Archives for category: Life

6.16.17.ALEXAS.FAN.1

From Goodreads came the first review of One Day in the Life of Alexa:
One Day in the Life of Alexa
, by Lisa Mason (Bast Books) incorporates lively prose, past/present time jumps, and the consequences of longevity technology. Kosovo refugee Alexa enrolls in a secret pilot program designed to extend her life span. Her best friend, Marya, is not accepted, but Marya’s infant aka “Little Monster” is. As the decades roll by, Alexa adapts to a life of constant measurement and surveillance. [Plot spoilers omitted] In reflection, the book is as much about the enduring trauma of war as it is about longevity technology, and in this it feels more like mainstream than science fiction. Mason’s skill as a writer sustains a quick, absorbing read with an appealing narrator and subtly powerful emotional rhythms (like the repeated refrain, “No matter how long I live, I will always remember this”)
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35200314-one-day-in-the-life-of-alexa#other_reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Lisa Mason doesn’t disappoint us on that issue and gives us a look …
By R Bruce Miller on October 1, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
“Scifi is nominally about the future and the impact of technology on society. Lisa Mason doesn’t disappoint us on that issue and gives us a look at a desirable biotechnology with some serious long-term and unforeseen consequences. However, like all the truly great scifi writers, what she really writes about is you and me and today and what is really important in life. Alexa lives an improbable life and yet, somehow, is a very real everywoman. Solzhenitsyn would have appreciated the homage. Cats! Grow your own organic food! Yes, there is much fun to be had on this journey, but the message nonetheless is solid and important. I enjoyed every word even though this book spoiled my day because I had no choice but to read it in one sitting while drinking too much coffee.”
And here’s another five-star review, and then I’ll let you decide:
“[Alexa] finds her internal resource that allows her to survive many more days in a much more uplifting manner than poor Ivan Denisovich. Discovering where her strengths [lie] is not depressing but uplifting for this reader.” On US Kindle https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0711PP65J
“I truly loved Alexa. The homage to Solzhenitsyn was wonderfully well done. Your concept and characters were on the mark and very timely. Bravo!”
Book Description:
Alexa Denisovitch
, a refugee from Kosovo during the 1999 war, is just seventeen when she is accepted by GenGineer Laboratories as a Tester for Longeva, a revolutionary additive that may significantly extend her longevity.
But becoming a Tester has unintended consequences and Longeva causes devastating unforeseen side effects.
Confronting environmental, political, and personal perils of the future, Alexa must grapple with the tough questions of life, love, and death.
So there you have it, my friends. The novel is short, but I took a long time researching and writing it.
One Day in the Life of Alexa is in Print in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and Japan.
Now an ebook on BarnesandNoble, Kobo, Apple, and Smashwords!
One Day in the Life of Alexa is also offered as a Kindle ebook at US Kindle, UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, France Kindle, Germany Kindle, Italy Kindle, Netherlands Kindle, Spain Kindle, Brazil Kindle, Mexico Kindle, India Kindle, and Japan Kindle.
Join my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=23011206 and help me while I recover from the Attack. I’ve posted delightful new stories, previously published stories, book excerpts, movie critiques and recommendations, and more exclusively for my patrons.
Visit me at www.lisamason.com for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, worldwide links, beautiful covers, reviews, interviews, blogs, round-tables, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, and more!

