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Book Reviews

Self-Review – The Boy in the Band

Review – The Boy in the Band

The Boy in the Band came about because I wanted to write something special for an LGBTQ+ anthology.

So the first person I thought of, immediately, was Richard Holmstrom.
Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | The Boy in the Band width=

Background

So at the time I wrote the story, I had no idea what had happened to Rich. As it turned out, a mutual friend did some sleuthing. And so, I learned the truth. It was what I had been afraid of; he was dead.

Rich was the first gay man who ever came out to me. And I consider that to be one hell of an honor.

The Plot for The Boy in the Band

So the story is more or less accurate. Hence it wrote itself. And I was merely there to take mental dictation. And the title, of course, comes from the film.

In 1981 or 1982, my friend Rich asked me to the movies. And I had a crush on him and thought – this is great! He chose the films: Cabaret and The Boys in the Band. So I had no idea what I was in for. My innocent nineteen or twenty year old soul thought we were going to see a pair of musicals.

I swear to God this is true.

Characters

The characters are the narrator, Rich, and Paul. He was Rich’s boyfriend at the time. But unfortunately, I have no idea if they stayed together. Since I do not know Paul’s last name, I can’t even look him up.

Memorable Quotes

I gamely watched with Richard. Maybe he meant for it to be artsy? I had no idea, but then the Cowboy character showed up – a male prostitute. And so Richard asked, “What do you think of him?”

I replied, “He reminds me a bit of Rocky from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

“Which do you think is cuter?”

“Rocky.”

“So we will agree to disagree.”

And then I knew.

Rating

The story has a K rating.

Upshot for The Boy in the Band

So this one was highly emotional for me. And then when I learned, later, that I had been right, it all hit me rather hard. See, because of when we knew each other, it was the dawn of the age of AIDS. And I knew he was, let’s just say, a bit loose. Since no one really had any idea what was in store, and AIDS was a 100% painful death sentence at the time, being ‘loose’ was being foolish.

Yet it apparently did not kill him. At least, I can tell myself this. I think I’m right. I hope I’m right. But there is only so much the internet can tell me.

He did not even live long enough to see 9/11, President Obama, or even the Red Sox win the World Series (:)). So he is frozen in time, at age 39. And before I knew this much, he was frozen at age 21. Forever young.

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Book Review: Zen in the Art of Writing

Book Review: Zen in the Art of Writing

Zen.

So for the social media writing class at Quinnipiac, we were required to purchase Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. However, the book proved to be optional.

Yet I read it from cover to cover, and I just plain devoured that thing.

Fiction Writing Zen

So as a fiction writer, I particularly loved his ideas about how to, well, get ideas. On Page 33, he wrote –

“… in a lifetime, we stuff ourselves with sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and textures of people, animals, landscapes, events, large and small. We stuff ourselves with these impressions and experiences and our reaction to them. Into our subconscious go not only factual data but reactive data, or movement toward or away from the sense of events.

“These are the stuffs, the foods, on which the Muse grows.”

Spoiler Alert: I Loved It

First of all, that is just a great way of looking at things. Because what Bradbury is doing is essentially giving the aspiring writer permission to get inspiration from everywhere, and from everything. Since the smallest memories can do it. So don’t give up on your weirdness. And don’t suppress it. I love this concept.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Personal Writing Process zen in the art of writing
What is your personal writing process?

Furthermore, on Page 50, he writes about praise. And as writers, we might aspire to everyone loving us, and buying our works or at least reading them or, at minimum, being aware of them.

However, Bradbury offers a rather different definition of success –

“We all need someone higher, wiser, older to tell us we’re not crazy after all, that what we’re doing is all right. All right, hell, fine!”

Therefore, really, it is okay to want to be loved. And it is okay to be weird.

Who knew?

Zen Takeaways

I recommend this writing book above all others. Yes, really! It is just that good.

Review: 5/5 stars.

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Supporting Indie Authors

Supporting Indie Authors

Supporting Indie Authors – do you do it?

I am published, and one issue that comes up, time and again, concerns how people can go about supporting indie authors. In particular, friends and family far removed from the business of writing or social media or public relations or marketing or the like still want to help out.

