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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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Book Reviews Writing

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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Book Reviews Writing

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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Self-Review – Three Minutes Back in Time

Review – Three Minutes Back in Time

Three Minutes Back in Time is a sequel of sorts to a fanfiction story I wrote called Crackerjack. It is also a bit of a sequel for a second fan fiction story, Concord. But for this particular short story, I took out all of the fan fiction elements, except for the names of the characters. So it is essentially a wholly original piece.
Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | Three Minutes Back in Time width=

Background for Three Minutes Back in Time

Science fiction often seems to be in the realm of today or the future. As I was also writing Real Hub of the Universe, the idea of setting sci fi in an unexpected time period became irresistible.

Hence the story takes place in the very beginning of the American involvement in the Second World War.

Plot

When Rosemary Parker and James Warren go to a fair outside Washington, DC, they do not expect to find a time machine. And they really don’t expect it to work.

But it can only work for three minutes at a time. So Rosemary decides to go to the one place and date and time she has ever wanted to – just before the death of her beloved brother, Freddie.

Characters

The characters are Rosemary Parker, James Warren, and Freddie Parker. Plus there is a carnival ticket taker, who doesn’t get a lot of “screen time”.

Memorable Quotes from Three Minutes Back in Time

At least the fair wasn’t segregated, like so many other places were. Its grounds were open to all, including James and Rosemary. And once they had determined the fair had little to offer, they had sat down on a bench and talked. He had wanted to discuss W.E.B. Du Bois and the recent allied raid on Rome. But Rosemary had wanted to talk about the upcoming premiere of Stormy Weather with Lena Horne and Fats Waller. He didn’t even want to discuss the recent All-Star game.

Rating

The story has a K rating.

Upshot

I think this one stands alone rather well. And I was so happy Three Minutes Back in Time was published by Mythic Magazine.

In particular, I think it evokes something of the mood of the time, not just through music, but also how Rosemary behaves. She’s a woman of color, and she has a decent education, but this is also way before Rosa Parks, who I swear I wasn’t thinking of when I wrote the piece. In fact, it’s even before Jackie Robinson.

As for what originally happened to Freddie, unfortunately, that is all too common these days.

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Self-Review – The Boy in the Band

Review – The Boy in the Band

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

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

Background

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

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

The Plot for The Boy in the Band

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

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

I swear to God this is true.

Characters

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

Memorable Quotes

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

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

“Which do you think is cuter?”

“Rocky.”

“So we will agree to disagree.”

And then I knew.

Rating

The story has a K rating.

Upshot for The Boy in the Band

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

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

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

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Book Review: Zen in the Art of Writing

Book Review: Zen in the Art of Writing

Zen.

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

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

Fiction Writing Zen

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

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

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

Spoiler Alert: I Loved It

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

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

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

However, Bradbury offers a rather different definition of success –

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

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

Who knew?

Zen Takeaways

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

Review: 5/5 stars.

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Supporting Indie Authors

Supporting Indie Authors

Supporting Indie Authors – do you do it?

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

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

The #1 Way You Can Support An Independent Author

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

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

The #2 Way To Support Independent Authors

Supporting Indie Authors
Untrustworthy by JR Gershen-Siegel

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

The Sum and Substance of Your Review

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

Negative Reviews

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

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

Really going negative

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

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

The #3 Way to Support an Independent Author

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

The #4 Way to Support Independent Authors

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

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

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

The #5 Way to Support an Independent Author

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

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

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

Final Thoughts on Supporting Indie Authors

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

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

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Book Reviews

Self-Review – The Resurrection of Ditte

A Look at The Resurrection of Ditte

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

Background

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

Plot of the Resurrection of Ditte

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

Characters

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

Memorable Quotes from Ditte

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

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

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

Rating

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

Upshot

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

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Self-Review – This is My Child

A Look at This is My Child

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

This is My Child puts together just what it would be like if we humans ever had to save a sentient alien species.
Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | This is My Child width=

Background

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

The Plot of This is My Child

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

Characters

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

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

Memorable Quotes

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

Rating

The story has a K rating.

Upshot for This is My Child

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

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

And it was published! Many thanks to Asymmetry Fiction!

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Book Review: Stephen King On Writing

Book Review: Stephen King On Writing

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

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

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

Nuts and Bolts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s where we part ways.

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

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

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

Show us on the doll where adverbs hurt you.

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

She waited nervously.

Or

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

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

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

I bet this guy is going places.

Review: 4/5 stars.