Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Short Story: Astronomical Events

Sam Riley acquired the telescope just six weeks shy of his twenty-second wedding anniversary.  It was Jolene’s second marriage and Sam’s third.  When people asked how many children they had, Sam always said, “We have four, two girls and two boys.”  Jo always said, “I have two girls and Sam has two boys.”  Sam didn’t take offense at this.  He was ten years older than his wife.  When they’d gotten married, his boys, David and Brian, were teenagers.  In fact, Dave had already started college at Rolla.  Jo didn’t have a hand in raising them.  Her girls, on the other hand, had still been small: Audrey had been nine and little Jess, only five.  Their dad had been mostly out of the picture, so Sam had stepped in.  He’d been glad to do it, bandaging up boo-boos, attending parent-teacher nights, cheering them on at softball games and even washing their hair in the kitchen sink nights because he didn’t think it was proper for him to see them naked in the tub. 
Now the kids were all grown and gone, and in Sam’s estimation, they were all in fine shape.  He loved to tell people, “Not a bum in the lot.”  And it was true.  They’d all gone to college except for Jess, who was happy as a clam doing her business from home, selling her handmade knickknacks on the Internet and making a tidy living at it. 
But it was Dave who brought him the telescope.  Dave was the only one who had stayed close to home.  He taught at the junior high where he was real popular with the kids.  Besides teaching science, he coached basketball and track and ran several academic clubs. 
The old junior high building had been built in the 1920s.  A new wing had been added sometime in the 60s, but it still lacked air conditioning.  The furnace was notoriously temperamental, too.  Many times over the course of the winter, it would conk out entirely.  When it did, teachers resignedly informed their charges to go to their lockers and get their coats before resuming the lesson. 
Since Dave had started teaching there, extensive renovations had begun.  The principal was a man named Greg Meier, who Sam remembered seeing often hanging around the house when the boys had been growing up, slurping RC Colas and playing video games on the old Commodore 64.  Now, Greg was overseeing a clean-up project at the school, starting with the storage spaces.  There was a large attic in the old wing that nobody’d hardly been in since Ford was in office.   
That’s where they’d found it, fully assembled under a drop cloth: an orange-bodied Celestron with an 8” lens. 
When Sam was a boy, his great-grandma, who everybody called Sweetie Pie, used to joke it was a good thing he was the spittin’ image of his daddy, otherwise people might think he’d been left on the doorstep by Gypsies; he was such a natural tinker.  Even as a boy, he’d been a patient, meticulous sort, intrigued with the inner workings of things.  His prized possessions in those days had been the collection of tools and spare parts he’d scavenged from old sheds and trash heaps.  His room had been a magpie nest of nuts and bolts, shoeboxes overflowing with bits of wire, erector sets, airplane models and old vacuum tubes.  He kept Sweetie Pie’s ancient (even in those distant chrome-and-frosted-aqua days of 1959) floor model Victrola running.  At fourteen, he built his own ham radio.  At eighteen, he’d joined the army and served in the Signal Corps.  He did a tour in Viet Nam, then went to college on the GI Bill to study electrical engineering.  After ten years in broadcasting, he went to work for an electronics company where he stayed for twenty-seven years.  During his first two marriages, he’d held a part-time job as a repairman at an appliance store.  Long after he quit, people in town continued to bring him things that wanted fixing: telephones, radios, clocks, cameras, watches, televisions, computers, which he happily did at no charge.  He made house calls to work on major appliances or to hook up someone’s surround sound system.  When he’d retired, several people, including Dave, had suggested he teach technical courses, or even go into consulting.  Sam always shook his head and said, “I just wouldn’t have the patience for that kind of thing.”  But the truth was, at sixty-four years, Sam couldn’t credit the idea of starting over.  Besides, he liked puttering around his own shop, dozing in front of Bonanza reruns and playing with the grandkids. 

