Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Schedule change on new releases!

 Because of editors and cover artists' availability, I've changed up the schedule on new releases. My next book will be a fantasy romance (two love stories in one book!) called Hidden Magic. Here's a snippet from  the cover, and also the back cover blurb.


The valley of the River Wystan is isolated from the rest of the world.  Many years before it had been united under the Lord of Cold Spring, who had suppressed the practice of magic. But when he died, his son wasn’t strong enough to hold the other lords’ loyalty. Now Lord Garrick, the new Lord of Cold Spring, means to resume his grandfather’s role of overlord for the whole valley.  Young Richart Tallengen, newly minted Lord of Esterby, tries to fight off Lord Garrick’s men, but he’s captured and carried to Cold Spring Castle

When his sister Maura comes to Cold Spring to see her brother, she catches Lord Garrick’s eye.  Lord Garrick is as attracted by her courage and her brains as much as by her looks, but he is very surprised to discover that there is more to Maura than meets the eye. She has magical abilities, even though she doesn’t know it.


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Amazon— reviews versus ratings

 Amazon's reviewing protocol has changed over time. Amazon has always let any customer write  reviews, but now they label reviews  from people who actually bought the book or other item with the words "Verified purchase."

They used to require a customer who clicked "Write a review" to actually write something in the review box. I used to occasionally get annoyed-sounding reviews like this one, written by "Sj" about The Sixth Discipline

If you trouble reading the text, it says: "Again I leave a five star review for a book that I really liked but in order to leave that review I have to leave this review which is it’s a book I really liked. It’s so stupid to have to do this review wording crap." So, while he (or she) was willing to assign a rating of stars, he was reluctant to put why he liked the book into words. 

Clearly, Amazon heard him or her. They stopped requiring a written review and allower "reviewers" to simply assign a specified number of stars, without any supporting commentary In some ways, this is bad because reviews are much better than mere star ratings. However, I think people like Sj are far from rare. An author might well get a much higher number of ratings than actual reviews. Since my recent promotion of Alien Bonds, it has gone from 32 ratings/reviews to 53, but only six of the increase had actual reviews attached to the ratings (those six were all very nice reviews!) . 

Reviews are great, but I will take ratings if that's all I can get.

Friday, December 18, 2020

My Books Are in the Smashwords Sale!

Smashwords is an ebook vendor and distributor. They are unusual in that they offer  ebooks in multiple formats-- Kindle, epub, even PDF. Every year in December, Smashwords runs a sale and offers authors the chance to opt in. This year the sale runs from Friday, December 18 through Friday, January 1, 2021. Thousands of Smashwords authors and publishers are providing readers deep discounts or even free books. 

I have several books on Smashwords.  The Sixth Disciple is always free; my fantasy novella Where Magic Rules is usually 99 but will be free during the sale, and No Safe Haven (the sequel to  The Sixth Disciple ) The Nostalgia Gambit, King of Trees, and Turnabout will all be half price-- $1.49.

If you do download an ebook from Smashwords in Kindle's mobi format you can read it with the Kindle Cloud Reader or Kindle app, or you can to sideload it to a Kindle device via email. I have directions on this blog on how to do that, 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Technology and the pace of change

The 20th Century brought tremendous change: social, political, and technological. I was born almost smack dab in the middle of the 20th century; I didn't own a cell phone until I was in my late 30s. 

The cell phone was one of the biggest changes of the 20th century. It started as purely a communication device, a way to reach people from anywhere. After 9-11, I bought for one for my daughter, who was only 12, because I felt a tremendous need to be able to contact her any time. Her older brother already had one. Now, they are ubiquitous. When I read old books, I can figure out when they are set by whether or not (and how) the characters use cell phones. 

Over the years of their existence, cell phones have added all kinds of functions. The smartphone I take with me everywhere -- on those rare occasions when I forgot to take it with me, I felt naked and vulnerable-- is now my alarm clock, timer, camera, web browser, email device, social media interface, and road map, as well as being my phone.

Change is still proceeding, at a rapid pace. TVs are now "smart," cars can, to some extent, drive themselves, TV remotes can accept voice commands, and household appliances can connect to the internet. Some of the changes are very small but also very useful. I love being able to set my dishwasher for a delayed start time of midnight because if it's not totally full, I can add in any dishes I use that evening and not worry about forgetting to start it. Likewise, the remote control for my cable service set-top box lets me set reminders and then auto-changes the channel to the program I marked when that program starts. This is especially useful when I want to be sure to watch part 2 of something, and also when a show ends or starts at an odd time; I watch both The Daily Show (Trevor Noah) and The Late Show (Stephen Colbert) almost every weeknight. The Daily show starts at 11:00 pm and ends at 11:45. The Late Show starts at 11:35 and ends at 12:35. Without an auto reminder,  I would most likely miss the start of The Late Show, and their cld opens are often epic.   

The growth of the internet has meant that many things that used to happen in person or by snail mail now happen online. Online shopping and social media are two examples. It's difficult to keep up with the various social media sites. I'm good with Facebook and Twitter, but I have limited skills in Instagram and none at all in Tik-Tok. 

It's safe to assume that assume that science and technology will fix many things that are problems now. The incredible speed at which vaccines have been developed for COVID-19 demonstrates what can happen when a huge number of people and resources are dedicated to a single problem. 

One of the most fun things about writing fiction set in the future is deciding what problems will have been fixed-- or sometimes what problems will have been created-- by technology. I would like to think all housework would be done by robots (I call them servoids in my books) and I would certainly hope we would find cures for diseases that kill or limit so many people, like cancer and the many varieties of autoimmune diseases. 

