Category Archives: downloaded personalities

A Self Publisher Markets and John Scalzi’s latest

IMG_0193This self publishing gig isn’t as easy as it’s cracked up to be.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” you mutter.

There is a world out there willing to give advice, but how good is that advice for your situation?
Who knows?

I can only tell you what works for me…and what doesn’t.

With some success last month, I once again threw myself into the marketing fray. Since I had extra funds in the marketing budget, I decided to advertise two places during my KDP Select free book week.

Robin Reads has been getting buzz lately as an upcoming site still reasonably priced. For $20, I got the number one spot. That was sweet. My criticism of Robin Reads as a reader is that I haven’t figured out how to select out the genres I prefer, so every day I get a list of all types of books which is a pain to page through. I’m not into steamy romances or zombie thrillers…but many readers are.

However, as an author and advertiser, I received fourteen hundred downloads in one day (9/19) for my anchor book, Caught in Time. Not great, but better than I expected for the price. Now usually, a program like that is immediately followed by retail sales of other books in the series.

Crickets.

Added to Robin Reads, I spent $70 at Freebooksy for one day (9/21) where I have had great success, so I was rubbing my hands together in excited anticipation. I got almost a thousand downloads that day. So, over two thousand plus free downloads.

Retail sales? Crickets.

April Aasheim author of The Witches of Dark Root,  reports good luck advertising on Facebook. I’ve been reluctant to try. Anyone having good luck with that?

Meanwhile, The Fussy Librarian sent this out in their newsletter. I thought it interesting. It talks about an article that claims paperback sales are picking up and Ebook sales diminishing.

Seriously? I find that hard to believe. My sales are mostly in EBooks, although paperbacks are readily available.

http://us7.campaign-archive1.com/?u=1fa68a8fb20ec8a1817392970&id=a8f7a5bbb8&e=d0ae4f54e9

The End of All Things2This week I’m suggesting a favorite author. John Scalzi is deeply entrenched in traditional publishing in many forms: hardback, paperback, iBook, audio, short story serials etc. He recently came to Powell’s again to promote his new book The End of All Things.

Now there’s a catchy title. It’s available in hardback for $24.99…thank you, big publisher (TOR)…or free at the local library, no taint involved in the free price.

This science fiction soap opera takes place in The Old Man’s Universe, meaning in the universe of his John Campbell Award winning book, Old Man’s War.

True to form, Scalzi does something different. Humans have expanded into space, only to find it populated with thousands of alien species. The Colonial Union formed to protect humans but kept Earth ignorant of aliens so as to provide colonists and soldiers by using consciousness of old people in repurposed bodies.Old Man's War

Many of the alien species threatened by these superhumans formed their own alliances called the Conclave.

Then Earth found out it was being used and got angry. It stopped providing experienced conscious minds and bodies. Without Earth to provide bodies for fighting, the Colonial Union found itself in trouble.

Unbeknownst to the Colonial Union, bitter infighting and politics now threatens to tear the Conclave apart.

The first story of the book is told by the sole survivor of an ambush on the ship the Chandler. A mysterious splinter group known as the Equilibrium has been secretly pitting the Conclave and the Colonial Union against each other. This secret third faction is made up of individuals from the different groups who plan to overthrow all other contenders. While all on The Chandler and any escape pods are ruthlessly killed, Rafe Daquin, recently hired as third pilot on the Chandler, is allowed a consciousness in order to pilot the ship, but he is separated from his body and reduced to operating as a brain in a box.

So your narrator for the first section is a brain in a box who tells the events of the attack and how he thwarts his enemies working without a body.

The Last ColonyThe second part of the book tells events from the point of view of Hafte Sorvalh, the second most powerful individual in the Conclave, or the advisor to Tarsem Gau, the Conclave leader. This story is political theater at its best and Scalzi is a master of clever dialogue. Subtle nuances of behavior by politicians during a Conclave Congress reveal that this powerful body of aliens has its own problems, and act more like humans than most imagine.

The third section brings in favorite character Harry Wilson from the other books in the series who thwarts an Equilibrium attack and interrogates one of their leaders in an attempt to unravel their plans. This section reads more as a spy thriller.

Scalzi admits to frantically trying to finish writing on time and missing deadlines as he travels around for signings and marketing. It makes the book choppy. You can imagine him writing a section, dusting off his hands and sending it in.

Still…

I enjoy Scalzi’s interesting science and clever dialogue. He makes reading science fiction both fun and enlightening…

And that’s the way it should be.

