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Ask the Author – A.H. Wang Part 2

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TheRealLindsey

TheRealLindsey

 

When social media doesn't work as planned

Mya is an expert at blanket fort. 


I'm an introvert.

While that may surprise some who know me from social events, the reality is while I can be quite gregarious in public, I pay a heavy price for my energy outlay. (Case in point: I am still recovering from the intense 'peopling' during Arisia.)

For folks like me who are introverts and also creatives, the internet was supposed to be the great equalizer.
While to some extent, all those promises are part of the internet and social media, it's more of a "yes, and" proposition. The "and" part being that even asynchronous and curated interaction can be stressful. And that's when the interactions are relatively benign ones. For the time being, I'll put trolling and harassment to the side here, though those negative interactions seem to hit the introvert and/or socially stressed harder than the socially comfortable/confident.

And I certainly can't speak for all introverts on the internet. This is my experience. These are my musings. YMMV.

I tend to be an early adopter of all things techie and social media was no exception. I was part of the early AOL message board community and then jumped to blogging in 2004. RSS readers were my jam. They helped me keep up with folks all over the world using blogs to do short and longform essay writing, prose, poetry, and sharing images.

Then came the more overtly commercial platforms: facebook and twitter and pinterest and tumblr and google+, among others.

I made logins for all of them and for a time, tried to keep up with the communities of users in each one.

It was exhausting and instead of focusing on my blog and my own writing, I went from new posts here every 2-3 days to maybe writing something once a month. It was as if the entire landscape of social media morphed from a place to express myself to a place where I needed clicks to validate myself. It got to the point where I felt I was only interacting to get that little seratonin hit whenever someone would notice me.

And you know what? It was all draining. Being noticed is exhausting. Not being noticed is exhausting. Managing all those communities is exhausting.

I am not a small-talk kind of person. If I have a conversation, I want to dig deep and wrestle with the problems of the universe with you. In my offline life, I have a handful of intense friendships and even those folks understand that I may not see them or talk to them in weeks or months before picking up where we left off. I am the kind of person who will drop everything for a friend in need, but have a panic attack if I get too many social invitations in a month.

Computer based social media should have been the perfect place for me.

And I thought it was.

Until I realized how many hours I spent relentlessly refreshing notifications.

Part of this understanding has come by way of the loss of Google+. I spent a lot of time and energy cultivating relationships on G+. I found an amazing contingent of fellow creatives and just fascinating people talking about really interesting things. We shared long conversations, friendly arguments, and terrible puns. I invested a lot of myself there. And Google basically sabotaged the place - both actively and through neglect - until they announced its shuttering.

By then, I had dropped my investment in the other platforms to maintenance mode. Which is primarily where I am now: make minimal comments on posts that amuse me, try to post witty things that will garner notice. It feels narcissistic and shallow, but I can't seem to help it. The thought of putting any more work into a siloed network where users create the content and the value, but are only an afterthought to the commercial interests behind them makes me want to scream.

We've been sold the belief that social media is there for creative people to reach their audience. But I no longer think that's true. WE are the audience. And what social media is selling is our own attention back to us, but fragmented in an endless, recursive loop.

I am trying to find my way back to using the internet in a way that sustains me, rather than drains me. But I'm not sure what that looks like, to be honest.



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LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

Ask the Author – A.H. Wang Part One

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TheRealLindsey

TheRealLindsey

 

Book Review: Lirael by Garth Nix

Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr, Format: Audiobook, Rating: 5/5 stars I loved this second book in the Old Kingdom series. It was even more enjoyable than Sabriel (the first one), and has remained my favorite in the entire collection (with Clariel being a close second). First of all, the narrator, Tim Curry, did the best job with voicing Lirael. It is the best example of voice acting I have experienced to date. I especially loved how he depicts Lirael as she’s whining to her dog about life. It’s adorable and spot on. When I first read Sabriel, I fell in love with it so much that I seriously considered naming my daughter Sabriel. (There’s still a part of me that wishes I had, though I’m sure she will thank me for not doing that later in life.) I was prepared to have this second book not be quite as good because the first was the best thing I had read ever. But it surpassed that. Also, I completely forgot that I had read this years ago. As I started reading, my mind accessed all these prior images I made up for it and it was a wonderful rediscovery. (Hence my new implementation of reviewing books a year later.) ***MINOR SPOILERS*** As soon as I started it, I recalled an image from memory of a prince and a girl on a mission floating together in a bathtub down a dangerous river. And I thought “That can’t be right. My crazy brain must have jumbled things up since I read this.” But then that exact thing happened and I couldn’t believe it, because it actually made sense, and I had to jump up and down with delight. I love that ridiculous scene so much. ***SPOILERS OVER*** Lirael is a girl who desperately wants to be like all the other girls around her, but her right of passage mysteriously hasn’t happened yet. Most girls in her society are chosen by a mysterious “sight” or prophetic gifting at varying ages, but usually quite young. She is nineteen, and still not able to enter into her community’s version of being a grown up. She is very upset by this, and becomes a solitary figure in a dangerous library. If you are as much a reader as I am, those two words alone should have you running to pick up this book and it’s predecessor. The library…oh that library! The journey she takes from outcast and lonely girl to strong heroine with agency over her own life and that of others was the most pleasant and refreshing thing I’ve read in a long time. It felt wholesome without dripping sentiment. The whole book felt dangerous and on edge, like something could happen at any moment that would frighten me, but then delivered something amusing and truthful. I am definitely going to give these books to my daughter (and son) when they get older. Lirael, along with the other Old Kingdom books, have earned a permanent place in my library and I will eventually be collecting print versions just so I can stamp them with my personal library stamp (my husband gave me one and I love it), and then loan them out. You do not have to read Sabriel first to understand or enjoy Lirael. However, the story does end in the middle. Nix originally intended Lirael and Abhorsen to be one book, but it was too long. So beware, if you do pick this up, you will likely pick up Abhorsen as well. I read the rest of this series in 2018, so you’ll see reviews of the other books come up now and then. But I do want to say regarding the series as a whole: each and every book in it is unique to itself and a gem. If you haven’t discovered this Old Kingdom series for yourself yet, add it to your list.
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Reesha

Reesha

 

