Friday, August 26, 2016

TWENTY LITTLE WORDS THAT MEAN THE WORLD TO A WRITER



So let’s talk about something we all want, but we’re not supposed to ask for. Something that for a writer is like water to a man dying of thirst in the desert, food to a woman begging on a street corner in Bangladesh.

Reviews.

When I was a na├»ve unpublished writer, I never imagined it would be difficult to get people to tell me what they thought of my books. After all, the agents and publishers sending me all those rejections were more than happy to tell me what they didn’t like about the premise in my blurbs or the opening chapters. Contest judges were free with their advice about the good and the bad points of my writing. Opinions were everywhere.

But now that I’m in the business of selling books, I find getting readers to share their opinions publicly is like pulling teeth. An informal poll of my friends who are readers indicates many of them are intimidated by the process (which couldn’t be easier—really) or they see it as a chore, like a book report from school. They seem to think it takes all the fun out of reading the book if you have to rate it afterwards. They whine if you ask them to help you out by writing 20 little words in a review. And Lord knows you can’t pay them! (NOTE TO ALL GOVERNING BODIES: Humor intended.)

PLEASE! Just one little review! I'm begging you!

It's even more complicated within the community of writers who are also readers. Amazon has obscure rules about authors reviewing authors. It’s not entirely clear whether you can or not, or whether you can get away with it or not under certain circumstances (like reviewing under aliases). The SFR community is particularly hampered by these rules because we have a disproportionate number of writers to readers (eg. many, if not most, of our readers are also writers).

There are plenty of blogs and folks who just like to review books for the fun of it. God bless them! I’ve requested reviews from them for my book launches, almost always with great success. The problem is requesting those reviews is cumbersome and time-consuming, requiring an individual email to each one, and scheduling, and back-and-forth. It’s nearly as difficult as the old querying process. And with the sheer volume of new books coming out these days, reviewers are overwhelmed. Wait times for reviews are now routinely four to six months.

Then there are the review services, like NetGalley. Ask any ten people about those services and you’ll get ten different opinions about whether you should use them, ranging from, “They’re great!” to “They’ll destroy your book forever!” I’ve never been brave enough to try, though lately I’ve come to believe that even bad reviews are better than no reviews.

And here’s why: Amazon has sales algorithms that are based on the number of reviews a book has garnered. At various levels, those algorithms kick in, triggering attention for the book in Amazon’s daily features, "you might like" recommendations, etc. So at ten reviews, you get a little notice, at 20 some more, at 50 quite a bit, at 100, wow! And so on. The algorithms are all computer-based—no one is reading the reviews to see whether they’re good or bad, though they are tracking the star ratings.

So let’s say you have five reviews and all of them are five stars. Great, you say! Not so great—Amazon will ignore you. But if you have 50 reviews that average out to 3.5 stars, Amazon will treat you like a wunderkind. Part of that is due, of course, to the fact that you sold enough books to get 50 reviews. But part of it is due to the stupid computer. (If you’ve ever questioned why so many books you think are not so wonderful are selling like hotcakes, this is part of the problem.)

Ah, but not all reviews are welcome, you say. What about trolls? And, yes, the trolls are out there. Not sure there is anything to be done about them except to develop a thick skin and never, ever respond.

I’ve done a little research, I’ve made some observations, but I have no real solution for the problem of what to do about the need for reviews. Suggestions, anyone? Because this book-selling business is tough going, and nothing eases the way more than a good review.

Cheers,
Donna





Thursday, August 25, 2016

Another day, another cover

I used to think I wasn't too bad at graphic design - until I had a few covers made by people who know what they're doing. Really, it's so very important to have an eye-catching cover. So I had my favourite cover designer, Rebecca Poole, take a look at the covers for Morgan's Choice and Morgan's Return.

Here are the old ones (done by me) as comparison.



We were both very happy with the (inevitable) spaceships I'd used in the previous versions, but I wanted to see if we could get the people element into the visual. Rebecca and I tossed around some ideas, and finally decided on a "his" and "hers" approach. Then it was all down to the cover models. And once again we were reminded how hard it is to get the right kind of cover model. Ravindra is dark-skinned, but of Indian appearance, not African. There are a few around, but long hair and unshaven would not go with the image (sorry Vikkas), and I didn't want anybody too young. So the man in the cover is a compromise. He's not as dark as I'd like, but I really like the pose, Ravindra looking for answers to difficult questions. And of course I LOVE that ship.




