Category Archives: Hard science fiction

Indie Marketing and a Techno-Science Thriller

IMG_9512You can’t do it alone any more. A year or two ago an author could take ten minutes and set up a KDP Select program (Kindle Digital Platform) and garner 6,000 to 4,000 or more free downloads of the book over the five free days and if she, or he, had a series, a slew of retail sales would follow. Back in 2014 I did this with 4500 free downloads of Caught in Time and subsequent hand clapping sales.
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To be fair, I also scheduled signing and book fairs which were expensive and exhausting. I wasn’t backed by a TOR publisher or on the New York Times bestseller list…which meant I had to do the work myself.

Welcome to Indie publishing.

Now, even that isn’t enough. Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited Program appears to have satiated the freebie market to a certain extent. After it’s introduction many authors noticed a drop in their KDP Select downloads, me included. (Kindle Unlimited sales, however, increased quite a bit) I have no hard data, just several comments by other authors that noted lesser downloads.

Granted, each author makes his own way to find out how to sell best, but currently an overwhelming number of sites offer to advertise your book if you discount it, usually for one day and charge you for the ad…usually from $300 (depending on factors and genre) to $5.00. Be aware that these sites post your cover and blurb, then link to Amazon for the buy. Amazon pays them a fee for being an affiliate. You set up an Amazon KDP Select or Kindle Countdown program and pair it with ads..as many as the budget allows.

A huge number of websites are hopping on this bandwagon as desperate authors are willing to severely discount their book and pay to advertise if it will boost sales and bump them up the bestseller chart. No one will buy your book if they don’t know it exits. At least, that’s the thinking.

I was #1 on the free kindle science fiction space opera chart…

…For two days.
Then my program went off and I was down in the paid mob at Amazon again.

Blog posts are lighting up suggesting which advertisers work and which ones don’t. Because if you spend $300.00 or even $70. You need to sell a lot of books to make it worthwhile, and usually the site requires the book be under a certain price or at least discounted by a given percent. That’s the draw for the subscriber.

Most often, the book itself, the cover, and the genre determine the success of the program. Some of the programs are scams and you may never see the ad. Pirating is a growing problem. So be selective and do your homework.

While many Indie authors are offering their books at cheaper and cheaper prices, the big publishers are going in the other direction. Agency pricing was the big contract fight between Hatchette and Amazon. Check out the new listings for books by established authors with major publishers. EBooks are running $10 to $15 dollars. Hardbacks are offered for preorder at $25 and $27 dollars.

I’m shaking my head at the craziness of the book market while keeping an eye on what other media is doing. Sometimes they lead the way. Remember Napster? Think about Netflix. Let me know what you have found that works for you. Let’s compare notes.

NexusAre you ready for science fiction with transhumanism, a drug with a nano driven software platform that enables mind to mind control and big ethical questions concerning how far should science go?

Then, you might want to read Nexus by Ramez Naam.

Nexus is a Techno-spy thriller with kidnapping, murder, an undercover beautiful Homeland Security operative, and mind blowing science. When Kade Lane develops the experimental nano drug Nexus that can cause minds to link and read each other’s thoughts, U.S. Homeland Security gets involved and will do whatever it takes to shut the program down.

But Kade has a vision of a transcendent, unified humanity while being aware of the dangers the drug poses if it falls into the wrong hands.

The Chinese also are dabbling in Nexus and when Kade develops an even more powerful Nexus 5, capable of changing the very definition of what it means to be human, then he becomes a target for both the U.S. Government and the Chinese.Crux

Winning the Prometheus Award, the Endeavor, and selected NPR best book of the year, this book combines thriller like action with futuristic tech that asks big questions. How far should governments and society allow science to transform what it means to be human?

ApexWe need to examine these questions as science is now outpacing regulations in many areas. We can already use mind control to move cursors on a computer and have shown the ability to clone animals. If you haven’t already, check out Kurtzweil’s newsletter for current discoveries.

What will we do as a society if such a drug as Nexus gets developed? Do we offer it to everyone or totally stamp it out to protect ourselves?

While the book has a exciting story, it also makes you think long after you put it down.

p.s. I explore a computer implant in a human brain in Someone’s Clone if that’s your flavor.

