Review: Dropnauts

I’ve recently gotten more involved in a professional society of science fiction and fantasy writers (SFWA) and through my volunteer work I’ve gotten to know a wider range of authors. It’s been a wonderful experience, and now I’m trying to read the works of some of my new online contacts.

J. Scott Coatsworth has a wonderful blog called Liminal Fiction. He writes mostly space stories mostly about queer people and describes himself as someone who “inhabits the space between the ‘here and now’ and the ‘what could be.'”

Skythane is probably his most famous work, but I decided to check out his most recent. Here is my review.

Dropnauts

Dropnauts is an intriguing story with a hopeful ending, and I have a fond spot for such tales. Though the first chapter throws an exploding spacecraft at the reader, be warned that this isn’t all action. A complex story follows. Stick with it through the build-up as it does sort itself out and soon you’ll be rooting for this unusual cast of four young people as they set foot on what they believe is a planet devoid of human life. It isn’t of course. We’re a more resilient species than that, and much of the story involves these dropnauts coming to terms with the survivors they meet.
Two small things took me out of the story. The dropnauts are barely in their twenties and if I were one of 12,000 surviving humans on a failing moon colony, I’d have sent a more mature group. Also, one pocket of survivors is truly cringe-worthy to an old feminist like me. You’ll know what I mean when you encounter them.
However, the book is also packed with things I loved. One favorite was the way the moon colony worked from afar to return Earth to livable status. Another was the intriguing involvement of AI entities. I enjoyed this part so much I would have liked more details.
Do I recommend this book to you? Well, it depends on what you enjoy. I liken this novel to eating crab legs. You have to work a bit at first, but what you get for your effort is well worth it. Me? I eat crab legs every chance I get, so, you know, I really liked the book.

 

 

I’m in SPFBO7: Take Deep Breaths

I keep lists of ideas for new ways to promote my self-published books and I seldom follow through on them. Too much work. Too expensive. Probably won’t make a bit of difference. It’s easy to get discouraged in the world of self-publishing.

One idea got moved from list to list.  I became aware of a contest a few years ago that looked promising called SPFBO (aka self-published fantasy blog off — not bake off.) But every time I saw it, the contest was in progress and I never could figure out where to find the schedule or the rules. Oh well, it probably costs a fortune anyway. And if it doesn’t they won’t let me in.

Then late at night 3 days ago, I skimmed a post from a blog and I saw it. The contest, the SPFBO, was opening the next day! More amazing, it was free and would accept the first 300 people who signed up. This was unbelievable. It didn’t surprise me to discover that last year it filled in under 24 hours.

However, there was one small problem. That same day, the next day, Friday the 14th, was the release day for my latest book She’s the One Who Gets in Fights.

I had three different book release things happening  plus a slew of other related promotional ideas to pursue. Could I possibly get myself entered into this SBFBO thingy as well? Of course I could.

I went to bed determined.  I’d get up and find a way to do it all.

I woke up at 6:59 am to the sound of my wave noise generator stopping. That’s weird. It’s never shut off before. I opened my eyes to see the ceiling fan slowing down.

No!

I live in the mountains of Western North Carolina and every once in a while we lose power up in these hills. Like once every year or two… Not today. Please not today.

But yes, the gods of stress were having a small chuckle at my expense. I found a way to make hot tea (no coffee!) No shower (our well runs on electricity.) I started doing what I could from my phone. Dim that screen. Make that battery last.

However, entering SBFBO was one thing my phone couldn’t do. Did it have enough oomph to be an adequate hot spot for my laptop? Was my laptop well enough charged? If I’d just known this was going to happen …

Entries opened at 2 pm my time. I watched the hours pass, considering a drive into the nearest small town. Since Covid hit, I didn’t know of a single place offering inside space and free internet. Had that changed? Could I make it over to Asheville? Surely they had something.

I must have become boring to watch, for at about 10:30 the gods of stress released their hold on our power lines and  the refrigerator began to hum.

Okay, I can do this now. I can do this. Breath. Slowly.

