Friday, December 27, 2013

Since I need a link for the Division ebook cover...

I'm going to be bold, once again, and submit a cover to The Book Designer's "e-Book Cover Design Awards" -- so I need a link with a suitably sized image of the cover in question.

Hence this post.

For some reason, the color shifts depending on the size of the image, in my preview browser. FWIW, the skin tones should not be particularly bronze.

What the heck is author Sue Ann Jaffarian doing?

Since I stumbled on Sue Ann Jaffarian's mysteries, I've been scarfing up every one I can get my hands on. I think she has three series going, but I've only read the books in two of them:

--the "Granny Apple" series, about a woman (Emma Whitecastle) who can see and hear ghosts, including the ghost of one female ancestor (Granny Apples), who assists Emma in solving the problems that keep various ghosts from "crossing over";

--the Odelia Grey mysteries, about a plus-size paralegal who keeps finding herself in mystery-type situations, and can't seem to sit back and let other people handle them.

I read mysteries, when I do, more for the characters than the plot. I enjoy the main and subsidiary characters in both of these series, as well as Jaffarian's writing style. But I'm increasingly puzzled and somewhat irked by what Jaffarian is doing with the Odelia Grey stories.

Starting with perhaps the second or third book, characters keep confronting Odelia, more and more frequently and critically, with the fact that somehow, she just keeps stumbling on dead bodies! Her boyfriend, at one point, calls her a "corpse magnet." The obsession of almost every recurring character with this idea is playing a larger role with each successive book.

Of course, the reason Odelia keeps finding dead bodies is that she is -- ta-da! -- the protagonist in an amateur-detective mystery series. There's really no way around this (sorry) stumbling block. The more usual way of dealing with this element of the sub-genre is to ignore it -- which has never particularly troubled me as a reader. Am I unusual in this respect?

In Twice as Dead, the sixth book in the series, Odelia's friend Zee practically spills the beans, saying to Odelia, "It's just  . . . well, it's just that sometimes I wonder if somehow, some way, something unseen has chosen you to find these bodies." Yup, that's about right. If this had been the loudest note of the theme, an ironic wink toward the audience, and the characters had thereafter stopped harping on the subject, that would have worked. Or Jaffarian could have gone all the way into the meta level, and had Odelia regularly remonstrating with the author who was dropping unwelcome corpses in her path. Instead, we have poor Odelia constantly castigated by loved ones, friends and acquaintances for one of the foundational elements of her existence. I can only speak for myself, not having investigated how others react, but it distracts me and pulls me out of the story.

I've been wondering why Jaffarian takes this tack, and have come up with only one hypothesis. Perhaps Jaffarian finds the implausibility of the amateur-detective premise increasingly hard to swallow, and would rather be working on one of the other series -- but her agent or publisher insists that she keep cranking out Odelia Grey novels. The chorus of characters could be chanting Jaffarian's own complaint. Consciously or unconsciously, she could be declaring, or trying to ensure, that the assumptions underlying this series are untenable.

The "Granny Apple" series has no such difficulty. Naturally, a woman who can communicate with ghosts will be the one to receive their requests for assistance. The only improbability is the ability itself, and that's a familiar enough literary trope. Emma Whitecastle does have a fair number of scoffers and skeptics to deal with -- but unless they, in turn, start to drown out all other elements of the stories, Emma and Granny Apples should be able to keep solving mysteries for some time to come.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Yup, it's a holiday reminder of my books that you could give someone....

I haven't done a lot of posts, Tweets, etc. pushing my books this holiday season, but I figured I should do at least one. So here 'tis.

I have four novels available as ebooks (two only on Amazon, two all over the place) and three as paperbacks.

My series-in-the-making started with Twin-Bred, which springs from the question: can interspecies diplomacy begin in the womb? After seventy years on Tofarn, the human colonists still know almost nothing about the native Tofa. Misunderstandings breed conflict, and the conflicts are escalating. Scientist Mara Cadell’s radical proposal: that host mothers carry fraternal twins, one human and one Tofa, who might understand each other better. But both the human and Tofa communities have their own agendas for Mara's project. Will the Twin-Bred bring peace, war, or something else entirely?

Twin-Bred eventually acquired a sequel, Reach: a Twin-Bred novelMara and the Twin-Bred she helped to create embark on a new and perilous journey -- except for one pair who remain on Tofarn, attempting to live in the human and Tofa communities. Meanwhile, events on Tofarn approach a crisis, in which former host mothers Laura and Veda are deeply involved. 

(Will there be a third? Well, I have some ideas. . . .)

My one departure from science fiction, so far, is Wander Home, a family drama with mystery and romance elements set in a re-imagined afterlife. The tag line: Death is what you make it . . . . Driven by the compulsion to wander, Eleanor left her beloved daughter Cassidy in her family's care -- but Cassidy and the others died before Eleanor could find her way home. Now Eleanor and her family are reunited in an afterlife well suited to confronting unfinished business. But the restlessness that shaped Eleanor's life still haunts her in death. Somehow, she must solve the mystery of her life -- or none of them will be at peace.

Finally, there's my near-future novel Division, intended for general audiences as well as science fiction readers. It's only available as an ebook, so far, but the paperback is due out next spring (March 20, 2014).

New technology, new choices . . . but who gets to choose? Conjoined twins Gordon and Johnny have never let their condition keep them from living full and fulfilling lives. Gordon looks forward to many years of closeness and cooperation. Johnny, however, faces their future with increasing restlessness, even dread.

