21 June 2020

Writing as non-native speaker

The start of this blog will sound superfluous. I’m as any other wannabe writer. Voracious reader, read and written stories since childhood. 
I published my first short story when I was 19 in my native language, but then civil war broke, and my writing ran, not merely to a back-burner, but got buried and forgotten in the basement.
Not that I fled the stories. No, I love stories, and enjoy reading/watching stories every day. And Star Trek and science fiction stories were part of the thread that kept me sane during the war. Those stories helped me preserve some hope in humanity and future. 
Finally, I revisited that basement, and I got an idea of writing in English. And my long trek towards that goal started.
Before I began with the writing adventure, I already spoke the English language well. I had to, as a scientist. I had to write scientific papers in English. I had to give public talks and lectures in English. I attended grad-school lessons in English.
But that knowledge was not sufficient for writing. When I started writing stories, I learned that I still have to work on my English. I imbedded my writing syntax and logic into logic and syntax of my native language. And I’m still fighting with that issue. Seems like it is a never-ending struggle. 

So, in 2018 I published my first fan-fiction story, and it elated me. Not much because fan site published my story, but because editor corrected a handful of my words, and added that the rest is perfectly fine for reading. 

That gave me a boost to continue. Now I’m writing a bunch of short stories and submitting them to the magazines. And with every story, I’m learning more, applying what I learn and seeing my short story adventure as a test of my English language. When I get good enough in English, I will sell the original fiction story, not just fan-fiction. 

I’m still taking courses, immersing myself into writers' community, and visiting the writer’s conferences. 
Right now I’m taking part in Summer Festival of Writing, organized by Jericho Writers. It is an online show, which I find a blessing now. It is easy to take part, and it reduces all expenses to the ticket price. It is harder to socialize and make connections, but somehow acceptable for the first attempt at the attending a writer’s event.
And I just completed the Workshop, online, from The Writers of the Future. So I’m continuing with my efforts. And who knows, maybe I will sell the story this year…

14 June 2020

Review: So You Want to Talk About Race

So You Want to Talk About Race So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let me start with a little personal introduction. I'm an immigrant, arrived in the USA in 2008 after Obama was elected. When I fulfilled conditions for citizenship, I took it because I considered the USA's overall direction to be the correct one. Today is actually the anniversary of my taking the oath and becoming a citizen. I still treasure the letter that I got from Obama for the occasion.
Growing up in a small, south-eastern European country, poor enough not to attract any people of color to immigrate, made me utterly ignorant of race-related problems. 
So when the protests erupted, I bought this book and read it faster than I read any other book in the last decade.

And content hit me hard. The experiences the author describes as her everyday life, as something that every person of color has to go through daily, is horrific.
And I say that because I went through similar emotional anguish during the civil war in my country of origin. That fear of uniformed and armed people is something I experienced too.  Being hungry, being in rags, being judged, being forced to conform or risk beating and death, a dread of being stopped by people in uniforms, I went through all of that. 
I know how damaging such experience is to a person, how hard it is to live a life under such constant pressure. It is not living, but mere survival. 
I was lucky, the war lasted only 5 years, and then I could continue living. 
But now, a knowledge there are humans around me that experience such horror throughout their lives, it makes me sick. That has to change. That really has to change. No one deserves to live in such constant terror. 
When you decide to read this book, keep my words in your mind. As a civilian who survived a war, I can tell you that the book's experiences are eerily similar to the average experience of civilian war survivors. 
So whatever melatonin levels are in your skin, you should try to do something to help your fellow humans. 

And, as a white person, I cannot end this post without actually giving opinions about white supremacy.  My skin color exposed me to the direct excuses those eejits use to justify themselves. And those excuses can be boiled down to a pure fear of competition, lack of significant talents or skills, and ultimate laziness.  Every single racist I meet was either lazy, stupid, talentless, or any combination of three. In conditions of the increased and more robust competition, they cannot succeed. The racist answer is to use aggression to eliminate competition instead of exerting an honest effort to become a better human.  That's why I despise them. 
People like that will not limit themselves to just eliminate competition based on skin color. In situations where everyone is the same color, people like this find different ways to "thin the competition." They will use gender, religion, a particular region of origin, anything. Any excuse to declare other groups of humans less then is acceptable. Any reason to eliminate competition is a good one for them. If you know such a person, call them up for what they truly are and call up excuses for what they truly are.

