Tag Archives: Past the Event Horizon

Amazon’s New List

Amazon continues to stretch out and find ways to encourage readers. And I’m usually all for that. So, I was interested in their new venture.

This past week Amazon has started to compile a weekly best seller and best read list to rival the well-known New York Times Best Seller List. The Times leaves out Indie publishers since they do not appear in bookstores. How The Times decides who gets what spot isn’t sure, but Indies are never included and, yet, are now read by an increasingly large segment of the population. For years, The Times has been the sought after benchmark of success for writers of both fiction and non fiction, but self-publishers don’t make the list.

If you want to know what are the top selling books at Amazon in different publishing categories, Amazon has published a wide variety of lists according to genre that are updated almost hourly.

Last Friday, I ran my Freebooksy add campaign for Past the Event Horizon and made number #1 in the Kindle Store>Kindle eBooks>science fiction >space exploration and #1 in Kindle Store>Kindle eBooks>First Contact on March 15. That rating soon changed as sales go up and down all the time like a turbulent sea. Still, it felt good. Anyone looking for a science fiction in either category might have given me a try, and indeed, sales followed for a number of my other books.

Okay, so now Amazon offers a weekly list of the top twenty books sold and books read across all genres. Only Amazon has the algorithms to determine what books are actually read. As an author, I can follow what books my readers are reading and when.

Here’s the link to the chart: https://www.amazon.com/charts

As a reader, this is interesting, but as a midlist writer I have a few problems with it.

First, I noted the large number of big publishing houses, and almost all of them have an agent attached. Then, there is the Bookbub phenomena. An author must sell a lot and have a lot of reviews to be accepted, but once accepted the author gets an even bigger bump in reviews and sales by being accepted for promotion. You know the story. A writer has to get to a point where doors open, and until they reach that tipping point, sales are a struggle… Each author has to decide how much time, effort, and money they want to spend, and what goal is acceptable for them.

Worldwide fame or merely getting published?

I think I won’t need sunglasses to hide behind any time soon.

This week I have returned to science fiction and my list that I put out at the beginning of the year with Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson (Hugo winning novel Spin).

I picked this book because it had a time travel theme, and I read and liked Spin by the same author. Wilson plays with the idea of multiple dimensions. In the near future, technology is created that can open a gate onto the past. That past is similar, but not exactly like our past. Inhabitants of the past provide almost a theme park of times-gone-by to those who visit from the future. But as the future influences the past, the past changes, and eventually, the gate closes.

A passageway has been open into the 19th century in Ohio for a decade now, and both sides of the gate know it will soon close. This is the last year the gate will be open.

On September 1, Jesse Collumm saves General Grant’s life as the general visits the future side of the gate. Jesse is from the 19th century but has been hired as a guard in the small city that had grown up around the gate. Working crowd control, he notices an illegal gun and dives to save Ulysses’ life. This brings him to the attention of the higher-ups who run the gate. Jesse is delegated to an attractive woman for various assignments. Unfortunately, he falls in love with her and decides to do anything to follow her through time back to her future.

This was an interesting novel, but not riveting. However, I was intrigued with the time concepts. How would we react if we could visit the past and see how it really was? Would the history books and actual events match? What might happen to influence our future? How big or little need that influence be?

I write about time travel, and it was interesting to see another author’s handling of the subject. If you are intrigued by time travel, you might enjoy this one.

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Imagination to Reality in Science Fiction

IMG_0174Imagination…one of the attributes that sets man apart from the beasts.

When I was a kid I used to wonder what the future would look like.

Still do.

And since my father loved science fiction, I often envisioned what a space station, or a spaceship might look like.

I watched Startrek and got some ideas. Battlestar Galactica gave me others. I read about other writers’ ideas in many books.

When we walked the moon, I wondered if we would ever build a space station, and go further.

What would crafts able to travel in deep space look like? Probably not like the airplanes I saw flying overhead at the time. I researched space travel for my book Past the Event Horizon and tasked my character Richard Steele to build a space station in Space Song.

Of course in imagination, there is no price tag and mine is fairly large and spacious, but not without some stumbling blocks.

