Category Archives: space travel

Counting Spaceship Colonists

IMG_9518Writing science fiction often takes you off into the weeds of future speculation. When I took on the Terran Series and started writing A World Too Far, I had to figure out how many people and ships would be traveling. I also had to state a reason for the mission.

I didn’t want the reason to be that the Earth was annihilated or destroyed. I hope that as time goes on we do things better and more efficiently. Stephen Hawking says that we need to expand out from Earth in order to survive long term. The “Not Everyone in the Same Basket” theory. I think we have enough people like Elon Musk that we don’t need a catastrophic event to push people out into space. So I made the reason for the expedition the fear that humans need to diversify to other planets in order to survive…and the plain old human drive of seeking adventure and new worlds.

Okay, how many then? Two names kept cropping up. One was John More who said 160 was enough. Local Portland University anthropologist Cameron Smith said 14,000 to 40,000.

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Wikipedia:

Estimates of the minimum reasonable population for a generation ship vary. Anthropologist John Moore has estimated that, even in the absence of cryonics or sperm banks, a population capacity of 160 people would allow normal family life (with the average
individual having ten potential marriage partners) throughout a 200-year space journey, with little loss of genetic diversity; social engineering can reduce this estimate to 80 people.[6] In 2013 anthropologist Cameron Smith reviewed existing literature and created a new computer model to estimate a minimum reasonable population in the tens of thousands. Smith’s numbers were much larger than previous estimates such as Moore’s, in part because Smith takes the risk of accidents and disease into consideration, and assumes at least one severe population catastrophe over the course of a 150-year journey.[7]

Cameron Smith in Acta Astronautica
April–May 2014, Vol.97:16–29, doi:10.1016/j.actaastro.2013.12.013

Estimation of a genetically viable population for multigenerational interstellar voyaging: Review and data for project Hyperion

I find that previously proposed such populations, on the order of a few hundred individuals, are significantly too low to consider based on current understanding of vertebrate (including human) genetics and population dynamics. Population genetics theory, calculations and computer modeling determine that a properly screened and age- and sex-structured total founding population (Nc) of anywhere from roughly 14,000 to 44,000 people would be sufficient to survive such journeys in good health. A safe and well-considered Nc figure is 40,000, an Interstellar Migrant Population (IMP) composed of an Effective Population [Ne] of 23,400 reproductive males and females, the rest being pre- or post-reproductive individuals. This number would maintain good health over five generations despite (a) increased inbreeding resulting from a relatively small human population, (b) depressed genetic diversity due to the founder effect, (c) demographic change through time and (d) expectation of at least one severe population catastrophe over the 5-generation voyage.

That’s quite a range.
What to do?

I started with sixty ships with two hundred per ship that worked the ship and two hundred in cryo. But then as the ships approached the designated planet, a population campaign increased the live colonists to five hundred per ship, give or take. That put us in the range of thirty thousand along the lines of Cameron Smith’s estimate.

Besides, I liked Babylon Five, the TV series, and wanted several ships on the journey for diversity and interest.

When the target planet was found toxic, forty ships decided not to land and jumped away. Of course, problems started happening immediately and the population underwent a severe reduction.

I needed a more manageable number of characters. I was trying to read The Dark Between the Stars by Alan Dean Foster and too many main characters overwhelm a reader. I got overwhelmed and didn’t finish the book.

As ships sought ways to increase the population, space found ways to destroy ships.

Now as I’m writing the next stage that deals with survival on a space station and alien planet, numbers again play an important role. Only so many can fit on station, and those stranded on the orbiting ships create a nice tension to those on planet that don’t want a horde of aliens invading their home and try to keep them on the station or ships.

Readers often don’t realize how much science fiction authors need to balance science plausibility with attention-keeping fictional plots and often wander off into the weeds of research.

Or maybe they do. Maybe they require it.

fortunes-pawnThis week I read Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach as it is a Powell’s science fiction readers group selection. I really enjoyed it…so much so that I’m now reading the sequel Honor’s Knight.

It’s even better.

Devi Morris is a super gung-ho mercenary from the military planet Paradox where the king reigns supreme. The universe is full of inhabited planets and ships travel all over via jump technology.

However, there is an unknown dangerous threat lurking at the edges of the universe.

Devi’s favorite possessions are her battle armor, which she has named Lady Gray, and her weapons. (Also named). She polishes them and talks about them a lot. Being a merc, she has few friends. Being aggressive and battle smart… she has few friends.

In order to accelerate her career, she has taken a job in a beaten up trading ship called The Glorious Fool. The ship has a dangerous reputation but it’s rumored to be a fast track to the rank of Devastator, the name of the king ‘s elite guards, a rank Devi aspires to.honors-knight

On board, an interesting assortment of aliens form the crew. The navigator is a cranky aeon, a birdlike species; her doctor is from a race of crablike insects that are enemies of most humans, and the cook, Rupert, well, he’s incredibly handsome and nothing like he seems.