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Filed under award winning scifi, Cutting Edge Science ideas, ebook marketing, Hard science fiction, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, modifying humans, Near future science fiction, science fiction, science fiction science, science fiction series, Science fiction thriller, Transhumanism

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

Mars and The Martian

IMG_0165I figure you must be almost as frantic as I am coming down the holiday home stretch. Overwhelmed with things to do and vowing not to nibble that second Christmas cookies or sip the third eggnog, (So yummy) I am noticing the pounds climbing alarmingly upwards on my scale.

Or maybe you’re one of those cool-as-a cucumber types that has it all under control and smirk as we last minute shoppers scurry about.Christmas horn

(I’m making a rude gesture here)

Either way, I’m offering a quick, cheap idea where you don’t have to pay postage or even leave the house and get mired in insane traffic. If your gift is a mobile device…Kindle, iPad, iPhone 6, enhance the gift with a few interesting free books. Start with Cosmic Entanglement, which is being offered free 12/22 through 12/24 and also 12/26 through 12/28. A limited time offer, it’s one of my favorites, and although third in my series, it can stand alone or be the first one you read.

With time travel, you have that flexibility in your stories. This one is not heavy science…more of an Enders Game with a touch of James Bond. For more science in the area of space travel, Past the Event Horizon would be the choice. Even so, in several places I stretched the known rules of physics to support the story because, hey, we are learning new things about space every day. Yesterday’s speculations are today’s reality.

To find other special offers, goggle for free books and a number of websites will pop up with a vast array of free and discounted books.

Just a suggestion.

The MartianSo, I am halfway through The Martian by Andy Weir. The story is basically a Robinson Crusoe on Mars told through first person using a journal. So, I don’t know if he survives or we’re just reading a left behind journal. That keeps up the suspense.

Weir has a very personable voice. The reader feels like the writer is just leaning over a cup of coffee and telling his tale. For example he writes:

“The most important piece of the advance supplies, of course, was the MAV. The Mar ascent vehicle. This was how we would get back to the Hermes (orbiting ship) after surface operations were complete…

You can imagine how disappointed I was when I discovered the MAV was gone.”

What follows is the attempt to survive for four years until the next mission is due to arrive. For those that like hard science in their science fiction, the story will satisfy.

Understandably, there’s not much romance or personal interrelationships. Not even a volleyball with a face to talk to. But the left behind astronaut, Mark Whatney, does reveal the roller coaster of emotions from despair to hope to brilliant problem solving.

There’s a lot of chemistry as he tries to create water for his plants, but he spares the reader the heavy math.

It’s a book that I put down after awhile, but then, I picked it back up to get a feel for what it might be like to live in such a different environment as Mars. Just a quick note that the reviews have nearly 4600 five star reviews, so a lot of people really like this one.

MarsCurrently there are several experiments that address what it might be like to survive on Mars. Last year I wrote a blog that carried a link to David LeVine’s gripping experience in a habitat that attempted to recreate conditions that might be found on Mars.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcuOwpdkWCM&appDavid Levine

Life on Mars… or at least a close facsimile (KGW-TV, 2/20/10)

http://bentopress.com/mars/ David’s journal of his “Mars” experience.

Mars is getting more and more notice as we gaze past the moon to what might very well be the next planetary body we visit. This book gives you a realistic taste if you can’t afford the ticket.Holly

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Indie and Legacy: A Reader’s Choice

IMG_0174Sound the trumpets, wave the banners…Someone’s Clone is now available in ebook form through Amazon. The paperback version will be out around Thanksgiving. Time travel, clones, mystery, a space station, main character with a computer in his brain, adventure, romance…it’s all there.

Writing a 350-page book has taken a year, mainly because I work with a writers group of five other authors that meet twice a month. We critique twenty pages at a go. So it takes time, but it’s well worth it. And then, I offer an advance copy to three or four Beta readers who make excellent suggestions on how to make that better. someones_clone_front-cover_v2_finalSometimes, I employ an independent editor, particularly if a certain section is in question, or I have extra funds sloshing around in my book account

As an incentive, I am offering Touching Crystal, the previous book (6), starting November 21 to the 28th through Amazon’s Countdown Deal. So the best price (.$99) is at the earliest date and goes up a dollar every few days. This can be read as a stand alone, as can Someone’s Clone, but both are richer if the reader is familiar with the earlier books. Needless to say, this is the first time ever I have discounted Touching Crystal…and it won’t last long. So mark your calendar. There’s a deadly comet in it.

touching-crystal-thumb-1I recently attended an Author’s Seminar at Jan’s Paperback in Aloha, Oregon. If you are in the area, and like to read from the physical book, just call Debbie or Jodie at 503 649 3444 and I’ll provide a signed copy of any in the series for you. (Give a bit of lead time).