Gravity, radiation, fuel, distances, oxygen, and many more elements would drive innovation in designing a safe travel vehicle or spinning way station …

but man has ingenuity…and imagination, and can do amazing things

I would close my eyes and envision a spinning station where people worked experiments, slept, ate, and launched ships onto other worlds.

Now I have reached that future.

It’s not exactly what I expected. Or saw in most movies, but I often feared I wouldn’t see it in my lifetime.

And yet one of these now exists. Enjoy a tour of our International Space Station, courtesy of the imagination of man.

And be amazed at what man has accomplished.

Click here: Departing Space Station Commander Provides Tour of Orbital Laboratory – YouTube

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Does Science Fiction have a Gender Bias?

IMG_9503Is reader gender important in science fiction?

I’ve been led to believe that men and women read different types of stories.

In our writer’s group we have four women and two men. When we only had one male, the criticism was always…give more description and detail. What do the walls look like? What are they eating? Wearing? Facial features?

Then we added another guy.

Suddenly we were talking about action in the story!

Myths of the MirrorI put a lot of action in my stories, but our fantasy writer does eloquent description and engaging characters. Check out Myths of the Mirror by D. Peach. I have been learning a lot from her on how to paint details and characters into my story.

Now, suddenly, with another male voice in the mix, the comments have become…when are they going to DO something?

We don’t know what color his protagonist’s hair is, or if  eyes are blue or green…but Ted writes compelling military action stories.

Check out  http://www.perihelionsf.com/archives/blasche001.htm “To Dance With the Ladies from IO6” by Ted Blasche. When the women fussed at him, he said that he wants the reader to engage his own imagination to create the character…and plot and action drive his stories.

Both work.

Why am I blogging about this?

Because as a writer, I need to figure out my audience, and I’m not so sure science fiction is as male dominated as some might think. Or that women are all about pretty description and intense emotion in a story. I know I’m not. I like both.

I was brought up short when one of the female readers from my book group critiqued Rendezvous With Rama by commenting that she really liked how clean and straightforward the writing was. Several chimed in that David Weber just put in too much description.

Is such a thing possible?

I had thought Rendezvous With Rama dry and needing more description. I wanted to meet the aliens or have the ship on some dramatic mission, rather than have our solar system be just a fuel stop.Rendezvous with Rama

Plot, character and description is a three pronged stool and the writer needs to keep in mind the audience he, or she is aiming at while writing.

Thank goodness, science fiction is also malleable. It can be intellectual with lots of science like Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy, or laden with love and emotion like The Time Traveler’s Wife by Niffenger. It can be a mystery like Kathryn Rusch’s Retrieval series or military like Scalzi’s Old Man’s War.

The fun is that you can write a variety of sub genres under the cloak of science fiction. Caught in Time is a basic time travel romance with a war thrown in for the guys. A Dangerous Talent for Time is more a quest story, almost young adult, as two main characters are in their late teens, early twenties. Then, Cosmic Entanglement has a murder mystery. Past the Event Horizon takes place on a starship and is very Star Trek with a space battle and emphasizes the science and physics of space . Space Song involves pieces of all elements: romance, military, mystery, science, young adult.space-song-cover-smashwords

So, today I’m wondering how to connect with my audience, and is there a gender bias there? Anyone know of any research along those lines?

Next week I’ll be in Nashville giving a talk on “Time Travel and all things science fiction,” and signing books. Also, a big wedding, and later, a hot card game with relatives. So, timing on when I get my blog out may be influenced by wild social activities. Fingers crossed.

Fair warning.

Next question is: Does science fiction have an age bias? What kind of science fiction is read by young, middle-aged and the mature audience? Is it different? Is there a preference that is determined by age? I know my twenty something daughter, who rarely reads science fiction, got caught up in The Hunger Games trilogy. Was it the plot or the characters? Maybe both.

And what group or subset is reading the most science fiction? Young kids? Old guys? Housewives?

Today, we ask questions of the universe. Tomorrow we seek answers.

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Five Science Fiction Novels to Start the Year off.

IMG_9512Welcome to 2013.

Are you as amazed as I am at the number I’m looking at? 2013 is a science fiction far future date to me…

And yet here we are….

