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Writing

Self-Review – Untrustworthy

Self-Review – Untrustworthy

Untrustworthy is my first-ever published novel.

Background

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | Untrustworthy

Much like a fan fiction novel called Reversal, it begins with a dream. And that makes perfect sense, as a dream inspired it.

And the dream, originally, was of seeing scenery change before my eyes (I have had this same dream before, and have written about it before, yet in different ways every time).

Plot

As Tathrelle begins the part of her life related by the story, the reader sees flashbacks of what seems like a dream and then seems like an earlier existence. However, the older life gets cut short in favor of the new. Tathrelle’s life, instead, centers around her wife Ixalla, and the children they are about to have. Past is prologue.

The Cabossians, a species made up by me, can have children in any combination, so long as both parties are fertile. Hence both mpreg and all varieties of marriage (same- and mixed-sex) figure in the plot.

Furthermore, Tathrelle’s new job drives a lot of the action, as she has won an election and represents the people in what obviously starts off as a military dictatorship. Also, in the background, a disembodied voice tells the people what to do. The first statements come out more as helpful hints and requests, such as to thank the public transportation driver or set the thermostat to a particular setting.

But that’s all about to change.

Characters

The main characters are Tathrelle, Ixalla, Velexio, Adger, and Students Number Five and Seventeen, along with a character just referred to as the unknown girl. The scene is solely on the planet Caboss, in the Central City.

One thing that surprised me as I wrote is that the main character, Tathrelle, did not turn out to be my favorite. Instead, that honor belongs to Ixalla. Ixalla was originally not much more than an expository mouthpiece. She really took flight when she became a revolutionary.

Memorable Quote

Ixalla yelled to them all, “This is the very last vestige of your privacy, and it is going up in smoke! You are all voluntarily giving it up! And for what? Is it for some vague notion of security? For the new requirement that anyone who is fertile is not just privileged, but that they are – we are – somehow, now, required to prove our fecundity? What will we have to prove next?

Music

The inspirational song for this book is Bastille’s Pompeii. Years later, and I am still incapable of hearing the song without thinking of the book, and vice versa.

Story Postings

Unlike any other works in this blog (as of now), this story is for sale. It is not truly ‘posted’ anywhere. Even on the NaNoWriMo site, all you can find is a short snippet.

Rating

The story is Rated T.

Upshot

Without giving away more of the plot, I think the story is okay but the truth is, I have written better since then. However, it is a great first effort for publication. Furthermore, I feel it works in some ways to get me into the publishing game, but then what? I feel the book had pretty good promotions but not great promotions. I know it has more reviews than a lot of other indie works, but not as many as others. Sales come few and far between.

In the meantime, I write about different things. Can Untrustworthy serve as an entree for diverse works such as the space opera of The Enigman Cave, the science fiction detective stories in The Obolonk Murders and its two sequels, the Victorian urban fantasy of The Real Hub of the Universe and its two sequels, or the odd science fiction dystopia of Mettle?

Stay tuned, and thank you, as always, for your kind and unwavering support.

In addition, do you like this page? Tweet it!


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Categories
Career changing Inspiration

Pocket Conflicts in Writing

Pocket conflicts

So, Pocket Conflicts are the kinds of conflicts which are tiny. They aren’t wars and they don’t lead to divorce or a firing. Instead, they are more about the speed of “who moved my cheese?

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Pocket Conflicts
What are pocket conflicts?

Hence they are kind of trivial, yet they can add a lot of annoyance into anyone’s life. And they can add color and interest to your characters, too.

Sibling Rivalry

Because the sibling relationship is often fraught with conflict, it can be the perfect vehicle for these types of conflicts. And if you have ever seen two children in the back of a car arguing about who last touched whom (or if you have ever been either of those children), or who last sat in front, then you know exactly what I am talking about.

And sibling rivalry does not necessarily go away when the siblings have grown up. Old resentments can crop up even when going through a deceased parent’s things. And the ‘kids’ might even be in their sixties by then.

