Trinity on Tylos in the Kindle Store

ToT_cover_final_webLGAfter six years, Trinity on Tylos is going to be available as a Kindle book, and I’ve priced it at $2.99, the same price as my debut novel, The Gift Horse. For this new version, I went through a copy of the eBook and made every effort to eliminate some of the errors in the original. However, there are no substantial changes, as I was fairly content with it, apart from the proofreading, which was a problem with the original publisher.

The new cover was designed by Dawn Seewer, who did the cover for The Gift Horse. The background depicts the landscape of Tylos IV, with the ships in the sky. The models in the foreground are Venice and Azareel, and I think the artist did a good job. A few of the readers of the original printed novel told me that the cover didn’t really convey the serious nature of the novel, so I hope that this new cover touches the bases.

For those who haven’t read it, here is the original synopsis that I used when shopping the manuscript:

What sacrifices must an officer make to save her shipmates from certain doom? Venice Dylenski, the young security chief of the colonizing ship, Excalibur, is faced with this dilemma after her captain makes a critical error in judgement in an encounter with an alien with superior fire power and a hidden agenda.

Trinity on Tylos begins as Venice experiences an embarrassing moment on a survey mission, one which rules out yet another planet as a hospitable home for their colony. While continuing its search, the Excalibur encounters the Archeons, an alien race characterized by gray-blue skin and a facility for language. The interchange results in Venice and a crewmate, Alathea Duke, being taken captive by the mysterious Archeon captain, Azareel. In short order, he informs them that they will play a critical role in revitalizing his dying race, that of surrogate mothers to genetically engineered Archeon offspring.

Venice, reluctant “to be the next Archeon soccer mom,” strives to escape, but her companion seems all too willing to cooperate with their captor. Thus the stage is set for multiple conflicts between human and Archeon, human and human, and humanoids verses the hostile environment of their new planetary home in the Tylos star system.

Trinity on Tylos has the elements of a good space opera: complex characters faced with myriad problems to solve, set in a future where man may have escaped the bounds of his solar system, but not the bonds of human emotions.

 

 

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Rich Man’s War— a review

Rich Man's War cvrA couple of entries back I reviewed Poor Man’s Fight by Elliot Kay, and I really did like that book. Okay, in part, I liked it because it is in one of my favorite sub-sub-genres— a coming of age military science fiction story. But, that book was well-written and highly entertaining, and such books are sometimes too formulaic. Rich Man’s War is the sequel, and it does take up shortly after the events of the first novel in this series. The action, once it really gets going, is almost non-stop in PMF, but RMW is a more complex story, so it doesn’t move with the vim and vigor of the first one. Worse, it is quite easy to get bogged down in the “who is this part about, friend or foe” because the battles are large scale, so the cast of characters has grown exponentially.

Still, I am glad for the sequel to PMF. Somehow, readers just knew that Tanner Malone had a career ahead of him, and there is a natural desire to see the character evolve. Both Tanner and some subordinate characters from the first novel are important characters here, but in this entry, the corporations which have pretty much made Archangel inhabitants into economic slaves are the enemy. The plot development is organic, that is, what happens in this novel often has roots in the first one. I do not believe that RMW stands alone particularly well, so do read the first book first.

That said, I did enjoy the further adventures of highly decorated war hero Tanner Malone, and it is a good read if not a great one.

War to the Knife— a review

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Since I have a break at work, and it is really hot in Georgia, I’ve been reading. My latest Kindle eBook is War to the Knife, by Peter Grant. I gather that this is a first installment in a series, and in a way it reminds me of early David Weber or John Ringo, but on a smaller battlefield. Once I got past the “old west” opening, I really began to identify with the stubborn band of rebels. They fight, but they pay dearly, too. I once heard David Weber talking about his Honor Harrington series, and how her heroism is “bought with bitter coin” and that also describes this story. The combatants die, and in a gory fashion, so there is plenty of that gritty realism. However, the author switches between the point of view of the rebels and that of an officer on the other side, which does remind me, once again, of Weber. By seeing both sides of a war, even when one is clearly the enemy, there is a better understanding of the price paid by winners and losers.

The author gets a little too into explaining some things, such as the ordinance, but that’s just personal taste. I tend to be more into how the characters feel than how many missiles it takes to blowup whatever, but other readers might want to more about the size of the warhead. But, the ingredients of a good military/space war story are present: a great cause, likable heroes, dastardly but not insane enemies, and plenty of weapons. However, the name of the enemy, Bactria, doesn’t work for me. It sounds like a topical antibiotic or something.

