Category Archives: Topic of Interest

Speculative Fiction

Have You Heard of It?

Speculative Fiction. No Vampires Here!

We are all familiar with the popular reading genres such as romance, mystery, thriller, science fiction, and horror. Those are further divided into subgenres such as paranormal romance and historical romance, cozy mysteries, YA, etc. While fantasy has become popularly accepted as a major genre, it is still considered a subgenre of science fiction.

Have you heard of “Speculative Fiction”? Most readers have not. In fact, if you were to look in Amazon’s categories, as wide-ranging as they are, you will not find speculative fiction anywhere. However, it is a type of fiction which encompasses genres such as futuristic fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, and many others.

In its simplest elements, it is any fiction that “speculates” as to possibilities. These possibilities may be future, present, or past. For example, The Man in the High Castle is speculative fiction because it speculates on what may have happened if the Nazis had won WWII. Jurassic Park also is speculative fiction because it explores the possible results of bringing creatures that nature chose for extinction into the present.

Anytime a work of fiction “speculates,” when it explores the “what if,” it can be considered speculative fiction. Some writers, such as Margaret Atwood, have gone a bit further into their definition of what constitutes speculative fiction. She held that speculative fiction must be plausible. She felt it was fiction that “could happen.”

In this view, science fiction that deals with Martians is not speculative because it could not happen as we now know for sure that Mars has no inhabitants. Fiction that speculates on humanity settling Mars and terraforming the planet would be speculative.

You might be tempted to ask: why is this type of genre necessary or important? It is necessary because some works of fiction do not fall into any other simple genre. Case in point is my Future-Past (Daniel’s Fork) series, in which I constructed a society ruled by lords as Europe was centuries back. The people of Daniel’s Fork (a village) speak in simple, formal English. They live with technology that dates back to the colonial times.

Many of my readers have asked why I chose to do that.   A good friend, when she first read the Hunter’s Snare (previously Daniel’s Fork), was very angry and insulted. She argued that Americans, with such a history and fierce love of democracy, would revert back to being ruled by lords in the future.

Of course, 2020 was still seven years in the future, when the danger of losing our democracy became too real. In the future, possibility is the key word! It is understandable that my friend was doubtful of the possibilities. However, if you read the book I wrote after, Fire Dance, you begin to see the very real possibilities in Hunter’s Snare.

I have been working, (between other projects) on the first novel, time-line wise, of the series. It is called Lords, and it takes place three years after the pandemic. Needless to say, I have a great deal of rewriting to do after lessons learned in the present-day Covid pandemic.

In Lords, the following questions are answered: Why did I choose stilted, formal language? Why are there bathrooms and not aqueducts? Why are there lords and not presidents? Why use blades, bows, and shotguns too?

Some readers have observed that Hunter’s Snare reads like historical fiction. Others feel it reads like fantasy. While I made a creative decision to use simplified, formal English, the novels are not historical fiction. In fact, they are futuristic! 

They depict a future society that has inherited knowledge of our present, a history of technology, but an inability to maintain or create the technology anew. In many ways, I was influenced by the world that Anne McCaffrey created in her Pern novels.

Anyone who has read Hunter’s Snare can see that while it takes place in the future, eighty years after a pandemic, it does not fit well into science fiction. It might be called dystopian by some, but it lacks the elements of the dystopian genre in that the society works rather well and is not disaffected

The biggest hurdle in classifying Hunter’s Snare is that it is, at heart, a mystery! It is the tale of the new alpha male in town, arriving to replace the beloved, dead lord. His first task is to catch a serial killer who has run amok for years. Still, selling the novel as a mystery would target readers who expect cozy mysteries or police detective stories. They would not be happy.

Finally, there is the erotic side to Hunter’s Snare. There are strong sex scenes, one that includes two males having sex. This causes some promo sites to categorize the novel as “erotica,” and many sites refuse to promote it because of those few scenes. You can now understand the problem of genre categorization for some works of fiction.

In fact, my Future Past series can only be categorized properly as “Speculative Fiction.”  It is totally possible if in a few years from now, a pandemic decimated our world, and a few survivors opted to re-form society by keeping that which was tried and true. 

FREE CLASSICS!



Are you a lover of classic literature? If you are, you can read to your heart’s content for FREE!  No, you don’t have to borrow from a library. You can own books by authors such as Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joseph Conrad, etc. totally for free.  





You will need a wifi connection and the time to peruse Amazon’s list of free classics. Of course, you’ll also need a reading app for your phone or tablet, but those are also free and widely available. I use the Kindle app on my iPad and iPhone. 




