Tag Archives: alien cultures

Twelve Authors to Binge on in Science Fiction and Fantasy

img_1018Santa will soon be sliding into town and my rushing around to get ready is taking time from writing and reading. But in attempt to get you ready for the holiday doldrums, I’ve come up with twelve binge reading ideas.

Because once the hooha dies down, there may come days in a row where you are tired of parties and company and would like to do a little binge reading.

I’ve picked out twelve authors randomly (for the twelve days of Christmas) who offer a good binge-reading experience.

1. Frank Herbert’s Dune Series. Dune is a classic with incredible world building and intriguing characters. After Frank Hebert’s death, his son, Brian Herbert and fellow writer, Kevin Anderson, added a number of readable prequels and additions to the storyline. Just out in September 2016 is Navigators of Dune that tells about the strange ship navigators that can fold space.

Fool's Quest2. Robin Hobbs and all her Realm of the Elderling books are good. Start with the Assassin’s Apprentice and read on up to her current Fool’s Assassin.

3. William Gibson’s Sprawl Series. William Gibson is the father of Cyberpunk. Neuromancer is his Hugo winning start, but the rest in the series : Mona Lisa Overdrive, Count Zero Interrupt, Zero History etc. are interesting, particularly if you look at the dates when they were written and current technology and events.

4. Lois Bujold’s Vorsigan Series. Read how the irrepressible Miles Vorsigan deals with life. I even enjoyed the more recent Captain Vortapil’s Alliance and Miles wasn’t the main character. Bujold has won numerous awards for this series and others in the fantasy realm.Barrayar

Visitor

5. C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner Series. Start at the beginning, but her latest, Visitor is seventh in the series and an amazing study on how to handle first contact with an alien race. Also, Cherryh has an Alliance-Union Series of merchant ships caught in the politics of war among planets. My all-time favorites of Heavy Time and Hellburner are in this series. Rimrunner, Merchants Luck, and the Hugo award winning Down Below Station are stand alone stories that also take place in the Alliance-Union Universe. I also want to mention a good fantasy series of hers called the Fortress Series

Expanse Collection6. James Corey’s The Expanse Series. Recently this exciting series hit television with some interesting visual effects. In January, the second season is due to fire up and continue the storyline. Start with Leviathan Wakes and read up to the new Babylon ‘s Ashes just published December 6. Space Opera at its best.

7. Joe Abercrombie ‘s First Law Trilogy. A fantasy trilogy that you won’t be able to put down. It starts with The Blade Itself, Before They were Hanged and ends with Last Argument of Kings. If you’re a delicate reader, this one gets gritty… Fair warning.First Law Trilogy

8. Brandon Sanderson has several series. His Mistborn Series breaks into two trilogies. The most recent just out is Bands of Mourning. (See my blog on it) Also his The Stormlight Archive with Way of Kings and Words of Radiance is quite good. Doorstoppers, both of them.

The Lies of Locke Lamora9. Scott Lynch and his Gentlemen Bastards series has also been a favorite of mine. The first is The Lies of Locke Lamora, then Red Seas Under Red Skies and The Republic of Thieves. Soon to come out is The Thorn of Emberlaine. Great adventure in the life of Renaissance swindlers.

10.  L. E. Modesitte has written sixty books! His Saga of the Recluse Series is very popular and his Imager Series just had its seventh book released today called Treachery’s Tools. He has several other series that are more hard science and futuristic. One of my favorites is Gravity Dreams and the Octagonal Raven. Lots to binge on with this author.   Imager

Ender's Game

11. Orson Scott Card. Can’t forget his Ender’s Game, one of the most popular science fiction books of all time. (made into a movie) Spin offs from this series are still popping up, so start now and be on the look out.

12. And last but not Least…Sheron Mccartha’s The Alysian Universe series. Now you knew I would have to mention it. For all the books in this series look right and see my listing.

These are just a few series or large books to binge on over the holidays when you want to escape the madness of the holiday or the frenetic relatives. There are more equally as good I haven’t yet mentioned (and might). Do you have any favorites? Let us know.

Until then,

May the Christmas Spirit be with you.

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Filed under Alien worlds, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, fantasy series, first contact, Hugo winners, Mistborn series, science fiction series, science fiction space opera

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.

TWO YEARS! ONE BOOK!

