Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Thing About Kindle Unlimited #publishing #KU


On the 15th of July, my three short stories (Terms & Conditions Apply, Reboot and Hallow's Eve) will come out of Kindle Unlimited for good. Now, it's not because of the new payment system. No. I'd originally gone for KU in the hope of generating sales for my other non-KU stories. Because the KU payments were small, I wasn't tempted to put in longer works, but it was enough to tempt me to risk my three shorts. Since Amazon only pays 35% royalties on works under $2.99 (and no way am I charging that for something 10K in length or under), KU gave me a better payout and the hope that sales of my other works might follow.

They didn't. There was no boost to my other titles, and though I got paid more per borrow than per sale, I got fewer borrows than I had done sales, so it pretty much balanced out payment wise. Therefore it wasn't benefiting me in the way I'd hoped, and the exclusivity thing always makes me irritable. Unfortunately I forgot to untick the box to leave KU after 90 days, and so sentenced myself to a further 90.

The recent announcement of the uber-confusing changes to KU therefore didn't really bother me (confusing in that while I understand the theory of payment by page, the exact maths given to calculate that and the constantly fluctuating fund we get paid from means the amount per page remains unknown). I'd already decided to go, and the changes mean I have even less incentive to ever go back. I also don't plan to put in any future/longer titles since I'm selling on other platforms and I don't believe even the pay per page scheme with its incomprehensible maths and the uncertain value of the KU fund each month will be the better ROI (Return On Investment). I prefer to know for sure what I'm getting paid. It did, however, raise another aggravation I have with Amazon.

Returns. Now, although I've personally never returned a book, I know the 1-click thing makes it too easy to buy a book, and perhaps buy a book you didn't want. Or one you got charged more for than the advertised price. Or maybe someone read a bit past the sample they'd checked out on Amazon and decided the book wasn't for them after all. But there are certain people who buy a book on Amazon, read the whole thing and then return it, like Amazon is some kind of free library (and Amazon is fully aware of this). They get to read a book for free, without even paying a subscription. Sorry, but I think that's unfair.

So if Amazon can monitor how many pages of a Kindle book someone reads in KU, then why the heck can't they do the same for returns? If someone reads the entire book and Amazon can see that, then I feel it's simple enough for them to refuse to refund the book, or at least charge the reader something - perhaps the equivalent of the pay per page rate, as if the reader has used the KU system.

I totally get that sometimes someone will read part of a book and decide it's not for them after all. But if the book has been read in its entirety and then returned, I find it hard to believe there isn't something questionable about it. If I don't like a book, I certainly don't bother to keep reading to the end (life is too short to waste on a book I'm not enjoying, and there's plenty more books to choose from). I have no doubt that either way there will be unhappy authors or unhappy readers (no system is perfect) but I'd like to see more to discourage the trend of reading and returning rather than Amazon saying they do monitor for serial returners and penalize them.

In the meantime, you have just two more weeks to borrow my three short stories from KU before they come out forever (I believe there's no time limit on when you read them, just on how long they're available for you to click Borrow). My longer works are available at Scribd (where I know exactly what I'll get paid for each borrow), and my reclaimed short stories will be going up there once KU ends. Now that Draft2Digital has struck a deal with Oyster, I've put my titles into that too (I currently don't do this via Smashwords). With Oyster you can borrow or buy the book.

Will I ever use KU again? Unlikely. Even with the new pay scheme ensuring fairer pay on longer works, the uncertainty of the monthly fund and exactly what I might get per page read (and the system for assessing that isn't 100% accurate) and the fact it contributed nothing to my sales of other titles previously don't make it an attractive offer to me. The price of exclusivity does not give me a fair return on investment at this time.

Have you used KU as an author and/or a reader? What's your experience been?


Status Update

Keir's Fall, book two of Redemption, is still with my editor, with a possible November release date. I've been revising the side story (releasing early 2016) and a second Venus Ascendant story to follow Terms & Conditions Apply (as yet not scheduled for edits, but I hope to have that out in 2016 as well). I'm also working on three short stories for July Camp NaNoWriMo (starting tomorrow, eep!) for anthology calls all due for publication this year. O.O I still have two other SciFi romance shorts to complete as well, before I start revising book three of the Redemption series. I hope to have the Redemption series completed by the end of 2017, although books four and five aren't even whole drafts at this time. I do, however, know how they end...




