Tag Archives: alien lifeforms

2019 Hugo nominees, Nebula, and a Murderbot

Often awards are a way to curate outstanding books. In the science fiction and fantasy field that means the Hugo and the Nebula. Nominees for 2019 are now in for both, and may offer several interesting reads. (See below)

Still, I feel there’s a lot of politics involved, and I have said so before. However, it’s easy to stand on the sideline and make critiques while others work hard to improve the genre. Mary Robbinette Kowal is a lovely lady who used to live here in the Portland area, and I have met her several times at events. I want to note however, that she was past Secretary and then Vice President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America who sponsor the Nebula Awards. This past January she ran for President and then withdrew her nomination. Similarly, past president John Scalzi has won a number of Hugo awards. Coincidence? I don’t know. I know he writes well and is prolific, and I like his series. I plan to read Mary’s recently nominated book, The Calculating Stars, because she is a local author and a charming person. I’ll let you know what I think.

The other books on the nominating list I plan to read are: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang and Artificial Condition by Martha Wells.

 

Here are the Nebula nominees for 2019:

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2019 Nebula Awards, including the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book, and for the first time, the Nebula Award for Game Writing.

The winners will be announced at SFWA’s 54th annual Nebula Conference in Los Angeles, CA, which takes place from Thursday, May 16th through Sunday, May 19th at the Marriott Warner Center in Woodland Hills, CA.

The finalists are as follows:

Novel
The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager US; Harper Voyager UK)
Blackfish City, Sam J. Miller (Ecco; Orbit UK)
Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik (Del Rey; Macmillan)
Witchmark, C.L. Polk (Tor.com Publishing)
Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)
Novella
Fire Ant, Jonathan P. Brazee (Semper Fi)
The Black God’s Drums, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
The Tea Master and the Detective, Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean)
Alice Payne Arrives, Kate Heartfield (Tor.com Publishing)
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, Kelly Robson (Tor.com Publishing)
Artificial Condition, Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)
Novelette
The Only Harmless Great Thing, Brooke Bolander (Tor.com Publishing)
“The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections”, Tina Connolly (Tor.com 7/11/18)
“An Agent of Utopia”, Andy Duncan (An Agent of Utopia)
“The Substance of My Lives, the Accidents of Our Births”, José Pablo Iriarte (Lightspeed 1/18)
“The Rule of Three”, Lawrence M. Schoen (Future Science Fiction Digest 12/18)
“Messenger”, Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and R.R. Virdi (Expanding Universe, Volume 4)

Also in are the 2019 Hugo nominees.

The 2019 Hugo Awards will be handed out at this year’s WorldCon 77, which will be held in Dublin, Ireland, between August 15th and 19th. Here is a shortened list of nominees for this year’s awards.

BEST NOVEL

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

BEST NOVELLA
Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor
The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson
The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

BEST NOVELETTE
If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again by Zen Cho, Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog
The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections by Tina Connolly, Tor.com
Nine Last Days on Planet Earth by Daryl Gregory, Tor.com
The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander, Tor.com
The Thing About Ghost Stories by Naomi Kritzer, Uncanny Magazine
When We Were Starless by Simone Heller, Clarkesworld Magazine

BEST SHORT STORY
The Court Magician by Sarah Pinsker, Lightspeed Magazine
The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society by T. Kingfisher, Uncanny Magazine
The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington by P. Djèlí Clark, Fireside Magazine
STET by Sarah Gailey, Fireside Magazine
The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat by Brooke Bolander, Uncanny Magazine
A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow, Apex Magazine

BEST SERIES
The Centenal Cycle by Malka Older
The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
Machineries of Empire by Yoon Ha Lee
The October Daye Series by Seanan McGuire
The Universe of Xuya by Aliette de Bodard
Wayfarers by Becky Chambers

BEST RELATED WORK
Archive of Our Own, a project of the Organization for Transformative Works
Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, by Alec Nevala-Lee
The Hobbit Duology (a documentary in three parts), written and edited by Lindsay Ellis and Angelina Meehan
An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards 1953-2000, by Jo Walton
The Mexicanx Initiative Experience at Worldcon 76 by Julia Rios, Libia Brenda, Pablo Defendini, and John Picacio
Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing by Ursula K. Le Guin with David Naimon

There are numerous other categories with nominees that you can find on the website:
http://www.thehugoawards.org/

I have read and commented on other books by Becky Chambers, Naomi Novik, Mary Robinette Kowal, Martha Wells, Yoon Ha Lee, and Charles Stross in previous blogs. All have been nominated for other books in other years. It seems the same people get nominated repeatedly. Nonetheless, several authors have been nominated more than once for various books over the years in both the Hugo and Nebula. It seems a common practice.