Still, I liked this story quite a lot and the story is, for the most part, well-written and edited. Nowadays, so many people are self-publishing via Amazon that there are quite a few poorly written and edited books, so I begin with reading the negative reviews. If there are several that point out grammar, spelling, and consistency issues, then I keep looking. The reviews for this book are positive, and I agree with most of them. War to the Knife is a very good read, and I ended the story wanting to read the rest of the series.

Poor Man’s Fight— a review

While there are any number of space operas on Amazon’s Kindle format nowadays, I enjoyed Poor Man’s Fight by Elliot Kay quite a bit. The formula is perhaps too much tried and true—yet another coming of age in the military story, but I thought the premise that sets the hero upon his path more thoughtful than many others. Our protagonist, Tanner Malone, is a good student and a nice guy; he’s about to graduate from secondary school. But, in this futuristic yarn, those who perform in a less than exemplary manner on a gi-normous one day test are going to owe a private corporation for their education. Tanner, upset by his dad’s bombshell that he and stepmom are moving off planet leaving him to be “on his own,” doesn’t do particularly well on the test. Owing several grand, Tanner does what any red blooded male teen would do—he consults a girl. (I speak from experience, as the mother of a young adult male.) Anyway, this young lady suggests that he enlist, so that the military will provide him with a home and a job, and that will enable him to begin to pay off the massive debt of his education. In short order, without consulting dad or stepmom, Tanner enlists.

Some other Amazon reviewers mentioned that the book’s set up wasn’t plausible. In a day when student loan debt is at all time highs, I actually thought the scenario of a teen trying to deal with crushing debt was the most realistic part of the story!

However, once Tanner gets into basic training, the action keeps readers entertained. His training is related in some detail, but, eventually, he graduates. Having dispensed with roughly half the novel, the author has to create a military disaster pretty quickly, so the hero has a chance to be heroic. I know, that sounds sarcastic, but it isn’t meant to be. By and large, heros are ordinary folks placed in extraordinary circumstances, and that’s what we have here. There’s plenty of heroism during the last third of the book.

Honestly, Poor Man’s Fight cost me some sleep. I just couldn’t wait to see how Tanner’s intense military training saved him (and lots of others) from the incompetence of his fellow navy types, as they are facing some really dastardly villains. And, once the last big scene began to unfold, the suspense ramped up even higher. I was not disappointed. Not at all.

So, if you like space opera, coming of age stories, or just a suspense filled yarn, try Poor Man’s Fight. It’s a bargain!

You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think— a book review

I’ve listened to Wes Moss for a few years now, but usually for just a few minutes at a time. His show, Money Matters, is on a local radio station on Sunday mornings, and I usually tune it in as I drive to church. More than once, however, I have sat in my van, in the parking lot, listening for just a few more minutes, because his show is interesting and his advice seems very sound.

So, after hearing him hawk it a few times, I downloaded the Kindle version of You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think, which has a somewhat misleading title. The subtitle is very much the point of the book, “The 5 Secrets of the Happiest Retirees.” And, as someone who is married to a guy contemplating an early retirement, I really wanted the book to be about the main title. Still, I found this an easy and interesting read. According the Amazon listing: After conducting an intensive study of happy retirees to learn the financial practices they hold in common, Moss discovered that it doesn’t take financial genius, millions of dollars, or sophisticated investment skills to ensure a safe, solid retirement. All it takes is five best practices:

Determine what you want and need your retirement money for
Figure out how much you need to save
Create a plan to pay off your mortgage in as little as five years
Develop an income stream from multiple sources
Become an income investor

The retiring sooner part simply comes from the assertion that many folks who want a happy retirement belleve that a number of dollars, i.e. a million or two or even more, is the main way that retirees can leave the workforce. Instead, Moss uses his considerable research to point out that beyond a certain income that more is just more, but not a real factor in retirement bliss. He also includes the option of continued work, although scaled back, as something that modern retirees may want to use. Having known a number of people, mostly teachers, who have a full retirement from the state, and then just teach somewhere else, such as being an adjunct at the college level, I can attest to how well that can work.

