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Book Review: The Snow Queen

Book Name: The Snow Queen
Author: Joan D. Vinge
First Published: 1980
Hugo Award Winner for Best Novel (1981)

Joan D. Vinge seems to be a private person. Few personal details are available about her beyond that she has lived most of her life in Madison, Wisconson and suffered a terrible auto accident that prevented her from writing for around five years. She has been a writer for most of her life, starting her first stories as a small child. In college, she studied Anthropology which she has incorporated into her art. Ms. Vinge has been married twice and currently lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Several of Ms. Vinge’s stories have won major acclaim. Eyes of Amber won the 1977 Hugo Award for Best Novelette. The Snow Queen won the Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 1981. She has also been nominated for several other Hugo and Nebula Awards, as well as for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her novel Psion was named a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association. Robert A. Heinlein also dedicated his novel Friday to her.

The Snow Queen is based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the same name. The citizens of the planet Tiamat are split into two factions. The “Winters”, who believe in technological progress and trade with the star spanning Hegemony, and the “Summers” who live by folk traditions and eschew the outside worlds in favor of their own simpler ways. Every 150 years, the orbit of Tiamat around a black hole impacts the planetary ecology and closes the window of travel to the other worlds. Travel off of Tiamat is only available during the “Winter” rule and it is all controlled by a single matriarch known as the Snow Queen. At the end of her rein, tradition calls for the Snow Queen to be killed and a female leader from the Summers will take her place as ruler of Tiamat. The current Snow Queen, Arienrhod, has a plan to save her life at the end of her rein which is swiftly approaching. She creates several clones of herself and scatters them among the Summer people. She hopes to switch places with one and then to rule the planet as the “new” Summer Queen.

The story of The Snow Queen follows a young woman by the name of Moon. She is one of the clones that the Snow Queen had placed among the summer people. Moon is loved by a young man named Sparks, but when she takes her place as a shaman among her people, known as a Sibyl, he decides to depart and discover more about his off-world heritage. In the capital city of Carbuncle, Sparks is discovered by Arienrhod and enters into a relationship with her. He becomes her “Starbuck”, consort and the commander of the hunt for the intelligent sea creatures known as the Mer, upon which the wealth of Tiamat is based.

Moon receives a message that she believes is from Sparks and attempts to go to Carbuncle although it is barred to sibyls. Along the way she becomes entangled with smugglers and is kidnapped off-world. While on the Capital Planet of Kharemough, she discovers the answers to many mysteries about Sybils and their strange knowledge and why Tiamat has been cut off from the rest of the Hegemony. Moon returns to Tiamat and continues her search for Sparks. She confronts the Snow Queen and participates in a ritual that will decide who will rule the planet and how Tiamat will face the Hegemony after the 150 years of summer are over and travel can resume through the black hole once again.

I read The Snow Queen when it first hit the shelves in 1980. It was a lush, long novel based on a favorite fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. I didn’t care that it had won a major award and I had never heard of Ms. Vinge, but I immediately became enchanted by this story and all the meticulous details of their lives. Each character became a real person to me and the story itself was of a complexity that I do not encounter often. I liked that it had a strong female lead character, something that was not quite as common then as it is in writing today. Ms. Vinge became one of those authors that I look for on the library shelf.

The story has stuck with me down through the years, like an old favorite song, just under your awareness. I find that it crosses my mind now and then as I wonder about the nature of where ideas and creativity come from or when I want an example of a powerful woman protagonist in a story. All of that is part of what makes The Snow Queen special. Of all the books in the Snow Queen Cycle, The Snow Queen is my favorite. Although its sequel, The Summer Queen, is certainly just as powerful a read and memorable. I highly recommend this series of novels to add to your reading list.

