Category Archives: Indie Publishing

Amazon’s New List

Amazon continues to stretch out and find ways to encourage readers. And I’m usually all for that. So, I was interested in their new venture.

This past week Amazon has started to compile a weekly best seller and best read list to rival the well-known New York Times Best Seller List. The Times leaves out Indie publishers since they do not appear in bookstores. How The Times decides who gets what spot isn’t sure, but Indies are never included and, yet, are now read by an increasingly large segment of the population. For years, The Times has been the sought after benchmark of success for writers of both fiction and non fiction, but self-publishers don’t make the list.

If you want to know what are the top selling books at Amazon in different publishing categories, Amazon has published a wide variety of lists according to genre that are updated almost hourly.

Last Friday, I ran my Freebooksy add campaign for Past the Event Horizon and made number #1 in the Kindle Store>Kindle eBooks>science fiction >space exploration and #1 in Kindle Store>Kindle eBooks>First Contact on March 15. That rating soon changed as sales go up and down all the time like a turbulent sea. Still, it felt good. Anyone looking for a science fiction in either category might have given me a try, and indeed, sales followed for a number of my other books.

Okay, so now Amazon offers a weekly list of the top twenty books sold and books read across all genres. Only Amazon has the algorithms to determine what books are actually read. As an author, I can follow what books my readers are reading and when.

Here’s the link to the chart: https://www.amazon.com/charts

As a reader, this is interesting, but as a midlist writer I have a few problems with it.

First, I noted the large number of big publishing houses, and almost all of them have an agent attached. Then, there is the Bookbub phenomena. An author must sell a lot and have a lot of reviews to be accepted, but once accepted the author gets an even bigger bump in reviews and sales by being accepted for promotion. You know the story. A writer has to get to a point where doors open, and until they reach that tipping point, sales are a struggle… Each author has to decide how much time, effort, and money they want to spend, and what goal is acceptable for them.

Worldwide fame or merely getting published?

I think I won’t need sunglasses to hide behind any time soon.

This week I have returned to science fiction and my list that I put out at the beginning of the year with Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson (Hugo winning novel Spin).

I picked this book because it had a time travel theme, and I read and liked Spin by the same author. Wilson plays with the idea of multiple dimensions. In the near future, technology is created that can open a gate onto the past. That past is similar, but not exactly like our past. Inhabitants of the past provide almost a theme park of times-gone-by to those who visit from the future. But as the future influences the past, the past changes, and eventually, the gate closes.

A passageway has been open into the 19th century in Ohio for a decade now, and both sides of the gate know it will soon close. This is the last year the gate will be open.

On September 1, Jesse Collumm saves General Grant’s life as the general visits the future side of the gate. Jesse is from the 19th century but has been hired as a guard in the small city that had grown up around the gate. Working crowd control, he notices an illegal gun and dives to save Ulysses’ life. This brings him to the attention of the higher-ups who run the gate. Jesse is delegated to an attractive woman for various assignments. Unfortunately, he falls in love with her and decides to do anything to follow her through time back to her future.

This was an interesting novel, but not riveting. However, I was intrigued with the time concepts. How would we react if we could visit the past and see how it really was? Would the history books and actual events match? What might happen to influence our future? How big or little need that influence be?

I write about time travel, and it was interesting to see another author’s handling of the subject. If you are intrigued by time travel, you might enjoy this one.

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Filed under Alternate Universe Stories, Amazon publishing, Best selling author, ebook marketing, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, New York Times Best Sellers, Portal fiction, science fiction

A Self-Publisher Markets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m accumulating lots of lovely ebooks in my library. I used to spend a lot of effort tracking down good science fiction or fantasy by asking friends, researching award lists, or cruising libraries. Now, due to various ad sites, I find lots of interesting ebooks. I stash them away, expecting to read them some day, and often I get around to them. I’m not alone in this behavior. I select them because I sincerely plan to read them.

