Tag Archives: Nebula Award

Changes in Publishing


Publishing is changing, but you knew that. The problem becomes how is it changing right now, and what headlines are we to believe about recent trends. December and January are great months to evaluate the past year and forecast upcoming developments.

Unfortunately, several publishing headlines proclaimed facts that don’t present the true picture. Politics isn’t the only purview of misleading or fake news.

Thank goodness for Hugh Howey and Data Guy.

Articles claimed that ebooks were decreasing and paperbacks were on the rise. Turns out that the rise of paperbacks sales came from several sources. 1: adult coloring books in 2015-16 became wildly popular. 2: Traditional publishers winning against Amazon (remember the big battle for agency pricing?) hiked prices for popular ebooks to sometimes the cost of a paperback. Readers chose the paperbacks when Amazon discounted them almost to parity with the ebook. 3: Finally, the data for these articles came from Bolkers who issues ISBNs. ISBNS are used by traditional publishers to track books. One book could have three or four different ISBNS depending on its format. An overwhelming amount of Indie publishers don’t use ISBNS due to their high cost here in the United States. They are not required by Amazon to publish ebooks. Amazon provides for free their own ASIN to tag ebooks. Indie authors often sell the large majority of their work as ebooks on Amazon and use Amazon’s ASIN. I use both.

Thankfully, Data Guy has a software program that scrapes data from Amazon, and other distributors (Kobo, Nook, etc.) to provide a more accurate picture of what might be happening.

Jane Friedman writes a blog with some interesting comments on the state of publishing.
https://janefriedman.com/9-statistics-writers-know-amazon/.   Check her out.

I believe that politics has impacted sales for January and February by distracting readers from books. My sales have dropped off, and I blame lack of marketing and political distraction, but this is merely my assumption. What about you?

Surprising changes in publishing are Amazon’s foray into brick and mortar to sell books and their new traditional publishing style imprints that are popping up.

I live five minutes away from the mall that houses Amazon’s new brick and mortar store. It’s fresh and new and highly curated. All covers face out and most are selected from Amazon’s bestsellers lists. It’s clever because a reader is presented with books that are proven already successful in the marketplace. No prices are put on the books since Prime members pay less and prices may vary. Will this new Amazon strategy pay off?

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

all-the-birds-in-the-skyThis week I read Charlie Jane Anders’ “All the Birds in the Sky.” The timing couldn’t be better as it has just received a 2016 Nebula Award nomination.

The story starts off with Patricia Delfine’s tortured years at Canterbury Academy. All the angst of junior high school are magnified. Cliques of girls harass her and call her a witch. True, she talks to birds and a rather important tree, but only in the woods where no one can hear her. Nature is sacred to her and often she tries to escape the cruelty of her life by going into the forest behind her house.

Not only is school traumatic, but when she gets blamed for mean girl tricks, the school calls her parents and they lock her in her room for days, only letting her out to attend school. Her younger sister brings her meals, but not before she has poured hot sauce and chili pepper all over it.

Sibling love at its finest.

One day, Patrica literally runs into Lawrence Armstead who also gets pushed around and ridiculed at the same school. He, however, is a computer genius, and through a schematic on the Internet builds a time machine in a wristwatch that can jump him ahead two seconds. It’s not much, but it helps when spit balls come his way. Eventually, he builds a robot from parts and hides it in his closet. Unfortunately, his parents don’t value his geeky genius and sign him up for the Great Outdoor Nature Adventure to get him away from his computer and experiments so he can be more like “normal” boys. He hates it.

Patricia and Lawrence become awkward friends. Patricia is talked into lying about his attendance at nature class in exchange for twenty dollars. Lawrence also provides her with a module so she can talk to his robot and “socialize” it. The AI, in turn, gives out good advice on coping.

The book skips forward to San Francisco and young adults Patricia and Lawrence. Both have survived their childhood…barely. Patricia actually saves Lawrence’s life and, after a traumatic event, Patricia is found by a magician and runs away from her family to magic school.

The second half of the book follows the reunion of the two where they both struggle with lovers, their jobs, current co-workers, and a growing threat to the world. It becomes apparent that Patrica represents magic and nature while Lawrence symbolizes science. Together the two, with their talents, might save the world from a looming doomsday threat.