The day Dave brought the telescope over, Jess was visiting her mother in the kitchen.  When Dave came in, they ignored him and he ignored them.  The relationship between Jo, her daughters and Sam’s sons had always been a bit frosty for Sam’s liking.  For the life of him, he didn’t understand why the five of them didn’t get along better.  It seemed that things had only gotten worse in recent years.  Sam suspected it had something to do with Jo and the girls not caring much for Dave’s wife, Shannon, who, admittedly, thought a lot of herself.  Then there was the fact that Dave and Shannon had started attending the mega-church some years ago and had tried to convince the rest of the family to do likewise.  The place packed in almost four thousand people on the weekends, which, in Sam’s opinion, seemed more like a stadium event than a house of worship, but to each his own.  He was just grateful everybody kept relations civil, especially on the holidays.    
As for him and Jo—well.  In some ways, they were very compatible.  They were both hard-working, both loners.  They were both thrifty and liked a tidy house.  But Jo had always been an unhappy woman.  She’d met her ex, an Air Force man, when he was stationed in Wichita.  She’d married him to get away from Middle of Nowhere, Kansas, (a map might list it as “Walton”—which was the closest town, at any rate), where she’d grown up.  Her mom had been a real good-time gal, dumping her off in the country like a dog for her grandparents to raise.  As a result, Jo hated the country, hated everything to do with the country.  She wouldn’t even go camping.  Sam had inherited his grandfather’s old farm about ten miles northeast of town and had once nursed dreams of building a house out there in his retirement.  But of course, Jo wouldn’t even consider it. 
In school, young Jo-Jo had gotten good grades, but had never had the money to go to college, something she’d always regretted.  Audrey had remarked a few times that there wasn’t anything preventing her from taking classes now, but for some reason, Jo never did it.  The community college brochures Audrey brought over sat untouched on the kitchen counter until Sam threw them away.  Jo didn’t really have any hobbies to speak of either.  She gardened some—if you could call keeping some African violets on the window sill, popping petunias out of a plastic container and dropping them into a terra cotta urn in the springtime ‘gardening.’  Jo had said one time that she might like to learn to knit, so on her birthday, the girls presented her with a course they’d paid for—just a little four-week thing offered up at the community center.  Jo went to one session, but said it was too hard on account of her being left-handed.  She was a fine cook and would have spent more time in the kitchen trying out exotic recipes, but Sam, a diehard meat-and-potato man, didn’t have the palate for anything more refined than Heinz 57. 
Jo had always complained about how they never did anything fun.  But if Sam suggested they go see a movie, she sniffed and said there wasn’t anything worth paying ten dollars to see.  If he suggested they go out for an ice cream cone, she got all huffy and said no, that he just didn’t understand.  She wanted to go out and do something.  How come they never traveled?  “Well, now,” he’d said.  “Traveling is a big expense.  We’ll have to do our research.”
And research Sam had.  That was the way he did everything.  Purchasing a new pair of shoes took him a few weeks.  A ladder had taken him six months.  A new car, a year.  He had to try things out, investigate all the options.  The way he looked at it, every purchase was an investment.  A vacation was no different, really.  There was the matter of airfare, lodging, rental car.  Their food and entertainment budget would have to be planned. 
“Where do you want to go?” Jo had asked.
“Where?” he’d frowned.  “Well, how about . . . Galveston?”
“You know damn well I hate Texas.”
“Galveston’s not at all like Fort Worth.  And anyhow, I don’t think it’s fair for you to say you hate a place you haven’t been to in over thirty years.”
“How about Vegas?”
“What would we do in Vegas?”
“Go to the casinos, see the shows, go dancing--”
“The casinos?  Why not just throw all our money away and cut out the middle man?”
They’d argued for days about where to go before finally settling on checking out the cruise lines.  That was over a year ago, and Sam still insisted he was comparing deals. 
In the meantime, he understood that Jo needed something in her life.  When the girls were at home, none of this had been a problem.  In those days, there was no such thing as free time.  Even as the girls got older, it seemed there was always something going on—back-to-school shopping, math homework, doctor’s appointments.  Both Sam and Jo worked full-time.  They had their commutes; they had a house and vehicles to maintain, coupons to clip, casseroles to make, check books to balance.  Twice, Jo had to go through lengthy and acrimonious child support proceedings.  Sometimes, it had felt like they barely had time to speak two words to each other before collapsing into bed at night. 
Now, the bills were all automated and there was no need to cook every day, or even every other day.  In fact, several times a week they ordered dinner off the senior menu at Perkin’s, pot roast for him, Cobb salad for her.  The house and yard were always immaculate.  And yet, they still barely spoke two words to each other, unless it was to snap.  Just the other day, Sam had gone into the kitchen to let her know he was going to the hardware store. 
She’d had her back to him, bent over the sink washing the breakfast dishes.  Just as he leaned over to give her a kiss good-bye, she said, “So, go.  No one’s stopping you.”

