Category Archives: Books

Time’s Warriors Available March 1st

Time’s Warriors, the fifth book in the Time’s Edge series, will be released on March 1st!

Read an excerpt.
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Time’s Warriors

Time’s Warriors, the next book in the Time’s Edge series, will be available in the Spring of 2014. The cover art is by Ali Ries. Check out Ali’s work on her website: http://casperium.deviantart.com/

 

Time's Warriors Cover

Announcing Time’s Rebels

Rebels Cover  SmallMichael Blayne thought his worries were over. He had resigned from the Galactic Armed Forces, fulfilled the prophecy of the Golden Dragon, and unraveled the secret of the Origin Stone. Now all he wanted was to live quietly with his wife, Kate Weston, in the newly-freed complex called Cilcourt.

Then a messenger appeared at his door.

Within hours, Michael was an outlaw and on the run from the Ratherian army, the Tavon Knights, and agents of the mysterious realm known as Time’s Edge. He quickly learned there was no place in the galaxy where they could not find him and knew from experience that when you cannot run or hide you only have one choice left…

Fight.

Time’s Rebels, the fourth book in the Time’s Edge scifi/fantasy series is now available!

Forgetting How to Use a Book

A very interesting post from journalist David Bauer. He has been reading books all his life, but after only two years of reading on an ipad, he is no longer comfortable reading a book the old-fashioned way.

confused by booksI find it increasingly uncomfortable to move my eyes from the top of a page to the bottom as I read along. I prefer to keep my focus at roughly the same spot and to move the text rather my eyes.

Read his entire blog here: The Day I Forgot How to Use a Book

The Trouble with Free eBooks

man-free-signEveryone loves to get something for nothing, right? And what is more tempting than going online and cruising through thousands of free ebooks? It’s like a smorgasbord that you don’t have to pay for, a literary heaven.

Well, not exactly. Here’s why:

1. Quantity. There are too many free ebooks. Thousands of titles are available, which means a free ebook no longer stands out in the crowd. A few years ago, this was a great way for a new author to get noticed. But now? “FREE! isn’t special when everyone is doing it” author Kristen Lamb wrote in her blog The Problem with Free.  As a tool for authors, it is losing its advantage. As a source for readers, it is overwhelming, and that leads to the second issue:

2. Excess. Many readers do not read the free ebooks they download. The books go into the modern day slush pile called To Be Read. The problem is that most TBR lists contain hundreds of books and why not? They are all free. It doesn’t cost anything to download a book and leave it sitting in electronic limbo.  The reader doesn’t lose anything if he never gets to the book. And that brings up:

3. Value. It turns out that most folks do not value something unless they pay for it. Author Dean Fetzer makes this point in his blog Value for Money: “One of the lessons I learned early on about the internet in my previous job – and the world, for that matter – is: users don’t value free stuff as much as things they pay for.” Readers have no investment in a free book and no expectations. Just the opposite, in fact:

4. Perception. A free product is perceived to be a lesser product. Even positive reviews of free books reflect this attitude. When scanning any reviews of free books you invariably find comments such as  “Not bad, for free”, “I was surprised that something free was actually readable”,  “Enjoyed it but glad I didn’t have to pay for it”.  And let’s take a look at the “glad I didn’t have to pay for it” crowd:

5. Addiction. Yes, ebook readers are now hooked on freebies. They have been trained to NOT pay for books. They expect free ebooks, in quantity,  in perpetuum. Check out The Digital Reader: Are Free eBooks Killing the Market?  for a take on this phenomenon.

Of course, there are authors who have benefited from using the free ebook strategy just as there are readers who devour their electronic books and hunger for more. These authors will argue that giving away free ebooks boosted the sales of their non-free titles. They are the exception now, not the norm. Free promos, if done correctly, can temporarily boost a book’s ranking. Does that translate into sales and reviews? There is heated debate over that but it seems clear that most authors receive only a momentary lift, a blip, so to speak, in the book publishing cosmos.

We have never offered our books for free and have no plans to do so. We want readers who are invested in the story, who want to read our tales so much much they actually pay for them. Authors should set a value on their work. In a race to the bottom, no one wins.

 

Sometimes Book Discussions Can Get a Little Lively

Katie and Zoe discuss Time's Edge

Katie and Zoe discuss Time’s Edge

When to End a Book Series

Wow. A tough question if ever there was one. Just how long should a book series last? Some authors love trilogies. Others subscribe to the seven-book saga made popular by J.K. Rowling. Some authors have no preset number in mind; if another idea for a tale manifests, they write it. Others are working toward a specific goal, such as Sue Grafton, the author of the popular Kinsey Malone mysteries, who is working her way through the alphabet. In fact in a review of Grafton’s T is for Trespass, USA today praised her work and wondered,  “What does it take to write twenty novels about the same character and manage to create a fresh, genre-bending novel every time?”

And that is the heart of the debate. Is an author cranking out the same story over and over or creating an original tale for each new book? Some authors get around the fresh/stale problem by constantly creating new characters. Piers Anthony and his wonderful Xanth series is a good example. His characters age and new ones emerge. His 36th Xanth novel will be published this December.

The dilemma that authors face is readers often love the characters in the series they read. They want to read more stories, find out how the next adventure will unfold. They want to see how the lives of the characters progress, learn their ultimate destinies. (Have you seen the meme that made its way around Facebook this past summer? It showed a kneeling man and the caption said, “I pray for world peace, the safety of kittens, and that J.K. Rowling’s new book is really about Harry Potter, the Grown-up Years.”)