And for the writers, who may feel strange suggesting or requesting such support, I hope this little guide can do just that. Instead of asking, perhaps they can simply point to this blog post.

The #1 Way You Can Support An Independent Author

This one’s easy. Buy their book! Which version? Any version!

However, authors might get better percentages of the take with a particular format. If that is the case, and you don’t mind which format you purchase, you can always ask your friend the writer. While we always want you to buy the book (and a sale beats out no sale), if we have our druthers and it really makes a difference, it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.

The #2 Way To Support Independent Authors

Supporting Indie Authors
Untrustworthy by JR Gershen-Siegel

So once you’ve bought the book, a fantastic way of supporting indie authors even more is to provide an honest review. Amazon, Smashwords, and many publisher sites provide a means of reviewing novels and other creative works. Be sure to review where you purchased the book. Why? Because then you can be listed with verified purchase next to your name. This adds considerably more credibility to your review (and some places require it now).

The Sum and Substance of Your Review

What should you say in your review? If you loved the book, say so. If it was a decent read but not your cup of tea, say that as well, as it’s honest, fair, and remains supportive. After all, not everyone loves the same thing. If you’re not in the demographic group the work is aimed at, then no problem. You gave it the old college try and that’s just fantastic. The longer the review then, generally, the better. Specific references to events in the book, without giving away spoilers, really help. E. g. something like: I loved the character of ___. She was believably vulnerable.

Negative Reviews

What if you hated the book? Should you lie? Absolutely not – and, I might add, don’t lie even if the author has specifically asked for positive reviews only (an unethical request, by the way). However, if the book stinks (I’ve read books that have made me want to burn people’s computers, they were so horrible, so I know exactly where you’re coming from), then you have the following options:

  1. Don’t post the review at all, and say nothing to the author.
  2. Don’t post the review at all, but mention it to the author. However be prepared for, potentially, some negative push-back, in particular if that person specifically requested just positive reviews. You can sweeten the pot by offering some other assistance (see below for other things you can do to help).
  3. Post a short review. Reviews don’t have to be novel-length! You can always write something like Interesting freshman effort from indie author ____ (the writer’s name goes in the blank). There ya go. Short, semi-sweet, and you’re off the hook. Unless the book utterly bored you, the term interesting works. If the book was absolutely the most boring thing you have ever read, then you can go with valiant or unique (so long as the work isn’t plagiarized) instead of interesting. Yes, you have just damned with faint praise. But sometimes faint praise is the only kind you can give out.

Really going negative

  1. Post a negative review. However, be prepared for your friendship to, potentially, end. Yet is that the worst thing, ever? I’m not saying to be mean. Don’t be mean and don’t take potshots at a person’s character or personality. This is about the book and not about your relationship with the person (although it can sometimes turn into that. But keep the review about the creative work only). However, if the friendship means more to you, then seriously consider options #1 or #2 instead.

Furthermore, many sites have star systems. Adding stars (even a single star) is helpful as this signals to readers that there is at least some interest in the piece.

The #3 Way to Support an Independent Author

Post and/or share the links to either the creative work or the author’s website, blog, Facebook Author page, or Amazon Author page, onto social media. This method is free and anyone can do it. This means tweets, Facebook shares, Pinterest repinnings, or Tumblr rebloggings. Plus it’s clicking ‘like’ on Instagram, voting up a book trailer on YouTube or adding it to a playlist, mentioning the book in your status on LinkedIn, or sharing the details with your circles on Google+, and more. Every time you provide these sorts of social signals to social media sites, the content goes to more people and you are supporting indie authors. Without spending a dime, and barely lifting a finger, you can provide a great deal of help.

The #4 Way to Support Independent Authors

Be sure to follow your friends’ Amazon Author pages, and their blogs. Hit ‘like’ on their Facebook Author pages and follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. There are agents who give more weight to indies with larger social media followings. You can hate the book but still follow the author.

You can also work some magic in person. Show up to any signings or discussions, even if you just drink coffee and don’t participate. Ask for the book at your local library or bookstore. Read the paper version in public (train stations are really great for that sort of thing). And you can also talk to your friends, or email them about the work. Consider your audience, and don’t just spam your friends. However if your writer pal has written, say, a Christian-themed love story, then how about sending the link to your friend who has a son studying to be a pastor?

