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Thursday, December 18, 2014

SFRB Recommends #30 - Spark Rising by Kate Corcino #postapoc #dystopia #romance

Book Description:

All that’s required to ignite a revolution is a single spark rising.
Two hundred years after the cataclysm that annihilated fossil fuels, Sparks keep electricity flowing through their control of energy-giving Dust. The Council of Nine rebuilt civilization on the backs of Sparks, offering citizens a comfortable life in a relo-city in exchange for power, particularly over the children able to fuel the future. The strongest of the boys are taken as Wards and raised to become elite agents, the Council’s enforcers and spies. Strong girls—those who could advance the rapidly-evolving matrilineal power—don’t exist. Not according to the Council.
Lena Gracey died as a child, mourned publicly by parents desperate to keep her from the Council. She was raised in hiding until she fled the relo-city for solitary freedom in the desert. Lena lives off the grid, selling her power on the black market.
Agent Alex Reyes was honed into a calculating weapon at the Ward School to do the Council’s dirty work. But Alex lives a double life. He’s leading the next generation of agents in a secret revolution to destroy those in power from within.
The life Lena built to escape her past ends the day Alex arrives looking for a renegade Spark.
***

Mt thoughts:

This was my favourite read of 2014. A post apocalyptic romance with a difference, it has action, intrigue, sexual tension, some hot sex scenes (although that's not a top priority on my personal reading checklist), and superb world building. If you're looking for something that isn't zombie apocalypse dystopia and/or a Hunger Games style world (without the game) that's more orientated toward adults, this is the book for you. I couldn't find one thing to complain about, and the fact that this is self published goes to show that you don't have to go to a Big Five book to get Big Five quality story telling. I couldn't find anything to pick on, and believe me I am super picky about my reading these days. This full length novel will keep you on the edge of your seat, and leave you wondering about it long after. And although it isn't relevant to my enjoyment of this book, look at that gorgeous cover!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Farewell Andromeda

A big thank you to the SFR Brigade for hosting me today.

I'm delighted for the opportunity to present an exclusive cover reveal for my debut story and to tell you a little about my upcoming Science Fiction Romance release.

So with no further delay, world...meet Farewell Andromeda.




Let me first give credit to Danielle of Definition by Danielle Fine, the very talented artist behind the cover, an image that beautifully illustrates the location of the story--a remote space station at the extreme edge of the Milky Way Galaxy. (The multi-talented Danielle had an inside track on visually capturing the essence of the story because she's also the editor.)

I'm especially excited about the cover because:

1) It's unapologetically Science Fiction Romance,

2) The image perfectly captures the characters and their "natural habitat," and

3) The novelette introduces my upcoming Science Fiction Romance series.

Here's more about it.

What's a novelette?
A novelette is a complete work of fiction that's longer than a short story (which run 7,500 words or less) but shorter than a novella (which ranges from 17,500 - 40,000 words). Farewell Andromeda is approximately 16,000 words or 60 pages in length. Here's the Wikipedia guideline on word count.

What's Farewell Andromeda about?
Fresh off a painful jilting, the last thing deep space pilot Tiharra Bell needs is another romantic entanglement. Certainly not with the galaxy’s most famous astronomer—who also happens to be single, inconveniently handsome, and a resident of the remote Andromeda Station. But Tiharra soon discovers two terrible truths about Dr. Dante "Donner" Dane—1) he’s not the man he appears to be and 2) he doesn't have long to live. Before her fourteen-day layover is complete, she’ll put her life and career on the line to protect his heartbreaking secret.

Is it stand alone?
Yes, absolutely. Although there are ties, hints and clues to the upcoming series, this tale of love and sacrifice at the edge of the galaxy is a complete story.

What's the heat level?
The love scenes are more revealing than "sweet" romance, but less than "steamy." The sensual encounters are brief but very important to the character and story development.

How would you tag it?
I think the new label of Top Gun SFR would fit well, though there isn't a lot of edge-of-your seat piloting in this one. The heroine is very much a career professional and she "pushes the envelope" just by being what she is--a deep space, dimension-jumping pilot--so I think the category suits it. If you're curious, the Top Gun SFR label was coined via Brigade author Pauline Baird Jones in an interview about how she developed the tag.