A couple—a man and a woman—moved into our neighborhood maybe ten months ago. Tom saw the man at the Big Market yesterday. The man told Tom he wasn’t living in the neighborhood anymore. He and the woman had broken up. Actually, he told Tom she’d “kicked him out of the house.”
A couple of decades ago, before I met Tom, I had a good friend, a coworker at the office. She and I went out to lunch, went out for Friday Happy Hour, and generally palled around. She invited me one Christmas to a party at her beautifully restored, three-story Victorian house in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. The party was a twelve-person sit-down dinner in her gorgeous dining room. Booze was flowing. All of a sudden, her husband announced that he was seeing someone else and divorcing her. The party abruptly came to a halt.
I felt deep sorrow for my friend and rage toward her soon-be-ex-husband. He not only humiliated her and ruined her Christmas with his cruel stunt, but he ruined the holiday for all her friends, including me.
I’ve seen statistics that divorces and domestic violence spike at the holidays. Maybe antagonisms and resentments and dissatisfaction boil to the surface when couples see more of each other at the holidays than they see of each other when they’re both working fulltime.
This Shelter At Home time is much like the holidays for some, but without the fun of the holidays.
So please stay calm. And calm down (not the same thing). Be polite to each other. “Please” and “thank you” go a long way when someone has to cook dinner, wash the dishes, clean the cat box, or straighten the bed.
If you have an anger management problem, the first thing you need to do is become conscious of the problem. My father, who was a very kind man, a feminist, and a cat lover had a serious anger problem. At the least little mishap, he would react first and immediately with anger. I have a memory of sitting in my new car, of him in the passenger seat putting something—a flashlight, I think—into the glove compartment. He went to bang the compartment door closed but it didn’t close. (It closed just fine with a gentle push.) He banged and banged and banged it, growing more furious by the second and cutting his thumb on the closure, bleeding all over the place. I remember crying, “Calm down, Dad!” He died of a cardiac arrest at the age of sixty. I was thirty. Constant anger is so not good for you.
So calm the hell down during this Shelter At Home time!
Our neighbor told Tom, after his partner kicked him out of the house, he had moved in with his elderly parents in San Leandro. Instead of a three and a half block walk to his job—he’s a manager at the Big Market—he now has a forty-five minute drive to work. And since he’s an essential worker at the Big Market, despite his mask and gloves, he’s at risk for bringing the virus back to his parents. His partner is some sort of medical worker—at ten months, we didn’t know her very well—so maybe she can afford to keep the house, and maybe not. My friend long ago had to sell the Victorian house she’d worked so hard to restore and split the money with her ex-husband.
These are very stressful times. Be kind to each other! Did I remember to tell you to calm down?
Coming up in a couple of days! The April 2020 Writing Tip: “The Use of Metaphor in Genre Writing”
Join my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=23011206 help me while I recover from the Attack. I’ve posted brand-new stories and previously published stories, book excerpts, writing tips, movie reviews, and more exclusively for my patrons. You can also make a one-time pledge, if you like.
Visit me at www.lisamason.com for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, worldwide links, beautiful covers, reviews, interviews, blogs, round-tables, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, and more!

From the author of Summer of Love (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book). On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. On Kindle worldwide in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands. BACK IN PRINT! Find the beautiful trade paperback at https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Love-Travel-Lisa-Mason/dp/1548106119/ or IN PRINT at Barnes and Noble at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/summer-of-love-a-time-travel-lisa-mason/1104160569.
The Gilded Age (a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book). On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. On Kindle worldwide in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands. BACK IN PRINT! Find the beautiful trade paperback at https://www.amazon.com/Gilded-Age-Time-Travel/dp/1975853172/ or IN PRINT at Barnes and Noble at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-gilded-age-a-time-travel-lisa-mason/1106038566.
The Garden of Abracadabra (“Fun and enjoyable urban fantasy . . . I want to read more!) On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. On Kindle worldwide in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands. NOW IN PRINT! Find the beautiful trade paperback at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1978148291/ or IN PRINT at Barnes and Noble at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-garden-of-abracadabra-lisa-mason/1108093507
Arachne (a Locus Hardover Bestseller) is an ebook on US Kindle, UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. On Kindle worldwide in France Kindle, Germany Kindle, Italy Kindle, Netherlands Kindle, Spain Kindle, Mexico Kindle, Brazil Kindle, India Kindle, and Japan Kindle. Back in Print! Find the beautiful trade paperback at https://www.amazon.com/dp/198435602X or IN PRINT at Barnes and Noble at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/arachne-lisa-mason/1000035633.
Cyberweb (sequel to Arachne) is on US Kindle, BarnesandNoble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also Kindle worldwide on UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Brazil Kindle, France Kindle, Germany Kindle, India Kindle, Italy Kindle, Japan Kindle, Mexico Kindle, Netherlands Kindle, and Spain Kindle. Back in Print at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1984356941 or IN PRINT at Barnes and Noble at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cyberweb-lisa-mason/1001932064
Strange Ladies: 7 Stories (“A must-read collection—The San Francisco Review of Books). On Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. On Kindle world wide in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands. NOW IN PRINT at https://www.amazon.com/Strange-Ladies-Stories-Lisa-Mason/dp/1981104380/ or IN PRINT at Barnes and Noble at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/strange-ladies-lisa-mason/1115861322.
One Day in the Life of Alexa (“Five stars! An appealing narrator and subtly powerful emotional rhythms”). On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. On Kindle worldwide in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands. Order the beautiful trade paperback NOW IN PRINT at https://www.amazon.com/One-Life-Alexa-Lisa-Mason/dp/1546783091 or IN PRINT at Barnes and Noble at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/one-day-in-the-life-of-alexa-lisa-mason/1126431598.
Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition, A Lily Modjeska Mystery (Five stars) On Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. On Kindle worldwide in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands. SOON IN PRINT!
Shaken (in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.
Hummers (in Fifth Annual Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror) On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, and India.
Daughter of the Tao (in Peter S. Beagle’s Immortal Unicorn) on US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, BarnesandNoble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in AustraliaFrance, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.
Every Mystery Unexplained (in David Copperfield’s Tales of the Impossible) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, and India.
Tomorrow’s Child (In Active Development at Universal Pictures) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.
The Sixty-third Anniversary of Hysteria (in Full Spectrum 5) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, and India.
U F uh-O (Five Stars!) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, and India.
Tesla, A Screenplay on US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, BarnesandNoble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, and India.
My Charlotte: Patty’s Story on Barnes and Noble, US Kindle, UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. On Kindle in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Netherlands, and Mexico.
“Illyria, My Love” is on US Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Germany Kindle, France Kindle, Spain Kindle, Italy Kindle, Netherlands Kindle, Japan Kindle, Brazil Kindle, Mexico Kindle, and India Kindle.
Please visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, worldwide links, and more!
And on Lisa Mason’s Blog, on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
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4.22.17.SOLATTCOVER.BIG

