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Strong Solar Flare Headed Toward Earth

Originally posted on TIME:

A strong solar flare is barreling toward Earth at 2.5 million miles per hour, but scientists say its worst effects will likely bypass the planet when it expectedly arrives by the weekend.

Solar flares from the sun occur with frequency and, when unleashed toward Earth, can cause so-called solar storms. This particular one is categorized as a low-level X-class flare, the most severe of the three classes.

A storm of this size hasn’t headed toward Earth in several years, Tom Berger, the director of the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo., told the Associated Press. But, he added, “we’re not scared of this one.”

Earth’s atmosphere largely protects people on the ground from the radiation effects of a solar flare, but such blasts do have the potential to knock out power systems and disrupt satellite communications. Berger told the AP that the one heading toward Earth could slightly disturb…

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New Planetfall story available

Hi all,

I’m really pleased to say that I have a new a short story available on Friday 29 August, which fits into my planetfall trilogy.

For those of you who read Book 1: All Fall Down, you will recall that it centred around Kate Leland, a Military Intelligence General who is tasked with identifying if a military scientist has been killed by (and therefore made first contact with) aliens. Kate’s investigations on the planet Fall lead her to discover a plot to de-stabilise the peaceful society she lives in. At the end of the book, her greatest dream comes true: she makes first contact, and it turns into her worst nightmare.

The new short story takes the very end of the book as its springboard, and twists it somewhat. You don’t need to have read Book 1 to read the short story, because all the characters are new, and some of them will become major characters in Book 2 when it’s on release at the end of 2015.

You can order Planetfall: Childhood’s End on the following platforms:

Amazon Kindle

iTunes (link coming soon)

Lulu

The cheapest source is Amazon Kindle, which is due to a clash between Amazon and Lulu’s pricing rules, which I will cover in another blog. For the moment, enjoy the lovely cover art by Planetfall cover artist Rob Ellis (@moviessimple on Twitter) and I hope you enjoy the story.

childhoods end FINAL1

All the best,

astro x

 

 

Pricing rules for e-books, a rant

Hi all,

a rant on today’s blog.

In early September I am publishing a short story in my Planetfall scifi trilogy. I’ve made it available on Amazon, Lulu, iTunes, Kobo and some other platforms. Primarily, it is published via Amazon KDP and Lulu, and Lulu distributes to the other platforms.

Because it’s a short story, I have priced it very low. Let’s deal with why I’ve priced it first. My writing is not a hobby. It is a second job. I put a lot of effort and time into it, and I run at a loss on it: cover art costs money, ordering paperbook proofs for physical distribution costs money, I miss out on time with friends and loved ones, and people access and enjoy what I create. I think it’s OK to be paid for that.

Now, pricing. It’s a short story, just under 10,000 words, so I want it to be affordable. After some research on what short stories are selling for, I decided on a pricing point of 77p (about US99c). This matches the price of other short stories on Amazon Kindle, and is below the 99p that Shortfire Press charges (note: I agree with their pricing policy, but I am competing with the market conditions on Amazon). So far, so so sensible. A work in an established science fiction series, it’s price matches the market, and the royalty I make is about 24p. A tiny amount, but at least it’s something for the 3.5months of development time.

So what’s the problem?

On Lulu I priced it the same: 77p. And I ticked the options to distribute to iTunes, Kobo and the other markets to which Lulu gives you access. Unfortunately, due to licensing agreements, Lulu drops the price on other platforms. So a 77p list price on Lulu drops to 49p elsewhere. OK, so what?

Here’s the rub. Amazon demands that books sold through its platform can’t be priced higher than the same book available through other platforms. Their solution is to give you a few days to re-adjust the price, otherwise they block your book.

I went back to Lulu and tried to figure out the pricing differential. I raised the Lulu list price by 26p, so that 49p + 26p = 77p. Bingo? Not bingo :-(

Lulu’s licensing agreements means that its distribution to other platforms goes at two pricing points: 49p, then 99p. There’s no in-between.

This means (sigh) I have to make a decision: raise the price on Amazon above the point set by the market, or just have Amazon the cheapest.

It doesn’t seem fair to readers on other platforms to keep the Kindle version as the cheapest. And I also know that being relatively undiscovered and pricing myself above the rest of the (Kindle) market could backfire and result in fewer sales: Kindle is still where I sell most of my books.

I suspect I am going to have to raise the Kindle price at some point though.

What I find annoying about this is that I want to get my work to readers on whichever platform they’re using, and to ensure that the pricing is fair and consistent and fits into the prices the market has settled on. But I am falling foul of the distribution platforms putting in rules that force me to either lose readers or favour one set over another.

Well, that’s today’s rant. I’d be interested if other self-published authors have come across the same issue.

Hope your writing is going well, as ever,

astro x

 

Planetfall teaser story

Hi everyone,

In the next couple of weeks I’ll be publishing new material in my Planetfall trilogy. This is the first extension to Book 1: All Fall Down since it was published in early 2013.

I’m really excited!

The teaser story isn’t Book 2 in the trilogy. That will come out towards the end of 2015 (or at least that’s the intention). The teaser is an integral part of the story, however. It is a small slice out of the normal realm of the Planetfall world you know from Book 1, and it introduces key characters into the Planetfall universe. Importantly it builds on the emotional themes of Book 1 – desperation, standing on the edge of world changing events, anxiety – and brings more texture and depth.

