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Book Reviews

Self-Review – The Boy in the Band

Review – The Boy in the Band

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

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

Background

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

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

The Plot for The Boy in the Band

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

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

I swear to God this is true.

Characters

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

Memorable Quotes

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

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

“Which do you think is cuter?”

“Rocky.”

“So we will agree to disagree.”

And then I knew.

Rating

The story has a K rating.

Upshot for The Boy in the Band

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

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

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

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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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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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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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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

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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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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Categories
Career changing Publishing

Beta Reading for Indie Writers

Beta Reading

Beta reading is both an art and a science, I feel. There are good ways to do it. And there are not so good ways.

But as an independent writer, the best way to get beta readers to help you is to become a beta reader yourself. Here I’ll address common issues and ways to make it a more productive experience for both of you.

Editing, Copy Editing, and Proofreading

A beta reader is analogous to a beta tester. You are supposed to be checking a piece before querying or self-publication or posting on a free content site such as Wattpad. Beta testers generally do not test software’s very first iteration. They might be asked to test a function or even the whole shebang once it’s done. But they don’t test the lines of code to see if they are correct. That is a developer’s job.

And beta reading is similar. You are not responsible for checking basic stuff like spelling. The author should have run their work through a spellchecker, prior to sending it to you. If they do not have a spellchecker for some odd reason, then you as the beta reader are in for quite the ride. And this is not a happy ride, I assure you.

How to handle it

What should you do If someone sends a document utterly riddled with spelling errors? Here are a few options:

  • Kick it back (nicely) and tell them to run a spellcheck before they send it back to you. If they don’t know how to do this, then you can suggest they Google free spellcheckers or save it as a Google doc (under Tools, there is a spellchecker).
  • Correct their spelling, but make it clear this will increase the time frame considerably. For most people, even if they are not in much of a rush, this a good incentive to take care of business.
  • Tell them the relationship isn’t working out.

A lack of spellchecking does not necessarily mean someone doesn’t care about your time. The writer might not be a native speaker. They might be very new to the scene. Or they could have certain forms of dyslexia which make a spellchecker kind of throw up its metaphoric hands and run in the opposite direction. If any of these are the case, then see if you can get compensated for your time. Because at that point, you’ve gone beyond beta reading.

Length and Time and Expectations

The best-laid plans, yadda yadda, you know the rest. We plan one thing, but life has a tendency to inconveniently intervene. Consider your time, how fast you read, and any monkey wrenches life might throw. A good rule of thumb for planning is to multiply by one and a half. Therefore if you think 1,000 words will take you an hour, then consider it will take 90 minutes and plan accordingly.

Ask about their schedule. Maybe they want to publish in two months, or twelve. If you can’t meet their deadline, all is not lost! Instead, you could just beta read the first few chapters. Figure out what works best. Or agree to work together at a later date.

Next, I’ll look at what you need to do, to be a good beta reader.

Categories
Book Reviews

Self-Review – Almost Shipwrecked

Review – Almost Shipwrecked

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

Background to Almost Shipwrecked

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

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

Plot for Almost Shipwrecked

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

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

Characters

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

Memorable Quotes

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

Rating

The story has a K rating.

Upshot

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

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

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

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