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An Author’s Life

Image 1

I’m coming down the home stretch.

The latest book in the Alysian Series is gathering momentum as the publication date comes in sight. Toni Boudreault, my cover designer, just sent over the cover for me to approve.

What did I consider important in the cover design?
First, I wanted to use the same font as I used on the others in the series to tie them together.

Second, I wanted a title short enough to fit comfortably on the cover, while indicating the theme of the book. I wanted the letters big enough to be able to read in a thumbnail.

A central theme in the story involves an equation that not only predicts, but can manipulate the future. It took a long time and several working titles to finally settle on Time’s Equation as the final choice.

Next I wanted the background to show interesting equations, but I didn’t want the cover to look like a math book. Several of my immediate readers don’t like people on the cover. They prefer to imagine what the characters look like. For science fiction, about half have people and half have images of ships, worlds, planets, etc. So some of mine do, but most don’t show faces on the cover.

But this story is about time travel along with the development of a romantic relationship. Consequently, we settled on hands reaching out to touch through a swirling timegate. The story contains both mathematical science and romance.

I chose the blue background because it’s cooler and contrasts against the warmer tones of the hands.

There’s also aliens, androids, clones, cyborgs, nano viruses, you know… the usual.

That’s my process for working with Toni to get a cover. I’m lucky that she listens to my ideas and then goes off to make magic. Towards the end, she is patient with my many tweaks and suggestions because we both know how important a cover is for attracting readers.bk8_cover_proo4

Also happening is the incoming comments from Beta readers. One of the things that I work hard on is to get the writing right. Through a writing critique group and then Beta readers, I’m able to polish the writing. It isn’t easy and takes months of hard work.

Occasionally, I hire a professional editor, but they can be very expensive and sometimes not worth the price.

I format as I go so I can estimate the length of chapters and start most chapters on the right side page. Often I add or delete sentences during writing to keep the formatting professional.

Finally, I have scheduled Cosmic Entanglement for a free run on KDP Select from November 13 through November 16 to set up some buzz on the series.

I apologize that I’m not an avid social networker. My life isn’t chock full of excitement (thank goodness) because most of my time is involved in writing or editing.

And currently, a wedding.
My daughter is getting married in February, and that’s taking up a bit of time and will accelerate as the wedding approaches.

My recommendation for this week is to read Caught in Time as a start to Cosmic Entanglement…although I’ll tell you a secret.

Cosmic Entanglement works very well as a first book. You can do that with time travel. Both Caught in Time and Cosmic Entanglement start around the same time. One just goes back in time while the other goes on to normal time events.

Here I have given you a sneak peak into an author’s life this week, and now I have to go do some more writing and editing. See you next week with a new recommendation for science fiction or fantasy.pumpkin

Powell's books

ps. Here’s photo of Robin Hobb’s signing at Powell’s.          HAPPY HALLOWEEN

                                                                                                                    

 

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A Self Publisher Markets and John Scalzi’s latest

IMG_0193This self publishing gig isn’t as easy as it’s cracked up to be.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” you mutter.

There is a world out there willing to give advice, but how good is that advice for your situation?
Who knows?

I can only tell you what works for me…and what doesn’t.

With some success last month, I once again threw myself into the marketing fray. Since I had extra funds in the marketing budget, I decided to advertise two places during my KDP Select free book week.

Robin Reads has been getting buzz lately as an upcoming site still reasonably priced. For $20, I got the number one spot. That was sweet. My criticism of Robin Reads as a reader is that I haven’t figured out how to select out the genres I prefer, so every day I get a list of all types of books which is a pain to page through. I’m not into steamy romances or zombie thrillers…but many readers are.

However, as an author and advertiser, I received fourteen hundred downloads in one day (9/19) for my anchor book, Caught in Time. Not great, but better than I expected for the price. Now usually, a program like that is immediately followed by retail sales of other books in the series.

Crickets.

Added to Robin Reads, I spent $70 at Freebooksy for one day (9/21) where I have had great success, so I was rubbing my hands together in excited anticipation. I got almost a thousand downloads that day. So, over two thousand plus free downloads.

Retail sales? Crickets.

April Aasheim author of The Witches of Dark Root,  reports good luck advertising on Facebook. I’ve been reluctant to try. Anyone having good luck with that?

Meanwhile, The Fussy Librarian sent this out in their newsletter. I thought it interesting. It talks about an article that claims paperback sales are picking up and Ebook sales diminishing.

Seriously? I find that hard to believe. My sales are mostly in EBooks, although paperbacks are readily available.

http://us7.campaign-archive1.com/?u=1fa68a8fb20ec8a1817392970&id=a8f7a5bbb8&e=d0ae4f54e9

The End of All Things2This week I’m suggesting a favorite author. John Scalzi is deeply entrenched in traditional publishing in many forms: hardback, paperback, iBook, audio, short story serials etc. He recently came to Powell’s again to promote his new book The End of All Things.

