July 21, 2012 — 708 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
I first heard about Web Serial Writing Month (or WeSeWriMo) in the summer of 2011. At the time, I was toying with the idea of writing a web serial of some sort, but I wasn't ready to really start working on one, so I filed the concept away in the back of my mind and went on with my life, which at that point involved writing a few short stories and working on the beginnings of a novel.
Little did I know that one year later, I would have just completed a six-month-long serial called Losing Freight and be about 70 updates and 75,000 words deep into another ongoing project called Special People. With those two serials on my writing résumé, and a handful of other concepts floating around somewhere in the inky depths of my brain, waiting to be dredged up at some point in the unspecified future, it's like WeSeWriMo was purposefully designed for me.
Maybe it's meant for you, too.
WeSeWriMo, which is run by the web serial community site EpiGuide, runs annually during the month of August. This will be its sixth straight year. WeSeWriMo was inspired by the ever-popular National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). But where NaNoWriMo challenges authors to complete a 50,000-word novel in a single month, WeSeWriMo is designed to be adaptable to the unique challenges and opportunities of web serialization. Just as web serials come in a wide variety of formats, genres, and release schedules, the goals WeSeWriMo participants can pursue are entirely customizable. The idea is that each participant can set their own targets, based on their regular output. The WeSeWriMo website suggests aiming for 150% of your regular output as an example target, so if you're used to releasing 4 episodes of your series in a month, try to write 6 episodes, instead, and add them to your backlog. Another goal could be to write 1,000 words per day for the entire month, or you could come up with something completely different to try for, as long as your target is "ambitious yet realistic".
In my own case, I've decided to set a couple of different types of targets. I normally write and post two 1,000-word chapters per week for Special People, but in my official registration post on the EpiGuide forums, I laid out the following three goals:
Goal #1: Write 15 chapters (15,000 words)
Goal #2: Outline the next story arc.
Goal #3: Prepare the first Special People book for release.
The first goal is my "normal" goal. Instead of what would be my regular output of 8 or 9 chapters for August, I want to write 15 chapters and build a good backlog. But I also want to prepare the next story arc to come, because I've found that, for me, the more outlining and pre-planning I do for my writing, the better my stories turn out. It can be difficult to force myself to sit down and be intentional about outlining, though, so I'm making that part of my personal challenge for WeSeWriMo. Finally, it's been my plan for months to release ebook and print versions of the larger Special People story arcs as I complete them, so I'm adding that to my WeSeWriMo to-do list.
As you can see, my targets are designed around my own writing style, format, and release schedule. I'm really enjoying the opportunity to be creative with my goals and have control over my own participation. Having control over my own work is one of the main reasons why I love serializing my writing, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that. If you're like me, I think you'll find the idea of WeSeWriMo very appealing.
To register yourself for WeSeWriMo, formalize your targets, and get involved in the community of web serial writers and producers, head over to the website and post your entry in the EpiGuide forums today!
July 19, 2012 — 1,324 words
By Letitia Coyne
I was ready to write about reviewers and the need to balance literary markers in a story against the specific guidelines that define a genre, so a meaningful review is more than just ‘I liked this book’ or not. Seeing ‘this was a romance and I hate romance so I gave it two stars’ bugs me.
But while I was looking at reviews, I found a one star review of the series of books popularly known as ‘mommy porn’ and I got sidetracked. You will find the review virally all over the social media networks or at Goodreads if you want to search for it. It’s detailed and funny and a bit crass, with lots of moving pictures – [praise be the free use of images on the net. If anyone is watching film copyright, that review is packing an invoice for thousands of dollars in use and breach.] I’m not going to link to it and I’ll tell you why.
Since I intend to leave the uber-popular series unnamed, no press is bad press, I’ll leave it to your imagination and when I need an example I’ll drag out poor Stephenie Meyer and use her fine work.
I read an interesting article about the books being a catalyst for discussion on the role of pain in the modern world, but in truth, I have not seen such meaningful subjects drawn from its pages. I have seen a replay of the Twilight rants, with basically two sides: one - I love it, it’s hot; and the other - boo, hiss, crap, badly written etc.