In the February 2020 Writing Tip on Patreon, I discussed the importance of the three-act structure for your screenplay, novel, or story as a means for maintaining narrative momentum and viewer/reader interest.
In the January 2020 Movie Review on Patreon, I gave a detailed analysis of the film Captain Marvel, which earned worldwide box office of over a billion dollars and made the screenwriter the hottest property in Hollywood. I watched the film twice, the second time with a stop watch and a notepad and pencil. The writer hit all the right marks.
And so should you. After you’ve finished a complete first draft (or second draft or tenth) and you’re still struggling to make the story move, consider analyzing the story with a three-act structure in mind.
In this post, I’m going to analyze my novel, Summer of Love, which remains my bestselling book (both in ebook format and as a trade paperback) after I first published it in the 1990s with Bantam Books (a division of Random House). The book was a Finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award and a San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book of the Year.
Note
: For the Bast Books edition, I edited out some 20,000 words of youthful excess and the book is still 100,000+ words.
Some fans, the kind of reader who rereads the book every year (seriously) didn’t like the edits and complained about the deletions (which this kind of fan notices).
Some fans appreciated and loved the edits and sent me emails saying “Thank you for doing this.”
You can’t please everyone, as the Ricky Nelson song goes, so you as a writer must do what you know is right. Editing out the excess verbiage made the three-act structure become clear to me and also clarified the relationships between the three main characters. Editing was definitely the right thing to do, and the book is much better.
Now then.
Summer of Love has its own internal complex structure. I found seven key days over the historical summer of 1967 during which some notable celebration occurred.  Within those seven days, three point-of-view characters tell their personal stories and perspectives on the events.
So there are twenty-one chapters. The trade paperback is 404 pages long.
Susan Bell (a.k.a. Starbright) is a fourteen-year-old runaway to San Francisco, to the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood where the Summer of Love took place.
Chiron Cat’s in Draco is a twenty-one-year-old time traveler from five hundred years in the future who has journeyed to 1967 on a vital mission to save the Universe.
And Ruby A. Maverick is a thirty-year-old, half-black half-white shop owner, a successful “hip proprietor,” who is a long-time resident of the neighborhood and the moral center of the story.
Act One is the setup of your main characters—where they start out in the story, a physical description of them, their motivations and goals, the initial obstacles set out for them, their initial physical actions.
Also, you should set up the location where the action takes place—but don’t get too hung up on this, you’ll have plenty of room to develop further location details as you go along. Also don’t get too hung up on physical descriptions of the characters—this too can be further developed.
In Act One, that’s a lot of material and complications to cover. Because an effective Act One should only be about 25 or 30 percent of the total length of the project. Act One should end with the plot spinning off in a new surprising different direction for your characters.
In Summer of Love, Act One is comprised of the first five chapters, ending at page 121, 29% exactly of the total length. (I’ll attempt to put as few plot spoilers in this analysis as possible!)
In Chapters One and Four, Susan arrives in San Francisco at dawn. She’s seeking her former estranged best friend, Nance, who ran away to the Haight-Ashbury a month earlier and sent her a postcard. Susan knows no one, has a limited amount of money. She meets a rock-n-roll band she idolizes and is seduced by their manager. She goes to live in the band’s communal house, works for free for them, and is sucked into the Haight-Ashbury life. She briefly meets Ruby, with whom she has a contentious meeting.
In Chapters Two and Five—(Note the book is internally structured on a round-robin between the three characters) Chiron also arrives in San Francisco via a time machine from the far future. He sets out on his vital mission, why he’s been sent here, and compares and contrasts 1967 with his own future time. Using a guideline, he seeks and finds Ruby at her shop, and is taken in by her. He works for a wage at the shop, lives in a room in her quarters above the shop, and sets about the investigative work he needs to do to accomplish his mission.
In Chapter Three, Ruby gives her personal view of the 1960s, her former relationship with the band’s manager, the idealism of the counterculture and also the corruption already beginning. She is suspicious of Chi and perhaps starting a new relationship with Leo Gorgon, a radical anarchist.
Chapter Six begins with a brief POV by Susan as she is betrayed by the band’s manager and wants to leave the band’s communal house, then switches to Ruby’s POV, as she encounters Susan again.
The plot spins in a new direction when the contentious meeting between Ruby and Susan becomes sympathetic. Ruby insists that Susan come to stay with her and Susan first meets Chiron, who wonders if she is the breakthrough he’s searching for to accomplish his mission.
Act Two, Chapters 6 through 16, involves mounting complications and difficulties for all the characters, and complications between them too, over that fateful summer. Also the community’s historical escalating violence and corruption. (No plot spoilers!)
Act Two ends when, again, you spin the plot and the characters off in a surprising new direction, which begins Act Three.
Act Three should only comprise 20% or 25% of the total project, during which you must accelerate the action and the fulfillment of the characters’ goals until you reach the denouement and conclusion.
Note:  I read a Booker Prize winning very long novel that dragged out Act Three so much, I no longer cared what happened to the characters at the end and skimmed through too many tedious pages to get to the freakin’ end, already. Don’t be that author.
To read my final analysis of Act Three of Summer of Love and to discover the very important Midpoint, please go to my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=23011206
. Friends, readers, and fans, help me after the Attack. I’ve posted delightful new stories and previously published stories, writing tips, book excerpts, movie reviews, original healthy recipes and health tips, and more exclusively for my heroic patrons! I’m offering a critique of your writing sample per submission.
Visit me at www.lisamason.com for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, blogs, roundtables, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, worldwide links, and more!