Now there’s a catchy title. It’s available in hardback for $24.99…thank you, big publisher (TOR)…or free at the local library, no taint involved in the free price.

This science fiction soap opera takes place in The Old Man’s Universe, meaning in the universe of his John Campbell Award winning book, Old Man’s War.

True to form, Scalzi does something different. Humans have expanded into space, only to find it populated with thousands of alien species. The Colonial Union formed to protect humans but kept Earth ignorant of aliens so as to provide colonists and soldiers by using consciousness of old people in repurposed bodies.Old Man's War

Many of the alien species threatened by these superhumans formed their own alliances called the Conclave.

Then Earth found out it was being used and got angry. It stopped providing experienced conscious minds and bodies. Without Earth to provide bodies for fighting, the Colonial Union found itself in trouble.

Unbeknownst to the Colonial Union, bitter infighting and politics now threatens to tear the Conclave apart.

The first story of the book is told by the sole survivor of an ambush on the ship the Chandler. A mysterious splinter group known as the Equilibrium has been secretly pitting the Conclave and the Colonial Union against each other. This secret third faction is made up of individuals from the different groups who plan to overthrow all other contenders. While all on The Chandler and any escape pods are ruthlessly killed, Rafe Daquin, recently hired as third pilot on the Chandler, is allowed a consciousness in order to pilot the ship, but he is separated from his body and reduced to operating as a brain in a box.

So your narrator for the first section is a brain in a box who tells the events of the attack and how he thwarts his enemies working without a body.

The Last ColonyThe second part of the book tells events from the point of view of Hafte Sorvalh, the second most powerful individual in the Conclave, or the advisor to Tarsem Gau, the Conclave leader. This story is political theater at its best and Scalzi is a master of clever dialogue. Subtle nuances of behavior by politicians during a Conclave Congress reveal that this powerful body of aliens has its own problems, and act more like humans than most imagine.

The third section brings in favorite character Harry Wilson from the other books in the series who thwarts an Equilibrium attack and interrogates one of their leaders in an attempt to unravel their plans. This section reads more as a spy thriller.

Scalzi admits to frantically trying to finish writing on time and missing deadlines as he travels around for signings and marketing. It makes the book choppy. You can imagine him writing a section, dusting off his hands and sending it in.

Still…

I enjoy Scalzi’s interesting science and clever dialogue. He makes reading science fiction both fun and enlightening…

And that’s the way it should be.

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Call for Beta Readers

IMG_9518I spoke too soon.

What a surprise you say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your read now that the weather is cooling off.

Aaaahhh.

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Going to the Dark Side

IMG_0180Summer is a wonderful time of the year here in the Northwest. We have cooled off to high seventies in temperature, and other than gardening, I have time to read out on my shady deck under tall pines.

Lately, I have been restless, trying to find a good cutting-edge future science fiction tale. I dove into cyber punk with mixed results in Gibson’s The Peripheral and Charles Stross’s HaltinG StatE. (See previous blog for further comments).

Since I have been advertising my books on different websites, also with mixed results, I decided to download a few free and discounted books from Freebooksy and Sweetfreebooks. In my several marketing campaigns, Freebooksy and more recently the Midlist have given me the best results. The vaunted Fussy Librarian and Book Gorilla have cost me money while delivering poor sales. Having said that, other authors claim good results from them. Once again, various factors of timing, cover, taste, and reader who just wanted a time travel book at that moment, come into play.

Post HumanSo I chose the Post Human Series by David Simpson, Mirrored Time J.D. Faulkner and Star Wanderers by Joe Vasice. Why? The Post Human series had far future humans with transhumanism where humans are using technology and science to evolve past being human. Also, there was a suggestion of inter-dimensional realities that intrigued me. I’ll admit that so far the story is chock full of future science and action. The writing flows well with few grammar or punctuation errors.

The early episodes, however, are short and choppy, skipping over large spans of time. All that I could deal with, and did, until I got snagged on the changing point of views. Rapidly switching point of view with no warning or break is a new writer’s curse, and often the writer isn’t aware of what he’s doing until it’s pointed out to him. In this case, three pov jumps in one paragraph, and I put the book down. I may pick it back up later because of the interesting ideas and technology.Mirrored Times

Sometimes I’m not strong of will and cross over to the dark side. When the temperature hit over ninety last week, I reached for chocolate Haagen Daas to cool off my mouth and make my taste buds dance.

What diet?

At the same time, I reached for a fantasy in the form of Mark Lawrence’s The King of Thorns sitting soKing of Thorns seductively on my reading table. I had read his Prince of Fools and liked it. The reviews said King of Thorns was even better. I would be traveling into the realm of dark fantasy and knew it.