The only time I have heard anyone try to determine why it has swept the world was a brief rant in New Statesman on the theory that it is criticised because it is porn, porn for women of a certain age, and mums aren’t supposed to read porn. All porn is badly written, it is argued, so what? This is titillation and fun for the taboo read – especially in ebooks where no one can see the cover.
I can’t agree with that. The digital fiction world is filled to brimming with erotica of all kinds, much of it written by authors who know the genre and who understand the specifics and appeal of various fetishes. Even the simple category romances on supermarket shelves, usually the ones with scarlet on the covers, are racy to a greater or lesser degree. Romance, especially erotic romance, has always sold well. Rarely however, do we see a single title raised across all marketing divides to claim the world’s, read media’s, attention.
When Twilight was released, as I have pointed out before, it emerged in a flood of positive press and raving reviews in newspapers and journals of repute. It had been established as the must-read before it began to draw the fierce criticisms it is now so well known for. Once those criticisms began, rather than losing impetus, the Twilight saga flared brighter by the day, with negative press only serving to fuel the fires. In a short space of time readers were given to believe they were the only living soul who had not read the books, and consequently were unable to join the debates on its merits or otherwise.
Readers of any publishing phenomenon must fall into two categories: those who have read and those who have not read. Have not read is no barrier to criticism and comment in today’s free range broadcast arenas. Those who have will have formed their own opinion and will, honestly or not, discuss that with their groups depending on what they consider to be the consensus. Those who have not will fall into three other categories. Those who want to read, those who will not read, and those who might but are undecided. Those who want to read have already been affected by the raging hype, those who will not have also been affected, and both groups will only read reviews to ensure they are supported by like minded individuals.
The undecideds are the only group who matter. They are as likely to be moved to read by negative hype as by positive. Many will say, ‘I have to read this for myself to know how I feel’ rather than being put off by savage attacks. Multiple one star reviews on Joe Blog’s latest KDP epic are likely to have him languish unread, but once the tinder is lit under these huge marketing locomotives, no press is bad press. Once the spark has made them viral and they are ripping up the internet chat sites and forums and facebook and G+ and youtube etc, every word about them stokes the blaze.
The brilliant one star review I mentioned first will not deter many at all. It might well prompt a whole group of will not reads to join the ranks of the have reads if only to see if it really is that bad.
The goal is to have everyone feel like they must be involved in the discussion. Virality and the need to be involved are not rare. Everyone knows the sneezing panda, the cynical kid, and the Boromir ‘one does not simply …’ memes. But these are 24hr fevers. They flash up, run amok, and disappear. They have no fuel under them.
Twilight emerged from a vast pool of supernatural romance which began, if I recall, with Silhouette Shadows and its like in about 1992. It was by no means unique; neither did it bring any literary excellence, nor did it bring any more adolescent angst than many other books, nor did it draw on any fabulous sensual tension. It was not outstanding in any way. Neither is this newly phenomenal title outstanding among erotica titles.
It is often pointed out that our failing education system and declining literacy is to blame, especially when our less literate YAs are consuming an enormous amount of written material from sites like Wattpad. Young people on the net are reading and writing more, if not correctly, than ever before and they no longer recognise quality, it is said. More importantly, however, our education system has failed to teach us all to think critically about and to question what is driving our thoughts and reactions.
Why do we keep trudging around the millwheel of arguments about the merits of these phenomena instead of asking why, or who decides which books, bands, movies, etc will get the big splash of gold?
The unnamed series appears to me to be a marketer's ideal – as if someone in sales said, erotica is popular, [just as they once said, YA supernatural romance is popular] – and they looked for an author to fit. MMF, LGBT and BDSM are the most popular erotica subjects out there now, and BDSM is least likely to alienate any part of the market. Rape fantasy is still considered, rightly or wrongly, to be the number one female erotic fantasy. If their chosen author did not know anything about erotica or BDSM or narcissism or misogyny, well, who’ll care? Marketers do not know about them either; it's about shifting units and mass market manipulation, not literature. If the author knows nothing about literary techniques and 101 rules for writing, again, who’ll care?