And of course I did do it because in spite of all my panic it was remarkably easy to enter. I even managed most of my promotional book release stuff, too.

When I woke up Saturday to plenty of wonderful power surging through my home there was also excitement surging through my veins. Someone put all the entered books on Goodreads. Someone else made a list of all the judges. One entrant asked what we all did for a living and the answers were pouring in. This looked to be an exciting thing to be a part of!

Encouragement poured in as well, especially to us nervous first time entrants. I’d read that one of the joys of this endeavor was a sense of community and it looks like no one was joking about that.

So, here I am, in touch with 299 other self-published fantasy writers. Some have have far more success to their names than I do while others have only begun their journey, submitting their first novel. I’m humbled to be in this group and grateful for the whim that led me to read the thing that clued me in to the timing.

Isn’t life funny, in so many ways?

Sulphur has arrived!

I’m quite proud of Sulphur’s story and it fills me with joy that her tale now sees the light of day. Yes you can find her on Amazon today and preorder her on Smashwords. She’ll make her way onto Apple, Kobo, and B&N over the days ahead. Trust me, she’s one take-no-shit woman you can’t help but like.

Three wonderful groups help me promote her today.

Justine of Whispers and Wonders let me do a guest post about writing historical fantasy, and she is featuring Sulphur’s release day in this lovely post. Thank you Justine!

The North Carolina Writer’s Network  featured me in today’s Book Buzz! I’m so glad I found this organization and the wealth of tools and services they offer.

And … R&R book tours is hosting a marvelous release day book blitz!

See all sorts of posts below.

Hosts

Phantom of the Library – https://phantomofthelibrary.com/

Reads & Reels – http://readsandreels.com

Jessica Belmont – https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

The Faerie Review – http://www.thefaeriereview.com 

Lilyana Shadowlyn – https://lshadowlynauthor.com/

Breakeven Books – https://breakevenbooks.com

Rambling Mads – http://ramblingmads.com

Cocktails & Fairy Tales – https://www.facebook.com/CocktailsFairytales

Stine Writing – https://christinebialczak.com/

Indie’s Review – http://indieproreview.blogspot.com/

Nessa’s Lair – https://nessaslair.com/

Didi Oviatt – https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

Lunarian Press – https://www.lunarianpress.com/

Nesie’s Place – https://nesiesplace.wordpress.com

@fle_d – https://www.instagram.com/fle_d/

The Magic of Wor(l)ds – http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

Let Me Explain …

As I began to create The War Stories of the Seven Troublesome Sisters, I realized I wasn’t writing a series in the classical sense. In fact, my novels occur simultaneously, almost, as they present a time of great turmoil through the eyes of seven different participants.

Because these seven are sisters, though, they obviously make plenty of appearances in each others book. But, how one sees  their own actions is quite different from how they perceive what their sister does, right? Along with much else, I was excited to explore this point of view difference.

I’ve been looking for a succinct way to tell potential readers what in they are in for before they begin reading. Like most authors, I’d rather attract readers who like what I’m doing.

Today I came up with this add-on blurb and from now on I intend to add it to every book description. I think it helps. What do you think?

The War Stories of the Seven Troublesome Sisters consists of seven short companion novels. Each tells the personal story and perspective of one of seven radically different sisters in the 1200s as they prepare for an invasion of their realm. While these historical fantasy/alternate history books can be enjoyed as stand-alone novels, together they tell the full story of how Ilari survived.

Which sister do you think saved the realm? That will depend on whose story you read.

Isn’t she beautiful?

I understand cover reveals can be a big deal, but it’s just not my style. I’m happy to get an attractive cover I like and one that represents my books well. When I do, well, I want to share it. Like right away.

So …. here is the gorgeous cover for book 5 in the Seven Troublesome Sister Series.

It really is beautiful, isn’t it?

What is she holding? It’s called a psaltery, and it’s a stringed instrument that was quite popular in the 1200’s.  This 5th sister is a musician. (It’s one of the reasons she can’t keep quiet.)

