Category Archives: Science fiction world building

Ebook Marketing: Science Fiction

photo Fame is fleeting.

But so sweet in the moment.

Yesterday Caught in Time made #1 in Amazon’s Free Kindle>science fiction>space opera bestseller list.

Oh the glory.

Today…now that my promotion is over, I’m swimming in the deep ocean of paid Kindle eBooks. Sigh. Like I said…fleeting. But wonderful, nonetheless.

However, sales for books in the rest of the series have picked up briskly and I’m hoping readers will explore further the Alysian Universe. Later books are more adult, and I hope the YA flavor of the earlier ones won’t deter readers.

So read on, you all. Select a book from the series, huddle under the covers, and let those cold winds blow outside while you explore another world and keep warm. Undercity

Does the series idea work? I just finished reading Catherine Asaro’s latest novel, Under City and renewed my love for her stories. She is beginning a new detective series with a female protagonist, Major Bhaajan, former military officer with Imperial Space Command, now a hard bitten P.I. She takes on a case that unearths her poverty stricken past and turns up old loves and old enemies. A prince of the royal family has disappeared and her job is to find him. The trail leads downward where she not only has to save the prince, but possibly a whole way of life hidden underground.

Asaro brings deep emotions and romance to science fiction. Once a ballet dancer and also a producer of a jazz album, Asaro carries heavy credentials in the smart department with a M.A. in Physics and a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics from Harvard. This stretch of hard science combined with artistic talent is reflected in her writing. Two time Nebula Award winner, her series in the Skolian Universe is one of my favorites. Lightning Strike

While this new series slides down the social scale, diving underneath the city of Cries to a place where survival is a day by day struggle, several royal members from past books make cameo appearances. The new reader takes scant notice, but for her fans, the chords from past novels are plucked and resonate in memory.The City of Cries Of course, I recommend Under City if you are an Asaro fan.

One of the reasons I like science fiction is that I like to wonder what the future might bring. If you’re like me…then this article on Kurtzweil’s predictions for the next twenty-five years might pique your interest. It’s my nod to you hard science guys who have been so patient lately while I’ve dallied in fantasy. http://www.inquisitr.com/1805304/ray-kurzweil-predicts-some-fantastic-things-coming-in-the-next-25-years/

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Cutting Edge Science ideas, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Science Fiction Detective Story, Science fiction world building, Space opera

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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Hot Science Fiction New Release

IMG_0165With the flood of science fiction stories coming out, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ferret out the good stuff buried in the new slush pile of easy publication.

 I’m getting increasing cranky with authors writing stuff that I get fifty pages in, and I don’t care what happens. This has happened with both established and Indie authors recently…but more often with the self-publishers.

 As an author myself, this scares me. I want my readers hanging on every word I write. So, what is the magic alchemy that keeps a reader turning pages long after they have vowed to quit in order to sleep, to eat, to breathe? To so enthrall a reader that he or she rubs reddened eyes and mumbles, “Okay, just one more chapter, then I’ll stop.”

 Here’s an interesting blog by a reviewer who attempts to answer that question, and provide insight to any authors out there.

 http://creativityhacker.ca/2014/08/26/the-5-most-common-writing-mistakes-that-break-reader-immersion/

 Cibola BurnAs both a series writer and reader, I recently picked up Cibola Burn by S.A. Corey (who we know is Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). I’ll have to admit the title rather put me off, but the cover was awesome. Besides, I liked the first three books in this intriguing space opera series.

 I also had the usual issue of a newly released, traditionally published book in that it was available only in hardback at a high price of $27.00 or for an ebook at $12.99. Thank you not Hatchette Group.

 Rant. Rant. Rant. Ahhh. Library solution.

 For me, Cibola Burn is the best so far in the series. It’s sort of a Firefly meets Apocalypse Now.