In the end, no one.
Because the more people talk about the title, and argue and ridicule or rave about and recommend, the more they willingly do the work of an army of Mad Men. And no doubt those Mad Men have Google stats to monitor just how often the title is mentioned out here in the ether.
July 18, 2012 — 383 words
By 1889 Labs
Looking for an exciting blog tour to join? I thought you were! Well aren't you just in luck? Our upcoming YA Superhero fiction release, Legion of Nothing: Rebirth by Jim Zoetewey is being released at the end of July, and we're looking for some great blog tour hosts to send off LON with a bang throughout the month of August!
Here's a short blurb:
“You may kill somebody today. We won’t think anything less of you for it.”
Nick Klein’s grandfather was the Rocket.
For three decades, the Rocket and his team were the Heroes League–a team of superheroes who fought criminals in the years after World War II.
But Nick and his friends have inherited more than their grandparents’ costumes and underground headquarters… they’ve inherited the League’s enemies and unfinished business.
In the 1960′s, Red Lightning betrayed everyone, creating an army of supervillains and years of chaos. The League never found out why.
Now, Nick and the New Heroes League will have no choice but to confront their past.
We have been working closely with Jim to bring his popular webfiction series to new audiences, and keep at the forefont of independent, quality fiction for print and web alike.
Of course, as this is a blog tour, there are prizes:
Grand prize: Kindle + e-copy of LON for kindle
2nd: Hard copy of LON, LON tshirt
3rd: e-book bundle of LON and the Antithesis by Terra Whiteman (3-5 gift packs)
The above is in addition to the prize they can win on your post, if you choose to run a giveaway.
We hope you'll come join us because this blog tour is going to be awesome! Contact our lovely assistant Merissa to join us and get more details! (She also does magic tricks).
Check out the Legion of Nothing teaser page just over here.
July 17, 2012 — 748 words
By Greg X. Graves
Are you familiar with rubies? The famous gemstone? They can be big or small, pale pink or deep crimson. They can be tiny pebbles or thick, coagulated droplets of the Earth's blood. Imagine one the color of the setting sun, as big as that blazing disc as it shines through a cocoon of smog. You're not supposed to stare directly at the Sun. It will destroy your vision. But never will you see a more beautiful sight, and so you take the risk. The color dazzles the eye, mesmerizes the brain. An extraterrestrial ember glows in the sky every night.
That's the color of my shoulders after a vigorous sunburn.
I spent a long weekend at a rural lake cabin and the aforementioned sunburn was achieved during a rather spirited game of Water Toss with a lemon that we found floating in the water.
I also spent time in the lake floating around. And while I floated around on my back, listening to the snapping of tiger muskies, I let my mind drift.
Letting my mind drift isn't a good idea if I have any deadlines that day. When my mind drifts its the kind of drift where you're driving sideways and all you hear is tires squealing and smell burning rubber as you try to get your mind back on track. It takes a lot of skill and bravery to see the drift through to its conclusion. But when I'm on vacation its like my brain has hit the mental salt flats. It can go for miles with nothing to stop it.
It took a lot of photons, traveling very long distances, to scorch my shoulders. Those photons carried the fury of the Sun all the way to Earth.. But they also carried information, like how fiber optic cables carry information in packets of photons. The difference lies in the precision. Hyper intelligent engineers, upon whom modern society depends, calibrate fiber optic systems to extremely precise parameters. Without that precision, receivers could not decode the pulses of light careening down the glass cables.
Photons from the Sun also carry information: information about the state of the nuclear fusion going on inside the Sun. It's all noise to us, like a firehose aimed at a teacup. No signal can be found in the chaotic stream of radiation bombarding the surface of the Earth. But if we could re-cast ourselves as gods who happened to be nuclear physicists and who tired of making baby demigods with muscular farmhands, we could infer the state of the Sun from the radiation arriving at our little planet.
Sort of like listening to an oncoming storm and hearing, behind the thunder and wind, the flapping of a butterfly's wings.
The red splotches on my shoulders make it look like I got in a fight with a bottle of cranberry juice and lost, but they represent all of the solar information that hit my body. From fusion reaction to photon to skin to swearing to aloe vera.