To ensure the teaser fits into the rest of the Planetall trilogy, it will come with its own book cover art work.

I’m building up to publication via the trilogy’s Facebook page. All the posts are connected to the story somehow, either by selecting imagery, technical issues for the scifi geeks, or emotional themes. Please ‘Like’ it to get exclusive news – I’ll be unveiling the cover art on there when it’s ready.

I hope your writing and reading is going well. Remember you can find me on Twitter @astrotomato, it would be great to hear from you.

Best wishes,

astro x

London writing group seeks new members

Hi,

My writing group is looking for new members to join. Are you interested?

We are a serious writing group, and between us we have finished at least 2 novels each, self published works, have had plays produced or come 2nd place in national novel competitions.

We are looking for new members who:

  • can meet monthly for most months of the year (we meet on at least 10 out of 12 months)
  • are willing to share their own material for critique
  • will give some time to critique shared material from other members
  • are willing to learn and develop as writers, and
  • may be willing to host a meeting once every few months (we circulate between members).

Who are we?

My author profile is on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00AX49ZUE I am principally a novelist, and am currently working on a political comedy. I have a few short film or TV pilot scripts under my belt, as well as a collection of short stories, and am an alumnus of City University.

Tara Basi is a Birkbeck writers alumnus and a novelist and playwright. He writes dystopian fiction and satirical plays/radio plays. He is self-publishing his first novel this year.

Max Novaz is also an alumnus of Birkbeck, and is principally a playwright of farces, with his first production recently performed in Bedford. Max is currently working on a novel, and editing a play set in a Spanish holiday resort.

We are open to fellow writers of all levels of experience. A fondness for Rioja would be advantageous!

If you are interested, we are happy to meet somewhere public, on a trial basis, and to share material with you in advance so you can gauge the quality of our work and personalities. We generally meet on the last Friday of the month, but we are open to this. (Fridays allow for a drink after the writing talk.)

Please contact me, Graeme, on astrotomato@gmail.com or via DM on Twitter @astrotomato

All the best,

Graeme x

Rejection

I was fortunate to have an opportunity to pitch Sympathy for the Devil to an agent at the recent London Author Fair.

I’ve just received feedback. It’s a “no”.  But! I am enormously grateful to agent Meg Davis for her very kind and positive words on such an early draft.

Here’s an extract from her feedback:

image

That’s the sort of comment that keeps me motivated. Thank you.

Writing update 30 March 2014

A quick update on my writing projects.

 

Sympathy for the Devil

I have a full second draft of the novel, with a proper ending. The first draft was finished within three months (I think taking May-August 2013), and it’s taken another 7 months to properly re-write that initial draft. The first draft was about 70,000 words long, and the second draft is 96,000 words.

In terms of re-writing, I deleted the final 30,000 words of draft one and re-wrote from scratch, taking it into a completely different direction. Of the remaining 40,000 words from the original draft, at least 25,000 words were wholly re-written.

I think this is a good thing. Some initial drafts are strong and need tinkering. This initial draft was strong on the central character (Lucy) and a few key scenes, but had little direction or cohesiveness. I’ve had to put a huge amount of thought and research into giving story a logical structure, supporting characters with depth and multiple and rising tensions that make sense and keep complicating the story in an understandable way.

I think this full second draft of Sympathy for the Devil has an open and accessible style, which is what I was hoping for. (I contrast this with Planetfall, which was quite densely written for a scifi crowd who would already understand the kind of world put forward.)

I’m now resting Sympathy for a few weeks so that I can go back in a few weeks and make a few final tweaks. Afterwards, I’ll be sending it to a professional editor – and all suggestions on good editors are gratefully received.

 

Planetfall

I mentioned Planetfall, and there’s an update on this too.

Book one, All Fall Down, has now shifted over 500 copies through physical book sales and digital downloads. Reviews keep popping up on the Amazon page, which is satisfying. I’d really like to see more reviews on there – there are seven now. Thirty would be amazing. 

A plea – if you’ve read the book, please leave an honest review (whether you loved or loathed it, I don’t mind) on its Amazon page.

Book 2, Children of Fall, is still on hold while I’ve been writing Sympathy for the Devil. I’m hoping to be back with it by September 2014.

In the meantime, while I rest Sympathy, I am writing a short story set in the Planetfall universe. I’m hoping to release it on Kindle and other formats towards the end of May 2014. More updates as and when.

 

Other writing projects

Robocop fan fiction. A couple of years ago I started writing a Robocop fan fiction novella. I have now abandoned this.

Backpackers 2. I wrote half an opening chapter for a sequel to Backpackers. I’ve no idea where that might go. Maybe I’ll add the occasional thousand words here and there. Cath’s a hard character to shake off, and the format – short stories linked together by a single character – is still attractive to me.

Job Centre sitcom script. I was really pleased with the spec script I wrote in 2012. This is now shelved due to lack of time. 

 

Future writing projects

I’ve agreed to co-write a script, probably for a short stage play but potentially a pilot script for a series. The subject will be on mental health, and work will hopefully start around November or December 2014.