Category Archives: terra forming

Book Reviews: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Image 1A lot has been said and heard about the terrible editors and publishers who totally ignore or devastate eager new writers. With so many writers out there, the traditional publishing funnel is getting smaller and smaller. I know, I tried to squeeze into one of them. I wasted two years waiting for Baen books to get around to turning down my first book after expressing interest and asking for a completed manuscript.


Now the shoe is on the other foot, and ouch, it pinches.

Because I write science fiction and have read it for years, I thought it would be fun to share that wisdom with others.

What could go wrong???

I was always eager to hear about a good book. Not many people around me read science fiction, and I was always on the lookout for something worthwhile to read. Through my blog, I could spread the word about my favorites, so other readers could find what I liked.

Amazon has solved that problem for me, somewhat. But I still thought it would be a good idea to blog about it… and I am having fun doing that. But a new monster has raised its head, and that’s the monster of declining reviews of authors’ books. I’ve been flooded with more review requests than I have time for while garnering very few for myself.

So far, I have had wonderful writers who have been more than gracious when I have said, “No, thanks.” A while ago, a new UK writer e-mailed asking me to review a story about booze crazed alien slugs that unleash unspeakable terror on the world, and only an array of broken cleaning attachments can save the day.

It was tempting, but I felt a need to decline in that I don’t review appliance fiction. (for your future reference) and it sounded a bit sucky, to tell the truth.

We’ll probably read about it on Amazon’s best seller list.

I also got a request from Richard Flores who wrote an intriguing blog on this matter. His blog is entitled “Form Rejection.” Since he also reviews, he thought he would respond to writer’s submissions he had to reject with advice on how to make the manuscript better. You know, the personal touch. Being helpful.

He came to the conclusion that writers, on the whole, didn’t appreciate his help in making their manuscript better.

Turns out there is another side to this dance. Writers can get downright snarky if you call their baby ugly. He said that some used foul language and threats.

Hence the use of form rejections by publishers, editors and agents that are vague and non judgmental. “Doesn’t fit into out current offerings.” Etc.

A nice “No thanks” for those that don’t want a home fire-bombed.fireworks

Now, so far, I have been lucky. Please, all writers be aware that just because one person backs away, doesn’t mean it’s a bad book or story. I recently said no because I couldn’t deal with the graphic description of the main character immediately dying from cancer, even though the writing was good. It’s just I have to make a judgement call on what I put my name on and, in the publisher’s case,… it’s their money, or for some, it’s their career. This doesn’t excuse certain behaviors that I have encountered in editors, but it has certainly opened my eyes to their side of things.

Just saying.

So, I’m not taking any more review requests at this time as it’s too painful to turn down very nice authors with books that don’t quite ring my chimes but may thrill another reader. Also, I have gotten embarrassingly far behind in reading and following up on reviews that I have already accepted.

Just so many hours in the day.

mortalis-beyond-the-starsHaving said all this, I still owe the gracious Larry Crockerham and his book Mortalis:Beyond the Stars a mention.

The premise of a female military leader discovering and colonizing an inhabited world intrigued me as I’m currently writing a similar book. I wanted to see how another author handled that kind of story.

The writing is edited well on the technical side. I wasn’t finding spelling and grammar errors. The covers are gorgeous. The story was reasonable and plotted out well. My hang-up came with becoming involved with the main character. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t “connect.”

For the more “action types” who like stories with more plot and not a lot of touchy-feely, they may like this story. There were a number of five star reviews. There were also a number of reviewers who felt the character wasn’t fully developed and had issues with that part of the writing. I did too and don’t know why.

Larry also has a sequel that came out last April. This one interests me because it has time travel in it. The main character, Marion, finds a time gate and from starship and world wrangler, she travels back to Civil War times where she had to evade a Civil War officer. She finally escapes, but lands in the World War II era of our history where his grandson pursues her. Sounds interesting.the-mortal-beyond-the-cosmos

I feel this was a good study for me on what engages a reader and what doesn’t… the essence of storytelling. I still haven’t reached a final conclusion in this case.