His other points include how to manage the money you are putting aside for retirement, what to do in the years prior to retirement (such as paying down debt) and, perhaps most important, to have real interests to fill your time when you no longer work.

Some people do not want to retire. Cool. If a person is able, and wants to keep at it, then I think that is fine. But most of us have something else we want to do before we get too old and feeble, and Moss makes a good case for using multiple income streams to be able to fulfill those dreams. This is a good read, whether it affirms your game plan, motivates you to get your financial house in order, or helps you realize that you don’t need to be a multimillionaire to enjoy being retired.

Going, going, almost gone

TrinitycoversmThe Whiskey Creek Press version of Trinity on Tylos is about to become a bit of a collector’s item. When it was first published, I was mostly pleased, although the final edits were rushed and far too many mistakes made it into the print copy. The paperback was not of the best quality, either. The ebook, at least the one I got from the now defunct Fictionwise, was far worse. What few royalty reports I received indicated low sales, and even lower royalties. At one point, I was getting seventeen cents per ebook sale, and a typical quarterly check was about five bucks.

When the book came out, in 2006, I sought out speaking engagements, author-guest slots at science fiction conventions, and I did quite a bit of internet promotional activity, hoping to help Trinity find an audience, and to do my part to help sell the book for WCP. By 2007, I realized that the sales were not going be as good as my self-published debut novel, so I spent far less time promoting it. But, WCP continued to be a disappointment, too. Just to get Amazon to list it, WCP required that I purchase two copies at full price; then, initially, the title was misspelled on Amazon’s website. Eventually, the print book was listed correctly, and I did have a couple of very good reviews on Amazon, as well as several from other sources. When Amazon’s Kindle format began to take on increasing importance, WCP indicated that eventually all of their titles would be available for the Kindle. While Trinity on Tylos was available for the Nook, it was never converted to Kindle format. My original contract was for two years, but I did not ask for my rights back, in part because I hoped WCP would eventually pay me more royalties, and that they would support the book. And, to be honest, I was very busy with my adjunct instructor job, as well as being mom to teenagers, so I didn’t push either promotion or accountability from WCP.

After years and years of zero communications regarding sales, I can only conclude that either there were no sales or WCP kept all of the royalties. I will never know which. I’ve maintained a website, with promotional materials, links to vendors, and so forth, at my expense, and I finally came to the conclusion that WCP was never going to pay me anything ever again. Anyway, I did ask to have my rights back at the end of last year, via email, and there was no response. I asked again recently, via snail mail, and while I still have not heard a word from WCP, I noticed today that Trinity on Tylos is no longer listed for sale by Whiskey Creek Press nor by Barnes and Noble. Amazon still has it for sale, but they list the one lonely copy, and I do remember that I paid for it in 2006. I’ll bet it is quite shopworn by now!

Fellow WCP authors are in a bit of an uproar, because WCP has been sold to a New York firm, Start Media. Some of those other authors have suggested that I self-publish it, as they are doing with their own books, and I have talked with Booklocker about doing the formatting and cover. Since I don’t have a clean copy of the manuscript, I’ll be doing some editing before doing anything else.

In the meantime, Whiskey Creek Press is going, going, soon to be gone. Various interent sites have chronicled the demise of this small press, and much of the dirt is recorded here. For whatever reasons, I’m sad, which is illogical, because the publisher hasn’t been paying me or even bothering to respond to email. And there is little solace in knowing that I am not the only author that they deemed not worth a simple email.

Honor Harrington—revisited

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Quite a while back, when I decided to abandon the best seller list and read what I like and only that, I first read David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. Back then, I had a membership in a “Science Fiction” book club, because the internet, as a commercial arena, was in its infancy, so I learned of new titles and authors via the club “magazine” which was, of course, a monthly sales brochure. I began with In Enemy Hands and, quite frankly, I didn’t like the book all that much. The author seemed to spend many more pages focusing on characters and events which were not about the intriguing protagonist, Honor Harrington, and there were so many concepts that I didn’t understand, such as why she had a “treecat” perched on her shoulder, and why everyone was so horrified when the bad guys tried to kill it. Clearly, there was more back story than I was understanding, so I used my dial-up connection and learned that I’d entered a series that was already several books long. I slogged through the book, thinking that I’d have to figure this out, and later I did order On Basilisk Station from Amazon, and met a younger Captain Harrington, as she takes her first starship command, into a backwater area with a bit of backstory, political intrigue, and lots to admire in the main character. But, that book didn’t make me stay up half the night, either. BTW, when I book robs me of sleep, I know its really good.

