Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Barnes and Noble to Carry (Some) Indie Books

One of the disadvantages of being an indie author is difficulty getting your paper books distributed by physical bookstores. It can be done, but it might require printing your books through a different service and paying for returns. Barnes and Noble announced yesterday plans to carry select indie books in their stores (you can currently order indie paper books on their website). Here's the original article posted on GoodeReader; you can read commentary from other indie authors on The Passive Voice

While this sounds like a great deal for indie authors, it's necessary to consider the details. To qualify, the eBook versions must be published through Nook Press (which means I'd have to cease using Draft2Digital to distribute to B&N--and I can't set a book to permafree unless I use the distributor) and sell at least 1000 books a year. Most of my sales are on Amazon; I have very few on Kobo, Apple or B&N. I still distribute my books there partly to give my readers as much access as possible and partly because I don't want to be 100% reliant on Amazon. Even if a book does qualify, there's no word yet about terms, such as number of books per store, how long they will be displayed, and what the return policy for unsold books will be. While I see this as a step forward for indie authors, I also have my doubts about the long-term health of Barnes & Noble. If they manage to avoid going the way of Borders, they may be forced to do that by reducing their shelf space even further and selling things other than books.

Let's take a quick poll: If you buy paper books, where do you buy them from? Please feel free to comment below.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Guest Post at Alex J. Cavanaugh's Blog Finally Up!

I'm still not sure if Alex is receiving my e-mails, but we were able to work out a way to give him my guest post. Here's the permalink. I'll pop over there as time permits to comments. Thanks again for going to such lengths to host me, Alex!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Science of the Week, 6/24/16

Congrats to Alex J. Cavanaugh for winning a free eBook from guest blogger LJ Cohen! Alex, I've asked her to comment on your blog.

Here are some of the most interesting stories I read this week:

Tailored DNA shifts electrons into the "fast lane"

Mother mongooses may risk death to protect unborn children (they can shield themselves from oxidative damage, but this may have long-term health risks)

Will science find a way to save Earth's top predators?

Teaching machines to predict the future
 (not future future, but what happens when two people meet)

Dose of nature is just what the doctor ordered

Warning from the past: future global warming could be even warmer

Russian physicists create a high-precision quantum ruler

Have a good weekend, everyone, and I'll see you on Monday!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Just a Reminder...

That today is the last day to enter the giveaway for one of LJ Cohen's books. Please comment on this post by midnight CDT to be entered in the drawing. Alex looks like a shoe-in right now. ;) Good luck!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Technology and the Human Body

Last week, the frame of my glasses broke, and I had my prescription updated before ordering a new pair. I had the dubious pleasure of transitioning from ordinary glasses into progressives (i.e., trifocals or multifocals). As if that wasn't enough, that same day I also received a pair of personalized orthotics to help me with my plantar fasciitis. (The orthotics aren't a rite of passage for me, since I got a pair a few years ago when I first developed foot problems.)

Rather than focus on the ways in which my body is aging, I thought I'd think about the technology people have used throughout history to protect and improve their bodies. Clothing and shoes have been with us for a long time, though they've evolved from very simple wrappings to tailored items to synthetic materials made by machines. There have also been various inventions to expand on our senses; better ways to maintain, diagnose, and treat our bodies; and so on. How do you think technology will be used to improve our bodies in the future? What would be your favorite assistive technology? My first thought was nanobots that would travel through your bloodstream and repair damaged cells to keep you from aging and developing cancer. Another idea would be something nonmedicinal to help me fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Of course, we could always try to engineer the need for sleep out of ourselves, the way Nancy Kress depicts in Beggars in Spain. We could also try to upload our consciousness out of flesh-and-blood bodies into androids or computer systems. Technology has allowed our society to evolve faster than our DNA can, resulting in a mismatch between what we currently do and what's optimal for our bodies. Adapting our agriculture and work habits to be healthier for us won't be easy.

Unfortunately, some odd e-mail issue is preventing Alex. J. Cavanaugh from getting my guest post. (I swear I sent it at least twice on Friday, once as an attachment and once pasted into the body of the e-mail.) I may end up posting it here if we can't figure out the problem.

If you haven't purchased Scattered Seasons yet, prices will go back to $3.99 at the end of the day tomorrow, so get the eBook for $0.99 while you can. It's available on Amazon, B&N, iTunes, and Kobo.