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Going to the Dark Side

IMG_0180Summer is a wonderful time of the year here in the Northwest. We have cooled off to high seventies in temperature, and other than gardening, I have time to read out on my shady deck under tall pines.

Lately, I have been restless, trying to find a good cutting-edge future science fiction tale. I dove into cyber punk with mixed results in Gibson’s The Peripheral and Charles Stross’s HaltinG StatE. (See previous blog for further comments).

Since I have been advertising my books on different websites, also with mixed results, I decided to download a few free and discounted books from Freebooksy and Sweetfreebooks. In my several marketing campaigns, Freebooksy and more recently the Midlist have given me the best results. The vaunted Fussy Librarian and Book Gorilla have cost me money while delivering poor sales. Having said that, other authors claim good results from them. Once again, various factors of timing, cover, taste, and reader who just wanted a time travel book at that moment, come into play.

Post HumanSo I chose the Post Human Series by David Simpson, Mirrored Time J.D. Faulkner and Star Wanderers by Joe Vasice. Why? The Post Human series had far future humans with transhumanism where humans are using technology and science to evolve past being human. Also, there was a suggestion of inter-dimensional realities that intrigued me. I’ll admit that so far the story is chock full of future science and action. The writing flows well with few grammar or punctuation errors.

The early episodes, however, are short and choppy, skipping over large spans of time. All that I could deal with, and did, until I got snagged on the changing point of views. Rapidly switching point of view with no warning or break is a new writer’s curse, and often the writer isn’t aware of what he’s doing until it’s pointed out to him. In this case, three pov jumps in one paragraph, and I put the book down. I may pick it back up later because of the interesting ideas and technology.Mirrored Times

Sometimes I’m not strong of will and cross over to the dark side. When the temperature hit over ninety last week, I reached for chocolate Haagen Daas to cool off my mouth and make my taste buds dance.

What diet?

At the same time, I reached for a fantasy in the form of Mark Lawrence’s The King of Thorns sitting soKing of Thorns seductively on my reading table. I had read his Prince of Fools and liked it. The reviews said King of Thorns was even better. I would be traveling into the realm of dark fantasy and knew it.

Now, there is also a Prince of Thorns that you should read first, but like chocolate Hagen Daas, I didn’t mind not having another flavor at the moment and confused the earlier book with Prince of Fools.

King of Thorns is a can’t-put-down book. And that’s just what I wanted. The writing is gorgeous with gasping wit, heart-pounding action, and tear-filled emotion. A bit gritty, but bearable.

You continue the life of Jorge Ancrath who at age nine has vowed to avenge his slaughtered mother and brother, and punish his father for not doing so. Now at age eighteen, Prince of thornshe is King of Renar, having taken the land through slaughter and death from his evil uncle. Jorge is not a delicate lad. He’s on a mission to rule the world and doesn’t play by the rules.

The story begins outside his castle where he is surrounded by thousands of the Prince of Arrow’s men. Orrin Oildan, Prince of Arrow, also hungers to be Emperor and sweeps kingdoms into his hand as he marches victoriously across the land until he reaches Jorge’s rough castle. Unlike Jorge, who is beset by sorcerers at every turn and considered mean and ruthless, Orrin is the fair-haired ruler whom everyone calls great and good. Every sorcerer and witch prophesies the triumph of the Prince of Arrows for the Emperor’s throne until Jorge is weary of hearing it. But it doesn’t slow him down a whit.

The book jumps back and forth in time, starting with Jorg’s wedding day, and then returning four years into the past. There he travels with his band of disreputable friends across the land from one wild adventure to another. Adventure and wedding flip back and forth moving closer in time as the book progresses.

Clever, haunted, and powerful, Jorge has the touch of necromancy in his fingers and carries a dangerous box of memories everywhere he goes. Trying to save a young fire Mage, he also learns to play with fire.

There are also hints of science fiction within the fantasy-flavored tale when Jorge refers to “the Builders” who seem to be great men from Earth’s past. He meets a holograph who is a downloaded personality of a past scientist. The holograph tends a forgotten machine deep under Jorge’s maternal uncle’s castle. Along the way, Jorge also accumulates artifacts from the past that become important to his survival.

My only complaint with the story is that in two critical instances, the author uses my own tricky plot twist to escape an almost impossible situation. One I use in Caught in Time when the bandits try to rob and rape Rowyna, and the other in A Dangerous Talent for Time when Brand de Fyre Elitas, like Jorg Ancrath, faces overwhelming odds in a battle.

