Thursday, July 5, 2018

Beneath the Lanterns Cover


This is just a rough mock up of the cover from the one painting I have done that is of a city in the story. Everything is just eye-balled, I didn't measure anything and the painting is just a sketch, more or less. (It will get slightly more detailed, if I use this one.) As with all my covers, they are more for the mood than illustrating the story. This is a scene from Lanterna, but our heroes were there in the dark days, and this is a painting from the light days... I still have plenty of time to paint something else, but I'm not holding my breath. This is like the sixth attempt at a cover painting.

Here is the full painting without any effects added in Gimp:


Friday, June 29, 2018

Beneath the Lanterns Blurb



Procrastination is not a vice of mine. I hate having anything hanging over my head. So rather than wait a week or so to start my second revision, and with long summer days with little to do in hand, I undertook to go through Beneath the Lanterns a third time. I am happy to report that I found nothing terribly wrong, and managed to eliminate 1,000 words in the process. In short, I consider the story done. It will have to be proof read, my likely many typos corrected, and then offered to my beta readers for input and corrections. If all goes well, I should be able to publish the book by mid-September. I have a map done, but I have yet to tackle the cover painting. (The one above is actually Barsoom)

That being the case, I offer you the first draft of the blurb for Beneath the Lanterns.

The historian Kel Cam enjoyed a pleasant life living in Azera, the capital city of the Azere Empire. In the dark days, he taught classes at the University. In the bright days he traveled the steppes to Blue Order communities seeking ancient texts and the clues they offered concerning the long dead, and still mysterious, Elder Civilization. That life, however, changed when Ren Loh, the fourth daughter of the Empress of the Jasmyne Empire arrived in Azera. Rather drastically.

Beneath the Lanterns is an old fashioned novel of adventure, travel, and romance set in a richly imagined world. A world of steppes, forests, and valleys littered with the ruins of an advanced civilization that mysteriously disappeared long ago. A world where the bright days, under the Yellow Lantern are 16 days of daylight, and the equally long dark days are illuminated by the cool light of the Blue Lantern.

You are invited to explore the wide lands beneath the Lanterns in the good company of Kel Cam, Ren Loh and other, richly drawn characters in this complete, lighthearted adventure novel.

I don’t like blurbs that outline the story’s plot. I don’t want to know what’s going to happen, so my blurbs are always rather vague. As it says in the blurb, I wanted to write a nice, lighthearted adventure story. If I have to live with a story in my head for a year, I want it to be a pleasant and enjoyable story. I write to bring a little happiness into the world, if I can. I was thinking today, after finishing it, that it sort of recalls the old Hope and Crosby Road pictures. Not quite as comic, but in spirit. I suppose I could have called it The Road to Lankara.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Fantasy or Science Fiction?

Source: http://authorearnings.com/sfwa2018/


The above chart has me re-thinking my marketing plans for Beneath the Lanterns. It is from Author Earnings’ presentation to the 2018 SFWA Nebula Conference (The complete presentation here: http://authorearnings.com/sfwa2018/ ) The chart breaks down the sales of fantasy books by sub-genre and who is selling them. Below is the same chart for science fiction. Together, they’ve given me much to think about.

source; http://authorearnings.com/sfwa2018/

My goal for this year’s novel was to write a novel that could be marketed to potential new readers -- fantasy readers, since I knew that fantasy was significantly more popular than science fiction. (And these two charts certainly prove that it is, indeed, the case.) What I didn’t know was why fantasy was more popular. The chart above tells us why. Vampires.

Urban and paranormal fantasy dominate fantasy sales. And while I’m sure the readers of fantasy read books in more than just one particular sub-genre, I've a feeling that Beneath the Lanterns has little appeal to vampire book readers. Epic fantasy, the second most popular sub-genre, concerns itself with great events, empires falling or clashing, great evil or black magic arising, often with many characters, and stories spanning generations -- in short, the polar opposite of Beneath the Lanterns and the types of stories I write. Taking these two readerships off the table, the fantasy market looks pretty much like science fiction.

In writing Beneath the Lanterns, I ignored a lot of the common fantasy tropes, and turned a few on their head. Indeed, I'd a hard time finding its place it in any of the many sup-genres of Fantasy.
(See the list here: http://bestfantasybooks.com/fantasy-genre.php ) My story is a fantasy because it is an adventure set in an imaginary land, a land without magic, trolls, or vampires. The most appropriate sub-genre in fantasy for the novel looks to be action & adventure, which is number 13 on the list with about 1 million copy sales. Adventure in science fiction clocks in at number two with sales of 3.7 million... So... I’m re-thinking my marketing plan.