I’ve been reading some things

Thanks for sticking around, reader. I know it’s been awhile. Since my last post I’ve done a lot. I’ve written several books to varying degrees of polish. I’ve read a lot of books that I’m dying to tell you about. I’ve parented two darling kids through lots of developmental stages. I’ve grown as a person, and I’m excited to get back to writing a blog. Update on the kiddos: they are still adorable. Even more so. Little girl started talking at 15 months. Little boy is not quite three and learning to read. They bring me joy every day. Update on myself: I’ve discovered a lot of good things about myself and how I am at my best when I can maintain a routine. Part of that routine now involves early morning kickboxing, among other things. I’ll probably talk more about it in a different post. Update on the writing: Back in November I wrote another book (fantasy) and am finishing it up now in January. My other book (cyberpunk) is almost done with final edits and I hope to have a publication date soon. Now my favorite part: the reading. In 2018, I managed to read 24 books. This year, 2019, I hope to read 30 or more. Part of this is because I set aside my writing completely in December and instead read like a maniac. Every time I itched to write, I read instead. It was a boon to my creativity. And after NaNoWriMo, I really needed the refresh. Let’s step back a bit so I can talk about reading speed. I went to readingsoft.com to calculate my average reading speed and comprehension, and it turns out, I’m exactly an average reader. I read 251 word per minute on a screen, which is more than average, but only had a 60% comprehension afterwards. Part of that is because Little Girl decided to interrupt me halfway through, but since that is a factor in my everyday reading that can happen, I’m letting the number stick. The site claims that reading from paper is faster, so my reading speed from printed books would likely be more than 251 wpm. And since I read in all three formats (audio books at typically 1.25 speed, eReader, and print), I’m going to say that between them I’ll have an average of 240 wpm, slowing down a bit to gain more comprehension. Because the genres I read typically span about 70k-90k words per book, I can get an estimate of how many hours I’ll have to spend a day to read 30+ books in a year. But I don’t want to go for just an amount of books. I want to build a habit (as mentioned earlier, building up a routine and habit is important to me). So let’s calculate how many books I could read in a year if I spent an hour a day reading. 365 days a year times 60 minutes a day (21,900 minutes) times 240 words per minute (5,256,000) divided by average book length of 80k words = 65.7 You can go to the site linked above and figure out your own numbers for your reading speed. And your genre of books might not be as long as mine. Science Fiction and Fantasy tend to run longer than other books. If I were reading non-fiction, at an average of 50k words per book (or one NaNoWriMo novel), I could potentially read 105 books in a year. So that’s my goal: read an average of an hour a day, and complete 30 books (or more). The reason I’m not increasing my reading goal beyond 30 is because frankly, even though the math tells me it’s possible, I don’t believe it. I believe I can read an hour a day. But the idea of reading 65 books is beyond me. I can’t even imagine it. Plus, none of these numbers are for sure. I may end up reading faster or slower than the reading test, or reading longer books. Also, I’m not sure I will finish all the books I start or invest time in. I want to give myself room to try books without feeling like I have to finish. This is new for me. I used to be a stickler for finishing every book I started. But then I found myself not reading because I didn’t want to spend time slogging through something I found boring. I think there’s a fine line between being a wishy-washy, hard-to-please reader and genuinely giving a book a chance to succeed or fail. It will be ok if I don’t finish a book. Just like no writing is ever wasted, I don’t think any reading is ever wasted. I may not be able to quantify the amount of reading put into an unfinished book, but the benefit will be there all the same. One other new thing for this year in my reading habits: I’m going to review the books I read last year on the date that I finished them. I don’t want to put all that time in to read and comprehend a book, only to forget it a year later. I’m hoping that by reviewing the books on delay I will both have more clear thoughts on them and increase the chance that I retain their benefit. It’s also a good marker for me to remember where I was at a year ago. For instance, a year ago today I finished reading Lirael (which I will post a review about separately), and I remember feeling, thinking, and doing life completely different while reading that book. This will be an exciting and interesting journey, and I can’t wait to share it with you. I would love to have you share your reading speed, reading goals, or ways you manage your reading time. Happy 2019 and happy reading!
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Reesha

Reesha

 

Fall 2018 Flash Fiction Contest Winners

Here are the winning stories from F-BOM’s Fall 2018 flash fiction contest, Darkness Spreads, judged by Chrysoula Tzavelas. Did you miss the contest this quarter? Our next topic will be revealed in February. Follow us on Facebook for updates. Click here for submission guidelines. Winner, Most Imaginative Scenario: Nemesis by Courtney B. She lowers herself onto her knees before the… Read More The post Fall 2018 Flash Fiction Contest Winners appeared first on F-BOM.
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The Imperial Alchemist: F-BOM Book of the Month Review

Here’s our spoiler-free review of The Imperial Alchemist by A.H. Wang. Get your copy by becoming a member today and then join us in the brand-new Member Portal to get your questions answered by A.H. Wang! Two thousand years ago, Emperor Qin sent his trusted adviser Hsu Fu on a quest for immortality. He was never seen again. Now,… Read More The post The Imperial Alchemist: F-BOM Book of the Month Review appeared first on F-BOM.
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2018: The Highs, Lows, and Mediums

Not *that* kind of medium, though I wish I could predict the future.

Image of John William Waterhouse's 'The Crystal Ball" used under a creative commons license: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_William_Waterhouse_-_The_Crystal_Ball.JPG
I didn't set many specific writing goals for 2018 at the close of 2017. For the most part, this was because of my prior experience of setting goals and watching them crash and burn when confronted by life. However, the one major goal I had - finish the Halcyone Space series and publish A STAR IN THE VOID, was accomplished.
Albeit with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.

When I look back over the year, it's pretty astonishing that I was able to get anything written. The political climate following the 2016 election  and leading up to the 2018 one was a confounding factor for so many creative people I know and I was no exception.

It was hard to write when I was obsessed with following political news on twitter. When news broke and kept breaking about women coming forth with their #metoo stories, I was shaken. Memories of my own childhood trauma that I had thought dealt with, constantly broke my concentration and sapped my creative energy.

I wrote anyway. Because I'm a stubborn cuss and I had made promises to myself, my characters, and my readers that I didn't want to break. Instead, it nearly broke me and from the time I finished drafting A STAR IN THE VOID early last year until this month, I've struggled to do any kind of consistent writing.

But not all is gloom and doom. When I looked back at 2018's work, I realized that I had accomplished more than I'd feared.



I wrote (and the process was painful, filled with stops, starts, and the delete key - just ask the editor of the collection) "Perpetual Silence" for the collection OF GODS AND GLOBES. It's a story that emerged from sadness and loss, and yet, I found hope in the writing of it. Creativity is weird that way.


Toward the end of the year, I was approached by the editor of LONGSHOT ISLAND and UNFIT MAGAZINE to submit for their inaugural edition of UNFIT. I dug through my story folder and found one that served the magazine's theme. "Persistence of Memory" was a story I had self published in my first collection of short fiction and took the opportunity to give it another editing pass before sending it on to be published alongside some of Science Fiction's heavy hitters.

There are a few other short stories written in 2018 that will be published in 2019 and I'm at about the 10% mark on a new novel that I'm excited to be working on.

The other writing I did was non-fiction: I took space in this blog to chronicle the incredible year I've had connecting with a birth family that I hadn't known and who hadn't known about me. I will be continuing that series, as I have so much more to share and new discoveries keep surprising me. If you want to read along, part 1 is here.


If you are so inclined to recommend any of my work to friends or for any applicable awards, I would be incredibly grateful.

I wish you all a happy, healthy New Year. May 2019 bring you joy.