When the boys are in their teens, the new technologies of accelerated human cloning and brain transplants are combined into a single medical procedure. Someone whose body has suffered such extensive damage as to make normal life impossible may -- with court approval -- be cloned and then given a brain transplant into the clone body. With Gordon's unwitting assistance, Johnny realizes that this procedure provides the chance he had never dared to hope for -- the chance to live in a "normal," separate body.

But Gordon considers their conjoined life a blessing, rather than a curse. He has no intention of accepting separation -- not without a fight . . . .

You can find various purchase links for all these novels on my website. 

Happy shopping and happy reading! :-)

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Cyber Monday sale on near-future SF novel Division -- on Smashwords only

I'm somewhat skeptical about most readers' willingness to use Smashwords coupons, given that one has to take the extra step of loading the book onto one's device of choice -- but nonetheless, I've made a coupon for my latest ebook, the near-future novel Division. With coupon code JA93J, you can pick the book up on Monday for $2.00 instead of $3.99, at this link. Various ebook formats are available.

And here's the blurb (complete with third-person reference to Your Humble Blogger):


New technology, new choices . . . but who gets to choose?

Conjoined twins Gordon and Johnny have never let their condition keep them from living full and fulfilling lives. Gordon looks forward to many years of closeness and cooperation. Johnny, however, faces their future with increasing restlessness, even dread.

When the boys are in their teens, the new technologies of accelerated human cloning and brain transplants are combined into a single medical procedure. Someone whose body has suffered such extensive damage as to make normal life impossible may -- with court approval -- be cloned and then given a brain transplant into the clone body. With Gordon's unwitting assistance, Johnny realizes that this procedure provides the chance he had never dared to hope for -- the chance to live in a "normal," separate body.

But Gordon considers their conjoined life a blessing, rather than a curse. He has no intention of accepting separation -- not without a fight . . . .

Division, like Wyle's earlier novels, uses original settings and situations to explore universal themes: the complexity and intensity of family relationships, the nature of individual identity, and the far-reaching effects of the choices we make.


There aren't many reviews on Smashwords, so you can head over to Amazon and read some. (Heck, you can even buy the book there, for $3.99, if you use a Kindle device or app, and prefer the convenience to the price break.)

Friday, November 08, 2013

Iran's Sweet Deal

Once again, my husband, the Hoosier Gadfly, has come up with a trenchant and timely bit of analysis -- and doesn't plan to post it any time soon. With his permission, I'm simply going to paste it here.

The subject: the proposal to relieve sanctions on Iran, in return for supposed concessions.

Without further ado, here's what the Gadfly has to say. (The starred items are quotations from this article in the Jerusalem Post, some with minor corrections of faulty English.)


Let's parse this deal:

* Iran would stop weapons-grade 20 percent uranium enrichment and turn its existing stockpile into oxide, a harmless material.

I've previously stated that converting the 20% medium enriched uranium (MEU) into fuel is just another way of storing it.  You can go from oxide BACK to UF6 and then you have feedstock.  Rationally, you should treat unburned fuel the same as UF6.

* Iran would be allowed to continue 3.5% enrichment needed for power stations, but limit the number of centrifuges being used. The deal would, however, not include any demand to remove or disable any other centrifuges.

Idiocy.  3.5% is over 60% of the way to bomb grade.  Not disabling any centrifuges simply means that Iran is in a position to amass a huge stockpile of LEU that can quickly be converted to bombs.  It's necessary to eliminate the stockpile and the centrifuges.

* While still being allowed to work on its plutonium reactor at Arak, Iran would agree not to activate it for six months. The plutonium reactor could provide for another route to nuclear weapon capability.

Breathtaking idiocy.  This allows Iran to get the Pu reactor ready to go while further negotiations take place

* Iran would not use its IR-2 centrifuges that are more advanced and capable of enriching uranium three-to-five times faster than the older model.

Fine.  All that is required is to set up the cascades for bomb production and wait.

If I wanted to come up with a plan that would protect Iran from attack while it prepared for breakout, the above is what I'd propose.

Of course the elite Neville Chamberlain pin-stripers in the State Department love this deal.


I would add that unless Israel has some remarkable magic up its sleeve, it's paying the price for excessive patience. Israel wanted to allow the futile negotiation process to run out of steam, and to placate the US as long as possible. Now, far more than before, any attack will look to many like sabotage of an actual peace process.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Release Day for near-future SF novel Division!

It LIIIIVES!... :-)

Right on schedule, my latest book, the near-future novel Division, is available as an ebook from Amazon, B&N's Nook Store, Kobobooks, iBookstore, and Smashwords (at least), at the introductory price of $2.99. (It'll go up to $3.99 in a week or two.) I expect to bring out the paperback next year (target date: March 8, 2014).

The cover you see was quite the collaboration! I found two poses with the same model and did a mockup of my conjoined twins. Graphic designer and friend Michelle Hartz did the final photo editing. I wanted to divide the twins somehow, toying with ideas such as black lightning or a torn photograph (but will people still print photos in thirty years?). Finally, one of my beta readers (see the acknowledgments for which one :-) ) gave me the idea of separated puzzle pieces. Cover designer David Leek and I then played with the design for weeks, ending up with what you see here. (The spine and back for the paperback are really cool -- stay tuned. . . .)

