Category Archives: science fiction science

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

Time to Read: Bone Clocks

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Interesting science news:

Currently I’m writing about space travel. It’s a story called Worlds too Far and has been a blast to write. I had the convoy of ships stop at an asteroid field for water and minerals…then I saw this great article on space.com.

Also turns out that oxygen has been found within a comet. There’s more out there in space than man can imagine…. except for we science fiction types.

http://www.space.com/30582-asteroid-mining-water-propulsion.html?li_source=LI&li_medium=more-from-space14-space-future-spaceflight

In the marketing information section:

This month I’m back to marketing. I will be trying out the Amazon Countdown for Caught in Time January 22 thru 29 and combining with Booksends on January 22 @ 99 cents and Bargain Booksy @ 99 cents on the 23rd. With Countdown, the price goes up every two days so get in early for the best price. I like that doing it this way encourages readers to act immediately rather than put off a purchase. Caught in Time is my first book, although often I’ve said that with time travel you can read any of the the first three and be fine. Each book in the series has a stand alone story. I’ve tried to model Lois McMasters Bujold’s concept of a series having a timeline with each book complete in itself.

November’s marketing strategy turned out well using Booksends for Cosmic Entanglement and carried over into December where I was too busy to do much marketing. Now’s a new year and I want to keep momentum going.

Figuring out marketing is difficult. Personal signings require a large local fan base and craft shows aren’t always successful. Having said that, one of the authors in my writing group sold 70 books at a local book fair over the holiday. So, you never know. The word got out.

Bone Clock D. MitchellBook Review:

This week I’ll report on one of my 2016 selections. A lot of people have read this to mixed reviews. It is different– Urban Fantasy with a background of paranormal.

Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Voice. Sometimes a story has a character with a distinctive voice brought on by unique dialogue and particular behaviors.

Bone Clocks tells a story unlike any I’ve read in speculative fiction. Actually, it’s four sections told from different viewpoints that intersect each other, going from 1950 to the far future.

The start is the strongest part of the book, as fifteen-year-old Holly Sykes has a row with her mother and hies off to live with her boyfriend only to discover him in bed with her best friend. A fifteen year old, torn by betrayal, doesn’t stop to consider the dangers and struggle in store for a homeless and penniless young girl as she runs off aimlessly and grief-stricken.

But Holly is no ordinary girl. She hears “radio voices” and, as a young girl, was visited frequently in the night in her bedroom by a strange and ghostly woman who would have conversations with her. Something is going on behind the curtain, but Mitchell is shy about revealing all too soon.

We skip to Hughe’s part in the story. Hugh Lamb is the opposite of Holly. A rich kid at university with low morals and a clever mind, Hugh manipulates his friends, eventually causing one to suicide. In the end of the second section, he briefly meets up with Holly but selects to follow strange, shady beings who promise immortality and awesome power. We leave the dangerous Hugh tripping off with his new companions. The timeline then continues with Ed, a wartime journalist and Crispin, an embittered author, past his prime.

Eventually two factions reveal themselves in the background. One powerful and immortal faction fights for the survival of humankind; the other immortal aliens, are trying to consume humans. The ending is a bit of a let down and confusing for me.

However, the strange and powerful immortals in the background fighting for power while only certain human with psychic powers are aware was interesting.

Still, if you are looking for a different slant to a speculative novel, you might enjoy the Bone Clocks.

Some readers did; some didn’t.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Aliens in Science Fiction, Alternate Universes, Best selling science fiction, book fairs, Comets and asteroids, ebook marketing, hard science, Lois McMasters Bujold, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction, Science Fiction book review, science fiction science, science fiction series, Self-publishing, Space opera, time travel, Uncategorized, Urban Fantasy

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

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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Filed under Alien worlds, Best selling science fiction, hard science, Hard science fiction, Mars, science fiction, science fiction science

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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Filed under book fairs, Comets, ebook marketing, first contact, Hard science fiction, Medical science fiction, Science Fiction book review, science fiction science, science news

Comet Ison: Not Science Fiction

IMG_0174If the name Ison means nothing to you….then you need to read on.

If it does, then you might want to read on anyway.

Ison is the name of a spectacular comet that has entered our solar system and is headed toward the sun. On November 28, 2013, it will approach perihelion with the sun (closest point: 700,00 miles above the surface) and one of three things will happen:

It will survive and head out towards Earth, it will break up into pieces like the Schumacher-Levy Comet did, and pieces of it will continue towards the sun, or it will disintegrate completely due to the sun’s enormous gravity and heat. It may not survive…

Most Sungrazing comets don’t.

touching-crystal-thumb-1This exciting event happens just around the time of the launch of my sixth book, Touching Crystal, and yes, Chapter One starts with a comet streaking  out from behind the sun and crashing into Thanos, Alysia’s smaller moon. Richard Steele and Trace Walker have to cope with the aftermath of changing weather and disrupted economies. But more than that, there’s alien crystals and invaders involved.

Exciting stuff…and very timely.

I would like to say that I planned Comet Ison coming at this time, but of course, I didn’t.

Serendipity.

Here’s an interesting link on 12 cool facts about Comet Ison.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2013/11/21/comet_ison_12_cool_facts.html

It’s less than two miles across in the rocky core…1.2 miles (size of Manhattan) and shrinking as it casts off huge amounts of gas and water. The tail is five million miles long and the coma (front part) is 100,000 kilometers in size. The tail has recently split into possibly three tails and the front has sprouted “wings,” which indicates that pieces may have come off.

If it does survive the sun and comes around out of the backside, it could reach a velocity of 225/sec or fast enough to cross the Continental US in twenty-five seconds.

But…

New Image of Comet ISONThe closest it will get to Earth is on December 26 (hmmm…) at forty million miles away. (phew!)

We should be able to see a spectacular show, and even now, it’s brightening up enough to be seen with binoculars and the naked eye at certain times.

Then, once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. It’s called a Perihelion Comet and they don’t come back.

So be alert, and check the skies for a once in a lifetime event.

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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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