Friday, October 23, 2020

Grave Mistake #WEP #FlashFiction #2020 #TimeTravel

2020 Twice

Pink neon lights buzz nearby as I regain consciousness. The smell of sweat and french fries assures me that this is not the sterile lab we were in moments ago. 


I sit up and call to my partner again. Finally, I hear a grunt.

"That hurt more than expected," he says.

"But we made it, didn't we? This is the eighties?" 

Dan helps me to my feet. "Yeah. This decor is distinctive. We've escaped."

I look around the room, admiring the pictures. A door clicks behind me.


He's gone. I run out after him. 

There are people everywhere. No one in a mask. A few wearing leather jackets and only one glove. Hair defying gravity everywhere I turn. People are looking at each other, looking at me. No one is staring at a handheld screen. A man walks by me, music blasting from a large silver box he's hauling on his shoulder. No earbuds. A few people dance as he goes by, sharing in the joy of the song. Some roll their eyes at him. I'm so caught up in this music man that I almost don't spot Dan in a cafe.

"Amazon, Google, Netflix..."

"What are you doing?" I hiss as I grab his arm. The woman at the cafe table stares at me.

Dan smiles. "Fran, this is Ingrid. Ingrid, Fran. I'm telling Fran what stocks are going to exist in the next two decades so she can invest wisely."

Dan points to the newspaper Fran has laid out before her. She'd been looking at the stock exchange. 

"Is he making it up?" she asks me.

I fake a laugh as I pull Dan away from her. 

"What were you thinking? We can't tell people about the future! The timeline would change. We'd never be able to get back."

Dan grabs my shoulders. "I know. We aren't going back. When we don't show up, they'll think it failed. We can live out our days here, in this time. I've only got ten months left at most. And it's not like better cancer treatments exist now than in the time we came from, right?"

"That doesn't explain why you were giving out stock tips."

Dan smiles that devious smile of his, the one that talked me into this experiment. "I figured it out. Two-hundred thirty-seven changes need to be made for 2020 to not happen, to not go down as it did. Fran is one. She'll invest early in five major companies. Her daughter will inherit those. That will keep her from going through something that causes her to run for office. I have a whole chart, plotted it out. Just knock down the dominoes and what happened in 2020 will never come to pass."


Dan lived long enough to see the first one hundred eighty-seven changes. We made so many ripples in the pond of time. I watched in shock as President Dukakis lost to Bush. Operation Desert Shield became Desert Storm. Every day I found one more change to the world I remembered. I believed Dan was on to something, so I carried on with his work. 

We shouldn't have meddled. It was a grave mistake. The Amery Ice Shelf broke. That's when I knew the timeline was reverting. Covid still happened. The murder hornets were born, though did less damage this time, so far. The US Presidential debate disaster was different from the one I knew, but one candidate was a different person. In many ways, this new 2020 was worse than the one from which Dan and I escaped. 

"I have to go. I need to be somewhere by October 31."

My nurse shakes her head. "Yeah, yeah. Gots trick-or-treatin' to do, aye? Think you be a child, gonna get candy? What costume you gonna wear?"

"I don't have dementia. I'm a time traveler. I get things mixed up occasionally because I remember two different timelines. It's not easy!" I can't believe I've been remanded to this place by the state. "I have to get to my lab. If I could just make a phone call."

"Oh aye, fate of the world depends on you makin' calls, does it? Now look, you've soiled yer'self again. Great time-travelin' scientist, can't even master usin' a toilet on time."

Behind her mask, she coughs. I've watched her out the window. As soon as she leaves work, the mask comes off. Probably infected. I have only days to get to my lab to save the world. First, I need to break out. Actually, first, I need a clean pair of pants. 

764 words FCA

Want some real horror from a grave mistake? Stop by Operation Awesome for a true cautionary tale for writers. I took the chance so you don't have to.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

#IWSG Working Writer


October 7 question - When you think of the term working writer, what does that look like to you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if latter two, what does that look like?

It looks like there's a book about this subject, but it seems to be out of print and not in ebook form. 

There's a website article about it.
"The best piece of advice I can give you is to train your brain to think about whatever your day job is as being in service to your writing career. ...
I will always be a writer.
Everything else is just part of the portfolio."

While researching what "working writer" means, I found one way some people define it is having landed an agent and getting advances for their books. So here's a brief "commercial break" :

That's going on right now, so if you know a YA writer looking for an agent, please send them over!

Back to the question.

I'm guessing that a working writer is a writer who no longer needs a second source of income to support their survival. And many people, especially Americans, have a standard living goal of over 50k a year.

50,000! That's the word-count goal in traditional NaNoWriMo. (← click if looking to buddy ๐Ÿ‘ฅ)

Is $50,000 enough per year in America to live? It's considered the door to middle-class in many areas.
Universal Basic Income might come into play in figuring out how much a person should need a year.
(We don't have that in America. But who knows what 2021 will bring. ๐Ÿค”)
One plan suggests $2000 a month (for households making under 100k/yr). That's 24k a year. So if that existed, and writing generated the other 26k a year, there you go.
Biden has been quoted saying, "Getting an annual wage, you sit home and do nothing. You strip people of their dignity."
Trump's plans use income tax cuts instead, which results in more savings for the rich than poor, and nothing for those without an income.
Richard Nixon almost introduced UBI in 1969.
In 1797, Thomas Paine suggested something very similar to UBI.
There's a debate as to if UBI is mentioned in the Bible, and if it is pro or con.

