Category Archives: C. J. Cherryh

Favorite Women in Science Fiction

Outstanding Women in Science Fiction

Science fiction is often thought of as a male genre with its space battles, male warriors, and gruesome aliens.

But not so fast. There are a number of good female authors who have made their mark in the genre.

In the spirit of the new feminism, and a different kind of #metoo, I thought I’d mention my  favorite female authors.

Even the guys will like these compelling writers.

In no particular order of preference, I’ll start with Connie Willis. Although, Connie isn’t as prolific as some of the others, when she writes, she often wins awards… Usually of the Hugo variety. Ten Hugos (includes short stories and novelettes )and nine Nebulas make her worth mentioning.
Hugo award winner To Say Nothing of the Dog is a rollicking trip through time, searching for a seminal event that has affected the future. Hold onto your hat as this one is fast and funny and explores Victorian England.

In contrast, Willis’ Hugo winning novel, The Doomsday Book is grim. Accidentally transported back in time to the plague in Europe, the main character struggles to survive. A double novel Blackout and All Clear portrays several characters trapped in time during the raid on London in World War II who also try to figure their way out to safety. Be prepared for wild action and constantly missed connections. The last Willis I read, and reviewed, was Crosstalk. This near future story takes smart phones and our interconnected internet crosstalkonto a whole new level. Again, Willis’ character becomes frenetic when an experimental phone connects so fast it’s like mental telepathy. Imagine if you could read other people’s minds. The experience becomes disorienting to say the least.

 

Only two authors have won as many as four Hugos for best novel, and one is a female.

Yes. Think about that.

The next with three for best novel is Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, and Vernon Vinge.
But my favorite author, Lois McMaster Bujold, has won four.

Unlike Willis’ stand alone novels, Bujold is known for her Vorkosigan Saga that follows her main character, Miles Vorkosigan through many escapades in his life. But like Willis, she displays a sharp humor when writing about human behavior. Start with her first book, Shards of Honor and nibbled (or gulp) your way through the series. She has added a few Barrayarother novels such as Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance where the main character is not Miles but his swinging bachelor cousin who gets caught up in…well, I’ll let you find out what. She has packaged several of the books in omnibus style, so heads up there. In addition to her science fiction, she is prolific in several fantasy series. Enjoy those too.

 

Another female author who is prolific in both science fiction and fantasy is C.J. Cherryh. Her Down Below Station was a Hugo winner that fits into her Alliance-Union Universe series. A prolific writer like Bujold, Cherryh has so far written over eighty books, which also includes several fantasy series. Her most current science fiction saga is her Heavy TimeForeigner series. While her Alliance-Union novels can be read in any order, her Foreigner Series follows a timeline. Bren Cameron is an ambassador for the humans having landed on an alien planet and gives insight into a human struggling to understand an alien culture. Cherryh immerses her character so deeply into the culture, and because she tells tells of his experiences through the first person, the readers almost begins to think like the atevi. Bren’s life is fraught with danger in a culture that had fourteen words for betrayal and not a single one for love.

Another Hugo winner is Catherine Asaro. Her series on the Skolian Empire/Ruby Dynasty pit two star flung dynasties against each other. The Skolian Dynasty is known for their jaggarnauts with faster than light capability and the Kyle Web, while their enemy, the Eubians, thrive on slavery and cruelty. Not to be outdone, her novel The Compass Rose also won a Hugo. Recently, she has started a new offshoot of this so far fourteen book series called the Major Baahjan Series. A few characters from her first series make appearances, but the series deals mainly with a new female character who becomes a detective on an alien planet. Lots of mystery and action with an underground culture.

 

While I have picked ten authors, I’m going to end this blog with my fifth pick and finish the rest in the next blog with a full review on my most recent favorite female author.

Hastur LordBut in the mix of prolific female writers, I had to include Marion Zimmer Bradley. Her Darkover series has elements of fantasy, but takes place on an alien planet and also deals with humans from Earth trying to colonize a planet they consider alien. The natives are humans from a long ago landing who have interbred with a native alien species that carried strange powers, but are almost now extinct. The more elite of the human natives carry psychic powers received from this interbreeding. At one point, the current Terrans leave, but politics and conflict continue among the natives. This series is extensive and has invited other authors such as Mercedes Lackey and Deborah J. Ross to co-write several of the novels. There are also collection of short stories dealing with the Darkover story in an anthology series, and also an Omnibus series. There is a timeline of events, but each novel stands on its own and is complete. So, don’t be afraid to pick what looks interesting.

