Books By C. LItka

Books By C. LItka

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Books I Read in May (Part 1)

With this post, I'm moving my weekly post to Wednesdays for no particular reason except to brighten your hump day.

Having read, or at least sampled, nine books in May so far, and with more than 3,000 words to say about them, I'm going to divide my reviews for May into two posts, starting with these first four books. Stay turned for my reviews of Hackly Hammet's Payment on Delivery, Gavin Chappell's On Hadrian's Secret Service, Richard Townshend Bickers' The Sands of Truth, Catherine Cole's Murder at the Manor, Malcolm Archibald's Windrush, and maybe more, coming in early June.

The Barista’s Guide to Espionage: An Eva Destruction Novel by Dave Sinclair C+

To described as a mishmash of Stephanie Plum and James Bond would not be too far off the mark. Ms Eva Destruction is more competent than Ms Plum, with a much more action packed, James Bond movie style plot, but it has something of the humor of a Stephanie Plum novel. Though in the case of Janet Evanovich’s novels, Ms Plum is the first person narrator, and thus she has a bit more character than Ms Destruction. The plot was too much over the top to take at all seriously. However, if you like fast moving adventure stories with rich and powerful villains, lots of banter and innuendo, you should like this book very much. It also explores the question of does the end justify the means, as well as love, and feminism.

Interestingly enough, Sinclair seems to set his books either in the near future or in an alternate universe. Out of time began in 2024, and this one concerns things like a Russian civil war, that do not, yet, exist. This being the second Dave Sinclair book I’ve read I can say that he’s a good writer. His books are just not quite my cup of tea, or I’d grade them higher. Like Out of Time, this is a free book, the first book in his Eva Destruction series. I have one more of his free first books, Kiss My Assassin, the first Charles Bishop book (who also appears in this book as well.) I liked Out of Time better, but I expect I will like the Charles Bishop book as well. We’ll see.

The Left Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix C-

Yes, yet another urban fantasy book set in London. I’m a sucker for books set in London. I believe that put a hold on this book at the library because of a mention by one of the booktubers I watch. It became available, so I put a pause on my “thriller” reading. It was... okay for a self-published book. You know, lots of alarms and excursions with nondescript, but not bad writing, and a hard to believe fantasy premise. This is, of course, a left handed compliment, if its a compliment at all, since this isn’t a self-published book. It is a traditionally published book that reads like a bog standard self-published book, fine in its way, but without any literary aspirations. It doesn’t hold a candle to say, the gold standards of London fantasy, like Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman or the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. While this book has plenty of imagination, way too much, in fact, I found nothing in the writing or the characters to be very engaging.

Briefly, the premise, as far as I can tell, is that there are humans with various magical powers, i.e. the booksellers in the title, though there are both right and left handed, as well as both handed booksellers whose job is to keep an ancient magical menagerie – goblins, fairies, and other made up stuff, I think, in check, one way or another. Even though I swear fully 2/3rds of this novel is an explanation of how everything works, it just seems tossed together. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of logic in the magic, despite all that explaining. Anything goes. The story features a young woman who comes to London to attend university and to search for the father she never knew. She seems to have ties to the fantasy realm via this unknown father. In this search, she quickly comes in contact with a sinister magical creature and through it, the booksellers of the novel. Together with the booksellers, who have their own reasons, she set out to search for her father and encounters magical events and beings in this quest. There is also a very lame romance thread in the story as well. The action moves along, between the long stretched of explanations and musings...

The books suffers badly from what I see as the great fault of fantasy; if you allow magic in a story, the author can do anything they want, because, you know, it’s magic. The author can get their characters into any situation you can imagine, and get them out again just by pulling out a new magic trick out of their hat. As a reader, you just have to go along with it.

This story had one more annoying characteristic; it played the Ready Player One game of tossing in all sorts of factoids about this story’s time period, 1983. I get annoyed when an author peppers the narrative with random factoids likely gleaned from a search on wikipedia and which stick out like sore thumbs because their inclusion seems to be an attempt to use them as "world-building, since they do not seem organic narrative of the moment. I complained about this in a Victorian mystery novel I read recently. In this case, the author would take time to name the best sellers in the bookshop window when they walked into the bookshop, or the music on BBC 1 during a car chase, or whatever. Out of Time did this for 1963, but at least in that book the narrator was from 2024, so that his noting of the differences made sense within the story.