I would have expected by this time to have a colony on the moon, spaceships flying to outside our solar system, at least.

However, since I have written Past the Event Horizon where I needed to figure out some of the problems in surviving space travel, I have gotten a better understanding of how difficult it is to travel in space. Not only the lack of oxygen, gravity, and resources make it difficult, but it’s so darn far to get anywhere and if the scientists are correct, everything is getting farther apart. So, I was surprised to find a blog on NASA seriously looking into WARP drive as a means of propulsion. Here’ a case of science fiction (Star Trek) leading science. Of course, my usually caveat about anything you read on the web applies, but check out this interesting idea for 2013.

http://io9.com/5963263/how-nasa-will-build-its-very-first-warp-drive

Now, (rubbing hands) for my first five picks for 2013.

I decided to mix things up with old favorites and new authors.

DragonshipFor an old favorite, I have been eagerly awaiting the next book in the Liaden Universe series by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. So, I was delighted when a Christmas present arrived in the form of Dragonship. What’s intriguing about this story is that it concerns the symbiosis of a self aware A1 controlled starship that interfaces with Theo Waitley, daughter to Daav yos’Phelium. A lot of what and how I write is similar to this series and I only hope mine will someday be as popular as Lee and Miller have become.

For a new author, I have selected Gravity by Tess Gerritsen. The title caught my eye and then an enthusiastic review of her work. This is a story about working on a space station and a virus or new organism erupts to put the station and possibly the whole world in danger. Once again, since I’m now writing a novel that includes a space station, I was curious to see how it would be portrayed by another writer.Gravity

shipbreakerMy third choice is Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. This best selling science fiction author came to my attention last year when I read The Windup Girl and again, when my science fiction book readers selected it for this month’s read. I  liked The Windup Girl and expect to like Shipbreakers also. We’ll see.

A lot of buzz in the new world of book publishing has been created by Joe Konrath. He has been at the forefront of Indie publishing and for a while now, I have felt that I must pay him homage and check out his books. TimecasterTimecaster looked to be right up my alley as it deals with a policeman who can predit the future and stop crime. Sounded a little like the Minority Report, the movie Tom Cruise was in, but we’ll see. I like time travel books and my first two novels dealt with the complications time travel can create. I’ll revisit time travel and the Timelab in future books also.

AngelmakerAnd last, Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway. Here’s another new author that I just recently heard about. I thought the cover and blurb interesting enough to get me to read the book and let you know my opinion. Besides, with “Angel” in the title, it gets my vote as angels fascinate me and creating angels is a theme I also explore.

There’s five best selling science fiction novels to start the year off with. I’ll let you know what I thought of them on down the road. In between, I’ll offer other new reading ideas and science tidbits.

Meanwhile, happy reading and happy 2013….GADS! REALLY?

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Crowdsourcing and Portal Fiction

IMG_0165Escaping into another dimension either through a looking glass, a wardrobe or a stargate is one way some authors present a unique world.

John Bunnel mentioned casually at our last science fiction book club a subgenre that I had never heard of:

Portal Fiction.

Immediately classic stories such as: Through the Looking Glass, Alice in Wonderland, The Witch, the Lion and the Wardrobe, and the Magician (which we were reading) sprung to mind.Alice in WonderlandThrough the Looking Glass

Then, I realized the stargate that is in Past the Event Horizon is a portal of sorts leading to an undiscovered world.

What else?

Stephen Donaldson in his The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever employs the portal fiction device using a white gold ring that takes a dying leper into a fantasy world where he becomes a powerful magician. The series became immensely popular back in the day, particularly the first three books. Check them out if you like big fantasy ala Lord of the Rings style.

Mirror of her DreamsHowever, it was his series, Mordant’s Need, with the first book being A Mirror of her Dreams and the final book, A Man Rides Through, that is the undiscovered surprise.A Man Rides Through

A mirror provides the portal for a young modern Manhattan girl to fall into a an exciting Medieval world where she pairs up with a faulty imager to try to defeat the evil wizard. Once again, the characters have issues, and once again, it’s hard to put the book down.