Not fair!

Mark Lawrence will be remembered for the plot twist over me, I’m sure. Just like, since July 15, another author has come out with the title Caught in Time. The second one came out last year, well after my publication. (Sound of moaning and hair-pulling)

Oh well, I liked it when I wrote it, and I liked it again in Mark Lawrence’s story. In fact, I liked his whole story a lot. It made the chocolate ice cream go down so cool and sweet, as I slipped over to the dark side.

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Comets and Book Clubs

IMG_9503We are landing on a comet tonight! This is a momentous event. After ten years of chasing, using gravity assist, the Philae Lander, a robotic spacecraft, will catch up to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, or 67P, and anchor itself there for hopefully a year long ride.

The Rosetta project, led by the European Space Agency with contributions from NASA and others, will be studying this comet in order to better understand the composition of comets, thought to bring water to primitive Earth, and possibly life itself. Eventually it will be within 180 million km of the sun and expelling water and gases because of intense heat.New Image of Comet ISON

Find more at: CNN.com: Rosetta Landing or www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Rosetta

This is the ESA’s official website, where you can find the latest news, images and animations on the spacecraft and its lander .

touching-crystal-thumb-1Why does this intrigue me? My sixth novel, Touching Crystal deals with the impact of a comet against Alysia’s moon, Thanos, and the resulting consequences to my world of Alysia.

Science will now explain what was once mystical, a harbinger or omen for humans. Although it took ten years to get close enough to land, the idea that we can interface with a moving comet offers hope that we may be able to divert any future threats to Earth from this type of cosmic threat.

Although, we certainly didn’t see the meteor that crashed into Russia last year and took us by surprise. We were too busy staring at a passing asteroid.

NeuromancerI am currently reading Snow Crash, as it is a selection of my Powell’s Book Club and we meet tonight. It is a Hugo winner classic from 1992 and is very different. Think William Gibson and his Hugo winning book, Neuromancer, which created the sub genre of Cyber-punk in the early 1990s and you have an idea of the story.Snow Crash

The Powell’s book club is a rowdy group of fifteen to twenty-five or so science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts who have been meeting for over ten years at the world famous bookstore of Powell’s in Beaverton. They are awesomely intelligent about science fiction and not shy about offering opinions.

Makes for lively discussions, so I need to be prepared.

Abyss Beyond DreamsI also plan on reading The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter Hamilton, and will report on that new offering in the next week or two.

someones_clone_front-cover_v2_finalBut first, I have my proof for Someone’s Clone in my hot hands and expect a November 20 publication date. Until then, I’ll be working feverishly to put the final touches on it and conquer the format and download monster.

Check out Amazon for this exciting new adventure, one of my best to date. A murder, a mystery, time travel, romance, aliens…this one has it all…so stay tuned.

 

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Science Fiction Gender Bending

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Him, her, IT!

In science fiction you can have both in the same body or alternating genders. Ask Northwest author Ursula LeGuinn or read her classic, The Left Hand of Darkness. In her novel, gender fluctuates due to monthly cycles called kemmer.Left Hand of Darkness

Currently in my work in progress, I have an angel like alien that is androgynous. There is a bit of a question about the gender, and the reaction in the humans over the uncertainty. The Enjelise can shift genders, but for most humans they remain genderless as there are only three now left on the planet. But, oh, the one still left is powerful. For me, it makes for an interesting character in my story. And fun to play with.

However, in Ancillary Justice by Anne Leckie, gender goes through the wringer. Told in the first person narrative, the reader is informed that the speaker can’t recognize gender.

“Frozen, bloodied and bruised as she was, I knew her. She was Sievarden Vendaai, and a long time ago, she had been one of my officers, a young lieutenant, eventually promoted to her own command, her own ship. I had thought her a thousand years dead, but she was, undeniably, here.”

Ancillary JusticeAre you getting an image of this character in the snow? Tell me what it is. As a reader we fight to visualize the story in progress, to engage our imagination. But this character is face down in the snow with very little details given, and those at best are confusing.

And intriguing. You did see the thousand years dead part too?

And the narrator saying the person was one of his/her/its officers? What are you visualizing? Can you?

Then, as the narrator goes in a bar to get help for the injured human, rent a sled, get correctives that help heal…it explains, “I wasn’t a person, I was a piece of equipment, a part of the ship.”

