Three years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

There is nothing like cancer to make you realize that your time on Earth is limited, especially if you’re in your late 60’s to start with. If I wanted anyone to read the five novels I’d written, I had to do something. I went to a round table discussion on publishing shortly after I finished radiation therapy, and for the first time heard of assisted self-publishing. This sounded do-able, and I wrote down two names: Lulu and iUniverse.

I checked their web sites and decided to try the first book with iUniverse, which offered an editorial evaluation as part of the package. I had it edited by Carla Helfferich, who’d edited much of my popular science, and sent it off. The result, with Editor’s Choice right from the start, was my first published book, Homecoming. I submitted it to several contests, of which only Reader Views offered an online book review as the first step in judging. The review was published, and the book won 2nd place in science fiction. Further, it was evident from the review that the reviewer had really read and fully evaluated the book.

Tourist Trap, which Carla thought was the better book of the two, did not fare as well with the editorial review at iUniverse. I think the problem was that I did not use a standard science fiction plot arc. My protagonist leaned a few things about himself, rather than getting himself out of an impossible situation without help. The iUniverse editor wanted me to drop the last two chapters and have the protagonist get himself out of trouble, which would have completely ruined what I saw as the main point of the book.

With Carla’s backing, I went ahead without Editor’s Choice. This has meant among other things that bookstores did not get discounts or returnability, which has certainly hurt sales. (I think that, at least, has been fixed.) Partly because of this I entered Tourist Trap in only one contest, Reader Views, as that way I would at least get another unbiased review.

I hoped to get another placing in science fiction.

I know I had that March 1, when they announced the finalists.

On March 7 the winners were announced, and I was pleased to find Tourist Trap took 1st place in science fiction. Then I found a later e-mail, and discovered that Tourist Trap had won the Garcia Award for the Best Fiction Book of the Year. What? Science fiction books don’t do that! But when I checked the winners list again, there at the end of the post were the special awards, and Tourist Trap had won a $1000 value publicity package from Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity.

Tourist Trap is a book about a young man’s coming of age as well as a science fiction adventure, and that young man already knows he will face an awesome responsibility as an adult. He must learn the difference between justice and revenge, and recognize that he himself may be destroyed by his own choices. But it’s also a book about a group of teenagers traveling through a world populated by the animals we lost at the end of the ice age—mammoths and sabertooth cats, to name a couple. The travelers don’t even realize—until it’s almost too late—that they are the intended victims of a murder plot. To quote from the review: “Tourist Trap” is a great read for anyone that wants motivation and feeling to accompany the action in their sci-fi adventure. Alien beings and super powers are an integral part of Roi’s story but what makes this novel really shine is the heart. Nobody is good or evil just because that’s their assigned role. Just like in real life, everyone has their own motivations and desires, and Bowling does a great job of letting the reader see what it would be like to walk in the shoes of Roi, Xazhar, and even madman Zhaim.

Sometimes it pays to stay with your own feeling about what’s right with a book.