My husband, Tom Robinson, and I live in a wonderful neighborhood with a variety of shops that carry a variety of specialized items we like. So when I go shopping, I often visit three or four grocery stores, plus a pharmacy. Over the years, I’ve made friends with several check-out clerks who have stayed at their jobs.

Check-out clerks don’t stay long at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, but they do at Piedmont Grocery and the Grand Avenue Safeway. I make a point of learning their names, they recognize me (though they surely see hundreds of people every week), they learn and remember my name. Often I learn a bit about them and their families. It makes the shopping-for-groceries experience a little more personal. For me and hopefully for them. Over the years, I’ve befriended several grocery checkers until they’ve retired.

I know very well that grocery check-out clerks have an unglamorous, mind-numbing, boring job. Most shoppers treat them like automatons. They have to touch lots of stuff. They have to touch paper money, which is very dirty and can cause a skin irritation or an eye infection. A clerk whom I knew (a Filipina who went from black hair to white) usually wore plastic gloves and often a brace on her wrist for carpal tunnel syndrome.

A new late twentyish early thirtyish clerk showed up at Safeway about a year-and-a-half ago. She’s still there, which is a record for check-out clerks these days. I did my usual—catching her eye, smiling a friendly smile, saying hi, asking how she was. She’s Hispanic with long dark brown hair she sometimes wears up in a bun. She wears eyeliner on her brown eyes and sometimes a gold-tone necklace of praying hands on a chain.

And, to all appearances, she HATES her job. Always in a bad mood. Always a scowl, always bored out of her mind, never responding in any way to my friendly overtures (or anyone else’s). If she doesn’t have a bagger helping her out, never bagging the groceries.

Which, technically, check-out clerks are supposed to do. I mean, I don’t work for Safeway or Whole Foods. I’m there to spend high prices for food and goods and, yes, I expect service from their paid staff. (I sent an email to Whole Foods about an especially hostile and abusive check-out clerk; WF acknowledged that was part of the job of the check-out clerk, to bag the groceries if a staff-paid bagger wasn’t at hand; WF sent me a twenty-five dollar gift coupon after my complaint. But that’s another story.)

One time—and this was a slow day, there weren’t scores of customers to deal with—the scowling Safeway check-out clerk literally threw a package of toilet tissue at me across the card-swiping stand. I’d just spent over a hundred dollars, I was in a bad mood, and I threw the toilet tissue into my shopping cart. The store manager hurried over and asked, “Is something wrong?” I said, “You better improve your customer service or I won’t spend money here anymore.”

After that, I avoided her check-out stand. I’d rather wait in a longer line than deal with a hostile clerk. I maintained that policy until the last time I shopped at Safeway when everything changed.

Now. A few years ago, I developed a skin irritation on my back. Neither witch hazel nor calamine lotion helped. What did help was medicated talcum powder, which healed me right up. Then I saw the Internet news that a woman was suing the talcum powder company because she had ovarian cancer and she claimed the talcum powder was to blame. It turns out that talcum powder may contain traces of asbestos, an extremely carcinogenic substance.