Then we moved on to Morgan. I knew she looked like those very beautiful women of mixed race that you see in South America, but with strange, chrome eyes. We found a stunning model, Bex fixed the eyes, added an incredible space scene with weird alien ships - and we were done.


I'd never really realized how important fonts are. Believe me, the detail makes all the difference. And you don't HAVE to have the titles in the middle of the space. Who knew?

I think these covers are absolutely stunning, and they fit the stories really, really well. Bex is an absolute pleasure to work with. Take a look at her site.

Oh, and if you want to know more about Morgan's Choice and Morgan's Return, you'll find the series page here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Cover Reveal! SALVATION by Lea Kirk

Spacefreighters Lounge is very proud to host this cover reveal for an exciting upcoming Science Fiction Romance novel, Salvation (Book Two of the Prophecy Series) by Lea Kirk.




Salvation

Book Two of the Prophecy Series

A blessing and a curse…

Seven years ago, a single moment changed the course of Nicholaus Bock’s life forever—the moment his preternatural Gift to heal awakened in him. A gift that made him an invaluable commodity to the known galaxy. Now his mentor’s intriguing and secretive new student goes out of her way to challenge his loyalty to everything he values.

A dark secret…

After facing death and destruction during the Anferthian invasion, Sakura Yamata revels in her new-found Gift to heal. Helping Earth’s survivors keeps her mind off the loss of her family, and the memory of the terrible choices she made. Nick could penetrate her defenses and discover what she’s hiding. She must not let the handsome healer close enough for that to happen.

A race facing annihilation…

When a mysterious disease strikes the hidden sanctuary of the Anferthian dissenters, Nick and Sakura are called in to help. But someone is going to great lengths to ensure the dissenters don’t survive. Nick and Sakura must set aside their differences and work together to save them before the fragile peace between three worlds is shattered.
 

Coming October 18, 2016

Available for pre-order now
 

~*~

 
Author Bio

Lea Kirk loves to transport her readers to other worlds with her science fiction romances. Her fascination with science fiction began at six years old when her dad introduced her to the original Star Trek TV series. She fell in love with the show, and was even known to run through her parents’ house wearing the tunic top of her red knit pantsuit and her white go-go boots pretending to be Lieutenant Uhura.

In January of 2016, she published her well-received debut novel, Prophecy, Book One of the Prophecy Series. She followed that up in April with a short story, All of Me, set in the Prophecy Series universe. Another short story, Space Ranger, will be released October 11, 2016 as part of the Pets in Space Anthology. Salvation, her second full-length novel comes out a week later. The third book in her series, Collision, is scheduled for 2017.

Ms. Kirk lives in Northern California with her wonderful hubby of twenty-six years, their five kids (aka, the nerd herd), and a whole slew of characters just itching to have their stories told!
 
Links:

Other books by Lea Kirk

Prophecy, Book One of the Prophecy Series
All of Me, A Prophecy Series Short Story

Coming Soon:
Space Ranger, A Prophecy Series Short Story
(Part of the Pets in Space Anthology)
Release date: October 11, 2016

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuesday Teaser: Running Scared #amwriting #scifi #romance

Week five of my summer break, and this time I have a little advanced snippet from Keir's Shadow: Book Three of Redemption. This is unedited as yet - well, as in not been through my editor although I've done a major rewrite since the original version is nearly four years old now. I'm not going to tell you who is in this snippet - gotta save some surprises for book three...
Her breath came in desperate ragged gasps as she fought for each one, her lungs burning and every muscle in her body screaming a protest. In perfect synchronization, her heart beat a frantic rhythm within her chest, so hard and so fast she thought it might explode any moment. The noise of it filled her head and swallowed all thought, all sense as she ran, snared within a long, dark passageway with no turns aside and no hiding places. In contrast, her feet were almost soundless on the smooth floor. Even in her panic, she ran lightly on footwear designed especially for stealth. Shame it wouldn’t save her neck now.
At last she turned a corner and flung herself back against the wall, pressing her lithe body as close to the surface as nature would permit. She turned her head to watch for something following, catching her breath as she held herself ready. The chill of the surface behind her came as welcome relief. Her one-piece, skin tight combat suit was supposed to dispel perspiration quicker to help keep her cool, but right now all it did was cling to her like wet seaweed wrapped around her. Likewise tendrils of her long red hair, darkened and dampened by sweat, stuck to her skin. At least her vision was clear. Thin goggles covered her eyes with an iridescent lenses for night-vision, and  the ornate earpiece she wore to augment her hearing hadn’t slipped free. She held her breath, listening hard, but there was no sound of pursuit. Yet.  