The Snow Queen Book CoverThe Snow Queen Cycle

The Snow Queen (1980)
World’s End (1984)
The Summer Queen (1991)
Tangled Up In Blue (2000)

Goodreads: An Important Part of The Author Platform

Goodreads LogoI had the pleasure of hearing a lecture by Goodreads Community Manager, Patrick Brown at a local Romance Writers of America function, about how Goodreads helps to connect authors with readers. This lecture helped me to untangle my own confusion about what Goodreads is and what part it can play in a writer’s platform. I’ve been a member at Goodreads for some time, but never quite knew what to do with it. Most of the authors of my local writing group did not see what the value of Goodreads was either. You can’t sell your books there directly and it seemed just another place where you had to spend additional time. As I sat at a pink and red covered table that had been scattered with chocolates and listened to Mr. Brown speak, many of my misconceptions about Goodreads were laid to rest. I find that I am now excited about this social media outlet and I wanted to share some of these insights here at No Wasted Ink.

Why use Goodreads as part of your author platform?

The first task we do as authors is to set up a website to serve as a home base for our online presence. A website or blog is more powerful than a social media profile because it is weighted more heavily in search engines. Your website is where you post samples of your work, write about topics that are of interest to you, show your portfolio of published credits and have links to where readers can buy your books.

Twitter and Facebook are the next choices to cultivate in the mission to expand awareness of you as an author, but the people you encounter there are not necessarily people that love to read books. Twitter is more for announcements. Facebook is wonderful with interaction between authors and readers, but not so much with discovering new authors and books. On Goodreads, you see recommendations for books from people that you know, and who’s taste you know. Therefore, you are more likely to try out a new author or book based on a friend’s recommendation. Goodreads is targeted toward the audience you are seeking.

What makes Goodreads different from other social media outlets?

Goodreads is growing. There are over fifteen million readers on the social media site and sixty-five thousand authors. This is a huge pool of potential readers to draw from who are pre-qualified toward buying books. All genres are represented and there are a myriad of book clubs discussing thousands of books every day. Goodreads mission is to catalog every book in existence, including yours! If nothing else, you should see that you fill out an author profile and the basic information about your published book so that it is entered into their catalog.

Goodreads is interactive about books. When a reader puts your book on their to-read list, it goes to all their friends and it is transmitted to other outlets such as their Facebook pages or Twitter feeds. When a reader reviews your book, the review has the potential to be synced to their personal blog and transmitted to other Goodreads partners.

What are the strategies you should follow as a Goodreads author?

Even if you do not have a book published as yet, set up a Goodreads reader profile. Once your book is assigned an ISBN number, you can upgrade your reader profile into an author profile. Doing this before your book is available to the public gives you a little lead time to begin letting people put your book on their to-read list. When your book is published, Goodreads will send the interested reader a notice that your book is available for purchase.

If you have a blog, link it to appear in your Goodreads author page. You can set it to be a summary to bring Goodreads members to your website where your books are set up to be sold, or you can allow the member to read the entire post at Goodreads. Only authors can sync their blogs onto Goodreads. At this time, place Goodreads web-badges on your blog, website and Facebook pages. Let readers know that you have a presence on Goodreads.

If you have rated or reviewed a large number of books, you are eligible to apply to become a Goodreads Librarian. The advantage of this is that you will be able to input your own novels into the system and make corrections to their meta-data if needed. There is no charge to be a Librarian and being one could save you much time when it comes to data entry.

Consider disabling the invite friends button on your profile once you switch from being a reader to an author. You are limited to only five thousand Friends on Goodreads, but Fans are unlimited. To encourage people to add you as a Fan, put in a password into your Friends invite button and post a notice there that you are not accepting friend requests. You will still be able to add Friends, but you will have to send them the password to do so. Fan can see all your blog posts, your status updates and other public information, but do not access your more personal Goodreads profile information as a Friend might.

Goodreads book giveaway promotions are a good way to garner reviews for your book on Goodreads and to create a buzz about your book. Currently, Goodreads only allows for printed books to be given away, not ebooks. You can run these limited giveaways as many times as you wish and for specified times. Mr. Brown recommends doing a book giveaway three months in advance of your publish date. After your book is available, run a second or third give away and extend the giveaways for a month at a time. Make sure you put in a call to action with each book you mail. Ask the reader to write you a review on Goodreads in a small card enclosed with the book. Use Goodreads widgets on your website and on Facebook to promote your book giveaway. Statistics show that good word of mouth generated by giveaways leads to more sales of your book.