Note that one of the earliest attempts to see the future via science fiction was H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, which actually pre-dated the Twentieth Century by  a few years, Of course, Wells was way premature. We still don't have time machines. Yet. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Bag of Tricks is featured on Sorchia's Universe!

 The website Sorchia's Universe, a good site for anyone who likes science fiction and/or fantasy romance, has a feature called Novel Magic, where it highlights up to three similar books. Today's post lists three fantasy romances, and one is my novel Bag of Tricks

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Why do I give away books?

 My recent promotion of Alien Bonds did pretty well. I gave away close to 2,000 Kindle copies. People often ask me, why do authors make books free? It seems like a ridiculous thing to do to some folks.

For me, there are four reasons to give away a book:

1. If it's the first book in the series, people who read it and like it might well buy the other books. 

2. If people read it and like it, they might write a review, or at least rate the book. The more reviews a book has, the more likely it is to sell well. 

3. Even if it's not the first book in a series, people might like the book enough to try another one by the same author, especially if the author has published similar books

4. On online sites like Amazon, giveaways get a book more online traffic and thus help with the "people who bought this also bought . . ." algorithm that sites like Amazon use to push books to buyers.

The question of reviews is really important. Not that many readers actually post reviews, but lots of people judge a book by its star rating and how many reviews it has. Right after the promo ended, a reader posted this review on Amazon:

This is a great review, even though it's not very long. It has an eye-catching, emphatic, and very flattering title, and it says what the reader liked about the book. And it's 5 stars, which does not hurt at all. By the way, you will note that all Amazon reviews have a Helpful button under them. If anyone wants to click that for this review, it's would be great! The most helpful reviews float to the top of the list. 

A caveat for other authors:

 There is one drawback to making a book free, and that is a lot of free books never get read. In effect, the free status lets the reader forego the evaluation of  "Is this a book I will enjoy reading?" As there is no cost, a lot of folks click the "Buy" button but either never open the book or open it and then abandon it a few pages in. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

ALIEN BONDS is free for 5 days!

Starting Tuesday, November 24, 2020 (4 am EST), and continuing through Saturday, November 28, Alien Bonds, the first book in the Wakanreo trilogy, will be free in the Kindle store.  Here are what some Amazon reviewers have had to say about this book:

5.0 out of 5 stars

Reviewed in the United States on June 1, 2020

I have absolutely fallen in love with Wakanreo. Since I didn’t manage to make it into Hogwarts, I suppose I will have to see about immigration fees.

In all seriousness, this is a lovely combination of sf and romance. As a lover of language, I was particularly entranced by the idioms Buxton creates and the culture at which they hint.

Reviewed in the United States on February 19, 2020

Verified Purchase
Great read , you’ve got sci-fi , romance and even racism towards other alien races . After reading the blurb for this book I had to get it and it didn’t disappoint, Kuaron and Dina’s story was fascinating. This Author really knows how to draw you into her story and keep you there , I couldn’t stop reading it was so good !! I can’t wait to read book 2 , I’m crossing my fingers we get to see Jared again

Reviewed in the United States on June 28, 2018

Wonderfully well-written science fiction romance with some nicely detailed world-building. An intriguing alien culture and an engaging cast of well developed characters make for an enjoyable read. The two main characters react realistically to the unusual circumstances that find them thrown together in a bonded relationship that neither of then ever expected to experience. Their relationship developed slowly over the course of the book. I think anyone who enjoys a slow burn romance would appreciate the way the author takes the time to explore the way two people from two very different cultures learn to care for and accept each other. Intergalactic politics and sometimes clashing alien cultures added a bit of suspense to the story. I'm definitely looking forward to reading the next book in this series.

Ways to Read ALIEN BONDS

If you don't own a Kindle, remember you can use the free app on your phone, PC, or tablet to read Kindle books, or read in your browser with Kindle Cloud Reader. Be sure to pick up Alien Bonds now while it's free, if you don't have it already. And tell your friends!

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Working Title: The Return of Magic

 So, with everything lined up to release my duology The Nameless World Saga in December (hopefully) and my far future romance Worlds Apart coming early next year from Crimson Fox Publishing, I have dusted off a book I wrote a while ago and decided that it's worth proceeding with. In fact, I liked it a lot.

The story is a feudal era fantasy in which a series of manors and one castle are located in a large river valley. The plot includes warfare, diplomacy, two love stories, and the study of magic, which has become a lost art. The story follows a you man who has recently inherited his father's title and manor and his older sister who chaffes under the limited role she is accorded in the world. Each of them meets their love interest when they leave their own manor.

I'm not sure if I wil stick with THE RETURN OF MAGIC as the title. It fits the overall plot but doesn't suggest the two love stories. 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Haven books are now available in paperback!

 My first two published novels, The Sixth Discipline and its direct sequel No Safe Haven are now for sale as paperbacks.  Here are the new covers:

For some reason, Amazon put  The Sixth Discipline on sale for $11.99 even though the regular price is $14.99 If you have any interest in the paperback, get it ow befor the change their minds. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

New covers and a new format for the Haven books

The first book I published was The Sixth Discipline, followed by the sequel No Safe Haven. Both are currently available only as ebooks. When I decided to also put them out in paperback, I bought new covers for them. Here's a teaser for the first one:

I am still hashing out the formats but I hope to have both books available in paperback soon, and I will re-issue the ebook versions with the new covers. 

Here's the teaser for No Safe Haven:

As you can see, I am emphasizing the romantic elements in these books. They are there, so might as well let people see that, 

Monday, September 28, 2020

Lots of irons in the fire: THREE upcoming releases!

