the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘writing

This is a post about making sandwiches. (not this sandwich!)


This is a post about how 2019 was the year I figured what kind of sandwiches are my favorite to make.   I like sandwiches that are filled with unexpected stuff.  all the condiments, pickles, green olives, honey, apples, whatever.  Not all those foods at once, because this actually isn’t a sandwich.


2019 was a weird year for me.  No deaths, no health emergencies, nothing dramatic or life altering, nothing like that.  It was a quiet, weird year –  I took on some amazing projects and new responsibilities at my day job.  I was lucky, I was fortunate, I was in the right place at the right time. I realized the power of having space and time at work to think and be creative. Some of those projects melted my brain, and I loved every second of it, and would do it again in a heartbeat.   I learned my brain needs large chunks of uninterrupted quiet time for magical creative things to happen.


I had MAJOR blogger burn out in 2019.  Like, retire from blogging kind of burn out.  I didn’t want to write reviews, I could barely finish books.  My hobby is blogging about books,  and I could barely finish a book in 2019. People would ask me what I was reading,  and I’d shrug and say “nothing”.


I knew what I needed to do, I knew to listen to my friends and stop listening to influencers/strangers/idiots, I knew I needed to get the hell off social media, I just couldn’t seem to bring myself to do it.  I tried a bunch of stuff to get out of my funk, and the only thing that seemed to work was watching buckets of TV, and I am not normally a TV watcher. Good TV is great, and it was exactly what my brain needed! But means I’m not reading books or writing book reviews. And when it comes down to it, I am not a TV person.  I was practicing avoidance.


I got some good news in late December.   I got some better news in January. It doesn’t matter what the news was, what matters was that these two things were the things that got me over the hump and out of the funk.  The January news was a huge weight off my shoulders.




Forever ago,  Robert Jackson Bennett wrote a blog post about making sandwiches. That post has been stuck in my head forever.  My interpretation is that he’s using sandwiches as a metaphor for how weird and personal the writing process is, and the futility of pushing yourself to “write what someone else will enjoy” or to “write the same way someone else writes, with the assumption you’ll get the same result” (or who knows. I am the queen of not interpreting things right). My brain uses sandwiches as a metaphor for writing content for this blog. Also, if you haven’t read Robert Jackson Bennett, you really should. The dude makes a fucking excellent sandwich.


Everyone should make the sandwich they want to eat.    You do you. You like mustard on your sandwich? put mustard on your sandwich.  You don’t want lettuce? don’t put on lettuce. It’s your sandwich, make it how you please.   If for years, you’ve liked mayo on your sandwich, and then one day you decide you’re just not feeling the mayo anymore? that’s OK too.


Thing was, I was getting bored with having eaten what tasted like the same goddamn sandwich for like 8 years.

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Friends, I’m so thrilled to be hosting author Julie Czerneda today, I can’t even.  I know ya’ll remember when I went absolutely nuts over her Species Imperative trilogy (biology FTW!), when I wrote an accidentally spoilery review of the most recent Clan Chronicles novel This Gulf of Time and Stars, and how much fun we had with hosting her for an AMA.  Her newest Clan Chronicles novel, The Gate to Futures Past doesn’t hit bookstore shelves until September, but today is the big cover art release party!  I’ll be posting throughout the day with more artwork and more inside scoop, but in the meantime, let’s here from the author herself about how she keeps track of this generation and galaxy spanning epic. . .

Author Photo Credit: Roger Czerneda Photography

Author Photo Credit: Roger Czerneda Photography

scroll artwork

Holding Nothing Back

a guest post by
Julie Czerneda




The room could be in any seedy backwater motel. Inside, however, is an open suitcase, its contents strewn over the unmade bed: three hats; four cell phones in their original packaging; a small hatchet, its blade edged in what looks like rust. Oh, and a lab coat, scrunched into a ball.

By the bed is a night stand; on it are pieces of what had been the hotel phone.

Protruding from the bathroom are a pair of dirty boots, toes up. It’s only then you realize they contain feet.

Two things just happened. You guessed what you’re reading: a murder mystery, with clues being presented. And, perhaps without even being aware, you began a story of your own, a plausible scenario based on this room.

And those feet.

