Are we Indie writers shooting ourselves in the foot, so to speak?
Today I’m running a promotion on Book Barbarian for Caught in Time. This is my first in series and I’m offering it free. Often the first of a series is the one that ad sites want. I did this to reach out to a pool of readers of science fiction who may be interested in my books. Discoverability is difficult for most Indie authors, and promotions are one easy way, but they cost. I chose Book Barbarian because it targets science fiction and fantasy and is at a reasonable cost. The top site is Bookbub where I recently ran into an article that was really a promotion piece, which raised some questions I wanted to ask.
Below is the last section from the piece I discovered on Flipboard that extols their site. Bookbub is considered the top ad site for books, difficult to qualify for, and very expensive. However, authors swear it’s effective. It’s the last sentence of the “article” that is causing me concern.
Book lovers are Obsessed with this Site. (Flipboard May 9)
…”Book lovers have now become practically obsessed with this concept. In many cases, they’ve downloaded hundreds of books and saved hundreds of dollars using the service.
“I now have more books than I can read in a lifetime,” said Suzie Miller of Auburn, WA. She said she has downloaded more than 350 free ebooks using the service.”
As a reader, I use the service, and like Suzie Miller, (a real person?) I have downloaded more books than I will be able to read this year.
But is this a good thing for authors?
Your book gets downloaded, but may sit in a reader’s library for ages.
Or, maybe they read it and buy out the series.
I’ve had both things happen.
But I’m afraid authors are devaluing their hard work, and readers are not as eager to download the offerings as much as they used to, or buy books at retail. Why pay full price when you can get a similar book free or heavily discounted? Are we harming future revenue?
Am I right or wrong, or somewhere in between?
Do I, as an author, have a viable alternative?
No answer here. Just putting it out there.
What do you think of when you hear the word robot?
Probably something made of metal with hard edges.
Maybe not. Often I throw in interesting science pieces and this article on building soft robots, with space in mind, caught my eye. I wanted to pass it along.
…”The advantage of a soft robot is that it’s flexible and, in some ways, better able to adapt to new environments. Soft robots move in ways similar to living organisms, which expands their range of motion, perhaps making it easier to squeeze into a tight spot, for example.”
Also, probably easier to transport when weight is so much a factor.
…”By design, the actuator has chambers, or air bladders, that expand and compress based on the amount of air in them,” NASA said in the statement. “Currently, these two interns are operating the design through a series of tubes in the air bladders, allowing them to control the movement of the robot. By adjusting the amount of air in the chamber of the soft robotic actuator, the robot can flex and relax, just like a human muscle.
In particular, the interns are investigating four key properties of the actuators — mobility, joining, leveling and shaping — and how to use them in space exploration. Mobility refers to how the soft robot moves in its environment, while joining concerns how robots can link together (for example, to make a large temporary shelter). Leveling refers to how actuators can create a surface, such as filling in space underneath a lunar habitat, while shaping examines ways of adding strength to materials like dust shields.”
Once you hear the idea, it makes so much sense. Of course, I’m wondering about the computer components and how they operate the robot and the toughness of a material that can stand up against a space environment.
But NASA is working on it. Thinking outside the hard metal box.
This week I’m talking about Sea of Rust by Robert Cargill. Mainly because I mentioned robots in the blog, and this story is all about robots.
The story begins thirty years after the apocalypse and fifteen years since the murder of the last human at the hands of robots.
We’re extinct, and the world is dominated by an OWI or One World Intelligence that shares consciousness and is trying to upload all the remaining robots into its mainframe.
Enter Brittle, an independent robot trying to survive a wasteland that once was our Midwest. But its mind is deteriorating and body parts are losing function. The only way to replace them is by scavenging other parts from similar robots
So it’s a bit gruesome to start.
There are other solo machines wandering the wilderness, and they form a pack with Brittle, trying to escape assimilation.
If you can handle the grimness (think Madd Max), then the story is interesting from the robot’s point of view, and the interaction, almost human, of the robots that struggled to survive and evade assimilation makes for a worthwhile story.
I want to give a shout out to Tabby’s fantastic book club. They were a warm and amazing bunch. I don’t think they expected someone who could talk as much as I did. Enthusiasm does that to me. So, thanks for your hospitality.
It was a fun way to meet new people… and show off my books.
Often awards are a way to curate outstanding books. In the science fiction and fantasy field that means the Hugo and the Nebula. Nominees for 2019 are now in for both, and may offer several interesting reads. (See below)
Still, I feel there’s a lot of politics involved, and I have said so before. However, it’s easy to stand on the sideline and make critiques while others work hard to improve the genre. Mary Robbinette Kowal is a lovely lady who used to live here in the Portland area, and I have met her several times at events. I want to note however, that she was past Secretary and then Vice President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America who sponsor the Nebula Awards. This past January she ran for President and then withdrew her nomination. Similarly, past president John Scalzi has won a number of Hugo awards. Coincidence? I don’t know. I know he writes well and is prolific, and I like his series. I plan to read Mary’s recently nominated book, The Calculating Stars, because she is a local author and a charming person. I’ll let you know what I think.
The other books on the nominating list I plan to read are: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang and Artificial Condition by Martha Wells.
Here are the Nebula nominees for 2019:
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2019 Nebula Awards, including the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book, and for the first time, the Nebula Award for Game Writing.
The winners will be announced at SFWA’s 54th annual Nebula Conference in Los Angeles, CA, which takes place from Thursday, May 16th through Sunday, May 19th at the Marriott Warner Center in Woodland Hills, CA.
