Pipsqueak Articles

Posts written by Olga Werby or Christopher Werby

“Red Notice”

Red Notice Cover Art

I work with human rights groups and with the International Criminal Court. Some of the background materials I have to read are heartbreaking. It takes me days to get over the reports of child abuse in Eastern Europe and the descriptions of mass rape atrocities in the Congo. I cry. It feels personal. I try not to read… For entertainment and emotional solace, I dive into science fiction or pure science books. I read constantly. But I don’t usually read political thrillers or autobiographies. “Red Notice” was different. The story felt personal, and the book came very well recommended. I’m a Russian Jew. I came to US as a refugee in the late seventies. While I was a teenager when my family left, I’m of “that” generation — the generation that is hesitant to believe good things coming out of Russia. Members of my family were beaten, shot, and killed there… It’s hard to “move on” after that. I’ve never been back. But some of my family have. And some even did business in Russia and its former republics. In 2015, one of my cousins (by marriage) was taken into custody in Bulgaria while on a family cruise vacation. He…

Pink, Blue, Black, and Polkadot

Pink Bowling Ball

It started with a pink bowling ball. We went to a bowling alley for a few games last weekend. After a few 0’s in a row, it was recommended that I switch balls. The pink one was the one, apparently. It was a kids’ ball, about 6 pounds and very bright pink. Sure enough, I managed to knock down a few pins with that one! Awesome…or so I thought. 2.5 days later, my body hurt, and nose was stuffed, and I was running a fever. Apparently, kids’ balls don’t get disinfected. Who knew that there was such low hygiene at such a fine sports establishment? The snot gets around…or catches a ball at a bowling alley. From there, the germs were mine. (I bet there is an interesting health study that could be done on germ propagation via snotty sports equipment. Something that could win an Ignoble Prize…) Laying on a reclining chair in the living room, tearing through 6 sci fi books — because I can’t work if I can’t breathe — I hear a scratching sounds behind me. Too weak to call in distress, I text my husband: we have a visitor… What? Visitoooor… He stumps into the…

What’s in the Cover Art?

Coding Peter Suddenly Paris 2 Covers

This month we have released a sequel to Suddenly, Paris — Coding Peter — AND changed the covers of both books! Above is photo of before and after for the cover art of both books. Can a cover make a difference in the sales of these books? These products? Yes! Cover art makes a huge impact on how a book is perceived by its audience. Or to put it even stronger, the art on the cover of the book helps the potential reader recognize the book as something that they would like to read. Personally, I thought the original covers with strong black, red, and white design were striking. But that design didn’t communicate the genre of the books to its audience. We needed to come up with illustrations that made it clear that these stories were science fiction, and action adventure, and aimed at a new adult readers. We needed to covey a sense of mystery and danger. We wanted people to stop and notice the books based on their covers. And so we made it change. The new covers are a lot more narrative. And hopefully it would make a difference as the potential readers browse pages of…

Treasure Trove of Creative Writing Online Classes

The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania (1846) by Joseph Noel Paton

I discovered Brandon Sanderson a few years back, introduced him to my son, and we basically read all that he has ever written (that we could buy). He is a very talented fiction writer. And now I discovered that he is a great teacher: good at explaining, generous with ideas, and easy with advice. He doesn’t shy away from talking about his own experiences, thus making his classes gain a very concrete dimension. I have enjoyed his online lectures so much, that I am now posting his classes in sequence and adding additional links to similar lectures that are still worth scanning through. I hope these are as useful to you as they were to me. Happy writing! Very Grateful: Thank you writeaboutdragons for adding careful notes and creating 2012 BYU videos! Very grateful to the Camera Panda team, Jon Deering and Earl Cahill, for filming, editing, and providing careful annotations (shown here in quotes). Excellent work! Another shout out to zmunk who posted videos of Brandon’s presentations at JordonCon. Brandon Sanderson’s 2012 Semester at BYU: 1. Creative Writing — Ideas & Outlining 0:12 / Introduction to being a writer – Writing is not about inspiration, ideas, or luck –…

SciFi Bites: Toy Maker

warrior queen toy

The cold crept in like a thief in the night. “Is that you Ian?” Toy Maker called from his workshop. “Close the door!” Ian walked in quietly and shut the door. The snow that sneaked in with him twirled at his feet before melting on the stone floor. The toy workshop was large but dark, lit only by the two power tables — one was the Toy Maker’s work desk and the other served as a kitchen table. Two circles at the center of each table glowed red-orange, giving the whole space a look of warmth…just not the feel of it. Ian shivered. Behind one of the glowing tables, there was a wall full of Toy Maker’s newest creations. They were arranged in rows on shelves, organized by species. There were about two hundred on display there, all still gray — the color didn’t come until much later. The maker first sculpted the essence of each figure and then scanned it into the computer. The final details were added virtually and then printed in 3-D. The painting was the last touch. Ian admired a shelf of warriors. They were lithe and tall, with elongated, almost wasp-like waists. Some had wing…

Inattention Errors in Extemporaneous Writing

Rapefruit

Automation provides many opportunities for inattention errors. Extemporaneous writing/typing is particularly prone to errors so egregious that they are funny… in retrospect. Here are a few examples of “scary” autocorrect mistakes as well as other problems caused by limited or spit [sorry, that was “split”] attention on the task of communication. 1. Everyone fails sometimes It is easy to fail when we are in a hurry, or are under pressure, or don’t proofread our work before it goes out. Some fails are the result of trying to be too clever and not getting a second opinion. Some fails are due to lack of process — a second pair of eyes on the copy would have noticed the “extra word” problem. Some fails are easily caught via a spellchecker… But in some cases, a spellchecker does help… And in many cases, spellcheck is the CAUSE of strange communications. I had a few of those myself… 2. Errors are different from mistakes Mistakes are things that we know are wrong the moment we notice them — the head-slappers! They are usually caused by inattention on the task. Errors are different. Errors result from true ignorance. But it doesn’t make the resulting fails…

Sci-Fi Bites: The Black Queen

The Black Queen

The Black Queen I’m a seed. Plant me. All night it called. A rat came by to investigate. It sniffed the small smooth sphere, but the object didn’t smell like a seed or food of any kind. The rat scurried away. I’m a seed. Plant me. The cat passed by without even a glance. A family of raccoons stopped by. Poked. Left. The sun came up. A fractional mind crawled over. It tasted and touched, walked about and left a pheromone trail for others to follow. Soon dozens of fractional minds surrounded the sphere. By this time, the object grew to the size of a very large marble. I’m a seed. Plant me. It kept repeating to them, flaunting itself for them. And they gathered in greater and greater numbers to roll the sphere underground. Just about the time small sinuous lines started to appear of its surface, a big black bird flapped over. I’m a seed. Plant me. The sphere called to the raven. The bird prodded the object, which was now the size of a tennis ball, with its beak. It wasn’t food, like it claimed. And it wasn’t one of those shiny, sparkly objects that the bird…