Tag Archives: space opera

Publishing Wrap-up 2016 and Five Scifi Selections for 2017

IMG_0174January has certainly gotten off to a contentious start. How does that affect book sales? I would imagine that readers are turning on the television to get the latest incendiary news distortion or taking to the streets to loudly voice their opinions…

…rather than quietly reading.

Kristine Rusch has a lengthy blog that talks about Indie publishing as a business and some current trends. She discusses the fact that sales were down in 2016 and the reasons why. Publishers say there was no breakout novel. Election noise took away reading time. The ebook publishing business is leveling off.

My sales were good until November, and then, I also saw a downturn. I’m seeing it in January, but I’m blaming politics and a lack of marketing enthusiasm. I’m a bit burnt out on marketing at the moment. I need to catch up on my writing and fill up the piggy bank because having the necessary funds to see you over the down part only makes good business sense.

She mentions that also. Here’s the blog: http://kriswrites.com/2017/01/18/business-musings-2016-disappointments/

January is one of the most fun months of the year for my blog because I get to select books to read for the year. Sometimes a book doesn’t meet the publication date (Thorn of Emberlain ) and sometimes I decide the book isn’t up to my standards and don’t mention it. (Split Second) However, it’s a way to prime the pump and get enthusiastic about reading. I have found lately that good science fiction is hard to find. There’s a mishmash of books out there but very little in the “got to read” category.

Anyway here’s my next five:

all-the-birds-in-the-sky1. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. I keep seeing this on recommended lists. I have avoided it because I really don’t like apocalyptic novels. They tend to be downers rather than contain interesting science. There’s always a struggle with the environment, and too often zombies show up. But this is about a young girl who is involved in magic. A long ago geek friend she knows from Middle School gets back with her. Also, it takes place in San Francisco, and I lived in the Bay area for eight years. So, it’s on the list.

2. The Unquiet Land by Sharon Shinn: I’ve been waiting on this one. I’ve read the previous books in the series (Elementals) so I know I will like this. (Rubs hands together)the-last-year

unquiet-land3. The Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson. New release. Time travel. Amazon best list. Charles Wilson (Spin) I’m in.

4. The Traitor ‘s Blade by Sebastien De Castell: Peter who works in Powell’s at Cedar Crossing has been their science fiction expert for a long time. He’s the liason for our Science Fiction Book Club. He knows his stuff, and when I whined about wanting a good book, he stuck this in my hand. Of course, I bought it and put it on the list.traitors-blade

5. Night Without Stars by Peter Hamilton. A hardback library find. Well, I’d actually been seeing this on a few a-night-without-starsrecommended lists. I’ve read earlier novels in the series also. It’s a big book which means it will take a while to read, but this is a far future space opera, and I’m ready for that.

By the way…don’t forget the second season of the Expanse starts on television tomorrow night February 1, Syfy channel. Watch that rather than the political insanity. Or, maybe the politics of the future there will look frightening familiar, and you can get a two-for-one.

the-expanse-620x412

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Counting Spaceship Colonists

IMG_9518Writing science fiction often takes you off into the weeds of future speculation. When I took on the Terran Series and started writing A World Too Far, I had to figure out how many people and ships would be traveling. I also had to state a reason for the mission.

I didn’t want the reason to be that the Earth was annihilated or destroyed. I hope that as time goes on we do things better and more efficiently. Stephen Hawking says that we need to expand out from Earth in order to survive long term. The “Not Everyone in the Same Basket” theory. I think we have enough people like Elon Musk that we don’t need a catastrophic event to push people out into space. So I made the reason for the expedition the fear that humans need to diversify to other planets in order to survive…and the plain old human drive of seeking adventure and new worlds.

Okay, how many then? Two names kept cropping up. One was John More who said 160 was enough. Local Portland University anthropologist Cameron Smith said 14,000 to 40,000.

space-station-485590_640

Wikipedia:

Estimates of the minimum reasonable population for a generation ship vary. Anthropologist John Moore has estimated that, even in the absence of cryonics or sperm banks, a population capacity of 160 people would allow normal family life (with the average
individual having ten potential marriage partners) throughout a 200-year space journey, with little loss of genetic diversity; social engineering can reduce this estimate to 80 people.[6] In 2013 anthropologist Cameron Smith reviewed existing literature and created a new computer model to estimate a minimum reasonable population in the tens of thousands. Smith’s numbers were much larger than previous estimates such as Moore’s, in part because Smith takes the risk of accidents and disease into consideration, and assumes at least one severe population catastrophe over the course of a 150-year journey.[7]