I watched the broadcasts about the Rosetta Project and saw the Philae Lander successfully hop onto a speeding comet. Science fiction becomes science reality. It was exciting. (See previous blog for more)New Image of Comet ISON

This week I’m reading The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter Hamilton. Hamilton’s civilization has advanced far into the future where humans regenerate, clone themselves, have embedded technology that enables telepathy, and live practically forever. Space travel has wormhole technology, but there is a barrier separating a region in the universe known as the Void where the physics is different…time is different.

Bored humans become eager to risk their lives for new discoveries and unknown adventure. So several expeditions venture forth to Abyss Beyond Dreamspenetrate and explore this region.

Hamilton has established his credentials as a foremost science fiction writer with several other series and novels, which I have enjoyed. (see previous blogs) At over 600 pages, I am still reading this one, but the going is lumpy.

An action-packed start bogs down with detailed science and description. Laura Brandt is “tank yanked” when things go wrong on an expedition to the Void, which lies at the core of their galaxy.

For those scifi readers who like hard science, Hamilton’s description of physics is interesting, but I wanted to move on after a bit. The stories start with the mounting disasters faced by the shuttle scientists as they explore an alien formation of crystal “trees” circling a planet’s atmosphere in the Void. The trees carry “eggs” that soon attack the crew and attempt to absorb them. Interesting non-stop action runs for eighty-eight pages with no chapter breaks until book two.

Now, you’re in a different story, but the same universe. This story concerns a wealthy, powerful, and long-lived human, Nigel Sheldon, who clones himself and entangles his thoughts with his clone as he prepares to send his doppelgänger on an expedition. The book ends as the clone’s ship slips past the boundary and into the Void.

The next section or “book” begins in a military unit on a planet presumably inside the Void. This is full of action and an interesting alien that drops onto the planet in an egg shape, lures in humans with thoughts and emotions, manipulates, and devours them.

I plan to keep reading because Hamilton’s world building is intriguing. He challenges the reader with mind-bending concepts and offers a peek into a possible far future. He stretches the ideas of what humans may become and what they possibly could do. He throws in heavy science, but also includes some dramatic action.

Ark RoyalNext blog, I plan to talk about Ark Royal by Christopher Nuttall. Christopher Nuttall writes an extensive military science fiction series that is getting noticed. This series was recommended to me by an avid military scifi enthusiast. So when Nuttall put the first book in the series at a nice discount, I snapped it up and slid it onto my Kindle shelf. Now, I plan to check it out for you and pass along my impressions.

I think a novel is selected because of the story, combined with other people’s recommendations, whether it be on a list or in person. I didn’t check the publisher first to see if I wanted to read either book. Peter Hamilton’s book is published by Del Ray, an imprint of Random House…one of the Big Five publishing houses and was on some list of “new books to read.”

Christopher Nuttall’s came as word of mouth and is published digitally by Amazon Digital Services and in print form by CreateSpace.

I think the readers of today select what they read from a variety of places. How nice to have both the tried and true authors from legacy publishers to choose from and, also, the new, exciting, emerging self publishing authors.

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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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Quantum Theory Noir Thriller: hard science in science fiction

IMG_0165

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

It’s all about hard science fiction.

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

Quantum Theory.

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

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

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

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

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

Interested?

Yes, please.

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

There are several depression ridden moments…be warned.

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

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

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

You wanted it.

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

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

 

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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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Marketing books through holiday fairs

IMG_0174Jingle Bells! Whew. There’s so much going on this past week that I haven’t had time to read.

Instead, I want to let you know about a t.v. series hosted by James Wood called Futurescape on Tuesday night at seven o’clock Pacific Time that deals with cutting edge science and future concepts. Immortality, altering the genetic code, and future exploration are only a few topics covered in the last few shows. It’s well done with radical future concepts grounded in current research. For example, powering a spacecraft through plasma gas. Since writing Past the Event Horizon where I had to consider how the starship the Seeker would be powered, I have been interested in any new ideas coming from current research. Using plasma gas to power a ship is a new intriguing idea to me.

touching-crystal-thumb-1 Also, I want to whop and holler since I have just published my sixth book in the Alysian series called, Touching Crystal. This is an exciting novel that starts out with a comet colliding with one of Alysia’s moons and goes from there to one heart stopping adventure after another.

