Peer Reviewed, by Nathan Lowell

SPEAKING OF PEER REVIEW

The prolific science fiction writer Nathan Lowell recently reviewed The Jack of Souls on his blog, PEER REVIEWED.  nATHAN 3

 

 

If you’re a reader who appreciates help sifting the multitude of novels out there, check out his blog. He gives clear and unpretentious reviews of scifi and fantasy. Click my review image below to see his blog.

Ever since I met Nathan at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference, he’s proven to be an extremely knowledgeable and generous guide. Check out his full website, including links to his many space opera scifi books.

THE JACK OF SOULS is up for preorder on Audible!

The audiobook for The Jack of Souls is up for preorder on Audible, and it’s freaking fantastic!  I am so pleased!

Here’s an audio file of the opening pages. The actor, Alex Wyndham, went with an English accent—probably because of the lofty material, 😉 –and he rocks it! Turns out he’s a great character actor.

JOS - Audiobook

Even in the first minute I love what he did with the barman. II can’t wait to hear how he did Caris and Willard and Brolli and Bannus’s voices.

I shall have to subject my kids to it on the road trip to the mountains this weekend. Mwa-hahaha!

 

The War on Obscurity

What did I do for the month after I sent out all the Kickstarter rewards? I launched what I’m calling

THE WAR ON OBSCURITY!

For an indie author, obscurity is public enemy #1. Of course, the more reviews a book has, the easier it is for readers to make a decision about it, but there’s more:  to be taken seriously by the best publicity engines out there, a book needs at least 25 reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

So, January’s Target was to Acquire Book Blog Reviews 

What the Heck is a Book Blog?

I didn’t know, either. But it turns out there are thousands of book bloggers–book lovers who’ve taken to posting their own reviews of books in a blog. They don’t get paid, and they don’t HAVE to review anyone. Authors contact them with an attractive pitch and request, and the bloggers accept or decline.

If they accept, the book goes in their To Be Read pile, and months later a review appears on the their blog, Amazon, and Goodreads.

In January, I Queried 127 Book Bloggers

Tiny BRYPThese I found in The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages (exactly what it sounds like, in heft and content) and Indieview. I started with a base pitch email, but each had to be individualized to fit each bloggers requirement policy, preferred genres and formats, and flavor/tone of their blog site.

IndieView

I Heard Back from 22!

Believe it or not, that’s really good results! The marketer who coached me submitted a book recently to 200 reviewers, landed 20 reviews, and was happy with that. She says 10% is standard, so I’m very pleased with my 17%!

Here’s a Sample Line from my Spreadsheet

Website             Blogger     Date Queried     JOS Sent     Est.Post

 SFBook.com    Vanessa    Dec28/Jan28     (Pbk 1/13)    Mar 15  

You can see too that I queried Vanessa twice—that was b/c she didn’t respond to the first query. I figure, why not send again after a month? Reviewers get busy. Maybe she didn’t reply because she was over whelmed with requests and had to delete a bunch, unread; or maybe my pitch didn’t catch her attention and she deleted it. Who knows? In any case, I re-queried and made sure to re-target my pitch, and it worked! I’ll do the same for the other 100 who haven’t replied.

 Reveiwer SpreadsheetHere is a look at the full spreadsheet:

 

 

 

What’s Your Favorite Style of Book Cover?

Since I may be looking to create covers for my own epic fantasy novels, I am curious what sort of cover the top sellers use, and which my friends prefer. To make the choice easy and define the conversation, I’ve identified four main categories in top-selling fantasy novels:

     1: The Definitive Character Close-up

     2: The Open-ended Character Silhouette / Back View  

      3: Otherworldly Landscape w/ Optional Foreground Figure 

       4: The Fantasy Icon

And below I’ve assembled a collection of thumbnails for each category. (Most of these I gleaned from Amazon’s top 30 epic fantasies — the ones with the “Look Inside” graphic. Those without the graphic are from B & N and Kobo.)

1  – DEFINITIVE CHARACTER SHOT  (single figure, close-up to medium shot)

           

PROS & CONS

       + clear, definitive view of character

       + simple and uncluttered (good for thumbnail)

       + can include action and dramatic hooks 

       – leaves little of character’s appearance to imagination

       – defines race*

*I suspect covers that don’t define the race of the main character–that leave race ambiguous–may appeal to a wider readership.

 

2) OPEN-ENDED CHARACTER SILHOUETTE OR BACK VIEW   (medium shot)

The Broken Eye (Lightbringer)              

PROS & CONS

       + some setting, fairly simple, high contrast good for thumbnail

       + leaves character appearance and race to imagination

       + can have action and dramatic hooks

       – absence of face / fewer details of appearance may provide fewer emotional hooks

 

3) OTHERWORLDLY  LANDSCAPE  (long shot, optional lonely figure(s) in foreground)

       

PROS & CONS

       + inspires dreams of fantasy setting, defines nothing of character appearance

       – provides no emotional hook via characters, action or drama

 

4) ICON COVER   (thematic emblem only )

 

PROS & CONS

     + defines nothing of character appearance or even setting — the true black box cover

     – provides no emotional hook via characters, action, drama, or setting

 

HAVE THOUGHTS ON THIS? 