Against All Things EndingHis Into the Gap Series is also worth trying. The “last” in the Chronicle Series, was published fairly recently, called Against All Thing Ending. A warning that the reviews are mixed. I liked the first books best. But FYI.

Another tidbit that attracted my attention this past week is the startling different problem solving technique showcased on a recent Nova show of which I am fast becoming a fan. David Pogue is the narrator/guinea pig.

He recently talked about an addictive game called Foldit that was based on folding proteins. Hundred of thousands of individuals played the game and twittered each other through their computers to come up with some break through science in fighting disease through new protein configurations.crowds-1

htt://www.thesocialpath.com/2009/05/10-examples-of-crowdsourcing.html

The method is called crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is a phenomenon that is getting some buzz and may provide a cure for Aids through game playing. Maybe. Possibly other diseases. Some are hopeful. See the above link for many other ways crowd sourcing is being used to: write a book, determine what music we hear, kickstart a project, map the cosmos, collect tips and advice and solve difficult science problems. Interesting…very interesting what they might use it for next.

Any ideas?

Maybe viral a blog?

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Playing Fair

As a writer, I spend a lot of time with my nose in a book or tapping on an iPad. This past week I spend a lot of time iPad tapping as I am doing a final edit on the next book. Past the Event Horizon due out (fingers crossed) in late June, early July. See the awesome, hot off the press cover.

So I was delighted when I looked up to see my calendar display the words, “Business Fair.” This meant that I was going to get out, meet the public and write my name…hopefully a number of times and talk about what I love–my stories.

The great thing about this particular venue is that it is local, short and varied. The vendors are small businesses in the area, so I may be the only author amidst photographers, jewelers and potters. Things I love.

To get ready, I have printed out large images (81/2 x 11) of my four covers. I have bought several new pens. Made bookmarks for giveaways.

And there’s going to be candy.

I have tweeted out the news, face booked the friends, emailed and now blogged. So all my ten friends are informed. And family.

As an ebook publisher, I am still trying to figure out where the buying readers are. Maybe at a fair.

I tried the Kindle Select program and there were loads of downloads, but not as many sales. (go figure) Actually, I do best face to face. I have sold a number of books at my local nail salon by casually asking what they like to read and mentioning that I am an author when I see someone reading an interesting book. Whether they buy my book or not, I am interested in what’s good to read and why they picked that particular book. Research.

A guilty secret is that I have even sold to my local bag boy because someone mentioned books to me at the checkout and he wanted to know what I wrote. Turned out that it sounded like something he might like.

Last blog I mentioned ebooks. In trying to come up with a suggestion for this week, I remembered the queen, the expert, the best selling author Kristine Kathryn Rusch. She and her husband, Dean Wesley Smith pioneered the ebook phenomenon when it first started. Between them, they have written an amazing amount of books sold through both self publishing and tradition ways. I have read a few.

Duplicate Effort is a novel that I bought at a signing where I met Kristine and  Dean. Because it was a signing, this is a paperback, but she is a champion for the self published author and writes a great blog entitled http://kriswrites.com. She does in depth reporting on the business aspect of publishing. Worth a read if you’re a writer.

Duplicate Effort combines my two favorite genres: science fiction and the detective story. This book is seventh in the Retrieval Artist Series and I recommend reading the earlier ones to get a background for the story. Most are stand alones, but this one requires a little knowledge of previous events. Still I enjoyed the story of Retrieval Artist Miles Flint who is trying to bring down the corrupt law firm of Wagner, Stuart, and Xendor that had something to do with his wife’s death and the threat to his daughter’s life and her six clones.

Then a journalist working with him is found dead, along with her bodyguard in the strangest of places. A virtual environment program that gets wiped. As he starts to investigate her murder, the seventh clone of his sixteen year old daughter Emmeline arrives. Talia is younger, thirteen, and wants to find her other five sister clones . Miles is afraid that she will discover the daughter while doing so and put her life in jeopardy.

As the two cases develop, it soon becomes apparent that they are connected. The stakes are raised as the deeper Miles digs, and the closer he comes to the truth, the more his life is in jeopardy and that of Talia. Clones, murder, detectives, alien worlds and high tech combine to make this an interesting series. Here are two others from the set: What you got that you want to suggest?

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