Next time, I’ll talk about five more outstanding female science fiction authors who are my favorites. Tell me who is your favorite female science fiction author.

All great summer reading.

7 Comments

Filed under Alien and human bonding, Alien worlds, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, C. J. Cherryh, Discovering New Worlds, Hugo winners, Lois McMasters Bujold, Political science fictionLois McMasters Bujold, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Women in Science Fiction

Authors Using Technology: Blessing or Bane?

Technology : Blessing or basin of authors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hellburner continues Paul’s story.

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

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

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

5 Comments

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

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/

2 Comments

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

Alien First Contact Best Seller: Visitor

photoDo as we say, not as they do. “We” are the midlist authors or ex-agents who set themselves up as writing experts, and “they” are the multi-Hugo and Nebula award winning authors.

I was told not to use too much internal dialog in my writing. Show, don’t tell…and action, action, action. Read all the blogs, you’ll see.

Well, I just finished multi Hugo award winner C.J. Cherryh’s latest book, Visitor from her Foreigner Series, and there’s lots of internal dialog.

I also recently reviewed Lois Bujold’s Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, and guess what?  Yup, it contains a lot of internal dialog, too. My two favorite science fiction authors with their newest books out and both contain a lot of internal dialog. Go figure.Visitor

Visitor picks up from the previous book in the series with factions of humans and atevi on the atevi’s planet in conflict with each other. Also, human factions on Alpha Space Station are upset with rescued humans from an attacked Reunion Station from another system who are now crowding their station that orbits the atevi world.

Got that? There’s more.

A signal comes in from an incoming kyo ship that announces it is on its way to Alpha Space station. This is worrisome because the kyo are the aliens that soared into the Reunion System and melted a section of Reunion ‘s space station, leaving humans for dead. The nearby human ship, Phoenix, fled rather than fought them. Then the kyo sat nearby and waited, watching for four years. They sent a shuttle to Reunion Station that was captured, and they continued to sit close by for an additional six more years, just observing, while Reunion tried to rebuild. So, the Reunion Station humans, now living on Alpha Station, panic when hearing of the kyo approach. To prevent Alpha Station from being tore apart from riots born of fear, the human station master locks down the Reunion section and refuses to turn over station control to atevi when time for the handoff arrives.

TrackerBren Cameron, human emissary for the atevi leader of the planet below, and human appointee by the president of the human contingent on the island of Mospheira, is the obvious choice to interface with the incoming aliens and also handle station problems. Earlier, he, the young atevi heir, and the matriarch flew on the ship that rescued the Reunion stationers and brought them to Alpha Station to live. In addition, they released a kyo, named Prakuyo, that had been held prisoner on the station for over six years and returned him to his people.

Now the kyo have discovered Alpha Station and the atevi world by following the ship’s trail. The name Prakuyo is transmitted with the words “we come.” So, the alien they rescued is on the incoming ship. Whether he wants revenge for his six years of incarceration or friendship in gratitude for his life being saved, Bren does not know. He does know that the kyo have been involved in an extended war with unknown aliens and carry heavy firepower while Alpha Station and the atevi world below are unarmed and vulnerable.

Bren’s responsibility is to learn the language of the incoming kyo and talk to them so as to avoid a war neither human nor atevi can win. But atevi and humans are just learning to get along and barely speak each other’s language. Also, humans have their own problems and are split among planet, station, and ship captains. Each with their own agenda and ideas of what to do.

Cherryh is a master at immersing the reader into Bren’s psyche as he mentally reviews all the terrifying scenarios, both on station and among the three alien races. There are a bewildering array of conflicting elements. A station master who refuses to give up power on the station complicates Bren’s job. Panicked stationers traumatized by the kyo ‘s previous attack create chaos and distraction. Ship captains, protective of the nearby human ship, try to insert their own authority, and the young atevi heir’s new human friends are threatened with kidnapping to provide leverage to a human contingent that has its own ideas on what should be done. Bren has to solve all these problems and sort everything out quickly before the kyo arrive.

