Nook—a second look at the eBook app

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Nook is an app and a device!

Since big A decided to fire me as one of their “Associates” I have set aside my K—  library for the moment, and am re-reading some older titles via the Nook app on my iPad. For readers who aren’t familiar with this, it is basically the eBook platform used by Barnes and Noble. While I have not purchased many books via B & N, I was once a very loyal customer at Fictionwise. When B & N bought out Fictionwise in 2009, I was able to keep some, alas not all, of the content I had purchased, by adding the Nook app, so those books became part of my Nook library. And, as there are quite a few titles there, I am looking through the library, seeing if anything is worth a second read. One of the best aspects of eBooks is that the “keeper shelf” takes up no room in my house!

The Nook app works like other eBook apps; the raw file format is ePub. In their review of eBook apps, CNET judged it as #3, and it is quite good. I find the animation associated with page changes very pleasing; it looks just like flipping a physical page! I also like having basic info at the top of the screen (date, time, % of battery are all available) as well as the typical (in print format) of two facing pages, with the title on one side and the author name on the other. Apart from a page number, which is not possible as the file must adapt to the reader’s screen size, the interface is very book-like, and I mean that as a compliment. As an app, it is a bit quirky, however. For instance, getting back to the library can be a bit of a chore, as one must first get a more info screen, and then the option to move around a bit becomes available.

There is a library screen, a bookstore screen, a quick link back to the current book being read, and something called “Readouts” which is a bit of sales pitch mixed with freebies and information. The library screen shows “Recent Reads” and “Recent Purchases” as defaults, and there are tabs with “All titles” and “Shelves” which are, of course, organizing tools. Unfortunately for me, the only way I can find some of the oldies is via the “search” feature, but it works quite well. For instance, I didn’t finish my last name before both of my titles popped right up!

I use my iPad (mostly) for reading, so I’m using the free app, but Barnes and Noble is currently offering a 7 inch screen Nook for about $50, and a big screen (10 inch) for $130. When eBooks were new to the market, most were priced substantially lower than their print counterparts, and sometimes that is still true. Lots of classics are free, of course, but lower priced options can be, well, garbage. Overall, the prices at B & N are a bit higher than their ginormous internet competitor, but the store’s interface is elegant. Also, the content is a bit more “curated” than the content over at Big A, where just about anyone can sell anything, regardless of quality.

Since I’ve been reading via the Nook app, I have begun researching the possibility of pulling Trinity on Tylos out of the K— exclusive program and publishing it via ePub to other bookstores. Perhaps Barnes and Noble readers would buy a few digital copies. Stay tuned….

Rebel Princess by Blair Bancroft

The title of this yarn isn’t particularly original, as it makes me think of Princess Leia, but the story doesn’t lean on Star Wars very much. As the book opens, with a war game going on, rather like Star Trek— The Wrath of Khan, I was wondering if the author was going to borrow heavily from that story, but not really. Actually, Bancroft uses lots of science fiction and fantasy elements, but this is theme and variation, then more variation. As a writer, a reader, and an occasional viewer of science fiction, I see this story as fairly original, and since there truly is “no new thing under the sun” that’s a complement.

Oh, there are some aspects of the story that I don’t like. Most of the “alien” characters have an odd apostrophe in their names. I’ve come to view that artifice as trite, as so many science fiction and fantasy writers employ it. There are times when the narrative drags a bit, and the author tends to use too many sentence fragments. Especially. At times of high emotion. Oh wow. Get it? And, at least half of the main players have two names, because some are masquerading as someone else, which can get a bit confusing. Indeed, the author has a list of terms on her website, just to explain some of what’s going on in the story. Mostly, I didn’t need that, but it was nice to take a look at them all to see if I had guessed correctly.

Still, this story has lots to like, including a heroine (Kass Kiolani) who is brave but not at all prone to throwing caution to the winds. Since she was brought up as a royal heir, she thinks everything through. The hero (Tal Rigel) is mostly heroic and a lot less cautious than Kass, but vulnerable enough to be likable. Minor characters tend to be stereotypical, but there is some character building, especially the main character’s brother, who has some interesting “gifts.” The world building is better than some novels in the romantic science fiction genre, perhaps because this is the first in a series of novels set in this universe.