Work Relationships

Pocket conflicts abound at work. And it’s not just cheese moving. What happens when a desk is moved? Or maybe someone was passed over for a promotion. Furthermore, colleagues can resent when a person has a different schedule if they don’t know why. If a parent has to drop their children off at daycare, and has permission to do so, then there’s every possibility that employee will, on occasion, be late. And that can create a conflict with that person’s coworkers if the boss doesn’t explain things properly.

Takeaways

Get your characters out of their comfort zones, but only a little bit. Because sometimes the small pebble in your shoe can hold your thoughts more than the metaphorical gunshot wound to your gut. And your characters should be no different, if you want them to seem real.

Categories
Career changing Inspiration

Getting inspiration from politics

Getting inspiration from politics

Politics comes with built-in drama. Because competitions for high and low offices can be truly thrilling. And long-term friendships can sometimes end over this often forbidden topic.

Right (American definition)

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from politics
Do you ever get inspiration from politics?

So consider the conservative point of view, and what it truly entails. Go beyond the basics of voting. What is a basic, core conservative philosophy? It is generally one of caution. And another aspect concerns keeping government small.

Left (American definition)

And on the other hand, for liberal, the point of view centers around moving ahead and trying new things. Hence these are essentially first adopters in a lot of ways. In addition, a leftist viewpoint (as defined in American politics, that is) connotes larger government but often more personal freedom.

Up

What happens at the top of the ticket? And that doesn’t have to just be in America. What about in other countries? How are leaders chosen – and who do they end up beholden to when elected? Top candidacies get a lot of press, and national leaders have nearly no time to themselves. Even bad leaders can be inundated with work. These are undoubtedly extremely stressful jobs, no matter the size of the country or the type of government.

Down

And what happens in the lower tiers of the ticket? Races for alderman and county clerk and even dog catcher might have some drama. Maybe they showcase rising political stars and foreshadow things to come. Furthermore, races for district attorney and for judge (in jurisdictions where either or both of these roles are not appointed) can have their own drama. Does the law and order candidate win? Not every time.

Takeaways

When putting together your own stories, think about how we (and other nations) choose our leaders. Democracy isn’t the only choice out there. Maybe your characters do something different, from voting to terms to how they treat incumbency to any of a host of other possibilities. And who knows? Your invented way may turn out to be better.

Categories
Career changing Inspiration

Getting inspiration from marriage

Marriage is more than weddings. And when you consider the entire experience, it can spawn any number of plot bunnies.

Courtship

So, how did you two meet? It’s a standard question and can be a terrific ice breaker.

Getting inspiration from marriage

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from marriage
Have you ever gotten inspiration from marriage?

Furthermore, dating rituals differ through time, so adjust what you write accordingly. In the 1950s, your young lovers might go to a hop or to play miniature golf. In the 1970s, they might go to a roller disco. And in Victorian times, they might visit in the sitting room of her parents’ home, or stroll in the garden.

Proposal

These days, anyone can do the proposing. However, of course, this was traditionally the realm of a man. Hence if you’re writing historical fiction, make sure to include that. Or, if you want to subvert tradition, make sure you can show a good reason why that happened.

And another tradition can be asking a parent’s (or maybe just the woman’s father’s) permission before marriage or even before courting.

Here’s another question: if your couple is same sex, who does the proposing?

Wedding

Because weddings have a ton of variables, this can take you in any number of directions. A large wedding can be an occasion for drama. Who is feeling left out? Does the cake topple over? And what happens if one of the parties is jilted or left at the altar? What if someone objects?

Day to Day

Married life can bring with it a raft of responsibilities, and I’m not even getting into parenthood here. Because combining households means, among other things, deciding whose couch to keep.

Issues

Money is probably the #1 issue between couples and it can be a doozy of a problem. And the couple do not have to be poor in order for this to be a problem. So, what happens if one person saves and the other can’t stop spending?

Other conflicts can include one person becoming an addict or mentally ill, or having to care for elderly parents or take in (or otherwise financially assist) siblings.

Divorce

The messy end of some marriages can create fallout and harm everything it touches. What if there was cheating? Or maybe the parties simply stopped trying. And don’t forget the kids, if any. Young teenagers and tweens are hit particularly hard by divorce. Furthermore, there is a very real economic component to divorce.

