Tag Archives: world building

More than Science Fiction Novels

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

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

What!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pokemon2                          Oregon summers are a delight.                  pokemon

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

Alien First Contact Best Seller: Visitor

photoDo as we say, not as they do. “We” are the midlist authors or ex-agents who set themselves up as writing experts, and “they” are the multi-Hugo and Nebula award winning authors.

I was told not to use too much internal dialog in my writing. Show, don’t tell…and action, action, action. Read all the blogs, you’ll see.

Well, I just finished multi Hugo award winner C.J. Cherryh’s latest book, Visitor from her Foreigner Series, and there’s lots of internal dialog.

I also recently reviewed Lois Bujold’s Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, and guess what?  Yup, it contains a lot of internal dialog, too. My two favorite science fiction authors with their newest books out and both contain a lot of internal dialog. Go figure.Visitor

Visitor picks up from the previous book in the series with factions of humans and atevi on the atevi’s planet in conflict with each other. Also, human factions on Alpha Space Station are upset with rescued humans from an attacked Reunion Station from another system who are now crowding their station that orbits the atevi world.

Got that? There’s more.

A signal comes in from an incoming kyo ship that announces it is on its way to Alpha Space station. This is worrisome because the kyo are the aliens that soared into the Reunion System and melted a section of Reunion ‘s space station, leaving humans for dead. The nearby human ship, Phoenix, fled rather than fought them. Then the kyo sat nearby and waited, watching for four years. They sent a shuttle to Reunion Station that was captured, and they continued to sit close by for an additional six more years, just observing, while Reunion tried to rebuild. So, the Reunion Station humans, now living on Alpha Station, panic when hearing of the kyo approach. To prevent Alpha Station from being tore apart from riots born of fear, the human station master locks down the Reunion section and refuses to turn over station control to atevi when time for the handoff arrives.

TrackerBren Cameron, human emissary for the atevi leader of the planet below, and human appointee by the president of the human contingent on the island of Mospheira, is the obvious choice to interface with the incoming aliens and also handle station problems. Earlier, he, the young atevi heir, and the matriarch flew on the ship that rescued the Reunion stationers and brought them to Alpha Station to live. In addition, they released a kyo, named Prakuyo, that had been held prisoner on the station for over six years and returned him to his people.

Now the kyo have discovered Alpha Station and the atevi world by following the ship’s trail. The name Prakuyo is transmitted with the words “we come.” So, the alien they rescued is on the incoming ship. Whether he wants revenge for his six years of incarceration or friendship in gratitude for his life being saved, Bren does not know. He does know that the kyo have been involved in an extended war with unknown aliens and carry heavy firepower while Alpha Station and the atevi world below are unarmed and vulnerable.

Bren’s responsibility is to learn the language of the incoming kyo and talk to them so as to avoid a war neither human nor atevi can win. But atevi and humans are just learning to get along and barely speak each other’s language. Also, humans have their own problems and are split among planet, station, and ship captains. Each with their own agenda and ideas of what to do.

Cherryh is a master at immersing the reader into Bren’s psyche as he mentally reviews all the terrifying scenarios, both on station and among the three alien races. There are a bewildering array of conflicting elements. A station master who refuses to give up power on the station complicates Bren’s job. Panicked stationers traumatized by the kyo ‘s previous attack create chaos and distraction. Ship captains, protective of the nearby human ship, try to insert their own authority, and the young atevi heir’s new human friends are threatened with kidnapping to provide leverage to a human contingent that has its own ideas on what should be done. Bren has to solve all these problems and sort everything out quickly before the kyo arrive.

Because time is running out.

The kyo are on their way…and heavily armed.

Cherryh provides a comprehensive first contact problem as Bren tries to figure out how to communicate with an alien species he knows little about. Then, he has to teach both atevi and human how to communicate with the kyo as the kyo have demanded the heir and matriarch to attend a meeting. One wrong gesture or one mispronounced word could set off violence, resulting in damage or destruction. The stakes are high.