Writing the novel was the fun part. Editing, formatting, marketing and running a business was the tough part.

This past weekend I attended a large craft fair in Portland in freezing temperatures. Record cold. We were in an outside plastic tent and if it hadn’t been for the warm friendships of fellow authors and the large attendance, I would now be a Popsicle.

downloadUndaunted, this Saturday I am one of 79 vendors at the Hip Hop Happening in Sellwood, Oregon. If you’re in the neighborhood, please drop by and say, “Hi.” I’ll let you know how it goes and if I’m still “hopping” afterwards. Luckily, we are supposed to be indoors this time around.

And it should be warmer.

Fingers crossed.

This is a marketing experiment that may or may not be worthwhile. But as I have been saying lately, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”  Also, right now a lot of fairs and gift parties are going on. All kinds of marketing avenues are out there, and in this new world of publishing, authors and publishers are still trying to figure out what works.

Hope you can keep warm, and stop now and then to enjoy the excitement of the holiday season.

And if you’re looking for gift ideas, don’t forget books for those that read so they can be taken away to worlds unknown on wonderful adventures.

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Ebooks: What’s Going On?

IMG_0174Several interesting developments have happened to me recently in the world of Ebooks.

First, my science fiction book club selected Amped as the book to read this week. Dan Wilson also wrote Robopocalypse, which made the New York Times Best seller list. He’ll be coming out with  sequel, RoboGenesis, in 2014.

He’s a young writer with a promising future and came to talk personally to our group…old school marketing style. His credentials are strong as he has a Phd in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University and consulted with several professors on how such a device would work. He said that Random House is his publisher and really got behind him with a strong marketing campaign to get his book out there.

I would say, it worked. Color me green.

AmpedThe book is about a device implanted in the brain that increases intelligence, motor function and overall performance. In Amped, the device is implanted into the handicapped and lower class person, setting up discrimination against those “Amped.”

Already, we have many devices implanted in the brain to augment deficits…cochlear implants being one, Parkinson aids, pacemakers, and others. I actually know people who have each of these right now. So, the idea is not too far future.

There is the flavor of Flowers for Algernon and a bit of Slan, except technology is used instead of chemicals or genetics to elevate performance.

Needless to say, a class war ensues and Wilson brings in some weighty questions as to who should be augmented and how the ordinary Joe will react to those chosen to be augmented into superior beings.

A lot of politics and back room maneuvering for power develops. Events turn nasty…and he starts with a suicide.

However, what I found interesting was that to get the book, I went online to my local library, and downloaded the story. Thrifty person that I am, it cost nothing, and I didn’t even leave my chair. I used an app called Overdrive that made it easy.Robopocaypse

Even for a techno idiot like me.

Then, last week I went to a seminar put on by Kobo, which is an ebook seller worldwide in over 150 countries. They are partnering with independent bookstores to put in  QRcards for ebooks.

Jan’s Paperbacks, an independent local bookstore, hosted the event and over eighteen area authors came to greet their readers and swirl carousels to distribute cards with their cover and a QR code on the back. The cards took you to Kobo where you could download the book for free. The idea is to offer a free book in order to get your name out there and entice readers into other books you have written.

However, some books cost…and I bought a card for DIY Publishing for $9.99 and went online to Dropcards.com to download it through an access code found on the back of the card. Worked quite well.

So we have both libraries and brick and mortar bookstores offering Ebooks, some free and some at a good price.

Interesting.

A final note to the awesome Peter at Powell’s Bookstore in Cedar Hills Crossing, Beaverton. The reading group just celebrated their tenth year, and Peter has worked with the group offering sample books, helping us pick out available authors and generally existing as a font of science fiction knowledge. Thanks for all your help. Ten years for a reading group to stay together is amazing.

Leah Day and John Bunnell are part of the reason why.

Leah has over 27,000 books in her home and contains an incredible knowledge of science fiction. John remembers esoteric details of all things science fiction and is also amazing.