I've forgotten the question.

I only have four books for sale right now. The two reference books are less than a dollar and the short story allows people to set their own price. Which leaves my speculative fiction book. 

Lumber Of The Kuweakunks on Smashwords

You can conclude that I am not presently making 50k from this blip in the publishing world.
Or even $2000 a month from it.
So no, in answer to the question, I cannot call myself a working writer. 
Then again, my day job does not presently exist (thanks, Covid). ๐Ÿž Snookums is the breadwinner, and even that income stream is more creek than mighty Mississippi. But we're doing okay. I've actually lived on less than this in my life.

Does that mean I'm calling myself a hobbyist?
One day I might make far more. 
I do believe I'm going to need to publish more than four books for that to happen. 
I'll also need to work harder at promoting. 

(The Operation Awesome Team and I are working on a story about a certain book promotion opportunity right now. Is it worth it? Is it a scam? Find out in the coming weeks! YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS THAT!!!)

How much per month do you feel someone would need to earn to call themselves a "working writer"? 

Do you feel it's better to earn income to support one's writing, or to use writing income to support one's life?

Regular followers might know that I spent the weekend doing the last ever Young Adult Scavenger Hunt (#YASH). Guess what? I WON the purple round! Okay, good news shared. I hope you'll have some good news to share too.

I have half a dozen book reviews to write this month, so please drop by to check those out. Also, #WEP October Challenge for 2020 - GRAVE MISTAKE - on the 21st.


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

#IWSG Beta Partner Author


September 2 question - If you could choose one author, living or dead, to be your beta partner, who would it be and why?

The first thought I had was to define beta partner:

"Beta readers are, first and foremost, readers. They look at your manuscript as if it were a book they just took off the shelf and aim to answer the question “What did you think?” They are big-picture readers, focusing more on the feel of the manuscript than the nitty-gritty of grammar and phrasing."

"A beta reader is usually a test reader of an unreleased work of literature or other writing, who gives feedback from the point of view of an average reader to the author."

"A beta reader is a reader, usually one who reads in your genre and is a member of your target audience, who gives you feedback based on a reader's perspective, not a writer's perspective."

My next thought was to look at an Amazon list for books in the same selling category:

Best Sellers in New Adult & College Fantasy

Vampires, werewolf/shifters, witches, detectives, academy -- none of these will match well with what I've written.

David Estes seems promising. Though the Fatemarked series doesn't seem to be an urban fantasy.

Maybe I should look at what other categories Amazon has book 1 of my series in right now?

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: 

Well, that gives me some more options. (Though Fractions of Existence really isn't a Fairy Tale.)

I didn't write about teenage witches.

As usual, I don't feel like my series is similar enough to any other books in my categories.

So I'm going with an author that has a series I like. Though what we've written isn't overly similar, there's enough in common with our characters that I believe she'd "get" what I'm trying to do.

๐ŸŽ‰Victoria Aveyard is my answer for the September 2020 IWSG question of what author I would choose to be my beta partner. ๐Ÿ† (Especially for future books in my Existence series.)

The September Co-Hosts are:

Natalie Aguirre
Kim Lajevardi
Louise - Fundy Blue
Deniz Bevan
PJ Colando
J Lenni Dorner Hey, that's me! ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Much love to our leader:
Alex J. Cavanaugh

The Insecure Writer's Support Group Book Club group is reading this book in August/September. I've rarely seen my fellow Native Americans written well, so I'm somewhat curious about the book.

And don't forget that the IWSG Annual Anthology Contest closes today!
Genre: Science Fiction
Theme: Dark Matter
Submissions close on September 2, 2020

And if you have a query letter, check out Operation Awesome for #PassOrPages this month. Last one of 2020.
If you know a 2020 debut author, have them contact me. 10 interview spaces left this year!

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Writer Archetype #IWSG

I came across a post about Writer Archetype on the IWSG blog. Having been behind on posting on my blog this summer, I thought it would make a good post.

(Sorry about ghosting. ๐Ÿ‘ป Between deaths and near-deaths of people I know, and Snookums and I both being off from work for months on end, I've been AFK quite a bit more. Lots of outdoor adventures. Saved a life, prevented a forest fire, freaked out thinking my spouse had the Covid for two days (thankfully it wasn't that), and caught up with some family I normally only see in May. I wanted to post for WEP. I was working on a short story for the long-shadow prompt. It wasn't done in time. Maybe I'll turn it into a novella. We'll see. Hope you are all doing well.)

The first question of the Writer Archetype quiz stumped me. Who do I write for? This was what the elders agreed I am meant to do. But do I write for them? That doesn't feel true. I don't do it for money, that's for certain. Myself, my readers, my muse... I do love writing, so maybe I am doing it for myself. It feels great to have some readers who enjoy my work, but I don't think they're my main motivation. The characters might be my muse. One of them in the Existence series would certainly love that title. I guess that's the nearest to the truth.

I'm ashamed of myself for not being able to answer that I'm more prolific. It disappoints me to know that I don't write as often as I feel I should.