Oh…Scramble, scramble. The reader is trying to get a visualization of the narrator now and with not much detail. We know the narrator has a human body at this point because of the reaction from the bar’s customers, thinking it’s a conquering Radchaai citizen, whom they hate. But…these characters are not fitting into the neat little boxes we are so used to. The narrator tries to explain while in the bar getting help.

“My own language doesn’t mark gender in any way. This language we were now speaking did, and I could make trouble for myself if I used the wrong forms.”Ancillary Sword

Okay, reader…you have been warned! Get ready for trouble…for you. But, I blithely read on, not realizing what I waded into.

The narrator admits near the end of the first chapter, “I knew Sievarden was male–that one was easy.”

No it isn’t! This little aside is surrounded by action, she referents, dialog and slipped right past me.

Then, “Nineteen years pretending to be human hadn’t taught me as much as I’d thought.”

Great! My narrator is not human, but a piece of ship equipment pretending to be human, has gender recognition problems and hints that a thousand years is nothing to it. I’m squinting trying to get a read on this person/once officer that my narrator has decided to save, nevermind the narrator himself/herself/itself.

 Chapter two explains what my narrator was originally. It was a ship…a troop carrier, the Justice of Torens, a two thousand year old troop carrier that nineteen years ago (give or take) had ancillaries connected to the A1 that ran the ship. A networked mind troop carrier aware of every muscle twitch and breath of its ancillaries. Awesome. A multi mind artificial A1.

Ancillaries?

Read on, oh reader. Ancillaries are humans from subjugated or “annexed” worlds defrosted at need, implanted with slave minds and used as soldiers for the conquering Radchaai who are led by a thousand bodied leader, Anaander Miandaai (me and Ai?) whose mind is networked among her/his cloned self.

The DispossessedDizzy yet? Keep going.

The second story line develops in Chapter two. The narrator goes back twenty years where it is now a twenty ancillary unit from Justice of Torens One Esk (Esk is a ship level of soldiers) that are dispatched with human Esk Decade Lieutenant Awn to complete the annexation of the world of Ors. There you get a full description of the subjugated world. Lots of jungle. A head priest. Yada, yada. Stolen weapons. Oops.

Now the author gets to mess with your mind even more because One Esk only uses female pronouns and you’re digging hard to figure out Lieutenant Awn’s gender. Gradually, you notice how deeply One Esk is devoted to Awn and admires the lieutenant even when there’s an affair with Lieutenant Skaait, another officer of a higher social rank and a free thinker. (stay tuned for him/her later) But which one is male; which one female? I need to visualize using the shortcut of gender with the subtext that goes along, and I’m not getting it. You’re forced to study behavioral clues. And not finding much.

Or being deliberately mislead.

Unfortunately, a main character (Remember Sievarden Vendaai from the snowbank?) that we know is male acts like a female at times, but with the constant use of the feminine gender when the narrator talks about Sievarden, I keep falling into a female box as I try to visualize this character. I still haven’t figured out what my narrator is now as far as gender. (Except maybe a toaster in human form)

Then, the reader meets the leader of this vast star flung empire of Radchaai who reveals that he/she/ it is battling with its many selves (over a thousand) for  power. And keeping secrets from her/his other selves and covertly dabbling with The Justice of Toren’s programming.

Our narrator. Oh dear.

How far can you push an A1 embedded into a human body, and influenced by human emotion until it does something unexpected? Like murder. Can a machine love more than a human? Feel as deeply as a human? Override its programming?

An act of betrayal destroys the ship and One Esk becomes splintered off from all components, surviving under the name Breq. One Esk, former ship, now named Breq tries to act human and more, plots to destroy the multi bodied leader and bring down the far flung Radchaai Empire by itself by recovering a hidden and dangerous weapon.

Already being suggested for a Nebula, this novel is challenging, convoluted. You’ll love it, hate it or think about it too much and the messages it sends on what it means to be human and gendered.

Sometimes being an author can be fun when we create unusual thought provoking societies, their worlds and the interesting characters that live in them.

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Adrift in the Indie Sea

IMG_0165More and more authors are offering quality low cost books to the public. The advent of e-books over the past few years and the increase of tablets and technology have brought a flood of new writers offering interesting and fresh stories at good prices. Also, a large number of older authors are pulling retired novels out of the closet, reclaiming rights and re-igniting interest in past work.

