Tag Archives: fantasy

Military Fantasy

IMG_0174The holidays are almost upon us. I thank all my readers for becoming a part of the Alysian Universe. This yearhas been an adventure, and I was glad so many came along for the ride.

For December, I advertised through Book Barbarian, a science fiction and fantasy adsite. The cost was low, but it has proven the best of sites this year for return on investment. Several readers bought the whole series.

2014-12-17-14-20-22A blog I recently read that writers might like is a blog by Judith Briles. It talks about a check off list of important elements to consider before publishing your book, or even after publication, if sales are lagging and you want to investigate why.

https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2016/12/does-your-book-suck-or-soar/

Then another important link is a blog by Katie Force that offers some startling data concerning Indie authors. With a response of 2000 authors, over half Indie, half hybrid, 1543 or 49% averaged 0 to 5 books per day. At the other end of the spectrum, eight or .43% reported selling over 1000 per day on an average day.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Most were women between 41 and 53 years who responded and wrote in the romance genre. Still an interesting blog on the current state (as of October-November 2016) of genre Indie sales.

http://www.thepassivevoice.com/2016/12/survey-indicates-indie-publishing-is-pot-of-gold-for-some-work-in-progress-for-many/?

Cursor's furyLast week I wrote about binge reading and offered several series that were my favorites. This week I want to also mention Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. I reviewed the first two books earlier and just finished the third called Cursor’s Fury.

The story of Tavi continues.

King Gaius recognizes a coming war with the power hungry high Lord Kalarewho makes a pact with the Canin, a savage beastlike enemy of the Realm.

Gaius pulls Tavi out of the Academy and sends him under an assumed name to a newly formed Legion with inexperienced soldiers who are poorly equipped. The unit is sent supposedly out of harm’s way. But a surprise invasion of thousand of rabid Canin set Tavi’s ragtag unit square in the forefront as the only means of protecting the Realm.

This is a very military action book with interesting strategies and surprising twists and turns. You discover Tavi ‘s secret origins and get a little romance along with ferocious battles and non stop action.

I liked it a lot, and it made a great escape from some of the holiday madness.20161222_160215

I have two busy snowshoe Siamese cats who delight in holiday decorations and presents. Keeping an eye on them is a full time job, but they are fun to watch as they deal with all the commotion.

Hope your holidays are filled with lots of fun commotion and writing or reading success.

Christmas horn

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, Amazon publishing, Best selling author, ebook marketing, fantasy series, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Military in Fantasy, Science fiction world building, Self-publishing

A Best Selling Fantasy, er, Science Fiction

photoSummer is over and, in Portland, that means that the rains are on the way. My only consolation is that football season is beginning, and the Ryder Cup is coming up this month.

I didn’t do any marketing in August and sales suffered. I don’t care as I am wrapped up in getting my latest book, A World Too Far ready to publish. I have one more Beta reader to report in and a proof with the second cover to check over, and I’ll be done. I’m dancing about because in all my stats, September tends to be the lowest in sales, and I’m analyzing when would be the best time to launch. Publishers claim November and December are strong because of Christmas, but I would guess that would be for hardback or trade paperbacks. I still sell more ebooks than paperbacks. Another difference from how book publishing used to be.bk9_cover_a_world_too_far_ships_kindle

Still…

The answer may be…when the book is ready. I’m considering setting May 2017 as the date for the next book and making it firm as May is usually one of my strongest months.

Speaking of the book publishing business, Hugh Howey has an excellent blog you should read.

http://www.hughhowey.com under “A Peek Behind the Curtain”

Good stuff.

wheel-of-osheimThis week after a few false starts, I got my teeth into the newest (and I think final) book of Mark Lawrence’s Red Queen’s War book three, The Wheel of Osheim.

I really enjoy the bad boy characters in his books and, in fact, Jorg Ancrah of Prince of Fools makes an appearance to give Jal some serious advice. We see the character arc of Jal Kendreth who trips into a hero’s role no matter how hard he tries to run away.

What I liked least was the jumping back and forth between Snorri in Hell trying to save his family and Jan’s escapades after he wiggles out of Hell, leaving Snorri behind.