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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Filed under Alien worlds, aliens, Aliens in Science Fiction, Discovering new a Earth, military science fiction, science fiction, science fiction space opera, Science fiction world building, space travel, terra forming

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.

space-station-485590_640

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

Cover Reveal and Survey

IMG_0180Yeah, yeah, I know. The blog’s overdue.
But I have excuses. You do know it’s summer and that means vacations.
We took a mini vacation last weekend to go camping at Paulina, Oregon. (Pronounced like North Carolina…I never got it right)
See the gorgeous photo in the banner heading.

The other excuse is: I was waiting on my covers so I could do a splashy cover reveal.
There is an ongoing argument among my readers and the writing clique on whether a science fiction novel should have a face on it or not. So far it’s evenly split.

One-third argues strongly that people want that human connection, and a face or faces should be on the cover.

One-third counters with the argument that they would prefer to envision the being in the story using their own imagination and not some artist’s rendering.

The other third says it doesn’t matter to them. They only want to read the blurb and the story itself is what will sell them.

To this end, I had my graphic artist Toni B0udreault do two covers, and I may experiment a bit with which one gets the most sales.

bk9_cover_v6_face_final

bk9_cover_a_world_too_far_ships_kindle

 

 

 

What do you think? Which cover would you be most tempted to buy?

Why?

 Speaking of marketing…I wanted to include this interesting link.

 https://www.amarketingexpert.com/indie-authors-7-marketing-trends-no-longer-work-can-instead/

 Over the last five to six years the publishing industry has been transforming at a dizzying pace. What worked earlier, may not work now. Traditionally published books may be handled quite differently than a self-published fiction, and that is handled differently from a non fiction work.

For authors using small publishers or self publishing, the learning curve is steep and often changes.

 If you are using ads, check out http://www.Indielisters.com

Jason Ladd is trying to get a handle on which ad websites are worth the expense.

Okay on to the book of the week:

This week I read The Catalyst by Chris Reher. Chris has a full series out called the Taragon Tales and The Catalyst is book one. Like my series, each book stands alone, but characters from different books intertwine in the series. She also has several other series as well.

Once again, I discovered Chris through an ad site and Amazon’s newsletter marketing.

The Catalyst starts with Nova Whitesides, lieutenant, who is sent to escort an octopus-like alien to a distant star system. When her transport is attacked by pirates and the alien’s housing broken, it attaches itself and deposits a mysterious substance inside of her.

In order to survive the attack, Nova relies on a past lover, Seth Kadran who has aligned himself with the rebels, bent on taking down the Commonwealth. He comes in with the murderous pirates but during the attack he saves Nova’s life, helping her escape.

 Nova needs to discover what’s inside her and whether she can trust Seth to help her. Will personal attachments trump political differences, and which side is her former lover really on? As things get more complicated, Nova may soon go from MIA to AWOL or worse, in spite of her high level military father. Trying to do the right thing places Nova in questionable circumstances that could lead to military charges and a ruined career if she isn’t careful.

 A developing war has Nova wondering whose side she really should be on as greedy corporations face off against saving a world and an entire intelligent species.

 Chris Reher crafts an interesting story with twists and turns, full of romantic tension and dramatic action.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, Indie Publishing, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction, science fiction space opera, Self publishing a cover, Space opera, space ship

Science Fiction Romance

IMG_9518Summer is going by too quickly.

Results from my Freebooksy ad were mixed. Cosmic Entanglement made #1 in the Kindle> free> space opera category…briefly. But Yea! Ironically enough, #2 was The Star King by Susan Grant that I had already planned to review this week. (Stay tuned)

While there was an exciting pop for the rest of the series that day, the retail sales tailed off more quickly than usual, but now have picked up again with the start of a new month. I’m wondering if there isn’t a seasonality for ebooks. An unofficial guess would be that March through July, possibly August, sells best because of summer vacations and generally more leisure time. In addition to that, are there certain days of the month that readers are more likely to buy? In the past, my sales slow in September due to readers returning to work or getting kids off to school. I think November and December are best for hardback or paperback books that can be given as gifts because few people have time to leisurely read over the holidays. The big publishers also market hard during the holidays and bring out their top authors. (unofficial survey) I will keep an eye out for this year’s results.

I’m in the throes of working with my graphics artist on the cover for the first book in the Terran Trilogy. Toni Boudreault is easy to work with and understands the technicals of cover making…bleed, 300dpi, etc., along with a strong design sense and a willingness to try my suggestions. (crazy as they may be) So my next blog should contain an exiting cover reveal.

