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Publishing Writing

NaNoWriMo Advice for All

NaNoWriMo Advice for All

NaNoWriMo advice? Yes; I’ve won it every year I’ve entered.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | NaNoWriMo Advice

This is (for real!) how to do NaNoWriMo. Learn from my mistakes!

Preliminaries

1) Plan if you can and if that helps you. I would suggest even pantsers should at least do research in advance. No sense in looking up how to say “I love you” in Latvian during November if you can do it beforehand. And no, that’s not cheating.

Dailies

2) Write every single day. It should be at least 1667 words, but even 1 word beats the hell out of none. I have found this is some of the best NaNoWriMo advice I have ever gotten. Writing every day gets you into a habit.

Move Ahead if You’re Stuck

3) Can’t write chapter 4? Then skip it and write chapter 5. You’ll go back, or maybe chapter 4 will turn out to be superfluous. You’ll stitch it together later.

Don’t Edit!

4) Don’t edit! Do that in January or February (in December, either finish or just leave it). In November, it’ll eat up time when you should be writing.

Manage Family Expectations

5) Tell your family or whoever you live with that you’re doing it. Ask someone else to take the kids for an hour, or say you’ll make dinner all December if someone else does it in November, etc. Just, set expectations and get some help from others to get all the other little things done around your home. E. g. my husband isn’t a writer but he’ll put on his headphones at his desk while I’m writing so his computer sounds won’t bother me. Little things like that help.

Getting Ahead

6) If and when you can get ahead, do so. Can you write 1800 or 2000 words or more instead of 1667? Then go for it. No law says you have to stop at 1667 and call it a day. If you’re feeling it, have at it!

November 30th Isn’t Some Magic Day When Suddenly You Have to be Done With Your Story

7) The story does not have to be finished at 11:59 PM on November 30th. You just need 50,000 words. For the last two years in a row, I finished NaNoWriMo in the middle of November but didn’t finish the books (they were both over 100,000 words) until January. No, this is not cheating.

Nixing Writer’s Block

8) Got writer’s block? Then step away from the keyboard and exercise for 15 – 30 minutes. Pump iron, take a walk, play frisbee, beat the rugs, shovel snow. I don’t care. Just burn calories and then go back to it. Because it really does help.

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

9) Don’t compare your accomplishments to others. Because there will always be someone who writes 100,000 words in one day or something like that. And there will always be people complaining that they’re behind. Also, there will always be people typing up until the very last second, and there will always be people wasting time online. Don’t worry about them.

Just take care of your own work and leave them to theirs. Their issues, quirks, and complaints are none of your concern.

Back Up Your Work!

10) Back up your work! I back up in three rather different places – my hard drive, a flash drive, and OneDrive, which is Microsoft’s cloud storage. So I highly recommend a similar setup for everyone. I had to replace a computer right before 2017 NaNo but I lost none of my prep work because it was on two places other than my old laptop’s hard drive.

There is always someone who loses their work during November. And I have seen it all, from soda on keyboards to toddlers stomping on flash drives and breaking them, to power outages. Don’t be that person.

Sabotage

Lots of people get this, and sometimes a friend or a loved one doesn’t even realize they are doing this. Remember what I said about managing family expectations? You may need to reiterate this. Or you may need to put it in writing so it’s not “forgotten”. Your solutions might be to get up early to write before others are up, or at lunch break, or during a commute, or late at night when everyone’s gone to bed.

Got headphones (or at least earbuds)? Then put those suckers on, even if you play no music at all. This is body language. You are busy and working; others will just have to wait. And tough on them.

You Take Care of You – And Guard Your Writing Time Jealously

Here is also where expectation management comes in handy. If your family was already told you would not be cooking in November, then they can’t say on the fourth that you didn’t warn them. You can also stave off some of this with family preparations before the first rolls around. Got a slow cooker? Then make a bunch of meals and freeze them for during the month. Get the kids’ haircuts and dentist appointments out of the way in October. You get the idea.

If it’s someone or something that really can’t wait (your toddler is screaming, your mother is in the emergency room, or your spouse is seriously threatening divorce), then by all means stop what you’re doing in order to deal with that.

And if you don’t make it to 50,000 words, it’s okay. Really, it is. NaNoWriMo exists so that writing, which is an often solitary endeavor, gets a social component. But that’s it. If you write in December or October, or you write less than 50,000 words, or you never validate, it’s equally okay.

Some Final Words of NaNoWriMo Advice

The best NaNoWriMo advice I can give anyone is to have fun with it. Otherwise, what’s the point?

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Publishing Writing

NaNoWriMo—Word Count, Love, and Please Don’t Panic

NaNoWrimo is Fun! But it’s  Misunderstood, Too

You may have heard, somewhere in your travels, about a little thing called NaNoWriMo. And while I don’t get paid by them or anything, I am still here to help you along in your quest.

Your quest, should you choose to accept it, should be to:

  • Learn what NaNoWrimo is
  • Figure out if you want to do it
  • And to succeed at NaNoWriMo

Sounds simple, right?

Not so fast, my writing pals.

What is This Stuff, Anyway?

So, the first thing you need to know is that NaNoWriMo is not a competition. Rather, it’s a personal challenge.

What do I mean by this?

The 1999 original idea behind it was to see if an amateur writer could crank out 50,000 words toward a new novel during a set amount of time. November was chosen, and I suspect that was because it starts with the letter ‘N’. It’s also because it’s 30 days long.

And while neither 31 nor 30 (nor 28 or 29, for that matter) divides evenly into 50,000, that’s not really an issue.

The Rules of NaNoWriMo

Write at least 50,000 words. During the calendar month of November.

And… that’s it.

Want to write a memoir rather than a novel? Have fun. Want to write more than 50,000 words? Go for it. Want to add 50,000 words to a preexisting project? Enjoy. Want to set a NaNoWriMo word count goal that’s less than 50,000? No one’s stopping you, although you won’t get a ‘traditional’ NaNo accomplishment.