#SFWApro


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Blue Musings is a low volume e-newsletter containing notifications about book releases, sales, recommendations, and free original short fiction. Please click the box, then "subscribe" to allow us to send it to you via email.
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LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

The 10 Commandments of Elie Wiesel

This afternoon, I was listening to WBUR as I was prepping dinner, and heard a moving story about Elie Wiesel's life and legacy as told by Rabbi Ariel Burger, a former student who became a colleague and then a friend.

Rabbi Burger had put together this from his time in Wiesel's classroom and so much of it spoke to me.

Of all of these, I am most struck by the last one.

Sometimes there is no meaning. But then we must make meaning.
That speaks to me as a poet and a writer. In a world that seems dark and ominous and where I feel so very vulnerable, writing is an act of valor, of defiance, and of creation. 
I have a friend who is struggling to make sense of her past and to find a path for her future. I have urged her to start journaling, not as a means to make a living with words, but to bring clarity and self-compassion to her life. 
Until I have written down the words, I often don't truly know how I feel. Finding the way to describe an experience is akin to sorting through a pile of stones for a handful of the right size, color, and heft. I often consider each word - alone and then next to its fellows. Does it fit? Does this phrase carry the meaning I need? Do the lines resonate with one another? And above all, will the language I craft organize the tangle of emotion into something I can understand and view from outside of myself?
Then I find peace and acceptance. Patience and compassion. 
Words are my tools to make meaning from the chaos of existence. This is more than capturing the accuracy of a memory. Our minds are not video recorders. Our memories are always in flux. Our interpretations of those memories change, depending on current life events, emotions, and our interactions with others. In effect, our lives are in a constant state of creation and recreation. 
Without the transformational power of art, I would argue that we cannot make meaning. Events would crash over us like the relentless tide on a rocky beach. Without transformation, we react,  lacking the space for reflection. Without reflection, there is no understanding, no wisdom. 
That final commandment is an obligation. We must make meaning, especially when there seems to be none. And yet, there is a danger in this, too. Especially if the meaning we make is one that distorts rather than illuminates. 
As I have lived through the political upheaval in my country these past several years, it occurs to me that we have become vulnerable to letting meaning come from without rather than from within.  We practice less introspection and reflection and instead abdicate our responsibility to self by accepting prefabricated and neatly packaged versions of our experiences. Is it any wonder that so many of us feel fragmented? Strangers to our selves?
It's been far too long since I've kept a journal consistently. Perhaps it's time to return to my old practice and use it as a way to interrogate my emotions and beliefs. Maybe the meaning I seek is waiting for me there.    

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LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

The Importance of Small Joys

This was the start of a thread I posted on Twitter this morning. I wanted to keep it all in one place, so I am sharing it here as well.

In every quiet moment, I try to focus on hope. And I repeat this over and over:



I struggle on social media about boosting all of the terrible acts of evil around us.

Am I adding to the despair?

Or helping to warn people of good conscience?

If I let the evil pass without comment, am I complicit?

If I celebrate small joys, am I minimizing the pain & suffering around me?

If I deny those small joys, am I allowing evil to win?

A dear friend posted this to my FB wall. Because I love word-based puns, & I'm a potter.


I had two loved ones send me silly things today that made me laugh.

I am grateful for the momentary respite. It feels right and good to find something positive to cling to.

Right now, it's a blue VW Bug with the license "Alonzz" my son sent me.

My son took this when he was stuck in traffic this morning. Any day that starts with a Doctor Who reference is a good day.


Maybe that small joy is what allows someone a burst of hope & energy to keep fighting.

So I will keep sharing silly dog pictures & groan-worthy word play.  And I hope you will keep sharing those with me, too.

As we fight. As we keep fighting.


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Blue Musings is a low volume e-newsletter containing notifications about book releases, sales, recommendations, and free original short fiction. Please click the box, then "subscribe" to allow us to send it to you via email.
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LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

There is no "them"; there is only us

Our synagogue sent out an email last night inviting congregants to gather for a service in remembrance and in honor of those who were slain in Pittsburgh.

I am not a religiously observant Jew, despite attending Friday morning services nearly every week. I don't keep kosher. I don't quite believe in a biblical God. But I am Jewish and have been part of my local synagogue community for nearly 25 years.

When I do attend services, I meditate. I read the English translations of prayers and argue with that God I'm pretty sure doesn't exist. I breathe. I lift my voice in song with melodies that have carved their way through me to my core. Melodies that link me in an unbroken chain with my far away ancestors. In those moments, it doesn't matter what I believe: I am whole.

Today, I woke up early on a day I might have slept in.

I dressed and drove to the synagogue.

As I parked in the midst of other cars, I wondered if any of the other people here came with hatred and harm in their hearts.

I went in anyway.

Inside the small chapel, I gathered with other congregants. Some of whom I knew, others I did not. Their eyes all wore the same haunted look. Many were red rimmed. Others were openly weeping.

It was an act of resistance: raising our voices together in prayer in a sacred space knowing that just yesterday, someone had violated such a space. In that terrible moment, our community became inextricably tied to other communities of different faiths whose peace had been desecrated by hate. To classrooms of school children whose joy of learning had been shattered. To victims of violence in our streets when a normal trip to the market or a night out dancing became a death sentence.

This is not a Jewish Issue. Or a Black Issue. Or a Muslim Issue. Or an LGBTQ Issue.

This is an Human Issue.

______________________________

I am afraid. Not so much for myself, but for my loved ones. Particularly for my children and the world they have come of age in. 
The world I have helped shape. I cannot absolve myself of my part in a terrible complacency that has allowed hatred to flourish. We believed that things were getting better. That society had moved beyond narrow tribalism to embrace a multi-ethnic culture. Perhaps the truth is I allowed myself to believe that because I was prospering. 
Over the past several years, a small voice inside keeps asking the same question: At what cost?

______________________________

What can I do to help repair a wounded world? It feels so trivial to gather to say a prayer for the dead when the living are in so much pain.
Even in my current anguish, I argue with the translated blessings. Instead of reciting the Amidah, I meditate.
May all beings be held in lovingkindness. May all beings be at peace. May all beings be free from suffering.
To those reading this, thank you for being here with me.
May you be held in lovingkindness. May you be at peace. May you be free from suffering.

Subscribe to BlueMusings and receive my short story collection, STRANGER WORLDS THAN THESE, as my gift.
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Blue Musings is a low volume e-newsletter containing notifications about book releases, sales, recommendations, and free original short fiction. Please click the box, then "subscribe" to allow us to send it to you via email.
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LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

This is Me: An Adoption Story, Part 7

Coincidences and Connections
If you haven't been following along and want to catch up, here are all the prior installments of this strange and mostly marvelous tale:

Part 1: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2018/07/this-is-me-adoption-story-part-1.html
Part 2: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2018/07/this-is-me-adoption-story-part-2.html
Part 3: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2018/07/this-is-me-adoption-story-part-3.html
Part 4: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2018/07/this-is-me-adoption-story-part-4.html
Part 5: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2018/07/this-is-me-adoption-story-part-5.html
Part 6: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2018/08/this-is-me-adoption-story-part-6.html

Part of the weirdness of this journey for me was watching all these odd coincidences unfold. Realizing that I had a circle of friends in common with my Uncle Paul was certainly one of them, but not the only one.