So what's it about, anyway? Well, I was reading a novel by Jodi Piccoult one day, and wondered whether she'd ever try a science fiction setting for her courtroom dramas. Then I thought: why wait for her to do it? . . . Unlike Piccoult, however, I spent a bit less time on the legal proceedings and instead explored in some depth what happens after the verdict. I attempted to delve, through the very appropriate medium of SF, into themes such as the complexity and intensity of family relationships, the nature of individual identity, and the far-reaching effects of the choices we make.

And finally, here's the blurb:

New technology gives conjoined twins Gordon and Johnny new choices -- but who gets to choose? 

Conjoined twins Gordon and Johnny have never let their condition keep them from living full and fulfilling lives. Gordon looks forward to many years of closeness and cooperation. Johnny, however, faces their future with increasing restlessness, even dread. 

When the boys are in their teens, the new technologies of accelerated human cloning and brain transplants are combined into a single medical procedure -- Transplant to Clone, or TTC. Someone whose body has suffered such extensive damage as to make normal life impossible may -- with court approval -- be cloned and then given a brain transplant into the clone body. With Gordon's unwitting assistance, Johnny realizes that the TTC procedure provides the chance he had never dared to hope for -- the chance to live in a "normal," separate body. 

But Gordon considers their conjoined life a blessing, rather than a curse. He has no intention of accepting separation -- not without a fight . . . . 

If you're intrigued enough to want a sample -- or hey, go wild and grab the whole book :-) -- I'll make it easy. If you read Kindle editions, this link will take you to Amazon on any of seven countries (if I haven't lost count). For other formats, there are a slew of retailers accessible from Division's purchase page on my website.

The faint shrill sound you hear is me blowing a party horn. Hooray for release days!

Thursday, September 05, 2013

The Only Justification for Attacking Syria

Once again, I write in the capacity of scribe to my politically astute husband, who tends to rant very convincingly and then go off and lift weights or whatever. Today's topic: Syria.

Paul actually advocated an attack on Syria, years ago, as an alternative to attacking Libya. Back then, the Islamic jihadists in Syria were not yet a well-organized rebellion, so we wouldn't have been assisting them.

Paul is in high dudgeon about the fact that no one discussing this issue (at least, no one he's heard) is focusing on what he sees as the only adequate justification for attacking Syria at this point: to destroy the chemical weapons before Assad's government loses control of them to the radical insurgents. The factors we must weigh: how high a percentage of the weapons can we destroy, and how heavy will the "collateral damage" to civilians be from blowing up large quantities of horrific chemicals?

Paul raised the possibility that Obama is actually thinking along these lines, and that all his squishy equivocation and talk of limited, punitive measures are just a way to preserve operational security. (I don't give him Obama that much credit -- and I expect Assad will take the precaution of hiding his stockpiles somewhere new, before we get around to taking any action.)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Not a Cover Reveal, but a Tentative Cover Art Reveal

I'm working with my cover designer David Leek on the cover for my upcoming near-future SF novel, Division. In Division, new technologies -- accelerated human cloning and brain transplants -- would make it possible for conjoined twins who could never be surgically separated to live separate lives. But only one twin wants such a life. . . .

I already got a great deal of help with image manipulation from a graphic designer friend, Michelle Hartz. She helped me turn two photographs of the same model into the conjoined twins Gordon and Johnny. David combined that image with an image of slightly separated puzzle pieces. How this art -- if I go with it -- will fit into an overall cover design remains to be seen.

(The background color is not necessarily final, and the whole image looks a bit warmer on this blog, for some reason. The outer edges of the puzzle pieces will probably be eliminated in some manner.)

So, what do y'all think -- of the art concept and the actual image? Please comment!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

When the Best Break the Rules -- Intentional Head-Hopping

When authors of undoubted craftsmanship choose to break a general rule of POV management, there's bound to be an interesting reason.


In Dorothy Sayers' Busman's Honeymoon, the last full novel in her Lord Peter Wimsey detective series, Wimsey and Harriet Vane finally marry, and go off to spend their honeymoon -- with the competent and devoted manservant Bunter in tow -- in a country house Harriet had admired as a child. When the previous owner is found murdered in the cellar, the three collaborate on trying to solve his murder.

Most of the book is told from Harriet's point of view. Whenever the POV is to change, the scene changes as well. This is in accord with the prohibition against "head-hopping," a practice often found in the writing of novices, where the POV can change from one character to another within one scene, or even within one paragraph. Head-hopping can easily confuse and distract the reader: trying to figure out whose observations and reactions we are experiencing pulls us out of the story.

Toward the end of Busman's Honeymoon, however, as crucial clues are coming to light, in the middle of a long scene told (as usual) from Harriet's POV, we have this passage:

[Peter's] eye roamed the room, passed over Harriet and the vicar and rested on Bunter. "You see," he said, "we've got the first and last terms of the progression--if we could fill in the middle terms."

"Yes, my lord," agreed Bunter, in a colourless voice. His heart had leapt within him. Not the new wife this time, but the old familiar companion of a hundred cases--the appeal had been to him.

Suddenly, we have Bunter's POV. Then, within a few more sentences, we return to Harriet's, and remain there for (if I recall) the rest of the book.

Why this unorthodox transition?

Well, the moment is far more effective this way. If Harriet, observing, managed to spare a thought at this climactic juncture to comment on how Wimsey was bestowing his attention, there would be neither the certainty the Bunter POV conveys, nor the emotional impact. And if, instead, Sayers had forced a full-fledged scene change, she would have interfered with the tension and progression of the narrative.