He’d hoped grandchildren would help, but Jo didn’t regard his grandchildren as hers.  In fact, she seemed to resent the amount of time he spent with them.  Nine times out of ten, Jo found some reason not to go to their baseball games and ballet recitals.  She’d hinted once that Blake and Taylor were spoiled.  That had led to such a nasty exchange, Sam stopped asking her to accompany him altogether. 
But if she disapproved of his spending time with the grandkids, she hated that he fixed stuff for free, and made no bones about it. 

So when Dave brought over the telescope, they snuck it in through the garage. 
Sam’s shop was a far cry from his cluttered childhood bedroom.  He had two main work areas in the house’s sub-basement, one for woodworking and one for electronics.  The electronics area had a wide bench with a heavy-duty magnifier lamp.  Shelves and peg boards lined the walls.  All his tools, equipment, spare parts and hardware were sorted and labeled. 
As Sam flipped on the lights, Dave was saying, “Greg called and asked me if the science faculty might have any use for it.  I told him, ‘Oh, heck, yeah.  I’d love to do an astronomy unit.  And the science club would just love it.’”
Sam grunted.  “Well, let’s have a gander.” 
Dave and Greg had managed to dig up the telescope’s original carrying case, dusty, slightly scuffed, but none the worse for wear.  Sam popped it open to reveal the telescope nestled within, the body unscrewed from the tripod, all the individual pieces matched up to their foam rubber compartments. 
“I took it home and cleaned it,” Dave said.  “Blake and I took it out last night, but we couldn’t get it to focus.”
Sam examined the parts one by one, laid them neatly out on his workbench: tripod, finderscope, sun shade, altitude adjustment.  He saved the body of the telescope itself for last, turning it thoughtfully over in his hands.
“Think you can fix it?”
“Sure.  For a fee.”
Dave laughed a trifle disbelievingly.  “Fee?”
Sam nodded, tapping a finger against the orange tube.  “If I fix it, I get to keep it for a few weeks.” 
“Is that all?” Still laughing, Dave clasped his father’s shoulder.  “Sure, that seems fair to me.”
Dave stayed and visited for a little while, but declined Sam’s offer to stay for supper.  As soon as Dave left, Sam got to work. 

