Tag Archives: writing

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

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

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.


Filed under Alien worlds, Amazon publishing, Best selling author, Marketing and selling novels, Political Science Fiction, science fiction space opera, Writing Critique groups, Writing Tips and Lectures

Eclipse Expectations


There’s nothing like an eclipse to remind you of your place in the universe.

A week before the event my husband decided we had to go see it. There was no plan in place.

Immediately, I panicked. I get phobic when he drives, and I sit right seat in heavy traffic on the freeway. I think it’s the lack of being in control and relying on others to make sensible driving choices. Terrifies me.

Whatever. And, it makes my husband crazy when I helpfully point out traffic conditions he might miss.

Meanwhile, the media (Good bless them) were warning of huge crowds. They were reporting on hospitals beefing up emergency rooms, stores adding extra stock, the police department preparing for problems, and making us aware in solemn tones of all that could go wrong. A good friend confided that they were getting up at 3:00 a.m. Saturday morning, packing food, and taking the back roads to avoid the congestion. I was on the edge of deciding to stay home and let husband go on his own.

Expectations influence behavior.

Hearing about all the emergency preparations and the dire predictions of chaos amped up my already bubbling worries. But I wasn’t ready to get up at 3:00 a.m three days ahead of the event.

Enter fate.

Over a garbage can, my neighbor invited us to join them at their place on the coast in Pacific City.

Wahoo! A plan. My husband agreed. He never lost his confidence in the belief that everything would work out fine.


We needed eclipse glasses. So Thursday evening we went on a hunt. Let me tell you, the whole area was out. After an hour and a half of driving all around, we gave up. “We really don’t need them,” he said.

What? Seriously?

I called up my neighbor to plan the food and told her about our expedition. She informed me they had four pair at the house. Not to worry. Silly me.

We agreed to leave around seven o’clock Saturday morning to beat the traffic. I packed everything the night before except last minute stuff, even showered then.

That’s when husband mentioned that he wanted to stop and play golf near Lincoln City. We’d go to the Outlet Mall there, plug into their EV supercharger, and shop around while the car juiced up. Then he discovered a five star restaurant across from the golf course that served breakfast and added that into the itinerary.

Adaptable. Sometimes a wife and writer needs to stay adaptable. However, I noticed that my anxiety was turning into anticipation. As I saw an exciting plan falling into place, my expectations soared upward. Anxiety got put on the back burner.

As we all know now, there was no traffic. We finally left after 8:00 a.m. I was munching calmly on a muffin and gulping down coffee. The traffic was light, the trip beautiful. The GPS shows green all the way…even through Dundee. A miracle was in place.

Near Lincoln City, we stopped at a gem of a place called the Wildflower Grill, which I fervently recommend. Then on to the mall with over a hundred miles still available. Eight open EV charging stalls, we picked one (I had worried they would all be filled) and we went shopping. I found an awesome deal on a needed item, so did husband, and a half hour later we were on our way to the golf links, tank filled to two hundred miles. No range anxiety whatsoever.

Chinook Winds Golf Course was beautiful, and my husband flashed a coupon booklet that let him play golf with a cart for fifteen dollars. He had reserved a tee time, and I could drive along. Needless to say, it worked out great. He could have used a few more birdies, but whatever.

At three o’clock, I called to let out hosts know we were ahead of schedule and on our way. The drive up the coast was spectacular. Their house was jaw-droppingly beautiful and perched high on a ridge overlooking the town. Five star accommodations.

My head was spinning. I took pictures. We got along wonderfully. The men were both tech geeks that found common ground and similar interests. The next day we toured the town, walked the beach, supported a local winery, and enjoyed a beautiful sunset from the deck. They were perfect hosts.

Needless to say, it was a memorable trip. There were several telescopes with filters, and yes, eclipse glasses so we could observe the whole process. Our worries over a looming marine layer eased as the sun broke through before ten o’clock.

What did I learn?

Expectations….doubts and worries… can block you from a worthwhile experience. Writers and authors need to know this. They need to put aside their fears of failure, and like my husband, plunge into the experience, developing a strategy as they go. Adaptability is key. As events unfolded, he researched ways to increase the value of the event, adding on to the developing plan.


Authors can do the same. Write a story. Research the business. Create a novel. Add in a paperback or ebook, maybe audio. Look into marketing. Trust that if you move forward, opportunities will present themselves. Take advantage of them. A signing, a speaking engagement, a book club.

There will be naysayers….maybe among your own family. Evaluate their comments thoughtfully. Then keep moving ahead, adjusting as you go. It’s a journey. Yes, there’s traffic, and, yes, bumps in the road. But it may be a life changing experience.

