Author Archives: amandasgreen

Top 100 Military Science Fiction Books

This is a repost of a list put together by my friend Cedar Sanderson based on recommendations from her readers. I’m honored to have Vengeance from Ashes, written under the pen name Sam Schall, included in the list.

mil SF art

Military transport drone
by LMorse

I realized that although I have made many lists of books, I have never done a list for military science fiction, one of my favorite sub-genres to read. An online friend asked about recommendations, so I did what I usually do, and crowdsourced the list-making. Over 300 comments later… No, not all of them were on-point. Thread drift is an art. But it was fun to watch the conversations spin off as folks learned about new books.

The following list I broke into two sections. The first, the top ten of MilSF, is ranked roughly according to how many people enthusiastically said “you must include…!” After that, there is no real order, just as they came in and I recorded them on the list. There are a few notes interspersed, some mine, and some from the people who recommended the books. As you will see, there are many series, but the links will go to the first book in a series, to introduce you to the author. Or to the author’s page, and you can decide from there.

Enjoy! I know I have a few more titles on my to-read list today.

Ominous Winds by Hideyoshi

Ominous Winds
by Hideyoshi

The Top Ten

 

  1. Robert Heinlein – Starship Troopers
  2. David Drake – Redliners
  3. John Steakley – Armor
  4. Jerry Pournelle – West of Honor
  5. John Ringo – Hymn Before Battle (Free!)
  6. Lois McMaster Bujold – Warrior’s Apprentice (link to Baen. The covers on Amazon of her books make me cry, they are so horrible. Buy them from Baen)
  7. David Drake – Hammer’s Slammers
  8. Orson Scott Card – Ender’s Game
  9. Keith Laumer – For the Honor of the Regiment
  10. David Weber – On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington Series) Free Book!

 

Hyper G-One Confrontation by Hideyoshi

Hyper G-One Confrontation by Hideyoshi

Readers Recommend

 

  1. Dave Freer – Rats, Bats, and Vats
  2. Grossman and Frankowski – Two-Space War
  3. Dave Brin – Startide Rising, The Uplift War
  4. Peter Grant – Laredo Series
  5. John Dalmas – Soldiers
  6. Sam Schall – Vengeance from Ashes
  7. Leo Frankowski – The Crosstime Engineer, The High Tech Knight (they get a little worse with each one after that, IMO)
  8. Keith Laumer – The Cold Equations compilation (in addition to Bolo-verse)
  9. Zahn and Weber – Call to Duty
  10. E. “Doc” Smith – The Grey Lensman -verse, but especially the title book.
  11. John Varley – the last of the three Titan novels – Wizard
  12. M. Stirling – Any of the the Draka-verse, in particular, Marching Through Georgia and Stone Dogs
  13. Vernor Vinge – The Peace War, The Bubble War
  14. Ric Locke – Temporary Duty
  15. Jerry Pournelle – Janissaries, King David’s Spaceship Falkenberg’s Legion
  16. Niven and Pournelle – The Mercenary and West of Honor
  17. Gordon R Dickson – Three to Dorsai!
  18. Elizabeth Moon – Vatta’s War
  19. Jay Allan – Crimson Worlds
  20. Ian Douglas – Star Corpsman
  21. Elizabeth Moon – Serrano Series
  22. Michael Z Williamson – The Weapon (Freehold Series)
  23. Harry Turtledove – World War Series
  24. David Weber – Mutineer’s Moon
  25. Tom Kratman – Carrera series first book is free!
  26. LE Modessit – Forever Hero
  27. John F Carr – Uller Uprising (free book)
  28. John Campbell – Lost Fleet
  29. Niven – Man-Kzin Wars
  30. SM Stirling and David Drake – Raj Whitehall series
  31. Weber and Ringo – Empire of Man series
  32. Mike Shepherd – Kris Longknife
  33. John Birmingham – Axis of Time trilogy
  34. Joe Haldeman – The Forever War (note that other titles are not recommended)
  35. David Sherman and Dan Cragg – The Starfist Series
  36. John Scalzi – Old Man’s War (note that the sequels are not considered as good)
  37. Marko Kloos – Frontlines
  38. Christopher Nuttall – Empire Corps
  39. Doug Dandridge – Machine War
  40. Keith Laumer – Reteif’s War
  41. H Beam Piper – Space Viking (or, I’m told, anything by Piper, and I’d agree) Free Book!
  42. Robert Asprin – Phule’s Company (a rare humor book in the genre)
  43. Sandra McDonald – The Outback Stars
  44. Joel Shepherd – Crossover
  45. Steve Perry – the Man Who Never Missed
  46. Thorarin Gunnarson – Starwolves
  47. Andre Norton – Star Soldiers
  48. Timothy Zahn – Cobra Series first book is free
  49. Dietz – Legion of the Damned
  50. MCA Hogarth – Spots the Space Marine
  51. ZA Recht – Morningstar Saga
  52. Correia and Kupari – Dead Six
  53. JL Bourne – Day by Day Armageddon
  54. WJ Lundy – The Darkness
  55. EE Doc Smith – Lensman Series
  56. Robert Frezza – A Small Colonial War
  57. McCaffrey, Moon, and Nye – Planet Pirates
  58. Flint and Drake – Belisarius Series
  59. Chris Bunch – STEN series
  60. Mike Smith – The Last Praetorian
  61. John F Holmes – Irregular Scout Team One
  62. Sabrina Chase – The Long Way Home
  63. Mike Resnick – Starship series
  64. Jean Johnson – Theirs not to Reason Why
  65. Tanya Huff – Valor series
  66. Taylor Anderson – The Destroyermen series
  67. David Feintuch – Hope series
  68. H Paul Honsinger – To Honor You Call Us
  69. Fred Saberhagen – Beserker series
  70. Leo Frankowski – Cross-Time Engineer
  71. William R Forstchen – Lost Regiment
  72. BV Larson – the Star Force series
  73. Brad Torgerson – The Chaplain’s War
  74. Thomas DePrima – A Galaxy Unknown
  75. Elliot Kay – Poor Man’s Fight
  76. Jamie McFarlane – Privateer Tales
  77. GP Hudson – The Pike Chronicles
  78. Dan Abnett – Ravenor series
  79. Daniel La Cruz – Aye’s of Texas
  80. Niven and Pournelle – Footfall
  81. Dan Abnett – Gaunt’s Ghosts
  82. Ringo (editor) – Citizens
  83. Poul Anderson and Gordon R Dickson – Hoka!
  84. Michael Stackpole – Battletech books
  85. David Drake – Leary Series
  86. Roland Green – Peace Company
  87. Mark E Cooper – Merkiaari Wars
  88. Thomas A Mays – REMO
  89. Travis Taylor and John Ringo – LookingGlass series
  90. Sarah Hoyt – A Few Good Men
Carrier Concept by Kheng