Happenings

It's week five of the SFR Brigade Summer Cafe, and it's our Supernova serving - hotter than hot SciFi romance and erotica. Go HERE. Then there will be just one more week with another round of Space Opera before the Cafe closes for this year.



Since I only had two comments on my post for the Summer Cafe last week, I've decided to be generous and gift books to both visitors (see what you miss if you don't comment? Lol). Congrats to Riley and Carol, who receive the digital formats of their choice from my titles.

Today is the last day to enter the Goodreads giveaway for Keir. It's also the last day to pick it up from NetGalley to read and review (and to vote on the cover) HERE.


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Keir by Pippa Jay

 Keir

 by Pippa Jay

 Giveaway ends June 30, 2015.
 See the giveaway details at  Goodreads.
Enter to Win


My review of Liza O'Connor's first book in a new SciFi series goes live HERE tomorrow. If you're a fan of Douglas Adams you should check it out! Liza will be guest blogging about The Gods of Probabilities at Spacefreighters Lounge in two weeks time.

And in just under three weeks my monsters will break up for the seven week summer holiday, and I plan to take the whole of August off to read and spend time with my not so little ones. For anyone who was interested in my conversion of a Monster High doll into my hero Keir, a weekly post will be going up at my Tumblr blog HERE during the holidays, starting Wednesday 22nd July, and there will be an exclusive reveal of my second doll conversion too. I'll also be posting more reviews at Critique de Book as and when I can. Funny to think that this time last year I had two releases upcoming for July and August - my first with the now sadly closed Breathless Press. How things can change in a year!

Enjoy!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Is the Greatest Danger in Space Exploration Ourselves?

Venturing into space has many perils. A partial list includes loss of oxygen, loss of pressure, hull rupture by natural or artificial space debris, an injury or illness too severe for onboard resources to treat, malfunctioning engines, onboard fire, release of toxic gases, exposure to radiation or solar events and, of course, catastrophic vehicle failure.

But of all the dangers related to space travel, could our fellow crew mates pose one of the biggest risks? In our fledgling space program, there was one alleged incident that could have had severe consequences.

The story goes that a payload specialist in the shuttle program became severely depressed when his experiment was damaged beyond repair during lift-off, and [may or may not have] tried to open the airlock to commit suicide, which would have exposed the entire crew to a vacuum and killed them all. Some swear the incident never happened, or was greatly exaggerated based on a few offhand remarks made by the payload specialist. Others swear it did happen, and the crew had to secure the hatch with a padlock (other accounts say duct tape) to prevent the astronaut from carrying out his threat.

No matter the truth or fiction of the incident, NASA has identified behavioral health as a significant area of study for its astronauts. The agency also put procedures into place for crew members who might go ballistic in space and threaten to harm themselves or fellow astronauts. The protocol includes educating the crew to identify early warning signs of mental stress. In the event of an actual incident, they are trained to subdue the out-of-control person with duct tape around their wrists and ankles, secure them with bungee cord to restrain them from kicking or striking out, and then administering a sedative until such time that they can be safely released. During this time, their fellow crew mates are to calmly explain to them what they are doing and why.

Although astronauts undergo extensive psychological screening, the effects of living and working in a cramped, enclosed area surrounded by an endless vacuum could result in severe emotional episode even for those candidates who seem mentally stable. There's also a lot of concern about the degenerative effects on the brain due to exposure to radiation and weightlessness.

This video from NASA's Unexplained Files documents some of these inherent dangers to crew.

 

In my upcoming novel The Outer Planets, "Space Terrors" or Astroclaustrophobia (invented medical jargon which means "space claustrophobia") plays a role in one scene.

Here's a sneak peak. (This passage takes place in the corridor of a large planetary exploration vessel bound for Jupiter in the year 2040. The vessel has artificial gravity.)