And with this situation of complex moving parts, Cherryh adds an ending with a surprising twist. Bren Cameron will be called upon to use all that he has learned as paidhi-aiji to the atevi and communicator for alien species.

Cherryh uses words and language to express the mindset of the atevi-influenced Bren, who now has lived years among them. Because of the way she arranges and uses words, the reader is drawn into the atevi way of thinking. Now, she adds a new alien species and a different way of looking at the world. Communication is much more than words, it involves a whole culture.

As I am working on a first contact event in my current novel, Worlds Too Far, I have to express admiration for Cherryh’s fine job of writing. Her book goes into a more detailed exploration of how to communicate with an alien species than I do. In her book, I often felt the frustration and overwhelming fatigue that Bren feels as he races the clock to handle difficult personalities and solve disturbing actions on station, all the while worrying about what needs to be done to keep the peace when meeting the kyo.

How should we communicate with aliens if the situation ever arises? How can we know if the right approach is to assume they will be friendly or that they will be violent? And then how do we communicate with a species that may think totally different than we do? What might we use to bridge the gap of culture and language to arrive at understanding? How far might we go to protect our own species.

Read and find out.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, award winning scifi, Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, C. J. Cherryh, first contact, Hugo Nominations, Hugo winners, Lois McMasters Bujold, Political Science Fiction, science fiction series, science fiction space opera

Furious Series in Fantasy

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

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

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

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

Okay, I’ll admit it. Mea Culpa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was part of the dare.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weddings: Real life and Fantasy Fiction

IMG_9518When you are writing as an author, often outside life events interrupt a somewhat disciplined schedule. Thankfully this time, the event was a happy one–the marriage of my only daughter.2016-02-06 16.56.48

And what a wonderful wedding it was…filled with longtime friends, treasured family, whirlwind activities, last minute panics, and satisfying solutions. Laughter, dancing, tasty food and toasts filled a church steeped with her new family’s tradition. The church’s hall where we celebrated bore her new husband’s name.

So writing and marketing fell by the wayside. A blog went overdue and edits ran late.
The world didn’t collapse

My latest marketing experiment was to see if discounting my first book in the series, Caught in Time, would be more profitable than offering it free. I used the Amazon Countdown to retain the 70% royalty and listed it on Bargainbooksy. I had previously listed it on Freebooksy to surprising success, and had heard the free path returned more. (Mark Coker blog)

He was right. Although I got paid with a discount, last year the free download generated three times more full retail sales through the sales of follow-on books in the series. This time I had very few follow-on sales from other books in the series.

What does this mean?

There could be many answers. One is that Caught in Time has been offered free several times and interested buyers already have it. Maybe I need to vary the ad site.

Or, January isn’t the hot month for ebook sales I thought it was. Too much getting back into the routine for extracurricular reading. Then, maybe with no outside marketing, people weren’t as aware. With all the wedding plans, I did no Facebook, Twitter, phone chats or any other spread the news stuff, other than a mention on this blog. I was distracted.

Who knows? I’d be interested in your experience as an author as to what has worked best for you, and what fell flat. Maybe we can share a little.

photo1.jpgMeanwhile, I’m commencing my writing and am writing about a spaceship’s encounter with a black hole. Nova is on my Tivo watch list and has been invaluable in helping learn the physics involved. Our understanding of the universe has expanded greatly over the last few decades, and Nova and the Discovery Channel have done a superb job of passing along that knowledge to the public.Jeweled Fire

Last week, I was excited to read the latest book by an old favorite author…Sharon Shinn. She has a series called Elemental Blessings and deals with a place where “Primes” have power over certain elements: water, air, fire, and earth.

Jeweled Fire is the story of tempestuous and fiery Corrine, one of the four princesses of Welce, who thought to be queen. Unfortunately, circumstances change for that path, and to carve out a royal life, she stows away with her bodyguard, Foley, onto a ship bound for the country of Malinqua. There she plans to make a play to marry one of the Empress’s four nephews, maybe rule as a queen.