Somehow I now have a total of three novels in various stages of production. They started as two books, but one was so long, I had to split it into two books.

My science fiction romance Worlds Apart will come out in the spring from Crimson Fox Publishing. The book is finished but has not been edited, and it does not yet have a release date. My editor will start work in January and the cover artist in February. It's a longish book, but it does fit as one volume. It takes place on two very different colony worlds (hence the title), one where the hero is born and raised, and one very different world where the heroine has lived most of her adult life. 

The Nameless World, however, was slightly more than twice as long as Worlds Apart, and I ended up creating two books from it: The North Edge of Nowhere and Oaths and Promises. The two-book series is far future science fiction, and is set in my ThreeCon universe. It will come out from my own Cracked Mirror Press. The two books are a little different in terms of subgenre, or at least in terms of categorization of the plot. The first one is pretty much a coming of age novel, as Darius, the protagonist, is seventeen when it starts and twenty when it ends. It does have a love story in it, but it occurs between two secondary characters. The second book picks up only a few months after the first one ends. A lot happens in book 2, but a good part of the story line could be called a romance, as Darius is old enough to be involved romantically and that relationship is complicated. This dichotomy might turn out to be a real marketing challenge but I am hoping readers will find The Nameless World Saga compelling enough not to worry about subgenre categorization.  

While you could read Oaths and Promises without reading The North Edge of Nowhere first, the story makes more sense when read in order. It's a lot like The Lord of the Rings, which is really one story published in three volumes.  

Worlds Apart has no cover, as yet, so I can't show anything for that book, but for a teaser here is the initial cover art for book 1 of The Nameless World Saga: The North Edge of Nowhere.

Hopefully this gives you a clue as to the genre and style of the story. It's set on a colony world that has not been rediscovered— not officially rediscovered—  by ThreeCon. If you have any comment to make on the cover art, please do so here! 

This book is likely to see publication well before Worlds Apart, but I don't plan to release it until Oaths and Promises is ready, too, because I don't think it's fair to make readers wait for the conclusion of the story.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

BAG OF TRICKS has launched!

 My new fantasy romance Bag of Tricks has launched!  The cover was created by Najla Qamber, who also did the cover for Drifters. Here is the full cover for the paperback

The Kindle version is available on Amazon now. The paperback is for sale in online bookstores including Amazon and on Barnes and Noble.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Snippet from TRIBES

The start of Chapter One:

The scorpipede crawling up Hob’s foot tickled, which seemed odd for something so deadly. The boulder behind Hob warmed his back as he watched the insect’s dark red body undulate, rippling its skirt of silver filaments. The tickling sensation intensified. The scorpipede held its barbed tail high as it reached the peak formed by Hob’s sandal strap across his instep.

Hob debated moving his foot.  If he did it abruptly enough, the thing would almost certainly stab him with its venomous tail.  Hob’s death would be painful but quick, and Andre would probably never find his body.  He would think Hob had escaped him, and that would be a victory of sorts, even if Hob wasn’t alive to see it.

Hob lifted his head to stare out at the flat reddish-gray expanse of desert, broken only by an occasional cluster of white-flowered calla trees and the distant remnants of an old road. Here and there where the pavement was still intact, smooth puddles of water tempted Hob, vanishing when he turned his head. The deceptive shimmer in the air above the road told him the water was only a mirage. 

He had been walking for four days, and the mountains were nowhere in sight. He could sit here and die slowly, or jerk his foot and die quickly. Or he could keep walking and hope that he made it.

The scorpipede flowed down Hob’s sandal and onto the sand, still ruffling its filaments in its quest for survival. After several seconds, Hob could no longer distinguish the insect from the red-gray landscape. He didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed. He was a long way from anywhere. Probably he could have made it this far from Agra in a few hours if he’d had a skimmer. As it was, he had nothing but his own two feet—and even his feet weren’t much good with the damned manacle Andre had locked on his ankle after his first escape attempt.

Hob bent his right knee so that his ankle was close and studied the bright blue band. Its smooth seamless surface, a stark contrast to the bruised and scabbed-over skin around it, seemed to mock him. He had given up smashing the thing with a rock once it was clear he would break his ankle before he would break the manacle. He groaned as he stretched his leg out again. There seemed to be no position where he could hold his foot so that the plastic didn’t touch him, and anywhere it did throbbed with dull agony.

Hob tried to lick his cracked lips, but his mouth was too dry. He shut his eyes and thought about water. Cool, clear water. He let out another groan. Thinking about water only made him thirstier. He sighed and squinted at the sun, a bright golden ball still high in the cloudless blue-green Mariposan sky. Time to get moving. He had let the scorpipede go, so he had to keep walking.

He pulled himself to his feet, feeling the full heat of the sun on his shoulders as soon as he moved out of the meager shade of the dead mara tree, the only mara he had seen so far. He limped across the dry stream bed, keeping the road on his right, hearing no noise beyond his own footfalls and the stirring of a faint, hot breeze.

He had just started to replay the text of his favorite adventure story in his mind when an abrupt, distant sound interrupted his thoughts. He glanced around, surprised, and saw nothing. The noise grew, and he realized it was behind him. He turned and saw a small shape growing rapidly larger.

It was a plain gray skimmer, nothing like Andre’s flashy red model or the large traveling vehicles Hob had seen a few times in the last few days. It was headed north, following the old road, moving fast in spite of its small size. 