The only connection that I comprehend between my burning shoulders and the Sun is a gross sense of cause and effect: the Sun has very powerful radiation, even from 93 million miles away. But if I were a god? I could trace the impact of each photon, its birth and death and its ancestry within the solar crucible.
A brilliant book is the Sun.
It shines with unrestrained ferocity. You only receive a fraction of its output because every story signifies different things to different people. A woman in her nineties who spent her youth in Europe the 1940s will experience Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon differently than I will, who spent my youth with my nose pressed up against a cathode ray tube. The book doesn't change. The source is the same for every reader but the impact varies. And while you can attribute the biggest ideas and the broadest themes to a book as soon as you put it down, the deeper impacts matter more; they're the ones that wrinkle your brain like the Sun will eventually wrinkle my skin. They penetrate so deeply that years will pass before their effects become apparent.
Likewise, some books scorch us like a cloudy day spent beneath an umbrella in winter, but we don't make those kinds of books at 1889 Labs.
July 14, 2012 — 455 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
The number was so big Tic had to whisper it aloud. "A billion?"
The curator nodded eagerly. "Here, bring me that PAI."
Tic said, "Wait, Milly..." A BILLION!? "Okay, do it."
Two seconds later the transfer was complete.
"So many zeroes..." Tic shook his head in disbelief.
"Thirty seconds until jettison," intoned the battleship's AI.
"Urgh!" said Tic. He threw the third parachute at the curator's feet. "Milly, give me a hand."
"Just a second." Milly's voice trembled, and Tic saw her raise the blaster.
"Stop!" Tic smacked the blaster away just before she fired. "Don't make a liar out of me!" He grabbed the blaster. "Let's go." Tic grabbed Overard's gurney and rolled it down the hallway, towards the hole the acid had carved through the ship, as the curator scrambled into the third parachute.
Milly outpaced Tic and dove into the hole, disappearing through the clouds.
Tic dropped the blaster and lifted Overard. He was lighter than Tic had expected. "Hold on tight, kid," he whispered, and jumped.
They cleared the hull and Tic intertwined his and Overard's legs, wrapping the two of them as tightly together as he could. He pulled the parachute cord.
The jolt jarred one leg free, and Overard slipped by six inches, but Tic's elbows caught under Overard's shoulders and he squeezed together so hard that he heard a rib crack. He readjusted his legs. Now, he thought, can I hold him all the way to the ground?
A flash of yellow and red, accompanied by a roaring BOOM, drew his attention upwards. The battleship's lower levels were falling free as the reactors exploded. A descending speck disconnected from the battleship's silhouette: the curator.
Behind him came Libden. Tic watched in horror as she clawed after the curator, flailing with her handcuffed arms. She caught him and latched on, and Tic heard her scream as the two figures vanished into the clouds.
It wasn't over yet: the battleship's jettisoned lower half was falling fast, and Tic and Overard were directly in its path. Tic tried to aim the parachute, but he couldn't maneuver, not without letting Overard go. He roared in frustration and released his grip—
—just as he slammed down on a hard surface. Multiple furry hands grabbed him and threw both him and Overard clear of the edge.
"Close it and go, Pelly!" he heard. That voice belonged to...
"Gotcha," grinned Haglyn, as the Pelican raised its ramp and boosted out of harm's way. "We caught Milly, too. She says we're rich!"
Tic caught his breath. "Uuuuuuurgh," he said. "You mean I have to share?"
July 13, 2012 — 1,746 words
My Aunt Tess is allergic to everything. She belongs to an organization of other people who are also allergic to everything. During one of our weekly phone conversations she tells me about her “club”. The members can’t have a convention or even a meeting because of allergic reaction problems relating to transportation and hotels.
No one can leave her “safe spots”, she tells me, because the rest of the world doesn’t understand. “They think of us as crazy or neurotic.”
I looked up the word neurotic and I now see Aunt Tess in a different light. My mother is almost never available for these Sunday talks with her sister. She’s a therapist and is always on call Sunday nights. When Aunt Tess phones, mom is most likely to have left on an emergency to see one of her clients. Mom says that depression sets in over the weekend when people are alone and not socializing and that’s why she hears from them on Sunday nights.