Some readers love formula tales, books that follow a well-known, well-loved pattern that gives them the assurance of knowing how the the story will unfold and even what the ending will bring. It’s safe and comfortable, like a good friend. Others want the thrill of not knowing, the adventure of discovering something new, the excitement of wondering, “what is going to happen this time?” Does a long-lived series need to provide endless twists and surprises or does it survive by keeping to the formula? A little of both, we suspect.

Some authors are under contract to write one or more titles in their series per year. Is it hard to be creative under such deadlines? We don’t know the answer to that one since we are not under such constraints, but we have seen once wonderful series deteriorate into obvious have-to-crank-out-another-book tales. This is sad, both for the authors and the readers. Yet the money factor that drives this kind of book production is a hard fact of life.

When will the Time’s Edge series end? We honestly don’t know. We have several adventures in mind for Michael and Kate, and we do know their ultimate destinies. We even know what the final book in the series will be; the last chapter of that tale is written. We keep it in mind when we write and sometimes will hint at their final story. We have already written three books in this series and have three more planned. After that, who knows? If we have more stories to tell, we will. If we feel it is time to bring it to a close, we will do that, too.

That is the true dilemma of writing a book series: knowing when to make a graceful bow and exit.

In Defense of Happy Endings

What an angst-ridden world we read in.

No, that’s not a typo. Merely an observation on the preponderance of books that explore the dark side of life.

Let us begin by stating that we don’t object to books that delve into that part or any other part of life. Life is meant to be explored by all the mediums available to us. But why the over-emphasis on tragedy, sadness, despair? That is not all there is. In short, what’s wrong with happy endings?

We posed this question to several writers we know. The responses ranged from “Happy endings are old fashioned” to “Nothing, but no one will really take your work seriously if all your books end well”. One writer claimed that “Good literature is not meant to be fun. It is meant to explore, expose, enlighten, engross, and enrich.” The string of “E” words made us blink. But they also made us ask why a lighter tale could not do all of those things. “Nonsense!” was the reply. “You can’t illustrate a serious point by having fun!” This reminded us of one of our elementary school teachers who was fond of yelling, “You’re not here to have fun! You’re here to learn!” When did fun and learning become mutually exclusive?

We then posed the same question to readers. In our highly unscientific poll, we discovered that the writers and readers from whom we received responses are miles apart on this issue. We heard a lot of: “I love happy endings”, “I like books that leave me feeling good”, “Happy endings are more satisfying”. One reader summed it up beautifully:

I don’t mind reading books that end in a way that most would define as unhappy, but I like to know what I am getting.  When I pick up a horror novel or a book that is obviously a tragedy, I expect a sad outcome. I don’t like it when a book is entertaining and fun and then has a sudden twist at the end that results in a bad ending. I feel like the author pulled a fast one on me for no other reason than to add pathos.

We happen to like happy endings. We totally agree that not all stories should have them. But why the dismissal of stories that do? “Happy endings aren’t realistic” one writer said to us. We feel that consistently unhappy endings aren’t realistic, either. Life is not one-sided, never has been, never will be.

So here’s to happy endings and the books that provide them. They illustrate the points that occasionally you can win one, that life is not all bad, that hope and happiness are obtainable. If nothing else, a happy ending to a story can make you smile. And what’s wrong with that?

It’s Impossible to Own Just One Book

Books are like potato chips. You can’t have just one.

Why Writers Shouldn’t Read Reviews

The agony and the ecstasy. That’s the best way to describe what it is like for authors to read reviews of their books. It’s natural to want to know what readers think of your story, but, overall, it is better to give it a miss. Why? Reviews will eventually affect your writing.

But isn’t that the point, some folks will ask. Don’t reviews help authors improve, point out flaws, show them the strengths and weaknesses of the story? Not necessarily. Reviews reflect the personal experience of the reader and every reader’s experience is unique. Readers bring their own ideas, fears, prejudices, and emotions to any book they read and will interpret the story through the filter of their own perception.

No writer can write to meet the expectations and beliefs of every reader. Louis May Alcott in her book Little Women describes the character Jo’s struggle with this very problem. Jo has written a book and everyone around her has made helpful suggestions about how she can make the book better. She rewrites the book according to these criticisms and the book is published.

Well, it was printed and she got three hundred dollars for it; likewise plenty of praise and blame, both so much greater than she expected that she was thrown into a state of bewilderment.

“You said, Mother, that criticism would help me. But how can it, when it’s so contradictory that I don’t know whether I’ve written a promising book or broken all the ten commandants?”

It can be very confusing to read some of the comments reviewers make. Some reviewers praise our book for being great science fiction. Others say it is pure fantasy. Still other rail that it should be one or the other. One reviewer complained that we used too many “ten dollar words” while another reader lambasted us for having a limited vocabulary. Some love the story, claiming it was the best book they ever read. Others attack with such nastiness that you might think our book was going to be the cause of the fall of western civilization.

Bewildering, indeed.

The worst part is that when an author sits down to write, these reviews rattle around in his head subtly, and sometimes not-so-subtly, tainting his writing. Gee, someone really loved this; I’d better give them more of it. Hmm, someone really hated that. Better leave it out altogether. And on and on.

Reviews can get in the way of creativity. They obscure the unique perspective an author brings to her book. Part of the joy of writing is the creating a story for the love of telling a tale your own way. If an author begins to try to write to suit other people’s visions of the story, the uniqueness is lost.

The joy of reading comes from interpreting the story from your own viewpoint. Each reader takes away a different experience from a book. Reviews are nothing more than an expression of each reader’s unique view of the world. So, authors, don’t take it to heart.

Living your life according to what others think is best for you is dust and ashes. Creating stories according to what others think is best is the same.

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