I could market Beneath the Lanterns as either a fantasy or as a science fiction adventure. When I constructed the world for the story, I did so on a science fiction basis and laced it with little clues suggesting this -- just for my amusement. The clues have no bearing on the story. Nevertheless I, or  a reader who discovers what I did knows more about the world than the narrator, making the story science fiction. On the other hand, if the reader takes the story as told by the narrator, as I intended, it is a fantasy -- an adventure on an imaginary world. While I wrote the story as a fantasy (and not as a puzzle) this underlying science fiction premise allows me to list it as either fantasy or science fiction, or both. At Amazon I think I can list two genre. The question then would be, what category is the primary one?

Nothing is simple. The popularity of a category doesn’t necessarily translate into more sales since there is more competition. Steampunk has the number 18 slot on the SF list with sales of maybe half a million, while space opera has the fifth position with sales of perhaps 2.7 million. My steampunk book, A Summer in Amber has sold around 5,000 copies, while my space opera, The Bright Black Sea has sold around 8,000 copies. Part of the reason for the totals not reflecting the six to one genre balance is that, The Bright Black Sea was released six months later and has spent six months on the paid list as well. Still, that's not the whole story. This month, for example, the two are selling just about the same. The more likely reason is that in a less populated sub-genre like steampunk, A Summer in Amber is always in the top 100 list of free steampunk books, while The Bright Black Sea bobs in and out of the space opera list. In a market with millions of products, visibility is the key to sales. So even if fantasy adventure is far less popular than science fiction adventure, the book might well be more visible in fantasy than in science fiction and, as a result, sell better. 

The book is what it is, that’s not going to change. It is only the marketing that has yet to be decided upon. I'll look into what sort of overall rank in Amazon's free book list books need to reach the top 100 lists in either genre, and then decide just how to market Beneath the Lanterns.


Saturday, June 23, 2018

Beneath the Lanterns





As you may have gathered from the title, my 2018 novel has a new name: Beneath the Lanterns. There were several reasons for this change. The first is that The 4th Daughter looked awkward in print, and The Fourth Daughter is already a book. The second is that I’d a feeling that I would end up having to say the title several times to everyone, “fourth, not force” and then explain it as well. What does birth order have to do with the story? So to have a cleaner, more elegant and intriguing title, I decided to go with Beneath the Lanterns. The lanterns in the title are the two celestial objects in the world’s sky, analogous to our sun and the moon. And, well, the story takes place beneath them. As an extra bonus for me, it reminds me of ERB’s first title for A Princess of Mars; Under the Moons of Mars. There is an album by that title, but I can live with that. So while the fat lady hasn’t sung the title yet, I think this is the one.

The next bit of news is that I’ve finished the second draft of Beneath the Lanterns. I finished up with version 35, so I must have been at it for 35 days, since each day’s work gets its own version to minimize any operator error. I had to rewrite, rethink, and re-choreograph a number of scenes, so the process took some time, but I think we’re close now. The story is clocking in at 127,000 words – a bit longer than I was shooting for, but I don’t see any place that I care to cut. Most advice I read is to cut, cut, cut – just tell the story as efficiently as possible so as not to waste a reader’s time. I’m not of that school. I don’t write fast paced stories. To me the story is secondary – necessary, but secondary. What I want is for a reader to come away from my books with a feeling that they’ve met and traveled with a new friend to some beyond their everyday life. Someplace you can’t get to from here. I want a story that readers are sorry to reach the end. Some people, like me, like that sort of thing, others, don’t. But you can’t please everyone, and you shouldn’t try. I don’t.

Up next for me is taking a break from revising for a week or two. After that I’ll covert the story to an epub version and load it on to an ereader or tablet. I see a lot more mistakes reading it on something other than the computer screen. Hopefully, by reading on an ereader I’ll not only catch all my typos (“That’s a joke, son.”) but all the awkward words and phrases that pop out as well. And, also hopefully, I only find awkward words and phrases in this run though and end up feeling that it’s good to go. If so, it goes off to my first proofreader, and then, with any luck, any beta reader who care to take on Beneath the Lanterns will have it in their hands early in August.

