Tag Archives: Sheron McCartha

Sexuality and gender in Science Fiction

Recently, a TOR blog by Liz Burke posed an interesting discussion on: Where are the SFF stories about pregnancy and childbirth?

I’m not a feminist, but I believe in the humane treatment of all individuals. What I object to is others dictating who I should like or associate with based on their criteria. Let me make the friends I want regardless of race, color, or creed. Let my fellow humans make their own. Let us all treat each other with respect.

I was criticized at a conference by an editor who read only a small sample of my work. He indicated that my female characters were too compliant. I wanted to tell him that I felt that we were getting too many stories of ass-kicking females with bad attitudes, and great bodies. We need to think about what role models we put up for our children, females and males alike. As in real life, I have an enormous range of female characters from the kickass Commander Elise Fujeint to the compliant females of a Sunglast harem… and every flavor in between.

Sex is pervasive in science fiction, but actual childbirth and parenting, I’ll have to admit the content is sparse. Lois Bujold is most mentioned in Burke’s blog with her Vorksigan series that deals with Mile’s birth, the Betan replicators that replace pregnancy, and the parenting of Mile’s own children briefly glimpsed in Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance.

The recently late and deeply missed Ursula LeGuinn explored sexuality and gender bending with her Left Hand of Darkness and child rearing is addressed in The Dispossessed.

Also mentioned that deals with pregnancy and child rearing is Octavia Butlers Lilith’s Brood. There are others, but the list is short.

Can you think of any other science fiction that focuses on or even mentions pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting?

Why did this topic catch my attention? Two reasons made it immediate.

The first is that once my character of Elise got pregnant, I had to deal with the consequences of her pregnancy, namely Tempest, her daughter. As once Commander of the Fleet, she was made to come to terms with her new role of wife and mother. It’s tricky to write about children, and yet, they can’t be ignored. After all the exciting sex, there’s diapers and bottles in the aftermath. But it’s the children that keep the species going.

The second reason this topic struck me was that I had just finished Remnants of Trust by Elizabeth Bonesteel. In this story was a secondary character who was very pregnant. As captain of a generation space ship with many children on board, the pregnancy highlighted a cultural difference between the Earth military culture and the PSI. In addition, Captain Guanyin Shiang agrees to take her ship into a battle to help save a dubious ally. The main male character, captain of an Earth military ship, needs her help in saving a sister ship under attack but is very much flummoxed by her condition and the vulnerability of her children when he asks her ship to help him save the ship under attack. In the Earth’s military rank and file, pregnancy is a reason for a female to be discharged. Medical and physical protection against pregnancy is mandatory. In military science fiction, rarely are pregnancy, childbirth or child rearing a focus of the story.

So with all the commotion about #Metoo, the topic was current. Not only was I dealing with the issue of pregnancy and child rearing in my writing, but the book I had just read also highlighted this aspect of the female struggle.

Since this is a current social issue, we may see an influx of books in the science fiction field address this issue that had long since been a topic in general literature.

Now you know that my book for this blog is Remnants of Trust by Elizabeth Bonesteel. This is the second book in the series. I blogged not long ago that I liked her first book, The Cold Between and recommended it.

Due to events in the first book, engineer Elena Shaw and Captain Greg Foster are court-marshaled. But instead of a dishonorable discharge or prison, they are sent back out on the Galileo to patrol supposedly empty space in the Third Sector. Not soon after, they receive a distress call from the Exeter, a sister ship, claiming they are under attack by raiders there. A PSI generation ship in the area agrees to help, and the two drive off the attackers but leave ninety-seven dead.

Investigation into the attack points to sabotage and, indeed, both the Galileo and the PSI generation ship, Orunmila, experience sabotage attempts on their ships. Someone wants them dead.

The Raiders are tracked to an Earth colony that has been ravaged by an environment gone rogue. In an attempt to terraform the planet, the machines have destroyed the planet’s environment, and the colony is left to suffer. Cover up activities and mistakes reach high up into the military’s brass and involve a prior mission from Elena’s past.

