Category Archives: Wizards and magic

Time Travel Review

Spring arrived in Oregon and the tulips were blooming. Perfect weather dawned on Sunday with the Tulip Festival in full swing. A spontaneous decision…we should go. What could go wrong? Fresh air, beautiful flowers, and wine all sounded lovely.

Unfortunately, half of Oregon came to the same conclusion.

Rolling along at the breakneck speed of three mph behind a congo line of cars, we enjoyed the passing country scenery–for hours.

Lots of colorful tulips covered the fields as far as the eye could see, and the swarming mass of humanity reminded me of the huge reader potential out there. I just had to figure out a way to tap into it.

Maybe offer a tulip if they purchase a book? Nah… Tulips are tender.

Nevertheless, there was a party atmosphere, and we had a fun time.

Authors face life circumstances such as this that unexpectedly interrupt their writing schedule. After all, they have family and a life outside of writing, but it means they have to be aware of such events when they set their schedule and build in flex.

Another situation taking time away from writing was the book I chose for this week. Neal Stephenson ‘s D.O.D.O. jumped off the library shelf into my hands, causing me to stagger backward. Eight hundred and fifty some pages is a doorstopper of a novel, and a novel that may stop a lot of readers from picking it up .

It brought up the topic in our writing group : Just how long should a novel be?

The expected answer is : As long as it takes to finish the story.

However, Nathan Bransford, who writes a popular blog, lined out suggested lengths.

Chapter Books (i.e. pre-Middle Grade) – 5,000 – 20,000
Fantasy – 80,000 – 120,000
General Fiction – 75,000 – 100,000
Historical Fiction – 80,000 – 120,000
Literary Fiction – 40,000 – 120,000
Middle Grade – 30,000 – 60,000
Mystery – 75,000 – 90,000
Novella – 20,000 – 40,000
Romance – 50,000 – 90,000
Science Fiction– 90,000 – 120,000
Thriller – 80,000 – 100,000
Young Adult – 60,000 – 80,000

I felt the length of D.O.D.O to be too long and it really didn’t end satisfactorily. The story is about how a collection of individuals work on a top secret program that uses time travel to try to bring magic back into the world. Set in the near future, they go back in history to collect witches that they use to send and bring back selected people who fiddle with history.

Different chapters use letters, memos, transcripts, and various forms of communications to reveal the different viewpoints in the story. There is hilarity in the differing perceptions.

You have your bright, intelligent main character who is a linguist and your handsome military undercover male. They form a romantic interest. The arrogant professor wanting control and the headstrong witch who doesn’t put up with anyone ‘s nonsense provide humor. Trying to keep everything under control and under wraps is the strong military brass. Of course when you start messing with time, trouble happens…and then compounds.

How Stephenson handles time travel is also interesting. He has many dimensions side by side that vary slightly. As the one traveling changes circumstances, they create other different time dimensions.

I enjoyed it because I like books on time travel, but toward the end, I felt the story dragged.

There will obviously be a sequel as nothing was really resolved. I’m not sure I’m ready to put in the time.

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Filed under award winning scifi, Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, time travel, Wizards and magic

Urban Fantasy in London

“Summertime and the livin’ is easy…”

Well, not if you’re scribbling away, or worse, staring over the deck while wracking your brain as to what you should write next.

I’ve been both places.

In the last hour.

So I’m going to use this blog to tidy up some odds and ends. While I was writing A World Too Far, I needed some insight into what futuristic weapons could look like. After all, Carter Wright had to come up with a defense system for the ship, and a robotic swarm seemed a natural for his talents. I found this website on futuristic weapons, some are leading edge weapons already on the battlefield, and I wanted to pass it on to my science geeks. (Overlook the ad and any click bait, because the content is interesting.)

Here’s the link : http://www.prophecynewswatch.com/article.cfm?recent_news_id=843

I used the rail gun because it doesn’t use explosives (no air in space), and the armed robot swarm. Lasers seemed like a cool futuristic weapon too.

Science fiction is just that…fiction. But it becomes much more powerful if grounded in some fact. How precise the accuracy should be, and how detailed, varies from reader to reader. I research a lot, but then when you’re skimming a black hole for the impact of the story, I sometimes make a leap of imagination. A big leap.

Never having the real experience recorded by anyone to compare notes with.

