Weekly Roundup 8-8-18 Defining Science Fiction – Does it really matter?

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Apparently I missed the memo. There is a long-standing argument going on regarding the true meaning of the term Science Fiction. Really? Is there any good reason to be concerned?

A read an article this week which seeks to parse out the true definition of the term and its competitors. Science Fiction vs. Hard Science Fiction vs. SciFi vs. SF vs. Speculative Fiction vs. Fantasy. Whew! I had no idea the concept was so complicated, but only because we’ve made it so ourselves.

I have some sympathy for the Hard Science Fiction argument, which is defined as stories based on actual science and theory. OK, but that certainly narrows the pool of qualified authors for novels of this genre, unless you happen to be a physicist or expert in quantum mechanics. In addition, it severely limits the type and content of stories, leaving us with limited (and rather boring) possibilities.

Let’s face it – our current scientific understanding does not allow for cool elements such as interstellar travel, shields, fancy weapons, teleportation, terraforming, visits to alien worlds, and all those other fun things Science Fiction is known for. If readers turn up their noses because a book isn’t labeled “correctly”, they cheat themselves out of a lot of wonderful imaginative fiction. Life is too short to be worrying about stuff like this.

I have no problem designating my books as Science Fiction, but if you want to call them SciFi, SF, speculative fiction or fantasy, feel free. I say forget the labels, hop on board, and boldly go where no one has gone before!

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  • Current manuscript – Traitor’s Moon is now in chapter six and I’m on the threshold of some really great action and drama! I can’t wait to see how it all turns out and then share it with my readers. Word count is 42,400+.
  • I heard about some family upset this week involving an unfortunate Facebook post by someone who should have known better. If you insist on sharing your views, make sure you aren’t offending the people closest to you. The whole world doesn’t need to know your opinion on every subject.
  • The move is getting closer each day and I will have to start using my writing time to pack and plan. Bummer! Originally, I was to move at the end of this month, but the Labor Day holiday got in the way and now it won’t happen until the end of September. If I could quit my job now and write all day, the book would be finished by then. (Hmmm…clearly an example of speculative fiction…)
  • August 14 marks my one-year anniversary as a published author! More on that next week.

Reader Roundup 6-27-18 What? No Aliens?!

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

FINALLY! Someone in the scientific community has been brave enough to suggest what I have always believed – we are alone in the universe.

“Alien life should be everywhere. Yet, by all appearances, humanity seems to be flying solo in our galaxy, and perhaps the universe. Many solutions have been proposed to solve this riddle, known as the Fermi Paradox.

Researchers of Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute have another answer. It’s likely intelligent life doesn’t exist at all, outside of Earth.

The researchers write that there is “a substantial ex ante probability of there being no other intelligent life in our observable universe,” and we shouldn’t be surprised if we fail to detect any signs of it. In other words, there is no need to speculate about the fate of aliens. It’s likely they’ve never existed.”  (See the full article by Michael J. Coren HERE)

Many people sincerely believe in the existence of extraterrestrials, and the news is filled with claims of alien craft sightings and abductions which serve to keep the speculative fires burning. Why? One reason may be the desperation to believe someone/something will come and rescue this planet from its own foolish inhabitants, bringing peace, prosperity, and a reversal of the damage we have inflicted on the earth.

Personally, I believe they are looking in the wrong place for such deliverance. I hate to break it to you but if such life existed, and was intelligent and powerful enough to travel from planet X for a visit, they would more likely see us as a pestilence to be removed or a food source. So, do you REALLY want them to find us??

So, whether or not they exist, why are aliens so often found in popular literature today? Because the mere possibility of alien life makes for great stories!

Strange beings from outer space add drama, excitement, interesting allies or enemies, and that Ohhh/Ewww factor, adding spice and fueling our imaginations. Good aliens often shame us for our reckless behavior while evil ones make us look good in comparison or give us someone to conquer. Any way you slice it, intelligent life forms from outer space provide a vast array of creative possibilities for interesting fiction. This is why I enjoy writing about them in my own books, not because I believe they actually exist.

OK – on to other things this week.

My birthday: yep, the only day of the year which belongs to me has come around once again, and no, I’m not going to tell you how old I am! If you want to give me a gift, buy my books or just send cash.

My current manuscript: I have finished chapter two of Traitor’s Moon! Word count is 15,000+ and so far I have added eight brand new characters to the series. In consultation with one of my devoted beta readers (thanks TC), I have decided to create a “Cast of Characters” list for both Expectant Moon and Traitor’s Moon. I don’t want the story to be confusing for my readers, so I’m hoping the list will help them keep track of everyone as they read.