I enjoyed this book because of the rich characters and emotional interplay. Along with a battle, politics and mystery, Bonesteel brings to life the struggles of military life in space.

It’s a quality military science fiction read I would recommend.


Filed under Alien worlds, artificial nature, Discovering New Worlds, environmental issues in science fiction, military science fiction, Political Science Fiction, science fiction series

Exploring Authors’ Earnings

“Submitting a manuscript to a traditional publisher is like sending a letter to Santa Claus.”

This comment, made by my husband, hit the mark so close that I had to pass it along. It made me chuckle, and then sigh.

About eight years have passed since Amazon opened up Indie publishing through Createspace and Kindle. I remember asking, “What kind of name is that?” Thinking back, it burned the traditional publishing industry pretty hard.

How has everything changed? If you like hard data, here’s the link to data guy’s author earnings report, complete with pie charts and spreadsheets. It’s quite fascinating. Print books still sell the most in total dollars, stronger than other formats due to the inclusion of textbooks and children’s books.

Science fiction is fourth in dollar revenue for ebooks behind literature, thrillers & mysteries, and romance.

Data guy shows how many books customers are buying and what price points sells the most.

Also interesting for marketing was the seasonality question. Undoubtedly, print books are seasonal. They sell most in… surprise… August and September. (Textbooks) However, most interesting was that ebooks sold the same every month no matter what the season.

Hmmm… I wouldn’t have guessed that. I still sell better in summer, but then I do more marketing at that time.

There are spread sheets that show the top selling publishers by book units and revenue and name the best selling authors in ebook, print, and audio. In some cases, names are named, but not in all. Indies appear to be shy, and almost half asked to be blanked out.

For the complete report, go to:


All right. So maybe numbers bore you. How about cute monkey faces? Remember I mentioned a cloning factory in China in one of my blogs ages ago? Well, the Chinese have cloned a pair of non human primates called macaques, using the Dolly sheep method. For pictures of adorableness, follow this link: Then wonder if any humans are in their queue.

http://bit.ly/2FCpdK8  (right click. open in new window)

Because I was negligent on reading Angel City Blues by Jeff Edwards last year ( hey, this is a flexible list), I decided to start with that title this year.

Boy, was I glad.

This is an urban punk detective mystery that is a fun and thoughtful read. Detective David Stalin, down on his luck and living under a dome in the dangerously poor section of L. A., lives with a highly developed A.I. Saving his life, cooking his dinner, and guarding the slovenly flat, the A.I bickers constantly with David while attending to his needs. I loved their interaction. David gets a case from a wealthy woman to find her missing daughter. There’s no DNA, no motive for her missing, no record of what happened on any security camera, and a belligerent LAPD feels he is trespassing on their case, even though they are at a dead end.

His client, however, can pull strings and cover any expense. Tempted, David takes the case, which leads to virtual reality snuffs. Here is a dirty little area of criminal activity where our detective soon finds himself secured into a helmet and thrust into a world of death and danger from which he cannot escape. He is tormented, warned, and finally released. At least, the first time. Undaunted, David continues to follow the case, which leads to an orbiting space station and the organization behind the girl’s disappearance. An exciting conclusion pushes the technology boundary even further and will delight most any techno geek.

In this novel, Edwards explores the danger of high tech used for criminal activity. With our society on the verge of adopting virtual reality for more than Pokémon games, Edwards asks us to consider what genie we may be letting out of that bottle. Even greater is the risk of using nanotechnology. He offers a scenerio that will chill you and lead you to hope that cutting-edge scientists know what they are creating while making you mindful of the threat certain technologies might bring us.


Filed under artificial intelligence, Clones, Cutting Edge Science ideas, ebook marketing, Future of Publishing, genetic manipulation, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Publishing Trends, Science Fiction Detective Story, The future of publishing

Ten Indie Publishing Trends You might Want to Know

We are trying to survive the drippy days of a Portland winter, but thank goodness we have no snow like the East Coast. Still it’s hard to keep cheerful spirits when all outside is gloomy and gray.