Between revisions here, I need to draw a map and hopefully paint a few pictures good enough to use for the cover. We’ll see. I haven’t painted in a while….

I’ll post several more updates in the coming days, as well as the first draft of the blurb for Beneath the Lanterns. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The 4th Daughter -- My 2018 Fantasy Novel



I’ve finished the first draft of my 2018 fantasy novel tentatively titled The 4th Daughter. The first draft came in at about 117K words, and when the dust settles after my revisions it will likely be around my target length of 120K words – about the length of A Summer in Amber.

My plan is to spend as much time this summer as I need making my revisions. Putting words on a blank screen is the hard part of writing for me. Going over those words and tweaking them is the part of writing that I really enjoy. I’ve a feeling that if I spend my usual two hours a day writing, I will likely be done with my revisions well before the end of summer. I need to draw a map or two, and paint several possible paintings for the cover art, but those projects shouldn’t hold up the show. Once I’m satisfied with the story, I will send it off to my proof and beta readers for their input. (If you would like to volunteer to read an almost final version of this story prior to publication, just drop me an email and I will put you on my beta reader list.) After any revisions inspired by my beta readers, I plan to publish it as both an ebook and as paperback book. The ebooks will once again be free, where possible. My original target release date was in the October- November, 2018. However, with the first draft done, I might be able to push the release date up a month or so, if all goes well. 

This time around, the story is my take on a fantasy. I’ve read my share of fantasy books over the last 50 years, but I can’t claim to be a great fan of fantasy. I love Glen Cook’s Garrett PI series. For more traditional fantasies I prefer the ones set in an alternate-China setting. These days, however, I must admit that most fantasy stories no longer appeal to me. So why did I write a fantasy? First, I wanted to write something a little different. I also wanted to write something that might attract the attention of a new group of readers to expand my readership. And finally, I took it up as a personal challenge to see if could I write a fantasy story without using all the common fantasy tropes that I dislike – their vast scales of time and action, the endless conflict between the personified forces good and evil, light and darkness, the use of magic, all the various gods and other mythological creatures, and all their darkness, blood, violence, and death. And I must admit I had fun trying to turn as many of those tropes on their head as possible. For example, I have no evil forces in the story – a few ruthless and bloody-minded people, but none that are essentially evil. For the setting I have created an imaginary world, many centuries after the fall of a technologically advanced civilization. The story takes place across a sprawling steppe empire with technology at a horse, sword, and oil lamp level. However, more advanced technology – trains, electric lights and oil, steam, and electric motors reinvented with the help of relics left from the “Elder Civilization” – are beginning to be introduced from a neighboring nation. The story centers around the title character, Ren Loh, the fourth (and unnecessary) daughter of the Empress of Jasmyne and Kel Cam, a historian from that advanced nation. Since I hate blurbs that are a synopsis of the story, I’ll just say that it follows my usual pattern: a small scale, cozy story of adventure, travel, and romance.

Well, that’s how things stand as of today with The 4th Daughter. Stay tuned for more updates.

Friday, May 4, 2018

3 Years in Self-Publishing



Since April 23rd marked my third year as a self-published writer of adventure/travel/romance novels set in imaginary places, it’s time to publish my annual report on my past year in the self-publishing business.

Let’s start with the numbers. Please note; the vast majority of “sales” are free downloads.

Sales and ratings of 1 May 2018:

A Summer in Amber (23 April 2015)
Download/sales:
Year 1: 2,359
Year 2: 1,220
Year 3: 1,336 w/ 2 print sales
Total to Date: 4,915
Ratings: (# of ratings) star average
Amazon (20) 4.4
Amazon UK (4) 4
Smashwords (6) 4.17
iBooks (13) 4.5
B & N (2) 5
Goodreads (26) 3.73

Some Day Days (9 July 2015)
Download/sales:
Year 1: 1,141
Year 2: 509
Year 3: 400
Total to Date: 2050
Ratings: (# of ratings) star average
Amazon (2) 3
Smashwords (1) 4
iBooks (6) 4
B & N (0)
Goodreads (4) 3

The Bright Black Sea (17 September 2015)
Download/sales:
Year 1: 3,178
Year 2: 2,567
Year 3: 2,091 w/1 print sale
Total to date: 7,836
Ratings: (# of ratings) star average
Amazon (36) 4.4
Smashwords (12) 4.75
iBooks (60) 4.5
B & N (6) 4.8
Goodreads (42) 4.02