***
With that settled, I’m currently working on marketing. I have a promo on Fussy Librarian April 25 for Caught in Time. The tricky part with promos is figuring out all the rules and logistics. Fussy expects at least ten reviews with a four star overall average. If it is in a series, they’ll only take the first book. But… They will take a new release if you can show ten reviews with four plus average rating on your other books. Fussy is also cheaper. Twenty-five dollars for science fiction and thirty-eight for romance. However, they recently updated their website and guess who got totally confused?

Yup. Me.
Somehow I found myself opening up yet another Facebook account. Yipes!

BUT … They had a good messaging system, and when I yelled for help, they responded promptly and took care of me, listing me as a romance for ten dollars more. Oh, well. They can reach 175,000 readers through their free newsletter, and they will advertise your novel on Facebook. Check the website for complete up-to-date details.

I’ll let you know the response I get and if it was worth it.

Free on May 9, 10 and 11th, I’m going back to favorite ad site, FreeBooksy for May 10. My last promo in March for Somewhat Alien gathered 1,898 downloads with a happy quantity of follow-on sales.

That’s what I want to see.

No specific amount of reviews are required, but the book has to be free. (FREEbooksy) That means setting up your free days through KDP if you are on that program, which I am. If you want to charge or have a specific genre like romance, there are other promos available. The price depends on the category of your book. Science fiction is $70.

I’ll promo Caught in Time because that evening will be my book club venue, and I want to offer several special deals to the group.

Stay tuned. I’ll let you know if I found any of this a worthwhile part of any book marketing plan.
***
For my book recommendation this time around, I’m going to mention Martha Wells’ Artificial Condition since it made both the Nebula and Hugo nomination list this year.

The books in her series are short, which puts them in the novella category. The cost for a 160 page hardcover is $17 and the Kindle version is $9.99. A lot of readers have protested the blatant attempt to squeeze as much money as possible out of the series by her publisher. It’s caused quite a kerfuffle.

I, however, made use of the public library and paid nothing, but was irritated at a publisher’s manipulation of readers to make as big a profit as possible.

I’m getting to be a cranky old woman … I know, I know.

However, I have read three of the Murderbot Series and enjoyed them all very much. (See previous blog comments)

Artificial intelligence passing as human is a current theme in science fiction. Martha Wells’ AI calls itself Murderbot due to a mining incident where a number of humans were massacred by AIs, and it was present.

Somehow, the narrating AI managed to disengage his controller and escape, avoiding the “reset” or wipe performed on the other robots by the company. Robots, like Murderbot, are designed for fighting and violence and frighten ordinary humans. They normally are kept under tight control, but our narrator runs for it, attempting to pass for human under a disguise of cloak and helmet.

Its memory is still hazy about the incident, so, it decides to return to find out what happened. Murderbot negotiates to hitch a ride with an artificial-intelligence operated Research Transport Vehicle named ART in return for downloaded media goodies. Their interactions form some of the more hilarious parts of the story, and make it a worthwhile read, even at an inflated price.

As the story goes, humans in the story do irrational things and cause Murderbot to wonder at their actions. However, as it absorbs the human soap operas and recorded movies, it acts more and more human until the reader is charmed and also wants to know the truth of what happened.

Unfortunately, that will take another book.

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Filed under artificial intelligence, artificial nature, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Hugo Nominations, Marketing and selling novels, Nebula nominations, Robots in science fiction, Science Fiction book review, science fiction series, science fiction space opera

A Way to Expand Your Readers

Sometimes a light bulb goes off in a person’s head, and he or she suddenly understands something they had not been aware of before.

Such was the case with me this morning.

I’ve been writing about Earth humans landing on an alien world where the indigenous species is similar to them, but different enough to cause conflict. So, when I saw the blurb on Lisa Locke’s novel, Between Mountain and Sea: Paradisi Chronicles, free on Freebooksy recently, I went to snatch it up. Turns out, I had already downloaded it. It tells the story of a migration from Earth to an alien planet where the natives are very human in appearance.