Generally, Jo didn’t come down to the basement.  If she wanted something, there was a return vent in the kitchen floor she could holler through.  So she didn’t even know about the telescope until a replacement part arrived a week later.
“What’s this?” Jo asked when she found the small, flat parcel in their mailbox.
“That must be the lens I ordered,” Sam replied.
“For what?”
“Telescope?  What telescope?”
“They found it up at the school.  Asked me to take a look.” 
“Doing it for free?”
“Well, there wasn’t hardly anything to it.  The screws that held the focuser in place came off, so the mechanism fell down into the shaft.  All I had to do was get it out.  Took me all of five minutes.”
“But you ordered a lens.”
“Old one was scratched.”
“How much did that cost us?”
“Thirty-one ninety-five.  I found it on eBay.”
“Are they going to compensate us for that?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
“What does that mean?”
“I told Dave I wouldn’t charge if I could borrow it for a while.”  As soon as Sam finished that sentence, he braced himself for the haranguing that was sure to follow. 
To his surprise, Jo didn’t say anything for a few moments.  Then she said, “Can I see it?”
Then it was his turn to pause.  “Sure.  Come on down.”
She went with him to the shop and watched as he opened the package and screwed in the new lens.  “There,” he pantomimed dusting his hands off.  “That’s that.”
Jo bent to look into the eyepiece.  She moved the telescope around, adjusted the focus.  “You know, my grandpa got me a telescope when I was ten or eleven.  We used to go up on the roof and look at the constellations.”
“Did he?” Sam tried to recall if she’d ever told him that before.  He didn’t think so.  “Well, I figured we’d take it out tonight.  You know.  Give it a spin.”
“What’s the moon phase tonight?”
“Waning crescent.  It’ll be a new moon in a few nights.  Then we’ll really be able to see some things.”
“Did you look that up?”
He nodded.  “I been checking out some astronomy sites.  You want to see?”
The two of them sat down in front of his computer, where they remained for the better part of the afternoon.  Just before dusk, Jo fixed them up some sandwiches while Sam took the telescope out to the backyard.  He set out a pair of aluminum folding chairs next to it, lit some citronella candles to keep the bloodsuckers off.
Jo brought the plates outside and they settled down together, sipping iced tea and watching the sky darken.  The cicadas gave way to lightning bugs.  The lightning bugs gave way to crickets.  When Sam and Jo finished eating, they wiped the potato chip grease off their hands and stood up. 
Sam started to take the eyepiece, then paused and offered it to Jo. 
She shook her head.  “After you.  You fixed it.”
So Sam put his eye to the lens.  After some adjusting, he beheld the moon. 
They’d mostly stuck to the beginner astronomy websites, and it had felt kind of elementary to be reading about Orion’s Belt and Cassiopeia—who didn’t know about them?  But seeing them like this made him glad they did.  Why had they ever taken the moon for granted?  Then there were the Pleiades.  There was Perseus.  Jupiter with its tan girdle and its red spot.  Its four moons, Io, Europa, Callisto and Ganymede.  There were nebulae and galaxies.  And of course, all the bright stars, alone or in clusters. 
Sam and Jo passed the eyepiece back and forth, rotating the telescope in slow circles so they could see all that they could see. 
“I found a list of astronomical events the other day,” Sam said.  “We’ll get to see a meteor shower in October.”
“Won’t the telescope have to go back by then?”
“I was thinking we might get one of our own.”
She nodded.  “I think that’s a good idea.”
“I was also thinking we could visit some of the observatories.  There’s one up at William Jewell.  UMKC, too.”
“And Louisburg.”
“We could visit all of them.”
“We could.”
They didn’t even realize how quickly time was passing, the fairy circle of candles turning into puddles of wax around them, a foraging possum trundling its way across the yard to sniff at their discarded Lay’s bag. 
  It was after 2 a.m. when they finally decided to turn in.  Sam broke down the telescope while Jo gathered up their plates and crumpled-up napkins.  As they walked together back towards the house, Jo said, “You know, I’ve always wanted to go to Cape Canaveral.  That’d be a nice anniversary gift to ourselves, wouldn’t it?”
He smiled.  “I hear Florida’s nice this time of year.”

Enjoy this short story? Please take a moment to let me know in the comments. In the meantime, check out other short stories here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Read an excerpt of Free, a coming-of-age tale by Lisa Litberg

Since leaving home at the age of 18, Free has traveled the country trying to find a place to call home.  Her travels afford a variety of experiences, from following the Grateful Dead to waitressing in Chicago to selling jewelry in New Orleans’ French Market, but nothing seems to quell her sense of unrest.  All the while her estranged brother Alfie is in her thoughts.  Once she finds him, perhaps she’ll finally feel at home.  But her world is filled with bad choices and temptations, and Free must rise above these in order to find her place.  

The reader will feel as if they are traveling right alongside Free in this moving coming-of-age story.


Chapter One
Midwest Summer Tour, 1993
I’m in the back of a VW bus, sharing floor space with an overstuffed duffel bag, two guys who are sprawled out asleep, and a German shepherd named Rex. The duffel bag is mine.  It contains everything that I own at this junction of my life, except for the sleeping bag that’s spread out for padding on the floor of the bus. The Shepherd isn’t mine; he belongs to Chuck, who’s driving the bus.  His wife is in the passenger seat.  Her name is Angel and Chuck calls her his old lady.  I don’t know the names of the two sleeping guys, but I think I heard someone say they were from New Jersey.

My name is Free.  Usually when I tell people that they laugh and ask me what my real name is.  I just look them dead on and repeat it:  “Free.”  I left my old name behind with my old life; shed both of them like a useless layer of skin.  When I stepped free of that world I took the name Free.  It is my real name.  I picked it myself.  What could be more real than that?

I sit up and stretch, surveying the morning through the back window of the van.  Rex looks up at me, panting.  It’s hot already and it can’t be nine yet.  Rex puts his head in my lap and I scratch behind his ears.  When I ditch this ride, he’s all I’m going to miss.  Well, maybe Angel.  She’s all right, but Chuck is a big asshole.  I look out the window and watch the cornfields flying by on both sides.  Welcome to another Midwestern summer day.  I turn to the front of the bus.  “Where are we?”