As I stared at the eclipse, I realized how powerful the universe was, and I was a mere speck in it. But all around me were other specks, in the town, on the ridge, who roared when the sun vanished.

And cheered when it reappeared.

It was a life event I’ll always remember.

Expectations. Let them lift you up and help you reach those shining moments.


Filed under once in a lifetime event, Uncategorized

Urban Fantasy in London

“Summertime and the livin’ is easy…”

Well, not if you’re scribbling away, or worse, staring over the deck while wracking your brain as to what you should write next.

I’ve been both places.

In the last hour.

So I’m going to use this blog to tidy up some odds and ends. While I was writing A World Too Far, I needed some insight into what futuristic weapons could look like. After all, Carter Wright had to come up with a defense system for the ship, and a robotic swarm seemed a natural for his talents. I found this website on futuristic weapons, some are leading edge weapons already on the battlefield, and I wanted to pass it on to my science geeks. (Overlook the ad and any click bait, because the content is interesting.)

Here’s the link : http://www.prophecynewswatch.com/article.cfm?recent_news_id=843

I used the rail gun because it doesn’t use explosives (no air in space), and the armed robot swarm. Lasers seemed like a cool futuristic weapon too.

Science fiction is just that…fiction. But it becomes much more powerful if grounded in some fact. How precise the accuracy should be, and how detailed, varies from reader to reader. I research a lot, but then when you’re skimming a black hole for the impact of the story, I sometimes make a leap of imagination. A big leap.

Never having the real experience recorded by anyone to compare notes with.

When I think of the astronomy I learned in school and what they have discovered since, I am astounded. Nothing can be ruled out as to what future discoveries might reveal.

Er, that dates me a bit.

On an entirely different subject, but another odds and ends note, I came across this article on page count. With the advent of the ebook, page count becomes not as important. No bookstore dictates shelf space and formatting is more flexible. So how has this changed page count?

The Book Designer by Joel Friedlander is a favorite website. They have an occasional blog that says, “Do This: Not That.” In June, Amy Collins did an interesting guest blog on page count.

-Here’s the link:  https:thebookdesigner.com/2017/06/book-promotion-do-this-not-that-june-2017/.

Zack Obront from Book in A Box analyzed 272 books that sat at the #1 spot on the New York Times Best Seller List over the past seven years. In 2011, the average nonfiction #1 NYT Bestseller was 467 pages long. Now it’s 273. Almost half.

For fiction, in 2011, the average Bestseller List page count was 502. This week (June 21, 2017) the average Best Seller List page count was 398. Quite a difference.

This surprised me as I thought page count would go up due to not having the shelf space worry.


If you are going to offer a POD paperback, new authors are finding the cost of production eats deeply into any royalties for a long book and drives the price too high for the average reader’s pocketbook. Less buyers.

If you are beginning a book, it is good to set a goal for how long the book should be. I often use Larry Brook’s outline for pacing purposes, and it is helpful to know around what page your plot points should drop.

Amy goes on to offer suggestions on how to remedy the problem of the too long and the too short book from splitting it up, tighter editing, to places that take lesser page count material such as magazines or leaflets.

Odds and Ends, dusted and done.

This week I’m highlighting an urban fantasy. If you’re a fan of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden Series, you’ll like Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch. It can also be found in the United Kingdom under the title of the Rivers of London.

The story: Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Unfortunately, his superior plans to stick him in a desk job as a clerk.

However, on duty at a particularly puzzling murder, one of the eye witnesses that speaks to him turns out to be a ghost. This odd occurrence comes to the attention of Inspector Thomas Nightingale, Special Division of the Uncanny. Nightingale investigates crimes involving magic and the supernatural…on the down low. Due to Peter’s unique ability to sense the supernatural, Thomas takes him on as his assistant. As they investigate the murder, they wade deeper and deeper into a series of bizarre crimes that soon involve gods and goddesses fighting over river territories. A long dead evil begins to emerge in a rising tide of magic and mayhem, and it is up to Nightingale and his new partner to stop it.

I enjoyed the story, full of twists and turns. Peter stumbles into a whole nether world unknown to most Londone

rs who become victims of a malevolent being. Fun dialog, interesting characters, and magic. What more could you want?


It’s hot. I’m going to find some mint from my back deck for my iced tea and another good book to read in the shade.

Shine on.



