Category Archives: Book reviews

Writing Science Fiction and a Military Scifi Review

photoIf you are an author or writer, I have three interesting links for you to check out. The first is a lecture series on Utube given by Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn, Way of Kings, etc.) for classes at BYU. Seventy-two fascinating lectures cover all aspects of writing: characters, setting, plot and the business end of getting published the traditional way: networking, queries, agents, etc.

You might want to grab a bag of gummie bears before you start. A great lecture series from one of our current best, free on Utube.

The second is a link to the short story market. Where to put a short story if that’s what you write.

Http://wwww.duotrope.com.

The third is a survey by Freebooksy, an advertising site for free and discounted books. (So they are biased) The author signs up and when his book is offered free on KDP Select, Freebooksy features it for the date requested. Readers sign up and get e-mails of these free and discounted books at no cost for the service. Sometimes, the sites that do this charge quite a hefty fee to the author for a promo and are picky about what books they list. Still, the numbers in the survey are interesting.

http://freebooksy.com/author-blog/2012/9/18/freebooksy-report-the-state-of-kdp-select-free-promotions.html

Poor Man's Fight  by Kay Elliot

This week I read Poor Man’s Fight by Elliot Kay. This is the first in a series recommend by my ex-military reader and I quite enjoyed it. Bonus is that it is a well-written Indie published series; a gem glittering in a pile of self published novels. To see a self-published author take care with his story and presentation makes me proud.

Having said that, the plot isn’t dramatically new or the characters unique.

And that isn’t a bad thing.

Tanner Malone’s stellar school performance comes to a unexpected end when family problems and a rigged test cause him to flub his final exam for college placement. His poor performance requires him to go deeply in debt if he is to continue on to college.

Rather than go into debt, he enlists in the military that is ramping up its forces to combat the increasing threat of space pirates.

A large portion of the book deals with his trials and tribulations at boot camp. Then, the story picks up the viewpoint of the pirate horde and their grievances against the current government practices. The author flashes back and forth between the two.

Kay balances his characters nicely. You have both good and bad in both camps. In addition, he does a nice job of portraying Tanner Malone as a highly intelligent nerd caught in the grinder of the military boot camp where physical prowess and guts counts for more than independent thinking and intelligence.

Even in the pirate’s camp, brute viciousness is balanced with a likable leader and his capable, but deadly, female boatswain.

As you enter both worlds, you feel the inevitability of them meeting with violence and a lot of fighting.

If you like military scifi…future worlds with spaceships and battles, I suggest you gear up and try this one. Rich Man's War

Reviews on the sequel, Rich Man’s War,  are even higher.

 

 

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Filed under Book reviews, ebook marketing, ebook science fiction, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Marketing and selling novels, military science fiction, science fiction, Science Fiction book review, science fiction series, Self-publishing, Writing Tips and Lectures

Science Fiction Selections for 2015

photo A new year is upon us, and there’s lots of excitement on the horizon, especially in the science fiction book world.

I get to select five books this week to put on my shelf to read for 2015. I may not read them all in a row or at once, but throughout the year, adding others as I go along. The selection process proved interesting. Various factor were at work, and good science fiction was hard to find.

But first, I finished the Martian by Tony Weir and eagerly recommend it. What I learned is that humans have ingenuity if they just keep trying and remain focused. Yes, some of the chemistry got heavy and Mark’s personality included offbeat humor, but it’s wonderful to read a book where the characters are decent people. People from all over the world worked together for a common goal of saving a life, no matter what the odds or outcome. Makes me proud to be human. I like that feeling.

Enough said…I don’t want to spoil it for you.

So how to chose?

Goblin Emperor by Katherine AddisonWell, word of mouth is one way. My friend Lea recently suggested the Goblin Emperor, and that will be my fantasy pick. Lea knows books, especially scifi and fantasy, having 24,000 in her home, give or take.

I was skimming through Goodreads and bumped into The Rosie Project again, where someone recommended it as one of their favorites for 2014. They say you have to see a product more than three times to buy, and I remember seeing this title on several recommended lists. So, it went on mine.Rosie Project

Free is the price I can best afford and factors into my choices occasionally. Since I have recently offered Cosmic Entanglement in my series free through KDP Select, I now browse the free lists and websites for interesting Starship Magetitles. Starship Mage attracted my attention. I thought I would give it a try.