Cameron Smith in Acta Astronautica
April–May 2014, Vol.97:16–29, doi:10.1016/j.actaastro.2013.12.013

Estimation of a genetically viable population for multigenerational interstellar voyaging: Review and data for project Hyperion

I find that previously proposed such populations, on the order of a few hundred individuals, are significantly too low to consider based on current understanding of vertebrate (including human) genetics and population dynamics. Population genetics theory, calculations and computer modeling determine that a properly screened and age- and sex-structured total founding population (Nc) of anywhere from roughly 14,000 to 44,000 people would be sufficient to survive such journeys in good health. A safe and well-considered Nc figure is 40,000, an Interstellar Migrant Population (IMP) composed of an Effective Population [Ne] of 23,400 reproductive males and females, the rest being pre- or post-reproductive individuals. This number would maintain good health over five generations despite (a) increased inbreeding resulting from a relatively small human population, (b) depressed genetic diversity due to the founder effect, (c) demographic change through time and (d) expectation of at least one severe population catastrophe over the 5-generation voyage.

That’s quite a range.
What to do?

I started with sixty ships with two hundred per ship that worked the ship and two hundred in cryo. But then as the ships approached the designated planet, a population campaign increased the live colonists to five hundred per ship, give or take. That put us in the range of thirty thousand along the lines of Cameron Smith’s estimate.

Besides, I liked Babylon Five, the TV series, and wanted several ships on the journey for diversity and interest.

When the target planet was found toxic, forty ships decided not to land and jumped away. Of course, problems started happening immediately and the population underwent a severe reduction.

I needed a more manageable number of characters. I was trying to read The Dark Between the Stars by Alan Dean Foster and too many main characters overwhelm a reader. I got overwhelmed and didn’t finish the book.

As ships sought ways to increase the population, space found ways to destroy ships.

Now as I’m writing the next stage that deals with survival on a space station and alien planet, numbers again play an important role. Only so many can fit on station, and those stranded on the orbiting ships create a nice tension to those on planet that don’t want a horde of aliens invading their home and try to keep them on the station or ships.

Readers often don’t realize how much science fiction authors need to balance science plausibility with attention-keeping fictional plots and often wander off into the weeds of research.

Or maybe they do. Maybe they require it.

fortunes-pawnThis week I read Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach as it is a Powell’s science fiction readers group selection. I really enjoyed it…so much so that I’m now reading the sequel Honor’s Knight.

It’s even better.

Devi Morris is a super gung-ho mercenary from the military planet Paradox where the king reigns supreme. The universe is full of inhabited planets and ships travel all over via jump technology.

However, there is an unknown dangerous threat lurking at the edges of the universe.

Devi’s favorite possessions are her battle armor, which she has named Lady Gray, and her weapons. (Also named). She polishes them and talks about them a lot. Being a merc, she has few friends. Being aggressive and battle smart… she has few friends.

In order to accelerate her career, she has taken a job in a beaten up trading ship called The Glorious Fool. The ship has a dangerous reputation but it’s rumored to be a fast track to the rank of Devastator, the name of the king ‘s elite guards, a rank Devi aspires to.honors-knight

On board, an interesting assortment of aliens form the crew. The navigator is a cranky aeon, a birdlike species; her doctor is from a race of crablike insects that are enemies of most humans, and the cook, Rupert, well, he’s incredibly handsome and nothing like he seems.

Nothing.

Actually, nothing is as it appears and soon Devi is wrapped up in secrets that are world heavens-queenshattering with the real possibility of not surviving her tour.

But she’s a stubborn, resourceful, and surprisingly capable mercenary who soon finds herself with a few deadly secrets of her own.

Fast page-turning action with a passionate love story makes this one of my favorites, and one I recommend.

Happy Halloween!pumpkin

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Science Fiction Specials

IMG_0174A one day special…today!

To kick off my new book A World Too Far, I have partnered with Free Kindle Books and Tips to offer a special discount to celebrate the new release.

This starts a new Trilogy that remains in the Alysian Universe, but presents a whole different viewpoint and characters. Offered on Amazon or through FBKT, grab this .99 deal because it’s going away tomorrow.

http://smarturl.it/awtf or http://amzn.to/2cgqU6O

I don’t usually go into writing on my blog, but Thomas Weaver of North of Andover gave a good explanation of an irritating grammar point–the em dash. Here it is if you’ve been wondering.

https://northofandover.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/sometimes-he-tries-to-explain-how-to-use-the-em-dash/

Are you a Firefly fan? If you think I’m talking about flickering flying insects, you couldn’t be more mistaken.