So here’s a fun piece that I wanted to include in my blog to raise the mood.
It’s a summary of the different social media platforms.


Funny, but true (kinda): • Facebook: I like donuts. • Twitter: I’m eating a donut. • Instagram: Here’s a picture of my donut. • YouTube: Watch me eat a donut. • Vine: Watch me eat a donut for six seconds. • LinkedIn: My skills include donut eating. • Pinterest: Here’s a donut recipe. • Google Plus: I’m a Google employee who eats donuts.

It really clarifies the various functions of the bewildering array of media platforms out there and offers you a smile.

January is the time when seers and prognosticators appear on the publishing scene. Written Word has gathered ten publishing trends they see for 2018. As an author, you may find it helpful to see which direction the business might go. I encourage you to read the blog in its entirety, but I have a few comments to make on it. bit.ly/2DjqULH

Of the ten listed, a few caught my attention. The first is that marketing is getting more expensive with poorer results. Ad sites now talk about “stacking” your book or offering the same book on several ad sites on the same or consecutive days. This can get expensive if your royalty is a few dollars per book or you’re offering the book for free. Just about all ad sites require a discount on your book of some sort, if not free. Add to that the idea that readers are getting more selective in their downloads and picky about price, and author’s margins are squeezed.

However, serious Indies are continuing to build their catalog. Perseverance is key in the writing business. It’s a long game. Here’s what Written Word says to give authors hope :

“Ever year we (Written Word) conduct a survey of authors to identify what high-earning authors are doing to achieve success. In 2017 the number of authors who reported making over $100,000 from writing grew by 70% over 2016. The percentage of authors making between $5,000 and $10,000 per month doubled year over year. Indies who persevere and continue putting out books slowly increase their earnings over time. Is it easy? No. Will it take time? Yes. But there are plenty indie authors who are making money. They will continue to grow their businesses in 2017 and a new batch of high-earning authors will join their ranks.

What this means for you: Successful indie authors see themselves as entrepreneurs who are running a business. And they are. Their product is their books. Successful authors are those that focus on their business and manage the ups and downs. In 2018 be honest with yourself. What are your goals? Are you writing to pursue a passion? Are you writing to supplement your income? Are you building or growing a business? Then align your efforts with your goals to achieve what success means for you.”

The last comment from this blog I want to point out is “Everyone will talk about going direct to reader.” Several efforts and young companies are causing even more disintermediation in the publishing business. Publica.com talks about direct transactions between authors and readers via blockchain and could very well be the next step in publishing. Stay tuned on this idea and check out their website for more information.

I have five more books to put on my 2018 reading list. (The first five are on my previous blog)

In the absence of blockbuster stand-alones this past year, I’ve added several follow-up books in a series to my 2018 reading list. To address a title that is on most science fiction lists and traditionally published, I have chosen Artemis by Andy Weir. The Martian was a smash hit, both movie and book, and now Weir writes an adventure involving the moon. I expect this will be good.

Next, I selected Helios by N.J. Tanger. I read and reported on the first in this series, Chimera, and now I’m ready to read the next. The story trends to YA since the main characters are teenagers.

Summary: A distant planet colony no longer receives supplies or transmissions from Earth, and after several years, they are running low on resources. The colony tries to reactivate the sleeping AI and repair the colony’s ship in order to send it to Earth to find out why they have been abandoned. Five young people are selected to crew the ship. The first book tells that story and the conflict of relationships among the candidates for crew.

Now in Helios, the story continues as an exchange ship breaks through fractal space to arrive on the planet. Celebrations break out, but collapse when all on board are found dead. More than ever, Stephen’s Point Colony wants to send the ship to Earth and find out what has happened.

Sounded interesting. So, I included book two.

Everyone tells me how great Neil Gammon is, but I couldn’t finish reading American Gods, in spite of all its acclaim. Now the Powell’s Reading Group has listed Neverwhere to read. They have assured me that I will like it, so I’m willing to give it a chance.