How detailed is my writing? To be honest, I'm not sure that I can be objective. I think I've infused a ton of detail into something, and then from reader feedback, discover that none of my clues came across. So maybe I don't use enough? On the other hand, I had to cut an entire scene from Fractions of Existence because it was weighed down with detail. I worked on that scene for three months with an editor, trying over and over, but no amount of verbs could solve the problem. I was trying to describe something that would stop the reader and make them question how this could exist, and then wonder why the character would do it. But trying to describe it at all took too many words. So there's a lot from the opening of the book that doesn't lock the reader into just how not human Xavier really is. The original was far less subtle.

Am I better at storytelling or research? I have no idea. I love them both. I would never want to be able to do only one.

Writer Archetype @JLenniDorner 50 percent teacher

A Teacher is a writer who, not surprisingly, writes to teach.  That feels true enough.

You are inundated by ideas - your own and other people's.  This makes sense, though it's really more my own ideas, not so much ones from others unless we count prompts. 

You are an outward-facing writer who would most likely not do your work if you didn't have readers.  This I'm not so sure about. 

You are great with starts, but struggle to finish.  You caught me.

If you're a Teacher, then you can stop trying to write highly personal essays that don't feel natural to you. That's not your strong suit.  I didn't think I did this, to be honest.

You are an idea person and sharing those ideas is where you blossom as a writer.  Okay. This explains why I volunteer at Operation Awesome and Blogging from A to Z. 

You need a system for capturing those ideas and sticking with one long enough to finish it. Try keeping an idea notebook and rewarding yourself for finishing one project by allowing yourself to explore another.  Just one notebook? My idea file has over three gigabytes!

There's an option to sign up for the Ninja Writers after taking the quiz. I'm not sure what they mean by the word "call," and I didn't see anything to click on to ask, so I didn't take the opportunity. Plus, it's on the weekends, which is when Snookums and I often have plans. It's unlikely that I'll spend $25 a month (or $250 a year) right now. I'm still kicking myself for the "The Writer's Treasure Chest Bundle" I bought from Scrivener Coach. It turned out to be one of those things that would have dazzled me five years ago, but now didn't give me nearly enough

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

#IWSG Genre Not of Choice


Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn’t planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

Yes. I entered the IWSG mystery anthology contest a few years back. My story didn't make it in. It has a mystery element, but it's not really as much of a mystery far as the genre goes. There is no detective. There is "magic." And there are missing children. (They aren't runaways and aren't hiding.) It's really more of an Urban Fantasy, even though I tried to make it be a mystery.

Anyway, that's why I put it on Smashwords with the option for people to pay whatever they'd like. (Including nothing.)

**Update - September 2020 - This post was scheduled. For whatever reason, it never actually posted. I didn't even notice until the September post rolled around. August really was THAT messed up. Sorry.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Internet Interactions of Interest 3

Internet Interactions of Interest @JLenniDorner
Nothing like a little murder to start the day. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Round Three of #PUSHunt called for something seen in the last image of this post:
Have you ever wondered how sex-trafficking happens, how children could become prostitutes, or why so many runaways end up on drugs and doing sex work? There's a lot to learn on this post.

Twitter accounts of those mentioned above (when possible) --


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Centralia PA Fire in the Metaphor for Native Americans

Straub's cartoon ( echoes this point:

"If a house is burning down, you're obviously going to focus on putting out the fire instead of watering a house that's just fine. In this analogy, black lives are the burning house, and everyone else is living much more comfortably in the house that isn't burning down. Clearly, one is a bigger problem.",_Pennsylvania

๐Ÿค” Everyone else?

I have no desire to start an argument.
I DO agree that Black Lives Matter.
And that house in the metaphor is definitely on fire right now and deserves help.

But I can't pretend that the neighborhood down the block with the Native Americans (let's call it Centralia), hasn't been on fire for 400 years.
We ask for fire trucks. They send gasoline tankers to spray more fuel. ๐Ÿ”ฅ
But I am not going to say "all houses matter," because that doesn't help either.
(There's almost no interest in putting out the Centralia fire.)

Maybe the Black Lives Matter movement will change things for other non-Caucasions.
That isn't the reason I support the movement.
But it'd be a nice side effect. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

#WEP #WEPFF Urban Nightmare #FlashFiction #Covid19 #PUSHunt Round 3

Hi! Please enjoy this flash fiction, which is fictional, meaning it is pretend and not real, just a story from the imagination. No real humans were harmed, or will be harmed, as a result, nor does this story aim to imply readers should take any action similar to that taken in this fictional story. (Even if you really, really, really want to.)

Fangs to Mars

Group Message:

Final three minutes. Everyone in place to reveal and demand, or to end if necessary?

Verifying replies streamed in.

Jordan sent a thumbs up, then shoved the phone away. "Sir, if you plan to issue a presidential pardon, we should act now."

Jordan's boss turned the volume up on the screen. "This execution is just peachy in my book. Get it? That's what I told my K man."

It took all the willpower in the world for Jordan not to end the life of this boss. Though, if no one interfered soon, killing him tonight was a possibility. The clock ticked away. Needles plunged down. Jordan's boss prematurely celebrated the inmate's death.

On the screen, the doctor leaned over, listening with a stethoscope. Jordan took a deep breath while silent rehearsing a final time. The inmate broke the restraints, sat up, and took the stethoscope.

"Refreshing, but not deadly. I haven't killed anyone in centuries. Doc, I suggest you move, as they're about to waste bullets." The prisoner eased off the table, pulling the iv's free as bullets rained down.

