Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

New Feature ~ * Story Bazaar * ~ Every Friday


Lost Birthright

by
Alexander M Zoltai
Dedicated to
Jane Darnton Watson

~~~~~~~~~

She was losing it—losing her grip and her birthright; but, she didn’t know it yet…

What she did know was that her neighbors were all missing the point, while they threw all their little points at each other.

The neighborhood was rundown and spawning crime, with people ready to abandon it to the thugs.

The crisis couldn’t be conquered with little thoughts and demands; they had to all agree to at least one idea bigger than their egos…

She wondered why everyone was claiming a different reason for the rotten situation, as if they weren’t all part of the big reason…

They could argue all they liked; but, there must be a way to fold all their opinions into some overall scheme to save the neighborhood.

Crime for the young ones—church for the old ones—harsh work for the others—no one agreeing with anyone else…

She’d always tried to think from broad principles down to the details; but, all these people seemed capable of was seeing a few of the details and thinking those were the “principles”.

She almost wished she could pick a few details and join the merry fray; but, father had been a very strong influence, and father had been a true success, even if he did die poor…

Like he always used to say: Trials and tribulations should see you seeking stronger awareness of your ultimate purpose, not seeking to lower your aim and settle for less than your birthright...

June spoke her thoughts, “He’d always said my birthright was to learn the proper principles—know them so I could organize any and all details… But, these people…”

They didn’t seem to want any broad thoughts—everything was immediate and personal and small…

She woke up to where she was—the drugstore at Main and Clover.

She walked in with, “Hey, Mabel.”

“Hey, June, whatcha need?”

“Peace of Mind”

Mabel clucked at her.

“Really, Mabel, my mind’s run ragged. I appoint myself to run a committee to save the neighborhood and no one wants to join it—‘cept one kid I know deals drugs—like he could do anything to help—probably thought it’d help him deal…”

“Well, June, I’ll be on the committee; and, if you could show them that drugs are death—“

“Mabel, stop… please… You know they make too much money to listen to any sense.”

“Yeah, I spose…”

“But, I ‘preciate your being the first serious person on my committee—you rock!”

“Thanks, hon—so wha’ja come in for?

June gave Mabel a blank stare; said, “Don’t know…”; turned around and walked out of the store.

On the street, she looked back into the store, waved to Mabel and shouted, “See ya for my shift tomorrow!”, turned right, and walked up Clover—heading toward the Pastor’s house.

~~~

Later, over near the park, she stopped by Lucy Stone’s place.

Lucy opened the front door just as June hit the porch with, “June Bridgeman, just the woman I needed to talk to.”

“Really? And, here I am lookin’ to talk to you, Ms Stone.”

“Well, come on in—Pastor just called me—I’ll put on the tea…”

Three hours later, June was walking back toward the Pastor’s house when she stopped cold and took out her phone.

A speed-dial later, she said, “George, book me in to the back room for Saturday, 2 pm… Right—bye.”

The back room was at Josie’s Tavern—she had three days to finish drumming up a real committee.

~~~

Saturday—1:45 pm—Josie’s back room—June, Lucy, the Pastor, the kid who claimed he was the most important dealer in the neighborhood, and Mabel sat at the table, waiting for the rest of the committee…

~~~

2:15 pm—two more people arrive: John Parker, gun shop owner; and, Sally Whitcome, owner of Betty’s Beauty Boutique.

~~~

2:30 pm—June bangs her gavel and the Pastor stands up:

“Ya’ll’er here ’cause we need to clean up our neighborhood—“

The most important dealer in the neighborhood shoots up and says:

“Clean up? Yeah, clean up with max bucks, max sales—“

Sally from the beauty shop nearly screams, “Like hell you say!”

The most important dealer in the neighborhood stands up and walks out.

Lucy grabs June’s gavel, stands and bangs the table, hard.

Lucy looks around, licks her lips, and says:

“Listen… We’re all different… I’m probably most different—bein’ oldest—but, listen—there’s no use any of us talk if we don’t have some big idea we all share, like June taught me—“

The gun shop owner walks out, followed by the beauty shop owner…

Mabel looks around the table and says, “Ain’t gonna work…”

~~~

Three weeks later—June is back at Josie’s, roaring drunk.