I loved the Merchant Series by Charles Stross, so when I saw Empire Games continued this interdimensional espionage and political science fiction romp, I put it on my to-read list.

I’ve had the book cover of Remnants of Trust on my desktop ever since reading The Cold Between by Elizabeth Bonesteel as a reminder to read this next in the series. The blurb says, “A young soldier finds herself caught in the crossbar of a deadly conspiracy in space.” Here was my military space thriller, then, and the final selection on my list.

Here’s these last five with the caveat that I add additional interesting books throughout the year as they catch my attention or pop up on my list of books that I think readers will like. I encourage you to try any of them and let me know what you think.



Artemis Andy Weir
Helios N. J. Tanger
Remnants of Trust Elizabeth Bonesteel
Neverwhere Neil Gammon
Empire Games. Charles Stross

Have a great 2018 reading year.


Filed under Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, Alternate Universe Stories, Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, Discovering New Worlds, ebook marketing, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, military science fiction, Novels that take place in the moon, Political Science Fiction, Portal fiction, Publishing Trends, science fiction series, Science fiction thriller, space ship, The future of publishing

Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading List for 2018

Happy 2018 to everyone. Yes, it’s hard to believe we have a new year starting again, and although there was plenty of tumult around me, this past year was a good one.

I’m currently working on the third book in my Terran Trilogy called The Weight of Gravity. This trilogy is part of the overall Alysian Universe series, but from a completely different prospective. It makes the tenth book I’ve written, along with other shorter works in anthologies. Kristine Rusch talks about author burnout, and I’m battling a bit of it myself. Maybe the new year will energize me.

When I set out to pick ten books for the upcoming year for my blogs, I noticed that my kindle library was bursting with books gathered from various ad sites that I promised myself I would get around to reading. So, that’s where I will draw from for some of my selections. I’m worried that ebooks are getting cheaper and cheaper, many are offered for free, and personal libraries are filling up so buyers don’t need to purchase quite as much to satisfy their reading needs. A lot are free. As a reader, I like it when I don’t have to spend tons of money on books, but as an author, I wonder where the trend is going, and will I be able to keep up my income? Are we reading more or spending less? Or both? Or does it even out?

This year, I had my highest month ever, and lowest, in royalty income. Several authors mentioned a similar situation of lower royalties, blaming it on the distraction of the election and following political commotion. Since my lowest month was January, I’m buying into the theory. Luckily, the summer months brought a welcome increase in sales with August my best month ever. A number of authors have commented on this seasonality of book buying, and I’m thinking to research this further in another blog.

In my December blog, I always select five books to add to my reading list for the year. This time, I wanted to consider a mix of stories with time travel and space opera foremost but also include a bit of fantasy. I wanted to suggest both traditional and self-published novels. Last year, I discovered a few new authors who wrote in a series, and I decided I should continue their works. Along that line, the Expanse Series is coming back to television, so I picked the newest release, Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey. I’ve read the earlier novels and blogged on several of them, so check it out if you want to know more. If you haven’t read the books, the television version can be confusing, but I love the special effects, even though I disagree with the choice of actors who play the characters.

The second book on my to-read list for 2018 is Angel City Blues by Jeff Edwards. Yes, I know that I selected this last year and don’t know why I didn’t read it. I loved the first book, Dome City Blues and this will bring in an urban cyberpunk genre that will be a fun contrast to my other choices.

My next choice is Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn. This fantasy just appeared to be a fun book to read. Any book that starts out saying, “Sneaking out of the palace may not have been one of Aniri’s best ideas” has me hooked. As third daughter, Aniri is under no pressure to marry and hopes to wed her fencing instructor lover. Then, she gets a marriage proposal from a barbarian prince in the north who has his own secrets and… Not science fiction, but it sounded too good to pass up.

Time travel is a favorite of mine, so when I saw Crossing in Time advertised, I stuck that in my kindle library. The blurb asked, “If someone took everything you live for, how far would you go to get it back?” Turns out, the main character would go far into the past to change events in order to get back a loved one, and that idea intrigued me.