Another delightful discovery was that I had a cousin who lives a few towns over from me. He and I met for an extended breakfast last December and pretty much talked nonstop. G's father is my maternal grandmother's brother, so I *think* that makes us second cousins.

(Parenthetical aside: No matter how many times I look up the difference between a cousin and a cousin once removed, I can't keep the distinction in my  head. It makes sense when I look at the genealogy charts, but vanishes after a few minutes.)

I realized, when putting this blog post together, that it's been nearly a year since G. and I met and I definitely need to reach out to him and reconnect.

So to recap:

In October of 2017, I found the adoption file that I had believed was lost in our 2010 house fire while looking for something in the attic. I fired up google and typed in my birth mother's name I found her; but she had died in 2010 Through the family tree that was posted for her, I found her brother, my uncle He and I were connected by a circle of science fiction & fantasy creators Through Paul, I was embraced by my large extended maternal-side family (cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and my birth mother's 2nd husband) with one exception: My maternal half brother utterly rejected me That brings me up to the Spring of 2018. To that point, I had not yet connected to any of my paternal family. 
During this process, I had signed up with both Ancestry and 23andme. Despite my initial misgivings about the confidentiality of my genetic information, I decided to go ahead with the genetic testing mainly because I hadn't known at the time if I would ever get my health history from any relatives. Given that I have children, and given how much we are discovering about the importance of genetics in health and disease, I chose to risk the privacy issues. 
One of the things that 23andme does is sends you periodic reports when it finds genetic matches and gives you their best estimate on how close a relationship you share. 
In late June of 2018, I got an update from them with a new genetic match. RB was listed as a likely 1st or possibly 2nd cousin. And his last name was the same as my birth father's. This was my first clue to discovering my paternal side family!
I sent an email through the website and got a response back a few days later. Here's where it gets tangled.
The person who answered my email was LA, the daughter of RB. She had been the one to manage the DNA test for her father. It turns out that her father, rather than being my 1st cousin, is actually my half-uncle on my paternal side.
RB's half brother is my birth father, but R did not grow up with his half-siblings. They shared a father but had different mothers, as my paternal grandfather divorced his first wife, who moved with her child (R) to Utah. My paternal grandfather then remarried and had multiple children with his second wife, one of whom is my birth father. 
Through this half-uncle, I was connected to a huge branch of the family, much of which live in Utah. I have corresponded with multiple levels of cousins only to discover that one of my (2nd cousins? Removed? Gah, this gets so complicated!) is a science fiction writer with whom . . . wait for it . . . we share an entire network of mutual friends. 
Yes, folks, there are bone fide science fiction geeks/writers on BOTH sides of my genetic code. 
And it was utterly delightful when I discovered that both Paul (my maternal uncle) and Karen (my 2nd cousin, something something removed on my paternal side) were both attending WorldCon in California this summer. The two of them found one another and took a photo together for me. 
Paul and Karen - the 2 sides of my heritage meet!

To be continued. . . 
P.S. Happy "Foundaversary" Paul! It was just a year ago that we spoke for the first time!



Subscribe to BlueMusings and receive my short story collection, STRANGER WORLDS THAN THESE, as my gift.
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Blue Musings is a low volume e-newsletter containing notifications about book releases, sales, recommendations, and free original short fiction. Please click the box, then "subscribe" to allow us to send it to you via email.
View the full article

LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

Citadel of the Sky: F-BOM Book of the Month Review

Here’s our spoiler-free review of Citadel of the Sky by Chrysoula Tzavelas. Get your copy by becoming a member today and then join us in the F-BOM forums. We look forward to hearing your thoughts! On Chrysoula Tzavelas’s author website she describes Citadel of the Sky as the first installment of a pentalogy that explores “what happens generations… Read More The post Citadel of the Sky: F-BOM Book of the Month Review appeared first on F-BOM.
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TheRealLindsey

TheRealLindsey

 

Into the Drowning Deep: A Feminist Book Review

In 2015, Imagine Entertainment sent a ship filled with media personalities, scientists, and crew to discover whether or not mermaids exist. No one truly expected for the made-for-TV voyage to be successful, but when the ship turned up weeks after being lost at sea with horrifying video and no bodies, it was obvious they had… Read More The post Into the Drowning Deep: A Feminist Book Review appeared first on F-BOM.
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TheRealLindsey

TheRealLindsey

 

Summer 2018 Flash Fiction Contest Winners

Here are the winning stories from F-BOM’s Summer 2018 flash fiction contest, Lead Astray, judged by Fiona J.R. Titchenell. Did you miss the contest this quarter? Our next topic will be revealed in November. Follow us on Facebook for updates. Click here for submission guidelines. First place: Longing for Addiction by Catriona Huber It caught the sun just right, always.… Read More The post Summer 2018 Flash Fiction Contest Winners appeared first on F-BOM.
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TheRealLindsey

TheRealLindsey

 

The Potter of Akrotiri

Photos taken by me at the Museum of Prehistoric Thera



*Inspired by our current travels in Greece, my love of pottery, and the recent discovery that a skeleton discovered on Crete with unusual patterns of wear is in fact of a woman master ceramicist. 


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Blue Musings is a low volume e-newsletter containing notifications about book releases, sales, recommendations, and free original short fiction. Please click the box, then "subscribe" to allow us to send it to you via email.
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LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

Remembering three mothers

The Yiskor service on Yom Kippur is a powerful one. The whole day is powerful with its themes of repentance, atonement, and introspection and the memorial prayers for the dead seem to take on additional meaning.

Even more so now that both my parents have died.

This year, I spent quite a bit of time during the service thinking about the three mothers who have had a great influence on my life: the mother who raised me, the mother who raised my husband, and for the first time, the mother who gave birth to me.

I am grateful for the mother who adopted me - who believed I was a special order from G-d to her. She instilled in me a love of reading, of learning, of art, of the importance of family and hard work. If she held on to me a little tighter than I wanted, it was from an abundance of love and a fear of losing what she loved. She was a woman who had experienced deep losses from an early age and lived her life always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I understand that now. I wish she had been able to let go of her fears and truly live.

I am grateful for my husband's mother. She died far too young - when she was 50 and Neil was in his second year of medical school. I was fortunate to have known her. She was a force to be reckoned with - passionate, energetic, fiercely devoted to her principles and her family - which is often a difficult balancing act. She raised her son to be a deeply caring and emotionally healthy man.