If your friend is local, try contacting your local paper and asking if they’d do a profile on the writer. They can always say no, but sometimes reporters are hunting around for short feel-good locally-specific blurbs. It never hurts to ask.

The #5 Way to Support an Independent Author

Here’s where it gets to be a time investment. Help them. A lot of serious authors ask questions about all manner of things, in order to perform proper research. Can you help with that? Do you have personal experience, or are you good at Googling?

You can also act as a beta reader when you’re supporting indie authors. Beta readers read either the entire draft or a portion of it or sometimes just the first chapter or even character bios. Here’s where you can be a lot freer with criticism, as this is all private. Is the mystery too easy to solve? The character names are confusing? Or the protagonist isn’t described clearly? The scenario is improbable? Then tell the writer. This isn’t correcting their grammar or their spelling (although it sometimes can be). Instead, this is giving them valuable feedback which will help them become better.

As always, be kind. This is your friend’s baby, after all. But if you can’t tell the difference between Susan and Suzanne in the story, then other readers probably wouldn’t be able to, either. Better that that is fixed before the book is released, than afterwords.

Final Thoughts on Supporting Indie Authors

The life of a writer can be a rather topsy-turvy one. You’re high on good reviews, and then you get one bad one and it depresses you. You write like the wind for weeks, and then you edit it and it feels like it’s garbage. Or you get writer’s block, or life gets in the way.

Sometimes the best thing you can do, as a friend, is to just listen, and be there.

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Book Reviews

Self-Review – The Resurrection of Ditte

A Look at The Resurrection of Ditte

The Resurrection of Ditte came to me in a rush. I think it is one of the best things I have ever written. For sure, it is one of my best ever short stories. Yes, it is that good (in my opinion).
Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | The Resurrection of Ditte width=

Background

I have written Holocaust era stories before. And I have even written them in a science fiction setting. Untrustworthy in particular is a science fiction style of the Holocaust (more specifically, Kristallnacht). But this setting is so different and I hope it hits home.

Plot of the Resurrection of Ditte

On December 8, 2041, a girl named Ditte sees a train come to her village, which is also named Ditte. And no, that year is not a typo. You’ll see what it means.

Characters

The characters are the narrator, who writes in her diary. Also Anna, Levi, and the narrator’s parents, who have no names. The narrator just calls them Papa and Mama.

Memorable Quotes from Ditte

But I should start a little at the beginning. My name is Ditte—well, it’s really Edith, but no one’s called me that ever. I got this diary two years ago when I was eleven. I guess my grandmother thought a girl would want to write down her secrets. The diary has a lock and key and everything. But nothing has ever really happened here that was worthy of recording, until now.

My name is the same as the village—Ditte. We are near Görlitz, on the German side of the border, near the Lusatian Neisse river. Our village is small—a square with houses around it, a church on a hill, some shops, that sort of thing. And a railway crossroads.

The railway was supposed to bring in jobs. At least, that’s what Papa says. And he’s always right, you see.

Rating

The story has a K+ rating. While the violence is never shown “on screen”, there are plenty of references to it. And in the second version of events, the language is particularly nasty.

Upshot

It was so great to see this one published in Unrealpolitik.

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Self-Review – This is My Child

A Look at This is My Child

A child is born. And that kid is not human.

This is My Child puts together just what it would be like if we humans ever had to save a sentient alien species.
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Background

In truth, this story was written as a wholly original version of some fan fiction. While the exact plot was not from fan fic, the scenario is most definitely from there. But otherwise it is rather different and I did not carry over any names or species or the like.

The Plot of This is My Child

In some future time on Earth, we become allies with a dying sentient species. So in order to help save their race, human women volunteer to become surrogate mothers.

Characters

The characters are the narrator and, eventually, the baby she bears. So there are no names, not even a name for the alien race. Hence the reader just has to take it on faith.

And all we learn is the eyes of the baby are gold and violet. So you will have to use your imagination for this one!

Memorable Quotes

I never planned on becoming a mother. I never met anyone I liked, and I just didn’t want the pain and the heartache and all of the work it would have entailed. If that makes me selfish, then call me selfish. I am, or at least I was.