So to sum this book up, if you like urban fantasy, I suppose it is fine. I found it, at first, as I said, okay, but as it went on, the magical world seemed to be invented in the moment and the story a series of random magical incidents, interspersed with lots of explanations, all of which did not actually tie the magical world together, with the bonus annoyance of a shower of factoids about 1983 London.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry DNF 90% (½ way through Part 3)

I must confess that after reading the first two books in this sagas, Dead Man Walk and Comanche Moon, I was not looking forward to reading the original book in the saga. I had, however, a little hope that it would be something a bit different. Indeed at the start I was hopeful that it might turn out to be an entertaining book, more to my taste. But alas, that was not the case. It soon became just like the first two books; an overly long book consisting of a main plot line supplemented by sketches and vignettes of various intelligence-challenged characters who do foolish and stupid things over and over again until they meet their sticky endings.

McMurtry’s writing style is to assemble a cast of dim witted characters and then hop from head to head between them, filling multiple pages with descriptions of their mundane thoughts. These are descriptions of their thoughts, mind you, not any actual internal dialog, and thus, they all read pretty much alike. This descriptive of  thoughts can run on and on for pages just to tell the reader that the character is scared, or cold, confused, just wants to get away... ad infinitum. And yet, despite these extended descriptions, the reader is often left without any clear idea why these characters do the foolish things that the do that eventually gets them dead. And this sketchiness extends to the main characters’ thoughts and motivations as well. Why go to Wyoming? A whim? People getting killed on the whim of their employer,,, Not much to be admired about.

In addition to all the dim-witted people, McMurtry also takes you into the minds of a variety of very cruel and violent people who graphically abuse, rape, torture, and murder people, including the dim witted ones we sort of get to know. Essentially McMurtry writes “grimdark westerns”. After reading these books, one is left with the idea that the Texas of the last half of the 1800’s was entirely populated with dumb people and vicious murderers, sheep and wolves. It seems that some things never… oh, never mind.

I fond a great deal of tedium, unpleasantness, and little joy in reading this book. As I went along, I found that I began to skim and skip tedious sections of boring thoughts as well as scenes of graphic violence in a hurry to finish this book. I spent $5 on it, after all, and it was supposed to be a masterpiece. In the end, however, I reached the point in the book, about ½ way through the Part 3 of the book where McMurtry kills off the likable character in the book, except the pigs, and so I had no one to care about anymore and called it a day. Despite the praise this book gets, it is clearly not my type of story, which after reading the first two books in the saga, came as no great surprise, though, as I said, I had hopes... I won’t be reading the last book in the saga, which sounds like just more of the same. If I ever get the urge to read a western again, I’ll stick to Zane Grey.

The Aeronaut’s Windless by Jim Butcher B

This was a good adventure story set in a vast city tower, one of many – each one a nation. The surface of the earth is apparently wilderness and haunted by something. I guess. I had expected a more nautical adventure, what with the title and cover illustration, but 4/5th of the story takes place within the tower city. I have no great complaints, save for the fact that I get quickly bored by battles and fight scenes, of which there are a number of in the story. Most people like them, so that should be a selling point for many. At least they did not run on for two chapters like the barroom brawl Brandon Sanderson had in his The Alloy of Law that I read and reviewed last fall. This is the first book of the series, but the second has been long delayed, though I gather that it might be released late this year. I will read it when it becomes available. I am sure Mr. Butcher will be overjoyed to hear that.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Books I Read April 2023 (Part Two)


This is the second installment of the books I read, or tried to read, in April 2023. There were nine books altogether in April, seven of which I completed.

Out of Time by Dave Sinclair B-

I had a reason to have a look at the top 100 free thriller-espionage books on Amazon this month – my book, The Girl on the Kerb was as high as #5 on the list. So while I was there, I decided to pick up a few, just to see what an actual espionage thriller reads like. This is the first one I read, and surprisingly, it had a SF premise, that being that a black MI6 agent, Atticus Wolfe, from 2024 finds himself back in 1963 as a result of a “terrorist” that he was attempting to capture, setting off some sort of time-bomb (a pun) device.