Because time is running out.

The kyo are on their way…and heavily armed.

Cherryh provides a comprehensive first contact problem as Bren tries to figure out how to communicate with an alien species he knows little about. Then, he has to teach both atevi and human how to communicate with the kyo as the kyo have demanded the heir and matriarch to attend a meeting. One wrong gesture or one mispronounced word could set off violence, resulting in damage or destruction. The stakes are high.

And with this situation of complex moving parts, Cherryh adds an ending with a surprising twist. Bren Cameron will be called upon to use all that he has learned as paidhi-aiji to the atevi and communicator for alien species.

Cherryh uses words and language to express the mindset of the atevi-influenced Bren, who now has lived years among them. Because of the way she arranges and uses words, the reader is drawn into the atevi way of thinking. Now, she adds a new alien species and a different way of looking at the world. Communication is much more than words, it involves a whole culture.

As I am working on a first contact event in my current novel, Worlds Too Far, I have to express admiration for Cherryh’s fine job of writing. Her book goes into a more detailed exploration of how to communicate with an alien species than I do. In her book, I often felt the frustration and overwhelming fatigue that Bren feels as he races the clock to handle difficult personalities and solve disturbing actions on station, all the while worrying about what needs to be done to keep the peace when meeting the kyo.

How should we communicate with aliens if the situation ever arises? How can we know if the right approach is to assume they will be friendly or that they will be violent? And then how do we communicate with a species that may think totally different than we do? What might we use to bridge the gap of culture and language to arrive at understanding? How far might we go to protect our own species.

Read and find out.

1 Comment

Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, award winning scifi, Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, C. J. Cherryh, first contact, Hugo Nominations, Hugo winners, Lois McMasters Bujold, Political Science Fiction, science fiction series, science fiction space opera

What Makes Readers Put Down a Book?

photoWhat Makes a Reader Put a Book Down?

I read a lot of books. At least one a week for this blog…and more. Lately, I’ve been noticing poor writing, and not solely by Indie Writers. I believe a lot of self-published writers deserve the criticism they get because their books are published too soon and really need more polishing. Putting a book out is hard work, and it’s too easy to say, “Good enough.”

Take the time.

However, I have noticed well-known authors, acclaimed novels, and small house publishers also making major mistakes in producing quality books, causing me to stop reading and move on. It’s not just the new self-publisher doing this.

Blood of the CosmosKevin Anderson is one of the better known science fiction writers. He has made a name co-authoring with Brian Herbert whose father wrote Dune. They have taken Frank Herbert’s notes and done a credible job with authoring an extended Dune series. Then Kevin has several of his own series: Saga of the Seven Suns, Terra Incognito. Now he has a new series Blood of the Cosmos. Book two in the series sat on the library shelf, then slid into my hand.

I started to read. Eighteen pages in I was still wading through a narrative backstory. “He went here…then she did that…” Chapter One at least had dialogue and action, but by then I felt as if I had swallowed a bottle of Ambien and couldn’t keep my eyes open. This is not the only big name book that has done this recently.

I write a series and it’s difficult to weave in the backstory when you’re four or five books in, but a yawn of a long narrative at the front entitled,”The story so far” is not what keeps a reader turning pages. That book will get slapped back down on the library return pile.

Memory of WaterSo, then I tried Memory of Water, a novel by Emmi Itaranta. Published by Harper Collins, it has recently won several literary awards. It was also recommended as a book for our Powell’s reading group. So I bought it.

It is a debut novel that depicts a future where water has become scarce. At times and in the beginning the writing was lyrical, almost over the top…you know”literary” writing. A young girl trains with her father how to do a tea ceremony. In this case, the not-so-hidden lecture on ethical environment finally got under my skin.

If the author was chiding our current generation for not conserving water properly, then why was the villain of the book the water police? They try to arrest and kill those who break the water laws in an attempt to preserve what little remains. For me, that’s conservation in the extreme.

