Blue Star Setting Named Best of The Year

We were gratified to see such a thoughtful review of Tethered Worlds Book 2, Blue Star Setting, by DED over at The New Podler Reviews. We are doubly pleased to find it now named best of 2015. If any of you enjoy reading fun science fiction, please go over to Podler and check out what they have to say. It’s illuminating.

The New Podler Review of Books: The Best of 2015

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Being named best of 2015 is an honor, and we are grateful. We will endeavor to make every future entry live up to its promise and potential.

Check out our trailer.

Tethered Worlds series at Amazon.

Sci-Fi Book Series Should Share More Than a Font

~or~

“Tether” your novels.

A series should be connected by more than characters and title. A series book bears responsibility beyond what’s necessary for its standalone plot, it owes allegiance to a greater whole. The first job of the first book is the obvious one. Launch the reader to a new universe.

"Yay! We lived through the first movie. We get to come back!"
“Yay! We lived through the first movie. We get to come back!”

Consider the Star Wars that started it all, A New Hope in 1977. It executed a wonderful standalone story while at the same time introducing us all to Empire versus Rebels, Luke Skywalker, and a gizmo called a light saber. It laid the foundation upon which even the prequels were built.

A truly connected series does another import thing, it plants seeds for future entries. This doesn’t take away from the single book plot carried and concluded between the covers, but rather speaks to a greater mission. Content whose full consequence will not bloom until a future book. It makes for an even greater payoff, although there’s also immediate benefit in letting the reader know more is yet to unfold.

Harry Potter: "Oh Hedwig, at least you will be by my side for the entire series."
Harry Potter: “Oh Hedwig, at least you’ll be by my side the entire series.”

The first Harry Potter book, much like the first Tethered Worlds novel, does a fine job introducing the reader into a whole culture. These books teach you their unique terms. From wands and gristers, to quidditch and threshes. But they do more. They plant seeds for the future, teasing at content that serves double duty for current and future book.

It was once pointed out to me that some content I wrote was not strictly necessary to the current story, but I knew it was there for a fun, future payoff. A reviewer who really understands this concept is DED over at The New Podler Reviews. Check out his take on Tethered Worlds Book Two: Blue Star Setting and then jump into a great adventure.

Keir Dullea as Dave Bowman in Arthur C. Clarke's 200:1 A Space Odyssey. "I'm not worried, it's not like they'll ever make a sequel to this...right?"
Keir Dullea as Dave Bowman in Arthur C. Clarke’s 200:1 A Space Odyssey. “I’m not worried, it’s not like they’ll ever make a sequel to this…right?”

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Tethered Worlds: Unwelcome Star launches you into a multi-book adventure. See for yourself who your favorite characters are and hold out hope for them. A journey, begun in Unwelcome Star, continues (hopefully for your favorite) in Blue Star Setting.

Digital Age Marketing Scams: eBookPro.org

~or~

A bountiful harvest of apples may still conceal a worm.

The-Good-the-Bad-and-the-Ugly-Movie Walls Dot Com-750

The information age is changing just about everything. Few barriers now lie between content creators and the end user. But the marketplace is full of choices, and making money from creative endeavors can be challenging. Less challenging (and less scrupulous) is profiting from the endeavors of others with ebook marketing scams. Enter eBookPro.org whom you might see in your inbox as “publishingglobal@gmail.com” or “McNew Publishing.”

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Letting people know about your new creation is the challenge. Quality work can go unseen. However ebook marketing may be one of the few areas in which money is being made. Authors, striving for sales, confident in their work, contract promotion services. I’ve hired many contractors over my writing career for a variety of services. Almost all were professional, and the interactions good.

I contracted eBookPro.org for a one-time $12 promotion for the first book in the Tethered Worlds series, Unwelcome Star. It was seemingly a modest introductory offer for placement on their website and perhaps inclusion on their mailing list. Ebook marketing companies are popping up, and this one seemed new and hungry for business.

As Dire Straits would say, "That ain't workin'... Money for nothin..."
As Dire Straits would say, “That ain’t workin’… Money for nothin…”

Their services bore little if any fruit. About three weeks later I noticed hundreds of dollars of charges on the credit card I used to pay them. Unauthorized charges stemming from eBookPro.org. Of course I immediately contacted them, trying to pierce their internet insulation.