Chapters one and two were mostly setting up the new story, so I’m looking forward to chapter three and the excitement and drama you’ve come to expect! Hang on Nolan, you’re in for a wild ride…

A great quote: “Miles had claimed, not even a week ago, that he could never be attracted to a man with such a stick up his ass. He was not happy to discover he might have been wrong. The only explanation was that Evan, like any decent mold, grew on you after a while.” Loved it! My thanks to Beth Bolden and her book “Bite Me” Kitchen Gods Book 1. Check it out HERE.

Have a great week, and I’ll see you on the 4th of July!

 

Galactic Neighborhood series review

The Galactic neighborhood series has been out since last August, but I’m sure many of you haven’t yet read it. See what RSBProds, a Top 1000 Amazon reviewer had to say:

 

THE STARSHIP “EXPEDITION” ENCOUNTERS A DANGEROUS PREDICAMENT  by RSBProds on October 20, 2017

Four PERPLEXING Stars. Expedition is a fast-paced novel by talented author Alexander Elliott. It is Book 1 of the “Galactic Neighborhood Trilogy” and concerns the familiar passengers-like setup as the colony starship Expedition searches for a home for its 300 souls in stasis with an AI. They encounter trials and tribulations as Elliott creates a real page-turner, and wastes no time moving the plot through several twists and turns to a satisfying conclusion which leads into the second novel of the trilogy, Odyssey, which I immediately bought; followed by Book 3, Exploration, which really looks like it’s an action packed story. Very Definitely Recommended. Four DETERMINED Stars.

 

THE SPACE OPERA CONTINUES WITH DANGER, INTRIGUE, & DISCOVERY ON PLANET “SAHARA”  by RSBProds on October 23, 2017

Four and a half REVEALING Stars. Odyssey, by talented author Alexander Elliott, is the second novel in the “Galactic Neighborhood” trilogy where the reader is taken to the planet Sahara, whose existence was suddenly revealed at the end of Book 1, Expedition. The author begins slightly before the climactic event of the previous novel giving the reader a feel for specifically how ‘Sahara’ and ‘Pacifica’ learned of each other’s existence. From there, this becomes an exciting tale of technical wonders, space diplomacy, political intrigue, conspiracies, and unique discoveries with some romance included, set against an overall air of impending danger. Just as President Morales on the planet ‘Sahara’ feels the colony is truly alone and vulnerable in the universe, things begin to rapidly change and not all for the best. The reader will benefit by reading the first Galactic Neighborhood novel which began in deep space aboard the colony starship Expedition, which had a wild story line of its own. But here attractive new characters and very unusual and interesting scenarios are introduced that keep the fast pace going in this mostly planet-bound story line. Odyssey is a very imaginative expansion of the Galactic Neighborhood space opera. I immediately bought Book 3, Exploration, to see where it all goes. Highly Recommended. Four and a half DANGEROUS Stars.

 

THE CLIMAX OF THE “GALACTIC NEIGHBORHOOD TRILOGY”: PAYING A HIGH PRICE  by RSBProds on October 27, 2017

Five FASCINATING Stars. Exploration is the 3rd book by talented author Alexander Elliott in his “Galactic Neighborhood” series of novels that began with Expedition and then Book 2, Odyssey. Elliott spins a wide-ranging, entertaining tale that involves multiple locations and story lines and ties up all of the loose threads of all three novels very well. Intended to be a standalone novel, more enjoyment is obtained by reading all three books in this space opera. True to the author’s format for the series, cliff-hanger events impacting Book 3 actually begin with the dramatic attack on the starship Explorer in the Epilogue of Book 2, Odyssey. Yet another odd alien race makes a striking appearance in the opening pages and is the key to a mystery. Proceeding on multiple fronts and overlapping story lines, the author skillfully weaves a fascinating, torturous tale of war, treachery, ingenuity, and xenophobia. My Highest Recommendation. Five CLIMACTIC Stars.

Pick up your copies today on Amazon!   EXPEDITION   ODYSSEY   EXPLORATION

PS – Expedition will be FREE May 27-28!

 

Reader Roundup 5-23-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Two things have kept me busy this week: promoting Expectant Moon and thinking deep thoughts about BEAR, DRAGON, and CAT shifters.