Carrier Concept by Kheng

For more awesome SFF art check this out.

When you want to just stop

The other day, a writer in one of the online groups I belong to posted that he was ready to just chuck the whole writer-thing because he hadn’t liked his first day sales (and he went on to give us the number of sales made). I’ll admit, my first reaction was to reach through the screen and shake him because the number, while not best seller level was higher than most indie writers will ever see in a single day. Then I decided that wasn’t the best course of action and thought I’d take a look at what he had just put out and talk to him from a reader’s standpoint.

This writer’s work falls into a very particular sub-genre, or at least that is what his titles suggest. So that presents the first challenge for him. He titles his books one way but the covers cue something completely different. That confuses the potential reader. Are they going to get a book about X, as the title suggests, or about Y, which is what the cover cues?

Then there was the confusion raised by his Amazon listing. Doing a search by his name turns up a number of titles. That’s a good thing. Even better is that the new book is the first thing showing. But the second thing showing is a compilation of his work that says it includes all of the series in question. Hmm. So is the first title really a new one or is it included in the compilation that is a better buy? More confusion.

All of which can be easily fixed by making some changes to the cover images for the series and the copy on the cover and in the product descriptions.

But what about his complaint about sales from an author’s standpoint. He had expected sales at least ten times higher than they were. His conclusion about why sales were so bad was that Facebook has changed its algorithm that determines not only who sees your posts but how many people see them. You see, he has a large and active Facebook page and he had relied on that in the past for his promotion.

The problem with doing this is multi-fold. First, as noted, Facebook has changed its model concerning who sees your post. You should never put your main promotion effort into something that you have absolutely no control over and that changes how it does things more often than you change underwear (okay, an exaggeration but not by much). Even if you knew our promotion posts were going out to every one of your followers, they aren’t all going to look at it. Either they won’t get notice that you posted something or they are busy and don’t go to Facebook that day or they scroll past it, etc.

But there is another problem with putting most of your emphasis on promoting to people who are already “fans”. (I put that in quotes for a reason. All too often, people who join an author’s fan group have never read the author’s work or read only one or two books and then move on to other authors. They hang around because they like the interplay in the forum.) You have, hopefully, already won over those people and they will buy your work whether you promote it on the page or not. What we have to do is look for new readers to expand our fan base. So we have to look for new ways to find them. Social media posts are one way but not everyone is on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, Google +, etc. Blogging helps, especially if you can get guests blog gigs on other, more popular blogs than your own. Getting those who have read your work to post honest reviews on Amazon and elsewhere also help. But they have to be HONEST reviews.

And, when you see your sales for a certain title declining, you have to be able to look at it with a critical eye and figure out why. Is it the normal slump that happens after a book has been out for awhile? If so, that means you had better have another book ready to go pretty darn soon or your audience will move on to another author and they might not think to come back to you. Is your cover still cuing the right genre or sub-genre? This is something I’ve had to look at of late with regard to my Nocturnal Lives series. The covers were spot on for genre cuing when they first came out. Now, not so much. So the books will be re-released over the next few weeks with new covers. This will be done in coordination with the release of the next book in the series. Is your product description something that hooks the reader? Does it look professional (I see far too many where there is no spacing between paragraphs, leaving you to read a wall of text. Not good.

In other words, instead of throwing your hands up and threatening to walk away because a book isn’t selling as well right out the gate as you think it should, look at what you have done to write, edit, package and promote it with a critical eye. Writing is a business, something we tend to forget about all too often. We have to treat it as such. And, on that happy note, I need to get back to work. I have editing jobs to finish before I can write.

To NaNo or not to NaNo

(This is a repost of my Mad Genius Club post this past Wednesday. Real life has been eating me alive. I won’t bore everyone with all the details but it includes imploding tech and a series of health issues with my mother. I am so ready for this year to be done with. In the meantime, I am spending the next few days holed up, trying to catch up on work lost when the hard drive died an ignominious death.)