That sounded similar to my Terran Trilogy, so I wanted to see how another author handled that theme. I started reading from my Kindle library. The story is very readable, although I figured out the big secret a quarter of the way through.

Mei Lin is a young Chinese girl who is descended from the powerful Yu family that now dominates the Earth colony of New Eden. Due to Earth’s climate change, cyber wars, nuclear proliferation, ten people called the Founders, come together to create the Paradisi Project which has the objective to find a habitable planet and build a fleet to escape Earth for a better place to live.

Many years later, the project succeeds in discovering such a world in the Andromeda Galaxy and sends ten ships with 10,000 people each, mainly from the Yu family, their staff, and loyal supporters. One ship, the S.S.Challenger is left behind as a prototype for more ships to follow.

Mei Lin is a descendent from these originals and was born on New Eden where men dominate the family. She is the only girl of six brothers and, after a botched eye surgery, is sent to recuperate at their estate, Mrnyddamore. The estate is far out in the country close to villages of the planet’s original inhabitants. She forms a bond to these simple people who have hidden psychic abilities.

So the story has a similar flavor to my Terran Trilogy. And… the name Paradisi Project was tickling my memory. Still authors occasionally use the same title as other authors. Since I’ve published my first book, Caught in Time, three other authors have come out with the same title, which doesn’t make me happy. Anyway…

I kept reading.

Mei Lin finds a hidden diary written by a long ago descendant who was one of the First Founders and who built Mynyddamore, the estate where she is recuperating. She writes about her life to a young boy who was supposed to come on the S.S.Challenger and join the colony later, but she hears nothing about the ship. From there on out, the book jumps back and forth between the story of Mabel, her great, great, great grandmother and Mei Lin’s current life.

Of course, there is tension between the indigenous people and the growing colony, along with Mei Lin and her own family. As Mei Lin learns more about the early colony and herself, she is drawn into events and soon becomes embroiled in its conflict.

I liked the story and was intrigued by the author’s telling of a similar theme as mine. Then, I came to the back matter in the book.

That’s when the light bulb went on.

The Paradiso Project is an open source world where authors are invited to write their own stories within that world. Sixteen authors are listed along with their books. I recognized two of them immediately.

I had read Andy McKell’s novel, Faces of Janus and have its sequel, Janus Challenge,  in my library, ready to read. Also, in my library, is Cheri Lasota’s Sideris Gate.

Andy is a frequent commentator on my blog and has several more novels out in the Paradisi Universe. As does Cheri and other authors.

Cheri Lasota is another northwest author who I met personally at a book talk a few years back. When I saw her book in an ad site, I tucked it into my library. Now I plan to be even more diligent in reading these two authors to see how they interpret this universe.

In an explanation about the project, Lisa Locke says that the inspiration for the collaboration came from world renown author Hugh Howey. He opened up his own world of Wool to other authors who have written their stories in that universe and encouraged her to do the same.

If you are writing space opera or building a world, inviting other authors to write in your world may be one way to expand your reader base. Bundling several of these stories into an anthology may be another step to increase awareness of your work and build sales. Fans from one author may be lured over to another author’s work.

Of course, you may want to have some control over the stories and agreement with the other authors so that they are well-written and reflect favorable on your world. But a collaboration could be fun and profitable for all concerned.

As the Indie wave of writers increases, clever authors are looking for new ways to be discovered in order to expand their readers and their sales.

This idea may be a way for you to do just that.

*Hello from Oregon*

enjoy the rain

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien pets in science fiction, Alien worlds, Hugh Howey, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction series

Seven Concepts for Writing Aliens in Science Fiction

 

A quick reminder that the Perseid Meteroid Showers are raining down on us. This year should be more impressive due to a diminished moon. But if you’re in a smoky environment because of fires, or the night is cloudy, then visibility could be poor. Check your weather.

Best of luck in viewing an amazing event from Earth.

                                      Aliens in science fiction  

The best place to find extreme characters or divergent world views is in science fiction because when writing, or reading best selling science fiction, usually there are aliens. As a writer, this can get tricky. For if your aliens are really different, i.e. alien, then most likely, your readers won’t understand or relate to them. This does not usually make for a good story. Your readers need to get engaged and identify with the characters in your book.