Nothing.

Actually, nothing is as it appears and soon Devi is wrapped up in secrets that are world heavens-queenshattering with the real possibility of not surviving her tour.

But she’s a stubborn, resourceful, and surprisingly capable mercenary who soon finds herself with a few deadly secrets of her own.

Fast page-turning action with a passionate love story makes this one of my favorites, and one I recommend.

Happy Halloween!pumpkin

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, artificial nature, Classic science fiction, genetic manipulation, modifying humans, Non fiction Science for science fiction, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, space ship, space travel, Transhumanism

Science Fiction Specials

IMG_0174A one day special…today!

To kick off my new book A World Too Far, I have partnered with Free Kindle Books and Tips to offer a special discount to celebrate the new release.

This starts a new Trilogy that remains in the Alysian Universe, but presents a whole different viewpoint and characters. Offered on Amazon or through FBKT, grab this .99 deal because it’s going away tomorrow.

http://smarturl.it/awtf or http://amzn.to/2cgqU6O

I don’t usually go into writing on my blog, but Thomas Weaver of North of Andover gave a good explanation of an irritating grammar point–the em dash. Here it is if you’ve been wondering.

https://northofandover.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/sometimes-he-tries-to-explain-how-to-use-the-em-dash/

Are you a Firefly fan? If you think I’m talking about flickering flying insects, you couldn’t be more mistaken.

I’m talking about the kickass series of odd job spacers who fly around the stars from episode to episode running from the government and it’s secret operation and trying to pick up various dangerous jobs in order to survive.

And starring hunky Nathan Fillion. Oh, so now you know what I’m talking about.

Well…

dark-runIf you like that style of science fiction, then, Dark Run by Mike Brooks may just be your cup of kauf.

The Keiko’s crew are smugglers, tarnished soldiers of fortune, ex-pirates, and con artists who want their past to stay secret. It’s the code of the ship to not dig up a fellow crew member’s past. But the past has away of coming back and biting you, so Captain Icabod Drift is abducted and blackmailed into taking a job by an old corrupt employer who has revenge on his mind and wants to use the Keiko to deliver it. For a cool hundred thousand up front and another after delivery, Captain Drift and crew must deliver three crates to an exact location at an exact time.

Scrambling to make the deadline, several obstacles force the ship into various fraught situations. Their female Chinese pilot flies the ship through impossible maneuvers and the huge Maori named Apirana serves as bodyguard and protectorate. Drift and first mate, Tamara Rourke, form a special bond. (romance here) Crew member Micah has his own secrets and a past he’d rather hide. And the pilot ‘s brother Kuai lurks in the engine room muttering at his sister’s recklessness and trying to protect her.

But as events unfold and the deadly, mysterious cargo is discovered, hidden past identities begin to unravel and surprising identities are revealed. The most shocking is the true identity of their once trusted Captain. As the revelations unfold, the crew must decide if they want to remain together and continue with the close fellowship they have experienced over the past several years or split for new horizons, now knowing the truth of fellow crew members.dark-sky

But each feels betrayed by what happens and revenge becomes a strong glue that keeps them together as they seek out to destroy the powerful employer who set Drift and his crew up in the first place.

Definitely a fun ride with all the elements of an action adventure science fiction story in place and ready to be enjoyed.

Flicker on firefly.

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Filed under Alien worlds, Classic science fiction, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction, science fiction space opera, Science fiction thriller, Space opera, space ship, space travel

More than Science Fiction Novels

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Science fiction is not always about books. I was watching Orphan Black, wondering what I would talk about in my next blog and suddenly realized that I was looking at it. While I’m finding it hard to dig out good hard science fiction or space opera novels, there appears to be a blossoming of science fiction on TV and in movies.

20160721_153915I recently attended David Levine’s signing at Powell’s in Beaverton where he read from, and sang about, his debut book Arabella of Mars. Arabella of MarsQuite the entertainer. David is a long time friend from when I used to be in a Portland Author’s lunch group with him. He said that he had a hard science fiction book about Mars that he was shopping around and the traditional publishers didn’t accept it, telling him that science fiction didn’t sell well.

What!

Definitely this was before the best seller The Martian...and, by the way, a well done mMartianovie with a powerhouse actor. (I did a blog on the book)
No wonder it’s hard to find science fiction out there. The gatekeepers have slammed closed the gate. So to keep a writing career, David offered a fun Steampunk novel, and got accepted. Now, however, I fear the Steampunk fad is fading. Still, I recommend Arabella as a fun read…but even David admits the science became fantasy when he had billowing sailing ships plowing the space lanes.

