Tag Archives: Andre Norton

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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A Discovered Science Fiction Favorite

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The hardest part of being an Indie author is the marketing. For May I tried The Fussy Librarian for $16.

And you get what you pay for.

Five hundred free orders (KDP select) so far, which is a far cry from the 4500 free orders of a year ago at this same time through Sweetfreebooks.

In addition, last year, readers immediately started buying the other books in the series, and I sold through June, also, at a record rate. Not yet so far.

There may be certain readers who comb the sites looking for bargains, and they already have my book by now. I also know The Fussy Librarian is still in the building stages, maybe the reason they were not as effective. Ah well, this marketing endeavor is an experiment for me to see what works and what doesn’t.

So, I have checked this off for me, but It may work better for you.

Look at this interesting report comparing various author earnings. It makes me feel that I’m doing the right things. http://authorearnings.com/report/the-50k-report/

Forerunner FactorIn the last several blogs, I have talked about current authors, known and unknown. This week I read an old classic that I never got around to reading in my early days. I enjoyed her. Andre Norton has extensive works on the Forerunners, The Witch World and Solar Queen series to name a few better known ones. The book I read is called The Forerunner Factor. It contains two of her previous works.

 The story tells of Simsa, a Barrows orphan who scrounges underground in a Labyrinth of caves , living with an elderly eccentric woman who collects old “treasures” found in various nook and crannies of her world. Found as a babe in an old Forerunner’s ruin, Simsa’s odd appearance of ebony black skin and silver curly hair set her apart from all others on her world so that she slinks about at night with her head covered so as to escape notice.Time Traders Norton

When her mentor and protector dies, Simsa is just a young woman, and she gathers the old woman’s artifacts together, hoping to sell a few in order to survive. Through a series of incidents, she is thrown in with a star traveler named Thorn, who arrives on her world searching for any information or remnants of a long lost civilization known as the Forerunners. Needless to say, Simsa’s strange sculpture she tries to sell and her odd appearance captures his attention and the attention of the current Overlord who also is interested in old artifacts and strange tech.

Also, Thorn’s brother went missing while searching for Forerunner artifacts on Simsa’s world, and Thorn is determined to discover what happened to him. Along with Simsa, is her pet Zorsal named Zass who she can mind-link and is trained to her commands. Zass is an alien bird-like creature, utterly loyal and very useful.Gates to Witch World

Together the three scrabble ahead of the Overlord’s hunters who follow them, and eventually they stumble into a lost ruin deep in the Hard Hills that changes their lives forever.

This is a story of a scramble for survival and a hunt for treasure. At times, it goes on a little overmuch, but the premise kept me interested. There are two parts to this bundle, and the second part is similar in that Simsa tries to escape from captors and lands on a barren, but dangerous, planet, once touched by the Forerunners. Thorn comes after her, and again the two try to survive in a dangerous alien world that harbors ancient secrets.

For over a half century, Andre Norton has written a huge number of enjoyable stories, achieving the Grand Master Award for Fantasy and Science Fiction. She now resides in Murfessboro, Tennessee, still writing.

Norton has an easy to read style and intriguing story lines. I don’t know how I missed her stories, but you shouldn’t.

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Species Symbiosis: Pets in science fiction

IMG_0193Two new kittens tear across my feet, jump and land in a tussle of ferocious claws and fur, wrestling with each other. Tails flick, haunches wiggle and soon one is soaring through the air with a mighty pounce.Image 3

Nothing like two new cats  to distract my gaze from the wet, chill weather that has moved into the Northwest.

So, throughout history and even into fictional alien worlds has humanity attempted to bond with other species.

A treecat in David Weber’s Honor Harrington series springs to mind. A sense of communication and symbiosis wrapped around Honor’s neck much like a pelted scarf.OnBasiliskStation

Sky DragonsOr the dragons of Pern by Anne McCaffrey that humans imprint on the hatching grounds and forge a telecommunication link that can transcend even time.

Robin Hobb also carries out this theme of telepathic dragons in her own dragon series. The more recent ones being Blood of Dragons and City of Dragons. Also in her Farseer trilogy, the young boy hero bonds with a wolf.Royal Assassin

The Zero StoneAndre Norton’s The Zero Stone starts a series where the ship’s cat ingests a strange seedpod and evolves into an entity that names itself Eet and follows the hero as his companion into adventures.

Timothy Vaughn writes in Dragon and Thief about a dragon alien, named Draycos,  that blends onto the young hero’s back and legs, but can leap out into three dimensions to interact at need. Talk about getting a wild tat.Dragon and Thief

In the Liaden universe,  several family cats are cameoed and even a tree appears to communicate with the Delm of Korval, dropping magical seed pods whenever necessary.