“Be a good girl and talk to Aunt Tess for me,” she says on her way out the door every week. She does stay home and talk to Aunt Tess every fourth Sunday because she can get someone to cover for her she says.
Mom must be meeting her clients at a bowling alley because she always leaves with her bowling shoes in her pocketbook. I only found out because I went into her bag looking for a stick of gum. Okay, so maybe I snoop. That’s what twelve-year-old girls do. If it’s not her pocketbook, it’s her dresser drawers I poke in while she’s not around. We’re the same size now and I can fit into her dresses but she doesn’t like me wearing them even though I offer to let her wear my clothes. Mom’s very possessive.
Aunt Tess says the happiest day of my Dad’s life was the day he died because he could look forward to not being bossed around anymore. I was an infant, so I didn’t know him, but still I think that Aunt Tess shouldn’t say that to me so often. She and my mother are always putting each other down to me. Mom is polite to her on the phone and even sounds concerned but all the while she’s talking To Aunt Tess she’s making faces and gestures. Mom doesn’t have patience for her sister. She has great patience for her patients. I know—I hear her on the phone with them. I wonder if she would have patience with Aunt Tess if she became one of Mom’s patients. I asked Mom about it and she said that it’s not ethical to have your sister as a patient.
“Why don’t you ask your Aunt Tess how she knows so many people like her if none of them can get around?” My Mother says.
“I know your mother put you up to asking me that,” Aunt Tess says, “but I’ll tell you anyway. It’s very simple. Word gets around.”
Makes sense, I thought.
“Bullshit,” Mom said when I told her.
It doesn’t help Aunt Tess’s case that she’s allergic to almost every food known to man with a few interesting exceptions. “I don’t understand it myself, “she tells me while chewing on a pretzel she has shipped in from the Pennsylvania Dutch Country. She makes loud cracking sounds over the phone with each bite she takes into the hard pretzel. She can eat any fruit, except grapefruit, as long as it comes from Harry and David. Mom says T always hated grapefruit—even as a kid. “Thank God for Omaha Steaks,” Aunt Tess tells me, “or I’d never be able to have any red meat again.”
There’s more. She can eat Skippy smooth peanut butter, Welch’s Grape Jelly and Arnold’s Seeded Rye Bread. And, what I consider a real lucky break; she can eat Dominos pepperoni pizza. There’s more, but it’s not a long list. “Why I can eat Mallomars and not Oreos is a mystery to me,” she says.
Mom says that she can solve the mystery. “Your Aunt Tess is a wacko, and that’s my professional opinion. “Don’t you find it strange that she can only eat food that can be delivered or ordered from a catalog, or food she loved as a kid?” she asks me.
“The mind works in mysterious ways,” I tell Mom, using the same phrase she has used to explain things to me over the years when she hasn’t wanted to take the time to go into detail. Mom looks at me as if I’ve crossed over to the enemy.
We didn’t hear from Aunt Tess for two Sundays so Mom called her on Monday. The phone rang about a dozen times and then Mom heard it answered and knocking against something as if someone dropped the receiver. Finally she heard Aunt Tess yell “hello.” My mother made the crazy sign with her finger next to her head and said, “T, can you hear me?”
Aunt Tess yelled for Mom to yell so she could hear her.
“Why do we have to yell?” Mom asked.
“Because I’m allergic to holding the phone to my head. It came on suddenly and causes rashes and pin prickly feelings. I’m lying with my head on the floor just inches away from the phone,” She yelled.
“Have you thought of getting a speaker phone?” Mom asked.
“I can’t hear you,” Aunt Tess yelled. “I’m getting a speaker phone this week and then everything will be back to normal.”
“That’s a frightening thought,” Mom said softly.
“I heard that,” Aunt Tess yelled.
“You were supposed to,” Mom said. “I was testing a different vocal range.”
Aunt Tess’s phone suddenly went dead and Mom told me she hoped T would not get a phone for a while.