Finally for now, the fifth selection comes from a popular author that I never got around to reading until a year or two ago. Andre Norton has become a favorite of mine, and I have been eyeing her Time Traders sitting in my kindle library. Time to read it.

There you have my first five. In January, I’ll add five more. As you know, other books may be selected as I see fit. Sometimes, publishing schedules change, or other ideas take precedent, so this is not cast in stone, but only serves as a guide. I offer suggestions and comments for books I think readers will like, but I’m not a professional reviewer and don’t take review requests any more. However, I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy for years and love to share this passion with fellow enthusiasts.

This time around, I noticed that a deciding factor was the blurb. Cover and blurb are so important in a reader’s selection process. So, authors, put extra effort into those two elements to help sell your stories.

Here they are to start:

Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn
Angel City Blues by Jeff Edwards
Crossing in Time by D. L. Horton
Time Traders by Andre Norton
Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey

Also, for the new year, I would like to recommend you check out Kristine Rusch’s blog on the state of publishing. Not only does she live in Oregon like I do, but she is in the traditional publishing arena along with being a strong advocate of self publishing, having self-published many books herself. She has written several series in several genres under various pen names and is thoughtful and knowledgeable about the total spectrum of publishing, both Indie and traditional.

Here’s the link:

With 2017 ending, and 2018 about to begin, I wish a bright future for everyone… and happy reading.


Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Classic science fiction, Cyberpunk, ebook science fiction, fantasy series, Future of Publishing, Indie authors, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Publishing Trends, science fiction romance, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Space opera, space travel, The future of publishing, time travel

A Writer’s Insights and An Assassin’s Fate

With the stress of the holidays, or maybe just the distractions, many authors are finding it hard to stay on track with their writing and marketing. I’m reading blogs that mention burn out. For me, it’s both. I’m thinking of what to get my family for Christmas, and I’m shopping with my daughter at the mall. There are parties and plans that preempt my writing. Meanwhile, I’m losing the momentum of the story.

Hence my blog is late, and my writing even more behind schedule. My editor is yelling at me and my publisher is disgusted with my procrastination.

Oh, wait…

That’s me.

The hardest taskmaster of them all.

To feel better about this author experience, I offer several blogs for writers intent on becoming authors. The first, if you haven’t read it already, is Hugh Howey’s blog on becoming a writer. If you have read it, now’s a good time to re-read it. He offers great insight into the writing process.

1. His first insight is that the only obstacle to writing is you. To become an author you have to start writing. As simple as it sounds, many authors use various excuses to block their goal of completing a novel.

2. You can’t compare your rough draft to books you’ve read. Those have been polished and edited by professional people.

3. There is no special qualification required…to write.

4. The best writers are the best readers.

5. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Keep it in mind, oh impatient one.

6. Whoever works the hardest will get ahead. In this insight, High mentions that it is easier to work hard if you are passionate about what you do. I find this very true.

7. Competition is complicated. The number of books out there isn’t important. Your book may be the inspiration or escape needed for a particular reader. Don’t let the numbers swamp you.

8. Be helpful and engaged. Authors should help and encourage one other.

9. Know your readers

10. Know your industry. Treat your writing as if it were a business.

These are the highlights of his discussion with important and insightful comments to support them. To read the complete blog, go to:


Then, I recommend reading his follow-up blogs starting with writing rough drafts. I swear he was a fly on my wall. I do a lot of my writing in my head in the shower, before I fall asleep, or generally while driving. Then, I put words to these scenes I have created. He describes this same process for his writing.

Who knew?

At the moment, I’m at what he calls “the crux.” Noting that it was a normal phase in writing relieved a lot of my current frustration. I eagerly read where he describes how to get out of this impasse. Give me that machete so I can cut my way out.


There are several more blogs on the writing process that I’ll visit in a later blog.

The second blog I recommend is the Passive Voice. PG (passive guy) writes a lot about how Amazon has changed the industry in this blog and ends up with these statistics on author earnings that I found interesting.