Atticus Wolfe is knocked out in the time-blast and awakens in the 1963 hospital. Because of his MI6 ID in his wallet, a contemporary MI6 agent is called in. Wolfe convinces this agent that he has some how traveled back in time, showing him his cell phone and smartwatch. This agent recruits him for M16, but for fear of disrupting the time lines, keeps his time-traveling aspect secret with forged paperwork saying that he was a transfer from Naval Intelligence. As I mentioned, Wolfe is a black man, so he faces the prejudices of the day as well as the snotty attitudes of the upper class employees of the MI6 of that day. Because he is an outsider, he is given the task of finding a possible mole in the organization, and collects a team of similar outcasts, a woman, a gay man (still a crime in England at the time) and a young man who operated the elevator. In addition, Wolfe is still concerned that his appearance is changing history, as he knows of no incident in the history of the MI6 of his time to explain his appearance or the current mole situation.

I thought it was well written with an engaging lead character. While the time travel aspect was interesting twist, but the gee wiz, I can’t do this because it hasn’t been invented yet, and all the cultural references struck me, as someone who was actually alive in 1963, as little too much wikipedian, i.e. cherry picking facts of the era from wikipedian articles. Still, there were aspects of the story I really like, along with others that I felt were a bit over the top, and may not have made sense. Now, having just read Raymond Chandler, where the same thing can be said, I can only say that I read Chandler for his writing, and can forgive him for his plots. I can’t say the same for Sinclair, but in his defense, I have a feeling that the parts I thought were a bit over the top were probably the expected tropes and story beats for this type of story. In any event, we’ll see as I picked up half a dozen free thriller-espionage books, including two more by Sinclair; all the first book in a three book series.

Goliath, A Ryan Mitchell Thriller by Richard Turner DNF 8%

Another free title, this time in the free Thriller-adventure list. By page 14 the body count exceeded the page number. And if that wasn’t enough, in an opening scene set in 1931 he writes “...had ensured that all the major media outlets throughout the country…” “Media outlets.” Nothing bumps me out of the story more than using modern lingo in story set in the past. Between the body count and the hokey, tropey writing, DNF.

A Book of Truths, A Mui Thriller Book One by Ty Hutchinson C

Another free thriller-adventure book. A story with a combination of a first person narrator, Mui, a 14 year old girl who has been trained to be an assassin, combined with a third person parallel story about a book used as a courier of secret information that people are being killed for which all gets tied together near the end. It read like a B grade story until the D grade ending. 

The more I think about it, the more I'm disappointed by the book. First because everything was too convenient for the author. But I’ll get to that in a moment. The first thing that you need to know is that this is only the first of seven books featuring the Mui, a 14 year old assassin in training, so that the mystery of the deadly book isn’t solved. The second is that the protagonist, Mui is a cold blooded murderer. Not my cup of tea. But going beyond that, I found it really hard to suspend my disbelieve about the story. The narrator, Mui, is supposed to be a 14 year old girl, I guess so that the series can use the boarding school trope. Mui is said to have spent her first 12 years training to be an assassin in a remote Azerbaijan mountain with a secret set of assassins, until her mother, also a retried assassin, (who has her own series of books) finds her and takes her to Greece and a small hotel she now runs. There she interacts with the natives until she’s sent to the boarding school in California. Everywhere she goes she seems to be speaking, and being understood, in English like a native speaker, as does her best friend Nanuli, a girl from a small village at the base of the mountains in Azerbaijan, (with an internet connection that allowed video calls). Really? How did she, and her small village friend learn English? And if the assassins all spoke English, how did her friend, and how did she learn Greek? She shipped off to San Francisco, and seems perfectly at home in a big American city, shopping apparently with credit cards… In short, save for the backstory, she’s acting like a like an American girl several years older than her actual years. It seems to me to be a cheat to give your character an exotic background for a story, and then ignore all the implications of it. Not for me, but if you don’t think to hard, and don’t care about rooting for a cold blooded killer – who wants to be a cold blooded killer for hire – then this is not a bad book, and you will have a lot more stories to enjoy.