Rating

The story has a K rating.

Upshot for This is My Child

I have loved this idea for quite a while. It is an exceptionally intimate act. And for us to do this for an alien species would have to be based on a strong alliance and kinship.

For it is not just an alliance. Instead, it is a lot more like love.

And it was published! Many thanks to Asymmetry Fiction!

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Book Review: Stephen King On Writing

Book Review: Stephen King On Writing

For my social media writing class at Quinnipiac, we were required to purchase Stephen King On Writing although it turned out to be an optional work. I think the work was decent.

But… I’m not overly ecstatic about it. Stephen King on Writing

A lot of people seem to fall over themselves with praise for King. Me? Eh, not so much. I would say, though, that this is the best thing I have read from him.

Nuts and Bolts

One area that I feel he handles well: the question of how meticulous attention to detail needs to be. On Pages 105 – 106, he writes,

“For one thing, it is described in terms of a rough comparison, which is useful only if you and I see the world and measure the things in it with similar eyes. It’s easy to become careless when making rough comparisons, but the alternative is a prissy attention to detail that takes all the fun out of writing. What am I going to say, ‘on the table is a cage three feet, six inches in length, two feet in width, and fourteen inches high’? That’s not prose, that’s an instruction manual.”

Agreed, 100%. I see far too many fiction writers getting into far too much detail, and it’s maddening. Readers are intelligent (generally), and can follow basic instructions. However, the writer needs to provide the framework and then let the reader run with it. Otherwise, it’s an instruction manual, as Stephen King states.

And the corollary is also true – for writing which requires meticulous instructions and step by step information, woe be unto the writer who decides everybody knows what a flange is, or a balloon whisk, or EBITDA. Or any other term of art known more to insiders than to the general public.

Stephen King also exhorts would-be writers to read a lot and write a lot. Basic information, to be sure, but it makes good sense. Without practice or comparisons or even attempts to copy, none of us would learn how to properly craft prose.

What the Hell Did Adverbs Ever Do to You, Steve?

Here’s where we part ways.

King writes, on Page 124, “The adverb is not your friend.” On Page 195, he clarifies his statement:

“Skills in description, dialogue, and character development all boil down to seeing or hearing clearly and then transcribing what you see or hear with equal clarity (and without using a lot of tiresome, unnecessary adverbs).”

It’s funny how he makes the above statement with the use of the adverb clearly.

Show us on the doll where adverbs hurt you.

I see his point. But I’m not so sure that a lot of aspiring authors do. The gist of it? Make sure to choose your words well. A part of this is what editing is for, but it’s also to be able to best get across your point(s). You can write –

She waited nervously.

Or

She waited, drumming her fingers on the table until her brother told her to cut it out or he’d relieve her of the burden of having fingers.

The second example is more vivid. It shows, rather than tells. But sometimes you just want to cut to the chase. There’s nothing wrong with that. Adverbs, like passive voice and other parts of speech and turns of phrase, are legitimate writer tools. You can still use them.

In all, a decent work, albeit a bit redundant in parts. I didn’t want to read the memoir portions of the work although I can see where they would interest others.

I bet this guy is going places.

Review: 4/5 stars.

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Self-Review – The Enigman Cave

Review – The Enigman Cave

The Enigman Cave has some of its roots in fan fiction.

Background

So I had created a wholly original species called Witannen. They had flowers growing out of their scalps instead of hair, and the pure Witannen would sport little vestigial wings which couldn’t be used for much of anything. But the flowers, the chavecoi, would have a symbiotic relationship with a Witannen and could photosynthesize and prevent starvation.
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The Enigmans, however, were something else. Also, I wanted them to be a lot more primitive. However it wasn’t until I decided to make them similar to Australopithecines that they sprang into sharp focus.

Plot

Marnie and her crew on the Valentina Tereshkova have one job – to find multi-cellular life. They have already found tons of primordial soup and unicellular life. The galaxy seems to abound with it. Hence the opening line: Life is common.

I think it’s one of the better opening lines I’ve ever written.