In case you haven’t figured it out by the last three MGC posts, NaNoWriMo is almost upon us. For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It is the bane and the boon of many writers. We look forward to it with excitement and, at the same time, more than a little fear. Excitement because of the challenge and fear because how in the world are we going to write a complete novel in a month?

True confession time. I’ve done NaNo several times before but only once “officially”. By that I mean that I’ve only signed up on the national site once. Part of the reason is I’m not much of a joiner. Part was because I did NaNo for myself and not anyone else. So why join a national site? Shrug. That’s my warped sense of reasoning there.

Anyway, at our last critique group meeting, I asked the other members who would be taking part. Two instantly shot their hands up in the air. They first took part last year and discovered the goal of writing 50,000 words over the length of a month helped motivate them into putting butt in chair and words on the page. The others looked at me with varying degrees of non-comprehension to fear. So, after explaining exactly what NaNo is, I started trying to address the fear.

And this is where I deviate from the traditional goals of NaNo.

When you tell someone that they have to set a goal of 50,000 words over 30 days, eyes will glaze, complexions will pale and breathing becomes shallow. You can smell the fear in the air followed almost instantly by denial. There is no way they can write that much. They have jobs and families and real life and and and. . . .

So I go straight to the heart of NaNo, at least to me — committing to do something for the month. Not every writer writes novels. They write short stories or flash fiction. The thought of having to write long works turns their stomachs and they dig their heels in. Then there are the writers who agonize over every word. A good day for them is getting a couple hundred words down on paper. Then you have the writers who edit as they go. How in the world are they supposed to write an entire novel — and edit it — in 30 days?

So here’s my approach. You set a goal. Preferably, you accept the full 50k word challenge but, if that blows your mind to such an extent that you shut down, you set something more realistic — and you work toward meeting it. You don’t beat yourself up if you fall short on your daily goal. The final goal at the end of the month is what you have to keep your eye on. Sit butt in chair and write. Plain and simple. Write.

Something else you have to keep in mind is that you don’t have time to edit when you are doing NaNo — at least most of us don’t. So you have to turn off the internal editor and just trust yourself. Editing will come after you finish the challenge. Since 50K words is a very bare bones novel for most of us, we’d be going back anyway to fill in the blanks and flesh out the details.

What I have found NaNo does best is teach writers to trust themselves to write. It might drive plotters crazy because you don’t have time to site down and do a detailed outline — much less fight your characters to keep them sticking to your outline. For pantsers, it is an exercise in letting yourself go but with the knowledge that it needs to make enough sense at the end of the month that you can edit it into a workable manuscript.

Another way I deviate a little from the original goal of NaNo is that I don’t insist on folks starting a brand new piece for the challenge. As a working writer, if I were to put aside a current project for a month just for the sake of NaNo, I’d go crazy. The project I stopped working on would continue to demand attention. Worse, by the time I went back to it, there is the possibility that I will have lost the voice. That is a very bad thing — who wants a shapeshifting kick ass heroine who suddenly sounds like a ditzy airhead?

So here’s my question: how many of you are taking part in NaNo and how are you approaching it? Are you joining one of the local support groups and taking part in their activities or are you sticking to the lone wolf school of writing? Are you starting a new project or working on a current one? Or do you think NaNo is the biggest joke ever played on writers? (I’m sort of leaning toward the latter, at least part of the time, and I have this vision of a couple of guys sitting around laughing at all the writers they’ve pulled this con on.)

 

When your muse goes rogue

The last couple of months have been more than interesting in the old proverbial way. But, until recently, I’d still managed to get some writing done. Not nearly as much as I would have liked and, as a result, I’m behind on a couple of deadlines. Add in the hard drive that died and is being resuscitated and, well, frustration has been the emotion of the week. But now that things appear to be getting back to normal, Myrtle the Muse has decided that she wants to be more difficult than usual and my writing life has fallen down the well and into a Twilight Zone version of Wonderland.

I’d finally finished Nocturnal Challenge, the fourth books and fifth title in my Nocturnal Lives series. If I had to pick one character of all those I’ve written who I really like, it would be Mackenzie Santos from that series. Mac is stubborn, flawed and trying to figure out how to live in a world that suddenly isn’t quite what she always thought it to be. She can also be a pushy bitch in my head when she thinks I’m not giving her and her cohorts enough of my attention — as in whenever I’m writing anything else.

Normally, the Nocturnal Lives books are relatively easy writes. But not Challenge. Part of the “challenge” — pun intended — is that the world for not just Mac but for everyone is about to change and the events in this book will play a big role in what happens. Part of it is that one of the major supporting characters is basically off-screen for the entire book, so some of the byplay that has been so important in the previous books isn’t there.

The real challenge, however, has been Myrtle the Muse. She has been playing games with this book from the very beginning. She messed with my normal writing routine. Usually I write front to back. Not this time. Oh no, Myrtle demanded I write the opening couple of chapters, the last third (maybe a bit more) of the book and then go back and write the middle. I. DO. NOT. LIKE. THIS. Not that Myrtle cared.

When I finished Challenge, I put it aside. I had this nagging feeling that something wasn’t right but I couldn’t put my finger on it. So I practiced what I preach. I put it away until I could look at it with fresh eyes. The problem with that is it gave Myrtle more time to figure out ways to screw with me.