As to the first, Expectant Moon has been well received so far and garnered ten five-star reviews. This makes me happy! A recent FREE promotion on FreeBooksy resulted in over 2800 downloads. This also makes me happy! Overall sales are not what I was hoping for. This does NOT make me happy! Until I figure out what I’m still doing wrong, I suppose I will have to be satisfied with whatever I can get. There’s a magic formula of “behind the scenes” tricks for selling on Amazon, and I don’t have it figured out yet. I honestly don’t think it’s the books themselves – it’s the cursed marketing which is giving me fits! Like many authors, managing the business side of writing is a time consuming, confusing, and often frustrating endeavor. I didn’t really sign up for this part, but I’m stuck with it now!

On to more pleasant things…

Now, who doesn’t want to think about shifters?? They are so COOL, and lend themselves to really interesting stories! Some of you are wondering why I am spending time on anything other than book 2 in my Gladstone Shifters series. I have been working on the outline and background material, but have not yet started writing the story because other ideas have been popping up in my brain and I cannot ignore them!

I have found it beneficial to stop and record new ideas whenever they reveal themselves. I always carry a small notebook and pen at work for furious scribbling when no one is looking. Often, I get great ideas while in the shower or on my way somewhere in the car. Even dreams have presented new ideas or helped me solve problems with a current manuscript. Sometimes it’s simply an interesting book title or a general idea I might want to use in the future. Other times, I get the entire story line in a flood and have to hurry up and record it  down before I forget.

The bears are on my mind because I am toying with a bear shifter story for either Christmas or Valentines day (you’re going to love it!). I have dragons on the brain right now because of a series of books I have been reading lately. They too will get their own story in the future – probably a series. Recent articles in the news regarding cougars and lynx got me all excited about cat shifters – particularly because they reside right here in the states.

For those readers who are waiting for more Science Fiction books, never fear! I have some great stories on the back burner, and have been adding new ideas all the time. Imagine vast ocean creatures waiting to get their tentacles on the humans who have invaded their planet. Hey – they just want to talk!

 

Reader Roundup 5-16-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Here are some of the books I’ve read or re-read recently:

The Xenogenesis Trilogy by Octavia E. Butler. The trilogy is made up of Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago. If you enjoy Post-Apocalyptic stories or Science Fiction (with aliens) you MUST read this trilogy! I’ve read these wonderful books so many times I’ve lost count, and I still enjoy coming back to them again and again. The author’s fertile imagination and storytelling ability are superb, and you will not be able to put them down!  Get it HERE.


The House by the River by Lena Manta. This Greek author weaves a tale of five sisters who feel stifled by their childhood home and succeed in making their way in the world. It isn’t all roses and happiness, and there are enough twists in the story to keep it interesting. The beginning of the book seems rushed to me, but the author has a lot of story to cram in, so it’s easy to overlook. Get it HERE.

 

Off the Old Head of Kinsale by Mike Enfield. Don’t allow the odd title of this gay romance put you off! It’s 1915, and Edmund finds himself on the RMS Lusitania, on his way to join the army as a Chaplain. David, the Steward assigned to his cabin, takes a fancy to the charming man under his care. When they give in to their mutual interest, the two seem destined for each other – but the war gets in the way. A very different read with an HEA I highly recommend! Get it HERE.

Reading brings so much pleasure, and I can’t imagine a world with nothing to read! Hmmm…maybe that’s a story idea I should look into.

 

Personal ethics in a Fiction story

I have written previously regarding my book, Second Chance Earth, but let me summarize quickly.

A ruined Earth is taken over by an alien presence who desires to cleanse and repopulate the planet. The people involved have no control over what the entity has already done or intends to do, yet try to make the best of the new life they have been given.

A recent 1-star reviewer has very insistently stated:

“…this is a horrifying tale of humanity giving up its freedom to become happy puppets for vastly superior aliens” and one which “tells of the utter brainwashing and destruction of the human spirit”.

The reviewer goes on to say “I am not sure if the author of this novel understands what he actually wrote” and that I “do not have a grasp of the ethical and psychological meaning of my novel”.

As discerning readers know, most post-apocalyptic literature is dark and disturbing by its very nature, so there should be no surprise when reading a book of this genre. I would also point out that this book is:

1. A NOVEL – “A long written story about imaginary people and events.”  Merriam-Webster

2. A work of FICTION – “Literature created from the imagination and not presented as fact.”  Britannica.com

3. A form of ENTERTAINMENT – “Something which holds the attention and interest of an audience or gives pleasure and delight.” Wikipedia

There isn’t a work of fiction anywhere which remains untainted by the author’s own value system, interests, beliefs or imagination, but no reasonable reader would expect everything presented on the page to be an actual statement of the author’s personal beliefs. If this were true, many writers of horror or murder mysteries, for instance, would need to be locked away to protect society!

