Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Missions to Mars via the Moon

For lovers of the science fiction genre, it is compelling to think of a future where the fiction becomes fact.  History has shown that many things dreamed up by sci-fi authors have become true later.  Star Trek brought us computers, tablets, wireless communication, and virtual reality; Star Wars introduced us to hovercraft; Asimov's I, Robot gave us robots that were autonomous and humanoid.  And I can't help but wonder whether concerns voiced recently from Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates about Artificial Intelligence isn't founded on the stubborn computer, HAL, from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Some times, I can't help but wonder whether sci-fi creators are really the inspiration behind the inventions that come later on.  Who hasn't watched the Jetsons and thought, "I want robotic maids, roomba vacuums, flat screen TVs, and personal aircraft."  (I'm still waiting for the last one to avoid my freeway commute.)  Could it be that good sci-fi is merely self-fulfilling prophesy?

Oddly, while my love for reading sci-fi stems from my daydreaming of future possibilities, I never thought that any of my science fiction might someday become science fact... until a reader of The Orthogonal Galaxy emailed me a link to an article from MIT.  In a PhD thesis recently posited by MIT graduate, Takuto Ishimatsu, payload weights to Mars could be reduced by 68% if astronauts used an orbiting tanker around the Moon to refuel in space before rocketing off to the red planet.  In my book, the intent is different but the principle is the same.  Because Mars is so far, and the travel considerable, I decided that a stop at Mars for refueling was crucial to provide a sufficient propellant to get spacecraft there as quickly as possible.  In other words, my book intends to use that 68% for a super-duper booster.  Thanks to the science of Ishimatsu, perhaps my fiction just took one step closer to reality as well.

Now, let's just hope and pray that this trend of science-fiction to science-fact doesn't hold true for all of this post-apocalyptic craze, or else Suzanne Collins is going to have some serious answering to do.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Galaxy Series Update

I would like to think that the universe to be a fairly balanced place to exist.  In life, we all have to deal with ups and downs, good news and bad.  This blog post is no different.

First the bad news.  Earlier this summer, I announced a prequel novella to be released soon.  That blog post showed the cover that the art shop had prepared.  I was ever so close to hitting the publish button after having edited it a couple of times.  But here's the problem...  I'm not sure it's a high-enough quality of work to release.  I may come back to this project in the future, but I learned something along the way.  It's actually easier to write a full-length novel than it is to write a novella.  This should seem counter-intuitive, but I think I know why this is the case.  With a novel, there is more time to develop solid characters that are likable.  I also found that with my novella, the plot just seemed too rushed.  So, in the interim, I will take a mental note to figure out how to create a better work of different lengths.

But, here's the good news.  Work on book two of the Galaxy Series is progressing nicely.  I am pleased with the way it is developing and hope for it to be even more gripping and enjoyable than the first book.  I would still like to get it published by the end of the year, but not if it would mean compromising on quality.  Currently, The Orthogonal Galaxy ranks 1019 among all Science Fiction eBooks on Amazon.com.  While that's still very, very far from "best seller" status, there are over 111,000 books in this category, so it does at least rank in the top 1% of all Sci-Fi eBooks on Amazon.com.  I'm sure the fact that it costs $0.00 to purchase on Kindle doesn't hurt, but it's still an accomplishment I never expected to happen, and am pleased that at least some have enjoyed downloading and reading it.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Midas Project

Things are coming together on my novella, The Midas Project.  I'm particularly excited about the cover art that I just received from the art shop.  In fact this is a case where I wish you COULD judge a book by its cover.

Even though this is going to be a prequel, reading it will feel quite a bit different than the Galaxy Series, in that it is a shorter read, and because it predates the Galaxy Series substantially, so all of the characters are new.  Further, it is more of a detective sci-fi, in the spirit of Asimov's Robot series.  I hope the fact that it bleeds into a different genre doesn't distract the reader from the series at large.  My intent is to contain enough imaginative and though-provoking science in it to keep readers who liked the first book just as engaged.

Keep an eye out for an official announcement soon!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Six Months Later...