Imagine my surprise — and anger, frustration and outright disbelief — when I picked Challenge up over the weekend and started reading it. Everything about it screamed “WRONG!” It was more than my usual dose of self-doubt. The muse that shall no longer be named (TMTSNLBN)– yes, I’m that mad at her — was having all sorts of fun messing with my head.

You see, after three novels and a novella in the universe, all written in third person, TMTSNLBN had decided it would be really cool if I wrote Challenge in first person. Forget about the more than 80,000 words I’d already written. I would be sooooo easy to go back and write it in first person. Do it all from Mac’s point of view. Forget about the fact the other books were written in third person.

Head, meet desk. Repeat.

I talked with my mentor and alpha readers. They were as confused by TMTSNLBN as was I. So I tried what TMTSNLBN wanted. I tried first person. Not only no but NO! It doesn’t work. Maybe if this were the first book in the series but not the fourth. So I’ve told TMTSNLBN that she is in a time out. I’ve printed out the manuscript as it and am going at it the only way I know how — with a figurative shovel.

In other words, I’ve told my muse that she is just that, a muse, not the final arbiter of all that I write. I’ve also reminded her that I know about her warped sense of humor and that I, too, look at a calendar and I’m not about to fall for her early Halloween joke. (Okay, I really do know that my muse is only an extension of my mind and not a real person. It would be easier if she were. Then I could toss her out the front door and refuse her calls.)

The point of all this is that sometimes, for whatever reason, we get sidetracked. It can be the popcorn kitten issue where everything except what you are working on looks like it would be fun to write. It can be your subconscious telling you that you are about to go off the rails if you don’t go back and fix something. It can be, as I suspect this is, a subconscious fear because you are taking your characters into unknown territory after they have gotten comfortable where they are.

My solution has been to give myself not only a daily schedule of what I expect to do but a deadline for when I plan to put the book up for pre-order. The only thing that will impact that schedule is if, when I get the recovered hard disc back, I discover I lost the one major editing job hanging over me. If that is the case, the weekend will be spent redoing it because it is very late now.

In the meantime, push through. That’s what I keep telling myself. The work computer is back together. The geek guys at the local shop have been trying to salvage my old HD. Writing, such as it is, is starting up again. Now to get back into a regular schedule and get a few deadlines met.

And, most importantly, figure out how to stop TMTSNLBN from going rogue again.

Getting back into the swing of things

There are times in everyone’s life when everything has to come to a screeching halt. It doesn’t matter what the cause. The result is always the same. You have to focus on something important for a period of time to the exclusion of almost everything else. That’s been my life for the last month or more. Finally, it looks as if things are getting back to normal. Now the challenge is getting back into the swing of things and getting back on course.

So how do you do it? Me, it’s a struggle. I am having to train myself not to jump at every sound that isn’t quite ordinary. I’m more attuned to what is going on around me — having a loved one seriously ill will do that to you — and that means the distraction level is off the chart. All the usual techniques to getting into my writing and editing aren’t working. So I’ve had to find workarounds and, in at least one instance, they have me shaking my head, wondering how long before things get back to normal.

Of course, that assumes the life of any writer could be classified as normal.

The first thing I’ve had to do is get my work laptop back up and running. I’m one of those folks who love tech and who have multiple laptops and tablets. My work laptop is an Acer that I’ve had for about four years now. It’s a great machine. Or it has been. But in the middle of everything going on with my mom, the hard drive decided to start failing. Before I could pull everything off, it went kaput. Fortunately, most of my work was backed up. Unfortunately, a couple of things weren’t completely backed up and I now have to redo them. It’s my own fault. I’m usually obsessive about doing multiple backups but real life interfered.

The new hard drive arrives today. So, by Sunday, everything should be back up and running. That’s step one. Until then, I’ve been working on a different laptop, a MacBook Air. It’s a good machine but the screen is smaller and for someone who doesn’t use a Mac all the time, I have to stop and think about what the hotkeys are. That interrupts the flow and frustrates me.

That means I have to get back into the habit or work. Oh, I’ve scribbled notes here and there. I’ve tried to sit and write or edit. But, as I said, the distraction level is high, especially at the house. I’ve tried changing the time and location in the house I work. Nope, that hasn’t helped. I’ve tried changing the music, TV on/off, etc. Nothing has seemed to work. That’s left me with one choice, find someplace nearby I can go and try to work for at least an hour or two a day.

Again, I’ve found the distraction level high when I’ve gone to my usual haunts. The other day, I wound up at the last place I would normally go, no matter what the reason. I stopped at the local McDonalds for a Coke. You have to understand just how rare that is. I doubt I’ve been to a McDs more than half a dozen times in the last 10 years. So you can imagine my surprise to walk in and find it comfortable, quiet and not overrun by screaming kids.

Instead of taking my Coke and retreating to my car, I sat down and pulled out my tablet and an hour later had written more than I had in the last three weeks. I’ve been back a couple of times since then with the same result. I have also discovered that it isn’t the little kids who are the problem now. It is the middle school and high school kids who come in after school and who seem completely unaware of others being there. That just means I don’t go when they will be there, at least not if I want to work.