 

Leave a comment below! : )

 

Another Fun First Contact Scene

The excerpt below is also from Mary Sisson’s Trust (see previous posting).

This scene actually precedes the one in the previous post (sorry–out of order, I know). it is actual moment of first contact when Daring Attack sees Trang and his marines before they have the universal translator present.

Since the universal translator is not yet in the scene, language is not the thing being held up in the “mirror” for us to examine. Instead, Daring Attack focuses on our physical form, which, to him is very strange as his species is an eye-less quadruped with no “head,” to speak of. His first guess is that the humans might be Mechanical Aliens (i.e. remotely operated drones operated by a third species of alien that can’t move around in air).

Excerpt One

He was closer to the Mechanical Aliens now. He could hear them.

Oupa oupa oupa!” said one.

Oupa oupa,” replied another.

The aliens were mostly sticking near their vehicle, folding something up. But one of them began walking closer to where Daring Attack was. As it came closer, Daring Attack realized with a start that it had only two legs.

A Two-legged Alien, not a Mechanical Alien, he thought. Unless the Mechanical Aliens also have only two legs.

No, he decided, as he watched the alien tip forward, lurch a leg underneath itself to keep itself from falling, and then repeat the process. It was a miracle the thing didn’t just flop over and wriggle about helplessly on the ground. This two-legged thing is too bizarre to have been ignored.

(And then later when they find the translator and can talk to him)

The Two-legged Aliens said they were happy to see him, which made Daring Attack wonder if he had overreacted when they surrounded him—maybe they had just been curious. In any case, after a few minutes of conversation with the diplomat, the four in the brush stepped back out into the clearing.

Not that talking to them was any less unnerving. Close up, Daring Attack could see that the aliens had this ball-shaped appendage that was connected to the rest of their body by only a slender stalk, which looked like it could be chopped through in an instant. This appendage never stopped wobbling—it would wobble when they talked, it would wobble when they were silent, and when they walked, the appendage wobbled atop their wobbly, lurching bodies.

It made Daring Attack dizzy.

 

God I love that. Those last four of five lines had me laughing out loud.

The First-Contact Mirror

Some of the best spec-fic holds up a mirror in such a way that we see aspects of our species/culture anew. Often this is accomplished by showing first contact. Ursula Leguin’s Left Hand of Darkness comes to mind, with its human diplomat arriving at a planet of hermaphrodites; also Larry Niven’s Ringworld, with its humans, puppeteers, and kzinti.

The First-contact Mirror

I recently found a hilarious first-contact mirror in Mary Sisson’s novel Trust (sequel to Trang), which follows the human diplomat Phillipe Trang as he interacts with five or six different species of alien.

In these scenes, inter-species communication is made possible by a Universal Translator device, which struggles to decode the expletives of the human space marines assigned to protect Trang. Since the POV in the scene is that of the alien, the results are hilarious and thought provoking.

Excerpt from Trust

(Setting: Trang and his marines meet the alien (named Daring Attack) near their crash site on a wild and remote part of an alien planet as a giant T-rex-like thing referred to as a “Giant Mankiller”  approaches through the jungle. The dialogue starts with the marine nick-named Princess).

“I cannot see it,” said Noble Person, who was holding a machine to its face.

“Of course not—if it was that close, we’d be dead,” said Daring Attack.

“What distance—” Noble Person stopped.

“His units for measuring length—” said the diplomat.

“I am knowledgeable of that fact,” said Noble Person. “If the carnivore continues toward us at the rate of travel at which it is currently traveling, at what time will it reach us?”

“His units for measuring time—” said the diplomat.

“May it remain for eternity in the mythological place where the spirits of the ignoble dead reside!” said Noble Person.

“I express my regret,” said the diplomat.

(The marines then launch surveillance drones and show the video to Daring Attack):

“There it is,” said the alien holding the sheet.

“Sacred digestive by-product,” said Noble Person.

Daring Attack tried not to dwell on the fact that he was risking his life for people who worshipped digestive by-products. Instead, he noticed a large dark blob on the sheet.

“Mythological figure who regained life after being dead for three days and is engaged in reproductive activity, it is large,” said the other alien.

“Is that the carnivore?” asked Noble Person.

Daring Attack looked at the blob. Was that the Giant Mankiller? He couldn’t tell.

(When the marines send armed drones to attack the Giant Mankiller, the marines watch through video monitors, muttering…)

“Draw closer on, you small individual conceived in a socially inappropriate manner,” said the alien. “Draw closer and obliterate that buzzing flying insect that is engaging in reproductive activity with you.”

Has it gone insane? Daring Attack wondered.

After I was done howling with laughter, these are some of the things I found myself thinking about: 

Why do humans use feces and sex in expletives? Okay, we’re primates, we like to throw poo, and now that we have words to do it with, we don’t need to get our hands dirty. I get that. But sex?  Do all human cultures do that, or just puritanical Western ones? For that matter, do (puritanical) Islamic cultures do that? Do Hindis? Do the Chinese? The Japanese?  Maori?  Australian Aborigines? Are we all sex-and-potty mouths?

If you are fluent in these cultures, please comment and share.