And what happens if either of the parties remarries?

Till Death

For some couples, death is the end. And that doesn’t necessarily mean they were happy 24/7 or even most of the time. However, for couples who are happy, the death of a spouse is devastating.

Widowhood

Widows and widowers may, consciously or unconsciously (and not necessarily fairly) compare their dearly departed with any potential new lovers to come down the pike. And conflicts can arise from everything from putting old pictures away – and taking them off the walls – to taking off the wedding ring.

Plus widowhood can happen at any time. What if your widowed character is in their twenties?

Takeaways

Marriage is one of the most important relationships in society. And if your characters marry, or if they are already married when your story starts, then it should be important to them as well.

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Career changing Personal Promotions

Longest Night Watch 2

Longest Night Watch 2

The Longest Night Watch 2 is the second indie author anthology dedicated to fighting Alzheimer’s. All of the writers are independent authors. And we all hate Alzheimer’s.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Longest Night Watch 2
Thank you for checking out the Longest Night Watch 2!

In the United States, 5.4 million Americans have the disease. That number will rise in the next few decades as the population continues to age. We are not doctors. But we are writers. And so we are offering this work. All of the proceeds go to research. Because we don’t keep a dime of it.

Who Are We?

The team consists of: Amanda Parker Adams, Andrew Barber, AR Harlow, Becca Bachlott, Brittany Tucker, Carol Gyzander, Cayleigh Stickler, D.R. Perry, Debbie Manber Kupfer, Fiona Teh, Georgette Frey, and Janet Gershen-Siegel (that would be me). Also, Jennifer Stibbards, Joshua L. Cejka, Kate Post, Katelyn Scarlett, L. Anne Wooley, Michael J. Medeiros, Michael Walton, R.R. Virdi, Ryn Richmond, Skye Hegyes, Thomas E. Harper, Trine Jensegg, Virginia Carraway Stark and the team of The Longest Night Watch.

So this is our second time doing this. Last year, we all came together because of Sir Terry Pratchett’s death. That book was a success. Therefore, now we are going to see if lightning will strike again.

This Year’s Urgency

Last year, it was Terry Pratchett. But this year it was Gene Wilder. And now we have also learned Terry Jones of Monty Python is afflicted. Because this disease shows no mercy. As much as we love these entertainers (and Jones is a medieval studies scholar), Alzheimer’s just plain does not care.

But we do.

My contributions

For this year, I added two stories. Cynthia is about the decline as witnessed by a rather unexpected narrator. Wilder Bloom was written rather quickly and was, of course, about Gene Wilder.

Where You Can Get The Book

Right now, the book is listed on Amazon (currently it’s Kindle only, but that will change) and on GoodReads.

How You Can Help

Please buy the book, and leave a review. Even bad reviews help, as they put our link in more places. So you don’t have to love the book. That’s okay.

And so we thank you.

Oh, and there’s a third…

Categories
Career changing Inspiration

Getting inspiration from religion

Getting inspiration from religion

Religion

Oh religion. It is one of those topics which nearly everyone tells you not to talk about. However, it can be a great source of inspiration for writing.

No Faith? No Problem!

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from religion
Can religion inspire you?

First of all, I am not suggesting anyone run out and convert. If you do not believe in God, then that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Faith can still provide inspiration. You can observe it in others. Or you might want to document people’s reactions to your declarations of atheism or agnosticism.

Since the percentage of agnostics and atheists is still fairly low (at least that’s the case in America), minority status by itself can be an inspiration. Perhaps you can write about living within a more spiritual majority. Another idea is to write about discrimination you may have faced.

Your Own Faith

Personally, I am Jewish. However, that doesn’t matter to my point. I can write about rituals. Or about what happens when rituals are absent. Furthermore, I can write about discrimination. Since I am in a minority, that is also on the table. Because religious clashes are a fact of life, that’s also writing fodder. By changing subtle details or leaving some out, I can come up with a whole new story line.