Monday, August 22, 2016

When Power Outages Strike

A lengthy power outage yesterday threw a wrench in the reactors for my plans to research and write a topical blog post, but I have several authorly and not-so updates to report that should be fun. 

On the Writing Front


I'm moving ahead with novel two--The Outer Planets--though after coming back from my editor, it's in for some pretty heavy revisions that will alter some of the story line and character arcs, shorten the mission timeline and drop one of the four POVs completely.

The good news is this will (hopefully) trim it down by some 10,000 words (it's currently over 120,000) so it will be closer in length to Inherit the Stars.


On the Personal Front

We had a very exciting Wednesday night when one of the two-year-old Thoroughbred colts we bred and raised--Blazing Away ("Zinger")--had his first start at Albuquerque Downs.

Blazing Away - First Race, Albuquerque Downs
We're very proud of "our boy" (we no longer own him, but he's still our kid) who was a perfect gentleman in the saddling paddock as many of the other youngsters were rearing, bucking, kicking and generally creating chaos.

Two year olds tend to throw temper tantrums just like kids, and this was the first time many of these young horses were being saddled for an official race in front of a large audience, so yes...

Crowd + commotion + announcer = freak out!

For his first race, we had two big wishes--that Zinger get through the race safely and that we get lots of great pictures. Big score on both counts. Zinger was off to a slow start, but made an impressive move on the back stretch and ended up running third, which earned him a nifty little pay check for his first race, and the "show" spot on the tote board.

Yesterday, he ran a bullet workout (fastest time of the day for that distance) so we know he recovered from the race without injury and hope to have many more happy updates in the future.

Funny story. Before we had filled out Zinger's application along with our three preferred name choices, we had jokingly dubbed him New Mexico Chrome, after Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome. Though he doesn't have quite as much "chrome" (slang for a lot of white markings) as the champ from California, he does have his fair share of flashy white. 



PETS IN SPACE ANTHOLOGY UPDATE

There's so much happening with this fun new SFR/pets anthology that I'm going to do weekly updates going forward.

These updates may include fun swag, giveaways and other perks, so check back often!

Pets in Space is now on Goodreads!
Yes, the Pets in Space Anthology is now on Goodreads! Click the link above to take a peek.

Please add it to your Favorites, To Read List, and your other custom lists.

Thanks so much for your support!

Guest Post on Whiskey With My Book Reviews

Last Monday, I was featured in a guest post on Riley Moreland's Whiskey With My Book Reviews site, and brought along my two little writing buddy/inspirations. To check out the cool spotlight photo of Katrina and Luna--my mini longhaired dachshunds--just click the name of the site above.

Cover Model Meet and Greet!

Two of our anthology authors--Lea Kirk and Susan Grant--had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with the cover model of the Pets in Space Anthology on Saturday, August 13th--the day the news broke about the project--at the San Francisco Area RWA chapter meeting.

Lea posted about the event on Facebook and Susan put the pedal to the medal on her 747 to arrive in time. She's not only a best-selling author, she's an airline pilot to boot!

Here's a great photo of Lea Kirk (left), and Susan Grant (right) with the wonderful and personable Vikkas Bhardwaj and the Pets in Space Anthology cover I'm sure you've seen his face on many, many book covers--including the Sing a Song of the Stars SFR book bundle (unfortunately, no longer available) that included Farewell Andromeda. We're so proud that Vikkas is the face of Pets in Space. (Click on his name above to see some of his terrific images on VikkasZone.)

And I'm especially proud that Vikkas kinda sorta resembles my Tectolian star navigator hero, Taro Shall. The residents of Tectol, who have a penchant for navigating the cosmos, are primarily descended from the peoples from the South Pacific islands of "original Earth." Taro's even wearing a white shirt in one scene!

By the way, I have it on good authority that Vikkas received a special request to do more science fiction romance style photo shoots. Can't wait to feast my eyes on those! It's sooo hard to find good cover images in appropriate star voyager attire and with props that translate well to SFR covers. I really hope to see something along those lines in the near future!