Now, there is also a Prince of Thorns that you should read first, but like chocolate Hagen Daas, I didn’t mind not having another flavor at the moment and confused the earlier book with Prince of Fools.

King of Thorns is a can’t-put-down book. And that’s just what I wanted. The writing is gorgeous with gasping wit, heart-pounding action, and tear-filled emotion. A bit gritty, but bearable.

You continue the life of Jorge Ancrath who at age nine has vowed to avenge his slaughtered mother and brother, and punish his father for not doing so. Now at age eighteen, Prince of thornshe is King of Renar, having taken the land through slaughter and death from his evil uncle. Jorge is not a delicate lad. He’s on a mission to rule the world and doesn’t play by the rules.

The story begins outside his castle where he is surrounded by thousands of the Prince of Arrow’s men. Orrin Oildan, Prince of Arrow, also hungers to be Emperor and sweeps kingdoms into his hand as he marches victoriously across the land until he reaches Jorge’s rough castle. Unlike Jorge, who is beset by sorcerers at every turn and considered mean and ruthless, Orrin is the fair-haired ruler whom everyone calls great and good. Every sorcerer and witch prophesies the triumph of the Prince of Arrows for the Emperor’s throne until Jorge is weary of hearing it. But it doesn’t slow him down a whit.

The book jumps back and forth in time, starting with Jorg’s wedding day, and then returning four years into the past. There he travels with his band of disreputable friends across the land from one wild adventure to another. Adventure and wedding flip back and forth moving closer in time as the book progresses.

Clever, haunted, and powerful, Jorge has the touch of necromancy in his fingers and carries a dangerous box of memories everywhere he goes. Trying to save a young fire Mage, he also learns to play with fire.

There are also hints of science fiction within the fantasy-flavored tale when Jorge refers to “the Builders” who seem to be great men from Earth’s past. He meets a holograph who is a downloaded personality of a past scientist. The holograph tends a forgotten machine deep under Jorge’s maternal uncle’s castle. Along the way, Jorge also accumulates artifacts from the past that become important to his survival.

My only complaint with the story is that in two critical instances, the author uses my own tricky plot twist to escape an almost impossible situation. One I use in Caught in Time when the bandits try to rob and rape Rowyna, and the other in A Dangerous Talent for Time when Brand de Fyre Elitas, like Jorg Ancrath, faces overwhelming odds in a battle.

Not fair!

Mark Lawrence will be remembered for the plot twist over me, I’m sure. Just like, since July 15, another author has come out with the title Caught in Time. The second one came out last year, well after my publication. (Sound of moaning and hair-pulling)

Oh well, I liked it when I wrote it, and I liked it again in Mark Lawrence’s story. In fact, I liked his whole story a lot. It made the chocolate ice cream go down so cool and sweet, as I slipped over to the dark side.

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Locus Award Winners

photoThank you to all the readers who took advantage of my limited free offering of Someone’s Clone on July 5 through 9th. It rose to #1 on Kindle> free> science fiction> time travel and #1 on Kindle> free> science fiction >genetic engineering.

Quite the heady experience. I hope you are enjoying the story and explore other stories in the Alysian Universe. (See right panel for summaries)

Saturday, July 18th, I will be offering Caught in Time for a limited time at a bargain $.99. I am exploring various marketing plans. I will advertise on the Midlist so it should be interesting to see how well it does. Recently, a fellow author commented that Indie authors are hurting their sales by offering these special deals. I want to explore that idea in an upcoming blog.

What do you think?

And NOW…

The winners of the science fiction/fantasy Locus Awards have been announced. I was intrigued that many of the winners were books that I selected to comment and review in my blogs. Can I pick them, or what?

You can find my blog on Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie who won the 2014 Hugo, and now her follow up, Ancillary Sword wins the 2015 Locus for science fiction.Ancillary Justice

I also recently recommended The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. (January 29 blog)

Thoroughly enjoyed it.

First Law TrilogyCurrently, I hold an advance copy of Half a World by Joe Abercrombie on my reading table. I recommended Joe’s First Law series and wrote a blog on it in 2014. Really liked the trilogy. I may have to start the series with his Half a King before I read Half a World. I like a series, but sometimes it’s a pain to have to go back and read the first book or sit around tapping your toes waiting for the next book.

You hear me, George R. R. Martin?

Last week, I mentioned William Gibson’s The Peripheral…having been quite a fan of his other novels, but so far, not so much this one. I haven’t finished it, however. I also mentioned Charles Stross’s HaltinG StatE, which ended up being quite good once I got into it. If you’re a gamer, you’ll like it. (P.s. That’s how he spelled the title)51wHalting State0l9FLDeL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_

Nancy Kress is also a favorite author, and although I don’t often read short books, I may have to put her Yesterday’s Kin on my reading table.