Escaping Hell, Jal finds even worse nightmares and villains among the living nearer to home. A bit of a zombie apocalypse erupts as he is left alone, appointed as Marshall to save his city of Vermilion, while grandmother, the queen, goes after the Blue Lady and her many mirrors. The Blue Lady is bent on speeding up the turning wheel of Osheim that portends the end of the world.Liars Key

The wheel of Osheim is turning faster and faster, threatening to crack the world. Loki’s key may play a vital role in stopping it or speeding it up, depending on how it ‘s turned, and Jal carries it.

This is the part I liked the best. Lawrence inserts science fiction into a story that could masquerade as a fantasy except that rumors and hints say it’s the future after a nuclear holocaust. Jalan meets what is described as holographs or “data echoes” of long dead “builders” involved in the “wheel” that sounds suspiciously like the Hadron Collider. Blending mythology (Loki’s key and the Dead King ) and science (the collider and the builders ), Lawrence King of Thornsdelivers a rousing and unique story.

ps. You do know that we barely escaped being hit by an asteroid only 7.3 million miles away, don’t you? And September 17, a smaller one is on track to come nearer, but hopefully to also miss. See header for picture.

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Filed under Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, Beta Readers, fantasy series, Hugh Howey, science fiction, science fiction series

More than Science Fiction Novels

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Science fiction is not always about books. I was watching Orphan Black, wondering what I would talk about in my next blog and suddenly realized that I was looking at it. While I’m finding it hard to dig out good hard science fiction or space opera novels, there appears to be a blossoming of science fiction on TV and in movies.

20160721_153915I recently attended David Levine’s signing at Powell’s in Beaverton where he read from, and sang about, his debut book Arabella of Mars. Arabella of MarsQuite the entertainer. David is a long time friend from when I used to be in a Portland Author’s lunch group with him. He said that he had a hard science fiction book about Mars that he was shopping around and the traditional publishers didn’t accept it, telling him that science fiction didn’t sell well.

What!

Definitely this was before the best seller The Martian...and, by the way, a well done mMartianovie with a powerhouse actor. (I did a blog on the book)
No wonder it’s hard to find science fiction out there. The gatekeepers have slammed closed the gate. So to keep a writing career, David offered a fun Steampunk novel, and got accepted. Now, however, I fear the Steampunk fad is fading. Still, I recommend Arabella as a fun read…but even David admits the science became fantasy when he had billowing sailing ships plowing the space lanes.

Meanwhile, TV and movies are flourishing. I want to just mention a few you may or may not know about and, in this day and age, with streaming video, you may still be able to access some earlier seasons if you have missed them.

Currently, I am following Kill Joys on the Syfy channel. This is space opera. Think Firefly. They are kickass mercenaries with attitude and shadowy world corporate figure after them. They are hired on for jobs that occasionally are not what they first seem to be. A tough bunch that gets it done across the universe.

Orphan BlackAnother series is Orphan Black on BBC. Clones, clones, and more clones all done by one amazing actress. They are being hunted and have a dreaded disease for which they are desperately trying to find a cure. One line is female, and there is an alternative line of males. A unique series.

The Expanse will be starting season II soon. This is a well done series based on James Corey’s (Abramson and Franck) novels in the Expanse Series. (See several previous blogs on the books) I recommend you read the books first or the TV series can be confusing. Still lots of interesting sets of space stations and star ships.Expanse Collection

Dark Matter is another TV series I’m enjoying. This has a collection of humans on the run from shadowy corporate bad guys. One is a cyborg with mysterious powers, the other an angry mercenary, a young girl with mysterious background, a downloaded holographic with personality…you get the idea. The mystery is who is after them and why.

Let’s not forget the fairly recent movies of Independence Day 2, Enders Game, Hunger Games series, X-men: Civil War, and other super hero movies that are currently very popular.

Okay, I know you have more you want to mention, but that’s a taste.
I want to save room here in order to mention two very important blogs that I’ve recently read.
The first continues  Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog on publisher contracts and what to watch out for. Critical information for any author, Indie or traditionally published, and especially, if you are submitting to publishers big or small.

http://kriswrites.com/2016/07/20/business-musings-other-evil-clauses-contractsdealbreakers/

The other is a blog by my friend Mary Rosenblum who works with self-published authors to help them launch and sell their books. It’s a scary account of how one of her clients got wrapped up in the Amazon effort to clean up reviews. In their enthusiasm to get reviews, authors need to be very careful of new rules and oversights by Amazon or they might find themselves out in the cold. Being booted out by Amazon can be a career killer.

http://www.newwritersinterface.com/amazon-bites-author

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On a more upbeat note, I’m now going to pop off to the local Ponzi vineyard for some wine sipping and a plate of cheese and crackers on the deck. My newlywed daughter will provide charming company and insights into Pokemon.