What I have realized, through Powell’s book club, is that no two readers feel the same way about a book, and even the best books (Hugo award winners) have readers who don’t like them for some reason or another. The Powell’s group is an opinionated, out-spoken and diversified collection of science fiction lovers who never wholly agree with each other, or me, but I love them all.

However, I think you’ll find some great science fiction and fantasy if you scroll through my blogs and often the cream does rise to the top.

I can only present what I find worth reading in this blog, and you are invited to take it from there.

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How Do Readers Select Science Fiction?


Last week I selected five science fiction/ fantasy novels to read for 2014, and this week I’m adding five more. I talked about how readers decide on what they read. 1. Word of mouth  2. A favorite author  3. Lists  4.Covers and blurbs 5. Subject matter or genre

Another criteria for choosing a book is price, particularly if the author is unknown. Because I read a lot, the cost of buying books adds up fast. But new websites are cropping up and new strategies are appearing that entice a reader to read the first book in a series at a low cost or free, in hopes the reader will follow on with the rest of the author’s books.

Sort of like a lost leader in a retail store.

Amazon offers its KDP Select program. For three months, the author’s novel is listed exclusively on Amazon and nine days during that time the author can offer the book free. What nine days the free offer stands is up to the author. The book is also listed in the one book a month free for Prime, but the author still gets his royalties if selected by a Prime Member. Sweet.

Reported results came in strong early on. Downloads of the free books were heavy and often translated into more sales on other books by that author.

Now other websites are offering free or reduced price books. Bookbub is one site that is currently popular and my first selection is a free download from that site.

Human SisterHuman Sister by Jim Bainbridge had an interesting blurb, so I thought to try it.

I had nothing to lose.

A quick note: Bookbub is expensive for an author to list on and they are becoming very selective on what books they choose to offer. However, it’s free for the reader and many say it’s worth it, both as an author and reader.

Another free source is the library. I often prowl the new books section and that’s where I found The One-Eyed Man by one of my favorite authors, L.E. Modesitte, Jr. This was a two reason selection…both price and favorite author.The One-Eyed Man

A second factor for selecting a book is a review request. Because my blog reviews science fiction, frequently I’ll receive a request to review a new author’s book. What I finally pick often is random and whimsical. So please don’t be hurt if I don’t get around to yours. Other factors may have trumped the choice and yours may be perfectly wonderful. However, sometimes the request isn’t in my genre (yes, seriously) and sometimes it’s not what I read. (Horror, demons, anthologies YA…etc.) Although, as you know, I often stray off the path if the story sounds compelling, or the author is particularly interesting or charming.

Strings on a Shadow PuppetTherefore, Strings of a Shadow Puppet is my next choice.  The book was pitched as a science fiction spy thriller by a local Portland author. I am a John Carre fan and like spy novels, although I never would admit to it in this blog. So, I thought to select this title. Besides, the author was very nice and had no problem waiting until after the holidays to be reviewed, and I appreciated his courtesy.

I put Abaddon’s Gate on my list because it was on several lists of must reads and in that line of books Amazon puts on the front page as suggestions you might like. Also, Goodreads had it on their popular science fiction for 2013.

A quick word on Goodreads. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a great website where authors can list their books. Even more so, it’s a site for readers. Word of mouth doesn’t need to be person to person in this age of social media and Goodreads abounds with readers telling other readers what they recommend and what they like. There are hundreds of threads that cover every genre of book and I am signed up to several that focus on science fiction.Abaddon's Gate

Also, Goodreads has a section where authors offer a given number of their books (paperback) free. It’s a giveaway that readers sign up for and often large number of readers will sign up for an author’s book. I had 1500 sign up for a copy of Caught in Time, even though I only offered three free. Goodreads then selects who wins and I get their address so I can mail the books. I felt it was good exposure for the first in my series. Hopefully, readers will like it and go on to buy and read the rest. (See at right)

Anyway, when I went to read the blurb for Abaddon’s Gate, I found out it was the third in a series.(The Expanse) Sigh..BUT… James Corey is a pen name for Daniel Abramson, an author I have read and liked. So, what to do?