Some Science Behind My Science Fiction

Having just read an article in Popular Science online about what a”Generation Ship” might look like, I was gratified to see that some of the core concepts in my science fiction novel, Trinity on Tylos, are firmly rooted in science.

The article speculates about what challenges the multi-generation inhabitants of a colonizing venture (based on an extrapolation of current space technology) might face. Topics addressed include propulsion, medical issues, livestock, and robot workers.

In Trinity on Tylos, the alien captain of the Archeonite III has a big problem: his colony of survivors died out, but he has the ability to grow little Archeons from stored genetic material. He just needs some baby mamas, and my characters Venice Dylenski and Alathea Duke end up with the task. In the Popular Science article, We Could Move to Another Planet with a Spaceship Like This, the author mentions that “speculators say it’ll take 20,000 souls to start a healthy population on a new world. One space-­saving tip: Bring frozen embryos and people to diversify the gene pool upon arrival.” That’s right out of my novel, where Azareel and his android medical team design the embryos that Venice and Alathea gestate.

As in the Popular Science article, robots are probably going to be the grunt workers of the future. In my novel, the Archeons use robots (as they take the form of their makers, I call them androids) as workers. A limited but technologically proficient population would no doubt employ robotic workers, freeing the populace to supervise or take on  tasks that require a more creative mind.

Trinity on Tylos is a complex story, because it goes beyond being just a space opera and delves into human relationships, made more complicated by the limited number of people with whom the characters interact. Also, it is a story of surviving on a somewhat hostile planet, solving such issues as having enough water to irrigate crops. The Popular Science article mentions farming as one of the most necessary activities once the generation ship reaches a new planetary home. Indeed, when I wrote Trinity on Tylos, I remembered the words of William Bradford, a leader of the pilgrims who settled Massachusetts, who wrote “what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, fall [sic] of wild beasts and wild men—and what multitudes there might be of them they knew not.” Survival is not easy, and the Popular Science article, although very positive in outlook, does not ignore the difficulties that might face the future generations of humans whose journey began with some adventuresome ancestors.

Technological progress and science fiction often go hand in hand, because what writers dream up, engineers can (sometimes) make happen. However, the reverse is also true— when creating a science fiction story, there must be some science blended in with the fiction. Trinity on Tylos is science based fiction, and it is available for your Kindle reader or Kindle enabled device; just click on the cover art.

 

What happened to pamelajdodd.com?

You’re looking at it. Sort of, anyway.

This is rather embarrassing, but I seldom look at my own posts online. (I don’t take “selfies” either.) Anyway, when I began a break from my teaching schedule, I decided to do some site updates to my personal author site (pamelajdodd.com) and was offered some interesting pills to enhance a body part I do not possess. Um. Big problem, pun intended.

Okay, I called the web host, who offered to try to extract the malware, but as it was time to pay for another year of hosting, I decided to spend my dollars to upgrade this WordPress site and to forgo having a separate website. Thus, I have added a couple of pages (one devoted to each of the novels I have published as Pamela J. Dodd) and will be adding a bit more information as I have the time. I’m not entirely sure how this consolidation of sites works, but hopefully I can make this site more secure, as well as useful to readers.

Some of the materials I had posted on my old site made a swift journey to cyber heaven, such as a few book reviews, but I plan to add some of the more memorable ones via a “quick reads” post or two, based on my Amazon reviews.

Anyway, while the other problem was a bit annoying, as well as embarrassing, it is now a part of cyber history, and I’ll devote myself to updating this site, as well as my other non-de-plume’s web presence.

Honor Among Thieves— a Star Wars novel

Honor Among Thieves coverThus far, my favorite Star Wars novel is Steve Perry’s Shadows of the Empire, which takes place between the film The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi. Familiar characters from the film are necessary, but Shadows also introduces the memorable Dash Rendar, and by fleshing out what happened between Han Solo’s freezing in carbonite and Luke and Leia’s rescue, Perry’s novel seems quite organic.

There have been quite a few Star Wars based novels published since Shadows, but with the upcoming new Star Wars movie, it is natural that a new story, with the original characters, come to market, along with a zillion tee shirts. So, we have James S. A. Corey’s Honor Among Thieves, which takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, as Han continues to try to raise money to pay Jabba the Hutt, and Leia is involved in leading the rebellion, which is not just a war, but a fund raiser. Someone has to pay for all those X-wings. Anyway, a valuable spy sent a message indicating that she needs to be recalled, and Han needs the money, so he’s off to make contact, pick up Scarlet Hark, and pocket another reward. Nothing in their universe (a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away) is simple, however, and Han’s little errand gets complicated really quickly.