There had been a decades-long class-action lawsuit by war workers who had worked in the World War II shipyards, installing asbestos in the warships as anti-fire protection (it’s very good for that), and who had contracted lung cancer. The big law firms representing the war industries (I worked at one of those firms as an associate attorney, so I saw some of the documentation) sought to prove the war workers had gotten lung cancer because they smoked tobacco. Not because they’d breathed, without face masks, dust from the panels of asbestos they’d installed in the warships.

The talcum powder plaintiff won her lawsuit for millions of dollars. The talcum powder company appealed; the appellate court overturned the verdict. The plaintiff’s attorneys have appealed that decision but, in the meantime, the plaintiff had died of her ovarian cancer.

I stopped using the medicated talcum powder at once, even though I loved it, and switched to what is a new product offered by the talcum powder company in the wake of the much publicized court case (which is still undecided as far as I know). Pure cornstarch baby powder, with Vitamin E and aloe. This is a truly wonderful product, so silky and fragrant. I love powdering my back, feet, and other body parts after a shower, which dries any residual moisture and thus prevents skin irritations.

I usually buy baby powder at my local pharmacy but that day—the day everything changed—I found this product at the Safeway. (Since the stiff competition from Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Sprouts in my neighborhood, the Grand Avenue Safeway has just gotten better and better.)

I bought the baby powder. I also bought two packages of cuetips, since they were on sale, two for one, and I go through a lot of cuetips. I bought our usual Safeway groceries—vegetarian meat substitutes that are totally delicious, low-fat yogurt salad dressings, three-color coleslaw, a package of toilet tissue—and went to the check-out counters to spend another hundred bucks.

There were only two fifteen-items-only counters open and the hostile clerk’s.

So, okay. One more time. I was not going to let this ruin my day. I caught her eye, I smiled, I said hi. I handed her my two L.L. Bean canvas shopping bags and she swiped my purchases through. Then she got to the baby powder and, after that, the two packages of cuetips.

Suddenly, her eyes flew up at me and she said, “Why don’t they want you to use cuetips?”

It took me a second or two to process that and then I said, “You mean for cleaning ears?”

She said, “Yes!”

I said, “Well, some people jam them too far into the ear canal. That could potentially damage your eardrum.”

She nodded gravely, still fixing her eyes on mine. “I just took my daughter to the doctor. She’s got a lot of gunk in there. It’s ugly, I don’t like it. But the doctor told me, ‘Don’t use cuetips.’”

I said, “Hmm! I guess the doctor doesn’t trust you to clean your daughter’s ears carefully. Just be careful, don’t jam the cuetip in too far, clean the gunk out, and you and she should be fine.”

Relief flooded her face and she said, “Thank you.” I reached for the package of toilet tissue to pack it in one of my bags and she said, “No, no. I’ll service this for you.” She carefully packed my groceries in my two bags and carried them around the end of the check-out counter (they were heavy!) to my shopping cart.

I thanked her, she earnestly thanked me, and I pushed the cart out to my car, marveling over the miraculous transformation of Sandra (Safeway printed out her name on my receipt. I will remember it).

What had happened to change this woman’s behavior toward me, her perception of me?

The baby powder said I was helping a woman take care of a baby and the two packages of cuetips completed the image of a care-giver. I obviously don’t have a baby of my own, so I was helping my daughter, who had a boring, mind-numbing job and a baby who needed her ears cleaned.

Inside of two seconds, Sandra imagined this new story about me, this new image of me, and created her new attitude toward me. She imagined who I was and that image made her suddenly connect with me in a way she hadn’t done before. There she was, earnestly asking my advice about taking care of her baby daughter across a grocery store conveyor belt.

I hadn’t sought out this connection. It had happened randomly, fortuitously. I couldn’t have made that happen if I’d tried. Because I didn’t know the facts of the situation. What would change Sandra’s mind about me. And usually in marketing, in trying to connect with customers, with readers, you don’t know who they are. What pushes their friendly button. Their buy-button. Their loyalty button.

This is from an article in the AdWeek of April 30, 2018, “Smart brands will think about ways to capitalize on the relationship opportunity to drive loyalty.”

WTF does that mean? you and I are saying. That’s ad-speak for all I’ve described to you above. Ad-people make a full-time living—and movie marketers and book marketers—trying to figure out how to connect with people, to lure them into buying products, movies, books. By connecting with the baby-powder effect.

Here’s the problem! No one really knows—I didn’t know—what the effect is until you stumble upon it. Publishers exhort writers to connect with their audience, with their readers. To identify what your audience wants and write for them. If you’re a woman writing formula romance or a man writing space-opera science fiction, I suppose that task—identifying your audience and writing to their expectations—is fairly easy.