What's the release date?
Farewell Andromeda is scheduled for a mid-January 2015 release. (It's being co-published through my agent, Amanda Luedeke of MacGregor Literary, Inc.)

Why does that title sound familiar?
The title manifested as a perfect fit for the story, but it comes with a bit of a homage to one of my favorite music stars. I dished about that earlier on Spacefreighters Lounge.

How can I learn more about your upcoming books?
If you'd like to know more about my upcoming Science Fiction Romance series, please visit my Author Laurie A. Green website to read more and sign up for my newsletter. (This comes with a no-spam promise not to fill up your inbox with constant mailings, just the important news, announcements, and genre-related articles that SFR readers might like.)

Thanks to you all for joining me for my first-ever cover reveal. I hope you all love the cover as much as I do, but please let me know your thoughts.

Author Bio
Laurie A. Green is a three-time RWA® Golden Heart® finalist and Science Fiction Romance enthusiast who founded the SFR Brigade community of writers, which now totals over 500 members. Her extended family includes her husband, David, four dogs, three cats and several horses, all who reside on a ranch in beautiful New Mexico.

When she’s not writing, networking, or searching out the perfect cup of Starbucks, she’s usually busy exercising her left brain as a military budget director.

You can connect with Laurie via her web site, Facebook Author Page or @SFRLaurie via Twitter.

~~~ * ~~~

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Uploading to Google Play

Not a lot of people are aware Google Play is open to indies. I wasn't sure they were until I decided to go looking. Why did I look? Because I buy most of my ebooks there. There's not a lot of SFR there, either.

I hope this step-by-step tutorial will remove some of the fear about selling in the Play Store. It's not as hard as you may have heard in places like Absolute Write and the Kindle boards. I'm going to share what I learned and hopefully some other SFR authors will join me. I'm writing this as I upload my next book to the Play store to make sure I get everything explained right.

My first two questions when I decided to do this were as follows:
Does Google Play do preorders? YES!
Does Google Play require an ISBN? NO!

Formatting:
You need a 100% clean epub. You may see people saying Play will never take a Calibre-produced epub, but that's not true. The trick is to make the epub from the Libre/Open Office file format .ODT. This gets rid of all the extraneous, unnecessary code in Word that causes so many problems with epub conversion. Calibre will also convert straight from .DOCX with no PDF in the middle, however I don't use Word so have no idea how clean the epub is.

Also, Libre and Open Office are free. I've been using them for years and will never go back to Word. Calibre is also free and I use it for producing ARC's and managing my non-B&N ebook purchases (I'm a Nook owner).

Make sure you've formatted your Table of Contents, however it is you do that. I use the Edit TOC function in Calibre and build it from the epub files. I then make sure all the chapter titles are what I want.

This one is VERY important! If you have links in your end matter, make absolutely positive they are formatted properly using your word processor's Insert URL command. Otherwise Google's validation system will kick it back out. Learned this one the hard way. Don't make my mistake. If it still won't go through (and it won't give you details about what's wrong) just remove the www so they're not links at all. Annoying, but it works.

Step One: Go here and set up your publisher account: Publisher registration page It's very important to use this link. You don't want to do it as an app developer because it doesn't work, and app developers have to pay a fee to get into the Play store. If you don't have a Gmail address you'll need to create one. I run my website through Google, so I'm able to use my domain name email since it runs in Gmail. The royalty rates are outlined in the Terms and Conditions. Google pays on List Price, not retail price like Amazon. More notes on pricing at the end and these notes are VERY important.

TIP FOR GMAIL USERS: If you're using a different account for publishing than your every day account, do yourself a favor and do all the Play stuff in a different browser. I do all my every day stuff in Chrome, and Firefox is logged into all of my RLS email/Google stuff.

Step Two: Ignore the template and spreadsheet suggestions in your Welcome email. It's going to be more trouble than it's worth, so don't bother. Unless you like wasting time, in which case go for it.