But her training and expertise in navigating a royal court don’t prepare her enough for the intrigue and danger she finds there. Each nephew has a serious flaw, and soon she finds that she isn’t the only princess hoping to win a crown. Three other young royal women arrive at court, vying for a kingly hand in marriage, only to find themselves hostages rather than guests.

Corrine encounters more than she anticipated, and it is only with the loyal protection of Foley and her new friends that she can hope to survive the deadly game that she must play.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it? More for the female romance reader than the serious hard core science geek, but if you fit that mold…enjoy.

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Filed under award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, ebook marketing, fantasy series, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Self-publishing, space ship

Holiday Magic

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Christmas hornHappy Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What the market can bear.Bands of Mourning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, ebook marketing, fantasy, fantasy series, Hugo winners, Marketing and selling novels, Mistborn series, science fiction, science fiction series, Self-publishing, Steampunk, Urban Fantasy, YA science ficiton

Glad Tidings for Self Publishers

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I write about human clones, so I keep an eye out for news on cloning advancements. Here is a startling article I found on news.yahoo.com.

Boyalife in China is setting up an extensive animal cloning factory in partnership with Sooam from South Korea to be located in Tiajin, China where it will to clone cows, dogs, racehorses and other animals.

Okay…is this step one? How soon will human cloning follow, and what will be the guidelines? Scientist there have already indicated that they can clone humans but are holding back because of politics and public sentiment.clones

I just published on Amazon my eighth book, Time’s Equation in ebook and I’m waiting for the proof of the paperback. Now I’m staring marketing in the eye and can’t hide out with the excuse that I’m under a publishing deadline. Marketing my favorite exercise…not.bk8_cover_print

To inspire myself and confirm that I’m on the right path, I am reproducing (with additional comments) an article I saw on wiseinkblog.com.

Read and rejoice all indie authors.

Self-published books accounted for 31% of all e-book sales in the Kindle Store in 2014. Indie books account for 31% of e-books.

However,
40% of all e-book revenue is going to indie authors. In other words, indies are raking in more money, which means that their sales figures are higher than many of their traditional counterparts. Comment: We can receive 70% of retail revenues for eBooks over $2.99. And self publishers can set their price for both ebook and paperback, balancing marketability and margin profit.

Which brings us to …
Indie books represent 25% of books on Amazon’s e-book bestseller list. Readers aren’t nearly as prejudiced against indie books as they were even a few years ago, and their buying practices suggest it! Comment: Looks like self publishing is becoming more and more “acceptable.” Maybe the story is more important than who publishes it. Maybe Indie authors are being more careful about how it is written.

And in addition…
You can safely dismiss the 50 Shades effect. Only 1.2% of self-published books sales are for erotica titles, which proves that you can indie publish successfully without writing a sex book. Comment: Thank goodness as porn is not in my writing comfort zone.

But best yet…
In Smashwords’ 2014 survey, they found that pricing your e-book at $.99 won’t make you rich. In fact, $2.99-3.99 is the sweet spot for a bestseller, and earn more in sales than books priced higher. Comment: I read Mark Coker’s excellent article on self publishing and have priced all my eBooks at $3.99. However, I see a movement by traditional publishing to raise the bar, and in fact a large number of popular authors published traditionally are ebook pricing at $10 and up.

Think you can only release shorts and novellas on e-book? Think again. The bestselling books in e-book are usually over 100,000 words. Maybe because they’re easier to hold? Comment: I usually shoot for 100,000 words, although read my previous blog that discusses a trend towards shorter novels that get bundled later on.

And increasingly…
According to Bowker, 458,000 books were indie pubbed in 2013 in the US. That’s up 437% from 2008! The self-publishing ranks are growing, and with increasing number comes more exciting and innovative strategies to publish your perfect book. Comment: I own my own ISBN and list on Bowker.