I guess the whole point of this rambling post is to remind each of us that we have to be flexible. Flexible in our writing — and in accepting that the more we write, the more our craft will improve and that, in itself, is sometimes scary. Flexible in how and where we write. Flexible in understanding that sometimes we have to change our habits in order to help the words flow.

I’ve talked with too many writers who have suddenly hit the wall and can’t seem to find a way to get the words to flow. Instead of altering what they are doing — whether it is when or where they write or simply working on something else for awhile — they continue to try doing the same thing, day in, day out. When nothing happens, they claim they have writer’s block and use that to excuse the fact they aren’t producing anything.

That’s the easy thing to do. But it is also an excuse. Yes, writer’s block does happen from time to time. However, when we usually claim we’re experiencing it, we aren’t. We’ve simply hit a point in our work where it is difficult but not impossible to push the story forward. It could be because we are uncomfortable with what we know is about to happen. It could be our subconscious telling us that we’ve taken a wrong turn and need to go back and look to see how to fix it. It could be that our craft has taken a step forward and the change scares the crap out of us because our writing no longer feels familiar. That is when you just have to push through, listen to your gut and not give in to the call to give up.

It is the same thing with the no time to write argument. Yes, we all have those points in our life when there simply isn’t a spare moment to do anything other than what is necessary to put food on the table and make money for rent. But usually when we say there isn’t time to write, it’s an excuse. We might not recognize it as one and we won’t until we start turning a critical eye to what we are actually doing each day.

I can hear some of you — heck, myself included — saying that there is no wasted time in your day. Really? How much time do you spend playing video games? How about Candy Crush on your phone? That is time you could spend writing. Do you take walks each day? If so, and if you have a digital voice recorder or a smartphone, you can record notes or even dictate your story as you walk. There are programs that will then convert your dictation into text. You can do the same.

So here’s the challenge: how many of you are willing to get back into the swing of things with me? Set a goal of how many words or how much time each day/week you want to write. There is no right or wrong number. It is something you feel is doable. Keep track of your progress. Use it as preparation for NaNoWriMo which starts next month. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet your goal, just renew your determination to do what you can when you can and then carve out the time. However, if you see that you are writing more than you thought, increase your goal.

Now get back to work. That’s what I’m going to do.

When real life intrudes

There are times when real life simply hits you over the head and keeps beating on you. This week has been one of those for me. Between trying — and the emphasis is on trying — to do physical therapy in prep for surgery on my Achilles tendon to having to call 911 for my mother and spending the better part of the week at the hospital to the husband of one of my best friends being in the hospital, there has simply been no room for writing, editing or much of anything else. I’ve turned to re-reading books that are comfort reads for me.  Mom is home now — thankfully — and doing better but things are still in flux and I simply don’t have the brain cells for a solid post today.

So here’s the deal. I’m going to toss the floor open. You can suggest topics for me to cover over the weekend. Or you can ask questions you want answered. Or how about listing your comfort reads or watches (TV or movies)?

I’ll be back tomorrow with a real post. For now, I am going to fall face first onto the bed and collapse for a bit, or until AT&T gets here to try to figure out why my services have decided to be flakier than usual.

I’ll be back

Today’s post will be a little late. Real life has been kicking my butt and I have to take care of something first thing this morning. But check back later this morning/early afternoon. I promise to be back as soon as I’m home and the phone company gives me reliable internet.

Ten Years Later – Updated

(I wrote the following post for Mad Genius Club 4 years ago. It doesn’t seem possible that I have been blogging over there that long — longer really — or that it has been 14 years since the terrible events of that infamous September morning. As we reflect on what happened that day, on its causes and its effects and on what still needs to be done, we should also reflect and take a moment to thank those men and women who dedicate their lives to keeping our country safe, to their family and loved ones who watch them leave and wonder if they will return and we should also remember those who have given their lives for our country. And now, to that original post.)

Ten years ago today, they say the world changed. I’m not sure the whole world changed, but my piece of it did. For the first time in my life, I understood how my parents’ generation felt when they heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Gone was the sense of safety of living in the United States, secured by oceans on two sides and allies on the other two sides. We’d been attacked, not by a military force but by fanatics who didn’t care about the innocents they killed in an effort to make their statement.

I know some of you are wondering what this has to do with writing. After all, Mad Genius Club is a blog about writing and the publishing industry. There is no simple answer. But there are answers and I’ll try to explain.

There’s a thread that’s been going on in one of the email groups I belong to where someone asked if our writing is influenced by world events. You can imagine there were folks coming in on both sides – some saying yes and others saying no. For me, I have to admit that I really hadn’t given it much thought. I knew the events of 9/11 affected me, but I hadn’t really taken time to think about if they had influenced my writing.

I still didn’t think much about it until the list of free titles available from Amazon crossed my desk the other day. I didn’t know whether to be thrilled or appalled to see all of them that dealt with that horrible day. I truly believe we need to remember what happened that day and do all we can to make sure it never happens again – here or anywhere else. One way to do that is to write about it.

But what appalled me were the number of books that had clearly been written just to cash in on the ten year anniversary of that horrible day. We’re not talking books that have been out for months or years and are just now being made free as promotions. No, we’re talking books that have never been available before. Books I couldn’t bring myself to download.

Look, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for authors using events, real and imagined, in their books. But to use a tragedy like 9/11 or the Holocaust just to sell books is more than I can stomach. Releasing those books so close to the anniversary of that horrible day without thought or concern about what it would do to those who survived or those who lost loved ones makes my blood boil. There are some lines I simply can’t step over.