Step Three: Once you're logged in you'll see Home, Book Catalog, Analytics & Reports, Promotions, Payment Center, and Account Settings. All the work we're going to do is in the Book Catalog section.

Step Four: There's a blueish button that says "Add Book." Click this to start the process. Since I have a book for sale there already I see that book listed with the cover, my author name, the GG Key (Google's internal tracking number), and the book's status. If you have an ISBN that you own it'll show up here instead of the GGKey.

Step Five: If you have an ISBN of your own (NOT one via Smashwords or Draft2Digital), you can put it in. Otherwise hit the checkbox underneath. Don't change the template setting. Now we're ready to create the book.

Step Six: Time to upload. Click Next and hit Upload Content. Do this twice. Once for your cover image, once for your epub. It says you can do PDF, but I personally haven't tried that so I don't know if it works. Hit refresh and your file list will show up. DO NOT PROCEED until your files have processed and uploaded. If you've followed my formatting instructions above, or run your epub file through validation software and fixed any errors, you should be good to go.

Step Seven: Enter your title. Before copying in your description (back cover blurb) remove all formatting. I keep mine in Evernote and it's a simple matter of highlighting, right click to get the full edit menu, and remove formatting. If yours is in Word, copy it into Notepad! All that Word formatting gives the Google system fits. Same goes for your bio. Get rid of the link formatting too and do it like you would in a browser. Don't get fancy.

DO NOT PROCEED until your files have uploaded! Otherwise it won't save anything you did. I forgot this important step and kept going so I could write this out, and now I have to go back and do it all again. Once your files have uploaded, the Next button changes to Save. Don't go forward until you see the Save button.

Step Eight: Keep going and fill out your price information, pick your categories, and finish the process. The BISAC science fiction romance category is an option. I only do two categories, so I have no idea what the max is.

When you get to the BISAC options, type in romance and it'll give you a drop down of the list. I sell under Romance/Science Fiction, and Romance/Paranormal. Also on the Settings page is all the stuff for your book to be searchable in Google Books, which is different from the Play Store. It means Google can index however much of the book you've said it can preview, and it'll show up in searches. The more Google juice you can get, the better! The default preview setting is 20%, and that's the lowest it goes. Which I'm fine with. I like big samples.

Step Nine: Once everything is saved, which can take a couple minutes so be patient, then you can hit Publish. If you go past, say, the two minute mark and the Google circle is still spinning, go ahead and hit refresh. Then double check your description and bio formatting because you probably need to separate your paragraphs again.

You're done! Go back to your Book Catalog page and you should see the book. Once the book is uploaded, put together, and the listing is live in the store it'll say "Live on Google Play" under the book. To edit the book once it's live, click on it and it'll open all the details. Like for me, while I have it open, I need to update my bio and fix the URL issue that's driving me crazy. Tip: Use http:// in your bio links, don't try to copy in ones you've made in your word processor with links coded into text. They don't translate. No idea if it'll work with HTML coding in the Bio box. If someone wants to check and report back, feel free.

Downsides: No keywords. But the store is still growing as Google figures out how to sell books and compete with Amazon, so I'm hopeful it'll change. The analytics are also lousy at this point which is kind of surprising considering this is Google, the king of analytics. Just in the last couple years since I've been buying ebooks there the changes have been incredible, and all for the better. They're on the right track, just behind the curve in comparison to Amazon, Kobo, and iBooks.

Notes on pricing: The Play store uses a pricing scheme different from everyone else. They pay on list price, and they discount. When I was researching how to upload to Google Play I found a great blog article (for the old interface, hence why I'm writing this one) and a ton of helpful stuff in the comments. Including a price conversion list from author Ruth Harris. Here it is.

The price on the left is the price you want to sell at, and the price on the right is the price you need to give Google.

99 cents: no change