The Black Tongued Thief by Christopher Buehlman B-

Another fantasy book. For someone who doesn’t like fantasy, I’m certainly reading enough of them these days. I forget what inspired me to put this on hold at the library, but when it became available I downloaded it and read it. Not a bad book. It is a first person narrative with an engaging rouge, the title character, and is written with a lot of wit and humor. Plus it is a quest story, and though the stakes are high, there is no all-powerful black veil of pure evil threatening the land. It is also the first of a series, but does have a fairly closed plot. So we start with an A rated book. What are its characteristics that knocked it down to a B-? First, being a fantasy, you can have your magic do anything, and use it for the hero pull some magic out of his or her hat to get out of any situation. And the author did. I don’t like that, I can’t help but think its sort of cheating. Second, and this one is on me, I’m a rather impatient man, and reader, so that with too much elaborate world-building lore, history, and politics the author includes, I can get a little impatient to get on with the story. You need that for a fantasy, but a lot thrown in without context, can be a bit overpowering. And, without apology, I tend to skim or skip over battle and fight scenes, songs and poems, which this story had many instances of. In some cases, needlessly so, I thought. Indeed, there was one instance where one chapter ends before the fight, and the next opens after the fight so that we know the result, any yet, the author takes us back over the entire fight. I skipped that entirely. In short, I found the story well written, maybe just a little too elaborate, too magical, too violent, and simply too long to give it more than a B-  I'd also knock off points for that extremely cheap looking and ugly cover, but it wasn't likely the author's fault. I hope.

Next week, yet another book review post; Part One of the Books I Read in May. I'm reading a lot of books these days since I am not writing anything at the moment. When I am writing, I like to keep my head clear of other stories, so I do not read much, if anything, while I am writing my own. 

Friday, May 12, 2023

Books I Read in April 2023 (Part One)

With nine books to talk about, my complete book review post for April was running over 2K words, so I decided to split it into two parts, one today and the rest next week.

I also wanted to take a moment to comment on my reviews. First, as a reviewer, I usually only give the sketchiest outline of the plot. Plot details are not what I’m looking for in a review – I’m looking for the reviewer's impression of, and opinions on, the book. And that’s what I attempt to give you; I focus on the parts of the story that I have opinions about; what worked for me in the story and what didn’t. To be honest, I find what didn’t work more interesting to write about than what did. Indeed, it seems that if I have nothing bad to say about a book, I might not say much at all, i.e. see my review of The Big Sleep – my “A” grade says it all. I guess that makes me more a critic than a reviewer. 

However, I understand, and I’m sure you do as well, that you and everyone else are entitled to your own opinions. My opinion is no better than yours or anyone else’s. I know what I like and what I don’t – and I have a feeling that my view may well be too narrow a view in general. Perhaps, as a writer, I tend to judge a book on how the craft is practiced at a level of detail that readers don't care about. In any event, just because I don’t like a book doesn’t make it a bad book. Indeed, I’m sure that all of the books I read enjoy good ratings from readers, so don’t take my word as the last word. I mostly write my reviews to amuse myself, and hopefully you.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas Translated by Lowell Bair  C

I hate to admit that it’s taken me 73 years to get around to reading this book. In my defense, I watched the 1974 movie, I think. What can I say? It’s the classic story of historical fiction set in 1625 and follows the career of one D’Aragnan as he seeks to make his fortune as a soldier in the service of the King of France. He meets, challenges to duels, and subsequently makes friends with the three Muskteers, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, in a fight with soldiers in the service of Cardinal Richelieu, the power behind the throne of Kind Louis Xlll. It is a story filled with humor, daring do, and political intrigue for three quarters of the story. Then it becomes the story of Milady de Winter, known as Milady, an evil temptress in the employ of Cardinal Richelieu in England. I found this last quarter of the novel tedious and unpleasant. It reduced my rating for the novel from a B to a C. I will just add that Cardinal Richelieu is my perfect example of an antagonist in fiction – a great man working for a cause that can be seen as worthy, just not from the view of the protagonists.

The Lost History of 1914 Reconsidering the Year the Great War Began by Jack Beatty  DNF 22%

A history of events in Germany, Russia, Great Britain, etc. that if they had played out differently, might have prevented those countries from going to war in 1914, and thus, preventing World War One from happening, at least as it played out in history. A good idea. Unfortunately, the approach Beatty took in explaining this premise was examining each of the countries in such a shotgun scattering of events, personalities, and background histories for each significant event of that country that it made for a confusing mess of a book. I found it nearly impossible to follow, in that neither chronology or logical storytelling seemed to have been followed. Political histories are full of people and positions, maneuvers and timelines, results and speculations, which can be daunting, even if presented clearly. Beatty seemed to be striving for a popular history, featuring historical celebrities and incidents, but they are presented so haphazardly as to leave me confused, disheartened, and suspecting that the events described were not, in fact, quite as pivotal as he suggests. Indeed that the war was, in fact, preordained.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler  A

The classic Philip Marlowe novel with the famous Bogart and Bacall movie based on it. The story concerns the two daughters of one very ancient but rich old man and blackmail. At least to begin with. As with all Chandler novels, things get very (if not too) intricate. Chandler is one of my heroes when it comes to writing. (Side note: I love the covers of this edition of Chandler's works. This is the ones I own.)

Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson  B

It looks like I’m finally getting around to read all those classic adventure stories that I should’ve read decades ago. I’ve had this book on my shelves for decades. I may’ve picked it up to read to the kids when they were young. Who knows? My copy was a small, 1946 edition printed for schools, I think, as it has art plus stills from the MGM movie with Jackie Cooper and Wallace Berry (boy, did I draw those names out of the distant past). In the back there is a photo and bio of the author, short blurbs for his other books, a line drawing of the ship, and a glossary of nautical terms and well as “Topics for Written Work,” like “Tell in detail how Jim Hawkins spent the first 100 pounds ($500) of his treasure.” There are 17 other topics to choose from if you don’t want to do that one. As for the story, heck, you know it. I have Kidnapped on the shelf as well…

Kidnapped by Robert Lewis Stevenson  C

I did not care for this story nearly as much as I did for Treasure Island. I found it rather tedious reading, in fact. Set in Scotland some years after 1746 revolt against English rule, it tells a tale of a young man who may, or may not, be entitled to a fortune under old English law as the only son of the oldest son. The estate, however, is controlled by his miserly uncle. The uncle tries several ways of getting rid of him, lastly by having him kidnapped to be sent across to America as sold as a slave. A series of events prevents this, with the ship coming to grief in the western islands of Scotland. The rest of the story concerns a trek across the highlands of Scotland in the company of a wanted follower of Bonnie Prince Charles. A study of highland characters, thought the main characters failed to click with me. And it had a very strange ending. I had to look up an online version just to make certain that my book wasn’t missing a page.

Next week: Out of Time, by Dave Sinclair, Goliath, by Richer Turner, A Book of Truths by Ty Hutchinson, and The Black Tongued Thief by Christopher Buehlman. Stay tuned!

Friday, May 5, 2023

Eight Years as an Author/publisher -- a Report


It was a very good year.

My eighth year as an author/publisher was my best ever. And there's no mystery why. However, let’s start with a glance at the sales numbers for each book. Audiobook sales in parentheses, total sales in bold. And then we'll talk about the whys.

Sales for the year from May 2022 to April 2023

Book Title / Release Date

Year 7 Sales

Year 8 Sales

Total Sale To Date

A Summer in Amber

23 April 2015


452      (488) 


Some Day Days

9 July 2015


468      (598)


The Bright Black Sea

17 Sept 2015


1,360   (895)


Castaways of the Lost Star

4 Aug 2016




The Lost Star’s Sea

13 July 2017


783      (780)



Beneath the Lanterns

13 Sept 2018


431      (672)


Sailing to Redoubt

15 March 2019


625     (543)


Prisoner of Cimlye

2 April 2020


581      (678)



Lines in the Lawn

8 June 2020





18 Sept 2020


637      (583)



The Secret of the Tzaritsa Moon

19 Nov. 2020


782      (634)



The Secrets of Valsummer House

18 March 2021


894      (692)



Shadows of an Iron Kingdom

15 July 2021


751    (1,299)



The Aerie of a Pirate Prince*

29 Sept 2022

737      (291)



The Girl on the Kerb*

30 March 2023

2,745     (45)



A Night on Isvalar

(Amazon exclusive – all $ sales only)

23 sold

18 sold


Total Year Sales

* New releases.


Year 7 Total: 51,902


of which were 8,198 audio


Revenue: Amazon: $128.24  Overdrive: $2.67    Total $130.91    Expenses: $90 (approx.)

For Comparison, Past Yearly Results

6,537 Year One, 2015/16 (3 novels released)

6,137 Year Two, 2016/17 (1 novel released)

6,385 Year Three, 2017/18 (1 novel released)

8,225* Year Four, 2018/19: (2 novels released) * includes a strange 1950 books sold in one day on Amazon that they say is correct. It would be 6,275 without that strange day's sales.

