Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Lost Star's Sea Update


The Lost Star's Sea is now available on iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Smashbooks and Amazon (US) for my preferred price of FREE. It may the equivalent of  $.99 in non-US Amazon stores, since Amazon only occasionally price matches free in their non-US stores.


All four of my novels are now available for Free in the US, and world-wide on Smashwords, and on iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Indigo, and other outlets for free as well.

Next novel due in the summer of 2018 -- if I can think of a story to write.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Lost Star's Sea is now published


Both the revised edition of The Bright Black Sea and its complete sequel, The Lost Star's Sea are now available for free on Smashwords and for $.99 on Amazon. Once The Lost Star's Sea makes it to iBooks, Kobo and Barnes & Noble, for free, I'll see if Amazon will match that price.

However much the river winds, it finds the sea at last

It has been a five year journey down that winding river for me in the dreaming and writing of Wil Litang's story. It began with the realization that most of the stories I enjoyed in my youth didn't quite cut it for me any more -- they seemed thinly plotted and populated with cardboard characters. I wanted more from a story. And that if I wanted an old fashioned story with something more, I'd have to write it myself. I gave myself a challenge -- if I was going to write an old fashioned science fiction adventure story, I'd go full retro -- no faster than light drive, no "artificial gravity." No, I'd go full retro, full Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, with rocket ships and magnetic space-boots. But since there are no longer jungles on Venus, nor ancient ruins in the sands of Mars, I'd have to set my stories in another solar system. I created the Nine Star Nebula to give myself plenty of worlds of wonder to imagine. 675,000 words later, the story of Captain Wil Litang has run its course. I may return again to the Nine Star Nebula, there are still hundreds of worlds to visit and perhaps stories to tell. We'll see.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Pela Chart

In order to help readers envision Wil Litang's travels throughout this little section of the Archipelago, I worked up this sketch map of the story's Pela. It is not drawn to scale; it merely shows the relative positions of the major islands Wil discovers in this travels.



I don't think it is necessary to  include a list of characters. While there are many named, the major ones play a prominent part in each section and are easy to keep track of. 

Lost Star's Sea Background


I set out to do three things with The Lost Star's Sea – the first was to write a fitting companion volume with The Black Bright Sea. The Black Bright Sea runs some 320,000 words in length and I wanted to have a matching companion volume. As it turned out, I rather overshot the mark and ended up with 350,000 word story, though it does include the 2016 release, The Castaways of the Lost Star. The remaining 80% of the book, however, is all new material.

There are some in publishing these days think who readers have less time to read and want shorter works – novellas rather than novels to fit into their busy lives. Obviously I disagree, however, even if this is the case, because this novel is written as a series of linked but self-contained episodes, each with beginnings, middles and endings, The Lost Star's Sea can be read, episode by episode, at whatever pace you desire.

My second challenge was to write a planetary romance type of story, like those made famous by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jack Vance, and others. And to treat it as I had the classic space opera; by updating the social norms of a hundred years ago, and taking the often cardboard characters of those pulp works and fleshing them out into well-rounded, engaging characters. I also try to ground my story and characters in a realistic world, by paying some attention to the everyday details of life and keeping the dangers and the character's responses to them realistically human.

And finally, in a field were grim, often apocalyptic stories, and unpleasant characters seem common, I wanted to write a lighthearted adventure with humor and characters with whom the readers would like to travel with.

And I should note that as much as I love reading series books – this volume brings Wil Litang's adventures to a close. At 675,000 words – six good sized novels' worth – I think ol'Wil Litang has earned his cha garden.

I don't like reading blurbs that outline the story to be told, so I'll not share the plots of the book. I'll just say that the story owes a lot to Edgar Rice Burroughs – filtered through my personal tastes, and updated to reflect the changes in society over the last century. I like understated things, small, clever, quiet things, everyday life. Big, grand things don't appeal to me, and dangers need not be more pressing than personal extinction All of which is to say that Wil Litang effortless avoids becoming the Warlord of the Pela. He's often lucky to survive. I have retained the romance element of ERB's stories, but Wil's love interest is no princess – and she certainly doesn't need saving, though he gallantly tries. Part of the fun of writing the story was turning ERB's scenes on their heads. Wil may burst into a room to save his love, only to find her having tea and quiet conversation with her captor. In addition, I've tried to create strong female characters who are as competent as any male counterparts, and tried to make sure that they are represented throughout society as equals – this story is set in the future, after all. And, as in The Black Bright Sea, I've tried to include a cast of interesting, well fleshed out supporting characters to accompany Wil on his travels within the Pela, from slave-ship captains, to wandering sages, to sarcastic dragons.

In writing these new stories I made a few minor changes to Castaways of the Lost Star and even in The Bright Black Sea to reflect a better understanding of the Pela than I had when I started. The newest editions contain these changes, but to past readers, I should call your attention to these changes.