No, I am not talking about Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, for which you have to pay. I am referring to the immense list of totally free books available which are out of copyright protection and part of the public domain. Of course, you can traipse over to Project Gutenberg and spend hours sifting through their complex listings. You can also head over to Amazon and check out the Free Classics.





The Amazon listing is a lot easier to search and most importantly, to download.  Plus, many of the books have nice covers. Of course, a few will have the generic Gutenberg cover.

There are also works which are not free, but which are sold for as little as $0.99 for an entire collection. I happen to be a lover of P.G. Wodehouse’s work. I’ve collected most of his works at very little cost.




The same for John Carter! I love those books.


How to Write a Book Review

It’s a mystery to me why readers are so resistant to writing reviews. I am referring to reviews in Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, etc. Sharing our opinions on things we either love or hate is intrinsic to us. We love to tell our friends about a great movie we just saw or a brand-new song we just heard or a fantastic restaurant we discovered.
 
We love to “tell.” Everything changes when we have to “write.” There seems to be an innate fear of that five-letter word, even when the writing involves only a paragraph. This creates a problem for authors because reviews are so intrinsic to our success.
 
I have friends who will not read a book which has less than fifty reviews on Amazon. At the rate of one review per month, (the average number for a non-bestseller) it will take a book several years to reach fifty reviews. This is especially frustrating to those of us trying to climb the ladder of reviews.
 
In asking individual readers, I found that most of them don’t like writing book reviews but have no problem writing reviews for other products. Ask them to review the thumb drive or the Ninja blender they just bought, and they go to it with gusto, pictures included.
 
Why then the reticence to review a book? The answer possibly lies in the preconception that a reader is expected to write a literary review. You know, those your English teacher made you write.
 
Authors themselves, when they write reviews for other authors, write such reviews. It’s sad because by example, they discourage regular readers from reviewing. Often, readers tell me they don’t write reviews because they don’t know how. I really must stress that there is no set “how” in reviewing.
 
First, I’m grateful for any review that seems heartfelt and honest, no matter the length. You don’t have to write a literary criticism because my books are not literary wonders written for college professors. No one is grading you.
 
Next, there is no magic formula to follow. Write as if you were speaking to a friend or to someone sitting next to you at the hair salon. The important thing is to zoom-in on what you found most noticeable about the book.
 
A review should be appropriate to the work. I would never give a Christian book a bad review because it sells religion. To give a book a negative review because it has sex scenes, and you happen to be totally against sex in books, is in rather bad form too.
 
Any book with explicit content is required to have a warning. If you don’t like sex in your content, then don’t choose such books. In a fair review, you may mention that the book has sex scenes; however, many readers like sex scenes and would rather know if they were well written. The point: you should review fairly.
 
Finally, a review need not be a composition-length work. A simple, heart-felt paragraph is often worth a thousand words.  The following is a copy of a review written for my book Angel’s Guardian by an Amazon customer. Notice the casual, informal tone, the missing caps, etc. The reader wrote a few lines only, but she leaves no doubt as to how she feels about the book. I loved this review!
 
Review at Amazon from Aliciaann
 
Definitely not your twilight vampire. More like Brick in the Black series, by ms. Andrujiski. This series seems to be comparable to it. I’m hooked already. I expect to be up most of the night reading. Oh darn. I’m suffering from sleep deprivation again. Glad I’m retired and can sleep till 10am
 
If you are nervous about putting your thoughts in writing, try the following formula. Take the last book you read, and write your review following my simple guidelines.
If you address these simple points in your review, you can’t go wrong.
 
1.       This book is (really great, really bad, ok, not my cup of tea, not for everyone).
2.      I really liked or disliked (describe something you really liked or disliked about the book.
3.      I would highly recommend this book (or not) and will definitely read (or not) this author’s books in the future.
 
 
The following are things some reviewers mention, but most don’t. Your review is yours and you decide what to include.
***The book has explicit scenes of sex and violence
***There are many grammatic and spelling errors or the writing is flawless.
***The English used is British English
***There was humor in the book.
***There was too much dialogue and not enough description (or the opposite).
***The characters were believable and likeable (or not.)
 
 
Remember: I’d rather have a short, honest review with misspellings and bad punctuation, that speaks from the heart, than no review at all.
 
 
 
 
 

What Makes A Great Novel?