That is the reason I went with the Earth colony idea and threw in variances caused by a different environment. I wanted to write about characters that my readers could relate to.

Most of my characters are humanoid because it’s hard to love a slime worm or rancid igrot. Still in Past the Event Horizon just as they rediscover the alien signal, the crew on The Seeker discuss what might be out there in space, and what the aliens sending the signal might look like:

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

Idly Joel said, “What do you think they look like?”

Everyone paused.

“Surely someone has a bet?” commented Braden.

“I’ve got money on blobs that float,” answered Glaze. “They live in the ether and inhale methane.”

“Blobs?” Icabar snorted. “That’s ridiculous. You need dexterous digits to build a stargate.” He grinned and flexed his hand. “I’ll take your bet, and I’ll take your money.”

“It’s not a big bet.” Glaze shrugged.

“My money’s on a hive mind and insect-like creatures.” Icabar looked up. “The leader has a big brain and lots of worker bees.”

Solanje shook her head. “Insects stay small on Alysia because they can’t support a heavy exoskeleton under our gravity. No, I think maybe something with tentacles and eyes that shoot out on stalks. Something tall and skinny that survives in a light gravity.”

Glaze twirled around. “Tessa thinks they’re living plants with wavy fronds that walk on stalk legs.”

“Geesh, she would think something like that,” commented Icabar. “Just like a botanist.”

“Maybe they’re all hairy with ugly sharp teeth and red eyes,” offered Bashar.

“Putting money on that?” Icabar gave a grin.

Bashar smirked and shook his head.

“What about ghosts?” Joel blurted out. “Ghosts that glow in the dark.”

“I think bird creatures with wings,” Solanje chime in, flapping her arms.

“Yes, wings,” mumbled Joel.

Braden pursed his lips and thought. “They need digit-like hands so they can manipulate materials and build stuff. The need eyes to see and sensory equipment…feet and legs to walk with.”

The crew realized that they were parameters and rules that would dictate what an alien might look like, or how it might act.

Over the ages, science fiction stories have depicted many kinds of aliens.

Here are seven concepts to think about when writing aliens and my comments:

1. Aliens should be alien. This sounds pretty straight forward, but be careful with it. The problem is that it’s like trying to visualize the fifth dimension. One dimension…easy, two dimensions…easy, three dimensions– also easy. I live with them every day. The fourth dimension, dealing with time, I kinda get, but go past that and my mind starts to turn to jelly, trying to understand what other dimensions might look like. Same with an alien. If it’s truly alien, then how can I understand it or even try to write about it? Would my readers even care whether it lives or dies if they can’t understand it or empathize with it. So, maybe, somewhat alien? (Great title for a book… oh, one of mine.)

2. Aliens have their own history and story. What fun to construct a culture and history for an alien race. Going wild here.

3. Aliens that are naturally telepathic won’t grasp the concept of language. I have a few telepaths in my stories. In my most recent book, The Weight of Gravity, (coming out in September 2018) I have a very fun chapter where two characters can read minds at an Alysian Ball. What humans think to themselves in a crowd of others makes for hilarious writing. I have a language for the nontelepaths in the society because if your characters are all telepaths and don’t need language, then how on God’s green Earth are you going to write a book? Ummmm. No words.

4. Aliens that can’t hold a tool, won’t invent space ships. Love this one. So if your alien is a blob, or chittering insect, better have flexible mandibles if they are going to go far…like outer space.

5. If aliens have a different body chemistry (and alien means that they do) then they aren’t going to eat human food. And a corollary to that is that humans won’t be able to eat the alien food. Makes sense, but I bent the rules a little here. So if you have your characters land on an alien planet, they’d better be well supplied or they could starve. Still, playing around with humans reacting to alien food can be a lot of fun in a story.

6. If they don’t look human, then they most likely have a different definition of beauty. Silky filaments probably turn on the Jovian worm lord, but for you, me, and our reader…ugh. Maybe the males on Cassiopeia don’t appreciate the fine curves of Marilyn Monroe. Heh! Finally. I don’t mind competing with the three-eyed felix from Raegon … unless the judge is the three-eyed male felix.

7. Aliens should conform to their world’s environment. A tall skinny plant form would not grow successfully on a heavy gravity planet. Thus, if your alien is aquatic, his world would be dominated by water, or if his world is dry, his culture and physical form would reflect that. Remember Dune, and how that environment affected the natives there? How the spice affected them?