Still, this Harrington lady was undoubtedly worthy of more of my time, so I moved on to The Honor of the Queen. That one was a homerun, out of the park. When Honor loses her mentor and risks everything to save the beautiful yet backward plant of Grayson, I could hardly turn the pages fast enough. Often, sophomore entries in series are weak, but not in this series. Weber’s heroine moves through space, time, and political intrigue in the next entries, The Short, Victorious War and Field of Dishonor, a weak book if read outside of the series, but important in the complete story line, then The Flag in Exile, which is my second favorite of the series, perhaps because Honor saves Grayson again. Or maybe its the scene where she cuts an enemy “from the nave to the chaps” with a later day version of a samarai sword, in front of the ruling body of the entire planet. Then, Honor revisits both friends and enemies from the debut novel in Honor Among Enemies, which also has a strong story line. Only after these six rather lengthy novels is the stage set for the rather dark entry, In Enemy Hands, which was my introduction to Honor Harrington. When I read it again, after reading the first six books, I liked it better, but it is still a dark chapter in Harrington’s long life.

Recently, I picked up the second book, The Honor of the Queen, as a Kindle Freebie from Amazon, and I was hooked all over again. In the past couple of weeks, I re-read it, plus books 3, 4, 5, and 6 in the series. Since I know how it all comes out, well, up until book 11 or so, when I quit reading the series, my zeal for Honor’s exploits is fading a bit. However, anyone who likes military science fiction, or merely a strong heroine, would probably enjoy Books 2-6 of Weber’s Honor Harrington series. As the series has grown longer, it has attracted more and more fans, so there are a number of reviews and sites where readers can learn more, such as the Honorverse Wiki. Honestly, there are few authors who have Weber’s talent, and almost none who have it plus his level of productivity, for in addition to the Honor Harrington series, he has other series, along with some great stand alone novels such as Apocalypse Troll and In Fury Born.

How can I summarize David Weber’s contribution to science fiction? To my pleasure reading? How about, “Wow!”

The College Classroom

I’ve mostly avoided writing about my adjunct instructor job, because it is a great job, with very little drama. In books and on the screen, I like drama, but in my own life, I prefer peace and a decent measure of quiet. Only a couple of times have I had a “drama” situation with a college student, but it isn’t pleasant. In college, presumably the student has choices: which major(s) to seek, which class(es) to take, and even which instructor is going to teach the class. With all of those choices, plus the fact that college is a voluntary activity, there are almost no discipline problems. That is wonderful! When folks ask why I left high school teaching for a part time college job, I just shake my head, because the only thing that is better in high school is the pay check. And, for me, it wasn’t worth it.

But, sometimes, even in college, a student does create a bit of havoc. First, it is uncomfortable, because the other students are not amused, because they have made their aforementioned choices, and the disruptive influence is messing up their own learning experience. Secondly, if the matter is not handled swiftly, the disruptive influence begins to change the atmosphere of the class, as the instructor strives to keep the ship moving on the right course. And that is why, most of the time, the instructor says, “Get out” to the disruptive student.

Recently, a UGA football player, was dismissed from the team. Although the coach’s statement did not specifically refer to it, the media has apparently affirmed that the student did indeed cause a classroom disruption. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the incident occurred in the early afternoon and by evening, the player was free to pursue new opportunities. Some of those “commenters” on the newspaper website basically said the UGA coach should lose the “holier than thou” attitude and cover up such incidents, in order to make his team more competitive. But, having been on the instructor side, I am cheering for the UGA coach.

After all, college is a privilege, and the disruptive student can make some more choices and learn from the situation. And, as the UGA coach said in his statement, that makes opportunities for good guys to get playing time.

Bluegrass, Gospel, Pinto Beans and Cornbread

 

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Moore Brothers band at Merlefest

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My sister invited me to go with her to an event known as “Merlefest” in North Carolina last weekend. We went, along with about 75K other folks, and it was a really amazing festival. She had told me quite a bit about it, and her pitch to get me to go (apart from a four day visit with her) was that I would learn a lot to help my son, the luthier. I did learn, although not so much about luthiery.