There are no other rules to remember.

 

There are no NaNo police.

Math

If you divide 50,000 words by 30 days, you get 1,666.67, or 5,000 words every three days. Of course this is the minimum you need to succeed. Write 5,000 words every three days and, at 11:59 PM on November 30th, you can meet goal.

But life rarely works out that way. And God knows art does not.

There is nothing wrong with this.

Art

What happens if you write only 4,000 words in three days?

Then you’d better write 6,000 in some three-day period, not necessarily the one right after the period where, oops, you missed goal. Just do so before December 1st.

What happens if you write 6,000 words in three days, without having been behind? That is, what happens if you get ahead?

Give yourself a cookie or buy a flower or whatever you do for yourself to celebrate your small victories in life. Because, shhh—come closer now, for this is apparently a secret—getting ahead is the secret to winning NaNoWriMo.

Winning NaNoWriMo—Yes, You Can Do It!

Let’s get back to life.

Look Ma, No Plot!

So let’s say that you’re up early on November 12th, all set to write. You’ve got your lucky mouse pad. You’ve got your coffee (or tea, or juice, or cola, or whatever). And you’ve got time.

And…

… nothing.

No thoughts. No plot. And no words. The blank page or screen mocks you. You stare at it, then chug your beverage and surf the internet. All the while telling yourself that you’ll never succeed at this NaNo business.

Don’t fret, friends. Not every day will be perfect for creating. Our minds don’t really work that way. This isn’t a factory.

What Do You Do?

Give yourself a break. One big part of writer’s block is stress. So get up and stretch! Or take a walk around the block. Another thing you can do is brainstorm what should happen next. That’s even if the only thing you think of to happen next is someone gets a pedicure.

You need to write almost 1,700 words, right? Then that pedicure had better be spectacular. Describe the salon to every last detail. Have your heroine (or hero; not judging here) hem and haw over the color(s). Or even have them unable to pay. Another idea could be them skipping out on paying.

Imagine your character running down the road, Coral Sunset polish still drying on their bare toes, as they try to avoid paying the manicurist.

Silly? You betcha.

But it’s words. And words always beget more words. Your silly idea, by the way, just might lead to a better idea. But even if you scratch out the entire day when you start editing the piece, that’s fine. Right now, your goal is to write. Turn the key in the engine so you can drive to wherever you want to go—and don’t dwell on the fact that you had to drive through a rundown neighborhood in order to get there.

NaNoWriMo S-S-S-Sabotage!

The Facebook NaNo groups, when November (or December) rolls around, are filled with people who’ve got unsupportive families (by families, I am also referring to friends). What if someone you live with turns on the stereo or the TV—LOUD—when you’re trying to write? Headphones to the rescue. Either yours or theirs.

What happens if your kids get into the argument to end all arguments just when you’re trying to write the most amazing sex scene in the history of literature? Separate them, like you always do, and find something for them to do. It could be homework or chores, or contacting the parents of their friends and asking if they could have your little angels over for the afternoon. And volunteer to do the same after November 30th.

There are more ways you can be sabotaged; I’ll get to one of them when I get to the part about saving your work.

The Thrill is Gone

This isn’t writer’s block, per se. Rather, something is just plain keeping you from being creative. Major life events, even happy ones, can do that.

And that’s okay.

If you need to mourn the end of a life or a relationship, or you need to plan your wedding, then put NaNo on pause in your life. There’s Camp NaNo in April and June. Or you can write on your own. On the site, you can use their resources pretty much any time. It doesn’t have to be November.

Preventing Common Problems with NaNoWriMo

I’ve often heard that, to succeed, you need to visualize success. But I don’t do that. Rather, I visualize failure. And then I do everything in my power to avert and avoid catastrophe.

So hear (er, read) me out, okay?

No Brain, No Words, No Ideas

Let’s look back at the three things I said could happen when you try to write (there are more, but these are big ones).

The first is not having ideas.

So get ideas!

But how, I hear you ask.

As Sonny Curtis (and Joan Jett!) sang, love is all around. And so are ideas.

Ideas don’t just exist from November 1–30. They’re everywhere. And they don’t follow a calendar or set schedule. At the time of this posting, NaNo is still over a week away.

So get out and cultivate ideas. Write down whatever strikes your fancy. Whatever will work—or at least gets you words.

If you love to outline, then do so. If you just want a bunch of sticky notes with random phrases on them, go for it. And if you’re like me, and you’re in the middle, write a bare bones outline with some listed ideas and a ton of wiggle room.

You do you.

And no, dear friends, this is NOT cheating.

Because—as I said above—it’s not a competition.

NaNoWriMo Counterspy vs Sabotage

Okay, so maybe you’re not a spy, per se. But if you have the strong feeling that the fam is going to give you grief, prepare for that NOW.

How do you do this?

Have a special day in October. Eat out, go to a film, go leaf peeping, shop, whatever works. That one should be somewhat spur of the moment. And then schedule one, with a bit of planning, for December. With the exception of very small children (think preschool and younger), most people will be happy if they don’t feel you’re neglecting them. And most have enough patience to be able to wait 30 days.

For those who are older and should know better—and just can’t wait? Promise them something special, and of course you’ll need to deliver. A weekend away. Surprise bouquet. Cleaning the gutters without complaining or being nagged into doing it. Whatever works.

Will this perfectly eliminate every bit of sabotage? Perhaps not. But you have counterexamples to show off which can effectively combat any complaints that you’re not being attentive.

Get the Thrill Back

As I said above, you might have to put things off if life is dire or just plain too busy and hectic. Your best friend got Covid. Or your Mom is in hospice. Or the roof collapsed. You’ve got to make 200 favors for your best friend’s wedding in a month. You get the picture.

Your best bet is to keep plucking those ideas out of thin air, and writing them down. And then, when you’re ready, you’ll have a bank you can withdraw from.

And no, it’s not cheating!

Say it with me, people: NaNoWriMo is not a competition.