This year, I also said Yiskor for my birth mother. Her name was Robin. She was 17 when she discovered she was pregnant with me. Maybe if she had come of age a decade or so later, perhaps she would have been the mother who raised me, but in the 1960's single parenthood was a different proposition. For whatever her specific reason or reasons, she surrendered me for adoption as a 5 day old infant and set the course of my life on its trajectory.

It's almost been a year since I discovered her name on a website and uncovered the network of my extended birth family and have been able to learn a bit about her.

She died in 2010 at the age of 65.

I never had the chance to connect with her. To let her know I was fine. More than fine - that I had a rich and fulfilling life, complete with work that I enjoy and an amazing family.

I love and I am loved. This makes me fortunate beyond measure.

When you're an adoptee, the question of nature vs nurture is one that is never far from your thoughts. While much of who I am has been shaped by my upbringing and my experiences, it is also true that there is much of my birth mother in me: the love of science fiction, the pride in the work of my hands, the drive to create, and the passion for local, sustainable food are things I seem to share with her.

It felt right to remember these three remarkable women, all of whom have contributed to the woman I am. As part of my spiritual practice, and in the spirit of Yom Kippur, I will work to honor their memories in the new year.

May you be inscribed in the book of life.




Subscribe to BlueMusings and receive my short story collection, STRANGER WORLDS THAN THESE, as my gift.
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Blue Musings is a low volume e-newsletter containing notifications about book releases, sales, recommendations, and free original short fiction. Please click the box, then "subscribe" to allow us to send it to you via email.
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LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

This is me: An Adoption Story, Part 6

For anyone just stumbling on this story, the earlier installments are here:

Part 1: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2018/07/this-is-me-adoption-story-part-1.html
Part 2: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2018/07/this-is-me-adoption-story-part-2.html
Part 3: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2018/07/this-is-me-adoption-story-part-3.html
Part 4: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2018/07/this-is-me-adoption-story-part-4.html
Part 5: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2018/07/this-is-me-adoption-story-part-5.html

I've taken a bit of a hiatus in the tale of my adoption search. Part of that is because life is busy and full. Part because this is an emotional journey and writing about it brings back the intensity of living through it. Part, because this next piece was difficult to write.

In a prior installment, I talked about discovering I had a half brother.
I hadn't been ready at the time to contact him: it was more than enough to process all these new family member. Contacting J would be taking yet another enormous emotional risk. One I wasn't sure I was ready for.

So in February, I got to see Paul again, this time at Boskone (another Boston area Science Fiction and Fantasy convention.) This time, my husband and older son got to meet him. And they got along like they had been long-lost friends.

Paul meeting his "new" grandnephew
In fact, when I had to run from brunch to make a panel, my son and husband stayed to chat with Paul and later Paul's wife commented something to the effect that my husband and Paul could have been related they had so much in common.

At this point, it had been four months since I had found Paul and my maternal side family. I had been embraced and welcomed by them all: my uncle Paul. His half-sister. Paul's daughter. Robin's second husband Ed, Paul's cousin G, (who lives about 15 minutes from me!), and G's father, Paul and Robin's Uncle. Pretty much all of the family.

Except for my half brother J.

That February, I asked Paul for J's contact information. He gave it to me, but cautioned me not to expect much. That there was a strong possibility J would never even answer my email. And that I shouldn't take it personally.

It was very sweet for him to be so concerned, and to want to protect me from being hurt.

I assured him that no matter what happened, it couldn't be personal, since J didn't know me. And that I felt strongly about giving him the option to connect or not.

So I sent J an email. I had few expectations, but I also didn't want to make the choice for him.

I was surprised to get a reply right away. And his reply was similar to his grandmother's response so many years ago: essentially, prove who you are.

So I did. I took pictures of my adoption documents and of the notes in our mother's handwriting that were included in the file and emailed them back to him, also clarifying that I wasn't looking for anything from him other than the opportunity to connect, or at the very least, trade health information. I also directed him to this blog for a chance to get to know me at a remove.

I waited.

And waited.

It was weeks.

By the time I got a response, I had been certain none would be forthcoming.

I imagine J crafted his email carefully, aiming for whatever he believed would be most hurtful to drive me away. I won't share the specifics of what he wrote. The what almost doesn't matter. It was clearly untrue and it was clearly meant to ensure I kept my distance from him.

While I don't like making assumptions, it's hard to read J's words and not see an intent to wound. This was the kind of response Paul had been worried about for my sake.

And had I received that response at a far earlier time in my life, I might have been truly hurt by it.

But I know what it is like to love and be loved. To trust and be trusted. J's response had nothing to do with me and everything to do with him and whatever hurt and anger he has nurtured all these years.

I am sorry for him.

He had every right to reject contact. Had he done so directly and honestly, I would have been disappointed, but that is the nature of choices.

But by responding with cruelty and disdain, he revealed himself more clearly than he will ever know.

And it saddens me that he chose to lash out. I worry that he doesn't have the kind of rich emotional life and support that I have. He may be a stranger, but his is also my brother. My *baby* brother. There is that part of me that wishes to take care of him and embrace him as I have been embraced.

I did send him a reply. I didn't respond to any of the hurtful words, only told him that I would honor his wish to break off contact. I offered some of my medical/health information and let him know that should he choose differently in the future, I would welcome hearing from him.

That was six months ago.

I don't imagine there will be any reply.


Subscribe to BlueMusings and receive my short story collection, STRANGER WORLDS THAN THESE, as my gift.
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Blue Musings is a low volume e-newsletter containing notifications about book releases, sales, recommendations, and free original short fiction. Please click the box, then "subscribe" to allow us to send it to you via email.
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LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

Guest Post: The Metaphysics of Science Fiction

I occasionally offer my blog to fellow creative travelers and today it is my great pleasure to hand over this space to Lancelot Shaubert. 
I first met Lance through the Writer Unboxed community and attended several writing retreats with him in the past few years. He is a bright, driven, passionate artist in all senses of the word. A writer, a musician, a filmmaker, Lance is someone whose vision includes collaboration and connection. I am honored to know him. Honored to be named a mentor by him. Honored to be part of his anthology.
Lance sent this to me when I was experiencing a low moment - feeling as if my creative work was at a dead end and not reaching or touching an audience. I didn't know until reading this how profoundly my story had moved Lance. He saw in it elements I did not consciously intend, but as all art is a construction between artist and audience, I am honored by what he sees in it. 
I leave you his thoughtful piece to consider. The Metaphysics of Sci-Fi
Lancelot Shaubert



Since the meaning of anything is first and foremost the meaning of everything, sci-fi stories can carry a heavy metaphysical burden by virtue of containing lots of things: big things, small things, multiple planets full of things and so forth. When it comes to awakening the metaphysical import of science fiction inside of me, no living author has done so both through their craft and friendship more than LJ Cohen.