______________________________________

The Outer Planets
Chapter Four Excerpt


    Verela slashed at Mitch, forcing him back. From behind the man, three crew members crept forward until Verela whirled, slashing the knife in their direction to warn them off. “Get back!”
    Lissa only heard two heavy footfalls before a blur of black hit Verela from the side and slammed him to the deck. The large, blond man who'd tackled him wore a Security armband on his sleeve.
    “Got your back, Chief.” Mitch rushed in to assist, and Lissa tensed when he put himself in striking distance.
            “Drop it, Jason!” the big man shouted, pounding Verela’s weapon hand against the deck, shocking his tendons. 
            Verela’s hand opened and the knife clattered to the floor. Mitch kicked it away. The weapon skittered across the corridor to Lissa’s feet and the captain secured it under his deck boot.
    Mitch and the security officer worked in tandem to subdue Varela, but his frenzied wrestling made Lissa wonder if the man was on drugs. With one arm secured, Verela twisted to one side to land a savage kick on Mitch’s thigh, knocking him off balance. Verela went at the security chief’s midsection with a series of vicious jabs of his elbow. The brawny man grunted and caught his free arm, bringing it up behind his back until he was immobilized.
  “Get off, you bastard! Get off me!” Verela ranted.
            Mitch pinned his legs. The other crew members advanced, forming a tight circle around the combatants. The captain signaled Lissa to stay put and broke through their ranks. She followed in his wake despite his warning.
            “Call Medical,” the captain barked.
            “On their way, sir.”
            Med Tech Elena Stevens arrived holding a transdermal gun as she shouldered through the crowd of shocked faces. Mitch and the security officer pinned the prisoner down and nodded to Elena to approach. She knelt at Verela’s side. “Jason, I’m going to administer a sedative on Dr. Elsborg’s orders. Hands clear, gentleman.”
  Verela screamed obscenities and spit on her scrubs. She frowned and pressed the gun to the back of his arm, injecting the tranquilizer. Verela wailed and fought to rise. Moments later, his cursing ceased.
  The security officer looked at Elena. “Great job, Stevens. Thanks.”
            “Take him to Med Bay,” the captain ordered. “I want him secured and sedated until I can consult with Dr. Shrader. And see to COB Browne.”
            “Yes, sir,” Elena said, pointing the COB out to other medical staffers.
            “Any clue what set him off?” Captain Storing asked the security chief.
            The man looked up. “Possible astroclaustrophobic episode, sir.”
            Lissa bit her lip. Astroclaustrophia. Space Terrors. Panic at being trapped in an enclosed environment in space. Even careful screening for claustrophobic tendencies couldn’t always determine who might be susceptible. Symptoms ranged from severe depression and paranoia to confusion and violent behavior—like attacking fellow crew members or trying to break out an airlock to escape. 
            Except Verela hadn’t seemed confused. He seemed to know exactly what he was doing.  
________________________________________

So what are your thoughts? Do you think the human factor might pose a great risk for extended space flight? If you were an astronaut, would it concern you?

Hope you enjoyed the first look at The Outer Planets.  Have a great week!



Friday, June 26, 2015

MASTERS OF FICTION: HOW DO THEY DO IT?



When was the last time you truly lost yourself in a book? I don’t mean you liked it okay or you thought it was well written or even you thought the lovers were meant for each other. I mean when was the last time you opened the cover (or turned on the Kindle), read the first line and stepped off a cliff—and just flew?

I just spent the better part of a week reading Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep. I had a house full of family while I finished this story of now-grown-up Danny Torrance vanquishing demons both internal and external. People would speak to me and I wouldn’t hear them. Three-way conversations flowed around me while I followed only the words on the page. Cats chased each other around the room, the toddler tried in vain to catch up with them, the toddler’s mom struggled to rein in the toddler. I was oblivious. There was only The Book.

Until the book was done and, fortunately for my family, its grip on me was released.

