BETTE STEVENS – DOG BONE SOUP – AN INDIE BOOK REVIEW

IN HONOR OF INDIE AUTHOR’S DAY!

DOG BONE SOUP is the long-awaited “rest of the story”of Shawn Daniels from the original short story, “Pure Trash.” It’s particularly long-awaited for me because as soon as I read the short story, I wanted to read this book. The only problem was, Bette hadn’t yet written it.

But she did it. Dog Bone Soup is available for your reading pleasure. And what a pleasure it is.

Bette has the purest, freshest writing style I’ve read in many a long year. Reading her prose is like peering into an exceptionally clear, deep pool. It looks like the bottom is close enough to touch, but those waters run deep.

Bette Stevens is a class act, an author who knows how to tell a story. Her characters are real, so true to life, they practically leap off the page. In Dog Bone Soup, style and the story are blended to perfection.

dog bone soup collage

I’ve read a lot of books about rural poverty and for some reason, all those stories are set in the south. This is as far from south as you can get. It’s a timely and important reminder that poverty is not a regional issue.

Poverty is everywhere, from the biggest cities to the hidden hamlets where tourists never go. Children pay the highest price.

Shawn Daniels’ story is wonderful. It’s about growing up and coming of age for a poor kid from a dysfunctional family. His world is cold and hardscrabble. A drunken father, a vanishing mother. Foster parents with no love to share, teachers who can’t see past patches and frayed cuffs. Yet somehow Shawn forges a road of his own. Armed with courage, intelligence, humor, and grit, he grows into a strong young man with solid values. He creates his own future.

Sometimes, very little can be enough.

There’s nothing depressing about this story. How come? Because Shawn Daniels hasn’t a shred of self-pity in him. Despite the challenges he faces, Shawn is never down. Not depressed, discouraged, broken, or beaten. This kid has grit. Determination and a solid grip on his own worth.

Where does it come from? Mom, sometimes. A few others who see Shawn’s value and give him a hand along his path. A personal, hard-wired toughness that lets him see past the life he is living it to the life he wants — and for which he is willing to work. Mostly, it is Shawn’s own sharp intelligence which enables him to understand his world. It lets him trust his judgment without bogging down in unearned guilt. He makes smart decisions.

It’s a great story — and it’s far from over.

About the author

BAS Author logo stamp 2015Inspired by nature and human nature, author Bette A. Stevens is a retired elementary and middle school teacher, a wife, mother of two and grandmother of five. Stevens lives in Central Maine with her husband on their 37-acre farmstead where she enjoys writing, gardening, walking and reveling in the beauty of nature. She advocates for children and families, for childhood literacy and for the conservation of monarch butterflies (milkweed is the only plant that monarch caterpillars will eat).

Bette A. Stevens is the author of award-winning picture book AMAZING MATILDA; home/school resource, The Tangram Zoo and Word Puzzles Too!; and PURE TRASH, the short story prequel to DOG BONE SOUP.

MAGIC IS EVERYWHERE – THREE QUOTES, DAY THREE

Nothing is certain anymore. Nothing. Chaos is king and magic is loose in the world. – Robert Heinlein, “Waldo”

I’m astonished how many people have either never read these two novellas, or read them and manged to miss the point.

If you haven’t read them, you really should, if you are any kind of science fiction fan. They are fundamental to the mythology of science fiction. The concepts Heinlein posits have become axiomatic to later writers.

"Waldo Astounding SF Aug 1942." Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - Waldo Astounding SF Aug 1942

“Waldo Astounding SF Aug 1942.” Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – Waldo Astounding SF Aug 1942

Many readers — I take this from the reviews I’ve read by people who say they have indeed read the two novellas — apparently don’t see a connection between the stories. They think they are in one volume “to fill up space.” Either they didn’t really read them or they are conceptually challenged, unable to connect two related ideas.

The point is that technology is a based on our belief it will work (see Clarke’s Three Laws). As long as we believe in it, it works, whatever “it” may be. If or when we stop believing, it won’t work. It is all magic. Science is incantation. Witchcraft codified.