Meanwhile, TV and movies are flourishing. I want to just mention a few you may or may not know about and, in this day and age, with streaming video, you may still be able to access some earlier seasons if you have missed them.

Currently, I am following Kill Joys on the Syfy channel. This is space opera. Think Firefly. They are kickass mercenaries with attitude and shadowy world corporate figure after them. They are hired on for jobs that occasionally are not what they first seem to be. A tough bunch that gets it done across the universe.

Orphan BlackAnother series is Orphan Black on BBC. Clones, clones, and more clones all done by one amazing actress. They are being hunted and have a dreaded disease for which they are desperately trying to find a cure. One line is female, and there is an alternative line of males. A unique series.

The Expanse will be starting season II soon. This is a well done series based on James Corey’s (Abramson and Franck) novels in the Expanse Series. (See several previous blogs on the books) I recommend you read the books first or the TV series can be confusing. Still lots of interesting sets of space stations and star ships.Expanse Collection

Dark Matter is another TV series I’m enjoying. This has a collection of humans on the run from shadowy corporate bad guys. One is a cyborg with mysterious powers, the other an angry mercenary, a young girl with mysterious background, a downloaded holographic with personality…you get the idea. The mystery is who is after them and why.

Let’s not forget the fairly recent movies of Independence Day 2, Enders Game, Hunger Games series, X-men: Civil War, and other super hero movies that are currently very popular.

Okay, I know you have more you want to mention, but that’s a taste.
I want to save room here in order to mention two very important blogs that I’ve recently read.
The first continues  Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog on publisher contracts and what to watch out for. Critical information for any author, Indie or traditionally published, and especially, if you are submitting to publishers big or small.

http://kriswrites.com/2016/07/20/business-musings-other-evil-clauses-contractsdealbreakers/

The other is a blog by my friend Mary Rosenblum who works with self-published authors to help them launch and sell their books. It’s a scary account of how one of her clients got wrapped up in the Amazon effort to clean up reviews. In their enthusiasm to get reviews, authors need to be very careful of new rules and oversights by Amazon or they might find themselves out in the cold. Being booted out by Amazon can be a career killer.

http://www.newwritersinterface.com/amazon-bites-author

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On a more upbeat note, I’m now going to pop off to the local Ponzi vineyard for some wine sipping and a plate of cheese and crackers on the deck. My newlywed daughter will provide charming company and insights into Pokemon.

Pokemon2                          Oregon summers are a delight.                  pokemon

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, Amazon publishing, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Clones, downloaded personalities, fantasy, gene modification, genetic manipulation, Hunger Games, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Mars, Science Fiction Mystery, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Space opera, space travel, Transhumanism, Uncategorized

Recommended Science Fiction for 2016

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Happy New Year to all science fiction and fantasy fans.

2016 is off to a great start.

First, I want to mention Mark Coker’s annual predictions for the future. Many of his comments are worth reading, especially if you are an Indie Publisher. Just be aware of his bias as he goes on a rant against Amazon, and especially Kindle Unlimited. They are competitors and Amazon is seriously in the lead.

Http:/www.smashwords.com/2016 Book Publishing Industry Predictions: Myriad Opportunities amid a Slow Growth Environment

As an Indie Publisher, I support Amazon, and the Kindle Unlimited program has been very generous to me. I had several books listed on Smashwords and two in their Scribner program…profit? $0. Now in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited almost half my income comes from the program, and new readers are finding my books and buying others in the series. As an author, what would you do? Who is best supporting the fledging author?

If the Kindle Unlimited program becomes unfavorable at any time, all I have to do is opt out. The exclusive requirement in the contract is for just three months with volunteer renewal options.

I find it a great way to expose my books to avid readers while being paid at the same time. At the moment, it’s a great deal for an author like me.

Having said that, Coker has a lot of good comments based on data from his ebook distribution website called Smashwords. Here are a few quotes to munch on:

“Every year readers are spending more hours reading books from indie authors. Reader eyeballs will continue to transition to indie ebooks in 2016….”

“In the 2015 Smashwords Survey we found strong evidence that series with free series starters earn more than series without…”

“Amazon understands, and we at Smashwords agree, that the future of publishing is self-publishing.”

And on that I heartily agree also.

This week I get to pick five books to read for 2016.

Jeweled FireFirst, I chose some old favorites such as Lois Bujold and Sheron Shinn but who have new books out in 2016.

I also wanted to try out a few best seller listed books such as The Bone Clocks and Time Salvager. Books that make such lists often turn out to be good books.Bone Clock D. Mitchell

Finally, I wanted to read a few self published authors who had an interesting looking story, which I found free on an ad website. Deep Crossing was one that was also suggested by Amazon. In this way, I can help promote fellow Indie authors and get a deal to pass along to you too. Since I’m currently writing about space exploration, military science fiction and stories on traveling in space interest me.Deep Crossing

Time SalvagerNext week, after further research, I will add five more with the understanding that the list will be filled in with other selections as the year rolls on and new books get published.