Now the problem becomes how the bewildered reader sorts through this mass of books to find a good read.

The public reader has become the slush pile.

Amazon has done a great job of helping authors market their books. Reviews are key and Amazon Select and Prime offer ways the reader can sample new authors without bankrupting the piggybank. They have a new program called Countdown where the author puts the book on a program that starts out with a deep discount and following a set plan, the price escalates over a period of days.

One of the goals of my blog is to suggest books that I think science fiction readers will like. Because I am also swimming in the Indie Sea, so to speak, from time to time I pluck out a book and suggest a new Indie author that I have enjoyed, and also hope you will sample my own offerings.

Strings on a Shadow PuppetToday I’m suggesting Strings on a Shadow Puppet by Thomas L. Evans, a debut novel.

Strings offers my two favorite genres: military science fiction and spy thriller. The writing is clear and well written. There are very few errors of writing, which is especially welcome in a new fiction author. The characters are compelling and the action, when it comes, exciting.

Lieutenant Commander Alex Fotheringday lives with the shame of a coverup over  an attack he instigated on a civilian merchant ship. Fortunately for him, a few years in a  backwater planet on duty and now he has negotiated to command of The Hunter so he can “put things to right” and find out who is behind a network of pirates and mercenaries roving the system. He has set up a deal with his father’s opposition, Admiral Lord Li Yu Benjamin Rippavitch in the highly decorated “Ripper’s Raiders” to command a stealth military ship and search out the leader of the insurgents.

His Imperialist father is not pleased.

The crew for the Hunter is an odd assortment from Able Technician Francis Maria Harpur, a “natural” with no tech implants to a plugged in techno junkie Chief Petty Officer Sinclair, known as Sinner, who is a Wirehead and cyborg. The XO is a gorgeous woman named Samantha Smith who works naval intelligence for the Ripper and his TOMO (Tactical Ops and Marine Officer) Leftenant Rascoine Lord D’Ascoine, also known as Razza Dazza, who is also an Imperial Hierarch of Alex’s vaunted social standing.

Several more round out the crew. The first ten chapters introduce the crew and take a lot of time explaining the political set up and detailing the ship. There is a lot of time spent training in simulations even after lift off, and a lot of time digging through research and mining data for patterns and information trying to uncover the enemy…

or spy on each other.

For the hard science geek, Evans sounds very knowledgeable about military hardware and future technology. A bit too much detail for my taste, but his descriptions lend an authentic feel to the story.

It isn’t until chapter ten that The Hunter finally takes off, tracking down leads and trying to ferret out who the mastermind of the pirate’s network is. However, once the action does start, it is engrossing.

Several alternating chapters reveal the activities of the Waylang terrorists who are following orders of the Dalang, who is the enemy Alex seeks. Part of the gang is comprised of alien shapeshifters and how they go about killing and stealing is interesting.

The plot takes twists and turns as everyone appears to be spying on everyone else and no one is who they say they are.

I enjoyed the story and recommend it for any reader who likes military scifi. My main complaint is that the cover and the title really don’t reflect the military aspect of the story. And most of the action is on board a ship or asteroid. I know that the author is a fan of the Japanese shadow puppetry, and there is a shadowy “puppet master” behind the scenes that Alex is trying to ferret out, but for the most part for me, it was a military mission. Unless you read the story, you don’t realize the odd shapes on the cover are the shape shifting aliens and that could put off the avid military scifi reader.

With that said, the series has just begun and I look forward to reading the next one.

As you can see, my blog’s main purpose is to present to the scifi and fantasy reader stories that I found exceptional in the hopes that you will not have to wade through a public slush pile of books to discover that sparking gem.

However, there are many great novels that never parade past my sight, and those I do recommend are purely personal opinion. You might not like them. I tell you how I chose what I do…

The rest is up to you…

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Innovation and Writing Trends in Science Fiction

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I put The Human Division by John Scalzi on my reading list, not realizing it offered the opportunity to discuss current writing trends.

The Human Division takes place in “The Old Man War” universe after Earth realizes it’s been used to supply soldiers and bodies to fight an alien filled universe for the Colonial Defense Force.

The Colonial Union, an association of dozens of planets with a population of billions, took old people from Earth who were ready to die, downloaded their brains into green heavily augmented bodies and inducted them into the military to fight enemy aliens. Upon agreeing to the procedure, the new recruit understands that he will never see Earth again. Everyone he ever knew will consider him dead.