Back at home, there is a world government. But they seem to have forgotten the Val and the other wedge ships (another 20+ are also looking for life but have gone in other directions). And no wonder, as the government is collapsing. When the Val finds the Enigmans, the new despotic government sees an opportunity to play at being Cortez 2.0. Marnie feels her only hope of protecting the people of the Enigman Cave is to prove their intelligence. And how?

In the JAG Court.

Characters

The main character is Captain Marnie Shapiro, of the USS Valentina Tereshkova. Also, the other main characters include her first officer, Patricia LaRue, who she calls Trixie, which makes her sound like a dance hall girl. Trixie’s from London, Kentucky, with an accent right out of the holler.

The chief medical officer is Dr. Jazminder Parikh. At the start of the book, she and her girlfriend, Ginny Carey, have recently ended their relationship. Then there’s Marnie’s ex-husband, Ben Chase. Ben is the chief botanist aboard and he and his fiancée, nurse Kristen Watson, are about to be married. He also cheated on Marnie with Kristen.

So things are uncomfortable. But when Marnie meets the nighttime veterinarian, Lex Feldman, sparks fly. Nighttime vet, you ask? There are two vets, because the ship’s food stores are alive – goats, chickens, cod, and salmon. There’s even farming.

Day shift vet Tom Ciorciari is on the Bridge, because the Scientific Officer (I tried so hard to keep it from just copying Star Trek), Art Yarrow, is on paternity leave. Yes, it’s a ship with children, and even a mid-level officer in charge of them.

Plus the lawyers of the JAG Court are also important characters. The head of that unit is Hunter Garcia. The others are Terry Lynn Shull, Steve Roberts, Mike Medeiros, and Nick Minecci.

Also, lots of characters in The Enigman Cave are named after people I know.

The scenes take place either on board the Val or on the surface of Kepler 423-B, which they name Enigma.

Fun Fact About The Enigman Cave

I originally wanted to call this piece The Enigma Cave. And then I learned that title was already taken.

Ewps.

Memorable Quotes from The Enigman Cave

“Yes, Dr. Chase? The captain needs you here on the Bridge.”

And then in the background, there was Ben’s voice, whining and complaining, “I’m in the middle of an experiment.”

“Benjamin Chase!” Marnie yelled, her sudden increase in volume scaring everyone and breaking Tom out of his trance. “Get your ass over here. Now! Or I get somebody else to run Botany.”

“All right. But I blame you if this experiment goes to hell.” He cut the connection.

Tom looked back over his shoulder at Marnie. “What did we just find?”

“Wait for confirmation. Just, just wait for it. Astrid, send Ben the picture you took of the green stuff. Send it to his tablet.”

“Will do.”

A few minutes later, Chase stomped in. “You know I’m not on the Bridge crew,” he began, glaring at his ex-wife. “And who the hell sent me a picture of a bunch of chlorophyll?”

“Chlorophyll?” asked Ray. The others just stared.

“Yes! Goddamned chlorophyll. I don’t have the time for these shenanigans,” Chase huffed.

“Ben,” Marnie looked him in the eye, “are you absolutely certain that stuff is chlorophyll?”

“I know chlorophyll when I see it. Every botanist does.”

“And the chemical formula, Tom, what do you have on your screen?”

“C55H72O5N4Mg.”

More Quotes from The Enigman Cave (same scene)

“That, C-whatever, that stuff,” Marnie said. “Is that chlorophyll?”

“Yes.” Chase was even more peeved. “Everybody past Biochemistry 101 knows that.”

“They never found it off Earth though, eh?” Marnie asked, playing her trump card.

“What?”

“Here,” Astrid punched up another picture. “This is the atmosphere of the world we’re orbiting.”

Ben leaned over and then looked through the scope at the Scientific station. “Well, I’ll be damned.” He, too, was slack-jawed. “We, we found it.”

“Are you sure?” asked Marnie.

“Yes,” Chase was threatening to become as shell-shocked as Marnie and Tom had been. “Algae can have chlorophyll. They’re technically unicellular. But they, they live communally. I, I would say they, they count as, as multi-cellular.”

“Remember where you were, remember what you were thinking and, and how you felt,” Marnie said to them. “Because this is goddamned history.”