That said, I will fight for these authors’ right to publish such books, whether I like them or not. That freedom of speech is one of the things that makes this country what it is. Within certain very limited provisions, we can write what we want, when we want. The fact that so many of us have different views on what and how we write is in the best interest of the reader.

On 9/11, I slept in later than I usually do. As I stumbled into the kitchen for my first cup of coffee, I turned on the TV. There are three things I do every morning: drink coffee, read the paper and watch the morning news. So there I was, coffee cup in hand, staring in disbelief as the second jet crashed into the Twin Towers. It had to be a nightmare. There could be no other explanation. Numb, praying for those people who were obviously trapped in the towers, I sat and watched, just like so many others that morning.

The images from that day are indelibly etched into my memory. So are the emotions. The shock, the fear, the anger. But so is the feeling of solidarity, of needing to do something as I stood in line at the local blood bank waiting hour after hour to donate blood in case it was needed. Hundreds of people turned out that day, too many for the small center to handle. No one wanted to go home. This was something they could do. Something they had to do.

Those who were turned away made appointments to come back the next day. Then they left, only to return later with water and food for those of us still in line. A couple came back with radios and TVs so we could watch the latest. No one asked them to. Everyone thanked them. We were all pulling together and it was happening across the country.

The emotions I felt that day were so strong. So were the reactions of the people I saw. The only day that had come close to it was the day when the American embassy in Tehran had been taken over, beginning more than a year of nightly reports about what was happening, reports that became ABC’s Nightline. Back then, I was attending Texas Tech. A number of my classmates were former Air Force officers. As we sat in the break area of the law school after the news broke, each of them were doing what was necessary to make contact with their former C.O.’s, doing what they felt was necessary – offering to return to the service of their country.

As I write this post, I realize there is one thing about 9/11 that has influenced my writing. After feeling so deeply, after seeing others do the same, I became more aware of how my characters should feel and react. I hope I am able to write characters who are no longer cardboard cut-outs. Emotions are what make us human and are what drive us, for good or bad.

I’m not a subscriber to the idea that you have to suffer for your art. Hell, I do my best to avoid suffering – at least in the way it is used in that sentence. But to be a good writer, you have to not only know what the emotions are, you have to know what they feel like – whether you have experienced them yourself or know someone has. More than that, you have to be able to express those emotions in your writing in such a way your characters don’t appear to be cartoonish or cardboardish.

I remember the feeling of helplessness as I stood in line at the blood bank, wondering if my son was all right. He was at school that day. When the district announced parents could come get their kids, I called my ex-husband to see if he was going to pick our son up. (It was his week to have the kid) I wanted to go so badly, just to be able to see for myself that my son was all right. I wanted to be the one to explain to him what had happened and to reassure him that I would do everything in my power to make sure nothing happened to him. I might not have been able to pick him up – my ex did that – but I did get to talk to him afterwards, to explain what happened and what might be happening over the next few days and weeks.

I can channel those emotions into my characters. It’s easier to write about the mother whose child is in danger. I understand the fear and anger and the need to protect. I can write about the everyman who feels helpless as he watches some disaster – be it natural or manmade – unfold before him. It is up to me now to hone my craft so I can write it in a believable way.

But for all of that, 9/11 reminded me of something I hadn’t really forgotten but had, like so many others, taken for granted. It reminded me of how much I love this country. I honor and thank those who willing put their lives on the line every day to protect it, be they police officers, firefighters, EMTs, soldiers, whatever. I thank their families for supporting them. Most of all, I thank God for the fact that I live here, in a country where I can write what I want and not have to look over my shoulder in fear that the thought police will be there to arrest me.

That son I worried so much about ten years ago is now a young man. One year ago today he signed his contract with the Air Force. It was his choice and one I am very proud of. It’s also one that can’t help but scare me some as well. And that is yet another emotion I can channel, if I dare.

In closing, and on a very non-writer note, I offer up a prayer for all of those who lost their lives a decade ago and I pray we never again see another 9/11, here or anywhere else.

Release your inner geek

A writer friend of mine this past week suffered one of the worst things that can happen to any writer — her laptop decided 1) it would present her with the dreaded BSOD (blue screen of death) and then 2) refuse to boot once she managed to get past the BSOD. Now, fortunately for my friend, she is a wise woman and she had almost everything backed up. That is the first rule of writers when you look at the tech end of our business — always back up your work. The first caveat of that rule is to back up in multiple locations. You never know when that thumb drive you use will find its way into the wash.

Now, my friend is, as I said, wise. She instantly started asking around for help. Did any of us know what the problem might be and if there was a work-around. At the same time, she broke out her old computer — but it is old and cranky, so it isn’t reliable. Wise woman that she is, she immediately started looking for a replacement for the retired computer even as she decided who to take her laptop to. (The final verdict isn’t in on it but best guess is the hard drive died although it could also be an issue with her motherboard.)

I use my friend as an example because we, as writers, rely upon our tech and gadgets to get our work done these days. Most publishers require electronic submission. We have multiple drafts of our work, each one a different stage in the creative and editorial process. If we don’t have them backed up and something happens to our computer/laptop/tablet, we could be in deep doo-doo.