Like it’s predecessor (cover 4) this was done by the fine folks at Deranged Doctor Design and arrived almost perfect. The way it showed up is on the left. I had a few minor concerns. A psaltery is too heavy to be held the way she holds it. The lighting effects made her hair look like she was going gray. She seemed rather too tall and thin to be a real woman and her arms, in particular, looked off.

Most if not all of these, of course, were artifacts of the sort of photo manipulation DDD does to make their stunning but still affordable covers.

Back came this version, which corrected most of my concerns, except for the oddly long and skinny arms. We had one more round to improve the arms, and then I decided I wanted the castle on her other side. I was all excited about how our brains are accustomed to going from left to right and felt that the castle on the left would better convey that she was leaving to go somewhere else. (See my post Better Covers: Does Your Brain Prefer Left to Right?) Flipping the castle didn’t make as much difference as I’d hoped, but I liked it okay and was happy to call it good with only these three minor revisions.

I’d love to know if other authors are more, or less, picky than I am about their covers. If any of you reading this self-publish, please speak up and let me know!

Better Covers: Does Your Brain Prefer Left to Right?

I love book covers! After ten years in the self-publishing industry, I realize I spend a lot of time thinking about my covers, analyzing them, and just plain staring at them.

I designed my own first one (and had so much fun doing it), but since then I have relied on professionals who can produce a better product. I was lucky to find Deranged Doctor Design a few years ago and they’re now working on their eleventh cover for me!

But it was cover number ten (shown here) that brought out something I was unaware of.  The final product, or at least what I thought was the final product, shows Olivine, a shy, artistic woman who takes up archery because of her unusually gifted eyesight.

I loved the olive color, and the sense of capturing her in motion, so I happily gave DDD the okay to call this one done with only a minor revision to her hair. (Don’t think that has ever happened before. I always see something I want to change.)

I second-guessed my decision, however, when I studied this cover next to the first three books in this series. The other women all look so strong, so sure of themselves, while my fourth sister — she hesitates. To me, she’s looking back over her shoulder like she’s not entirely sure if she should go on.

Well, she is shy, I thought. Maybe this captures that part of her and I should be glad. But honestly, I wasn’t. I know Olivine is strong inside, like her other sisters, and I wanted my readers (and my potential readers) to know that too.

Then a weird thing happened. I was trying to crop the cover image in PowerPoint to just get her face, to put it into a promotional idea I had. You know how if you grab the side of a small image in PowerPoint to move it, sometimes instead you end up pulling one edge all the way over the other and reversing the image? It’s annoying. Well, I did that, and the reversed image surprised me. Here was Olivine, reversed and looking more sure of herself!

Yet, it was the same picture. How could that be?

I puzzled over this for a while before it occurred to me that I’ve spent a lot of my life reading (and writing) and my words always go left to right. In our alphabet, left is backward. Right is forward. So looking left is looking over my shoulder, gazing at the past. Looking right is boldly looking ahead.

Flip the image of a woman looking to her left and suddenly she appears more ready to face the future. It’s amazing.

Yes, the nice folks at DDD were happy to flip the cover image for me, and today I got a draft of the result.

Look at her. Now she’s perfect.

And, I’ve learned something that should help me evaluate cover designs going forward.  For just as our bodies respond differently to chemical compounds that are mirror images of each other, I believe our brains respond differently to mirror images as well.

This means I can ascribe attributes to a character on a cover by paying attention to which way her gaze is directed.

Cool, huh?

FREE: She’s the One Who Thinks Too Much

To celebrate and promote the release of the second novel in this series, I am offering the first novel, She’s the One Who Thinks Too Much, FREE today (February 18) through Monday (February 22) on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08BY4RLX1. 

Those of you familiar with the ins and outs of self-publishing will know that I had to pull this book out of wide distribution for 90 days, removing it from Barnes & Nobel, Kobo, Apple and others in order to sign up for Amazon’s KDP program and offer this free promotion.

Those of you familiar with me will know how much it pisses me off to do this. Amazon already controls a vast amount of the eBook market, and has little reason if any for this petty requirement. None-the-less, it exists.

