an odd collection of tales about learning to do the impossible

Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Making a Boxed Set

The delightful artists at Deranged Doctor Design have created a beautiful boxed set cover for my first three books (and they made this lovely banner, too!) I got it as part of a promotional package, which is interesting because I had no intention of turning my collection of six ebooks into boxed sets.

Now ….. I’m busy reading instructions on how to concatenate the first three novels together into one document so it will work well for my readers. Lucky for me, there are lots of helpful people out there and it doesn’t sound too hard. This boxed set should be available soon!

I’m sending particular shout-outs of thanks to Kim Lambert at the Alliance of Independent Authors for her extremely helpful and detailed article “Why, When and How to Self-publish a Box Set of Ebooks.”

I’m also sending a big thanks to Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn for her excellent post “How To Create An Ebook Boxset Or Bundle And Why You Should” and to Tom Ashford for his article  “How to Create an Ebook Box Set” on the Mark Dawson’s self-publishing formula blog.

The degree to which self-publishing authors continue to share information and help each other never ceases to amaze and impress me! It is a community I am proud to be part of (even though I dangle my participles in my enthusiasm.)

The Calculating Stars

Hugo award winning author Mary Robinette Kowal doesn’t know anything about me …. so it’s not possible she understood that when she wrote “The Calculating Stars,” she was writing the one book I could not possibly resist reading.

Perhaps she was aware of the many women of my generation and older who can still remember the landing on the moon, and the fervor afterwards with which so many people wanted to go do that, too. Yet, some of us knew we couldn’t, and we thought that fact was terribly unfair.

Star Trek was exploring strange new worlds back then, and they had room aboard ship for my idol Lieutenant Uhura, and for whatever female ensign Captain Kirk had his eye on that week. Jane Fonda’s Barbarella struck me as more silly than admirable, but at least she was in outer space, too.

So, after after careful consideration, I bravely declared to my mother that I wished to become an astronaut. She looked at me curiously, like perhaps I possessed some troublesome quality she hadn’t been aware of.

“Find a more realistic ambition,” was all she said. I never brought it up again.

When I was little, my father flew small planes. Yet, he seemed every bit as puzzled as my mother once was, when years later I told him I had started to take flying lessons. I was out of college by then, making okay money as a technical writer. This is what I wanted to do with those earnings. I thought he’d be proud.

“Okay ….. ” was all he said. Before long, he sent me all his study manuals on flying, with a simple note. “If you’re going to be a pilot, be a good one.”

Learning to fly is expensive. Much as I loved it, I clearly was never going to be a commercial pilot, much less an astronaut. I moved on to other, more realistic dreams.

Then, decades later, along came this book.

It’s not just about women in space, it’s about women my mother’s age getting to go. Give me a break. How does this happen?

Oh. The blurb says a meteorite hits the earth and threatens to destroy all life. That’s what it takes to get women in the 1950’s into the space program? Maybe ….

Forgive the long preamble, but I felt I ought to explain why, by the time I was on about page 20, this had become my favorite book of all time.  A little context can be helpful.

Now, for a more objective look.

Pilot and mathematician Elma York is well qualified for the space program and she wants to join it. Author Kowal recognizes the difficulties of creating a character with a brilliant mind who is also a highly skilled aviator, is beautiful, is well liked by her family and friends, and who has a loving husband as talented as she is.

Kowal gives her an Achilles heel to balance out her many gifts and to make her goal of getting into space more difficult. On occasion I thought she took this “little problem” a bit further than was believable for a woman who had accomplished so much, but it did work to make the plot more interesting, and to make Elma a more believable human.

She also chose to give her an ethnicity (Jewish, right after WWII), which I thought was interesting but it was never really pertinent to the story. Perhaps it ties better into the previous short works, or it will tie more into the sequels?

Much of the beginning of the book has to do with the meteorite and it’s aftermath. This part is chilling, and incredibly well written. I could hardly put the book down.

The second part centers on the accelerated space program being developed to help save humanity. Here Elma York encounters the sexism of much of the military, but she also faces the ingrained, even almost silly sexism of the time period. (Astronettes? Really?) It rings true.