It seems every time we get together, she and I end up talking about meaning and philosophy and metaphysics. Time and again, both in those talks and through her work, she proves that sci-fi carries that burden better than any fiction genre other than fantasy. Take her most recent short “Perpetual Silence” from the Of Gods and Globes anthology I edited this summer. For starters, I cry every time I read her story. No exaggeration. I cry every time I read her story for the amount it says in so little, the weight it carries with such honesty and curiosity and melancholy: this is a story that gets the essence of nostalgia, of Sehnsucht.

Spoiler alert for those of you that care about such things (though I tend to think spoilers enhance rather than detract from the reading experience), but her story features a young woman researcher creating an instantaneous comms link in the distant heavens through a satellite. It’s like internet for deep space, a phone call to the other end of the galaxy. Strictly speaking, this should be impossible, but they figure it out. Problem: this instantaneous communication works like a virus and erases all lag from all communication between satellites. It’s inconvenient to the scientist long-term and she terminates her team’s life’s work in an instant of code. Why?

“She’d called the universe. The universe had called back.” She sought the ultimate consciousness behind infinite being and total reality and that consciousness responded. It scared her enough that she shuttered the program.

Think about that: she discovered and verified prayer. The story’s a metaphysical and astronomical argument for prayer. And for why we don’t pray: we’re actually scared of an answer, scared of the grounds of all reality, of the necessary and sufficient cause of being having... well... a mind of its own.

It’s not the only time an author asks such questions in a sci-fi story.

Star Wars quite famously proffered a sort of gnostic dualism as the grounds of its magic system. Dune dealt with the nature of prophecy to affect not only space, but timelines, and what time means for one’s identity. Firefly asks classic existentialist questions over and again: particularly the "Out of Gas" episode where they ask why does a screwdriver exist? Why is there such a thing as a screwdriver when there should be nothing? When a screwdriver and none of the material or efficient causes of a screwdriver can possibly contain the cause of a screwdriver’s being, moment to moment?

Heady questions from space cowboys...

The Martian, of course, asked if raw conscious courage can trump mindless matter. The Foundation (poorly, I think) asks questions based on the Hegelian picture of history (bolstered poorly by the Wellsian picture of history and mythology), questions that Sanderson picks back up in Elantris and... in a way... stumbles through to something like a more holistic picture.

The Man in the High Castle more than any asked if America would ever create true art, a true work of beauty (one that delights in making intimate the great distance between two things while preserving said distance) when we Americans obsess on the one hand with our hyper utilitarian purgation of art and on the other hand with profiting off of commodities and frauds?

If art, in other words, makes a new culture by preserving our own special uniqueness via a singular intimate encounter with what’s us and no one else, then we ought not (1) worry about profits first, for art is not advertisement, nor (2) worry about how many copies of our work exist, for art is about preserving that beatific distance in an intimate encounter and not about the proliferation of our namesake, nor (3) the efficacious or tangible or systematic affect of our work on the immediate society, for art is about the seventh generation and not about us and therefore the virtue it forms in us is far more important and far-reaching than whatever system it could tweak or technology it could inspire.

Though, strictly speaking, the Elon Musks of today are a few generations removed from the scifi of yesterdecade.

And then there’s Station Eleven, a sci-fi book written by a literary author (whatever that means) who typically writes for The Millions. Emily St. John Mandel builds a whole book out of graphic novel meta references and quotes from Star Trek claiming things like SURVIVAL IS INSUFFICIENT as well as songs and skits from a rag tag traveling orchestra and theater company — all of this points to the value of science fiction and dreaming of the future in a post apocalyptic world mostly killed off by the flu.

She ends the book with the first set of folks taking off in the first plane since the plague, dreaming of the first ships sailing in the dark since the crisis, and drawing a clean line between the sci-fi of today and the best parts of that science fiction vision which motivated The New World mythos, Columbus and all...

Whether or not the metaphysics of the 17th century was true — or whether or not the Manifest Destiny it upheld is just or beautiful or good — is a question for another day, but no one can deny that the idea of Manifest Destiny showed up first in 17th century science fiction. After all, the metaphysicians and fictioneers of that time were only following in a literary tradition solidified by Dante — an author only willfully stupid readers would claim had no metaphysical impetus behind his description of that great reversal of gravity the protagonist of Inferno experiences while passing down the frozen demon’s belly button.

____

Lancelot Schaubert has sold hundreds of stories, articles, and poems to markets like TOR (Macmillan), The New Haven Review, McSweeney’s, The World Series Edition of Poker Pro, The Poet’s Market, Writer’s Digest, and many similar venues. 
To grab a free copy of chapter one of his best written work (slated for 2019) and his best song, click here. 

Subscribe to BlueMusings and receive my short story collection, STRANGER WORLDS THAN THESE, as my gift.
Email        
First Name
Blue Musings is a low volume e-newsletter containing notifications about book releases, sales, recommendations, and free original short fiction. Please click the box, then "subscribe" to allow us to send it to you via email.
View the full article

LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

Guest Post: The Metaphysics of Science Fiction

I occasionally offer my blog to fellow creative travelers and today it is my great pleasure to hand over this space to Lancelot Shaubert. 
I first met Lance through the Writer Unboxed community and attended several writing retreats with him in the past few years. He is a bright, driven, passionate artist in all senses of the word. A writer, a musician, a filmmaker, Lance is someone whose vision includes collaboration and connection. I am honored to know him. Honored to be named a mentor by him. Honored to be part of his anthology.
Lance sent this to me when I was experiencing a low moment - feeling as if my creative work was at a dead end and not reaching or touching an audience. I didn't know until reading this how profoundly my story had moved Lance. He saw in it elements I did not consciously intend, but as all art is a construction between artist and audience, I am honored by what he sees in it. 
I leave you his thoughtful piece to consider. The Metaphysics of Sci-Fi
Lancelot Shaubert



Since the meaning of anything is first and foremost the meaning of everything, sci-fi stories can carry a heavy metaphysical burden by virtue of containing lots of things: big things, small things, multiple planets full of things and so forth. When it comes to awakening the metaphysical import of science fiction inside of me, no living author has done so both through their craft and friendship more than LJ Cohen.

It seems every time we get together, she and I end up talking about meaning and philosophy and metaphysics. Time and again, both in those talks and through her work, she proves that sci-fi carries that burden better than any fiction genre other than fantasy. Take her most recent short “Perpetual Silence” from the Of Gods and Globes anthology I edited this summer. For starters, I cry every time I read her story. No exaggeration. I cry every time I read her story for the amount it says in so little, the weight it carries with such honesty and curiosity and melancholy: this is a story that gets the essence of nostalgia, of Sehnsucht.

Spoiler alert for those of you that care about such things (though I tend to think spoilers enhance rather than detract from the reading experience), but her story features a young woman researcher creating an instantaneous comms link in the distant heavens through a satellite. It’s like internet for deep space, a phone call to the other end of the galaxy. Strictly speaking, this should be impossible, but they figure it out. Problem: this instantaneous communication works like a virus and erases all lag from all communication between satellites. It’s inconvenient to the scientist long-term and she terminates her team’s life’s work in an instant of code. Why?