Hob sprinted as fast as he could run to the nearest calla tree. The gray skimmer was less than a hundred meters away when he ducked behind the calla. He pressed against the branchless bole, ignoring the sharp stench of its flowers and the prickles sticking into him, right through his pant legs. His heart raced. Had they seen him? He held his breath as the vehicle flew past at only a meter or two of altitude.
The skimmer looked not only small but battered, with a distinct bend in one of the struts. After it passed him, Hob drew in a deep breath, then let it out with a whoosh of relief.

A second later, the skimmer banked, turned back, and circled toward his calla tree. Hob scrambled to keep the tree between himself and the low-flying vehicle, tearing his pants on the spiny bristles as he maneuvered to stay on the opposite side of the bole. They must have seen him. Why else would they turn?

The skimmer hovered for a second, then set down between Hob’s tree and a cluster of large boulders. After a moment, the pilot’s door opened and someone in a blue shirt got out. Hob pulled back, his heart thumping in his chest. He wouldn’t let himself peek again. No, no! He wouldn’t go back. He couldn’t go back.

“Anyone there?” 

It was a woman’s voice. She sounded unsure but hardly fearful.

The muffled thud of footsteps on sand came closer. “Is anyone there?”

Hob held his breath. What could he do? Even if she didn’t try to make him go back to Agra, she would likely tell someone she had seen him. On the other hand, she had a skimmer. If he could get to the skimmer first, he could get out of the desert. He had to get to her vehicle before she did—no matter what it took.

Hob gathered his strength and let his need take over. He lunged from behind the calla tree, straight at the woman. She was closer than he had expected, and she swung a weapon at him. A sharp pain stabbed Hob’s right shoulder as he jumped at her, but his desperation made him keep going. He knocked the pistol out of her hand and grappled her to the ground.

They rolled back and forth. Hob knew some slave quarter tricks, but none of them helped. Her fists punched him; her hands clamped his wrists; her feet kicked his legs. Hob dodged as her knee came up at his groin. Finally, frantic, he managed to get his hands around her throat and started to choke her. 
She croaked at him. “Look down!”

Just as he glanced down, he felt the tip of the small knife she had pressed against his heart, saw his own blood drip red onto her blue shirt.

He let go. It was over. He was a slave again. He could feel his eyes trying to tear up, but they were too dry to manage it.

When she pulled away he saw the tribal mark of two crossed swords on the side of her neck. Alone in the fucking desert and the only person to find him was a fucking Han-Lin! Whatever good luck he had had in his escape had evaporated like the morning dew in the calla flowers.

The Han-Lin retrieved her laser pistol and waved it at him. “Get up!”


For sale on Amazon and free in Kindle Unlimited.

BAG OF TRICKS — Cover reveal!

 My new fantasy romance Bag of Tricks will be released on Tuesday, September 22! The cover was created by Najla Qamber, who also did the cover for Drifters. Here is the full cover for the paperback

The Kindle version is available for pre-order on Amazon now. The paperback will be available on Amazon on September 22 or it can be pre-ordered on Barnes and Noble.


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

A Snippet from BAG OF TRICKS

 This is from the first chapter of my new fantasy romance Bag of Tricks, already available for pre-order on Kindle and releasing in paperback as well on September 22. This scene describes how Aveline meets Zarek, who becomes her companion on the road and an ally in her goal to rescue Princess Inessa. 



Aveline inched through the trees, staying parallel to the road. The aroma of roasting rabbit nearly drove her wild, but caution made her move slowly. She ducked down to peer through a scraggly whortleberry bush.

A lone man sat beside a campfire, the leaping flames making an island of color in the growing sea of blackness. For just one second, Aveline thought he had a magician’s aura, but then she realized it was a trick of the firelight. At the man’s back stood a two-wheeled cart, a modest vehicle with slatted sides and an open back end.

Tied to a nearby tree, a dusty, dun-colored donkey flicked its tail as it grazed on a stand of bastard balm. Beside the man, a large gray dog lay with his muzzle on the man’s thigh. His eyes followed the man’s hand as it turned a spit on which a rabbit carcass sizzled.

“Almost ready now, boy.” The man scratched the animal’s head, then took a scrap of something from a pack that leaned against the cart and tossed it to the dog.

Aveline looked the two of them over. The man looked well past his youth as his black hair was streaked with white. His teeth showed white under the black mustache that matched his short beard and thick, short eyebrows. His eyes were deep-set in his scarred and sun-weathered face. A bend in his nose suggested he had been in a fight.

Beside him, the huge dog looked muscular and shaggy, both his long muzzle and his pricked-up ears made him appear more like a wolf  than a dog.

Aveline inhaled a deep breath, trying to use her gift to assess the man. What manner of man was this who spoke to his dog as a friend? She scented none of the sour smell of evil, the rank odor of violence. Weariness, bitterness even, but no venom.

She glanced around, still anxious about the possibility that the Duke’s men could issue forth from the woods. How should she appear? A transformation spell would weary her quickly and kill her if she kept it up it for long. But a trust spell could impose goodwill without harming this stranger. Aveline would offer the heart-shaped trust charm as a gift and mutter the spell while he held it. He would believe anything she said after that.

The dog lifted his head and stared right at Aveline. He knew she was there.

The man’s short, bushy eyebrows shot up. “What is it, Burden?”

Forced to act, Aveline pushed her way through the bushes, conscious of the tattered blue taffeta of her skirt, and the grubby brocade of her bodice. “Good evening to you, good sir. Might I share your fire?”

The man had jumped to his feet as soon as she moved, one hand reaching under the cart. When he came upright, his right hand held a sword. The weapon had a long, slightly curved blade and a plain but serviceable steel guard. He held the weapon out as he looked her up and down, surprise and wariness written on his face.