Luckily, she is surrounded and supported by a strong group of women, many of them fellow pilots and quite a few of them also women of color, who are facing a whole different set of unfortunate biases a well. All the women have a handful of male allies (including Elma’s husband) and, to no ones surprise, eventually they all prevail.

Kowal accepting the Hugo award

Kowal does try to bring in details about how her society reacts to the climate change brought on by the meteorite, and in doing so she obliquely addresses our own society’s struggles with abating climate change. She doesn’t hit you over the head with the comparison, and it adds a nice bit of social consciousness to the story.

The book is suspenseful in that the reader wants to see Elma go into space and wants to learn how she does it. However, it lacks any large plot twists or deep philosophical ideas. (Both of those are things I love in books.) So I have to admit this is more of “just a fun story” about talented and good people getting to do what they ought to be doing. It’s a cheer along book, but instead of being about a little league team or some such thing that doesn’t interest me, it’s about women getting to what I always wanted to do. So. I really enjoyed cheering along.

Read the introduction to this series of reviews at Reviews: Giving Them

Free through Monday!

Storms are in the air. Flickers of Fortune always makes me think of lightning.

The nice people at Amazon let me give away copies of my book once every 90 days, so what better time than now to offer it for FREE .

My hope of course, is that you will download the book, and then read the book. In fact, my hope is you will like the book so much that you actually go ahead and buy one of the other books in the collection. Hallelujah!

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  For now, just DOWNLOAD THE BOOK.  Let’s see what happens after that. 🙂

(Flickers of Fortune is available for free from Nov. 7 through Nov. 11 2019.)

Reviews: Giving Them

I’ve been doing more book reviews lately. It’s a fun way to get out of my own head for a while, see what others are doing, and hopefully help other writers as well. We all want reviews.

I do try to be both gentle and positive. Writing a book is hard work, and putting together an interesting and cohesive novel is a real accomplishment. I find it amazing how many people manage to do this every day. Who says our society is becoming illiterate? Some days I wonder if more people are writing books than are reading them.

So, kudos to all authors. This is not an easy thing you have done!

I don’t have much respect for reviewers who make rude remarks to get a laugh, particularly those who don’t write books themselves. I’m inclined to encourage all sincere attempts at creativity — be it musicians, fine artists, or writers.

Writers have a particular handicap, though. It takes far longer to read a book than to listen to a song or study a sketch. The reader will be investing some serious time, even if they give up on the book. So, it is reasonable for a potential reader to want to know if this story is really worth the hours they will likely spend with it.

That means it is important to for a review to be honest. I never like everything about a book and I’m sure you don’t either. Yet Amazon is full of reviews that make almost every book ever published sound perfect. Come on. We all know that isn’t true. Who writes these things?

The function of a review is to help another reader decide if they should read this particular novel. The most helpful thing a reviewer can do is point out what they enjoyed most about the book and what gave them the most heartburn. There’s no reason not to do it with kindness, but it still needs to be done. A review entirely lacking in criticism isn’t a review, it’s an advertisement.

Disagree with any of the above? Feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to discuss it with you.

A series of posts on the seven books I’ve reviewed recently will follow . Please enjoy, and if any of them sound like your cup or tea, please check them out.

The Other Side of the World: I’ve Seen the Future, and It’s 8 Time Zones Away

Over the next several days I’m going to share posts written during my recent trip to UAE and Oman.

The opulence in these two recently built, oil-rich countries is astonishing. Their precarious location in the Persian Gulf gives one pause. And the interactions between my travel group (mostly retired women from the Washington DC area) and the locals who dealt with us (mostly young Muslim men) provided material for dozens of posts. Most remain unwritten. I hope over the weeks ahead that will change.

I’ve Seen the Future, and It’s 8 Time Zones Away

Imagine what a US city would be like if it had been built from the ground up after 1960, and had an unprecedented amount of wealth poured into its creation?

World class public transportation, all fully automated? Wide, well designed streets? Sparkling tall buildings?

You’re describing Dubai, and Abu Dhabi as well.