Best news yet…
It’s a good time to be a woman. Indie bestsellers are twice as likely to be written by a woman than traditionally published bestsellers (67% versus 39%). Comment: Yeah! Since I am one, this was good to hear. Science fiction used to be male dominated, but new female authors are getting noticed.

(See me jumping up and down)

This week I’m reading two polar opposite books. Golden Son by Pierce Brown and Solar Express by L. E. Modesitte, Jr.

Golden SonGolden Son is part of a trilogy consisting of Red Rising, Golden Son and Morning Star.
A universe where color dictates the social hierarchy of humans. Darrow is a red, his father a low class miner under the thumb of the golds. After Darrow’s beloved wife is hanged by Golds, he vows vengeance and using high tech and body carvers is transformed into a gold where he hopes to infiltrate and destroy them from within. Then, he gets to know Golds from the inside; their conflicts, their deceptions and their humanity. Darrow becomes “Reaper” a feared battle warrior who kills thousands, but not without remorse or guilt as he tries to change a society spread out among worlds.Red Rising

While the reviews were overwhelmingly positive, I personally found the story a bit overly dramatic. Darrow is on a mission to disrupt a rigid and inequitable social structure and provides some exciting battle sequences, but the angst and internal drama was a bit much for me.

The constructed world, however, with Roman names and culture that contrasted with high tech weaponry and biology was very interesting.

Solar ExpressDue to the holidays, I have not completed Solar Express, but L. E. Modesitte is one of my favorite authors. So far, it is dry and a bit slow, but that is Modesitte at the beginning of many of his stories. The idea of discovering what at first appears to be a comet, but turns into an alien artifact that changes the sun, is fascinating. So I’m sticking with it for now. Stay tuned.

While husband and in-laws have recently chopped and brought home the living room tree (I’m in Oregon where there are tree farms ten minutes away from me), decorated the house, enjoyed a large Thanksgiving dinner with new relations (daughter’s newly engaged), published my eighth book, Time’s Equation, I haven’t finished reading Solar Express and will report on it next week.

As people immerse themselves in the holidays, reading may taper off, but hopefully buying picks up, although November was a good month for my sales. How about you?

After all, a good book makes an excellent gift at a good price for anyone to enjoy. And the sheer variety of great titles makes it easy to personalize for that special person.

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Filed under alien life forms, aliens, Aliens in Science Fiction, Alternate Universes, artificial nature, Best selling science fiction, Clones, Clones in science, Comets, ebook marketing, first contact, gene modification, genetic manipulation, hard science, Hard science fiction, Indie Publishing, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Marketing and selling novels, military science fiction, Political Science Fiction, science fiction, Science Fiction Anthology, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Science fiction world building, science news, Self-publishing

Book Trailers

IMG_9503Trailers

No, not the kind you live in…the kind that keep popping up on a blog, Facebook or Utube.

We’re not anything if we’re not a media generation.
And the media is currently appearing all over mobile devices.

Recently two writers in my group put together their own trailers to promote their books.

Ted Blasche’s The Rust Bucket Chronicles has a trailer link in his e-mail signature.

https://youtu.be/npcdiizMgTw
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Using Animoto, Clayton Callahan whipped together this trailer for an anthology, Five Elements, in which I’d contributed a fun story called, “Peace Treaty.” (See right panel) He posted the trailer on Facebook. I’ve noticed this year a lot of short videos are being posted on my Facebook.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rJhFZCjUDeE

Then I was on TOR’s blog. TOR has been using trailers for a while to announce new shows and new books. I recently saw they had a trailer for the new Sherlock Holmes series I have been waiting for, so I eagerly tapped on the link. Are you eagerly waiting also?

http://www.tor.com/2015/10/08/new-sherlock-christmas-special-trailer-bbc-one/

So trailers are easy to make (Clayton did so), cheap, and popular on several platforms. Add interest to your blog, Facebook, e-mail, or Twitter. Send a trailer out to enthusiastic fans.
It’s another arrow in your marketing quiver.