I’m talking about the kickass series of odd job spacers who fly around the stars from episode to episode running from the government and it’s secret operation and trying to pick up various dangerous jobs in order to survive.

And starring hunky Nathan Fillion. Oh, so now you know what I’m talking about.

Well…

dark-runIf you like that style of science fiction, then, Dark Run by Mike Brooks may just be your cup of kauf.

The Keiko’s crew are smugglers, tarnished soldiers of fortune, ex-pirates, and con artists who want their past to stay secret. It’s the code of the ship to not dig up a fellow crew member’s past. But the past has away of coming back and biting you, so Captain Icabod Drift is abducted and blackmailed into taking a job by an old corrupt employer who has revenge on his mind and wants to use the Keiko to deliver it. For a cool hundred thousand up front and another after delivery, Captain Drift and crew must deliver three crates to an exact location at an exact time.

Scrambling to make the deadline, several obstacles force the ship into various fraught situations. Their female Chinese pilot flies the ship through impossible maneuvers and the huge Maori named Apirana serves as bodyguard and protectorate. Drift and first mate, Tamara Rourke, form a special bond. (romance here) Crew member Micah has his own secrets and a past he’d rather hide. And the pilot ‘s brother Kuai lurks in the engine room muttering at his sister’s recklessness and trying to protect her.

But as events unfold and the deadly, mysterious cargo is discovered, hidden past identities begin to unravel and surprising identities are revealed. The most shocking is the true identity of their once trusted Captain. As the revelations unfold, the crew must decide if they want to remain together and continue with the close fellowship they have experienced over the past several years or split for new horizons, now knowing the truth of fellow crew members.dark-sky

But each feels betrayed by what happens and revenge becomes a strong glue that keeps them together as they seek out to destroy the powerful employer who set Drift and his crew up in the first place.

Definitely a fun ride with all the elements of an action adventure science fiction story in place and ready to be enjoyed.

Flicker on firefly.

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Science Fiction and Reviews

Image 1I’m blogging about all different types of science fiction lately. This week I want to suggest a more traditional style that balances characters, action and science.

My father loved E. E. Doc Smith and his Lensman series. Lots of action, romance and in the later books of the series, family. His own family was aware of his enthusiasm; so much so that my younger sister slipped a few books from the series into his casket during the funeral when no one was looking.

We all knew she was going to do it and approved. We figured that he would need something to read while hanging out before the pearly gates or on Charon’s boatride over the River Styx. If heaven got boring, he would have a good book nearby to keep him entertained.

Before I review this week’s book, I want to talk about reviews. Currently, I’m setting up my summer marketing program, and I find that the later books don’t have enough reviews to qualify for several ad sites. It’s rather a chicken and egg thing. If you have enough reviews, you get accepted, which brings on more reviews. But if you don’t have many, you can’t advertise your book on sites like Booksends, Freebooksy, etc. and, therefore, don’t get more. I thought to offer Touching Crystal on a special deal. This great book is full of action such as: a comet smashing into a nearby moon, an extra-vehicular space walk to board a runaway space ship, invading aliens, a plane crash, and more.

But not enough qualifying reviews.

Amazon has clamped down on reviews by family or friends, so what’s the an author to do?

Offer something special.

For any reader who puts up a review on Amazon or Goodreads, I’ll send free my novella Call Me Time Jumper. After you post the review e-mail me at: shmccartha@gmail.com and I will send you a pdf or epub copy.

Here’s the intro:

“His mother’s name was Tempest Steele Telluria. Yes, Steele. She was the daughter of Richard Steele, Time Master, who ran the Timelab for ages until he shut it down–out of fear.

And his father was Kayse Telluria. Yes, Telluria, that infamous genetic line of temporal Talents. Kayse had proven that clones could reproduce. And when your father was the clone of the notorious Arwoyn Telluria, ex-king, genetic experimenter, time traveler, and overall fate manipulator, well everyone watched him–especially Trace Walker, Director of I.N.Sys., protectorate for the Democratic Union. They all gazed at him from the moment he was born as if he were some bomb ready to explode.
So, he didn’t disappoint.”

One review for any of the books. It doesn’t have to be lengthy or deep. Reviews are the lifeblood of authors and help readers evaluate the worth of the read.

Thanks.

The Cold BetweenThis week I was excited to read The Cold Between by Elizabeth Bonesteel. This is a debut novel by a young female author. And we know how hard that can be in the scifi realm.