Most of you know I am a huge fan of Stephen King and his skill as a writer. But he’s not the only one who can hold me in thrall like that. Early in my marriage I used to love a writer of complicated thrillers named Robert Ludlum. I had to give up reading his novels or lose my neglected husband. I literally disappeared to the real world when I was reading them.

What these writers have is rare. You can say it’s why they get paid the big bucks, but other writers also have millions of readers and ride in First Class, but can’t hold my attention for a paragraph. If the idea of fiction is to create a world, fill it with believable people and tell a story about that world and those people that will sweep the reader along, then a handful of writers, like Stephen King, must be called masters of fiction, while the rest of us are mere scribblers.

For me, and I suspect for many of my fellow writers, the experience of being swept away by a master writer is increasingly hard to find. Largely this is because time is a factor and reading strictly for pleasure is like candy on a diet. I read to keep up in my genre, to judge for contests, to edit my endless drafts, to track my writer friends across all genres and subgenres of romance and SFR. Sometimes in all of this reading I’ll come across a gem. Most of the time, the writing is merely competent. Occasionally (mostly in the judging cases, but not always) it’s actually dreadful. Never, not once, have I encountered an unknown master of fiction. 

You did note that I include myself in that list of “not a master of fiction”, right? (Depending on the day, I can consider myself to be anything from first-draft dreadful to mostly competent to occasionally gemlike.) But the question is, how does a master do what he or she does? How do they manage to grab you and not let go? And even more importantly, how can we, as individuals and as a genre, up our game to the next level?

Of course, if I really knew the answers to those questions, I’d be a master, and not an apprentice (well, okay, maybe a journeyman). But maybe a few things to consider:

--Master the basics. This is a given. Characterization, pacing, setting, dialogue, mechanics must be shiny. No one is better at giving you a two-or-three-sentence character description than Stephen King. And pacing? Are you kidding?

--Understand the deep stuff. Themes. Internal vs. external conflict. Symbolism. Yeah, even in so-called genre fiction, if you use those literary devices, they resonate.

--Length. I’m sorry, digital-first publishers. You just can’t explore some ideas fully at 40,000 words. Most ideas. The problem with writing at shorter length is that some writers just cram a novel into a novella length by sketching out the plot and characters and eliminating any subplots. The original idea of the novella was that it was a longer short story (instead of a shorter novel). The short story requires a lot of attention to choosing exactly what you include to illustrate a very particular theme or idea. So a novella provides a little leeway. By contrast, King routinely writes 600, 700, 1000 pages. He has lots of ideas and themes. His readers don’t complain.

What else? I’m sure there are a dozen other ways to lift ourselves up. Tell me what you think. And while you’re at it, tell me the last book that had you ignoring the spouse and the pets!

BLANCA UPDATE!

Thanks to all who wished Blanca well. Our trusty vet gave her meds for a suspected urinary tract infection and she is on the mend. She’s not very happy with her mom, though, since the new food is yucky and having a pill stuck down her throat once a day is no fun! **MEOW!**

I will be out of town on vacation next week, so no post. See you in two weeks!

Cheers, Donna



Thursday, June 25, 2015

Cover Reveal: The Demon's Eye

Here it is, everyone. The cover for my new science fiction romance novelette, The Demon's Eye, done by Dreams 2 Media. Thanks, Rebecca. Available soon at an e-store near you.

Krystina Merkos is reluctant to leave her home planet, but agrees it's best that her father doesn't have to concern himself with her safety while he fights a civil war. The journey on an Imperial warship becomes much more palatable when she discovers that Ben Paulsen, an old flame from her high school days, is a senior officer on the ship.

But it's not all plain sailing. The captain wants to seduce her, Ben's trying to keep his distance – and pirates want to sell her to the murderous sect waging war on her father.

When the frigate is attacked by a pirate fleet intent on capturing Krys, she faces impossible choices. If she hands herself over to the pirates, she will die a painful death. If she doesn't, everyone will die.