That may be all. I suspect, however, that Sayers had another reason, that she shifted away from Harriet's POV in order to emphasize the similar shift that the passage describes -- Wimsey's collaborative attention returning, possibly against expectation, from Harriet to Wimsey's "old familiar companion."

I had read the book many times before noticing the discontinuity. This (as far as I know) single  instance of head-hopping neither confuses the reader nor interferes with the flow of the scene.

In contrast, the novel Run, by best-selling author Ann Patchett, head-hops all over the place. The POV constantly shifts, without any structural warning or transition, from one to another of the ensemble of main characters. And confusion, at least momentary, does frequently result. Where are we? What's going on? Into whose thoughts are we intruding?

Again, I believe this effect is intentional. It reflects the uncertainty, central to both the novel's plot and its emotional dynamics, about what these characters are all about, and just what relationships exist between them.

Do these examples mean we should all head-hop promiscuously? Of course not. But they do demonstrate that rules, once understood, are made to be carefully, judiciously broken.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What About Section 2?

I saw quite a few headlines, tweets, et cetera yesterday stating that the U.S. Supreme Court's Windsor v.Estate of Spyer decision had "struck down DOMA [the Defense of Marriage Act]." In fact, only Section 3 of DOMA -- the section defining marriage for the purposes of a host of federal statutes -- was at issue in the case. The Court explicitly noted that the case had nothing to do with section 2.

So what's Section 2?

Section 2 allows states to refuse to recognize lawful same-sex marriages in other states. If Congress bothered to indicate the constitutional basis for Section 2, it would have been Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution:

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State; And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof."

(Emphasis added.) This provision generally requires states to acknowledge judgments issued in other states -- although I know of situations where courts have refused to do so, because the judgments were supposedly issued in one state without constitutional safeguards required by the case law of the other state. This language may also be the basis for the general rule that a couple married in one state is deemed married in all states. (A 2004 New York Times article, quoting author and law professor Andrew Koppelman, states that during the era when many states forbade interracial marriage, no state was ever forced through judicial proceedings to recognize such a marriage solemnized in another state. Mr. Koppelman was presumably referring to the period before 1967's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia, which not only held Virginia's ban on interracial marriage unconstitutional, but involved Virginia residents married in the District of Columbia.)

Section 2 of DOMA assumes that "prescribing the manner" in which the states shall give "full faith and credit" to marriages in other states, and/or "prescribing" what "effect" such "full faith and credit" must have, may include providing an exception based on the parties to the marriage. Does Windsor shed any light on whether such an exception is valid? The two primary principles at work in Windsor point different directions.

Windsor relies in part on the principle of federalism: that in our federal system, there are many areas in which the states exercise primary or exclusive authority. In general, family law is a state concern, not a federal one, although there are exceptions (some of which Windsor lists). The definition of marriage, like other family law matters, has been a state province. Windsor holds that "[Section 3 of] DOMA, because of its reach and extent, departs from this history and tradition of reliance on state law to define marriage."

By contrast, Section 2 could reasonably be said to honor and protect the state's authority to define marriage, by spelling out that each state may apply its own definition, regardless of how far some other state decides to stretch its own. The Full Faith and Credit doctrine may be viewed as a restriction on state autonomy -- and any restriction on that doctrine, as showing respect for state autonomy.

There is, however, another thread running through Windsor. The majority opinion uses the word "dignity" (or, in one case, "indignity") ten times. It refers to the "status and dignity" accorded a married couple by state law; it states that New York's "decision to give this class of persons the right to marry conferred upon them a dignity and status of immense import." (Some might quibble with the idea that New York "gave," rather than acknowledged or ceased to deny, this right.) The majority also makes numerous references to "equality," "inequality," and "justice." It notes that New York, eleven other states, and D.C. "decided that same-sex couples should have the right to marry and so live with pride in themselves and their union and in a status of equality with all other married persons." It describes DOMA as "writ[ing] inequality into the entire United States Code," and states that DOMA's "principal purpose is to impose inequality." Ultimately, the majority holds that given the context of our federal system, the provision in question violates the Fifth Amendment's guarantees of due process and equal protection. Perhaps there is a message in the fact that the holding is phrased in terms of "DOMA," not "Section 3," although the opinion's reach is technically limited to the latter.

Windsor deplores inequality between different types of committed couples living within a single state. Section 2 involves similar inequality, although the source of the inequality is primarily the state where these couples live, rather than simply the federal statute.

 The Windsor majority was comprised of Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Most analysts believe that the four more liberal Justices accepted the federalism argument in order to reel Kennedy in. Without that element, could they find a Justice willing to join them against Section 2? The answer may depend on whatever historical information may exist as to the original meaning of the Full Faith and Credit Clause. Several Justices at least purport to rely on the original meaning of constitutional provisions. As originally understood, did  Congress' power to "prescribe" the "manner" of "proving" another state's "public acts," and the "effect" of such proof, reach so far as to let the state decline on the basis of substantive content or of parties affected? The Constitution was a grand and contentious compromise between state autonomy and national unity, a corrective for the rivalry and chaos of American life under the Articles of Confederation. If one state may disdain a marriage accepted by another state, is this too reminiscent of pre-Constitutional state conflicts? Somewhere, no doubt, lawyers and law clerks are busily preparing arguments to that effect. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Why Book Groups Might Want to Read Wander Home

I've only just joined my first book group -- but my parents have been in book groups for years, and I have friends and acquaintances who belong to such groups. When I find Discussion Guides in the backs of books, I read them, and imagine the discussions they might provoke. And I believe my novel Wander Home would make for some interesting talk around a book club circle. (I'm using "book group" and "book club" interchangeably, and hope I'm not tripping carelessly into some mine field of disputed terminology.)