Final Word

As you can see, there is a clear benefit to being involved with Goodreads as an author. It is a place to interact with readers, to talk about books, and a new place to promote your novel to pre-qualified buyers of books. If you get the chance to hear Mr. Patrick Brown speak at your local book club function, I urge you to do so. His explanations of what Goodreads is, from the creator’s point of view, and how to use it as an author are only touched on in this article. You can see more of his information about Goodreads marketing campaigns at Goodreads Slideshare.

Book Review: The White Dragon

Book Name: The White Dragon
Author: Anne McCaffery
First Published: 1978

Anne McCaffrey was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The only daughter of three siblings and the middle child, she grew up on the east coast of the United States. Eventually, she graduated cum laude from College where she gained a degree in Slavonic Languages and Literature. In 1950 she married Horace Johnson and they had three children: Alec, Todd and Gigi. The family lived in Wilmington, Delaware for around a decade and then moved to Sea Cliff, Long Island in 1965 where they remained until 1970. During this time, Anne McCaffrey began to work full time as a writer and served a term as the secretary-treasurer of the Science Fiction Writers of America. Her duties not only included the publishing of two monthly newsletters for the guild, but she also handcrafted the Nebula Award trophies.

In 1970, McCaffrey divorced her husband and weeks later took her children to live in Ireland. During the 1970s, Ireland offered artists to live exempted from income taxes and Anne McCaffrey, being of Irish descent, emigrated to Ireland to take advantage of this opportunity. Anne’s mother soon joined the family where they stayed in Dublin. It was the following spring where she met British reproductive biologist Jack Cohen, at a science fiction convention where she was the guest of honor, and together they worked on the biological mechanics of what would later become her famous Pernese dragons.

The author finished writing the first two novels of the original Pern trilogy and had a contract for the third book, The White Dragon, when she experienced writer’s block for several years. She and her family moved around the Dublin area many times as she attempted to support herself on alimony and scant royalties from her writing. The breakthrough came when a call for stories to be published in an anthology prompted her to write a pern based story about Menolly, a young female musician who discovers miniature dragons, known as firelizards. This story eventually became the start of her young adult Harper Hall trilogy. The White Dragon was completed seven years after the first two books of the original trilogy were published and the Harper Hall trilogy followed a year later. All of them were huge successes.

The royalties from these books enabled Anne McCaffery to buy her home in Ireland, which she named “Dragonhold” after the dragons that helped her purchase it. Twenty years later, her son Todd wrote that she “first set dragons free on Pern, and then was herself freed by her dragons.” Anne McCaffery lived in Dragonhold until she died of a stroke at the age of eighty-five.

Anne McCaffrey’s most famous novels are the Dragonriders of Pern series. The stories are set on a planet known as Pern that was settled by colonists from Earth in the far future. Due to a biological threat from a nearby planet that had gone unnoticed before the colonists had settled on Pern, the Terrans regress into a feudal style society as the alien “thread” destroys much of their world. Before the total loss of their space faring technology, the colonists create a biological wonder from the tiny native “firelizards” that live on the planet. These winged lizards have the ability to breath fire after eating a certain coal like fuel and could communicate telepathically with the humans they had bonded with at their hatching time. The colonists genetically grew these firelizards into a size that a man could ride and thus create a renewable “air force” to protect their people while the “thread” from the sister world, called the “red star”, rained down from the skies. As the centuries pass, two culture emerge on Pern. The holders, who live in lowland feudal societies led by the Lord Holders and the dragonriders who live in volcanic “weyrs” nurturing and fighting with the now intelligent “dragons”. The dragonriders of Pern are duty bound to fly and fight the “thread” when it falls every 250 years, incinerating it in the sky before it can touch the earth.