But I’m a woman writing idiosyncratic, character-driven speculative fiction, both of the science-fictional variety, fantasy, and urban fantasy. I’m an old-school feminist, which basically means I believe in equal pay for equal work. That women should be respected, their thoughts and opinions should be given equal consideration as men’s. I’ve written elaborate time-travels that mash-up far-future projections with exhaustively researched historical periods. I usually have Something To Say—not preachy, I hope—but observational. Insightful. Sometimes political. But don’t be too sure you know what the politics are. I’m an independent thinker, going way back. I don’t march to any party’s orders. I like to challenge conventional thought.

How do you or I utilize the baby-powder effect? It was random, accidental, coincidental. A minor miracle but, in the end, I just don’t know. I’ll tell you this, though. When I go shopping at Safeway again? I’ll seek out Sandra’s counter, I’ll catch her eye, smile, and call her by her name, and I’ll ask if she tried using a cuetip to carefully clean out her daughter’s ears. I’m looking forward to her answer.

I was walking on Lakeside Drive yesterday—past Lake Chalet, a beautiful waterfront restaurant in the restored Boathouse—when I heard a loud, insistent, “CHEEP, CHEEP, CHEEP.” A row of ten-foot saplings are planted in a tree lawn next to the sidewalk. The cheeping was coming from one of the saplings.

“Bird nest!” I thought and stepped closer to the tree, peering up into the foliage. The cheeping continued but I didn’t see anything. I moved around to the other side when, to my startlement, a little bird plummeted out of the tree, landed on my left arm just below my shoulder, and clung there, cheeping like crazy.

At first, I thought it was the mother bird defending her nest. Once a mother blackbird swooped down and dug her claws in my scalp when I’d advertently walked too close to her nest on a low-hanging branch.

But I saw that this bird was a fledgling with a creamy golden breast and pale olive-green wings. Her bright birdy eye stared at me as she continued to cheep. I didn’t want her to soil my sleeve since I had another three miles to go, so I nudged her with my right hand and she flapped awkwardly to a boxwood bush on the other side of the walkway.

There, she continued to stare at me and insistently cheep. I stood with her for a moment and told her, “Your mommy isn’t coming back to feed you. You’re on your own.” Then I walked away.

I’ve had a number of once-in-a-lifetime experiences like that while walking around the lake. On the day that Alana, my pure white Turkish Angora, died peacefully at home at the age of eighteen, I encountered a Chinese-American couple with their cat on a park bench. The cat was a pure white fluffy Persian with golden eyes like Alana’s. I’ve never seen the couple and the cat before or since. On another day, a painted lady butterfly landed on my left hand and stayed there an entire five minutes. (I’m left-handed so I consider these things good luck.) On yet another, a ladybug landed on my jacket over my heart and rode all the way around the lake with me.

My little golden bird of summer reminds me how unique every moment is, no matter how ordinary or routine, and how ephemeral. It’s important to make peace with your past and plan for your future, but it’s also important to be mindful of the present. Each moment of Now is all we really have.

Today the fledgling was gone. I’ll never see her again.

Today, October 15, is the last day for The Philip K Dick Award Storybundle until midnight Eastern Standard Time, 9 P.M. Pacific Standard Time

The Philip K Dick Award Storybundle includes Aestival Tide by Elizabeth Hand (PKD Finalist), Life by Gwyneth Jones (PKD Winner), The Cipher by Kathe Koja (PKD Finalist), Points of Departure by Pat Murphy (PKD Winner), Dark Seeker by K. W. Jeter (PKD Finalist), Summer of Love by Lisa Mason (PKD Finalist), Frontera by Lewis Shiner (PKD Finalist), Acts of Conscience by William Barton (PKD Special Citation), Maximum Ice by Kay Kenyon (PKD Finalist), Knight Moves by Walter Jon Williams (PKD Finalist), and Reclamation by Sarah Zettel (PKD Finalist).

Thousands of purchasers can’t be wrong! But you must act now because once this bargain is gone, it’s gone! Download yours today at http://www.storybundle.com/pkdaward and enjoy world-class, award-winning reading right now and into the holidays.

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It should come as no surprise that other famous authors and their books have been Philip K Dick Award Finalists or Winners over the years since 1983.

The list reads like a Who’s Who of Science Fiction, such as Carnival, Undertow, and Chill by Elizabeth Bear, At the City Limits of Fate by Michael Bishop, Mindplayers by Pat Cadigan, Voyager in the Night by C.J. Cherryh, Artificial Things by Karen Joy Fowler, Neuromancer by William Gibson, Neon Lotus by Marc Laidlaw, The Remaking of Sigmund Freud by Barry N. Malzberg, Memories by Mike McQuay (deceased), The Scar by China Mieville, The Wild Shore by Kim Stanley Robinson, Subterranean Gallery, Carlucci’s Edge, Carlucci’s Heart, and Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo, Green Eyes and Life During Wartime by Lucius Shepard (deceased), Leviathan, Vol 3 edited by Jeff VanderMeer, Millennium by John Varley, and Elivissey by Jack Womack.