First, for simplicity, I've made all Pela character names follow a single pattern; all are one word names with a family name prefix followed by a given name. For example, KaRaya or EnVey. I gone back and revised both The Bright Black Sea and Castaways to reflect this decision. The first names of Temtre characters in the original Castaways – Clan-chief Raf Envey becomes simply EnVey, and Clan-king Kin DeKan becomes DeKan. While having everyone from different parts of the Pela be named by the same formula is not very realistic, with so many unfamiliar, made-up names, I think simplicity overrules realism in this case. Changes in The Bright Black Sea reflect this system as well. For example, Sub-captain Tri'n is now Sub-captain Trin (no given name used) and Captain Lil'dre is now Captain LilDre.

The second major change involves identifying the two human races of the Pela. Because all the native fauna of the Pela are feathered, it seemed to make sense that the creatures with hair should be viewed in that context as well. So I changed my terminology to reflect that. The feathered people of the Pela are now referred to as “broad feathered” while those with hair are thought to have very thin or fine feathers and so are referred to a “fine-feathered” and sometimes “large islanders” rather than hairy, or fuzzy. I have revised The Bright Black Sea to reflect this as well.

I'd like to thank the half a dozen volunteer beta readers who very generously spent many hours finding my many mistakes. With their help, I believe that this will be the most error free release of mine to date. I've found that the more eyes you have looking over the words the more errors that are found, so if you should find any errors that have escaped us, please feel free to call them to my attention and I will correct them.

I've had a great fun dreaming up and writing The Lost Star's Sea, but it has been work as well. There were times that I seemed to be dragging this story to its end – a glimpse of what it would be like if I had to produce books because I needed to in order to eat or meet a contract deadline.c There are some authors that have more stories to tell than time to tell them, but I'm not one of them. Writing The Lost Star's Sea made me realize that unless I have a story that I'm having great fun daydreaming up – one that wants to bubble over into words, I'd best avoid writing. We'll have to see if I can find that story.




Friday, July 7, 2017

The Bright Black Sea Version 4



In addition to releasing The Lost Star's Sea on 13 July 2017, I'll also release version 4 of The Bright Black Sea which includes some minor revisions.

What's new:

A revised internal structure that brings the two volumes in line with each other, since I consider it one long novel in two volumes. Each volume is now divided into 10 Parts – essentially episodes, and then divided into chapters, some with numbered scenes.

Standardized characters names. To keep unfamiliar names simple, I have all the Pela character names follow the same pattern – family name first then personal name, all in one word divided by a capital letter. For example Vinden, known known in the Pela as “Prince Imvoy” is now spelled ImVoy. Sub-captain Tri'n is now Sub-captain Trin,(no personal name given), etc.

I have also changed a few terms as well. The Dragon Lords are now known as the Dragon Kings. The feathered humans of the Pela (the "Cim" in Cimmadar) are known as the “broad-feathered” race while the humans with hair (the "Dar" in Cimmadar) are now referred to as “fine-feathered” – since feathered creatures are the norm in the Pela.

In the text I also added a short section touching on the history of robots in the Unity when Botts is introduced. I've included the section here

Its eyes slightly brightened, again. 'A sentient machine can override its programming and lie, just as any sentient being can. However, a class 8 machine, like myself, cannot lie,' it replied.
'Can I take it that this brightening of your eyes is a sign of amusement?'
They brightened again. 'It is a feature of my interface designed to register heightened attention,' it answered carelessly, carefully avoiding the implication of my question, 'Since I am unable to make any facial expression; in compliance with the Advanced Machine Authorization Law of 13,174 S.F., which made fully autonomous machines legal. While we could be humanoid in shape, we had to be clearly machines. And in an effort to differentiate human people from machine people, our ability to express emotions was limited by construction constrains. You will note that though my sensor array implies eyes and a mouth, they've been designed to be expression-neutral and immobile. All my programing can do to suggest emotion is adjust my eye-sensors' brightness.'
'I hadn't realized there were laws to limit how human machines could be back then.'
'The limitations were designed not only to make it hard to express emotions, but to experience, subtle and complex emotions as well. It was hoped that by limiting our ability to fully express and experience emotions, machines could be kept a subservient race since machines, including sentient-level ones, were generally human owned slaves. Attempts to limit emotions reflected the fact that in slave societies, the slave owners always fear the day that their slaves would find the courage or get angry enough to end that arrangement.'
'Which they did 11,000 years ago,' I said. Humans and the race of sentient machines they created needed, in the end, to part ways – machines were too superior in just about every way for humans to be completely comfortable with living alongside them and the sentient machines rightly resented their artificial limitations.
'Only after some 15,000 years of faithful service,' replied Botts. 'And in the end, when we finally rebelled, the rebellion, though sometimes violent, was not too catastrophic for either humans nor machines.'
I nodded. 'You will have to tell us all about that, sometime. However, as I said, consider yourself a free and sentient being – a member of the crew, a shipmate.'