Jordan clapped. "Well done. As you can see, immortality is possible. You often refer to our kind as vampires. That's not entirely correct, but it's closer to the truth than most of your dribble."

"Excuse me?" Jordan's boss paled, resembling a melted orange cream pop.

Fangs extended from Jordan's mouth. "Our kind has lived alongside yours since the beginning. We have not revealed ourselves until now for two reasons. One, you have presented too much of a threat to our favorite food source. Covid-19 must be stopped, and we can do that. Which brings me to point two, we are going to colonize Mars."

Jordan's boss blinked several times before opening his eyes wide, no doubt ready to start a rant. Jordan, and much of the world, had seen that enough times.

"You can decline this generous offer." With one hand, Jordan pressed the boss's lips closed. "Just let me check my group message. Ah! The third-in-command has agreed already. You're no longer needed. Care for a forgotten last word?"

"Why come here? You know I don't negotiate with terrorists!"

Jordan laughed. "I have a gun and look like this. My odds of you negotiating were much higher than you claim. Maybe if I had a sign and were peacefully protesting, then you'd ignore me and say I am a terrorist. My kind has been plotting to end you for some time now. Tonight just sped up the date. You're welcome, world."

Group Message:

One is ended. Remove two. Proceed with three.

Annita replied that she received the message.

"Congratulations, Madam Speaker, you will be sworn in as the new leader within hours. Now, as I was saying, your country currently leads the world in Covid-19. We will start curing here. It's likely to cure other ailments as well."

"We will need to test it, to verify."

"Yes, of course. Now then, the trade-off for ending your urban nightmare because, let's be honest, the larger cities are being hit the hardest. We will require regular donations of A-negative blood. The prisoner who just survived gives you a plausible reason to tell people our kind exists. Or you can say it's used for the cure, which is also true. Say it's used as fuel to get to Mars if you want, we don't care. As long as our numbers are met."

"If they aren't met?"

"We are offering to save the lives of your species. Our cure ends this virus. It's just a matter of getting A-negative volunteers to become our food source. Their blood will keep us fed on the long journey to other worlds. Donated blood is only useful to humans for forty-two days, then the nitric oxide is too low for you. We're only asking for A-negative that's thirty days old. It's nearly expired anyway."

Annita's boss nodded. "Type O blood is more common. It would be easier to meet your needs."

"No." Annita slammed her fist on the desk, breaking the solid wood as easily as an eggshell. "Type A blood carriers are generally kind and compassionate. You'll see, they'll put the lives of others before their desire not to donate occasionally. And you'll compensate them. You want to have this deal in place within hours of taking office."

Annita had toed the line about the reason for the blood preference. The true reason was to prevent racist leaders from forcing people to donate. Unlike other types, the majority of people with A-negative blood were Caucasians. The last time Annita and her kind made a deal with human leaders, slavery happened. They had been trying to eradicate that ever since. An unending war spanning millenniums. Though, knowing who Jordan killed tonight, Annita felt that a battle to save many was about to be won.

"Sending you to Mars will take longer, you realize. Even if I'm sworn in tomorrow, as you say I will be, the space program will need a much higher budget."

Annita waved her hand. "We have a plan. We even have our kind training as astronauts. Don't worry, it's as simple as agreeing when we ask, and knowing that we do have your best interests in mind. We could have let Covid-19 end all of you."

"Yes. You mentioned our Armageddon. But not how you know, exactly."

"Madam, your kind based vampire lore around us. It's not entirely accurate. We don't mind the title though. We're also where psychics come from, though in our case, it's perfectly accurate. I can show you the end of your country, if you like. We've avoided it already, but I still have the memory." Annita reached to touch her boss's head.

The door burst open. "Madam Secretary, please come with us. We need to swear you in."

Annita smiled, moving her hand to her boss's shoulder instead and giving a reassuring squeeze. "Best of luck."

FCA: 990 words


HINT for Round Three:
There is a type of challenge mentioned at this address:
"Here's my ___ of books."

On THIS post, comment if you've done ROUND TWO.
Round Four will be on uniquelymaladjustedbutfun next week.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Dude, Cat, and Gender-Neutral Pronouns

I have never watched Tiger King. The phrase, "Hey all you crazy cats and kittens," I know from a DJ in the 80s. "Dude," I heard in the 90s as a reference to everyone. Also as an expression of extreme emotion. (An intense thing would happen, someone would say, "Duuuudddeeeeee." And others would nod in agreement. It was the equivalent of 'wow.')

Offline, I have never been accidentally misgendered. (Though I cannot explain gym teachers who believe all students are female. I had detention more than once for inquiring about that.) Online, several people have misgendered me, or changed my name to a feminine sounding one. I always ask how the conclusion was drawn, seeking to learn what is so vastly different about my offline /online person. (Other than my physical appearance.)

Today I watched a YouTube video. IllWillPress is often adult, and frequently straight to the point. This time there was a small side-step in the video to get to the intrigue.

I have used the word dude in my writing.

As you can see, one character likes the word more than the other does. (Fractions of Existence is set mostly in 2005.)

What does that word mean and is it gender-neutral?

The Internet seems torn on the issue. This article didn't clear it up, but was interesting.