Read the full post at I’ve Seen the Future, and It’s 8 Time Zones Away.

Find my other posts about this trip at Having Lunch in Dubai for World Peace, We All Just Want to Have Fun, and Not a Country of Immigrants. I hope more will follow.

The Other Side of the World: Not a Country of Immigrants

Over the next several days I’m going to share posts written during my recent trip to UAE and Oman.

The opulence in these two recently built, oil-rich countries is astonishing. Their precarious location in the Persian Gulf gives one pause. And the interactions between my travel group (mostly retired women from the Washington DC area) and the locals who dealt with us (mostly young Muslim men) provided material for dozens of posts. Most remain unwritten. I hope over the weeks ahead that will change.

Not a Country of Immigrants

 

Citizens of the USA are almost all immigrants and their descendants. Were this not so, only Native Americans would hold citizenship here.

The United Arab Emirates is not a country of immigrants. For the most part, only the descendants of native Emiratis may hold citizenship. Those who move there will never fully belong, and neither will their children, no matter now many generations their ancestors have been there. As a result, about 80% of the population of the UAE consists of expats.

Read the full post at Not a Country of Immigrants.

Find my other posts about this trip at Having Lunch in Dubai for World Peace, We All Just Want to Have Fun, and I’ve Seen the Future, and It’s 8 Time Zones Away. I hope more will follow.

The Other Side of the World: We All Just Want to Have Fun

Over the next several days I’m going to share posts written during my recent trip to UAE and Oman.

The opulence in these two recently built, oil-rich countries is astonishing. Their precarious location in the Persian Gulf gives one pause. And the interactions between my travel group (mostly retired women from the Washington DC area) and the locals who dealt with us (mostly young Muslim men) provided material for dozens of posts. Most remain unwritten. I hope over the weeks ahead that will change.

We All Just Want to Have Fun

If you’d asked me how much drinking liquor was tied into to my idea of having fun, I’d have said “not much.” And I’d have been wrong.

It took going all the way the United Arab Emirates to realize it… The country belongs to the more open-minded part of the Arab world, and it aspires to be an international playground. Tourism is an important part of its economy. The UAE wants you to visit, and wants you to have a good time while you are there.

Read the full post at We All Just Want to Have Fun

Find my other posts about this trip at Having Lunch in Dubai for World Peace, Not a Country of Immigrants and I’ve Seen the Future, and It’s 8 Time Zones Away. I hope more will follow.

The Other Side of the World: Having Lunch in Dubai for World Peace

Over the next several days I’m going to share posts written during my recent trip to UAE and Oman.

The opulence in these two recently built, oil-rich countries is astonishing. Their precarious location in the Persian Gulf gives one pause. And the interactions between my travel group (mostly retired women from the Washington DC area) and the locals who dealt with us (mostly young Muslim men) provided material for dozens of posts. Most remain unwritten. I hope over the weeks ahead that will change.

Having Lunch in Dubai for World Peace

I have no doubt that the more time people spend together, and the more they understand each other, the less likely they are to hate or kill each other…

I’m in Dubai, the largest city of the United Arab Emirates. This modern, cosmopolitan city of over two million is a whopping 82% expats. They come from every continent, culture and religion and, in spite of their current location, they bring plenty of biases and misunderstandings with them regarding Muslims in general and the Emirates in particular.

Enter a group called “Open Door, Open Minds.”

Read the full post at Having Lunch in Dubai for World Peace.

Find my other posts about this trip at We All Just Want to Have Fun, Not a Country of Immigrants and I’ve Seen the Future, and It’s 8 Time Zones Away. I hope more will follow.

Free on Kindle today

Maybe you can walk through walls. Maybe you can fly. Maybe you’re crazy instead.

Find out.

Layers of Light is free on Kindle today (Thursday Oct. 10) through Monday (Oct 14.)

It’s time to promote this story and shine a little light on it.

 

 

Available Now as an Audio Book!

One of One has been turned into an audio book! It wasn’t easy, and to be honest it wasn’t cheap, but worthwhile things often aren’t. I have to hope this is one of those worthwhile things.