Practical Planning for NaNoWriMo

By the time this post goes live, you’ll have a little over a week before NaNo starts.

Clear the Decks

So—when does your family next go to the dentist? Make it for October or December. Same with haircuts and nights out. November doesn’t have to be 100% cleared of obligations. After all, Thanksgiving is right in there. But if you can change a few things here or there, do so. Oh, and if you can get ahead at work, at least make the effort. Less external pressure is a good thing.

Plan in Advance

Do you ever cook in advance? No? Then it’s high time you started. Make a few simple things which only need to be heated up. Pasta is your friend! Freeze whatever you can and you’re basically ready to rock. Take it out the night before to let it defrost (inside the fridge is better for food safety than your countertop) and then nuke it or toss in the oven to warm it and finish it off.

Boom, dinner is served.

You don’t have to do this every time, and you most likely won’t want to. But if you can get, say, four or five meals teed up this way, you’ll be a lot happier once you hit crunch time. And no one will have to wait for you to finish writing your epic battle scene so they can be fed.

Need to buy birthday presents, or go holiday shopping? Carve out time in October and December to git ‘er done.

Gather Your Tools

If you’re going to print anything, make sure you’ve got paper and ink, and your printer works. If you’re going to handwrite anything, make sure you’ve got pens/pencils and paper.

And make sure your computer has all the latest updates and patches. 

Practical Tidbits

Go to the NaNoWriMo site and, if you don’t already have an account, create one. Make sure you can get into your account! And check on how to save your NaNoWriMo word count.

Why am I not specifying how to do that here? Because it’s changed over the years. So go to the NaNo site.

Make sure you know how to save your word count.

Save, Save, and then Save Again

While saving your work is technically a part of planning ahead and being practical, it’s so vital that it gets its own section.

But keep in mind: you do NOT save your work on the NaNoWriMo website. Don’t even try; there’s no place for it, anyway.

That’s not the purpose of the site. So, you will need to save some other way(s).

The gold standard (it’s the standard because it’s what I do, ha!) is to save in three different types of places.

Here’s how.

#1 Save to Your Hard Drive

Saving your work to your hard drive usually means you can open it more quickly. You can probably find it faster. And it may save more quickly. All are good.

But if you’re using a public computer, or traveling and using someone else’s machine, then that’s out.

Also, this is the fourth laptop I have owned, and I’m on my second tablet. Before that, I went through I think three or four desktop units. And I’m on my third phone. In short, stuff breaks.

So don’t stop with your hard drive.

#2 Save to Portable Media Storage

Er, what’s that?

It’s flash drives, thumb drives, separate hard drives, and the like. Back in the day, it was floppy discs. It can be CDs or DVDs, too.

Whatever it is, it’s something you can hold in your hand.

But beware. Flash drives, CDs, etc. can break or die. And I will never forget when a young parent came into a NaNo Facebook group and said their toddler had stamped on their flash drive and destroyed it.

Plus, if you need to work with a public computer, then this may or may not be allowed. You may find that the library doesn’t allow anyone to use a flash drive. That’s okay. There’s another way to save your work.

#3 Save to the Cloud

There are a number of services by which you can store work in what is essentially a virtual form. You’ve probably heard of OneDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drives. Amazon also offers storage, and so does Apple (iCloud). You can use every single one of these for free, and they will most likely offer enough space for your needs without having to upgrade to a paid plan.

If you’re on a shared or public computer, this may also not be in the cards. But there’s one more way you can, in essence, save to a cloud.

Email your story to yourself.

While it’s a somewhat less elegant solution, it will still get the job done.

Let’s Get Psyched for NaNoWriMo!

You can write at any time. And you can write more, or less. You never have to sign up for NaNo, if you decide it’s not for you.

No biggie.

The main thing about NaNoWriMo is that it takes writing, an exceptionally solitary pursuit, and it turns it social. It’s also a convenient way to drum up interest in your work. On Facebook and Twitter, I use the hashtags #CountDownToNaNoWriMo and #CountDownToNaNoWriMo2021 (or whatever the year is).

I post little bits, and I write the blurb. Over time, I’ve found that writing the blurb early can help to crystallize my thoughts. And getting out a blurb and some basic info creates accountability for me. People cheer me on, and I don’t want to disappoint them.

It must be working, because I’ve made it to 50,000 words every time. 

Some Final Thoughts on NaNoWriMo

It took me about 3 hours to write this blog post. Its word count is almost 900 words above the minimum you need to write in one day to hit 50,000 words by the end of NaNoWriMo. Some days, it takes me more time than this. Other times, it takes less.

But in the end, it’s fun and rewarding. And no matter what, even if all you write is one word, that counts. If it’s a word you wouldn’t have written before, then NaNoWriMo has done its job, and you have succeeded.

Want to friend me on the NaNo site? Then go here. Go get ’em, tiger.

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Book Reviews Writing

Self-Review – The Badge of Humanity

Review – The Badge of Humanity

The Badge of Humanity is the upshot conclusion story in the Obolonks trilogy. It moves the action into more of the Peri-Dave romance. But it also follows to showing how she, Dave, and Tommy finally solve the murders.
The Badge of Humanity
Just like that universe’s society is tripartite, so are the three novels. So the first one, The Obolonk Murders, is devoted to the aliens. And the second work, The Polymer Beat, is dedicated to the semi-sapient and more than semi-sapient robots. Hence the third is all about humanity.

The second and third novels also have somewhat punny titles. They both play off the police props of badges and walking a beat.

Background for The Badge of Humanity

When I first started to write The Obolonk Murders, I had no plan and no idea it would turn into three books. At this point, I knew I really needed to finish up already. One thing Untrustworthy has proven, over and over again, is the value of an outline.

I knew the end had to happen, so the two biggest parts were solving the murders and, in some way, dealing with the Peri-Dave romance. I needed to tie up two very loose ends and do so in as satisfying a manner as possible.