Finally, I have read several of Jay Lake’s novels, and as he was a Portland author,  I had lunch with him before he died. His battle with cancer was heroic, and many local authors and fans miss him. Winning for Last Plane to Heaven is a fitting tribute.

LOCUS AWARD WINNERS
Winners for each category appear in bold.

SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL

Winner: Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)Ancillary Sword
The Peripheral, William Gibson (Putnam; Viking UK)
The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu (Tor)
Lock In, John Scalzi (Tor; Gollancz)
Annihilation/Authority/Acceptance, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals; Fourth Estate; HarperCollins Canada)

FANTASY NOVEL

Winner: The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Steles of the Sky, Elizabeth Bear (Tor)
City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett (Broadway; Jo Fletcher)
The Magician’s Land, Lev Grossman (Viking; Arrow 2015)
The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley (Angry Robot US)

YOUNG ADULT BOOK

Winner: Half a King, Joe Abercrombie (Del Rey; Voyager UK)
The Doubt Factory, Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown)
Waistcoats & Weaponry, Gail Carriger (Little, Brown; Atom)
Empress of the Sun, Ian McDonald (Jo Fletcher; Pyr)
Clariel, Garth Nix (Harper; Hot Key; Allen & Unwin)

FIRST NOVEL

Winner: The Memory Garden, Mary Rickert (Sourcebooks Landmark)
Elysium, Jennifer Marie Brissett (Aqueduct)
A Darkling Sea, James L. Cambias (Tor)
The Clockwork Dagger, Beth Cato (Harper Voyager)
The Emperor’s Blades, Brian Staveley (Tor; Tor UK)

NOVELLA

Winner: Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
“The Man Who Sold the Moon,” Cory Doctorow (Hieroglyph)
We Are All Completely Fine, Daryl Gregory (Tachyon)
“The Regular,” Ken Liu (Upgraded)
“The Lightning Tree,” Patrick Rothfuss (Rogues)

NOVELETTE

Winner: “Tough Times All Over,” Joe Abercrombie (Rogues)
“The Hand Is Quicker,” Elizabeth Bear (The Book of Silverberg)
“Memorials,” Aliette de Bodard (Asimov’s 1/14)
“The Jar of Water,” Ursula K. Le Guin (Tin House #62)
“A Year and a Day in Old Theradane,” Scott Lynch (Rogues)

SHORT STORY

Winner: “The Truth About Owls,” Amal El-Mohtar (Kaleidoscope)
“Covenant,” Elizabeth Bear (Hieroglyph)
“The Dust Queen,” Aliette de Bodard (Reach for Infinity)
“In Babelsberg,” Alastair Reynolds (Reach for Infinity)
“Ogres of East Africa,” Sofia Samatar (Long Hidden)

ANTHOLOGY

Winner: Rogues, George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, ed. (Bantam; Titan)
The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-first Annual Collection, Gardner Dozois, ed. (St. Martin’s Press)
Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, Rose Fox & Daniel José Older, eds. (Crossed Genres)
Reach for Infinity, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Solaris US; Solaris UK)
The Time Traveler’s Almanac, Ann VanderMeer & Jeff VanderMeer, eds. (Head of Zeus; Tor)

COLLECTION

Winner: Last Plane to Heaven, Jay Lake (Tor)
Questionable Practices, Eileen Gunn (Small Beer)
The Collected Short Fiction Volume One: The Man Who Made Models, R.A. Lafferty (Centipede)
Academic Exercises, K.J. Parker (Subterranean)
The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Volume Nine: The Millennium Express, Robert Silverberg (Subterranean; Gateway)
MAGAZINE

Winner: Tor.com
Asimov’s
Clarkesworld
F&SF
Lightspeed

PUBLISHER

Winner: Tor
Angry Robot
Orbit
Small Beer
Subterranean

EDITOR

Winner: Ellen Datlow
John Joseph Adams
Gardner Dozois
Jonathan Strahan
Ann & Jeff VanderMeer

ARTIST

Winner: John Picacio
Jim Burns
Shaun Tan
Charles Vess
Michael Whelan

NON-FICTION

Winner: What Makes This Book So Great, Jo Walton (Tor; Corsair 2015)
Ray Bradbury Unbound, Jonathan Eller (University of Illinois Press)
Harry Harrison! Harry Harrison!, Harry Harrison (Tor)
The Secret History of Wonder Woman, Jill Lepore (Knopf)
Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better: 1948-1988, William H. Patterson, Jr. (Tor)

ART BOOK

Winner: Spectrum 21: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, John Fleskes, ed. (Flesk)
Jim Burns, The Art of Jim Burns: Hyperluminal (Titan)
The Art of Neil Gaiman, Hayley Campbell (Harper Design)
Brian & Wendy Froud, Brian Froud’s Faeries’ Tales (Abrams)
The Art of Space: The History of Space Art, from the Earliest Visions to the Graphics of the Modern Era, Ron Miller (Zenith)

Enjoy the reads.