Sometimes after seeing a recommendation, I’ll read the summary to get a feel for the story. Departure is by A. G. Riddle, an author I have never heard of, but the blurb sounded intriguing. I may take off with this one. All the Light You Can See has been hitting the hot selection lists, but after reading that it was about Nazi Germany and a young, blind, Jewish girl, I gave it a pass. I’ve read enough about that shameful part of human history already. So, the summary or story blurb affects my choices also.Departure

Poor Man's Fight  by Kay ElliotTed Blasche (retired), my scifi military specialist, has been urging me to read a series that starts with Poor Man’s Fight. This is a self-published series that has been high in Amazon’s ratings and also suggested several times on my front page there…making it my military selection. I’ll give it a go. Thanks for the many suggestions, Amazon.

Ted is also in my writers group that recently had a spirited discussion on time and how it works. There were some back of the napkin drawings involved and various analogies with branching streams or electric currents. It sparked me to think that the past really isn’t a fixed event, but an entanglement of perceptions…that the past for each individual is different, and given events are perceived differently by each individual involved. New information can change the perception of a past event , so it’s not totally static. Also, how close you are to an event or how far away changes the impact and individual perception dramatically. If you experience a plane crash, that event is far different for you than for a disinterested viewer who sees it on a newscast and then goes about his daily business. We think of the past as static and absolute, while it really depends on the witnesses and how they record and perceive what happened.

Yeah, food for thought today. Have a happy New Year and may many great things happen in 2015.

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, Best selling science fiction, Book reviews, genetic manipulation, Hard science fiction, Indie Publishing, Indie Science Fiction Authors, magic, Mars, military science fiction, New York Times Best Sellers, Science Fiction book review, science fiction series, Science fiction thriller, Self-publishing, space ship, space travel, time travel, war

Military Science Fiction Series

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Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Most people are either knee deep in relatives, eating turkey and cheering on their football team or battling it out in the stores, scooping up door busting deals.

With most of my family on the East Coast and my daughter in sunny Puerto Vallarta (shed a quick tear for her…no wait), hubbie and I will be munching a hot turkey sandwich and cheering on a favorite football team. Maybe check out a sale.

With Someone’s Clone in final proof, I am now turning my attention over to the next book…named…?? Well, Gosh, I have no firm title so far.

So I thought to engage you, my blog readers, to help me. Tell me which title you would be most likely buy to read.

Saving Angels

Factoring Fate

Angels in the Equation

Angels and Equations

The Grandmother paradox

If there be Angels

The Fate Factor

Shaping the Future

Killing Time

(Your suggestion..not a published title)

There will be a prize for those selecting the winning title.

A quick note on my Countdown Deal. After blogging last week, I went to list Touching Crystal and found that I had not enrolled it in the KDP Select program yet. The rules state that you must be enrolled at least thirty days prior to scheduling a Countdown. So I listed Space Song instead and confused everyone.

My apologies.

I will set up a Countdown for Touching Crystal when it becomes eligible and let you know ahead of time.

Ark RoyalAs promised, I read Ark Royal and was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed it. It was well written and well edited. Christopher Nuttall is very prolific with several military series ( Ark Royal, The Empire’s Corp, Martial Law, The Decline and Fall of the Galactic Empire) and fantasy series also. (Schooled in Magic) Okay, more books than I have room here to mention. He has over thirty-five published on Amazon and is an example of how an author can do very well self-publishing.

What I was curious about was his reviews for Ark Royal. He had 1518 reviews total for this book. That was amazing. 751 were five star, 505 were four star, 153 three star, 69 two star and 40 one star. I was intrigued by how many reviewed his book, and then at the wide variety of opinions. Some loved it, “A fun read” to those who called it bad, “Space Karaoke.” Getting reviews is painfully hard for me, or else I don’t know the secret sauce. Nuttall’s wide range of comments prepared me as a writer to understand how subjective science fiction stories can be and that every writer, no matter how good, gets a few bad reviews. For such an enjoyable story, some were brutal.

This is the first book in a series of three. Ark Royal is the name of a lumbering and aged space warship put aside in the shipyard and barely functioning. What keeps her functioning is an alcoholic captain, Ted Smith, who cobbles together her outdated systems and tenderly cares for her as he drinks himself senseless, mourning a dead wife.

Then aliens attack a Russian settled colony world along the space tramlines, and when Earth sends her best and brightest to defend her territories, the aliens tear through all those sleek new warships in an eye-opening rout. The Ark Royal, because of her heavy dense hull and projectile style weaponry, becomes the lone ship able to resist the enemy’s firepower.The Nelson Touch

Of course, a young, ambitious, newly-graduated Lieutenant, James Fitzwilliam, uses his family’s friendship with the Spacelord to try to take command, but Captain Smith’s knowledge of her idiosyncrasies just barely enables him to hang onto his command while karma makes James his XO. The Spacelord asks the young XO to keep an eye on the shaky captain and report any slip-ups.