Because I really want people to give my new series a try, I’ve negotiated with my conscience and decided to put each of these seven novels into KDP one time only, around the time when the following book in the series is released. Then, I’ll offer one and only one such free promotion for each book. It seems like a reasonable compromise to me.

My point is, this is Thinks Too Much‘s onetime giveaway. Please give it a try. It’s free, and I think and hope you’ll like it. Check it out at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08BY4RLX1.

She’ll be here in two weeks

She’s the One Who Cares Too Much

Book 2, my story of the soft-spoken and caring sister who discovers her own fierce power, will be available for purchase Friday Feb 12 and can be pre-ordered now.

I’ll be honest. I struggled with Coral’s story at first. Her personality was too mild for my taste (I like wilder women) and her dreams were so traditional. But over the months we spent together, she won me over as we discovered her power and strength together.

Every woman has a right to pursue her own happiness, and while Coral may want the simple things in life, she’s hardly a simple lady. Furthermore, in the end she may really be the one sister who saves Ilari. I think there is a good chance it’s true, but I’ll have to keep writing to find out.

Coral is Close

I’ve had such fun creating my magical seven sisters for my current series! One of my chief frustrations is that only one of them, Ryalgar, has seen the light of day. But that’s about to change ….

Over the next couple of weeks I will be putting the finishing touches on Coral’s story, checking it once, twice and thrice to make every little detail perfect.

If you don’t self-publish books yourself, believe me — the release of the new book is an exciting time. It’s also hard work, as an author needs to spend time on the promotional work that will get her story in as front of as many readers as possible.

I always like to try new approaches, and this time around I’ll be doing my first release day book blast with a new company (new for me that is). I’m quite happy with others I’ve used, and I’ll be using them too, but the more eyes I can get on this book, the better. So I’ve added Hot Tree Promotions to my arsenal.

They use something new to me — a promotional teaser — and I needed three of them. They gave me the option of designing my own or paying to have them made. I thought, I like messing around with graphics, so why not give it a try?

Above is my first attempt, and I’m rather pleased with it. Wish me luck — I hope it sells a lot of books for me.

Want to learn more about Coral and her story? Check out her pre-order page.

Enjoy Sneak Peeks into My Next Book!

I’m so excited that She’s the One Who Thinks Too Much will be available for kindle on November 13! As part of my celebration, twenty-four different excerpts will be featured on twenty-four different blogs over the next four weeks. That’s right. From August 31 through September 25, you’ll find parts of my new novel on a variety of other peoples‘ blogs. (You’ll also find a lot of other fun books being featured too.)

Yes, there is a giveaway!

In the true spirit of blog tours, I’ll be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N gift certificate to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Go to any of the tour stops listed below to enter to win. Obviously, the more sites you visit and the more ways you enter, the more you increase your chances of winning.

I had great fun creating this alternate world in which seven young women save their homeland, and I hope you will enjoy checking out the various bits of this story.

You can preorder She’s the One Who Thinks Too Much now. The novel will also be available in paperback, and through other retailers, shortly after the kindle release date.

Excerpts can be found at:

August 31: Rogue’s Angels
August 31: Welcome to My World of Dreams
September 1: All the Ups and Downs
September 2: Fabulous and Brunette
September 3: The Avid Reader
September 4: Kit ‘N Kabookle
September 4: Author Deborah A Bailey
September 7: Archaeolibrarian – I Dig Good Books!
September 8: Andi’s Book Reviews
September 9: Two Ends of the Pen
September 10: Our Town Book Reviews
September 11: Joanne Guidoccio
September 14: Danita Minnis
September 14: Readeropolis
September 15: Iron Canuck Reviews & More
September 16: Novels Alive
September 17: T’s stuff
September 18: Stormy Nights Reviewing & Bloggin’
September 18: Dawn’s Reading Nook
September 21: It’s Raining Books
September 22: Locks, Hooks and Books
September 23: Sybrina’s Book Blog
September 24: Gimme The Scoop Reviews
September 25: Viviana MacKade

This tour was put together by Goddess Fish Promotions.