The finalists are as follows:
The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager US; Harper Voyager UK)
Blackfish City, Sam J. Miller (Ecco; Orbit UK)
Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik (Del Rey; Macmillan)
Witchmark, C.L. Polk (Tor.com Publishing)
Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)
Fire Ant, Jonathan P. Brazee (Semper Fi)
The Black God’s Drums, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
The Tea Master and the Detective, Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean)
Alice Payne Arrives, Kate Heartfield (Tor.com Publishing)
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, Kelly Robson (Tor.com Publishing)
Artificial Condition, Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)
The Only Harmless Great Thing, Brooke Bolander (Tor.com Publishing)
“The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections”, Tina Connolly (Tor.com 7/11/18)
“An Agent of Utopia”, Andy Duncan (An Agent of Utopia)
“The Substance of My Lives, the Accidents of Our Births”, José Pablo Iriarte (Lightspeed 1/18)
“The Rule of Three”, Lawrence M. Schoen (Future Science Fiction Digest 12/18)
“Messenger”, Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and R.R. Virdi (Expanding Universe, Volume 4)
Also in are the 2019 Hugo nominees.
The 2019 Hugo Awards will be handed out at this year’s WorldCon 77, which will be held in Dublin, Ireland, between August 15th and 19th. Here is a shortened list of nominees for this year’s awards.
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor
The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson
The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard
If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again by Zen Cho, Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog
The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections by Tina Connolly, Tor.com
Nine Last Days on Planet Earth by Daryl Gregory, Tor.com
The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander, Tor.com
The Thing About Ghost Stories by Naomi Kritzer, Uncanny Magazine
When We Were Starless by Simone Heller, Clarkesworld Magazine
BEST SHORT STORY
The Court Magician by Sarah Pinsker, Lightspeed Magazine
The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society by T. Kingfisher, Uncanny Magazine
The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington by P. Djèlí Clark, Fireside Magazine
STET by Sarah Gailey, Fireside Magazine
The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat by Brooke Bolander, Uncanny Magazine
A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow, Apex Magazine
The Centenal Cycle by Malka Older
The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
Machineries of Empire by Yoon Ha Lee
The October Daye Series by Seanan McGuire
The Universe of Xuya by Aliette de Bodard
Wayfarers by Becky Chambers
BEST RELATED WORK
Archive of Our Own, a project of the Organization for Transformative Works
Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, by Alec Nevala-Lee
The Hobbit Duology (a documentary in three parts), written and edited by Lindsay Ellis and Angelina Meehan
An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards 1953-2000, by Jo Walton
The Mexicanx Initiative Experience at Worldcon 76 by Julia Rios, Libia Brenda, Pablo Defendini, and John Picacio
Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing by Ursula K. Le Guin with David Naimon
I have read and commented on other books by Becky Chambers, Naomi Novik, Mary Robinette Kowal, Martha Wells, Yoon Ha Lee, and Charles Stross in previous blogs. All have been nominated for other books in other years. It seems the same people get nominated repeatedly. Nonetheless, several authors have been nominated more than once for various books over the years in both the Hugo and Nebula. It seems a common practice.
*** With that settled, I’m currently working on marketing. I have a promo on Fussy Librarian April 25 for Caught in Time. The tricky part with promos is figuring out all the rules and logistics. Fussy expects at least ten reviews with a four star overall average. If it is in a series, they’ll only take the first book. But… They will take a new release if you can show ten reviews with four plus average rating on your other books. Fussy is also cheaper. Twenty-five dollars for science fiction and thirty-eight for romance. However, they recently updated their website and guess who got totally confused?
Somehow I found myself opening up yet another Facebook account. Yipes!
BUT … They had a good messaging system, and when I yelled for help, they responded promptly and took care of me, listing me as a romance for ten dollars more. Oh, well. They can reach 175,000 readers through their free newsletter, and they will advertise your novel on Facebook. Check the website for complete up-to-date details.
I’ll let you know the response I get and if it was worth it.
Free on May 9, 10 and 11th, I’m going back to favorite ad site, FreeBooksy for May 10. My last promo in March for Somewhat Alien gathered 1,898 downloads with a happy quantity of follow-on sales.
That’s what I want to see.
No specific amount of reviews are required, but the book has to be free. (FREEbooksy) That means setting up your free days through KDP if you are on that program, which I am. If you want to charge or have a specific genre like romance, there are other promos available. The price depends on the category of your book. Science fiction is $70.
I’ll promo Caught in Time because that evening will be my book club venue, and I want to offer several special deals to the group.
Stay tuned. I’ll let you know if I found any of this a worthwhile part of any book marketing plan.
For my book recommendation this time around, I’m going to mention Martha Wells’ Artificial Condition since it made both the Nebula and Hugo nomination list this year.
The books in her series are short, which puts them in the novella category. The cost for a 160 page hardcover is $17 and the Kindle version is $9.99. A lot of readers have protested the blatant attempt to squeeze as much money as possible out of the series by her publisher. It’s caused quite a kerfuffle.
I, however, made use of the public library and paid nothing, but was irritated at a publisher’s manipulation of readers to make as big a profit as possible.
I’m getting to be a cranky old woman … I know, I know.
However, I have read three of the Murderbot Series and enjoyed them all very much. (See previous blog comments)
Artificial intelligence passing as human is a current theme in science fiction. Martha Wells’ AI calls itself Murderbot due to a mining incident where a number of humans were massacred by AIs, and it was present.