This is where I am going to tell you to do something you might not want to do. After all, your spouse/partner/kid/brother/sister/best friend are much more tech savvy than you. Besides, you bought that extended warranty to cover whatever might happen to your work machine. So you’re good. Right?

Wrong.

Let me give you an example from personal experience. I’m fairly tech savvy. I have built my own PCs from the ground up. I’ve upgraded PCs and laptops as needed. I like me some new tech — after the bugs have been worked out for the most part. So I’m not scared of tech and enjoy working with it.

My main work machine is also my gaming laptop. It’s one of the best Asus Republic of Gamers laptops that I’ve had for about two years now. Great machine. But, just before my initial manufacturer’s warranty ran out, the “w” key quit working. Well, drat. It’s hard to be a writer — and a gamer — and not use that key. Before contacting Asus, I did some research. It seems this is a known issue with these laptops and Asus is usually really good about taking care of it. So, half an hour later, I had my claim filed with Asus and everything was in the works to send the laptop in for service.

Now, because I’m a techie, I do have backup machines. So it wasn’t as though I was going to be without a laptop for the two – three weeks the repair would take. Still, I missed my rocking ROG laptop and was thrilled to get it back.

Until, a few months later, I started noticing another issue with the laptop. Overnight, the battery quit charging. Then the keyboard started lagging and skipping not just a letter here and there but entire words and phrases. That is problematic for a writer. So I called Asus and, while they were really nice, they reminded me that I was out of the manufacturer’s warranty. The best they could do was have me send it in — at their cost — and they would look into it and let me know how much it would cost to do any needed repairs.

Crap! No way.

Then I remembered that I had bought the extended warranty through Square Trade. So I called them and thus began my frustration. Several calls and service reps later and all I knew for sure was that they would send me a box and mailing label and that they would do the repairs, not Asus. Oh, I had the option of finding someone local to repair the machine and then I could submit my bill for the repairs to them for reimbursement but there was no guarantee they would pay it all.

Double crap!

Feeling I didn’t have much of a choice, I told them to send me the mailing box and I’d be sending them my laptop. When the mailing box arrived, I was not happy. Unlike the box and other material I had received from Asus, this was a think cardboard box with no packing material, nothing to help protect the laptop. I was seriously doubting my decision to send them anything, much less my laptop.

So, still not happy because they hadn’t even given me a hint about what might be wrong with the laptop, I went back to the internet and some of the computer fora I frequent from time to time. It didn’t take me more than an hour or so to narrow down what the problem was. It seems that this sort of letter and work skipping happens when you have a malfunctioning battery in place. Hmm. My battery no longer charged. Could it be that simple?

So, knowing I had nothing to lose, I removed the battery from its housing and plugged the laptop back in and wow! No more problem. I’d lost almost a week of working on the ROG laptop because of the skipping letters and words thing but now I knew what the problem was. Take the battery out and everything works just fine.

That left just finding a new battery and getting it bought and delivered — which was another joy in trying to find one for less than a hundred bucks. But I did and it works perfectly.

The moral of this story is that I saved myself money and frustration by simply taking some time to research the problem. The steps I took to see if the problem was easily solved were such that they couldn’t have damaged the laptop and voided the extended warranty. But I also listened to my gut which was telling me that the warranty folks might not be the best place to send it (full disclosure here. I had no such issues dealing with Square Trade when I had to replace my Kindle Fire HDX. That was as simple as Amazon simply telling them to authorize the replacement at no cost. But for the laptop issue, well, that was something else.)

So here’s what I’d like everyone to consider to protect themselves from catastrophic tech failure:

  • Back up all your work on more than one device.
  • Do not rely solely on cloud backups.
  • When you upgrade your work machine, if your other machine still works, keep it. You never know when you will need a backup.
  • Learn the basics of your machine. Print out the list of hardware and OS version or make note of it somewhere.
  • Keep all your drivers up-to-date.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your machine and how it works.
  • Listen to your gut when it comes to your work computer. If you think something might be wrong, pay attention. If you catch the problem early enough, you can often avoid having something major go wrong.

Now, I’m off to find coffee and finish an editing job that is way overdue but had to take a backseat as real life decided to use me as its soccer ball.

And don’t forget the 2nd Annual Indie Author Labor Day Sale is still going on.

2nd Annual Indie Author Labor Day Sale

(I will be back tomorrow with a “real” post. In the meantime, I’m taking part in the 2nd Annual Indie Author Labor Day Sale along with some friends of mine.)

Indie Author Sale Banner

A curated list of authors selected works and put them on sale, just for readers like you. If you’ve been waiting for the next fun read, or for a reason to Read Indie, this is that time. All the books are priced between $2.99 and $0.99, affordable ways to explore new worlds.

You will find this a list spanning genres from Fantasy and Science Fiction to Thrillers and Romance. Something for every reader in your life, if you are looking for back-to-school gifts.

Enjoy!

Take The Star Road (The Maxwell Saga) (Volume 1)

By Peter Grant

Sale Price: $0.99

Blurb:

By facing down Lotus Tong thugs, Steve Maxwell earns an opportunity to escape orbit and become a spacer apprentice on a merchant spaceship. Sure, he needs to prove himself to an older, tight-knit crew, but how bad can it be if he keeps his head down and the decks clean?