8,530 Year Five, 2019/20 (1 novel released)

7,484 Year Six, 2020/21 (2 novels released, 1 novella, 1 children's short story)

8,853 Year Seven 2021/22 (1 novel, 1 novella)

19,396 Year Eight 2022/23 (1 short novel, 1 novel)

The Complete Yearly Reports

Year 1:

Year 2:

Year 3:

Year 4:

Year 5:

Year 6:

Year 7:

Sales % by Venue

Comparing the sales split between Amazon, Google, and Smashwords (including Apple and B & N)

                     Year 5 (2019/20) Year 6 (2020/21) Year 7 (2021/22) Year 8 (2022/23)

Amazon                40%                     35%                    21.5%                 24%

Smashwords         40%                     39%                    18%                     9%

Google                  20%                     26%                    60.5%                 67%

My Publishing Business

As always, I should note that I am an amateur writer. I write for the pleasure of it. I am, however, a professional publisher. As a publisher my focus is readership, rather than revenue. Nevertheless, I have shown a profit every year. To avoid the expense, risk, work and bother of advertising, I price my ebooks and audiobooks at cost,($0) whenever possible, and rely on Amazon's non-U.S. markets for my profit. The results of this approach speak for themselves.

This Year's Highlights

Google continues to be my dominate sales channel and would have been even without adding audiobooks last April to the mix. I'm very glad I jumped in when I did, even though at the time Google suggested that the tech was best suited to non-fiction. Google has since added the option of having different characters speak in different voices, a feature clearly aimed at fiction, so their auto-narration tech has likely improved in the past year. In any event, I’m happy to report that the ratings for all my auto-narrated audiobooks are every bit as good as their ebook version. 

Besides adding audiobooks, I think Google dominates my sales as a result of my world-wide affordable price and the fact that many people read ebooks and listen to audiobooks on their phones. The Google Play Store is the app, game, ebook, and audiobook store built into several billion Android phones, and it's likely the first stop for many ebook and audiobook readers using Android phones.

The surprising success of my 2023 novel, The Girl on the Kerb was the icing  on the cake this year. It had been sitting around for nine months while on submission to Gollancz, a U.K. SF publisher. When they passed on it I released myself it in late March and early April. It did fine, but nothing special on Smashwords and Google, but after selling 16 copies at $3.99 on Amazon, Amazon price-matched the free price in its U.S. store, a mere 5 days after it was released. With that price cut, its sales started to take off, selling something like 240 copies in the following week, a rate I haven't seen in years. I have no explanation for this, save that I released as a thriller-espionage and a thriller-adventure novel rather than as SF novel. It seems to have sold well enough for Amazon’s legendary algorithms to kick in and they began to promote it on Amazon in some manner all on their own, the result of which was two or three years worth of sales in a month. Without The Girl on the Kerb, Amazon sales would have closely matched Smashwords sales as they have for most years. Ideally I hope the success of the book will bring in some new readers for all my books, but I don’t expect it to fundamentally alter my business.

This year's other release, in September 2022, was The Aerie of a Pirate Prince, the fourth book in the Nine Star Nebula Mystery/Adventure series. It is doing just fine. That series has been selling well for me, with Shadows of an Iron Kingdom doing strangely well in Japan for a time. With it and The Girl on the Kerb, I released two books within a year, making it a very good year on that front as well.

As I mentioned in last year’s report, I had entered a book in the Self Publishing Science Fiction Contest. It yielded one nice review and no appreciable sales. I will not be continuing that venture, though, having missed the deadline for thefar  more popular fantasy version of this contest last year, I will try again to get Beneath the Lanterns entered into it next week.

All thoughts of getting traditionally published are gone. I had fun exploring the experience, but it simply confirmed that I like publishing - and owning - my own work too much to sell anything down the river, like you must in traditional publishing.

I've also abandoned any idea of getting my books into bookshops, as I realized that I would likely have to become a warehouse/distributor of my books if I wanted to go that route. I don’t see any profit for the expense and bother that would involve.

Looking Ahead to Year Nine

On 1 May I released the first of four omnibus versions, this one featuring the four novels of my Nine Star Nebula Mystery/Adventures into one ebook to be sold exclusively on Amazon. I am targeted these omnibus versions primarily at the non-U.S. market where Amazon does not price match my free prices. It is a way of offering more affordable books for the foreign market without altering the list price of the standalone books. The initial release price will be $.99 and in the following months settle at $2.99.  Over the next year I plan to bundle and release all my books in a total of five omnibus versions. I'm not expecting a ton of sales, but in the spirit of leaving no stone un-turned, I'll give it a try. 