$1.49: no change
$1.99 = $2.40
$2.99 = $3.93
$3.99 = $4.99
$4.99 = $6.48
$5.99 = $7.78
$6.99 = $8.32

I sell at a price point of $4.99, so I tell Google $6.48. I have this price list clipped into my Evernote for easy reference.

Now, a note about sale prices. The consensus is DON'T. The Play Store reserves the right to change prices at will, like Amazon, but when you lower a price at Play for a sale and then put it back to your normal price, there's no guarantee it'll go back up and no way to contact them to get it changed. I did my first sale last month and decided not to include Play in the sale for this reason. I also don't have the sales to justify it. I went in the Play Store because I wanted to, not because I thought it was a viable market.

Is Google Play as easy KDP? Not by a longshot, But it's not impenetrable either. I personally find it easier than Smashwords, since I did my research first and found a bunch of tips and tricks.

Have I sold anything there? Just to my dad, because it's DRM free and my Nook version isn't. As a Google Play shopper (music, books, and an Android phone) it's important to me to have my books in my preferred bookstore. I go there because the prices are usually a little cheaper for traditionally published, but without stiffing the author on royalties like Amazon does.

I hope you'll work up the nerve to try it. If you can conquer the Smashwords Meatgrinder using Microsoft Word and having to follow the style guide, you can conquer the Play Store.


Rachel Leigh Smith writes romance for the hero lover. She lives in central Louisiana with her family and a half-crazed calico. When not writing, which isn’t often, she’s hanging with her family, doing counted cross-stitch, or yakking about life, the universe, and everything with her besties. Her debut novel, My Name Is A'yen, is available at AmazonB&NKoboGoogle PlayiBooks, and Smashwords.

She blogs sporadically at www.rachelleighsmith.com, can be found on Twitter @rachelleighgeek, and hangs out on Facebook. You can sign up for her newsletter here.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

December SFR Brigade Showcase!




The SFR Brigade Showcase is the chance for our Science Fiction Romance authors to showcase excerpts from their latest releases, snippets from a work-in-progress, a new cover for their book or just have fun with something silly, like a character interview!

We'll have a new showcase the first weekend of each month, and we encourage all our members to participate by posting, commenting and sharing. Some months, we'll even be doing a giveaway!

CURRENT SHOWCASE: December 12, 13, 14

Participants:

(Cannot add links: Registration/trial expired)
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Thursday, December 11, 2014

#EPIC Brigaders 2014



There's nothing we love more in the Science Fiction Romance Brigade than seeing our members and their work do well. So we're delighted to announce that two books by Brigaders have made the finals of the EPIC eBook Awards this year!

First up is Jael Wye with her novel Ice Red in the science fiction romance category.



Book description:

Mirror, mirror, full of stars,
Who will claim the throne of Mars?

The princess: Engineer Bianca Ross, heir to a megacorporation and the Mars elevator, needs to acquire a mine on the surface to secure her place in the company. All that stands in her way is the mine's charming owner, Cesare Chan.
The evil stepmother: Victoria Ross is plotting to gain control of Mars. She plans to assassinate Bianca and seduce Cesare to further her goals, and Bianca's trip is the perfect opportunity.
The charming prince: Cesare shouldn't get involved. Bianca's visit could reveal the escaped slaves he's hiding at his mine, but he can't ignore a damsel in distress—especially one as beautiful as Bianca.
Alone, neither would stand a chance against Victoria. But together, they could rewrite a tale that's meant to end with Bianca's blood.


You can check out her website HERE for more information about her and her books. In the meantime, please go congratulate her - you can find her on Twitter as @jaelwye.

And the second? Um, well, that would be me. My YA SF (with a smidge of romance) Gethyon - a SFR Galaxy Award winner earlier this year - also made it to the finalists, in the science fiction category. The EPIC has been one of two awards I've been aiming for since becoming published in 2012, so I'm stoked to have made it this far.


Book description:

Abandoned by his mother after his father’s death, Gethyon Rees feels at odds with his world and longs to travel the stars. But discovering he has the power to do so leaves him scarred for life. Worse, it alerts the Siah-dhu—a dark entity that seeks his kind for their special abilities—to his existence, and sets a bounty hunter on his tail. 