Thanks to everyone for all your hard work in keeping this group going.

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Current Science Concepts or Themes in Science Fiction

IMG_9503Have you noticed?

I have.

Certain current science concepts and themes are cropping up in best selling science fiction.

One theme sparked by current science discoveries is the search for new habitable planets. Thanks to the Kepler mission, scientists are now sorting through hundreds of possible candidates for a new Earth.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/18/us/planet-discovery/index.html

Interestingly, our scientists are sending robots first to investigate other worlds…just like the alien robot that crashed onto my world of Alysia.

Hmmm. Maybe it came from Earth?

Because that’s what we’re doing now on Mars.

Nanobots is also a current theme. I sent a link two blogs ago on remote control miniature robots. One of my favorite scenes in my forthcoming novel Touching Crystal (out in November 2013) concerns saving two hostages using remote controlled flying nanobots.

Lots of fun.

The Risen EmpireScott Westerfeld has a great scene in his Risen Empire that also does this, only he sends in a horde of nanobots and you don’t get to sit in the “cockpit” with  Richard Steele like my readers do in Touching Crystal.

Several recent novels by well known prolific writers touch on the theme of robots that are self-replicating and can reconfigure themselves into whole new forms as their environment changes.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/10/07/m_block_self_assembling_cube_robots_mit/

Self replicating nanobots are the source of possible world disaster in Larry Niven and Matthew Harrington’s new novel The Goliath Stone.

The Briareus mission took nano machinery out to divert an Earth crossing asteroid and bring it back to be mined, but things go wrong and nanobots go wild, creating a whole new entity that threatens Earth.The Golith Stone

Dr. Toby Glyer, is the genius behind the nanotechnology and uses it to effect miracle cures on Earth…long life, disease free humans with strong libidos. Now he must find his partner, William Connor, and stop the incoming danger.

While the concepts and technology of this novel were intriguing, the dialog and action bogged me down.

A lot of sitting around and guessing what game the elusive William Connor played.

New EarthWell known and prolific writer Ben Bova just came out with his newest in a series called New Earth. He uses both the theme of discovering habitable planets and medical nanotechnology that enables health and long life.

Of course, everything gets carried much farther than current technology.

Science fiction writers do that….Until eventually, it becomes reality.

Like Niven, he ascribes a dangerous element into his nanobots, but does not ban them from Earth like Bova does.

Maybe he should have.

In both, the current themes and science are interesting, but the writing could have been better and more engaging.

In Bova’s New Earth, a long term exploration ship is sent to an exciting new world that appears habitable for humans. While the eighty year trip to New Earth takes place, the passengers are put in a cryogenic sleep, unaware of a global warming crisis on Earth.

Here is another current theme much discussed nowadays…global warming.

In the story, global warming has caused Earth’s cities to be inundated and weather to shift. Economies are on the brink of disaster.

A global weather shift is also a theme I use in my forthcoming novel, Touching Crystal, but that event is caused by a destructive comet.

Several popular movies, Deep Impact and Armageddon  in 1998 portrayed how we might respond to an advancing asteroid or meteorite. Recent asteroid activity and the crash of a meteorite in Russia has reignited this theme. (See Feb. 2013 blog)

In the novel New Earth, the political leaders choose to abandon the expedition in order to attend to their own world crisis.

The expedition lands and discovers highly advanced friendly aliens that carry human DNA. The natives claim to have been born on the planet, which turns out to have a hollow metal shell. They deny having interstellar travel capability, but insist that they are human. Everyday technology is highly advanced, yet no cars, or manufacturing are visible. Nothing adds up.

The Earthlings are suspicious and the exploration team divides into several factions. The main character falls in love with one of the human appearing natives and trusts their leader’s offer of friendship. Other factions in the landing team mistrust the natives. They continually warn that the natives have ulterior and dangerous motives. The story sets up a nice conflict among the two groups as to who can be trusted and what motives drive both humans and aliens.

While parts of the story bog down a bit, Bova throws in a surprising twist towards the end, which keeps the reader flipping the page.

For me, what carried the story were the interesting dynamics of psychology: from the world leader abandoning the expedition for his own local concerns to the whole exploration of the human psyche and how various individuals reacted to first contact.

Humans can be a bit paranoid when confronted by new and unknown things…and aliens, well, who knows whether they can be helpful friends or world destroying enemies?

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