Unless she and Ben can contrive a way out for them all.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Androids or Aliens - Which Would You Pick? The SFRB Summer Cafe #scifirom #giveaway


Welcome to my post for the Androids and Aliens menu in the SFR Brigade's Summer Cafe! If you like dishy aliens or delectable 'droids, this IS the post you're looking for. ;)

I'm Pippa Jay, author of scifi and the supernatural with a romantic soul. And I'd like to introduce you to some of my heroes and heroines from my scifi romance universe, a wonderful place full of diversity. First, I'd like you to meet Soren, a sub-avatar on the luxury resort of Venus Ascendant space station. In other words, a very specialized android...
"Marie stared at him…at it. She’d heard about the VA avatars but never been so close to one. She’d learned from the space station’s blurb that the main AI took the form of a young Indian woman called Ganesa, spoken of with as much reverence as the bronze-cast deity behind her. This particular avatar had been crafted into a ruggedly handsome, if stereotypically human, male. Thick blond hair left a shade too long framed his face perfectly; darker brows arched over eyes the most glorious shade of deep blue she’d ever seen. He was broad shouldered and athletic, and the thin, snug-fitting one-piece in gray outlined the welldefined musculature of his torso in a way no doubt intended to draw attention and tease the imagination of potential clients. A shapely hint of what lay beneath without full disclosure, like the metallic foil used to cover chocolate treats. Also a complete contrast to the man she’d hoped to see, and all too perfect to be real." 
~from Terms & Conditions Apply

Too artificial? How about a cloned assassin, capable of walking through walls and killing with a kiss?



"Mirsee.
Flawed Su. Terran co-delegate and bondmate to Zander D'joren. All through her debriefing, the hologram had stared at Tyree as it hovered above the data pad, the face a perfect mirror of her own. As she expected it to be. Her long, straight black hair was worn differently, of course, and her expression far more placid than Tyree had felt at that moment, but essentially her double in all respects. Blue-eyed, black-skinned, a narrow face with a pointed chin, high arching eyebrows and a broad, curving forehead. The only fascination now was the knowledge that both she and her deceased twin came from bonded Inc-Su parents rather than a single entity. 
Could she see either of those unknown parents in their shared face if she stared hard enough? Unlikely. The majority of Inc-Su were similar in form—tall and lanky, with slight variations in coloring—as all those in Refuge were cloned from the thirteen council members. The only thing she could be reasonably sure of was she wasn't one of M'roc's grouping. She'd seen those around before and they were unmistakable with their heavier build, brown eyes, and caramel skin." 

~from Tethered

I guess cloning still means technically man-made. How about someone alien? While my hero Keir isn't technically an alien (on his world, even another human arriving on the planet is viewed as otherwordly) his unusual appearance is due to a trace of alien DNA in his bloodline that had an unfortunate affect on his skin, resulting in him being named a demon and cursed by his backward society.
"Muted sunlight flashed from a blade in motion. Quin wriggled in panic, expecting a fatal strike on her companion’s undefended back. Instead, the sound of ripping cloth filled the air as Caiman slashed the robes and rags into useless tatters, stripping Keir’s head and back to reveal the so-called demon underneath.
For a moment, Quin stared. No. No, it can’t be...
Her chest locked tight, and her blood went cold. Now, too late, she understood the nickname given to him and how the legend had misled her into believing the Blue Demon might be the sentiac she’d sought. His bare torso was the rich blue of an evening sky, his long, unkempt hair a knot of black curls tangled at the nape of his neck. Deep black tattoos, resembling some form of runic lettering, were carved into every inch of his skin. No monster, but no normal man either." 
~from Keir, Book One of Redemption

And that's barely skimming the surface! If you'd like to meet another of my alien heroes, you can pick up Tales from the SFR Brigade anthology for FREE by going HERE, and meet Tevik in Imprint (psst, it's the first story in the book), as well as more androids, aliens, and intrepid humans in the other seven stellar stories included. Book Two of Keir will be releasing later this year, and if you don't want to sign up to my newsletter you can just click Follow on my Amazon page (just under my author photo) to be notified when it's available.

In the meantime, another treat for you. Since a reviewer once compared part of Keir to the film Blue Lagoon, I felt the drink of the same name would be the perfect accompaniment while you read. 