 The mysterious gate (Abaddon’s Gate) has opened up a vast new universe of empty worlds to human exploration. Made homeless by the destruction of Ceres, a shipload of desperate humans rush through the gate, searching for a place to settle. Life is like the wild west frontier, but they manage to eke out an existence on one of the brave new worlds. Then, word comes that the big corporations and governments are sending their ships with papers that contain deeds and property claims all tied up in pretty ribbons and fancy legalese to kick the current settlers off their land. Many on the ship are scientists coming to study the new world and send back reports.

 The “squatters” revolt to protect their homes. A bomb meant to explode the landing pad accidentally kills a shuttleful of passengers, including the “new mayor.”Abaddon's Gate

 A fast trigger finger on the surviving security chief from the new ship retaliates and a feud between the original settlers and the new arrivals bursts forth. Familiar characters from the earlier series, James Holden and crew, are sent in by Earth diplomats to mediate the dispute.

 Holden lands just in time to witness the security chief shoot the leader of the more violent settlers in the eye, igniting a blood feud.

 As the conflict escalates, Holden is one of the few to look around the planet, notice alien artifacts of a long dead civilization and wonder what killed the former residents all off. A highly intelligent, amorous, female scientist provides him with disconcerting observations and ardent help, much to his discomfort.

 The answer to his question is important. Amidst violence erupting from both sides, the humans suddenly realize that more is at stake then their own petty squabbles as the long buried and hibernating alien artifacts stir and awaken.

 The taste of a Firefly episode lingers at the back of my mouth, which isn’t unpleasant. “No good deed goes unpunished” also reverberates throughout the story as Holden puts human life ahead of regulation and power grabs, while trying to do the “right thing.”

 I found the solution for the panting, young scientist insulting, but it didn’t destroy the story for me. Although this book could stand alone, it is best enjoyed after reading the three previous novels. Still, I must say that I enjoyed the story and recommend it.

Assassin's Fool In this age of hard to find good science fiction, I keep stumbling over fantasy novels. And since Robin Hobb has come out with a new novel, Assassin’s Fool, that continues the Story of FitzChivalry and the Fool, I just had to read it.

 I’ll give you my reactions on it next week.

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The Anti Hero in Fantasy

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What is happening to the hero who is firm of jaw and pure of heart? Where is the man who faces dangerous odds in order to rescue fair damsel?

Lately he’s the clever, disfigured dwarf (Game of Thrones), the contorted torturer (The Blade Itself), or a multi identitied spaceship (Ancillary Justice).

The Blade Itself2

And the fair damsel is an ass kicking chick with knives to spare and attitude.

The two books I read this week have both.

Prince of FoolsThe first is Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Fools.

Jalan Kendreth of the Red March, tenth in line to the throne, likes boozing, gambling and womanizing. He is a man of no ambition and an admitted coward and liar.

He is a royal prince, who adheres enthusiastically to the rights of royally. As he leaps out of a noble lady’s window pursued by an antagonistic older brother, he justifies his roguish actions with a wide grin.

He admits to cowardice with nary a qualm, never revealing he was running away when he ran into the surprise attack and won the war. He’s acclaimed a hero, and doesn’t hesitate to trade on the glory it brings, always forgetting to mention his true intention at the time.

He lines out his philosophy by saying, “Enjoy the world while you can, I say. A shallow enough philosophy by which to live, but shallow is what I got. Besides, deep is apt to drown you.”

Through an act of sorcery, Jalan becomes entangled with a fierce Viking slave, Snorri ver Snagason who is bent on revenge for atrocities to his family. Snorri is a blonde mountain of a man with a abundant courage and a good heart that turns dark when violence taps into his “blood rage.”

Throughout the whole book Jalan is pulled along in Snorri’s wake as he struggles to free himself from their sorcerous bond. Snorri misinterprets a lot of Jalan’s actions as heroic, while Jalan recognizes the more realistic truth of his intentions. Often he tries to ply the influence of royalty only to find the farther away from court and his own country he goes, the less influence it wields. Deference turns to yawns as Jalen scrambles to find new levers with which to survive.

