name, and maybe they might have labeled it a control stick…or perhaps I should make up a name.

To what extent should an author use Earth names and labels when writing about another world? I know I will never try to change Earth measurements again. I have readers confused on what a rotation is (day), cycle (ten days), annual (year) and other measures. While it makes sense that an alien world would not name measurements the same way we do, your readers will get in an uproar trying to figure out what you mean. And once you start, you can’t stop.

Don’t do it. Take my advice.

My Beta Readers are precious and smart and real sticklers for how I write.

And you, dear readers, are the beneficiaries of such great care.

 

 

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Quantum Theory Noir Thriller: hard science in science fiction

IMG_0165

Grab your chisels ladies and gentlemen. For those of you who have been mumbling that McCartha has gone soft, this week’s review is for you.

It’s all about hard science fiction.

For what is the most challenging, the most difficult to get your head around, the least understood of all the science theories?

Quantum Theory.

You bet. It changes even as you look at it, and a cat-in-a-box can be both dead and alive until the observer decides it’s fate.

Schrodinger’s Gat attempts to explain Quantum Theory, Probability and Permutation as the main characters manipulate events at every toss of a coin.

Welcome to a hard science novel that tackles a challenging subject and gives lectures along the way. Yes, throughout the book are serious science lectures where the author warns you that if you’re after story only, you should skip the next several paragraphs of dense science theory.

Of course, when anyone says, “Don’t read this, or look away,” that’s when I dig out my glasses.

Told in the first person,using the voice and ambience of a Dashiell Hamnet novel, Schrodinger’s Gat is a simple story that  explores the quandary of fate versus free will and the puzzle of parallel dimensions.

Interested?

Yes, please.

Schrodinger's GatFailed writer, teacher and divorced father, Paul Bayes succumbs to depression, tosses a coin and lets its outcome direct him to step in front of an oncoming Bart subway.

There are several depression ridden moments…be warned.

While moaning over his life in true Hamlet fashion, he is still male enough to notice out of the corner of his eye, a pretty dark-haired girl watching him and when the coin comes up tails and he begins to step forth, she yells, “No!” and runs away.

Flummoxed, he hesitates just long enough to miss his train, and instead he takes off and chases her to begin a wild ride into the realm of quantum physics. For Tali, can locate tragedies and prevent them from happening. She dices with fate at the toss of a coin and the possibility of breaking free from the grip of fate fills Paul with hope…until the future begins to punch back.

This two-hundred and eight page story is full of action, but is also a mind-bending romp into the hard science of Quantum Physics.

You wanted it.

And if you haven’t had your fill yet,  this fascinating link shows how the dreams of science fiction writers have turned into the reality of present day science. http://www.buzzfeed.com/microsoftmsn/10-science-fiction-technologies-that-are-now-real

Check it out…science fiction technology becomes real day technology.

 

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The Writing World and Critique Groups

 

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Writers’ Critique Groups

Writing about the new book publishing age, I mentioned the importance of a good critique group to help polish a self-pubbed book. My critique group has been invaluable, so I asked D. Wallace Peach to say a few words about what makes a good writing critique group.

Known to me as Diana, she has published her third book, SunWielder, which I recently reviewed, and has submitted the rest of her Myths of the Mirror Trilogy: Eye of Fire, and Eye of Blind to her publisher. So stay tuned for that sometime in 2015.

Even with an editor and Diana’s exact eye for copywriting, I believe the critique group helped make the final books of the Myths Trilogy even stronger and better.Sunwielder

So here’s what she had to say:

Diana:  “A critique group is different from a support group, though they overlap. My mother is a one-woman support group; she loves everything I’ve written since I was six. And for that reason she’s an awful person to ask for a critique.

Joining a critique group may be one of the smartest steps we can take in our careers as writers. Pointed, honest feedback is essential to learning and refining our craft. But finding the right group is like finding the right psychotherapist; sometimes you have to work at it to get a good fit. You want the truth, but in a way that’s helpful and encourages you to grow.”

Sheron: Cross mom and Aunt Susie off the list.

Diana: “Group Composition

Not all groups are alike. Some are loosey-goosey, others more formally structured. Learn as much as you can about the expectations of a group and be honest with yourself about your needs and the time commitment you’re prepared to make.

A few considerations:

  1. Not everyone in a critique group needs to work in the same genre, but there may certain drawbacks to being the only romance writer is a group of military science-fiction buffs.
  2. Four to five members is ideal, providing sufficient feedback while not overwhelming members with critiques.
  3. A mix of male and female participants is great for garnering different perspectives.
  4. Though some writers may prefer a group with equivalent experience, a mix of new and seasoned members can be extremely rewarding. New writers often bring fresh energy.
  5. If a group experience leaves you discouraged and angry, don’t stay. Groups are supposed to vitalize your love of writing, not drain your enthusiasm.

