For Honor We Stand— quick review

51buujujxsl._sl250_I’ve enjoyed this series by H. Paul Honsinger, a trilogy that begins with To Honor You Call Us (Man of War Book 1), as a space opera for fans of David Weber or others in that vein. Lots of authors try this sub-genre (and my Trinity on Tylos dabbles in it for a few chapters), but most such efforts don’t hold my interest. Honsinger’s universe and characters are well thought out, and therefore more entertaining than other authors.

His villains (the Krag) are truly obnoxious, and his hero, Captain Max Robichaux, has the right stuff to be a hero, but isn’t perfect, which is an unfortunate side-effect of being too heroic. Authors much achieve some balance, and Honsinger does that quite nicely. The captain’s side kick is Doctor Sahin, who is a bit like Dr. Watson’s being a sounding board for Sherlock Holmes. The situation is dire, for the enemy and the lengthy war have affected the human race in negative ways, such that surrender is unthinkable and victory an uncertain quest.

For Honor We Stand  is the middle book in the series, so I hope to read the final book soon, and I’ll try to post a more through review of the trilogy. I read the first book as a Kindle reading freebie, then I bought the Kindle version of book two. Unfortunately, the price for each one keeps rising, but I’ll spend my Amazon credits on that third book, because I want to know how this war ends (or if it does.)

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. 🙂 I’m proud of Trinity on Tylos, and I created the Kindle edition to attract new readers, so I hope the Goodkindles listing will help. Check it out!

Fatal Boarding— a review

Cover, Fatal Boarding

Fatal Boarding is better than the cover would suggest.

Recently, I read E.R. Mason’s science fiction novel, Fatal Boarding, via the Kindle app. As of this writing, it is a bargain because it is free. And, normally, if I don’t particularly like a freebie, I do not review it. I did review this one, on Amazon, and I am going to do so in a more elaborate manner here, because I did like it, but with reservations.

Why did I “buy” it in the first place? The cover is pretty bad, I think, but the number of reviews and stars is impressive. Also, you can’t beat free. So, I added it to my Kindle library, and I did manage to finish it, although I thought of abandoning the effort more than once. The main character isn’t likable, at least not a first, but he did grow on me. The situation is interesting, and the author does a good job of putting in details to help the reader visualize both settings and characters. Actually, the plot line isn’t all that fresh. However, just about every story has been told by now, so all we readers (and writers) have left is theme and variation.

Adrian Tarn, main character, is an experienced spacer, currently serving as security officer on a ship that has a boring task, mapping. He signed on because he lost too much money gambling, and at least a portion of his grumbling is probably intended as foreshadowing. Anyway, his rather boring job is interrupted when his ship goes a tad off course to investigate a derelict alien vessel. The reason this other ship is abandoned is a bit of a mystery, and solving this mystery becomes imperative when Adrian’s ship has malfunction heaped upon malfunction, apparently all due to the close proximity of the mystery ship. Then, folks start dying, as the title indicates. So, this is a space mystery, which evolves along expected lines, as Adrian and his fellows begin to figure out how and why both vessels are dead in space.

Overall, I did enjoy the story, but the most troubling aspect is the lack of proper grammar, spelling, and/or editing. As a writer, I know it is hard to catch every little thing, especially when working on one’s own manuscript. But, Fatal Boarding suffers myriad problems, making this a distracting book to read. The author confuses “loose” and “lose” several times, and there are missing quotation marks, missing commas, odd paragraphing, and other issues. At times, I had to back up to be certain what was happening or who was speaking.

Yet, 145 reviewers have rated this effort 5 stars, and another 87 give it 4 stars. That’s 228 more reviews than my space story, Trinity on Tylos, has garnered during 8 years of publication.

I’m doing something wrong….

Kindle books and the Kindle App— true love!

AmazonFebruary is known for its major holiday, Valentine’s Day. Yes, there is President’s Day, too, but who cares about that? No, it is Valentine’s Day that sells the chocolates and flowers, and lots of cards. Perhaps this is my Valentine’s Day card to Amazon’s Kindle program. Oh, Kindle, let me count the ways….