Liars KeyThis week I read Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence. I’m into several series, and this is second in Mark Lawrence’s Red Queen Series. The first in the series is the Prince of Fools.Prince of Fools

Very much like the book I’m currently writing, Worlds Too Far, it’s in the same universe as a previous series, the Broken Empire, but has totally different characters at another part of the world and is considered a separate series. The Dead King is mentioned several times and the main character, Jalan, comments in a conversation on his cousin, Jorg of Ancrath, as a blood thirsty king. (Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns,)King of Thorns

Liar’s Key is a buddy adventure that continues the story of Jalan, Prince of Red March, a self-centered scoundrel, who only wants to return to the palace and resume his hedonistic lifestyle. He has no desire for kingship or power, but prefers women, wine and leisure rather than his current position of poverty and the cold North. He rationalizes his cowardly deeds, which ironically often end up appearing heroic by happenstance. Preventing him from returning to the palace is his Viking companion and big-hearted Snorri Snaggonson. (yes that’s his name) Snorri has somehow finagled Loki’s key that opens all doors in hopes of opening the door to death and retrieving his family. Jalan has been magically tied to Snorri by a powerful mage, the Silent Sister, his aunt, consequently where Snorri goes, so goes Jalan.

Of course Loki is the trickster god who created the key, so nothing happens in a straight forward way. Many powerful beings covet the key and try all manner of means to possess it.

Prince of thornsI laughed at and loved this adventure. Mark Lawrence wrote Jalan perfectly as the rogue who unwittingly does good, and towards the end actually makes a few sacrifices. Snorri is the perfect foil, full of valor, loyalty and everything heroic who constantly drags the band toward danger and death, putting them in impossible situations. Often in an attempt to bed a woman or run away, Jalan unwittingly saves the day.

Guiding the group through the power of his key, the reader never knows what the trickster god Loki will cause to happen next. That surprise along with the character of Jalan kept me laughing and interested in this fun adventure. Lawrence’s writing is so fluid the reader becomes immersed in the story and the crazy adventures of the foolish Jalan.

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Filed under Best selling science fiction, ebook marketing, ebook science fiction, fantasy, fantasy series, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction, Science Fiction Anthology, science fiction series, Science fiction world building

What Makes Readers Put Down a Book?

photoWhat Makes a Reader Put a Book Down?

I read a lot of books. At least one a week for this blog…and more. Lately, I’ve been noticing poor writing, and not solely by Indie Writers. I believe a lot of self-published writers deserve the criticism they get because their books are published too soon and really need more polishing. Putting a book out is hard work, and it’s too easy to say, “Good enough.”

Take the time.

However, I have noticed well-known authors, acclaimed novels, and small house publishers also making major mistakes in producing quality books, causing me to stop reading and move on. It’s not just the new self-publisher doing this.

Blood of the CosmosKevin Anderson is one of the better known science fiction writers. He has made a name co-authoring with Brian Herbert whose father wrote Dune. They have taken Frank Herbert’s notes and done a credible job with authoring an extended Dune series. Then Kevin has several of his own series: Saga of the Seven Suns, Terra Incognito. Now he has a new series Blood of the Cosmos. Book two in the series sat on the library shelf, then slid into my hand.

I started to read. Eighteen pages in I was still wading through a narrative backstory. “He went here…then she did that…” Chapter One at least had dialogue and action, but by then I felt as if I had swallowed a bottle of Ambien and couldn’t keep my eyes open. This is not the only big name book that has done this recently.

I write a series and it’s difficult to weave in the backstory when you’re four or five books in, but a yawn of a long narrative at the front entitled,”The story so far” is not what keeps a reader turning pages. That book will get slapped back down on the library return pile.

Memory of WaterSo, then I tried Memory of Water, a novel by Emmi Itaranta. Published by Harper Collins, it has recently won several literary awards. It was also recommended as a book for our Powell’s reading group. So I bought it.

It is a debut novel that depicts a future where water has become scarce. At times and in the beginning the writing was lyrical, almost over the top…you know”literary” writing. A young girl trains with her father how to do a tea ceremony. In this case, the not-so-hidden lecture on ethical environment finally got under my skin.