Further investigation revealed positive reviews for Leviathan Wakes, the first book of the series, so I thought to read that first instead. Changed my mind.

Leviathan WakesSometimes the reader can start with one book idea and developing factors cause him or her to switch titles. The summary sounded like a popular military space opera that I could enjoy over several books, and I wanted to start with the first in the series.

I had several other books on my list until I attended my writers’ group. Five very strong writers get together every two weeks and critique each other’s writing and discuss books and writing. Once again, word of mouth influenced me as Diana Peach expounded on the First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. Diana leans toward fantasy, but I recognized Joe Abercrombie’s name as a front runner in Indie publishing. He’d done a lot at the start to promote self publishing and it was time to support him. Besides, Diana was compelling in her enthusiasm for the series.First Law Trilogy

So that’s it for now. I have no order in which I plan to read these. That will depend on how accessible they are…and that is my final factor for what I select. Are they easy to get a hold of?

  1. Human Sister Jim Bainbridge.
  2. Strings on a Shadow Puppet T.L. Evans
  3. Leviathan Wakes James Corey
  4. The One-Eyed Man L.E. Modesitte
  5. First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

Happy New Year and happy reading.

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Best Selling Science Fiction: A Matter of Taste


I was wading through my list of ten novels that I proposed to read this year (see Jan/Feb blog) and pulled Ganymede off the pile. Cherie Priest is a local Seattle author whose novel Boneshaker was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula award (2012). She also won the Locus award for Best Science Fiction. (2011) A local author, an interesting cover, a strong recommendation on Amazon…

I was willing to try it, and put it on my list.

Although currently living in the Northwest, I have lived a large part of my life in the South, so when the story started with a New Orleans madam, I was intrigued. Fairly quickly, I realized that this is the sequel to Boneshaker and that is when doubt began to creep in. Steampunk! It’s the hottest genre around here, but I’m old fashioned. Give me a ship, stars and an alien and I’m happy.Ganymede copy

Still, I read on… until the zombies showed up. Zombies are not science fiction in my world, and I put the book down. Apologies to Cherie Priest who I can guarantee has sold many more books than I have, but…zombies are another matter, and not science fiction by my definition.

So I picked up In the Company of Others by Julie Czerneda. And barely put it down until I reached the end of the 564 pages in the novel.

Loved it!

In the Company of OthersHumanity has reached out and not found any intelligent alien lifeforms. So, Earth begins terraforming worlds for millions of eager explorers. One low-level fungal plantlike form  has been found, the Quill, an iridescent strand of matter that wraps around a human wrist, bringing a pleasant feeling and comfort, until for some unknown reason it mutates and turns deadly.

And spreads rapidly throughout the worlds.

Any humans landing on terraformed worlds are killed violently and mysteriously. All the new worlds are banned.

Earth closes down in quarantine, leaving eager immigrants and stationers stranded on various space stations. Frantic ships who Earth turns away are forced through desperation to impale themselves onto the outer ring of stations. Most stations are destroyed through riots and diminishing resources. Only a few survive.

Humanity chokes and stagnates.

Dr. Gail Smith, brilliant scientist, hopes to wipe out the Quill. After intensive study, she finds clues that suggest one human, Aaron Pardell, may have survived the Quill and provide the key to understanding and destroying them. Her search leads her to Thromberg Station.

Chapter one starts with a bar scene and resulting riot in Sammie’s Tavern when the “Earther” woman  enters looking for Aaron Pardell.

Aaron now lives by himself on Thromberg station, a found child, raised as an “Outsider” in his now dead father’s ship, the Merry Mate II that is welded to the station’s outer ring. Stationer, Immie (immigrant) and Outsider (ships attached to the ring) all jockey back and forth through several riots and uprisings trying to survive the intense crowding and limited resources. Aaron is accepted by a small group from Outward Five even though touching him brings on intense pain for both Aaron and whoever touches him. He is an odd young man with gloved hands and strange sensitivities. His large, muscular best friend, Hugh Malley, protects him as well as he can since they both were orphaned early and rely on each other to survive.