Being an independent publisher means juggling many tasks, but I love taking part in the creative side of designing the total look of the book. I also enjoy the business aspect, and too often can be found checking on sales or planning a marketing program. I live with guilt that I’m not marketing enough or effectively. However, I can pick what I like doing best, in most cases, and having that control is worth a lot.Armed Professions

I want to give a quick shout out for Clayton Callahan’s new book, Armed Professions: A Writer’s Guide. This is a fun nonfiction read on dangerous professions such as: military, police, firefighters, spies, etc. Clayton covers fascinating details starting with the history of these professions on up to current events, all with an eye to the writer. He writes from personal experience and that adds depth to the material. He also mentions relevant books and movies and suggests plots while providing a comprehensive understanding and terminology of each profession.

If you write these types of stories or need a good reference for a story with military titles (which can get confusing), a spy thriller, or firefighters, this is a valuable manual to have.

Because Clayton is in my writing group and known to me, Amazon has flatly said I cannot review him on their website. That’s a shame because this is a unique book that I think is worth having, but I understand and appreciate their initiative to eliminate influenced reviews.

The Star KingThis week I picked The Star King by Susan Grant. As of today, it’s still on free offer, but you hard core military guys stand down. While Lt. Jasmine Boswell is a military fighter pilot, the main story is a love story that transcends worlds and has a lot of heavy breathing in it.

Okay, I know you guys like romance too. At ease.

Lt. Jasmine Boswell crashes her military plane in the desert and blacks out. When she revives, she encounters a stranger with golden eyes as alien warships thunder overhead, targeting them. He pulls her down beneath a rock overhang and saves her life. She, in return, tells him that he must “crush the darkness” and encourages him to carry the fight.
Light years apart, on different worlds, they each save the other.

Against his father’s wishes,  Prince Romlijhian B’kah, known as Rom, watches his only brother shot down and killed by enemy forces. Since his father is king and high nobility, that leaves Rom as sole heir. Both defied their father’s order to not go, and now his brother is dead because of his influence. Devastated, he wants to die, but encounters Jas who encourages him to live. He passes out and when revived is captured by their leader, the ruthless Sharron. He brutally attacks Sharron, gets away, and is rescued by his own men.

Nineteen years pass on Earth.

Jas is now divorced with two children and still haunted by the encounter with the golden-eyed stranger.

Then, Earth receives a message from Jupiter that aliens called the Vash wish to land on the planet and establish diplomatic relations. In a news broadcast, Jas recognizes the man from her vision.

In the meantime, Rom has been disenfranchised by his family and is a renegade merchant trader. The military leader, Fleet Commander Lanat, is reluctant to let Rom land with him on Earth, but Rom sensing a market for precious salt connives a landing berth for his ship the Quillie by quoting treaty regulations at him.

The rest of the story is how both Jas and Rom overcome obstacles of all kinds to finally be together.

Susan Grant begins with an emotional and action-packed start. At times, the writing gets a bit over the top for me, but the story is cleverly done and the reader cheers for the two dream-crossed lovers.Star Prince

This is the beginning of a series, and like me, Ms. Grant offers this first book free, hoping the reader will want to read on.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, aliens, Aliens in Science Fiction, ebook science fiction, first contact, Marketing and selling novels, military science fiction, science fiction romance, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Space opera, space ship

Alien First Contact Best Seller: Visitor

photoDo as we say, not as they do. “We” are the midlist authors or ex-agents who set themselves up as writing experts, and “they” are the multi-Hugo and Nebula award winning authors.

I was told not to use too much internal dialog in my writing. Show, don’t tell…and action, action, action. Read all the blogs, you’ll see.

Well, I just finished multi Hugo award winner C.J. Cherryh’s latest book, Visitor from her Foreigner Series, and there’s lots of internal dialog.

I also recently reviewed Lois Bujold’s Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, and guess what?  Yup, it contains a lot of internal dialog, too. My two favorite science fiction authors with their newest books out and both contain a lot of internal dialog. Go figure.Visitor

Visitor picks up from the previous book in the series with factions of humans and atevi on the atevi’s planet in conflict with each other. Also, human factions on Alpha Space Station are upset with rescued humans from an attacked Reunion Station from another system who are now crowding their station that orbits the atevi world.

