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Book Reviews Writing

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.
Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | The Enigman Cave width=
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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Book Reviews

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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Book Reviews

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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Book Reviews

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.

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Book Reviews

Self-Review – Surprises

Review – Surprises

Surprises was one of those weird little stories which I did not expect to write.

So it’s a sequel of sorts to The Enigman Cave.
Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | Surprises width=

Background to Surprises

The background is that Marnie and company are on their way back to Earth. So it is not going to be easy going. Marnie is well aware the reception they get might not be such a great one. In fact, it could even be a death trap.

The Plot of Surprises

And the plot is, well, there isn’t too much of one. Essentially, Marnie and her pals get drunk, much like at the start of The Enigman Cave. But in this instance, they are worried about how the Earth is. And so Marnie ends up an emotional mess.

But keep in mind, it was a requirement of this anthology to add two specific elements. I had to add a towel and the number 42. So this was in keeping with the anthology’s Douglas Adams theme. For this space opera, it did not lend itself too well to either Easter egg.

Characters

The characters are Captain Marnie Shapiro and her first officer, Trixie LaRue, and the chief medical officer, Jazminder Parikh. Assistant Veterinarian Lex Feldman shows up. But it’s botanist Ben Chase who gets the most time – and he isn’t even “on screen”.

Memorable Quotes from Surprises

“We got ourselves a gol-darned party here,” LaRue said, her accent betraying every moment of a rural Kentucky upbringing. “Booze ‘n dancing girls.”

“Just the one dancing girl,” Parikh said, doing a little swishing step and then a twirl which made her lab coat fly out a little bit, like the barest approximation of a whirling dervish. Her accent, in marked contrast to LaRue’s, was the posh product of a fine education in Leeds and a childhood in a wealthy suburb of Hyderabad.

“Jazzie, you sound plummier than usual,” Marnie said. “How much of that have you had so far?” She waved a bit at the bottle.

“I’ve had just enough to make me all right with it being chardonnay and not merlot. It’s alcohol for the damned hoi polloi, even worse than that white zinfandel rubbish. It’s a sorry sop for the masses.” She stabbed the air with a finger. “But at least it’s posher than that six.”

Rating

The story has a K+ rating. While no hanky panky occurs “on screen”, there are certainly references to it. Plus, there is a bit of bad language and a brief bit of nudity at the end. However, I don’t describe the nudity in any way. So it’s just … there.

Upshot

It was great when 42 and Beyond published Surprises. But the anthology is no more. It only lives on in memory and in a few scattered books and Amazon Kindle files. A pity.

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Book Reviews

Self-Review – The Interview

Review – The Interview

The Interview came about because I conjured up a kicker of an opening line. So then it immediately started to fall into place.
Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | The Interview width=

Background

Since I have been on countless job interviews, this one was rather easy to write. So I brought forth a memory I have of an interview being conducted over lunch. It was an odd situation. Two guys met with me and neither of them ate anytime. I ate Caesar salad by myself.

Also, as I recall, they were supposed to take me to some swanky-ish place. But instead, we went to Pizzeria Uno. At that moment, I should have known damned well it was not going to go well.

Plot of The Interview

The narrator meets a woman who runs an agency which hunts demons. And then things go a little haywire from there. In particular, during their meeting, the narrator gives away how she can sense demons. So this is vital information. But not when the story ends, it isn’t. Then it turns into an albatross around her neck.

As for the restaurant, it is a combination of a number of places I have been to. The parking lot, in particular, is from Jasper White’s Summer Shack in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But with the wine steward and all, the pretend restaurant in The Interview is a lot more hoity-toity.

Characters

The characters are the narrator and the head of the agency.  The narrator is the interviewee.

Memorable Quotes from The Interview

“So, how long have you wanted to hunt demons?” The question hung in the air for a second.

The job interview was being conducted over lunch and I had just taken in a big forkful of Fettuccine Alfredo. I washed it down with iced tea, swallowed, wiped my mouth, and tried not to look stupid. “It’s since I was just out of school. My classmates didn’t see them. But I did.”

Rating

The Interview has a K rating. While there is some menace behind it, nothing violent happens “on screen”.

Upshot

I was so pleased when The Interview was the featured story in the December 14, 2018 edition of Theme of Absence. So they even interviewed me! Canaries is another story in Theme of Absence. So I guess they like me.

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Book Reviews Writing

Self-Review – Mettle

Review – Mettle

Mettle is a punny title. And it may be the best thing I have ever written.
Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | Mettle width=

The story sprung out of a dream I had where my wedding ring dissolved while still on my hand. Amateur psychologists, take note!.

I had the basic plot sketched out in an afternoon. I don’t believe I have ever gotten a book together that fast. And I probably won’t ever again. This was just an insane creativity timeline.