First, I learned that God is not out of fashion in the hills of North Carolina. One forgets how “politically correct” our world has become. At Merlefest, I heard all about God, via old-time gospel music (which I love) and many casual references. Here’s an example: In introducing a love song to “Mary” country super-star Alan Jackson said that his wife’s name is Denise, but that didn’t work in the song, so he figured that maybe she wouldn’t be mad if he used the name of Jesus’ mother. It was off-hand and natural. I liked his explanation as well as the song.

Second, I learned that it is possible to feed thousands efficiently with food that was both economical and reasonably healthy. There are several places for food at the festival, but the main one is the “food tent” across from the main stage. There was a booth that sold pinto beans and cornbread for $4. This meal was delicious and filling, and far better than the funnel cakes that I expected. Later, I ate a plate of grilled veggies and rice from another vendor, which was $5. And, my sister’s favorite was the booth run by the Boy Scouts, where they sold a “wing tray” of BBQ chicken for $4. All of these booths were run by local non-profits, so the food had “home made” flavor, too. Sister got a $5 ice cream at one of the commercial spots, but I preferred the more basic fare.

Third, I learned that some acts I would never have chosen to see were among the best. On the first night, I was looking forward to seeing Alan Jackson, but one of the lead in main stage acts was the Carolina Chocolate Drops. This string band was lead by one of the most gifted vocalists I have heard in years, and their performance was filled with energy and precision. Who would have thought that a trained opera singer would be fronting a bluegrass band? Other stand outs included a band (the Moore Brothers) who were 20, 16, and 11. And, my sister and I both loved the old-time sound of The South Carolina Broadcasters.

Lastly, I learned that the many of the festival folks were more tolerant of discomfort than I am. There was rain on day two, so we scuttled into an auditorium and stayed until the showers passed by, but others just found a tree or a tent for a few moments. On the third day, it was hot, and we left the “hillside” during the opening bars of the “album hour” because we didn’t like being fried. Apparently most of those perched on that steep hill stayed. Perhaps the oddest discomfort came from having the more expensive “reserved” seats. As the evening shows progressed, each group was louder than the one before. On the second night, our ear plugs weren’t enough, so we left early, and on the third night we ended up in folding chairs at the back, leaving our reserved seats empty. Some of the performers were asking people to move up to the reserved seats, so I gathered there was a sea of empty seats, which must have been disconcerting (pun intended) for the performers on stage.

The instrument sales tent was filled, with everything from high-end custom guitars to “vintage” instruments, such as a Silvertone guitar in need of a neck reset. I even met the owner of Deering Banjos, a company about to celebrate 40 years as the premier maker of banjos in this country. As for luthiery, two Virginia guitar makers, Wayne Henderson and his daughter Jane, did a presentation that was pretty darned interesting, especially  when he played his first guitar which sounds pretty good, despite the bullet hole in the back.

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles) review

Image A while back, I wrote a review of Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, which begins a series the author calls The Lunar Chronicles. After I bought it, I did not read it, but put it off for a while. I like science fiction and have no problem with YA titles, but it sounded kinda weird. Once I read it, I did like it. I really liked it, actually. And, once again, I bought the next installment, but put it off while I read another book (Darrell Bain’s The Frontier Rebellion). Then, a few weeks back, I clicked on the cover of Scarlet, and I will admit that I was not entranced after the first chapter, but I pushed myself, and the book did pick up. If you begin and wonder if it is book extolling the virtues of organic gardening, just hold on. Scarlet is a worthy tale, but I will offer a warning to readers—it would be quite confusing to a someone who did not read Cinder first. The story of Scarlet, who abandons the family farm to search for her lost grandmother, is so intertwined with Cinder’s continuing adventures that it is far better to begin with that book and then pick up this action packed story. If this were just the story of Scarlet and Wolf, I would not give it a five star review, but when I reached the end of Cinder, Meyer was clearly not finished, so I was expecting to see her again. Perhaps not so much of her, but that is actually a plus. Now, the character of Scarlet is interesting, and there is plenty of suspense as she struggles to find her grandmother before something really bad happens, but I especially like the multilayer enigma of Wolf. Even more than the first book, this one has the trappings of a gritty urban fantasy, with science fiction elements, and a bit of romance, too. Many times, I have stated that the best fiction is aimed at younger audiences, and this novel is more evidence of that. I noticed that Cress is now available, so I will buy it the next time I am loading up on Kindle titles.