The two are sent out to confront and delay the alien enemy until Earth can build the ships it needs. Also on board for this dangerous mission are a ragbag crew and a group of obnoxious embedded reporters. The mix is volatile and the pressures both inside and out would be enough to drive even a teetotaler to drink, much less a vulnerable captain who swears he’ll stay sober through the war.

The Trafalgar GambitThe inevitable space battles are nicely balanced with a crew who fight their own internal battles and put a human face on war. Also interesting is the process of trying to figure out how the aliens might think, what they might look like and what technology and society they might have developed.

Sometimes first contact can get outright deadly and dangerous.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, Best selling science fiction, Book reviews, ebook science fiction, first contact, Indie Publishing, Indie Science Fiction Authors, military science fiction, science fiction, science fiction series, space ship

Summer Marketing Programs

IMG_0174A shout out to locals that I will be at the Northwest Book Festival this Saturday July 26 with special deals on my paperback versions of the Alysian Universe Series. Come by Pioneer Square in Portland, Oregon from 11:00 to 5:00 p.m. I’d love to see you at booth #14.

There will be candy.

And loads of great reads.

Also…(da dum)

On August 9 from 1:00 p.m. To 4:00 p.m. at Jan’s Paperbacks on TV Highway in Aloha, OR, I’ll be signing books and chatting with everyone. Meet me there.

As you can see, summer weather stirs the body and our recent gorgeous weather means I just have to get out and about to enjoy the company of others. (sorry Jo Walton)

Lately, I have been experimenting with several of Amazon’s marketing programs to see which is more effective.

In May, I enrolled in KDP Select and made Caught in Time available for free for five days after Mother’s Day.

As I reported, 4,500 downloads all over the world resulted. And then, my other books in the series took off.

Readers appear to read the first and then continue on with the series.

I was so excited with the program that I couldn’t see how the Amazon Countdown could be any better.

But I was willing to experiment.

I started the Countdown Deal on July 5th, and extended it through the 12th. Once again, I enrolled Caught in Time since it deals with the earliest events.

The surprise is, that now near the end of the July, the net revenue of both programs is within a dollar of each other.

The only difference is that I still have a large number of books sitting on to-read shelves from the free downloads, and once read, hopefully readers will want to continue on with other exciting stories in the series. I’m curious to find out how the long tail plays out.

Because I write time travel, Cosmic Entanglement can also be read as a first book. Therefore, I decided to offer it this August 16-23 under the Amazon Countdown Program. It will start at $.99 and every two days increase in one dollar increments for seven days.

This one is a nice summer read roundup.

 

After reviewing Sharon Shinn’s Angel series, I discovered she has started another series.

And there was a book in the Twelve Houses Series I hadn’t read, actually a companion piece put out after the series wrapped up.

So….I couldn’t resist.

Fortune and FateFortune and Fate proved very satisfying.

The story centers on Wen who is one of the fifty elite riders sworn to protect King Baryn, only she is fighting at his side when he gets mortally wounded from a rebel attack on the palace. On top of that emotional blow, her lover marries another and Wen runs away and changes her identity, roaming the land, trying to save others as atonement for not saving her king.

Unexpectedly, she saves from abduction and rape, young serramar Karryn, noble lady to one of the rebel houses. With her father dead, her uncle Jasper Pallamar looks after Karryn and her scatty mother. Upon returning the young lady to House Fortunalt, Wen notices how poor security is, and comments to Jasper. The uncle is more intelligent nerd than brawny soldier and convinces Wen to stay for a short period of time to organize a home security guard. Her subsequent experiences at House Fortunalt are touching and exciting, and worth a read.

Royal Airs

The new series, Elemental Blessings, starts with Troubled Waters as book 1 and continues with the second book Royal Airs. I started with Royal Airs first because of availability,  and may pick up Troubled Waters now.

I enjoyed the light romance between the mysterious professional gambler Rafe Ardova and Princess Josetta. Shinn deploys a new and interesting magic system based on the elements: air, fire, earth, water, plus wood. Each element pairs up with human attributes. However, when blessings are drawn for Rafe, they are either extraordinary blessings or blanks. Then he is told that his parents are from another country. Several mysteries develop over Josetta’s position in the royal ascension and Rafe’s true origins.

A light and enjoyable fantasy read.

Summer is flying by. Enjoy every juicy bit of it and I hope to see you out and about.

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Science Fiction Marketing and a few Sequels

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Before reviewing two sequels, I want to mention two new marketing programs I have recently experienced.