Eventually I got an email from a representative named “Shivangi Mahesh ACCOUNTING SUPERVISOR” who suggested going to some online form page. No acknowledgement or even discussion of the fraudulent charges occurred, which obviously was not satisfactory. Repeated pleas for communication from Mr. Mahesh went unanswered, eventually forcing me to cancel the credit card.

If the story ended there, the lesson learned would be enough, but there’s one final chapter. I surmise Mr. Mahesh or someone from eBookPro.org/McNew Publishing was not pleased with my complaints about their unauthorized charges. Though the bank re-issuing my credit card is charged with keeping my information confidential, Mastercard inexplicably exposed me to serious fraud by sharing the new card with the very organizations whose charges I was contesting.

Business arrangements for you are 'opportunities' for others.
Business arrangements for you are ‘opportunities’ for others.

The eBookPro cartel racked up over $7000 in charges before I canceled the second card. One charge alone was for $3200. All this from a simple, one-time $12 trial. What tips can be taken away from this incident?

  1. Take your time. Sign up for a potential marketing firm’s mailing list and see it for yourself.
  2. Monitor the social media of new firms to ascertain more about their legitimacy and results.
  3. Seek out online forums and writing groups for more information on potential service providers. This may be difficult for new companies in this fast-paced publishing environment, but it’s worth trying.
  4. Analyze your credit card statements. Scam artists may start with a small charge to test the waters.

Your marketing dollars are an investment in yourself, they should command scrutiny. When that’s not enough, be ready for the necessary hassle to get your money back, like I did. It was no fun, but the commerce in which we engage in the free marketplace almost always reconciles fairly, and this truly was an exception. There are reputable companies out there, run by good people who will show your self-investment the respect it deserves. Find them.

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The Tethered Worlds universe still uses currency. But some planets wouldn’t take too kindly to fraud. But worlds are as diverse as those who settle them. Some bring forth heroes of noble character, and some spawn those who would seek to control others. Read the Tethered Worlds books and join Jordahk’s family in fighting for what’s right.

Book Covers IV: Making a Superb Back Cover Blurb

~or~

Blurbs? How hard can it be… right?

The back cover blurb may be the three most important paragraphs to whoever picks up your print edition. In those 150-175 words, your potential readers may decide if they are going to become actual readers. And even if you are published in eBook formats only, the ever present description box needs the blurb to accomplish the same thing.

You might let your literary agent do it, or your publisher. But it is your book. Want to give it a go? (If you are self publishing, you will have to.) Now there are places online where you can get good tips for writing a blurb. I just want to highlight a few as I see them.

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First, keep it lean and to the point. Do you have an ensemble cast? There is not a lot of room for, “Meanwhile, back on Tau Ceti 5, the brother-in-law discovers…” Focus on your protagonist and keep the description to their key arc. That is really what your book is about, isn’t it? The rest of the supporting content is good, but belongs in the book interior.

Also, I recommend a classic format. Introduce your protagonist in paragraph one. Are they relatable? Even the most way out character has something to which a reader can relate. Paragraph two sets up your conflict. It upsets you lead’s world and often starts with an action word. And finally, the third paragraph is the big tease. You’ve set up your protagonist and the conflict, now hint at the journey, the stakes, and the awesome forces at odds. But do not give away too much.

Keeping it real (readable). I wanted a little color and flavor on the back cover blurb letters. Not just plain white. But readability had to come first. In the end the dark background frame worked well, fading out before the ships.
Keeping it real (readable). I wanted a little color and flavor on the back cover blurb letters. Not just plain white. But readability had to come first. In the end the dark background frame worked well, fading out before the ships.

And lastly, some practical advice. Have you paid a professional artist to make your cover art? Your blurb and that art need to coexist. Make sure your text is not tiny, is easy to read, and not some crazy font that gives customers headaches. I decided to not obscure my fine cover art with an opaque text box. I wanted it to blend in organically, and even have some color and life to it. So many little things go into a professional book. You know this if you are doing it all yourself. Whether you are or not, it is YOUR book. Make sure all the ingredients comprising your fine creation are the best they can be.

*Relocated content originally posted at TetheredWorlds.com.

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Tethered Worlds is a series full of color. It may even have some practical advice on life, relationships, and destroying robots. The time spent reading it may inspire you to overcome your daily challenges.