To begin with, Wander Home is set in an afterlife. Who doesn't have ideas or fantasies about what an afterlife might involve? My father the unshakeable atheist, perhaps -- but I would guess that most people have at some time imagined, or hoped, or feared, what might happen in a life after this one. Members of the group could discuss their own ideas, and express their opinions on the plausibility, desirability or utility of the features I've included.

There's also the question of just what kind of afterlife these characters are inhabiting. Does it fit into the structure of any established religion -- and if so, where?

Wander Home explores several themes that use, but do not depend upon, its unearthly setting. Forgiveness is one. Readers could ask themselves, and each other: if you were Cassidy, what would have to happen for you to forgive your mother? If you were Eleanor's parents, or her grandmother, how hard would it be to forgive what Eleanor did to you, or to Cassidy? If you were Eleanor, could you forgive yourself?

The critically minded could ask whether the plot device that eventually explains Eleanor's actions "works." Is it successful? Forced? Satisfying, or the reverse?

The characters have the chance to revisit old haunts. Where would you go, if you could? Whom would you want to take with you?

This afterlife allows you to relive, and to share, the memories of life. Are there memories you long to relive? Are some memories too painful to revisit? Is there anything to be gained by experiencing that pain?

These questions only scratch the surface of where the discussions could go. So -- am I right? Is this a book for book groups, or what? J

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Why Hadn't Anastasia Steele Ever . . .

And now for something completely different. The following has absolutely nothing to do with my new book (*cough* Twin-Bred sequel *cough*). It just occurred to me. In the shower (where several scenes in Fifty Shades of Grey take place).

How the heck did Anastasia Steele go through childhood, adolescence, and the first years of adulthood without masturbating?

Virginity, I can understand. Her fellow undergraduates lacked the qualities that turned out to attract her. (I could, however, imagine her falling for the right kind of English professor. Hmmm . . . the chain of fan fiction could continue . . . .) But she's sexually responsive -- unusually so. She has no psychological inhibitions against experiencing sexual pleasure. Her family history might render her cautious about unprotected premarital sex, but there's nothing about it that would make her actually puritanical. Which, in fact, she isn't.

And she has a certain tendency toward curiosity.

It makes no sense that she would never have investigated her own body's capacity for pleasure -- or even discovered the same, accidentally, while exploring her developing body.

Certainly, her utter sexual ignorance fits with the more simplistic aspects of the romance formula. But it's the least plausible aspect of her character.

You may now resume thinking about other contemporary literature. :-)

Release Day -- and where I've been

So if you're keeping track, you may have wondered why, after all the talk about releasing my book today, I haven't posted yet.

Well, I've been busy on Facebook, SheWrites, Goodreads, Book Blogs, etc., etc. So to get a snapshot of just part of my frenetic day, head over to my Facebook author page and scroll, scroll, scroll.

And if you'd like to see the new book in situ, stop by the Amazon page for Reach: a Twin-Bred novel.

In closing, I'll quote the particularly appropriate first line of Reach:

"And so they were underway."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I Mess Up, You Get the Benefit -- or, Now I Know

Well, I've figured something out. It's just a little too late for me to use that knowledge, this time around. But at least you all can learn from my mistake.

Whenever I've considered a possible book title, I've searched for it on Amazon. I assumed, for some reason, that the first results to come up in such a search would be books with that exact title. If the title consisted of only one word, I assumed that every book with that word and no other in its title would be listed first. So if, for example, I did not find many books, and hardly any novels, with the simple title of Reach, I figured there weren't many out there. I also assumed, without even thinking about it, that any reader trying to find my book would be able to find it fairly easily.

Through dumb luck, I decided to add a subtitle to my latest novel, the sequel to Twin-Bred -- because there was a video game called Reach, and I preferred to avoid any confusion. But I figured that if anyone searched Amazon or B&N with the main title by itself, there it would be.

Well, guess what? Whatever algorithms govern search results on these sites, they don't favor an exact match -- or not enough to prevent many, many other titles with overlapping words, or even sound-alike words, from coming first, based on popularity or some other factor(s).

I had reasons for choosing Reach as my primary title. Both its meanings -- to attempt to grasp, and to arrive -- suited the book nicely. But if I'd known how hard it would be for would-be buyers to track down the book, I'd have tried harder to find an utterly unique title. Ironically, I would not have known how well I'd succeeded until the book was published with a particular title -- because only then could I examine the search results and see how far down in the list the book appeared.

So maybe you won't gain all that much from my frustrating experience . . . except the knowledge that if you want to find any of my books, and you can't, try searching for my name. Use my full name, Karen A. Wyle. That works like a charm.

Well, on Amazon, searching for Reach: a Twin-Bred novel works just fine. I just have to hope my would-be readers aren't lazy.

And to give credit where credit is due: Reach by itself works on Smashwords! Nook readers, head there!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Just to Clarify, Only Partially Succumbing to Forces of Darkness (aka Kindle Select)

As I posted yesterday, I'll be pulling Twin-Bred from Smashwords and the places to which Smashwords distributes, so as to give KDP Select another try as I publish the sequel. In fact, I've been advised to do so ASAP, given the sequel's May 23rd release date -- so today is the last day the .epub of Twin-Bred will be available for some time. (And to repeat, it's free while it's available at all.)