If the author was chiding our current generation for not conserving water properly, then why was the villain of the book the water police? They try to arrest and kill those who break the water laws in an attempt to preserve what little remains. For me, that’s conservation in the extreme.

Noria’s father, as tea master, reveals to his daughter a hidden cavern with pure splashing water that used to be the village’s water source. Neither shares this secret, but they use the water for themselves and their garden. (At least as far as I read) Yet, she is considered the abused victim in the book.

I just don’t appreciate books who preach at me using the hidden guise of story-telling. Yeah, I hear you say that a lot of writers do it. Aesop comes to mind. I still don’t like blatant preaching.

My last admonition is on the formatting of a book. If the writer selects a small publisher, they must research them to ascertain if they’re competent. Often the excitement that any publisher would be interested overwhelms a new author, and they end up with a book that is poorly formatted by a publisher who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Often the writer puts in years of hard work to write a good story, but the reader doesn’t see that, only the amateur formatting and jumps to conclusions about the story .

Recently, an ebook I purchased had type that kept changing from regular type to bold and then back for no apparent reason. Sure, I use different type in Someone’s Clone to designate what Kayse’s computer, Lola, says as a contrast to his dialogue. But in this case, there appeared no reason for the continual change of font. That wouldn’t have been bad except the single spaced writing had almost no paragraph indentions or breaks of any kind, looking like one big block of writing.

I couldn’t catch my breath. My eyes hurt.

So why am I on a rant? I like to share books that I love and expect my readers might also. I don’t talk about bad books…normally. But, after starting four different books, both big name published and self-published, I still didn’t have a book for my blog that I felt comfortable recommending. I gave up and picked Tracker by my favorite author C.J. Cherryh. This is just out, #15 in her Foreigner series, and it is good.

TrackerThe start is slow and relaxed, and yes, she does a bit of backstory narrative to begin, but don’t let the early “everything is fine” atmosphere fool you.

In one sentence, just as the reader relaxes their guard, the story gets turned upside down. An alien ship is sighted headed to the Atevi planet. Bren Cameron, human ambassador to the Atevi, is notified, and the clock begins to tick down.

Cheryl throws in dramatic Atevi and human politics…adding in Mospherii (from the planet) against Reunioners (from the space station) conflict also. Humans aren’t getting along and squabble among themselves as the alien ship continues its approach.

Bren lands right in the middle and drags in the Atevi dowager and the young heir to be the greeting committee on station. After all, those three originally met with the aliens they hopefully think are coming and understand them best. But both stationmaster and Captain of the planet’s one spaceship want to run the show their way and resent his interference onto their turf.

Even though they have no idea of what’s coming.Foreigner

All makes for great reading devoid of odd formatting, grammar lapses and poor plot. Cheryl has won the Hugo three times, and she deserves it. Check out this interesting series about humans struggling to adapt to an alien society on an alien planet. And now, maybe another alien race will jump into the mix.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, C. J. Cherryh, ebook science fiction, Hugo winners, Political Science Fiction, science fiction, science fiction series, Science fiction world building, Self-publishing

Ooops!

IMG_0174Humans live with the ridiculous expectation that we have some control over our lives..and there are events we can depend on happening..the sun rising…taxes coming due…
We have to expect our life has a certain dependability from day to day or we’d never get out of bed.
The moon remains in orbit, so all we need to focus on are the small details…what to wear,,,what to make for dinner.
At the back of our mind is the knowledge that our existence is chancy, but we don’t dwell in that place. We have to move on and cook dinner.
I can still feel the slight slide of one stockinged foot as it lost traction on the lower step in a beautiful house I’ve lived in for over twenty years, traversing that very step several times per day.
A slight wobble, a small sliding step, a loss of balance and I crashed into the corner of the hallway and kitchen, picking a particularly destructive angle of wall. A spread of possibilities flashed through my mind, chilling in consequences. I remember thinking, “This is not good” and wondering how I had acquired that much momentum in such a short space.
When I could wiggle my fingers and form a sentence, my worst fears abated. Then, I tried to move. Screaming, claw the ceiling pain, left Rosie Projectmy body shivering on the hard cold floor.
Now I need a new shoulder, as if you can just pick it off the grocery shelf.
In a second, my life has changed dramatically.
Human lives are like that..pearls of seconds strung on a necklace that forms a life…and sometimes you’re not in control.
But we have to get up in the morning; we have to move forward.
And there is that great solace…if I start to babble, I can always blame it on the meds.