Aveline realized she had judged his age wrongly. His face might have been scarred and deeply tanned, but it was unlined. He couldn’t have been much more than twenty-five, thirty at the most. His hair had a single wide streak of white over one ear, but the rest of it was as black as jet.

Aveline tried to think as she patted her own brown hair where it had escaped the silver hairpins Inessa had given her. What story could account for a lone woman wearing a tattered court dress in the deep woods?

The sword point wavered as the man looked her over. “Who are you?”

Aveline sank into her best curtsy. “My name is Lady Aveline of Helg, and I’m quite lost.”

His eyes opened wide as he took in her black wool cloak, ragged, but lined in red silk, and her once dainty satin slippers, now filthy and shredded. “I should think so.” He lowered the sword and peered into the darkness behind her. “Are you alone, madam?”

Her heart lurched at having to admit the truth, but she had no choice. “Yes. Quite alone.”

He suddenly glanced down at the dog. The animal had risen when his master stood but had made no offensive move or even any sound. Instead, he held his head cocked as he studied Aveline. His tail moved in a tentative wag.

“Burden seems to trust you, at any rate.” The stranger picked up the scabbard and slid the sword into it. Aveline noted the thick curved ridge of a scar on his left cheek, and a longer rope-like scar that started below his right ear and disappeared into his collar. “Sit down and welcome, Lady Aveline of Helg.”


Saturday, August 29, 2020

Wakanreo, world without castes

One reason I enjoy setting my stories in fantasy worlds, or in the far future is that it lets me create the world itself-- not only the geography, but the culture. I especially like to try different dynamics as far as gender, sometimes making men and women equal and sometimes giving more power to one sex or the other. 

But when I created the Wakanreo trilogy that begins with Alien Bonds, I took my world building to a new level. The aliens known as Wakanreans are unique in my far future universe because they mate for life from a pure biological reaction. I was reminded of this recently when I was reading a couple of recent articles about the new Netflix show "Indian Matchmaking." I saw the first one in the Washington Post. It described how many Indian families still rely on old-style matchmakers who connect people looking for spouses. In fact, 90 percent of marriages in India are arranged, I found that statistic amazing. 

The thing is, when these marriages are arranged, they almost always result in couples from the same caste marrying, which reinforces India's strict caste system. Many countries have stratified levels of society based on wealth, occupation, and such, but India's system comes from the Hindu religion and not only assigns names to castes but treats the stratification as being justified by the will of their gods,

Then I saw a second article in my news feed; this one, from Al Jazeera was also about the same Netflix show but it mentioned that Indian Muslims practice arranged marriages and that they use them to also practice "classism, ethnocentrism, and colourism."  So, even though it wasn't part of their religion, these folks were relying on arranged marriages to maintain the same kind of stratification that a caste system imposes.

And of course, in the Western world, many people use online dating apps to screen prospective partners for compatibility, not only of temperament but also income, race, and looks, so I can't claim it's purely an Indian thing. 

Finding a life partner is a serious matter, Some people stay single from choice, some from despair after a bad relationship, and some because they're waiting for the right person to walk into their lives. In Alien Bonds, I created a society where every adult is either paired off  (or every now and then, in a permanent threesome) or waiting to be paired off, based on a reaction beyond his or her control. This system has advantages and disadvantages for individuals, but one side effect is, there are no castes, no aristocrats, no stratification of society.


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

A snippet from ALIEN BONDS

For Teaser Tuesday, here's a very brief snippet from ALIEN BONDS, book 1 of my Wakanreo trilogy:

The Wakanrean stood in front of her. He glared down at her, his face contorted into a scowl, his amber eyes glowing with contempt.
“I beg your pardon.” Dina tried to keep the quaver out of her voice. “Do I know you?”
He was so close, she could feel the heat from his body. Either that, or the room had gotten suddenly warmer. Dina felt herself flush from head to foot.
He didn’t answer, but all at once it was as if his anger was a physical thing, an invisible mass, pushing against her. She stepped backward, stumbled, and almost fell.
She reached for the mezzanine railing behind her, and in the same instant, the Wakanrean grabbed her arm.
Dina froze, utterly baffled. The orientation had said clearly that Wakanreans would always avoid touching a Terran, and yet here was one not only touching her, but holding her firmly by the arm and helping her to stand.
The orientation had also failed to warn her that a Wakanrean’s touch was so warm it almost burned. Dina could feel a flush of heat on her arm where his hand still gripped it. She stood straighter and looked into his face. He had typical Wakanrean features—an arched nose, large round eyes, a wide mouth.
His expression changed as she watched. His anger faded to confusion. He looked almost stunned. His nostrils still flared, but from the way his eyes had opened wide, Dina knew he was surprised rather than angry.
Neither of them had taken a step since he took hold of her arm. Dina swallowed once, conscious of discreet glances and overt stares from those around them.
“I’m all right,” she said finally, wondering if she was speaking the truth. The dizziness had passed, but she still felt lightheaded. “Thank you, but you can let go now.”
He loosened his grip but didn’t release her for a few seconds. When he did, he brushed her bare arm with the back of his hand. Dina was amazed when it sent shivers of anticipation up her spine.
“This is unexpected.” His wonderfully resonant voice had a rich, warm timbre to it that made Dina’s shivers change from anticipation to yearning.
“Yes,” she said, unsure of what he meant, but afraid to give offense.
“Where do you live?”
“I have an apartment in the off-world sector,” she said, wondering why she was answering him. She fought the urge to close her eyes and just listen to that wonderful voice.
“My house is in the cliffs outside the city. Let’s go there instead.”
“All right.”
It took Dina a moment to realize that she had agreed to go home with him.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Writing the future in uncertain times

In some ways, humans have always lived in perilous times. In the past, life spans were shorter because poor nutrition and disease killed many people well before old age got the chance to. Now, however, science, which enabled more crops, a better understanding of nutrition, and the development of antibiotics and other life-saving drugs, has also created the technology of rapid world-wide travel. The corona virus designated as COVID-19 has spread at an unprecedented speed to create what feels like an overnight global pandemic.