The following post is one I did a few years ago. Going through my file of old posts, I re-read it and decided to recycle it, as I have so many new VIP members who might enjoy it. I did a little rewriting to update it. Hope you like it.

What makes a great novel? There are as many answers to that question as there are readers.

I once read a book that was chosen by my Goodreads group. From the start, the great reviews came in. The group members were having nothing but praise for the book. One woman did not think that 5 stars, which is the max, was a high enough rating for the book.

Several other gushed that a movie should be made about it, and it turns out that a movie was made about it. I was so excited about reading the novel that I set aside a whole weekend to dedicate to it. Imagine my shock when I could barely make it halfway through, and could not stand it any more. I set it aside for a week, and then forced myself to finish it.

I could not understand why people were raving about the novel. They went on and on about how the character would not give up. You see, he was stranded in Mars and had to survive until he could be rescued. I found it exceedingly boring. It had very little character interaction as he was alone in a desert planet.

There was very little description and no action whatsoever. There was no figurative language, no mood setting, no romance, and it was full of endless explanations of the constant rigging of battery systems, H2O synthesis, and the mixing of Martian dirt and urine and feces to make soil with bacteria for growing potatoes.

The main character’s biggest complain was about having only disco music available. He showed very little emotional depth. I would have given the book 2 stars, and the group would probably have lynched me, if they could.

I can also use the example of a quirky little detective story I recently read. It had nothing but raving reviews of nothing less than 5 stars on Amazon. It was full of action and modern, snazzy dialogue, but by the end of the story, I still did not have a clear image of the heroine because the author never got around to describing her. The storyline was all!

To some readers, the story line is all. They love this book, and they would hate the D.E. Stevenson (Miss Buncle) stories I love; nothing usually happens in them. Once again, what makes a great book? My honest opinion is that the reader makes a book great.

A while back, I read a list of reviews on Facebook, done by students, on great literary works. The person who posted the list dubbed it “Reviewers Who Missed the Point,” or something like that. Someone wrote about how stupid Hamlet was, and someone else wrote about Ulysses being a horrible book. Obviously, the Facebook member who posted the list was making a point about how ignorant some readers can be, and feeling pretty smug that he or she was smart enough to understand great literature.

Well, you know what? I happened to agree with the person who trashed Ulysses. I’ve always thought it was a horrible book. Today, it would have never been published. However, I totally disagree with the one who trashed To Kill A Mockingbird.

The point is that greatness is in the eye of the beholder, just like beauty. Someone will consider a book great if it has dynamic characters who go through great transformations in the course of the story. Themes of redemption and sacrifice abound in such characterization. Characters that are neither black nor white but a little of each, flawed and yet attractive. Such is the tortured character Zadist, in J.R. Ward’s novels; he is a prime example of this duality. I absolutely love him!

Other readers will not find a novel great unless it has a strong story line as its main element; plot, plot, and more plot. Great detective stories are my favorites. I am addicted to the William Monk novels by Anne Perry because of that element. And how about Karen Marie Moning’s early Highlander series? Imagine falling through a crevice to find a be-spelled, gorgeous highlander who has been sleeping for centuries. You travel back in time to save him, but in the past, he remembers you not! Now, plot like that is hard to resist.

I, myself, need to be transported to other realms, other worlds. For me, it’s Tolkien taking me to Middle-earth, or Ellis Peters sending me back in time to a monastery in the Middle Ages or Anne Perry dunking me in the dank, cruel London of late 19th century. I love Monique Martin’s books for that reason; time travel stories are great for this.

Finally, a great book for me must paint mental pictures and do it well. Description can not be sacrificed for the sake of action. A great story must place pictures in my mind, pictures of people, of feelings, of places, of light and dark, of sweet and bitter, of beauty and ugliness. The reason I write is to transfer to your mind the things that are in mine. How can you possible grasp the image if it is not painted for you with my words?

Many writers give new authors the advice of “show, show, show, don’t tell.” Yes, dialogue moves the story. I myself use dialogue strongly and hopefully, eloquently. However, setting, mood, atmosphere, and characters need to be defined with descriptive words; otherwise, you end up with a fast-moving play where at the end, the reader has no idea how to form an image of the heroine!

To answer the original question, “What makes a great novel?”  A great novel is one that gives you what you want. One that awakens the “eye of the beholder,” taking you places where you haven’t been before. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

How to Load Non-Amazon Books Into Your Kindle

Recently, I gifted books to those loyal members of my VIP list who had  60% or higher open rate to my emails. My gifted books are downloaded through Bookfunnel links which allow you to select a preferred format: Epub, Mobi, or PDF by choosing your reading device. Remember that Epub cannot be read on a Kindle.