When I think of the astronomy I learned in school and what they have discovered since, I am astounded. Nothing can be ruled out as to what future discoveries might reveal.

Er, that dates me a bit.

On an entirely different subject, but another odds and ends note, I came across this article on page count. With the advent of the ebook, page count becomes not as important. No bookstore dictates shelf space and formatting is more flexible. So how has this changed page count?

The Book Designer by Joel Friedlander is a favorite website. They have an occasional blog that says, “Do This: Not That.” In June, Amy Collins did an interesting guest blog on page count.

-Here’s the link:  https:thebookdesigner.com/2017/06/book-promotion-do-this-not-that-june-2017/.

Zack Obront from Book in A Box analyzed 272 books that sat at the #1 spot on the New York Times Best Seller List over the past seven years. In 2011, the average nonfiction #1 NYT Bestseller was 467 pages long. Now it’s 273. Almost half.

For fiction, in 2011, the average Bestseller List page count was 502. This week (June 21, 2017) the average Best Seller List page count was 398. Quite a difference.

This surprised me as I thought page count would go up due to not having the shelf space worry.

But…

If you are going to offer a POD paperback, new authors are finding the cost of production eats deeply into any royalties for a long book and drives the price too high for the average reader’s pocketbook. Less buyers.

If you are beginning a book, it is good to set a goal for how long the book should be. I often use Larry Brook’s outline for pacing purposes, and it is helpful to know around what page your plot points should drop.

Amy goes on to offer suggestions on how to remedy the problem of the too long and the too short book from splitting it up, tighter editing, to places that take lesser page count material such as magazines or leaflets.

Odds and Ends, dusted and done.

This week I’m highlighting an urban fantasy. If you’re a fan of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden Series, you’ll like Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch. It can also be found in the United Kingdom under the title of the Rivers of London.

The story: Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Unfortunately, his superior plans to stick him in a desk job as a clerk.

However, on duty at a particularly puzzling murder, one of the eye witnesses that speaks to him turns out to be a ghost. This odd occurrence comes to the attention of Inspector Thomas Nightingale, Special Division of the Uncanny. Nightingale investigates crimes involving magic and the supernatural…on the down low. Due to Peter’s unique ability to sense the supernatural, Thomas takes him on as his assistant. As they investigate the murder, they wade deeper and deeper into a series of bizarre crimes that soon involve gods and goddesses fighting over river territories. A long dead evil begins to emerge in a rising tide of magic and mayhem, and it is up to Nightingale and his new partner to stop it.

I enjoyed the story, full of twists and turns. Peter stumbles into a whole nether world unknown to most Londone

rs who become victims of a malevolent being. Fun dialog, interesting characters, and magic. What more could you want?

 

It’s hot. I’m going to find some mint from my back deck for my iced tea and another good book to read in the shade.

Shine on.

 

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Filed under Cutting Edge Science ideas, ebook science fiction, fantasy series, hard science, magic, Urban Fantasy, Wizards and magic, Writing Tips and Lectures

Author: Juggler in disguise

As an author, I often feel like a juggler, tossing a multitude of balls around, trying to get everything accomplished.

First ball that gets thrown into the air is the time needed for the actual act of writing. Many experts suggest delegating specific segments of time each day to write.

Doesn’t work in my life.

Sometimes my creative juices are flowing and the words pour out. At other times, I stare at the wall wondering what is going to happen next, or I have other events that demand my attention. Yesterday, I was at the dentist.

That’s when Larry Brook’s outline suggestions help me move to the next chapter. When I start a book, I spend time laying out an outline that encompasses his plot points and pinch points. I have an idea of the overall scheme of the book. The devil is in the details as to how it is all going to happen.

But how do I know to do this?

Research.

That ball of time is important, but it takes time to learn about the writing game if you’re planning on being good. Hundreds of websites offer helpful advice of how to improve your writing. I have to balance what will make me better against what will confuse me. Not all advice is right for what I write. I have found that science fiction is written differently than, say, fantasy. Readers of science fiction want fast moving action with lots of tech toys and interesting science. The best stories also include relatable characters and an interesting plot. Fantasy leans more toward elaborate descriptions of time and place. Characters often have a mentor who guides an acolyte fighting against evil creatures. Often a magic system is in place. Rarely does it happen in a futuristic society. Romance readers require a still different format. Taking the time to understand your genre is critical.