The resulting lock-down of society in an effort to slow the spread of the virus has threatened the world's economy and put countless people out of work. This is scary as hell for a lot of people, and it has highlighted the difference between jobs in the digital world, which can be done anywhere, and jobs in the physical world, which require a person to be present. It also illustrated the length of our supply chain. If people stop going to restaurants, it's not just restaurant owners and cooks and kitchen and wait staff who suffer, it's the suppliers who sell them food, and the truckers who transport it,and the farmers who grow it, and the people who sell the farmers seed and tractors and fertilizer. We are all more economically connected than we ever realized.

If you think about it, though, this kind of epic event also affects people who write stories set in the future. There is no way this pandemic won't have an impact on our history. Once reason I always set my science fiction stories a thousand years into the future (except for Turnabout) is I didn't feel comfortable predicting the shorter term future.

Look at George Orwell's 1984, or Arthur C. Clarke and his series that began with 2001:A Space Odyssey. Orwell only went forward 30-some years. Clarke used about the same time leap (but then the setting jumped forward with the next book, finally ending a thousand years into the future with 3001.). But both books have, of course, been proven wrong. Orwell's story has had an impact on our language and political discourse, but it didn't actually happen (although it is looking more likely every day that Donald Trump is in office). Arthur C. Clarke's story became a visually stunning movie as well as a novel but we went to the moon and did not find any alien artifacts.

In a thousand years there might not even be people anymore. Who knows how many pandemics are going to happen and what their impact will be? I will keep writing, but the future now seems more uncertain than ever.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Universal book links and ISBNs

I have discovered a new tool. Well, new to me. And also I have discovered a limitation to the tool. A site called Books2Read offers a way to create a "universal book link" for ebooks. That is, the site  will generate a link and when it is clicked, the link page looks like this:

Next to the Drifters cover image are icons with links to every site where the ebook is available,  In this instance, the link was generated for my newest book, Drifters, which is available at Amazon's Kindle store, and at Apple Books, B&N Nook, Kobo, Google Play, Indigo, and at Angus & Robertson, an Australian ebookstore.

I was excited to think I could slim down my website by using this tool, as it allows me to make the book title itself into a single link without my having to create a series of links for each vendor. Now, the interesting thing is, the tool works by the user giving it a link to a vendor site that sells the ebook. The tool then generates a list of the other vendors of the ebook. When I put in the Amazon Kindle link for Drifters, published this year, it generated a  link that displayed the page shown above. When I put in the Amazon Kindle link for Turnabout, which I published in 2017 under my own imprint, Cracked Mirror Press, I got this error message:

However, if I put in the Barnes & Nobles link for the same book, it worked fine and generated a link to this page, which you will notice does NOT list Amazon's Kindle store:

The same "Not an ebook" error message is generated for every other book I have published except for Drifters IF I use the Amazon Kindle link. So, what's the deal? The answer is ISBNs.

In the US, R. R. Bowker is the company that is authorized to sell (and thus to issue) ISBNs to publishers (including self-publishers).  ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. In a way, an ISBN is like a social security number for a book. Remember that titles cannot be copyrighted. If you want to write a nonfiction book about the dust bowl in Oklahoma and call it Gone with the Wind, you go right ahead. An ISBN provides a way to track a specific book without recourse to specifying things like titles and authors that could easily be duplicated. A single book can have multiple ISBNs however, because the rules have always specified you needed one for each format. When a book came out in hardback, it had a unique ISBN (previously 10 digits but now 13). When the same book came out in trade paperback, it got another unique ISBN. Ditto for the mass market paperback. And, ISBNs are always linked to publishers. I created my own imprint, called Cracked Mirror Press, and all my books except Drifters have been published with ISBNs bought from Bowker that identiufy Cracked Mirror Press as the publisher. If you self-publish and let the platform you are using (Kindle store, Apple Books, etc) provide an ISBN, then that ISBN will identify that platform as the publisher.

When Bowker started issuing ISBNs for ebooks, the pick list for book format included the option "Electronic Book Text." There is a secondary list that allows you to specify epub or mobipocket (on which the Kindle format is based) as well a PDF and a few others. Both mobi and epub formats are created using HTML, but they have slightly different coding rules. Almost every vendor out there uses epub rules for formatting ebooks, but Amazon wanted to control the format of Kindle books, so they started with mobi and then morphed it into azw. I had always assumed that picking from the secondary menu was required; if it was in the past, it is not now. You can simply specify Electronic Book Text and let it go at that, and then apply that ISBN to all ebook versions of that book. Because Snowy Wings Publishing doesn't use the secondary list, all the ebook versions of their books can use the same ISBN, and thus the link took works for all the vendor sites.