Prince of thornsEvidently there is a prior series that begins with Prince of Thorns set in this same universe and wildly acclaimed. The story is dark and edgy. While there are dark and edgy moments in Prince of Fools, the humor between the two men as they struggle with each other, gradually becoming fast friends, dominates the book. I loved the banter and developing friendship as the two search for release from each other. But when Jalan is told that all he has to do to be released from Snorri is to order him killed, he responds by inquiring if perchance there might be another way.

Mark Lawrence writes a thoroughly engaging story with their “buddy adventure” as the main thread. If you like your hero a bit tarnished, and your world rich with description and magic, then I recommend Prince of Fools.

 

Hunting PartyI’d never read anything by Elizabeth Moon, but I heard her name often enough. So I thought to try one of her novels. Several people in my book group offered enthusiastic suggestions, so I settled on the first in a series called Hunting Party.

Descended from a famous family of Admirals, Heris Serrano resigns her commission from the military due to mysterious circumstances that gradually are revealed. Although beneath her dignity, she hires on to captain a space yacht owned by Lady Cecelia de Marktos, a wealthy eccentric.

Lady Cecelia’s passion is riding horses, and she is bound to a hunt at Lord Thornbuckle’s, known to his peers as Bunny. Owning an entire planet, Lord Thornbuckle has recreated his version of an old English hunt. Unfortunately, before Cecelia can get away, her sister ropes her into taking along her spoiled son, Ronnie, and his three friends, George, Bubbles and Raffele. Bubbles is Lord Thornbuckle’s daughter.

Seems Ronnie, the profligate son, bedded the prince’s current mistress and then bragged about it, causing full royal fury complete with death threats. So Ronnie is put on probation and sent away with his maiden aunt and a few friends.

All the commotion has set back the schedule, and Heris is pressured to get underway without a full inspection. Only gradually, after launch, does she come to realize how lax and sloppy the former captain ran the ship. A serious problem develops into the journey that requires they put in the nearest shipyard for repairs. Heris tries her best to calm down her new employer who will miss opening day by suggesting a bet. If the repairs extend past a certain deadline, she will learn how to ride, and if they make their timetable, Lady Cecelia will learn about her ship.

Contraband is discovered as parts are replaced, causing legal delays, so Heris agrees to train on Lady Cecelia’s mechanical mount on board the ship and ride at the hunt. Cecelia relents and agrees to learn more about her yacht. The two develop a friendship.

They arrive, a bit late, but intact. Ronnie is bored by the hunt and suggests a midnight escape in Lord Thornbuckle’s flitter with a picnic at dawn. Bubbles remembers a childhood island where the family would go camping. They head there, but as they approach the island, they are waved off. When they circle back, they are shot down.

It turns out the island is being used illegally for a different kind of hunt and Heris’s former crew is involved. Now Ronnie and his friends are also in danger for their lives.

Moon turns in her version of The Hunger Games that involve an old nemesis of Heris’s and a mysterious Mr. Smith that wears boots that leave a royal print.

Plot drives this story and provides a pleasant tale with danger, friendship, intrigue and bravery. Not a wilting violet among these strong females with Heris as the kickass captain who can take charge when things become dangerous, and who has extra guns and attitude to spare.

 

 

 

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Superstar Science Fiction Marketeer

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Along with recommended science fiction and fantasy, I have been recently discussing self publishing and marketing.

 And…no one is more at the forefront of marketing for the Indie author than Hugh Howey.

I first became aware of Hugh Howey when I downloaded a free, self-published, short story off of Amazon called Wool. WoolAt the time, I didn’t realize it was a short story, but I had heard a bit about it and it showed up on my Amazon’s “suggested for you” list.

Seemed like an odd title, but it was free and intriguing noises were being made about it.