Then there’s editing that bounces into the picture. I doubt there is any author that gets it right on the first draft. As for me, I have my writing group edit, I edit, and often a professional editor goes through it. I spend hours using the search/find on words such as that, was, looked, and lately some. I love to repeat words and often need to tighten up my sentences. So a lot of time is spent in the editing penalty box… And still I find errors. I also edit over fifty pages a week for my writing group as a reciprocal for their edits. However, I find editing others’ work helpful to understand what makes my stories sing.

The third segment that I have to juggle around is blogging and reading other websites. I love to blog about my favorite books and read what other authors are doing. (hence, this blog) I spent a huge chunk of time on Utube watching Brandon Sanderson’s lecture series. It was helpful. I should interact more on Facebook, Twitter and others, but it takes so much time because I end up going down the garden path. You know what I mean. You start to read one article, and next thing, hours have passed and you’re asking: How did I end up here, and where has the time gone?”

I spend a major part of a day on my blog, but I can’t even begin to blog until I’ve read the book that I want to suggest. Have you seen how long some books are? Actually, it’s my own fault, as I like to submerse myself into a world. But keeping up on the reading is a major commitment.

Then there’s marketing. Gah! Now with this time sphere, you can vary your involvement. A signing or attending a convention takes a huge portion of time and money. Signing up for an ad takes only money and a little bit of time. An author has to weigh the results to his bottomline. Time needs to be spent researching the best avenue for marketing according to the author’s resources and situation. An author with a bestseller and an eager publishing house may spend days traveling and attending conventions or signings while a self-publisher with a modest pocketbook (like moi) may be more limited. Each individual has different options available. I attended a craft show and sold very little, but a fellow fantasy writer in her own hometown where she was well known sold sixty paperbacks at a Christmas open market. Seasonality can be key. And a book about a dog’s journey might sell at a vet’s, or an advice book sell in a small boutique, whereas science fiction might not sell well there.

Side note here is that next Friday (after Easter is over) my book Cosmic Entanglement will be advertised on Freebooksy and be offered free for a limited time only on April 20, 21, and 22. Although this is the third book of the series, it can be read first.

Time travel stories will let you do that.

Last Friday Free Kindle Books and Tips advertised Caught in Time. They just wanted a mention in my blog and here it is. So check them out. In March I advertised with Book Barbarian. They take only science fiction and fantasy, but I sold the whole series to a couple of readers.

You can buy the series and get a special price on Amazon. Amazon provides several ways that help authors sell. Check out my Author’s Central page under Sheron Wood McCartha.

Which brings me to the business part of the juggling act. Yes, if you are serious about the time commitments that you will need to make, then you should take the time to rough out a business plan or at least a business direction. We all know that if you don’t know where you are going, often you’ll get lost or end up in the wrong place. How many books do you plan to write this year? How much do you need to sell to pay for a cover? And, gosh, who’s going to do it? Do you keep track of sales? Do you even control that information? How are you going to publish and distribute? A big publisher? A small publisher? Self publishing? And how are you going to decide?

While you’re pondering that momentous decision and reading blogs about it or talking to colleagues, the laundry is beeping, you’re running out of food, and the house needs a vacuum. Maybe you have delegated some of these chores to a significant other, but life and family still come rolling in and want attention. I have a smallish social life, but Sunday I’ll be attending a family and friends get together. I spent two hours at social security today so my daughter’s married name will be legal on her taxes.

Juggle. Juggle.

And finally, (or maybe not) is that ball with the great big word job. Whether you’re a mom, and your job is raising kids, or a wage earner out in the business world, that ten-ton ball can be hard to juggle around. You’ll have to reshape and be creative with your tosses.

It can be quite an act for anyone wanting to be an author.

****

This week I picked an unusual book for me.

I warned you.

I’m not one for fairies and such, but trans-dimensional worlds were involved, and again it was a Powell’s reading selection. I’m trying to keep up in my reading group and writer activities also.

It turns out that Tinker by Wen Spencer was delightful.