The book bubbles with plots of station politics, of intrigue by the University that funds Gail’s project, with the military who guards her and with her own secret plan to search for the answer that will clear out the Quill and open the stars for humanity. Within all these plots are stories of both stressed and tender relationships that show the lengths that humanity will go for each other as each dreams of a better future. And a story of a fascinating alien lifeform that functions unlike any human alive, and so is very misunderstood and difficult to figure out.

A great read. True science fiction detail and world building with complex human emotion.


Filed under alien life forms, Aliens in Science Fiction, Best selling science fiction, Classic science fiction, environmental issues in science fiction, gene modification, Nebula nominations, science fiction, terra forming, Uncategorized

A Science Fiction Murder Mystery

IMG_0174If an author writes more than two books, most likely he/she is hoping that you’ll like one and move on to read the others. Often readers choose a book because they’re familiar with the author and want to read other works by that author.

That’s my cunning plan, anyway.

That’s often how I choose what to read.

Readers often start  a new author because a friend recommends them. In my case it was a neighbor. My next door neighbor is a highly intelligent avid scifi reader, so I asked him what he liked. He introduced me to Peter Hamilton.

Whoa Nelly!

Mind Star RisingI first read Mindstar Rising. Loved it! This is an early work when Hamilton wrote normal sized novels. I raced back and delved into Nano Flower and Quantum Murder. Awesome. Then I waded into his the Night’s Dawn Trilogy and liked it, but felt like I had over eaten at the banquet table. (three really large novels)The Neutronium Alchemist

So I digested for several years until Great North Road caught my eye. Here’s a stand  alone novel that involves a dynasty of clones and a murder mystery. Yea!

Great North RoadAngelo Tramelo is a one-in-ten, which means she looks like twenty, but is much older and has a life span in the hundreds. (my fantasy) She’s witness to a brutal mass slaying at the mansion of bioil powerhouse Bartram North, one of three surviving cloned brothers from which several generations of clones have sprung, creating a few edit errors along the way. Angelo is the sole survivor of this mass murder and in her defense, she claims that the murderer was an unknown alien.

Yeah right.

No one believes her and she’s off to jail. Twenty years later another North clone is murdered in the same manner…five whirling blades to the chest, and Angela is pulled out of prison to help solve the crime. By now the three brothers have established Northumberland Interstellar Corp. that funds gateway systems manufacture and opens gateways to worlds throughout the galaxy. Brother Augustine stays on Earth, brother Bartram heads to St. Libra to establish the algae paddies for a bioil conglomerate (and is murdered) and Constantine launches a Jupiter habitat.

So the story is rich in high tech gadgets, future medical and energy advances and galaxy spanning action.

Enter detective Sidney Hurst. He is given the case of the murdered North mystery clone.  Methodically he fights the city’s bureaucracy to try to solve a murder case that just keeps getting more and more complicated and weirder. He’s very much your stereotypic detective who plods along, but is smart and a great family man and you’re just rooting for him to succeed against ridiculous odds. He just won’t give up until the case is solved.

Hamilton does a nice job of balancing the clues so that the reader goes back and forth wondering if it’s a North Dynasty power struggle or a possible weird alien involvement, or maybe both.

I have noticed a number of science fiction murder mystery/detective style novels lately and I enjoy this sub genre. Katherine Rusch does a nice job with her Retrieval Series and Jon Courtenay Grimwood also with his Arabesk Series (Pashazade, Effendi and Felaheen). I really liked his Nine Tails Fox that had a detective solving his own murder after being downloaded into another body.


See earlier blogs for detailed reviews.Pashazade

Needless to say, I was up until 1:30 last night trying to finish Great North Road.

I liked the action that keeps ramping up as the story progresses. Unfortunately at 948 pages, Hamilton could have used a good editor to hone the story a bit. I would get a piece of action in the mystery and then, a flashback to a whole block of earlier events in a particular character’s life.