Aunt Tess called the next day to try out her speakerphone. It was also voice activated so she wouldn’t break out from dialing. Aunt Tess kept mom on the phone for an hour. I wasn’t home so I had to hear all the details from Mom’s point of view. “T was always different,” Mom said. “Even as a kid she did outrageous things to get the attention she craved.”
“What kind of things?” I asked.
“In seventh grade she carried balloons around for a week and when she spoke she inhaled helium first. She only stopped after she was suspended for a day.”
“What else?” I laughed.
“She dressed our cocker spaniel in her baby clothes and pushed her around the park in her old baby carriage. Whenever someone leaned over the carriage to have a look at the baby the dog would snarl and try to attack the person. She did that for an entire summer.”
“She sounds like a fun sister,” I told Mom. Mom just looked at me as if to say you don’t know the half of it.
Aunt Tess wanted Uncle Mel to sell their house in San Francisco that looked over the bay because she woke up one morning allergic to the house. There wasn’t one room in the house that didn’t cause her some kind of discomfort. Uncle Mel called Tara and Tanya, their twin daughters to come in and talk to their mother. He wanted them to talk her out of this latest craziness but instead they accused him of being insensitive.
They both left school to find a home that their mother could live in and they succeeded. In an alternative magazine they found a trailer in the woods that was owned by a woman who was allergic to everything but the trailer. She’d had it stripped down and cleaned with this special chemical combination that was recommended for “their” disease and she and her husband lived there for seven years. They took pictures and brought them back to their mom and then their dad drove out to see the trailer. The land was gorgeous. It was just outside of Santa Rosa on two acres of mostly pine trees with a brook. He was devastated—giving up his great City house to live in a trailer in the woods. Their mother liked the pictures and pushed their father to buy it and sell their San Francisco home.
He compromised and bought the trailer but rented out the house. For a year they lived together in this tiny trailer that was really no more than a large camper and their father commuted to work in the city. At the end of the year both his patience and the lease was up and he moved back to San Francisco alone and visited on weekends. Then his visits went from every weekend to one day a weekend and finally to once a month. The girls have very little contact with him although they stay in the house in San Francisco during school breaks and summers. Sometimes they stay with their mother but they find it too traumatic. They still blame their father for abandoning her and see no correlation between their behavior and his.
Uncle Mel’s been calling Mom quite frequently and Mom only has the greatest sympathy for him. “That man’s been a saint,” she told me. “The things he’s put up with would have driven anyone else away years ago.”
The next week she told me she was going to San Francisco for a conference and I asked her if she was going to see Aunt Tess since she was going to be in California anyway.
“California’s a big state,” she said. “This is all business and I won’t have time so don’t even tell her I’ll be out there. It’ll just make her feel bad.”
Soon after she asked us not to mention that Uncle Mel has become a frequent visitor.
* * *
Paul Beckman is a frequently published author of short stories, flash & micro fiction. Some publishing credits: Exquisite Corpse, Connecticut Review, Soundzine, 5 Trope, Playboy, Web del Sol, Long Story Short, The Scruffy Dog Review, Other Voices, Raleigh Review, Connotation Press, Microliterature, The Molotov Cocktail, The Brooklyner & The Boston Literary Review.
July 13, 2012 — 311 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
"Where did you come from?" Tic sputtered.
"Couldn't let you deal with these jerks alone," said Milly. She stumbled, but caught herself. "Uuuurgh."
"I told Pelly to keep you in the Revita Tube!"
"Well I told her to let me out, and good thing, too, or you'd be dead right now!"
The calm electronic voice of the battleship's AI floated over the intercom: "Three minutes until lower levels are jettisoned."
"Crap!" said Tic. "We'll never make it."
The curator was reaching for one of his fallen guards.
"Back off!" ordered Milly, brandishing her blaster.
"Whoa, calm down," said the curator. "We can work through this together. There are three parachutes here..."
"Perfect," snapped Tic. "One for me, one for Milly, and one for Overard."
"You'd waste a parachute on him?" said the curator. "He's practically dead already. Let me have it. I'll pay!"