Plot

Peri has to solve the last of the puzzle as more Obolonks are threatened. She senses they are the key to humanity’s future as the human population has swollen so much that it will soon overrun every inhabitable orb in the solar system.

As Tommy continues to seek what is essentially humanness—the badge of humanity—Peri and Dave’s relationship heats up. There are too many distractions and the president of the solar system also seems to have something to hide.

Characters

The main character (as before) is Detective Sergeant Peri Martin. Secondary characters of note are Tommy 2000 (with a Tommy McFarland alias so as to cover up his robot identity), Dave Shepherd, Greg Shapiro, Akanksha Kondapalli, and the glamorous president of the solar system, Ms. Fankald Williams.

The scenes shift from the Boston Megalopolis on Earth, to Venus, Callisto, and Eris, and back, even to the Hague on Earth (the capital).

Memorable Quotes

“What’s that?” Peri asked a woman sitting nearby, who was an octogenarian like her parents were. The woman had on a knit suit in mint green. Mrs. Franklin? Fredericks? Francis?

“I asked you where you live.”

“Oh, I’m in the Boston Meg, right downtown in a high rise.”

“Back on Earth? That seems so old-fashioned. Don’t you want to grow eggplants with your parents?”

“Uh, no, that’s okay,” Peri tried to be polite about things, but she could scarcely conceive of anything more boring than supervising a far less sophisticated robot than Tommy – the kind known as a Jack or Lumberjackbot – as it tended to the care and feeding of umpteen eggplants for sale to markets as far away as Venus or the Neptunian System. “Someone’s got to haul in the undesirables, Mrs. – er, Ma’am.” Nice save, she congratulated herself wryly.

“Oh, yes, Earth has so much more crime than we have out here,” the woman observed.

“No, thank you, Mrs. Martin,” Tommy remained polite but was getting a little bit insistent, adding just a touch of emphasis to his surprisingly lifelike tenor voice.

“Well, there’s crime everywhere, Mrs., er, Ma’am,” Peri countered, adding, “Ma, he’s not interested in the food, okay? Don’t push.”

“Perdy, honestly! Now, Thomas,” Peri’s mother addressed Tommy, “I can’t understand why you’d be fasting on a day like today. Is it for a religious reason? Do you need to keep kosher, or halal, or vegan? Because I don’t think you need to lose any weight.”

“I need to,” the sophisticated robot’s bluish-greenish-grayish eyes moved rapidly, horizontally, a few times. Peri knew that he was checking his long-term memory for a suitable response, “watch.”

Rating

The book has a T rating. It’s not quite enough for MA, but there are sex scenes and they can be a touch explicit at times. Peri and Dave have a very active relationship.  As for violence, it’s more threatened than anything else.

The Badge of Humanity: Upshot

The quoted portion comes from the first scene in the first chapter. I think the series ends pretty well. In particular, as I become a more sophisticated writer, I can see the holes in it. But I can still see a ton of potential.

And that’s why this trilogy is the first of three trilogies. The Obolonk universe is far too well-developed to let go to waste.

But this book really needs beta readers! Because the last thing that I want is for the story to end on a less than perfect note. Any volunteers for the beta reader badge?

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Self-Review – The Polymer Beat

Review – The Polymer Beat

The Polymer Beat moves the Obolonk action toward not just the robots which have an overall story line—it also explores main character Peri Martin’s romance with spy Dave Shepherd.
The Polymer Beat
Just like that universe’s society is tripartite, so are the three novels. So the first one, The Obolonk Murders, is all about the aliens.

And this, the second work, The Polymer Beat, is dedicated to semi-sapient and more than semi-sapient robots. Hence the third is all about humans and is called The Badge of Humanity.

The second and third novels also have somewhat punny titles, with both playing off the police props of badges and walking a beat. The reference to polymer is because of robots. These books all have themes. This one is robots although I will admit it’s subtle.

Background

After I picked The Obolonk Murders back up again in 2014, I realized I had the makings of a trilogy on my hands. Hence The Polymer Beat became my 2014 NaNoWriMo project.

I also had a few dangling bits from the first book, including solving the murder and Peri’s disastrous first date with Dave.

Plot

As Peri and Tommy work on the Obolonk cases, Peri and Dave Shepherd get closer. Peri knows this is a bad idea, but she goes along with it anyway. And, as she and Tommy continue to try to find the killers, she notices Tommy’s simplistic robotic feelings are taking a turn. Could Tommy become jealous?

Characters

The main character (as before) is Detective Sergeant Peri Martin. The scenes shift from the Boston Megalopolis to various places in the Solar System, including Ganymede.

Other characters include Tommy, Dave, They Say This is the One, Sally Bowles AKA They Say This One Tiles Bathrooms Adequately, and lawyer Akanksha Kondapalli.

Memorable Quotes

“Were you programmed to be an optimist?”

He considered the question briefly. “I cannot tell.”

“That’s okay. You know I’m gonna have dinner with Shepherd tonight, right?”

“Yes,” he mumbled as she hoisted her bag onto the room’s sole bed.

Peri stopped what she was doing and came close to the robot. “What is it?”

“It is nothing.”

She looked at him closely. “If I didn’t know any better, Tom, I’d swear you were upset.” He stood there stoically, although she did see him scan once, briefly.

Peri returned to her bag and began unpacking it, stuffing most of her clothing into the top drawer of the room’s sole bureau. “I’m not even so sure why I’m going out with him, truth be told.”

“I do not understand.”

“Heh, I would explain it if I could. It’s not like my mini-phone’s been chiming all day with offers since Charlie died.”

“Is this,” the robot paused, maybe to select the proper words, “your first such offer since that event?”

“Event,” she echoed, taking a shimmering silver dress out of her bag, “that makes it sound as if there were engraved invitations, or something.”

“I did not intend that definition.”

“I know you didn’t. But you gotta understand, Tom, or at least just, just try to. I saw Charlie mortally wounded by a scrubbed hot gun. It happened right in front of me.”

“That is what your psychiatric evaluation said.”

Trembling, she looked daggers at him. “What else do you know about me that’s private?”