Of course, the one thing that the universal link relies on is Books2Read always being in existence. If that site goes down, the universal link will be toast.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

ALIEN BONDS is on sale! Travel to Wakanreo for only $1.99! #MFRWhooks

To celebrate the lunch of my new YA science fiction novel Drifters, I have put my science fiction romance Alien Bonds (book 1 of the Wakanreo trilogy) on sale for half off— only $1.99 for the Kindle version! Of course the entire trilogy is also free if you're a Kindle Unlimited subscriber,

Alien Bonds takes place on the planet Wakanreo, where the dominant species is humanoid, but a little taller than actual humans, and with fur and claws. Wakanreans are also unique in the galaxy because they mate for life through a process controlled entirely by pheromones. I had a lot of fun writing this book because I got to decide how this trait would have affected Wakanrean cultures. I concluded that Wakanreans would be less class-conscious than humans, because there would be no such thing as an arranged marriage, no upper class that could look down on "inferior" people based on their jobs or lack of wealth. If fate and pheromones are always in charge of mating, then parents could not control who their offspring brought into the family. Ergo, everyone is valued more equally.

Likewise, if two people with compatible pheromones happened to be the same gender, no big deal. If mating isn't a choice, then you can't judge people on their mates. Also, sex has nothing to do with morality so they don't worry about nudity. But there is no such thing as dating because you cannot induce the mating process. So is that a bad thing or a good thing? That's kind of the point of the book. Well, that and the love story that unfolds between a human woman and a Wakanrean man.

Another thing that was fun to do with this book was I was able to make excellent use of use the Kindle X-Ray function. X-Ray is most often used to explain who characters are (it's very handy when someone from disappears in chapter 2 and then reappears in chapter 20.. However in the Wakanreo books, I also use X-Ray to link the made-up alien words to their meanings. All you do is long press the character or place name, or in this case, Wakanrean word, and a box with an explanation pops up. And unlike looking up terms in Wikipedia, X-Ray works fine in airplane mode. [N.B. While an actual Kindle supports X-Ray, not every version of the app does. Also, it won't work in books where the publisher has not done the setup work.] There is a glossary at the back of the book if you can't use X-Ray.

So, hop aboard the StarShip Kindle and you will visit an interesting planet! One Amazon reviewer called the story "a unique and very well thought out romance, unlike any other I’ve read before."

Excerpt from Alien Bonds:

    The silver-haired Wakanrean came closer still. Under his cape he wore a long, blue robe instead of the trousers and loose, tunic-style shirt favored by Wakanreans of both sexes. He was very close now. His golden facial and body fur combined with the creamy white of his crest reminded her of some Terran animal, but she couldn’t remember which one. Other than the dark blue trim on his robe and the diamond-shaped pattern that decorated his sandals, his only adornment was a piece of silver jewelry fastened at the base of his throat; she couldn’t tell if it was pinned to his robe or his chest fur.
Dina could feel herself breathing faster, her heart pounding hard. She should walk away. Why couldn’t she move her feet? She stood waiting by the mezzanine railing, as still as if she had taken root in the floor.
    The Wakanrean stood in front of her. He glared down at her, his face contorted into a scowl, his amber eyes glowing with contempt.
    “I beg your pardon.” Dina tried to keep the quaver out of her voice. “Do I know you?”
    He was so close, she could feel the heat from his body. Either that, or the room had gotten suddenly warmer. Dina felt herself flush from head to foot.
    He didn’t answer, but all at once it was as if his anger was a physical thing, an invisible mass, pushing against her. She stepped backward, stumbled, and almost fell.
She reached for the mezzanine railing behind her, and in the same instant, the Wakanrean grabbed her arm.
    Dina froze, utterly baffled. The orientation had said clearly that Wakanreans would always avoid touching a Terran, and yet here was one not only touching her, but holding her firmly by the arm and helping her to stand.
    The orientation had also failed to warn her that a Wakanrean’s touch was so warm it almost burned. Dina could feel a flush of heat on her arm where his hand still gripped it. She stood straighter and looked into his face. He had typical Wakanrean features—an arched nose, large round eyes, a wide mouth.

    His expression changed as she watched. His anger faded to confusion. He looked almost stunned. His nostrils still flared, but from the way his eyes had opened wide, Dina knew he was surprised rather than angry.


DRIFTERS is live!

My latest novel Drifters is now for sale as an ebook and a paperback!

Amazon paperback
Kindle book
Books a Million paperback
Barnes & Noble paperback
Book Depository  paperback
Abe Books paperback
Also listed by IndieBound

Drifters is a YA science fiction adventure set on a far-future world.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Cover Reveal for DRIFTERS

As I mentioned in my earlier post, on April 14, 2020, I will release a new book, a YA science fiction novel called Drifters (the Kindle version can be pre-ordered for $3.99)  This will be my first book published from Snowy Wings Publishing, a cooperative publishing venture from a great group of authors.

Here's the cover! 

I also plan to publish a fantasy romance called Bag of Tricks from the SWP sister imprint, Crimson Fox Publishing,but that will be much later in the year,

The paperback of Drifters is available on pre-order from Barnes & Noble, discounted to $8.57 from $11.99.   The Books A Million version is full price.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

TRIBES is on sale!

To celebrate the launch of my new young adult novel Drifters, I am running a sale another of my one-word title books, Tribes. While Drifters is YA (no sex scenes), Tribes is more of science fiction romance. Here's the blurb:
Hob is a slave. Jahnsi is a mercenary, a damsel who never needs rescuing. They both live on Mariposa, a world founded as a prison colony, where all-male or all-female tribes are the only government there is. A person’s tribe demands loyalty and service but provides protection. A girl baby always has a tribe but when a woman can’t find a man to claim her son, she has to abandon him, and the infant can then become someone’s slave.
Hob has nothing to lose when he meets Jahnsi. For the first time in a long time, Hob finds first compassion and then something much more. Jahnsi is horrified by the injustice on Hob's life. But as she and her family struggle to keep him hidden and safe, someone from off-world begins a manhunt through Mariposa's slave quarters, looking for a very specific slave.
The Kindle version of Tribes will be 99¢ starting at 9:00 am EDT on April 1. Starting April 4 at the same time it will jump up to $1.99 and stay there through April  8.  Note that is is also free in Kindle Unlimited.