Chuck doesn’t answer.  He’s staring straight ahead, and his knuckles are white on the steering wheel.  Not a good sign.  He’s probably hung over from last night.

Angel turns her head.  “Nowhere, Kansas,” she replies.  She’s about fifty and looks it, except when she smiles.  Her gray-blonde hair has mostly escaped her ponytail and is flying around her face.  She’s smiling now, but ruefully.  She hates the Midwest as much as I do.

I turn around and lean back against the front seat, wishing I had a book.  I’d read anything at this point, even one of those trashy romance novels my mother used to read.  I had a book on my last cross-country trek; a Stephen King novel called The Stand.  I read it over and over and never got bored of it—it was that good.  But I ended up trading it to another book-lover for a sandwich.

Instead I pull out my hemp and beads and start making more necklaces.  This is my job now.  It’s not bad—I don’t mind being my own boss and making my own hours.  I’m not going to get rich this way, but I make enough money to pitch in on gas and eat, and even occasionally buy a ticket for the night’s concert—when I can’t get in for free, that is.  I’ve tried swinging other things as well—beer, grilled cheese sandwiches, hand-sewn bags.  For a while I was riding with a sister who made patchwork baby-doll dresses.  They were beautiful, and she made a killing.  But that’s not an option for me.  What am I going to do—strap a sewing machine to my back?  Hemp jewelry works out much better— it’s lightweight, inexpensive, and easy to make.

“Cool beads.  Where are they from?”

I look up, startled.  It’s one of the New Jersey guys.  For a moment I had forgotten anyone was back there with me.  He’s wearing a pair of denim cut-offs and nothing else, leaning cross-legged against the other side of the bus.  His hair is brown and curly, almost bushy, kind of like Bob Dylan’s.  He’s absently petting Rex, who apparently abandoned me when he realized I was busy with something else. Nice show of loyalty.

“I don’t know,” I shrug.  “I pick them up here and there.”

“From stores or from people?”

“Both,” I reply.  Why does he care where my beads come from?  His gaze is making me uncomfortable, but I don’t show it.  I stare straight back at him.  His eyes are green.  He doesn’t look away.

“It would be cool if every one had a different story behind it.  You know, like where it came from.  It would make the jewelry so meaningful.”

I’m not sure what to say to this.  “Well, there’s no story.  Sorry.”

I hear a snort of laughter coming from behind him.  “Don’t mind him,” says Jersey guy number two, propping himself up on his elbow.  I notice he has a thick Jersey accent, which makes me realize the other guy didn’t. “Eric thinks everything should be meaningful.”

“Everything is meaningful,” Eric says solemnly.  He doesn’t smile when he says it, but then he looks back at me and smiles.  He’s really good looking—not that that matters.  In my experience, it’s the beautiful people who are first to screw you over. 

His friend is pulling his shirt on.  He’s built bigger than Eric, who is bone-thin.  His straight blonde hair is all tangled and matted.  Maybe he’s trying to dread it.  “I’m Mark,” he says.  “This is Eric.”

“I’m Free,” I tell them. 

“Freedom, or Free?”  Eric asks.

“Free,” I reply.  I brace myself for the inevitable “What’s your real name?” but he only nods.  Silence falls in the back of the bus, and I’m glad.  I don’t like to talk about my life, and that seems to be all people want to talk about on the road. Where are you from, where have you been, how many shows have you seen…everyone wants to talk about what’s already been done.  I would rather talk about what is yet to happen.

Purchase Free

For as long as she can remember, Lisa Litberg has loved to write.  Over the years, she has amassed quite a collection of short stories and poetry, but Free is her first novel.  A high school teacher for 15 years, she tries to empower her urban students with the written word.  When she isn’t writing or teaching, Lisa might be dancing, playing guitar, practicing aerial arts, or hanging out in her Chicago home with her son Trevor watching The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones.  

Connect with Lisa
Twitter: @lisalit2

Thanks for reading!  Please feel free to leave questions/comments for Lisa below.  

Like this post?  Check out other guest authors here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Order of the Four Sons Update

I have, in my hot little hand, the preliminary edits from the publisher of The Order of the Four Sons, Book I. 

Now what happens is Coyote and I will go over them and approve changes.  We've been working with the publisher on cover art, so hopefully I can reveal that soon, as well as a re-release date.

Carcosa has now entered the editing process with plans to re-release this fall.  