Many of the books are from new authors who I have never heard of before or who are not on some award list. It’s like dating. You need to find interesting guys to date, but they don’t just show up on your front steps if they have no idea that you exist. You have to get out there where the guys are, but a bar is not the best place to find a good date, much less a life partner. So these various ad sites set certain standards such as requiring at least a 4.0 star review rating or a given amount of reviews. They curate the book for you by genre so you can hone right in on what you like, but still make it easy enough that a shy new book can qualify and be accepted to the dance.

Am I stretching the metaphor too much? You get the idea.

So to meet the readers who are compatible, I’m offering one of my books again via FreeBooksy, but this time
Past the Event Horizon is the book at the dance. There are 90,000 science fiction readers subscribed through Freebooksy, and Past the Event Horizon will be there waving “Hello” on Friday May 12th. However, not to be shy, I have also scheduled the book free through the KDP Select Platform starting TODAY and extending through Monday.

Past the Event Horizon is a thrill ride through space as the twelve person crew of the spaceship The Seeker follows an alien signal through a star gate onto an alien world. What they find and how it changes them makes for an exciting story.

It’s rare that I offer this one free, so grab it while you can.

Accod of HonorThis month I’m highlighting a few ad site books starting with Accord of Honor by Kevin McLaughlin. It’s been over three years since I noticed Kevin on the Linked-In chat boards. He offered expert advice to an ignorant author who was desperate to learn all she could. I appreciated his willingness to share information for free on self-publishing. So, when I saw his book Accord of Honor, and it was an interesting space opera, I snapped it up.

Accord of Honor is a fast-paced space military adventure. The Lunar Accord has banned all individuals or nations from arming space ships for war. But Ex-Admiral Nicholas Stein knows the peace will not last, and in secret, he exiles himself on Mars to build ships with on board weapons that could result in treason and execution if he were discovered.

Then, outof nowhere, armed ships appear, attacking vulnerable space freighters and kidnapping their crews. Soon they threaten a helpless Earth and call for its surrender. Only Admiral Stein and his son, Thomas, with their weaponized ships stand in the pirates’ way.

Accord of Honor carries political overtones similar to the Expanse Series with friction occurring between Mars, Earth and space.

It is the first book in the Accord Series followed by Accord of Mars and the recently published Accord of Valor.

While the women are out for Mothers’ Day, relax with two new space adventure series at great prices. Or… If she’s a science fiction enthusiast like me, sneak a few new books onto her ereader and watch her smile.

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Filed under ebook marketing, ebook science fiction, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Mars, military science fiction, Political Science Fiction, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Self-publishing, space ship

The Excitement of Self Publishing

Someone once said that the only constant is change itself. Who says? I’m not sure, but it’s true.

Over time my writing group has changed and evolved. We each bring or have brought our own special writing strengths to the table, and everyone has been better for the interaction. Sadly, four of our writers over the years we have been together have gone on because of new jobs, a new husband, new baby or new residence. Others have filled in the vacancies, adding fresh ideas to the writing process.

Our most recent escapee, er, graduate, is D. Wallace Peach. She has shed the constrictions of her publisher to turn to self-publishing. Recognizing the help given by her publisher when she was new and learning, she has embraced self-publishing and revamped her series with exciting new covers, combing through her books, fixing any errors, and generally re-editing everything.

The results are exciting and gives everything a fresh new look.

But then she continued on with a whole new series: The Rose Shield, and Catling’s Bane is the first book.

This is not your usual fantasy or science fiction series but a strange blend of both, which deals with mind control in an exotic world. Oh, here. Let me have her tell you in her own words:

“In the tiers of Ellegeance, the elite Influencers’ Guild holds the power to manipulate emotions. Love and fear, pain and pleasure, healing and death mark the extremes of their sway, but it’s the subtle blends that hook their victims’ hearts. They hide behind oaths of loyalty and rule the world.

A child born in the grim warrens beneath the city, Catling rues the rose birthmark encircling her eye. Yet, it grants her the ability to disrupt the influencers’ sway. Established methods of civil control disintegrate before her. She’s a weapon desired by those who reign and those who rebel.

To the Influencer’s Guild, she’s an aberration, a threat. They order her death and thus the betrayals begin. One woman protects and trains her, plotting to use her shield to further imperial goals. No longer a helpless child, Catling has other plans. As chaos shakes the foundations of order and rule, will she become the realm’s savior? Or its executioner?