So there you have it, my friends. We’ve acclaimed famous authors aplenty in The Philip K Dick Award Storybundle, which includes:

Aestival Tide by Elizabeth Hand (PKD Finalist)
Life
by Gwyneth Jones (PKD Winner)
The Cipher
by Kathe Koja (PKD Finalist)
Points of Departure
by Pat Murphy (PKD Winner)
Dark Seeker
by K. W. Jeter (PKD Finalist)
Summer of Love
by Lisa Mason (PKD Finalist)
Frontera
by Lewis Shiner (PKD Finalist)
Acts of Conscience
by William Barton (PKD Special Citation)
Maximum Ice
by Kay Kenyon (PKD Finalist)
Knight Moves
by Walter Jon Williams (PKD Finalist)
Reclamation
by Sarah Zettel (PKD Finalist)

The Philip K Dick Award Storybundle lasts only until October 15 midnight East coast time, 9 P.M. West coast time. Once it’s gone, it’s gone! Don’t let this incredible bargain, a unique and historic collection of books, slip away. Download yours today at http://www.storybundle.com/pkdaward and enjoy world-class, award-winning reading right now and into the holidays.

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What the Authors and books of The Philip K Dick Award Storybundle share is the award itself, whether the book was a Finalist or Winner.

Above and beyond the prestige of the award—and the superb quality of the work—you will find a diverse array of protagonists to root for and startling worlds to visit.

In Aestival Tide by Elizabeth Hand, come to Araboth—the majestic, domed, multi-tiered city of the Ascendants as the once-in-a-decade Aestival Tide approaches and destruction looms.

In Life by Gwyneth Jones, meet Anna Senoz, a scientist who makes a momentous discovery about the X and Y chromosomes. Anna’s discovery provokes shocking reactions and impacts her career, her marriage, and her child.

In The Cipher by Kathe Koja, join Koja’s artists of the modern-day demimonde as they experiment with the mysterious, dangerous Funhole in a storage closet down the hall.

In Points of Departure by Pat Murphy, meet a chimpanzee whose brain is implanted with the personality of a young girl who has died, a farmer who grows a spouse from a packet of seeds, a fortune-teller learns that there’s a difference between seeing the future and changing it, and more.

In Dark Seeker by K. W. Jeter, root for the survivor of a lethal Manson-like cult as he searches for the son he once believed was dead and has reason to believe is still alive. Will he find the boy? And what will he find if he does?

In Summer of Love by Lisa Mason, run away to the Haight-Ashbury of 1967 where a teenage girl holds the key to the survival of the future. With the help of a half-black, half-white Hip merchant, a time-traveling young man from five hundred years in the future must find the girl and protect her life during the dangerous Summer of Love.

In Frontera by Lewis Shiner, travel to the lost Martian colony of Frontera with Reese, an aging hero of the US space program, as he discovers a secret so devastating that the new rulers of Earth will stop at nothing to own it.

In Acts of Conscience by William Barton, have a brewski with a politically incorrect orbital mechanic who must confront his own conscience and decide what, if anything, to do about the systematic destruction of a planet’s intelligent species and his discovery of another species’ own plans for humanity.

In Maximum Ice by Kay Kenyon, return from space after two-hundred-fifty years to an Earth nearly swallowed by a peculiar crystalline, icelike substance and figure out how to survive amid Ice Nuns, snow witches, and renegade cannibals.

In Knight Moves by Walter Jon Williams, visit a depopulated Earth eight hundred years in the future as Doran Falkner confronts his lost promise, his lost love, and his lost humanity, aliens dig among ancient ruins for old comic books, and the creatures of legends walk again thanks to modern technology. Will Doran make the right move?

In Reclamation by Sarah Zettel, explore a far future where human groups have colonized the galaxy, but seek their mythical “Home Ground.” Eric Born, a lapsed priest, has escaped to the stars but discovers the shocking secret of the Home Ground. A classic science fiction tale told in Sarah’s award-winning witty and fast-paced style.

So there you have it, my friends. The Philip K Dick Award Storybundle includes Aestival Tide by Elizabeth Hand (PKD Finalist), Life by Gwyneth Jones (PKD Winner), The Cipher by Kathe Koja (PKD Finalist), Points of Departure by Pat Murphy (PKD Winner), Dark Seeker by K. W. Jeter (PKD Finalist), Summer of Love by Lisa Mason (PKD Finalist), Frontera by Lewis Shiner (PKD Finalist), Acts of Conscience by William Barton (PKD Special Citation), Maximum Ice by Kay Kenyon (PKD Finalist), Knight Moves by Walter Jon Williams (PKD Finalist), and Reclamation by Sarah Zettel (PKD Finalist).