Where Flap the Tatters of the King is going to be split into two books, to be re-released in 2016.  
In the meantime, Coyote and I have been going full-speed ahead on Books V and VI.  And while I'm on the subject of Books V and VI, here's a recent conversation at my house I'd been meaning to share with my O4S readers:

Me: What would Joan call the Corbenese as an insult?  The British have the word 'toff' to insult rich people, but I don't know that Joan would use that.

Patrick: She'd called them Corbis, of course.  Or Corgis.  Everything's better with Corgis.  Now all I can see are Corgis dressed up as your characters.

Me: NO.  Well, yes to the second thing you said.  Because that is hilarious and adorable and now I want nothing more than to see a Corgi dressed up in a wine-colored frock coat with a Christophe beard . . . and now I am derailed. 

And there was no more writing done that day.  

So, yeah.  I think I'll just leave you with this.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Flash Fiction: Tomato Paste

Image by Chrys Campos 

When Dawn had arrived to pick up her mother that afternoon, she’d found her waiting on the porch, impeccably dressed, as always: pantsuit, lipstick, hair curled.  Her mother sat on the porch swing, her purse in her lap, like a woman waiting for the bus.  Her only concession to old age was the slip-on elastic shoes she wore.  Ten years ago, she wouldn’t have been caught dead in such unattractive footwear, not even to throw out the trash.  Now they were necessary because the blood pressure medication caused her feet to swell. 

She held carefully to Dawn’s arm as they descended the porch stairs together.  When Dawn helped her into the car, her arthritic fingers sought vainly for the seatbelt.  The buckle had slipped down between the seat and the door.  Wordlessly, Dawn retrieved it for her.

When they got to the grocery store, Dawn pushed the cart.  It was a newer store, a cavern of florescence.  Aisle upon aisle presented itself in a succession of gleaming linoleum floors, bright cairns of vegetables and fruit, and humming freezer cases.  The walkways bustled with shoppers.  At first, her mother walked slowly beside her.  She opened her pocket book and her hands shook so much the coupons fell out.  A stock boy helped Dawn gather them up. 

Gradually, her mother shrank closer and closer to Dawn’s side.  She kept asking things like, “Shouldn’t the cereal be over here?” and “Don’t forget tomato paste.  I need tomato paste.”  Her voice rose with a sort of panicky insistence.

It was in the meat section that she started to cry, her mascara running.

“Oh, Mom,” Dawn said, patting her arm with equal helplessness.

“I don’t like this store,” her mother said.  “I want to go to Thriftway.”

Her daughter said, “They closed the Thriftway last year, remember?”  She did not add, And you don’t need tomato paste.  You haven’t made your spaghetti sauce since Dad died.

Enjoy this short story? Please take a moment to let me know in the comments. In the meantime, check out other short stories here.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Review is Critical: Guest Post by Ava Louise

There are two sides to reviews. One is as the consumer leaving the review and the other is as the seeker of a review.

As the consumer, when we leave a review we are telling other shoppers, and the producer of the product, what we thought of that purchase. Did it live up to our expectations? If so, in what way(s)? If not, how did it let us down? This applies to anything we purchase, be it a book, an article of clothing, or a service such as a haircut. We’ve paid our money and now have the ability to spread the word about that experience.

As the seeker of a review—well, there is a whole different kettle of fish! It isn’t just large companies that seek consumer reviews. Authors are no different. We want to provide something for the reader: escape into the world we create in our book; knowledge on how to do a particular task; knowledge to help a consumer make a decision; share an experience to connect with a reader. Whether you read fiction or non-fiction, reviews help potential buyers determine whether they will spend their money on that book.

With so many books on the market, I think it’s even more important to write honest reviews to help other shoppers decide where to put their dollars. Speaking for myself here, it wasn’t until I published my first book that I realized just how important reviews are.

Here are a few tips on writing reviews:
  • Start out positive and end positive. Put the less-favorable comments between those two points. Positive, not-so-positive, Positive.
  • You don’t have to write something long. According to Amazon 75 to 500 words is ideal. A well-written review really can take only a couple of minutes to complete.
  • Try to be specific. How did the book make you feel? Why?
  • Be honest. If the book just wasn’t your cup of tea, realize that. Not every person will enjoy reading every genre out there.  