Wool2 There followed on Amazon a longer sequel of 126 pages called Wool 2: Proper Gauge for .99 and then a 106 page story called Wool 3: Casting Off for .99, a little longer at 166 pages Wool 4: the Unraveling was $1.99, and finally a 259 page novelette, Wool 5: The Stranded for $2.99.wool3

 Hugh Howey says in July 2011 he wrote the first short story, never marketed it, never mentioned it on his blog, but readers clamored to know more about the world with the silos. Offered free, many downloaded, read it and wanted more.

 So he wrote more.Wool4

Five more.Wool5

 The stories were bundled into an omnibus called Wool Omnibus Edition 1-5 for $5.99.

 Hugh Howey was on fire.

 WoolFollowing this success, he continued with The Shift series, much in the same vein as WoolFirst Shift at 236 pages, Second Shift at 266 pages and Third Shift at 282 pages all collected together and in 2013 offered the Shift Omnibus. Wool went to hardback, published by Random House, UK in 2013 and Ridley Scott Productions is discussing making a movie of Wool.

 Then, Hugh Howey opened the doors to his Silo world, and authors from all over are now writing stories and novels in the Silo Universe. Wider distribution came with audiobooks. Also, Shift can be found in Scribd’s subscription listings.

 This is where it becomes apparent that “content is king,” and some stories fire the imagination of their readers and take off to become mega hits if the author is paying attention to the new trends.

 And Howey was.

 It was an undefinable, combustible mixture of great storytelling, fresh marketing approaches and being at the right place at the right time.

 Hugh Howey has been very clever and innovative in how his stories were released out into the mad maelstrom of the new publishing world.Shift

 Then one year ago (2013), he published his novel, Dust, also through CreateSpace, that wrapped up his Silo trilogy.

 “Wool introduces the world of the silo, Shift tells the story of its creation and Dust brings about its downfall.”

DustDust is a full novel of 464 pages. Sold in paperback ($14.78), Audiobook ($12.33) or Kindle ($5.99). I happened to grab it out of my local library in the paperback version. Before you yell cheapskate too loud, I did buy the Wool version first and then accidentally found Dust in my library. *snatch*

 As a finale to an exciting trilogy, it delivers. Once again the reader encounters the determined Mayor Juliette who understands more than anyone the horrors of the silo and desperately tries to save her people. Dust also brings back the grittiness of life in the silo with the good, the bad, and the clueless that live there.

It’s a story of the human spirit that never gives up, that adapts and copes in order to survive against horrifying odds.

But you have to start at the beginning. You have to start with Wool.

 And then, you’ll be hooked.

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Filed under Alien worlds, Best selling science fiction, Disaster Fiction, Dystopia Earth, ebook marketing, ebook science fiction, environmental issues in science fiction, Hugh Howey, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Marketing and selling novels, Post Apocalyptic, science fiction, science fiction series, Science fiction world building, Self-publishing, The future of publishing

Clones in Science Fiction

IMG_0174I’m out and about.

Portland’s summer weather is beautiful. So come meet me for a book signing at Jan’s Paperback Saturday, August 9 from 1:00p.m. to 4:00p.m. (See left sidebar for more details)

Currently, clones are dominating my writing in my next novel entitled, Someone’s Clone, which is due out in the Fall. It starts with murder, then time travel, conflict between Terrans and Alysians and includes the enigmatic and alien Enjelise, Angel…a stew of delightful action with an explosive ending.

So I rummaged through my reading and decided to suggest some of my favorite novels that feature clones. Both have won a Hugo Award, and both are classics of the 80’s.

The Snow Queen The first is Joan D. Vinge’s Snow Queen. I first read this a while ago, when it won a Hugo for best science fiction, but I remembered the rich description of Tiamat and the beautiful cold ruler Arienrhod. Told from the viewpoint of Moon Dawntreader of the summer people, it is a story of love and the transfer of power. With a nod to Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, this story is set in the far future on the twin sun planet Tiamat that is isolated by a stargate and suppressed by the far flung empire of the Hegemony.