First, I love the Kindle app. I’ve never owned a Kindle, but the app that I have downloaded to my Apple devices (as of this writing, an iPad and iPhone) is the best eBook reading platform I have ever used. Over a decade back, I began reading eBooks on my Apple laptop. That evolved into reading on a Palm PDA, and then I moved my eBook collection to my iPad. So, I have used several platforms, including Nook, iBooks, and a few others. Nothing beats the Kindle app.

Second, I love the Kindle bookstore. My, oh my, there are so many books in there, and often, I find something for free! Admittedly, the freebies are usually inferior to paid content, but not always. As a part-time web designer, I have been helped quite a lot by such titles as these:

SEO for Bloggers

WordPress Made Super Simple

WordPress Mastery

And, I have reviewed a number of fiction titles in previous posts. Almost all of my reading these days is fueled by the Amazon Kindle Store. I get books for a fraction of what I used to pay, and they are on my device in seconds rather than my having to make a trip to a bookstore.

Third, I have published via the Kindle store. My science fiction novel, Trinity on Tylos, never paid me back for my promotional expenses when it was originally published by Whiskey Creek Press. And, it is still not selling many digital copies, but I have seen more in royalties via Amazon than I ever saw from the original publisher. If I were to publish again, I would seriously consider the straight to Kindle approach, and I would embrace social media marketing and skip fighting for a guest slot at science fiction conventions.

Anyway, as a consumer and as an author, I really love Amazon.

234 Freebies= 2 reviews

When I signed up for the Kindle Direct eBook publishing program, one of the promotional opportunities was to give the book away for up to five days during the 90-day contract. Recently, I picked five successive days, hoping that interest in Trinity on Tylos might be rekindled, even though the book was originally released in 2006. During the give-away, it rose to around #18 on the Science Fiction/ Free list. Unfortunately, as of this post, the experiment doesn’t look to have been especially helpful. For those 234 free downloads, I have gotten (thus far) two reviews. Thankfully, both of those were good ones. Clearly, those readers are superior intellects! Gotta worry about the single return, however.

Seriously, there is some risk, beyond losing sales, to giving away an eBook. Some authors report that readers have little respect for free content and are prone to writing negative reviews. Other authors believe that few readers actually read the free content, and that is also a valid concern. As a reader, I seldom choose to read a full price book before one that was on sale or even free; but I put more thought into buying a book than into downloading a freebie.

Hopefully, more of those 200 plus Kindle customers will eventually read, enjoy, and (maybe) review Trinity on Tylos. As a science fiction story, set in the future, it is more “timeless” than my contemporary suspense novel The Gift Horse. While I believe both books are both entertaining and thought provoking, Trinity is a bit more serious thematically. I’d really like to see more folks read it. Which is why I did the giveaway, rather than the “countdown” promotion that is more popular. So, if you downloaded it but didn’t read it yet, maybe this weekend will be a good time to read a science fiction novel.

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.

 

 

Best Advice I Did Not Follow

From time to time, someone asks me about my writing.

“Are you still writing?”

Well, kinda.

“Any more books since Trinity on Tylos?”

Well, not published.

“Are you going to write a sequel to The Gift Horse?”

Well, I should, but I made so many people mad with the first one, that I dunno.

When I think about writing for publication, I think about the best advice I was given, and it is advice I should follow, even today. That gem of wisdom is simply this: Write something short to give yourself some traction. To explore ideas vs. marketability. To build a resumé.

That is good advice. Really. If I had written a story or two about exploited women, and had them rejected, as they undoubtedly would have been, I might have canned the whole idea of finishing The Gift Horse and putting it out as a debut novel. If I had written some science fiction short stories, and if they ended up in anthologies, I might have had more reasons to be selected as a guest at science fiction conventions. And, as a bonus, shorter works take less time to write, and often less time to publication.

Note that I did not say it is easier, because it isn’t. Or it shouldn’t be easier. The shorter the piece, the more polished it should be. Poetry, for instance, is generally far more polished than prose. And fiction is usually more polished than non-fiction. Do you doubt me? Then read the instructions that came with your last purchase; those are often an indictment of the state of non-fiction writing in our times.

For those who have not published, or have not published recently, the best answer might be an article, a short story, or a paid blog entry. Keeping it short is a good idea, but giving it away is probably not. People love freebies, and they don’t like it when they have to pay, especially after they had been reading for free.

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.