Structural Norms

How groups are run and structured varies group to group. Some meet face-to-face, others are entirely on-line. In general, guidelines for effective critiquing are the same, but I am a strong proponent of face-to-face feedback where verbal and physical cues (like smiling) augment the words we chose in our critiques. Meeting in person offers an opportunity to elaborate on comments and ask/answer questions.”

Sheron:  I like to look them in the eye when I tell them what needs fixing. Sometimes, they have a reason for the story to be that way. In addition, you should have a rule that all weaponry be left at home.

Diana:  “However a group is structured, there are generally norms related to timing, submissions and how critiques are returned to the authors. The critique group I belong to meets twice a month in person for approximately three hours and a written critique is completed between meetings. This is how we work:

  1. Via email, we distribute our submissions to other group members. Submissions are limited to 20 double space pages (with occasional exceptions).
  2. Group members critique each submission and return it via email to the writer with comments. (Word has a “comment” tool that is very helpful in this regard.)
  3. Prior to the face-to-face meeting, we review our comments so we’re prepared to discuss ideas and answer questions for the author.
  4. Meetings start with a focus on one member’s work. One at a time, readers offer additional feedback and respond to questions. The process repeats itself until all submissions have been discussed. (Set time limits for face-to-face feedback if meetings run over. Don’t skip discussing someone’s work.)Myths of the Mirror

Receiving Feedback

Rarely do two people provide the same advice, and sometimes what one person loves, another would “suggest tweaking”. Sally may be great at tracking emotional themes; Margo is the queen of punctuation. Larry gives a man’s perspective of … well, everything. Jenny adores lurid descriptions, and Katie is the verb-police. Everyone brings something to the table and the author uses what’s helpful and dumps the rest.

Sheron: This is amazing. No two people read the material the same way and just when I think all’s been “fixed,” someone makes an important comment.”

Diana: “Some writers submit first drafts, others a final product, and most something in between. What a writer turns over for critiquing will flavor what comes back. A first draft may point at awkward dialog, holes in the story, punctuation problems, word choice, and grammar. Often a first draft will benefit from a second look after the writer has smoothed the rough edges. For a “final draft” the critique may serve as a last review before the manuscript wings off to the publisher. Either way, a critique group does not eliminate the need for repeated, careful editing on part of the author.”

Sheron: Read that last sentence twice.

Diana:  “Giving Feedback

Writing is personal, and when a writer shares her work and asks for feedback, it’s an act of trust, worthy of respect. Be cognizant of your personal preferences and writing style and separate these from your critiques.

An effective critique starts by emphasizing the strengths of the work. An initial focus on the writer’s successes makes hearing suggestions easier on the ears and heart. There’s always something positive to comment on – story, scene, character, section of dialog, a description, humor, rapport, tension, punctuation, word choice, grammar, pace. A critique is successful if a writer feels good about his or her work and eager to tackle the hurdles.

As much as possible provide suggestions so that the writer gets the gist of your comment. If you identify a weak verb, give a few suggestions for stronger ones. If a sentence is awkward, suggest a possible rewrite. If you think a section of dialog feels stilted, explain why. If you think the character’s emotion is inappropriate, explain your perspective.

You may end up critiquing the equivalent of a chapter or two every two weeks. Remember that this isn’t a typical pace for pleasure reading. A book may seem as though it’s dragging, but that may be more a result of the group’s pace than the book’s.”

Sheron:  This is true if the work is long. Or you meet with lots of time between the critique.Melding of Aeris

Diana:  “When we critique another’s writing we are commenting on the work, not the person. The most helpful criticism is specific to the piece. It points to a word, scene, or paragraph and explains what isn’t working for the reader. Then the writer can see exactly where the challenge lies, learn about another’s perspective and make a choice. Broad negative statements aren’t only signs of a poorly crafted critique, they’re unhelpful and demoralizing. Broad positive statements are fine, but grounding positive feedback with examples shows the writer the strengths he can build on.”

These are great comments and thank you to Diana.

BTW: Diana and I will be signing our books at Jan’s Paperback Saturday, August 9 at 1:00 p.m.

We invite you to join us there.

Address: 18095 SW Tualatin Valley Hwy, Aloha Check out their website@ http://www.JansPaperbacks.com

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Filed under blog information, Book reviews, fantasy, fantasy series, gene modification, genetic manipulation, Indie Science Fiction Authors, science fiction series, Self-publishing, Writing Critique groups

Comet Ison: Not Science Fiction

IMG_0174If the name Ison means nothing to you….then you need to read on.

If it does, then you might want to read on anyway.

