Planetary Romance

Yesterday I stumbled upon a classification of Space Opera that I had never heard of – Planetary Romance.  It’s basically a Space Opera that confines itself to a single, exotic planet instead of many worlds or deep space. I’ll let you read the Wikipedia article for more details.  What interests me about this particular sub-genre is the fact that I somehow intuitively understood this classification when I started to design the universe in which most of my SF stories are set.

My first novel, Starstrikers, is quite properly described as Space Opera.  Although it leans heavily into the Military Science Fiction classification, it still has the planet hoping, intergalactic setting that defines traditional Space Opera.  Starstrikers is the middle book of a trilogy that defines the Galaxy Collision universe.  Each book is set in a different time period and features a completely new cast of characters.  The books follow the start, middle and end of a Great War between two space faring civilizations.  The first book is Starforgers, the second is Starstrikers and the third is Starveyers.  I will begin writing Starforgers this summer for release next year.

But I also have a series set in the same universe, that focuses on just one planet per book.  The first of these “Planet Books” as I have been calling them, is called Tyrmia. Set on a somewhat primitive jungle planet, Tyrmia concerns itself with the politics, geography and ecology of a single planet. It is the first of a series of books set in the Galaxy Collision universe that take place on one particular planet.  Future planet books in the series that are planned include Voton, the home world of the Votainion Empire. Voton could very well be categorized as a Sword and Planet novel as most of the technology is quite primitive.

The Appeal of Space Opera

When I was a teenager I discovered the sub-genre of Space Opera.  I read close to two hundred paperbacks in high school and most of them were science fiction.  A good many of my favorite SF books were considered Space Opera.  All those books left quite an impression on my young mind.  As an adult, I all but dropped reading SF for over a decade.  When I started writing seriously, the first thing I wrote was a Space Opera that I had dreamed up as a teenager.

Starstrikers is the fruition of my teenage SF dreams.  We write what we most enjoy reading. But I have other likes and interests and after having lived for over forty years, I have begun to condense my favorite things in life into my fiction.  You will find references and nods to many of my interests in the imaginary stories I tell.  Like an expert chef or a talented Jazz musician, I weave elements from aviation, astronomy, art, literature and science into my stories.  Sometimes great things emerge, other times, not so great things fall flat.  But each and every story I write is a mix and match of my life experiences and interests. It’s what makes my writing unique.

Savvy readers of my short stories and novels will pick up on these little elements, but most readers will just be entertained by them and in the end, that’s all that matters to me.  So if you love SF and especially the sweeping, sagas known as Space Operas, won’t you come along with me and enjoy the ride?  The next launch comes this summer with a digital only anthology of short stories and will continue on into light speed with the release of my third novel – Tyrmia, this Fall.

Starstrikers Update

The Smashwords version of Starstrikers SE (Second Edition) is uploaded and ready to order.  We’re working hard on getting the new cover finished so that I can upload that and then update the Kindle version at the same time.  I’m real excited to bring out this definitive version of the novel.  It’s been professionally edited and painstakingly updated and is now ready to be the new canon for the series. If you have not read it yet, you won’t want to miss this version.  Trust me, it’s worth talking about.  So get it, read it and spread the word.

The free versions that have been available on this web site will be scaled back to a text only file.  If you want the book in a particular format, please buy it on Smashwords.  The new edition will be uploaded to Scribd, after the book PDF comes out in another month.  It will be available on Scribd for free. I will be blogging the entire novel in April, just like I did for Null_Pointer.

This is a sneak peek at the new cover.  There are many changes coming, but the layout is pretty much finalized.  We’re going to make the title pop more and tone down the shiny coin and make it look more used and worn. It looks nothing short of fantastic and I can’t wait to share it when it’s finished.  Oh, in case you are wondering – the artwork is pure Byron McConnell genius.  Need a great cover for your novel – he’s available!

Kindle Me Confused

I’ll never understand how Kindle readers find my books.  It’s a complete mystery to me.  Mind you, I don’t stay up late at night thinking about it.  My first book has been on the Kindle for over a year now, pretty close to two, actually.  The best month of sales was last August when I sold twelve copies.  An average month brings in about four or five sales.  For some strange reason, this month has been particularly good for that first novel.  It’s only mid-month and I’ve sold twenty copies.  Meanwhile, my second book in a different genre has sold three copies.

What’s so hard to fathom is that the second book is a mystery and it has much broader appeal than the first novel, a nerdy SF book. I was actually concerned that the second book might take off and then I’d have to rush to get another mystery written this summer for release next year.  But as it happens, the SF book is gaining momentum and the mystery is just there, collecting dust.  So while the second book is beyond a doubt the best thing I’ve written, it languishes at the bottom of the Kindle barrel.

Like I said, I’ll never understand it. But I will respect the numbers and start writing the prequel to the first book, this summer.

What to Write Next?

In the coming months I will have to make a decision as to which novel to write next.  Do I work on the second Joshua Jones mystery or do I start the next science fiction novel, Starforgers?  I like writing both series, so it make little difference to me personally which to write next.  So how do I decide which one to spend the rest of the year working on?  It all comes down to numbers.

My first SF novel, Starstrikers is outselling my first Mystery novel, Null_Pointer by four to one.  Why is that?  Is Starstrikers a much better novel?  Was I marketing it any differently?  Well, no and yes.  Starstrikers as it stands now, is a great space opera story that suffers from many first novel symptoms: It needs a good edit and it has some minor structural issues.  It has NEVER been marketed with anything other than a few mentions on this blog that hardly anyone reads.  It never got a formal release party and I rarely recommend it to anyone.  It has also been available for free on my web page for almost two years now.

Null_Pointer, is my second novel and it got a much better launch.  I have done several signings and talks in which it has sold fairly well in paperback, but left to its own devices online, it hardly sells at all.  I do a fair amount of talking about it on this blog and on social websites.  It was offered for free on Scribd and on this website.  It has done really well on Scribd many thousands of people have looked at it and hundreds of people have downloaded it. Being my second novel, it reads much better than the first one and is technically a big improvement in many respects.  So why doesn’t it sell as good as the first one?

I really don’t know.  The first novel has been around longer and appeals to male geeks more than the second novel, even though the second novel is in fact about a male geek.  Yeah, what the monkey, right?  I had hoped to bring the geeks into the mystery genre with my story about programmers.  That has not happened, at least not yet.  Anyone who knows anything about the mystery genre knows that it appeals primarily to middle aged women.  So I guess you can’t really bring the younger male readers into that fold very easily.  I’ve tried to to get respectable tech industry men to read Null_Pointer and so far have been rejected.  On the other hand, many lower level programmers have read it and loved it.  It’s clear to me, the story is solid and appealing to the primary audience.  The problem remains one of finding a supporter in the industry who is willing to blog about it and champion it in visible ways.  The chances of that happening are slim to none, as my contact with such people is very limited.

So the problem remains, what to write next?  This year I will be re-releasing Starstrikers with a solid edit and promoting it all that I can.  I also have a short story anthology coming out in e-book format this summer, and this fall a completely new SF novel – Tyrmia.  So this time next year, I should see continued growth in sales for my SF novels.  Meanwhile, the mystery novel will stand on its own.  If I write another mystery it would come out next fall.  It’s possible that if that series were to take off, I would have to write several more in order for it to gain some momentum.  I think that could happen, but I also think that given my target audience within the mystery genre, it might not happen.

The low risk and greater payoff of sticking to one genre and continuing to come out with new product in the next couple of years, is the smarter business decision.  So I will be writing another space opera and carrying on with that genre, working to build up an audience and a name for myself.  The other mystery novels in the Joshua Jones series are not going away.  They are still in my head and if interest grows, I can always write them later on in my career.  I still believe that there is a bigger audience for them, but right now, I have to go where the audience is, and that’s in SF.

Space Western Women Meme

Writer and editor Camille Alexa has been rifting on Women in Space Westerns lately on her LiveJournal.  If you don’t know who Camille is, you have not been paying attention to up and coming female SF writers.

Never one to miss an opportunity to toot my own horn, I’d like to mention how many cool female characters are in my new SF novel – Starstrikers.

Tamia – Ass kicking new member of a the top special forces team.

Millie – Marine Biology Professor and wife of the special forces team leader.

Erin – Former student of Millie’s who can best be described as a radical environmentalist.

Commander Reyna – Harsh military intelligence officer with a dark secret.

Captain Doris Anon – Senior starship captain who’s ship becomes the home for an over-zealous captain who loses his own starship in battle.

Commander Danis – Youngest starship captain in the fleet who just happens to command one of the most prestigious starships in the fleet.

That’s a lot of strong women for a military SF novel.

Query Letters

I’ve spent some time today going through the 2007 Guide to Literary Agents and compiling a list of agents that accept Sci-Fi novels.  I sent out about four queries through email, the rest will have to go out by snail mail.  For that I will have to get some envelopes for the SASE.  This in preparation for my novel Starstrikers.

I sent out queries to about four agents via email, and received one nearly instant response that was a polite rejection.  I feel honored that he even read my query.  He said my project sounded interesting, but was not what he was looking for at this time.  I’m on the road to getting an agent.  I will have to buy some envelopes and stamps to finish sending out the rest of the queries.  My list of potential agents is quite small.  I may have to expand it out to less likely prospects just to even the odds a bit.  This is the worst part about writing.  The odds are always astronomically high against you ever finding someone  interested enough to even read your novel.  I think that’s the biggest reason I have not pursued publishing anything in the last 20 years of my writing life.

The only reason I am bothering to do it now, is because I have to know that what I’ve written is good enough to be published.  The only way you can know for sure is to try to get it represented.  I write my stories because they are in my head and I must get them out and onto paper.  I can’t always deny myself the creative urge to write.  When my father died at age 69, it became clear to me that I should not wait until I retire and have the time to write.  By then it could be too late.  So I continue to find the time to write in my busy life and I send out messages in bottles, hoping to find someone who will answer me.

Proof Copy of Starstrikers

Yesterday I received my first proof copy of my novel Starstrikers from  I purchased it before I had the PDF and cover design finalized, so the copy is not as good as it is now.  I was primarily interested in seeing what it looked like as far as fit and finish from the publisher and to use as a mark-up copy for proofing.  I have to say, that I am really impressed with the quality of printing from  The book is very professionally produced and I hope my humble manuscript will do it justice.

The next step in the process is to get the book professionally edited to weed out any errors that I have missed.  This service costs around $300.00 from which is pretty cheap actually.  Then, when I have got a final draft of the PDF, I will purchase their publishing package.  This puts a ISBN number on the book and registers it with the major book sellers.  So, after a few months, you can buy the book on Amazon or at B & N.

Formatting for

I finally have a good PDF of Starstrikers.  At least it’s formatted correctly.  There are still errors here and there.  Every time I get a few of them squashed I will do another upload and there will be another version number under the copyright.  If you purchased a low version number – they started at v2007-001 and are up to only v2007-003 at this time, you can expect to see more errors.

Since I cannot afford to hire a professional editor, the book will be in a constant state of upgrade.  I would like to have a better back cover design.  I’m pretty happy with how the front cover came out.

Here are some formatting lessons I had to learn the hard way.  Unfortunately, the only program that I was able to use was Microsoft Word 2003.  After downloading the template for 6×9 novels, I cut and pasted the entire novel into the template from the RTF formatted output of my CopyWrite editor.

Then I created page breaks at the end of each chapter, starting a new chapter on a fresh page.  I gave the chapter titles a bolder font.  If the main text was set to 12pt I used 24 pt for the chapter titles.  I also used 24pt for the first letter in the chapter’s first paragraph.  I also went to the File -> Page Setup menu and selected the Layout tab where I made sure I checked the Different Odd and Even and Different First Page options.  This is all standard novel formatting .

In order to fake out Word and not have it format my title page, copyright page and dedication with a header and footer, I created those in a separate document that was not using the template, but had the same 6×9 page size.  Then I cut those pages out and pasted them at the start of my Prologue.  This seemed to work.  Don’t ask me why.  I may be able to do this all in Open Office, and if I am, I will try that next.  I hate having to go out to the radio shack and fire up my Windows box just to use it for formatting my novels.

Self Publishing Adventures

I’ve been spending some time getting my first novel ready for publication on  It’s not been a completely smooth operation.  I have the novel in one large file and for some reason, when I do the PDF creation on-line, the chapters get all messed up in terms of formatting.  I’m not sure how to avoid this.  My current version of the book is available on line at this time, but I’m not happy with it.  I want to have a better formated PDF and I want better covers, but it will do for now.

I created the covers in Photoshop and uploaded them, but it was a rush job and I need to go back and clean them up a bit.   As for the PDF formatting issue, I may try and break the novel into chapters and load them up as separate files.   It’s a lot of work making the document perfect and messing around with their upload pages.   You have to really want to do it yourself to put up with it all.  Still, it’s the  cheapest way to get your stuff in print.

When I get a version that is clean – both the PDF and the covers, I will submit it for a ISBN number and register it with book sellers.