When those same alien powers lead Gethyon to commit a terrible act, they also aid his escape. Marooned on the sea-world of Ulto Marinos, Gethyon and his twin sister must work off their debt to the Seagrafter captain who rescued them while Gethyon puzzles over their transportation. How has he done this? And what more is he capable of?

Before he can learn any answers, the Wardens arrive to arrest him for his crime. Can his powers save him now? And where will he end up next?


You can find out more about me at my website HERE.

Winners will be announced at EPICon-2015 in San Antonio, Texas in mid-March next year. For more information about the event and the contest, visit the EPIC awards website HERE.

Congrats and good luck to all the other finalists in the EPIC eBook awards!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Recap of PhilCon - Guest Post by TK Anthony

L to R: Alex Shvartsman; Berakha Lana Guggenheim; Robert C. Roman; Steve Miller; Brian Thomas; Lee Gilliland

First held in 1936, The Philadelphia Science Fiction Convention is the oldest in the nation, and arguably, the world. According to Wikipedia, our Friends Across the Pond claim that distinction, because the first UK SF convention in 1937 was less ad hoc and more organized. As an upstart colonial, I will point out that the first PhilCon had a chairman, a secretary, discussions of SF, parties, filk, and gaming--although the gaming was craps. Seventy-eight years later, many of those same elements filled this year's schedule.

It's been a while since I've been to an SF convention--not since Lois McMaster Bujold was guest of honor at Boskone sometime in the early 2000s.  I'd forgotten how much fun they were. Part of the fun is going with the right people. In this case, two of my sisters, one of whom was celebrating her 29th birthday (that's her story and I'm sticking to it). All three of us managed to clear our schedules so we could arrive on Thursday night. The weather was cold (especially for this Texas transplant), so we decided that, having checked into the conference hotel, we would just eat dinner there. The waiter led us back to our table. And at the next table sat...

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. (Pause here for total fangirl moment.) I've been a fan of Lee & Miller since maybe 15 minutes after they published their first book, Agent of Change, back in 1988. I quashed my first inclination to jump up and down, screaming and pointing. And really, there was no need. My sisters knew exactly who they were.

Not wanting to scare PhilCon's principal speakers running into the frigid night, we played it cool. Yeah. Cool. Until finally I leaned forward and said something on the order of, "I don't mean to intrude...but, we're fans."

Sharon and Steve were all that is gracious, and thus ensued an hour's lively conversation. We chatted about everything from deleting scenes to improve the story's flow; our favorite childhood books; the emotional challenge of weeding one's library; to "Swifties." (For the uninitiated, "Swifties" are based on the writing style of the Tom Swift books. As in: "Look, there's a bridge!" said Tom archly. "There's a pop quiz today," said Tom testily.) I think I mostly managed not to stutter in awe. Truth said, I could've gotten up from the table and gone home, and the trip to Philly would've still been worth it.

Because of commitments on Sunday, I only had two days to spend at PhilCon. After stuffing some fliers for my books in Filthy Pierre's SF Info rack--which travels with the owner from con to con--I made the most of my time, attending several interesting panels. Some of the standouts included:

How to Set Up a Crowdsourcing Project gave attendees the benefit of the real-lfe experience of the panelists. Critical elements of success include: Backers need to be confident in your professionalism and transparency. If you just can't do a video, then do a slide-show with voice-over. Calculate your costs carefully, and show how their support matters. Use social media to promote your campaign; Twitter casts a wider net than Facebook. Think creatively about donor rewards and stretch goals--and keep it simple. (No apparel! You don't need the headache of managing sizes, shipping, and storage.) People want to feel appreciated, and involved. (Sometimes, it's as simple as listing their names on a thank you page in your next book.) Panelists: Danielle Ackley-McPhail (mod); Rob Balder; Neil Clarke; Gil Cnaan; Alex Shvartsman; Alyce Wilson.