BUT: I am not currently planning to put Reach: a Twin-Bred novel into Select. Not now, and not any time in the foreseeable future. I'm reluctantly accepting the restrictions of Select in order to distribute the first book far and wide, in the hope that the book (and the teaser chapter of Reach at the back of the book) will lure people to the sequel. The sequel itself is going to stay available in as many formats as possible. And it probably won't be free very often. As I've said here and there, $2.99 is around (or less than) the price of a latte, and I hope the book will linger longer.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

For one brief shining moment, Twin-Bred is free on Smashwords

I originally planned to make the ebook of Twin-Bred free, on as many sites as possible, once its sequel, Reach: a Twin-Bred novel, came out. Reach isn't officially "released," although it's actually available on Smashwords already (so Smashwords has time to distribute it to various other booksellers by the release date of May 23rd). However, as I mentioned yesterday, I've reluctantly decided (if I don't change my mind) to put Twin-Bred in the KDP Select program for at least one term, as a way to promote Reach.

So to make it up to you folks -- especially those who can only read .epub or PDF ebooks -- I've made Twin-Bred free on Smashwords for the few days before it disappears into the black hole of KDP Select. Whether Smashwords will manage to change the price on B&N, Kobobooks and/or iBookstore before I have to pull it, I don't know.

Here's the link:

Friday, May 10, 2013

Meanwhile, on Facebook and Twitter: random lines from Reach

A couple of weeks ago, in one of the articles I've been reading about promoting one's book release, I found an intriguing suggestion: tweeting lines from the book. I liked that idea and started tweeting random lines from Reach: a Twin-Bred novel, with the (appropriate if unimaginative) hashtag #randomline. However, I soon realized the problem: many of my tweets are political, and potential readers shouldn't have to wade or weed through those. So I moved the posts to my Facebook author page -- which also posts to Twitter.

If you'd like to catch up, amble on over to, and scroll down to the May 5th entry, which included the lines I'd previously tweeted.

I'm moving more or less chronologically. Today's line was from Chapter 5.

Happy bite-sized reading!

Window of Opportunity Before I Join the Dark Side (for Ninety Days)

I had an enlightening email exchange this morning with a blogger whose day job is book publicity. She told me that it's their Standard Operating Procedure to put a book into the KDP Select program before its sequel is released, and to do a giveaway just before that release.

I'd been planning to make the ebook of Twin-Bred free -- on my website and via various online vendors, and in multiple formats -- as soon as the sequel, Reach: a Twin-Bred novel, comes out on May 23rd. But I hadn't considered the advantages of having the Amazon machine pushing the freebie with all its mighty algorithms. I believe I need to pursue those advantages. So a few days before May 23rd, I'll be yanking Twin-Bred from Smashwords, through which it's distributed to the Nook Store, iBookstore, Kobobooks, etc., and putting it in KDP Select. (That's assuming Amazon will let me. I had Twin-Bred in Select once before and withdrew it. I believe one can do so once and be forgiven. Do it twice, rumor has it, and that book is barred thenceforth.)

Which means: if you don't have the ebook of Twin-Bred, and you want the ebook, and you need the .epub or you don't like buying from Amazon, then it's time to head to the non-Amazon ebook vendor of your choice -- before the ebook vanishes beyond the Select event horizon for at least ninety days.

Can I Tempt Your Book Group?...

If anyone reading this post belongs to a book group, allow me to dangle some temptation before you.

I'll happily provide a discussion guide for any of my books. I can customize such a guide, depending upon what sort of discussions you prefer. I can also Skype with your group, or -- if you happen to be within an hour or so of Bloomington, IN -- show up in person to chat.

Also, if any member(s) can't conveniently read ebooks, I can arrange for a substantial discount on one or more paperback copies.

Books currently available: Twin-Bred and Wander Home. As of May 23rd, Reach: a Twin-Bred novel (the sequel to Twin-Bred) will be available as well.

Nu? (That's Yiddish for: well? so? waiting on you. . . .)

Monday, May 06, 2013

Cover reveal: Reach, the Twin-Bred sequel

As promised, here's the cover for Reach, the sequel to Twin-Bred. (As I mentioned in my last post, the full official title is Reach: a Twin-Bred novel, not to be confused with the "Reach" associated with the Halo video game.)

There have been some pre-publication snafus, mostly due to my absent-mindedness, but I'm still hoping to make the May 23rd release date.

Friday, May 03, 2013

New cover for Twin-Bred, with original cover art incorporated

It's cover reveal time! :-)

Later this month, I'll be publishing the sequel to my SF novel Twin-Bred. One of the sequel's beta readers, David Leek, used to do graphic design professionally, and offered to design the cover for the sequel, since the cover artist for Twin-Bred (my busy college student daughter) wouldn't be available. David's beautiful design, which I'll feature in my next post, didn't have much in common with the Twin-Bred cover. I asked him if he could incorporate the cover art from Twin-Bred into a revised Twin-Bred cover that would match the look of the sequel -- and this is the glorious (IMHO) result.

I tweaked and fiddled and came up with this ebook version:

(I'm not sure why the color is different. I'll have to see what I can do about that.)

The new cover is already on Smashwords, and will be on B&N once Smashwords distributes to them. (I pulled the book from PubIt so as to more easily make it free, as I'll be doing for at least a while when the sequel comes out.)