Noria’s father, as tea master, reveals to his daughter a hidden cavern with pure splashing water that used to be the village’s water source. Neither shares this secret, but they use the water for themselves and their garden. (At least as far as I read) Yet, she is considered the abused victim in the book.

I just don’t appreciate books who preach at me using the hidden guise of story-telling. Yeah, I hear you say that a lot of writers do it. Aesop comes to mind. I still don’t like blatant preaching.

My last admonition is on the formatting of a book. If the writer selects a small publisher, they must research them to ascertain if they’re competent. Often the excitement that any publisher would be interested overwhelms a new author, and they end up with a book that is poorly formatted by a publisher who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Often the writer puts in years of hard work to write a good story, but the reader doesn’t see that, only the amateur formatting and jumps to conclusions about the story .

Recently, an ebook I purchased had type that kept changing from regular type to bold and then back for no apparent reason. Sure, I use different type in Someone’s Clone to designate what Kayse’s computer, Lola, says as a contrast to his dialogue. But in this case, there appeared no reason for the continual change of font. That wouldn’t have been bad except the single spaced writing had almost no paragraph indentions or breaks of any kind, looking like one big block of writing.

I couldn’t catch my breath. My eyes hurt.

So why am I on a rant? I like to share books that I love and expect my readers might also. I don’t talk about bad books…normally. But, after starting four different books, both big name published and self-published, I still didn’t have a book for my blog that I felt comfortable recommending. I gave up and picked Tracker by my favorite author C.J. Cherryh. This is just out, #15 in her Foreigner series, and it is good.

TrackerThe start is slow and relaxed, and yes, she does a bit of backstory narrative to begin, but don’t let the early “everything is fine” atmosphere fool you.

In one sentence, just as the reader relaxes their guard, the story gets turned upside down. An alien ship is sighted headed to the Atevi planet. Bren Cameron, human ambassador to the Atevi, is notified, and the clock begins to tick down.

Cheryl throws in dramatic Atevi and human politics…adding in Mospherii (from the planet) against Reunioners (from the space station) conflict also. Humans aren’t getting along and squabble among themselves as the alien ship continues its approach.

Bren lands right in the middle and drags in the Atevi dowager and the young heir to be the greeting committee on station. After all, those three originally met with the aliens they hopefully think are coming and understand them best. But both stationmaster and Captain of the planet’s one spaceship want to run the show their way and resent his interference onto their turf.

Even though they have no idea of what’s coming.Foreigner

All makes for great reading devoid of odd formatting, grammar lapses and poor plot. Cheryl has won the Hugo three times, and she deserves it. Check out this interesting series about humans struggling to adapt to an alien society on an alien planet. And now, maybe another alien race will jump into the mix.

8 Comments

Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, C. J. Cherryh, ebook science fiction, Hugo winners, Political Science Fiction, science fiction, science fiction series, Science fiction world building, Self-publishing

Ebook Marketing and Talking Starship Crew Members

IMG_9518Sometimes I can control time.

It’s a Talent I have.

I told myself I needed to wake up at 12:00 a.m. so that I can take my next set of pain pills. As most of you know, I did a little stair sliding recently and broke a shoulder bone..the humerus. So I’m not as funny as I used to be.

Not recommended at all! Very painful. I need my meds.

In pitch dark, my eyes blink open to see the digital clock click over to exactly 12:00 a.m. Time for my meds.

How did I do that?

And it happens on a regular basis.

With all of time swirling around me, how can I pluck out the exact moment that I need to wake up?

Do humans connect more subconsciously with the universe than we realize? Will we ever be able to use this connection? Do we already use this connection in some way? Or is it just a random event?

As you might know, I’m exploring ebook marketing programs. For me, the KDP Select platform has been successful. My numbers are still coming in, and last month I did very little with any marketing.

Remember the stair sliding/wall smashing bit?

In April I intend to do a guest blog over at my friend Diana’s website and interview her on my blog here. She has several intriguing fantasy novels published that I want to mention.

EarthriseThis week I went to my Kindle shelf to select Earthrise by M.C.A. Hogarth to review. I have signed up at various sites that offer free and discounted books. on a daily basis. To a certain extent, these sites curate books by price, genre, popularity (number of five star reviews) and other factors often selected by the customer.