John Scalzi’s hero, Jack Halloway,  battles to prove sentience in a small furry creature that he befriends in Fuzzy Nation.  Human and creature face off in a legal battle against the big business of  Zaracorp that has its own plans for their alien world.51CG59JWAeL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

If you’re searching for a story of alien and human bonding, here are just a few samples of species symbiosis in science fiction .

Do you have any favorites?

We humans form friendships and alliances with other species on our own Earth, so why not with aliens from other worlds? From dolphins to horses, cats to dogs, many other species have enriched our life and eased the drear of coming winter with adorable gamboling and warm, cuddly affection.Kittens copy

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Word of Mouth

IMG_0193Word of mouth is still one of the most powerful ways an author can sell books. So many ads and commercials bombard us daily that I feel  we are becoming immune to the messages. But let a friend lean over and whisper, “You should read this book, buy this tool, try this service” and we’re out the door.

My blog on Science Fiction Mysteries came to the ears of an associate on Goodreads.  Jacob posted the blog and leaned in to comment on three other novels that he considered good science fiction mystery stories. Two I have read, and the third has been ordered and put on my “to read” list. So I’m leaning over and passing along his suggestions by word of blog.

Caves of SteelThe first is: Caves of Steel by Asimov. Asimov is truly a classic science fiction author. Most likely you have read him. But on the off chance that you haven’t, here’s a summary.

This story is about detective Elijah Baley who is tasked to solve the murder of a high level person. The setting is years in the future where the cities are built underground and space travel is commonplace. The positronic brain has been developed so that robots mimic humans, creating antagonism in some social circles. Baley isn’t too happy to learn that he has to solve a murder mystery and his partner is Daneel R. Olivaw, a robot…even worse, this robot has been made in the image of the victim.

This is the first of several books by Asimov that feature Olivaw and Baley and all are highly recommended. Caves of Steel was made into a movie called “I, Robot” starring Will Smith.

The second suggestion was Altered Carbon, which I reviewed last year.(July 2012)  I liked the gritty novel of a detective that is downloaded into a “sleeve” or body several times over his lifetime. Check out my review for a more detailed account.510nes2HGmL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

The third that Jacob recommended is The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds.  It’s been a while since I have read any of Reynolds books, and there are quite a number of others that he has written that I haven’t read. I don’t remember reading The Prefect, so I ordered it and it’s on the way. If you have favorites of his, let me know. Fair warning that I may go into “an author deep dive” if I like it.The Prefect

Currently, I’m “deep diving” into Andre Norton and so far all have been enjoyable. I received The Ice Crown free at Powells and liked it.  The Book club there gave an enthusiastic thumbs up when I asked opinions on Norton, so I went on to get Witch World. This is the first book in the Witch World Series. It was good. I plan to continue on in the series. I also picked up the The Zero Stone. I’m halfway through and I’m hooked. Here’s what has happened so far:

Murdoc Jern’s father is a gem trader and collector of odd objects. He comes across an enigmatic space stone in a ring shape, bigger than a wrist that gives off strange vibrations. He sends his oldest son, Murdoc, off to apprentice under Vondar, a well known gem trader, in order that Mordoc broadens his experience and builds a career. He also suggests that Murdoc may be able, through his travels, to discover the origins and properties of the alien stone. Mordoc comes home to visit. There’s a festival and the whole family, but his father, go to church to celebrate. Mordoc becomes uneasy and leaves early, goes home and finds his father dead, bound and tortured to death in his office. For some reason, he suspects that the Thieves’ Guild is after the stone.

With his father dead, his younger brother feels threatened that he will try to take over the business. His mother brutally reveals that he is a “duty child.” These are embryos shipped from a populous world to a frontier planet to vary the stock, by law assigned to a family to raise and nurture. They want him to leave, which he does gladly, taking only the strange stone with him.The Zero Stone

He rejoins Vondar, but they are accosted in a bar by the local planet’s religious sect that spins a green wheel and whoever it points to is assassinated. The wheel points to a space between the two of them and as the two fight in protest, Murdoc runs free and Vondar is killed. They hunt Mordoc down, but he run to sanctuary where he negotiates and gets smuggles on board the last departing ship captained by a Free Trader.

The Free Traders stop at a planet on a regular route, only to find the planet wasted and the inhabitants gone. But the ship’s cat ingests a strange seed pod and gives birth to a catlike alien that names himself Eet and forms a telepathic bond with Mordoc. Mordoc contracts a disease that looks like a plague and overhears words that lead him to believe that the captain has been paid to deliver him to someone. Mordoc’s boils, fever and rash panic the crew and so they won’t be shunned as a “plague ship,” they plan to kill him. In order to escape, Mordoc and the cat leave the ship by jumping into space. In his fevered state, Mordoc vaguely realizes that the space stone on his gloved finger is pulling him toward some destination.