(OK, I'll stop being coy. The sequel's title is Reach: a Twin-Bred novel. I added the subtitle because there's a video game called Reach, and I don't want any confusion.)

Tune in next time to see the Reach cover!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Confronting the Story -- but First, Reporting It

Let me start with what I consider, at this point, beyond debate where Dr. Kermit Gosnell's abortion clinic is concerned:

(1) What apparently went on in that clinic was appalling, abhorrent, and utterly reprehensible;
(2) This is in every conceivable sense a newsworthy story.

Guilt, for criminal law purposes, has not been established, but the available evidence is quite enough to trigger -- to compel -- discussion.

The unsanitary conditions, racially discriminatory treatment, and general disregard of medical standards form a secondary backdrop to the criminally negligent treatment of expectant mothers, which again is less shocking than the repeated killing (by scissors severing spinal cords) of viable fetuses inconveniently born alive.

There is no nonpolitical explanation for the failure of major news outlets (other than Fox) to cover this story that comes close to passing the laugh test. The only plausible explanation is the pro-choice stance of those who decide what stories to feature. But avoiding this story on such a basis is terribly short-sighted. The void is filled by those who oppose all abortion, and seize this opportunity to suggest moral equivalency between an alleged serial murderer of viable infants and any doctor who performs abortions at any stage and under any circumstances.

It is probably time to show my own hand. I believe the slogan "My body, my choice" applies much more neatly to the issues of drug use and lifestyle choice (e.g. Big Gulp sodas and riding a motorcycle without a helmet) than it does to the presence of what is from its inception a separate, though dependent, biological entity. While I am, at present, somewhat reluctantly in favor of a woman's right to choose abortion in the early stages of a pregnancy, I cannot condone abortion -- as opposed to delivery -- of a possibly viable fetus. Moreover, as medical technology advances, I believe the time will come when any fetus and perhaps any embryo can be sustained and nurtured in an artificial environment -- and when that time does come, we as a society may have to find alternatives to abortion. In any case where there are parents waiting to adopt the infant-to-be, and can afford to pay for its interim care, they should perhaps have the right to do so. Where no adoptive parent exists, this may become a collective societal responsibility. While this option would be emotionally painful to many of the biological mothers, I do not believe we can ethically protect them from that pain at the cost of discarding new life that no longer depends on them for survival.

Enough of my own views. It behooves any of us who are not ready to ban all abortion to consider how we may continue to allow it, with what safeguards and limitations, without cheapening human life to the point where we slide down the proverbial slippery slope into the bloody shambles of Dr. Gosnell's workshop.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

How the Postal Service Can Reinvent Itself

Last night, I figured out how to save the Postal Service. Or rather, how it can save itself, by a fairly major transformation.

People send far fewer items by post. The only answers we've seen from the Postal Service so far are (a) raising prices and (b) reducing service. Saying that these responses violate basic economic principles rather understates the case. This isn't Econ 101 -- it's far more basic and (one would think) obvious.

So what do I suggest?

The Postal Service should identify the products that people still mail, and sell those products, with postage included. (Greeting cards may be one such product; I suspect there are others.) What's more, it should sell desirable enough versions of those products that people will buy them even if they don't intend to send them by mail. The postage-included feature would be important to some consumers, a pleasant extra to others, and irrelevant to many.

Of course, they can still offer postage stamps, for the dwindling number of customers who make use of them -- so they can put my picture on a stamp, in gratitude.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Review of Ken Follett's Fall of Giants

Ken Follett likes to write about strong, independent-minded women, and about intelligent men attempting to outmaneuver their hidebound peers. We find these types again in this novel of World War I. In the largely fictional setting of Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, these characters had room to maneuver, and their resourcefulness was often rewarded with success. Given the historical constraints of a World War I setting, Follett could not do quite as well by the characters in Fall of Giants -- which made the book somewhat more depressing. Reading it, I was momentarily distracted by fancies of where the story could have gone if Follett had pursued an alternate history a la Inglorious Basterds, and allowed one or another of his characters to save the away and avert disaster.

But that fantasy faded quickly -- because Follett shows, step by step, why disaster was not, in fact, averted. We see, from multiple points of view, the logic, the rational calculations, that led each of the nations inexorably toward war. It is a sobering experience. One cannot easily assure oneself, afterward, that one would have found a different path. At the same time, various characters are trying desperately to do just that, and Follett manages to make the reader hope they will succeed, even while knowing that any such hope is in vain.

But then, around mid-book, Follett starts spending much more time dwelling on who is having ill-advised sex, or not having desired sex, with whom -- and the book started to lose me. (One could argue that historical fiction covering this period should enlighten younger readers about how seriously people in the early 20th Century took premarital chastity (for women) and marital fidelity (for both sexes, to some extent) -- but I doubt many of Follett's readers are entirely ignorant of the mores of the time.) I have nothing against romantic entanglements in fiction, but something about the transition didn't work well for me.

Follett's focus does eventually return to the war, and related events such as the women's suffrage movement in Britain and run-up to the Russian Revolution. I learned quite a lot. And I did care what happened to the characters -- but less than I might have, if the original seamless blend of individual stories and worldwide events had continued throughout.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cover reveal -- "The Library"

Yesterday, I published my free (on Smashwords and my website) short story, "The Library," set in the same afterlife as my novel Wander Home. I built the cover around a beautiful photograph by "Robert S." (found on Shutterstock), and like the result well enough to enter it in The Book Designer's cover contest. But I need a URL for the cover -- so here it is:

Friday, March 29, 2013

How to Send a Message (That We're Pushovers)

Let's see: how can we send a message to the new leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, who longs to show the world that he's really, really tough and important, about whether he should go beyond saber-rattling and attack U.S. interests?