Making a list and putting it out focuses me on thoughtful choices so that I’m not flailing around on what to read. It also gets me excited about reading new science fiction.

Some on the list are not out yet. Bujold’s Gentleman Jole will be published in February. Stephen Lynch The Thorn of Emberlain is promised for Spring of 2016.

Gentlemen Jole and the Red QueenSo is my ninth novel, Worlds Too Far, which will also be published some time in the Spring. My writing group claims it is the best one to date. It stands outside of the series and yet takes place in the same universe.

A fleet of spaceships search desperately for a world to call home, but face insurmountable odds fighting against the dangers of space and the frailty of human nature.

Here are my first few picks:

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Louis Bujold

The Jeweled Fire by Sheron Shinn

Time Salvager by Wesleyan Chu

Deep Crossing by E. R. Mason

I’m now combing the lists of upcoming titles and will select five more to review and report on for you.

Meanwhile, each blog will contain information on marketing, exciting science news, or an occasional author’s rant . Why else blog if there’s not a good discussion/rant, now and then, where I can talk about what it’s like to be an author and find out what other authors are doing?

Some good books look to be headed our way and 2016 could be a great reading year. Enjoy some special ones with me.

Ps: I hope you’re watching  the Expanse Series on the SyFy Channel. Reading the books has helped me understand the plot better, and I really like the sets and special effects.

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Filed under Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, fantasy series, Hugo winners, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Lois McMasters Bujold, science fiction, Science Fiction book review, Science Fiction Predictions, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Self-publishing, Space opera, space ship, space travel, The future of publishing, time travel

Marketing Day: Considerations of an Author

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As I have embraced the use of ads to boost my book exposure, I have subscribed to various free and discounted book websites. Robin Reads, Booksends, Freebooksy, Sweetfree Books, etc. Some I have abandoned, disappointed by the offerings, while some I have continued to use, delighted at the bargains I find. With the flood of books out there, curation is desperately needed in order to find the right books that will dazzle you, and yet be affordable.

Currently, I’m scheduled on Booksends for Cosmic Entanglement November 14 and it will be offered free November 14 thru 16 on Amazon through their KDP Select program. So mark your calendar. Think Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy meets Ender’s Game.cosmic_ent_cover_kindle copy

FREE!

While this is the third in the Alysian Series, with time travel, you can start here. Book one begins close to this time and jumps into the past with time traveling clone, Rowyna Gray. Cosmic Entanglements starts at the same point, but moves forward with the birth of Richard and Braden Steele and their childhood. So either can serve as a starting book.

What I noticed in the science fiction genre is the trend toward shorter fiction for a first book to tantalize the reader into a series. This first book is offered free or at a low price. Then later, these first few shorter novels get bound together into a book set or compiled together into one larger book that is then marketed at a higher price.

time-jumper-kindle-finalUsing this idea, I stirred the marketing pot even more. I have just published Call Me Time Jumper, a short novella (56 pages),  about a twelve year old boy who tumbles through time, visiting people and places in each of my books. It’s a delightful romp through the Alysian Universe complete with drama, fast-paced action, humor and love.

Here”s a sample of the beginning of chapter one:

“His mother’s name was Tempest Steele Telluria. Yes, Steele. She was the daughter of Richard Steele, Time Master, who ran the Timelab for ages until he shut it down–out of fear.

And his father was Kayse Telluria. Yes, Telluria, that infamous genetic line of temporal Talents. Kayse had proven that clones could reproduce. And when your father was the clone of the notorious Arwoyn Telluria, ex-king, genetic experimenter, time traveler, and overall fate manipulator, well, everyone watched him–especially Trace Walker, Director of I.N.Sys., protectorate for the Democratic Union. They all gazed at him from the moment he was born as if he were some bomb ready to explode.

So, he didn’t disappoint.”

Just published yesterday. Brand new. A short sweet read.

Better WorldSince I’m currently writing about a generation ship desperately lost out in the Milky Way, I have been selecting spaceship stories to read to see how others write about the experience. One I selected from Freebooksy that I would recommend is Better World by Autumn Kalquist (154 pages)

The story is about Mauve who is a metal worker toiling in the blistering sub levels of a three hundred year old Ark ship named London. All over the ship parts are breaking down, resources failing. A hierarchy is well defined within the ship that invites abuse throughout the levels.

The destination planet, however, is in view and Mauve is among the first to land on the toxic planet with the expectation that all in the first landing party will die.