Got that? There’s more.

A signal comes in from an incoming kyo ship that announces it is on its way to Alpha Space station. This is worrisome because the kyo are the aliens that soared into the Reunion System and melted a section of Reunion ‘s space station, leaving humans for dead. The nearby human ship, Phoenix, fled rather than fought them. Then the kyo sat nearby and waited, watching for four years. They sent a shuttle to Reunion Station that was captured, and they continued to sit close by for an additional six more years, just observing, while Reunion tried to rebuild. So, the Reunion Station humans, now living on Alpha Station, panic when hearing of the kyo approach. To prevent Alpha Station from being tore apart from riots born of fear, the human station master locks down the Reunion section and refuses to turn over station control to atevi when time for the handoff arrives.

TrackerBren Cameron, human emissary for the atevi leader of the planet below, and human appointee by the president of the human contingent on the island of Mospheira, is the obvious choice to interface with the incoming aliens and also handle station problems. Earlier, he, the young atevi heir, and the matriarch flew on the ship that rescued the Reunion stationers and brought them to Alpha Station to live. In addition, they released a kyo, named Prakuyo, that had been held prisoner on the station for over six years and returned him to his people.

Now the kyo have discovered Alpha Station and the atevi world by following the ship’s trail. The name Prakuyo is transmitted with the words “we come.” So, the alien they rescued is on the incoming ship. Whether he wants revenge for his six years of incarceration or friendship in gratitude for his life being saved, Bren does not know. He does know that the kyo have been involved in an extended war with unknown aliens and carry heavy firepower while Alpha Station and the atevi world below are unarmed and vulnerable.

Bren’s responsibility is to learn the language of the incoming kyo and talk to them so as to avoid a war neither human nor atevi can win. But atevi and humans are just learning to get along and barely speak each other’s language. Also, humans have their own problems and are split among planet, station, and ship captains. Each with their own agenda and ideas of what to do.

Cherryh is a master at immersing the reader into Bren’s psyche as he mentally reviews all the terrifying scenarios, both on station and among the three alien races. There are a bewildering array of conflicting elements. A station master who refuses to give up power on the station complicates Bren’s job. Panicked stationers traumatized by the kyo ‘s previous attack create chaos and distraction. Ship captains, protective of the nearby human ship, try to insert their own authority, and the young atevi heir’s new human friends are threatened with kidnapping to provide leverage to a human contingent that has its own ideas on what should be done. Bren has to solve all these problems and sort everything out quickly before the kyo arrive.

Because time is running out.

The kyo are on their way…and heavily armed.

Cherryh provides a comprehensive first contact problem as Bren tries to figure out how to communicate with an alien species he knows little about. Then, he has to teach both atevi and human how to communicate with the kyo as the kyo have demanded the heir and matriarch to attend a meeting. One wrong gesture or one mispronounced word could set off violence, resulting in damage or destruction. The stakes are high.

And with this situation of complex moving parts, Cherryh adds an ending with a surprising twist. Bren Cameron will be called upon to use all that he has learned as paidhi-aiji to the atevi and communicator for alien species.

Cherryh uses words and language to express the mindset of the atevi-influenced Bren, who now has lived years among them. Because of the way she arranges and uses words, the reader is drawn into the atevi way of thinking. Now, she adds a new alien species and a different way of looking at the world. Communication is much more than words, it involves a whole culture.

As I am working on a first contact event in my current novel, Worlds Too Far, I have to express admiration for Cherryh’s fine job of writing. Her book goes into a more detailed exploration of how to communicate with an alien species than I do. In her book, I often felt the frustration and overwhelming fatigue that Bren feels as he races the clock to handle difficult personalities and solve disturbing actions on station, all the while worrying about what needs to be done to keep the peace when meeting the kyo.

How should we communicate with aliens if the situation ever arises? How can we know if the right approach is to assume they will be friendly or that they will be violent? And then how do we communicate with a species that may think totally different than we do? What might we use to bridge the gap of culture and language to arrive at understanding? How far might we go to protect our own species.

Read and find out.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, award winning scifi, Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, C. J. Cherryh, first contact, Hugo Nominations, Hugo winners, Lois McMasters Bujold, Political Science Fiction, science fiction series, science fiction space opera

Science Fiction Hugo Winning Series: Bujold’s newest

IMG_0165Keywords in marketing. Why can’t I just write a good book and be done with it?