Ison is the name of a spectacular comet that has entered our solar system and is headed toward the sun. On November 28, 2013, it will approach perihelion with the sun (closest point: 700,00 miles above the surface) and one of three things will happen:

It will survive and head out towards Earth, it will break up into pieces like the Schumacher-Levy Comet did, and pieces of it will continue towards the sun, or it will disintegrate completely due to the sun’s enormous gravity and heat. It may not survive…

Most Sungrazing comets don’t.

touching-crystal-thumb-1This exciting event happens just around the time of the launch of my sixth book, Touching Crystal, and yes, Chapter One starts with a comet streaking  out from behind the sun and crashing into Thanos, Alysia’s smaller moon. Richard Steele and Trace Walker have to cope with the aftermath of changing weather and disrupted economies. But more than that, there’s alien crystals and invaders involved.

Exciting stuff…and very timely.

I would like to say that I planned Comet Ison coming at this time, but of course, I didn’t.

Serendipity.

Here’s an interesting link on 12 cool facts about Comet Ison.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2013/11/21/comet_ison_12_cool_facts.html

It’s less than two miles across in the rocky core…1.2 miles (size of Manhattan) and shrinking as it casts off huge amounts of gas and water. The tail is five million miles long and the coma (front part) is 100,000 kilometers in size. The tail has recently split into possibly three tails and the front has sprouted “wings,” which indicates that pieces may have come off.

If it does survive the sun and comes around out of the backside, it could reach a velocity of 225/sec or fast enough to cross the Continental US in twenty-five seconds.

But…

New Image of Comet ISONThe closest it will get to Earth is on December 26 (hmmm…) at forty million miles away. (phew!)

We should be able to see a spectacular show, and even now, it’s brightening up enough to be seen with binoculars and the naked eye at certain times.

Then, once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. It’s called a Perihelion Comet and they don’t come back.

So be alert, and check the skies for a once in a lifetime event.

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Does Science Fiction have a Gender Bias?

IMG_9503Is reader gender important in science fiction?

I’ve been led to believe that men and women read different types of stories.

In our writer’s group we have four women and two men. When we only had one male, the criticism was always…give more description and detail. What do the walls look like? What are they eating? Wearing? Facial features?

Then we added another guy.

Suddenly we were talking about action in the story!

Myths of the MirrorI put a lot of action in my stories, but our fantasy writer does eloquent description and engaging characters. Check out Myths of the Mirror by D. Peach. I have been learning a lot from her on how to paint details and characters into my story.

Now, suddenly, with another male voice in the mix, the comments have become…when are they going to DO something?

We don’t know what color his protagonist’s hair is, or if  eyes are blue or green…but Ted writes compelling military action stories.

Check out  http://www.perihelionsf.com/archives/blasche001.htm “To Dance With the Ladies from IO6” by Ted Blasche. When the women fussed at him, he said that he wants the reader to engage his own imagination to create the character…and plot and action drive his stories.

Both work.

Why am I blogging about this?

Because as a writer, I need to figure out my audience, and I’m not so sure science fiction is as male dominated as some might think. Or that women are all about pretty description and intense emotion in a story. I know I’m not. I like both.

I was brought up short when one of the female readers from my book group critiqued Rendezvous With Rama by commenting that she really liked how clean and straightforward the writing was. Several chimed in that David Weber just put in too much description.

Is such a thing possible?

I had thought Rendezvous With Rama dry and needing more description. I wanted to meet the aliens or have the ship on some dramatic mission, rather than have our solar system be just a fuel stop.Rendezvous with Rama

Plot, character and description is a three pronged stool and the writer needs to keep in mind the audience he, or she is aiming at while writing.

Thank goodness, science fiction is also malleable. It can be intellectual with lots of science like Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy, or laden with love and emotion like The Time Traveler’s Wife by Niffenger. It can be a mystery like Kathryn Rusch’s Retrieval series or military like Scalzi’s Old Man’s War.

The fun is that you can write a variety of sub genres under the cloak of science fiction. Caught in Time is a basic time travel romance with a war thrown in for the guys. A Dangerous Talent for Time is more a quest story, almost young adult, as two main characters are in their late teens, early twenties. Then, Cosmic Entanglement has a murder mystery. Past the Event Horizon takes place on a starship and is very Star Trek with a space battle and emphasizes the science and physics of space . Space Song involves pieces of all elements: romance, military, mystery, science, young adult.space-song-cover-smashwords

So, today I’m wondering how to connect with my audience, and is there a gender bias there? Anyone know of any research along those lines?

Next week I’ll be in Nashville giving a talk on “Time Travel and all things science fiction,” and signing books. Also, a big wedding, and later, a hot card game with relatives. So, timing on when I get my blog out may be influenced by wild social activities. Fingers crossed.

Fair warning.

Next question is: Does science fiction have an age bias? What kind of science fiction is read by young, middle-aged and the mature audience? Is it different? Is there a preference that is determined by age? I know my twenty something daughter, who rarely reads science fiction, got caught up in The Hunger Games trilogy. Was it the plot or the characters? Maybe both.

And what group or subset is reading the most science fiction? Young kids? Old guys? Housewives?

Today, we ask questions of the universe. Tomorrow we seek answers.

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