Rating

The book has a T rating. There are no really violent scenes but there is an explicit sex scene. Occasional bad language, but not much.

The Polymer Beat: Upshot

Middle books in trilogies tend to drag, and this one is no exception. I need to improve it! In addition, beta readers would be helpful—hello!

It would be great to get some developmental editing help with the dragging parts in the middle to last third.

But I like the idea of it, and I think Tommy in particular gets developed much better. Dave remains an enigma, but that’s the idea. He is a spy, after all.

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Self-Review – The Obolonk Murders

Review – The Obolonk Murders

The Obolonk Murders was started several years ago (2002, to be exact) and I pulled it. But I loved the concept behind it. So I dusted it off and it became a trilogy.

… and then it became the first trilogy of three planned trilogies.

Just like that universe’s society is tripartite, so are the three initial novels. So this, the first one, The Obolonk Murders, is devoted to the aliens, and the second work, The Polymer Beat, is dedicated to the semi-sentient and more than semi-sentient robots. Hence the third is all about humans and its title is The Badge of Humanity.

The second and third novels also have somewhat punny titles, with both playing off the police props of badges and walking a beat. But the first title is just really straightforward.

Background

The Obolonk Murders started off life as a completely seat of my pants story which I put online as postings. I had no plot, no plans, nothing. At the time, I wrote the first three chapters. And I then got stuck. I didn’t pick it up again until 12 years had gone by. No lie!

Plot

Society breaks into three parts: humans, robots, and Obolonks. An Obolonk is an intersex alien (a little similar to the Untrustworthy aliens, the Cabossians), orange in color. They are of about equal intelligence to us, but with interstellar space travel.

The robots are of varying levels of sophistication. However, the most sophisticated are the creations of Dr. J. Carter Tinerrian. One of these robots is now the new partner to a human, Detective Sergeant Peri Martin, who needs to start solving the mystery of who is killing Obolonks.

Characters

The main character is Detective Sergeant Peri Martin. Her main motivations are to find the perpetrators and to work with her new partner, Tommy McFarland.

The scenes shift from the New York Megalopolis to the Boston Megalopolis to Callisto and back. Other characters include Tommy (as a robot, he goes by the identity Tommy 2000), Dr. Tinerrian, and the head of the Obolonks, whose only name is They Say This is the One.

Other Obolonks have their own reputationally-based names, such as They Say This One Tiles Bathrooms Adequately. That disaffected Obolonk…

Memorable Quotes

“Through that door,” motioned the robot.

“Thanks,” Peri smiled the half-smile she usually used when addressing robots.

“Your gratitude is unnecessary. I am merely performing my function,” replied the robot before turning and gliding away.

The door slid open after Peri underwent the same security protocols as at the front door. “Ah, come in, come in! I’m J. Carter Tinerrian. This lovely woman is Selkhet and this is your new partner.” Dr. Tinerrian was a nerdy sort of a fellow. He indicated a man in a suit sitting at a desk. The seated man was maybe 40, 45, seemingly younger than 50-year-old Peri, with a bit of salt to his brown peppery hair, and hazel eyes that varied in shade. He was well-built, too, although his nose looked like it might have been broken some time in his youth.

“Hi, there,” said Peri, shaking hands with the doctor and Selkhet and making her way to the man at the desk. He failed to respond. “Is he deaf? The department’s relaxed almost all physical rules but I don’t think total deafness is one of them.”

“Oh, he’s not deaf. He just needs to be activated,” explained Selkhet. Then, addressing the robot, she commanded sharply, “Tommy 2000, it is time.”

“A robot?” Peri asked. The doctor nodded but said nothing. “What the —?”

Rating

The book has a T rating. There are no sex scenes and maybe one or two stray swear words. The real issue is one act of terrorism. It’s violent but the violence is mainly offscreen although the characters talk about it. Plus there’s the aftermath.

The Obolonk Murders: Upshot

The plot is … okay. I like the idea of cops and robbers in space, and in November 2019 for NaNoWriMo, I started writing a successor trilogy. There are parts where this book could be better. But I have to admit it. I have come a long, long way since I first started writing it. It could use more beta readers!

In the meantime, the best thing about the Obolonks is the world building. It is potentially the best-built world I have ever created. Hence the sequels. There’s plenty of room in this universe.

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Inspiration Writing

Writing Progress Report – Third Quarter 2021

Progress Report—Third Quarter 2021

How was third quarter 2021 for writing? So I spent third quarter 2021 writing short stories and working on planning NaNoWriMo. Work continued to be mega-busy, but I learned voice recognition on Word. It’s helped me tremendously with speed. So there was that…

Third Quarter 2021 Posted Works

Third Quarter 2021
First of all, I worked on a number of new short stories. A lot of these had been drafted on paper and so I spent some time fixing and polishing them. Some of these short stories work well together, so they have chapters and the like.

Then on Wattpad I posted on the WattNaNo profile and the Star Trek Fans profile and nowhere else.

Milestones

Also, I have written over two and a half million words (fan fiction and wholly original fiction combined). So right now my stats on Wattpad for wholly original works are as follows:

  • Dinosaurs – 38+ reads, 9+ comments
  • How to NaNoWriMo – 23,785+ reads, 323+ comments
  • My Favorite Things (like kibble) – 974 reads, 133 comments
  • Revved Up – 59,368+ reads, 530+ comments
  • Side By Side – 17 reads, 1 comments
  • Social Media Guide for Wattpad – 14,856+ reads, 591+ comments
  • The Canadian Caper – 496 reads, 37 comments
  • The Dish – 250 reads, 24 comments
  • There is a Road – 189 reads, 28 comments
  • WattNaNo’s Top Picks 2018 – 1,913+ reads, 45+ comments
  • WattNaNo’s Top Picks 2019 – 1,700+ reads, 10+ comments
  • What Now? – 2,553+ reads, 104+ comments

More Published Works

Also, I am amassing quite the collection of published works!