Because readers aren’t telepathic. Nowadays most authors do a lot of their own marketing, and keywords play an important role in being found by readers looking for a good story.

Friend Mary Rosenblum explains the importance of keywords and categories for Amazon analytics and how you can make your book more discoverable. She describes how your title and blurb are important in pulling in readers who are searching for your kind of book, and also for getting you on important lists at Amazon.

Check out her informative blog. http://www.newwritersinterface.com/blog

Variety makes the world go round, and certainly there are science fiction readers of all kinds. That’s why I talk about different types of books. Last week I mentioned The Water Knife that dealt with the issue of declining water reserves, especially in the southwest. The book concentrated on the external environment, and was heavily political and brutal with graphic sex and nonstop action.

This week I want to talk about Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois Bujold.Gentlemen Jole and the Red Queen

The two books couldn’t be more different.

While Bacigalupi’s characters are two young, strong-willed girls and a ruthless killer, Bujold’s characters are much older and face internal struggles of grief, choosing new life paths, and finding love, rather than dealing with much external physical conflict.

Cordelia Vorsigan returns to the planet Sergyar as their Vicereine where she met her beloved and powerful husband Aural Vorsigan. But an aneurysm killed him over three years ago, and she has kept a stiff upper lip, staying single as she carried on with her duties of ambassador and Countess of Barrayer.

Now she returns to contemplate retiring and begin defrosting the five female embryos she and Aural had secretly left on Sergyar. At a ripe old age, she wants to start a second family, and begin living a peaceful life after one filled with violence and death.

Commander Oliver Jole is the base Commander and secret one-time lover of her bisexual husband, Aural. Being Betan and open-minded, Cordelia approved of Jole’s emotional support and physical protection of her husband during a difficult period in Barrayaran politics. She brings Jole a fiftieth birthday present of zygotes from her husband that Jole can fertilize to create five male offspring if he decides to take them on.

Meeting again after several years apart, their affection for each other and shared grief for Aural, sparks romance. The two well-known figures have to evade public scrutiny as they attend important meetings and events. There also have to figure out how to tell Cordelia’s forty-year old son, Miles, who now has his own brood, and no clue about his father’s more private past. There is also King Gregory of Barrayar to inform who depends on both of them to help him rule wisely.

Bachelor Jole is torn by a plum career offer back on Barrayer and the prospect of staying on Sergyar to retire and raise five boys at a country manor.

Sex is covered with delicate manners, and violence is past history. Humor abounds through the awkward moments encountered by two aging people finding love again and contemplating starting all over as they sneak around hiding their affair. A birthday celebration for Jole begins to spin out of control, and time starts to run out for both of them to decide which lifepath they want to choose.

Mountains of MourningBarrayarMirror Dance

The Warrior Apprentice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bujold has won the Hugo award four times, matching Robert Heinlein’s record. The Mountains of Mourning in 1990 won both Hugo and Nebula, The Vor Game in 1991, Barrayar in 1992, Mirror Dance in 1995, and Paladin of Souls in 2004. She also has two other fantasy series: The Chalon Series and the Sharing Knife Series.

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Science Fiction Series: Brandon Sanderson’s Bands of Mourning

photoI always do a happy dance at the start of spring. Warmer weather and longer days are near at hand, and summer lies not far away, full of promise.

Along the lines of marketing: Last week, I placed two ads. One was with Choosy Bookworm and the other with Free Kindle Ebooks. I selected the enhanced Choosy program for $70 and kicked in the $25 Free Kindle on the following day. Oddly enough, the Free Kindle program did better. Unfortunately, if you’re not marketing in some fashion, sales drop off. In this program I came out ahead, although downloads were less than before and I didn’t get as much follow-on buying of the rest of the series as in past campaigns.

Still, I’m happy with results but need to plan for next month.