Others’ Faiths

Almost all of us know someone of some other faith (or lack thereof). Have you ever discussed the differences? And did the discussion stay civil? Or did it fall into a shouting match? Because that is all too common.

Studying Religion

Because the Old and New Testaments, the Koran, the teachings of Buddha, etc. are all in the public domain, how about mining them for writing ideas? This has been done before. In fact, the biblical story of Noah and the flood is pretty much the same as the epic of Gilgamesh. Hence you’d be in pretty good company.

Takeaways

Faith is an extremely personal experience. For many people, these stories are the word of God. However, a flood story is not necessarily blasphemous. And you don’t have to believe a thing in order to use the drama as a template for your own works.

Categories
Career changing Inspiration

Gender Swap in Writing

What’s all this fuss about a gender swap?

When we gender swap characters, what really happens? And will audiences accept the changes?

This was most recently shown in the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot.

You’re Ruining My Childhood

Gender Swap
Gender Swap

So when the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot was first announced, I recall any number of fans complaining that it would ruin their childhood memories. Furthermore, a lot of these same people went on and on about how the original film was an amazing classic, a masterpiece of modern comedic filmmaking.

And all I could think of was, did you and I see the same movie?

Because I remember the original as being amusing but not overly so.The special effects were okay; the acting, passable. Sigourney Weaver and Bill Murray in particular have done better work elsewhere. The theme song was everywhere and even got an Oscar nomination. Frankly, it didn’t take long for me to get sick of that film. And that was during the summer of 1984, the year of its release. In addition, the sequel was truly vile.

So why did people care so much? Maybe some of it was resistance to change. And some of it involved looking at the 1984 film through a rosy, nostalgic haze which forgave its weak and slow spots. However, some of that may have been sexism.

Why do IP holders reboot and gender swap?

First of all, we need to start with Sarbanes-Oxley. What? According to Investopedia:

The SarbanesOxley Act of 2002 (SOX) is an act passed by U.S. Congress in 2002 to protect investors from the possibility of fraudulent accounting activities by corporations. The SOX Act mandated strict reforms to improve financial disclosures from corporations and prevent accounting fraud.

In practice, Sarbanes-Oxley protects investors by keeping corporations from just rolling the dice and making changes or buying tech or merging, etc. because they feel like it. Instead, boards of directors have to prove the investment is a good one. And often this means serious research into potential investments, etc. For a lot of industries, SOX works rather well.

However, this can pose problems for creative companies. Because SOX requires research and care, IP holders often go with reboots as they spring from proven winners. And a gender swap for a reboot gives a new twist to an old tale, even as they comply with SOX. Furthermore, it creates an instant controversy, and that means more press coverage and more social sharing.

But I’m not a big IP holder

Of course, if you’re not a big IP holder, you’re not beholden to SOX. However, you still might want to try a gender swap on your own work, or even on works in the public domain, such as fairy tales and the like. For example, if Snow White is a man, what happens to the story? Maybe the handsome prince is a beautiful princess. Or maybe the rescuer is still a handsome prince.

And you can also see what happens if you flip the gender script in your own works, even if you never really write or publish any of that. A gender swap can provide insights.

Takeaways

For classic literature, and for your own work, try a gender swap and see where it leads you.

Categories
Career changing Inspiration

Writing Various Ages

Writing Various Ages

Ages change if we write about more than a year in a character’s life. And we can also find we are writing a clash of them, as parents and their offspring collide, or teachers and students collide.

Infants and Toddlers

The very young can change in rather rapid and surprising ways. Fortunately, any number of developmental charts exist to give you an idea of what a baby or child can do at a certain stage. Hence, for example, a newborn should not hold his or her head up unless they have help or you are writing some sort of fantasy. Furthermore, while these charts give an idea of what to expect, they’re not laws. Kids develop at their own paces. So recognize that while your newborn character holding her head up is probably not going to be believable, you can still write a range for these milestones. Furthermore, you can also use standard milestones as a way to signal problems with a baby, such as by showing the reader a child who should be crawling as barely holding his head up.

Preschoolers and Elementary School Children

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Writing Various Ages
Are you up to writing various ages?