So the characters are a mix. Some of them came very quickly. Craig Firenze sprang, almost fully formed, and almost immediately. I heard his voice the loudest and the clearest. Then, as I recall, came Elise Jeffries, Nell Murphy, and Noah Braverman. Kitty Kowalski and Mink Lopez arrived together – Kitty and Mink. But the others took longer. However, I had Mei-Lin’s name pretty early. But I didn’t know too much about the character to start.

Background

This story was exceptionally easy to outline. I changed nearly nothing. The storyline came to me, I wrote it down quickly, and then added a few little flourishes. And then it was ready. Which is amazing and kind of rare, seeing as I am struggling over the Time Addicts outline for Everything is Up For Grabs. So even Untrustworthy was harder to put together.

Plot

In early 2020, Mount Tambora erupts as an earthquake hits Southeast Asia. So which came first? That’s sort of irrelevant, as a huge pyroclastic cloud springs up. This cloud blocks out a lot of sunlight and starlight. It gets colder, and dimmer.

Yet at the same time, Chinese students claim their experiments on chromium changed when the chromium somehow converted to vanadium. But that story is buried; Tambora and the earthquake are front page news.

When more elements convert to vanadium, people experience the effects. This includes the loss of gold, which hits financial markets hard. And losses of plutonium and uranium, which put countries on high alert, afraid of a nuclear war.

The more things change, the harder it is to live the way we all used to. So the quoted scene, below, takes place after the power goes out.

Characters

Mettle is an odd story for me because there almost isn’t a main character. Instead, the point of view shifts from chapter to chapter. The character with the most ‘screen time’ is probably Colonel Craig Firenze, but the more observational sections come from Nell Murphy. The scene is mostly Brighton, Massachusetts, although there are some scenes in Houston or in downtown Boston, plus a chapter is set mainly on an aircraft flying from Houston.

In a lot of ways, the story more or less takes place in my house.

There are about a dozen characters of note, mainly listed in order of importance:

  1. Craig Firenze
  2. Nell Murphy
  3. Noah Braverman
  4. Eleanor Braverman
  5. Olga Nicolaev
  6. Elise Jeffries
  7. Mei-Lin Quan
  8. Dez Hunter
  9. Mink Lopez
  10. Kitty Kowalski
  11. Jeannie Firenze
  12. Chet McKey
  13. Jerome Cordry
  14. Jackie (no last name)
  15. Shelley (no last name)

There are a few other named characters but these are seen the most, although Jackie and Shelley are only in one chapter. Which happens to be the same chapter. The last six on the list do not get a POV chapter.

Memorable Quotes from Mettle

He started to dump the corn into a bowl.

Mink came into the kitchen. “What’s left in the cabinets?”

“Green beans, some tuna, I think I saw tomato paste in there,” Dez said as Mink opened the cabinets and started to look for herself.

“There’s pumpkin pie filling, too, and we still have peanut butter. I wish we had bread.”

“Want some corn?” He offered her the second bowl and fork.

“Yeah, sure, thanks.” He dumped about half of his bowlful into her bowl. “Kitty, what are you gonna have?”

“I want French toast.”

“If we had eggs, we could make French toast, if we had bread. And a working toaster. Aunt Doreen used to say shit like that.”

“Yeah, she’s hysterical,” Kitty sniped. “This blows.”

Mink just shrugged and ate as did Dez. When they were done, she bussed the dishes to the sink and washed them, and then started to wash the other dishes. “Man oh man, we don’t have to live like pigs. Can somebody dry?”

Kitty made a beeline out of the kitchen. Dez came over. “Just leave ‘em on the rack. I can get ‘em later.”

Rating for Mettle

So Mettle has an MA rating. I am not kidding. While there are no sex scenes (a few are implied, though), every single main character has a potty mouth. Plus there are any number of violent scenes. Some are more graphic than others but the worst should be rather disturbing.

I 100% mean this.

Upshot

One thing which was great fun about this story was writing it with 9 1/2 points of view. I say a half because the first chapter is mainly news stories. So that one doesn’t quite count. And I have changed it to add little scenelets but the common thread is the news.

Each chapter worked as a separate POV. This is a style of writing I had not attempted before. And I found it exhilarating but it’s important to not confuse the reader. So I would really love to get beta readers on this one!

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Book Reviews Content Strategy

Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson, a Book Review

Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson

Kristina Halvorson has really got something here.

Content Strategy for the Web is a short, snappy read that combines information about Content Strategy as a discipline with tips and tricks for throwing a lasso around your own company/site’s content.