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Science Fiction Marketing and Cyberpunk

IMG_9503Someone’s Clone just hit number #1 in Kindle’s free Books on Genetic Engineering and number #1 on Kindle’s free books on Time Travel. Wahoo! AANNDD…The day is not over, either. #28 in paid Kindle Science fiction. Exciting stuff.

But like my days as a stockbroker, sales change hour by hour, and today’s heady success is tomorrow’s tough struggle. Market on Indie authors.

However, today I’m thrilled. (A brief humble bow ensues)

Why the spike in downloads? I enrolled Someone’s clone in KDP Select for July 5 through July 9. It is one of my favorite books in the series and can be read as a stand alone. But since it is positioned at the end of the current series, it was languishing in sales as readers were picking up the earlier books. I figured anyone reading it for free, might become interested in the rest of the series. (which is happening) This is a limited time offer for this book, and will not often be repeated.

I’m also hoping that readers will like it and write a good review. (hint, hint)

I don’t know how other books get so many reviews. Some have big publishers behind them, and others become popular and get on lists that help sales. If a book is good, it deserves good reviews. I have no problem with that. I have not gotten involved in review swaps or traveled all over for book signings, but friends and family have often supported my books…honestly. Others in the family, not so much. “I don’t read science fiction.”

Now with Amazon’s new policy on reviews, it will be interesting to see if reviews change at all or continue along the the same path. I understand why Amazon is cracking down on reviews. Fake reviews and paid reviews have gotten out of hand so that the customer no longer trusts them. Amazon is all about protecting the customer, so they have stepped up to the plate and cracked down. I just think the process will be harder for the unknown Indie author who likes to write and is not such a strong marketer to get the reviews he or she needs.

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

This week I am reading Cyberpunk. Normally, I like William Gibson, but I am finding his new book, The Peripheral, a struggle. So I switched over to Charles Stross’s Halting State. Both deal with virtual reality and events inside an internet game. Gibson is harder to piece together what is happening because of his constant point of view shifts. In both cases, nerd-tech language is used lavishly and often there’s an inside joke or innuendo. Also characters are not delineated clearly in Gibson’s book. I had to reread an entire chapter trying to find a name to pin to the person talking in the chapter and still couldn’t figure out who it was.

Finally, I read the summary which enlightened me to the fact that one of the main characters, Wilf Netherton, lives seventy-five years in the future. The story begins in an apocalyptic near future where jobs are scarce and money is tight. Flynne Fisher earns what she can by assembling product at a 3-d print shop. Her brother, Burton, tries to live on money from the Veterans Association since he is disabled, and often takes on online gaming jobs to augment his tight income.

Burton persuades his sister, Flynne, to take over a few observation shifts in a game for him, promising her that the game isn’t a shooter. Still, the crime she witnesses there is plenty bad.

Wilf is a high-powered publicist in a world seventy-five years in the future where reaching into the past is considered no more than a hobby. He is working online secretly as security in some on line games. Both Flynne and Wilf will soon meet and realize the impact each other’s world will have on the other.Neuromancer

Okay. Confusing in parts for me so far. But, I love most of Gibson’s other books, so I’m soldiering on. His Neuromancer is the book that began the whole Cyberpunk sub genre and won a Hugo.

51wHalting State0l9FLDeL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_Charles Stross is a Hugo winner also, so I picked up his book Halting State on a recommendation. Be aware that Rule of 34 is the second in this series.

Now in Stross’s Halting States, a crime also takes place inside an online game. Susan Smith of the Edinburgh police is called in on an unusual robbery where orcs and a dragon rob a bank inside the virtual reality land of Avalon Four. The company that owns the game, Hayek Associates, is a dot.com start up that just floated onto the New York Stock Exchange and whiffs of impropriety could crash the stock, affecting a number of powerful investors and worldwide financial empires.Rule 34

This one was easier to follow, and not because of my stock broker background. Each chapter is titled with the name of the character in which point of view it is written. However, Stross uses second person which is a bit disconcerting, but is what the gaming world uses in their instructions. Stross also uses a lot of gaming technology and inside tech-nerd slang and information.  So far the story is edgy enough to be interesting, but I’m like investigator Smith, who wonders what is all the big fuss about? The more she investigates, the more complex and bigger the case becomes. Looks like a worldwide conspiracy is using Hayek Associates to funnel money around.

Sell your Bitcoins before it’s too late.