You may, too.

A few facts from Author Earnings (emphasis is PG’s):


In 2016, two-thirds of traditionally-published fiction and non-fiction books were sold online.
• About 75% of adult fiction and non-fiction books (including both traditional and indie published) were sold online (77% of fiction, 72% of non-fiction) in 2016.
• In early 2017, Big Five publisher sales on Amazon were 20.8%–or barely one fifth–of all Amazon US consumer ebook purchases.
• As far as the earnings of individual authors who have debuted in the last three years:
◦ 250 Big Five authors are annually earning $25,000 or more from Amazon sales
◦ 200 recent small or medium publisher authors earn $25,000 or more from their Amazon sales annually
◦ Over 1,000 indie authors who debuted in the last 3 years are earning more than $25,000 per year from Amazon sales
• Looking at earnings of debut authors from the past five years, more indie authors are now earning a $50K-or-better living wage from Amazon than all of their Big Five and Small/Medium publisher peers put together.
• Fewer than 115 Big Five-published authors and 45 small- or medium-publisher authors who debuted in the past five years are currently earning $100K/year from Amazon sales. Among indie authors of the same tenure, more than 425 of them are now at a six-figure run rate.
PG suggests that traditional publishing’s greatest challenge is demonstrated by numbers like this.

Lots to think about.

Another reason this blog has been delayed is that I was reading the 800 page tome by Robin Hobbs called Assassin’s Fate. I have been an avid reader of all Hobb’s books, and I am particularly fond of Fitz Chivalry and the Fool.

There are eighty-eight percent five stars out of 755 reviews. So, I’m not alone.

The story: Fitz Chivalry’s daughter, Bee, is kidnapped by the Servants, a secret society that uses dreams of special children to mold the future, often for their own benefit. Fitz Chivalry and the Fool believe Bee is dead, and they embark on a revenge mission to wipe out the whole island where this sect lives to destroy them utterly. The Fool had vowed never to return to where he grew up, was tortured, and finally escaped. But now, he joins his closet friend to wreak vengeance on his earlier persecutors.

Unbeknownst to them, Bee survives and is dragged across the land and sea by her sadistic abductor, who believes she is the chosen one. She brings along a small group from the island who bend to her commands. One minion, when given the spit of the dragon, can control the minds of those around him, except for Bee, who has special talents she hides. She can dream the future also, but she doesn’t reveal this fact to her tormentor. Others bend to her kidnapper’s vicious demands and also bully Bee.

So, yes, there are dragons and ships and magic and many old familiar characters from several of her other books that make a cameo appearance.

Read the earlier books first, write up all your apologies for chores being left undone, appointments missed, late blogs, and then enjoy this fine conclusion to the story of Fitz Chivalry and the Fool.


Filed under award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, dragons, fantasy, fantasy series, Hugh Howey, Hugo winners, Indie Publishing, magic, Self-publishing, Writing Tips and Lectures

Ad Survey for Self Publishers

Happy Autumn!

As my blog readers know, I often talk about marketing. I do this not because I’m any marketing guru, but because I like to share information in the hopes it will help other authors out there. I occasionally use ad sites. When I don’t, sales slump, and when I do, sales do better…depending on the effectiveness of the site.

That’s why over the last two years, I have participated in Jason B. Ladd’s survey on results authors have found for various ad sites. Before I was buying blind on whether they were effective or not. Even though his samples are small, they do shed light on some of the sites and their effectiveness.

Of course, genre plays a role. Robin Reads appears to favor the romance writer whereas Book Barbarian is limited to science fiction and fantasy only. Bookbub is the clear winner for garnering most downloads and sales, but very expensive and practically impossible to get accepted unless you have a million five star reviews. Also, I notice lots of famous author’s backlists show up there, most likely supported by traditional publishers. Amy Tam has listed and Isaac Asimov, Gordon Dickson and others listed recently. I’m not in that league … yet.