Chief Engineer, Elena Shaw sits at a bar on the colony world of Volhynia where her ship the Galileo has been recently diverted there for mysterious reasons. Realizing that she is drinking too much, she doesn’t care. She wants to drown the pain of a recent break-up with Danny, a ship board lover, and an increasingly complicated and perplexing relationship with her captain.

After gently rebuffing an interested fellow drinker, she decides to leave, but an older, dark-haired PSI officer comments on her kindness of words in turning the guy away. Even while knowing PSI crew have a reputation as “pirates,” she stays and they talk more. Drawn to him and lonely, she decides to go home with him. As they walk out, a very drunk and violent local makes a play for her and yanks her away from her intriguing stranger…who lays him flat on the floor.

After a wondrous night of sex and companionship, she returns to her ship and her captain, Greg Foster, to discover Danny was murdered in an alley that night and her new lover is being held and tortured in jail for the murder by the very drunk man he decked. To make matters worse, she has to explain why the notorious PSI captain is innocent to her own captain, who has conflicting emotions about her, and isn’t happy at her revelation.

A looming wormhole, corporate intrigue, a corrupt military, and an emotional love triangle all combine to make a satisfying read. Even though he yells at her, Captain Foster guards her back as she tried to get her new lover, Treiko Zajec out of a hostile jail before they kill him.

But it isn’t easy and things get even more complicated. Although now retired, Trey Zajec was a notorious captain of the PSI in his day, the very same organization accused of firing on and destroying a ship coming back through the wormhole…a ship that Greg’s mother crewed on and died due to mysterious circumstances.

And then things get even more complicated.Remanants of Trust

The writing is action-packed and well written. The characters are complex with deep backstories and emotions. There is a strong romance flavor so fair warning to the geeks out there who prefer stronger science in their scifi. The wormhole and what it hides provides some of that. But I liked the mystery and political intrigue also. What really happened and why will keep you turning the pages.

This appear to be the start of a new series as Remnants of Trust continues the tale.

 

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Filed under Alien worlds, Book reviews, ebook marketing, Marketing and selling novels, Science Fiction Mystery, science fiction romance, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Space opera

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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An Author’s Life

Image 1

I’m coming down the home stretch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Powell's books

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

                                                                                                                    

 

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Ebook Marketing: Science Fiction

photo Fame is fleeting.

But so sweet in the moment.

Yesterday Caught in Time made #1 in Amazon’s Free Kindle>science fiction>space opera bestseller list.

Oh the glory.

Today…now that my promotion is over, I’m swimming in the deep ocean of paid Kindle eBooks. Sigh. Like I said…fleeting. But wonderful, nonetheless.

However, sales for books in the rest of the series have picked up briskly and I’m hoping readers will explore further the Alysian Universe. Later books are more adult, and I hope the YA flavor of the earlier ones won’t deter readers.

So read on, you all. Select a book from the series, huddle under the covers, and let those cold winds blow outside while you explore another world and keep warm. Undercity

Does the series idea work? I just finished reading Catherine Asaro’s latest novel, Under City and renewed my love for her stories. She is beginning a new detective series with a female protagonist, Major Bhaajan, former military officer with Imperial Space Command, now a hard bitten P.I. She takes on a case that unearths her poverty stricken past and turns up old loves and old enemies. A prince of the royal family has disappeared and her job is to find him. The trail leads downward where she not only has to save the prince, but possibly a whole way of life hidden underground.

Asaro brings deep emotions and romance to science fiction. Once a ballet dancer and also a producer of a jazz album, Asaro carries heavy credentials in the smart department with a M.A. in Physics and a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics from Harvard. This stretch of hard science combined with artistic talent is reflected in her writing. Two time Nebula Award winner, her series in the Skolian Universe is one of my favorites. Lightning Strike

While this new series slides down the social scale, diving underneath the city of Cries to a place where survival is a day by day struggle, several royal members from past books make cameo appearances. The new reader takes scant notice, but for her fans, the chords from past novels are plucked and resonate in memory.The City of Cries Of course, I recommend Under City if you are an Asaro fan.

One of the reasons I like science fiction is that I like to wonder what the future might bring. If you’re like me…then this article on Kurtzweil’s predictions for the next twenty-five years might pique your interest. It’s my nod to you hard science guys who have been so patient lately while I’ve dallied in fantasy. http://www.inquisitr.com/1805304/ray-kurzweil-predicts-some-fantastic-things-coming-in-the-next-25-years/

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