(spoiler alert)

One of the best ways to create suspense is to raise the stakes, and they are quite high in this novel. No, there is not a Death Star (twice is one too many IMHO) but a device that kills hyperspace travel is high stakes indeed, and Han, Leia, and Luke end up converging in an effort to wrest control of the hyperspace dampener from the Empire.

To be honest, I didn’t like Honor Among Thieves as much as I did Shadows of the Empire, but I did like it. Readers who want to revisit a young farm boy Luke, the pivotal Princess Leia, and the roguish Han Solo should pick up or download a copy of Honor Among Thieves. Before you know it, you’ll be right back in the groove, wondering when Darth Vader will swoop back into the action. This is a great way to get in the mood for the new film.

Reviews for Trinity on Tylos

ToT_cover_final_webLGRecently, my science fiction novel, Trinity on Tylos, got a mention on the Goodkindles site. While preparing the copy, I did a web search for reviews, because I wasn’t too sure how many of those are still available. Surprisingly, I found a few, which were done based on the first edition, published by Whiskey Creek Press. Although they got the title wrong, I got a fairly good review from “The Romance Studio” site. Apparently that title is difficult, because the folks over at Books for a Buck misspelled it, too, but it is a decent review. And, the one by Harriet Klausner appears on several sites, including Bookreview.com. The best review I received was over at Fallen Angels Reviews, of course. While searching, I also noted that my efforts to publicize it have resulted in pirated copies online. Oh, here’s another one! And another one!  I guess I should be flattered that someone thinks it is worth stealing. 🙂  Check it out!

A Galaxy Unknown— the sequels

Jenetta Carver image

This is an update as well as a review. A while back, I read Thomas DePrima’s A Galaxy Unknown, and despite some serious flaws, I was so taken with the main character and the “universe” of its setting that I immediately began reading the sequels. Somewhere around book five, I had had enough. The main character seemed way too perfect and the rest of the characters were just there to heap praise upon her. So, I read lots of other stuff, but after running out of new stuff, one night I began re-reading the series. And, when reading them back to back, they seemed a bit better. Or maybe, I got used to the annoying stuff. Anyway, having caught up with where I left off, I just downloaded book 7, so I am clearly enjoying the series.

Space opera, especially the theme sometimes called “galactic empires” is a favorite of mine. Lots of indie authors give this genre a try, so I seldom run out of reading material. However, some of it isn’t particularly entertaining. Jenetta Carver’s exploits clearly owe something to another favorite character (Honor Harrington) but while David Weber’s works have become ever so much complex, DePrima’s stories have not. So, these novels are certainly light reading, but for me that is a plus. If I want to think, think, think when I read, I can always pick up one of hubby’s law books.

If you like space opera with a dash of romance, do try Trinity on Tylos, my stand alone novel. (Right now, it is cheap, too!) But, if you want a series, with very little romance, but a strong heroine, DePrima’s A Galaxy Unknown (and its many sequels) is pretty good.

Old News

Since the “new” version of my science fiction novel, Trinity on Tylos, has been repackaged for Kindle readers, I went looking for reviews from when it was first published— not the ones on Amazon, but the other ones. At that time, I sent out a lot of digital files, as well as a few print books, in hopes of getting some reviews. Here are some excerpts with links to the original posts:

Rob Preece of Books for a Buck stated: “Author Pamela J. Dodd builds on the conventions of old-time space opera (e.g., aliens wanting human women), creating a thoughtful vision of alien contact, of the Stockholm Syndrome, and of the both heroic and horrible attempt of one being to perpetuate his species, no matter what the cost. Dodd addresses these issues mostly in terms of relationships–especially the three way conflict between Venice, her human-husband Steve Dylenski, and Captain Azareel.”

Anita at The Romance Studio says in her review:The storyline is creative and filled with exciting action as one race fights another for their survival. Trinity of Tylos is a fascinating emotionally stirring space adventure that shows how far someone will go for someone they love.”