The Rose Shield Tetralogy – a blend of science fiction and fantasy.

Welcome to a world of three moons, a sentient landscape, rivers of light, and tier cities that rise from the swamps like otherworld flowers. A planet of waterdragons, where humans are the aliens living among three-fingered natives with spotted skin. Where a half-blood converses with the fog and the goddess plans her final reckoning.

Follow Catling’s journey as she grows from childhood into the deadly force that shapes the future. She is the realm’s shield, an influencer, assassin, healer, mother, and avenger. And all she wants is to go home.

The books of The Rose Shield Tetralogy:
Catling’s Bane
Oathbreakers’ Guild
Farlanders’ Law
Kari’s Reckoning”

The whole series has been released at once so there’s no waiting around one book at a time. (As George R.R. Martin has us doing)

Recently she talked about how important the first chapter was and had a lot of good points for writers at any level. Check out her blog at:

https://mythsofthemirror.com/2017/03/07/28237/

Yes, change is the constant. We are all changing, growing, reaching out for new experiences and hopefully becoming better for it. I wish Diana the best of luck and lots of sales in her new adventure.

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, fantasy series, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Science fiction world building, Self-publishing, Writing Tips and Lectures

Ten Steps to Select a Publisher

As an Indie author, I chose Amazon’s Createspace for paperbacks and its Kindle Digital Platform for my ebook distribution. Two reasons dictated this choice : initial cost is free, and I maintain total control of my work. To insure this control, I provide my own ISBN. This means I do all the work unless I contact out work such as designing the cover and editing. I have professionals do that. So, there are costs, but those costs I control.

Marketing is another cost. This cost is a balance between the cost of the program and the revenue it most likely will generate in book sales. Again, I have control, and in January, I spent nothing on marketing and banked the revenue, but paid the price in reduced book sales for that month. Since Amazon pays on a three month lag, March revenue will be down. I knew that and budgeted for it.

However, many new writers, for one reason or another, need the help of a publisher. They are lost as to how to get an editor, how to format, how to find a cover designer, and all the things that have to be done to become a successful author. Perhaps, they have a day job or run a household with active kids. They turn to a wide list of publishers and stare at rows of smiling shark’s teeth. A whole industry of “milk the author” has evolved. It’s an author beware publishing world. However, within that mix are good guys who honestly want to help the bewildered writer. How to find the needle in a haystack?

Why am I blathering on about this? Because I know several writers searching for guidance, and I recently stumbled across Jane Friedman article on what to look at when deciding on a publisher. Her blogs are invaluable and you must check them out.

https://janefriedman.com/10-questions-epublishing/

As you will notice, this blog is dated November 2014, but was recently updated. The information is still valuable. It doesn’t cover all the names of publishers currently out there, but it’s a guide for the questions you need to ask. For example: Just being able to control the price of your book is important, particularly if you want to advertise. An overpriced book with no exposure to readers is a lonely book indeed, even if well written. A bad cover often turns away an interested buyer. Make no mistake, with the advent of easy publishing, the book market is flooded and cleverly marketed books are the ones to gain the overwhelmed reader’s purse. Even so, the market is challenging. These ten suggestions may save  you a lot of money and heartache.

I am now working on the last quarter of the second book in the Terran Trilogy called Somewhat Alien. Once again, I want to suggest Larry Brooks and his storyfix blog. He has several books with his ideas, one called Story Engineering. He provides a framework for writing a story while still letting your characters surprise you.

… And they are surprising me with their actions. Right now the immigration of aliens into our country is a hot topic, and this story is exactly about aliens trying to immigrate onto an inhabited planet. I just have to check the headlines for great story ideas.

This week my book selection is Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien De Castell. This book was recommended by Peter from Powell’s Bookstore at Cedars Crossing. Peter is an expert in science fiction and fantasy, and this book delighted me.

If you like Mark Lawrence (The Red Queen’s War ) or Joe Abercrombie, (The First Law Trilogy), Traitor’s Blade will suit. It has a bit of swashbuckle in it.

Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats, once the elite corps of 144 men and women, who traveled throughout the kingdom, dispensing the king’s justice. That is, until King Paelis ordered them to stand aside, and his head found is way onto a pike atop his castle, put there by conquering feudal lords intent on expanding their land and power.

Now jeered at and called “tattercoats,” Cantor and his small band must follow secret instructions given by the king in order to unite the ragged remnants of the once proud Greatcoats. If they fail in their mission, their kingdom will be destroyed.

Character and bantering dialog make this a stay-up-late story. His aching loyalty to justice puts Cantor into impossible situations as he struggles to rebuild the Empire and clean out the rot.
The book uses the technique of flashback, returning to the story of the king’s final battle, and then jumps forward to Cantor’s present as he struggles to save his world.

Peter recommended this; I recommend this. Soon, you’ll be recommending it too.

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Filed under Best selling author, fantasy series, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Self-publishing

Changes in Publishing

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Publishing is changing, but you knew that. The problem becomes how is it changing right now, and what headlines are we to believe about recent trends. December and January are great months to evaluate the past year and forecast upcoming developments.

Unfortunately, several publishing headlines proclaimed facts that don’t present the true picture. Politics isn’t the only purview of misleading or fake news.

Thank goodness for Hugh Howey and Data Guy.

Articles claimed that ebooks were decreasing and paperbacks were on the rise. Turns out that the rise of paperbacks sales came from several sources. 1: adult coloring books in 2015-16 became wildly popular. 2: Traditional publishers winning against Amazon (remember the big battle for agency pricing?) hiked prices for popular ebooks to sometimes the cost of a paperback. Readers chose the paperbacks when Amazon discounted them almost to parity with the ebook. 3: Finally, the data for these articles came from Bolkers who issues ISBNs. ISBNS are used by traditional publishers to track books. One book could have three or four different ISBNS depending on its format. An overwhelming amount of Indie publishers don’t use ISBNS due to their high cost here in the United States. They are not required by Amazon to publish ebooks. Amazon provides for free their own ASIN to tag ebooks. Indie authors often sell the large majority of their work as ebooks on Amazon and use Amazon’s ASIN. I use both.

Thankfully, Data Guy has a software program that scrapes data from Amazon, and other distributors (Kobo, Nook, etc.) to provide a more accurate picture of what might be happening.

Jane Friedman writes a blog with some interesting comments on the state of publishing.
https://janefriedman.com/9-statistics-writers-know-amazon/.   Check her out.

I believe that politics has impacted sales for January and February by distracting readers from books. My sales have dropped off, and I blame lack of marketing and political distraction, but this is merely my assumption. What about you?

Surprising changes in publishing are Amazon’s foray into brick and mortar to sell books and their new traditional publishing style imprints that are popping up.

I live five minutes away from the mall that houses Amazon’s new brick and mortar store. It’s fresh and new and highly curated. All covers face out and most are selected from Amazon’s bestsellers lists. It’s clever because a reader is presented with books that are proven already successful in the marketplace. No prices are put on the books since Prime members pay less and prices may vary. Will this new Amazon strategy pay off?

As a friend of mine often says, “We’ll see.”

all-the-birds-in-the-skyThis week I read Charlie Jane Anders’ “All the Birds in the Sky.” The timing couldn’t be better as it has just received a 2016 Nebula Award nomination.

The story starts off with Patricia Delfine’s tortured years at Canterbury Academy. All the angst of junior high school are magnified. Cliques of girls harass her and call her a witch. True, she talks to birds and a rather important tree, but only in the woods where no one can hear her. Nature is sacred to her and often she tries to escape the cruelty of her life by going into the forest behind her house.

Not only is school traumatic, but when she gets blamed for mean girl tricks, the school calls her parents and they lock her in her room for days, only letting her out to attend school. Her younger sister brings her meals, but not before she has poured hot sauce and chili pepper all over it.

Sibling love at its finest.

One day, Patrica literally runs into Lawrence Armstead who also gets pushed around and ridiculed at the same school. He, however, is a computer genius, and through a schematic on the Internet builds a time machine in a wristwatch that can jump him ahead two seconds. It’s not much, but it helps when spit balls come his way. Eventually, he builds a robot from parts and hides it in his closet. Unfortunately, his parents don’t value his geeky genius and sign him up for the Great Outdoor Nature Adventure to get him away from his computer and experiments so he can be more like “normal” boys. He hates it.

