Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Are Digital Books Changing Reading?

I grew up on hard-covered books of printed paper and have a library of probably close to a thousand books today, but I'm also in the process of sorting them out and getting rid of some. Most of those are non-fiction books, although I do have some classic fiction books too. Most of my reading today is done on my Kindle. I'm on my second one.

I like Kindle. They came on the market in 2007 and I bought my first one in 2012. Since then, the majority of my fiction reading has been on that device. I had been reading e-books on my computer almost since they first became available. I love my Kindle for reading fiction because it is less bulky than a paper book. I read in bed at night, and it is lighter than most books and the pages are easier to turn with the touch of my thumb. I can stick my Kindle in my purse and take it with me, and it has thirty books on it right now. I can add more or remove them from the device. I also like that I can search a book to find a certain passage, and can hit the back arrow to get back to where I started. E-books also open to the last page read, another feature I enjoy.
How reading has changed! Yet I still like certain books in paper form, especially those with images.

It is a well-document fact that reading fiction changes readers, opens their minds to new ideas, helps them develop empathy, new knowledge, increases vocabulary, and in general accomplishes many mental feats. All good things; but has device reading degraded this?

Today anyone can read novels on computers, reading devices, or almost any mobile device. Some are wondering if these devices are changing how people read and what they read, and how this has affected writing fiction. During a National Public Radio Morning Edition interview with author Lev Grossman, back in 2009 shortly after many reading devices became available, he wondered about readers not having to handle the pages of a book, turning and savoring them. He said digital reading was “Very forward-moving, very fast narrative ... and likewise, you don't tend to linger on the language. When you are seeing a word or a sentence on the screen, you tend to go through it, you extract the data, and you move on."  That was nine years ago. Now awareness is emerging of the short attention span those who constantly use digital devices have.

Since the invasion of mobile devices, others worry about user distraction and the devices being more important than talking with the person they are with. I think the dangers of device addiction are known and people are beginning to at least wean their children off their devices, but maybe not themselves.

Does faster reading mean less comprehension or appreciation for what is written? Does it mean readers are not receiving the benefits of reading given from print copies? How must authors change their writing to adapt to this development?

I think it probably depends on the genre of fiction I am reading. When reading literary fiction, admittedly not one of my favorite genres, where what is stated and what is implied is so very important, I might like print form better. However, I have discovered digital hasn’t changed my enjoyment or anything else in reading and allows me to become deeper involved in the story even if I have to leave it frequently and pick up where I left off later.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

When I Began Writing

I've always been a voracious reader since age seven, but I never thought about writing until thirty years later. 

An employer asked my husband to move to Colorado Springs, but within six months my husband had changed to a job in St. Louis. Our children were in the middle of a school year, and we had a rental agreement in place, so the kids and I stayed in Colorado for six months.

I spent many days alone while the children were at school and evenings while they were doing homework, or watching TV, or getting ready for bed, and I found the millionaires (now billionaires) falling in love stories I bought bored me. They all seemed to have the same plot and characters with different names. 

So I began thinking about what could be different and what might interest me, and since we had one of the early Trash 80 computers, I began writing to entertain myself. It was about two teenagers, Gina and Wade, who for some reason I can't remember drove to Las Vegas after their prom, which wasn't too far away. They woke up hungover and returned home and split up only to meet again several years later to discover they were married. I know: another father didn't know about his childhood story. They were not so common then. Whatever I wrote was lost with time, but with a new and better computer, I started writing again when we moved to Missouri. It was then I discovered I wasn't interested in contemporary romance but in fantasy. Before that story was finished, I started a science fiction novel. 

These remained only on my computer. I did send one out but got a rejection. After going back and reading what I sent in, I found that was only a just judgment as the manuscript was full of mechanical mistakes and plot errors. I rewrote it several more times before sending it out again. Wings e-Press accepted it.

I have discovered I write for the pleasure of writing, of creating an alternate world, and I'm not concerned about mega-sales, just ones that please those who read them.

Please visit the following authors for their comments on how they began writing:

Connie Vines
Victoria Chatham 
Skye Taylor
Judith Copek
Dr. Bob Rich
Beverley Bateman
A.J. Maguire 
Fiona McGier

Margaret Fieland 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

We, the Jury -- Robert Rotstein

Perfect 10
Blackstone Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-5384-4090-2
October 2018

Sepulveda, California – The Present

WE THE JURY is told from fourteen viewpoints during a jury’s deliberation of a murder trial. Each chapter tells a viewpoint from the judge, the prosecuting attorney, the husband and paralegal of the defending attorney, the courtroom clerk, the bailiff, a blogger, or from one of the eight members of the jury. This approach is very different but riveting. The reader learns about the defendant, David Sullinger, through varying jury member’s interpretations of court testimony on how and why he murdered his wife. Also exposed are their son Dillon, age 16, and daughter Lacey, age 17, who testify for or against their father. To complicate the issue, David’s wife Amanda was his former high school teacher and the family breadwinner. David’s expensive defense lawyer, Jenna Blaylock, has presented her client as an abused spouse who defended himself. The local prosecuting attorney, Jack Cranston, is shown through these viewpoints as Blaylock’s opposite: unattractive, unfashionable, stumbling over his words, and apparently inept. The jury begins deliberations ready to acquit.

What emerges is a ‘is he guilty or innocent?’ debate, but through a very convoluted set of narratives. Each juror bases their interpretation of facts on their own thoughts and beliefs about what they saw or heard, or remembered or not, in court. The eight jurors come from different social experiences and mindsets with accompanying prejudices. They sort truth, misconception, deliberate deception, and lies based on the testimony and evidence presented to deliver the verdict. Some jurors have personal motivations behind their convictions. The jury’s diversity emerges from the epithets given: the Foreperson, the Architect, the Housewife, the Grandmother, the Student, and the Jury Consultant, all women; and the two men jurors, the Clergyman and the Express Messenger/Actor. Each viewpoint gives a very different assessment of what is happening in the deliberation process. Outside the courthouse, a very determined, quasi-journalist/blogger is presenting her own agenda about the defendant and trial.