The third novel of the series is The White Dragon. It follows the coming of age story of Jaxom, the Lord Holder of Ruatha Hold which lies under the protection of Benden Weyr. Complications arise when Jaxom accidentally impresses a mutant dragon. The dragon is white, instead of conforming to one of the five normal colors a Pernese dragon might be, and is a runt. Not having a color to define its place in the dragon fighting ranks and since it is thought that the white dragon might die early due to its mutation, Jaxom is sent back to Ruatha Hold with the dragon Ruth to wait its death, and to return to his duties as the future Lord Holder of Ruatha Hold. Jaxom is not pleased, as a rebellious teenager he wishes to fight thread as a dragonrider, a far more exciting prospect than managing a large Hold.

Ruth does not die, and flourishes under Jaxom’s care. The young Lord Holder finds that Ruth has abilities and intelligence not found in regular dragons. Jaxom fights for his right to fight thread and for his Ruth to be accepted as a regular dragon. The Benden Weyrleaders consent to allow Jaxom and Ruth to join the fighting ranks of the weyr’s dragons on a visiting basis.

After battling thread, Jaxom falls ill with a deadly illness brought on by teleporting on his dragon while wet and he and the white dragon are sent to the Southern Continent to recuperate. While there, Jaxom and Ruth find an old settlement that the ancient Pernese have left behind. Ruth’s special abilities in teleportation and time travel come into play as they learn more about Pern’s ancient past and how the Pernese might permanently remove the threat of thread from their skies for all time.

Of the first three novels in the series, The White Dragon is my favorite. I remember as a young teen, waiting for it to come out in my local bookstore and saving my pennies in order to purchase the book. I was not disappointed. Many of the themes that Anne McCaffery developed in her first two novels mature in this one. The dragons take on a new life of their own and become far more interesting as characters instead of being backdrops of the humans who ride them. While you should likely read the books in chronological order, you could start with The White Dragon as a stand alone book and be very entertained. The book is still in print in its original Micheal Whelan cover, which is famous as being a launching point in this illustrator’s career as this novel was for the author’s as well.

The White Dragon Book CoverThe Dragonriders of Pern Series:

The White Dragon
Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern
Nerilka’s Story
Renegades of Pern
All the Weyrs of Pern
The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall
The Dolphins of Pern
The Masterharper of Pern
The Skies of Pern
A Gift of Dragons
Dragon’s Kin
Dragon’s Fire
Dragon Harper
Dragon’s Time

Book Review: Foundation

Book Name:Foundation
Author: Issac Asimov
First Published: 1951

Isaac Asimov was an American author, a professor of biochemistry, and is best known for his science fiction and popular science books. He is considered one of the most prolific writers in history, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters or articles.

Asimov is renowned as a master of the science-fiction genre and was considered one of the “Big Three” who developed the genre along with authors Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke. His most famous work is the Foundation Series, which started as a trilogy and then expanded into fifteen novels. Later, Asimov combined his Galactic Empire Series and the Robot Series into the Foundation universe that created a unified “future history” for a total of twenty-two novels that are considered part of this unified series.

Most of his popularized science books examine scientific concepts in a historical way. He begins by going back to when the concept was first in question at its simplest stage and then follows the idea through history, providing the nationalities, and biographical of the scientists as well as pronunciation guides for the technical terms.

A lessor known fact about the author is that he also wrote under the pen-name, Paul French. Under this name, Asimov wrote the popular juvenile science fiction series known as the Lucky Starr Series.

Foundation is the first novel of the original trilogy that Asimov wrote. It appeared as four novellas in magazines before it was combined as a true novel in 1951.

The Foundation Series follows the ideas developed by fictional mathematician Hari Seldon, a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory, a sort of mathematical sociological theory. Using the laws of mass action, this theory can predict the future, but only on the largest of scales. It explains that the behavior of a mass of people is predictable if the quantify of this population is extremely large, equal to quadrillions of humans. The greater the number of people in the equation, the more predictable the future will be.