Tinker is a feisty, petite orphan who scratches out a living in a junkyard located in near-future Pittsburg, which now exists mostly in the land of the elves. A trans-dimensional gate built by her father is responsible for the situation. When a pack of wargs chases Windward, an Elven noble, into her scrap yard, she saves his life and becomes entangled in the royal elven court, which is full of intrigue. Tinker is one of very few who is able who understands the science involved in building the gate that brought Pittsburgh to the land of the elves. When certain enemies discover that, she becomes vulnerable to kidnapping by those who want to control or destroy the gate.

Possessing genius level mental ability, steel-toed boots, and a “take no prisoners” attitude, she takes on the NBA, the Elven court, technology smugglers, and an amorous, but powerful, elf out to change her life in disturbing ways.

A delightful, fun romp with engaging characters and non-stop action, Tinker takes everything in stride, including her first kiss.

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Filed under Alternate Reality in Literature, Alternate Universes, Best selling author, fantasy series, Marketing and selling novels, modifying humans, Paranormal Romance, Self-publishing, the fae, Wizards and magic

Changes in Publishing

photo-on-2011-02-04-at-15-44-2

Publishing is changing, but you knew that. The problem becomes how is it changing right now, and what headlines are we to believe about recent trends. December and January are great months to evaluate the past year and forecast upcoming developments.

Unfortunately, several publishing headlines proclaimed facts that don’t present the true picture. Politics isn’t the only purview of misleading or fake news.

Thank goodness for Hugh Howey and Data Guy.

Articles claimed that ebooks were decreasing and paperbacks were on the rise. Turns out that the rise of paperbacks sales came from several sources. 1: adult coloring books in 2015-16 became wildly popular. 2: Traditional publishers winning against Amazon (remember the big battle for agency pricing?) hiked prices for popular ebooks to sometimes the cost of a paperback. Readers chose the paperbacks when Amazon discounted them almost to parity with the ebook. 3: Finally, the data for these articles came from Bolkers who issues ISBNs. ISBNS are used by traditional publishers to track books. One book could have three or four different ISBNS depending on its format. An overwhelming amount of Indie publishers don’t use ISBNS due to their high cost here in the United States. They are not required by Amazon to publish ebooks. Amazon provides for free their own ASIN to tag ebooks. Indie authors often sell the large majority of their work as ebooks on Amazon and use Amazon’s ASIN. I use both.

Thankfully, Data Guy has a software program that scrapes data from Amazon, and other distributors (Kobo, Nook, etc.) to provide a more accurate picture of what might be happening.

Jane Friedman writes a blog with some interesting comments on the state of publishing.
https://janefriedman.com/9-statistics-writers-know-amazon/.   Check her out.

I believe that politics has impacted sales for January and February by distracting readers from books. My sales have dropped off, and I blame lack of marketing and political distraction, but this is merely my assumption. What about you?

Surprising changes in publishing are Amazon’s foray into brick and mortar to sell books and their new traditional publishing style imprints that are popping up.

I live five minutes away from the mall that houses Amazon’s new brick and mortar store. It’s fresh and new and highly curated. All covers face out and most are selected from Amazon’s bestsellers lists. It’s clever because a reader is presented with books that are proven already successful in the marketplace. No prices are put on the books since Prime members pay less and prices may vary. Will this new Amazon strategy pay off?

As a friend of mine often says, “We’ll see.”

all-the-birds-in-the-skyThis week I read Charlie Jane Anders’ “All the Birds in the Sky.” The timing couldn’t be better as it has just received a 2016 Nebula Award nomination.

The story starts off with Patricia Delfine’s tortured years at Canterbury Academy. All the angst of junior high school are magnified. Cliques of girls harass her and call her a witch. True, she talks to birds and a rather important tree, but only in the woods where no one can hear her. Nature is sacred to her and often she tries to escape the cruelty of her life by going into the forest behind her house.

Not only is school traumatic, but when she gets blamed for mean girl tricks, the school calls her parents and they lock her in her room for days, only letting her out to attend school. Her younger sister brings her meals, but not before she has poured hot sauce and chili pepper all over it.

Sibling love at its finest.

One day, Patrica literally runs into Lawrence Armstead who also gets pushed around and ridiculed at the same school. He, however, is a computer genius, and through a schematic on the Internet builds a time machine in a wristwatch that can jump him ahead two seconds. It’s not much, but it helps when spit balls come his way. Eventually, he builds a robot from parts and hides it in his closet. Unfortunately, his parents don’t value his geeky genius and sign him up for the Great Outdoor Nature Adventure to get him away from his computer and experiments so he can be more like “normal” boys. He hates it.