It’s available here directly from Audible. ($13.97)

It’s available through One of One’s Amazon sales page. (Obviously just pick “audiobook.”)

It’s also on iTunes for $17.99, easily found under Audiobooks > Sci-Fi & Fantasy > S. R. Cronin.

I’m pleased with the final result. The narrator has a rich voice, honed by years of class room teaching. He’s intimately acquainted with the nuances of the story.

He built a special soundproof room in which to do this, and invested in a fair amount of professional grade equipment as well. Most chapters were recorded all or in part several times, until he was happy with the results. Then he had me listen to them and fixed anything I didn’t like.

Did I mention that I’m married to him?

No, I didn’t marry him in order to get him to record the book; we’ve already been married for a while. He offered to do this under a pen name for me, so it wouldn’t sound like I was related to my narrator. I declined. I think its kind of cool the way it is.

I was also very happy with the local (Asheville) sound engineer we found to turn our DIY efforts into something more polished. For a non-trivial but also not ridiculous fee, he smoothed our files into something more professional, added in a special sound for my many scene changes, created our audio sample and helped us craft the “intro and outro” sections.

Please listen to our sample and see what you think.

 

One of Two FREE on Kindle through this weekend

I’m running my second free promotion!

The first one worked so well that Twists of Time shot up to #8 in free Kindle Time Travel books. Wahoo!  And it was #13 in superhero fantasy books, too.

So here is One of Two making its proud debut as a free book (through Monday.) Get it while you can. 🙂

 

Is Flickers the best book of the month?

5 Star Rating LASRI was delighted to get a 5 star review from the robust review site “Long and Short Reviews.” Then I found out this earned me chance to have Flickers of Fortune be book of the month. How cool. So here is my unabashed plea.

Please vote for Flickers of Fortune. Scroll down to find it. Any vote is greatly appreciated!

 

Free on Kindle through Labor Day Weekend

Twists of Time will be free on Kindle from Friday August 30 through Tuesday September 3.

Click HERE during those dates to take advantage of my Kindle promotion.

Can he manipulate time for the people and causes he cares about most?

 

And the winner, she is ….

It’s hard to find a simple explanation for this preponderance of woman SFF writers. One could guess it is because the world has become more welcoming to women pursuing dreams of all kinds. But that should result in something more like woman being half the nominees, not most of them.

It is true that women as a group tend to be more verbal than men.  (Yes, men tend to be more mathematical. I’ve no quarrel with statistics, only a quarrel with extending those generalizations into making assumptions about individuals, or to making assumptions about why the tendencies exist in the first place. Life is complicated.)

Anyway, today’s world of SFF writers could, in part, reflect the fact that women make up a larger percentage of the writing and the reading community in general.

Read more of my thoughts about why woman dominate the awards these days for best SFF fiction at And the winner, she is ….

(Read more about my other Worldcon adventures at An Irish Worldcon: I’m here!,  at Feeling at home and at Forward into the Past.)

Fast Forward into the Past

Last week I had the chance to attend my first world con. What a great time! The following is an excerpt from post three of five about the event.

Time itself becomes a little fuzzy at an event like this, you know, as the real world fades away and the surreal world of of nonstop fan activities takes over. One tends to forget if it is day or night, much less what day it is. Most of us had to laugh when we saw signs like this pop up a couple of days in, but honestly it was helpful.

The past was also present in references to beloved science fiction from long ago. Dublin’s convention center peppered the areas around the escalators with warning messages like the one to the left. It was advice no fan could ignore.

Read more at Forward into the Past.

Read my additional posts at Feeling at home and at An Irish Worldcon: I’m here!

Finally — Twists of Time will be free on Kindle from Friday August 30 through Tuesday September 3.

Click HERE during those dates to take advantage of my Kindle promotion.

Feeling at home

Last week, I attended my first World Science Fiction Convention (better known as Worldcon) at the amazing convention center in Dublin. No one welcomed me home when I arrived, but after a day or two I realized they may as well have. This wildly varying collection of geeks are my people, too, and I feel every bit as at home with them as I did out on the playa with Burners.

What is surprising is the many things I found in common between these two different events, both of which spoke to me with such force.