Untrustworthy, which is my first published novel. So yay!

A True Believer in Skepticism, to be published in Mythic Magazine.

Almost Shipwrecked, a story in the January 2019 edition of Empyreome.

Canaries, a short story in the March 29, 2019, edition of Theme of Absence.

Complications, a story in the Queer Sci Fi Discovery anthology. So this is an anthology where the proceeds went to supporting the QSF website.

Cynthia and Wilder Bloom, stories in the Longest Night Watch II anthology.

Props, a story in the Longest Night Watch I anthology. So this is an anthology where the proceeds go to Alzheimer’s research.

Surprises, a story in Book One of the 42 and Beyond Anthology set.

The Boy in the Band, a story in the Pride Park anthology. So this is an anthology where the proceeds go to the Trevor Project.

The Interview, the featured story in the December 14, 2018 edition of Theme of Absence. So they even interviewed me!

The Last Patient, a story in the Stardust, Always anthology. This was an anthology where the proceeds go to cancer research.

The Resurrection of Ditte, a story in the Unrealpolitik anthology.

This is My Child, a short story published in the April 8, 2019 edition of Asymmetry Fiction.

Three Minutes Back in Time, a short story published in Mythic Magazine.

Killing Us Softly, a short story published in Corner Bar Magazine.

Darkness into Light, a short story published in Corner Bar Magazine.

WIP Corner

So my current WIPs are as follows:

The Obolonk Murders Trilogy – so this one is all about a tripartite society. But who’s killing the aliens?

The Enigman Cave – can we find life on another planet and not screw it up? You know, like we do everything else?

The Real Hub of the Universe Trilogy – so the aliens who live among us in the 1870s and 1880s are at war. But why is that?

Mettle – society goes to hell in a hand basket when the metals of the periodic table start to disappear. Can a ragtag group in Boston figure out what’s going on before it’s too late?

Time Addicts – No One is Safe – so this one is all about what happens in the future when time travel becomes possible via narcotic.

Time Addicts – Nothing is Permanent – this is the second in this trilogy. What happens when time is tampered with and manipulated in all sorts of ways? It’s the ultimate in gaslighting, for one thing.

Time Addicts – Everything is Up For Grabs – coming in November 2021!

Prep Work

So currently, my intention, for this year’s NaNoWriMo, is that I am writing the third novel in the Time Addicts/Obolonks universe. But I need to iron out the plot! So a lot of this year has been spent on that. I am calling this one Time Addicts – Everything is Up for Grabs.

Third Quarter 2021 Queries and Submissions

So here’s how that’s been going during third quarter 2021.

In Progress

As of third quarter 2021, the following are still in the running for publishing:

Publisher Title
A Thousand One Stories Soul Rentals ‘R’ Us
Adbusters Justice
Gemini Magazine I Used to Be Happy
RAB Mettle
Sonder Review Who Do We Blame for This?

But I am doubtful about all of these. I just don’t have the time or energy to devote to regular querying, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon.

All Other Statuses

So be sure to see the Stats section for some details on any query statuses for third quarter 2021 which were not in progress.

Stats

So in 2018, my querying stats were:

  • 68 submissions of 19 stories
  • Acceptances: 4, 5.88%
  • In Progress-Under Consideration: 3, 4.41% (so these don’t seem to have panned out)
  • In Progress: 10, 14.71%
  • Rejected-Personal: 14, 20.59%
  • Rejected-Form: 24, 35.29%
  • Ghosted: 13 (so these were submissions where I never found out what happened), 19.12%

So in 2019 my querying stats were:

  • 23 submissions of 11 stories (so 6 submissions carry over from 2018)
  • Acceptances: 4, 17.39%
  • In Progress-Under Consideration: 0, 0%
  • In Progress: 11 (so this includes 2 holdovers from 2018), 47.83%
  • Rejected-Personal: 4, 17.39%
  • Rejected-Form: 3, 13.04%
  • Ghosted: 1 (so these are submissions where I never found out what happened), 4.35%

2020 Stats

So in 2020 my querying stats were:

  • 37 submissions of 12 stories (so 9 submissions carry over from 2019)
  • Acceptances: 3, 8.11%
  • In Progress-Under Consideration: 0, 0%
  • In Progress: 7, 18.92%
  • Rejected-Personal: 12, 32.43%
  • Rejected-Form: 4, 10.81%
  • Ghosted: 11 (so these are submissions where I never found out what happened), 29.73%

2021 Stats

So in 2021 my querying stats are:

    • 5+ submissions of 5+ stories (so 5 submissions carry over from 2020)
    • Acceptances: 0, 0%
    • In Progress-Under Consideration: 0, 0%
    • In Progress: 5, 100%
    • Rejected-Personal: 0, 0%
    • Rejected-Form: 0, 0%
  • Ghosted: 0 (so these are submissions where I never found out what happened), 0%

It can be pretty discouraging and hard to go on when nothing new comes up which is positive.

This Quarter’s Productivity Killers

So my productivity killers are work, what else? See, I got a raise and more responsibility. And I’m supposed to be getting another person under me soon. As may be expected, that made it harder to get fiction writing accomplished.

I am working on a ton of things. Since that is also writing, it can sometimes burn me out. There’s been a ton of stress but I am making an effort to at least write something every night. Because third quarter 2021 will not be the end of that!

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Writing

How to Edit a Manuscript: 7 Stages to Success

Are You Looking for How to Edit a Manuscript?

Here’s some straight talk on how to edit a manuscript. Whether you’re new to writing or it’s old hat, you have got to know how to do this.

Let’s start with the negative.

Here’s Not How to Edit a Manuscript

Let’s start with what should be basic but, sadly, is anything but.

You have to edit your work. It doesn’t matter how good you are. It doesn’t matter how smart you are. And it doesn’t matter how experienced you are. Or, you think you are.