Seldon, by using this theory, realizes that the imminent fall of the Galactic Empire is about to occur and this descent will encompass the entire Milky Way Galaxy. There will follow a dark age that will last for thirty thousand years before a second great empire will rise from the ashes. Seldon is disturbed by thought that so many people will be lost for so very long. Using his science of psychohistory, he also understands that there is an alternative where the intermittent period will last a scant one thousand years, if events are helped along. Seldon decides to make it his mission to push humanity into this alternate future history. He creates two Foundations to guide humanity, each at opposite ends of the galaxy. One is large and in the open, the other, secluded and secret. Both locations are places where all human knowledge is stored.

The novels are not about Hari Seldon the man, but more about the Seldon Plan as it is used by the Foundation to guide humanity into creating the second great Empire and the obstacles it must overcome to do so.

I first read Foundation in the 1970s as a teenager. It was not one of my favorite stories, but I had heard so much about Asimov that I wanted to read his famous trilogy. Although I have not read the entire body of his work, I find that the stories by this author that I have read, whether I enjoyed them at the time or not, stay with me permanently and make me think about the world around me in a new light.

I find a few flaws in Asimov’s writing when it comes to characterization. Many of his character’s personalities are flat and the majority of them are male. They are also a reflection of the time when they were written. This distanced the story for me personally, since as a woman, I found it more difficult to relate to the characters as people. However, the original science concepts of the story makes up for this lack and I found myself fascinated by the unique ideas found in these novels. Ideas that are as fresh today as when they were written decades ago. While there is currently no such science as psychohistory, I would not be surprised if it came into being, inspired by these classic novels, much as the science of robotics as we know it today was formed by the ideas found in Asimov’s Robot Series. Asimov is the man that coined the term “robotics” and wrote the three laws of robotics that are now used by AI developers. This saga of the futuristic “fall of the roman empire” is well worth the time to explore, keeping in mind the time when it was written.

Foundation Book CoverThe seven novels of the original “Foundation” series in chronological story order:

Prelude to Foundation
Foundation and Empire
Second Foundation
Foundation’s Edge
Foundation and Earth
Forward the Foundation

Author Interview: Ian Walkley

When I first learned of Ian Walkely, I was impressed by the following he has built up for his excellent thriller. He is an Australian author with a flair for executing personal goals. I am pleased to feature Ian here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Ian WalkleyI’m someone who likes change and experiencing new things. I wanted to be an air force pilot but a hearing loss prevented that. I didn’t have a plan B, so I’ve worked as a marketer, a social and market researcher, government policy advisor, and in business development. In 1993 I had a mid-career crisis and started my own consulting business, which I grew to an $8 million business with 35 staff. I sold my share in the business in 2008 so I could follow the dream of writing novels. I have a wife who’s a primary teacher and three grown-up children, two dogs and a cat. Life’s pretty good, really. Oh, and I’m also a very determined person when it comes to achieving goals.

When and why did you begin writing?

Like many writers, it started with a passion for reading. In my late teens I loved to immerse myself in a Wilbur Smith adventure or Robert Ludlum thriller. I began writing novels many times over the years, but never got past about thirty pages. Finally, I cut back to 3 days a week in 2008 and began writing. Just when ebooks began to take off and publishers almost stopped looking for debut authors.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When Kirkus Reviews gave me a good review of my debut novel No Remorse.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

McCloud, or Mac as they call him, is a Delta Force special operations soldier, a highly trained killer, but not the type to just blindly follow orders. He makes mistakes, and is governed by a strong loyalty to his friends. I don’t think readers want to have more invincible heroes. They want them to have faults and prejudices that get them into trouble. Mac is not great with women, for example.

The bad guy, Sheik Khalid, he’s into all kinds of evil – kidnapping, drugs, slavery, organ transplants, terrorism. Yet he’s not a Bin Laden stereotype. I wanted a bad guy who readers could hate, but not just a terrorist. Khalid has rebelled against the teachings of Islam, especially since his first love was stoned to death. He is determined to overthrow the Saudi regime, and impose a more democratic regime, which would give people more freedom. But with his type of freedom comes a heavy price.