Now comes the test. What’s next? If your scenario fits the rest of what you read, for this is a book, it’s gratifying—so long as you didn’t see everything coming. In that case, you’re bored silly and probably won’t finish reading. On the other hand, if there’s an abrupt departure from what you expected, well, that could be fun. After all, who doesn’t like a startling revelation to tingle the imagination and make you read faster and faster—

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2014-11-15 09.03.57Inside Outer Space:  Science Fiction Professionals Look at Their Craft, edited by Sharon Jarvis

published in 1985

where i got it: friend gave it to me















My friends know I’m drawn towards the obscure, and they also know I really like the “behind the scenes” of everything. A friend found the perfect gift for me: an obscure book of essays by spec fic professionals, published in 1985. What value is there in a book of essays from 30 years ago? More than you’d think.  Editor Sharon Jarvis curated a short list that included her friends and a few authors she’d been referred to.  She assigned people to write on a topic such as humor, or war, or fandom, or small presses, told them approximately how many pages she wanted, and left them to it.  The resulting essays from luminaries like C.J. Cherryh, Marion Zimmer Bradley, George Alec Effinger, Parke Godwin, Ron Goulart and others are more like having a casual conversation with someone, or listening in on an unscripted panel discussion, rather than reading a manicured essay. They are completely casual, with the authors being completely comfortable calling out people they disagree with (most notably, Harlan Ellison, who everyone wants to pick on).


I picked this book up completely on a lark, I needed something read while waiting for something else to happen. Something I could put down at any moment, something with short little bursts of information seemed perfect. Well, the first essay was addictive and hilarious, so I kept reading, long after the stuff that I was waiting for had happened.   So why was a book of essays from 1985 so intriguing? Because it felt like a time capsule.  And of course I was intrigued to see what had changed in 30 years, and what really hadn’t. Some conversations we are still having, and some we *should* still be having.

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Book Blogger Hop

Here from the Hop? Welcome! This blog is primarily scifi and fantasy, with some magic realism, graphic novels, and other fun stuff thrown in. Have a look around, check out the review index, it’s all good.

TGIFriday! the end of a workweek means it’s time to sit back, relax, and blog hop friday! Today’s question is When you write reviews, do you write them as you are reading or wait until you have read the entire book?

hmmmm. . . a little bit of both. I’ll usually take notes while I’m writing, about foreshadowing, prose style, characters or events that really catch my eye, the story under the story, etc. My family knows when a book is getting the full treatment when I’m got a few peices of paper covered in notes folded up and tucked into the back of the book. Once I’ve finished the book, I’ll let everything percolate in my brain for a day or two, then pull out my notes, and get cracking!

A problem does come up when a book is so engrossing that I don’t take a single note.

how about you? What is your method of attack?

or at least sort of.

I review about half the books I read. Some books I pick up knowing I’m going to write a review, and other books I just pick up on a lark, and some books that I pick up on a lark I decide halfway through that I should write a review.

Once I’ve decided “I’m going to review this book!” I’ll grab a piece of paper and tuck it into the back of the book. As I’m reading, I’ll write down my thoughts, things I like, things I don’t like, predictions, questions, etc. When I’m done with the book, I’ve usually got plenty of notes to get me started on writing the review.

But I’m coming across a problem: the less impressed I am with a book, the more notes I tend to take. The corollary being the more I enjoy a book, the less notes I take. Then I go to write a review of a book that knocked my socks off, and I’ve got one sentence of thoughts. When a book is mediocre, or you notice a glaring error or issue, it’s easy to pull yourself out of the narrative and write something down. A truly excellent book will seduce you, and not only can’t you pull yourself away to write something down, but you know anything you write would just sully the story’s beauty.

This is not helpful. Especially not right now. I’ve recently finished two excellent books that I am desperately trying to write reviews of (and have hardly any notes), and one mediocre book that I’m half way through and already have a whole page of notes. I feel like I have no starting point for these two magnificent books. I’d read them again, with the intent of writing stuff down. . . but I’m impatient. I want to get the reviewed started and done, and get on to reading more.

must work on reviews this weekend. this may require more coffee.

Is my method of writing reviews similar to yours? completely different?


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FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.