What you'll need:

2oz Vodka
1oz Blue Curacao
Lemonade
Ice
Cherry for garnish

Add ice to the bottom of the glass. Pour in the vodka and Blue Curacao. Top up with lemonade and mix all the ingredients together. Garnish as desired and serve chilled.


© Dana Rothstein | Dreamstime Stock Photos
And now for the bonus prize. You can win a choice of either two of my short stories (Terms & Conditions Apply, a scifi romance featuring one of my awesome androids, and No Angel, a futuristic urban fantasy) or my scifi romance novella Tethered (a cloned succubus-like assassin and a grieving human diplomat take on a race of feline aliens set on wiping them out). Tell me whether you'd rather have an android made to your personal specifications or a handsome alien to whisk you away to the stars! Leave a comment with your email addy for a chance to enter. And don't forget to fill in the rafflecopter too - my scifi romance novel Keir is part of the ebook bundle being given away for this week's Summer Cafe, as well as hopping along to the other blogs listed below to see more!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, June 19, 2015

SEE YA NEXT WEEK, FOLKS!


I haz a sad tummy. Need napz.
So sorry, folks, but I'm forced to skip my weekly post this time. The usually effervescent Blanca (aka Queen of the Universe) is under the weather and must make a trip to see the vet. As her driver and chief minion, I am called to cat duty. I'll be back next week with some weighty words on just how it is we get so caught up in a really good book!

    Cheers, Donna

Thursday, June 18, 2015

It's a broad universe

We're now into June and I've attended my very first online Broad Universe board meeting. We had a bit of fun grappling with Google Hangouts, but eventually it all happened. This is a brand new paddle pool for me to splash around in.

So what is Broad Universe? To quote from the website: "Broad Universe is a nonprofit international organization of women and men dedicated to celebrating and promoting the work of women writers of science fiction, fantasy and horror."

To that end BU offers a number of opportunities to members. 
  • an online newsletter, the Broadsheet, 
  • an online books-in-print catalog, 
  • yearly paper “New Books” booklets describing member’s newest releases that we hand out at genre conventions, 
  • bookselling tables at science fiction and fantasy conventions, 
  • the occasional informational table at a bookseller convention, 
  • two different forums (one for general discussions and one just for announcements), 
  • online mailing parties several times a year to encourage members to get their works in the mail to editors, 
  • group readings at science fiction/fantasy conventions, and 
  • BroadPod, a podcast of group reading
  • affordable access to NetGalley
Unlike a lot of groups, BU isn't free. It'll cost you US$30. But if you have several titles you want to promote in NetGalley, or sell at a convention table, or read from in Rapid Fire Readings or in a podcast, then the investment is worthwhile.

As BU's first non-US director, I'm going to champion more online opportunities for members who don't live in the US. I can say I'd LOVE to be in on some of those convention events that BU runs - but that's not likely to happen any time soon, being as how I live in Australia.

I do have some ideas. For example, I'm considering the possibilities of having a magazine a bit like the excellent Sc-Fi Romance Quarterly.

But folks, I can't do this alone. To get a magazine going I'm going to need some volunteers to help me. Editors, graphic designers, reviewers - our very own in-house group to help authors kick start their new releases. Convention reports, maybe some original fiction.

Please feel free to contact me with thoughts, ideas, things you'd like to see, and questions. Let's get a conversation started.

On the home front, my latest novelette The Demon's Eye has gone to my editor. I should have a cover in the next ten days or so, then we're good to go. The novelette will be set in the Dryden Universe, so the worlds and characters will be available for other authors to use. I'll talk more about that when it happens, but here's my original post on Dryden.

So... have at it, folks. I know many writers of SFR also dabble with other genres. If you think Broad Universe can help you, let me know.

<Grin> Reminds of the days when I sued to announce, "I'm from IT. I'm here to help."

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Negative Review? Do Not Engage! #reviews

I was asked to write this post. I'm not sure it'll make any difference, being as the thing I'm blogging about happens at least a couple of times a year that I'm aware of. Maybe more. I suppose in a pre-internet world, maybe it happened just as often but we didn't get to hear about it.