She’s looking at herself in the backbar mirror and wondering who she is.

The Pastor’s sitting next to her, lightly intoxicated.

He looks at her in the mirror and says, “So, who are you, June?”

She glances at him in the mirror, then right at him; looks around the bar, and back at herself.

“I’m the lady who thought I could organize a bunch of people into a cohernit—co—coherent group to save this damned evil neighborhood…”

“Ain’t evil, June.”

“Is…”

“Nope, just a bunch a misguided folk don’t know no better—you’d havta’uv raised ’em up from kids and gave ’em a right education—no way ta save ’em from their fate now…”

June stared at the Pastor in the mirror, took a chug of beer and said:

“No hope.”

“Sure there’s hope; just not for these folk.”

“But you’re a pastor…”

“Jesus done miracles, not me.”

June kept staring at him, wondering, in a swirl of thought, if she had any goals left—had any hope—had any sense of self—what did Dad say…?

She couldn’t remember…

~~~

Two weeks later—June’s in her car headed out of the neighborhood—out of town—out of her mind?

She did remember what her father had always said—she just wasn’t sure if she could still live up to it…

Trials and tribulations should see you seeking stronger awareness of your ultimate purpose, not seeking to lower your aim and settle for less than your birthright...

…ultimate purpose…

June spoke her thoughts to the open road: “Why did he have to die so soon? I was barely  thirteen…

“Fifteen years since… got a shady past and a failed experiment tryin’ta save people from their own fates…”

………

Ultimate

Purpose

June had some big questions to answer…

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Supporting Independent Readers and Independent Reading by Jennifer Serravallo


Today’s re-blog may seem to be only for teachers—well, parents are teachers—and, we all teach ourselves, right? :-)

Nerdy Book Club

Remember when independent reading was called DEAR? Or SSR? Or SQUIRT? (Or maybe I am the only one with that last one? It stands for Sustained Quiet Uninterrupted Reading Time). Acronyms aside, it looked like this: Kids chose whatever they wanted, teachers sat their desks to get through the paperwork that was piling up, or, maybe, to read at their own desk while students read at theirs. Those days, independent meant really independent.

At some point, there seemed to be many who said, “Wait a minute. Can we really trust that this independent reading time is worth it? What if they aren’t really reading? What if they aren’t really understanding?” Some got rid of independent reading. Others adopted quizzes and computer-based solutions to try to address this “problem.”

Please, please, please. Enough with the multiple choice quizzes. There are other ways to check in with readers in ways…

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“Looking for Truth in Time of Hype” ~ Are Writers Doomed?


Three things before I get fully underway with this post:

Looking for Truth in Time of Hype ~ Are Writers Doomed?

Image Courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski, SXC ~ http://www.freeimages.com/photographer/mzacha-39017

This is a link to posts on this blog by or about Roz Morris

This is a link to posts on this blog by or about Mark Coker… 

This is a link to posts on this blog by or about Porter Anderson

All three of those people are involved in an article on WriterUnboxedLooking for Truth in Time of Hype.

Porter Anderson wrote the article—Roz Morris is frequently quoted—Mark Coker is also quoted

Porter Anderson Knows Media—Roz Morris Knows Writing—Mark Coker Knows Publishing

The article is primarily for writers struggling to make their way in the rapidly shifting BookWorld (with all the hype about “Branding”, “Platform”, Traditional vs Self-Publishing, “Promotion”, failing bookstores, etc., etc., etc.).

Here come the excerpts (but, if you’re a writer, you really need to read the full article…):

‘There’s Never Been a Better Time To Be A Writer’

Roz Morris’ comments on that quote:

“I’ve seen this mantra frequently over the past few years in blog posts, conference reports and news items. And I don’t disagree there’s been a lot to celebrate.”

“But from what I see right now, this time is also tougher for authors than ever.”

“Indie authors feel it in their book sales. Hands up, who is in a forum where the chief discussion is “what can I do about my dwindling sales?” “Anybody else had a dismal month?” “Should I drop my book’s price, put it on Kindle Unlimited, write something more popular, send out more emails, spend $$$ on a marketing course?”

“The traditionally published authors I know are faring little better, with shrinking advances, ill-supported launches – even the authors who have awards to prove their worth.”