The human DivisionBut now, in the Human Division this lie is revealed and Earth is mad about the deception and may sever all ties from the CDF. The third factor is the Conclave, an association of four hundred alien species once enemies, now formed into a single political unit that wants to dominate all worlds. The Colonial Union wants to prevent the spread of their power and dominance, but needs Earth to supply soldiers.

Pretty standard plot.

What is different here is that Scalzi first presented this novel in an electronic episodic format that he has now turned into a hardcover book.

The first episode/chapter begins with a planned secret meeting between an alien race, the Utche and a Colonial Union ship, the Polk, out in deep space for some clandestine back door negotiations. The Polk arrives three days early and surprises an unknown ship that is setting a trap to disrupt the supposedly secret meeting. The Polk gets fired upon and destroyed; everyone on board is killed, including an important Earth diplomat.

With sixteen hours before the jump plus four hours at the incident spot before the Utche are scheduled to arrive, the CDF calls in a “B” team to find the Polk’s black box and try to learn what happened.

Enter Harry Wilson, wisecracking hero and ex CDF, and Harte Schmidt, junior ambassador and sidekick. Their leader is the abrasive Earth female ambassador, Ode Abumwe. Eight are on the team to find the black box, learn what happened and conclude the negotiations successfully.Th Last Colony

Expectations are not high for a successful completion of the task. Black boxes are notoriously hard to locate in deep space…the black color, and well, Abumwe is not a smooth diplomat.

But the “B” team is the underdog, the misfits, who everyone roots for and how they accomplish their goal makes for an interesting and exciting story.

Chapter one.

The episodic format while interesting has its weaknesses. After the chapter or episode completes, the reader can easily put the book down. The next episode is a piece in the puzzle, but stands alone, often in another point of view or event somewhere else.

One of the techniques many writers often try to employ is to have your chapter ending leave the writer wanting to turn the page, desperate find out what happens next. We don’t want the reader putting down the book. We want the light on under the covers at midnight with an avid reader muttering that he or she has to get sleep while compelled to read on to see what happens next.

That’s what we want. Sometimes it happens.

So the episodic format jerked me around a bit. I easily could put down the book. But then, I would pick it back up because of Scalzi’s plot and characters.

The bantering dialog between Schmidt and Wilson was brilliant…except for the writing style. Whatever big name editor guided Scalzi to use “said” for most of the dialog tags was an idiot. It was very disruptive.

Here’s an example from the first chapter:The Ghost Brigades

“Let’s hope the rest of our people made it to the other escape pods,” Blair said.
“But Evans said–”
“Evans said what he needed to shut us up and get us off the Polk,” Blair said.
Several minutes later he said….”

Now, I was at more than one writing seminar at Willamette Writers a few years back when “professionals” encouraged writers to use “said” for all dialog tags. They claimed it disappears and the readers won’t notice.

Well, it doesn’t. It’s annoying if used too often. I got annoyed.

The current writing style mandates “show, don’t tell.” No one is supposed to even use dialog tags any more. It’s all behavioral clues.

While I agree with this to a certain extent, there are times when you have to tell and get on with the story.

Also, adverbs no longer are allowed. Banned.

Here are examples of each:

Tell:  Luke was angry.
Dialogue tag with adverb: “What did you do now?” Luke asked angrily.
Show: Luke stomped into the room, threw his coat on the sofa and yelled, “What did you do now?”

Okay, the energy is better with just behavioral clues, but notice the word count. Sometimes for the sake of the main plot and the mounting word count, you have to tell and move on. At other times, the action needs to be rich to engage the reader more and the writer should use behavioral clues and show in detail.

But current editors swoop onto any “tell” like an eagle to a mouse and start shaking a finger. A little leeway, please.

Another popular mandate of current editors is to use only the active verb and not anything passive.

“ing”, “was” “had” are a few of the culprits here. Scalzi has four or so “wases” per page and doesn’t flinch from using had or ing words. And Scalzi isn’t the only best selling author to do so.

I would not call his writing passive. It’s full of twists and turns, battles, witty dialog and strong human interaction and relationships.

Plus “ing” may be a participle verb that needs a “was.” If you are describing action in the past, you might need a “had”…otherwise your grammar is incorrect.

Example:

She was skipping home. (lots of action here)
She had skipped home as a young child, now she walked sedately.

Okay, enough style ranting.

In The Human Division each story isn’t of equal quality. On this necklace of a novel, some chapters are diamonds while others are quartz.