The first came about when Catherine Asaro showed up to follow me on Twitter. Wow! Me!

Her series of the Skolian Universe is one of my favorites. (Received a Nebula for A Quantum Rose ) and I dream….dream of having my Alysian series do anywhere near as well as hers. So I was excited when she popped up in my e-mail and wanted to tweet me.

Turns out she was putting out the word for an innovative Kickstarter Program for an audible book, Aurora in Four Voices. The goal was $4500 and by the time I tweaked to what she was doing, she had exceeded that goal reaching $5595 with 121 backers and promising to write a new novella for the series if she got to $9000 by the deadline…and it looks like that might happen.Aurora in Four Voices

The idea of funding books, and other projects, with Kickstarter is getting a lot of notice resulting in notable success stories. Most likely you need to be as famous as Asaro or have a compelling story to tell to achieve your goal, but it’s gaining enough traction to keep an eye on and think about.

The other new marketing program I want to mention is Amazon’s Countdown Deal. I found the five days free with KDP Select extremely successful, so I decided to try the CountDown also, as an experiment.

Often five days, especially over a weekend, isn’t enough time for some busy readers to act on a special. However, if you missed my KDP Select deal, (and many didn’t) here is another opportunity to get Caught in Time at a discount. Starting July 6 at .99 the price escalates every three days for twelve days and then the price resumes at the normal retail rate of $3.99…still a bargain, and you have twelve days to act…although time is already running out. Tap on the cover at the right, open the window to Amazon to get the current status, get a great price and enjoy a fun adventure through time to a medieval past.

I am currently #84 out of the hundreds of time travel books and moving up. *smile*

For all the commotion and negative comments currently going around about Amazon, if you are an author and want to sell books, Amazon does it far better than any other venue. They also strive to come up with ways to help market your book if you are an author, or help you find what you want to read if you’re a reader.

I am both, and grateful.

It’s unfortunate that success often makes you a target. I don’t remember the big publishers having such tender hearts over fledgling authors back in their day. If they deigned to respond at all, they called the tune and made the authors dance through their narrow publishing gate. Now they’re trying to characterize Amazon as the greedy guy? And…The big chain stores that squeezed out the mom and pop bookstores are suddenly calling Amazon a bully? How memories fade.

Deep breath.

Leviathan WakesWhen I suggest a series, I usually start with the first book of the series in my review. If I really like the series, often I continue on with other books in that series. This week, I want to briefly mention a few. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to know whether to start a series or not.

The first comment is from the Expanse Series. See my opinion on Leviathan Wakes in my June 9th blog. James S. A. Corey’s (pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) third book. Abaddon’s Gate, continues this saga. It didn’t disappoint.

The story continues as the proto molecule escapes Venus and hurtles out to Uranus where it creates a self assembling ring or gate. James Holden and crew join ships from Mars, Earth and the Outer Belt to investigate the strange structure. Neither one wants the other to get an advantage over them in the exploration of space, so all parties show up. Drawn through the structure at high speeds, all ships suddenly come to a deadly halt and are forced into a slow crawl with many suffering damaged crew, cargo, ship and passengers. On the other side of the ring only empty dark space is visible.Abaddon's Gate

Without going into too much detail, so as not to spoil the story, a new character is introduced who wants to kill Jim Holden. So intrigue and drama continue in this third of the series. How will Holden survive and dodge an assassin’s obsession? What message does the proto molecule alien deliver to Holden through the now dead Detective Miller? What political intrigue results as ships jockey to survive and conquer each other?

The bottom line…Did I like it? Yes. And if you liked the first two, you will also like this one.

There is also a fourth coming up…Cibola Burns. Hatchette has priced the Kindle at $12.99 and hardback at $25.Cibola Burn

Envision me ranting on a worn-out soapbox.

Another third book in a fantasy series with the same results is the Republic of Thieves by hot author Scott Lynch.

Republic of thievesThe Republic of Thieves picks up from the dramatic conclusion of Red Seas Under Red Skies and starts with Locke Lamora dying. After exhausting every avenue and every local physician, stalwart companion Jean convinces Locke to enter into a pact with the Bondsmagi to save his life.

In return for purging Locke’s body of the sorcerer’s poison, Jean and Locke agree to orchestrate a winning ticket for the Deep Roots party in Karthain, Capitol of the sorcerers. Unbeknownst, but not for long, the opposite party, The Black Iris, will be run by Sabatha, Locke’s up to now mysterious love, briefly mentioned in the two previous books, Two stories of their relationship alternate throughout this book. Once again, all three are up to their eyeballs in chicanery, manipulation, a Shakespearean style play and all around laugh out loud bantering dialog.