You can also check out Lorenz’s site and see his interesting work.

The Book Cover Series:

Done Last – But Seen First

Don’t Trip Running the Bases

Titles are Only Catchy if Comprehensible

Making a Superb Back Cover Blurb

 

Does Novel Length Still Matter in a Digital World?

~or~

No One Looks at Kindles Sideways

I recently read an interesting post by Joe Wikert where he talked about book length and sales in a digital world. As an author, it got me thinking about the nature of novel writing and how we deliver content to our readers.

One of Joe’s points was that every written work does not need to be a couple hundred pages long. On the surface, and perhaps in general, this makes sense. The physical bookshelf, while quaint, is becoming less of a commercial factor every day as more and more content is purchased online and/or consumed digitally. But “books” means a lot of things. Certainly, nonfiction books of every sort should not be a page longer than they need to be. Bloating a book so it takes up more shelf space has to be a thing of the past. And, in my opinion, the price should be adjusted accordingly.

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Novels, on the other hand, need to be a certain length to be considered novels. While there may be no official word count for full-length, it is hard to consider anything below 50,000 words more than a novella. I would not want to see consumers charged full novel price for a novella. Disappointment in such a purchase can undermine the whole business model. However, with so many self published books out there of various lengths, some offered for $.99 or even free, it is not possible to strictly associate price and length.

People have no length expectations for a self-help guide beyond a length long enough to give them the help they desire. However novels are an experience. While movies have averaged shorter over the decades, they are still a certain length to satisfy the purchase price. There would be no commercial success for a theater release movie of thirty minutes, likely even if price reduced. A patron making an effort to go to a theater and buy a ticket wants to enjoy the fullness of their fantasy respite. As entertaining as thirty minutes can be made to be, it probably wouldn’t justify an evening out at the movies. (That’s what TV is for.)

Joe and I agree that selling books by the chapter is a dubious option. It may work for songs, which historically have been written and enjoyed individually. Albums are a relatively recent invention after all (outside of opera), and the success of iTunes shows that their basis was not necessary.

The fundamentals of storytelling, exposition, climax and denouement have centuries of tradition.
The fundamentals of storytelling; exposition, climax and denouement have centuries of tradition.

But Joe had high hopes for tailoring works to shorter length. An okay concept for information, but storytelling follows a less flexible path. If a person is into short stories, and that number may be increasing, short is fine. But the experience of getting to know a novel’s universe, and following along on an adventure of some length is as old as Shakespeare, and may be as old as some of the earliest hero’s journey epics. Every reader has an invisible ratio graph in their head of time invested versus literary payback. It has been culturally set by hundreds of years of tradition, and it’s not going to be upended because E-readers have become popular in the last five.

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Tethered Worlds: Unwelcome Star is a full length adventure, one that will give you hours of fantastical enjoyment and respite beyond the distant colony world of Adams Rush. Go with Jordahk and experiences his challenges, victories, and penchant for getting into jams that may just save his planet.

Yoda says, “Always in motion is the future.”

~or~

Stop Trying to Predict Tomorrow and Write Your Novel.

You’re sitting at your keyboard, staring at a blank document file. Time ticks by, and the keys remain unpressed. Writer’s block? No. Rather you are too focused on precisely determining the events of tomorrow, and every day something else happens that changes that outlook. The future cannot be pinned down, it is a free-wheeling mistress that cannot be tamed. Tomorrow, something completely unexpected may be invented that changes everything.

Undoubtedly you have seen “futuristic” movies from the past. Their retro-futures can be outrageously off. I am fond of an episode of The Flash TV series from the 1990s called, “Ghost in the Machine.” In it, a TV and technology obsessed 1955 villain freezes himself into the year 1990. Needless to say, when he saw TV progressed little farther than arcade machines, and everything else less advanced than expected, he was disappointed.

“I expected more… The monorails, undersea cities, the moon colony. Where’s my future!”

But I take heart in stepping back and realizing that my job is not to unerringly predict the future, but rather to write an interesting and fun novel that takes place in it. If you are a writer, do not be paralyzed, you must step out. A good story can transcend setting, and memorable characters will stand the test of time. Do your research and take your best shot at a period. Form it in a way that enhances YOUR characters and plot.