Patricia and Lawrence become awkward friends. Patricia is talked into lying about his attendance at nature class in exchange for twenty dollars. Lawrence also provides her with a module so she can talk to his robot and “socialize” it. The AI, in turn, gives out good advice on coping.

The book skips forward to San Francisco and young adults Patricia and Lawrence. Both have survived their childhood…barely. Patricia actually saves Lawrence’s life and, after a traumatic event, Patricia is found by a magician and runs away from her family to magic school.

The second half of the book follows the reunion of the two where they both struggle with lovers, their jobs, current co-workers, and a growing threat to the world. It becomes apparent that Patrica represents magic and nature while Lawrence symbolizes science. Together the two, with their talents, might save the world from a looming doomsday threat.

This is a strange book for science fiction. The early lives of the two main characters makes for agonizing reading and points out the failure of society both in education and child raising. I find the Nebula has often nominated and awarded unusual books that dance between fantasy and science fiction. This is one of those books.

Although the ending rather disappointed, I still recommend reading the book for its vivid characterizations and emotional events. It has a bit of the flavor of the Magicians in it. The trials these two have to overcome endears them and is worth the read.

And while reading this book, if you’re an adult, you’ll be glad you are. If you’re a teenager, you’ll be grateful that your life is better than their early life was… I hope.

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Filed under Amazon publishing, artificial intelligence, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, ebook marketing, Hugh Howey, Indie Publishing, Nebula nominations, Robots in science fiction, Wizards and magic, young adult science fiction

Twisted Science Fiction in Fairy Tales

Image 1Hope your Fourth of July was all that you wanted. I was just happy to stay home and enjoy our great weather on the deck.

I signed up Caught in Time for an add on Robin Reads for June 30 but was a bit disappointed at the follow on sales. However, the price was right at $25 for science fiction. The site appears to show a lot of romance books and maybe sells that better.IMG_0572

Coming up July 23, I’m offering Cosmic Entanglement free through Freebooksy. This does have romance also, but a young romance. One of the astronaut trainee bets another that he can get a beautiful Ching T’Karre girl to talk to him. Her culture forbids her to talk to males not recognized by her clan. So, the arrogant young man does all sorts of crazy things to get her to acknowledge him…and eventually falls in love. His path of young love gets rocky. A cross between ender’s Game and Tinker, Tailor Soldier, Spy. Check it out

Meanwhile my first book in the Terran Trilogy, A World too Far, will be coming out in August. I’m waiting on the cover at the moment.

As you know, I’m in the Powell’s science fiction book group. Our current two books to read are Uprooted by Naomi Novak and Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

Yeah, I know. I hear you asking where’s the science fiction? That was the question I was asking, too. And what’s with this trend of adapting fairy tales? YA, are you kidding?

CinderTurns out Cinder is a cyborg. Okay, then. That got my attention. As a mechanic by day, she meets the prince who is searching for the missing princess of Luna, thought to be burned in in a suspicious fire. (We can see this train coming a mile away.) But instead of a silly glass slipper dropped on the steps as she runs out of the Prince’s ball, she drops a whole metal foot. Quirky. The story takes place in New Beijing after WWIV during a plague that is devastating Earth. The Queen of Luna is trying to maneuver the Prince into marrying her so she can take over Earth. Meyer is creative with her Cinderella adaptation as she adds futuristic components to a well known fairy tale.

There’s lots more that I don’t want to reveal, and I found it to be a fun read. Meyer has a whole series that follows various familiar fairy tales. The next one is Scarlet that deals with the wicked queen of Luna again, but this time involves a handsome character named Wolf…so guess what that twist might be.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik also got a lot of buzz. It won the 2015 Nebula award and made at least ten best book lists for 2015. Ellen DeGeneres has bought rights for a movie adaption, so you may be hearing more about it in the future.Uprooted

In this story, we have fantasy with earth magic that loosely follows the Beauty and the Beast motif. Once every ten years a maiden from the peaceful valley of our narrator is selected to serve the cold, powerful sorcerer who keeps in check the malevolent woods that border her village.