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03 June 2020

Review: Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy

Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by David Gerrold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book started a bit weak, regurgitating advice already contained in other similar books. Then I was annoyed by the writer shamelessly promoting his own novels.
But then, he shared some very useful advice on style and how to improve one's writing. And for that only, last quarter of it, this book is worthy of reading.

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Review: Activated

Activated Activated by Ell Leigh Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, book and character Molly just grabbed me. I could not put this book down. In the beginning, the plot, the development of the main character was done quite nicely. 
The end was a bit weak, not really closing up the character arc of the several characters and introducing weakly new characters, and being quite transparent in what is going on. It seemed more like the author was trying to fill up space till the next book and adventure started.

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24 May 2020

Review: Hyperion

Hyperion Hyperion by Dan Simmons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, the author is obsessed with Keats and poetry.
The book and the whole understory are great, captivating and one can see why the book won the award. The story is complex, with loads of layers that surprisingly all fit nicely together. And the book is masterfully executed. Just the right amount of the foreshadowing, descriptions, and change in POV voices so that book looks like a series of short stories, but it culminates into the common milieu.
The only issue I have with it is all that poems and poetry that's inside the book.
It is very likely that I will go for subsequent novels.

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23 May 2020

Be careful what you cook.

I have a confession to make. I love experimenting with different recipes. You are looking at the blog of the person who made Gagh, Steamed Azna, Lembas Bread, Dwarf Bread, battle scones, and Angua stew regularly.

But these experiments do not always go well.

Recently I developed an interest in the historical recipes. Some of them were awesome, like green beans I prepared following ancient Roman recipes. 
I also liked the Victorian recipes from Heritage https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHwNa3lAjzbxRR2pbbZUE2A. And also, all the youtube channels about historical cooking like the guy obsessed with nutmeg (Townsends, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxr2d4As312LulcajAkKJYw). I share his obsession, so I really do not mind. 

And there was one that really tanked. I found that recipe on the website https://coquinaria.nl/en/. The same place where I found the green beans recipe. 
I wished to prepare eggs in a novel way. And I picked up the recipe of some medieval eggs. It sounded interesting enough, and I had all ingredients. In the recipe, the author warns that recipe is too tart for our time, and advised to put some sugar in. 
I ignored that advice. 
Living in the USA, I got fed up with sugar. Here they put sugar everywhere. It is horrendous. Even the food items that should not be sweet at all, here in the USA, are sweet to the level of deserts in Europe. So every time I follow a recipe, especially one from person used to USA cuisine, I automatically leave out completely, or half the amount of the sugar. 
And I did the same with this one, forgetting that nl stands for a European country, meaning, way less sugar than in the USA. 

So I made my medieval eggs. Basically, you douse eggs with a sauce that is combination vinegar and wine. And I ate them. Eggs part, I was trying to get as little of the sauce as possible. It took only one bite to decide that it was a BAD idea to put as much vinegar as the recipe suggested. 

After that, it just got worse. I ended up with heartburn that lasted all through the dinner. Eating a nice, creamy basic lunch helped a bit. It took basic dinner to do the trick. 

So, from now on, I’ll make sure that the only time I use loads of vinegar is when I make pickles. 

Review: Awakened

Awakened Awakened by Ell Leigh Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm trying to give a review without spoilers.

The book is gripping, shows a surprisingly human and emotional aspect of the main character. I like the main character, who has flaws to overcome. The book has all the components that make it great, in my opinion, including a slight comment on society.

For my taste, there was a bit too much of the battles and fighting descriptions. Very masterfully done, mind you. But I'm the one who usually tends to skim over such descriptions, more interested in what will happen afterward. That's why I gave only 4 stars. But I may go for sequels.

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