Somehow, the narrating AI managed to disengage his controller and escape, avoiding the “reset” or wipe performed on the other robots by the company. Robots, like Murderbot, are designed for fighting and violence and frighten ordinary humans. They normally are kept under tight control, but our narrator runs for it, attempting to pass for human under a disguise of cloak and helmet.
Its memory is still hazy about the incident, so, it decides to return to find out what happened. Murderbot negotiates to hitch a ride with an artificial-intelligence operated Research Transport Vehicle named ART in return for downloaded media goodies. Their interactions form some of the more hilarious parts of the story, and make it a worthwhile read, even at an inflated price.
As the story goes, humans in the story do irrational things and cause Murderbot to wonder at their actions. However, as it absorbs the human soap operas and recorded movies, it acts more and more human until the reader is charmed and also wants to know the truth of what happened.
As my blog readers know, I just published my third book in the Terran Trilogy, Weight of Gravity.
I tried to cover the obvious marketing essentials :
An exciting book cover. Check.
Editing as thorough as my writers’ group, several editors, Beta readers, and I could do. Check.
A compelling blurb. Check.
A cohesive story. Check.
Those items are under my control and are the first steps of marketing my book. Then, I need to get the word out. Here’s where I have difficulties. Unfortunately, I don’t have millions of Twitter readers or Facebook followers. After all the privacy revelations, I’m afraid to put anything on Facebook. I want the right sort of people to know me, not the chirping automated voice of Becky who says she’s been trying to call me to offer a free vacation, health monitor, heating system, computer diagnosis, or credit card rate. You can fill in the blank. You’ve probably heard from her already, or her sister, or her Indian cousin.
To get the word out to readers, I returned to my favorite ad site, Freebooksy, and offered the second in the Terran Trilogy series for free. I had already placed A World Too Far last year when it first came out and was happy with the downloads, but I needed reviews for Somewhat Alien (it’s feeling lonely) and wanted to see how a promotion would do with that book.
So, free on Amazon or through Freebooksy, the second in the Trilogy, Somewhat Alien, will be free, free, free March 5 through 7. And please… On bended knee… leave a review. Doesn’t have to be fancy, and hopefully, it will make me smile. Deep thanks.
Then you might like to continue the story with my latest book, Weight of Gravity.
This book has an adventure in a Ching T’Karre harem with an attempted rescue of kidnapped Terran women, an involvement with an obstreperous lompir named Matilda (very camel like), an unexpected meeting of human-appearing robots, lots of secret clones milling about, and a wild space battle to name just a few of the things you might encounter.
Finally, I’ve been honored to be invited to talk to a Portland book club in April. This is the best part in a marketing program, and I look forward to meeting new friends.
Meanwhile, I’m pursuing other venues and will keep you informed to give you ideas for your own book marketing endeavors. Comment below on what has worked best for you in your marketing experiences. We’ll share.
Each year in January, I select ten books to read for the coming year.
Oops … you say it’s already heading into March? Where does the time go?
Well, I better get to it then. Here are the suggestions for books that you may find interesting in the science fiction or fantasy world that I have put on my to-be-read pile for 2019. I will add in others as they crop up.
1. Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill. Well, robots are in fashion, thanks to Anne Leckie and Martha Wells. Like their stories, this is also told from the point of view of a robot but is rather a Mad Maxx meets Asimov’s I-robot. Should be interesting.
2. Red Sister by Mark Lawrence You may have read Mark Lawrence and his First Law Trilogy (The Blade Itself...) or his Broken Empire Series (Prince of Thorns... ) or his Red Queen’s War Series (Prince of Fools…) I have mentioned several of them in my blogs. They are gritty and violent with main characters that you’re not sure you would want as friends … but, oh what reads they are. So, I put this on my list. Grey Sister, book two, is also out with Holy Sister arriving in April 2019.
3. Getting away from the developing red color theme above, I plan to read Stone Sky by Jemisin, the first in her Broken Earth series. (another broken theme) So much acclaim has been offered her for her writing in the last couple of years, (winning a Hugo for the last three years, and more). I need to see what she is all about, even though I normally don’t like apocalyptic fiction. I’m always hoping for a better future for my descendents.
4. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness is next. This has been mentioned by several people, and I was given the sequel, Time’s Convert, at my Powell’s book club meeting, so, of course, I have to read the first one first.
5. And finally, The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang. This was also given to me. Peter, the science fiction expert at Powell’s, saw that I had it under my arm and gave me an enigmatic grin. He said, “I would be interested in what you think about that one.” I’m not sure what he meant, and now, I’m worried. But, we’ll see.
So that’s the final selection for my 2019 list. I will add in books as I go along. I follow up with comments, opinions, and sage wisdom on the books I think are worth mentioning in an effort to bring what I consider interesting science fiction to you, my readers.
Ps: Don’t forget this Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, March 5-7 and download Somewhat Alien … and possibly check out the others too.
After ranting and raving about black holes and correct science, I wrote that scientist now think there is a black hole in every solar system.
Katie bar the door.
I’ve done high school astronomy, and I know that I meant galaxy. I was thinking galaxy, but I wrote solar system. Black holes at the center of galaxies is what I meant to say. The mind boggles at the alternative.
Fake news. I was thinking of blaming my corrective computer program, but it probably wouldn’t wash.
I also know there appears to be rogue black holes, and I know that solar system pertains to our system since our sun is called Sol, and other systems are stellar systems since stellar means star.
Thank you to the dear reader for pointing out my brain typo, and if you missed it, well, so did I.