Monday, March 23, 2020

DRIFTERS is coming out April 14!

I'm happy to announce the upcoming release of a new book, a YA science fiction adventure called Drifters.  The story is set in my ThreeCon universe but there are no characters or events from other books. Here is the blurb:
In the far future, sixteen-year-old Jehan Amato lives on Menkar VII, a colony world only recently rediscovered by the rest of the galaxy. After a run-in with a dangerous gang that wants to exploit his secret psy talent for opening locks without tools, Jehan is sent to live in a Drifter caravan with his estranged father. But though Jehan, who has lived in New Hope City all his life, is initially wary of the nomadic people and their unfamiliar customs, in the caravan he comes to learn things about his family and himself that will change his life forever.
There will be a paperback version, and the ebook version is available for preorder on Kindle. Other ebook vendors will follow soon after I finish the epub work.

Note that Drifters is my first book with Snowy WIngs Publishing, a cooperative venture of many YA authors. I also hope to have a book out later this year with their sister imprint Crimson Fox Publishing. That book will be a fantasy romance; the working title is Bag of Tricks.

Cover reveal for Drifters will be April 1.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Smashwords sale for "Read an ebook week!"

Smashwords is having a sale and all my books in their store are either half price or free!

Of course the books that are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited are not for sale on Smashwords, but I still have seven titles there. The Return of Magic (a novella) and The Sixth Discipline are free; the others are $1.50.

Smashwords is not tied to a device. They sell ebooks in pretty much every format, but the file you download will then need to be uploaded to your ereader. If you have a Kindle, you can either email it, or you can copy it to the Kindle by using a USB cable to attach the Kindle to the PC or Mac.

It's Read an Ebook Week! Check the whole sale out out here.

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Ins and Outs of My Recent Fussy Librarian Promotion

First, Happy Valentine's Day! I hope someone gave you a valentine.

Second, if you're not familiar with ebook promotional newsletters, basically, a company creates an email list of ebook buyers (subscribers have to opt in, but it's free to them) and then charges authors and publishers to include their books in a daily email to subscribers. There are many of these services now. BookBub is the biggest name (and the hardest to get into), but there are others, including Book Gorilla, Bargain Booksy/Free Booksy (they separate free books and cheap books into their two emails and if you want both, you have to subscribe to both.), The Fussy Librarian, and Ereader News Today (ENT). When books are on sale but not free, the email entry has an affiliate link and the company gets a small cut from the sale.

On February 8, I ran a Fussy Librarian promotion for The Sixth Discipline (a free ebook!) . The results were pretty good. I had not used FL in a while, so I didn't know what to expect.

I gave away hundreds of copies, mostly on Kindle. And of course, even though the email itself usually generates "sales" for the one day it runs, Amazon's online algorithms push popular books to readers so increased "sales" continues for a few days. As you can see in the screen snap below, the promo offered links to the the book on Kindle, Nook (B&N), Apple, Kobo and Google Play. The results in the list below the screen snap are "sales" for the day of the promo plus three days after.

Vendor:           No. of Copies given away February 8, 9, 10, and 11

Amazon Kindle: 277 (plus 5 paid*), 88 (plus 2 paid*), 28 (plus  1 paid*), 21 (none paid*)
Google Books: 20, 3, 2, 0
iBooks/Apple Books: 19, 0, 0, 0
Barnes & Noble 0, 0, 0, 0
Smashwords: 0, 1, 2, 0 (note: their link was not listed in the ad; these are normal numbers for comparison)
Kobo 0, 0, 0, 0

* The Kindle version wasn't free in all Amazon bookstores so the paid numbers represent foreign sales.

Note that The Sixth Discipline was my first published title, and it came out in 2011. It is free on Amazon only because Smashwords lets an author make a book free, and because Smashwords is a distributor as well as an e-tailer, the book is thus free on other platforms as well. Amazon practices price matching (which is why you see "Tell us about a cheaper price" links on a book's Amazon page);  if you make the book free elsewhere, Amazon will make the Kindle version free also. These days, I usually give away from zero to three Kindle copies every day, so promotions are helpful to boost "sales."

I think in a way, these numbers do a good job of representing how well each vendor is doing at ebook sales. Amazon is way ahead of the pack; its second day number beat all the others' first day totals combined. But Google and Apple both have a significant ebook presence, On the other hand, Barnes & Noble is pretty much dead in the water, and Kobo is going nowhere (at least in the US; it is more popular overseas where Amazon is less dominant). This explains one of the main reasons Amazon can tempt authors and publishers into enrolling their books in Kindle Unlimited: they give up small sales numbers on other platforms in return for money from KU borrows.

Right now both The Sixth Discipline and its sequel No Safe Haven are available only in ebook form but I am having new covers made, and formatting the books for print. I hope to have paperback versions available in a month or so. I might run another promotion after that, as a test of the new covers.

A word to other authors: Giving away this book makes some sense because there is a direct sequel that is not free, and I always see increased sales of it after a promotion of the first book. Giving away a standalone book is not usually as good an idea.  For one thing, a huge number of free ebooks are never read. Making a book free eliminates the cost barrier, so a lot of readers download a free book first, and then look to see if they want to read it. If you have books that are very similar, it can still be a good idea to make a book free for a day or two, in that it can drive up your sales numbers on Amazon temporarily and thus get the book in front of a lot of readers through the "customers also bought" function. That's another benefit of Kindle Unlimited; authors can make their books free or discounted for short periods of time.