There are several schools of thought on how an author should handle reviews. The most common I’ve seen is to ignore them…good or bad…and never comment on them. Like so many things in life, I chose a path that worked for me.

I love reading the reviews. Every single one. Yes, I am saddened when I get a less-than-favorable review. But I read it, try to see it from the reviewer’s perspective, and process it. Luckily, I’ve been blessed with fans that like my series.

While I do follow the advice of not commenting on negative reviews, I make sure to always thank the reader that has left a positive review. If the reader can take time out of their schedule to perform this task, the least I can do is say “Thanks!”

Reading the reviews helped me work on areas of my writing that I needed to focus on. Also, it helps me connect with my fans. It is how I knew I had created a story world that people wanted more of.

How about you? Do you leave reviews? Only good or only bad? What guidelines do you follow for your reviews? Happy reading…and reviewing!

About Ava Louise

Ava Louise was born a U.S. Army brat overseas, in France. She is the proud mom of two wonderful young men. It's taken her a while to figure out what she wanted to be when she grows up, but Ava has finally found her niche in the writing world. Since writing came to her later in life, she likes to think she is living proof that it's never too late to reach for a dream or to achieve it. Before writing her own stories, she reads from a wide array of genres, including science fiction, fantasy, romance, mysteries, thrillers, and young adult. 

Works by Ava Louise: The Intergalactic Matchmaking Series
The Intergalactic Matchmaking Services series begins with Maggie’s Story, Ava Louise’s debut novel. In the series, you’ll meet characters that play a role in all of the books of the series, but this cozy sci-fi with romance is easily read as a series, or each book as a standalone. The characters are full-fledged and lovable!

Maggie’s Story
Women Wanted: Must have a sense of adventure and be open to new experiences. Must also be willing to relocate. Please contact Intergalactic Matchmaking Services.

Maggie Cline decides to investigate her romantic possibilities after she becomes a target when she identifies the shooter in a local murder.  Can she find a soul mate away from everything she knows and has worked hard for here on Earth? What about her loyal companion? Will she have to give up her cat, Mamzell, for a chance at love?

Shirley’s Story
Just as Shirley decides to try opening herself up to a chance at love, a stalker from her past returns. How does she move forward when her past comes knocking? What's going on with her young student, Hannah? Will her dog, Oreo, be okay with Shirley looking for love?

Penny’s Story
Penny was supposed to be dead. At least that is what Claire has believed for ten years. Find out what happens when Claire's sister comes out of the Witness Protection Program. Penny is fighting a losing battle with cancer and needs Claire to raise Sunny, Penny's newborn daughter, once the cancer takes its final toll. Why is Penny's ex-boyfriend, Jason, telling his cronies that Penny has money and information about their illegal dealings? How does the cartel find out she has even left the Witness Protection Program?

Will Marko have to watch as another woman he cares for dies a horrible death? Will he lose his job as Medical Officer on the starship for bending the rules? Can Pacer finally have the peaceful retirement he desires? How will Claire deal with her quiet life being turned upside down? Catch up with Maggie and Daxon, along with Shirley and Mathenzo.  

All of the Intergalactic Matchmaking Services books are available as ebooks on Amazon.

Connect with Ava Louise:

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Read an excerpt of The Soul as Strange Attractor by Gregory S Trachta

The stories in The Soul as Strange Attractor are described by one reader as “literary fiction edged with magic realism elements,” in which “early stories play out in the background and wings of later [ones].” As the characters speak, their intent is the truth. They take themselves seriously. We need not, but if we share their sincerity, something cardinal may arise, like gravity waves from the edgeless outermost.

The stories occur in the decades after WW II. The characters reside in Mudgap, a village in the Sierra Fangoso Mountains, west of Las Cruces, founded on gold fever and sustained by tourists and government. They have typical interests: blood on the White Sands, the Vietnam war, Dr. Reich’s Orgone AccumulatorBuddy Bolden’s lost recordings, space aliens, the true meaning of Christmas, the Crown of Aleppo, childhood pranks, the mystery of reality, the tedium of infidelity, tall tales, taller tales, ghosts, and, of course, coming of age. Time is a silent character, miming and mugging his way through the scenes, not in the background, but largely unnoticed.

Readers who doubt the existence of places not found on a map might consider: neither maps nor dictionaries were passed out with the Ten Commandments. The Soul as Strange Attractor doesn’t pretend otherwise.