My operation is Thursday. I hope to offer a surprising suggestion in a week or so. I have to eliminate the Rosie Project as it is neither science fiction nor fantasy…but just an interesting fun read and recommended.

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Fantasy vs. Science fiction

photoMy writing group has a mix of both science fiction and fantasy writers, and I’m coming to some conclusions on how these two genres differ in regards to writing styles.

One differences is the extent of world building. Sure I put a map in my second book, but I just finished Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance tome, and he has not only an extensive map but extensive illustrations of the flora and fauna in his world, the fashion of his world, and the social hierarchy. Science fiction writers paint a world and then get on with the action; fantasy writers dally in the landscape and admire the scenery more.

Fantasy seems to be more character driven while science fiction is more plot driven. The reader doesn’t get too deep into the complex psychology of the Splinkx, whereas in Fool’s Assassin, the complex emotions of FitzWilliam is a focus for the story and provides the impact at the end.

And the science fiction writers like their high tech gadgets and cutting edge science almost as much as fantasy writers like their magic. Sometimes the two are very similar. (see sidebar quote)

In my series, there is time travel. Poof you’re here; poof, you’re there. Sorta magical.

Both may involve large battles. However, in Lord of the Rings, the battle is mostly on the ground while in in Star Wars or Star Trek, the battles are usually out in space with lots of lasers and gunships.

The enemy tends to be ugly in both genres. Whether it’s Klingons or Orcs, it’s not a pretty face. Our allies, however, are attractive. Legolas and Aragon make me drool, although we should skip the characters of George R. R. Martin as he is changing this trope a bit . Princess Leia and Hans Solo are also easy on the eyes…but the occasional hairy Wooki does pop up. And some of our friendlier aliens often exhibit odd behaviors.

In writing group, the fantasy people are always telling me to put more description in my story while I’m always asking them to stop admiring the scenery, the dress, character behavior and get on with the action and storyline.

This interplay makes for better writing on both sides of the aisle. Still, as a writer, you must recognize your genre and the style that your reader expects, and accommodate that expectation to a certain extent.

I recently read a blog by Tara Sparling and even though it is dated, the numbers are interesting. It’s data on the best selling books of 2012 with charts and graphs. Check it out here: http://tarasparlingwrites.com/2013/08/21/2012-bestselling-book-data-visualised/ 

Words of RadianceThis week I finished Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson. (Huff. Huff) The over one thousand pages looked overwhelming, but they were actually easier to do than I expected– although it entailed a few really late nights. Way of Kings is the first in this series and I reviewed that last year and really liked it. Brandon Sanderson is a favorite of mine.

If you like chunky epics with detailed world building, you will love this one. The characters are compelling and the magic, as ever with Sanderson, is interesting. There are three major point of view characters: the doctor’s son betrayed into slavery and clawing his way back, the king’s uncle and stalwart hero who battles both in the trenches and in the  evil court, and the abused beautiful young girl who searches for the strength to become a powerful woman. Each has a story and each interact with the others. The stories start slow, but build beautifully.Way of Kings

Sanderson writes with passion and a good storyline. That combination always makes an excellent read and is worth being a little sleep deprived at times.

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Filed under alien life forms, award winning scifi, ebook marketing, fantasy, fantasy series, magic, Marketing and selling novels, New York Times Best Sellers, Tor's Reader's Choice, Writing Critique groups