“She’d called the universe. The universe had called back.” She sought the ultimate consciousness behind infinite being and total reality and that consciousness responded. It scared her enough that she shuttered the program.

Think about that: she discovered and verified prayer. The story’s a metaphysical and astronomical argument for prayer. And for why we don’t pray: we’re actually scared of an answer, scared of the grounds of all reality, of the necessary and sufficient cause of being having... well... a mind of its own.

It’s not the only time an author asks such questions in a sci-fi story.

Star Wars quite famously proffered a sort of gnostic dualism as the grounds of its magic system. Dune dealt with the nature of prophecy to affect not only space, but timelines, and what time means for one’s identity. Firefly asks classic existentialist questions over and again: particularly the "Out of Gas" episode where they ask why does a screwdriver exist? Why is there such a thing as a screwdriver when there should be nothing? When a screwdriver and none of the material or efficient causes of a screwdriver can possibly contain the cause of a screwdriver’s being, moment to moment?

Heady questions from space cowboys...

The Martian, of course, asked if raw conscious courage can trump mindless matter. The Foundation (poorly, I think) asks questions based on the Hegelian picture of history (bolstered poorly by the Wellsian picture of history and mythology), questions that Sanderson picks back up in Elantris and... in a way... stumbles through to something like a more holistic picture.

The Man in the High Castle more than any asked if America would ever create true art, a true work of beauty (one that delights in making intimate the great distance between two things while preserving said distance) when we Americans obsess on the one hand with our hyper utilitarian purgation of art and on the other hand with profiting off of commodities and frauds?

If art, in other words, makes a new culture by preserving our own special uniqueness via a singular intimate encounter with what’s us and no one else, then we ought not (1) worry about profits first, for art is not advertisement, nor (2) worry about how many copies of our work exist, for art is about preserving that beatific distance in an intimate encounter and not about the proliferation of our namesake, nor (3) the efficacious or tangible or systematic affect of our work on the immediate society, for art is about the seventh generation and not about us and therefore the virtue it forms in us is far more important and far-reaching than whatever system it could tweak or technology it could inspire.

Though, strictly speaking, the Elon Musks of today are a few generations removed from the scifi of yesterdecade.

And then there’s Station Eleven, a sci-fi book written by a literary author (whatever that means) who typically writes for The Millions. Emily St. John Mandel builds a whole book out of graphic novel meta references and quotes from Star Trek claiming things like SURVIVAL IS INSUFFICIENT as well as songs and skits from a rag tag traveling orchestra and theater company — all of this points to the value of science fiction and dreaming of the future in a post apocalyptic world mostly killed off by the flu.

She ends the book with the first set of folks taking off in the first plane since the plague, dreaming of the first ships sailing in the dark since the crisis, and drawing a clean line between the sci-fi of today and the best parts of that science fiction vision which motivated The New World mythos, Columbus and all...

Whether or not the metaphysics of the 17th century was true — or whether or not the Manifest Destiny it upheld is just or beautiful or good — is a question for another day, but no one can deny that the idea of Manifest Destiny showed up first in 17th century science fiction. After all, the metaphysicians and fictioneers of that time were only following in a literary tradition solidified by Dante — an author only willfully stupid readers would claim had no metaphysical impetus behind his description of that great reversal of gravity the protagonist of Inferno experiences while passing down the frozen demon’s belly button.

____

Lancelot Schaubert has sold hundreds of stories, articles, and poems to markets like TOR (Macmillan), The New Haven Review, McSweeney’s, The World Series Edition of Poker Pro, The Poet’s Market, Writer’s Digest, and many similar venues. 
To grab a free copy of chapter one of his best written work (slated for 2019) and his best song, click here. 

Subscribe to BlueMusings and receive my short story collection, STRANGER WORLDS THAN THESE, as my gift.
Email        
First Name
Blue Musings is a low volume e-newsletter containing notifications about book releases, sales, recommendations, and free original short fiction. Please click the box, then "subscribe" to allow us to send it to you via email.
View the full article

LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

Playing the Long Game

I'm taking a brief break from the long and twisting tale of my adoption search story to return to some hard numbers about my publishing journey. I do this periodically, mainly because I believe in transparency and it helps me maintain perspective.

First caveat: I am almost entirely self-published.
Second caveat: I do very little promotion or paid advertising. I have a small mailing list of under 1000 subscribers. I could probably earn more/sell more if I focused on this side of the business.
Third caveat: I walked away from amazon page reads to keep my books widely available. This resulted in a definite drop in income that I'm starting to recover from. It was a long term choice to eschew the immediate money for long term sustainability.
Fourth Caveat: I have learned I can write/publish a book a year and no more than that.
Fifth caveat: YMMV


This is an overview of my earnings from January of 2012 through yesterday, August 7, 2018.

I've marked when each of my 8 novels were published. They are color coded for the series they belong to.

A few things to notice:

2014 was an anomaly year. In June of 2014, I published DERELICT, the first novel in my space opera series, Halcyone Space. I did little that I hadn't done for my prior books, but this one (forgive the terrible pun) took off like a rocket.

There were fewer books being published in 2014 and Amazon's algorithms (impenetrable to mere mortals, then and now) somehow picked up on a week or so of modest sales and decided to promote the book in its genre newsletters.

Unfortunately, I had no way of capitalizing on this good fortune directly, as Amazon doesn't share its sales intel. While I had my social media links in the book and a link to my newsletter, I had no way to directly promote to all those readers.

One year later, when ITHAKA RISING was published, (book 2 of the series) I had no way to let all the readers of book 1 know it was out. And Amazon didn't magically do it for me. You can clearly see the tiny bump in income for that release. However, sales of all books over the following months were slightly higher than in the prior year.

In 2016, I had greater traction with the release of DREADNOUGHT AND SHUTTLE, again mainly due to the power of Amazon: At that point, I had taken the newer books exclusive to Amazon in their Kindle Unlimited program and a big chunk of my income that year was through page reads.

Book 5 (PARALLAX) debuted in 2017, when I had pulled out from KU to have all the books available wide. My income between mid 2017 to mid 2018 was given a lovely boost by a .99 Bookbub feature on DERELICT.


This second graph is a yearly comparison of earnings between January of 2012, when I published my first novel, through yesterday, August 7, 2018.

With 8 novels in the marketplace, and a completed series, and greater traction on non-Amazon marketplaces (especially Kobo), I'm on track to exceed my KU exclusive/boosted-by-page-reads 2016 income.

If you omit the outlier of 2014, and factor in the switch from Amazon exclusive to wide, the trend is towards higher earnings year on year with more books available in the marketplace. (Note: the 2018 bar is only 7 months of the year and doesn't include the earnings from my latest bookbundle participation.)