Excerpt from the story, “Goodbye for Now” 
Lydia glanced over her shoulder up the hill toward her mother’s grave. She smiled softly and returned to Tyler’s headstone, admiring the timeless curve of his young jaw and the perfect fit of his uniform. She tapped the snow with her foot to make sure she could hear it crunch and see the indentation it made. She wanted to test again the reality of the moment. How could it be? How could she be sure it really was? How could she be sure she was truly experiencing the real reality? Could there be a doubt, any doubt, about the actuality of this moment? Her mind whirled in endless turmoil, until she finally remembered the mounted Cossack.
Lydia’s metaphysical musings recalled a conversation with the abstruse Plot Smith back in the eighties. She’d been in one of her rough patches. Cousin Maude had deserted her, gotten herself married for the third time. Lydia had surrendered to life’s estrangement, the jealously private certainty she was supposed to be living some other life, the idea that the real reality was bypassed, her life squandered in some accidental nexus birthed by an impossible shredding of events. She blamed the war, of course, and in a conversation with Plot, long-standing family adjunct, she’d extruded the entire jumbled thread of her secret funk.
Plot was irresistible. She knew everyone felt the same about him, but she always believed those gray Smith eyes were fastened on her to the exclusion of everything else in the universe. His full attention wrapped around her like the loving arms of a heavenly messenger. Talking to him was almost like a conversation with herself, except more coherent and wise.
“Reality, reality,” Plot had smiled, his soft voice curling its fingers gently around her soul. “But you know it’s all probability and statistics these days, don’t you?”
“What? What do you mean?”
He’d launched into some barely understandable discussion in which the building blocks of the visible world were ephemeral potentials smeared across the universe like marmalade and warbling through time like the silent call of Ra’s Bennu bird.
“That’s absurd,” Lydia had protested, believing Plot was reciting some Egyptian myth to jolly her out of her depression. Gradually she filtered his gentle exposition through some poorly understood lectures in her freshman science orientation class.
“You’re talking about modern physics, aren’t you? I never understood that.”
“It’s true. It’s true.” His smile invited her to luxuriate in the warmth of his attention. “When you get down to it, no one knows what reality is.”
“The closer you look, the less there is to see. If you push up close to the counter and demand to see the tiny particles that make up this coin,” he’d mused, holding his lucky silver dollar in thumb and forefinger, “it’s like Robert Benchley describing the banking system.”
“Robert Benchley?” Lydia now knew Plot was playing with her.
“Benchley was describing how money is based on trust in the reserves held by the federal government. ‘But,’ said Benchley. ‘If you push right up to the counter and demand to see what’s backstopping world finances you find nothing but a bundle of IOU’s, a dead moth, and a chipped gold button from a Cossack Dress Uniform.’ ”
Plot’s diversion had worked. Lydia’s guilty anger at her cousin’s abandonment on the arm of her latest lover, gone off to Las Cruces to be a college professor’s wife, had disappeared like the quantum wave front of a carefully measured electron. Afterward, any musing on the concreteness of the real world was abruptly overwhelmed by the image of a rearing white horse, its bejeweled harness and tight bit straining against rippling muscles and a raging mouth. With ears slanted back and eyes of havoc it bore a whiskered, Cossack nobleman in parade uniform, one hand tugging the reins, the other lofting a rifle. His dress was impeccable, polished black boots, black cherkeska, crisscrossing shoulder straps, white gloves, gorget, and czapska, except for his left epaulet, which curled whimsically above his shoulder, its button gone to underpin world finances.
Death rode havoc after Tyler’s body went under the sod. George Tuttle, the young rebel son of Grandpa Ruel’s black chief engineer, who’d left the Marines in the fifties but re-enlisted at the age of thirty-six, had returned in a gray shipping casket soon after Tyler. Tuttle had felt an obligation to President Johnson, because of civil rights legislation, a cause for which young Tuttle had been very nearly lynched seven years before in Mississippi.

About Gregory S Trachta
Gregory S Trachta is a longtime resident of Mudgap, New Mexico, where he is known by another name. Of his stories, the residents sometimes assert, "That's not the way it happened at all." He shares the passion of their complaints.  Prior to residing in Mudgap, he frequented California, Missouri, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and so on.

Connect with Gregory and Other Links

Village of Mudgap, New Mexico: