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Study Guide for COVENTRY 2091. Part 2. Chapters 1-3

Facilitators Notes for Part 2

In our discussion, we covered Parts 1 and 2 in a single session. There was more than enough discussion to fill two hours (our planned discussion time).

One of the questions that came up during the discussion: “Was the protest that led to the founding of the Coventry Penal Colony motivated or inspired by the Freedom Convoy that took place in Canada in January and February 2022?”.

The simple answer:  The chronology of the writing of Coventry 2091 makes that connection impossible.

  • Coventry 2091 was published in June 2021, a full 6-7 months before anyone, including me, even heard of the Freedom Convoy.
  • The events in Coventry 2091, thought to occur in 2049-2051 were imagined before my previous book, The Dragons of Sheol was published in June 2019.
  • This connection is simply one of those coincidental things that happen as one does one’s best to imagine the future.

The Opening Chapters of Coventry 2091

My hope about our discussion

When paddling your kayak in a channel in a strong wind, it’s not enough to point the boat’s bow toward your destination, since the wind will blow you off course. You have to take the wind into account by paddling against it just enough to reach your goal. The assumptions made about the future in this book and others in this genre are like the wind blowing us off course (unless the wind comes directly from astern—unlikely). Let’s focus on how we change our paddling rather than thinking about changing the direction of the wind.

What is the Coventry 2091 “What if?” Question?

Most Science Fiction, particularly if it’s extrapolated from the present, begins with a “What If …” question. So does Coventry 2091.

What if, in 2051 in Canada, a politically unpalatable, peaceful protest occurred that was so extensive and enduring that the government had to take extraordinary measures?

The Coventry 2091 story is set some forty years later.

Are there any other “What if” questions embedded in the extrapolation from your reading of Speculative Fiction as well as Coventry 2091?

Chapters 1-3

When writing fiction, it’s important to make the fictional invention plausible enough that the reader isn’t constantly saying “no way!” or “I can’t believe that would happen!”

How plausible do you find the back story leading up to the founding of Coventry Penal Colony and its operation? Do you think it could happen in Canada? Why or Why not?

What do you find least plausible in the back story resulting in the non-violent protests in 2050 and the founding of the Coventry Penal Colony? Why?

At the end of Chapter 3 (pages 18 and 19), Jacob, Hanna, and Zeke talk about the difference in teaching between their brief experience at Coventry and their public education.

How do you see our public education (at all levels) changing and if you were to look into your crystal ball? How will these changes affect future generations of students? How will these educational changes affect Christian students in particular?

How do we change our paddling, as it were, if we:

  • Saw changes in our educational system that we found very disturbing and deleterious?
  • Concluded that our children or grandchildren were no longer adequately prepared for life through their education?
  • That the educational system increasingly becomes more antagonistic to Christianity?

Study Guide for COVENTRY 2091. Part 1. Introduction to Speculative Fiction

Introduction to the Coventry 2091 Discussion Question Series

I was privileged to be invited to facilitate a discussion group on my most recent novel, Coventry 2091. I thought there might be readers who could benefit from the time I invested in crafting questions for the discussion. I hope this proves to be of value.

The group I facilitated was interested in discussing the implications of the world view that under-girds much of the world-building and character development. Many of the questions were designed to encourage that particular type of discussion by the group members. I was not always sure how active and far reaching the discussion would be. In practice, I covered two parts in each session. If the discussion in Part 1 by your group requires more time, it’s easy to end after one part and reserve the second part for the following session.

Introduction to Speculative Fiction

Speculative fiction is a general term encompassing both Science Fiction (itself a broad term) and Fantasy. The easiest way to understand them is to look at some concrete examples:

  • DUNE by Frank Herbert is Science Fiction
    • Has anyone read it or seen the movie?
    • Any characteristics of SF you can identify?
  • THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien is Fantasy
    • Has anyone read it or seen the movie?
    • Any characteristics of Fantasy you can identify?
  • HARRY POTTER by J. K. Rowling is a subcategory of Fantasy that some call Urban Fantasy.
  • OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon is a Time Travel novel, but also a Romance and Historical novel.
  • Dystopian novels such as 1984, BRAVE NEW WORLD, and A HANDMAID’S TALE are Speculative Fiction because they are set in the future (future at the time of writing).
  • Are there any other books you have enjoyed, that, on reflection, might be Speculative Fiction?
  • Given the examples we discussed, any thoughts on a comprehensive definition of Speculative Fiction?

So, you might be reading Speculative Fiction without knowing it.

Why Do I Write Science Fiction/Fantasy?

There are a number of reasons:

  • There are books I would have liked to read, but no one has bothered to write them yet. So, I had to write them.
  • Most SF books are based are based on a Materialist world view. When I read them I don’t truly feel “at home” in them, and often wish there were books more in line with what I believe.
  • I read a lot of SF in high school and university and these books helped kindle my love of science. I would like to connect with that age group of readers, who normally don’t care what an old guy thinks, but might read a story by an old guy if it were well-written enough.
  • Did anyone else read Science Fiction and/or Fantasy in high school and university? What made you stop (if you did)?

If you were to write a novel, what would you write about?

My Science Fiction Books are on Display at Lino’s Auto Repairs Inc.

I have, for many years, had my vehicles serviced at Lino’s Auto Repairs. Dimitri, the current owner, has not only given me excellent service, but from time to time amazed me as he was able to solve troublesome, intermittent faults that occurred with my vehicles.

Vehicle Decal

One time when I brought in my vehicle in for service, Dimitri noticed a decal advertising my books. We began talking about Science Fiction and I realized he was an SF fan. He purchased The Halcyon Dislocation and then, after reading the first one, all of my other books as they came out.

Just recently Dimitri suggested that I set up a display of my books in his waiting room. What an opportunity for me! As an Indie author, the challenge amid the hundreds of thousands of titles perpetually in print, is getting noticed enough for interested readers to find your books and give them a try. We have all found ourselves in an automobile repair waiting room, tired of reading the paper or bored with checking our phones. Perhaps some will give my books a try.

Thank you for your great service Dimitri and for this opportunity to display my books!

Review of Glen Robinson’s THE SERPENT AND THE DOVE (HERETICS#2)

Having read, Heretics#1, I must say that THE SERPENT AND THE DOVE did not disappoint. Like its predecessor, it was an action-packed thriller full of suspense, heroic action, peril, as well as intriguing plot twists. The Heretics, as an organization, are about to go international and respond to training requests from teams in other countries.

Betrayal from within the organization leads to deadly strikes against the new teams and forces the Heretics organization to go into hiding until the betrayer can be discovered. Key to the disaster is a person called Veritas who uses human pheromones (a topic of scientific debate and speculation) to great effect.

This is a well-written story that kept me reading. I cared about the main characters and the suspense was handled well. Until the end, I was looking at rating it five stars, but I ended up at four. The author is clearly setting the reader up for the sequel, but there were so many loose ends that it left me somewhat dissatisfied. I, of course, expect some loose ends to make room for a sequel, but this story felt as if there were too many for my taste.

Perhaps, when the next book is available, and I have read it, the loose ends that trouble me now, will be the appetizer that will cause me to enjoy the sequel more thoroughly.

Review of Bowen Greenwood’s Science Fiction Love Story ONSLAUGHT

Langston Wheeler is a member of the Brotherhood of the Gentle Hand. That is to say he is a telepath with extraordinary powers that has pledged to use these powers only for good and in service to others and never to aggrandize power.

On being sent to the planet Felicitas to investigate a rogue telepath, he meets the beautiful, courageous, and brilliant Tia Dynn. As a Gentle Hand, Wheeler is only permitted by his order to marry other telepaths. As he struggles with his feelings for Tia, it turns out the rogue telepath is actually part of a preliminary incursion, preparing Felicitas for a full scale invasion by telepaths and their army of hybrids. Langston and Tia are thrown into a fight for survival. The terror, the fight sequences, and the narrow escapes are well-handled and contain some interesting surprises.

In summary, this is an interesting, entertaining love story and thriller in a sub-genre that might be termed superman meets supermodel. It’s a story I will likely read again. I heartily recommend it to others.

I rate Onslaught four stars.

A Review of J. K. Bailey’s ZEALOT FINALE #1

J. K. Bailey’s first book is a wonderful testament to his vivid imagination and story-telling ability. The story follows the adventures of a boy Chen and is full of wonderful imaginative inventions: Zoas which are animal human hybrids, Wryym which are dragon beings, there is a creature called Bio-Weapon, and a mobile plant-being called, appropriately enough, Venus (reminiscent of the Venus flytrap).

I enjoy books that not only tell an imaginative story, but also make me think. At one point Chen, when talking about fear, makes the counter-intuitive observation that “strength does not do away with fear, love does.” I thought about that for some time and came to agree with him.

My rating: 4 stars

Twenty Reasons for Becoming an Indie Author

What is an Indie Author?

For the purpose of this discussion an independent author (Indie Author) is an author who retains ownership and control of their created work. He may provide a limited licence to a publisher or distributor, but ultimate control of the work remains with the originator. In contrast I use the term “traditional publisher,” as a publisher who acquires exclusive rights to a work before publication. Note: these terms are for discussion purposes only and in no way is this discussion to be taken as legal advice.

Twenty Reasons for Becoming an Indie Author

  • Reason number 1 for becoming an Indie author: it gives you the freedom to share your imagination with a worldwide audience. 
  • Reason number 2 for becoming an Indie author: it enables to spend your time writing your next book rather than dozens of query letters.
  • Reason number 3 for becoming an Indie author: you can share your story directly with the people who matter most—your readers.
  • Reason number 4 for becoming an Indie author: when your first book comes out and readers begin buying it—YOU ARE AN AUTHOR.
  • Reason number 5 for becoming an Indie Author: you may be the one to invent the new genre that readers have been longing for.
  • Reason number 6 for becoming an Indie Author: it enables you keep the freedom to write what you believe, in the way you believe it should be written.
  • Reason number 7 for becoming an Indie Author: BIG BROTHER abhors voices that can’t be controlled.
  • Reason number 8 for becoming an Indie Author: internet sales are easy to scale. If your book goes viral there is no limit to how many books you can sell.
  • Reason number 9 for becoming an Indie Author: you decide when you want to follow the dictates of Political Correctness.
  • Reason number 10 for becoming an Indie Author: with so many people on the internet, there ought to be 100,000 with tastes in stories similar to yours.
  • Reason number 11 for becoming an  Indie Author: with low overhead you can sell into niche markets that are unprofitable for large publishers.
  • Reason number 12 for becoming an Indie Author: you learn to value and cherish every reader of your book.
  • Reason number 13 for becoming an Indie Author: you are able to interact personally with many of your readers since your low overhead lets you thrive with fewer sales.
  • Reason number 14 for becoming an Indie Author: for introverts (like me), it’s easy to converse about books when people find out you’re an author.
  • Reason number 15 for becoming an Indie Author: researching your novel leads you to study many new subjects.
  • Reason number 16 for becoming an Indie Author: you finally write the book you always wanted to read, but no one else bothered to write.
  • Reason number 17 for becoming an Indie Author: every one you meet has a bit of knowledge about life and relationships that will make your novel more authentic.
  • Reason number 18 for becoming an Indie Author: your book need never go out of print. After all you own it.
  • Reason number 19 for becoming an Indie Author: take a step to overcome fear of failure and rejection. Put Theodore Roosevelt’s encouragement “to be in the arena” into practice. Silence your inner critic by writing and publishing your first book.
  • Reason number 20 for becoming an Indie Author: in these days of “cancel culture,” if you own your book, your publisher can’t be pressured into burying it.

Is There Survivor Bias in Analyzing Publishing Success in Today’s Print-On-Demand World?

I belong to an Indie Publishing Group on Goodreads. A frequent topic of discussion focuses on the benefits/challenges of having one’s work published using a traditional publisher versus publishing independently .

A traditional publisher, in this sense, is a company who essentially buys your work, usually paying the author an advance and a royalty on each book sold). The publisher then controls and funds the finalization of the book and manages placement of the book (and e-book) for purchase. Below is a comment by a colleague and group contributor on the relative merits of traditional versus independent publishing.

There was a time, not so very long ago, when the number of living published authors totaled hundreds of thousands. Today, anyone with access to a personal computer and the internet can become a published author; so the exclusive club of hundreds of thousands now numbers in the millions. A highly competitive field became ridiculously competitive.

Literary agents and traditional publishers are literally swamped with queries from aspiring authors. Most are discarded immediately. Only a bare fraction are given serious consideration. The market is saturated to the point that there are almost as many published authors as there are avid readers.

The vast majority of self-published authors will never land a contract with a traditional publisher or become commercially successful. That said; some do. The important thing is to accept the facts and face reality.

The complete comment and the thread associated with it can be found at this Link.

The analysis is probably correct in the facts or trends that it presents, but I think it misses an important point. I have lived through the transition from offset printed books to print-on-demand books and wide acceptance of e-books.

In the days “not so long ago” when “the number of living published authors totaled hundreds of thousands” there were many aspiring authors who worked on manuscripts (perhaps for years), sent them in for acceptance to acquisition editors only to find their manuscripts rejected. Since the gatekeepers completely controlled who became an author and who didn’t, these unsuccessful individuals never became official authors and never were able to get their books to the people who matter most, that is their readers.

In summary I contend that the writers who now are termed independent authors, have always been there, but because there was no avenue for them to take control of their publishing, they languished in obscurity, and through no fault of their own were never considered authors because they never published a book. They do not show up in the publishing statistics of their era (this is what I mean by survivor bias–you have to publish a book to be considered a successful (or unsuccessful author). Writing and not being able to publish doesn’t count in the older statistics even though they could be considered as authors who sold zero books).

Quoting once again:

Literary agents and traditional publishers are literally swamped with queries from aspiring authors. Most are discarded immediately. Only a bare fraction are given serious consideration. The market is saturated to the point that there are almost as many published authors as there are avid readers.

These points are very interesting to me. Particularly: “The market is saturated to the point that there are almost as many published authors as there are avid readers.

As an independent author, I am an avid reader. I was an avid reader long before I wrote my first novel. However, several things have changed for me as independent authors have made their presence felt in the book market place. I interact with other independent authors and find that I read many more independently authored books than before because I know the authors. The loss of my reading time is most severe for the big traditional publishers. As independent authors we have our own reading community.

Quoting once again:

The vast majority of self-published authors will never land a contract with a traditional publisher or become commercially successful. That said; some do. The important thing is to accept the facts and face reality.

I think this statement may well be true. Becoming an independent author or Micro-Publishing as I prefer to call it, is really a small business venture and as such must be considered carefully. From my own experience, a simple calculation I have used has helped me: consider clearing $1.50 per book sold. How many books would you have to sell to make the business viable for you in the long term? Authors, with different family situations, living in different parts of the country, and with different lifestyle requirements may have quite different answers to this question. Still, I contend the real comparison ought to be between independent authors and those many predecessors who wrote books, but never had them published. They spen their time and money with zero return.

In summary, I am grateful to my colleague in the Goodreads Independent author group for commenting on this topic. I hope my contributions to the discussion were helpful. I am glad to have the opportunity to be an independent author and get my books into the hands of my readers, a possibility which would not likely have occurred twenty years ago.

Disclaimer

I do not offer publishing, small business, or other financial advice. I offer my own history, observations, and comments up in the hope they will stimulate thinking and discussion.

For the previous post in this Micro-Publishing follow this link.

I’m often asked: “Can you make money as an indie author?”

When people ask me this question, they are usually asking because they or someone they know is active or will be active in writing a book, and they are wondering what to expect. Others ask it because they are skeptical that it is even possible to make money without going through a traditional publisher.

My answer is usually a qualified “yes” it is possible (but certainly not guaranteed) to make money through an indie or as I prefer to call it, a micro-publishing endeavor.

Why the qualification? There are three basic reasons.

Indie or Micro-Publishing is a Small Business Endeavor

The first thing that one has to remember: Micro-Publishing is a small business. Like other small businesses, this means you will likely not be making money out of the starting gate. Rather, like other small business start-ups, you will have to put in long hours with little remuneration, and finally there is significant risk that you will run out of money, patience, or interest before the business begins to pay off. This comes with the territory of starting something you own.

A case in point, many writers that try to find a traditional publisher also spend a great deal of time writing with no remuneration and then attempting to convince a publisher to take on their manuscript (also with no remuneration). This start-up time when taking the traditional route is often excluded from pay-back calculations. The writers who run out of money, patience, or interest choosing this route are ignored leading to a “survivor bias” when comparing traditionally published authors with indie authors.

Many writers augment their early cash flow with writing-related income, for example, editing, free-lance magazine submissions, contract writing for trade journal or instruction manuals. In my own case, since I write Science Fiction, I tutor in physics and chemistry, as well as provide chemistry consulting as a way of staying connected to science.

Indie or Micro-Publishing is an Annuity Business

Secondly, Micro-Publishing is an annuity-driven small business. When you publish your first book, there will be an initial flurry of interest and then slower sales over the long term. Long-term sales depend on how many people hear about your book and hear enough good things to take a chance to buy it. You may also get copyright remuneration or some remuneration for library usage. These long-term sales are your annuity.

The key point: as you write more books, this annuity stream will grow, but often in the initial stages, the up-front costs of writing and publishing more books will grow faster than the annuity stream.

Most Writers Care About the Art as Much or More than They Care About the Business

Finally, writers are artists as well as business-owners. They have a message or art they wish to develop which is often more important to them than the money. I’ve often been told, “If you wrote Science Fiction more like mainstream SF, you would sell more books.” I think that’s true, but I wanted to write Science Fiction that I would like to read but no one else has bothered to write. For me that means I explore worldview, spiritual, and philosophic questions as well as maintaining a strong science component in my novels. Not optimizing only for the money, probably puts one on a slower growth trajectory, but through it I hope to connect with kindred spirits who long for the same kind of story that I seek.

So What Should I Worry About as an Indie Writer?

1. Scalability

First, ask yourself what happens if my next book goes viral and hundreds, even thousands of readers want it at once? Can your distribution system handle it? If you only sell personal copies or mail them yourself, the answer is probably “no.” If some other organization handles the sales, then the answer is likely “yes.” In other words, make sure your distribution channel is scalable in case the breakthrough you hope for happens.

2. Marketing

Writers are often taught to market aggressively. I won’t do that for two reasons: (1) I don’t want to approach anyone in a way that I would not want to be approached. I don’t like aggressive tactics so I won’t use them. (2) I started to realize that when friends would see me, they would immediately think “I haven’t bought Peter’s book yet.” I don’t want that either. Their friendship is much more important to me than a sale. They need to know that they don’t have to like or buy my books to be my friend. That thought should not even come up.

As a consequence, most of my “advertising” or marketing is low-key on social media, by email signatures, or by magnetic signs on my vehicle. Word of mouth, without my intervention, is still the best form of advertising. Improving my writing craft so that readers will enjoy my books so much that they will give them as gifts or recommend them to friends and family is my long term objective.

3. Things Change Unexpectedly

When I published my first book, it was still possible to use Canada Post to mail books to customers at a reasonable shipping charge. Now so many surcharges, special charges have been added that even with a small-business discount, it can cost me $17.50 to ship one book to a nearby small town. Who can afford to pay that much on a book worth $20-30? the answer is “no one.”

This unexpected change has shut down one potential channel for reaching readers. These kinds of changes that are beyond a writer’s control have a major impact on the business. Like all small businesses, one has to adapt and make sure there are several ways to get your books to your readers.

Final Thoughts

Above all, keep writing, connect with like-minded readers, and connect with other writers who share your passion to communicate with others and bring a little beauty and inspiration into their lives.



Disclaimer

I do not offer publishing, small business, or other financial advice. I offer my own history, observations, and comments up in the hope they will stimulate thinking and discussion.



The Manuscript of My fourth Book, THE DRAGONS OF SHEOL, is Finished

The Continent of Abaddon

The third book in The Halcyon Cycle begins with the kidnapping of Albert Gleeson’s pregnant wife and adopted son. Mistrusted by the police, he follows them through a portal to a continent called Abaddon that is ten kilometers below sea level. This land is filled with strange and terrifying creatures.

In the center of this continent is a vast chasm, named Sheol, that drops in steps to an infernal sea fully sixteen kilometers below sea level. The high air pressure at sixteen kilometers below sea level supports dragons who are able to fly despite their size.

Gleeson’s nemesis, Bigelow, in his insatiable quest for power and dominion, has become a monster with an army at his disposal. The searchers become the hunted as Bigelow drives Gleeson and his friends into the depths of Sheol.

If you liked The Halcyon Dislocation, I hope you’ll give The Dragons of Sheol a try. This book has taken me three years to complete. After seven drafts, it’s ready for my editor. I am looking forward to publishing this in 2019. I am always delighted to hear from my readers.