It has been six months since publishing The Orthogonal Galaxy, and quite a bit has happened since then, much of it in the last month.  On April 22nd, I decided to make the first novel in the Galaxy Series free on all distribution channels.  To do so, I published it in ebook format on Smashwords, which then distributes it to iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and other outlets.  Downloads have gone up significantly since then.  In the first five months on Amazon, I had around 150 downloads, most of them during the five-day promotional period that I used on Kindle Select.  In the last month, it has been downloaded over 500 times on Smashwords and an additional 70 downloads on Amazon.com. 

Reviews have trickled in as well with the following distribution of ratings on Amazon.com, Goodreads, and Smashwords:

*****  (4)
****    (4)
***      (3)
**        (0)
*          (1)

This give The Orthogonal Galaxy an average rating  of 3.83 out of 5 stars.

I'm encouraged by the general positive reviews and warm feedback, and now feel the pressure to have a sequel ready by the end of the year.  Considering that the first one took years to write, it will be interesting to see if I can get Book 2 out in one year.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Now FREE on Smashwords and Barnes & Noble

Nearly six months ago, I decided to publish my first novel.  It was an intimidating step to take, not knowing what the response would be like.  I chose to publish with Amazon's CreateSpace and Kindle Direct platforms, because I suspected that Amazon would give me the largest distribution.  Even though I priced my paperback and Kindle versions as low as I could, ($8.99 and $1.99 respectively), almost all of my "sales" have been from Kindle downloads.... during a free 5-day promotion.  In that period of time, a handful of paperbacks have sold, and there have been about 150 Kindle downloads.  Four reviews on Amazon.com have done little to tell me whether the book is completely awesome, whether it's absolute rubbish, or whether it's so-so.  Without much in the way of feedback, I have decided to make the book permanently free, and discovered Smashwords to be an excellent way to do just that.  Smashwords allows me to price my e-book at $0.00, and then does the most amazing thing imaginable by pushing the book out to an incredible distribution channel, including Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iTunes, and more.  And users of these other services can now download The Orthogonal Galaxy for free!

And apparently, free may have been the way to go, because my total download count in just three days on Smashwords eclipsed Amazon's number over the last six months combined!  It turns out that Amazon's price-matching feature can be used to now lower my official Kindle price from $1.99 to $0.00 as well.  Here's how you can help me do that:

1) Point your web browser to the B&N listing.
2) Copy the link from your URL address bar
3) Head over to my Amazon listing and look for "Tell us about a lower price"
4) In the form, click on "Website", paste the link from #2 above, and enter $0.00 for both the price and the shipping cost.

It will be interesting to see if making the novel available for free actually increases the number of people who read and review my book as opposed to those who just download it... simply because it's free!  But, over the next six months, I'll be curious to see if enough reviews come in to let me know whether my writing really is "Boring, Unprofessional and Insulting" or if readers really are "looking forward to book 2."

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Looking Forward to 2015

This time of the year, everyone is setting goals.  Some are resolving to lose weight.  Others are bracing themselves to kick bad habits.  Some may be planning on spending more time with family, engaging more in their hobbies and talents, or maybe even reading more books.  After having published my first book, I am planning on ramping up my writing this year, just in case someone actually enjoys "The Orthogonal Galaxy" and wants to read more of the series.  As a result, I have planned on publishing two works this year. 

The first, titled "The Midas Project", will be a novelette of about 70 pages.  Effectively a prequel to the Galaxy Series, it is set in an earlier time than "The Orthogonal Galaxy".  While it is elaborates on an element of book 1 and has clear elements of science fiction in through futuristic inventions, it is more properly classified as detective fiction. 

A second project for the year will be book 2 in the Galaxy Series, which is still an untitled work.  It will return to the science fiction roots of the series and will pick up where Book 1 leaves off.  A significant plot thread is already written down, but I have at least two other threads to weave through the story which are in early outline form at this point. 

Happy New Year!

Kindle Downloads

I have chosen to use the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select service, since it allows me to promote my book through free downloads once every 90 days.  My first free book promotion period of five days ended yesterday.  There were a total of 143 Kindle Downloads during the period.  Interestingly, there was a huge initial spike of downloads on the first day, which dropped off precipitously on day two.  After the New Year however, the download count went back up.  (Perhaps some folks have a resolution to read more during 2015?)

Anyway, I'm hopeful that I'll get some honest feedback on Amazon and Goodreads to help me hone my writing skills.