Rating

So if I had to rate The Enigman Cave, I would put it at about T for Teen. Because there are three sex scenes (one alien). Plus there is one incidence of violence but it’s only on screen for a moment. The inciting incident is a pair of deaths but the story starts after that, so I don’t show them.

Upshot

Also, at the time, it was the best book I had ever written. But now? I can’t say. I can still see some parts where it could stand to be trimmed. So now I strongly suspect it will need an overhaul before I can even think about querying it.

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Self-Review – Almost Shipwrecked

Review – Almost Shipwrecked

This story is one of those I desperately want to read with a Queens accent. It just seems like the heroine of Almost Shipwrecked is someone who maybe isn’t what anyone would call a Rhodes Scholar. And that is okay.
Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | Almost Shipwrecked width=

Background to Almost Shipwrecked

When our narrator escapes her space ship, her escape pod takes her in an unexpected direction.

My main idea was to show more of a “below decks” character in a decidedly unheroic situation. There was to be no technobabble.

Plot for Almost Shipwrecked

The action starts with the narrator complaining more than anything else. And the first fact for the reader is: this was negligence. It wasn’t some fancy malfunction or an interstellar war.

Instead, the engineer got drunk one too many times, and did not do all of the necessary maintenance. The narrator and any of her shipmates who made it out, is damned lucky to be alive at all.

Characters

So the characters are really just the narrator and the folks she meets.

Memorable Quotes

I’m a payload specialist, or at least I guess I was. That’s a fancy way of saying I was in charge of inventory. I wasn’t a doctor like Mendez or an engineer like stupid Rogers or a leader like Ng. I’m more like a glorified box lifter upper and putter downer and counter and orderer.

Rating

The story has a K rating.

Upshot

I am so grateful that Almost Shipwrecked was a story in the January 2019 edition of Empyreome.

And I also like how there is a slight bit of hopefulness at the end. But only slight. And it is only maybe. Because the narrator’s life could end that night, or a few days later if she can’t eat anything on the planet.

Also, there is a prequel to this story, Hot Mess, where I reveal the narrator’s name, Cheryl Frasier.

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Self-Review – Props

Review – Props

Props was written as a part of an anthology benefiting the Alzheimer’s Association – The Longest Night Watch. This short story is a part of the first of the three volumes (so far).

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | Props width=
I wanted the story to be a bit of a revelation, that someone could be paranoid but still seem coherent and onto something, at least for a while. It relies on the old trope of the only person seeing the monsters being the sane one.

But the reality is that Sarah Nichols is far from sane. Instead, her world is collapsing unto itself because of Alzheimer’s. She does not realize that she’s just incorrectly trying to connect certain events and people and places, all with a veneer of science fiction.

Sarah doesn’t know where she is, so she creates a fantasy for herself. It’s not a terribly comforting fantasy. Rather, her fantasy is of an alien abduction.

Background for Props

Because I wanted to write a story with an unreliable narrator, I turned to a familiar old science fiction trope: alien abductions. For what do addled people think is happening to them when they transfer to a nursing facility? It has got to be confusing at best. Hence I figured someone would see it as an alien abduction.

Plot

Sarah Nichols, the ultimate unreliable narrator, starts to see conspiracies and oddities all around her. Whatever this new place is, and whoever these new people are, they can’t possibly be real. Instead, she insists they are all props in a scary alien play.

Characters

The characters are main character (and unreliable narrator) Sarah Nichols and Social Worker Emily Chen. Otherwise, the people don’t seem real to Sarah, so they don’t get names.

Memorable Quotes

Day 35 – They can’t seem to get the look of us humans quite right. Every single subject looks old and careworn. Even a child I saw, a little girl – she looked careworn. If I were an alien and had a human test subject, I tell you, I would get this right. But their lack of quality control tells me that there are opportunities if I keep a look out for them.

Rating

Props has a K rating.

Upshot

I think the story works pretty well. I am okay with how it was formatted (I should have probably been more insistent on changing it, but so be it). Please give generously. Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease.

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The Weird World of Being Published

The Weird World of Being Published

Published?

I suppose, in the back of my mind, when I was first starting to write (age four or five or thereabouts), I had an idea about becoming a published author. I also wanted to, at times, be a cowgirl, a veterinarian, an archaeologist and other things. Becoming, for real, published, makes up one weird world.