So, again this week I 'heard' about another author meltdown on Goodreads. I went and read it. Ai! I'm not going to link to it because there's plenty of info about it out there already if you know where to look. Suffice to say, yet another author took affront to the fact that somebody didn't like their book. And that's all it was. Not one of those super snarky reviews with epilepsy-inducing flashy gifs, or the world's most acid critic. A simple one star, didn't like it, wasn't for me.

But the author couldn't accept this and asked that the reviewer TAKE IT DOWN. When the reviewer offered to rewrite it, being more specific about what they didn't like (and by no means was this reviewer in any way obliged to do so, and I certainly wouldn't have), the author took umbrage even at that. Accused the reviewer of trying to destroy their career, of having no empathy by trying to sabotage his efforts to make a living, and of being too stupid to appreciate his art.

*face palm* Of course, the only one destroying his career at this point was the author himself. The thread escalated, spread, and I've seen numerous tweets, blog posts, comments etc throughout the internet. He got his fifteen minutes of fame, probably more. Frankly, I'd rather not be that famous. The author was even removed from Goodreads (I've no evidence that they did remove him or he left of his own accord, but it's been said he was removed), and his 1* reviews have had many babies. Oddly, the reportedly low ratings on Amazon have been deleted (no idea how that was achieved). It's not a new story, but I really wish it was an old or extinct one.

Because this doesn't just damage the author concerned - it damages ALL authors. It damages author/reviewer relationships. Aside from feeling embarrassed at seeing another author meltdown like this, the resulting comments from reviewers saying they didn't feel safe to review, or refusing to ever review self pubbed authors (it isn't exclusive to SP authors, though it does seem more common. As a now almost fully self pubbed author, of course this upsets me) is terrible for publishing as a whole.

But it has led me to change my number one piece of advice to aspiring/new authors. DO. NOT. ENGAGE! Ever!! It doesn't matter how diplomatically you word your response, how reasonable you think you're being, responding to a negative review will always, always be seen as a bad thing. It will only be seen as you being a special snowflake who can't take a bit of criticism. Yes, some reviews and reviewers are downright nasty. There's a particular one on Amazon who delights in giving nothing but 1* reviews (over 300 of them, and no other ratings! Makes you wonder why they read at all), and those that delight in the snark. Some reviewers do get personal. But if you cannot take honest criticism of your work, then maybe you shouldn't be published at all. Because no matter what you do, what you write, what qualifications you have or awards you've won, at least ONE person in the world will absolutely hate your work. And there is nothing you can do about that.

Except for one thing, and I'll say it again for all the good it'll do.


Status Update

Keir's Fall is with my editor (woo hoo!), and this week I finished revising the side story (which is scheduled for edits in October) and a second Venus Ascendant novella, which I haven't scheduled at all...yet. I'm hoping early 2016. At the moment I have one superhero romance short and potentially three SFR shorts scheduled for July's Camp NaNoWriMo. Er, yeah. At probably the 60K mark, I think I'm setting myself up for a fail there...

Happenings

On a more fun note, the SFR Brigade Summer Cafe is now into its third week, and it's dishing up Dystopia! Go check out the authors taking part and the prize bundle HERE.

Next week I'll be swapping days and blogging on the Monday for week four of the Cafe - Androids and Aliens! I'll be offering some goodies on my post as well as contributing to the prize bundle for that week.

The print giveaway for Keir is still running until the end of June, and if you're a NetGalley member, it's also available to read and review for free HERE


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Keir by Pippa Jay

Keir

by Pippa Jay

Giveaway ends June 30, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to Win

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Colonization--Are We Dreaming the Impossible Dream?

As a Science Fiction Romance author, I often write about various entities on assorted ships galloping around the galaxy to asundry moons, planets, space stations and the occasional Death Star type construct and it's all done quite effortlessly. My stories sometimes encompass settings with dozens--even hundreds--of planets and moons that can support human life.

Being forward thinking by nature, I think we like to collectively believe this will all someday be within our reach. But do we really understand what a monumental task we're facing, or have decades of SF stories made it sound all too easy?