A quick interesting science note from Kurtzweiler’s newsletter. The link is long, but it appears a new fabric has been developed that cleans itself through exposure to light. Wow! That could be revolutionary. As someone who does a lot of laundry, this was intriguing. Check out the details.

http://www.kurzweilai.net/nano-enhanced-textiles-clean-themselves-with-light?utm_source=KurzweilAI+Weekly+Newsletter&utm_campaign=0eaf0340c9-UA-946742-1&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_147a5a48c1-0eaf0340c9-281983297

Bands of MourningThis week I was excited to review Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson. Sanderson is a science fiction writer at the forefront of the genre. (see past blogs) He completed Robert Jordan’s bestselling series The Wheel of Time, after Jordan’s death and has several other series in his own name. He is best known for his Mistborn trilogy, which if you haven’t read yet, you should read first. The Bands of Mourning is the third in a series that takes place in the same world, but jumps ahead to the nineteenth century. Hence, there’s a Steampunk flavor along with the Western theme. You also have a highly thought out system of magic that uses metallurgy. Waxillium Ladrian is a Twinborn. He has both Feruchemical and Allomantic abilities. Burn some metal, then fly through the air sounds like fun, but he fights against evil and constantly puts himself in harm’s way where he relies on burning certain metals that activate his “magic” in order to save himself.

But basically, the story is a quest…a quest for the Bands of Mourning, which is a metalmind and gives the finder immense power. It is said to be hidden by the supposedly dead Lord Ruler in a hidden mysterious castle-like structure off in the cold northern mountains. So, we get a bit of Indiana Jones in the storyline too. Of course, our companions find the place booby-trapped.

Nothing is ever easy or works out as expected.

A Dangerous Talent for Time HQ (1)I love a good quest and used that plot line in my second book, A Dangerous Talent for Time. In my story, the characters search for the answer to a riddle to save them from attacking northern barbarians intent on conquering their kingdom.

Also, Bands of Mourning, explains why Wax left Teris to become a lawman and develops his relationship further with new wife, Steris. I needed to understand why he might marry her and why the relationship worked…or didn’t. I also liked getting motivation for his choice of being a lawman in the Roughs.

Of course, I loved reading more about Wayne, Wax’s quirky sidekick. Sanderson does a great job with battering dialog and a buddy relationship.

Bands of Mourning has everything. It starts off a bit Steampunk, turns Western, goes into a quest and ends up magical.

Sanderson writes for action and adventure, yet develops interesting characters. I look forward to the next and last book in this part of the series.

Shadows of SelfMistbornOther books by Sanderson you might want to check out:ElantrisWords of Radiance

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Alien Invasion

Image 1I’m back to the business side of publishing and writing, now that my daughter’s wedding is over. I’m finishing up my ninth book that is in the same universe as the other novels, but it doesn’t take place on the planet Alysia and has a different cast of characters for the most part. It takes place on a starship that is part of a fleet of ships seeking a habitable world.

Lots of fun to write.

Currently, one of my characters is designing robots to make up for the low population due to a recent epidemic. It made me think that finally robots are becoming more and more a part of our society. Years ago Isaac Asimov wrote his famous Caves of Steel, book 1 of his robot series. Even made it into a movie starring Will Smith. He had robots act indistinguishably from humans. We haven’t gotten there, but here is a link to an article that talks about recent strides in the field.download (1)

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-32334571

If you’re not familiar with her blog, yet, then I urge you to look up Kriswrites by Kathryn Kristine Rusch. She and husband Dean Wesley Smith have had a foot in the traditional publishing world and a foot in the Indie world. Together they have written hundreds of books, a great number which are science fiction… And they live in Oregon.

A recent blog talked about the direction of publishing and compared it with television. It’s all good, but the choice bit for me was:

“As Hugh (Howey) and Data Guy have repeatedly shown, writers publishing indie make significantly more money per title (and in general) than writers who go traditional. Not too long ago, traditional publishing’s argument was that they brought the books to more eyeballs.

They don’t. Now the playing field is level. If indie writers publish trade paper books, audio books and ebooks on all platforms, then the writers will make more money on (good well-written well-produced) books than they would if they went to traditional publishing.

Period.

Those of us who have been in this side of the field have known it for a long time. We finally have more than our personal numbers. We have two years of data.”

To read the complete article go to: http://kriswrites.com/2016/02/10/business-musings-money-talks/ and catch up on her other informative blogs.

cixin liuThis week I read The Three Body Problem by Cixen Liu and was puzzled. This book was nominated for a Hugo. I can only suggest that since it was published by TOR, a lot of politicking must have gone on. I never notice Indie books getting nominated, even best selling ones. Hmmmm. Anyway, the author is Cixen Liu and the English translation is by Ken Liu. Cixen Liu is the most popular and prolific writer of science fiction in the People’s Republic of China. He has won their Hugo equivalent eight times already. Reviews on the book were extremely positive.