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Indie Marketing and a Techno-Science Thriller

IMG_9512You can’t do it alone any more. A year or two ago an author could take ten minutes and set up a KDP Select program (Kindle Digital Platform) and garner 6,000 to 4,000 or more free downloads of the book over the five free days and if she, or he, had a series, a slew of retail sales would follow. Back in 2014 I did this with 4500 free downloads of Caught in Time and subsequent hand clapping sales.
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To be fair, I also scheduled signing and book fairs which were expensive and exhausting. I wasn’t backed by a TOR publisher or on the New York Times bestseller list…which meant I had to do the work myself.

Welcome to Indie publishing.

Now, even that isn’t enough. Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited Program appears to have satiated the freebie market to a certain extent. After it’s introduction many authors noticed a drop in their KDP Select downloads, me included. (Kindle Unlimited sales, however, increased quite a bit) I have no hard data, just several comments by other authors that noted lesser downloads.

Granted, each author makes his own way to find out how to sell best, but currently an overwhelming number of sites offer to advertise your book if you discount it, usually for one day and charge you for the ad…usually from $300 (depending on factors and genre) to $5.00. Be aware that these sites post your cover and blurb, then link to Amazon for the buy. Amazon pays them a fee for being an affiliate. You set up an Amazon KDP Select or Kindle Countdown program and pair it with ads..as many as the budget allows.

A huge number of websites are hopping on this bandwagon as desperate authors are willing to severely discount their book and pay to advertise if it will boost sales and bump them up the bestseller chart. No one will buy your book if they don’t know it exits. At least, that’s the thinking.

I was #1 on the free kindle science fiction space opera chart…

…For two days.
Then my program went off and I was down in the paid mob at Amazon again.

Blog posts are lighting up suggesting which advertisers work and which ones don’t. Because if you spend $300.00 or even $70. You need to sell a lot of books to make it worthwhile, and usually the site requires the book be under a certain price or at least discounted by a given percent. That’s the draw for the subscriber.

Most often, the book itself, the cover, and the genre determine the success of the program. Some of the programs are scams and you may never see the ad. Pirating is a growing problem. So be selective and do your homework.

While many Indie authors are offering their books at cheaper and cheaper prices, the big publishers are going in the other direction. Agency pricing was the big contract fight between Hatchette and Amazon. Check out the new listings for books by established authors with major publishers. EBooks are running $10 to $15 dollars. Hardbacks are offered for preorder at $25 and $27 dollars.

I’m shaking my head at the craziness of the book market while keeping an eye on what other media is doing. Sometimes they lead the way. Remember Napster? Think about Netflix. Let me know what you have found that works for you. Let’s compare notes.

NexusAre you ready for science fiction with transhumanism, a drug with a nano driven software platform that enables mind to mind control and big ethical questions concerning how far should science go?

Then, you might want to read Nexus by Ramez Naam.

Nexus is a Techno-spy thriller with kidnapping, murder, an undercover beautiful Homeland Security operative, and mind blowing science. When Kade Lane develops the experimental nano drug Nexus that can cause minds to link and read each other’s thoughts, U.S. Homeland Security gets involved and will do whatever it takes to shut the program down.

But Kade has a vision of a transcendent, unified humanity while being aware of the dangers the drug poses if it falls into the wrong hands.

The Chinese also are dabbling in Nexus and when Kade develops an even more powerful Nexus 5, capable of changing the very definition of what it means to be human, then he becomes a target for both the U.S. Government and the Chinese.Crux

Winning the Prometheus Award, the Endeavor, and selected NPR best book of the year, this book combines thriller like action with futuristic tech that asks big questions. How far should governments and society allow science to transform what it means to be human?

ApexWe need to examine these questions as science is now outpacing regulations in many areas. We can already use mind control to move cursors on a computer and have shown the ability to clone animals. If you haven’t already, check out Kurtzweil’s newsletter for current discoveries.

What will we do as a society if such a drug as Nexus gets developed? Do we offer it to everyone or totally stamp it out to protect ourselves?

While the book has a exciting story, it also makes you think long after you put it down.

p.s. I explore a computer implant in a human brain in Someone’s Clone if that’s your flavor.

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Indie and Legacy: A Reader’s Choice

IMG_0174Sound the trumpets, wave the banners…Someone’s Clone is now available in ebook form through Amazon. The paperback version will be out around Thanksgiving. Time travel, clones, mystery, a space station, main character with a computer in his brain, adventure, romance…it’s all there.