Because every single piece of writing needs editing. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Betas and Sensitivity Readers

Without getting too far into what either of the above are, the bottom line is that it’s not their job to fix your stuff on the technical level. Yes, everybody makes typos. And that’s normal. Because a stray comma or a homophone (e. g. they’re for their) is no big deal.

The real issue is when a writer dumps their first draft onto beta readers. I have had this happen to me more than once, and here’s what I do.

I kick it back. Yes, really! Because I have no time to correct great big swaths of someone else’s MS. And, let’s face it, editors charge by the word. Making your beta readers do this is essentially getting something for free from them.

They already agreed to read your stellarish prose. So don’t make them waste their time correcting the technical stuff.

Self-Publishing

There is a lot of great self-published work out there. And there is also a lot of self-published junk. Want to be the former, rather than the latter? The road to great work of any sort is to edit that sucker.

So, will your work be wonderful, famous, popular, and beloved? Not necessarily. But at least people won’t lose their place or guess the killer too soon or otherwise want to throw your book across the room.

How to Edit a Manuscript, Really, I Mean it This Time!

So, this is the advice I give everyone.

Stage 0: Preliminaries

Leave it alone for 3 months.

Don’t cheat and go back early!

In the meantime, write short stories. Nothing fancy; they can be fluffy fanfiction. You just want to keep writing. Why? Because it’s a good habit to stay in, if you can.

Stage 1: Simple Word Searching

3 months are up? Run searches for words like-

  • That
  • Just
  • Very
  • Actually
  • Seem (and all of its variants)

Keep the numbers to the side. A scratch pad is fine.

Stage 2: You Are Your Own Biggest Fan

Now read your MS like a reader. You’re not looking for errors. You are a fan and you are reading the latest work from your favorite author.

Take note (that scratch pad comes to the rescue again) of when-

  • You get confused
  • Or you can’t tell characters apart
  • You get bored
  • Or you can’t picture something
  • You guessed the twist or the killer, whatever the surprise/denouement is

Done?

Stage 3: Dumping Crutch Words and Repetitive Words

Now start editing. Remember your words like that, etc.? There are actually more words which should be on your list but those are a good start. Reread sentences. Can they make sense without those words? Then out they go.

Stage 4: Fixing Characters, Plot, and Dialogue

Characters are hard to distinguish? Then consider what makes people unique. And see if you can combine two minor characters.

Twist is given away too early? Then introduce complications. Throw in some monkey wrenches.

Read the dialogue out loud. If you have trouble saying it, then it may not be realistic.

Done?

Stage 5: Beta Readers and Sensitivity Readers

Find beta readers. And offer to read their work. Be kind, fair, constructive, and helpful. Hopefully they will be as well.

Listen to beta readers but their words aren’t necessarily gospel.

If your work is about a marginalized community that you are not a part of, sensitivity readers can be a very good idea. As in, writing gay people if you’re straight, or Black characters when you’re white. You don’t have to do this for every single side character with only three lines. But a major character or a memorable minor one? You want to make sure you’re not stereotyping or othering or exoticizing people. Why? Because present-day readers will tear you apart if you do. And they would be right to do so.

Done?

Stage 6: Take a Break

Give it another 3 weeks to a month to sit around. Write more short stories in the meantime.

Stage 7: Cut, Slash, and Burn

Is that time up? Read again, the whole thing, this time as the writer. Edit it until it bleeds.

Congratulations. You’ve just edited your MS.

Takeaways for How to Edit a Manuscript

So the truth is, editing can be an incredibly daunting process. This is particularly true if you’re a pantser, so you’re not planning your work before you start. Personally, that would drive me nuts.

But this method of how to edit a manuscript can work for either plotters or pantsers. And it can even work for folks in the middle, just like me: so-called plantsers.

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Writing

Self-Review – Killing Us Softly

Review – Killing Us Softly

So Killing Us Softly came from one hard to resist idea – that the alien invasion would come with neither a bang nor a whimper,

Rather, it would come with a sigh.

Of love.
Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | Killing Us Softly

Background

As far as I can tell, there haven’t been any stories about hostiles essentially killing us with kindness and love. Hence Killing Us Softly (named for the Roberta Flack song) follows that conceit.

I originally called the story The Callade Love Us. But the Flack song made a ton more sense to me.

Plot

When we finally get a signal from SETI, it’s from the Callade. And they are so friendly we let our collective guard down quickly. And that’s when things start to go downhill.

Fast.

Characters

The characters are General Susan Sheffield, President Talia Brookfield, and President Elmer Davis, along with Marshall Porter. Sheffield and Porter are scientists at SETI. Of course Sheffield also has a military background.

Memorable Quotes

Susan stared up at the night sky. The view was off-the-charts spectacular, with more stars than she could possibly ever count. It was one of the perks of being stationed in the middle of the Australian continent.

The downsides were the abysmal shopping and dining choices, but sturdy drones and a trusty helicopter – which she flew herself – fixed all of that. She even had a tiny airfield at her disposal, in case anyone wanted to fly in but choppers gave them the willies.

The new president was gaga over anything to do with space. And so General Susan Sheffield’s agency, SETI, was more handsomely funded than it had ever been in its history.

She had her Bluetooth earpiece in her ear and was listening to a bit of late night radio when she heard the SETI ringtone. It was one special tone, directly linked to the array.

Rating

The story has a K+ rating. While there is nothing explicit, you do know what’s going on. And what is going on is none too pleasant.

Killing Us Softly: Upshot

I was so happy Killing Us Softly found an audience. It is published by Corner Bar Magazine. They also published Darkness into Light.

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Writing

Writing Progress Report – Second Quarter 2021

Progress Report – Second Quarter 2021

How great was second quarter 2021? So I spent second quarter 2021 working on planning Nanowrimo and some short stories.

Second Quarter 2021 Posted Works

Second Quarter 2021
First of all, I continued working on a number of new short stories. A lot of these had been drafted on paper and so I spent some time fixing and polishing them.

Then on Wattpad I posted on the WattNaNo profile and nowhere else.