Is dude gender-neutral now? Would cats be a better term? Is there another one-syllable word gaining popularity? What are your thoughts?

It's Pride month, and to honor that we should all make an effort to be better to each other.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Internet Interactions of Interest 2

Intriguing stuff from around the Internet I've encountered lately:

It'd be crazy to start off with a link to something I wrote, right? So I'm gonna do that. #BlackLivesMatter If you're looking for a few debut authors of color to read and support, there you go.

My ego isn't going back in the box. So here's a link to a blog post where I'm mentioned!

Here's an excerpt I enjoyed. 
"What keeps me interested in reading other people’s blogs?
Well, for me, I like reality. I like people who are being real and honest. They admit when they have a bad day. They celebrate the good days." -

That was awesome. I can't explain it, but the humor got me.

It's great around 2:15 when the cats win. WriteClub is in the Cage Bout rounds!

Twitter of some of those listed above:
@OpAwesome6,@cleemckenzie, @JRVincente, @nivixious @JosephJMiccolis, @DL_H

Thursday, June 4, 2020

PUSH - Prompts Unity Scavenger Hunt #PUSHunt - For Creative People Who Like to Play

We want to play PUSH.

PUSH - Prompts Unity Scavenger Hunt #PUSHunt for creative people who like to play

This blog post is for people who have signed up! 

No clue what I mean? Click the link above!

How often do you want prompts? Daily? Monday, Wednesday, and Friday? Twice a week? Once a week? (The co-hosts will consider the votes when determining how often new rounds will begin.) State that you have signed up on the form and are ready to play. Then state your name, whatever one you used on the form.

  • How many rounds you want per week & any preferred days.
  • I have signed up on the form and am ready to play.
  • The name you used on the form.
Don't forget to finish filling out the form! 

Your first hint is the favorite color found at this link =

Remember, you won't verify that you've used the Scavenger Hunt hint on this post. 
Jamie will have Round Two on her blog on Monday, June 8, 2020. 
(Depending on when you read this, you've got several days to come up with something!)

Hints will not always be colors, nor will they always be this easy. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Writer Secrets #IWSG


June 3 question - Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?

I doubt that anyone reading my books would know that I learned weaving at an early age. Granted, the image above doesn't look that impressive. But I did this with some very crappy string and used corn husks for the letters. Have you ever tried to weave with corn husks? It'd look better if I had some yarn or something to hold it all in place. But I worked with what I found.

Readers may or may not know that I was actually born in the Virginville area of Pennsylvania. That's a roadsign for the exit because some of you think I made the place name up. "Come on, J! Next you'll tell me that Virginville is near Intercourse."

Pennsylvania Amish Country has some interesting names for places

I certainly wouldn't want you to think that all the names of places in this area sound like innuendos... ๐Ÿ˜†

I was born in a very hot month, so it probably was August. My birth parents aren't so great with calendars. And now that you've all been living the quarantine life and don't know what day it is, maybe that finally doesn't sound so weird. (Normally people look at me like ๐Ÿคจ this. "How would anyone NOT know what day it is?") The birthday written on an official form (years later) was just that day's date and the year was an educated guess.

*Update- It has since been proven that many of the violent forms of protest were started by white supremacist groups and people paid to make the peaceful protestors look unsympathetic. So it's even more messed up.

How did May treat you? Did you manage to avoid getting the virus? Have you, like me, lost anyone to Covid-19? Are there any innuendo place names in your area? Do any campaigning against violence and systemic racism?

Saturday, May 30, 2020

#BookReview Van Helsing Academy by @StaceyONeale #SFF #Vampires #Shifters #Witches #YA

Review of:
Van Helsing Academy (YA Supernatural Rehab Book 1) by Stacey O'Neale

5 star rating image on the blog of @JLenniDorner

It's so nice to take a break from the world and enjoy a good book. Of course, the world has been pushing back - HARD- so it took me longer than usual to get to finish reading this book, and then my attempts to write the review were delayed by over a week. ๐Ÿ˜– 2020 man... I've known actual bears who were nicer.
emoji humor
Okay. Now that I've had a good laugh, on with the review!

This book was fun to read. I was a little confused at first as to what the Van Helsing Academy was, but I'm pretty sure it's like a juvenile detention facility for vampires, shifters, witches, and the occasional human teenager who works as a Protector of the Covenant (or Reaper). I'm not positive of the exact ages of those serving there, but it seems to be teenagers or teen-equivalent. A pleasant educational experience instead of more traditional punishment. That might seem lenient until you find out that most of the students there are innocent. (It's a place one is "sentenced to" rather than a place you "apply for the opportunity to attend." Though, 20% in, the main character states that the place is not a prison, so that point has been driven home.)

I would recommend this book who enjoy Young Adult speculative fiction/ urban fantasy with a bit of mystery and a touch of paranormal romance. I enjoy reading these types of books, especially as I am a speculative fiction author. The Oglala Lakota tribe is mentioned in the story in a fairly positive light, and I appreciate that.

The main character has her ankles shackled and hands cuffed behind her back, a practice outlawed in some real-world areas, which showed me how harshly they treat even juvenile offenders prior to a hearing.

One of my favorite parts in the book reminds me of a scene in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You. (The roommate jokingly asks if the MC has killed anyone today. The MC says she hasn't but that there's still time. In the 10 Things movie, the dad asks if Kat made anyone cry today, and Kat responds that she hasn't but it's only 4:30.)