The story has a lot of interaction and tension within the various relationships on board. While giving the story drama, a few times, I thought the emotions excessive. However, I found the story overall enjoyable and if you’re looking for a story involving life on a starship, you might like this.

bk8_cover_printFinally, before Thanksgiving, my most recent book, Time’s Equation will be published and available on Amazon. This is a full length novel (420 pages) that involves Tempest and Kayse in a murder. The murder, however, is not your ordinary murder, but possibly time travelers from the future visiting the present to change their current timeline. A mathematical equation is discovered that can predict the future and even be used to manipulate time itself. Chock full of action and romance, don’t miss this time travel special.

Holidays are approaching. I wish you joy in your holiday experience, but don’t forget to find time to enjoy a good read among the hectic activities .

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Filed under Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction, Science Fiction Mystery, Science Fiction Novelettes, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Self-publishing, Space opera, space ship, space travel, time travel

What Ad Sites Should You Market Your Book On?

photoMy horoscope said that I need to change things up in my daily life.

So, I changed my blog background from dark to light.

What do you think?

Radical, I know. But don’t go easy on me. Tell me what you really think.

This morning I did the analytics for my August sales and was pleasantly surprised.

Thank you, wonderful readers. I hope you are enjoying the series.

I’m currently finishing up edits for the eighth book, Time’s Equation and eagerly waiting to see what the cover is going to look like. Late October is my publication target…before the holidays.

So marketing in August: What worked? What didn’t?

Book Gorilla at $50 cost didn’t return a net profit. I was so excited to see how that campaign would turn out…and it didn’t. I posted the discount at $.99 at their suggestion, which means I would have to sell over 144 books to break even. I didn’t.

Timing? Genre? Promotion? Who knows why.

On the other hand, The Midlist at $20 cost, more than made up for it. Go figure.

This month I am using my profits and plowing them back into the business. I will offer Caught in Time, my first book, free through Robin Reads ($15) on September 19 and Freebooksy ($70) on September 21. Freebooksy is a favorite, and when I was setting up my marketing for September, I defaulted to it out of frustration. I saw too many venues with no way of knowing what would work.

What I needed at the time was Cheryl Bradford’s list of ad sites and Nicolas Rossis’s plan of attack…which I now provide for you because both are so awesome. Thank you, Cheryl and Nick.

http://nicholasrossis.me/2015/08/30/bookbub-insights-launch-a-new-book-thats-part-of-a-series/?c=22638#comment-22638

This will save you hours of research and make your marketing much more efficient.

full list of websites where you can advertise your ebook price promotion, courtesy of Cheryl Bradshaw.

You’re welcome.

So with September settled, I cast about for a story to recommend. After reading and discarding several options, I found Dark Space through a Freebooksy special. FREE! And very readable.

And guess what…as of right now…it’s still free. But I don’t know how long that will last. FYI.

Dark SpaceDark Space, book 1 by Jasper Scott, is a military space opera in a series.

Freelancer and ex-convict, Ethan Ortane, is deep in debt, hiding out with the rest of humanity in Dark Space. An alien race, the Synthians, invaded the human galaxy with one goal in mind… to wipe out humans. Now the last remains of humanity hide out in Dark Space behind a stargate guarded by the Valiant, a carrier ship of the Imperial Star System Fleet.Dark Space 2

But Ethan has gotten deep in debt to crime lord Alec Brondi, and his ship, and therefore his means of support, is badly damaged. His only way out is to comply with Bondi’s deal to infiltrate and sabotage the Valiant.

If that isn’t enough to make Ethane follow through with the plan, Brondi kidnaps Ethane’s beautiful crewmember and threatens torture if he doesn’t comply.

Ethane steps into a dead soldier’s persona, infiltrates the Valiant, and finds that things are not what he expected…Dark Space 3

which all makes for an interesting story and start to a fun series.

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Filed under ebook marketing, ebook science fiction, Implanting humans, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Marketing and selling novels, military science fiction, science fiction, science fiction series, Self-publishing, Space opera, space ship, space travel, Transhumanism

Magic and Spaceships

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Hugh Howey started it, and now others are using the technique. Write a short novella, give it away and sell the next three or four episodes at cheap prices. Get a fan following and bundle. Not because it’s cold, but to collect the first five books together and sell at a reasonable price.

It’s like a teaser or lost leader at the retail store, and it works because a lot of readers like a free taste before they gulp the whole meal.

Which reminds me to tell you that Caught in Time, the first of my series, is being offered for .99 through June 20. If you haven’t clicked the button yet, now is the time to get a deal before it goes back to the regular price. And if you’ve already read it and like it, please leave a review as I’m short on those. Thanks. Thanks. Thanks.

On to this week’s science fiction suggestion.

Starship Mage, book 1 is a novella of only 63 pages, that begins a series of short books, which Glynn Stewart bundles into an omnibus of 299 pages. I didn’t realize it at the time I chose it and put it on my book list last January. I was attracted to the cover and the title, and didn’t read the fine print that noted page length. As readers, we need to start doing this in this age of the ebook. The idea of mixing magic and spaceships just intrigued me.