When we lose faith in technology, magic becomes the new technology. The difference between one and the other is style, not substance. The stories’ plots are irrelevant. It is all concept.

The best science fiction is concept-driven. Characters and plot usually take a back seat. These two stories have stuck with me for a lifetime. Both are based on a single concept.

We believe in what works — and what works is what we believe.

Mark This Date! Indie Author Pride Day July 1st 2015 On Social Media!

Marilyn Armstrong:

Wednesday is the day. Support indie writers everywhere.

Originally posted on "Lyon Book Promotions" Offered by, Author Catherine Townsend-Lyon:

Hello Writers and Authors,

A big event will be happening on July 1st 2015 all over Social Media!!


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Hello Authors,

Have you heard about “Indie Author Pride Day” happening this July 1st 2015? Well, indie authors will hijack Social Media! We want the world to know that there are some awesome Independent Authors that write fabulous books just for READERS to ENJOY.

Since self-publishing options entered the main stream, many indie authors have wonderful books to read that are even better than NY Times Best Sellers! So we want readers to know this, and LOUDLY.
Amazon, Goodreads, and Book Goodies are great places to find many of these indie author book offerings.

So I wanted ALL Indie Authors to know about this event, and hope you will all join in and help make Cyber History!! A few words of how to join in!

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*Indie Pride Day: On July…

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CONSIDER STUPIDITY – THREE QUOTES, DAY TWO

For the second of my three quotes in three days, I present to you my all-time favorite quote. I use it as a signature line on my email. I try to remember it whenever I think someone is out to get me.

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. – Robert Hanlon

This quote has a long, rich history. Despite the attribution, no one can say exactly when or where it originated. Called Hanlon’s razor, it is an aphorism. It suggests a way to eliminate complicated explanations for a phenomenon when a simpler one is available. It suggests before looking for ill-intent, consider the possibility of stupidity.

Stupidity is common. It requires neither forethought nor planning. Anyone can be stupid. No special effort is needed. It is, therefore, the most likely explanation for actions. Why look for other motives? Go with simplicity.

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Although the saying is officially named after Robert J. Hanlon, there are a variety of earlier sayings that convey the same idea dating back at least as far as Goethe in 1774.

Arthur C. Clarke’s Three Laws are considered closely related:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The third law, my other favorite, has been incorrectly attributed to many different writers, but it really does belong to Clarke. Really. No matter what else you may have heard. If I ever change my signature line, Clarke’s third law is a strong contender for the position.

BEYOND COMPARE – 3 QUOTES DAY 1

I decided to take up the challenge of three quotes in three days. This post has more than one quote, but all attribute to a single source — Eleanor Roosevelt. That’s almost like one quote, right?

I couldn't find Eleanor, but I realized I have her figure in my

I couldn’t find Eleanor, but I have her in my “historical dolls” collection. From Effanbee, 1985

No one nominated me because the bloggers I hang with don’t nominate. Neither do I, so if you find this challenge interesting, consider yourself invited to give it a whirl.


“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

I’m reading — okay, listening (with Garry) — to the David McCullough biography of Harry Truman. Concurrently (and not coincidentally), we watched (again) Ken Burns’ “The Roosevelts.”

This heavy dose of over-achievers brought me face-to-face with how little I’ve achieved in life. One can only imagine how difficult it was for Eleanor, Franklin, or Teddy’s kids. Their parents were hard acts to follow.

I encountered Eleanor Roosevelt in person in October 1962. In the elevator of Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan.

“ Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt

We were both in wheel chairs. I was there to have a tumor removed from my right leg. She was there because she was dying and would be buried less than a month later. I don’t know if I said anything to her.

Eleanor with Franklin D. Roosevelt. By Effanbee, 1985

Eleanor with Franklin D. Roosevelt. By Effanbee, 1985

Probably not. I was suffering from terminally struck dumb. She was the woman in whose footsteps I would have most wanted to follow, if I had unlimited options and an inclination to dedicate my life to public service. Which, even then, I knew I didn’t.