This is a dramatic shift in how books are bought.

I am conflicted about this trend. I recognize the desperate need for a way to select out the better books from the overwhelming tsunami of books being currently published and shoved out to a bewildered public. I also see the need for Amazon to have competition. However, my email box is getting jammed with advertising by Bookbub, Freebooksy, Sweetfreebooks, ebooks daily and other such services that now proliferate the web. Okay, so I signed up and can unsubscribe if I want. But, cleaning out the various email boxes is becoming another boring time sink.

Surprising is the growth of my sales via Kindle Unlimited and The Kindle Library for Prime members. Based on the Netflix model of a monthly fee, my sales in that arena have skyrocketed. This a a double-edged sword in that Amazon doesn’t set a fixed amount for the sales, but sales are dependent on how many books are sold and how much Amazon puts in the coffer that month. The question for the author is: would this book have sold the usual way if not in the program or was the book an incremental sale? The income from this kind of sale is not considered a royalty, and the net profit to the author is set at the whim of Amazon.

And yet, it is an increasingly popular way readers are now buying books…especially the voracious reader. If your book was not there sitting on the KindleUnlimited shelf ready to be plucked off for someone’s Kindle library, would another book be the one chosen instead of yours? Would that sale have gone to another author? Let’s face it, after 10% of the book is read, Amazon pays you whether the reader finishes the book or not. Those nickels add up, and no initial fee is required from you, the author. Neither program costs a dime, except in the opportunity cost of sales on other sites due to Amazon’s requirement of 90 days exclusivity.

It was while scanning my email and discounted book sites that my eye caught Earthrise by M.C.A. Hogarth for $.99. Normally I don’t read science fiction where the aliens are talking animals or the aliens so alien that it is hard to relate to them. But the blurb sounded interesting, I got a deal on it, and soon found myself enjoying the story so much that I couldn’t put it down.Rosepoint

The story concerns Reese Eddings, a feisty, independent, black female who comes from a maternal culture that expects their women to return home and procreate. Instead, Reese scrapes together her funds, one being a mysterious loan from a very wealthy benefactor, the other from family resources, to gather enough to buy a broken down ship and pay her micro crew their salary. For several years she struggles this way, her nose barely above water.

She manages to assemble a fascinating and diverse crew onto her ship, Earthrise. The ship is run more like a family than a business enterprise. Irine and Sascha are Harat Shar, twin felinoids from the pelted universe. Think lusty cats that can fly space ships. Also on board is Kis’eh’t who is a Glaseahn and carries a centaurean body shape that includes two sturdy black arms, four black and white legs, feathered ears, a flicking tail and two small leathered wings. Kis’eh’t’s calm personality and strength come in handy slinging cargo around.

Image 3Next, Breyer is a Phoenix or a large birdlike creature with metallic plumage and hidden talents and abilities. Finally, there is Allakazam, the Flitzbe, that strongly resembles a Star Trek Tribble and communicates through touch, color, and internal emotions. It carries healing abilities.

Contemplating the need to crawl back to her family for yet more money in order to survive has given Reese an ulcer and digestive problems that she tries to solve by escaping into a good Eldritch and human romance story.

And then, after all those years, her long ago wealthy benefactor resurfaces and calls in the loan. Reese won’t have to pay back the money, however, but rather rescue an Eldritch prince out of the clutches of drug smuggling pirates.

Hogarth deftly has this ragtag crew bumble into the pirate’s den and attempt a daring, edge-of-your-seat rescue. Upon meeting him, Reese denies any feelings for the unusual and unbelievably handsome Eldritch prince, Hirianthial. The ship returns to Harat Shar for much needed repairs where Hirianthial would be better served if he listened to Reese and did the opposite of what she claims she wants. Meaning well, crew member Sascha recognizes the growing bond between their captain and the intriguing Eldritch and tries to give the bewildered prince some romantic advice, whether he wants it or not. A few stumbling blocks hinder the process. Eldritch cannot stand to be touched or touch others as he becomes overwhelmed by the memories and emotions of the other. Also, Hirianthial is at least five hundred years old, give or take a few. And, he knows something about the pirates that they are desperate to cover up. They will do anything to recapture him and search out the Earthrise with a vengeance. Then Fleet learns of Reese’s connection to the pirates and gets into the act, entreating Reese to act as bait so they can swoop in and close down the drug ring.