Pokemon2                          Oregon summers are a delight.                  pokemon

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, Amazon publishing, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Clones, downloaded personalities, fantasy, gene modification, genetic manipulation, Hunger Games, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Mars, Science Fiction Mystery, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Space opera, space travel, Transhumanism, Uncategorized

Science Fiction Hugo Winning Series: Bujold’s newest

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

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

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

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

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

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

The two books couldn’t be more different.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mountains of MourningBarrayarMirror Dance

The Warrior Apprentice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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Furious Series in Fantasy

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

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

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

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

Okay, I’ll admit it. Mea Culpa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was part of the dare.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Science Fiction Series: Brandon Sanderson’s Bands of Mourning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing is ever easy or works out as expected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under alloy magic, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, ebook marketing, fantasy, fantasy series, Marketing and selling novels, Mistborn series, science fiction series

Holiday Magic

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Christmas hornHappy Holidays

Holiday parties and holiday shopping are making it hard to wedge in any leisure reading.

In addition, checking over a final proof for Time’s Equation also kept me busy.
Beta readers got delayed by new jobs or new babies.
Meanwhile, there is a stampede to get a slot for holiday book advertising, but I decided to pass. I don’t think people have the time now to download ebooks. Maybe after Christmas when they are trying to fill up shiny new iPads or tablets.

What is your best month for sales? Tara Sparling, data hound extraordinaire, recently wrote a blog about this exact subject and highlighted May and December. Nick Rooney also added the following advice:

“Mood and market reception are really important. Certain books work better at various times of the year.

  • January – April: Romance, Self-help, Business books, Cookery
  • May – August: Adventure, Fantasy, Travel
  • Sept – Nov: Academic, Horror, Paranormal
  • Dec – Jan: Children, Cookery, Illustrated, Quiz, Dictionaries and quirky fun books.”

It’s a general guide. There are no hard and fast rules. Try and tie your book into an event or occasion when you want to promote it.

Christmas appears to be a great time for hardback books that make nice gifts. January and February appear great for ebooks when the weather invites an indoor snuggle with hot chocolate and a good read. Some of my best sales have been February and then May as people fill their Kindle libraries to prepare for summer vacation reading.

Shadows of SelfMy book for this blog is Brandon Sanderson’s Shadows of Self that continues years later in the Mistborn Series. I must admit I’m enjoying the action and the intriguing system of magic that uses metals. January 26 the next in the series, Bands of Mourning, will be coming out. Unfortunately, because it is a very popular series, TOR has decided to charge $14.99 for a Kindle edition. Why? Most likely because they can. Old line publishers are pushing up ebook prices, but as both an author and reader, I’m conflicted about the practice. As an author, I would like to make more money by charging more, but as a reader, I spend a lot already on books. Reminds me of the drug company pricing.

What the market can bear.Bands of Mourning

In Shadows of Self, Waxillium Ladrian is a Twinborn, able to use both Allomancy and Feruchemy, the dominant magical modes on Scradrial. He uses various metals as both weapons and protection. An example of this is the ability to fly through the air by shooting out steel to propel himself. His eccentric sidekick, Wayne, and a young constable, Marais, sister to his fiancee, help Wax untangle the conspiracy that threatens their city.

They chase a nonhuman kandran named Bleeder that can assume the shape of any animal or person it digests. Normally aides of the God Harmony, kandran act like angels, but this one has gone mad and is on a murder spree. High Lord and lawman combined, Wax pursues the paranormal enemy, uncovering corruption and rebellion within his city.

Because, Shadows of Self is set in a turn of the century time period, it has a steampunk flavor along with an intriguing magic system.

Brandon writes well. He has a worthwhile writing lecture series on uTube that is taped at Brigham Young University. 

http://brandonsanderson.com/writing-advice/

Exciting action, interesting characters, unique magic, and clear writing all add up to a book that I recommend. Good news is that it’s available at your local library if you’re willing to wait.

Image 4Happy Holidays to you and yours and may 2016 be the best ever year.Image

 

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