So here are seven concepts to consider when inventing aliens and an alien world. Maybe aliens aren’t visiting us because their worlds are too different, and our environment would kill them. Think of War of the Worlds. A very clever book.

So, writing about aliens provides rich fodder for your science fiction story as long as you keep a few concepts in mind.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Aliens in Science Fiction, science fiction

Favorite Women in Science Fiction

Outstanding Women in Science Fiction

Science fiction is often thought of as a male genre with its space battles, male warriors, and gruesome aliens.

But not so fast. There are a number of good female authors who have made their mark in the genre.

In the spirit of the new feminism, and a different kind of #metoo, I thought I’d mention my  favorite female authors.

Even the guys will like these compelling writers.

In no particular order of preference, I’ll start with Connie Willis. Although, Connie isn’t as prolific as some of the others, when she writes, she often wins awards… Usually of the Hugo variety. Ten Hugos (includes short stories and novelettes )and nine Nebulas make her worth mentioning.
Hugo award winner To Say Nothing of the Dog is a rollicking trip through time, searching for a seminal event that has affected the future. Hold onto your hat as this one is fast and funny and explores Victorian England.

In contrast, Willis’ Hugo winning novel, The Doomsday Book is grim. Accidentally transported back in time to the plague in Europe, the main character struggles to survive. A double novel Blackout and All Clear portrays several characters trapped in time during the raid on London in World War II who also try to figure their way out to safety. Be prepared for wild action and constantly missed connections. The last Willis I read, and reviewed, was Crosstalk. This near future story takes smart phones and our interconnected internet crosstalkonto a whole new level. Again, Willis’ character becomes frenetic when an experimental phone connects so fast it’s like mental telepathy. Imagine if you could read other people’s minds. The experience becomes disorienting to say the least.

 

Only two authors have won as many as four Hugos for best novel, and one is a female.

Yes. Think about that.

The next with three for best novel is Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, and Vernon Vinge.
But my favorite author, Lois McMaster Bujold, has won four.

Unlike Willis’ stand alone novels, Bujold is known for her Vorkosigan Saga that follows her main character, Miles Vorkosigan through many escapades in his life. But like Willis, she displays a sharp humor when writing about human behavior. Start with her first book, Shards of Honor and nibbled (or gulp) your way through the series. She has added a few Barrayarother novels such as Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance where the main character is not Miles but his swinging bachelor cousin who gets caught up in…well, I’ll let you find out what. She has packaged several of the books in omnibus style, so heads up there. In addition to her science fiction, she is prolific in several fantasy series. Enjoy those too.

 

Another female author who is prolific in both science fiction and fantasy is C.J. Cherryh. Her Down Below Station was a Hugo winner that fits into her Alliance-Union Universe series. A prolific writer like Bujold, Cherryh has so far written over eighty books, which also includes several fantasy series. Her most current science fiction saga is her Heavy TimeForeigner series. While her Alliance-Union novels can be read in any order, her Foreigner Series follows a timeline. Bren Cameron is an ambassador for the humans having landed on an alien planet and gives insight into a human struggling to understand an alien culture. Cherryh immerses her character so deeply into the culture, and because she tells tells of his experiences through the first person, the readers almost begins to think like the atevi. Bren’s life is fraught with danger in a culture that had fourteen words for betrayal and not a single one for love.

Another Hugo winner is Catherine Asaro. Her series on the Skolian Empire/Ruby Dynasty pit two star flung dynasties against each other. The Skolian Dynasty is known for their jaggarnauts with faster than light capability and the Kyle Web, while their enemy, the Eubians, thrive on slavery and cruelty. Not to be outdone, her novel The Compass Rose also won a Hugo. Recently, she has started a new offshoot of this so far fourteen book series called the Major Baahjan Series. A few characters from her first series make appearances, but the series deals mainly with a new female character who becomes a detective on an alien planet. Lots of mystery and action with an underground culture.

 

While I have picked ten authors, I’m going to end this blog with my fifth pick and finish the rest in the next blog with a full review on my most recent favorite female author.