Writing a 350-page book has taken a year, mainly because I work with a writers group of five other authors that meet twice a month. We critique twenty pages at a go. So it takes time, but it’s well worth it. And then, I offer an advance copy to three or four Beta readers who make excellent suggestions on how to make that better. someones_clone_front-cover_v2_finalSometimes, I employ an independent editor, particularly if a certain section is in question, or I have extra funds sloshing around in my book account

As an incentive, I am offering Touching Crystal, the previous book (6), starting November 21 to the 28th through Amazon’s Countdown Deal. So the best price (.$99) is at the earliest date and goes up a dollar every few days. This can be read as a stand alone, as can Someone’s Clone, but both are richer if the reader is familiar with the earlier books. Needless to say, this is the first time ever I have discounted Touching Crystal…and it won’t last long. So mark your calendar. There’s a deadly comet in it.

touching-crystal-thumb-1I recently attended an Author’s Seminar at Jan’s Paperback in Aloha, Oregon. If you are in the area, and like to read from the physical book, just call Debbie or Jodie at 503 649 3444 and I’ll provide a signed copy of any in the series for you. (Give a bit of lead time).

I watched the broadcasts about the Rosetta Project and saw the Philae Lander successfully hop onto a speeding comet. Science fiction becomes science reality. It was exciting. (See previous blog for more)New Image of Comet ISON

This week I’m reading The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter Hamilton. Hamilton’s civilization has advanced far into the future where humans regenerate, clone themselves, have embedded technology that enables telepathy, and live practically forever. Space travel has wormhole technology, but there is a barrier separating a region in the universe known as the Void where the physics is different…time is different.

Bored humans become eager to risk their lives for new discoveries and unknown adventure. So several expeditions venture forth to Abyss Beyond Dreamspenetrate and explore this region.

Hamilton has established his credentials as a foremost science fiction writer with several other series and novels, which I have enjoyed. (see previous blogs) At over 600 pages, I am still reading this one, but the going is lumpy.

An action-packed start bogs down with detailed science and description. Laura Brandt is “tank yanked” when things go wrong on an expedition to the Void, which lies at the core of their galaxy.

For those scifi readers who like hard science, Hamilton’s description of physics is interesting, but I wanted to move on after a bit. The stories start with the mounting disasters faced by the shuttle scientists as they explore an alien formation of crystal “trees” circling a planet’s atmosphere in the Void. The trees carry “eggs” that soon attack the crew and attempt to absorb them. Interesting non-stop action runs for eighty-eight pages with no chapter breaks until book two.

Now, you’re in a different story, but the same universe. This story concerns a wealthy, powerful, and long-lived human, Nigel Sheldon, who clones himself and entangles his thoughts with his clone as he prepares to send his doppelgänger on an expedition. The book ends as the clone’s ship slips past the boundary and into the Void.

The next section or “book” begins in a military unit on a planet presumably inside the Void. This is full of action and an interesting alien that drops onto the planet in an egg shape, lures in humans with thoughts and emotions, manipulates, and devours them.

I plan to keep reading because Hamilton’s world building is intriguing. He challenges the reader with mind-bending concepts and offers a peek into a possible far future. He stretches the ideas of what humans may become and what they possibly could do. He throws in heavy science, but also includes some dramatic action.

Ark RoyalNext blog, I plan to talk about Ark Royal by Christopher Nuttall. Christopher Nuttall writes an extensive military science fiction series that is getting noticed. This series was recommended to me by an avid military scifi enthusiast. So when Nuttall put the first book in the series at a nice discount, I snapped it up and slid it onto my Kindle shelf. Now, I plan to check it out for you and pass along my impressions.

I think a novel is selected because of the story, combined with other people’s recommendations, whether it be on a list or in person. I didn’t check the publisher first to see if I wanted to read either book. Peter Hamilton’s book is published by Del Ray, an imprint of Random House…one of the Big Five publishing houses and was on some list of “new books to read.”

Christopher Nuttall’s came as word of mouth and is published digitally by Amazon Digital Services and in print form by CreateSpace.

I think the readers of today select what they read from a variety of places. How nice to have both the tried and true authors from legacy publishers to choose from and, also, the new, exciting, emerging self publishing authors.

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Comets and Book Clubs

IMG_9503We are landing on a comet tonight! This is a momentous event. After ten years of chasing, using gravity assist, the Philae Lander, a robotic spacecraft, will catch up to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, or 67P, and anchor itself there for hopefully a year long ride.

The Rosetta project, led by the European Space Agency with contributions from NASA and others, will be studying this comet in order to better understand the composition of comets, thought to bring water to primitive Earth, and possibly life itself. Eventually it will be within 180 million km of the sun and expelling water and gases because of intense heat.New Image of Comet ISON

Find more at: CNN.com: Rosetta Landing or www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Rosetta

This is the ESA’s official website, where you can find the latest news, images and animations on the spacecraft and its lander .

touching-crystal-thumb-1Why does this intrigue me? My sixth novel, Touching Crystal deals with the impact of a comet against Alysia’s moon, Thanos, and the resulting consequences to my world of Alysia.

Science will now explain what was once mystical, a harbinger or omen for humans. Although it took ten years to get close enough to land, the idea that we can interface with a moving comet offers hope that we may be able to divert any future threats to Earth from this type of cosmic threat.