That turns out to be a drifting and abandoned ship of no design that Mordoc can recognize. Luckily, they find edible rations and a lifeboat inside. After, rest and recuperation, they take the lifeboat and head towards the nearest planet where they crash land onto a jungle like planet.

And I’m only a third of the way through. The plot is exciting with lots of twists and turns and I am anticipating what comes next. I wonder who Mordoc Jern really is, what the strange relationship with the alien being will develop into, and who is after them. Most of all, what is the Zero Stone and what can it do?

Stay tuned.

And lean over and whisper me your favorite scifi novel.

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Science Fiction: FREE! FREE! FREE!

IMG_9518A magic word, FREE.

That is attracting the marketing attention of authors.

“Social networking forums” used to be  the venue for marketing. Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, I could go on and on.

And did.

It was a time sink. And I’m not sure that it translated into sales.

So, this week I’m talking about free as a new marketing technique, I’ll be reviewing  a book that I got free and offering two free novels to you. So read on.

Goodreads is one way to offer your book free. You can decide how many you want to offer, what country you want to deliver to and what time period you want to offer it in. Hopefully, the winner will write up a stellar review and lots of people will sign up and look over your work. Many authors have used this, me included, and have suggested it as a way to get a new book noticed. The problem is that many are doing it and the free book choices are overwhelming. Once again, you’re jumping up and down in a crowded room. Did I sell any books? I’m not sure. And it costs to supply a paperback and ship it. If your margins are thin, is it worth it?

Smashwords will let you put up your books for free. However, you still have to bring the readers to the party.

Baen Free Library (science fiction) and the Gutenberg Project also offer free. The Gutenberg, however, is older books whose rights have expired. Many local libraries are also offering free ebooks, along with the usual hardbacks. Check out your own library to see what kind of program they have.

And even bookstores are offering free books. YES! Powell’s bookstore has a Science Fiction Book club and each week they pass around free samples, or uncorrected beta reader’s samples. That’s how I won Andre Norton’s Ice and Shadow. This is two older back-listed novels put together and made into a new book.

With  a delicious cover staring at me from my bedside table, I soon grabbed it up and began reading.

Ice and ShadowAnd was pleasantly surprised.

The first story, Ice Crown, is about an archeology team that lands on a once interdicted world looking for artifacts of a mysterious Forerunners civilization. This was a technically advanced race that spread throughout the galaxy and then vanished before humans ever had fire. The planet has been closed off for centuries and is rumored to be an experiment in human mind control by the overseers the Psychocrats. Following a lead on possible Forerunner technology hidden there, Roane, a member of the team, goes on a search and finds herself caught out in a storm. She flees to a ruined tower for shelter, only to be followed in by three roughs and their hostage, the king’s daughter. Roane hides behind the bed and watches them bring in the princess, tie her up, and leave. Against all exploratory protocol, Roane reveals herself and the two escape. The Princess is desperate to find the missing Ice Crown that is held by the current ruling monarch of her kingdom of Revy and controls the mind of all his subjects. He is dying, and on his death, if the crown is not secured, the kingdom of Revy will fall to enemy factions. Together the two of them search for the Ice Crown and fend off the enemy forces bent on capturing it and the rest of Roane’s team who are ready to arrest her for breaking protocol and return her in disgrace to her home planet.

Okay, I’m not telling you any more, as I’ll give all away. But it was a rousing story and I enjoyed it thoroughly….never mind the price. I want to read more Andre Norton.

And that’s the point of free. To give you a taste like chocolate, so a small bite will leave you wanting more.

Levine-SpaceMagic_600x900 copyTo this end, David LeVine has authorized me to give away a free copy of his anthology Space Magic. Check out my January blog to find out all about David and this highly recommended book. I’ll hold a drawing gotten from names who leave comments for the next two weeks on my blog. Monday, March 4th, I’ll draw a name from that pot and email the winner a copy. So let me know about free book sites, your favorite science fiction book, your best marketing idea, if Goodreads was a success for you or not, or anything you might want to say about science fiction and fantasy.

And..TA…DAAA.. I have enrolled my first book, Caught In Time in the Kindle Select Program. If you’re a Prime Member, you can download a free novel once a month from their library and on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (in time for Valentine’s day) February 15, 16, 17.  Caught In Time will be offered free on Amazon.com. Just go there, put in Caught In Time by Sheron Wood McCartha and download it FREE FREE FREE. This is a limited time offer, however. So mark your calendar.