Moon Dawntreader of the summer people is in love with Sparks, her cousin, but he gets caught up by the ruthless winter queen, Arienrhod, when he travels to the city of Carbuncle. To save him, Moon goes through several trials and tribulations. In an effort to prolong her reign, the Snow Queen has eight clones sprinkled throughout the summer or lower half of Tiamat. Whichever one becomes the strongest and survives will be crowned the next ruler.

Guess who that might be?

The Snow Queen is followed by The Summer Queen and is also a good read. The new queen, Moon Dawntreader, realizes that ruling isn’t as fun as she’d expected. A hidden old technology, with a enormous data base, lies buried beneath the planet’s capitol. Manifesting as the Sybil, it holds together the old Empire’s society, but is now breaking down.The Summer Queen

With the rise of the summer solstice, a century of exploitation by the Hegemony passes. Summer Queen, Moon Dawntreader, appointed to lead her people back to the ancient traditional ways, chooses instead to prepare them to meet the return of the mighty Empire on equal terms.

Complex, with description and more character driven than action, this story contains a fascinating world and future.

 

CyteenAnother Hugo winner, and one of my favorite authors, is C.J. Cherryh. Her Cyteen series also is told from the viewpoint of a clone and is filled with political intrigue, murder and betrayal.

Set in Cherryh’s Merchanters’ Universe (which you should visit extensively), Reseune is a laboratory Empire that creates genetically modified humans for a variety of tasks from farmers to soldiers. These created humans have no legal rights. They are the Azi (short for from A to Z) socially stratified and task-defined slaves.

Ariadne Emory is the chief administrator holding the power in Reseune, but one morning she is found dead in her room. To hang onto her immense power, her advisors realize they can replicate her and program her personality to take the place of the dead original. They plan to manipulate her personality to control her.Cyteen The Rebirth

Cyteen the VindicationBut Ari has other ideas.

Those who love psychological drama, politics, and the struggle to be an individual in a repressive society will like this. Those who prefer the nonstop action of a James Corey will prefer another novel.

Or you could be like me, and like both.

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, C. J. Cherryh, Classic science fiction, genetic manipulation, Hugo winners, Political Science Fiction, science fiction, Science Fiction Mystery, Science fiction world building

Science Fiction Marketing and a few Sequels

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Before reviewing two sequels, I want to mention two new marketing programs I have recently experienced.

The first came about when Catherine Asaro showed up to follow me on Twitter. Wow! Me!

Her series of the Skolian Universe is one of my favorites. (Received a Nebula for A Quantum Rose ) and I dream….dream of having my Alysian series do anywhere near as well as hers. So I was excited when she popped up in my e-mail and wanted to tweet me.

Turns out she was putting out the word for an innovative Kickstarter Program for an audible book, Aurora in Four Voices. The goal was $4500 and by the time I tweaked to what she was doing, she had exceeded that goal reaching $5595 with 121 backers and promising to write a new novella for the series if she got to $9000 by the deadline…and it looks like that might happen.Aurora in Four Voices

The idea of funding books, and other projects, with Kickstarter is getting a lot of notice resulting in notable success stories. Most likely you need to be as famous as Asaro or have a compelling story to tell to achieve your goal, but it’s gaining enough traction to keep an eye on and think about.

The other new marketing program I want to mention is Amazon’s Countdown Deal. I found the five days free with KDP Select extremely successful, so I decided to try the CountDown also, as an experiment.

Often five days, especially over a weekend, isn’t enough time for some busy readers to act on a special. However, if you missed my KDP Select deal, (and many didn’t) here is another opportunity to get Caught in Time at a discount. Starting July 6 at .99 the price escalates every three days for twelve days and then the price resumes at the normal retail rate of $3.99…still a bargain, and you have twelve days to act…although time is already running out. Tap on the cover at the right, open the window to Amazon to get the current status, get a great price and enjoy a fun adventure through time to a medieval past.