As for new projects, I am working on the third and final book in the Tropic Sea Stories series, A Passage to Jarpara. It's slow going, but I'm maybe half way done with the first draft. I have it tentatively scheduled as my 2024 novel. I am also toying around with an idea for a portal fantasy novella. I don’t know if that will go anywhere. It hasn't so far. I've nothing else on the creative back burner. I find that story ideas and new plots are hard to come by these days.

I expect to post a new blog post every Friday as has become my custom.

Dave, at has offered to translate into Spanish The Bright Black Sea, The Lost Star Sea and the Nine Star Nebula Mystery/Adventures. If all goes well, they will likely be available on his website in late Summer 2023. Having my work available in Spanish is rather exciting.

Since this was clearly an exceptional year. I don’t expect my ninth year to come close to equaling it. Sales will certainly fade. They always do. In any event, I expect audiobooks will make up close to half of my sales, whatever it is. But this assessment is nothing new. Rereading my seven other reports, it seems that every year ahead looks grim for one reason or another, but we continue to plug along. I expect to do that for my ninth year in the business as well. In short, stay the course.

Monday, May 1, 2023

The Nine Star Nebula Mystery/Adventure Omnibus


The Nine Star Nebula Mystery/Adventure Omnibus that includes all four novels in this series is now available world wide exclusively on Amazon for the low, low price of $.99 USD Seeing that two books in the series are priced at $2.99 each, this is a bargain wherever you live. The $.99 price is a limited time special, so act today. Do not delay! Or whatever.

The Nine Star Nebula Mystery/Adventures Omnibus is a special edition that includes all four novels in the series.

The series features the adventures of Rafe d’Mere, a former Patrol tech, now a spaceer who wants nothing more than to travel about and experience the hundreds of worlds of the Nine Star Nebula. He is, however a computer system savant, who, while growing up, hacked, explored, and retains in his head the ability to access the most secure computer systems of the Unity, the governing body of the Nine Star Nebula. If the authorities knew what he knows, he would no doubt have his memory erased. And if any criminals should discover his secret, they would use him ruthlessly. In short, he has a very dangerous secret to keep.

The Secret of the Tzaritsa Moon

On the passage to Fairwaine, Rafe’s swift response saved the Tzaritsa Moon from a catastrophic explosion. However, the explosion was deliberate, part of a pirate prince’s plan to keep the ship from arriving in Fairwaine orbit. And when it did, thanks to Rafe, the pirate prince was not happy. Rafe decided that he needed to get clear of the Tzaritsa Moon and get very lost on Fairwaine until things cooled down. But, in doing so, he crossed orbits with a thief. A girl with a pretty face, who may, or may not, have been a covert agent of the Patrol. She was rather evasive on that point. But she was determined to discover why the pirate prince wanted the Tzaritsa Moon destroyed. And Rafe found that he couldn’t resist helping her to do so. She had a pretty face.

The Secrets of Valsummer House

Much to Rafe d’Mere’s delight and alarm, Lieutenant Vaun Di Ai returns to Pine Cove. This time as an intelligence analyst “on a field trip” with strict orders to avoid trouble. So what can go wrong? Add to the mix, the arrival of a likely illegal robot for an unknown buyer, a mysterious lady, and the possibility that the pirate prince of the criminal Seven Syndicate may actually reside somewhere near Pine Cove, and you have a potentially explosive situation. The type of situation that you would not want Lt Di Ai anywhere near, if you valued a quiet life. Or your life.

Shadows of an Iron Kingdom

This third installment finds Rafe d’Mere and Vaun Di Ai on a new planet but, as usual, in danger. The planet of Ironlode is the private preserve of a clan of wealthy industrialists who have a strange taste in societies – a Gothic inspired throw-back society with primitive technology, ruined castles, and some not-so-mythical legends. Like werewolves. There’s crime a’foot in the Iron Kingdoms, but they don’t appreciate Di Ai and d’Mere poking around looking for it. And they’re willing to take deadly measures to insure that they don’t find anything – but death.