"BOLTER, YOU OWE ME THIS!" roared Libden. "I SAVED YOUR LIFE!"
Tic glared. "Only because you needed me and my ship. Forget it, Lady. You killed Milly's parents, and some other friends of mine, too. It's over for you: time to sing."
Libden cocked an eyebrow.
Tic explained, "Because you're the fat lady... Never mind. Here, Milly: strap in." He pulled the parachute off of one of the guards and tossed it to Milly, suited himself up with another, then approached the unconscious Overard with the third.
"Bolter, wait, please!" begged the curator. "I'll pay you 100 million litres... 500 million... A billion!"
A billion!? Tic paused. "I don't believe you," he said cautiously.
"Here, look!" The curator had his PAI in his hand and was punching numbers into it. "I'll transfer the funds right now! Just give me that parachute!"
"You smashed my PAI, remember?"
Milly said, "He didn't smash mine..."
July 12, 2012 — 952 words
By Letitia Coyne
I stopped reading a while ago.
Now I’ve never been a compulsive reader, but for most of my life I’ve had a book on the go. One or two crusty paperbacks, with folded over pages or an old price tag or shopping docket sticking out to mark my place, were likely to be found lying beside the bed, on the dining table, and one or two beside the loo.
I didn’t really notice that I had stopped reading; it just sort of ground to a halt as I lost interest in whatever it was I had begun at the time. Why? Partly because I like bookstores more than I like books. I love them. I can lose hours in a bookstore browsing and I hate to spend hours doing anything and coming home with nothing to show for it. So going into a bookstore means buying at least one book to read. That wouldn’t be a problem on its own.
I also like a bargain, so I buy boxes of secondhand books from online marketplaces. The last box I bought, a long while ago, held eighty books. That is such a bargain, or it would be if I had been able to read them all.
But having books is no guarantee they’ll be read. One thing makes reading a certainty. I give books a third of their page count to have me so gripped I do not want to put them down. The only thing that ensures a book will be read from cover to cover is that it is compelling. I don’t mind a build-up; I’ll allow some latitude, but if I start checking how thick the book is, chances are it will be put down and forgotten. If I start getting the irrits with the voice of the author, or if I have no emotional connection to the characters, or if the plot is more a plod – it’s gone.
Once reading a book becomes a chore it is over for me.
There are times in my life when I have mountains of text to read. It always needs full concentration and often needs critique. I go into a mode to read that much. I do not enjoy it; I watch the clock and I get through it like wading through a mangrove swamp. When I have a lot of nonfiction to read, I do not have any patience with unsatisfying fiction.
As I age, the act of reading gets harder, too. My eyes tire faster than they used to, my concentration lapses. I tend to nod off unexpectedly, and wake with a fright and a stiff neck and a little spot of drool on my shirt. I take medications that make the text appear to move, or my head fill with cotton, or my mind wander. It takes a power of will to be engrossed in a story if the author does not provide that incentive for me.
I am so busy. There is always something or someone that needs my attention. Books are squashed into the spaces around doing, eating, and sleeping. They have to be exceptional to hold their own.
Finding something worthwhile in the genres I enjoy has become an impossibility. There is always something good to find in the genre I will dare to call ‘Literary fiction’. The well recommended. The beautifully written novels that stand alone at the bookstore or on the Classics shelf. They are not always to my taste, but the score rate is high for quality. The truth is, however, they are often a bit dark and painful. I usually want to read to lighten the mood, not to suffer the frigid winters along with a family stricken by the bonds of human suffering.
I don’t enjoy reading Romance because it is so rigidly formulaic. It is rare to find an author who can produce the right balance between good writing and hitting exact markers for plot and characters. That is common complaint with Romance, but I find it has become true for fantasy and sci fi, too, and for political thrillers etc. I do not want to be able to predict the end or the next sentence of dialogue.
They are some of the reasons I stopped reading. All of publishing has become a mush of rules and guidelines that stamped out any individual voices and bashed stories into a set and predictable pattern and I simply do not have the patience to endure it all again and again and again.