I am currently #84 out of the hundreds of time travel books and moving up. *smile*

For all the commotion and negative comments currently going around about Amazon, if you are an author and want to sell books, Amazon does it far better than any other venue. They also strive to come up with ways to help market your book if you are an author, or help you find what you want to read if you’re a reader.

I am both, and grateful.

It’s unfortunate that success often makes you a target. I don’t remember the big publishers having such tender hearts over fledgling authors back in their day. If they deigned to respond at all, they called the tune and made the authors dance through their narrow publishing gate. Now they’re trying to characterize Amazon as the greedy guy? And…The big chain stores that squeezed out the mom and pop bookstores are suddenly calling Amazon a bully? How memories fade.

Deep breath.

Leviathan WakesWhen I suggest a series, I usually start with the first book of the series in my review. If I really like the series, often I continue on with other books in that series. This week, I want to briefly mention a few. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to know whether to start a series or not.

The first comment is from the Expanse Series. See my opinion on Leviathan Wakes in my June 9th blog. James S. A. Corey’s (pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) third book. Abaddon’s Gate, continues this saga. It didn’t disappoint.

The story continues as the proto molecule escapes Venus and hurtles out to Uranus where it creates a self assembling ring or gate. James Holden and crew join ships from Mars, Earth and the Outer Belt to investigate the strange structure. Neither one wants the other to get an advantage over them in the exploration of space, so all parties show up. Drawn through the structure at high speeds, all ships suddenly come to a deadly halt and are forced into a slow crawl with many suffering damaged crew, cargo, ship and passengers. On the other side of the ring only empty dark space is visible.Abaddon's Gate

Without going into too much detail, so as not to spoil the story, a new character is introduced who wants to kill Jim Holden. So intrigue and drama continue in this third of the series. How will Holden survive and dodge an assassin’s obsession? What message does the proto molecule alien deliver to Holden through the now dead Detective Miller? What political intrigue results as ships jockey to survive and conquer each other?

The bottom line…Did I like it? Yes. And if you liked the first two, you will also like this one.

There is also a fourth coming up…Cibola Burns. Hatchette has priced the Kindle at $12.99 and hardback at $25.Cibola Burn

Envision me ranting on a worn-out soapbox.

Another third book in a fantasy series with the same results is the Republic of Thieves by hot author Scott Lynch.

Republic of thievesThe Republic of Thieves picks up from the dramatic conclusion of Red Seas Under Red Skies and starts with Locke Lamora dying. After exhausting every avenue and every local physician, stalwart companion Jean convinces Locke to enter into a pact with the Bondsmagi to save his life.

In return for purging Locke’s body of the sorcerer’s poison, Jean and Locke agree to orchestrate a winning ticket for the Deep Roots party in Karthain, Capitol of the sorcerers. Unbeknownst, but not for long, the opposite party, The Black Iris, will be run by Sabatha, Locke’s up to now mysterious love, briefly mentioned in the two previous books, Two stories of their relationship alternate throughout this book. Once again, all three are up to their eyeballs in chicanery, manipulation, a Shakespearean style play and all around laugh out loud bantering dialog.

Again…a great read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Comes Next? Science Fiction Series Conumdrum

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One of the things I try to do when blogging about a series I want to suggest, is to start with the first book in the series. The problem with that is, if I like the series, then I want to read the next book, and the next, and that gets time consuming. In addition to reading a book a week (or more) for my blog, I am writing and editing my next book in my own series…

Which brings me to another dilemma.

When someone asks me to tell them what book they should read first, I hesitate on what to suggest.

Of course, it should be the first in the series…which I like…but the first one is a very different book from some of the others. The first is a time travel romance with adventure. Fun stuff…but…

The second one is a young adult with flavors of fantasy while the third is espionage and mystery and takes place at Sunpointe Space Academy. And because it’s time travel, you can start with this book also.