But I struggled through it, falling asleep repeatedly as I tried to finish. Better than a lullaby.Three Body Problem

The first third of the story deals with the politics of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and has no science fiction elements. The reader learns of the persecution and public murder of young Ye Wenjie’s physicist father and her subsequent framing by a colleague who writes an incendiary book and claims she is the author, not he.

She is sent away to a lumber camp to work for several years, but then is relocated to a secret military installation because of her technical skills. This is during the time when America’s SETI program was popular, and China didn’t want the West to be the one to make aliens their allies. This Chinese secret project sends signals into space and, after a time, Ye makes contact.

Enter the science fiction portion.

Various eras of Trisolaris are experienced by a character named Wang who plays a popular underground virtual game. Soon a group of scientist and others are playing this game and we learn of a world named Trisolaris that is sending the game to Earth. Ye has decided the awful human race needs to be refined by these aliens and signals them to invite them in. Since their world is highly unstable and headed toward an extinction event, they are eager to come to Earth and what looks like paradise.

Eventually a group on Earth forms to prepare Earth and help the aliens conquer the planet. Another group tries to seek out and eliminate these radicals who would destroy Earth by encouraging unknown aliens to take over the planet. Lots of spy games and violent arrests ensue.

Needless to say, politics fill the book. However, Liu doesn’t shy away from his hard science either, incorporating a lot of physics into the story. While I embrace science in a science fiction story, for me, the story dragged. In addition, the names were confusing. There was Yang, Ding, Wang, Shi Quang, and Ye Wenjie to name a few main characters.

Somehow, contact is made through this virtual game that gives the reader an idea of the world of Trisolaris, but as a story plot, it didn’t seem realistic. Still, an unstable world that has to deal with three erratic suns has its interesting side.

The Dark ForestThis is the first book in a trilogy not completely out in translation, and I’m debating on reading the rest. After all the commotion of advancing aliens, Ye still waits for them in the end, leaving the reader curious as to what might happen when they finally do reach Earth.

And thank goodness, the science fiction elements make the book more interesting.

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Science Fiction and Fantasy Picks for 2016

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Dialogue. A great book often has witty dialogue…and Scott Lynch has witty dialogue in spades. His characters’ conversations reveal the bond of friendship that runs deep in spite of outrageous adventures. So, I’m looking forward to his next book, Thorn of Emberlain. This is an author who I have already read and loved.Thorn of Emberlain

Three Body ProblemThe number one reason a reader picks a certain book is usually word of mouth. A member in my Powell’s reading group shook my arm and insisted that I read The Three-Bodied Problem by Cixin Liu. After checking out strong reviews, I added it to my list.

The second reason most reader select a book is because they already like other books by that author. I’ve read and enjoyed  a number of Katherine Asaro other books. Many of her works have won awards, most notably The Quantum Rose, which won the Nebula in 2001. So, when I saw she had a new one out, I put The Veiled Web on my list. She’s good at science fiction romance with a heavy science emphasis since she has a PHD in Physics.

The Veiled WebRookie Privateer I found as a free book that piqued my interest. A lot of my bloggers like military science fiction, so, hey, this one is for you guys. Subject matter is a major reason to select a certain book.Rookie Privateer

They say a cover often sells a book, and in the case of A Child of Our Time, that’s what happened. This was also found on a free book website. I also liked the title and subject matter. However, it only had one review. Knowing how hard reviews are to come by,
I decided to take a chance, go wild and put it on the list. In this case, I have nothing to lose. It’s only 123 pages, however, but part of an ongoing series. I’ll sample this and see if I want to continue with the rest.

So here are the next five:A Child of Our Time

Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch
The Three Bodied Problem Cixin Liu
A Child of Our Time William Bowden
The Veiled Web Katherine Asaro
Rookie Privateer Jamie McFarlane

I know with the arrival of the new year, most readers and authors are organizing their calendar for 2016. To help you with some good advice, I found this website:

https://geediting.com/blog/the-120-best-websites-for-writers-2015/

The 120 best websites for writers. I have used several of these websites to help me in my writing one way or another. Maybe they can help you too.

So that’s the second half of my list of ten for 2016. I hope you have a wonderful year and read many great books.

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, artificial intelligence, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, ebook science fiction, fantasy, genetic manipulation, Indie Publishing, military science fiction, Robots in science fiction, science fiction, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Self-publishing, Space opera