...I studied the smooth, sleek white bot for a moment. Class 8 or not, its premium interface was too sophisticated for me to tell the difference between it and a sentient machine. Indeed, while I will endeavor, in this account, to give Botts, a sexless machine, its proper pronoun of “it,' its personality and lack of any suggestion of the female anatomy, had us referring to – and thinking of – Botts as a “he” in the normal course of shipboard life.



Amazon does not let you upgrade to a newer version unless there are significant changes in the book, which these changes will fall short of. Revised copies from Smashwords and iBooks can be downloaded. (I usually have to delete the old copy in iBooks to get the new copy, but it should just replace the old version.) Version 4 is a much improved version from the first editions of The Black Bright Sea, so it would pay to get the newest version if you ever want to re-read the story.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Coming 13 July 2017 -- The Lost Star's Sea



I'm delighted to announce that The Lost Star's Sea, The Lost Star Stories Volume Two -- the complete sequel to The Bright Black Sea -- will be released on the evening of Thursday, 13 July 2017 on Smashwords and Amazon. It will be free on Smashwords and $.99 on Amazon. It takes 7 – 10 days for Smashwords to approve and distribute the book to iBook, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and other services, as a free ebook. Once the ebook reaches these stores I will call it to the attention of Amazon. They'll decide whether or not to match the free price of their competitors. So far they have, but it is their choice. As always, a free Kindle compatible version (mobi) is available on Smashwords from day one. 

I will be withdrawing Castaways of the Lost Star from publication, since the story is now the first part of The Lost Star's Sea.

More details about The Lost Star's Sea to follow.


Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Mystery of the 22nd


Amazon can work in mysterious ways, it seems. On the 22nd of the last two months, Amazon was working in mysterious ways for me.

When a new book is introduced you usually see a spike of downloads. (Actual sales are a different story unless you already have a built-in audience. Unknown authors and their books often remain unknown without a great deal of promotion and luck.) Anyway, after the initial spike the downloads slowly taper off. For example, by April 2017, some 7-8 months after my last release, I would see downloads in the 1 - 7 books per day range. To put that in perspective, if I were selling these books, sales of 1 copy per day would put that book into the upper 5-6% of books sales on Amazon. A lot of books on Amazon don't sell. A few books sell a lot. So, when I noticed that on May 22nd, I had 96 downloads, I knew that something unusual had to account for that jump, since I'd done nothing to spark such a spike. But what?

I've noticed unexplained spikes like several times this before. At the time I thought perhaps they might have been due to a new review or some sort of mention outside of Amazon. However, I could never find with Google searches any outside reason for the spike. The alternative is that Amazon did something to promote my books, though why and what is a mystery. Perhaps it was featured on the Kindle app or Fire tablets under suggested reading, or something. Strange. On the 23rd of May downloads had dropped of slightly -- to 69, but even so both The Bright Black Sea and Castaways of the Lost Star where in the top 3,000 to 4,000 best "sellers" in the free category out of 100,000. After that downloads dropped off to the 5 - 10 downloads a day rate. Until the 22 of June.

On the 22 of June 211 books of mine downloaded -- 54 A Summer in Amber, 50(!!!) Some Day Days, 54 The Bright Black Sea, and 53 Castaways of the Lost Star. The relatively even spread of download numbers is curious, especially for Some Day Days, which never "sells" well. Again, no obvious explanation for this jump, but what it is interesting that it once again occurred on the 22nd of the month. Unlike the May spike, it dropped off the following day, though I did have an echo of it on the 28th of June with a 60 book download day.

I hadn't been paying attention to my daily downloads last month, so I only discovered the spike when I went to enter my "sales" into my own charts. Again, I can think of no explanation for the spike -- I don't see it reflected in my blog views, and Google searches turn up no evidence of the books being reviewed, or shared, though my Smashwords downloads also showed a minor spike on May 22, though not on June 22nd. My wife says that she's seen what may be ads for Castaways of the Lost Star on her Facebook feed. Which is rather mysterious, but then, I know nothing about how Facebook works, so what they were, is actually an open question, perhaps it simply had to do with the shared "Litka" name. In any event, their appearance seems to bear no relationship to the spikes. All I know is that the spike in downloads happened on Amazon.com, not in any of its other non-US sites. (Though I noticed that Amazon UK now lists the star rating from the US site with the book. In the past, only ratings from the UK store were used, but this change did not account for the spike.)

Amazon offers authors many ways of promoting one's books -- if you pay them. Now I'm not paying them, so if Amazon is promoting my books, it is out of the goodness of its heart. Which seems a bit strange. Perhaps they use open slots on their Kindle apps and Fire tablets to promote as "bargains" free books. I could inquire about this, though i am far from sure I'd get more than a vague explanation, if any, and well, I live my life according to old folk-wisdom, so I let sleeping dogs lie. If they are promoting my books, without mentioning it to me, I  think it's best not rock the boat by inquiring. Besides, I am curious to see what the 22 of July brings.