So, Jason and helpers took all the results of ads sent in by self publishing authors and compiled the results to see if the promotions are worthwhile. He asked the question : Is spending money on ad sites worth it? Here’s a good look at how the ads broke down by genre and what you can expect to pay and what you can expect to receive in downloads and sales.

Here’s the link : http://www.jasonbladd.com/run-book-promotion-numbers-say-yes/

In addition, he has published a book on how to get reviews called Book Review Bonzai. I need reviews, but when I read the method, it looked like a lot of difficult work. It involves using software programs that scrapes the internet for reviewers, putting information on a spread sheet to keep track, and batch e-mailing them to ask for a review. It works, but sounded very time-consuming.

Besides, I’m a reviewer who likes to choose what I review rather than be hounded into writing one. Nonetheless, this may just be what you are searching for to pump up your reviews. Having a good number of reviews is important as often certain advertisers require a minimum number before accepting your novel. This could be the very tool you have been looking for to increase your reviews.

This week for my science fiction suggestion, I’m returning to a favorite author.

Catherine Asaro has just released the next in her Skolian Saga called The Bronze Skies. This is a stand alone in the story of Major Bhaajan who comes from the Under City of the City of Cries. She calls it book eight in the Skolian Empire series but it follows the more recent Undercity title published last year.

The story:

Born into the slums below the City of Cries on the planet Raylicon, the orphan Bhaajan broke free of her crushing poverty and joined the military. There she rose in rank to become a military officer with the Imperial Space Command. Now she is retired and offers her service as a private investigator. Undercity tells the story of her first investigation, which I reviewed last year.

The Bronze Skies continues her story, as she takes on solving an odd murder witnessed by the Ruby Pharoah.

The House of Majda rules the City of Cries and Cries rules the planet Raylicon. Three formidable sisters hold power in the house of Majda. The oldest, Vaj Majda, serves as the General in the Pharaoh’s Army which makes her joint Commander of the Imperial Space Command. The youngest, Colonel Lavinda Majda, is a high Commander in the military, and the third, Corejida Majda  runs the finances of the empire.

The Ruby Pharaoh, Dyhianna Selei (Skolia), is descended from the Ruby Empire, a far-flung civilization that at one time stretched across the stars. It collapsed, and now an elected Assembly rules. Dyhianna, as the Ruby Pharaoh, controls and monitors the interstellar meshes that tie humanity together. The meshes even extend into a different universe, Kyle space. You couldn’t visit the Kyle but you could transform your thoughts there if you were a trained operator with proper enhancements. This enables instant communication light years across interstellar civilization. The Ruby Pharaoh has to have a certain genetic lineage to give her this ability.

The murderer is Jagernaut Daltona Calaj who walks into the financial office at Selei City on the planet of Parthonia and shoots the aide Tavan Ganz. Jagernauts are thought to be unable to murder like that.

Major Bhaajan gets involved when the Ruby Pharoah claims to have witnessed the murder and suggests the AI node implanted in the jugernaut’s spine may have been corrupted. And now, the murderer, Calaj, is on Rayliccon and suspected of hiding out in the Under City—Bhaajan’s old stomping grounds where very few upper level humans can survive.

The Under City is a place of scavengers, of a hidden people who never see the sun and live a brutal existence. For ages, they have been ignored by the upper class citizens of Cries who live on the surface, and only recently recognized. Because she was born there and lived a brutal childhood there, Bhaajan knows the lingo, the culture, and the people. The crime boss of an illegal brothel and gambling house is her lover. So she is uniquely qualified to track down the illusive culprit who is said to be hiding there. Her search into the underground and where the trail leads makes the story more than a simple murder.

I found the story appealing on various levels. Bhaajan is an interesting character with conflicting emotions concerning her background and current status in a highly stratified society. This is an involved universe, so be prepared for clumps of background information to be dumped into the story to keep you up-to-date.