Hastur LordBut in the mix of prolific female writers, I had to include Marion Zimmer Bradley. Her Darkover series has elements of fantasy, but takes place on an alien planet and also deals with humans from Earth trying to colonize a planet they consider alien. The natives are humans from a long ago landing who have interbred with a native alien species that carried strange powers, but are almost now extinct. The more elite of the human natives carry psychic powers received from this interbreeding. At one point, the current Terrans leave, but politics and conflict continue among the natives. This series is extensive and has invited other authors such as Mercedes Lackey and Deborah J. Ross to co-write several of the novels. There are also collection of short stories dealing with the Darkover story in an anthology series, and also an Omnibus series. There is a timeline of events, but each novel stands on its own and is complete. So, don’t be afraid to pick what looks interesting.

Next time, I’ll talk about five more outstanding female science fiction authors who are my favorites. Tell me who is your favorite female science fiction author.

All great summer reading.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, Alien worlds, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, C. J. Cherryh, Discovering New Worlds, Hugo winners, Lois McMasters Bujold, Political science fictionLois McMasters Bujold, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Women in Science Fiction

Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading List for 2018

Happy 2018 to everyone. Yes, it’s hard to believe we have a new year starting again, and although there was plenty of tumult around me, this past year was a good one.

I’m currently working on the third book in my Terran Trilogy called The Weight of Gravity. This trilogy is part of the overall Alysian Universe series, but from a completely different prospective. It makes the tenth book I’ve written, along with other shorter works in anthologies. Kristine Rusch talks about author burnout, and I’m battling a bit of it myself. Maybe the new year will energize me.

When I set out to pick ten books for the upcoming year for my blogs, I noticed that my kindle library was bursting with books gathered from various ad sites that I promised myself I would get around to reading. So, that’s where I will draw from for some of my selections. I’m worried that ebooks are getting cheaper and cheaper, many are offered for free, and personal libraries are filling up so buyers don’t need to purchase quite as much to satisfy their reading needs. A lot are free. As a reader, I like it when I don’t have to spend tons of money on books, but as an author, I wonder where the trend is going, and will I be able to keep up my income? Are we reading more or spending less? Or both? Or does it even out?

This year, I had my highest month ever, and lowest, in royalty income. Several authors mentioned a similar situation of lower royalties, blaming it on the distraction of the election and following political commotion. Since my lowest month was January, I’m buying into the theory. Luckily, the summer months brought a welcome increase in sales with August my best month ever. A number of authors have commented on this seasonality of book buying, and I’m thinking to research this further in another blog.

In my December blog, I always select five books to add to my reading list for the year. This time, I wanted to consider a mix of stories with time travel and space opera foremost but also include a bit of fantasy. I wanted to suggest both traditional and self-published novels. Last year, I discovered a few new authors who wrote in a series, and I decided I should continue their works. Along that line, the Expanse Series is coming back to television, so I picked the newest release, Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey. I’ve read the earlier novels and blogged on several of them, so check it out if you want to know more. If you haven’t read the books, the television version can be confusing, but I love the special effects, even though I disagree with the choice of actors who play the characters.

The second book on my to-read list for 2018 is Angel City Blues by Jeff Edwards. Yes, I know that I selected this last year and don’t know why I didn’t read it. I loved the first book, Dome City Blues and this will bring in an urban cyberpunk genre that will be a fun contrast to my other choices.

My next choice is Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn. This fantasy just appeared to be a fun book to read. Any book that starts out saying, “Sneaking out of the palace may not have been one of Aniri’s best ideas” has me hooked. As third daughter, Aniri is under no pressure to marry and hopes to wed her fencing instructor lover. Then, she gets a marriage proposal from a barbarian prince in the north who has his own secrets and… Not science fiction, but it sounded too good to pass up.

Time travel is a favorite of mine, so when I saw Crossing in Time advertised, I stuck that in my kindle library. The blurb asked, “If someone took everything you live for, how far would you go to get it back?” Turns out, the main character would go far into the past to change events in order to get back a loved one, and that idea intrigued me.

Finally for now, the fifth selection comes from a popular author that I never got around to reading until a year or two ago. Andre Norton has become a favorite of mine, and I have been eyeing her Time Traders sitting in my kindle library. Time to read it.

There you have my first five. In January, I’ll add five more. As you know, other books may be selected as I see fit. Sometimes, publishing schedules change, or other ideas take precedent, so this is not cast in stone, but only serves as a guide. I offer suggestions and comments for books I think readers will like, but I’m not a professional reviewer and don’t take review requests any more. However, I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy for years and love to share this passion with fellow enthusiasts.