I have heard it said that fiction written about the past or the future is still about “today.” The human condition; pride and love, freedom and oppression, good and evil are timeless. Those real situations will communicate in any era to any era. Yoda was right. None of us knows what tomorrow holds. Fortunately, we do not have to.

Tethered Worlds: Unwelcome Star is a novel set in the future, but populated by real people who struggle with flaws, yet strive for nobility. In it, I hope you will find characters that resonate with your life.

Tethered Worlds Book One Thanksgiving Weekend Sale — Done & Thanks!

 POST SALE UPDATE: We are grateful to those who helped support our sale. To all who purchased, thank you and happy reading. We hope you enjoy the series, and if you do, let us know!

UNWELCOME STAR For $0.99—Thanksgiving Weekend Only!

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We are running this special for four days, November 27-30. The Tethered Worlds series has been well received. Now you can start from the beginning with the Kindle edition of book one, Unwelcome Star, for only $0.99.

Tether Worlds Unwelcome Star (kindle edition) at Amazon

Be there with Jordahk as he is thrust into a quest to save his world—and find out more about himself. Glean hints from Jordahk’s mysterious grandfather who knows more than he’s willing to say. Watch the whole family square off against a cunning fleet commander and a ruthless technology hunter.

Check out our newly released trailer and then go on an adventure!

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space_invaders_signatureGregory Faccone hopes you will also check out the Tethered Worlds series. It may not make colorful fractals leap off the page, but they still can in your mind!

Book Covers III: Titles are Only Catchy if Comprehensible

~or~

Reading is Fundamental

This is the third and final post on creating an excellent book cover. The first post discussed refining your vision to keep it clear and simple. The second talked about bringing that refined vision to reality with a contract artist. This third is about the all important titling. Now I am not talking about the actual words you use, although that is important and worthy of its own post. Rather I am referring to the readability of the title.

That sound basic? You might be surprised at what a perusal of Amazon offerings reveals. Your book is going to first be seen in a 150 pixel thumbnail! That may make or break a potential reader’s interest right there. I will not embarrass any author’s book cover here, but it will not take you long to see a block of color and maybe a figure. At the bottom a series a squiggles hints at a title. Sometimes certain fonts drop right out of existence altogether at that reduction.

Legibility and font go hand in hand at any size. Note how seriously I took it with experiment after experiment. The spirit of a book can be honored with a distinct, but still readable choice. In my case, I eschewed overly "sci-fi" fonts for a classic Roman-esque which fit an undertone of the book.
Legibility and font go hand in hand at any size. Note how seriously I took it with experiment after experiment. The spirit of a book can be honored with a distinct, but still readable choice. In my case, I eschewed overly “sci-fi” fonts for a classic Roman-esque which fit an undertone of the book.

Now you have determined a sufficiently large font size for your book title. You have left appropriate space in your cover for it. (You did leave space, right? Do not cover your protagonist’s face!) What about font choice? Beware the dark side here. Avoid the temptation and the pitfall of overly stylized fonts. You know the kind. Some are so sci-fi that you spend a minute just trying to figure out what it is supposed to say. Fail. Such fonts can easily be cliche or dated; both messages will not serve you well.

Classics are classics for a reason. Use them to your advantage. Consider book interiors. 90% of them are Times New Roman or something similar. “Hundreds of years of book tradition” (as one online expert put it) make for a difficult trend to buck. Find your individualism someplace else. I am not saying be boring on your book cover. No way. But there are a lot of interesting and pretty things you can do to a readable font. I consulted my own local font expert for some tips as I navigated and polished my title presentation.

Here is the (re-worked update of the) final front cover. Legibility does not preclude fun bevels and subtle glows. And of course, adding unique touches like an iconic symbol from the series makes it all the better, memorable, and identifiable.
Here is the (re-worked update of the) final front cover. Legibility does not preclude fun bevels and subtle glows. And of course, adding unique touches like an iconic symbol from the series makes it all the better, memorable, and identifiable.

Make sure (to avoid headaches) you have your exact pixel size and proportional dimensions accurately nailed down. I had a minor issue with the ratio which I did not discover until after the font work was more-or-less done. Thank goodness again for leaving all the elements in layers. I had the extra room to widen because the original art is suitably large for the coming print edition. I also had each word and even the symbol ready to be scaled and nudged individually as needed.