The Aerie of a Pirate Prince

Several years later, Rafe d’Mere is the systems mate aboard the Rendezvous Moon along weith his his companion Crow Kee when one of the cargo containers they are delivering is hijacked. He finds himself reluctantly accompany a determined Captain Sing and a carefree Chief Engineer Red Rew down to the planet of Teire intent on tracking a hijacked cargo container. It’s Rafe however, who finds himself looking down the barrel of a darter held by one of the Alantzia’s infamous pirate princes. Once Again.

C. Litka writes old fashioned stories with modern sensibilities, humor, and romance. He spins tales of adventure, mystery, and travel set in richly imagined worlds, with casts of colorful, fully realized characters. If you seek to escape your everyday life, you will not find better company, nor more wonderful worlds to travel and explore, than in the stories of C. Litka.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Launching The Girl on the Kerb (Part 2)


In part one of Launching The Girl on the Kerb, I talked about my decision to launch this title as a thriller-espionage/thriller-adventure novel and why it was released in a somewhat staggered schedule So how did it fare?

The Amazon paperback version was released on 11 March and sold as expected – none, except for the author copies I ordered for myself and my other beta readers. On that same day I also set up the ebook release date for 6 April on Amazon.

On 30 March the ebook version was released on both Smashwords and Google, and the audiobook version on Google. Between its release and 5 April it sold 57 copies on Smashwords plus 2 ebooks and 7 audiobooks on Google. Though a pale shadow of what sales used to be like upon release on Smashwords, it was neither unexpected or discouraging. Selling books for me is a marathon, not a sprint.

Things shook out differently on Amazon, as you can see from a glance at the chart below. Amazon decided to match the free price on other stores after only five days, on 11 April. I had no input into that decision, though, of course, I welcomed it, readership being my reward for writing. Indeed, until three or four years ago I used to email Amazon and point out to them that my books were free on the other sites and ask that they reduce their price to match those prices. I stopped doing this since most of my books were free, and I didn’t want to rock the boat. Now I let Amazon do as it pleases.

So how exactly did it all shake out? A glance at the chart at the bottom will tell the tale. So what are my takeaways from the experience?

1. First is a given. It is much easier to sell a book for free than at any price, which is why I sell my books for free when and where I can. I value readership over revenue.

2. Concerning the first bump in sales after Amazon dropped the price; I think those 274 copies through 17 April were more or less organic. Organic in the sense that Amazon wasn’t pushing them, though my wife said that she received an email announcing my book. I didn’t. I have something like 215 followers on Amazon, who get notices of a new release. Perhaps many of them picked it up when it was free. That said, I still have no explanation for why my sales took off as fast as they did – no other book I have ever released ever sold that many in so short of time, at lease in the last several years. The only difference I can point to is the speed at which Amazon dropped the price and the fact that I released the book in a category other than SF. I have to believe the category is significant.

3. The first 274 sales were strong enough by 14 April to land my book in the top slot 5 on the 100 Best Sellers (Free) list for Thriller-espionage, and number 7 in the Thriller-adventure list. Genres seems to matter. I’ve had SF books on the free 100 bestseller list and never seen sales like this.

4. On April 15 it seems clear that these sales were strong enough to kick in the legendary Amazon algorithms, the only explanation for the explosion of sales on 15, 16, and 17 April. We’ve often read that you should kick start your sales upon release to catch the attention of Amazon’s algorithms which then will pile on and promote sales all on their own – for free. This appears to be the case with The Girl on the Kerb.

5. I don’t know if my cover helped or hindered sales. It was certainly different from all the rest of the books on the list – see the screen shot above. However, since all a potential reader sees is the cover before they decide to click and read the blurb, it certainly played a role, one way or another.

6. I think this is an exceptional event, and I doubt that it will significantly alter my sales on Amazon going forward, though ideally it will give me some new readers who will go on and read some of my other books. However, since none of my other books are thrillers, I don’t expect that number to be very large. Time will tell.

7. Even as a one time event, it’s still three years worth of sales within a month. It’s a gift horse whose teeth I'm not inspecting.

8. My bottom line: it pays, as both a writer and a publisher, to experiment, as I did in this case with genre category.

As I posted yesterday, Thursday, 27 April, marked the eighth anniversary of the release of A Summer in Amber, my first published novel. Next week I will break out my sales numbers for my eight year in publishing, as I have done every year. It was a good year. In fact, the surprising success of The Girl on the Kerb was just the icing on the cake. Stay tuned.