Bhaajan has an implanted, sentient AI that has formed a close bond and they have an ongoing conversation with each other, which I find delightful. Her body has been augmented, making her powerful physically. Her relationship with Jak, who grew up with her, is a sensual one and conflicted, although her one goal is to better the people of Undercity. This society is rich in culture and forms an intriguing storyline in and of itself.

But most interesting is the desert ruins outside of Cries, hinting of a long gone civilization and visitors from the stars that originally colonized the plant, and then mysteriously disappeared. Within these ruins, she discovers powerful AIs who are maintained by a mysterious cult of cloned telepaths…and one rogue AI that awakens from a crashed starship and is out to destroy all humans

At the center, is Dryhianna, whose mind grapples with the artificial intelligence within the mesh and Kyle space, and discovers this hidden and powerful AI that wants to wipe out all humans.


Filed under artificial intelligence, artificial nature, award winning scifi, Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, Clones, downloaded personalities, genetic manipulation, Implanting humans, Marketing and selling novels, modifying humans, Nebula nominations, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Transhumanism

A Space Opera Selection

Who do you listen to when you write?

Dean Wesley Smith has written more than a hundred books over many years along with his wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch who has written equally as much. Both are Oregon Coast writers who know what they are talking about when it comes to writing and publishing. So it was interesting to read a blog where Dean advocated not having Beta readers or even writing groups.  https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/killing-the-sacred-cows-of-publishing-beta-readers-help-you/ His point was that in the cacophony of advice, the author ‘s voice may be lost among the mumble of suggestions, and the story damaged or diluted.

I work with both a writers’ group and Beta readers because I find their input helpful in making my story stronger.

But he has a point. A very good point.

Some writers want to polish each word to a literary high gloss, while others encourage a stampede of action and excitement to keep their readers turning the pages. Others drench their characters with emotion much like a teenager in the throes of first love. And you, as the writer, may be pushed and pulled by their suggestions.

In The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon  (mentioned in my last blog) I delighted in brilliant metaphors and similes until it became too much and felt like every third sentence was a finely crafted metaphor to show off how clever the writing was.

I love Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels Series, but the strong emotions of the characters take center stage, leaving descriptions and action to tag along.

And anyone reading space opera science fiction or a series like The Expanse knows that action is paramount. Authors are told to have the first chapter start bang with strong action that hooks the reader and fill out the characters and setting later.

So a writers should decide what his or her voice is, or it could become a hodgepodge of other people’s suggestions.

Make no mistake, suggestions are helpful and often make for a stronger work, but only after asking the question : Do I know what my voice is and is this suggestion consistent with my voice and how I want my story written?

In my last blog, I mentioned the international aspect of blogs. Writers are blogging with other writers from all over the globe. It’s quite international. But now we have come to a whole new level when Google translate can instantly translate a blog into many different languages. My friend Diana Peach wrote a guest blog today for Christopher Graham. (copy/paste)


The blog was excellent, but what attracted my attention was the ability to tap the drop down in the upper right hand corner and immediately have Google translate the blog into a bewildering number of languages. Take your pick.

Think about that one.

I return to space opera this week for my science fiction suggestion. David Drake is a prolific writer of science fiction with several series, and I have been meaning to read him for some time now. Written in 1992, Starliner came out in trade paperback this past June with additional content.

Third officer, Lieutenant Ran Colville, receives his staff side position of making sure all goes smoothly on board the newest and largest starship, the Empress of Earth. Even with the efficient help of the attractive lieutenant Wanda Holly, politics, greed, young love and war threaten to disrupt the orderly passage of the luxury ship with its high class passengers. And Ran’s job is to see they are happy and safe. Different chapters describe various landings on interesting worlds, each one presenting a challenge to the ship. All through the story is the threat of pirates or a military fleet from a warring planet that would love to add this majestic ship to its fleet. Jumping through wormhole, exploring exotic world, dealing with dark politics, and fending off panting women all keep Ran hopping.The Spark

Drake writes a fast-paced story but keeps in mind his characters and their various emotions that drive their actions. This book is a stand alone, but I’m certain to try out other of David Drakes stories having read this one.  Maybe this latest one.


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