If you want updates on the important upcoming news on the Pets in Space Anthology and my other work, please subscribe to my Escape to the Stars Newsletter (see link below). It comes with a sincere promise not to spam your email inbox with constant emails, just quarterly updates and special announcements. (And rest assured I will never sell your email address! Hate it when that happens to me.)

 
 
Instant Replays
 
In case you missed Greta's thoughtful post and terrific follow-on discussion, take a look here:
 
And Donna had a fun and light-hearted post on Friday about booze in spaaaaaaaaace:
 
Have a great week!
 
Laurie
 
~~~*~~~

Friday, August 19, 2016

I'LL TAKE POTENT POTABLES IN SPACE FOR $100, ALEX


You knew when Kirk and McCoy broke out the Romulan ale in Classic TREK, things were about to go south. If they were sipping Saurian brandy, the subject was deep and personal. And if Scotty went for the centuries-old Scotch—or, worse, something he identified merely as “green”—the Enterprise was in dire straits indeed.

A tete-a-tete over Saurian brandy.
It’s safe to say that as we humans move out into the galaxy, exploring and colonizing, we’ll take our taste for intoxicating spirits with us. And, judging by our most popular screen visions of the future, the aliens we encounter will have their own versions of wine, beer and hard liquor to share with us.

The crew of Kirk’s Enterprise begged, traded for and, yes, even occasionally stole their precious bottles of personally preferred potables, much as Navy crews did in war times on Earth.  The engineer of Captain Jonathan Archer’s Enterprise (ST:ENTERPRISE) was even rumored to have a still in Engineering. What he used for raw materials I don’t remember.

And finally we come to the heart of this week’s post. What will our intrepid space adventurers drink at the end of a long hard day of space adventuring? Storage is limited on ships; it’s not like they could carry an infinite supply of Budweiser or Jack Daniels with them, replicators notwithstanding.

If you’re thinking beer, wine and grain alcohol, you’d better think planets, preferably ones with human colonies. In the newest, roughest colonies all you’d likely get is some local wine, corn liquor maybe, or home-brewed ale. Distilling fine whiskey takes a few centuries in place, or technology and knowledge dedicated to the task. The good news is that often, historically, farmers on Earth have distilled grain of all kinds into whiskey in order to transport it economically, converting a relatively low-value, high-volume crop into a high-value, low-volume one. So an agricultural colony with a lot of unwanted corn might be tempted to sell corn whiskey to passing ships, for example.

Now, of course, there can be alien cultures that have compatible potables. Here anything goes as a base material. As the creator of your universe, you can come up with your own Saurian brandy and Romulan ale, with any characteristics you want to give them. I’ve always loved the fact that Romulan ale causes Jim Kirk to lose control and gives him such a hangover the next day.

In Fools Rush In, the third in my Interstellar Rescue series, we meet pirate captain Sam Murphy. Murphy and his crew spend weeks at a time onboard his ship the Shadowhawk. When they do get a shore leave, it may only be at a remote space station, or a sunless planetoid circling a jump node (the entrance to a kind of wormhole) in deep space. At those places ale made from mushrooms is often on tap. The flavor is, well, earthy at best, and it takes a few mugs to have any real effect.

If you have a few more credits to spend and a few more brain cells to lose, you can buy synthohol in most drinking establishments, too. Murphy often indulges in a shot or two at the end of a rough day aboard ship. This synthetic equivalent to grain alcohol is produced in a chemical lab and flavored artificially, in either light or dark versions. It has a characteristic sour smell and tastes like hell, but is sufficiently potent to be worth it.

Take a decent ’shroom ale, add some synthohol and you get grog, the favored libation of the spacers’ mash (party). Grog is guaranteed to get any party started (and ended in a riot).

Like most space captains, Sam Murphy saves the good stuff—generally rum from the planet of Paradon (where you can get anything), or bourbon filched from secret runs to Earth—for special occasions. You can join him for a drink when Fools Rush In comes out October 18. Pre-order it NOW on Amazon!


TWO WINNERS!

I had such a great response to my COVER REVEAL GIVEAWAY, I’ve decided to award TWO prizes!  Congratulations to Donna Owens and Dina Stornello, winners of the audiobook version of Trouble in Mind, Book 2 of the Interstellar Rescue series, AND a $10 Amazon Gift Card each!

Ladies, be sure to contact me via my Facebook page to claim your prizes!

Cheers,
Donna