The interstellar trade routes are anything but trouble-free, with local wars and plagues of pirates. Also, the jade in his luggage is hotter than a neutron star. Steve’s left a world of troubles behind, only to find a galaxy of them ahead…

Amazon Author Page

The Long Way Home (Sequoyah Book 1)

By Sabrina Chase

Promo price: $.99

Blurb:
Moire Cameron ran to protect her secrets — ran to the heart of an interstellar alien war. Her fellow mercenaries care only about her fighting skills, not where — or when — she got them. You’d think that would be good enough…

But a false name and fake ID can’t conceal her dangerous lack of contemporary knowledge, and they won’t help fulfill her last order, given by a dying man eighty years ago. To do that she must find a reason to live again. A cause worth fighting for, comrades to trust, and a ship to sail the stars.

Amazon Author Page

Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1)

By Sam Schall

Price: 99 cents for the Labor Day Weekend, down from $2.99

Blurb:

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.
Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

Amazon Author Page

The Grey Man- Changes (Volume 3)

By JL Curtis

Sale price $2.99

Blurb-

When Texas Deputy Sheriff John Cronin thwarts the Cartel’s plan to get paid to smuggle Muslims across the border, he becomes the target of the Cartel once again. One try fails, but the cartel isn’t about to give up. With his granddaughter, Jesse, still recovering from her last run-in with the Cartel and now far away with her Marine husband on a military base, Cronin only has to worry about the innocents around him.

One way or another, this old school law man plans to end this cat and mouse game for good. But, this time, the Cartel is playing for keeps; ending this war might just cost the old man his life.

Either way Cronin plans to go out on his feet, fighting tooth and nail.

Amazon Author Page

Survival Test

By David Burkhead

Price: I’ll set it at $2.99 for the promo.

Blurb:
War!
A series of diplomatic crises precipitate a limited nuclear war on Earth. Missile defenses block access to space. Nothing goes up and nothing comes down.
The people of the various space stations, the moon base, and a space colony whose construction had just begun must find a way to survive until the war is over.
The ultimate survival test.
Amazon Author page

Pam Uphoff’s Wine of the Gods Universe 

99 cent Labor Day Sale!

Genetic engineering enabled psychic abilities in the test children. And the ability to control the machinery to open portals between parallel Earths. But prejudice turned into exile across the dimensions, and the escape of the most powerfully “magical” to a world of their own.

It all starts with the stand-alone Outcasts and Gods and continues with twenty (so far) loosely connected stories in the same Multiverse.

Amazon Author Page

Zoey Iver’s YA Adventures

By Pam Uphoff

99 cent Labor Day Sale!

The AI war was deadly—and invisible. Until two teenagers found themselves in the middle of it.

Amazon Author Page

Eyes of Osiris: A Kayara Ingham Novel (Architects of Lore Series Book 1)

By Anita Young

Price: $2.99

Blurb:

Thanks to the curse of foresight, Dr. Kayara Ingham has had a vision of her husband’s death. While she desperately tries to avert the grim future, she meets a mysterious Osiris Corporation man who gives her an impossible ultimatum. When Kay is forced to choose, she learns that Osiris Corporation is not what it seems. The company is made up of a people that call themselves the Architects of Lore and, like many powerful organisations, their reach is extensive—one might say inescapable.

Amazon Author Page

Acts of War (The Usurper’s War Book 2)

By James Young

Price: $2.99

Blurb:

August 1942.  Adolf Hitler is dead, Great Britain is surrendering, and the Royal Family is fleeing to Canada.  In this critically acclaimed alternative history novel, James Young details a World War II that is far different and much worse than the terrible conflict we all know.  Follow the Cobb family as they, and the nation they love, are confronted with horrible events while being swept away by war’s chaos.  If you are a fan of historical fiction, or just like a good yarn with mortal heroes, Acts of War is for you.

Amazon Author Page 

Pixie Noir (Pixie for Hire Book 1)

By Cedar Sanderson

Price: $0.99

Blurb:

Lom is a bounty hunter, paid to bring magical creatures of all descriptions back Underhill, to prevent war with humans should they discover the strangers amongst them. Bella is about to find out she’s a real life fairy princess, but all she wants to do is live peacefully in Alaska, where the biggest problems are hungry grizzly bears. He has to bring her in. It’s nothing personal, it’s his job…

Amazon Author Page

Farmhand (Bluehills Book 1)

By Lilania Begley

Price: $0.99

Blurb:

Wounded veteran Dev Macquire needs some farm help until he recovers. When his father, Gray, brings home a new hand, he’s dismayed to meet Irina. How can a woman do the rough, heavy work they need? As she works her way into their life, and into his heart, he’s faced with a new dilemma. Can he persuade her to stay, and to accept a new role in his life?

The Cunning Blood

By Jeff Duntemann

Price: $2.99

Blurb:

Caught violating Earth’s Zero Tolerance for Violence laws, Peter Novilio is sentenced to a one-way trip to Hell, Earth’s prison planet in the Zeta Tucanae system. Hell is forever: Two centuries earlier its ecosphere had been infected with microscopic nanomachines that destroy electrical conductors, condemning its inmates to a neo-Victorian steam-and-gaslight society without computers, spaceflight, or any hope of escape.

Amazon Author Page

One more thing. If you enjoy a book, please consider leaving a review. I know I speak for all the authors listed when I say we really do appreciate the reviews.