Everyone in the village figures the sorcerer,  known as Dragon, will pick the beautiful, intelligent Kasia when time for the choosing comes. In a surprise move, however, he picks our narrator, Agnieszka (that’s the name, all right) who is shy and awkward. With that name, who wouldn’t be?

From this shy damsel to a powerful magician in her own right, the apprentice and magician interact, evolve, and together try to save the valley from the spreading evil of the woods.

Okay, so I liked that one better than I thought I would, and that’s why I have included it in this week’s blog. It’s all about diversity and choice. Something for everyone.

ps. Did you catch the news on the Juno arrival at Jupiter? Awesome pictures of this momentous event and details are online.

http://www.space.com/33375-juno-jupiter-probe-turns-on-science-instruments.html

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Filed under Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, fantasy, fantasy series, Marketing and selling novels, Robots in science fiction, Wizards and magic, young adult science fiction

Furious Series in Fantasy

Image 1If a reader likes one book in an author’s series, chances are that he will like another. Or if he likes one series from a given author, then chances are he’ll like a second series by the same author.

This was actually my reasoning to offer Past the Event Horizon free on Kindle Select for the first time ever, and put an ad on Freebooksy. Today it is listed in Freebooksy, but it will be free for a few more days through Amazon. Hint. hint.

So, with this cunning insight, why did it take so long for me to read Jim Butcher’s stepchild series, The Codex Alera? This series has lived in the shadow of the hugely popular Dresden Series. This was supposed to be Butcher’s main series, but Harry Dresden took off with the popularity of Urban Fantasy, and the rest is history.

I’ve read every single one in the Dresden Series in spite of being a sci-fi reader. There are times that I slip up and slide into fantasy.

Okay, I’ll admit it. Mea Culpa.

Furies of CalderonSo with the enthusiastic endorsement of a Powell’s bookstore cashier, I bought and read Furies of Calderón by Jim Butcher.

While I like new and fresh, I still take comfort in old tropes. The orphan boy, the cunning aging king, twists and plot turns, loyal sidekicks, budding romance– all these are favorite story elements for me.

I’m not into zombies or werewolves. So, fair warning.

I was surprised to find the book was written on a dare. If you are expecting Harry Dresden, he isn’t here. However, like the Dresden Files, once you get past the setup, it ‘s page turning action. So, wear a seatbelt or tie yourself down.

Tavi is a shepherd boy living in the sleepy Calderón Valley of Alera. In this world, children bond with elementals of air, water, fire, metal or earth. But Tavi ‘s parents are dead, and he lives with his stalwart uncle who runs the homestead and amazing spinster aunt. They both wield strong magic. Tavi, however, is the only one in the whole homestead who has no elements to do his bidding. He herds the sheep. But don’t count him out.

Far away at the palace, an heirless king faces plots to dethrone him and sends a newly graduated young female spy to the Calderon valley where he suspects treachery is afoot. There is a strong flavor of Rome in the story starting with the king’s name of Gaius Sextus. Other Roman elements also appear throughout the story.Princep's Fury

It was part of the dare.

The king is right to suspect wrongdoing, as his longterm trusted advisor has thrown in with a powerful Lord to depose him through collaboration with a barbarian horde–the Marat. They plan to invade the valley and take over the kingdom.

Amara, the royal spy, gets caught in a storm brought on by Furies while traveling to the valley. Tavi saves her life, thinking that she is a mere slave because she has disguised herself by wearing a slave collar and tatty clothes. Sometimes men don’t look past surface appearances.

Soon Amara uncovers the plot and is dismayed to find her old mentor, Fidelias, is a major player in treason against her king. Butcher portrays him as a vicious villain. Grab a tomato.

But no one has accounted for the brave shepherd boy who controls no furies, yet proves that courage and right action contain the strongest of all magics.Academ Fury

Cursor's furyThe first few pages introduce the characters, and then the action plunges forward and doesn’t stop until the end.

For writing a book from a dare, then turning it into a series, Jim Butcher did very well, and I recommend this to start.

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Filed under Best selling author, ebook marketing, fantasy series, magic, Marketing and selling novels, Urban Fantasy, Wizards and magic

Call for Beta Readers

IMG_9518I spoke too soon.

What a surprise you say.