Jean at Fallen Angel Reviews was not only the first person to review the original novel, but she also gave it a “recommended read” accolade: “This is a great book for fans of science fiction and futuristic romance. I’m giving this story 5 angels and a Recommended Read, because it is so well written that it grabbed me at the beginning and kept me enthralled until the very last page.”

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Trinity on Tylos, Mulberry River Publishing edition

ToT_cover_final_webLGAfter six years, Trinity on Tylos is going to be available for  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.

 

 

A Brief History of Science Fiction, and why a good title is so important.

My Youtube Channel has three videos on it, and I created them for marketing purposes, but mostly because I had taken a class in MovieMaker, and I wanted to practice what I learned. As a Mac user, I made them with iMovie, but the programs are similar.

First, I made a video for my then recently published Trinity on Tylos. That title, although I like it, hasn’t been a winner for me. Some people think it is about religion, due to the first word, and it certainly isn’t. I guess I could have titled the book “Love Triangle in Outer Space” but that has even less of a ring to it. Anyway, after five years, the video has only about 500 views. My second video was for my debut novel, The Gift Horse, and since I didn’t have any nifty space images from NASA to use, I spent about $10 on stock images. While The Gift Horse has sold far better than my second novel, the video lags behind.

My third video was my first attempt at three channel video making: In addition to a music track, I recorded myself reading a script. Then I had to put the video together. For me, that was an arduous task, perhaps because so much time had gone by since I took the class. However, this third video needed a title, and I gave the matter about fifteen seconds of thought and used “A Brief History of Science Fiction.” In my mind this is lazy; I obviously adapted the title of Stephen Hawking’s brilliant work, A Brief History of Time. The title proved to be much more successful than the ones I chose for my books, because this video has been viewed over five thousand times. Of course its success may be because it is a bit more ambitious.

I wanted to be succinct, but I also wanted to incorporate much of what I have learned during years of studying literature, as well as my interest in science fiction, and I spent a bit of time on the script. A few months ago, I noticed that my video was cited in an online article on the history of science fiction. I was impressed that anyone would watch the video enough times to be able to quote it.

For anyone who is interested, here is the script, which is close to the recording. I think I skipped a few sentences in order to match the voiceover with the music track, but it is close.

I love science fiction, in print and on the screen. Here is my very brief history of the genre.:

 • Many literary scholars name Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as the first science fiction novel.

 • Some of Nathanial Hawthorne’s short stories have science fiction thems, especially those which deal with the problems associated with man interfering with nature. The Birthmark, Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment, and Rappaccini’s Daughter all share that cautionary message.

 • British author H. G. Wells and French author Jules Verne gave us turn of the century classics including The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, Journey to the Center of the Earth & Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea.

 •Edgar Rice Burroughs produced fantasy and adventure, but his Martian settings help form the under-pinings of later space operas.

 During the first half of the twentieth century, several new magazines became the most important venue for scientific fiction writiers. Amazing Stories and Astounding Science Fiction provided the publishing forum for such writers as Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke. This period is considered to be the beginning of the Golden Age of science fiction.

 While those authors were producing science based fiction, the less than scientific stories seemed more apt to become the basis for Hollywood “B” movies, and such stories as “The Blob” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still” terrified movie audiences during the decade of the 1950’s.

 Despite some serious efforts in the movie world, it took a television show to bring science fiction into the mainstream. Although it lacked a movie sized budget, Star Trek made travel through space seem more plausible than ever before. The govenment run space program of the 1960’s no doubt helped lend some plausibility to the journeys of the Enterprise, but Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s futuristic vision entranced a generation.

 While science fiction began to flourish on the screen, in print, it became increasingly channeled into separate genres, with “hard” and “soft” science fiction being the over-arching labels. Works which kept science and the scientific method at the forefront became known as hard science fiction, but stories which concentrated on the human reaction to advancing technology became known as soft science fiction.

 In the following decade, George Lucas kicked space opera into box office bucks with Star Wars. Authur C. Clarke’s 2001 A Space Odyssey and the book based upon it exemplfy the integration of the best of hard and soft science fiction, while the Battlestar Galactica, followed the more popular trend of space operas making the move to the small screen.

 In the past two decades, many of the box office champions have owed much to science fiction. Print publishers have not been able to replicate the success of the movie studios, but science fiction contines to thrive, especially with smaller presses. My own novel, Trinity on Tylos, owes quite a lot to the great writers who created the genre known as science fiction.