As I have found out on this journey, a book is comprised of so many elements. The writing is the bulk of it, but all these supporting factors play a part. How many car choices come down to finish and color? Both cars in question may be quality vehicles, but the exterior of one grabs the attention and compels a second look. Make sure you do justice to your months or even years of writing by investing the appropriate final portion of effort. Do not leave your cover in jeans when black tie is called for.

*Relocated content originally posted at TetheredWorlds.com.

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Tethered Worlds is a well dressed story that never goes out of style. Put on your spacesuit and join an adventure. The time spent may inspire you to tailor other aspects of your life to exactly fit your daily challenges.

You can also check out Lorenz’s site and see his interesting work.

The Book Cover Series:

Done Last – But Seen First

Don’t Trip Running the Bases

Titles are Only Catchy if Comprehensible

Making a Superb Back Cover Blurb

 

Book Covers II: Don’t Trip Running the Bases

~or~

Put Some Finish on Your Finish

There are book covers out there that would make your brows seriously rise in skepticism. You might think, and rightly so, that some authors just phoned it in. (Perhaps using the “generate cover” button available on some programs.) How can one work so hard and so long on a written piece and then approach its cover so lackadaisically?

As noted in my previous post on this topic, Book Covers: Done Last – But Seen First, a good novel can overcome its cover. But it should not have to! If you have thought through the basics, and you know what will serve your novel, it’s time to take it to the next level. If you have hired a professional, work with them and make the second revision better than the first. You are the customer. You are paying. (Even if you have hired your cousin and are paying with a dinner at Applebee’s.)

I consulted with one of my test readers. We examined covers to see what caught the eye. It led to my inclusion of a close shot of the protagonist. This was the sketch I sent my artist.
I consulted with one of my test readers. We examined covers to see what caught the eye. It led to my inclusion of a close shot of the protagonist. This was the sketch I sent my artist.

I wanted a slightly rough, painterly style. My artist had demonstrated it already, and his first take from my written descriptions was on the right track. Now we strived to make it even better. I sent him a sketch of how I envisioned it. He was influenced by that and the revised piece advanced even closer to what I wanted. If you pick a pro, act like a pro. Engage in some healthy back and forth. You both may find new things that work better as you do.

But be wise, and pick your battles. Do not nit-pick over micro things you can adjust yourself. Time is money for your contracted artist. Do not squander professional goodwill. Ask for your image to be left in layers. This was of immense help to me in making final adjustments. It also was instrumental in fully utilizing pieces of the art for my various web presences. Additionally, after all the details I originally wanted were added, I made the wise decision to drop some for simplicity and clarity (see last post). This was an option facilitated with minimal trouble by the layers.

Lorenz's artwork after some final modifications.
Lorenz’s artwork after some final modifications.

In the next post, the final for the Unwelcome Star e-book version cover, I will discuss the last crucial elements. Font and readability.

*Relocated content originally posted at TetheredWorlds.com.

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Tethered Worlds takes place in a vast and complex universe. But that does not mean the cover has to be overly complex. Read this series and go along on an adventure. You may find that the time spent in it spills over into your real life daily challenges— and triumphs.

You can also check out Lorenz’s site and see his interesting work.

The Book Cover Series:

Done Last – But Seen First

Don’t Trip Running the Bases

Titles are Only Catchy if Comprehensible

Making a Superb Back Cover Blurb

 

Book Covers I: Done Last – But Seen First

~or~

Sometimes You Can Judge an Book by its Cover

One might meticulously craft a written piece, be it a novel in my case, or perhaps an important PowerPoint presentation. Yet, despite however good those words are, the first impression people will get is your book cover or first slide. There’s information out there regarding good book cover construction. I know, I looked. Here are a couple distilled points that resonated for my project.

First, you must win the war against complexity. Fight the urge to include every key item and/or character on your cover. Today, the majority of book buyers are not going to hold your book in their hand at a brick-and-mortar store. They are going to see a thumbnail at an e-retailer. Finely painted conflagrations of detail and layers of subtlety are probably not going to come across at that size. Simplicity sells. Help the viewer get one solid idea about your book at first glance.