A quote from Mark Coker:

“The market for ebooks has pretty much gone flat. And so we have a problem here…. There’s a glut of high-quality, low-cost books, more books than readers will ever possibly be able to read.”

Then, Porter Anderson comments on Mark’s quote with:

“That’s something, coming from a man who says his company is:

‘Publishing 360,000 books working with over a hundred thousand authors in small independent presses around the world.'”

A bit later Porter says:

“Publishing a book was never a contest. Presenting one path or another as a cause or a movement has never panned out as anything but…hype. The real goal, by whatever means you pursue it, is to get your work in front of the right audience and, we must hope, find some decent remuneration for all you’ve gone through to do that.”

And, if you do read the full article, you’ll know how important this comment from Porter is:

“You’re no traitor to the ideal of a publishing success if you speak candidly about the struggle. We all need to hear this much more than we need to see great phalanxes of grinning indies, sunglasses flashing as they pull down those “good livings” off their books.”

Then, Porter says this (which generated one Official Slew of Comments…):

“How frequently do you think authors feel they can share their experiences honestly? Do you feel the pressure to make it seem you’re doing better than you are? If you tend to sugarcoat your own experience for others, do you find that it’s helping your sales? —or your outlook?”

And, since I’ve been covering Reading, Writing, and Publishing on this blog for over 5 years, if you want more info on any aspect of those excerpts (or, what you might read in the full article), do put a few keywords in the search bar in the upper right or check out the Top Tags widget further down in the left side-bar—you more than likely will find more information :-)
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If you don’t see a way to comment (or, “reply”) after this post, try up there at the top right…
Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
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Have you missed an important scene out of your story?


More writerly wisdom from Roz Morris in today’s re-blog :-)

Nail Your Novel

Nail Your Novel missing pieceWe’ve probably all had a note in a critique that tells us we’ve failed to include an important scene. Eg – ‘We know these characters well and have seen their lives in close detail. When the cousins died in that boating accident, where was the funeral scene? What about the period where the family adjusts to the tragedy?’ (Indeed, that’s not just a missing scene; it’s an entire story thread.)

Sometimes this happens because, well, we were concentrating on a million other plot developments. We do a lot of dumb, impulsive things when we can’t see the wood for the trees. The omission only becomes apparent when we give the book to a reader who isn’t lost in the forest of book decisions. And the easiest remedy is:

Replace it with something less drastic
Well of course it is. Ask yourself: why did you include the event? Was it only…

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Author Interview ~ Jon D. Zimmer


There are over 70 Author Interviews on this blog, from folks of all ages and experience levels

Here comes another one :-)

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blog tour

Welcome, Jon!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Jon D. Zimmer -- Author I don’t remember a specific age or date when I thought about being a writer. I know that all through my school years my favorite subjects were English and Science. When I started college, I’d written several short stories. I considered being a writer at that time; however, marriage and economics made my decision to postpone writing for a while.

Are you able to tell us how long it generally takes you to write a book?

There are several factors that determine the amount of time. First is how much research is required. After that, there’s the passion I have for the project, my time schedule, and how complicated the plot is. It could take from five months up to about ten months.

Whoa! I’m sure some of my readers would think that’s fairly fast :-)

What’s your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Again, an answer that involves several factors. My passion for the work is foremost. I’ll begin writing after going out for breakfast and reading the newspaper. I return home about ten o’clock in the morning and write until five o’clock in the evening. I don’t tend to write at night, because it keeps me from sleeping.

So, Jon, do you think you have any interesting writing quirks?

