Category Archives: Portal fiction

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:

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.



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

Time Travel: a Popular Scifi theme


Recently my brother requested a good book on time travel.

Now, I know one of his favorite scifi books is Dinosaur Beach by Keith Laumer because of the time travel element where future impacts the present.

And Caught in Time...because, well, I wrote it. (See right panel)

My favorite time travel novels are Connie Willis’s To Say Nothing of the Dog and Blackout/All Clear. (All won Hugo’s)

But his request fit in perfectly with what I was reading and getting ready to blog about.To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

One of the books I picked to read this year was Timebound by Rysa Walker because it won the 2013 Amazon breakout novel award and the blurb sounded interesting.

I am noticing that first person point of view is popular in “New Adult” fiction (30ish) and Timebound follows this trend. So you are in the modern day viewpoint of a teenage girl.

TimeboundNamed after her two grandmothers, Prudence Katherine goes by the name of Kate. (What teenage girl would do otherwise?) Her mother and father are separated, but speaking to each other, when her grandmother breezes into town, announcing that she has a brain tumor and asks that Kate and her mother or father move into the home she has just bought. Kate’s mother refuses, but her father moves in. Also at the house is a male friend and employee of Katherine’s called Conner and an Irish setter called Daphne.

While moving into her new digs, Kate notices a glowing blue medallion her grandmother puts out on the counter. However, it soon becomes apparent that only she can see it’s blue glow. Touching it draws her into a strange dimension where briefly she sees a handsome dark-haired young man who calls out her name before she is pulled back into the kitchen and passes off the experience to her father and grandmother as a dizzy spell. But grandmother Katherine knows better.

Katherine has a serious agenda, and that is to introduce Kate to her genetic ability to time travel using the medallion in order to prevent a murder and the changing of their timeline.

Kate is not the only one in the family to have the ability. Years ago her mother’s twin sister, also named Prudence, and Kate’s grandfather were killed in a car accident…supposedly. Prudence’s body was never found.

Turns out Kate’s grandmother was born in 2282 and went on to work as a historian for an operation called CHRONOS that sent out time travelers to research certain historical facts. She becomes involved in a charismatic traveler named Saul who sees an opportunity to manipulate the organization and set up a power base through a religious movement. The company’s main operation center gets blown up, stranding all time travelers in various timelines.

In this story, the timeline that Kate travels to is the Chicago Fair in 1899 where an attempt is made on Katherine’s life that changes Kate’s current timeline.

There is some confusion as changing the past, changes the timeline and Kate’s mother vanishes and Kate finds her father in a different life with a different family. This upsets her, but the bonus is that she meets a boy named, Trey, who believes her wild story of timelines changing and helps her try to put things to right.

Life becomes dangerous as others traveling the timelines do not want her to succeed.

An adventure in 1899 at the World’s Fair is the main focus of this novel where Kate tries to figure out what she needs to do to fix things.

While this is a Young Adult novel, I did like Kate experiencing the changed timeline and some of the danger she encounters. This definitely is the first in a series as many questions still remained unanswered.

However, my daughter would like this story much better than my brother. The writing is good, but the teenage developing romance and emotions, she would like, and he, not so much.


SunwielderThat said, I think Sunwielder by D. Wallace Peach is right up his alley.

This story takes place in a land on the brink of war in a more medieval setting. Gryff Worden finds his family slaughtered in his farmyard. Mortally wounded, he stumbles upon a strange old woman who is a timekeeper. She offers him a Sunwield, a medallion that can return him to the critical choices that shape his life. He gets a “do over” as the medallion repeatedly brings back moments that determine life and death, or pivotal choices on his life’s path.

An intriguing concept of time travel shaped by the competent writing of this author makes this a book worth reading.

What if you could change certain critical moments in your life? How would it affect the rest of your life? A word in anger not said, a chance meeting missed or made that led you to finding a spouse?

And…is your life shared with a constellation of others that resonate with you through multiple timelines?

I’ve been wanting to read a book like this and now it’s here. Both books use medallions as the instrument that enables time travel, but in very different ways with very different people.

What is your favorite time travel book? I’ll pass it along to an eager brother.


Filed under Alternate Universes, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Hugo winners, Portal fiction, time travel, WWII

Word of Mouth

IMG_0193Word of mouth is still one of the most powerful ways an author can sell books. So many ads and commercials bombard us daily that I feel  we are becoming immune to the messages. But let a friend lean over and whisper, “You should read this book, buy this tool, try this service” and we’re out the door.

My blog on Science Fiction Mysteries came to the ears of an associate on Goodreads.  Jacob posted the blog and leaned in to comment on three other novels that he considered good science fiction mystery stories. Two I have read, and the third has been ordered and put on my “to read” list. So I’m leaning over and passing along his suggestions by word of blog.

Caves of SteelThe first is: Caves of Steel by Asimov. Asimov is truly a classic science fiction author. Most likely you have read him. But on the off chance that you haven’t, here’s a summary.

This story is about detective Elijah Baley who is tasked to solve the murder of a high level person. The setting is years in the future where the cities are built underground and space travel is commonplace. The positronic brain has been developed so that robots mimic humans, creating antagonism in some social circles. Baley isn’t too happy to learn that he has to solve a murder mystery and his partner is Daneel R. Olivaw, a robot…even worse, this robot has been made in the image of the victim.

This is the first of several books by Asimov that feature Olivaw and Baley and all are highly recommended. Caves of Steel was made into a movie called “I, Robot” starring Will Smith.