Take Home Messages Publishing is a long game More of your books in the marketplace translates to more potential points of contact and sales Amazon is still the biggest player in the market. Some writers choose to stay exclusive with them and can do extremely well on page reads and the specific promotional tools that gives them.  Going wide entails risk and it can take a long time to gain audience share outside of Amazon Of my 8 novels to date, 4 have earned back their production expenses, the 5th is on track to do so. 3 have not and probably will not. This is the case even in traditional publishing: good sellers bankroll poorer sellers. This is not the business to be in if you need a steady income. AKA keep your day job or have a partner with one.  Luck and timing play a larger role in financial success in publishing that any of us want to admit.  You have no direct control over luck or timing.  Hard work is necessary, but it's not enough. If you, like me, find creating as necessary as breathing, there is no hope but to keep working. 
Subscribe to BlueMusings and receive my short story collection, STRANGER WORLDS THAN THESE, as my gift.
Email        
First Name
Blue Musings is a low volume e-newsletter containing notifications about book releases, sales, recommendations, and free original short fiction. Please click the box, then "subscribe" to allow us to send it to you via email.
View the full article

LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

This is Me: An adoption story, part 5

For anyone just stumbling on this story, the earlier installments are here:
After that intense, emotional, incredible first conversation with my new uncle, Paul and I continued to talk - via phone, email, and text. Over the next weeks, we got to know one another.

I found out more about my sprawling family tree, including cousins and an aunt (Paul's half sister through my maternal grandfather) who is almost a decade younger than me! I had several phone and email conversations with her and she is lovely, kind, thoughtful, and welcoming.

She put me in contact with Robin's late second husband Ed, who she had kept in contact with.

I then had a long chain of email conversations with Ed, learning about Robin as an adult. They were very much in love and had a very happy life together. She's been gone now 8 years and I know he misses her keenly, still.  He was even able to find and send scans of some old photos of Robin, from when she was in her 20s.

My birthmother, Robin, late 1960s? Ed was thrilled to know something of Robin's survived her death. Even he hadn't known about me. He and I continue to be in contact.


I mentioned in an earlier episode of this tale that my uncle Paul and I had mutual friends. It goes deeper than that. We had been at the same science fiction & fantasy conventions, not once, but several times. Balticon in the Baltimore area and Arisia and Boskone in Boston.

These are not huge conventions. It is more than possible that he and I were at the same sessions and never knew there was anything other than a fan connection between us. In fact, we were both invited guests at cons and might have bumped into one another in the 'green room'.

Paul retired from his teaching and his work with SETI (yes, the listening in outer space for sign of alien life!) and performs as a filker - think a combination of Weird Al and Tom Lehrer with a science fiction twist. He is unbelievably smart (2 PhDs), a lifelong geek, and with a sense of humor that prizes cleverness over mockery. Reader, I adored him. Even before we met (spoilers! We got to meet!) I knew I would feel comfortable with him.

We discovered that we were both invited guests at Boskone, to be held in Boston February of 2018 - just a few months away. I was thrilled that I'd have the chance to meet him and we made plans to have my family join me there as well.

Then a few conversations later, he asked me if I would be attending Arisia - another Boston con, one that takes place in January. Because he was able to attend and was hoping to meet me even sooner.

And yes, I was also on program there. And yes, I was eager to meet my uncle in person.

And here we are.


We sat near the con's registration area and talked for hours. He would often break off in the middle of a thought to stare at me and smile, remarking how much a particular expression of mine was so like Robin's.

Was it weird?

Yes.

Was it remarkable and incredible?

Yes.



To be continued. . .

Subscribe to BlueMusings and receive my short story collection, STRANGER WORLDS THAN THESE, as my gift.
Email        
First Name
Blue Musings is a low volume e-newsletter containing notifications about book releases, sales, recommendations, and free original short fiction. Please click the box, then "subscribe" to allow us to send it to you via email.
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LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

 

This is Me: An adoption story, part 4

If you've been following along, this is part 4 of my adoption search story. While it reads very much like the end, truly, it marks the start of a new journey of discovery that is ongoing. Stay tuned!


After I had my hard, ugly cry and caught my breath and washed my face, I was ready to call the phone number, ready to speak with my Uncle Paul.

With shaking hands, I called..

I honestly can't really remember much of that conversation. My whole body was trembling. I'm sure my voice was strained.

Part of me was still afraid he would hang up on me, or angrily insist on proof of my story. I half expected the same kind of hostility and rejection I had received from his mother, despite the email he'd sent.

Instead he expressed wonder and astonishment.

And he welcomed me.

As I quietly cried, we traded our histories - sketches of a lifetime compressed into an hour-long phone call.

I learned that he hadn't known of my existence. That his parents and sister had kept the secret all these years, and took it to their graves.

Paul was a year older than his sister - my birth mother. He was away in college when she got pregnant. All he knew was that his sister deferred her college acceptance for a semester, saying she had some kind of job or internship in San Francisco.

What she did, was have a baby and give her up for adoption.

Then she started college in January of 1964.

Paul gave me so much more than the answers to my lifelong questions. He also helped give me context for my maternal family.

My sketchy handwritten notes
As Paul describes it, my maternal family tree is less a tree than a vine. Part of that is because my maternal grandfather (Ben) was married and divorced multiple times and had children with several of his wives.

Ben was born in Eastern Europe, walked across much of the continent, got passage on a British freighter to Liverpool where he learned English. A self-educated man, my maternal grandfather became a British citizen and traveled to Toronto. He then took a train to Chicago, because he knew they didn't check papers. He married my maternal grandmother Phyllis and enlisted in the army in WWII, and became a citizen afterwards.

Ben was a poet and he worked as an advertiser. A man who came here as an illegal immigrant and self-educated, self-taught in English.

I told Paul about my experience with his mother, all those years before. After a brief silence, he expressed regret that she had reacted in such a negative way. That she had been a fierce family matriarch and he was sorry I had been rejected.

And he told me about Robin.

She was the one who introduced him to science fiction. Yes, my birth mother was a science fiction fan. She also was a writer, a theatre costumer and set designer, and was outspoken for social justice.


I remember telling Paul my greatest regret was that I never had the chance to tell Robin that I was okay. More than okay. That I had a wonderful upbringing and harbored no anger about the circumstance of my adoption. That I had two grown sons and a family and a life that I loved.

Paul was silent for another long moment. There was a sadness in his voice when he said how much Robin would have liked to have been a grandmother.

He also told me that she had been married and had had a child - a son. My half-brother. J (and I'll be using initials for some of the people in this story, first names for others, all to protect people's privacy) had estranged himself from the family decades before. Paul had no idea why. Only that when Robin was dying, J never responded to their emails and didn't attend her funeral.

She was divorced from her first husband, but had found happiness in her last years with her second husband, Ed.

Sadly, she died at 65, of cancer and I will never know her.

The best I can do is learn about her from the stories of those who loved her.

And that will have to be enough.


To be continued . . . 



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LJ Cohen

LJ Cohen

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