“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

There was never a question in my mind of being her. I loved that she was always on the side of right and justice — and willing to fight for it. And remarkably effective, too. She was the woman who could and did.

Having had this chance encounter, I did not immediately dedicate my life to battling evil on behalf of the greater good. That wasn’t my thing. I thought I could, at the least, do my best to choose rightly if I came to a crossroads and was obliged to make a decision.

Winston Churchill, FDR, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Great moments in history from Effanbee, 1985.

Winston Churchill, FDR, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Great moments in history from Effanbee, 1985.

So I have. Not always as successfully as I would have liked, but not bad — for a non-Roosevelt.

“Do the things that interest you and do them with all your heart. Don’t be concerned about whether people are watching you or criticizing you.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

There are people who are larger than life. Not that we think they are. They really are. We can admire them, enjoy them. Be glad they are in our world to fight for us.

Eleanor with Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. World War II historical dolls from Effanbee.

Eleanor with Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. World War II historical dolls from Effanbee.

I never thought I’d be one of those people, nor did I expect to personally know such a person. They are rare enough in the annals of human civilization. My chance and oh-so-brief encounter with Mrs. Roosevelt in the elevator was probably the closest I would ever be to greatness in the largest sense. But it was enough. I am enough.

“ One thing life has taught me: if you are interested, you never have to look for new interests. They come to you. When you are genuinely interested in one thing, it will always lead to something else.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

NO ONE READS MANUALS

It’s an odd feeling to be declared obsolete. I had been getting increasingly less relevant for a while, but after the dot coms went down, the high-tech world turned on its ear. Venture capital disappeared and so did the start-ups that had been my bread and butter.

computer gargoyle

Tech writers were replaced by automated systems that generate “documentation” from embedded engineering notes. For years, no one cared if the material these systems generated was useful or readable. As long as “something” was included with the product, it was “good enough.”

Intelligent, human-based technical support had already been exported. Now, the same thinking was applied to documentation.

Need help? Call tech support on the other side of the world. Let your customers wait on hold, get disconnected. Finally, let them talk to someone who knows nothing and will provide incorrect information. Never provide a call back number, so if the solution doesn’t work — and mostly, it won’t — make them go through the whole thing again. What could go wrong with this? Who needs a manual?

i_467_old-computer-advertisement-006A lot has gone wrong with this approach. Almost everything. Belatedly, a wide range of companies discovered that having horrible customer service and no documentation was actually affecting business.

Industry-wide rethinking came too late for my career, but it’s nice to see respect for customers coming back into style. Better late than never. It turns out that customers who buy expensive gear do want documentation and expect good service, too. Shocking. Who’d have guessed?

The whole “call tech support” got old quickly.

I never intended to be a technical writer. I was going to be a “real” writer. You know. An author. Novels. Literature.

I eventually wrote a lot of books, all of them explaining how to do something obscurely technical and computer-related. For a gal who barely scraped through basic algebra and never took a physics or chemistry course, I picked up a lot along the way.

I rode the high-tech wave until that fateful day when I was informed “no one reads manuals.”

alienware side view computer

The world keeps turning. I’m seeing “help wanted” ads for tech writers again. It was a long drought.  At last, written (not generated) documentation is making a comeback. I’ve lived long enough to see the full cycle, to watch an industry — and my profession — come 360 degrees back to where it all began.

NO EVIL NOR ANYTHING ELSE

I must be the world’s worst eavesdropper because I’ve never overheard a conversation that was a game changer.

Maybe it’s because I try hard to not overhear pieces of conversation. So many misunderstandings end up ruining relationships — someone heard a piece of something, and never got the rest of the story. It’s a popular theme in books and movies. It never works out well.

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So here I am, older and I haven’t a single bit of stuff to contribute. Nothing overheard. Oh, I’ve overheard strangers. I’ve heard producers trying to pitch a new movie, actors trying to get a role. But nothing about me, nothing from mine. Did I miss something deliciously scandalous?

Mostly, when you eavesdrop, you just hear icky stuff you wish you’d missed. No, thanks.