Please reset the information. Thank you.
Also, I don’t promise perfection for the future… But, I’m trying. Astronomy can be slippery because, you see, there’s so much, well, space out there, and a lot we still don’t know for certain.
Lots of theories flying around, though.
However, we’re getting a better handle every day on it. Robots on Mars, Voyager past the heliopause, and Kepler discovering many new planets have all increased our knowledge of our universe. There’s more projects in the works, not all government.
I promised to make a list of science fiction and fantasy books that I plan to read in 2019. Here are my first five:
All Systems Red by Martha Wells. I’ll probably read her follow-up stories of Rogue Protocol, Artificial Condition and Exit Strategy. As I recently pointed out, stories from a robot’s point of view are currently popular. Guess we’re getting ready for the Singularity.
Thin Air by Richard Morgan. Despite the profanity and gore, I still read Richard Morgan and watched his Altered Carbon Series on Netflix. Fair warning there. But, being able to download your personality into a cloned body any time you die is an intriguing concept. Immortality and how that affects human behavior makes for an interesting read or viewing. Besides, there’s also a detective story.
A Thousand Faces by Janci Patterson. It’s bad enough to sort through fake news in today’s society, but what if there were shape-shifters among us? Shifters who could change their appearance and step in to discredit powerful people? No, no…that was not really Jeff Bezos, was it? Just a shifter posing as him. Not buying it huh? What if they worked for the government? Or against it? Such people would shift our reality. What if you were one of them and were being hunted? Put it on my list. An Indie special.
Alliance Rising by C. J. Cherryh. A book by one of my favorite authors in the Alliance Universe? Yes, please.
Sideris Gate by Cheryl Lasota. I’m enjoying the Paradisi Series universe. Andy McKell has done a fine job with his Janus Trilogy, and now I’m excited to get another viewpoint of the action.
So, that’s it for now. Snow flurries are pelting past my window. Winter has come to the Northwest Living up high, I’m not encouraged to go outside. A comfy blanket and a good book sounds just about right.
Oh, and the Expanse: Season 3 has come to Amazon Prime. It started February 8th with season four in the works for 2019. While the story is muddled, the special effects are worth the watch. Lots of books in the series that are also good. You can catch up seasons 1-2 on Amazon streaming video. Here’s a trailer of it:
Pop the cork and pour the champagne. The last book in the Terran Trilogy is published.
Weight of Gravity. By me.
Now I just how to figure out the marketing and letting my readers know about it. Spread the word.
A lot of advisors urge authors to begin marketing months in advance, but it worked out better that no firm date was set and no program was in place. That would have been embarrassing because the Beta readers delayed, my cover artist had life setbacks, and the holiday interrupted my work. Then the editing began.
And now, the final publishing date has been made all the sweeter. YEA.
In this final Terran version, Elise lands on the planet Alysia, but her start there is a struggle. Terrans and Alysians clash. The Alysians abduct several female invaders to sell into a slave ring, and Richard Steele is called upon to find them and get them back … two from the harem of Khalib Allfyre.
I love a desert adventure.
But that is the least of his problems. Time-traveling daughter Tempest shows up from the future to warn him of a probable attack from hostile aliens. He scrambles to once again set up a defense for Alysia.
This time, the ships are identified as part of the Fleet of the Fallen, the ships that attacked both Elise’s fleet and Braden Steele’s ships. Definitely hostile, they are searching to take over Alysia and make it their own.
I love this story and there’s a lot of action and character interaction in it.
But I do want to stand on my soapbox and rant a bit. Because when you have a blog, you can … judiciously.
When an author writes science fiction, he or she deals a lot in imagination mixed with science. Some of that science, such as wormholes, faster than light travel, and other stuff is accepted in the science fiction circles while not fully proven in the real realm.
One thing I hear constantly repeated in the many documentaries I view is the scientists saying that what they found was not what they expected. I’m amazed at how new discoveries are radically changing our knowledge and vision of the universe since my days of studying astronomy in high school.
Even worse, my father earnestly said that we would never leave the Earth because we didn’t have enough power to get the velocity to escape Earth’s gravity.
Well … that proved to be false. Ask a few astronauts,
And, our knowledge continues to expand as we send out more and more probes and craft such as the Voyager 1 and now Voyager 2, which just left our solar system for interstellar space.
We’re finally getting out there for a better look, but the going is slow due to the vast distances we have to travel. Until we see up close, then, we can’t know for certain what a black hole is or how it reacts. In fact, not many years ago, they were considered merely theoretical, and non-existent by some.
Now we accept them, and in fact, scientists are saying there is one at the center of most solar systems. They also add that there are several types of black holes, each with different behaviors. After reading the following report, I decided to include a black hole in my first book, A World Too Far, because, it was just too juicy an item to leave out of a spacefaring story. Because this genre is called science fiction, I wove the known science and my imagination together to serve the story.
Ask Ray Bradbury if that can work.
But a few readers protested the scene.
What I want to say is that we know very little about black holes, even now. In fact in the following link, Gauray Khanna, Professor of Physics at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and his Ph.D. student Caroline Mallary built a computer model in 2016 that captured the essential physical effects on a spacecraft, or any large object, falling into a large rotating black hole like Sagittarius A. Professors Khanna and Lior Burko have been investigating the physics of black holes for over two decades, so they are not novices to the subject.
What Mallary discovered was that “under all conditions an object falling into a rotating black hole would not experience infinitely large effects upon passage through the hole’s so-called inner horizon singularity.”