In the fourth, all action is on a space ship and is more hard science, Star Trek and first contact while book five is genetic manipulation and alien invasion. Six is apocalypse and alien crystals with some romance.

See what I mean?

They are all science fiction, but they’re all very different, and yet they deal with the same characters along a timeline on the planet, Alysia.

And that may change too.

I’m thinking of going out to other worlds with my guys.

Meet new people, er, aliens, er whatever.

The second part of this dilemma is that over time, and through much work, I hope that I have improved in my writing.

Shouldn’t an author get better as he or she writes? If you care about what you are putting out to the public, then hopefully you are improving. (Although where to put commas still drives me crazy)

My writers group says this last one is the best one so far. Someone’s Clone is a mystery thriller with transhumanism. Starts off with a murder and the main character is hunted down and he doesn’t know why. To disguise himself, he undergoes a dramatic operation that equips him with an implanted computer and superhuman abilities. Think the bionic man. Then he is caught up in the middle of a conflict between the invading Terrans and the native Alysians for control of the planet.

So it’s hard to know what to say when they ask what they should read first. It depends on what their science fiction hot button is. This is the dilemma of the series writer. What is the best book to offer first so as to hook your reader?

Trilogy of Dune Sometimes, sequels don’t have the same dramatic impact as the original. Here I’m thinking of the Dune Series by a Frank Herbert. His son Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson have continued adding prequels and sequels to the original series and, for the most part, have done a good job. But the first book, Dune, is the best in my opinion. But now, it’s no longer the beginning in the series of their timeline, but more in the middle.

However, Lois Bujold has kept up the quality in her Vorsigan Series and her last one, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance was  unexpectedly good. The same could be said for Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liadon series. However, Lois has kept going forward along her timeline while Lee and Miller have hopped all around, offering earlier stories and later ones. It can be confusing except they’re stand alones with complete stories. Still.Captain Vorpatril's Alliance

So after a reluctant review of The First Blade by Joe Abercrombie, I found myself drawn into reading the second book of The First Law Trilogy. With a trilogy, you have to start with the first one to make any sense of what you’re reading. The action is one continuous story.

It wasn’t the writing as much as the subject matter and what the characters did that put me off the first book…like cutting off fingers and staggering bloody through mud, etc. One character reminded me of Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones, only instead of a dwarf, he is a crippled who was tortured by the enemy and now serves as Inquisitor for the king. Each step Glatko takes, each move he makes, brings pain, and the reader winces along with him.

However, the second book Before They Are Hanged was quite good. I found myself becoming invested in the characters. I grew to look forward to the biting wit of Glatko, the Inquisitor, and the evolution of his character as he actually shows courage, intelligence and selected compassion along with his torturing.

Each of the characters goes through a dramatic evolution. Jezel, the shallow, silly dandy of a Lieutenant becomes disfigured and assumes some humility and compassion. Logan, an ugly, scary, brute of a Northman, proves to be the most capable when the chips are down. Lieutenant West, the solid loyal self-made man, loses control after a devastating battle and commits the unspeakable crime. As each one struggles to meet what life throws at them, they change, adapt and as Logan constantly reassures himself with, “I’m still alive,” the reader is amazed along with him at the fact.

In this case, I’m glad I continued in the series and recommend it. Now, let’s see how it all ends with the final book.

Before I leave, I want to let anyone know that isn’t aware that we’ll have a total eclipse of the moon April 15 (some celestial comment about my taxes?)

The good news is that a full eclipse will appear in the western hemisphere. The bad news is that it starts at 2:00 a.m. for you night owls and goes to 4:00 a.m. or so. Here’s the link that gives all the details.

http://www.space.com/25390-total-lunar-eclipse-april-preview.html

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Science Fiction Gender Bending

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Him, her, IT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ancillaries?

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

The DispossessedDizzy yet? Keep going.

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

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

Or being deliberately mislead.

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

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

Our narrator. Oh dear.

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

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

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

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

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