Castaways of the Lost Star (4 Aug 2016 – 13 July 2017)
Download/sales:
Year 2: 1,700
Year 3: 476
Ratings: (# of ratings) star average
Smashwords (5) 5
Goodreads (14) 4.57
Rest unavailable since being withdrawn
Final Total: 2,176

The Lost Star’s Sea (13 July 2017)
Download/sales:
Year 3: 2,078 w/1 print sales
Total to date: 2,078
Ratings: (# of ratings) star average
Amazon (9) 3.8
Smashwords (2) 5
iBooks (8) 5
B & N (1) 5
Goodreads (10) 4.2

Combined Download/sales:
Year 1: 6,537
Year 2: 6,137
Year 3: 6,381 w/ 4 print sales
Total to Date: 19,055

Steady As She Goes.

My business plan is simple. Like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos I’m forgoing immediate (and tiny) profits in favor of building my readership for the long run. I am also following his aggressive pricing policy. Since I can produce my ebooks and paperback at no monetary cost, I’m selling them for free and not losing money by doing so. Indeed, with my Amazon foreign, non-price matched sales, I’m showing a slight profit.

I am not actively promoting my books beyond pricing them as friction-less impulse buys. My books do not fit the contemporary high volume mainstream markets in their genre, so I doubt that actively promoting them would prove worthwhile. The truth, however, is that I don’t want to bother with self-promoting. I’m writing for fun, not profit, and I’ll only willing to do what I enjoy. And for that luxury, I’ll gladly accept my modest, but steady growth.


Highlights of this year in publishing



On 13 July 2017 I released the complete companion volume in the Lost Star Stories series, The Lost Star’s Sea. It replaced my 2016 stop-gap book, Castaways of the Lost Star. This short novel was intended to be the opening episode of The Lost Star’s Sea and it took its proper place in the complete release. This volume concludes the adventures of Wil Litang. Though only two volumes long, it contains more than 650K words. The series could have been stretched into six volumes, but with no monetary incentive to do so, I wanted to make reading the complete story as friction-less as possible, so I condensed it down to two free “Buy” clicks.

As with Castaways, I had the help of a number of volunteer beta readers who pointed out errors and provided me with valuable feedback. I would like to thank them, once again, for their time and effort in making this a better book than what I could do on my own. 

I do believe, however, that writing this companion volume at this time was a business mistake. While it is gospel in the indie publishing world to write series books – and write the first three books before releasing the first one, this is, I think, “A Trap!” for the beginning writer. If the first book succeeds, then the sequels pay off. But if it doesn’t, then one has three non-sellers instead of just one. Why gamble early? Besides, there is always a natural attrition between volumes as readers who did not like the first book will not go on to the second book, and some of the readers on the fence after each book will fall away as well. And while the releases of sequels may spark interest in the first book of the series, a new, unrelated book will likely do this just as well, plus offering a chance of selling more books than the previously published book. I suppose if one has sold a large number of the first book in the series, one can afford the inevitable attrition as the series continues, but unless you have a large pool of readers, I don’t think a sequel makes business sense.

That being the case, the current sales of The Bright Black Sea does not, I think, justify a sequel from a business prospective, especially since I spent the better part of two years writing it. Those two years could’ve been better spent writing two different books, each of which would have offered the prospect of attracting a wider readership beyond that of The Bright Black Sea’s. This is not to say that I don’t like or I’m not proud of The Lost Star’s Sea, nor indeed, regret writing it. Rather that I recognize that from a purely business standpoint, I shouldn’t have done it. I won’t make that mistake again. Until I write my break-out novel, all my future books will different types of stand alone books.

Work on the 2018 Book

Which brings me to my 2018 book. At this point of time I’m 95K words into its first draft. I expect to finish this draft by the end of the month (May 2018). Knock on wood. I then plan to spend the summer polishing it, before having it proofread for a release in the October-November 2018 time frame. The working title is The Fourth Daughter. However, since there is already a book by that title, I’ll have to come up with a different final title. As for the story itself, it is my standard adventure/travel/romance novel, set in an imaginary land. This time around, I’m taking aim at the fantasy market so the technology is mostly at the horse and sword level. It doesn’t, however, have many (any?) fantasy tropes, and so, like my other books, it rather falls into the cracks between genres and sub-genres. Still, I think it presents the chance of attracting new readers to all my books.