Not only that, … “under the right circumstances, these effects may be negligibly small, allowing for a rather comfortable passage through the singularity.”
In the film, Interstellar, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey’s character) survived his fall into a supermassive rotating black hole.
No one blinked. No one ranted. The response was…science fiction… how interesting.
At least as far as I’m aware.
So, believe it or not, I do a lot of research for my stories, and then add in imagination that serves the story. In fact, for Weight of Gravity, I used an actual transcript from a shuttle launch at NASA to try to get the dialogue right.
Okay, I’m going to step down. But I want to point out that there is a lot we still have to learn about our universe and possible other universes out there, and no one has all the answers yet.
Sometimes a light bulb goes off in a person’s head, and he or she suddenly understands something they had not been aware of before.
Such was the case with me this morning.
I’ve been writing about Earth humans landing on an alien world where the indigenous species is similar to them, but different enough to cause conflict. So, when I saw the blurb on Lisa Locke’s novel, Between Mountain and Sea: Paradisi Chronicles, free on Freebooksy recently, I went to snatch it up. Turns out, I had already downloaded it. It tells the story of a migration from Earth to an alien planet where the natives are very human in appearance.
That sounded similar to my Terran Trilogy, so I wanted to see how another author handled that theme. I started reading from my Kindle library. The story is very readable, although I figured out the big secret a quarter of the way through.
Mei Lin is a young Chinese girl who is descended from the powerful Yu family that now dominates the Earth colony of New Eden. Due to Earth’s climate change, cyber wars, nuclear proliferation, ten people called the Founders, come together to create the Paradisi Project which has the objective to find a habitable planet and build a fleet to escape Earth for a better place to live.
Many years later, the project succeeds in discovering such a world in the Andromeda Galaxy and sends ten ships with 10,000 people each, mainly from the Yu family, their staff, and loyal supporters. One ship, the S.S.Challenger is left behind as a prototype for more ships to follow.
Mei Lin is a descendent from these originals and was born on New Eden where men dominate the family. She is the only girl of six brothers and, after a botched eye surgery, is sent to recuperate at their estate, Mrnyddamore. The estate is far out in the country close to villages of the planet’s original inhabitants. She forms a bond to these simple people who have hidden psychic abilities.
So the story has a similar flavor to my Terran Trilogy. And… the name Paradisi Project was tickling my memory. Still authors occasionally use the same title as other authors. Since I’ve published my first book, Caught in Time, three other authors have come out with the same title, which doesn’t make me happy. Anyway…
I kept reading.
Mei Lin finds a hidden diary written by a long ago descendant who was one of the First Founders and who built Mynyddamore, the estate where she is recuperating. She writes about her life to a young boy who was supposed to come on the S.S.Challenger and join the colony later, but she hears nothing about the ship. From there on out, the book jumps back and forth between the story of Mabel, her great, great, great grandmother and Mei Lin’s current life.
Of course, there is tension between the indigenous people and the growing colony, along with Mei Lin and her own family. As Mei Lin learns more about the early colony and herself, she is drawn into events and soon becomes embroiled in its conflict.
I liked the story and was intrigued by the author’s telling of a similar theme as mine. Then, I came to the back matter in the book.
That’s when the light bulb went on.
The Paradiso Project is an open source world where authors are invited to write their own stories within that world. Sixteen authors are listed along with their books. I recognized two of them immediately.
I had read Andy McKell’s novel, Faces of Janus and have its sequel, Janus Challenge, in my library, ready to read. Also, in my library, is Cheri Lasota’s Sideris Gate.
Andy is a frequent commentator on my blog and has several more novels out in the Paradisi Universe. As does Cheri and other authors.
Cheri Lasota is another northwest author who I met personally at a book talk a few years back. When I saw her book in an ad site, I tucked it into my library. Now I plan to be even more diligent in reading these two authors to see how they interpret this universe.
In an explanation about the project, Lisa Locke says that the inspiration for the collaboration came from world renown author Hugh Howey. He opened up his own world of Wool to other authors who have written their stories in that universe and encouraged her to do the same.
If you are writing space opera or building a world, inviting other authors to write in your world may be one way to expand your reader base. Bundling several of these stories into an anthology may be another step to increase awareness of your work and build sales. Fans from one author may be lured over to another author’s work.
Of course, you may want to have some control over the stories and agreement with the other authors so that they are well-written and reflect favorable on your world. But a collaboration could be fun and profitable for all concerned.
As the Indie wave of writers increases, clever authors are looking for new ways to be discovered in order to expand their readers and their sales.
I’m always amazed at how quickly time flies. I remember a song about the year 2020 and thinking that it was so far in the future as to be a science fiction dream with flying cars and colonies on the moon.
And now we’re a year away.
Usually about this time a number of known people in the business blog predictions for the coming year. I’m looking for what Mark Coker of Smashwords will have to say. But at the moment, I found a few predictions on Anne Allen’s blog by Laurie McLean that offers up some good debate. I’ll give her headlines and offer my comments. Feel free to agree or disagree in the comment section. I welcome your opinion. https://annerallen.com/2018/12/2019-publishing-predictions-laurie-mclean/
1. Diversity continues its dominance. With the advent of self-publishing, stories featuring diverse characters of color, creed, gender bias, and expression no longer must succumb to the whims of the publishing gatekeepers. It’s a free-for-all out there and the market has seen a deluge of books of all kinds. My personal opinion is that this is a double-edged sword that leaves the reader either bewildered or delighted to at least find books in certain niche genres or be completely overwhelmed by choice. I feel more and more ways will be found to curate the outpouring of supply. My blog is an example of that in the science fiction field.