This time, however, the number of characters were manageable, except for the clones and that was helped by the fact that if the clone was a clone of Augustine, his name began with an ‘A’ . Bartram’s clones began with ‘B’ and Constantine with ‘C’. Of course, since they were all clones and looked alike, those labels were not always truthful. Shuffling around clones can get a bit confusing, especially if you can’t identify the victim exactly, much less discover a possible elusive alien murderer.

Needless to say, it’s a good story. The ending could have been pared back as Hamilton goes on and on after the action is done about what happens in the future. Nice to know, but it gets to be a bit much. Besides, by then, my eyes were blurry and needed  rest.

All in all, though, I highly recommend the novel and hope you enjoy it.

I am in the proofing stages for Space Song and expect the book to be published soon. Looking over the several books, I noticed that they each have a subgenre. Caught in Time is a time travel romance, A Dangerous Talent for Time is a  time travel with scavenger hunt/riddle, Cosmic Entanglement is a mystery at a Space Academy and Past the Event Horizon is a space adventure involving alien first contact. Space Song is a genetic mystery with an alien invasion threat. So, hopefully, one of them will strike your fancy.

If you like one, then tell your neighbor.

He or she might appreciate it.

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We have landed another rover on Mars.

 In my novel,  Cosmic Entanglement an alien space probe lands on Alysia. Only humans are there to meet and greet it…and cause havoc.

With the rover Curiosity,  our human race is stretching out and exploring the solar system using robotic machines to pave the way.

Kinda makes sense, doesn’t it?

It’s smart to check out the terrain with robots before sending live bodies to such a harsh environment. We’re “curious” to see if there’s  anything there that might welcome us in a good, or bad way.

And news is coming in that we are finding more and more planets using the “wobble” or doppler effect. The numbers keep going up. Last time I heard it was over 800.

How many are habitable? Lots aren’t, but one in the Gliese solar system 581g is said to be in the “goldilocks” zone.  Check out this link.

The Gliese solar system is 20 light years away with a dimmer star that is 30% of our sun’s mass. Closer than Earth is to our sun, the supposed surface temperature is 72 degrees Fahrenheit. I say supposed because a Swiss group of scientist are now saying they can’t find the planet and dispute its existence. The original group is disputing their dispute findings. So the battle rages on.


Kepler 22b has come on the scene. Found December 2012, it is 2.4 times Earth’s width with a surface temperature of 72 degrees and is 600 light years away, orbiting a sun much like ours. Looks like it can sustain water, too. The Kepler planetary hunting Mission as of November 2012 has found over 2300 planet candidates. The numbers are climbing. This space telescope measures a sun’s brightness and how much it dims when a planetary body transits it. The scientists can estimate the size by how much it dims.

So, in my novel Past the Event Horizon, soon to come out, my ship discovers an Earth like planet and explores it, looking for the aliens that sent the probe. It’s also a lot about what it takes to get there in a space ship.

Trying to land on Mars, we are learning a lot of what is out there and how difficult space travel can be for humans. A great trilogy to read if you are interested in Mars and the process of making Mars a  habitable planet is Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy. It’s got a great story line and lots of science facts. Be prepared to wade through geek details, though. For some, that is a plus.

The first is Red Mars. This is the first colony and the struggles they have on an inhospitable planet. Right away the environmentalists and the terra form advocates face off to battle for the future of Mars. The terrain supports little life and you have to wear a space helmet.

Green Mars is the next step in the series and continues the story of how humans transform the planet in order to make it livable. Now you’re up to just a breathing unit for an afternoon stroll.

Bringing water and completing the terra forming process is the storyline of the last in the trilogy, Blue Mars.  All three contain interesting politics, romance and great science detail. All three are good sized volumes, so make sure you can order out and have the laundry done.

Kim Stanley Robinson has won Nebula, Hugo, and Locus awards for this series. So, he’s on all the “to read” lists you might discover, if you haven’t already read these, then give them a try.


If you have, then he has a new novel that just came out in May 2012 called 2312.

A safe landing…a great day….what more might we find on the planet Mars?

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