Besides, the first episode was free. (By now you know that I like a deal)

Starship MageStarship Mage, book 1 is about a newly graduated Jump Mage, Damien Montgomery, who needs a job, but doesn’t have the normal family connections to get him a berth on a starship. Jump Magi are an elite circle of people whose magical talents are trained to power starships for faster than light speeds. They have the ability to “jump” ships over huge distances but at a price.

After an attack by pirates, the damaged starship Blue Jay is towed to port to the planet of Sherwood. The crew has survived solely due to a brave magi who jumped too much and too soon in order to save the ship and died in the attempt.

Unfortunately, the planetary Governor of Sherwood is the now dead mage’s father and blacklists Captain David Rice of the Blue Jay in a moment of anger and grief.

Desperate Captain David Rice connects to desperate Mage Damien Montgomery and the Blue Jay acquires a new jump mage, finishes repairs, and heads out. But the ship is a marked vessel, and young Damien Montgomery doesn’t realize that his life is going to get a lot more complicated and dangerous. He will have to think outside the box to save his crew as both pirates and the law pursue the soon-to-be embattled spaceship.Starship Mage2

Starship Mage omnibusI found the first story a fun blend of magic and space adventure and plan to continue the series. Think of the Firefly series with magic sprinkled throughout. Not deep and stirring, but an enjoyable space adventure that I recommend.

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Filed under ebook marketing, ebook science fiction, Hugh Howey, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, magic, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction, Science Fiction Novelettes, science fiction series, Self-publishing, Space opera, space ship, space travel

Ebook Marketing and Talking Starship Crew Members

IMG_9518Sometimes I can control time.

It’s a Talent I have.

I told myself I needed to wake up at 12:00 a.m. so that I can take my next set of pain pills. As most of you know, I did a little stair sliding recently and broke a shoulder bone..the humerus. So I’m not as funny as I used to be.

Not recommended at all! Very painful. I need my meds.

In pitch dark, my eyes blink open to see the digital clock click over to exactly 12:00 a.m. Time for my meds.

How did I do that?

And it happens on a regular basis.

With all of time swirling around me, how can I pluck out the exact moment that I need to wake up?

Do humans connect more subconsciously with the universe than we realize? Will we ever be able to use this connection? Do we already use this connection in some way? Or is it just a random event?

As you might know, I’m exploring ebook marketing programs. For me, the KDP Select platform has been successful. My numbers are still coming in, and last month I did very little with any marketing.

Remember the stair sliding/wall smashing bit?

In April I intend to do a guest blog over at my friend Diana’s website and interview her on my blog here. She has several intriguing fantasy novels published that I want to mention.

EarthriseThis week I went to my Kindle shelf to select Earthrise by M.C.A. Hogarth to review. I have signed up at various sites that offer free and discounted books. on a daily basis. To a certain extent, these sites curate books by price, genre, popularity (number of five star reviews) and other factors often selected by the customer.

This is a dramatic shift in how books are bought.

I am conflicted about this trend. I recognize the desperate need for a way to select out the better books from the overwhelming tsunami of books being currently published and shoved out to a bewildered public. I also see the need for Amazon to have competition. However, my email box is getting jammed with advertising by Bookbub, Freebooksy, Sweetfreebooks, ebooks daily and other such services that now proliferate the web. Okay, so I signed up and can unsubscribe if I want. But, cleaning out the various email boxes is becoming another boring time sink.

Surprising is the growth of my sales via Kindle Unlimited and The Kindle Library for Prime members. Based on the Netflix model of a monthly fee, my sales in that arena have skyrocketed. This a a double-edged sword in that Amazon doesn’t set a fixed amount for the sales, but sales are dependent on how many books are sold and how much Amazon puts in the coffer that month. The question for the author is: would this book have sold the usual way if not in the program or was the book an incremental sale? The income from this kind of sale is not considered a royalty, and the net profit to the author is set at the whim of Amazon.

And yet, it is an increasingly popular way readers are now buying books…especially the voracious reader. If your book was not there sitting on the KindleUnlimited shelf ready to be plucked off for someone’s Kindle library, would another book be the one chosen instead of yours? Would that sale have gone to another author? Let’s face it, after 10% of the book is read, Amazon pays you whether the reader finishes the book or not. Those nickels add up, and no initial fee is required from you, the author. Neither program costs a dime, except in the opportunity cost of sales on other sites due to Amazon’s requirement of 90 days exclusivity.