The start of school is a major event in a young child’s life. And so are other firsts, such as learning to read and beginning to really socialize. And their vocabularies are growing as their worlds continue to expand. By this time, they probably have a good idea of their sexuality even if girls are icky and boys are gross.

Tweens and Teens

As with younger children, these older kids have their own developmental milestones. Puberty in girls comes with not only the development of secondary sex characteristics, but also menarche. Adolescence in boys can arrive later than in girls.

Writing a historical novel? Then recognize that menarche (a girl’s first menstrual period) occurs about three years earlier now than it did a century ago, due to, among other things, better nutrition.

Kids in these age groups tend to start to get interested in relationships (although asexual folks beg to differ) and everything can be ultra-dramatic. Some may be losing their virginity or facing pregnancy issues. And others might be late bloomers, wondering why things are happening to everyone but them. Our present-day culture attaches a number of privileges to this time, including becoming old enough to drive, work, drink, marry, go to war, and even vote.

Young Adults

Young adults taper off from teenaged drama as they generally begin higher education or work or join the military. Their high school relationships might not survive long distance and college. They might go wild for their first time away from home. Maybe drugs and alcohol are suddenly freely available. And maybe sex is possible more often, particularly as they may be able to find more private spaces.

Or maybe they buckle down, get jobs and apartments. Some might marry, some might have children, and those sets don’t necessarily fully intersect.

Adults in their thirties

Not everyone has children, but by this time most people have finished their educations. And many of them are settling into work or into long-term relationships. Those with children have everything from infants to elementary schoolers, for the most part.

Furthermore, they may be starting to see their peers divorcing or even dying, and they may be seeing their parents starting to become frail.

Adults in their forties

The kids – if they have any – are older, and starting to think about colleges, or at least are preparing and tracking one way or the other. Divorced folks (or those never married or in long-term relationships) may find it harder to find love. Perimenopause is common.

And for some people, this is the decade of early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Adults in their fifties

Things break, and people may find it harder to run or walk if knees or hips begin to go. Women go through menopause if they haven’t already. People may find they are paying for earlier mistakes made with too much tanning, or smoking, or poor nutrition or dental care. And their own parents are generally elderly if they still number among the living.

Pretty much everyone has clear signs of aging by now. These include crow’s feet, creaky knees, gray or white hair (or balding), or age spots on their hands.

Furthermore, this can also be the start of the era of the grandparent, or at least of seeing their children graduate, marry or form long-term bonds, and start to get on their own two feet (with exceptions, of course). However, it can also be a time of significant work responsibilities and stress. Hence some may suffer heart attacks or need coronary bypass surgery.

Adults in their sixties

It’s the countdown to retirement! And if a person hasn’t saved enough money, that countdown will take a lot longer. However, younger-feeling adults can do well for quite a while, so long as they maintain healthy lifestyles. This is the age of the so-called ‘young-old’. Yet one in nine people aged 65 and older have Alzheimer’s.

Adults in their seventies

These are generally still young-old people. However, this is also a stage when cancer diagnoses become more common. Alzheimer’s incidence is highest in this age group (44% for ages 75 – 84) and, because Alzheimer’s has a 4 – 8 year average span, many of those people won’t make it to their eighties.

Adults in their eighties and beyond

If they’ve gone past age 84 and not contracted Alzheimer’s, the incidence drops to 38%. New cancer cases also drop, but that might simply mean a person already had cancer and is now suffering from a recurrence.

People in this age group may have grandchildren or even great-grandchildren. Or they might be great-aunts and great-uncles or even great-grand aunts and uncles. Work should be long past them, and they may be considering mortality and their estates. Life expectancy varies, but a man aged 65 today can expect, on average, to reach 84.3 years of age. And a woman aged 65 today can expect, on average, to make it to 86.6.

Takeaways

So, what does this all mean when it comes to writing? Beyond the obvious issues of childhood developmental stages, a character of a certain age can be expected to have certain ailments, opportunities, relationships, injuries, responsibilities, and concerns.

Ages matter. Character ages make a difference. And understanding general differences among ages can make your characters even more believable.