I'm going to take a closer look at the subject of colonizing another planet, and I'm going to use Mars as my example. Why Mars? It's the best option. It's the nearest reachable planet that's survivable. Mercury, Venus and Jupiter are definitely out as prospects. Some of the moons of Jupiter might quality, except the intense levels of radiation from the planet means you can scratch them off the list, at least for the time being. Titan is often named as a body in the solar system that looks very much like Earth, but let's face it, it's orbiting Saturn, a planet where the sun is just a small speck in the sky and it's so cold it has oceans of liquid methane. It may look like Earth, but it ain't Home Sweet Home. Mars is our best candidate.

Mars may be the easiest--but it's still not easy. Here are just a few ways that even mild-mannered Mars could kill you.

1) It could freeze you. Mars may be our neighbor, but it's still half an AU further out from the sun. The average (yes, average) temperature on Mars is -80 F. Again, that's the average. If you pick a nice warm spot to settle--say the equator--the daytime temperatures in the summer may be a balmy 70 F degrees, but at night it drops to -100 F. Away from the equator and you're facing even colder temps. If your environmental suit, eco-habitat or enclosed rover craft fails, you're a Pop-Sickle.

2) It could suffocate you. The atmosphere on Mars is 100 times less dense than Earth's and not breathable. Obviously we can't bring a breathable atmosphere to Mars, so we'll have to manufacture oxygen on the red planet, either via photosynthesis or chemical reaction. This will require either farming of oxygen-producing plants or dangerous chemical applications that will produce oxygen in an enclosed area. If anything goes wrong--and there are a lot of things that could--you don't breathe. But wait, you say. What about terraforming Mars so it has a breathable atmosphere? Well, let's look at that. Earth has been around for 4.6 BILLION years. There was no oxygen in the atmosphere until around 2.5 BILLION years ago, after plankton had been producing it for eons. The atmosphere we know as survivable first occurred around 500 million years ago during the Cambrian Explosion when life began to flourish. If we need to wait for plankton, algae or bacteria to create a breathable atmosphere on the entire planet, I think we'd have a very long wait. Oh and by the way, several of the mass extinctions on Earth are related to sudden drops in oxygen levels. Even good ol' Earth hasn't always maintained a survivable climate. There's no telling how stable our "new" Mars atmosphere would be, even if we found a way to produce one within the lifespan of our species.

3) It could starve you. We also can't bring enough food to survive on Mars just as we can't bring enough oxygen. We'll have to create that, too. That may be tricky, since the soil on Mars has never grown anything organic--or at least not in the last several billion years. So we'd first have to create tillable soil, and then we'd have to plant, grow and cultivate enough food to meet the the colonists daily required caloric requirements, and we'd have to create Earth-like conditions to grow this Earth-based food. If anything happens to disrupt the harvest (such as the habitat is damaged and oxygen is lost or cold reaches the crops, or there is a loss of sufficient water to irrigate the plants), they die...and you starve.
 
So it's hopeless, right? Well, no. Don't forget, this is the human species we're talking about. The odds of sailing across an ocean to a land never seen before and colonizing it was once a pretty risky endeavor as well...but here we are. We got ourselves from Earth to the Moon in less than one decade, so it seems we can do just about anything we decide we really need to accomplish. But that doesn't mean it's going to be simple.

So taking all this into consideration, I'm really looking forward to The Martian, a movie set to debut in November about an astronaut left for dead on Mars. He faces the exact survival scenarios outlined above while being alone and completely cut off from all contact with Earth. Of course, he only has to survive a mere four years--with not enough food, oxygen or water to last even a fraction of that time--and somehow find a way to travel alone across 1800 kilometers of rocky Martian landscape to reach the landing site for the next mission, with no way to let NASA know they may have an extra passenger.

How can he possibly survive? Well, no matter the odds there's one thing we should never write out of the equation. Human ingenuity.

Where there's a will, there's a way.

Here's a peek at The Martian trailer. Looks like some highly entertaining research for an SFR writer, if you ask me. Have a great week.

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Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.