The emergence of online fiction, in webserials, primarily, and in ebooks as they take their place in the storybook world, has brought me a renewed vigour for reading. I find things I want to read. I now buy paperbacks which I am able to deliberate over before I rush to the counter with an ill-considered purchase. I have an ereader which I have packed full of the work of people I have followed and watched develop and that I know I will enjoy. I have a computer screen that takes my attention away from boring work reading, because I know I can flip up a short episode of a serial I enjoy and give myself a break from reality.
There is a heavy demand for everyone’s time and attention in our modern world. What are the things that keep you reading, or have you tossing books at the wall in disgust? Worse still, is there something that makes you wander away from a story without even feeling angry – just dissatisfied and bored? Are there barriers to your enjoyment of a book that all authors should keep in mind?
July 12, 2012 — 301 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
With his heart in his throat, Tic turned towards the curator, whose square-jawed face was red with rage and a collection of nasty, hastily-bandaged cuts. Three armed guards wearing parachute packs stood behind him. Two of them were holding Libden.
The stampede in the stairwell had dwindled to a trickle of wounded stragglers—Trample victims, probably, Tic thought.
"What did you do with those schematics?" demanded the curator.
"They're gone," Tic shot back. "Even if the Adam Astrobot somehow survived its self-destruct, I already had my AI wipe its hard drive."
"Ah ha, the AI!"
"I replaced your spy AI with my own," said Tic defiantly.
"It doesn't matter... It may have made a temporary copy of the files as it was deleting them. We'll scour every last byte of that AI's data storage until we get the plans back!"
"Pelly won't help you. She'd rather hard-erase herself."
"We'll see," grinned the curator. "Guards: kill him."
The guard who wasn't holding Libden stepped forward and raised his blaster. This is it, Tic thought. No getting out of this one. But he wasn't going down without a fight.
He lunged at the guard and heard a laser blast...
...But felt no pain. Instead, he hit the guard with a full tackle, knocking him to the deck, and wrestled his blaster away. There were more shots, and shouting. He raised the gun, ready to fire—and only then noticed the hole in the guard's forehead.
He looked up.
The other guards were dead, too. The curator was sprawled on his back, arms raised in self-defense, and Libden had fallen on her face. Above them both stood a pale, limping young girl, her face flushed with wrath and glowing with triumph.
July 11, 2012 — 308 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
Tic backed away from the damaged reactors. "So, the self-destruct mechanism you built into the Adam Astrobot worked, but did it really require acid this strong!?"
"WE HAD LOTS AVAILABLE," said Libden. "THE YETIS PRODUCE IT, YOU KNOW. INTESTINALLY. WE JUST HARVESTED IT AND TWEAKED THE CONCENTRATION."
"Forget the science lesson," said Tic. "These things are going to blow! The Pelican is in the level 17 docks, I think. How do we get there?"
Just then, a siren wailed into life. A calm electronic voice said, "Reactor failure imminent. Levels 16 and below will be jettisoned. Proceed to level 17." Several panic-stricken Entulovian engineers tore past the reactor room doors, screaming.
"Er, that way, I guess," said Tic. He and Libden gave chase.
The battleship's hallways, elevators, and stairwells quickly flooded with an unruly mob. Tic and Libden were carried up three flights of stairs before Tic noticed a medical symbol on the wall and threw himself free.
"BOLTER, DON'T LEAVE ME!" cried Libden, but she reacted too slowly and was lost in the stampeding herd.
Save yourself! thought Tic. He grabbed a fleeing doctor with his acid-burned hands. "Where's Overard?"
The doctor stared in blank fear.
"Jeffries!" tried Tic.
The doctor pointed. Tic dashed into the indicated room and found Overard lying unconscious on a gurney. Now what? He'd never get this thing all the way up to level 17.
Wracking his brain, he nearly missed his PAI's buzzing. It was Pelly. "Still alive, dear?" said the freighter.
"Mostly!" said Tic. "But I'm all the way down on level"—he checked the wall—"uh, level 6."
"Head down," suggested Pelly.
"Down?" said Tic.
"And if you see Milly—"
Tic's PAI was slapped out of his hand and crunched under a heavy boot. "You're done, Bolter!" barked the curator.