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.