Patricia and Lawrence become awkward friends. Patricia is talked into lying about his attendance at nature class in exchange for twenty dollars. Lawrence also provides her with a module so she can talk to his robot and “socialize” it. The AI, in turn, gives out good advice on coping.

The book skips forward to San Francisco and young adults Patricia and Lawrence. Both have survived their childhood…barely. Patricia actually saves Lawrence’s life and, after a traumatic event, Patricia is found by a magician and runs away from her family to magic school.

The second half of the book follows the reunion of the two where they both struggle with lovers, their jobs, current co-workers, and a growing threat to the world. It becomes apparent that Patrica represents magic and nature while Lawrence symbolizes science. Together the two, with their talents, might save the world from a looming doomsday threat.

This is a strange book for science fiction. The early lives of the two main characters makes for agonizing reading and points out the failure of society both in education and child raising. I find the Nebula has often nominated and awarded unusual books that dance between fantasy and science fiction. This is one of those books.

Although the ending rather disappointed, I still recommend reading the book for its vivid characterizations and emotional events. It has a bit of the flavor of the Magicians in it. The trials these two have to overcome endears them and is worth the read.

And while reading this book, if you’re an adult, you’ll be glad you are. If you’re a teenager, you’ll be grateful that your life is better than their early life was… I hope.

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Filed under Amazon publishing, artificial intelligence, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, ebook marketing, Hugh Howey, Indie Publishing, Nebula nominations, Robots in science fiction, Wizards and magic, young adult science fiction

Publishing Wrap-up 2016 and Five Scifi Selections for 2017

IMG_0174January has certainly gotten off to a contentious start. How does that affect book sales? I would imagine that readers are turning on the television to get the latest incendiary news distortion or taking to the streets to loudly voice their opinions…

…rather than quietly reading.

Kristine Rusch has a lengthy blog that talks about Indie publishing as a business and some current trends. She discusses the fact that sales were down in 2016 and the reasons why. Publishers say there was no breakout novel. Election noise took away reading time. The ebook publishing business is leveling off.

My sales were good until November, and then, I also saw a downturn. I’m seeing it in January, but I’m blaming politics and a lack of marketing enthusiasm. I’m a bit burnt out on marketing at the moment. I need to catch up on my writing and fill up the piggy bank because having the necessary funds to see you over the down part only makes good business sense.

She mentions that also. Here’s the blog: http://kriswrites.com/2017/01/18/business-musings-2016-disappointments/

January is one of the most fun months of the year for my blog because I get to select books to read for the year. Sometimes a book doesn’t meet the publication date (Thorn of Emberlain ) and sometimes I decide the book isn’t up to my standards and don’t mention it. (Split Second) However, it’s a way to prime the pump and get enthusiastic about reading. I have found lately that good science fiction is hard to find. There’s a mishmash of books out there but very little in the “got to read” category.

Anyway here’s my next five:

all-the-birds-in-the-sky1. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. I keep seeing this on recommended lists. I have avoided it because I really don’t like apocalyptic novels. They tend to be downers rather than contain interesting science. There’s always a struggle with the environment, and too often zombies show up. But this is about a young girl who is involved in magic. A long ago geek friend she knows from Middle School gets back with her. Also, it takes place in San Francisco, and I lived in the Bay area for eight years. So, it’s on the list.

2. The Unquiet Land by Sharon Shinn: I’ve been waiting on this one. I’ve read the previous books in the series (Elementals) so I know I will like this. (Rubs hands together)the-last-year

unquiet-land3. The Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson. New release. Time travel. Amazon best list. Charles Wilson (Spin) I’m in.