Milestones

Also, I have written over two and a half million words (fan fiction and wholly original fiction combined). So right now my stats on Wattpad for wholly original works are as follows:

  • Dinosaurs – 323+ reads, 9+ comments
  • How to NaNoWriMo – 22,775+ reads, 308+ comments
  • My Favorite Things (like kibble) – 972 reads, 133 comments
  • Revved Up – 59,320+ reads, 530+ comments
  • Side By Side – 10 reads, 0 comments
  • Social Media Guide for Wattpad – 14, 070+ reads, 591+ comments
  • The Canadian Caper – 485 reads, 37 comments
  • The Dish – 250 reads, 24 comments
  • There is a Road – 189 reads, 28 comments
  • WattNaNo’s Top Picks 2018 – 1,855+ reads, 45+ comments
  • WattNaNo’s Top Picks 2019 – 1,551+ reads, 10+ comments
  • What Now? – 2,471+ reads, 104+ comments

More Published Works

Also, I am amassing quite the collection of published works!

Untrustworthy, which is my first published novel. So yay!

A True Believer in Skepticism, to be published in Mythic Magazine.

Almost Shipwrecked, a story in the January 2019 edition of Empyreome.

Canaries, a short story in the March 29, 2019, edition of Theme of Absence.

Complications, a story in the Queer Sci Fi Discovery anthology. So this is an anthology where the proceeds went to supporting the QSF website.

Cynthia and Wilder Bloom, stories in the Longest Night Watch II anthology.

Props, a story in the Longest Night Watch I anthology. So this is an anthology where the proceeds go to Alzheimer’s research.

Surprises, a story in Book One of the 42 and Beyond Anthology set.

The Boy in the Band, a story in the Pride Park anthology. So this is an anthology where the proceeds go to the Trevor Project.

The Interview, the featured story in the December 14, 2018 edition of Theme of Absence. So they even interviewed me!

The Last Patient, a story in the Stardust, Always anthology. This was an anthology where the proceeds go to cancer research.

The Resurrection of Ditte, a story in the Unrealpolitik anthology.

This is My Child, a short story published in the April 8, 2019 edition of Asymmetry Fiction.

Three Minutes Back in Time, a short story published in Mythic Magazine.

Killing Us Softly, a short story published in Corner Bar Magazine.

Darkness into Light, a short story published in Corner Bar Magazine.

WIP Corner

So my current WIPs are as follows:

The Obolonk Murders Trilogy – so this one is all about a tripartite society. But who’s killing the aliens?

The Enigman Cave – can we find life on another planet and not screw it up? You know, like we do everything else?

The Real Hub of the Universe Trilogy – so the aliens who live among us in the 1870s and 1880s are at war. But why is that?

Mettle – so it’s all about how society goes to hell in a hand basket when the metals of the periodic table start to disappear. But then what?

Time Addicts – No One is Safe – so this one is all about what happens in the future when time travel becomes possible via narcotic.

Time Addicts – Nothing is Permanent – this is the second in this trilogy. What happens when time is tampered with and manipulated in all sorts of ways? It’s the ultimate in gaslighting, for one thing.

Time Addicts – Everything is Up For Grabs – coming in November 2021!

Prep Work

So currently, my intention, for this year’s NaNoWriMo, is that I am writing the third novel in the Time Addicts/Obolonks universe. But I need to iron out the plot! So a lot of this year has been spent on that. I have called this one Time Addicts – Everything is Up for Grabs.

Second Quarter 2021 Queries and Submissions

So here’s how that’s been going during second quarter 2021.

In Progress

As of second quarter 2021, the following are still in the running for publishing:

Publisher Title
A Thousand One Stories Soul Rentals ‘R’ Us
Adbusters Justice
Gemini Magazine I Used to Be Happy
RAB Mettle
Sonder Review Who Do We Blame for This?

All Other Statuses

So be sure to see the Stats section for some details on any query statuses for second quarter 2021 which were not in progress.

Stats

So in 2018, my querying stats were:

  • 68 submissions of 19 stories
  • Acceptances: 4, 5.88%
  • In Progress-Under Consideration: 3, 4.41% (so these don’t seem to have panned out)
  • In Progress: 10, 14.71%
  • Rejected-Personal: 14, 20.59%
  • Rejected-Form: 24, 35.29%
  • Ghosted: 13 (so these were submissions where I never found out what happened), 19.12%

So in 2019 my querying stats were:

  • 23 submissions of 11 stories (so 6 submissions carry over from 2018)
  • Acceptances: 4, 17.39%
  • In Progress-Under Consideration: 0, 0%
  • In Progress: 11 (so this includes 2 holdovers from 2018), 47.83%
  • Rejected-Personal: 4, 17.39%
  • Rejected-Form: 3, 13.04%
  • Ghosted: 1 (so these are submissions where I never found out what happened), 4.35%

2020 Stats

So in 2020 my querying stats were:

  • 37 submissions of 12 stories (so 9 submissions carry over from 2019)
  • Acceptances: 3, 8.11%
  • In Progress-Under Consideration: 0, 0%
  • In Progress: 7, 18.92%
  • Rejected-Personal: 12, 32.43%
  • Rejected-Form: 4, 10.81%
  • Ghosted: 11 (so these are submissions where I never found out what happened), 29.73%

2021 Stats

So in 2021 my querying stats are:

    • 5+ submissions of 5+ stories (so 5 submissions carry over from 2020)
    • Acceptances: 0, 0%
    • In Progress-Under Consideration: 0, 0%
    • In Progress: 5, 100%
    • Rejected-Personal: 0, 0%
    • Rejected-Form: 0, 0%
  • Ghosted: 0 (so these are submissions where I never found out what happened), 0%

It can be pretty discouraging and hard to go on when nothing new comes up which is positive.

This Quarter’s Productivity Killers

So it’s work and the pandemic, what else?  But we also spent the end of the first quarter clearing out my mother-in-law’s apartment. Second quarter 2021? Dealing with the rest of it.

I fear second quarter 2021 will not be the end of that!

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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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