This time around, I noticed that a deciding factor was the blurb. Cover and blurb are so important in a reader’s selection process. So, authors, put extra effort into those two elements to help sell your stories.

Here they are to start:

Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn
Angel City Blues by Jeff Edwards
Crossing in Time by D. L. Horton
Time Traders by Andre Norton
Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey

Also, for the new year, I would like to recommend you check out Kristine Rusch’s blog on the state of publishing. Not only does she live in Oregon like I do, but she is in the traditional publishing arena along with being a strong advocate of self publishing, having self-published many books herself. She has written several series in several genres under various pen names and is thoughtful and knowledgeable about the total spectrum of publishing, both Indie and traditional.

Here’s the link:
http://kriswrites.com/2017/12/27/business-musings-the-year-in-review-overview/

With 2017 ending, and 2018 about to begin, I wish a bright future for everyone… and happy reading.

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Science Fiction NEW RELEASE

One of the most exciting days in an author’s life is the launch of a new book. Finally putting a book out into the universe carries the weight of hours of plotting, planning, writing, editing and packaging… plus lots more.

Somewhat Alien is now available on Amazon in both paperback and ebook. It is the second book in the Terran Trilogy Series. Because readers like to start with the first book in a series, I’m offering A World Too Far free Tuesday through Friday (7/25-7/29) And to sweeten the pot, the second book, Somewhat Alien will be reduced to $.99 for three days.

I won’t do this often, but this week is special for the debut of my latest series.

What’s the series about, you ask?

The first book is a science fiction starship adventure.

Starship Captain, Elise Fujeint, is yanked our of cryo to take control of a ship ready to mutiny. For hundreds of years the fleet of sixty Earth ships have headed towards a planet that over time had become an uninhabitable radioactive wasteland.

Now the fleet’s in chaos. Forty out of the sixty ships jump with Elise, only to find themselves lost in an uncharted sector of the Milky Way Galaxy. Challenges spring up both inside the ship and outside in space as the beleaguered ships, running low on resources, try to find a world where they can make a home.

Somewhat Alien carries on the adventure through Elise’s clone as she struggles with human-like aliens who view the fleet’s arrival on their planet as an unwanted invasion. The are consigned to a space station by the natives out of fear of contamination. Politics and diplomacy are the tools to win the day if only Elise could ignore her feelings for a powerful Alysian leader. This one has a bit of romance sprinkled in.

Diana

I’m doing a guest blog for fantasy writer D. Wallace Peach who has a few extraordinary series under her own belt that you should check out. You can find Diana’s blog at https://mythsofthemirror.com. And follow up on her other informative, fantastical, and hilarious writings.

Recently one of my blogs talked about trends found in a survey by Written Word. This week another ad site, the powerhouse Bookbub, gives seven tips on international trends. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/2u1v7S2

A short summary:

1. While 76% of Bookbub’s worldwide readers are woman, the UK has the largest amount of male readers. (29% versus 24%) Science fiction tends to male readers, so this is a target market for me.

2. Different regions have different reading preferences. Australians like science fiction and fantasy. For me, that’s important, and my experience confirms this as Australia is my second strongest region for sales, followed by the UK as third. Of course, the US outsells both of them by a wide margin.

3. Readers outside the US are more likely to be retired.

4. Of Bookbub’s subscriber base, 73% don’t have children at home. (That’s how they are able to read)

5. UK subscribers read close to a book per day. (37%) while only about 26% of the worldwide subscribers read that much. Lots of books out there, but lots of readers reading lots of books, too.

6. Readers outside the US are more likely to pay full price for a book. (6% more likely) So that’s a consideration when you price both paperback and eBook. You might go higher.

7. Readers like both ebooks and paperback. 82% outside the US read ebooks while one-third of them frequently read both ebook and paperback. (I know I do) Here, you want to offer both an ebook and a paperback of your work to cover all bases.

Marketing implications? Since I’m under Amazon’s distribution, I can reach readers worldwide. Knowing the differences among the regions helps shape my marketing approach.

Now for balloons and champagne to celebrate.