It was while scanning my email and discounted book sites that my eye caught Earthrise by M.C.A. Hogarth for $.99. Normally I don’t read science fiction where the aliens are talking animals or the aliens so alien that it is hard to relate to them. But the blurb sounded interesting, I got a deal on it, and soon found myself enjoying the story so much that I couldn’t put it down.Rosepoint

The story concerns Reese Eddings, a feisty, independent, black female who comes from a maternal culture that expects their women to return home and procreate. Instead, Reese scrapes together her funds, one being a mysterious loan from a very wealthy benefactor, the other from family resources, to gather enough to buy a broken down ship and pay her micro crew their salary. For several years she struggles this way, her nose barely above water.

She manages to assemble a fascinating and diverse crew onto her ship, Earthrise. The ship is run more like a family than a business enterprise. Irine and Sascha are Harat Shar, twin felinoids from the pelted universe. Think lusty cats that can fly space ships. Also on board is Kis’eh’t who is a Glaseahn and carries a centaurean body shape that includes two sturdy black arms, four black and white legs, feathered ears, a flicking tail and two small leathered wings. Kis’eh’t’s calm personality and strength come in handy slinging cargo around.

Image 3Next, Breyer is a Phoenix or a large birdlike creature with metallic plumage and hidden talents and abilities. Finally, there is Allakazam, the Flitzbe, that strongly resembles a Star Trek Tribble and communicates through touch, color, and internal emotions. It carries healing abilities.

Contemplating the need to crawl back to her family for yet more money in order to survive has given Reese an ulcer and digestive problems that she tries to solve by escaping into a good Eldritch and human romance story.

And then, after all those years, her long ago wealthy benefactor resurfaces and calls in the loan. Reese won’t have to pay back the money, however, but rather rescue an Eldritch prince out of the clutches of drug smuggling pirates.

Hogarth deftly has this ragtag crew bumble into the pirate’s den and attempt a daring, edge-of-your-seat rescue. Upon meeting him, Reese denies any feelings for the unusual and unbelievably handsome Eldritch prince, Hirianthial. The ship returns to Harat Shar for much needed repairs where Hirianthial would be better served if he listened to Reese and did the opposite of what she claims she wants. Meaning well, crew member Sascha recognizes the growing bond between their captain and the intriguing Eldritch and tries to give the bewildered prince some romantic advice, whether he wants it or not. A few stumbling blocks hinder the process. Eldritch cannot stand to be touched or touch others as he becomes overwhelmed by the memories and emotions of the other. Also, Hirianthial is at least five hundred years old, give or take a few. And, he knows something about the pirates that they are desperate to cover up. They will do anything to recapture him and search out the Earthrise with a vengeance. Then Fleet learns of Reese’s connection to the pirates and gets into the act, entreating Reese to act as bait so they can swoop in and close down the drug ring.

Think C.J. Cherryh’s Chanur series to get a feel for the book. I found myself drawn into Reese’s escalating problems. A delightful book, I’m looking forward to how Reese will figure out how to survive it all.

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Science Fiction Selections for 2015

photo A new year is upon us, and there’s lots of excitement on the horizon, especially in the science fiction book world.

I get to select five books this week to put on my shelf to read for 2015. I may not read them all in a row or at once, but throughout the year, adding others as I go along. The selection process proved interesting. Various factor were at work, and good science fiction was hard to find.

But first, I finished the Martian by Tony Weir and eagerly recommend it. What I learned is that humans have ingenuity if they just keep trying and remain focused. Yes, some of the chemistry got heavy and Mark’s personality included offbeat humor, but it’s wonderful to read a book where the characters are decent people. People from all over the world worked together for a common goal of saving a life, no matter what the odds or outcome. Makes me proud to be human. I like that feeling.

Enough said…I don’t want to spoil it for you.

So how to chose?

Goblin Emperor by Katherine AddisonWell, word of mouth is one way. My friend Lea recently suggested the Goblin Emperor, and that will be my fantasy pick. Lea knows books, especially scifi and fantasy, having 24,000 in her home, give or take.

I was skimming through Goodreads and bumped into The Rosie Project again, where someone recommended it as one of their favorites for 2014. They say you have to see a product more than three times to buy, and I remember seeing this title on several recommended lists. So, it went on mine.Rosie Project

Free is the price I can best afford and factors into my choices occasionally. Since I have recently offered Cosmic Entanglement in my series free through KDP Select, I now browse the free lists and websites for interesting Starship Magetitles. Starship Mage attracted my attention. I thought I would give it a try.

Sometimes after seeing a recommendation, I’ll read the summary to get a feel for the story. Departure is by A. G. Riddle, an author I have never heard of, but the blurb sounded intriguing. I may take off with this one. All the Light You Can See has been hitting the hot selection lists, but after reading that it was about Nazi Germany and a young, blind, Jewish girl, I gave it a pass. I’ve read enough about that shameful part of human history already. So, the summary or story blurb affects my choices also.Departure

Poor Man's Fight  by Kay ElliotTed Blasche (retired), my scifi military specialist, has been urging me to read a series that starts with Poor Man’s Fight. This is a self-published series that has been high in Amazon’s ratings and also suggested several times on my front page there…making it my military selection. I’ll give it a go. Thanks for the many suggestions, Amazon.