4. The Traitor ‘s Blade by Sebastien De Castell: Peter who works in Powell’s at Cedar Crossing has been their science fiction expert for a long time. He’s the liason for our Science Fiction Book Club. He knows his stuff, and when I whined about wanting a good book, he stuck this in my hand. Of course, I bought it and put it on the list.traitors-blade

5. Night Without Stars by Peter Hamilton. A hardback library find. Well, I’d actually been seeing this on a few a-night-without-starsrecommended lists. I’ve read earlier novels in the series also. It’s a big book which means it will take a while to read, but this is a far future space opera, and I’m ready for that.

By the way…don’t forget the second season of the Expanse starts on television tomorrow night February 1, Syfy channel. Watch that rather than the political insanity. Or, maybe the politics of the future there will look frightening familiar, and you can get a two-for-one.

the-expanse-620x412

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, Alternate Universe Stories, Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, Dystopia Earth, fantasy series, first contact, genetic manipulation, Hard science fiction, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Political Science Fiction, Science Fiction Detective Story, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, time travel

Survival in science fiction

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This has been one of the snowiest winters I’ve ever experienced in the northwest
Which means I can stay in and read or write.

Yeah

The writing has slowed down as I’m trying to figure out how to get the the next series of events down on the page in an interesting fashion. Debates rage in writing circles on whether to be a pantser (writing by the seat your pants) or an outliner. For me, I do a broad outline and then charge ahead, putting myself in the head of my characters. Often they present surprising twists and turns in the action. I’m involved in one now and scrambling to see how my main characterIMG_0174 is going to get out of the pickle he’s got himself into.

It all makes writing fun.

I’ve been reading too. I usually put together a list of ten books to read throughout the new year, but this time I’m having difficulty coming up with an exciting list. I keep going back to authors that I have enjoyed in the past. I made a conscious effort to try new self published works last year and kept getting disappointed. Giving reviews became frustrating, particularly since I was not getting reviews myself.

I’m wondering what’s happening to book marketing. If you’re not tied to a large publisher with a big fan base, then book signings are not worth the time, expense or effort. I found add sites very effective for a while. Lately, not so much. As a reader, I’m not seeing exciting offerings and as an author, there are some I have used several times and my return on investment isn’t as rich as it used to be. It feels as if ebooks are becoming more and more devalued.

We probably brought it on ourselves with all the giveaways and promotions. But, hey, you have to get out there and offer something worthwhile to pique a reader’s interest. If you don’t put your name out, no one will know about you. I really feel these are great stories that readers will enjoy if they got to know about them.

As for other books… I still feel it is important to suggest good science fiction and, occasionally, fantasy. I want to keep a dialog going.

castaway-odysseyThis week, I read a book that caught my eye when I was library browsing. Publishers price new books expensively and often make them only available in hardcover for the first year. But, of course, those books are often found in the library for free. I picked a new book co-authored by Ryk Spoor and Eric Flint. Both are well known midlist science fiction authors. Their most recent book, Castaway Odyssey appears to be a later book in the Boundary Series, but I had no trouble with reading it first.

The story goes: Sergeant Samuel Morgan Campbell finds himself in a desperate situation when their starship the Outward Initiative shatters and disappears, leaving him and four boys on board a lifeboat during a practice drill. Outside on the hull, inspecting their actions for the drill, Ltd. Pearce Halley sustains life-threatening radiation exposure. Unexpectedly, the Sargeant and his untrained crew find themselves stranded in the depth of space, light years from any known colony, and with all electronics dead on the cramped lifeboat.

Boys ranging from Xander, recently graduated at the academy, to Francisco, who is an emotional nine years old, Sergeant Campbell has to calm and manage the occupants in this life-threatening situation.threshold

For fans of McGyver, this book is packed with interesting science written in an easy to understand manner as the novice crew has to repurpose equipment and find a way to survive far from any help. The second half of the story continues the survival theme once they discover and land on an unknown planet. Here, the reader gets a taste of the Swiss Family Robinson story as the crew now battles a dangerous alien planet that throws several lethal surprises at them.

I enjoyed the book as a light read with a YA flavor. It is always interesting to see what an author considers important in a survival situation in space. It does not have the detail and intensity of The Martian, but may appeal to that audience, nonetheless.

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, Best selling author, Cutting Edge Science ideas, ebook marketing, first contact, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction science, science fiction series, space travel, YA science ficiton