In the meantime, a reader becomes aware of the two attorneys and their mindsets about truth, lies, and justice. The presiding judge has just lost her beloved husband and leaves the reader wondering if this has impaired her judgement. The dedicated and concerned courtroom clerk and bailiff help keep the judge in order and the process moving, but have concerns.

All of this shows how society and courtrooms blend in determining guilt or innocence. The author, who has a law degree, also plays the reader very effectively, taking them on a bumpy journey of belief/disbelief about innocence and guilt, but he also gives a complex view of how the justice system works, and how it also can be played. Few readers will foresee the very unexpected ending.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

A Second Excerpt from Home World Reax

Jencet, the assistant and bodyguard to the Primus of Reax's government, has been assigned the duty to track down the escapee-traitor of the genetically defined genomes of Reax's Houses. It is not a duty he relishes but he is determined to find the renegade Maera and bring her back to Reax where she owes an obligated duty.
“Eagle now Raven Jencet, it is a pleasure to have you visit our domicile.”

“Likewise, it is my privilege, Falcon Leader Duvan.”

“As I believe private government business brought you here, I will take you to my office.” Duvan did not lead him down the staircase, but along a front corridor to its very end where an elegantly embossed copper door faced them. A sentry at a desk looked at Jencet with suspicion. Duvan ordered his officer to bring beverages and food to his office.

The spacious office contained a beautiful circular view that drew Jencet to the window. Downward and to the right, a river curled between two cliffs far below the office. Even from this height, Jencet saw the white ripples of fast-moving water and the native vegetation lining the cliff face. The first settlers labeled the native plants ferns. He knew these ferns something far different, poisonous, and dangerous, but Reax valued them for the products they made. Earth native species had escaped cultivation and now grew in Reax’s wilds.

He contemplated the fact that not only had humans changed Reax, but also other life forms. In turn, Reax changed them. A view of the Essence City stretched across the land further to the left. The Luminary Edifice towered at its center. Jencet enjoyed the rare combination of wild Reax and disciplined genome structure provided in the view.

He stood in front of the window for several minutes with Duvan next to him. Finally, he said, “Magnificent.”

“Yes, it is, thank you. Take a seat and tell me your business.”

Once seated, Jencet began. “You had a tyro name Maera nine years ago.”

Duvan kept any surprise or affront from his expression, but Jencet noticed the leader’s brief hesitation.

“Yes. She failed her Engagement.”

“Can you tell me about her?”

“First, why?” Duvan asked.

“With your permission?” Jencet indicated the wall screen. Duvan nodded and pressed a
connection. From his connex, Jencet pulled up the image on the wall screen showing the United Planets envoy’s visit in the Genome Chamber from several years ago. “Do you recognize the woman behind the envoy?”

At first, Duvan had no reaction, and then he could not disguise his shock. His eyes widened in an intense stare of utter astonishment at the image. He blinked several times before he resumed his calm Falcon bearing. “It is her. How is that possible?”

“For security reasons, you must not reveal the information I am giving you.”

Duvan gave the Air Realm’s sign of promise and trust. “Of course.”

“Information brought to Dominion Primus Dakeene predicted not all tyros gone missing from Engagement died.”

“They either died or the Incarnates stole and subverted them,” Duvan said in a very implacable constabulary tone.

Jencet, against Raven teaching, felt his lips twitch. “In most instances, usually the first, and in the more recent past, the second, yes, but in certain instances some thought a few tyros left before initial Engagement, choosing not to come back. Maera proved their theory.”

Duvan shook his head still staring at the screen. “I attended that day in the Genome Chamber. I remember seeing the envoy and her entourage. I ignored the officer as just another Alliance assistant to the envoy. Believing Maera dead, I never looked for her among the staff. I swear I did not know. How…?”

“From United Planets records, I have received this information. She changed her name to Maera Lacklan, supposedly one of their war displaced, and became an Alliance citizen.”

“I will find and kill her,” Duvan said, unexpected anger filling his face.

“No, you will not. I will find her and bring her back to Dakeene’s justice.”

The Falcon Leader head shook in disbelief, and then looked at Jencet in near apology. “She has brought embarrassment to her House. Again.” He studied the screen. “Is she wearing a  uniform? Something else I did not notice at the time.” His admission seemed to mortify the Falcon Leader. He gave Jencet a swift glance. “At that time, Tyb remained Falcon Leader, and I seldom approached her. I only saw her from my seat in the chamber, but hindsight shows I might need to hone my Falcon training.”

“She was an officer in the Alliance Rangers, but does not wear a dress uniform, probably a deliberate dress-down, perhaps at the envoy’s request. I’m sure they didn’t want to present a militaristic presence. Nor does she wear all her badges and honors. However, I also know she earned some of those later. According to the records I discovered, she became a highly decorated officer of numerous engagements in the recently ended Khajari War. She also received degrees from two prestigious universities on Earth with very high scores.” He brought up copies of the degrees to the screen.

Duvan leaned back into his seat, his visage never leaving the screen’s view. “One degree in military science and another in mathematics? Who would have thought…?” The anger left his frame, and Jencet recognized the man’s new introspective, almost cunning, resolve. With another fast glance his way, Jencet saw Duvan considered the situation’s possibilities. “She became very successful.” Settling comfortably back in his chair, he gave Jencet a cool look. “What do you need to know?”