Hmmmm. Maybe we can announce far and wide that our defense workers aren't important enough for us to pay them five days a week.

That should do the trick!

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Thought Experiment re State Nullification of Congressional Action

Quite a few people are pushing the idea that states may and should "nullify" -- refuse to cooperate with, or resist as necessary -- unconstitutional federal statutes. Many of these people nominate Obamacare as a current example. Often, the response is that nullification violates the U.S. Constitution.

You can drop by The Hoosier Gadfly's recent post on this subject -- if you have time for a thorough exposition. If not, here's a short summary: Thomas Jefferson and James Madison believed otherwise, based on (in part) the reasoning that the federal government -- no matter which branch -- can't be the sole judge of the constitutionality of its own actions. Also, Article VI requires all state officials to swear or affirm to support the Constitution. If your response is that this means to follow the U.S. Supreme Court's interpretation of said Constitution, see the previous point -- and also, the following thought experiment.

The constitutional provision that establishes the U.S. Supreme Court and gives Congress the power to set up lower federal courts -- Article III -- also says, explicitly, that the Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction (the power to review) "with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make." No amendment to the Constitution has monkeyed with this language. What this means is that Congress has the power to insulate its own statutes from Supreme Court scrutiny. If I correctly read Andrew Gold's article on how the Court has interpreted this clause, the Court has not entirely accepted that Congress may retroactively remove the Court's power to review previously passed statutes -- but otherwise does acknowledge that power, and further, that Congress' motives in taking such action are essentially irrelevant. (By the way, there's considerably less textual basis for the Supreme Court's power to invalidate any Congressional action, a power which was not universally conceded prior to the 1803 case of Marbury v. Madison.

So: let's postulate that Congress passes legislation providing that anyone insulting the President has committed the crime of undermining the stability of the government (Alien and Sedition Acts redux, more or less), and must be arrested by state police and thrown in the state hoosegow. Not only does this blatantly violate the First Amendment, but it's federal mandate enlisting state officials without requiring their consent, which would appear to violate U.S. Supreme Court precedent. However, Congress cleverly includes in this legislation a provision prospectively eliminating the Supreme Court's jurisdiction to review cases arising from the new statute. So the Supremes will not be riding to the rescue.

Under these circumstances, is the First Amendment dead, and the citizenry helpless? Or could the states refuse to perform their new and unconstitutional duties?

If so:
(a) That's nullification, folks.
(b) Where is the textual basis for confining this state power to the circumstances I've described?

(Bar examiners, feel free to borrow this hypothetical for use in bar exams.)

Friday, March 08, 2013

Review of Danusha Goska's Save Send Delete

As I neared the end of Danusha Goska's Save Send Delete, I started pondering what rating to assign it. I thought I would give it four stars, but when I finished the last page and my Kindle prompted me for a rating, I found myself giving it five. This is not a perfect book, and if five stars imply perfection, I apologize -- but it is a fascinating, moving, and profoundly thought-provoking work, and I was quite reluctant to admit it was over. (I am now rereading a book I could recite in my sleep, as a transition to moving on.)

If I understood the Preface correctly, Save Send Delete is a lightly fictionalized memoir, an account of an email exchange that became a virtual relationship between a woman and a man. The woman: Mira, a Polish-American Catholic, widely traveled, a PhD and teacher with serious health problems that have wreaked havoc with her personal and professional life. The man: Rand (short for a long name-plus-title), a well-off British aristocrat, author and raconteur, known for consistently defending atheism as superior to any form of religion.

The title reflects the form of the narrative. We see Mina's emails to Rand, as well as the emails she doesn't send (deletes) and those about which she vacillates before sending (saves). We are left to infer the content and style of Rand's replies. We are also shown exchanges between Mina and a friend, Amanda, about whom there is more to say -- which I'll refrain from saying.

Mira's and Rand's correspondence focuses on the subjects of religion and what one could call supernatural experience, but through that lens, it examines a wide range of subjects: suffering, love, hate, friendship, and how one can and cannot help one's fellows, to name a few.

Among the insights to which this book led me, by what indirect route I cannot recall: while I am an agnostic, and find all established religions unconvincing, I could not have written my novel Wander Home, set in a rather enticing afterlife, if I were absolutely convinced that no such afterlife could possibly exist.

So why do I call the book imperfect? At times, I felt that Mina ran on longer than necessary, or repeated herself in ways I could do without. These were minor and transitory annoyances, and they do not prevent me from heartily recommending this book.

Save Send Delete is available in paperback and ebook form, on Amazon and Here's the Amazon Kindle link.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Let me Bribe You to Review My Books

Hello, readers out there! 

If you review one of my novels on your blog, on Goodreads, or on any book-selling site, I'll give you a free e-copy of my next novel as a thank-you. (If you review more than one book, I'll provide one copy to a recipient of your choice for each additional book reviewed.)

The contents of the review should indicate that you actually read the book . . . .

Current options: my SF novel Twin-Bred, and my genre-bending novel Wander Home, a family drama with mystery and romance elements set in a re-imagined afterlife.

Just make sure I know about your review!