If you want to see what you are getting, go to my book website at http://www.AlysianUniverse.com to read all about it or check out the right hand side bar here on my blog.

There are many who advocate the Select program, so I’m going to see what results I get.

And maybe you might like the taste of my chocolate.

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Popular Classic Science Fiction

IMG_0174In my previous blog, I picked five science fiction novels to read for 2013.

Now I’m picking five more.

For me, finding books to read involves a lot of chance and serendipity. Take for example these five books.

After years of saying I was going to join a science fiction book club, Leah Day said I should join the Powell’s group. Now Leah is an extraordinary woman of intelligence that houses 24,700 plus novels in her home. She knows her science fiction and has Beta read for Ann McCaffery and now Nancy Scarborough. She has CRED!

So I showed up. What a great group. The Powell representative, Peter, also knows his stuff and is on top of our local scifi writers. Occasionally, we get new releases or uncorrected advanced copies to read. So the stack next to the bed is building up.

Then I turned to my writers group of science fiction enthusiasts and asked them what their top favorites were. Imagine my surprise when four of the five books they mentioned sat on my night stand ready to be read.

Serendipity. Fate had spoken. I bent my head to the omens and here are the picks.Ice and Shadow

#1. Andre Norton–suggested by Chelsea from my writers group. Andre Norton has been rattling around in my mind as someone I should read. For some reason, I never got around to it.

Now, one of the consequences of the changing landscape of publishing is that a lot of well known authors are dusting off their old backlist and the publishing houses are eagerly reprinting, repackaging and reselling popular authors or novels and putting them out on Amazon. It used to be that novels were regarded in the same category as fruit, where if they didn’t sell in four weeks time off the shelf, they were considered spoiled and thrown away.

That is no longer the case. The novel now has a long tail and can survive quite nicely for years without even bruising, thanks to Amazon and other publish on demand distributors.

They don’t rot or get bumped off the shelf due to lack of space. No need to rip them apart and throw them away.

Enter Ice and Shadows by Andre Norton. Take Ice Crown by Andre Norton published in 1970 and Brother to Shadows, also in the Forerunner Universe, slap them together, put on a stunning cover and give it the title Ice and Shadows.

Viola! Baen book publishes it in 2012 as a new novel.

Okay. I’m in.

Imperium#2. Top choice by Clayton in my writers group was Keith Laumer. Here again are three novels packaged into one. Assignment to Nowhere being published by Berkley in 1965, but showing up with a hot new cover, and now titled Imperium. So be careful when you reach or click what might seem to be a new novel out by a favorite author. You might be getting a repackaged deal that you have already read.

With ebook publishing, the cost of publishing is negligible and old stories are finding new readers. Publishing houses are realizing that rights to the electronic version that used to be thought worthless, are now quite valuable. Once denigrating electronic publishing, publishers are jumping in with full force. Money is to be made.

Buyer beware.

But I hadn’t read Keith Laumer and was looking for a good scifi military story. Clayton is active military, and was very enthusiastic about Laumer, so I put it on my list.

And while I’m talking about Clayton Callahan, he just announced that he sold his short story, “Probing Aliens.” Congratulations! A new author is born and I envision that he will be very popular. Keep an eye out for future stories.

Ganymede copy#3. Ganymede by Cherie Priest. This is an uncorrected advance reading copy and I’m very interested to see what the writing looks like. Cherie Priest lives in Seattle, which is nearby, so this is also a “support your local author” attempt. Her novel Boneshaker was nominated for both a Hugo and Nebula, but I wasn’t a fan. She writes in the world of Steampunk of which I blow hot and cold. However, here in the Northwest, there are avid fans of the genre and a number of cons where everyone dresses up and has a great time.

#4. L. E. Modesitt, Jr. Imager. Modesitt is a favorite of mine. I have read most of his other series and I like him a lot. This is the first book in his new Imager series and I have been putting off starting it. No more. I’m taking the plunge.Imager

#5. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein. This novel appears on most top one hundred science fiction novels again and again. Some of the Heinlein I read, I liked, while others, not so much. He got weird later in his career. However, this was selected by my reading group and I’m willing as it is an early novel with an intriguing story line.Moon is a Harsh Mistress

So that’s it.

Except, I have a few others I’m looking at. Next week, I’m thinking about talking about anthologies. I have noticed an increase in their popularity because of POD publishing. I recently received a compilation entitled Legacy of Stars that looks interesting. So stay tuned for that. I enjoyed Wool by Hugh Howey and he is getting quite a following. I was impressed by his marketing strategy and will probably read the next episode.

Into the silo I’ll go and most likely peer out and wonder what is out there.

What’s on your scifi list for this year? What books do you want to read in 2013? How did you decide?

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