Let me tell you all about it.

The Weird World of Being Published

Origins Story

No, I was not bitten by a radioactive spider.

For probably any aspiring author, the road is a long one. When I first started writing, it constituted what you’d now refer to as graphic fiction. I was a child and so I would draw little figures in addition to a few words. As I got older, the words began to dominate, and I have never written, as an adult, a graphic novel.

I wrote fan fiction for a while and then began to migrate over to wholly original fiction. Furthermore, I had wanted to write for NaNoWriMo back in 2012, but I did not have a decent idea that year. I also wanted to make what I wrote wholly original fiction. In 2013, I was fortunate enough to come up with a great idea and so Untrustworthy was born. I submitted it to a contest held by Riverdale Avenue Books and was lucky enough when they chose me as the winner in February of 2014. My thanks, of course, goes out to the wonderful people there, particularly Lori Perkins and Don Weise.

The Start of the Wild Ride of Publishing

I took a few months for things to really start clicking along. Lori was busy, other submissions came in, plus of course they had a business to run. I was in school at Quinnipiac and so, while I noticed the time passing, I was okay with it.

In November, Lori contacted me and we started to get down to the nitty gritty. This included editing the manuscript. It also included getting together a blurb about me and getting an established person in the business to review my book (a thousand thanks to Cecilia Tan!), and deciding on a cover. I felt that the aliens in my novel would be too difficult to draw, and making up a model like them would be costly (such things are at issue if you’re a first-time author, folks) and wouldn’t necessarily evoke my vision.

Hence I instead suggested an image of broken glass. Adding to that effect were the concepts that (a) the moon, Wecabossia, would be nearly the same size as Caboss, so it would be rather large in the sky and readily observable during daylight hours, and (b) the Cabossians breathe methyl salicylate, or wintergreen oil. Those gave the cover designer (the incomparable Scott Carpenter) some design elements and ideas to work with. I truly love the cover and how the huge moon gives a sense of foreboding as the one broken window amidst a mass of perfection is a nagging hint that something’s not quite right.

Nuts and Bolts

A ton of strange things happen when you are published. For one, you need an Amazon Author page! But you can’t make one until your book is actually for sale on Amazon, in any format. Furthermore, Amazon’s many domains have different rules. You can make author pages on Amazon.com (the US), Amazon.co.uk (the UK), Amazon.fr (France), Amazon.de (Germany), and Amazon.co.jp (Japan). Amazon Author pages exist on Amazon.ca (Canada), but you can’t change them! For Amazon.it (Italy) and others, there are no Author pages. I hope Amazon makes this feature more uniform across the board.

As for what to put into your Author page, you need a good recent headshot of yourself (mine comes from four years ago; I could use a newer one) and links to things like your Twitter stream and your blog RSS, if any. For works available in countries with non-English native tongues, you might want to have a trusted friend help you with translations (or do them yourself, if you’re able to). Trusting Google Translate is not in your best interests. Get a native speaker.

Autographing

Dealing with autographing books is interesting when someone hundreds of miles away asks you to do this. I’ll pass along this tip from New York Times bestselling author Dayton Ward: arrange it all through PayPal. For him, the best way to take care of this means to collect the cost of the book and two types of postage: one goes to his home or a post office box, and the other goes to the fan’s location.

I’ll add to this – if it’s a person you know, and you don’t mind giving out your address (or if you have a PO box I suppose your relationship with them would be moot anyway), have them have Amazon (or Barnes & Noble, wherever your book is available in dead tree format) ship the book directly to that location. Then all you need to collect is return postage. Conceivably, someone who doesn’t want to work with PayPal could even supply a money order and slip it in the mail to your PO box.

Reviews are gold and you need them. How do you get them? If your friends are buying your work, once they say they’ve finished, ask them to write you a review. Reviews can be short – a five-word sentence is better than nothing. There are also book bloggers. Do your research and find some that are (a) semi-available, (b) write decent, unbiased, honest, and constructive reviews, and (c) read your genre.

Upshot

It’s all rather satisfying but also a tad freaky. Every now and then, I just want to run around screaming – I’m a published author!

‘Cause I am, you know.