Paperback Editions



Since I wasn’t writing in October 2017, I had time on my hands. I decided to spend some of it producing print on demand trade paperback versions of my books. I planned to use them as thank you gifts for the people who have helped and encouraged me in my writing efforts. I have no commercial illusions, especially since the ebook versions are free. As a matter of fact, I’ve sold four paper books to date, which is four more than I ever expected to sell.

I started creating the paper books using Amazon’s program to produce paper books, but switched to (Amazon owned) Create Space to finish the job. Unlike Amazon at that time, Create Space would provide proof copies for me to inspect before actually publishing them. Amazon not only did not provide this service, but I’d have to publish and then buy my own books – at retail price to boot.

The process was a learning experience. Though not especially difficult, it was time consuming and frustrating at times. The books could be produced in LibreOffice and Gimp, so the process was within my expertise. Most of the problems I experienced arose, I think, from the fact that my older books were originally written in old versions of OpenOffice on a Mac, and those files refused to cooperate with my current version of LibreOffice on Windows. The main issue was setting up non-numbered “title pages.” The old OpenOffice version allowed only one title page before it began to count pages, while in LibreOffice, you can set any number of pages before it starts numbering them. Amazon requires Chapter One to start on page 1, so all the pages before Chapter One cannot be part of the numbering. I spent many an hour trying workarounds to get this to happen in my oldest works.

Once I had the printed proof copies in hand, it seemed that (hopefully – but unlikely – all) the remaining mistakes and awkward sentences that I had overlooked on my many previous readings popped out at me. So, with paper books in hand, I spent several weeks reading each book again in print to correct and slightly revise the books, hopefully making both the ebooks and paper books better for it.

My First and Last Promotional Effort

In December 2018 I decided to try a simple free promotion. I ran a Goodreads drawing for one paper copy of The Bright Black Sea. My drawing ran the whole month of December and I had a rather disappointing 572 entrants. I had also promoted my free ebooks in the contest blurb hoping the contest would spur my ebooks sales. As far as I can see, it did no such thing. All in all, my first, and likely last, promotional effort was largely a bust, though an inexpensive one; merely the wholesale price of the book, and the cost of shipping to the winner.

Selling Directly on Kobo

In January 2018 I decided that since Kobo does not report free sales to Smashwords, but does to the authors who list their books directly with them, I would switch to directly listing my books with Kobo. I wanted to see what sort of sales I was missing. In the process I lost the 4 ratings my books had on Kobo – no great loss – and I have discovered how many books I was moving on Kobo – 33 in 4 months. Now I know.

New List Prices on Amazon

Also in January 2018 Amazon stopped price matching The Bright Black Sea so it reverted to its list $.99 price. Perhaps taking my Smashwords distributed books out of Kobo for a few days before listing them my own triggered this action. In any event, since this was my best selling book, and the first book of my two book series, I was not happy. The last time Amazon did this, I had it priced at $3.99. It stayed at that price for 6 months until the release of Castaways of the Lost Star. I think I sold around a dozen copies. This time around, I did nothing in January, to gauge how well the book would sell at $.99. I sold some, but not enough to make me think it was worth keeping it at $.99. So, when February rolled around, I changed the list prices of all my books. From past experience, I thought that this might trigger an automated reevaluation on the part of Amazon and probably would reset all the prices back to free. It did.

Given that my Amazon list prices matter only in the foreign Amazon stores, and that in 2017 I earned enough royalties from foreign sales to order out a pizza, I decided to forgo that pizza and instead use my prices to reflect the size and quality of my products. So in February I changed my list prices to:

A Summer in Amber $8.50 ebook $12.50 paperback
Some Day Days $5.50 ebook $9.00 paperback
The Bright Black Sea $12.50 ebook $25.00 paperback
The Lost Star’s Sea $12.50 ebook $25.00 paperback

I decided to align my books with traditionally published books rather than with indie published books. Now pricing is a business decision, not a self-awarded seal of excellence. However, people do equate price with quality. I decided that it was worth giving up the trickle of income from foreign sales to suggest to people who look on ebook prices as an indicator of reading quality, that my books are the equals of traditionally published books, since I believe they are. Much to my surprise, I have sold several ebooks at these new prices, and, together with my paperback sales, it’s looking to be a banner year for record profits! Profits are already into double digits, and it is only May! I’m rich, rich, rich!