At 74% in, I honestly thought someone else would turn out to be the villain, based mostly on who mentions the use of wall chains the most, but I was wrong. I kept turning the pages because there are two mysteries at play- the one that's obvious from the start and one that comes out later. (I'm excited for book two because of that second mystery.)

I love how the book included a discussion of the different types of attraction. The book has a really great cover that certainly matches the story. The title obviously works well. Some nudity and intimacy is woven into the book, but it's on par with other YA novels. I didn't find any editing mishaps.

Not judging others without getting to know them feels like the theme of this book. I imagine Kiera was the most fun character for the author. The order of everything in the story makes sense, and each scene had a good cause and effect to roll to the next. I could relate to being punished when I hadn't broken a rule. The setting sounds like such a beautiful place, which is such a contrast to real-life juvenile rehabilitation detention centers, it really cemented how different the academy is meant to be.

Characters who love pink = Van Helsing Academy by @StaceyONeale and Fractions of Existence by @JLenniDorner * Pepto Bismol

The character Kiera reminded me of my spouse, based on the enthusiasm for helping a relationship bloom; but also reminded me of my Existence character Jez thanks to a mutual love of pink decor. The descriptions of Sacha remind me of my descriptions of my Existence character Heath. (Our books don't have much in common beyond supernatural characters. Yet somehow, it reminds me of my fictional people! This is part of why I loved the book so much.)

It holds a mirror up to society in that there are real-life people who have been punished for crimes they didn't commit, for wrongs that aren't really their fault. I bet this flame will be fanned in the second book, and I'm looking forward to that.

I've been on Stacey's Squad for several years, and love that her newsletter comes to me on Goodreads. That is how I received a free copy to read and review honestly.

Book Two is coming August 25! It's on my Amazon Wishlist.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

How would you describe a fluid character look #writetip #writingcommunity #writingquestion

I'm in a discussion about the look of a certain character. The villain would be good-looking if not for their evil choices. To me, this makes sense. I've met people who could be good-looking, but they've done so many horrible things that it shows on them. Maybe it's more of a feeling, something in your instincts that keep you from feeling attraction. Except actors can do it.

Here's a good-looking James McAvoy.

(Wikimedia Commons
File: James McAvoy by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg - Wikimedia Commons - Labeled free for reuse)

Is it the hair?
 Nope. Still goodlooking.

Ah! Now we're getting somewhere. This guy isn't good-looking.

Hollywood does it with women too. I could drop examples all day long.

But how does a writer describe this? Without referencing movies or actors. Someone who has pleasing facial features, but there's something that keeps them from being good-looking. Some darkness in the eyes, the way they move their face, there's just something.

Or, do only a few people see what I'm talking about?

Have you ever looked at a picture of someone from history and thought, "Wow, that person is incredibly good-looking," and then found out they did something deplorable? Or do you see the pictures and think, "This person is almost good-looking, but there's something keeping me from feeling attracted or recognizing the beauty"?

This blog post is a two-part question.

1) Do you recognize evil in someone when you see it, and find it unattractive?
2) How would you describe that? 

Original: ~ One of the captors who held the girl's chains, a young man who would be quite desirable if not for his villainous choices, chuckled at the question. ~

Improved attempt 1: ~ One of the captors who held the girl's chains, a young man who was handsome behind his aura of evil, chuckled at the question. ~

Improved attempt 2: ~ One of the captors who held the girl's chains, an almost desirable young man if not for the hatred radiating from his grin, chuckled at the question. ~

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Words Matter #pandemic

3 died. 300 died. 30,000 died.

For some psychological reason, people don't feel a connection to numbers. Hearing a number died doesn't break most people. 8,675,309 people could die and there would be a Forest Gump meme with him crying "Jenny, no! Not Jenny! Why?" That would be over eight million dead people and it would be met with a meme.

What if the news were required to have each name and a dozen words about the person, for each person that died that day?

"Virginia Mathew. A school teacher of twenty years, best known for her lemon bars."
"Timothy Smith. Purpleheart recipient, 1973. Manager of a sports equipment store. Adopted ten dogs."
"Robert Bigname. The inventor of the whisper toilet seat. Volunteered at two homeless shelters."
"Jane Miller. Children's book author. Crocheted blankets that won blue ribbons at seven fairs."
"Baby Girl Jones. Three hours old. Weighed six pounds, three ounces. Nineteen inches. Blue eyes."
"Alex Sturn. State spelling bee champion. Third place in the second-grade talent show."

What would happen if every day we read those words instead of "90 cases dead from Covid-19 in this state today"? What if you saw a name that almost matched yours? Someone who did your job? Someone who sounded like one of your loved ones?

Imagine those numbers attached to names.

It's not difficult for those of us who have lost loved ones to this to think this way.


Thursday, May 21, 2020

Internet Interactions of Interest 1

Stuff from around the Internet I've encountered lately:

This post made me think about my goals again.

I was peer-pressured into doing this.

As a writer, I find this knowledge valuable.

Here's a writer shaving her head. She has other videos about walking, motivation, and YouTube. But, since I haven't seen a lot of people shave their heads because hair can clog a drain and the pandemic makes calling a plumber a bad idea ๐Ÿ˜–, I thought I'd share this gem.

New Team Member at Operation Awesome! Please go over and say hello. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

A free book! I reviewed it on Goodreads and BookBub.

And WRiTECLUB 2020 is still going on. There are chances to win giftcards for voting. You should check it out.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

You Beneath Your Skin #BookReview #WeNeedDiverseBooks #DebutAuthor #boutofbooks

#BookReview #WeNeedDiverseBooks #DebutAuthor

5 star rating image on the blog of @JLenniDorner

YOU BENEATH YOUR SKIN by Damyanti Biswas
A Gripping Urban Contemporary Crime Novel

This book is flawless. You should read it to open your eyes. (But you probably shouldn't read it before bed. Okay, I shouldn't have read it before bed - you do you.)

It's more than a crime novel, though there is a "whodunnit" mystery to be solved. You Beneath Your Skin is also about relationships, families, secrets we keep and the impact they have, how we see ourselves, and a lesson in knowing people as they are instead of who we think they are or should be. This story gives a lot.

It also takes a lot. Strong trigger warning for the first-hand account of violence suffered by the main character. The monsters in this book are terrifying because all of the horrible events on these pages actually happen in real life all the time. There is violence against women, mentions of abuse, investigations of rape and murder, sex-trafficking type forced prostitution, drugs, corruption, and even a dead puppy.  This is not a relaxing read. If you're looking to escape, this book will give you no pardon. And just when you think the author has dropped as many horrors as one book can take, she throws you another curveball. There are some happy scenes, there is some romance, there's even a happily-ever-after of sorts-- but make no mistake, this is not a happy book. I daresay even Stephen King would have nightmares. It is that well-written.

The book also has some excellent feminism (or equalism). For example, a character points out that she pays taxes (which fund public services, such as the police), yet she is supposed to stay home every night, something men are not cautioned to do.

You Beneath Your Skin #excerpt #feminism #equalism

This book was added to my TBR after I interviewed the author for the Operation Awesome blog's Debut Author Spotlight. We have followed each other's blogs for years. I knew she was an activist who makes a positive difference in this world. My review is unrelated to this. I bought a copy in April. I hope there will be more novels by Damyanti Biswas for me to read someday.

You Beneath Your Skin - Purchased on Amazon on April 3, 2020 @JLenniDorner

The protagonist and (eventually revealed) antagonist both hold a parent responsible for a negative impact on their lives. That's how good writing works, the related inner conflict of the opposing characters. And, like any good HEA, the protagonist forgives and overcomes, but the antagonist is anchored down by it. The antagonist believes if a parent has done something wrong, it's a free pass to do wrong as well.

I do not read many crime, true crime, or mystery books. I also do not read many books where there is another language slipped in every so often. (My e-reader failed most of the translations. A lot of it was poetry. There was nearly always enough context to get the idea of the meaning.) The language inclusion made it feel more real, more like India (a country with amazing diversity). By chapter 24, 42% into the book, I had figured out who planned the crime against the protagonist, but I was wrong about who executed it, and was slightly wrong about the motive. (This is why I don't read a lot of mystery books - I've deconstructed so many of them that I tend to figure out the antagonist before the halfway mark.) The end of chapter 28 made me think I was wrong about who the main antagonist was, but really I was more wrong about the exact motive.

Picking my favorite excerpts without spoilers is difficult. There's part of a line from early in the book, a setting description, that I really enjoyed. A character wishes to update a place, "more software, fewer files lost or chewed up by termites." It's so much more descriptive than just calling the place old and run down. I love it.

You Beneath Your Skin excerpt #setting

Another part I love was the advice to be like a boat that cannot sink unless there is a leak.
You Beneath Your Skin #excerpt

Chapter 45 has an incredible twist and profound words. I cannot share that excerpt because it's packed with spoilers, but it's amazing. The title of the book makes perfect sense by that point. "One splash of acid had changed so many lives." That line from the book is a tagline for the whole story.

This book is a tragedy, realistic fiction, is probably controversial to some people. There are plot twists. It's absolutely chilling, scary, haunting, thrilling, action-packed, and fast-paced. The author comes off as an authority on the subject who has done intense research. You Beneath Your Skin is diverse in that it's set in India with characters of various backgrounds (including partially white-American) religions and economic status, and also has a character on the Autism spectrum. There is a lot of compassion written into the scenes that detail a level of poverty most people cannot imagine. It is listed in the genres of Asian American Literature and Asian Literature.

I learned some Indian culture from this book (and Google). I had never heard of a police Sumo (it's a type of vehicle), and I have never seen a tea stand (and they say the number of Starbucks in the United States is too high?!?). I had never heard of someone biting on tissues, putting a tissue into the mouth. (That seems like it would stick and breakdown.) Before reading this book, I never thought about who pays the bill in India for the medical cost of an acid attack. (So odd that criminals are rarely required to incur the medical costs of their crimes.)

You Beneath Your Skin #healthcare note

I also learned that "azaan" is the Muslim call for prayer, a word I hadn't learned before. The end of chapter 36 used the term "beda garak," which I'm guessing is the name of a skin condition, but I couldn't find anything on Google.

Something that blew my mind was a character recalling giving a drop of honey to a newborn. Honey can cause infantile botulism and botulism toxicity, so it's amazing to me that such a practice would and could still go on today.

You Beneath Your Skin #note
A rare line from the book that has a different meaning in an American dialect. "All but covered her eyes" would be sunglasses that are too small, "covered all but her eyes" would be the medical outfit worn in the scene.

The book opens with an action scene. It draws you in with questions about that scene, and then anchors you with characters to care about before the predominant crime takes place. The third paragraph of chapter 53 had a wonderful example of a secondary character changing, becoming enlightened, and getting on the path to becoming a better person. Well-done. A lot of this book was hard for me to read because it was so powerful, so impactful, so real and so reminiscent of bad memories; yet it was worth it and I'm glad I read it.

Have you ever read a book that was difficult, emotionally, to get through?

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

#IWSG Writing Rituals

May 6 question - Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? Care to share?


I wrote a post about a book last month. It not only gets writers past "block," but also suggests some rituals. So, if anyone is struggling with the question, maybe check that out.

I like to have a cup of coffee and reread the last scene I wrote, then check any notes I have for what I'm about to write, then get to it. Lately I've also had to hang a little sign stating I'm writing so my Snookums doesn't interrupt as much. #QuarantineLife

meme #quote This life is a limited time offer

Sunday, May 3, 2020

#atozchallenge Reflection

Reflection #atozchallenge 2020

I enjoyed this year's challenge. My theme was my author brand, which forced me to think about what that means. It was the most challenging theme I've undertaken yet, but it was worth it.

Also, during the challenge this year, I published a book, was interviewed, won the WEP flash fiction challenge, and went to every blog on the Master List.

Here's what I know from my Master List blog hopping:
  • 1- All letters in 1 post ๐Ÿ˜ฎ
  • 2- Closed to comments ๐Ÿ˜–
  • 2- Blogs that signed up using the example site instead of their own blog. ๐Ÿ˜•
  • 4- Blogs that went to their dashboard (where blogs are written) instead of to their actual blog ๐Ÿ˜”
  • 6- Duplicate blogs ๐Ÿ˜ฌ
  • 6- Blogs with a duplicate HyperText Transfer Protocol -- had "http//" instead of "http://" -- making it look like there was no blog because the colon was missing (fixable if you noticed it in the address bar
    Missing colon, two HTTP HyperText Transfer Protocol.
  • 14- Couldn't comment on the blog itself (errors, "sign-in" required, etc) ๐Ÿ˜ญ
  • 92 - Signed up but didn't post ๐Ÿ˜ฐ

If you can't find your comment from me, and you're on the Master List, PLEASE let me know.

@JlenniDorner April 2020 blog stats
April 2020 Blog Stats



J Lenni Dorner~ Co-host of the #AtoZchallenge, Debut Author Interviewer, Reference& Speculative Fiction Author

The story is the ebook version on Smashwords!
Set your own price!
(Including free.)

#AtoZChallenge 2020 badge
How was your April blogging experience?

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Zero Lies #atozchallenge

#AtoZChallenge 2020 badge

Thursdays this month are going to be about me. If you use Facebook, you've probably seen survey posts where people get to know each other. I'm going to fill out one a week for April.

#AtoZChallenge 2020 Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter Z

This one is called Zero Lies.

1. Have you had a zero-calorie soda? I don't think so ๐Ÿคท
2. Last time you went to the zoo? It's been a few years
3. What would you do if you had a zillion dollars? That's not a real amount, but I'd really mess things up for those who oppress people, and almost certainly would get assassinated for my world-changes. Worth it.
4. Favorite zesty food? I am not a good cook, especially indoors. But here are two zesty recipes that Snookums (a chef) said sounded fine.

  • Zesty Duck - Duck, lemon, orange, thyme. Zest fruit and add thyme, slide mix under duck skin. Put more on skin. Marinate in fridge overnight. bring to room temperature before grilling for about ten minutes. (Duck is red meat, especially for cooking purposes, so medium to medium-well is done.)
  • Zesty Peaches and Cream Tart - Thinly slice peaches. Add zest and juice of a lime and 2 spoonfuls of sugar. Cover and chill for up to two hours. Heat oven 400℉. Create an 11x9 inch puff pastry, score the edge, poke holes, put on a baking sheet. Brush with some heavy cream, sprinkle with sugar. Bake until puffy and brown (15 mins). Beat 3oz of cream cheese, 3 tablespoons of sour cream, and 1 tablespoon of sugar together. Add ½ cup heavy cream and beat until thickened. Spread on puff tart. Top with the peaches and a little more lime zest.

5. Zero pineapple on pizza or lots of it? ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ• Bring on the pineapple pizza.
6. Have you ever pretend a zucchini was a phallus? ๐Ÿ˜ณ Well, it'd make more sense than an eggplant. ๐Ÿ†
7. How would you handle a zombie apocalypse? I'd move back into the woods and survive just fine. #DarylDixon
8. Did you ever get a zero on a test? Yes. The teacher hated me. I knew all the answers, as was later proven, but was being given zeroes as punishments for alleged infractions.
9. Do you know anyone who has been zapped by lightning? Yes.
10. For Ziplock-type plastic sandwich bags, do you prefer a slider, two-colors mix, clear press-n-seal, or fold over? I don't care. Slider, I guess.

*Note: Never answer questions that lead to your password or SECURITY QUESTIONS.

And that's it! Another year of the challenge is complete. Thanks for hopping to my blog. Now... what should I do for May?

#AtoZChallenge 2020 badge