There are three tough female characters in the book, Tally, Sheriti and Anastia. The three female characters are all strong in very different ways. Tally is a computer genius, Sheriti is a trained Mossad agent, and Anastia is a skilled sniper for hire from Bulgaria.

The plotting in No Remorse is complex. It was quite tricky logistically to make it work, especially when you have seven POV characters, each with their own story, travelling between the US, Europe and the Middle East on planes and boats. I had to check, for example, that Mac could physically get to the island of Andaran in a certain time, given that he had to catch three separate flights, because there wasn’t a direct flight from London. Actually, that enabled me to write in a scene on a plane where he is confronted by a female assassin, which was a lot of fun to write. Some novelists don’t worry about that sort of detail. I know we’re writing fiction, but I like things to be realistic.

What inspired you to write this book?

I traveled a lot in business, and I’d often buy a book at the airport bookstore. They were invariably thrillers—global conspiracies, exotic places, heroes bigger than life chasing nasty bad guys and beautiful women. I wanted to write a thriller like that. And did.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I have tried outlining, but I tend to keep diverting from any plot I try and flesh out. So I guess I have a big picture of the story, and do a little plotting, then write, then figure out whether I’m on the right track. I throw out lots of scenes. But sometimes I put them back in later, or hold them for use in a later book.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

I tried fifteen titles for two years before I came up with the title, No Remorse. I wanted the title to reflect a theme. No remorse is often associated with a criminal’s attitude. However, in this case, it’s the protagonist’s attitude. He’s like Liam Neeson in Taken. Totally ready to take on the bad guys and destroy them.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

The theme is that we need to destroy the evil in the world before it takes advantage of our goodwill and destroys us. And sometimes one has to follow one’s own judgment rather than accept authority at face value.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

There is a great deal of research gone into the book. I traveled in the Middle East, and researched many of the elements of the plot, such as slavery, illegal organ transplants, missing nuclear material, financial banking scams and so on. So while No Remorse has the action of a James Bond thriller, it could be happening right now. That’s what my readers tell me.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

In my younger days I enjoyed Wilbur Smith, Alistair Maclean and Robert Ludlum, Isaac Asimov and Philip Dick. More recently Harlan Coben, John Grisham, David Baldacci and Lee Child. I don’t think they’ve influenced my life, but I’ve enjoyed reading their stories. They’re inspiring now because I’m writing, and I can appreciate even more the wonderful imagery, and powerful characters and plots that they create.

I read a variety of genres, and even occasionally literary fiction and YA. I enjoyed The Hunger Games and Harry Potter. I forced myself to read Fifty Shades of Grey, but like many others I found it hard to understand the phenomenon’s appeal. To me it’s a romance that doesn’t deliver on its promise. I’m loving Game of Thrones at the moment. But mostly I read thrillers and crime.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I would love to have a mentor. Perhaps someone like David Morrell, who lectures in writing thrillers. But I think the sessions I attend at writers’ conferences and the courses I have done are as close as I’ll ever get. Often a writer presenting will have one pearl of wisdom that resonates for a long time.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I ran a competition among graphic design students at the Queensland College of Art, and chose the best one to work with me. Her name is Nicole Wong. Unfortunately, she has disappeared. I’m trying to find her because she expressed interest in designing my next book. So far without success. A real life mystery.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I guess I would strongly recommend to emerging writers to study the craft by attending courses and conferences. They say it takes at least five years just to learn the basics. Writing is something one can only improve on. And for self-publishing authors, I would strongly recommend paying for a professional editor. I hate seeing poorly formatted self-published books with typos and grammatical errors that give self-publishing a bad name.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

My first novel took three years to write. I love getting feedback from readers who’ve enjoyed No Remorse. Fortunately, I get lots of kind words, which inspire me to continue. Writing is not an easy job. It can be lonely, and for me, anyway, there is lots of re-writing and editing before I get it right. “Emerging” writers like me need lots of four and five star reviews on Amazon to help readers become aware. So please, if you like No Remorse, write me a review (and write to me too).

No Remorse Book CoverIan Walkley
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Publisher: Marq Books
Cover Artist: Nicole Wong

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