2. The resurgence of Indie book stores. Actually to me, this feels like a bit of wishful thinking. I attend Powell’s Bookstore once a month for the interaction and ideas from local science fiction enthusiasts. If it weren’t for the delightful friendships and book ideas, I wouldn’t make the trip across town. The local library is just around the corner and their books are free.
Even better is to settle in a comfy easy chair and e-read from a wide selection tucked into my personal curated library.
3. The rise of smart phones as e-readers. Seriously. Who can read on that form factor unless you read five words to a page. Erm… maybe I’m giving away my age here, and the millennials eyesight is better. Also, men carry phones rather than tablets because they fit more easily in pockets and can be used for important phone calls like letting the wife know he’s on the way home.. But have you noticed the increase in the iphone form factor? Getting bigger.
4. Audio and podcasts are more popular than ever. Well, duh. People with long commutes multi task and, with self driving on the horizon, listening to a good novel has appeal. The self-driving car is coming. I have a Tesla, and it’s awesome. Not the least is that the next generation is more visual, thanks to the effects of television, iPhones, and gaming.
5. Nonfiction will be king a while longer. All I have to say here is people seem to like to read the dirt. With the recent elections, politics will get even worse and anyone looking to make money may write an expose and call it a book… truthful or not. Sir Truthfulness has packed his bags and left town for the year. The biggest selling books this past year were of this ilk, and it’ll probably get worse in 2019. Whatever happened to learning stuff? Ummm, Utube?
6. We’re in love with RomCom. Laurie makes this sound like a new thing. Women have always sneaked romantic bodice-rippers into underwear drawers while men hid Playboy under the mattress. Now it’s the internet. With Indie publishing, tons of erotica and romantic offerings have come out into the open, unfortunately creating scammers in the genre in 2018.
Laurie points out negative trends that might be possible for 2019.
Stock market declines may pinch spending. So if the market continues to collapse, eventually the consumer will cut back on superfluous items such as paperbacks or e-books. Ah, maybe. There’s a lot of noise in the market right now, but as an ex-stockbroker, the economy still looks good on the consumer side. So many variables out there are bouncing around. Trade wars, interest rates, Europe and China’s economy, not to mention the occasional Black Swan Event. And if things do decline, well, good escape fiction is a place to go for very little expense. Say, some exciting science fiction…or is that shameless promoting?
People are spending less time reading books. Got any hard data here? However, with a political election heating up, Netflix and Amazon streaming video offering better and better content, and people spending more time on the internet, I might be convinced of it.
It’s an ecosystem, support it all. Well, choice is nice. I don’t skip around on different devices as much as Laurie suggests, but my daughter might. Once I start a book, I usual stay there, but, my daughter moves at twice the speed of sound, multi taking as she goes. One thing is certain. The way the newer generations read is changing and diversifying.
Mostly for the best.
So Happy 2019.
Next blog suggests some science fiction reading I plan for 2019. . what was your favorite read for 2018, and what are you looking forward to reading for 2019?
Kris Rusch’s recent blog has hit a nerve. She addresses the problem of author burnout. According to her, a number of authors after going hot and hard at writing and marketing are finding that they need a break. I’m in that category right now. I’ve been publishing for over eight years and writing far longer than that. Eleven books comprise my two series with an additional anthology and novella. I’m very proud of the stories, and as a prolific science fiction reader, feel they are of a quality to match any of the good writers of science fiction out there.
However, I’m finding that, with the completion of my Terran Trilogy, I’m floundering for ideas for a new series. A few have suggested I follow the path of the Fallen and tell their story while others expressed interest in what motivated the fleet to leave Earth. I would be interested in any comments you might have either along those lines or for new suggestions.
Meanwhile, the clamor for new artwork from me increases. My daughter has bought a new home and her walls are too bare. She wants a vineyard painting to accompany the wine fridge we gave them last Christmas. A few in-law have commented that they would like one of my pieces, and I have some ideas in mind for them. I’m rekindling the excitement I used to have for painting.
Kris warns against getting a waning enthusiasm in writing and suggests ways to combat it. Luckily, our income doesn’t depend on my writing. So, that pressure isn’t there. I used to be able to promote my work visa social media and adds such as Freebooksy etc, but lately the return doesn’t justify the expense. Besides, I’m not a big social media person, either, and I’m growing less and less enthusiastic due to what I encounter in many of the blogs or comments. My ebook library is brimming with interesting books that I grabbed for free or at a good price from the free or discounted book sites. I’ll never get them all read. But it’s great to have choices when you are looking for something to read. Other readers may be in the same situation and not loading up as much as they used to.
In addition, I’m noticing Christmas on the horizon which brings with it a deluge of birthdays, including mine. I’m expecting this to be one of the best Christmases in a while, and want to fully participate in the joy of the season. (Barring the vitriol of those who prefer to tear apart our country rather than offer solutions) I’m aware of the amazing country I live in and am grateful for the life I have been given. (a bit of a Thanksgiving message there).
Nevertheless, I’m excited about this last book in the Terran Trilogy called the Weight of Gravity. It may be one of the best yet. I’m currently working with professional designer Toni Boudrealt to craft an exciting cover. The publication date had been pushed back due to various events outside of my control, but then both G. Martin and P. Rothfuss have more than eclipsed my mere few weeks delay by years for their works without much suffering. Still, this last work will be published in 2018, and that’s a hard deadline.