The Philip K Dick Award Storybundle runs only four more days until October 15. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Don’t let this bargain slip away. Act now and download yours today at http://www.storybundle.com/pkdaward and enjoy world-class, award-winning reading right now and into the holidays.

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It should come as no surprise that the authors participating in The Philip K Dick Award Storybundle and their books have received recognition and awards in addition to the Philip K Dick Award.

Elizabeth Hand has received the Nebula, World Fantasy, Mythopeoic, Tiptree, and International Horror Guild Awards, and her novels have been chosen as New York Times and Washington Post Notable Books. She’s been a Philip K Dick Award Finalist three times.

Gwyneth Jones has won two World Fantasy awards, the Children of the Night award, the BSFA award and the Pilgrim award for Science Fiction criticism.

Novels of Lisa Mason have been chosen as a New York Times Notable Book, a New York Public Library Recommended Book, and a San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book.

Kay Kenyon has been a finalist for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and chosen twice for the ALA Reading List.

Pat Murphy’s Nebula Award-winning story “Rachel in Love” is included in Points of Departure and she won a Nebula for her novel, The Falling Woman. Her fiction has also won the World Fantasy Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and the Seiun Award.

Stories and books by Lewis Shiner have frequently been short-listed for the Nebula and the Hugo Awards.

Walter Jon Williams has appeared on the best-seller lists of the New York Times and the Times of London, won a Nebula Award for his novelette, “Daddy’s World,” won the Nebula again for “The Green Leopard Plague,” and was nominated for a Hugo, Nebula, and a World Fantasy Award.

William Barton has been a Philip K. Dick Finalist three times.

And Kathe Koja’s The Cipher not only placed as a PKD Award Finalist but also won the Bram Stoker Award and was recently named one of io9.com’s Top 10 Debut Science Fiction Novels That Took the World By Storm.

Sarah Zettel won critical acclaim and the Philip K. Dick Award for her novel BITTER ANGELS (written as C.L. Anderson). RECLAMATION was her debut novel, was a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and won Locus Magazine’s Best First Novel award.

So there you have it, my friends. The Philip K Dick Award Storybundle includes Aestival Tide by Elizabeth Hand (PKD Finalist), Life by Gwyneth Jones (PKD Winner), The Cipher by Kathe Koja (PKD Finalist), Points of Departure by Pat Murphy (PKD Winner), Dark Seeker by K. W. Jeter (PKD Finalist), Summer of Love by Lisa Mason (PKD Finalist), Frontera by Lewis Shiner (PKD Finalist), Acts of Conscience by William Barton (PKD Special Citation), Maximum Ice by Kay Kenyon (PKD Finalist), Knight Moves by Walter Jon Williams (PKD Finalist), and Reclamation by Sarah Zettel (PKD Finalist).

The Philip K Dick Award Storybundle runs only until October 15, midnight East coast time, 9 PM West coast time, so you must act now. Once it’s gone, it’s gone! Download yours today at http://www.storybundle.com/pkdaward and enjoy world-class, award-winning reading right now and into the holidays.

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I first became acquainted with Gwyneth Jones via her incisive and award-winning criticism of science fiction. What a treat to discover her own incisive and award-winning science fiction.

Life is a tale of feminism and courage that asks difficult questions about women and society and a splendid example of what science fiction may achieve beyond conventional genre tropes. I’m pleased to include Life in the Philip K. Dick Award Bundle. –Lisa Mason

For more information about Gwyneth and her books, go to http://www.gwynethjones.uk/

So there you have it, my friends. The Philip K Dick Award Storybundle includes Aestival Tide by Elizabeth Hand (PKD Finalist), Life by Gwyneth Jones (PKD Winner), The Cipher by Kathe Koja (PKD Finalist), Points of Departure by Pat Murphy (PKD Winner), Dark Seeker by K. W. Jeter (PKD Finalist), Summer of Love by Lisa Mason (PKD Finalist), Frontera by Lewis Shiner (PKD Finalist), Acts of Conscience by William Barton (PKD Special Citation), Maximum Ice by Kay Kenyon (PKD Finalist), Knight Moves by Walter Jon Williams (PKD Finalist), and Reclamation by Sarah Zettel (PKD Finalist).

The Philip K Dick Award Storybundle runs only until October 15 so you must act now! Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Download yours today at http://storybundle.com/pkdaward and enjoy world-class, award-winning reading right now and into the holidays.