In the session Does Science Fiction Need to Lighten Up? it took a little while for the panelists to decide what their topic really meant. Some thought it meant we needed more humor in SF. Others thought both authors and readers needed to stop bringing today's social agendas into every story; the story matters more than agenda checkboxes. Everyone seemed to agree that casting evil nastiness in a positive light is a good thing to avoid. Some elements of SF seem to be going toward a darker literary approach, while others are reviving the best traditions of SF as genre fiction. The panel discussion also touched on the role of YA in building the fandom. Steve Miller, bringing 40 years' of commercial writing to the table, asked what SF had to offer the 10-15 year-olds to bring them into the genre, building our future fandom. (Or, as my sister the librarian put it..."Where's the SF gateway drugs?") Panelists: Alex Shvartsman (mod); Brian Thomas; Berakha Lana Guggenheim; Steve Miller; Robert C. Roman; Lee Gilliland.



Side note: One of my writing buddies, Robert C. Roman, was on this panel--a nice surprise. Bob and I met online about seven years ago, critting each other's stories on Baen's Bar, and have kept in touch at least sporadically ever since. This was the first time we ever met in person. Which is exactly why people attend cons. 

The panelists on Building Believable Relationships in SF offered some stellar advice. Portray emotional truth, so that your reader can find something that resonates with them. Be sure to show them emotional consequences to give them a reason to care. And an interesting insight: Your culture is actually the main character in your book, because your characters exist in a cultural context, and whether they swim with current or against it, they are an expression of their culture. Panelists: Gregory Frost (mod); Rob Balder; Meredith Schwartz; Anastasia Klimchynskaya; Gail Z. Martin; Sharon Lee.

In their principal speech, Lee and Miller outlined the choices that had led them to become first writers, then writing partners, generally eschewing opportunities to rise in the ranks of more traditional employment--no matter how many times the opportunity presented itself-- in order to do what they truly enjoyed doing: building worlds and creating the characters who populate them. Characters and worlds they love, and so their readers...in a total fangirl/fanboy fashion.

In the time since the first PhilCon, the publishing industry has endured dramatic changes. Books went from hardback to pulp to ebook. As Sharon and Steve reviewed a lifetime of decisions that had led to them to the role of principal speakers at the 78th PhilCon, I was struck by the realization that no matter how the industry changes, or the genre changes, the bond between author and reader remains essentially the same: the story that touches our minds and hearts in a shared experience.     



Bio:

Warped in childhood by too much reading, T.K. Anthony made her living in the world of words, spending two years on Capitol Hill as a press secretary before moving on to Corporate America in business communications and human resources.
She grew up in Pennsylvania, has lived in Illinois, Virginia, Upstate and Central New York, and Massachusetts, and has seen much of the United States by road trip, visiting a whole raft of cousins. Travel outside the US includes Canada, Scotland, England, Italy, France, Belgium, and Spain. With her travel bag packed, she now resides in Texas with her husband, two cats (Pip and Taz are close collaborators in her writing, and keep her keyboard furry), and all the people in her head who talk to her.
She loves to talk to other people, too–so leave a comment, or send her an email at tesskanthony AT gmail DOT com.

Blurb:
Warned by a Seeing… 

The high king of the Scotian Realm expects the arrival of an enemy, a race of psychic predators bent on galactic conquest. The Realm’s one hope is alliance with the neighboring star domains in defense of a shared colony, Forge. 

Caught in Fate’s grim weaving… 

Mindblind, amnesic, Tazhret lives out his drug-induced visions of servitude on Forge. He wants to believe the beautiful woman with the nut-brown hair who whispers reassurances to his harrowed heart: “You have a name.” But is she even real? Or just one bright thread in his dark dreams? 

An unexpected hope… 

Tazhret’s destiny leads him to freedom and the woman he yearns for—and to a desperate struggle against the enemy. 

Tazhret can save Forge, and his beloved. But only at the cost of all he has gained: his name, his freedom, and his love.


Buy links for Forge: 

Barnes & Noble - http://bit.ly/1uEXVdi
Decadent Publishing - http://bit.ly/1AeiUXv
Smashwords - http://bit.ly/1xMPoom

Twitter:       @TK_Anthony_
website:      www.scotianrealm.com

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