Kristina Halvorson
content-strategy-burger (Photo credit: raphaelle_ridarch)

Kristina Halvorson is essentially the doyenne of Content Strategy. Her main ideas:

  • You probably need less content and not more.

Figure out which content you’ve got and archive whatever isn’t working for you, e. g. fulfilling some sort of purpose. Good purposes include building trust and expertise, answering customer questions and facilitating sales. Not such good purposes are things like get some content out there because we’re naked without it!

Archive that Stuff!

  • For whatever currently published content that does not fulfill a good purpose, either archive it or get rid of it entirely. It does not help you, and it may very well harm your company.

Get Organized

  • Get someone in charge of content. Not surprisingly, a Content Strategist comes to mind but definitely get someone to steer the ship.
  • Listen to the customers and the company regarding content. The company may be setting out content that’s confusing to the users. The users may be asking for something that can’t quite work. It may or may not be in the company’s best interests to fix either problem, but at least you’ll know what the issue is and,
  • Start asking why content exists out there in the first place.

This process begins with a content audit, e. g. know what you’ve got out there. Then talk to the users. And, once you finish these processes, you can start to think of a strategy.

Yes, it’s really that much time before actually creating any content. Why? Because doing the ramp-up now will save a lot of headaches later. Think it’s a bear to audit and check every single piece of content on your site now? How are you going to feel about it next year?

I bet it would thrill to only have as much content to deal with as you have right now, at this very moment. So start swinging that lasso now. It’s time to audit.

I have to say, while I can see where Ms. Halvorson is coming from. Furthermore, there was also a large chunk of the book devoted to, essentially, justifying the Content Strategist’s existence. And perhaps this is necessary with a new discipline – I don’t know. But it does make for an edge of defiance, e. g. this discipline is good enough!

It is. Don’t worry.

Rating

Review: 4/5 stars.

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Book Reviews Writing

Self-Review – The Last Patient

Review – The Last Patient

The Last Patient was written for the Stardust, Always anthology. All of the proceeds go to the American Cancer Society. Please give generously, even if you never buy the book.
Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | The Last Patient width=
This short story is based on real events from my life.

Background

When I was in my first two years of college, I had a therapist. He was a fun guy; I liked him. Then I left Boston for the summer between sophomore and junior year. When I returned, I noticed he was more stooped and paler. He seemed to be tired and weak. I asked him what was wrong and he told me he had lung cancer. Keep in mind, this was late 1981 and that was essentially a death sentence.

I saw Dr. Brodie a few more weeks, with our last session happening before Halloween of that year. He told me that he didn’t want to see his other patients, who were all a lot older. At age nineteen, he felt I was lively and that helped him. He told me that I was his last patient.

Plot

This story was lifted directly from my memories: hook, line, and sinker. A few of the quotes are precisely as I remember them. It wasn’t writing. This was me taking dictation from my own memories.

Characters

The only characters are the unnamed narrator and Dr. Richard Brodie.

Memorable Quotes

Thirty-five years ago, a sacred trust was unexpectedly given to me, to be a friend and confidant to the man who was supposed to be mine. I did what I could, but I was not ready for it.

Rating

The story has a K rating.

Upshot

I would have liked to have shown him works like Untrustworthy. I think he would have been happy for me.

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Book Reviews Site Development Social Media

Book Review: On Writing Well, by William Zinsser

Book Review: On Writing Well, by William Zinsser

As a part of our required readings for the social media writing class at Quinnipiac, we read On Writing Well, by William Zinsser. This was a terrific book.

On Writing Well covers a multitude of issues that writers can face. Zinsser gives writers the freedom to occasionally break some rules, or at least to bend them. Moreover, he gives reasons why one type of construction might work better than another.

William Zinsser
On Writing Well by William Zinsser

What’s Important

For Zinsser, the start and the end pack heavy punches. On Page 54, he writes,

“The most important sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead. And if the second sentence doesn’t induce him to continue to the third sentence, it’s equally dead. Of such a progression of sentences, each tugging the reader forward until he’s hooked, a writer constructs that fateful unit, the ‘lead’.”

Not only is this good advice for fiction writing, it’s excellent for report writing and for writing for the web. How many times have we had to slog through a ton of prose before getting to the good stuff? How many times have we tried to hang in there when we’d rather be doing anything but tackling an opaque garbage can full of prose?

Active Versus Passive Tense

Many writers are told to prefer active to passive tense when writing. Zinsser explains why, on Page 67,

“Use active verbs unless there is no comfortable way to get around using a passive verb. The difference between an active-verb style and a passive-verb style – in clarity and vigor – is the difference between life and death for a writer.”

A little over the top, maybe, but it does get the point across.

Don’t dance around your subject. Be bold. And be clear. Be terse.

Review: 5/5 stars.