This is a strange book for science fiction. The early lives of the two main characters makes for agonizing reading and points out the failure of society both in education and child raising. I find the Nebula has often nominated and awarded unusual books that dance between fantasy and science fiction. This is one of those books.

Although the ending rather disappointed, I still recommend reading the book for its vivid characterizations and emotional events. It has a bit of the flavor of the Magicians in it. The trials these two have to overcome endears them and is worth the read.

And while reading this book, if you’re an adult, you’ll be glad you are. If you’re a teenager, you’ll be grateful that your life is better than their early life was… I hope.


Filed under Amazon publishing, artificial intelligence, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, ebook marketing, Hugh Howey, Indie Publishing, Nebula nominations, Robots in science fiction, Wizards and magic, young adult science fiction

Is today’s physics theories more fiction than fact?

I love reading science fiction because it looks into the future, and I am a curious person and like to see around corners or ahead on the path.

And writing science fiction is fun because you get to play God and harass your protagonist even more than you would your little sister.

However, science fiction has a word in it that often leads the writer down weedy trails…and that word is science. Some writers ignore science and just wave their hands, make up words like tachyon and presto, you have a transporter that gets you to the planet without the inconvenience of shuttle craft. Other writers get so much into the science that they become little professors and leave the reader yawning. I think that is why so many physicists become science fiction writers. But that’s another soapbox for another day.

Recently, I mentioned string theory and multi universes when discussing the popular novel, “The City and the City” by Meiville. Now I am writing “Past the Event Horizon: book 4” that includes a space journey involving dwarf stars, vortexes, space travel and all kinds of science stuff. I am trying to get the known science right and still have a story where my protagonist can travel far enough that he finds an interesting world outside his solar system. Okay, so I do some hand waving. Bradbury said that there were canals on Mars and we now know that isn’t true. Yet, his book The Martian Chronicles is a classic, and still sells.

I ran across this blog when twittering and thought I would mention it and give you a link. The reason? Because, if the science isn’t what an editor thinks it should be, you get called on the carpet. The problem is that the carpet is full of holes and even today’s scientists may have a lot of accepted theories wrong. Shock and amazement. Today’s science fact may be tomorrow’s science fiction. There are a lot of “accepted” theories in physics that have yet to be proven by more than fancy math. So if you are interested in the science of space, string theory or the Big Bang, give this link a gander.

Veronica Sicoe’s Blog “Open Your Eyes: science fact or fiction?  ow.ly/aquPr

Last week I read “Crystal Variation” by Sharon Lee because I am a Lee junkie. There must be a twelve step program somewhere. It’s maybe 1200 pages and the whole time I felt guilty thinking that I  should read something on a list somewhere…like “Among Others” which, honestly I started and put down. Jo Walton’s “Among Others” just garnered the Nebula award and I congratulate her. Except, I don’t have time while reading this really big book and taking all food intravenously. The dust and laundry are both piling up. I told my husband he needed to diet, but he complained he needed some food to eat. Nag, nag, nag.

I am finding it hard to really trust other Indie writers. They are all over the place screaming, “buy my book”, but when I read the plot summary, I run for the hills. Recently one on Amazon got 95 out of 110 five star reviews. That’s amazing. Then the plot read like a crazy story with devils, angels, end of the world, rifts in space…oh wait, that does sound familiar. A few of those things are in my new novel. But the other book doesn’t have a cool spaceship and a dying dwarf star like my story does.

My reaction to recent Indie stories is disturbing because of all people, I shouldn’t be the one running to established favorites, but rather I should be out there uncovering self-published masterpieces. The bottom-line is that, with my cranky maturity (read older) and this fast paced world we live in, I don’t want to waste my time reading what I don’t enjoy and paying for it. I want a story plot that appeals to me, a strongly recommended book, a writer I know, or a novel that’s on a list voted by people who read science fiction and love it.

How do you pick your scifi novels? And what are you loving right now?


Filed under award winning scifi, ebook science fiction, first contact, hard science, Indie authors, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Nebula nominations, science fiction, science fiction series, Science fiction world building, Space opera, space ship, space travel, zero gravity