Think C.J. Cherryh’s Chanur series to get a feel for the book. I found myself drawn into Reese’s escalating problems. A delightful book, I’m looking forward to how Reese will figure out how to survive it all.

2 Comments

Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, C. J. Cherryh, ebook marketing, ebook science fiction, gene modification, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Paranormal Romance, science fiction, science fiction series, Science fiction thriller, Self-publishing, Space opera, space ship, space travel, The future of publishing

Clones in Science Fiction

IMG_0174I’m out and about.

Portland’s summer weather is beautiful. So come meet me for a book signing at Jan’s Paperback Saturday, August 9 from 1:00p.m. to 4:00p.m. (See left sidebar for more details)

Currently, clones are dominating my writing in my next novel entitled, Someone’s Clone, which is due out in the Fall. It starts with murder, then time travel, conflict between Terrans and Alysians and includes the enigmatic and alien Enjelise, Angel…a stew of delightful action with an explosive ending.

So I rummaged through my reading and decided to suggest some of my favorite novels that feature clones. Both have won a Hugo Award, and both are classics of the 80’s.

The Snow Queen The first is Joan D. Vinge’s Snow Queen. I first read this a while ago, when it won a Hugo for best science fiction, but I remembered the rich description of Tiamat and the beautiful cold ruler Arienrhod. Told from the viewpoint of Moon Dawntreader of the summer people, it is a story of love and the transfer of power. With a nod to Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, this story is set in the far future on the twin sun planet Tiamat that is isolated by a stargate and suppressed by the far flung empire of the Hegemony.

Moon Dawntreader of the summer people is in love with Sparks, her cousin, but he gets caught up by the ruthless winter queen, Arienrhod, when he travels to the city of Carbuncle. To save him, Moon goes through several trials and tribulations. In an effort to prolong her reign, the Snow Queen has eight clones sprinkled throughout the summer or lower half of Tiamat. Whichever one becomes the strongest and survives will be crowned the next ruler.

Guess who that might be?

The Snow Queen is followed by The Summer Queen and is also a good read. The new queen, Moon Dawntreader, realizes that ruling isn’t as fun as she’d expected. A hidden old technology, with a enormous data base, lies buried beneath the planet’s capitol. Manifesting as the Sybil, it holds together the old Empire’s society, but is now breaking down.The Summer Queen

With the rise of the summer solstice, a century of exploitation by the Hegemony passes. Summer Queen, Moon Dawntreader, appointed to lead her people back to the ancient traditional ways, chooses instead to prepare them to meet the return of the mighty Empire on equal terms.

Complex, with description and more character driven than action, this story contains a fascinating world and future.

 

CyteenAnother Hugo winner, and one of my favorite authors, is C.J. Cherryh. Her Cyteen series also is told from the viewpoint of a clone and is filled with political intrigue, murder and betrayal.

Set in Cherryh’s Merchanters’ Universe (which you should visit extensively), Reseune is a laboratory Empire that creates genetically modified humans for a variety of tasks from farmers to soldiers. These created humans have no legal rights. They are the Azi (short for from A to Z) socially stratified and task-defined slaves.

Ariadne Emory is the chief administrator holding the power in Reseune, but one morning she is found dead in her room. To hang onto her immense power, her advisors realize they can replicate her and program her personality to take the place of the dead original. They plan to manipulate her personality to control her.Cyteen The Rebirth

Cyteen the VindicationBut Ari has other ideas.

Those who love psychological drama, politics, and the struggle to be an individual in a repressive society will like this. Those who prefer the nonstop action of a James Corey will prefer another novel.

Or you could be like me, and like both.

2 Comments

Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, C. J. Cherryh, Classic science fiction, genetic manipulation, Hugo winners, Political Science Fiction, science fiction, Science Fiction Mystery, Science fiction world building