The second suggestion was Altered Carbon, which I reviewed last year.(July 2012)  I liked the gritty novel of a detective that is downloaded into a “sleeve” or body several times over his lifetime. Check out my review for a more detailed account.510nes2HGmL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

The third that Jacob recommended is The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds.  It’s been a while since I have read any of Reynolds books, and there are quite a number of others that he has written that I haven’t read. I don’t remember reading The Prefect, so I ordered it and it’s on the way. If you have favorites of his, let me know. Fair warning that I may go into “an author deep dive” if I like it.The Prefect

Currently, I’m “deep diving” into Andre Norton and so far all have been enjoyable. I received The Ice Crown free at Powells and liked it.  The Book club there gave an enthusiastic thumbs up when I asked opinions on Norton, so I went on to get Witch World. This is the first book in the Witch World Series. It was good. I plan to continue on in the series. I also picked up the The Zero Stone. I’m halfway through and I’m hooked. Here’s what has happened so far:

Murdoc Jern’s father is a gem trader and collector of odd objects. He comes across an enigmatic space stone in a ring shape, bigger than a wrist that gives off strange vibrations. He sends his oldest son, Murdoc, off to apprentice under Vondar, a well known gem trader, in order that Mordoc broadens his experience and builds a career. He also suggests that Murdoc may be able, through his travels, to discover the origins and properties of the alien stone. Mordoc comes home to visit. There’s a festival and the whole family, but his father, go to church to celebrate. Mordoc becomes uneasy and leaves early, goes home and finds his father dead, bound and tortured to death in his office. For some reason, he suspects that the Thieves’ Guild is after the stone.

With his father dead, his younger brother feels threatened that he will try to take over the business. His mother brutally reveals that he is a “duty child.” These are embryos shipped from a populous world to a frontier planet to vary the stock, by law assigned to a family to raise and nurture. They want him to leave, which he does gladly, taking only the strange stone with him.The Zero Stone

He rejoins Vondar, but they are accosted in a bar by the local planet’s religious sect that spins a green wheel and whoever it points to is assassinated. The wheel points to a space between the two of them and as the two fight in protest, Murdoc runs free and Vondar is killed. They hunt Mordoc down, but he run to sanctuary where he negotiates and gets smuggles on board the last departing ship captained by a Free Trader.

The Free Traders stop at a planet on a regular route, only to find the planet wasted and the inhabitants gone. But the ship’s cat ingests a strange seed pod and gives birth to a catlike alien that names himself Eet and forms a telepathic bond with Mordoc. Mordoc contracts a disease that looks like a plague and overhears words that lead him to believe that the captain has been paid to deliver him to someone. Mordoc’s boils, fever and rash panic the crew and so they won’t be shunned as a “plague ship,” they plan to kill him. In order to escape, Mordoc and the cat leave the ship by jumping into space. In his fevered state, Mordoc vaguely realizes that the space stone on his gloved finger is pulling him toward some destination.

That turns out to be a drifting and abandoned ship of no design that Mordoc can recognize. Luckily, they find edible rations and a lifeboat inside. After, rest and recuperation, they take the lifeboat and head towards the nearest planet where they crash land onto a jungle like planet.

And I’m only a third of the way through. The plot is exciting with lots of twists and turns and I am anticipating what comes next. I wonder who Mordoc Jern really is, what the strange relationship with the alien being will develop into, and who is after them. Most of all, what is the Zero Stone and what can it do?

Stay tuned.

And lean over and whisper me your favorite scifi novel.

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Filed under alien life forms, Aliens in Science Fiction, Best selling science fiction, Classic science fiction, Portal fiction, Robots in science fiction, science fiction, Science Fiction Mystery, science fiction series, Witch World

Crowdsourcing and Portal Fiction

IMG_0165Escaping into another dimension either through a looking glass, a wardrobe or a stargate is one way some authors present a unique world.

John Bunnel mentioned casually at our last science fiction book club a subgenre that I had never heard of:

Portal Fiction.

Immediately classic stories such as: Through the Looking Glass, Alice in Wonderland, The Witch, the Lion and the Wardrobe, and the Magician (which we were reading) sprung to mind.Alice in WonderlandThrough the Looking Glass

Then, I realized the stargate that is in Past the Event Horizon is a portal of sorts leading to an undiscovered world.

What else?

Stephen Donaldson in his The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever employs the portal fiction device using a white gold ring that takes a dying leper into a fantasy world where he becomes a powerful magician. The series became immensely popular back in the day, particularly the first three books. Check them out if you like big fantasy ala Lord of the Rings style.

Mirror of her DreamsHowever, it was his series, Mordant’s Need, with the first book being A Mirror of her Dreams and the final book, A Man Rides Through, that is the undiscovered surprise.A Man Rides Through

A mirror provides the portal for a young modern Manhattan girl to fall into a an exciting Medieval world where she pairs up with a faulty imager to try to defeat the evil wizard. Once again, the characters have issues, and once again, it’s hard to put the book down.

Against All Things EndingHis Into the Gap Series is also worth trying. The “last” in the Chronicle Series, was published fairly recently, called Against All Thing Ending. A warning that the reviews are mixed. I liked the first books best. But FYI.

Another tidbit that attracted my attention this past week is the startling different problem solving technique showcased on a recent Nova show of which I am fast becoming a fan. David Pogue is the narrator/guinea pig.

He recently talked about an addictive game called Foldit that was based on folding proteins. Hundred of thousands of individuals played the game and twittered each other through their computers to come up with some break through science in fighting disease through new protein configurations.crowds-1


The method is called crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is a phenomenon that is getting some buzz and may provide a cure for Aids through game playing. Maybe. Possibly other diseases. Some are hopeful. See the above link for many other ways crowd sourcing is being used to: write a book, determine what music we hear, kickstart a project, map the cosmos, collect tips and advice and solve difficult science problems. Interesting…very interesting what they might use it for next.

Any ideas?

Maybe viral a blog?

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Filed under Alternate Universe Stories, Alternate Universes, Crowdsourcing, fantasy, Portal fiction