Ted is also in my writers group that recently had a spirited discussion on time and how it works. There were some back of the napkin drawings involved and various analogies with branching streams or electric currents. It sparked me to think that the past really isn’t a fixed event, but an entanglement of perceptions…that the past for each individual is different, and given events are perceived differently by each individual involved. New information can change the perception of a past event , so it’s not totally static. Also, how close you are to an event or how far away changes the impact and individual perception dramatically. If you experience a plane crash, that event is far different for you than for a disinterested viewer who sees it on a newscast and then goes about his daily business. We think of the past as static and absolute, while it really depends on the witnesses and how they record and perceive what happened.

Yeah, food for thought today. Have a happy New Year and may many great things happen in 2015.

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Indie Christmas Shopping

IMG_0193Christmas music in my ears, a pencil sharpened to make a list, eggnog at my elbow…wait, no…more like tapping notes on an iPad and trying to escape the Christmas mania by hiding out somewhere with a good read and coffee. I’m also thinking books make a nice gift (you’re welcome for the idea) or an Amazon gift card where a reader like me can go pick up a few novels that I have had my eye on throughout the year.

 Why am I tossing out ideas? Because I pose extra difficulties having a December 24th birthday. I usually feel like I kickstart the celebrations, or try to, but it makes for an extra burden on my holiday gifters. My family has at least twenty birthdays between November 11th and my husband’s, which is January 9th. So you see why I hide out this time of year, paralyzed and overwhelmed by all that needs to be accomplished.

 However, I did still find time to squeeze in some reading for this blog. Couldn’t let you guys down. My recent guilty pleasure is an Indie novel that has made a big splash at Amazon, mostly through word of mouth. Jennifer Wells confesses to attempting little promotion, which makes me insanely jealous, because I love marketing so much. (You did hear the sarcasm there?) I am still trying to figure out what I should do on the marketing side.

 So write a really good book, and sometimes the word will get out. At least, that’s step one. I’m certainly trying that approach at the someones_clone_front-cover_v2_finalmoment. Someone’s Clone was just published in paperback and Kindle. It took a year to write. As an introductory offer, I am putting it on KDP Select Countdown starting December 18 (.99) and it will run through December 25. I’m thinking it’s a good story to load onto a gift Kindle or iPad for holiday reading. Before or after Christmas?? I’m not sure which is best. I’ll let you know.

The story I picked to read is an Indie publication (Blue Bedlam Books), at least I think so. I have seen it promoted on Amazon as one of the top read books in science fiction for 2014. I read the blurb and it sounded interesting.

 Fluency is a story of mind to mind contact with an alien. Jane Holloway is an expert on ancient languages. Actually, she easily learns most any language as she has an affinity for understanding the written and spoken word.

 FluencyNASA has been monitoring an alien dormant spacecraft secretly for years, attempting to develop the technology that would enable humans to investigate it.

Because of her ability to understand language of all kinds, NASA recruits Jane to be an astronaut on a mission to explore the ship in case of alien first contact.

 When the mission finally reaches the ship, they discover the ship is not lifeless, but houses an unseen alien mind that soon communicates telepathically with Jane. At first, she is the only one of the five on the mission able to do this, and not everyone is convinced it’s not an act.

Problems start to happen in the alien ship, and the mission commander begins to doubt Jane’s independence from the creature’s influence and the creature’s positive intentions toward them. He claims the alien’s intentions are malevolent while Jane points out the creature helped save their lives. As events unfold, the remainder of the crew vacillate in their opinions. They are torn between wanting to believe Jane’s argument in favor of the alien’s good intentions and the captain’s accusations that it is dangerous.

As a reader, I wondered myself.

The story progresses, and a romance builds between Jane and Dr. Alan Bergen, an engineer and crew member…just to complicate things further.

Fluency is a good first novel by an Indie author who is already working on a sequel. The action builds as Jane and the others become involved in life or death problems on board the alien ship. Is the alien really on their side or just setting them up? The character of Jane and her feelings for Bergen, as he is called, make a nice counterpoint to the other interactions of the crew. The mission members soon discover that the ship carries a dangerous virus. The human explorers find that all former life on board are dead, except for the alien brain who controls the ship and invades Jane’s mind. Eventually, Jane discovers the alien does have an agenda, but not what anyone ever suspects.

An interesting story with an intriguing concept of interaction with an alien and first contact.

Happy Holidays, Jingle Bells…lock the door on your way out.

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