After reading Kris’s blogs about her writing path, I decided to plunge into her Diving series. I scooped a novella from one of her promotions and realized that the series didn’t have anything to do with the ocean, but rather her female protagonist was after salvaging old spaceships for historical value. Well now, that sounded interesting.
The first in the series, Diving Into the Wreck, introduces the lead character who goes by the name of Boss. She searches for old abandoned spaceships, interested in their historical value. What she finds is a five thousand year old derelict of a Dignity ship with dangerous, malfunctioning jump technology. Several divers die. The lost technology bends time and space, moving ships through dimensional space so they can travel huge distances in a short period of time.
This powerful technology is just what the Empire is searching for in order to tip the balance of power in their favor. Not wanting that outcome, Boss and her team go off the grid and try to work under the radar. The discovery leads them to the Room of Lost Souls where as a child, Boss watched her mother disintegrate and crumble with old age under the influence of the ancient technology.
But even though she was in the same room, Boss stayed unaffected. The experience scarred her, but now a client wants her to return and solve the mystery of that haunted and hidden place. However, the more they discover, the more dangerous she realizes the tech is.
Okay, so the story was way more intriguing than I expected. I liked the time jump idea and the lost technology from an Earth five thousand years ago and light years away in distance. The story was well-written with no grammar or plot problems except the tantalizing mystery of what they called a Dignity ship and its connection to the Room of Lost Souls.
So I drove (heh, heh) into the next book of the series called City of Ruins. At this point, years have passed. Boss has a salvage company with four ships and several crew. After finding the first Dignity ship with ancient stealth tech, she is quietly searching for more. A lead to a planet with mysterious holes that erupt without reason suggests ancient tech may be at work.
But the planet’s government is hesitant to let her explore too widely, saying that those who enter the caverns created by the holes are found dead by unknown forces. This information only fuels her interest, and she assembles a crew to investigate the underground caverns. She selects within her crew four others who are immune to the ancient tech’s effect because she senses its nearness.
A parallel story runs through the book of Captain “Coop” Cooper. He is one of many ships in the fleet defending Earth five thousand years in the past. During a vicious battle, he tries to jump away just as his ship is hit. The result traps him and his crew in foldspace where they may linger forever if they can’t figure a way out.
Far in the future, carefully exploring a cavern where several deaths occurred, Boss eventually discovers an enormous cavern where she senses the ancient tech she has been searching for. While investigating the area, someone activates the machinery and it pulls Coop’s trapped ship out of foldspace into what Boss comes to realize is a secret landing bay.
Wary at first, but relieved at landing in a repair bay, the crew of the Ivoire notices the arrival of strangers into the room and the odd timeworn condition of the bay. Several attempts at communication result in success wherein Boss shocks the Fleet’s crew with the information that they have traveled five thousand years into their future.
The third in this series is Boneyards. Captain “Coop” Cooper and crew are desperate to find a way back to their fleet and their old life. Boss wants to find stealth tech to combat the Empire. The Empire, meanwhile, is frantically trying to develop stealth tech on its own, but doesn’t realize what it is and are making deadly mistakes in their effort. This book features “Squishy,” one of Boss’s crew members who worked for the Empire on stealth tech in her past and killed many people in the process.
The book jumps back and forth in her past and in Coop’s story. Squishy wants to find the tech and destroy it to absolve her sins while Coop is frantic to return to his time period and the fleet. Boss suggests they investigate old landing sites that were being constructed in the Fleet’s early days in order to find the tech to repair his Dignity ship.
Coop has to decide whether to help Boss attack the Empire or risk losing his way back with Squishy’s plan to destroy it.
So, the series was so much more exciting than I thought it would be. The characters are well drawn, the action interesting, and the plot of ancient stealth technology and time jumping was really cool. I plan to read more.
You should do a little investigating on your own with this one.
Leaves are turning bright colors of orange, red and yellow while plump pumpkins are showing up sporting toothy grins in houses and on doorsteps.
I am waiting on my cover design artist to deliver the concept cover for my third book in The Terran Trilogy, The Weight of Gravity. I am also looking for Beta readers to read it. E-mail me if you have an interest.
Soon the whirlwind holiday activities will commence, so I’ll apologize now if my blog gets neglected in the near future.
With the proposal of String Theory, the idea of a many-dimensional universe or possibly universes, has tickled the fancy of the science fiction genre. I explore this idea in my books, particularly in Someone’s Clone and Time Equation.
The idea that there may be more than this reality fascinates me. That’s why I like Charles Stross’s series The Merchant Princes Multiverse. I put Empire Games, his most recent book of the series (having read the others) on my 2018 to-read list.
Then I read it. Here’s the lowdown on Empire Games from that suggested series.
The year is 2020 and Miriam Burgeson is head of the Ministry of the shadowy Intertemporal Research and Intelligence. The North American Commonwealth is rapidly bringing democracy to a troubled world. In another Timeline, the powerful United States has become aware of the timewalkers who cross in and out the time dimensions and have hired Miriam’s estranged daughter to root out any trespassing spies or illicit traders.
Both powerful nuclear nations are on a collision course, and mother and daughter find themselves on opposite sides of an escalating war while operating from two different timelines.
I liked the interdimensional espionage found in the whole series, but the earlier books were even better for me. You should read the series from the beginning as it develops along a timeline with the characters’ lives, even as they visit various periods of history (medieval, industrial, current) in their own lives. In one book, Miriam gets trapped in the emerging industrial age timeline, and I was intrigued how she used her knowledge of future technology to build a business and survive as a widowed women when women in business were not yet accepted. In this more recent book, she has ascended to become a powerful person in the current society.