While each chapter contains a complete story, when I reached the end of the novel, I still didn’t know who, or what was trying to manipulate a war. I finished without a conclusion. That was not where I wanted my cliffhanger.

Now I’m clutching the edge, ready to fall and hoping he’ll get the next book out before life intervenes or I don’t care any more and fall off the cliff.

Other Scalzi books I recommend:

ps: Redshirts won a Hugo, Old Man’s War and Zoe’s Tale were nominated for Hugo

Red Shirts

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Selling a Science Fiction Novel

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Marketing is in an upheaval for both big publishers and small self publishers.

What to do?

Take a look at the play book of John Scalzi who uses both something old and something new.

The something old is the juggernaut of science fiction publishing houses, TOR. Often I check out the Acknowledgments in a book. Since I am reading The Human Division for my 2014 book list, I looked at what John had to say there. John thanks TOR’s editor Patrick Neilsen Haydon for his support…and Irene Gallo for the art, Sona Vogel as head copyeditor, cover artist John Harris, book designer Heather Saunders, and TOR’s publicity TEAM. (numerous names here) He thanks fiction agents selling overseas and tv/movie agents who are involved in an “Old Man’s” movie project. He acknowledges the team at Audible who are  putting together an audible version. It’s a picture of wide distribution and an entourage of professional help with his book. The Acknowledgments run two and a half pages.

Whew! I could sell a few novels with that kind of support.

The human DivisionHe mentions a rigorous signing tour for Red Shirts during which he writes episodes of The Human Division. This brought up the memory of a year and some time ago when he came locally for a signing of Fuzzy Nation.

I went.

It was John Scalzi.

Running late, I slid into a seat in a packed section of Powell’s bookstore. The man next to me introduced himself and before I knew what was happening, he’d gone to grab a book for me, saying that they were running low. He handed me a $25 hardback edition of Fuzzy Nation. It had an ugly cover.

He acted like it was a great favor.

I couldn’t quite hand it back…but putting out expensive hardbacks and following up a year later with the cheaper paperback is so old school. And very traditional publishing.51CG59JWAeL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

Needless to say, Scalzi put on a great performance, both witty and informative. I figured that half the cost was for the live entertainment. And I got a personally signed book…for a crowded bookshelf. Of course, paperbacks of older works were also available, but the new one was only available in hardback for signing. So, being charming to your reading public when they’re holding your $25 novel is a good strategy.

I spent a lot of money that night.

The Human Division is now available only in expensive hardback at the bookstore, but fortunately we have Amazon and Kindle downloads for us high tech frugal folks…if you don’t mind foregoing the illegible signature.

BUT, John doesn’t just old school it.

If you are involved in the Twitterverse, you might be following Scalzi.

I am.

He tweets some of the more enjoyable snippets and is very funny. While others scream, “buy my book” or tell you what they’re eating for breakfast, John offers up humorous anecdotes in the life of a successful author and even makes humdrum daily events hilarious. He is a prolific tweeter.

In addition, John talked TOR into releasing The Human Division not only as a print book, but electronically in episodes.

Innovative.

Okay, okay…Charles Dickens did it through print newspapers a while ago, but electronically episodic is still a new path for most science fiction writers. Not too long ago, Hugh Howey used this form of marketing to break through with his Wool series and has become quite successful. Now he’s selling trade paperbacks in bookstores. (6″x9″ $15-$17)

John also has a very popular blog: www.whatever.Scalzi.com

He is plugged into the science fiction good old boys’ and girls’ network and lists a number of well known science fiction authors who helped him while he did “a staggering amount of travel.” He apologizes to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (premier science fiction association) for being distracted with publishing The Human Division during October and says, “it won’t happen again while I’m president.”

So, this shows me how important networking and interacting with fellow writers can be, and also that getting involved in prominent associations and conferences is also helpful in getting recognized, and boosting sales.

51PGEMXGN8L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_ The Human Division is also “in the universe” of the very popular novel, Old Man’s War, which was nominated for a Hugo…so winning awards, or even a nomination, and especially a Hugo, plumps up sales, and writing within a popular series helps sell any new book in that series.

Which gets me back to old school basics…

Write a great book…and they will come help you market everywhere.

And keep writing…as you tour, as you tweet, as you blog, as you serve on committees and attend cons.

Then you will sell…

Quite a lot.

Ps. Next week I’ll review The Human Division

 

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