I love my book, and believe it is a creative and interesting tale in which the survivors are controlled, but given the means to live pleasant and  productive lives. I doubt there are very many post-apocalyptic stories out there with the happy ending mine provides! Based on written reviews so far, the vast majority of my readers also love the book and do not believe the author is ethically or psychologically deficient.

Now – would I want to live in the world I described, under the control of such a powerful alien being – NO, I would not. In this, I agree with my ardent critic that the story could be seen as a “horrifying tale”. On the other hand, if aliens really were to take over the world, it is extremely unlikely they would have the slightest concern for our freedom or well-being. In such an encounter, we would be fortunate to survive at all, let alone do so in a pleasant manner.

At the end of the day, my book provides a bit of short-lived entertainment, not a treatise on morals or ethics, and certainly not a statement of my personal views. I am grateful most of my readers understand this and will continue to enjoy novels which appeal to their own imaginations. Long live fiction!

 

 

The Writing of Exploration

In the Epilogue of Odyssey, the unfortunate capture and destruction of Exploration is mentioned. In truth, I really had no clear idea how that was going to play out! It took some time for the ideas to coalesce and give me the direction needed.

From the start, I intended this book to be a bit more gritty and visceral than the first two in the series. I also wanted the bad guys to be particularly bad to reinforce the idea that if humanity ever were to traverse the galaxy in the future, they would not necessarily be welcomed with open arms, tentacles, claws – whatever!

One of my greatest  challenges was to juggle all the different people groups and sub-plots involved,  making sure I didn’t drop any story threads along the way. I had to rely on lots of paper notes alongside my keyboard to keep names and events straight in my mind. It was very complicated, and there were times I wished I had picked an easier way to tell the story.

My favorite character was not a human, but Birmew –  the hapless Silestri who was nearly killed and then abandoned, simply for trying to protect his human charges. I was determined to repay him for his kindness as the story unfolded, and I think things turned out well for him in the end.

The conclusion of the book was something of a somber mix, but this was by design. With all the damage done during their captivity, some of the prisoners were unable to walk away unscathed. I believe this will be just as true in the future as it is today, no matter what kinds of medical treatments or therapies come along.

The future, as written in this series, is overwhelmingly positive, yet I made it clear not everything will be sweetness and spice. The book ends on a uplifting note, leaving our now-safe descendants ready to face an interesting future.

 

NOTE: Some readers have hinted (or demanded) I write more books in the series. While I  deeply appreciate their enthusiasm, I have no concrete plans for sequels at the present time. The overall story seems complete to me as is, but if I get some great ideas in the future, you will be the first to know!

The Writing of Odyssey

In some ways Odyssey was easier to write than Expedition, but I discovered unexpected challenges as things progressed. The first, and most obvious, was the location of the action, which was almost totally on the planet’s surface. I didn’t have all the cool space-based technologies, ship movements, interesting discoveries, and other goodies to play with as I did in Expedition. Somehow, I had to make this planet-bound story interesting to the reader while explaining what happened to them on their quest for a new home.

The last presidential election cycle was in full swing as I wrote the book, so inevitably politics found a prominent spot in the story. Creating a nasty politician was not difficult (sorry to say), and I wanted the readers to realize that if human colonies ever do make it into space, they will be bringing some of the same problems with them. Time and distance will not necessarily change human nature, though imagining so may cause us to feel better about future generations.

Another really fun element in the book involved the scary looking aliens, who turned out to be intelligent, gentle telepaths. The Rxyl are based on an actual critter called the Australian Thorny Devil (click HERE to find out more). In real life they measure about 4-5 inches, but in my story are 5-6 feet. I found it more interesting to make something so formidable looking be the good guys for a change. That they ended up turning everything in the colony on its head was simply sauce for the goose. Throwing telepathy into the mix was interesting in itself, but I had to carefully consider how such a thing would affect humanity. Let’s just say I’m glad our thoughts are not being broadcast for all to hear!

The book was a joy to write, and some of the characters you met in Expedition make an appearance in this tale. Each book in the Galactic Neighborhood series stands alone, but reading them in sequence provides a richer backstory. Happy reading!