Another book that deals with dimensional time is City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. This one was nominated for a 2018 Hugo in the best series category. The Divine Cities is the series name, and City of Stairs is the first book in the series.
Since I like mysteries and science fiction, this hit a hot button of mine.
The story is bout Bulikov, a once brutal city that enslaved millions but was protected by powerful gods. Now it lays defeated and devastated by a neighboring country, Saypur.
Into this beaten-down city steps Shara Thivani, called to investigate a death, and suspected murder, of an associate who is a distinguished university professor. He was found dead while researching Bulikov’s history. Shara arrives in the guise of a nondescript diminutive junior investigator, accompanied by a towering, fearsome bodyguard called Sigrid. Unbeknownst to her hostile hosts, Shara is of royal bloodline and her country’s top spy.
As Shara uncovers the facts of the professor’s murder, she discovers the gods may not be as absent as thought, and the city of Bulikov has many secrets within stairs that seem to disappear into hidden dimensions.
I very much enjoyed this story. There are two more to the series that I plan to read. I particularly like the trope of the clever young highbred who everyone overlooks until they realize that she is more than she seems. The relationship of her and Sigrid, her terrifying, yet loyal, secretary is delightful. Twist and turns abound, and not all are from the mysterious stairs.
I can’t believe summer is over. Time is a slippery fellow nowadays.
Enjoy the cool.
I’ve noticed a new type of science fiction raising its head lately. This is science fiction where the story is told from the point of view of an artificial intelligence housed in a human appearing robotic body trying to pass as human. Several recent books that use this concept are : A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chalmers, The Imperial Radch Series by Anne Leckie, and Martha Wells Murder Robot Series. (I’ll report on Martha Well’s book Artificial Condition next time, and I already have talked about Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Justice.)
The idea of a human telling a story narrated by an artificial intelligence trying to understand humans is mind bending in the least. Often, it reveals something about what it means to be human.
One of the main characters in A Closed and Common Orbit we met in the previous book, A Long Way to A Small and Angry Planet. There she was Lovelace, the artificial intelligence that ran the ship the Wayfarer.
In this sequel, she wakes up in a new body made to micmic a human with synthetic soft skin, blood-colored liquid in her veins, and operating organs so she can pass as a human. Of course, what she is, is illegal. She was shut down and re-booted so she has no memory of what came before. When created, she was programmed to tell only the truth and to answer any direct question. These constraints in her programming make deception a bit tricky.
But she has the help of Pepper, a fugitive clone, also illegally independent. Pepper originally was created to sort salvage in a factory filled with female clone workers, but when an incident occurs, she escapes. She hides out in a crashed ship whose artificial intelligence teaches her how to survive in a huge landfill on a secluded part of the planet until they can rebuild the ship and escape.
The book flips back and forth between the two lives. Lovelace takes the name Sidra and struggles to adapt to the body she calls a “kit.” Integration is difficult. When outside, the lack of boundaries is unsettling, but the lack of being able to see from all angles and corners is also disturbing. Sidra finally makes a friend with an alien, also a tattoo artist, who tries to explain humans to her and help her, although she also had a few hang-ups.
Meanwhile, alternately, Pepper’s grim life as Jane23 is revealed. She is a naive and innocent ten years old when she escapes to the junkyard where she finds the downed ship. Luckily, Owl, the ship’s artificial intelligence teaches her all it can. The young child is forced to hunt wild dog and scrounge for mushrooms, which make up her main diet. She also learns engineering and tech from Owl, and culture and language from on board programs and holograms.
I enjoyed the story quite a bit. The concept of an artificial intelligence trying to grapple with the quirks of humans was interesting. The courage and inventiveness of Jane 23 recalled a theme in The Hunger Games.
Becky Chambers has emerged as an outstanding writer in the science fiction field. She was nominated for a Hugo Award for A Closed and Common Orbit in 2017, and while not winning, she received a lot of all well-deserved notice.
Speaking of the Hugo Awards, they are out now for 2018 and in an unprecedented move, N.K. Jeminsin has won for the third year in a row. Check out Utube for her acceptance speech, and more details on the Hugo Awards.
Meanwhile, here are the results through to the novelettes:
The winners of the 2018 Hugo Awards, Award for Best Young Adult Book (hereafter the Lodestar Award), and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer were announced at Worldcon 76 in San José, California on August 19, 2018. A full breakdown of the voting is available here. Best Novel
The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi (Tor)
New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
Provenance, by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty (Orbit)
All Systems Red, by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)
“And Then There Were (N-One),” by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny, March/April 2017)
Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com Publishing)
The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang (Tor.com Publishing)
Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.Com Publishing)
River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com Publishing)
“The Secret Life of Bots,” by Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld, September 2017)
“Children of Thorns, Children of Water,” by Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny, July-August 2017)
“Extracurricular Activities,” by Yoon Ha Lee (Tor.com, February 15, 2017)
“A Series of Steaks,” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld, January 2017)
“Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time,” by K.M. Szpara (Uncanny, May/June 2017)
“Wind Will Rove,” by Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s, September/October 2017)
Some interesting new trends in science fiction. Grab a few to finish out your summer reading.
p.s. And speaking of new, I’m working on the exciting cover for the third book in the Terran Trilogy called, The Weight of Gravity. I have clones and lots of excitement. Stay tuned to hear more.