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Science Fiction Awards List

The nominations for the 2017 Hugo are in, but to refresh your memory here are the winners for 2016: https://www.theverge.com/2016/8/20/12551696/2016-hugo-awards-

Of the four mentioned here, I blogged on Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, read an intro of Seveneves by Neil Gammon (thanks to Amazon which offers free introductions) and liked what I read but haven’t bought the book yet, and have been an enthusiastic reader, and blogger of, Jim Butcher’s other two series: Codex Alera and The Dresden Files. Makes me feel that I’m picking books to talk about that other people like too.

Also out are the Locus Awards.
http://www.locusmag.com/News/2017/06/do-not-touch-2017-locus-awards-winners/

On the Locus list, this year in blogs, I talked about Visitor by C.J. Cherryh, Babylon’s Ashes by John. S. A. Corey, Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson and All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Anders. I tried to read Take Back the Sky by Greg Bear but for some reason abandoned it.

Now we have Hugo nominations for 2017:

http://www.tor.com/2017/04/04/2017-hugo-award-finalists-announced/

In this list is All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Anders, The Obelisk Gate revisiting J.K. Jeminsin, A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers, who also did A Long Way to an Angry Planet that I commented on in a recent blog.

And Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer.

I don’t know where to begin with this one.

My usual policy is not to discuss a book that I don’t like. I acknowledge that each reader brings their own experience and taste to a story and being in my Powell’s Book Group (25 plus members) has made it abundantly clear, everyone’s taste is different. So what I don’t like, others may love.

But as an author and writer, Ada Palmer has had me ranting for days. (My poor husband) She breaks all the conventions of what I’m told is good writing and then makes the Hugo nominations list! Thanks TOR.

Right off the bat, her first sentence warns the reader that the narrator is unreliable. So throughout the entire book, you’re wondering if what you’re being told is true or not. A lot is left out.

Constantly, in the book she talks directly to the reader as if they are sitting in a chair across from her. In her far future world, an attempt to level the playing field of gender results in people not using a definitive pronoun. So in describing a person, it can be a they one moment, then a he or a she, the next. Gets confusing, but it worked for Anne Leckie, also a Hugo winner and nominees, so maybe Ada liked the idea.

In addition, one person often has several names depending on who is in the room talking to them. And there are a lot of characters to keep track of throughout the book. The names are crazy, taken from the 18th century. For example, the narrators name is Mycroft Canner, an homage to Sherlock Holme’s brother.

In fact, the whole book is packed with inferences involving the 18th century, and unless you are a history major of that era, you spend more time researching Palmers’ allusions to the time period than you spend paying attention to the plot.

What plot?

Also, she didn’t hear about the “show, don’t tell” rule and expounds in detail on several historic names, places and events.

Point of view jumps around incessantly and some major characters don’t even talk in English. When they speak Latin, Palmer puts the translation in parenthesis after each sentence. Fonts are constantly changing. There’s sprinklings of French, Spanish and Japanese in the dialog.

In due time, the reader (hopefully) realizes that Mycroft is a criminal (she alludes to his servicer’s uniform) and is sentenced to pay for his crime in service to those families he harmed. But the mystery is that he /she /they is constantly being relied on by the powerful leaders of this world to supply sensitive information or used for top secret activities. He is on familiar terms with every powerful leader throughout the world. Mycroft is more than a common criminal who has performed unspeakable crimes, but as a reader, I wasn’t sure what his connection was to the others, and why they were so nonchalant at having him constantly nearby. I’d hoped to learn by the end of the book.

And that is my main complaint. While Mycroft harbors a boy who can touch toys and make them come alive, (rather cool) the commotion in the story is caused by a list of ten names that is stolen from Mycroft bash (commune/house). For some reason, undisclosed to me, this list is controversial. It’s rather a list of the top ten most important people in the world, according to a journalist who puts out the list once a year. Then you find out there is more than one list floating around.

Have I confused you enough? Not even close. The politics (a blend of distant future and 18th century) and network of intertwining relationships is mind boggling. I read this to the end to see if I could make sense of anything… guess what?

Nope.

It’s a Hugo nomination and I’m ranting and raving all over my house about it… Could you tell? At least as one member in our group commented, “It’s different from any other science fiction novel.” And there she was right.

One last announcement while we are talking about new books out. I’m waiting on my proof for Somewhat Alien and within a week or two should be launching the book. Here is the cover:

It’s an exciting story that takes place on a space station. No Latin or French involved. (Tant pis)

 

Stay tuned.

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