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For me, it started with doodles that crept onto pages of notes, or images that found themselves forming when I felt like sketching. An iconic image of the egress, the central piece of technology from the Tethered Worlds series. Its clean lines and planetary backdrop made for great imagery. Its simplicity also did not suck all the oxygen out of the cover, leaving room for one more element which I will cover in the next post. So communicate a clear, clean concept. It does not have to be completely understood, that is what the novel is for!

You will need to find someone who can bring your vision to reality, or you can do it yourself. Although I’m a professional artist, I decided I wanted a fresh, loose take on the cover I envisioned. I contracted a fine artist named Lorenz Hideyoshi Ruwwe. He started homing in on what I wanted from a detailed document I wrote which included examples of covers I thought good and subpar. I even included examples of his own work I wanted him to emulate style-wise.

The early roughs started coming in, and just from my document descriptions Lorenz starting getting the big picture.
The early roughs started coming in, and just from my document descriptions Lorenz starting getting the big picture.

A good novel or PowerPoint presentation may overcome a less than stellar cover or first slide. But why make your work jump that hurdle? Sure, some established authors need only put their name on the cover. But until then, novels are complex creations that need to be packaged in such a way that people will read them. So make sure all your work’s components are functioning well and pulling in the same direction. Don’t gloss over the small stuff. The cliché that “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” IS a cliché because it is so often proven out.

*Relocated content originally posted at TetheredWorlds.com.

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Tethered Worlds is a series upon which I have spent many non-writing months just working out the details. Be they creating a universe rich enough to support a series, or working out optimal text formatting. Read it for yourself and find out if it inspires you to create something and see it through to the end.

You can also check out Lorenz’s site and see his interesting work.

The Book Cover Series:

Done Last – But Seen First

Don’t Trip Running the Bases

Titles are Only Catchy if Comprehensible

Making a Superb Back Cover Blurb

Tethered Worlds Series Trailer Released

We just finished cutting the new Tethered Worlds series trailer. It is a fun, colorful, fractal filled experience! You will see some production art included. We also added tags for the first two books currently available in the series.

Book trailers are a relatively new phenomenon, but can be an entertaining and fast way to give people an insight into a novel. They transform the gist from a written piece of work into another medium well suited to the internet. Watch it full-screen and enjoy!

Tethered Worlds: New Covers for the Release of Book II

~or~

New! & Improved!

With the release of Tethered Worlds book two, Blue Star Setting, we have commissioned new covers for a new look to the series. We went classic for the introductory phase. Now that two books are out and the series is advancing in earnest, we decided on a more “techy” look. First, the redesigned Unwelcome Star cover:

Here is my rough layout for the new cover with the original classic font.
Here is my rough layout for the new cover using the original classic font.

You can see all the similar elements from the first edition cover, just rearranged. Again I called upon the fine artistic services of Lorenz Hideyoshi Ruwwe, who has painted all the Tethered Worlds covers up to now. I originally planned to have the spaceship coming through the hexagon on the first edition version, but could not get it to work well enough. This time we pulled it off.

Notice our new, fine-looking "techy" font. We retained the signature hexagonal egress replacing the "O" in "Worlds."
Notice our new, fine-looking “techy” font. We retained the signature hexagonal egress replacing the “O” in “Worlds.”

For the Blue Star Setting cover, I wanted to convey an epic space battle, and of course the blue star. Two massive fleets exchanging fire in a largely blue system, and with the hexagonal egress still nearby.

I thought the egress placement was best highlighted on the sun's edge. The white star is the second in this binary system. For the final, you will see it moved to the back cover.
I thought the egress placement was best highlighted on the sun’s edge. The white star is the second in this binary system. For the final, you will see it on the back cover.

We moved some of the elements around for the final, including the title and author text. Flexibility is a must when everything is jockeying for position on a book cover. Lorenz did a fine job making the egress angle dramatic.

One ship needed to be more massive than all the rest. (Those who had read the book know to whom it belongs.)
One ship needed to be more massive than all the rest. (Those who have read the book know to whom it belongs.)

We want the Tethered Worlds experience to be a quality one both inside and on the cover. Now that you have enjoyed the covers and the story behind them, consider reading the series and find out what this hexagonal thing in space is all about.

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Gregory Faccone is author of the Tethered Worlds series, available at Amazon. He wants you to go on an adventure into space with his series. And honestly, it is a lot cheaper than trying to get to the international space station.