Filed under Cutting Edge Science ideas, ebook science fiction, fantasy series, hard science, magic, Urban Fantasy, Wizards and magic, Writing Tips and Lectures

Various Forms of Aliens in Science Fiction

Anyone reading science fiction has most likely bumped into a few alien characters. Now, aliens are tricky to write about. If their form and thought processes are too alien, the readers won’t connect with them. Also, trying to figure out how an alien would look and think is difficult if you’re working from a human brain.

And that’s my assumption for most authors.

I finished reading A Long Way To a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. This is truly old-fashioned science fiction at its best. The Wayfarer is a patched- up space ship that has seen better days. The captain is offered a lucrative contact to tunnel a wormhole to a far off planet. Human Rosemary Harper is running from her past, and this opportunity to explore the galaxy with beings that know nothing of her family is just what she is looking for.

While Captain Ashby is human, the rest of the crew is an assortment of delightful aliens, along with a sentient computer, named Lovey, that runs the ship. A surprise clone is also thrown in for good measure. You get a delightful dollop of diverse aliens.

However, the trick Ms.Chambers uses to make the aliens connect to the reader is to co-opt familiar animal forms and behaviors found on Earth.

Sissix is their exotic reptilian pilot, complete with lizard tail, who gets traumatized when she starts shedding her skin. Kizzy is the brilliant ADD engineer with feathers, beak, and nesting instinct–definitely of the avian line. Jenks is her dwarfish assistant, born premature, who is in love with the ever-present Lovey. He is saving up his money to buy a body for the AI so he can download her to physical form.

Dr. Chef is a tall affable cook /doctor in the crew who has a multitude of hands/feet and reminds me of Alice in Wonderland’s talking caterpillar. His favorite dish is Rock Bugs, a supposed delicacy. The navigator is a Sianat pair conjoined due to a virus and able to visualize multidimensional space. They have short blue fur, large eyes, long fingers, and other quirks. There are more in the crew, but the connection to the aliens comes from various species of creatures familiar here on Earth that are presented as sentient.

An alien species that sits at a middle ground between human form and strange is C.J. Cherryh’s atevi found in her Foreigner series. The atevi race has the basic human form (a head, two eyes, mouth, arms, legs, etc.) but are ebony colored and eight feet or more tall. They have familiar behaviors of family, politics, emotions, but also cultural differences that contrast with their human residents.

The atevi are seen through the human eyes of Bren Cameron who becomes the designated paidhi to the tevi, which is a form of ambassador. The series embeds Bren into the atevi culture as he climbs the political ladder serving Tabini-ajii, the current ruler, and his heir, Cajeiri. Bren’s ability as go-between takes him up the social ladder until farther into the series, he becomes an atevi lord with his own estate and guild. (entourage of bodyguards and attendants)

The atevi are alien enough, but very relatable to the reader. Then, in Visitor, book seventeen of the series, (see my recent blog on it), Cherryh’s introduces an even more alien species in the form of the Kyo. Bren, Cajeiri and Ilisidi, Cajeiri’s dowager grandmother, meet the Kyo at the orbiting space station Alpha to form a treaty, hoping to keep relations friendly. These aliens have a harder form factor and show emotion through thumps and noises, but are technologically far advanced over both atevi and human. Thus, they form a threat. Bren uses all his skills as a diplomat to try to make friends with a species that is far different from human. The major content of this book is to show how difficult it would be to communicate with a completely alien species.

The most recently published novel in the series, Convergence, sends Bren to Mospheira, the human settlement on the atevi world to deliver the Kyo treaty. The clever trick that Cherry accomplishes is to have so immersed the reader in the atevi world over the last seventeen books, that when Bren confronts the humans, they feel like the aliens.

This most recent book in the series doesn’t have the heart pounding tension of the previous one, but is a pleasant read, nonetheless, even if the humans come off as arrogant jerks.

In my latest book Somewhat Alien, coming out in June, I bring the alien even closer to human. The invaders are from Earth, and the native species they interact with share their DNA. However, looks can be deceiving. Just like cultures here on Earth can sharply differ in dress, religion, and mindset, so too, the Alysians and Terrans differ in unknown ways. Two diverse cultures coming into contact to share a planet create conflict. And even when the alien is only somewhat alien, there’s bound to be misunderstandings.


Saving the best for last, I wanted to offer a link to an easy to read visual presentation of genre books sold through Amazon. These charts offer an intriguing glimpse at how various publishers are represented in Amazon’s Top 100 bestseller lists and asks the question: Is Amazon influencing the best sellers list?

An interesting peek at what genre sells best where.



Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Aliens in Science Fiction, Amazon publishing, artificial intelligence, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, C. J. Cherryh, first contact, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, space ship, space travel