Again…a great read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Book reviews, ebook marketing, ebook science fiction, Marketing and selling novels, Nebula nominations, Political Science Fiction, science fiction series, Science fiction world building, space ship, space travel, The future of publishing

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

Debut Author in Fantasy Noir: Joe Abercrombie

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Being recognized as an emerging author can be tough nowadays. Although the powerhouse publishing houses are said to be having a rough go, I still feel they have a powerful advantage when it comes to marketing their stable of authors.

They know how the system works.

Many newbie Indie authors don’t or are intimidated by it. (Finger points to me)

Getting reviews is key for authors because often readers check out what others think about a book in order to decide whether they want to buy it or not. Knowing this, I still shy away from leaving reviews on Amazon and suffer guilt pangs later knowing how important it is for authors. I promise to do better.

Big publishing Houses, such as Tor and Baen, have contacts into channels for various important awards and distribution catalogs. They have an extensive network built up over many years of being in the business. They know that libraries and bookstores across the country rely on certain catalogs to pick out their next offerings and make sure their authors are represented.

Someone who is doing a wonderful job helping Indie authors understand the myths and realities of self publishing is Dean Wesley Smith. He pops ten myths of publishing writers believe.

See his blog: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=12014 The most recent blog talks about the myth of how only big name published books get into the bookstores and outlines how self publishers or Indie authors can put their books on bookstore shelves too.

It’s easy, and it isn’t.

If you want to.

For me to opt in to Amazon’s extended distribution, I would have to price myself almost too high for an unknown beginning author. With my 400-500 page books, the question for me is will I make more selling a few in bookstores or more selling a lot at a lesser price on Amazon?

Wide distribution is great if you’re going to sell, but not so great if no one knows you’re huddled on some back corner of a bookstore shelf and priced too high, leaving no margin for royalties–that is if you even get the attention of the buyer to be put there in the first place.

Being in the catalog is not the same as being in the bookstore. Only the buyers put you on the shelf.

And I’ve sat on Smashwords website with three books because someone argued that the concept of wider distribution means more sales…and I’ve sold very little there. I’m trying to find out where my readers are and target that area.

The Blade Itself2This week, I selected a debut novel to read and review to help push along a promising author. Joe Abercrombie’s trilogy: First Law is worth a look. The Blade Itself is the first of the trilogy and was published by Pyr. Pyr is a science fiction and fantasy imprint of Prometeus Books with a few surprising authors such as: Kay Kenyon, Ian MacDonald, Kristine Katherine Rusch, Mike Resnick and others.  Interestingly, the Blade Itself was published in 2007 and is now gaining momentum. So writing can be a long tail business that with patience could eventually pay off.

But I’ve mentioned that before. (Mantra)

This trilogy came to my attention by word of mouth and a hazy recollection of having seen it on an Amazon recommended list. They say you have to see a product name several times before you are prompted to buy. So when expert writer D. Wallace Peach extolled the book as the best writing she’s ever read, I had to check it out.

Fantasy Noir. Not really my wheelhouse, but then…

For me this is a new sub genre term. Think George R. R. Martin. The four major characters are: Sand Glotka, an imperial inquisitor crippled in an enemy prison camp and now giving back his own; Captain Jezel Luthar, an egotistical and shallow rich high society soldier of the king’s guard; Bayaz, a balding heavyset wizard that everyone considers a sham, until he does a few amazing things; Major Collem West, a stout-hearted commoner who fears he will turn into the brute his father was, but hard work and intelligence enables him to rise high in the Adua military and Logan Ninefingers, an ugly battle-scarred barbarian from the North who turns into a killing machine if pushed too far.

Everyone has a flaw, and everyone has a strength.

If you can get past the first several chapters where Glotka is torturing confessions out of fat and wealthy merchants because the head inquisitor or prime minister wants their business and family destroyed, then you should like the rest.

Somehow Abercrombie makes this motley collection of characters endearing as each struggles with the corruption and conflict around them. The insufferable soldier falls madly in love with Major West’s sister as he faces an important, possibly deadly, dueling match. The sister, Ardee West, is witty, charming, but drinks too much and has been abused by her father. After their father’s death, she seeks protection with her brother, Major West, of the high standards until he finds his sister slipping around with his friend Captain Jezel of the loose morals. To his horror, West discovers that he has become his father when in a fit of temper he hits Ardee.

Gradually, as each story is told, the group comes together, at odds with each other, but coerced by Bayaz to form a company to travel on a quest to the end of the world.

If you like fantasy with crunch and chew…interesting characters and the wild humor within their wretched condition, then you’ll love this series

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