Read more about the many similarities between last year’s time at Burning Man and this year’s time at Worldcon at Feeling at home.

An Irish Worldcon: I’m here!

We discovered we both loved science fiction, and by the end of the conversation (and the bottle of wine) we were talking about attending Worldcon 2019 together in Dublin. I’m still not sure how our conversation got there.

And yet, here we are. You gotta love how things sometimes work out.

Read more about how I ended up at Worldcon 2019 at An Irish Worldcon: I’m here!

It Don’t Come Easy

I’ve been thinking about Ringo Starr a lot, mostly because someone just told me he was turning 91, Really? That seemed so hard to believe. With good reason. It isn’t true. He’s turning 79 on Sunday.. Yes, that is still old but ….. it isn’t 91.

Read more of my ruminations about Ringo, enduring snide remarks, and putting yourself out there at It Don’t Come Easy.

Now for something different …

By the time I’d driven home, I knew what I had to do. You see, the only time I struggle with writers block is when I (okay, some part of me, let’s call her the adult manager in charge of my head) insists I write whatever Ms. Manager has decided I must.

No matter how hard Ms. Manager insists, it doesn’t happen.

The little kid in my head who makes up the stories simply stops making them up until she is once again allowed to tell her stories, in her way.

Read more about how I discovered my next novel while having a day at a spa.

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

Most of my life I’ve considered time, not money, to be my most valuable resource. Maybe I should have put it second to love, or joy, but if I’m honest with myself, I didn’t. Maybe I always thought I was going to die young. Lucky for me, I’m getting a little too old to do that …

Read the rest of this post about the importance of rest (and fun) at Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

Where did all those genres come from??

Amazon’s other options for me is something called a Sponsored Ad.  My mentor/author didn’t think much of using these, but I bravely tried the concept of picking keywords from my books and bidding for clicks. Every time, it failed miserably, but the good news is if hardly anyone clicks on your ad, it doesn’t cost you much.

A little poking around showed me I had another choice called Individual Products. It involves picking products (books) similar to mine, and advertising to those who buy them. It took forever to seek out these books, although it probably was a good exercise for me to get to know more about what was out there. None-the-less, all this effort yielded even fewer clicks and cost almost nothing.

Then recently a new option emerged. I could bid to advertise based on genre, just like with my Lock-screen ads, but the ads would appear to all Amazon users. So I tried it. And oh my goodness.

Read more at Where did all those genres come from??

Can you sell books on Facebook? Can I?

In contrast, Facebook offers the promise of being able to select potential ad readers with a LASER like precision. Oh boy.

For my first novel, I sought out mature women who liked science fiction and fantasy, were interested in telepathy and (I’d been told this was very important) liked or owned a kindle. Wahoo. This group was going to LOVE my spec fiction e-novel about Lola, a forty-something telepath. I mean, how many of those are out there?

It took no time at all for me to have 4823 such women view my ad 10,527 times and click on my link 275 times. It took no time at all for me to spend  $48.98 to make this happen and to sell, you guessed it, not a single book.

Read more at Can you sell books on Facebook? Can I?

 

How about this ad?

I’d tried a mess of keywords for first book “One of One” and got one impression. That’s right, one. It was a very cheap ($0.22) and highly ineffective experiment. Forget keywords.

So for Shape of Secrets, I looked through Amazon’s suggested sub-genres. One was LGBT Fantasy Fiction. That was a category? Okay, the book is about a young gay man who can alter his appearance to look like anyone, so I guessed it fit. I tried it and got 87,684 impressions, 170 clicks, and sold three books. Hot damn. Yes, I’d spent $63.22 to do it, so I was losing money while Amazon was laughing all the way to the bank, but at least something was happening.

Read more at How about this ad?

Would this ad work for you?

My third attempt was wildly successful. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t target every genre and category I could possibly fit into. I only targeted women’s fiction and I wrote the ad for the audience. I got 98,215 impressions, and 439 clicks. Cool, huh?

Unfortunately, I want sales, not attention.

Read more about my adventures in advertising at Would this ad work for you?

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