The usual pleasant summer found in the Northwest has beamed down hot flames from the sun all week, making the temperature soar to 103 degrees Saturday. At least the nights cool down. Any reading is being done inside. Writing too. In air conditioning. It’s temporary.

I submitted my last chapter of book 8 to my writing group. Now I want to gather a few more Beta readers. These are readers who take a manuscript and read through it checking for continuity and general sense of character behavior and plot action. If they find misspelled words, I hope they mention it. Beta readers are special and often get a mention in the Acknowledgment and a signed final copy. They are people I trust with my special creation. They are the final polish.

So if you’d like to be a Beta reader for my next book, Time’s Equation, I need just a few more. Email me at: shmccartha@gmail.com.

Kepler 452bIn the science news: Many of you are already aware that the Kepler Project is discovering quite a few other planets out there in the universe. Recently, the most Earthlike planet has been discovered. Link:  https://www.nasa.gov/keplerbriefing0723  

The newly discovered Kepler-452b, located 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone — the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet — of a G2-type star, like our sun. The confirmation of Kepler-452b brings the total number of confirmed planets to 1,030. Finding a possibly compatible planet in which we could live is exciting stuff to an author writing about an Earth type planet such as Alysia. Science fiction becomes reality. Half a King

This week I read Joe Abercrombie’s Half a King and Half a World.

Being royalty isn’t easy when you have a hard cold father, a maimed hand, and dislike violence. Prince Yarvi, the younger prince, was happy to leave court to study for the ministry, the office that advises the king, rather than fight wars. Handling a sword proved awkward with his half a hand. But then his father and older brother are killed, and he is called back to court as the new King of Gettland.

His mother, known as the golden queen, has firm ideas on what to do. Attack their enemies no matter the wishes of the High King who demands peace. When asked how his father and brother died, Yarvi is told that his father went to speak peace with the bordering king Grom-Gil-Gorm and was attacked and killed through treachery. At his father’s funeral Yarvi swears vengeance on his family’s killer. His uncle Odem and his mother encourage him to command an army to attack his enemies. Of course, he must lead them there. Sword raised high. Gulp.

Yarvi sails to Vansterland with his uncle Odem where he finds unexpected treachery from his once supportive uncle. His loyal guard reveals his true colors and, on Odem’s orders, throws Yarvi from a high parapet into the sea to drown. But he survives. Washed up on shore, he is brought before Grom-Gil-Gorm where he claims to be a cook’s boy to hide his true identity from his sworn enemy. From there, he is chained and delivered to a slaver who sells him to row on the downtrodden merchant ship, the Southwind.

Yarvi’s grueling life at the oar and the friendships he makes as he uses his wits to figure an escape teaches him to be a man. But even freedom isn’t pleasant, as he and a few from the ship are hunted by their sadistic captain while he tries to unravel the plots of those who want him dead.

This is an adventure story of royalty sold into slavery and overcoming adversity. A young prince who tries to reclaim his birthright and become a man. A few interesting twists and turns keep it fresh. Abercrombie builds an believable world that offers solid action.Half a World

The sequel, Half a World, follows the story of young girl who calls herself Thorn and aspires to be a king’s warrior in a society where women are supposed to cook, sew and clean house. It follows her struggle to prove herself, but when the sword master makes her fight three opponents at once, she accidentally kills one of her attackers after her practice sword splinters. The sword master claims murder, and she is clapped in jail. When Thorn faces a possible verdict of death by stoning, a fellow trainee, Brand, discloses the real story to now Minister Yarvi who saves her by bundling her onto his departing ship, the Southwind.

Once again several characters from the first book join an older and more mature Yarvi as they sail half a world away in search of allies for an upcoming war. The High King plots to take over the world and his cunning Minister, Mother Wexen, has her own plans within those plots. Minister Yarvi must untangle the politics and uncover the truth as he ventures from land to land with his rough crew, searching for allies.

As they sail, Yarvi has Thorn trained to become a killing machine and his secret weapon. There is also a nice, but rocky, romance between Brand and Thorn.

Both books are worth reading and offer old fashioned adventure with clever Yarvi and the rough but likable crew of the Southwind as they sail into exotic ports and discover surprising allies.

Recently Joe Abercrombie has come out with the next adventure called Half a War.

Enjoy your read now that the weather is cooling off.

Aaaahhh.

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