I think one is in my last answer. I need to go out to eat breakfast and catch up on the news before starting to write. As to writing itself, I try to avoid foul language.

I think some of my readers might find that last “quirk” strange; though, I think I can understand it

Would you give us some of your thoughts on the publishing process?

It has to be an excellent book; however, that’s far from being the sole criterion, as many good manuscripts are rejected by publishers. Research the publishers, so you send it to the right one for your genre. You need an excellent query letter to grab a publisher. Perseverance is important, too. Keep sending it out; and, if everything fails, you might consider self publishing; but, this is a major choice that more than likely will cost you a lot of money, and is rarely successful.

Well, Jon, I’m sure some of my readers would disagree with what you’ve said about self-publishing; but, that’s why I have so many different author interviews on this blog :-)

Where do you get the ideas for your books?

Ideas for books pop into my head all the time. I’ll never write all the books I’d like to write. Social issues and the emotions surrounding them are the main sources of my ideas.

When did you write your first book?

I wrote some short stories when I was eighteen and a book when I was in my thirties, which I never did anything with. The first novel that I submitted, and was published, was in my fifties. I truly wish I’d pursued my dream to write as a youth.

I’m totally with you on that last thought, Jon…

So, what does your family think of your writing?

They love it, and are very supportive.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I have a passion for horse racing and politics.

My father owned race horses when I was growing up, and I developed an ardor for them. Some weekends I go to the local tracks.

Politics fascinates me. There is so much misery in our society, and I see an ignorant electorate perpetuating their condition by voting against their best interests, over and over. I write some political essays that are posted on LinkedIn, and my social media.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

Getting into people’s heads. Expressing emotions that the reader can feel and relate to is what writing is about.

How many books have you written and which is your favorite, Jon? THE NARCISSIST: A DARK JOURNEY

I’ve written six novels, and the one I just finished, The Narcissist: A Dark Journey, is my favorite, to date. However, the novel, Tranquility: Book Two of the God Chronicles, that I’m currently writing, is going to be my new favorite. It’s a fantasy about an afterlife, if there is one, that’s believable.

Do you have any suggestions to help folks become better writers?

That’s a very hard question. I could give one of the standard answers and say, just believe in yourself, and that is true; but, it still may not lead to a success story. You need to be able to tell a tale that will satisfy your reader, both emotionally and in terms of time well spent.

Do you hear from your readers much?

I mostly hear from friends and relatives about my books and they’re usually favorable, as expected. However, reviewers are a little more honest. Sometimes they grasp your theme and other times they don’t. It’s up to you to determine true criticism.

So, Jon, what do you think makes a good story?

There are so many things that make a good story, regardless of genre. But the basic thing is that the reader becomes involved. Even if they don’t share the emotions of the characters, a good story has them come away with an understanding of those emotions; and, when they’re finished, they feel good about the experience.

Well, Jon, it’s been a very different sort of interview for me; and, I appreciate that.

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences with my readers :-)

~~~~~~~~~

Here’s a link to all of Jon’s books.

And, here’s a blurb for, The Narcissist: A Dark Journey

“Charlotte Prentice is beautiful, intellectual, and dangerous. She will do whatever it takes to achieve the adoration and success she desires. Who is this woman whose beauty is only overshadowed by her intellect? Charlotte herself doesn’t know. Is she guilty of her crimes or the victim of the ills of society? In “The Narcissist: A Dark Journey”, the reader is both judge and jury where Charlotte Prentice is concerned.”

Now’s the time to ask Jon a question or two in the Comments :-)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you don’t see a way to comment (or, “reply”) after this post, try up there at the top right…
Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
* Google Author Page
For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com