Claiming my gifted book from Bookfunnel is easy, but getting the book into your Kindle device requires a little know-how. There are 3 different methods you can use.
a. You can do it the Bookfunnel way by installing the Bookfunnel App.
b. You can do it the Amazon way by installing the Send to Kindle App.
c. You can do it your way by Emailing the book file to your Kindle.

I find that the Send to Kindle App way is the easiest, but the Bookfunnel App is the nicest because it places your book in the Kindle’s library along with all your other books.

Bookfunnel will ask you to download the Bookfunnel App to your Kindle. This App is very useful, as most free books given directly by authors are usually downloaded using Bookfunnel. The App places your book seamlessly into your Kindle library.

However, you do not have to accept the App. You can also opt to download the Mobi file at the bottom of the list and use another method to transfer it to Kindle.

***Before you start the process, go into the settings of your Kindle, click on Security & Privacy, and TURN ON Apps from Unknown Sources. This allows you to install Apps that are not Amazon’s property. Amazon makes it sound scary with the word “Unknown” because they want you to use only their proprietary or approved Apps.

Claim Your Book Using the Bookfunnel App.

Step 1
Click on Get My Book. The Bookfunnel process asks you “What do you read on?” It gives you a list of choices. Your choice here determines the format you’ll get. If you want to save the book to your Kindle, choose Kindle Tablet or E-Reader.

Step 2
Bookfunnel gives you a choice of Kindle readers as well as a Mobi file. (I have a Kindle Fire, so I choose that.) If you choose the Mobi file, it will download to your computer or mobile device to be saved as a file.

Step 3
If you selected a Kindle device, you are now asked to download the Bookfunnel App. Follow the steps given to do that.

Step 4
Once the App is installed in Kindle, you claim the book, and it appears on your Kindle library along all your Amazon books.

Once your Bookfunnel App is installed, you never have to do it again. Claiming your Bookfunnel books will be a simple step.

If downloading the App is something you don’t want to do, then choose the Mobi File. You can still store it and read it in your Kindle by following the steps below.


Using the Send to Kindle App.

There is a wonderful App from Amazon  called the Send to Kindle App. You can download it for free HERE.

It’s available for PC, MAC, your browser, your email, and your Android device. It takes seconds to install, and you can use it to send any file to all your Kindle devices.

When you install Send to Kindle, you will not see an App shortcut on your desktop. The command “Send to Kindle” appears when you right-click on any book file or document, as if you were using the “print” command. Click on it, and the App opens.

Send to Kindle is super easy to use. Any book you send which is not Amazon bought, will be found in your Docs tab in your Kindle device (Not in the Books Library).

Sending a Book by Email to Your Kindle

You must first add your email address to your Kindle settings:

Step 1
Go to your Amazon Account. With your cursor on your Amazon account, scroll down to Content and Devices. Click on it.

Step 2
Select Preferences, and then select Personal Document Settings.

Step 3
Scroll down to Send-to-Kindle Email Settings. Here you’ll find the special email address of your Kindle. Write it down.

example: Mine is zeecelugo@kindle.com

Step 4
Scroll down to Approved Personal Document E-mail List. This is where your enter any email address from which your Kindle will accept mail. Enter your own personal email.

example: Mine is zeecelugo@gmail.com

Now you are ready to send files, including books to your Kindle.

Sending the book:

Step 1
Open your Email App and start a new message. Make sure you are writing from the personal email address that you authorized in your Kindle settings.

Step 2
The Send to address is your Kindle’s email address.

Step 3
Click on Attach and add your book file as an attachment. Usually, your newly downloaded book is in Downloads. I save mine to Desktop, where I easily find them.

Step 4
Make sure to write “file” or “book” in the subject line. You need write nothing in the body of the email.

Step 5
Click Send. Wait a few minutes, open your Kindle, and find the book under Docs. If you don’t see it, do a quick sync of the Kindle. The book will show up.

The emailed books appear under Docs on your Kindle’s Home screen. They do not appear in your books library. In your Amazon Account’s Content and Devices, they also appear stored under Docs. You can click on any title and deliver it to any of your Amazon licensed devices.

Readers often think their book failed to transfer because it’s not listed in the library. As in the Send to Kindle App, the emailed book appears in your Kindle’s Docs tab.

Note: If you know how to transfer books to Nook or any other popular reader, I’d be glad to post your input.

Hope this post helps!