Although, we certainly didn’t see the meteor that crashed into Russia last year and took us by surprise. We were too busy staring at a passing asteroid.

NeuromancerI am currently reading Snow Crash, as it is a selection of my Powell’s Book Club and we meet tonight. It is a Hugo winner classic from 1992 and is very different. Think William Gibson and his Hugo winning book, Neuromancer, which created the sub genre of Cyber-punk in the early 1990s and you have an idea of the story.Snow Crash

The Powell’s book club is a rowdy group of fifteen to twenty-five or so science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts who have been meeting for over ten years at the world famous bookstore of Powell’s in Beaverton. They are awesomely intelligent about science fiction and not shy about offering opinions.

Makes for lively discussions, so I need to be prepared.

Abyss Beyond DreamsI also plan on reading The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter Hamilton, and will report on that new offering in the next week or two.

someones_clone_front-cover_v2_finalBut first, I have my proof for Someone’s Clone in my hot hands and expect a November 20 publication date. Until then, I’ll be working feverishly to put the final touches on it and conquer the format and download monster.

Check out Amazon for this exciting new adventure, one of my best to date. A murder, a mystery, time travel, romance, aliens…this one has it all…so stay tuned.

 

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Science Fiction Hugo Awards

IMG_9518

 

Excitement! The Hugo winners were announced this past Sunday. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie took the prize for best science fiction novel.

Made me happy. (See my March 12 blog that comments on the novel)

Ancillary Justice

Also, winner for best novelette is Mary Robinette Kowal for her “the Lady Astronaut of Mars.” Mary is formerly from the Northwest and keeps in touch. Recently, she was at Powell’s bookstore for a signing…and puppet show. Mary is an accomplished puppeteer also. She was reading from her recent novel, Without a Summer. Mary writes in the Jane Austen style and milieu, but adds steampunk magic to her stories. In fact there are rumors that she’s Jane Austen who has time traveled to the present day. Compare the photos of Jane and Mary at the end of the blog. Eerily alike?

But it’s only a rumor. *wink* I promised not to tell.

Charming and energetic, she was delightful company during a small dinner afterwards. She told us of plans that scheduled her to drive to a signing in Gresham the next day, and later that night she was meeting friends in Portland. It seems TOR authors do quite a bit of traveling. She is also the Vice President of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Hmmm…

Shades of summerAs much as I like Mary and wish her well, I notice a strong presence of TOR, Orbit and Baen writers in the winning list once again. Is the Hugo a closed shop to big publishers only?

What about Hugh Howey, Ryk Brown or Christpher Nuttall? All with popular novels that are selling extremely well.

Is that a sniff of politics I smell? Collusion?

Either way, the Hugo awards have offered me a wonderful list of science fiction stories that I have read and enjoyed over the years…especially back in the day before the internet when word of mouth was the only other way you discovered good sci fi.

If anyone was talking.

Before this blog and others like it.

So here is the list for 2014. Check it out and enjoy all the great science fiction.Ancillary Sword

The 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, Loncon 3, has announced the 2014 Hugo Award winners. 3587 valid ballots were received and counted in the final ballot.

BEST NOVEL

Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie (Orbit US / Orbit UK)

BEST NOVELLA

“Equoid” by Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)

BEST NOVELETTE

“The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com /Tor.com, 09-2013

BEST SHORT STORY

“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)

BEST RELATED WORK

“We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative” by Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink)

BEST GRAPHIC STORY

“Time” by Randall Munroe (xkcd)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM

Gravity written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films;Warner Bros.)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM

Game of Thrones “The Rains of Castamere” written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)

BEST EDITOR, SHORT FORM

Ellen Datlow

BEST EDITOR, LONG FORM

Ginjer Buchanan

BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST

Julie Dillon

BEST SEMIPROZINE

Lightspeed Magazine edited by John Joseph Adams, Rich Horton, and Stefan Rudnicki

BEST FANZINE

A Dribble of Ink edited by Aidan Moher

BEST FANCAST

SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester

BEST FAN WRITER

Kameron Hurley

BEST FAN ARTIST

Sarah Webb

JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER

Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2012 or 2013, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award)

Sofia Samatar

The 2014 Hugo Award winners were announced on Sunday evening, August 17, at the ExCel Converntion Centre in London, England. The ceremony was hosted by Justina Robson, Geoff Ryman. Text-based CoverItLive coverage of the ceremony was provided through the Hugo Awards web site. Video streaming coverage was provided by Ustream.

The 2014 Hugo trophy base was designed by Joy Alyssa Day

See the Final Ballot Details for a full breakdown of votes, subsequent placements, and nomination counts.

So, time traveler or not?  you decide.Jane-Austen-waxwork

Jane Austen/Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary_Robinette_Kowal_at_2008_Nebula_Awards

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