Finally, to celebrate the summer solstice (which happens to be my heroine Jenna's birthday), here's one of my favorite songs from the B-52s:

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Guest Post: LJ Cohen and The Importance of Speculative Fiction (Giveaway)

Today I get to welcome Broad Universe member LJ Cohen to my blog. LJ Cohen is a novelist, poet, blogger, ceramics artist, and relentless optimist. After almost twenty-five years as a physical therapist, LJ now uses her anatomical knowledge and myriad clinical skills to injure characters in her science fiction and fantasy novels. She lives in the Boston area with her family, two dogs, and the occasional international student. DREADNOUGHT AND SHUTTLE (book 3 of the SF/Space Opera series Halcyone Space), is her sixth novel. LJ is a member of SFWA, Broad Universe, and the Independent Publishers of New England.

LJ will give one of her eBooks (winner's choice) to a commenter on this post. Winner will be chosen at random. Please comment by Wednesday, June 22nd, by midnight. I'll announce the winner on Friday, June 24th.

Please see below for LJ's thoughts on why speculative fiction is so important:

When I was young and just starting to choose what I wanted to read, I gravitated to science fiction and fantasy. My mother – a voracious reader – always wanted to know why I didn’t read more “normal” books. By normal, she meant set in the real world. She read a lot of what we now term women’s fiction and the occasional historical novel. Speculative fiction (I use the term as a larger umbrella for science fiction, fantasy, horror, and slipstream work) was something she didn’t have interest in.

But I grew up in an era where technology made marvels every day. When I was a child, we sent astronauts to the moon! We built supersonic airplanes! We transplanted hearts! Is it any wonder I discovered the library shelves devoted to stories about such wonders and read everything there? It wasn’t that I never read outside of genre, but even the books in the literary world I loved had a touch of other-worldliness in them.

After a lifetime of reading widely in speculative fiction, it wasn’t shocking that my writing followed suit. So what is it about speculative fiction that I find so appealing, so important?

To answer that, I need to go back to my childhood.

I was a toddler when Star Trek first aired and didn’t catch the show until it hit syndication several years after its original run, but I was hooked from the start. Here were men, women, and aliens all working together in a future I was desperate to be a part of. 

Women in space.

Women. In. Space.

Women whose roles were not limited to love interests or victims. Maybe I wasn’t able to articulate it in that way when I was young, but I certainly remember it was a powerful antidote to being told that girls couldn’t grow up to be astronauts.

I was told that. I was told that by my school guidance counselor. By a school that automatically scheduled all girls for home economics and all boys for shop. By a society that erased the contributions women and minorities made to history, science, and technology.

Star Trek told a different story. So did the seminal book of my childhood: A Wrinkle in Time. Not only was the hero of the story a young woman – Meg Murry – but her mother was a scientist. That story, along with the implicit message of Star Trek, was also a powerful negation of all the messages the rest of society was sending.

So why do I write science fiction and fantasy? Why do I include a diverse cast of capable characters? Because society is still broadcasting messages of inherent inequality. There is still a hierarchy of worth where whiteness and maleness are depicted at the top.

There is ample evidence that readers live in silos: both overtly and covertly and from an early age, most boys are steered away from fiction that depicts women as lead characters. But speculative fiction seems to be a way to offer a world of greater inclusiveness that doesn’t turn away potential readers quite so readily. I’ve always seen the literature of speculative fiction as beautifully subversive: it talks about broad societal issues without it being directly about society. It gets in around the cracks of entrenched beliefs in a way more realistic fiction does not.

So in the world of Halcyone Space, the crew of the old, broken freighter is diverse. There are women and people of color in roles of authority. There are friendships, both with and without romance, within genders and between them. All of this is presented as a given, with no specific fanfare. It just offers up a future world where the old hierarchies no longer limit us.

And that is the power of speculative fiction.

LJ's Links:

Twitter: @lisajanicecohen
email LJ:
Amazon Author page:

Dreadnought And Shuttle
 When a materials science student gets kidnapped, she's drawn into a conflict between the young crew of a sentient spaceship, a weapons smuggling ring, and a Commonwealth-wide conspiracy and must escape before her usefulness as a hostage expires.

Google Books:

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