Conclusion

And that, in a nut shell, was my third year of self-publishing. After finishing The Lost Star’s Sea I tried out several new story ideas, but nothing quite clicked. I’ve posted those starts on this blog if you are curious. In the end, I took a couple of months off from writing to develop a new story that I thought was original and interesting enough to devote a year’s worth of daydreaming and work to it. I want to make each book not only better than the last one, but as different from the rest as I can, if only for my sake. I don’t want to do the same old thing day in and day out – without getting a paycheck every two weeks. And with that, we’ll see what my fourth year brings. Stay tuned.

Comments and questions are always welcomed.







Saturday, March 31, 2018

Cozy Science Fiction



I’ve been thinking about how to classify my new (hopefully) 2018 book. (63K words/first draft – halfway – at this point in time.) The story lacks so many of the usual tropes of its nominal genre that it doesn’t seem to fit any of the genre's 66 different sub-genres, and so I haven’t a clue as to what it is. This is not unique to this book. It pretty much describes all my books.

Why my books don’t fit comfortably into the mainstream of current science fiction is not a great mystery to me. They are what they are because I imagine and write stories like the ones I enjoy reading. And the stories I enjoy reading are, by and large, not current science fiction. It seems that my taste in books has failed to keep up with the changing fashions in literature, and science fiction.

I like light, clever, and witty adventure stories, with characters that I can enjoy spending hours in their company. I dislike stories with unpleasant or remote characters, which is why I generally prefer first person narratives. I also don’t like the current fashion of slicing and dicing stories – stories with multiple points of view and/or ones that flash back and forth in time. I like stories, not puzzles.

The stories I write bear the hallmarks of the popular fiction of the Victorian/Edwardian era. Some of my favorite writers include Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes). Sax Rohmer, (Fu Manchu), H Rider Haggard, (Alan Quartermain), C J Cutcliffe Hyne (Captain Kettle), John Buchan (Richard Hannay), Compton Mackenzire (Highland novels), Guy Gilpatric (Glencannon) Kenneth Grahme (The Golden Age), and Edgar Rice Burroughs, (John Carter).

I also value clever, witty stories by writers who use the English language to entertain independently of the story they are telling. In addition to some of the writers listed above, this category includes writers like Raymond Chandler, (Philip Marlowe), P G Wodehouse, (Bertie Wooster), Patrick O’Brian (Aubrey and Maturin), George MacDonald Fraser (Flashman), Jonathan L Howard (Cabal), and Jasper Fforde, who’s book Shades of Grey is my current favorite science fiction book. I can, and have, read many of their stories several times over, simply to enjoy their use of the language. It is a talent I aspire to, but alas, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

Given my old fashioned taste in books, and the fact that science fiction books do not make up a great proportion of my favorite books, it is not surprising that my science fiction books fall outside of the mainstream of science fiction. I have a “steampunk” novel that – spoiler alert – has no zombies in it. Instead of having 19th century versions of 21st century technology in the Victorian era, I have Edwardian technology in the late 21st, along with a remnant of early 21st century technology. Unlike most space operas, my space opera is not military science fiction because I consider space operas to be space ship and space travel stories rather war stories. My space opera’s sequel is a planetary romance which hasn’t been a thing for 70 years. And then we have my odd duck sci-fi romance, which is pretty much unlike anything. All my books fall between the cracks of genres, and the new one will too.

While I was thinking of how I might describe my newest story, I came to realize that all my books have one common denominator. Some years ago the term “cozy mysteries” was coined to describe modern stories that attempted to recapture the charm of the early, Agatha Christie style of mysteries. Seeing that my stories lack the graphic violence and sex common in modern fiction, and that the prototypes of these stories date from the same era or earlier, I believe that they can be described as “cozy science fiction.” While they may not feature white-haired busybodies, they do feature ordinary, pleasant people in extraordinary – but not too extraordinary – circumstances. While the circumstances they face may be deadly to the characters, the stakes are low compared to those of many stories where the fate of a nation, a world, or the galaxy hangs by a thread. Indeed, sometimes the stake is just happiness… I think that this combination of pleasant characters and modest stakes, along with modest violence, little in the way of rough language, and just enough sex to keep them from being YA novels (I hope) makes them good candidates for “cozy science fiction.” So, is cozy science fiction is a thing? Well, there are some “cozy catastrophe science fiction” -- a handful of small scale survival stories set in a post catastrophic England, but other than that, well, it seems to be pretty much an unclaimed island. That being the case,  I think I’ll plant my flag on cozy science fiction and make it my own.